Encanto – Being Enough

This week we are going to step back from Isabela and spend time with the eldest Madrigal sister, Luisa. Luisa’s gift is strength. I wish I could have been in the room when the idea of a donkey valet service was floated and accepted. Yes, Luisa is super strong and one of her many, many duties is to “park” everyone’s donkey as they come to Antonio’s gift celebration.

Luisa is everywhere. She seems to have an uncanny ability to be available to respond to any need or request. Need a piano? Luisa can bring it over. Need your donkey parked? Luisa can get it. Got a bunch of rocks to move, furniture to haul, a house to relocate? Luisa, Luisa, Luisa. She does everything with a smile and doesn’t seem to complain.

Thinking back to Isabela, the mask she wore was one of aloof perfection. Luisa’s is different. She is, to quote Minnie Mouse, a “happy helper.” No frowns, groans, or hesitation. She is ready and able in the here and now.

Again, this facade only goes skin deep. Mirabel goes to Luisa to ask her about the miracle, her gift and their Uncle Bruno. During the course of the conversation and Luisa’s song, we learn a lot about her. The opening lines get me every time:

I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service

Luisa, Surface Pressure, Encanto

Punch in the gut, isn’t it? Outside looking in, we can easily call out this kind of negative self-talk. Of course Luisa isn’t worthless if she takes a break or chooses to sit down and read a book for an afternoon. But the expectations placed upon her both by others and herself preclude any moment of rest or relaxation.

I don’t know who else needs to hear this today, but it’s something I need most days. I am not able to meet everyone’s needs, and I am not supposed to. I am not superwoman, supermom, super clean, super anything. I am me and me only spreads so far. Should I give freely of my self, act with generosity and kindness, try to offer a smile while doing hard work? A resounding Yes! Do I need to shoulder all of the burdens of others, complete every single task on my list before taking time to eat lunch, and make myself so available I neglect my own basic needs? A resounding No!

You don’t really notice just how much Luisa is taken advantage of until her song. It’s kind of trippy (donkeys make a prominent appearance) but effective. Another line gets me later in the song:

Give it to your sister and never wonder if the same pressure would have pulled you under.

Luisa, Surface Pressure, Encanto

How often do we ask others to do something for us, not because we genuinely need help but because we just don’t want to do it ourselves. Another gut punch, right? Luisa is being asked to handle burdens that were not meant for her to bear. She is then taking on even more, convincing herself that this is her place. She is to be “of service” for anyone who needs her. She doesn’t get a will of her own, she doesn’t have choices. She is able and willing. Period.

I’m not saying that we are doing this to anyone in our lives and I hope no one resonated so strongly with Luisa that you see it happening to you. Clearly this is an extreme, fictional example. But if you do recognize characteristics of Luisa in your relationships, think about that. Seek outside advice or professional help if you aren’t sure how to find a proper balance between expected service and help that is freely given.

It’s not all work and sadness for Luisa. Just like Isabela, Luisa experiences a transformation. First, she feels her power drained and this is what prompts her line about worthlessness. She can’t imagine what it would be to be weak. What other gifts does she have besides her strength? She’s never had to contemplate this before. At the end of the movie, Luisa sings “I may not be as strong but I’m getting wiser.” Just before that moment, she, Isabela and Mirabel all raised a slab of stone together, something Luisa would have done on her own at the start. She is growing in wisdom, relying on others’ strength as well as her own.

When we step back and aren’t a “do it all” person, we provide space for others to share their gifts and share the load of the work. No one is meant to do everything themselves. We see this so clearly in Jesus’ ministry. Did Jesus need apostles? No. Was it good and right for Him to teach them, and then share the ministry of preaching with them? Absolutely. He did so much as to send them out on their own, spreading His words and mission. He continues to empower the Church today.

We believe that God has given each of us many gifts, each meant to help us in our unique mission in life. But the gifts given do not outweigh our personhood. We are a unique individual, made in the image and likeness of God. This is at the core of each person and the reason every person is deserving of respect and dignity. We can help hone, cultivate and celebrate the gifts of others. We must cherish the unrepeatable person bearing them no matter who they are.

A Place for Relationship – The Living Room

Most homes have some kind of “hang out” space. This could be a living room around a fire place, a family room where the TV is, perhaps a sunken den with an oversized comfy couch. It is somewhere were people in the home enjoy gathering. They choose to spend time there. Perhaps in yours there is a bookshelf or game cabinet. This space is not a place for isolation. You can’t expect perfect silence for constructing that card pyramid on the coffee table. If you are video chatting with someone, expect others to join your call.

As we talked about last week, the dining table is a relational place. Families come together to share their day, to talk about what’s going on in their lives. The living room is also a relational space. But instead of a space for talking about what’s going on, it is the space where the going on is happening.

