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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's on Our List?

Photo Credit:  jdurham at

I just love it when people share inspirational stories with me (especially those inspiring moments found amidst our everyday lives).  My Aunt Jeanne shared something with me.  Here goes:

“I have to relate to you a story about Uncle Michael…when we went fishing with his kids last year.  As we were fishing on the pier, he pulled out a note from his front pocket.  I asked him if he had forgotten something on his list.  He said, ‘No,’ and continued to read the note.  I asked him if I could see the fishing list since I never take a fishing list with me.  I had to chuckle.  The first thing on his list was ‘Patience Today,’ along with the rest of his fishing checklist.”

“He said that he always keeps a note in his front pocket to remind him to be patient with his children.  I guess it worked, because about that time his daughter accidentally threw her brand-new rod and reel over the pier during a cast.  Uncle Michael just laughed as we tried to retrieve the fishing pole.  We eventually did and the day was a fun memory.  However, I could definitely tell that he was calling on a higher power for patience that day.” 

How awesome is that?  I don’t carry a list in my pocket, but I love the idea.  And, since we’re talking about my Uncle Michael…I can’t think of a better person to teach a musical instrument than one who has “Patience Today” written at the top of his list.  So, rosin up that bow and head on over to Cuero Fiddle Lessons to sign-up!  OR, if you just want to check out his handy little book called, “10 Fiddle Tips,” that’s great, too!

What can we never have enough of?  Patience.  As parents, what do we pray for each and everyday?  Patience.  And, ironically, what don’t we have enough of while we wait for God to bless us with patience?  Yes…patience.

Of course, patience isn’t just generously handed to us in a golden goblet.  Poo!  It seems that the more we ask for it, the more opportunities we are given to practice it.  (Ugh!  I prefer the golden goblet/silver platter approach, don’t you?)

Where can we go (if just for a short while) to get away from the busyness that surrounds, and many times, overwhelms us?  My Aunt Jeanne goes to the Garden of Gethsemane.  She shared her story with me:

“Almost daily, I go to the Garden of Gethsemane to be with Jesus.  I just ask Him to scoot over.  I say, ‘It’s me again, Lord.’  I find such peace and love there with Him…just the two of us.  It takes me to an indescribable level of closeness with Him.  I can’t explain it.”

“Sometimes, I just kneel with him and wait and wait.  I wait for His message for me.  At times, He tells me things and other times, not.  I just wait and pray and wait and wait some more.  Sometimes, I think, ‘Wait for WHAT, Lord?  For WHAT?!’”

“But, things usually start merging together for me.  I love my time in the Garden.  It is sometimes the only place I can go and know that whatever the issue, He always extends His graces to make it through whatever I am concerned about.  I almost always cry when I leave that rock, for His presence is so strong there.”

Hmmm…that rock is sounding pretty inviting, isn’t it?  After this blog post, there might be so many people wanting to join Jesus that He’ll have to get a bigger rock, huh?  However, I’m sure He’ll be thinking, “What a wonderful problem to have!”

My Aunt Edie also had some inspirational words for me last week.  She said, “We can handle anything and everything that God gives us as long as we use the graces that He always provides.  Sometimes, I picture God tapping His foot, wondering…when will she EVER learn that ALL things are possible with Me.”

“My prayer is then, ‘Please be patient with me…I am still learning.’  I do have my ‘aha’ moments and they come to me when my mind is quiet – while making the bed, washing the dishes, you know, the everyday, seemingly mundane activities.  Could that have been the day that I made a morning offering to do ALL for the glory of God?  Yep…probably!”

I find it amazing what God can and will do if we let Him in…if we sit by Him in the Garden…or if we offer up our entire day for His glory (yes, even housework!).  Of course, we can think that we would never be the ones chosen by Him to do His work.  How could we, with all of our imperfections?  Or could it be that God is attracted to us BECAUSE of our weakness and woundedness?  In that case, there is more room for HIS strength, instead of our own.  Hmmmm…

What if God chooses us BECAUSE of what we’ve been through instead of IN SPITE of it?  I never thought about it that way until Beth Moore introduced the idea in her Esther Bible study.  It’s certainly easier to ponder the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” path instead of just heading down the “what it actually is” path with His graces to lead the way.  I’m sure God will be patient with us, if we will just be patient with Him.  We can be builders, but HE is the Architect.  (Note to self…)  ALL things are possible with God – not just “some” or “a few” or “the easy ones”…He said ALL.  Wow.

