surprised by a smile: a commute made better

This morning I was caught in that nasty rainy-ish weather that makes everybody forget how to drive. I grumbled for miles, put out by the misery of red lights reminding me that my 25 minute commute was going to be more like 45 minutes.

And then, this at a red light:


I didn’t even care that the truck’s owner was looking at me in the rear view mirror while I took picture after picture — trying to get a good shot. He probably thought I was trying to get his tag instead of the best bumper sticker ever.

The message changed my mood immediately.

I’ve been working on a brief talk for my parish this week, and I’ve been reading Mother Teresa’s writings in preparation for delivering a 5-minute reflection. It’s all there, in the smile, and the message. I love that pop culture swipes its copy from the Saints.

Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
Mother Teresa

my last nerve

Some days are like that, when you’re very last nerve just goes…


It’s when I feel the craziest that I need to stop and consider what’s making me crazy, and what will bring me peace. It usually means looking at the crazy and loving it.

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one, one, one adds up


There are days at work that test my patience to the limit, like these past couple of days. Coming off a couple of weeks of Christmas vacation should have left me rested and pleasant, no?

Not exactly. I always return in the new year frazzled. Not because I didn’t decompress enough over the holiday, or celebrate well with my family and friends, but because the new year at school always means other kinds of stress coming off the students. God bless them, every one. They return a little nervous and requiring some guidance and good advisement. I don’t blame them, but they come by the hundreds. It’s a little daunting for a dozen advisors, believe me.

I’m torn between providing some really good customer service or seeing as many students as possible to get them through the day efficiently. Sometimes I look at the numbers and forget what it’s really about, the student.

That silly Mother Teresa bobblehead stared at me from her little perch high on my bookshelf, and I remembered this quote:

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time – just one, one, one. So you begin. I began – I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up forty-two thousand….The same thing goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin – one, one, one.”

It changed my approach significantly. I listened. I chatted. We laughed a little. And somehow, I think I served dozens of students in this way. One person at a time.

sometimes I win, and sometimes I win BIG!


One of my favorite resources on-line is Lisa Hendey’s I met Lisa many years ago at the first Catholic New Media Celebration in Atlanta. She was moderating the blogging panel and I thought, wow, is this woman really as nice as she seems to be?

Yes, she is.

Rumors of her diva-like qualities, rumors, I confess, perpetuated on Catholic Weekend and totally undeserved. She’s a peach. A pussycat. A sweetheart. A delightful…well, you get the picture.

Every once in a while she’ll have a contest over on her website.  All you have to do is post a comment on a blogpost and voila! Through the magic of very complex algorithms that only Stephen Hawking or Data can understand, she draws a winner.

Cue this whimsical (and a little quirky, I’m not gonna lie) bobble-head of Mother Teresa!!!

I won this neat little kitschy conversation starter, and knew I had to share it with you. I think I’ll carry her around with me for a while, but I have this crazy idea that she could be a fun little Flat Stanley project, only, not flat, bobble-headed.

Whadya think? I’d be happy to send it to anyone wanting a picture with her. The catch is, you have to send me a picture, and you have to mail it to the next person requesting her bobble-headed grandeur. I’ll post the pictures here.

Oh, and you should commit to praying a rosary for the person who sent it to you. I mean, it is Mother Teresa, after all.


another rainy day

It’s another rainy day here in good ole Georgia. I love the rain. It’s a crazy thing to tell people, especially those people who crave sunlight and light and all that airiness.

Don’t misunderstand, I like the light! I like the big open windows in my living room, but there’s something about a rainy day that makes me just a little more productive, a little more reflective, and generally, a little more calm.

My brain is always going a mile a minute, moreso lately with some new responsibilities, and I relish the opportunity to slow down a little and just be.

The rain has a way of getting under my skin and into my blood…I find the rhythm in the rain, and it has a lullaby affect on me.

It is beautiful. It is life. And I relish it.

So don’t be all mopey on such a lovely day.

