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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Can't Buy Christmas

Photo Credit:  wallyir from morgueFile.com
Christmas is something we just can’t buy,
Although at times, it seems we try.
We rush around with shoppers galore,
Buying more gifts than ever before.
We fret about cards and wrapping and such,
Causing our stress to be a bit much.
We push and shove for sales and deals,
Sometimes forgetting how anyone feels.
We hurry.  We worry.  Lose sight of the reason,
The heart and soul of this holiday season.
Because the mightiest, glorious gift of them all,
Came surprisingly helpless and ever so small.
Could our Lord Jesus Christ be so humble enough,
To be born in a stable – modest and rough?
Could His mother, so tired, dusty, and worn,
Find comfort in where her Son would be born?
A manger, a trough where animals fed,
Would this be the place to lay His sweet head?
What were her thoughts – this makeshift room?
Did she want to clean up with a mop and a broom?
Or did trusting it all would be okay,
Suppress her fears about that day?
This plain wooden trough, so lowly and trite,
Yet, so very grand – it was just right.
God transforms with a simple touch,
Our lives, a manger, and things that we clutch.
A manger’s a symbol of nothing less,
Than the glory of God.  Our lives He will bless.
We mustn’t lose sight of the reason we give,
Lest we forget He’s the reason we live.
Let’s hold Him close – the baby boy,
With swaddling blankets of love, hope, and joy.
Let’s soften His manger – forgive and be kind.
Let’s pray for all mothers – they surely won’t mind.
Let’s warm the Lord’s room, all covered in dust,
By spreading His peace.  It’s surely a must.
No money could buy this gift of love,
The birthday of Jesus is sent from above.
Without Him on Christmas, it all seems for naught.
We can’t buy Christmas.  It just can’t be bought.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Sunshines!  No Sips for a couple of weeks.  2014, here we come!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Facing the Manger

One of my friends had a very thought-provoking facebook post the other day.  Gina said, “My kids always arrange the nativity with all the people and animals crowded together, backs to us, huddled in close to baby Jesus.  I, of course, always feel the need to spread everyone out nice and even...facing us on display.  What a lesson I have learned from my littles tonight!  I've got it all wrong.  May I please be more like my children...crowded and huddled close to baby Jesus!”

After reading her inspirational post, I was so curious as to how my own four-year-old would “arrange” our nativity.  So, without any cues, I asked her to set it out under our Christmas tree.  Whaddya know?!  She set it out the exact same way as Gina’s children!  Joseph and Mary were standing close to baby Jesus – Mary at His head and Joseph at His feet.  The angels stood at the left and right of the stable, looking toward our Lord.  The kings, shepherds, and animals were all within inches of our Savior, just soaking in His every move.  How about THAT?!

Children are incredible, aren’t they?  They hear more than they let on and they are wise beyond their years.  Most importantly, they know what love is and exactly where to find it.  Facing the manger.  That’s where.

I found a few great quotes about children that I want to share:
  • Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them. - Lady Bird Johnson
  • While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about. - Angela Schwindt
  • Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you. - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
  • If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others. - Dr. Haim Ginott
  • Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called, ”All the things that could go wrong.” - Marianne Williamson
  • Heaven must be really small, because I can see it in my Mom’s eyes. – Author Unknown
  • What a child doesn’t receive, she can seldom later give. –  P.D. James
  • If we wish to be in our children’s memories tomorrow, we have to spend some time in their life today.  To connect with them, we need to disconnect from distractions. – Author Unknown

Not long after I read Gina’s post, I ran across another friend’s words of wisdom.  Rebecca has six beautiful children and this is what she said:

“I always get asked, ’How do you do it?’  WELL, here goes…I'm always tired, but I keep going EVERY day.  My house is never clean or uncluttered.  I don't want to spend the money on a maid when I am ‘physically’ capable of doing it myself.  My mind is always running in about a hundred different directions, even when I lay down at night.  I over think everything and am rarely on time anywhere.  I feel like my bedroom looks like a Laundromat exploded.  I rarely spend money on myself because I feel like my kids need it more.” 

“But, at the end of the day, with my sleeping baby in my arms, there is no greater feeling.  YES, we are outnumbered, but in WHAT?  We are outnumbered by the little people who love us back each day and THAT is how I do it.  I am really grateful for all these things because a dirty, cluttered house means I have a house.  And, clothes everywhere means we have stuff to wear.”

I loved reading this honest reflection from a mom with a large family.  One of Bill Keane’s quotes comes to mind regarding my friend, Rebecca:  "How do you divide your love among your children?" And the mother replied, "I don't divide my love - I multiply it."

Ah…children.  A child can teach so much, especially the Christ Child lying in the hay.  If we could just remember that our peace will come while facing the manger, with all of life’s distractions at our back.

Speaking of peace…I was looking for some among my own three children last weekend.  To avoid an overdose of cabin fever, I took them bowling.  We played two rounds – one with bumpers and one without.  What an interesting difference in those two games. 

The first game (without bumpers) was extremely frustrating for them.  As hard as they tried to focus and aim that ball right down the middle, their ball was inevitably sucked into the gutter more times than not.  Frame after frame this happened and they were flustered.  They wanted me to bowl the first game, so we couldn’t use the bumpers.  For the second game, they were like, Momma who?  The bumpers went up and joy followed.  They were successful. They were smiling.  They were enjoying what the game had to offer.

Hmmm…crazy enough, the bumpers reminded me of what Jesus can offer.  When we look love in the eyes as we are facing the manger, we can’t help but smile.  We will be better able to enjoy what this life has to offer if we have Him to keep us out of life’s gutters.  Like the bumpers, Jesus is there to keep us in line and headed in the right direction.  Who knew a simple game of bowling could offer so much insight?!