So, before I jot down “Patience Today” on my list and head on over to the Garden, I’d love to make you smile.  It takes two seconds – just do it – no one is watching you.  While sitting down, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.  Now, while doing this, draw the number six in the air with your right hand.  Your foot will change direction.  You cannot stop it.  It is out of your control.  Just let it go.  Let.  It.  Go.  (You can try it all day long like my Uncle Erol, but you still can’t make that silly foot work right!)

Before we go, let’s ponder on one last question:  “What’s on OUR list?”  Would it be patience…or making a difference in someone’s life or letting someone catch a glimpse of Christ’s love through us?  For new moms, it might just be to get a shower that day and brush a tooth or two!  Every list is different.  But, the important thing is what we have listed at the top.  Have a great week!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Silence Down the Hallway

Photo Credit:  ensignmedia at

“Is this my life?” a young mom said,
She tucked her children into bed.
Wiping noses, tears, and hineys,
“WHY do kiddos get the whineys?”

“How dare they say, ‘Nuthin’ to do!’”
“So not true – it’s a toy zoo!”
“He took my book – she hid my Lego!”  Someone starts to weep,
Sometimes it takes all she has to get them all asleep.

It’s cold outside – they climb the walls,
They scream like crazies down the halls.
A time-out here, a time-out there,
Mom’s a grumpy grizzly bear.

She takes a breath, she takes it in, there’s silence down the hallway,
“Lord, please be up.  I hope You’re there.  I need a talk with Yahweh.”
“Moms need more patience, Lord, we do.”
“How can we start each day anew?”

“We don’t wish to yell and scream and even lose our cool,”
“We want to be your vessel – shouting makes us look a fool.”
“But, they push our buttons, Lord, each and every day,”
“We pull our hairs out one by one and that is not okay.”

As she continues talking to her dear, sweet precious Lord,
She feels a sense of comfort, as His love, straight down He poured.
And down the blessings came, flowing gently one by one,
She could not count them all, as there were just a ton.

A million reasons to give thanks – the list, about a mile,
She sat in prayer, with her eyes closed, she sat there for awhile.
She stopped talking, so she’d hear His oh most Holy Voice,
She could gripe and moan and groan, OR be thankful – it’s her choice.

She’d rather count her blessings, than the things that went awry,
The day’s events unfolded and the mom began to cry.
I’m sorry, Lord, for rushing through…neglecting just to see,
The countless gifts and blessings that You have given me.

The eager eyes and ears that greet me every morn,
The child that sees the rose, instead of just the thorn.
The chance to have a tiny taste of Your love for me,
Through my precious children, I think they are a key.

A key to widen hearts, to a love that is so great,
A key to understanding how to open Heaven’s gate.
We pray for patience and You give us all a chance to practice,
When a child sets on our chair, a prickly little cactus.

For boo-boos that allow us, to hold our children close,
For each all-nighter, Lord, gives US a healthy dose,
Of hugging and squeezing the gifts You gave to us,
We truly love them, Jesus, even though we like to fuss.

Lord, we WILL try harder, all us moms on earth down here,
We will seek you out, Lord, when we don’t feel You’re near.
It isn’t You that moved, we know, it’s US who moved away,
Guide us gently back to You, for this we truly pray.

They’ll come a time, much too soon, our children will be grown,
And we’ll pause to wonder, just where the time has flown.
We’ll watch them pack their stuff, loading up their car that day,
And we won’t like, not one bit, that silence down the hallway.

And as today marks 40 years of Roe versus Wade,
We pray for all the babies, in their mommy’s womb, God made.
We pray for lives forever changed, the mother’s and her baby’s,
For all the should haves and would haves – could have beens and maybes.

Roe V. Wade invited in a culture of death,
When it allows a child no chance to take a first breath.
When “thou shall not kill”…we suddenly think is a choice,
For us to make for those…who just don’t have a voice.

