Then, at a crucial crossroads in my life, I met a wise, old nun and artist named Sister Augustine, who still ran the small ceramics shop she had started 40 years earlier on the grounds of the oldest Benedictine convent in the country.
I recently had the chance to write about Sister Augustine and how our five-year friendship changed my life forever in my book, Five Years in Heaven. On those pages, I was able to tell the story of how Sister Augustine answered the universal questions we all have about things like forgiveness, death, the existence of God, love, creativity, and much more.
Ultimately, Sister confirmed for me the promise held in the poignant lines of Ecclesiastes 3:11: “God makes everything beautiful in its time.” BTW, that includes you!
Here are three tips inspired by Sister Augustine to help you lead the best life possible:
You are cooler than you think.
Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: You — YES, YOU — are so much cooler than any of your favorite actors, singers, or athletes. Why? Because you have gifts and talents that no one else has, including those celebs.
Into her 90s, Sister Augustine wore the same traditional, black-and-white habit every day. She worked full-time, six days a week in her studio and produced thousands of art pieces in her lifetime.Even in her humble surroundings, what made my friend so awesome at 92 years old was that she was still doing what she loved, and she was doing it at the top of her game. No one can reproduce one of her abstract bowls, which she called Gussie’s Specials, her statues, or her small crosses crafted from leftover clay — they were all something only she could create with the skills with which she had been blessed.
Sister Augustine once told me, “What we do with our God-given talents is what makes all the difference in life.”
Sister taught me to be confident in myself and to have faith in my own abilities. She encouraged me to not let what others think bother me. In turn, I also learned to not judge others for their choices and actions, but rather to appreciate them and their unique talents.
Tip for living your best life: You have talents unique to only you. Discover what you’re good at. Wear your confidence and talents proudly for all to see. Embrace every moment, good or bad, with compassion and humility. Then, change the world by doing what you love, one step at a time!
#EpicFail is not the end of the world.
So often, we’re afraid or embarrassed to make mistakes, even small ones. We think a mistake or a failure will make us look dumb or foolish, especially in front of others.
Sister Augustine showed me how making mistakes is a natural part of life. These missteps are often God’s blessings in disguise — opportunities for us to pause and be grateful for what we have and to better understand what matters most in life.
Sister would say, “It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.”
When we learn from a mistake, it becomes a big stepping-stone toward our hopes and dreams. It becomes a precious gift.
Tip for living your best life: It’s okay to make mistakes, big or small. It’s okay to fail. Don’t stress out. Don’t cave to the pressure to be perfect. (Here’s a little secret: NOBODY IS PERFECT!) Learn from your mistakes and failures. Give yourself a big LOL and move on.
Actions have a voice, too!
Sister Augustine would always remind me that actions, especially when done in the name of love and charity, have a loud voice.
No matter how many challenges you face or how hard your life is, someone somewhere in the world has it worse. It’s up to you to stand up and take action for them.
Once you discover your talents and what you love doing, use those gifts and passions to improve the lives of others or the planet. Help out a neighbor, volunteer at an animal shelter, start a recycling project, or do whatever it is you do best to raise money for a good cause. Our hands can be used as an extension of God’s own handiwork.
“The world will be a better place because of your work and because of the compassion you have in your heart,” Sister Augustine said.
Sister sharpened my understanding of compassion for all living beings. We are all in this world together. We are each other’s responsibility. My friend focused my vision on using my talents as a writer, artist, and teacher to help others and our world.
Thanks to Sister Augustine, I now better understand the power of lending a hand, and of something as simple as a smile and good deed. In this way, we all get to experience a little slice of Heaven right here on earth.
Tip for living your best life: Pick a cause you feel passionate about, and then bring it on! Let your actions for good be heard loud and clear. Show the world what you’re really made of. What you will soon discover is that the smile and helpful hand that changed the world are yours.