It’s obvious to me that many good people out there know about facing the manger.  My friend, Jennifer, was fairly certain that she had lost her credit card while filling up with gas in Houston.  She was extremely upset and couldn’t sleep.  Being the Christmas season and all, she had a lot of pending charges for gifts she had ordered.  The potential was there for a ridiculous amount of holiday hassle to get it all squared away.  She was so mad at herself because she had never lost a credit card before.

Once I heard about her predicament, I immediately prayed that whoever found that card would find it in their heart to turn it in.  With so many people desperately needing money during the holidays, I can imagine how tempting it could be for someone to just keep it.  I also asked Saint Anthony (patron saint of finding lost articles) for help.  “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around.  Something is lost and must be found.”  I felt confident and hopeful that her card would be found.

After a long night of waiting and wondering, Jennifer was proud to report the next morning, “Thank you, Lord!  Some angel turned in my credit card at the store.”  That’s right.  Angels ARE among us and they can even be found in a stranger’s kind gesture.  We can also catch a glimpse of baby Jesus’ love through our children.  It seems that we can conquer most anything that is thrown our way, as long as we’re facing the manger. 

And, while facing the manger, “Audience of One,” by Big Daddy Weave keeps playing in my mind.  The lyrics that really stand out for me are:  “So what could I bring to honor your Majesty?  What song could I sing that would move the heart of royalty?  When all that I have is this life that You’ve given me.  So, Lord, let me live for You, my song with humility.”  Crank up the volume…I think you’ll love it as much as I do.

In closing, I want to thank you, dear sweet children, for the reminder that love is found in a lowly manger.  A child shall indeed lead us…

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We Never Know

Photo Credit:  Darren Hester from morgueFile.com
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.  (Albert Einstein)

We all value different things and many of the things we value aren’t things at all.  So, as we embark on this month of shopping frenzies, let us pause to remember what we value most and what we are actually preparing for.  Our priest, Father Bentil, struck a chord with the congregation on Sunday as he encouraged us to focus on “how” we will await the birth of Christ during this Advent.

Father Bentil said that he actually ventured out on Thanksgiving evening as well as Black Friday.  He commented that the hustling and bustling crowds brought him great joy.  What?!  I can honestly say that that isn’t the first thing that crowds might bring me.  Frustration?  Maybe.  Joy?  Not so much.

He said he was full of joy because while he waited in the long lines, he prayed.  He prayed for the customer in front of him.  He prayed for the customer…uh, custo-MERZ…behind him.  He prayed for the cashiers who had been standing on their feet for hours.  He prayed.  We’ll never know who needed those prayers the most.

Personally, I loved the reminder.  During this time of year, while we shop for those we love and help to provide for those in need, we shouldn’t forget to pray.  It’s so easy to forget.  There are endless celebrations, activities, pageants, and parties to attend and hours of shopping, cooking, and baking to be done.  However, I’m certain that if we remember to pray, this season can be one of joy, peace, and hope.

I’ve heard that anxiety happens when we think we need to figure everything out.  The great news is that we don’t.  We cause ourselves much unnecessary fuss and fret when we think we need to be in control at all times.  God has mentioned numerous times in the Bible to trust Him.  Numerous.  Like at least 150 times or so.  Why, oh why then, do I need a daily reminder?!

I do know that God does a wonderful job at sharing amazing stories of inspiration through people.  One of Jim Stovall’s tales is a great one to share about the love of a mother: 

“There were two warring tribes in the Andes - one that lived in the lowlands and the other high in the mountains.  The mountain people invaded the lowlanders one day and as part of their plundering, they kidnapped a baby of one of the lowlander families.  They took the infant with them back to the mountains.”

“The lowlanders didn't know how to climb the mountain.  They didn't know any of the trails that the mountain people used.  They didn't know where to find the mountain people or how to track them in the steep terrain.”

“Even so, they sent out their best party of fighting men to climb the mountain and bring the baby home.  The men tried first one method of climbing and then another. They tried one trail and then another.  After several days of effort, however, they had only climbed a couple of hundred feet.  Feeling hopeless and helpless, the lowlander men decided the cause was lost, and they prepared to return to their village below.”

“As they were packing their gear for the descent, they saw the baby's mother walking toward them.  They realized that she was coming down the mountain that they hadn't figured out how to climb.  And then they saw that she had the baby strapped to her back.  How could that be?”

“One man greeted her and said, ‘We couldn't climb this mountain.  How did you do this when we, the strongest and most able men in the village, couldn't do it?’”

“She shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘It wasn't your baby.’”

Yes.  What love can do!  We should never underestimate its power.  As a side note of equally incredible inspiration, the writer, Jim Stovall, has the challenge of total blindness.  In addition to being a world renowned speaker and author, he is an International Humanitarian of the Year, a national Olympic weightlifting champion, the founder and president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a National Entrepreneur of the Year, just to name a few.

I have found that inspiration can come from anyone and anything.  And, inspiration to do things differently can come when we least expect it.  We just never know.  A couple of instances for our family most recently involved a fall off a bar stool and a microwave oven breakdown.

After our youngest daughter took a bad fall off a kitchen bar stool this summer, our family decided it was time to use our family table.  Before her fall, we used our kitchen table as a catch-all spot for random things.  For meals, the kids would typically sit at the bar and we would serve them while we ate standing at the kitchen island.  Terrible.  We felt like waiters.  It just worked at the time. 

