Molly McBride and the Christmas Pageant: A Book Review

As the Christmas season begins, Molly, Dominic, and Molly’s pet stuffed wolf Francis are looking forward to all the fun that only the holidays can bring. One of the things that Molly is looking forward to is performing in the Christmas pageant. At first, Molly thinks that she’s going to be cast as Mary.

When Molly’s teacher, Mrs. Rose, announces the cast, Molly is devastated to learn that she got cast as a sheep and that one of Molly’s classmates got cast as Mary instead. When rehearsals start, Molly pitches a fit about her casting.

If this was a grown-up theater production, Molly would’ve been kicked out of performing altogether for her attitude. However, Mrs. Rose tells our little “diva” about Mary’s life as well as her reasons for casting Molly’s classmate in the leading role. Once Molly understands, she goes into a nice Hamilton pose, filled with determination to do her best in her role.

In theater, there is a saying: There are no small roles, only small people. Mrs. Egolf has told me that this story was partially inspired by her oldest child, who is currently doing theater. Mrs. Egolf also did stage managing in the past, although she never acted.

I really liked this story because of how relatable the whole situation was. I think everyone who has ever participated in a play always wished they were the lead. But most plays can’t be carried by just one person. As someone who has been in a few plays, I understood what Molly was feeling. I was never in the leading role of any play or musical, but I always enjoyed the time I had on the stage.

In the theater, the virtue of obedience takes precedent. Even if one isn’t a Christian, there are still rules everyone has to follow: Listen to the stage manager and the director, be nice to your fellow actors and the tech crew, and leave your attitude at the door or at least channel your feelings into your acting.

I recommend this book as one families should read around the Advent/Christmas time. I’m very certain that many Catholic schools are going to have their own Nativity play or a Christmas pageant of some sort. This story will remind kids to be humble and understanding.

Happy holidays!

All The Small Things

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“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8

For the past few years, I’ve gotten used to big changes. This year, however, has seen a lot of little changes. I’m not posting everyday on Instagram. I’ve been writing more poetry than prose. I went on a weekend trip to Dallas where all I did was wander around the local Arboretum.

It always seems like my life has been this song playing constantly on loop:

 

I’ve been working and waiting for whatever comes next. Something I didn’t learn until recently, though, is that life goes on even while you’re waiting.

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I have a mourning dove nesting in my backyard that I’ve named Genevieve. She’s been there for almost a month now. Her babies hatched sometime last week and it’ll be about another month before the birds start leaving the nest. I’ve also made some new friends and got to know a few saints. I didn’t write a 50,000 word novel, but I started working on a fantasy/horror series that took me straight out of my comfort zone in terms of writing. And if I combine all the work I did towards that with the poetry I wrote last month, I’m pretty sure that I wrote way more thank 50K in one month. I didn’t write a poem-a-day, but I am proud of the poems that I ended up writing.

I know that all of these things don’t seem like a lot, but if there’s anything I learned from spring, it’s that a lot of little things add up to a lot over time. When you plant seeds in a garden, they don’t grow into flowers right away. Gardens take a lot of work and time. In a similar way, I feel as though all the little changes I’ve been experiencing have been like God making tiny changes in my soul, the same way that a sculptor chips away at marble or a potter making tiny dents into clay.

In other words, life for me lately has been all about all the small things. Pennies in a jar or drops in the bucket that have slowly been filling up over time. What it’ll all add up to is yet to be seen.

If you feel like nothing big has been happening in your life, I recommend keeping a daily gratitude journal. In The Gospel of Happiness, Christopher Kazor recommends focusing on something different each day when it comes to gratitude. According to the book, Mondays are dedicated to thinking about ways in which we’ve received gifts from others and how might respond in gratitude. Tuesdays are meant to recall a good that is going to end soon. On Wednesday, we consider our blessings through the perspective of “what if they never existed?” Thursdays are devoted to considerting to whom we are grateful for and for what. Fridays are dedicated to writing about times in which something bad eventually led to something good.

I also recommend praying the Examen. There are many ways to pray the Examen, one of which I outline in my “Gratitude” Bible Study. I also recommend reading Leah Libresco’s Arriving At Amen which also has another Examen variation.

Moral of the story: Don’t overlook the little things in your life. They’re gonna add up to a lot sooner or later.

 

The Hard Thing About Humility

Mutter Teresa, lachend, Dezember 1985

Since the official date of Mother Teresa’s canonization has been announced, I want to look into her insights on humility today.

Practicing humility is not an easy feat. It’s one thing to imagine the concept of humility, but actually living it out is hard.

“These are the few ways we can practice humility:

To speak as little as possible of one’s self.”