Motherhood can be tough – sometimes we lose our way,
Not a single day is perfect – to be patient, we do pray.
But, we cannot stop a tiny heart that beats inside his mother,
The consequence of that act affects us like NO other.

To be a mother is a gift not sent to everyone,
If taken lightly, we won’t hear the call of His Son.
The call to love another with our heart outside our chest,
To stand for life, forgetting self – could this be a test?

We pray that the safest place again will one day be,
The womb of a mother…we get down on our knee.
Lord, please guide the mom on that life-changing day,
So, she won’t regret a choice of

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

There's Love in the Giving

Photo Credit:  jdurham at

At one of our Christmas gatherings recently (yes, we actually still have one more to go…), I marveled at one of the conversations that took place in my Aunt Edie's kitchen:

My mom:  (as my dad reaches for the last two deviled eggs) “Would you mind saving those for Russell?  He really likes them.”
Me (interrupting):  “Really?  Hmmm…we’ve been married for almost thirteen years now and I’m just not remembering that he loves deviled eggs for some reason.”
My mom:  “Yea, yea – I make them for him every Christmas.”
Me:  “Hmmm…really?  I dunno.”
My mom:  “Well, the plate is always empty.  I’m pretty sure.  Yea, for sure.”

A few minutes later, the mysterious deviled-egg-lover in question (aka Russell) walks into the kitchen to get some grub.  Then, this conversation takes place:

Me:  “Hey babe, how 'bout a couple of deviled eggs to add to your plate of goodies?”
Russell:  “Um, well, um…so what exactly is in the mixture in the middle?”
Me:  “Oh, you know, egg yolks, mustard, mayo…yummy stuff like that.”
Russell:  “Um, sure…I guess I’ll, um, try one.”
Me:  “You’ll TRY one?!”
Russell:  (so polite, that guy) “Yea, I’ve never actually had a deviled egg before, but I’ll try one.”
Me:  (busting out laughing) “Oh mercy!  Mom’s been making these deviled eggs especially for you all these years and you’ve never even had one!  I love it!”

All the family members who were in on this little interaction basically fell on the floor with laughter.  It was a wonderful family memory!  (If you’re wondering, Russell DOES like deviled eggs…NOW, after trying them for the first time.  AND, the mystery is solved – my DAD has enjoyed his plate-full of deviled eggs each and every Christmas – ha ha!).

BUT, (as I got back up off the floor), I realized that what I enjoyed most of all was witnessing the love found in the giving.  Year after year, my mom lovingly made the eggs just for Russell because she truly thought he enjoyed them.  She wanted to bring him joy.  The love was in the GIVING, because she obviously never really knew if he ate them or not!  hee hee

On another completely different (yet similar) note, I’m sure that most of us have been approached in a parking lot by someone asking for money?  This can be a complicated situation.  First of all, it can be kinda scary if it’s just you and the kiddos.  We all know that our MPM (Mama Protection Mode) kicks in and we just want to get the heck out of that parking lot and drive to our “safe place.”  But, secondly, we might start the skeptical thought-process of, “What in the world is he/she gonna use this money for?”

It’s easy to go down that path of, “Well, I just bet they’ll use it for drugs, alcohol, or some other nasty habit.  I bet they do this for a living...begging for money.  They just need to get a J-O-B!”  The inner dialogue can go on and on really.  Then, we might hand over a couple bucks (or not) and feel disgusted for the rest of the day thinking about how they used that money.

The above scenario might certainly be true.  They might buy all of the stuff we told ourselves they would.  OR, we might hand over a few dollars and tell them to pay it forward or even that God loves them or something along those lines.  WHAT IF our kind gesture was a turning point in their life?  WHAT IF they never forget that moment?  WHAT IF that man or woman was the face of Jesus?  “Whatever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”  Matthew 25:40

Hmmm…we may never know how our gift will be used.  But, it does feel better to leave a situation feeling love in our giving, rather than complete and utter cynical disgust at our giving.

