Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Are We There Yet?

“Are…we…there…yet?” my youngest daughter moaned, ten minutes after we pulled out of the drive.  “We’ll be there…when we get there,” I responded.  I quickly forgave her utter lack of patience because I was still giggling from hearing her holler from her bed, “Helloooo – this is Peggy.  Can I help you?”  (Those Discover Card commercials really have an impact.)  And, I chuckled even more when I told my older daughter, “You make my heart sing,” and she replied, “Does it sing la la la la La Bamba?”  So funny, those kids – I can’t stay frustrated too long.

Anyway, the weather was gorgeous this past weekend and we decided to head to the beach.  We had never been to the Texas Sand Fest in Port Aransas, so we were excited about joining 100,000 other sand lovers at the largest Master Sand Sculpting Competition in the United States!  (Note to self – buy a beach parking permit BEFORE we’re ON the beach and prepare the kids that a guy wearing a hard hat, seashell bra and rainbow tutu might be telling them hello while we’re there.)

My husband and I were amazed by the breath-taking sculptures and marveled at the detailed handiwork.  It was certainly hard to believe that the works of art were made by hand and only with sand.  The kids were anxious to dig in and build their own sand castles.  After we coaxed them to walk through the Masters area, we headed to Lesson Mountain, where the kiddos learned some tricks of the trade and had the chance to get their hands (and feet and nose and hair and ears) all sandy.

There were some “retired” Master Sculptors in that designated area who were eager to pass the sandy torch to the young ones.  We learned that we should cut the bottoms out of our sand pails to use as molds.  They also taught us that the sand needs to stay wet - really wet – as we fill the molds with sand and water.  “NEVER let the sand get dry” was the advice that stuck in my head.  We are now equipped with some knowledge to make a sand castle that will actually stay standing this summer.  Thank you, sand-savvy sirs!

On a similar note, there is something of great magnitude that “molds” each of us.  Our thoughts.  Matthew Kelly feels that “the actions of our life are determined by the last most dominant thought.”  He writes:

Thought determines action.  Before too long, you will be living out what has already happened in your mind.  The actions of your life are determined by your last most dominant thought.  Human thought is creative.  What we think becomes.  What you allow to occupy your mind forms the reality of your life.  Good or bad, everything happens in your mind before it happens in time and space.  If you can direct what happens in your mind, you can direct what happens in your life.
What are you thinking?  What do you think about all day long?  What do you think about in the car on the way to and from work each day?  What do you think about while you are waiting in line at the supermarket?
You cannot grow an oak with an apple seed.  So it is with thoughts.  Certain thoughts give birth to certain actions.

I think my friend, Melissa, is doing a beautiful job at allowing God to “mold” her.  He has called her to go on a mission trip – one that would truly exemplify her reckless faith.  She is extremely excited about the opportunity.  However, during her pre-trip research, she has uncovered some, um, interesting facts about her destination that have caused her to remember the kind Poison Control lady’s advice of, “Step. Away. From. The. Computer. Put. The. Mouse. Down.”  

She shared a comical, but scary-ish e-mail with facts taken from Wikitravel.  She writes:

“Bits are quite promising, while other info. will cause slight anxiety such as:
For travel, you can catch a crowded chicken bus (reused U.S. school bus), but more than 100 bus drivers have been murdered as a result of gang conflict. Despite the violence, many still consider the chicken buses and local city bus safer than taking the taxis or tuk-tuks (small three wheelers with cloth side doors). Tuk-tuks have been blamed for taking tourists to an obscure area for robbery, so knowing a local tuk-tuk driver might be safer than procuring one on the street.

Going barefoot or with sandals is the norm, however hiking with them or going barefoot might lead to ‘cutanous larva migrans,’ where hookworm larvae penetrate and cause itchy red curves and lines. Penetrating ‘botfly’ larvae…is a rare souvenir gift that would entertain your family at home. So wear shoes and socks, if you desire to walk off of the pavement.

However, if you are lucky, you will not have any illnesses...”

Melissa jokes, “Am I feeling LUCKY today?  Can't wait for the trip of a lifetime!”

Oh…Melissa, Melissa, MELISSA!  My thoughts and prayers are with you, girl.  God will provide.  Just assure me that you are going to befriend a nice little tuk-tuk driver and for goodness sake, PU-LEEZ promise me you’ll wear socks and shoes at ALL times!  And, tell the chickens on the bus “hi” from me.  (Is it crowded with chickens or people?  I dunno.  Anyway.)

