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I have to admit, I’ve avoided St. Therese for a long time. There’s a rebellious part of me that sometimes doesn’t want to like something simply because everyone else does. I know, it’s petty and childish but this is exactly how I was about St. Therese. I definitely started reading about lesser saints first. I’m sure it was pride that made me want to discover someone obscure rather than jump on the Little Flower bandwagon but eventually, I gave in and gave her a chance.
And I’m ever so glad that I did because like so many of you, this little woman, barely more than a little girl has touched my heart in so many ways. There is no way I could capture all the moments her autobiography, Story of a Soul, spoke deeply to my soul. In her I found a kindred spirit and more than any other saint, she has made me want to fight the superficial lures of this world and keep my eyes fixed on Heaven. I fully understand why she’s a favorite of the Catholic community.
I have picked three quotes from her autobiography although the truth is that I made more than 100 highlights in my Kindle. Here is the first:
“Because your soul is very simple; but when you are perfect you will become more simple still. The nearer one approaches God, the simpler one becomes.”
St. Therese, Story of a Soul
I love this quote. There is something so attractive about living a simple life. It sounds so romantic, so peaceful and well… simple. But the truth is, most of us lead lives that are far from simple. So how do we, as busy moms, simplify our life without giving everything away and moving into a convent? I think there are two ways we can tackle this. First, to live in the moment.
We hear this phrase a lot but I think few of put it into practice. In preparation for this episode, I tried extra hard this week to really be present with everything that I had to do. The first day I found it pretty difficult because I didn’t have a plan for what I was going to do that day and so all these tasks and questions kept bouncing around in my mind. I had a sense of feeling rushed and anxious.
I love the phrase, “If you don’t run your day, your day will end up running you.” And that’s exactly how I felt. I wasn’t able to practice being present very well. So that night, even though I was tired, I took out some paper and planned what I was going to do the following day. And not one of those “if everything in the universe aligns, this is what I’ll be able to do” but a real plan including a “Sterling, you’re usually tired and grumpy around 3:30 so don’t plan anything hard then” timeslot. This helped me immensely in being able to be present in my day.
When I sat down to read some books with my girls, I wasn’t thinking about what else I should be doing because this was “time with the girls” timeslot. I was supposed to be there right then reading books. Actually being present with every activity I did gave me great peace. It also gave me extra energy to tackle things I wouldn’t have. Because I hadn’t scheduled anything for an hour in the afternoon and I knew I had already folded the laundry and done school for the day, I found myself saying, “Hey girls, let’s make cookies to celebrate Mary’s birthday.” I am no baker and we rarely take the time to bake cookies but I was in such a good mood having been present for the rest of my day.
This brings me to point number two, what if you don’t even have enough time to get everything done that you need to do? The answer is simple. You’re too busy. You need to cut some things out or minimize what you need to do.
Modern day moms have tricked themselves into thinking that things NEED to be done when a lot of times, they simply don’t. I’m guilty of this sometimes. I’ll sign up for too many things, I’ll start drowning and I feel trapped. I don’t want to let someone down and really they needed volunteers so I had to say yes. But life is too short not to spend time with God and not to spend time with your family.
Politely decline or back out of some of your commitments and don’t say yes to anything else. Create more time for the things that matter. This isn’t new advice. Most of us have heard it before and we just need to hear it again, now, in this moment. We need to realign ourselves with what’s important. Focus on serving your family, quietly and with joy. Be present in those activities instead of feeling bitter or instead of feeling anxious that you should be doing something else.
More than anything, this is what St. Therese has taught me. Be present and find joy in the work and the sacrifice. God desires us to simply love Him and to do that, we have to live simple lives. We may still have many things to do but none of them should feel or be more important than loving God. If our lives cause us so much stress and anxiety that we are constantly worried about the future or even what we have to do in the next five hours, then we cannot be present each moment.
Failing to be present is like failing to appreciate the life that God has given us. Each breath, each minute, each person he puts in our way is precious. It’s a lie that your TO DO list is so important that you can’t cut some things out and focus more on Jesus and the life he’s given you.
The second quote I wanted to focus on is this:
“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbours’ defects–not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.” St. Therese, Story of a Soul
I really struggle with pride. I think partly it’s because I’ve had to work so hard to overcome adversity in my life, that it’s difficult for me when I see others who complain and don’t try hard to change their own life. And this really is a sinful attitude. I don’t mean to be judgmental but the devil tries so hard to take that which is good and make it twisted.
When I see a mom struggling in her home, my heart is sad for her and I want her to be happier. That is a pure love for a friend. But often that love gets twisted and I think, “Well if she just disciplined her children more, her house would be less chaotic and she wouldn’t be as stressed.” There is the sin. There is the judgement that has sprung up. I don’t actually think she is a bad person, I just want her life to be better. But in this moment, there is a small twang of pride. There is a sense of, “Well I would do it differently,” or “She could fix it if she really wanted to.” But how do I know that?
It is not for us to judge one another. We should not harbor this bitterness in our hearts. We don’t know the depth of struggle that a friend may be going through. There are many crosses we must bear which are invisible so we cannot pretend to know what our friends are going through.
I love how St. Therese not only talks about how we shouldn’t focus on the defects of our neighbors but that we should be edified at their smallest virtues. The most success I have in changing a habit of mine is to replace it with another one. I hadn’t really thought about applying this to my thoughts about others but since I’ve read this, it’s really helped me.
Instead of judging others and grumbling that they should work harder on their short comings, I focus on all the things I like about them. I’m surprised that it really hasn’t been that hard. Of course there are many things that I like about my friends, that’s why we’re friends! I focus on these things and it brings me joy just to know them. I think about what great moms they are and what wonderful Catholics they are and those thoughts have simply filled up my brain so there isn’t space for bitter judgements anymore.
St. Therese also says, “If I wish to increase this love in my heart, and the devil tries to bring before me the defects of a Sister, I hasten to look for her virtues, her good motives;” I love how much she admits that it’s a challenge to stick with this practice. I know it will be a challenge for me.
I’m sure I’ll have to keep working at this and there will be times when I slip up but I will keep trying to be more like Jesus and seeing all the virtues in each soul I meet.
This is one of THE most popular St. Therese quotes but I felt compelled to include it because ladies, you are beautiful. You need to know you’re beautiful and you need to belief you’re beautiful.
“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of it’s scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” St. Therese Story of a Soul
I love this quote because it speaks to how much He loves us. God loves each and every one of us like we are a unique and beautiful flower. Stop telling yourself the lie that you aren’t beautiful, that you aren’t perfect. This quote reminds me of a friend of mine who created an awesome Catholic t-shirt company and she picked a similar quote to put on one of her t-shirts. I bought one for each of my girls.
Please print and fill out this worksheet so you can work on the two pearls of wisdom I shared today. Let me know how I can pray for you and let me know if you have any questions at all!
Go Get ‘Em Ladies! You can do it!