A few more thoughts - Have you ever purchased a gift for someone through the Giving Tree at church?  Have you ever sent someone a present in the mail, but didn’t get to see them open it?  Have you ever had something delivered to someone anonymously?  Prime examples of love in the giving.  And, when we give and expect absolutely NOTHING in return…even sweeter.  Gifts with strings attached aren’t technically…gifts.

Oh, this is a fun one - have you ever rang a bell on purpose just so an angel would get its wings?  (Yes, George Bailey, I’m proud to say that we did this many times over the last month!)  How can we know that what they told us in the 1946 classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is really true?  We won’t know…just yet.  But, honestly, our family found much love in the giving.

The other day, I was talking to our priest and he made a very good point.  Father Bentil said that priests plant seeds during their homilies.  They don’t always see immediate results or response like in other fields of work, and sometimes that’s difficult.  But, they nevertheless continue planting seeds and in time, those seeds of faith will grow.  There is love in the giving.  And, for this, I thank and pray for priests, and all who minister to others in their parishes and communities.

What is the greatest example of “love in the giving?”  “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Love was born at Christmas and I couldn’t be more grateful for that gift.

How can we have more “love in the giving” this week?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Photo Credit:  bluekdesign at

After reading "The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving" the other evening, my daughter and I had a conversation:

Daughter:  “Let's read some of these questions in the back of the book tonight.”
Me:  “Okay.  Let's see - What is the greatest gift that you have ever received?”
Daughter:  “Hmmmmm - that's a hard one, Mom.  Lemme think.  (pauses for a moment)  My brother and sister.”
Me:  (sits with heart could have been ANYTHING...Christmas and birthday presents are still fresh on her mind…and scattered throughout the house, actually).

These are the moments I treasure. I love these precious gifts called children!  This memorable moment brought to you by…the Berenstain Bears.

Is there anyone else out there who loves these bears more than my family does?  I can’t tell you how many memories we’ve made with the Berenstains.  I remember curling up on MY mom’s lap for a good bear adventure in the 1970’s.  Fast forward thirty-somethin’ (ish) years, and I think our family has either bought, rented from the library, or received as gifts, almost all of the Berenstain Bears books out there!

After the conversation with my daughter, my interest peaked and I wanted to find out more.  I wanted to learn how these Berenstain Bears came to be and what makes them so captivating.  Who ARE these adorable, furry creatures who walk, talk, wear clothes, learn valuable lessons, live in a cool tree house, and make us laugh every time we meet for story time?  

Berenstain Bears 101…here we go!

Stan and Jan Berenstain (writers/illustrators of the beloved book series) met in 1941 on their first day of art school, when they were 18 years old.  During World War II, Stan worked as a medical illustrator in an Army hospital and Jan worked as a draftswoman in the Army Corps of Engineers and as an aircraft riveter.  They married in 1946 and had two sons, Mike and Leo. 

It’s hard to believe life without the Berenstain Bears, but did you know that the authors toyed with the idea of penguins?  Penguins!  The Berenstain Penguins?  Nah – I’m glad they chose the bears.  The Berenstains thought that bears were “more like humans – they stand on two legs, their mothers are very good mothers, and so on.”

Have you ever wondered how old the bears are in the books?  (Me too).  So, in an interview, Stan and Jan said that Papa is 29 years old, Mama is 27, Brother Bear is in 3rd grade, and Sister is in 1st.  “They won’t ever get older!” declared the writing duo.  (I know you’ve lost sleep over this, so now you know the facts – hee heeHmmm.  They don’t age…suddenly, I think I wanna be a cartoon bear).

Stan and Jan didn’t come up with the idea of calling their favorite bears – the “Berenstain Bears.”  That was their editor’s idea.  And their first editor’s name?  None other than Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss).  How ‘bout that!

Their first book featuring the Berenstain Bears was “The Big Honey Hunt” in 1962.  Since that time, over 300 books have been published in 23 different languages and the series has sold close to 260 million copies!  Their best-selling book is “The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby.”  Incredibly successful books about bears – who woulda thunk it?!