Melissa will be traveling much farther than we did this past weekend.  But, when our backseat echoed, “Are we thay-rrrrrrr yet?” about twenty gazillion times - I thought of my friend’s upcoming mission trip and pondered the real answer to that question.  Many say that life is not a destination, but a journey.  Are we THERE yet?  Hmmmm….no, not really, but we’re being gently sculpted as we go.

The sculptor’s advice of “Never let the sand get dry” could also be “Never let the faith get dry.”  Same concept – neither one will work well while being sculpted.  Sand is sand.  But, the shape it takes depends on whose hands it’s in. 

As I watched my children create their own sand art, a song kept playing in my head.  David Kauffman’s song, “Make Me What You Will,” (http://www.myspace.com/music/player?sid=49547733&ac=now) is an inspirational song about allowing God to shape and mold us.  Don’t get me wrong - my kiddos produced some spectacular sand sculptures, BUT allowing the hands of the “Master Sculptor” to mold us will result in something more magnificent than we ever thought possible.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Just a Little...

We’ve all heard that saying - “just a little…goes a long way.”  I can think of numerous instances where this holds true.  The first thing that comes to mind is cooking.  Haven’t we all overdone it on the salt, pepper or garlic a time or two?  No?  Oh, okay, well maybe it’s just me.  Anyhoo – moving on.

Most evenings around 5:30 pm, I can be found throwing something together in my kitchen – anything - and quickly - while the kids are moaning nearby in unison, “I’m huuungry.  Can I have candy?  I’m starrrrving!  Is it ready yet?  What are we having?  Awwwwwwww!  Not thaaaat - I don’t like that….”  Etcetera.

If you’ve read about my grocery shopping adventures in “Ready…Set…Grocery Store,” you will better understand why I never quite know what makes it to my fridge.  My brother, on the other hand, can cook circles around me and truly LOVES the grocery store.  He and my sister-in-law will spend countless hours looking for the best-tasting, healthiest ingredients for their cooking.  He has an amazing palate and knows just exactly what a dish needs to be voila’ perfecto! 

Cucumber salad would seem to be fairly simple - not too many ingredients to mess up, right?  Well, my brother’s cucumber salad is ALWAYS more delicious than mine (my daughter even said so herself), so I begged him for the secret ingredient.  A hundred dollars later, he gave it to me (ha – only kidding!).

What was the difference between his fabulous cucumber salad and my so-so cucumber salad?  Just a little…sugar.  Yep, only ¼ tsp of white sweetness made all the difference.  Here’s the recipe in case you are now uncontrollably salivating and craving cucumber salad:  2 large cucumbers (peeled and thinly sliced), 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, 6 Tbsp. vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper and ¼ tsp. sugar.  Toss and marinate overnight.  Mmmmm – enjoy!

Another time that “just a little” goes a long way is in the kindness department.  My husband is a wonderfully cheery guy first thing in the morning.  I’m, uh…not so cheery.  Well, he thoughtfully made breakfast for the fam last week – egg and sausage taquitos.  He and our son gobbled up a taquito or two and headed out the door.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen, I noticed the pan pork sausage wrapper…and the expiration date…which was a MONTH earlier.  I also conveniently noted that there were NO preservatives listed in the ingredients either.  Ahhhh!  I secretly wished this particular package would have been chocked full of nitrites!  Then, as I sucked up all the oxygen in the kitchen with my gasp, I felt the panic set in. 

Where does a mom in “Operation Crazy Mode” go?  Her trusty computer.  I frantically googled what could possibly happen to my poor son and husband after eating WAY OVER expired pork sausage.  Bad move.

My mind was racing and I won’t even tell you the horrifying stuff I read about food-borne illness, bacteria and parasites.  After a frenzied call to my mom, my friend, Linsey, happened to call.  However, I’m sure she wished she hadn’t afterwards.  She tried to ease my nutty mind with “just a little” chat and told me that it would all be fine.  Her ability to stay calm definitely helped me – thank you, Linsey!  But, of course, like some moms (or maybe not), I called Poison Control.  An angel answered on the other end.

She patiently listened to me go on and on and then she cautiously replied, “Step.  Away.  From.  The.  Computer.  Put.  Down.  The.  Mouse.  They will be fine, I assure you.”  She then proceeded to tell me a few stories of how her grandmother would leave a pot of soup on the stove all week and just add things to it.  She also described how her mom kept the lunch leftovers on the counter until supper.  She said, “And we lived.” 