In this social media-saturated world, we always love to talk about ourselves. It can be as vague as a passive-aggressive Facebook status or as blatant as a duckface selfie. I’m not immune to this given that part of my job involves promoting myself. It’s one thing to promote one’s work out of necessity. We all have to make a living somehow. But when your conversations consist of constant whining or bragging about your accomplishments, you have little room in your heart for anything else.

Since we’re close to Holy Week, if you’re gonna spend time on social media, I hope that you can contribute more positive things to your feed instead of another selfie.

 

“To mind one’s own business.”

When we’re not talking about ourselves, America’s actual favorite pastime is gossip. It’s basically the only reason why anyone knows who Kim Kardashian is. I love learning the latest news in regards to my favorite actors and singers, but I try my best to limit things. I think this also applies to people who get too involved in political debates and office gossip.

Pope Francis had some harsh words to say about gossiping. His words are harsh and blunt, I know. But try going a day without gossiping and see what a difference it can make in your life.

 

“Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.”

How often do we try to micromanage other people’s lives? How often do we act like we’re somebody’s mother in the worst way possible through constant nagging and unsolicited advice? Unless we are given actual positions of authority, intervening in other people’s lives is usually best reserved for emergency situations.

It’s okay to give advice if you are asked and if you feel like you can give a sound answer. But what’s more important is to listen intently. You’d be surprised at how things can change when you actually listen to others.

 

“To avoid curiosity.”

This one is especially hard for me. I was given insatiable curiosity from the time I learned how to read. I always want to know the story behind something. But I understand why curiosity can be a bad thing. Not all information out there is worth knowing about. There are things people do behind closed doors that I’d rather be blissfully unaware of. Insatiable curiosity can open up the door to temptation.

Avoiding curiosity doesn’t mean to close yourself off from current events, though. It just means knowing that there are limits to what you already know and trying not to overload yourself with too much information. The main villain in Avengers: Age of Ultron became arrogant because of all the knowledge he gained and saw destroying the world as the best way to maintain order. Vision stood as a contrast to Ultron because he’s aware of his own limits.

 

“To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.”

As a writer, it was really hard for me to accept criticism, even of the constructive kind. Writing this blog has helped to an extent, but I’m still learning how to take the feedback I get from comments and other writers. I really appreciate my local writing group because we’ve worked out a way to give feedback that mixes positive remarks with things that we all need to improve on.

 

“To pass over the mistakes of others.”

It’s not easy to overlook people’s little faults. It’s also not easy to look at the latest Buzzfeed article and wonder “where the hell do they find these people?”

This does not mean to excuse abusive behavior or just let bad things slide. I choose to interpret this idea as choosing what to get angry about. We can’t fix every little flaw in every person we see.

I totally get that “Judge not” gets taken out of context a lot. But the best way to actually practice the act of admonishing others while still being humble is to meet people where they are and treat them as friends, not as projects.

 

“To accept insults and injuries.”

Scroll around the internet long enough and you’ll probably find something insulting the Catholic Church. It’s even worse when people who claim to be Catholic insult other Catholics and injure others with their words or actions. Mother Teresa dealt with her own share of insults and injuries, but she never took them lying down. She always responded with a firm voice and a bit of sass for good measure. If you don’t believe me, there’s a story about her in Catholicism in which she tries getting some food for a poor child only to be met with a baker spitting in her face. She responded with “Thanks for the nice gift, now how about something for the child?”

 

“To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.”

Dear Aaron Burr should’ve learned a bit about dealing with always coming short of Hamilton’s success. Hamilton himself was almost lost to history, forgotten because of what the other Founding Fathers said about him. I also dealt with my share of being overlooked. But the thing is that we can’t take neglect personally. When one door closes, another opportunity comes around soon enough.

Whenever I serve on retreat, I go there knowing that I probably won’t be acknowledged for the work that I’ve done. But I see the results of my generosity whenever the retreaters talk about how much fun they had at the end. It’s enough for me to know that I helped contribute to their happiness.

 

“To be kind and gentle even under provocation.”

It’s really hard to maintain a kind attitude when people are acting nasty. I have no idea how these riots at Trump’s rallies happen and yet you’d think that a presidential candidate would discourage that kind of behavior. But if I could say something to Trump supporters, it would be this: If you really want to make America great again, try practicing kindness and actual generosity to those you don’t like.

 

“Never to stand on one’s dignity.”

There’s a line from a song in Rent that goes “Will I lose my dignity?” It’s part of a round that asks about the uncertainties of life. In a musical where the majority of characters suffer from AIDS, that question is a legitimate one. And yet, in the musical, we see all the characters lose their dignity in some way. In spite of that, the seven friends are able to find happiness. It just took them a long time to get there.

 

“To choose always the hardest.”

It’s hard to be humble. It’s hard to do all the things that Mother Teresa has listed here. But as my favorite TV show has said “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.”