In an interview, Jan said that “most of the books are based on real experiences.”  Their inspiration came through difficulties that parents face, as well as childhood tribulations when they themselves were kids.  The books offer moral lessons through the lives of Papa, Mama, Brother, Sister, and later, Honey Bear.  “Family values is what we’re all about, “said Jan.

When asked how they made a book come to fruition, Stan said that they thought up the story idea first.  Then, they thought of a cover and drew that.  Next, they wrote the story together and Stan did rough drafts of the pictures.  Finally, Jan did the beautiful drawings on art paper and they shared the job of coloring the pictures that brought the bear family to life.

Half a century of doing that process together – I bet they were experts at communication, don’t you think?!  To have been a fly on the wall…

Some of the many topics covered in their books include:  messy rooms, envy, too much TV, homework, peer pressure, junk food, manners, teasing, bad dreams, bad habits, first day of school jitters, spooky shadows, doctors and dentists, chores, moving, fighting, blaming, telling the truth, bullying, babysitters, and new siblings.  Whew!  Sounds exactly like life to me!

The Berenstain Bears books received many awards over the years, but when asked what honor or award meant the most to them, they answered, “The awards we receive directly from children are our favorites.”  Their editor, Dave Linker, said that Stan supplied much of the humor, while Jan produced the heart.  (Humor and heart – a timeless combo, if you ask me!)  In a 2011 interview, Jan said, “It’s wonderful to do something you love for so many years.”

After Stan died in 2005, Jan and their son, Mike, continued to write and illustrate these enduring books.  They focused on promoting Christian practices through the most recent series of Berenstain Bears books, called Living Lights.  Some of the areas they touched upon were forgiveness, following God’s Word, respect, helping and loving others, kindness, generosity, and the true meaning of our treasured holidays.

Mike and Jan worked on new projects until her death in 2012.  Mike said, “She was working on two books and had been doing illustrations until the day before she passed away.”  In a recent interview, Mike said that he will continue writing and illustrating future Berenstain Bears books.  While I am sad that Stan and Jan have passed away, I am thrilled to learn that Mike will continue sharing his parents’ love for Papa, Mama, and the huggable cubs.  And, since books are a gift you can open and enjoy again and again and again, we will always remember the Berenstains.

Why are the Berenstain Bears so timeless?  How can decades go by and the same books remain so popular with children across the globe?  I’m certain it’s because their message stands the test of time.  Kindness is timeless.  Generosity is timeless.  Family is timeless.  Love is timeless.  Forgiveness is timeless.  Faith is timeless.  No one gets tired of those things.  Let’s hold on tight to these timeless qualities.  Let nothing and no one take them from our grip.

Now, if I could just build that ultra-fabulous tree house they have on that sunny dirt road, deep in Bear Country – we’d be all set!  Gotta run - I’m off to find the perfect tree…and my favorite Berenstain Bears book!

Oh – oh – I didn’t forget!  The winners of Matthew Kelly’s “Raising Amazing Children” CD are:  Podgehodge, Karen P., Jen K., Jill J., Chris S., Meg P., and Kim S.!  I’ll get those in the mail asap!  Thanks for entering!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Make A Difference

Photo Credit:  digidreamgrafix at

Happy New Year, Sunshines!  Did you wake up this morning feeling any different?  Or is it just another day?  Or maybe your aching legs serve as a gentle reminder that you boogied a little too hard last night?  Or maybe visions of couch and football are dancing in your head?  Whatever today is for you, my prayer is that 2013 will be good to you!

I never know what to think of the five days in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve – the 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th?  I guess they could be days for kids to play with the new toys, for additional Christmas gatherings, for travel, or for rest after all the holiday craziness.

This year, our family used it for a quick trip to San Antonio, Texas.  We were there for two nights and three days and made countless memories.  What did we do?  Did we head down the River Walk?  Did we check out Sea World?  Did we scream on the rides at Six Flags Fiesta Texas or maybe tour the Alamo?  The answers are no, no, no, and no – not this time.  WHAT?!  What a lame vacation, huh?  Far from it…let me explain.