Just a little…kindness, goes a long way.  Thank you so much, kind Poison Control lady.  You were the right person at the right time.  (By the way, my family was fine, if you were wondering.  I, however, had to recover from all the anxiety – heh)

Another aspect of “just a little” has to do with fabric and thread.  I am blessed to know many creative people.  One of my childhood friends, Jill, has an amazing gift of turning a random piece of fabric into a wearable work of art.  A few years ago, her dad bought her an old sewing machine at a garage sale and the rest is history!  After you grab a few Sips of Sunshine today, be sure to head over to Raspberry Market and take a look for yourself! (http://www.etsy.com/shop/raspberrymarket) 

A high school friend of mine, Alison, is able to turn “just a little” paint and d├ęcor into a masterpiece room makeover.  She has a unique eye for design and has recently stepped out to share her gift with others (like last week – recently)  You won’t want to miss her $150 special price through September 1, 2012.  Check out Alison’s gorgeous design portfolio and contact her with any questions at:  atexski@yahoo.com.   (http://www.flickr.com/photos/30786944@N03/sets/72157629786833531/detail/)

“Just a little” speech that shared a very BIG message was sent to me last week by my godson’s mother, Donna.  If you have five minutes, watch this... http://www.godvine.com/Boy-With-Down-Syndrome-Gives-an-Unforgettable-Christan-Speech-1316.html  What a pure example of a servant’s heart.  Thank you, Ryan Pittman.  (His speech begins around the 3-minute mark.)

And, aren’t we sometimes led by “just a little” child?  Akiane’s paintings will simply blow you away - http://www.shangralafamilyfun.com/prodigy.html.  Her portrait of Jesus brings tears to my eyes.

Finally, don’t we all need “just a little” reminder from time to time?  Sometimes we need that gentle reminder to tell us we don’t have to travel far to see the Seven Wonders of the World.  They can easily be found within each and every one of us – to see, to hear, to touch, to smell, to taste, to laugh and to love.

Heck, “just a little” strawberry made us laugh for an entire day.  It’s the little things, it really and truly is:  the kids in daddy’s t-shirt with twenty pillows stuffed underneath playing sumo wrestling…the tea party in the living room tent…the angelic look on my son’s face when he received his First Holy Communion this past weekend.  Let’s savor the little things…and our little ones.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's Only Hair

“It’s only hair!” I jokingly assured my precious girl.
“Ya look like Sasquatch - Mom - ya know,” she grinned with a twirl.
We laughed and laughed that warm spring day,
As Daddy cut my hair away.

For you and me, it’s only hair,
But it means hope for heads so bare.
Blonde, brown, curly, straight,
Many find it hard to wait.

Cancer treatments steal the gift of hair upon a head.
A real-hair wig provides the strength and confidence is fed.
Eleven inches gone that day - a simple gift of hair,
Eager to bring hope somehow - to show that I care.

True beauty lies down deep beneath the shampoo, gel and make-up,
It is what’s found within our soul the moment that we wake-up.
The way that any room lights up as soon as we arrive,
Because our eyes cast not a doubt Who really makes us thrive.

And just like hair - many gifts don’t have to cost a dime.
How ‘bout a little smile?  A hug?  A laugh?  Our time?
It really does feel just as good to give as to receive,
Share your love with someone - help them to believe.

But it’s only “paper”- to someone we might say,
When special words are written - a card can make their day.
But it’s just a “car” - we might feel inside,
But memories are tucked away in each and every ride.

But it’s only “bricks and wood” with a simple glance,
But found beneath the walls of home is where we dance our dance.
And as my daughter clipped her locks - a curl fell to the floor,
“It’s only hair,” I gasped.  Of course, she will grow more.

It’s only “hair,” we might think, as we brush each day,
But for some - it stands for hope.  Change a life?  You may!
Eight ponytails donated to Pantene Beautiful Lengths (http://www.beautifullengths.com/)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hide-n-Seek

My sister-in-law, Kerri, is one of those special aunts who loves to get down on the floor and play games with her nieces and nephew; fly kites with them; send little random care packages in the mail; and doesn’t mind playing twenty-two thousand games of hide-n-seek.  (Thank you, Aunt Kerri!)

If I am ever able to distract the kids and get them interested in something else besides playing with Aunt Kerri, then she and I get to have some great conversations.  I remember one time we had a deep conversation about…hide-n-seek, actually.

She stated that most kids want to hide because it’s easier.  Seeking is harder.  However, the seeker seems most happy and the hider is often disappointed when they’re found.  We discussed the parallels in the adult world before the kids found us hiding under the table (hee hee).  On a serious note, it truly can be more rewarding to “seek” instead of “hide” in many areas of our lives.

For starters, many of us want to seek out all of the details of our family tree and make much effort to study our family’s genealogy.  We want to know WHO WE ARE!  It makes us fill with pride to wear our funny t-shirts that say “Kiss me, I’m Irish” or “I was Czech before it was cool!” or "I'm a jolly German, NOT a sour kraut.”  And isn’t there such great comradeship when we keep our traditions alive at family reunions, church picnics and other festivities?