But since that scary day in June, we have thoroughly enjoyed family meal time at our kitchen table because I refuse to let them sit on bar stools.  Most nights, the kids set the table.  I put the food on the table and we all SIT.  All of us.  We pass the food around while we talk about our day.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!  This never would have happened if it weren’t for the summer trip to the ER.  Bittersweet.  We never know what will prompt us to make a change…for the better.

On another note, over a month ago our microwave oven broke.  Good riddance some say.  OH NOOOO say others.  The point is that we opted not to replace it right away.  At first, I can’t tell you how many times I popped that door open out of habit to reheat something real quick.  As time has gone by, it’s funny that I don’t even miss it.  What has it taught our family?  Patience.  I’m serious.  We have to wait just a bit longer and waiting is okay.

We also never know what one second can mean.  One itty bitty tiny second.  However, one second can make the impossible possible and I witnessed it firsthand while catching the tail-end of the Auburn vs. Alabama game this past weekend.  One second.  Don’t ever underestimate its value.

Finally, we never know when God will work that miracle and answer that prayer.  After 11 million minutes of waiting (aka 21 years), a beautiful couple I know welcomed their sweet baby girl into this world.  Congratulations to Joe and Karen and their miracle, Makayla!  Did I mention that doctors told them there was a less than one percent chance they’d ever conceive?  God doesn’t listen to statistics.  Don’t ever underestimate God’s love.

Another thing not to underestimate is OUR ability to make a difference in someone’s life.  We never know who might need our word of encouragement, our prayer, or our love…especially during this Christmas season.  We just never know.  Let’s sprinkle in these things during our December days.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Three-Sixty-Four

Photo Credit:  Scott Liddell from morgueFile.com
I’m thankful on Thanksgiving Day, but eager to do more.
Can I be grateful on that day, plus three-sixty-four?
What happens on those other days that fill up the year?
Do we pack them full of fret, negativity, and fear?

I’ve heard that it’s a thankful heart that welcomes lasting peace.
Once we are appreciative, our worries seem to cease.
Can we be thankful for the meals we eat that are cold?
We should because we do have food.  For some, that is gold.

Can we give thanks for laundry on the floor that is piled?
We should because we do have clothes to wrap our every child.
Can we thank God for endless lines at the grocery store?
We should because that means we have someone to cook for.

Can we be thankful for a child who never sleeps at night?
We should because we have a child to hold so very tight.
Can we thank God for troubles with the house, the car, and such?
We should because it means that we’ve been blessed with oh so much.

Can we thank God for pokey trucks and even traffic too?
We should because it gives us time to say prayers overdue.
Can we thank God for running late to where we need to be?
We should because it means we have a place to be, you see?

Can we thank God for aches and pains we have when getting old?
We should because there are some who’ll die too young, I’m told.
Can we be thankful for a house that’s messy on most days?
We should because that house is full of children that we raise.

Can we give thanks for times we’ve felt alone and so afraid?
We should because the Lord was close beside us as we prayed.
Can we thank God for times we disagree with those we love?
We should because we can forgive with grace from up above.

Can we thank God for extra pounds we just can’t seem to shed?
We should because that means for us, our family is fed.
Can we thank God for mornings that come too soon, we say?
We should because we have received the gift of life that day.

And what about those dishes stacked high there in the sink?
We’d thank the Lord for them too, if we’d just stop and think.
Burdens that we claim might be blessings in disguise.
Can we praise God with thankful hearts?  I think it would be wise.

Is it truly possible?  We can and we should,
To show our thanks for the Lord, crucified on wood.
Let’s work at being grateful for the blessings, down they pour,
On Thanksgiving Day for sure…plus three-sixty-four.

* Happy Thanksgiving, Sunshines!  If you would like to read another Thanksgiving poem, check out, “A Special Guest.”  Have a wonderful week! *

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How Do You Spell Love?

Photo Credit:  Kevin Connors from morgueFile.com
It’s not what we have in our life, but who we have in our life that counts.  ~ J.M. Laurence
Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within the reach of every hand. ~ Blessed Mother Teresa

My youngest daughter always asks me to spell words for her.  Last week, she asked me, “How do you spell love?”  “L-O-V-E,” I quickly responded, so ecstatic that she loves words as much as her momma.  But, then I thought more about that simple question.  How DO we spell love?  How do we show love?  How do people know and feel our love?

Her inquiry prompted me to give each of my children Dr. Gary Chapman’s online quiz about the five love languages of children.  I had given the quiz to the older two a couple of years ago, but I hadn’t given my youngest the test yet.  It was time for a refresher, so they all had their turn at answering the questions.  It warmed my heart to hear their choices.

Come to find out, each of my three children have a different love language.  So, each of them feels most loved in a slightly different way.  That makes mothering them all the more exciting now doesn’t it?!  One size does NOT fit all!  I know that from my Halloween costume adventure, but we won’t rehash that at this time.  Ha!

Dr. Gary Chapman breaks his love languages down into simple terms.  I like simple.  Here they are:

Receiving Gifts
Children with the love language of gifts feel good when someone gives them a special present or a small surprise gift.

Physical Touch
Children whose love language is physical touch like to receive hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and high-fives.

Acts of Service
Children whose love language is acts of service like it when others do nice things for them such as helping with chores, helping with school projects, driving them places, or being asked to help make dinner.

Quality Time
Children with the love language of quality time like it when others do things with them like play a game, watch television with them, or go to a ballgame together.  It’s not so much what they do, as long as they are spending time together.

Words of Affirmation
Children whose love language is words of affirmation like for others to use encouraging words to tell them that they are special and that they do a good job.