We rode up and down the glass elevators in the hotel and marveled at the view; we played in the indoor pool and Jacuzzi; we ran up and down the gigantic grassy hill behind the hotel; we enjoyed the delicious complimentary buffet breakfast; we negotiated over who would get to push the elevator buttons; we took turns opening the room door with the electronic key; we all piled in the big bed to watch a family movie too late at night; we raced each other in go-karts on the track behind the hotel; we enjoyed the gift of carefree timelessness and we LOVED it!

Memories are most easily made during times of carefree timelessness – not when shoved into time slots, or during stress and hurry.

While the kids slept in the car on the way home, my husband and I listened to a CD called, “Raising Amazing Children,” by Matthew Kelly.  A generous couple, Stephen and Diane, donated the CDs at Christmas for each parish family.  Aside from Jesus, we couldn’t have received a more precious gift.

For many, the last few days of December are used to make resolutions.  The list includes:  lose weight, stop smoking, stick to a budget, save more money, find a better job, get more organized, exercise more, eat healthy foods, get out of debt, be less stressed, get a better attitude, and volunteer.

While these are all wonderful ideas that will benefit our overall well-being, I was inspired and moved by what Matthew Kelly suggests we do to make our life different this year.  The CD is one hour long and I’ve listened to it numerous times since Christmas, while taking pages and pages of notes.  I take away something powerful each and every time.  (I also speak with a slightly Australian accent now because of the extensive time spent with Kelly this week – hee hee.)

Matthew Kelly is an excellent writer and speaker.  On this New Year’s Day, I want to share some of the things that Kelly proposes we do to change our lives.  Kelly says that lives change when habits change.  Habits create character and our character is our destiny.  What are our habits?  What are our family’s habits?  What do we do every day, every week, or every month as a family?

Kelly reminds us that the family is the building block and it’s being attacked, divided, and destroyed – we’re in the middle of a cultural war and the number one target is family.  I can’t stand the thought that anyone or anything would be attacking my family – can you?

Kelly suggests that there are five important ways to build your family’s spirituality – the key to protecting your family and making this year different than last year, for the better:

1.  ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.  He says that the questions we ask just might be more important than the answers we find.  Ask the right questions of yourself, your spouse, your friends, and your children.  He said the best thing we can do for our children is to teach them how to make good decisions and this doesn’t come from us just dictating, “Yes” or “No.”  He encourages us to engage our children in conversation when they ask questions like, “Can I watch TV before doing homework?” or “Can I go to a party this weekend?”  He challenges us to make our children think – to help them develop morally, ethically, and spiritually.

However, Kelly makes it clear that the one question that should dominate our inner dialogue is, “God, what do YOU think I should do?”  We should ask the Divine Architect to show us the plan.  We should solicit the Divine Navigator to give us direction.

Kelly asks, “Who do your children think is God in your home?  Is it Mom?  Is it Dad?  If they think Mom or Dad is the unjust dictator making all of the decisions on their own, without God, then soon the children will think they can make all of their decisions on their own.”  (I loved this piece of wisdom…)

2.  PRAY TOGETHER AS A FAMILY.  Kelly reminds us that the Word of God has the power to transform lives.  But, he says that the Word has a hard time transforming lives if it’s in a quick reading on a Sunday morning with a few hundred people and a million distractions.  It’s true, right?

I had to laugh at his explanation of this.  How many of us are caught up in distractions during Mass?  Either our to-do list randomly pops into our head, we’re dealing with our own children, admiring the newborn behind us, wondering if we know the lady in front of us, and all of a sudden, the priest is proclaiming, “This is the Gospel of the Lord,” and we’re like, “WHAT is the Gospel of the Lord?!”  (Sound familiar?)

Kelly had a simple and wonderful suggestion of a way to make the Word of God come to life for our family: read it ahead of time.  If we don’t have twenty minutes in a week to do this, then maybe we’re too busy.  If we can’t turn off our TV, phones, pagers, computers, and playstations for twenty minutes, then are we truly the consumers, or are we being consumed?

Kelly recommends reading the Gospel with the family for the upcoming Sunday on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  Have each person pick out a word or phrase that jumps out at them and discuss why it does.  Kelly said to read the Gospel three times, if possible, and pick out a new word or phrase each time.  Kelly wisely strikes a chord by saying, “We love what we are familiar with.  We love what we know.  What we know directs our lives.  What we read today walks and talks with us tomorrow.”  What songs do we love on the radio?  The ones we know the words to.