I hope that you take the time to reflect on the idea of humility and that you can practice humility in your lives.

Why I Refuse to Call Myself "Trash"

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I have a love-hate relationship with modern day slang. I had to deal with “swagger” being a thing during my college days, but nowadays, the latest millenial slang is pretty good. I love how “goals” is a thing along with “#squadgoals” and #relationshipgoals.” We all should have goals and aspire to have an awesome life. I also love “slay,” cuz, you know, vampire slayer lover here!

There is one word I refuse to use in reference to myself, though: Trash.

Whenever someone refers to themselves as “trash,” it means that they devote themselves so much to a fandom such as the DC shows, or to a celebrity.

It’s kind of ironic that the generation that gets called “narcissistic” refers to itself as “trash.” As if millenials don’t have enough self-esteem issues!  I get that the people of Tumblr and Twitter don’t actually mean to compare themselves to garbage, but the problem is that they forgotten that the words that we choose to call ourselves have a powerful impact on ourselves.

You know what else gets called trash? Homeless people, prostitutes, and aborted babies. No, you’re not special snowflakes, fellow millenials. You’re not entitled to whatever you want just because you want it. But at the same time, stop calling yourselves trash when you talk about how much you love something. Every single human life, no matter who they are or where they live, has a God-given intrinsic value. It’s like what Peggy Carter said in the Agent Carter season 1 finale: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

Millenials of all ages, know what you are worth by being humble.

“Wait, what?” you ask. “How does being humble help us understand what we are worth?”

Once again, we come to a seemingly impossible paradox. Humility is not thinking the worst of yourself. It’s knowing that you can always do better. It means not seeking out attention for the sake of stroking your own vanity, but at the same time learning to give credit when credit is due. Be proud of your accomplishments, but don’t rub them into everyone’s face. And most of all, don’t go for a minimalist spirituality by thinking “Oh as long as I don’t do bad things, I won’t go to Hell.” That’s not how it works, honey.

There’s a wonderful prayer called the “Litany of Humility” that spells out what it means to be humble. It’s a prayer I highly recommend you contemplate this Lent. I often pray this during retreats. My favorite part of the prayer is “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.” It reminds me that we are all called to holiness and that God wants us to love ourselves as much as He loves us. That does not mean referring to ourselves as trash or by becoming narcissists. It simply means knowing our own value. We are worth dying for and as such, we need to live for Him.

The Courage to Change

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One thing commonly associated with people who have autism and Asperger’s Syndrome is that they have a harder time adjusting to change than normal people. In the past few months, however, I’ve gone out of my way to try new things which led to changes in my social life. There have also been some changes that happened outside of my control, some good and some bad. As much as I grit my teeth over the bad changes, I still try to make the best out of it.

I don’t think the fear of change or the difficulty of adapting to change applies to just people who have autism/Asperger’s syndrome. I think all people to some extent have a hard time dealing with change. Human beings have control issues, especially Americans. We like making plans and making idols out of them. As often as people complain about the daily grind, once something, anything happens to shake it up, they suddenly miss the boring commute.

And yet, if we never change, if we never have any sort of trials or obstacles to deal with, we lose the opportunity to grow. The side effects of staying in “safe spaces” can easily be seen in college campuses today. Comedians are reluctant to do gigs there because many people feel like their humor is offensive. People with mindsets that are different from the majority opinion are treated with hostility. There is a major problem with that kind of mentality: they’re not allowing the students to grow up. Instead, everyone gets babied and told they’re special snowflakes, which isn’t gonna help them in the real world. Yes there are people who can get away with living in a victim mentality, but it’s not exactly a great way to live. And in the long run, will that entitled, bratty, woe-is-me behavior really pay off? I don’t think so.

I’m not saying that it’s easy to listen to different viewpoints. There’s a reason I avoid politics when I can, after all. I’m just saying that people need to be open to change and open to being able to laugh at themselves and admit that sometimes they’re wrong. Having the courage to change takes humility and that particular virtue is hard to find these days.

I think the fear of humility comes from the fact that most people don’t understand what humility is. Humility may involve some shame and embarrassment, but it doesn’t always. More often than not, humility is just knowing that you’re not always going to be right. That somebody knows more than you and that you have to learn from them. That you’re not a special snowflake, but at the same time, it’s okay that you’re not. Humility is the first step to embracing change and developing courage. And eventually, you’ll find that you’ve become fearless.

Lent Days 10-12: The Post-Retreat Reflection/Megapost

If any of y’all are wondering why I didn’t blog for the past three days, it was because I was away on retreat. However, I wasn’t a participant, but a staff member. Due to confidentiality, I can’t talk about what I did this weekend in detail, but I can divulge everything I felt that weekend. 