There’s usually a rainbow after all the rain. God promised.

Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the risen Christ! ~ Mother Teresa

these are my favorite things…

Raindrops on roses
and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles
and warm woolen mittens

Oops, that’s Maria von Trapp’s list…

Well. It could be my list, too. Except the copper kettles. I’d probably have to clean them. But I do love rain drops, yes I do, and it’s raining softly now, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the sound of rain on the awnings, and the soft breeze from a fan, and a glass of wine…. It just might lull me to sleep, and I’m okay with that.

It’s been a long week. A good week, with lots of work to be done, a lot to be accomplished, and a to do list that functioned exactly like it’s supposed to — with almost all the items crossed off.

I have a few items that are left and that I will tackle tonight — namely a chapter I need to work on in a new work of fiction. I’ve been riding a friend a little hard on her own projects, and my hubby pointed out I needed to get my own house in order. Nothing like love to pour on some loving 🙂

So, that’s another favorite thing…this sorting out of voices in my head and snippets of scenes that somehow get spliced together into a form that approaches a story.

It’s also the end of Random Acts of Kindness Week, the only thing I ever find palatable about the hype surrounding Valentine’s Day. It’s actually something that I very much believe in…not to be celebrated as a week, although the attention to it is nice, but that we must consciously be kind.

It doesn’t cost us anything, and the benefits are so rich.

Here’s my favorite quote about kindness, by Blessed Mother Teresa:

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

It’s the hardest thing to do. And the easiest.

Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire: The Power of Prayer

Most of the time when I get a new book I read it immediately. I sit down and zoom through it with great passion and zeal, and then just as suddenly it’s over, and I’m left yearning for the next literary fix.

That crash and burn technique serves me well; I am in the business of reading and writing. There’s always a deadline, always a new book that I must read. Of course, getting to review books for The Catholic Company is a bonus for me!

Last month when my review copy of Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire: The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How it Can Transform Your Own  by Joseph Langford arrived, I was going to treat it like any other book — something that was going to give me some fleeting pleasure. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have a cavalier attitude about books. I love books. My ravenous consumption of books is probably rooted in my fundamental desire to read everything, or at least, everything that I can get my hands on.

When I sat down to read Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire something unexpectedly different happened to me. I slowed down.I savored the book. I turned to it, not in a frenzy to see what Langford says next, but to absorb and understand the message.

Joseph Langford examines Mother Teresa’s encounter with Christ through prayer, and it vicariously becomes ours. The lessons are profoundly deep and yet so simple that they can be distilled from the advice she so freely gives:

If you want to pray better, you need to pray more.

That simple command to pray more encouraged me to seek a new level of understanding within my own prayer life. The book captivated me with its life-transforming messages thanks largely to Langford’s expert handling of so esoteric a subject as prayer. After all, those of us who see prayer as a mysterious activity for the super holy have failed miserably to understand its nature. I attribute my own past failure to a fundamental inability to lay bare my soul in a vulnerable position.

Can you imagine anyone more vulnerable than Mother Teresa? And yet, she dedicated herself to seeking and helping those who were indeed more vulnerable. Her secret is exposed here for our benefit, so that we, too, can be transformed, and be transformational for others.

Langford deftly breaks down the essential attributes of prayer as expressed by Mother Teresa — to “pray from the heart” and  to hold “inner silence.” That last one, especially, competes with every distraction continuously pulling at us. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

This beautiful labor of love, not just Mother Teresa’s magnificent legacy but also Joseph Langford’s insight into her secret fire, is a must-read for all of us at any stage of our faith journey.

[Her] message is something infinitely rich, yet infinitely simple. She has shown us that, as the burning desert yearns for water, God yearns for us. And the God who thirsts for us is not hard to find, since he dwells in our soul as his temple, and comes in the palpable disguise of our suffering neighbor, making it easy for us to find the unsearchable God, and to come face-to-face with Christ.

Get it. Read it. Embrace the transformational power of her secret fire.