3.  CREATE A FAMILY CULTURE.  Kelly asks, “What is the culture of your family?  Is it one that inspires and elevates and draws out the best in each family member?  Or is it one that is divisive and destructive?”

One of eight children, Kelly affirms the power of family dinner.  He suggests that if we can’t manage one night a week for a family dinner, we might just have a hotel with strangers living inside as opposed to a home.  He also reminds us to pause to pray grace before meals – instead of mumbling it off while we’re reaching for the salt and pepper.  Grace can be short and spontaneous – “Thank you for this food, for those who grew it, and for those who prepared it.  Keep us always mindful of our many blessings.”  (I love it!)

Kelly encourages parents to not be afraid to let our children see us “go to that place” while praying – to close our eyes for a moment with the Lord.  If they see us go there, they will go there, too. 

Family dinner is a wonderful time to share the day’s happenings.  This keeps the family connected.  Kelly says that there is so much isolation in our families and relationships are suffering.  He mentions that the happiest people on the planet are those with great relationships.  What is the thing that helps relationships thrive?  Carefree timelessness.

Relationships don’t do well when forced into ten minutes.  Kelly wisely states that “we fall in love with life, with God, and with others under carefree timelessness.”

Children love carefree timelessness.  Watch what they do with a pile of leaves or a puddle of water if we give them time.  “Does God give us children so we can teach them or so they can teach us?”

4.  SIMPLIFY.  Kelly states that “our lives are suffering under the intolerable weight of modern complexity.”  Many of us wake up every day with the feeling that we’ll never catch up.  Our lives are busier, faster, and more complex.

Kelly asks, “What are we chasing?  More cars, more money, a bigger house, a boat?  Will it bring happiness?  Things don’t make us happy – we know it – but we live the exact opposite in our lives.  You never can get enough of what you don’t really need.  What do we NEED?  Do we even know what the word means anymore?  You will soar when you let go of the material clutter that weighs you down.”

Kelly laughs, “Learn to say NO to the people who ask you to do a million things on a Sunday afternoon.  Tell them you have another commitment.  Tell them you are deeply committed to carefree timelessness.” (Priceless!)

5.  DEVELOP A SPIRIT OF SERVICE.  Kelly emphasizes that there are two kinds of people in the world – passionate people and miserable people.  (Bold statement, but it really makes sense…)  He says that “passionate people have a sense of mission in their lives.  Through their mission, they are making a difference in the lives of others – lives of their children, their friends, their church, their community, their nation.”

Kelly urges us to educate our children in the power to make a difference in other people’s lives.  As parents, he reminds us to find our own mission in life and also of the important fact that someone SENDS you on a mission.  “God, what do YOU think I should do?”

Kelly encourages us to teach young people to search for happiness authentically, instead of just in moments of happiness here and there with drugs, alcohol, sex, or possessions.  He jokes, “If you want to be happy for an hour – take a nap.  If you want to be happy for a day – go shopping.  If you want to be happy for a weekend – take a fishing trip.  If you want to be happy for a month – take a vacation in Europe.  If you want to be happy for a year – inherit a fortune.  If you want to be happy for a LIFETIME – find a way to make a difference in other people’s lives.”

Kelly wraps up his talk with this idea – Who are the ten happiest people you know?  Chances are the common denominator is that they are making a difference in other people’s lives.

We have the power to change our lives.  We have the power to change our habits and our family’s habits.  I firmly believe that 2013 promises to be a year full of true happiness, joy, and abounding love in our families if we take note of Kelly’s five keys.

Make a difference. 

Happy New Year!

P.S.  If you made it this far in this incredibly long blog post, I’d like to reward you with a chance to have a “Raising Amazing Families” CD all of your very own.  In the comments section below, please leave the title of your favorite “Sips of Sunshine” blog post with your name and e-mail address.  I have ten CDs to give away.  Winners will be chosen in a random drawing on Monday, January 7th.  I’ll announce the winners in next week’s Sips!  Good luck!