Take a look at your living space this week. What is the focal point of the room? Is everyone able to access their favorite space in the room? Slow down this week and be intentional in observing how your family uses the space. Consider the following ideas to make this space inviting, clean and functional:

  • Vacuum under the couch and tables.
  • Vacuum or deep clean the furniture
  • Untangle and organize any wires, cords or other electronic elements that have become untidy
  • If you have bookshelves or other organizers, take everything off, deep clean and then reorganize the materials in a thoughtful way
  • Consider adding a plant or flowers to bring greenery and life to the space (artificial is ok!)
  • Clean windows, inside and out
  • Launder drapes or curtains
  • Invite your family to a game night. Make it fun with popcorn or other treat
  • Begin a read aloud with the whole family. If you need ideas, the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is a great place to start. Even of some have read them before, there is something unique and special about these books which makes them worthwhile at all stages of life. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is particularly appropriate for Lent. If you would like other ideas, check out The Read Aloud Revival and take their short quiz on the homepage. We have loved all the recommendations we have taken so far.

What about your spiritual living room? This is where the rubber meets the road. You’ve been fed at the Eucharistic table and been brought into closer unity with Christ. Now you have to go home, go back to work, go out into your community, and interact with people. You have relationships with a great many people. Some relationships are presently flourishing. Others, perhaps in need of tending. Part of being in a relationship is being open to that other person. We listen to their needs and share our own. How well have you been sharing your needs? Are you willing to ask for and accept help from others? How well have you listened to the needs of others and been willing to be generous with your time and effort?

We are also in relationship with God. In the mystery that is the Trinity, we might be interested to discover that there is the opportunity for 3 relationships with God, while still being one relationship overall. We can spend time with God, our Heavenly Father. We talk intimately with Jesus, our Savior and our Brother. We feel the movement of the Holy Spirit deep in our souls. Lest this isn’t enough to contemplate, you also have a spiritual mother in Mary waiting to assist you on your journey to holiness.

Don’t be overwhelmed! This one week will not be sufficient time to cultivate all of these relationships. Spend some time in prayer and ask God for the wisdom to see where He wants you to spend your time and with whom.

Next week, we will travel to a more humble space. It is one of privacy, but is shared by all. There is always an opportunity for cleaning in this room, both physically and spiritually. See you then!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Book Review: Find a Real Friend in Jesus

I currently work with a program that is designing mini courses to introduce concepts of the Catholic faith to adults, especially new catechists. We have been struggling to write the course on Jesus of all things. You would think this would be an easy one, I mean he’s kind of a big deal and the cornerstone of our whole Catholic faith. We can’t screw this one up. The current draft has some wonderful information in it – notes about the culture, history, socioeconomic and political environment Jesus grew up in, how various characters in the New Testament related to him, a comparison of the 4 Gospels, an analysis of the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection, etc. All great things and so important to know and understand when learning about who Jesus is.

Book Review: Find a Real Friend in Jesus kktaliaferro.wordpress.com #DailyGracesBut something keeps nagging at me, like we are missing something. Gary Zimak’s new book Find a Real Friend in Jesus, is exactly what we have been missing. You can know a lot of theology, history and Church doctrine about Jesus. But if you want to grow in your faith, you have to know Jesus. Zimak offers “10 amazingly easy steps” through which we can not only come to know Jesus, we can actually begin to have a real relationship with him – dare I say consider Jesus a true friend.

Zimak isn’t lying. These steps are very easy. What’s the catch then you say? It’s all in the follow-through. It’s very easy to read the Bible when you understand the message and it’s uplifting. It’s not as easy to read passages that challenge you to change, grow, or adopt a new vision for the world. It’s very easy to pray to Jesus when we are in need of something. It’s not as easy to get up 20 minutes early to spend quiet time (and awake time) talking to our Lord about the areas of our life that need adjusting. It’s very easy to complain about our sufferings. It’s much much harder to endure them day after day, or, even more fruitful, embrace them as Christ embraced his own cross. Just like any relationship will fizzle and die if both sides do not actively talk and spend time together, your relationship with Jesus will be what you make of it. All Jesus needs is a little crack in the door to let his light and friendship shine into your life. Open yourself up to him a little and he will give you all of himself and more.

One thing that I really loved about Gary’s book is that I’m pretty sure in each step he mentions asking God for the grace, strength, courage, inspiration, etc. to accomplish the step. I think that this is key. Even with “easy” steps, we still can and should ask for the grace to fulfill them to their fullest. We can do nothing without God. Even the part of the relationship that deceptively appears to be ours is just another way that we can allow God to live and work through us.

Do you wish you and Jesus had a stronger relationship? (a question everyone should respond yes to, in case you were curious). Do you feel like you don’t have a relationship with Jesus? By practically and faithfully employing the steps that Zimak lists (or even most of them, depending on who you are and what time you are willing to commit to this endeavor) you can make, re-start and grow your relationship with Jesus.