I seem to have run into a small problem lately. Like the majority of girls and women out there, I have my arsenal of beauty products that I keep at the ready. Out of these products there are some that are used quite often and on a regular basis, like my facial lotion or my face wash. Within the past few months, I ventured out into the retail world at different times to restock on some of my basics, and each time I would come back empty-handed. The answer from the store clerk was the same each time I asked for something, “Sorry miss, it’s been discontinued.” I would go home, sorely disappointed and mourning the loss of my dependable product that has been a part of my life for a good amount of time.

I was telling a friend of my recent dilemma over lunch and she simply laughed out loud and said, “Your life has been discontinued.” I too had to laugh at that, because it was such an extreme statement. No, my life had not been discontinued, but calling the discontinuation of various products a “dilemma” was just as dramatic of a statement. My dilemma is no dilemma at all. I will simply find replacement products, which will most likely be even better than the ones I had been loyal to for so long.

And so the same can be said for all things in life. We have things that we deem to be essential and necessary to us and our lives and we are devastated when they’re taken away in one manner or another. We get angry and yell things out toward the heavens like “Why, oh God, why?” God must be punishing us for taking away the things we’ve deemed good. But that could not be farther from the truth.

When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done,” and we truly mean it, then we trust that all things done in our lives and all things that happen are done for goodness. God may take away something seemingly good to us and it may hurt and the loss may be hard but He is only making room for what is even better. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

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I recently had one of the most seemingly disastrous job interviews I’ve ever been on in my life. When preping for an interview, there are some questions you expect will be asked one of which would be “What is your biggest weakness?” Of course the point is to come up with a weakness that is really a strength in disguise or a weakness that could be spun positively very easily.

I had my “weakness” at the ready so when one of the interviewers asked me to list my three biggest weaknesses, the only thing I could think was “three?!?” So I went with my usual answer, came up with another one on the spot, and when it came to the third not-so-weak-but-actually-a-good-quality “weakness” I went absolutely blank. And the pause that followed was long and painful. In fact, it was a puase so long and so painful that the other interviewer turns and tells me he has another question for me to answer until I could come up with my third “weakness.” I thought I had been relieved of the question that way but after I answered the interim question, they both stared at me and asked for my third “weakness.” And I was still drawing a blank.

In my best effort to salvage the moment all I could muster was, “Well, considering the situation, I’d say my third weakness would be that I can’t always think very quickly on my feet.”

Disaster.

I couldn’t wait to get out of there; the interview couldn’t end soon enough.

Imagine my surprise when two weeks later I got a call telling me that I’d gotten the job. It seems that my perceived absolute blunder demonstrated that I could take a bleak looking situation and make the best out of it. By using my inability to come up with an answer as my answer, I did think on the spot without even realizing it. But it seems my interviewers did.

This reitierated to me something a dear friend had briefly said to me before: It’s all about perspective. Point of view can make or break a moment, a day, a week, a year, a life. St. Paul in his epistle to the Thessalonians tells us to “Rejoice always.” It seems like a fairly difficult direction to follow because bad things happen. But the point is to rejoice during the bad and the good, to cultivate a spirit that does not waver in the face of the ups and the downs. To cultivate a spirit so solidly grounded in God that nothing but rejoicing and joy seems natural. And that’s one of the keys right there–the bad will lose all potency in the face of a joyful spirit and it will be transformed into all that is good simply because we are following His commandment.

My baby cousin Peter is someone we can all take a few lessons from. At a little over two years old, he’s got his priorities and values straight. Let me explain by giving you an example of a typical Peter-action.

This past Sunday he was at church with his parents and sister. After the liturgy was over, people mill around and greet each other outside the church. His father is carrying him, when a family friend approaches them. My uncle greets his friend and tells Peter to say hi to “amo”–one of the Arabic words for “uncle.” In Egyptian culture, every male adult that you know is referred to as “uncle” and every adult female is referred to as “aunt.” It’s a part of the respectful and familial nature of the culture.

Peter, being the ever quick little child, looks at the man and very promptly shouts, “Not Amo!!” and smacks the man across the cheek.

It was simple really, the truth as Peter understands it is that his actual uncle, my father, is the person that is referred to as “amo,” not the stranger his father presented to him. Too young to understand cultural connotations, he repelled what to his innocent and simple understanding was a complete lie and guarded the truth he knew with fervor.

I had to stop and wonder how things would be if we all defended the truth that we know within our hearts and spirits with such passion and conviction–if any challenge to our faith and beliefs was met with a metaphorical smack across the cheek. Then perhaps we could sing out with David the prophet and the king when he says: “I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.”

School is boring, so to spice things up every once in a while I walk up and down the ramps in the building instead of taking the elevator. If you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, let me explain. The brilliant architect who designed my law school decided it would be a good idea to construct the levels of the building around these winding ramps. Needless to say, by the time you’ve made your way from the top floor to the ground floor, you’ve probably walked a mile. The only people who ever use the ramps are the first years. Second and third years are too lazy to walk so they opt for the elevator and the active ones use the hidden staircases (I only found out they existed at the very end of my first semester here.)

On my way down the ramps today, one of the students in front of me was telling his friends about his broken television. As it turns out, when he moved into the area for school he also purchased a new television that broke down. So, he called the store and asked for them to come repair it. After playing phone tag with customer service for a while he was finally able to get repairmen to come. They arrived at his house one day, assessed the television, and told him it had to be taken in for repairs. Four months later, and he still has no TV. The repairmen were actually not repairmen at all, but very crafty conmen. When he called the store to inquire about his television, customer service replied with “Um, sir… we don’t subcontract to a company by that name…” Basically, thieves walked into his home dressed as repairmen, took his television with his approval, and walked off never to be seen again.

(People also walk very slowly up and down the ramps so you end up learning strangers’ life stories if you’re walking behind them.)

His run-in with fake repairmen quickly brought these verses to mind: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits…” (Matthew 7:15-16). The repairmen came in sheep’s clothing. Who doesn’t trust a repairman? Something broke and you called him to fix it, of course you’ll trust him. But when the thief puts on the repairman’s clothing, how can you tell the difference? Only with extreme caution, a discerning eye, and a mind filled with knowledge and wisdom can we pierce through the veil to the truth.

And so it is the case with everyone we meet. There are those who seem to bring goodness and edification when they are truly tearing us down from the inside outward. Today’s false prophets come in glamorized exteriors–the job with the salary that breeds greed, the wonderful education that instills doubts of faith, the good friend who encourages defiance of what is right and good.

We must be ever watchful, or else our souls will also be stolen from right under our noses.

I was sitting at Starbucks this evening doing some work when this young boy walked in with his mother and father. He looked like he was about 6 years old or so and he was wearing a Superman t-shirt with a cape attached to the back of it. His parents paid for their coffee and for his box of milk, which he sipped on while he bounced around the store as his parents waited for their coffee. As I watched him poke around the store, I found myself thinking “I want a cape!!!”

But really, I didn’t actually want a cape.

I’m a 22 year-old young woman, who will hopefully be an attorney in less than two years. Capes just really wouldn’t work in my wardrobe… No, what I really wanted and what my absurd thought was telegraphing was a desire to return to the simplicity and peace of childhood. A time when I could wear a cape if I wanted to. A time with less worries, less gadgets, more connection, clearer thought… I found myself hoping that this cape-wearing six-year-old was really enjoying and treasuring every moment of his childhood…

And then he pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and started chatting away on it.