If you haven’t done the quiz with your kiddos, I encourage you to give it a try.  It’s only twenty short questions and you might be surprised at their answers.  Of course, Dr. Chapman encourages a bit more patience with younger children.  He said that you might try asking him or her to draw some ways parents love their children.  Or, when reading books or watching programs together, you might ask the question, "How do you know that mommy or daddy loves that little boy or little girl?" Another way is to experiment by expressing love in each of the five ways over a week's period of time and see what their response is to each expression of love. 

Not long ago, a friend posted something on facebook that really hit home in the “show-your-children-you-love-them” department.  It was a wonderful blog post by Rachel Macy Stafford called, “Six Words You Should Say Today.”  She said, “When simply watching someone makes your heart feel as if it could explode right out of your chest, you really should let that person know.  I’ve got six words for you.”  I couldn’t grasp the impact that those six special words would actually make. 

“I love to watch you play.”  Yes, those six words are the magical words that just might change the way that you interact with your own family.  I share Rachel’s sentiments in the fact that I’m wordy too, so rarely do I stop at six words.  (No comments from my friends out there…)  I’m the type of gal that gets frustrated by word limits of any kind.  Instead of increasing margins to three inches, font to 24, and triple spacing, I’m forever making the margins zero, the font 10, and using single spacing.  So, to say, “I love to watch you play,” and leave it at that, would certainly be challenging.

Have I ever said those words to my children before?  Surely, over the years I have encouraged, cheered, gently guided, complimented, and offered constructive criticism.  But, I really can’t recall saying those exact words often enough.  So, I experimented.

The first opportunity I had to try them out was after watching my daughter play the piano.  In awe, I sat on our couch, mesmerized by her little fingers gently gliding over the keys…making music…beautiful music.  I don’t play the piano and I don’t know a half note from a quarter note, so my heart just gushed with pride as I watched her play so seemingly effortlessly.  After she finished my private recital, I simply said, “I love to watch you play.”  That’s it.  Nothing more.

A magnificent smile radiated from her precious face and her eyes glistened.  She was so proud.  They WERE magical!  Six words.  She insisted on playing several more tunes for me and then gave me the biggest Mommy-sized hug ever.  Simply said, those words seem to really take the pressure off. 

There have been many opportunities for me to use these special words with my other two children as well.  I specifically enjoy telling my children things like, “I love to watch you teach your sister,” and “I love to watch you share,” and “I love to watch you be an example of Christ’s love,” etc.   You wouldn’t believe the joy that beams from their little souls.  Try it.

My six-year-old daughter loves books about world records – longest fingernails, oldest woman, shortest man, largest chocolate bar, tallest building, and so forth.  Wouldn’t it be incredible if there was a world record book that was home to records like: most time spent in prayer in one hour, most hugs given in a day, least amount of gossiping in one week, most times to forgive in a month, most times to “pay it forward” in a year?  Wouldn’t that be a fabulous way to spell love?  Just an idea…

I’ll leave you with one final thought.  “I don’t have time to worry about who doesn’t like me because I’m too busy loving the people who love me.”  (Author Unknown)  Surely, most of us can spell love – L-O-V-E.  But, are we giving our best effort at showing it, sharing it, and nurturing it?  Every.  Single.  Day.  Maybe it’s through finding out someone’s love language?  Maybe it’s using those six special words?  Maybe it’s working toward that “new” world record?  Maybe it’s focusing on others more than ourselves?

How do YOU spell love?  Let’s spell it…show it…share it…and live it this week.  Want to spell love for someone you may not even know?  Send a card or letter to an injured Marine and bring some love to their military heart.  Get the scoop from this link through Mikey’s FunniesBe sure to get those letters in the mail by December 1st!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Trust Me

Photo Credit:  Melodi2 from morgueFile.com
Over the last week or so, I read two different stories that were great reminders about what it means when the Lord says, “Trust Me.  Not just “trust me” with the big stuff, but trust me…always.

The first story was sent to me by Aunt Irene and it’s called, “The Rope.”  (Author Unknown)

The story tells about a mountain climber who was desperate to climb the highest mountain.  He began his adventure after many years of preparation.  But, since he wanted all the glory for himself, he decided to climb the mountain alone.

The night felt heavy in the heights of the mountain.  The man couldn’t see a thing.  All was black.  Zero visibility.  The moon and the stars were covered by clouds.

With only a few short feet to go before reaching the mountaintop, he slipped and fell into the night air.  He fell at great speeds and could only see black spots as gravity sucked him down.  In those anguishing moments as he fell, the good and bad episodes of his life came to mind.

He thought about how close death was for him.  All of a sudden, the rope tied to his waist yanked him as he came to a screeching halt that almost tore him in half.  Like any good mountain climber, he had staked himself with a long rope tied to his waist.  With only the rope holding him as he dangled, suspended in the still night air, he screamed, “HELP ME, GOD!  HELP ME!”

A deep voice came from the heavens and answered, “What do you want me to do?”  The climber responded, “Save me, God!”  “Do you REALLY think that I can save you?” asked God.  “Of course I believe you can,” replied the man.

“Then cut the rope,” God said.  There was a moment of silence and stillness as the climber hung there.  He decided not to cut the rope and just held on tighter with all his strength.

The next day, the rescue team reported that a climber was found dead and frozen…his body hanging from a rope.  His hands were strongly gripping it…only FIVE feet from the ground!

This amazing story concludes with Isaiah 41:13 – “I am holding you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God – and I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid; I am here to help you.’”  Why do we doubt the things of God?  He will not forget us. 

