Monday, December 21, 2015

Walk Softly, Pray Joyfully

Every year I try to limit my Advent commitments, and every year I don't succeed as much as I'd like. So when asked to review Teresa Tomeo's Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag: On-the-Go Devotions, I did exactly what the author recommends and tucked it in my purse to read whenever I could grab a few moments.

Each chapter of this charming book is a two-to-three page meditation on growing closer to God through prayer and laughter. Sometimes the chapter titles say it all:

  • Don't Just Do Something -- Sit There!
  • All I Want for Christmas Is a Good Night's Sleep
  • Don't Cry Over Spilled Perfume
  • Little Prayers Mean a Lot
By the time I finished Teresa's book, I felt like I'd found a new best friend. I felt cheered up, encouraged, and motivated to keep fighting the good fight.

Walk Softly includes some great advice from Pope Francis that speaks straight to my soul. I have a tendency to get down in the dumps. Aristotle aficionados would say I have a melancholic temperament. Fans of A.A. Milne would just say I'm a bit like Eeyore, the gloomy donkey. But here's what Pope Francis has to say about grumpy Christians:
Sometimes these melancholy Christians' faces have more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life.
Or as one of my spiritual directors once said, "Smile! We're on our way to heaven!" In response to Pope Francis' words about pickled pepper Christians (aka the Saturday Night Live Church Lady caricature), Teresa urges the reader to pray "that I can be a good witness by living out my life with a smile on my face and a real pep in my step as I proclaim and preach about your Son."

She also advises us to turn our misery into ministry. Our greatest hurt can intersect with the world's greatest need. A mother whose child was killed by a drunk driver started the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). A father whose son was abducted and killed cofounded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Teresa and her husband began a marriage ministry based on their struggles to overcome difficulties and challenges in their own marital relationship.

Turning misery into ministry allows us to make sense out of suffering. Deep in the thick of struggle, no one wants to hear "Everything happens for a reason." But once we reach the other side, we can discover that the lessons we've learned are not for ourselves alone. Sharing our knowledge with fellow strugglers does give purpose to our pain, even retroactively.

I know that the struggles our family has faced because of my husband's four brain tumors have tested my fortitude and my faith in God. As a newlywed, I had a tendency to idolize my husband and put all my hopes for a happy future in him. But he's not in control of whether tumors invade his brain, and obviously neither am I. God is the senior partner in our marriage, the majority stockholder, so to speak. God is in charge of our marriage and our future.

The bedrock of a successful sacramental marriage is a willingness to turn the reins over to God. It will take more than just the two of us, my husband and me. It will take trust in God -- which is why all the practical marriage or relationship or communication tips in the world won't do a darned thing without solid spiritual formation. So the yoking of the two -- the practical and the spiritual -- has become the ministry that has grown out of the misery that my husband and I suffered during his sicknesses.

Like her meditation on misery and ministry, Teresa has included many nuggets of deep wisdom worthy of long reflection in Walk Softly. Read it and see which one speaks most clearly to you.

Many thanks to the author for the free review copy of this book.


  1. Oooooh, a new book to add to my Amazon wishlist now!! Thanks for the review on it! Love when books like this touch the heart so beautifully!! :)

    1. The book is great for young moms -- check out Necessity is the Mother of the Microwave (what would we do without microwaves!).


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