Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Everything is so big in religion . . ."

For those who celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and for those who believe it is merely a season of cheer and good will . . . advice abounds, this time of year.  How to simplify.  How to say no.  How to savor What Really Matters.  Carving out quiet time. 

Words of wisdom, everywhere you turn.

I'm approaching Advent differently this year.  This is my perspective:  there's nothing new for me in the "simplify and de-stress" articles & I already know that I need to seek out quiet time.  Where I need to work is in learning to cope, with grace, when aspects of life seem beyond my control.

Case in point:  I started coming down with a respiratory bug just a few days before Thanksgiving. It was just an annoyance at first, but the misery built slowly.  The First Sunday of Advent, I was wiped out.  Same story today.  And there it is, no matter how I might have planned to observe Advent, I have started out with diminished energy levels.

Luckily for me, I've been collecting a small arsenal to help me throughout these weeks of preparation for Christmas.  This arsenal consists of the words others have written about marching on with life despite obstacles.  More than a matter of simplifying, these quotes inspire me to carry on in the midst of struggle.  Retreat is not always an option, no matter how much the self-help gurus tell us we need to abandon ship for the nearest spa.

It should go without saying, even though I say it anyway, that the reason we soldier on is God.  Soldiering on for God means more than "pull yourself up by your bootstraps!"  Rather, it is a purposeful choice to go beyond what you think you are capable of doing.  Why do we do it? Because love means sacrifice of self.  For some people, that might mean some very heroic act of the will.  For me, today, that means meeting the household needs even if I'd feel better reclining on a couch with a big book.  That's all right!  Nothing is too small or insignificant to offer to God.

Out of the arsenal today?  St. Therese of Lisieux:
"Let us not refuse Him the least sacrifice.  Everything is so big in religion . . . to pick up a pin out of love can convert a soul.  What a mystery!"  (Letters, Volume Two)
There it is.  I could go about the day, being cranky because I'm under the weather.  Or, I could attempt to overcome self-pity, thereby making the world around me a little better.  That is an act of sacrifice of self that is within my sphere of influence.  Most of us are not going to face life-and-death decisions today.  Instead, we are going to face tens or hundreds of tiny encounters where we can choose between selfishness or love.  Yep, even if we are justified in a bit of self-pity due to health, long lines, cranky co-workers or family.  Nothing is too small!

I shan't completely overlook the holiday "survival guide" types of articles.  Clear the clutter in your house.  Prioritize your calendar well.  Learn to look for the beauty of the present moment.  But "playing by the rules" doesn't guarantee life will run smoothly.  When the rough spots happen, I find St. Therese's wisdom to be reassuring.  Knowing I can pick up my metaphorical pins inspires me to make an effort because God will not overlook my small acts performed out of love.

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