How attached are we to our “rope?”  What “rope” do we hang on so tightly to that prevents us from trusting in HIS plan?  When will we let it go?  When will we just cut the rope and LET IT GO?  God has marvelous things planned, but we have to let go of the rope first.

There is a quote that my son, who adores fishing, shared with me the other day.  “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”  (Vincent Van Gogh)

I love the quote for many reasons.  For me personally, it is a reminder to trust.  Life will be unpredictable, just as the sea.  There will be storms and crashing waves.  But, if I trust that God has my hand, there is no reason for me not to dive in and enjoy the waters that this life has to offer. 

The second story I want to share is taken from Lou Holtz’s book, “Winning Every Day.”  It goes something like this:

A man’s car tumbled into a ditch.  He called on a nearby farmer to help, but the farmer said, “You’ll need a team of young stallions to pull that car out.  I only have one horse named Dusty and he’s old.  I’ll bring him over to the ditch and see what he can do.”

The farmer hitched Dusty to the car, snapped a whip in the air, and yelled, “Pull, Jimmy, pull!”  Dusty didn’t move.  The farmer snapped the whip again and hollered, “Pull, Sammy, pull!”  Dusty still didn’t budge.  He snapped the whip a third time and said, “Pull, Charley, pull!”

The farmer snapped that whip a fourth and final time and hollered, “Pull, Dusty, pull!”  With one mighty tug, Dusty yanked that car out of the ditch.  The driver was so grateful and shook the farmer’s hand.  “Thanks so much for freeing my car.  There is one thing that I don’t understand.  Why didn’t you just call Dusty by his name from the start?  He never moved when you called him by the other names.”

The farmer replied, “Dusty is also blind.  I had to call out those other three names first.  If Dusty thought he had to do it all by himself, he never would have even tried.”

This story resonates with me because at times, I feel a whole lot like Dusty.  If I really thought that I had to navigate this big ole world all by myself, I don’t believe that I would even try.  It’s too overwhelming to go it alone.  I find such comfort and strength in believing and knowing that God is there to help me, gently reminding me to trust Him along the way.  Always.  Big stuff, little stuff…always.

NOTHING is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)  I find such hope in those five words.  What is “nothing” anyway?  Nothing is zero, nil, zilch, nada, zip, nix…nothing.  So, NOTHING is impossible with God?  It’s so hard to wrap our finite minds around it, but if we can try to grasp the concept, we will certainly soar with a peace that is unmatched.

I encourage you to listen this week for the tender reminders of God saying, “Trust me…I’ve got this.”  And, then, slowly, finger by finger, let go of your rope.  He’ll be there to catch us.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Military Heart

Photo Credit:  Kenn W. Kiser from morgueFile.com
A military heart is unique, it must be true,
The blood that pulses deep within is red, white, and blue.
Its love is like a fire that grows when it is shared,
For complete and total strangers, they have truly cared.
All heroes past and present, at war and at peace,
My admiration for you all will never ever cease.
Veterans who went by choice or those who had been drafted,
I feel that God took extra care with certain hearts He crafted.
He had to make them strong and brave, but tender all the same,
He knit them in their mother’s womb and knew them each by name.
It would take a special heart to leave loved ones behind,
To kiss and hug good-bye with Old Glory on their mind.
The countless sacrifice they made for freedoms we enjoy,
For every man, every woman, every girl, and every boy.
For those who have such passion for our great U.S. of A,
Who’ll stand for life and liberty, so we can speak and pray.
If you see a warrior, please give them all our love,
For the heart that beats within them is a gift from God above.
We’re thankful, oh so thankful, for that heart we have admired,
For giving so unselfishly, although it may be tired.
We’d never know of its fatigue - it’s hidden way inside,
For that heart is full of love, as deep as it is wide.
On Veterans Day and all the days that come before and after,
We thank you for allowing us a life of hope and laughter.
To wake each day knowing what you must have seen and heard,
It’s hard to find the thoughts to share - there isn’t just one word.
What can we say?  What should we say?
A debt we just cannot repay.
I think I’ll just say thank you from the bottom of my heart,
I’ll pray for you - thank God for you.  That’s certainly a start.
I’ll do my best to wake each day full of gratitude,
I’ll make a daily effort with a thankful attitude.
I’ll live to nurture peace – I’ll try to do my part,
And I’ll thank the Lord everyday…for your military heart.

*  Please feel free to share this poem that I wrote with every military heart you know!  God bless the U.S.A!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Story Behind It

Photo Credit:  jjulian812 from morgueFile.com
I love when someone tells me, “There’s a story behind it.”  I love listening to stories.  I also love telling them…especially funny ones.  Today’s story involves me, my youngest daughter, and a small (hot) dressing room inside a place called Wicked Wally’s.  Don’t get too excited over the name…it’s just the Halloween version of a local party store that opens every October to sell costumes.  Honest.

My boo-tiful friend, Chris, loves a good Halloween party and invited my husband and me to her annual event.  Costumes are a must for this party.  Don’t even think of showing up without one.  She won’t let you in.  So, two days before the party, I figured I needed to get serious about what the hubby and I would be sporting this year.

The shopping experience was as frightful as her party d├ęcor…I assure you.  I convinced my daughter that it would be a quick trip into the store.  I headed for the clearance racks first.  Surely something would work for less than $20 an outfit?  Surely.  I grabbed two matching Nascar racing outfits and two bowling shirts for starters (One size fits ALL?  Or even MOST?  Who made that up?  Seriously.)  Then, as my daughter rolled around on the ground saying that she was hungry, tired, and had to pee, I stepped over her to grab a couple of cute retro shirts just in case the other outfits didn’t work out.