I should tell you that before this retreat, I have never been a staff member. Heck, I was never a staff member for anything in high school or college. But I was eager to do my part and help create the best weekend for 40+ young adults. 

In theatre, there’s a saying: “There are no small parts, only small actors.” This applies to retreats as well as to life itself. One of Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten meditations this weekend talks about how people are often so caught up in having life revolve around them rather than try a role that God wants them to try. In my case, although I was a volunteer, I was assigned a position that I did not ask for. However, I decided to accept it and offer it up.

At first, it was a lot of fun. I got to be hands-on, involved in preparing many events and activities. By the end of the first day, my legs were totally sore from being on my feet the whole day, but I felt that it was totally worth it.

The next day was more intense than the first, for both the retreaters and for me. It started off well, with me helping the retreaters grow in their faith and assisting in a Bible study. But a lot of little disappointments happened throughout the day. I was a newcomer to the staff, so there were times that I felt left out amidst the more experienced workers. It built up to a point that by the time dinner came around, I found that I had nowhere to sit. I went off to a staff-only room and started crying.

I hated that I felt left out and invisible. I wanted to be okay with the idea of not being noticed or belonging, but I wasn’t. Throughout the day, I kept pushing aside those small times when I hated being unacknowledged and dinnertime was the breaking point. I didn’t understand why I felt forgotten even though I prayed to have that fear of being forgotten taken away from me. Then, a few people came into the room: two acquaintances and a priest. I told them about how I was feeling, how I hated how I felt, and how I wished I felt something else.

I don’t remember the specific words that the priest said, but he did say something about how the Lord might be testing me in my desire for humility. My acquaintances reassured me that even though I didn’t think my actions went unnoticed, they did notice and, more importantly, God noticed. I realized two things after venting: 

1) I had to acknowledge how I felt with indifference. Acknowledging an emotion, positive or negative, means identifying how you feel. However, you can’t think that the emotion you feel is good or bad, you just have to accept that it’s there.

2) I was finally experiencing everything I was writing about for the past week. I now know what it’s like to live out my faith, what it meant to be humble, what it meant to empty and completely surrender myself.

In other words, the priest was right. I was being tested by God. But God was there even when I wasn’t aware of Him. Fr. Robert Barron’s Friday meditation says that Christ crucified is where God finds us when we are at our darkest. It’s no coincidence that the staff room I hid in had a crucifix and that I was crying underneath it. God was with me there and then.

Earlier in this blog, I compared challenging yourself in Lent to learning how to swim. During this weekend, I felt like I was swimming myself over a waterfall. But after focusing myself on God, I found my center with Him. I realized that I needed Him and that He would always be with me. I meditated on Psalm 139 that night during Adoration. Then, the same priest who consoled me read a passage from the Gospel of Luke, the story of the bleeding woman. One verse resonated with me: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” I felt healed as soon as I heard it. Like Fr. Robert Barron said in his meditation for today, my life felt elevated because I encountered Christ alongside everyone else.

The rest of the night was wonderful. I got to know more people and felt excited for the upcoming day.

But it wouldn’t be long before I would be tested again.

Towards the end of the retreat, I started to feel left out again. This time, it was because it didn’t seem like there was any material proof the words my friends told me yesterday were true. This time, I knew I was being tempted, but I felt the tears coming around again. This time, I pulled one of my friends aside and went to a staff-only room with her. She became that material proof that took the doubts away, telling me that I was appreciated and that my work hasn’t gone unnoticed. She wanted to hang out with me after the retreat. That was all I needed. I know, I’m a doubting Thomas. But I got over myself a lot faster this time.

The last day of the retreat involved a lot of prayer and amazing music. I’ll end this blog entry with a few songs from the retreat and pictures that I took today that reminded me of everything I experienced.

 

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May the blessing of the Lord be upon you, the blessing of the Father and the Son and may the spirit of God, the spirit of love be with you all your days.

Lent Day 2: The Virtue of Humility

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lent Reflection for today reflects on the virtue of humility. There’s a quote from Oscar Wilde that I love:

Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

Now the best way to NOT be humble is to brag about how humble you are AKA Humblebragging. So how exactly can we practice the virtue of humility?

Read about saints who were the embodiment of humility or the writings of saints who emphasized humilty. Think Mother Teresa, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Paul, St. Augustine.

One of my friends recommended Josemaria Escriva’s “The Way” as something to read for Lent.

As for me…

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This book is one of my favorites. This has been with me since high school, back when I was seriously lost. Although at the time, the book was way beyond the reading level of a teenage girl, there were a lot of passages that helped me put things in perspective. As an adult, this book still holds up, only now I’m reading it with a different mindset. Back when I was 16, I read the book to find words of comfort. Now I read this book as my Lenten reading.

Song for today: The Litany of Humility by Danielle Rose