Of course, while we seek out who we truly are, we may not understand everything.  For instance, my children LOVE The Berenstain Bears.  LOVE.  LOVE.  LOVE.  The other day, my daughter was watching an episode on YouTube, but I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying.  I listened more closely and found that she had clicked on an episode in the Lakota dialect.  I asked her if she understood what they were saying.  She replied, “It doesn’t matter what language it is – Spanish or whatever.  I love the Berenstain Bears.  I just wanna listen and watch.”  Of course, she said all of this in perfect Lakota (ha – only kidding!)

If we could only be as diligent…to continue to listen even when we don’t understand.

My Aunt Edie was commenting the other day that she really needed a book to read.  She likes to read stories of hope, inspiration and faith and she starts to feel the “valley” or the “desert” when she’s not being inspired through a book.  She said, “I just cannot think of a book right now that fits the bill.”  A few days later, we had a conversation.  She said, “Oh gosh, it was like a 2X4 on the head.  Duh.  I need a book?  How ‘bout Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?  Does that ring a bell?  I HAVE a book!”

Speaking of the Bible and seeking who we are – I find such joy in many verses of Psalm 139.  I particularly enjoy my Confirmation edition Bible because it is so easy to understand:

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know when I sit and when I stand.  When far away, you know my every thought.  You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest.  Every moment, you know where I am.  You know what I am going to say before I even say it.  You both precede and follow me and place your blessing on my head.  You made me.  You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  It is amazing to think about.  Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it.  You were there while I was being formed in seclusion.  You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.
 Every day was recorded in your Book.”

Wow.  So, He also knew what our strengths and weaknesses would be from the day of our conception.  In His great wisdom, He knew what crosses we’d bear and gave us what we’d need to carry them.  And, with Good Friday approaching, it is a great time to remember that He knows about heavy crosses.  He knows.  He truly knows.  The will of God will never take us where the grace of God will not protect us.

Sometimes it is just easier to hide, though, right?  There is less effort needed for that and on certain days, that just sounds a whole heck of a lot better than seeking.  One of the problems with hiding is that we start talking to ourselves, but it’s usually not gentle.  We tell ourselves things we’d never say to someone else. 

On days that I choose to hide instead of seek, my day starts off very negatively.  Within the first two minutes of our day, we might say to ourselves, “My hair is so blah.  I hate my job.  My home is outdated.  The weather is pitiful.  Man, I’m fat.”  There’s five little nasty thoughts right there and the negative self-talk usually continues the rest of the day.

If we try the “seeking” mode, we might start the day off with an inspirational quote, a Bible verse, a quick prayer or a rosary recitation.  Our entire day will most likely include much more positive self-talk like, “Hey, I’m lucky to have hair.  I’m glad I have a job.  I’m so blessed to have a roof over my head.  The weather is out of my control – someone must need the rain today.  I’m lucky to have food to eat, but I will start to include more activity in my day and make better food choices to feel healthier.” 

Ahhh.  Doesn’t that sound better?  It’s more soothing for sure.  We can still talk to ourselves, but let’s do it gently.  However, I do want to make something perfectly clear – singing at the top of our lungs while in the car – alone - is totally still acceptable, no matter what type of strange looks you get from the guy in the car beside you.  After all, hasn’t he heard that singing is praying twice?  (tee hee hee)

Eager to watch a wonderful movie about seeking?  October Baby (http://www.hulu.com/watch/323183/october-baby) is the story of a young woman’s incredible journey to discover her hidden past and to find her birth mother.  It’s about faith, life and forgiveness.  The soundtrack is breathtakingly amazing as well.  (Bring a Kleenex or two…or twenty, in my case.)

Eager to read an unforgettable book about seeking?  Unplanned by Abby Johnson is nothing short of, “Speechless!”  (http://www.unplannedthebook.com/)  This heart-stopping story of truth and spiritual transformation will change lives.  In her book, you will also hear about the “40 Days for Life” campaign (http://www.40daysforlife.com/).  The peaceful pro-life vigil held in 258 locations around the world saved 718 babies this year.  Twenty-two abortion centers closed following this last campaign ending on April 1st.   The power of prayer is undeniable here.  In the words of St. Augustine - “Work as though everything depends on you.  Pray as though everything depends on God.”

If we truly desire to seek the truth about our world and about ourselves, we can surely learn from every person we encounter.  God put them on our path for a reason.  No matter if we’re hiding or seeking today, God is right beside us.