There were dressing rooms in the back and a sweet lady that took the costumes out of the packages and handed them to me.  The matching bowling shirts were a bust.  I looked like a bouncer in my scratchy, stiff shirt.  Wanna itch all night?  No thanks.  I handed them back to the nice lady and she gave me the one-piece racing outfit.  I felt a little confined in the onesie-style romper.  It was a snug fit, so I couldn’t imagine that my husband would enjoy getting his outfit on (the exact same, one size fits everyone, outfit).  Right.

The lady then handed me the groovy shirts.  I was feeling pretty confident that the hippie style shirt would work for me.  How could it not?  It looked so super fab on the pretty lady in the picture.  Well, it was more fitted than I’d like.  It took me awhile to get it in place.  It was a criss-crossy top with a fabric band around the ole ribs and lots of ruffle layers down to the waist.  Tie-dye.  Cute.  But, did I mention tight?

Once I got the shirt on, I realized that there wasn’t a stitch of spandex or elastic in that top.  Not one stitch.  The fabric band around my ribs did not allow for expansion for something as important as…let’s say…taking a breath.  I don’t think I own a piece of clothing without some percentage of spandex, so THIS, I was NOT used to.  My daughter was rolling on the ground under me still whining about random things and I…could not breathe.  I didn’t completely panic at that point since I knew I would be able to breathe once I pulled that straightjacket off.

Important note…if you have an extremely difficult time getting a piece of clothing on…rest assured that you will NOT (I repeat…will NOT) get it off!  I tried to pull the top off back over my head.  Didn’t budge.  I gathered myself and decided maybe I could just pull it down over my hips.  Didn’t budge.  Did.  Not.  Budge.  I was stuck inside a small, now unbearably hot, dressing room with yards and yards of non-stretchy, tie-dye material adorning my rib cage.  The fifteen minutes I spent trying to remove it felt like fifteen years.  I tried to suck in my hips.  Doesn’t work.  I kept muttering to myself.  Will.  Not.  Die.  In.  This.  Store.

When I panic, the first thing I want to do is run.  Fight or flight.  That’s how we’re made.  However, would that be kosher, I thought?  I mean, would it really be acceptable for me to run out of this dressing room with only my shorts and bra on with this now highly detestable, despicable, vile, loathsome costume wrapped ever so tightly around my lungs?  With my daughter running frantically behind me?!  Prolly not.  But, I was so close.  Of course, my daughter was oblivious to my predicament and continued to belly-ache about her own issues.  I’m now profusely sweating and breathing in short, shallow bursts.  “Oh, this party better be fun!!  It better be so incredibly much fun, I tell you!!” I mumbled to myself.

Of course, the kind lady is still waiting outside the door.  “Is everything okay in there?”  I replied, “Um, just…(inhale)…a (exhale)…moment (inhale)…ma’am (exhale).”  Adrenaline is just amazing.  It had built up enough that I just dug down deep and I pulled that sucker off in one solid yank over my head.  I heard a thread pop.  Maybe two.  But, I looked that shirt over and couldn’t find an obvious tear so I felt okay about it.  At that point, I was ready to buy it…and BURN it.

I gained some semblance of composure, wiped away the sweat, put my hair back in place, picked my daughter up off the floor, found a smile, removed the buggy-eyed-adrenaline-overdose look from my face, and handed the shirt back to the lady.  With quivering lips, I said, “This didn’t really work out.  But, thanks so much for your help.  Um, where is your bathroom?  My daughter needs to go.”

After the potty trip, I went down the pirate aisle and grabbed two plus-sized-super-stretchy-elastic-waisted-wonderfully-loose pirate costumes and I was OUT.  OF.  THERE.  If the costumes were way too big, that was just a sacrifice that I was willing to make.  Aaargh mateys!  We were THE most comfortable pirates I have ever met on this side of the sunken treasure, I promise you.  AND…we had a great time at the party!  Thanks, Chris.

My point?  There is always a story behind it…whatever “it” may be.  My hubby and I showed up in our comfy, cozy pirate attire that night and no one had a clue what I had gone through to be there.  Well…not until I shared my story with the gals.  They giggled till their sides hurt.  But, it makes me more empathetic to people in general.  Everyone has a story behind their smile, their frown, their laugh, or their tears.  It helps me to be more patient with others when I remember that.   As for my dressing room disaster…we never know what a person has been through to get somewhere…wherever “somewhere” is for them.  It’s true.  We don’t.

In addition to my Halloween story, I want to share a neat little story with you from Lou Holtz.  His tale is called, “You have to wait and see.” (Taken from his book, Winning Every Day).  We shouldn’t miss out on blessings because they aren’t packaged the way we expect them.  Most problems are blessings in disguise.  Tragedies can be transformed into something positive simply by altering our perspective.  Whenever we are tempted to judge a situation too hastily, it would be wise for us to remember this story:

John is a fellow who owned a valuable horse.  One night, the horse ran off and all the neighbors were consoling him about his loss.  John just replied, “I don’t know if it’s good or bad.  We will have to wait and see.”  Everyone was so shocked when the horse returned, accompanied by two beautiful wild stallions.  All the neighbors said, “Oh, John, you are so lucky.  You have three fine horses now!”  But, John replied, “I don’t know if it’s good or bad.  We will have to wait and see.”

