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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!


  1. What a great reflection for the start of a new year...........we all truly WANT to make a difference and with these inspiring ideas, we CAN make a change...we WILL make a change!

    1. That's the spirit! I love it! Happy New Year ;-)

    2. Heather, you just gave us a great deal of food for thought and actions!! Thanks for sharing! I too want to make a difference!
      Happy, Blessed, Safe, Healthy & Prosperous 2013!

    3. Hi there! Would you like to be in the drawing for a free CD? I didn't see a name/e-mail. Thank you for stopping by and for your comments ;-)

  2. Heather, thank you for directing me to the proper way to sign up for your blog. I enjoyed seeing you and your Beautiful family last month. I would love to have a copy of the CD.
    Love Karen


    1. Thanks for reading my blog, Karen! So glad you found the e-mail sign-up. Many blessings to you and your family ;-)

  3. Thanks Heather! I think my New Year can start now! One of my fave Sips is "A Special Guest".


    1. Hey Jen! Thanks for reading my Sips! Here's to 2013! Much love to you and your family ;-)

  4. Hey Heather!

    It was great seeing you guys on New Year's Eve!
    I'm inspired by your blog! Thank you! One of my favorite Sips is "A Delicious Combination".

    Happy 2013!
    Love ya!

    1. Hey Jill - Yes, it was so nice to see you guys on New Year's Eve - what fun! I love catching up with friends ;-) Hope to see you again real soon! So glad you enjoy your Sips!

  5. Another fabulous blog!! You always know how to inspire! Not sure which is my "fav". Thats a very hard decision. But I have to say I think they get better and better with ea issue.


    1. Hey Chris! Thanks for the sweet words ;-) I'm glad that you are enjoying my Sips! Here's to a great year, girlie! Love ya!

  6. Heather I always LOVE reading your blogs although I have to say that I have 2 all time favs.

    • who's training who? - which at the time I read this was EXACTLY what my life was like and, no lie, I was in years from laughing so hard after reading it. I was ready to trow in the towel and your word helped me through. So thank you.


    • missing Merle (or something like that- I need to go back and read it again)- the one about the dog. Always makes me feel better when I read it. Thank you for putting a smile in our hearts this year.

    God bless you and your family,
    Meg Pallanez

    1. Awwww - now look who's being inspirational! Thank you, Meg, for your wonderful comments. I've thoroughly enjoyed my little blog this year and am so tickled that you have, too. Here's to another year of sippin' sunshine! ;-)

  7. I enjoy all of your blogs. I either learn something new and inspiring or I am reminded of something I really needed to remember. You truly have a gift! Love ya!!

    1. Thanks so much, Kim S. (I'm assuming this is you...). Glad you stopped by for a few Sips this evening! Happy, Happy New Year to a beautiful friend!