I had a strange experience recently. I was asked to speak at a Women’s Breakfast at St. Jude’s Parish in Pennsylvania. Although I knew my subject well and have done quite a bit of speaking, I was really nervous. I was afraid I would forget everything, or talk too fast, or talk too much. When the talk was over I was really surprised at the positive feedback. When I pondered this later, I found myself laughing out loud.

All through school my teachers complained about my chatting in class. Every report card said, “She’s a nice girl, if she would just stop talking so much!” I realized that the Lord in His infinite Mercy, Wisdom and…um….humor (?), had turned one of my greatest vices into a gift. Only God can do that. It made me wonder if we often miss the gifts that God gives us, because they are disguised as challenges or difficulties.

When we are in times of poverty, do we realize the lessons we are learning? Pope John XXIII lived in economic poverty. After going into the seminary he told his parents that although he had learned a lot there, that he learned the most from watching them at home. He had learned to trust God for his needs, to share what little he had and to be tolerant and accepting of others.

During our own economic times we are learning to be frugal. We are turning to the Lord with hearts needing to trust and we are turning back to really important things rather than material things. These are lessons that could not be easily learned any other way.

Teens often struggle with insecurities about the things that make them unique. Perhaps having your students make a list of things they don’t like about themselves (anonymously) and brain storming about how these things may be blessings could help. In my family we have a daughter with special needs. She is a blessing for so many reasons, but one of the biggest blessings we gain from her are changes we have to make in ourselves. We have to learn patience, kindness and tolerance. I think we may be more selfish in a world without this little girl. We also learn how much little successes mean: the first time she played with another child, the first time she did her homework without needing help, or the night she unstacked the dishwasher just to be kind to me.

My older daughter had brain surgery when she was thirteen years old, a difficulty to be sure. However, she gained a new trust and belief God that serves her well to this day. Where would she be now without that trial?

We might not recognize the blessings God is trying to give us, because we can only see them as negative. This New Year’s Eve I will resolve to make a list of my vices and see if the Lord can find a way to turn them into virtue.