The following day, John’s two sons were riding the new horses and both were thrown off, suffering broken legs.  Everyone immediately cried, “Oh, John, that’s so terrible that both of your sons broke their legs.”  John replied once again, “I don’t know if it’s good or bad.  We will have to wait and see.”  That week, war broke out and all the able young men in the village were summoned into military service.  All of them, that is, except John’s sons.  Their broken legs earned them deferments.  Everyone declared, “Oh, John, that’s so good that your sons don’t have to go to war!”  John just replied, “I don’t know if it’s good or bad.  We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Like Lou Holtz said, “We can’t classify anything as good or bad until all the results are in.”  Likewise, with the Halloween tale, we shouldn’t assume that we know what someone has or has not gone through.  It’s impossible to know.  We should be careful not to judge as we may not know the whole story.  We should always remember to just wait and see.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  And, best of luck with those Halloween costumes.  Surely, there’s a story behind yours!  Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bring It To The Table

Photo Credit:  earl53 from morgueFile.com
We’ve all heard that “attitude is everything” and that we should have an “attitude of gratitude.”  Isn’t that so much easier said than done?  I’ve certainly found that to be the case…day after day…year after year.  Just this morning, I was in need of an attitude adjustment.  But, it is indeed up to us to make the choice:  Will I have a good attitude or a bad one?  Attitudes are just like the flu.  They are extremely contagious.

I’m in the middle of reading Lou Holtz’s book, Winning Every Day, and one of his quotes has stood out for me:  “Your talent determines what you can do.  Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do.  Your attitude determines how well you do it.”  There’s that word again…attitude.

Here is an e-mail about attitude from Mikey’s Funnies that I think you will enjoy as well: 

Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate.  He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say.  When asked how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I’d be twins!"

He was a unique manager in that he had several waiters who followed him when he moved from restaurant to restaurant.  The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude.  He was a natural motivator.  If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling them how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, "I don't get it!  You can't be a positive person all the time.  How do you do it?" Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, ‘Jerry, you have two choices today.  You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.'  I choose to be in a good mood.  Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it.  I choose to learn from it.  Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life.  I choose the positive side of life."

"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested.  "Yes it is," Jerry said. "Life is all about choices.  When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice.  You choose how you react to situations.  You choose how people will affect your mood.  The bottom line:  It's your choice how you live life."

I reflected on what Jerry said.  Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business.  We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.  Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers.  While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination.  The robbers panicked and shot him.  Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center.

After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.  I saw Jerry about six months after the accident.  When I asked him how he was, he replied, "If I were any better, I'd be twins.  Wanna see my scars?"

I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place.  "The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door," Jerry replied.  "Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices:  I could choose to live, or I could choose to die.  I chose to live.”

"Weren't you scared?  Did you lose consciousness?" I asked.  Jerry continued, "The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine.  But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared.  In their eyes, I read, 'He's a dead man.’  I knew I needed to take action."

"What did you do?" I asked.  "Well, there was a nurse shouting questions at me," said Jerry. "She asked if I was allergic to anything.  'Yes,' I replied.  The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply.  I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Bullets!'  Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I’m alive, not dead.’"

Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude.  I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.  Attitude, after all, IS everything.

I really enjoyed that story and I hope you did, too.  I love surrounding myself with people who choose to truly live.  Just waking up each day is a gift that many of us take for granted.  We are each here for a particular purpose.  Praying about what that purpose is, is a great place to start.  And, this isn’t dress rehearsal, so we shouldn’t waste one precious moment of our limited time on earth.  It’s go time.

I’ve also heard that, “Success is more attitude than aptitude.”  And, that word strikes again!  Attitude.

Reading Lou Holtz’s book reminds me of several things.  We can choose to act or procrastinate, believe or doubt, help or hinder, succeed or fail.  Lou has a list of ten steps that cover the bases for success.  Guess what the number one item is?  Yep.  The power of ATTITUDE.    The attitude we choose to assume toward life and everything that life throws our way will determine whether or not we reach our goals and aspirations.  Remember Stephen Covey’s 90/10 rule?  10% of life is made up of what happens to us and 90% is decided by how we react.

Lou’s other steps for success include tackling adversity, having a sense of purpose, making sacrifices, adapting to change, chasing dreams, nurturing a positive self-image, fostering trust, committing to excellence, and handling others with care.

I like that last one – handling others with care.  It’s a simple step on paper.  “Treat others as you would like to be treated – with concern and care.”  But, in reality, it can be more challenging, no doubt.  Can you just imagine if we all took that one to heart…all the time…everyday?  Hmmmm…

Another thing that Lou mentioned that I absolutely love is this – We should always remember that the Lord gave us two ears and one mouth because he wants us to listen twice as much as we speak.  Yikes.  How often do we just go on and on and on?  How often do we plan what we’re going to say next while the other person is still talking?  Gulp (guilty party slowly raises hand).

I chatted with my friend, Larry, over the weekend.  He has a wonderfully positive attitude and handles others with care – two of the important steps to being a successful person.  I have yet to see him without a smile and a “can-do” attitude.  And, he is genuinely concerned about others and what they have to say.  It’s contagious.  It truly is.  I’m thankful for people like him.

Larry and I discussed how when he was growing up they would have family birthdays and to lessen the burden on the hostess, everyone would chip in and bring a dish to the gathering.  Every dish was different…just like us.  We all bring something different “to the table.”  And, that’s a good thing.

But, before we bring our dish, let’s think about what it is that we want to bring.  Do we want to bring a bad attitude, selfishness, negativity, cynicism, distrust, or mediocrity?  Or do we want to bring a good attitude, selflessness, enthusiasm, trust, love, care, and excellence?  It’s up to us.  We choose the dish.  Let’s choose carefully.  Will our dish be worth sharing?

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It Is What It Is

Photo Credit:  yarnh from morgueFile.com
As I sit here typing yet another Sips from my parent’s laptop, I just say to myself, “It is what it is.”  My internet should be up and running by next week.  Or at least…within the year.

I’m trying more and more to have an it-is-what-it-is mentality about things, especially since that was the motto of my dear neighbor who recently passed away after a 14 month struggle with pancreatic cancer. 

Bill was such an incredible man.  Our family knew him as the master gardener, the nature enthusiast, the works-magic-with-wood man, the genealogy buff, the traveler, the birdhouse maker, the simple man, and the lover of long chats.

However, I also now know that he was an extremely humble and super-duper-ooper intelligent man.  Why?  Because after he died, I found out that he was an internationally known expert in the field of flow diagnostics with a specialization in the development and application of optical and laser diagnostic instrumentation for use in hypersonic wind tunnels.  Yep, that’s right - say THAT ten times real fast!  Seriously.

Bill had a BS and MS in Aerospace Engineering as well as a Ph.D. in Engineering.  He served on numerous Department of Defense, national and international, aerospace committees.  He published over one hundred publications, presentations, and seminars.  In 1974, he received the Department of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award.  And, in 1991, he received the prestigious NSWC Science and Technology Excellence Award (Scientist of the Year).

Yes.  All of that.  The kicker is that he never once mentioned a word about it to us in the eight years that we knew him.  We literally lived next door to a rocket scientist and didn’t know it.  How about that for humble?  I’m almost certain that if I knew anything at all about rocket science that I would have to tell someone in my neighborhood.  Plus, if I had earned the title of “Doctor” in front of my name, surely I wouldn’t be able to hide my excitement.

We enjoyed Bill’s humor.  We went to Hot Springs, Arkansas, this past summer and as we were leaving, Bill told us to be sure to visit Burning Mattress, which was located right above Hot Springs.  I didn’t get it at first so I told him that we would be sure to check it out.  I know that he was just a shakin’ that head at my ignorance as we drove away.  But, that was Bill…still crackin’ jokes amidst the chemo, the radiation, and the pain.

He had numerous greenhouses and could literally make a rock grow.  I hear that he was also an amazing Scout Master when his children were growing up.  One of his former scouts commented on facebook about the significant impact that Bill made in his life…that he would not be the man he is today without Bill’s influence.  With the background that I now know about Bill, can you only imagine what kind of projects he had those kiddos do?  “Okay scouts, today we’re going to talk about rocket science and hypersonic wind tunnels.”  Love it!

During his illness, I never saw Bill down-and-out or depressed.  If he was, he never let it show.  His smile could always be found under that salt and pepper moustache of his.  Up until the last few weeks before he died, Bill could be found working on some kind of project in the shop that he built beside his home.  He would always give me a big ole wave as I drove by.  I feel so blessed to have one of his signature birdhouses hanging in my home.

Bill would always look at the bright side, even amidst his terminal illness.  I would call and check on him after chemo and he would say, “Well, at least I’m not nauseated.  I’m so lucky that it doesn’t affect me like that.  You should see all the marks on my chest for radiation – it’s like connect the dots.  And, hey, I still have my hair and beard!”

He would often say, “It is what it is.”  I’m not certain that I would be able to accept such a diagnosis in that way…

A few months into his illness, he called up his good friend (and cousin) to write his eulogy.  He then wrote his own obituary and planned out his funeral Mass.  I admire him for staring his fate directly in the eyes and embracing it as God’s will.  He didn’t seem to be afraid of death like so many of us are.  He had courage.  He had strength.  I ponder…would I be able to do the same if ever faced with such a diagnosis?  Honestly, the way I cry and carry on with my blubbery self at funerals, I’m thinking not.

During Bill’s illness, I asked our priest, Father Bentil, to stop by and pay him a visit.  Fortunately, Father was able to chat with Bill on many occasions.  I thought Bill would be the one to get the most out of the visits, but from talking to Father, it was actually Father who greatly benefited.  Father Bentil said that his own faith was strengthened by Bill, a man who was able to look death in the eye and not be afraid.  Bill told Father that he had lived a very good life and had been blessed in many ways.  “It is what it is.”

Of course, I miss him and I know that his wife and family do too.  But, one of the things that really touched me was the way Bill spent his retirement.  His cousin said that when Bill moved to Texas after retiring, he wanted to be sure to take all of his textbooks along.  That’s what professors do I guess, because after he completed 36 years of government work and 7 years at Jacobs Engineering, he taught at The University of Maryland.  You can take a teacher out of the classroom, but you can never take the classroom out of the teacher, I suppose.

However, his unopened textbooks only acquired dust over the last few years.  Why?  Because he spent his time traveling with his wife, enjoying the outdoors, and locating all of the branches to his family tree.  His family’s story was so important to him.

Family roots.  Family history.  Family stories.  Family is the tie that binds.  What stories are we making with our own families? 

Bill knew about facts…most scientists do.  He knew that facts inform, but he also knew that emotions motivate.  Stories are powerful instruments that stir up emotions that motivate us to action.  To do things different.  To do things better.  To make our story the best that we can.

I love the quote that some people have hanging on a wall in their house - “Home is where our story begins.”  What will our story be?  How will it end?  It is certainly up to us to choose the chapters in between.  Here’s to making our stories worth telling over and over and over again.  Here’s to making the branches of our family tree strong ones.

I miss you, Bill, uhem…Doctor Bill, that is.  And, if you can hear me, please tell Jesus I said hello.  And, tell Him that I’m thankful for the gift of life…for even being able to have a story at all. 

Until we meet again, my friend…
 
Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!