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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hold On

Photo Credit:  hotblack at

I cannot even count how many times I say, “Hold on,” to the kids each day.  Of course, it’s because they all need me at the exact same time, when I’m right in the middle of something.  Sound familiar?  So to buy some time, I just holler out, “Hold on!”  Some moms say, “Just a second,” or “Wait a minute,” or “Gimme a stinkin’ break,” but we all say some form of that on a regular basis, I’m certain.

“Hold on” means more to me than just two words that buy me some time.  To hold on means to grasp, clutch, grip, cling on to, and embrace.  There are many things that we hold on to.  Some are good.  Some not so much.

Many of us cling to fear (insert raised hand).  In our Esther Bible Study last week, Beth Moore reminded us that “each time we are in a tight fist of fear, we should remember that we are in something much tighter.  Isaiah 49:16 says, ‘See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.’”  ENGRAVED on His palms…that’s tight.  I just love to embrace that thought.  God loves us because of who He is, not because of anything we have done or not done.

Oh and how so many of us hold on to our burdens, right?  With a death grip, no less.  Moore laughed as she said we should just throw up our hands and let the Lord take the weight, the heavy burden, and relish in some quick weight loss!  Sounds good to me!

There are many words of wisdom that I want to hold on to and a recent few are from Matthew Kelly’s “The Best Way to Live” CD.  In this particular CD, he addresses a group of high school students preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation, but the message he shares is for all ages.  He encourages us to ask ourselves the big question, “How is the best way to live?”

Kelly suggests that our culture is obsessed with three “isms:”  (1) Individualism – What’s in it for me?  (2) Hedonism – If it feels good, do it.  (3) Minimalism – What is the least I can do?

Kelly encourages us to think deeper and dig deeper than the “isms.”  He says that “the human heart is on a quest for happiness.”  We yearn for it and that’s normally why we do the things we do.  Kelly describes that living by a pleasure principle is not the same as living by a happiness principle.  He says that true “happiness can be sustained beyond the activity producing it.” (Unlike pleasure)

Kelly also invites us to really hold on to the relationships, friends, activities, books, movies, and music that help us to become the best version of ourselves.  We should hold on to and cherish the people who draw out our best version – coaches, teachers, parents, mentors, friends, family, and co-workers.  If we think back, our happiest moments in which we felt fully alive were probably those in which we chose to be the best version of ourselves.

Kelly suggests that many times we create so much noise in our lives that we cannot hear the voice of God, the voice of conscience.  He challenges us to just do the next right thing.  If we make a habit out of doing the next right thing, then we will soon be on a wonderful path to experience true happiness.

As he related the following idea, it really sunk in.  He said, “What will anybody 2,000 years from now be doing because YOU lived?”  Isn’t that some good food for thought?!  We are still talking about Jesus and the disciples…

Kelly also suggested that the question we need to ask is, “God, what do YOU think I should do?”  Kelly said our time is…now.  We needn’t wait for the perfect time.  When we think, “I’m too young to make a difference, “ or “I’m too old to do something great,” we are forgetting about some wonderful people who have done some wonderful things.  Some examples he shared were: 

Mozart wrote his first symphony at age 8; Anne Frank started her diary at age 13; Ralph Waldo Emerson enrolled at Harvard at age 14; Paul McCartney was asked by John Lennon to join a band at age 15; At age 19, Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft; William Shakespeare wrote Romeo & Juliet at age 31; Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence at age 33; Blessed Mother Teresa began her work in Calcutta at age 40; Michelangelo designed the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica at 74; At age 79, Ben Franklin invented bifocals; Dimitri Yordanidis completed the Athens Marathon at age 98; and Teiichi Igarashi climbed Mt. Fuji at age 100.

We have no excuses now, right?  We aren’t too young and we aren’t too old.  It is said that there are five things we can’t get back: (1) The stone after it’s thrown.  (2) The word after it’s said.  (3) The occasion after it’s missed.  (4) The time after it’s gone.  (5) A person after they die. 

We don’t want to fear and we don’t want to regret.  We can find happiness, peace, and contentment in Jesus.  In the words of author, Ray C. Stedman, he says, “In the eyes of the world, it is not our relationship with Jesus Christ that counts; it is our resemblance to Him.”  Wow.  That’s an interesting and thought-provoking statement if I’ve ever heard one and it’s definitely one to hold on to.

On the flip-side of holding on, there is “letting go” and my sweet friend, Kim W. inspired me again.  The story took place as Kim was headed to her sister’s couple’s shower in preparation for their upcoming wedding.  Kim LOVES photography.  LOVES.  So, an accessory that she never leaves behind is her fabulous picture-takin’ camera.  I mean, she takes gorgeous photos and THEN actually makes photo books out of them to give as gifts or keep as keepsakes.  Her plan was to make a beautiful hardcover book full of memories of the event to give as a surprise gift to her sis.   

So, on the way to the event, she grabbed her camera, but left her battery charger and extra batteries on the counter.  That wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the batteries in her camera were actually charged.  However, it was too late to go back home.  Kim had a choice.  She could let her anger stew and allow it to ruin the entire evening or she could let go and enjoy the precious, present moment.

Kim said that it is in her nature to let the anger simmer when things go awry.  She had every right to be upset.  Her original plan was not working out.  Most of us can’t stand when things don’t go as planned, right?  How was Kim going to make the gift that she longed to give to her sister? 

WELL!  Kim said she decided to let it go.  She made a choice to hand it over to God and let Him take control.  She decided she would just try the camera throughout the evening to see if there was a little battery juice left.  She said she planned to turn the camera off and on as needed in order to take a picture here and there as the camera would allow.

Drum roll….her camera worked all night long. 

Tell me God doesn’t listen!  I just won’t believe you.  hee hee  (I cried when she told me her story…just ask her!)  AND, I saw the finished book…it is PERFECT!

In closing, let’s hold on tight to the right stuff and learn to let go of the stuff that just

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Add Some Color

Photo Credit:  DuBoix at

Was everyone else taunted by the tiny taste of summer during Spring Break?  The week started off a little on the cool side, but quickly ended up in shorts and flip-flops for us.  And how about that lost hour at the beginning of Spring Break?  What thuh?!  Who plans these cruel jokes anyhow?  We want that hour BACK!  (ha ha)

Daylight Savings Time was extra crazy for us since our electricity went out during the night we had set the clocks forward.  We literally had no earthly idea what time it was.  Some of our house clocks were blinking 3:00 am; some were stuck on 12:00 am; and we didn’t know if the clocks that weren’t affected were an hour ahead or an hour behind.  Talk about being “in the dark.”  We were clueless.  Our family was aimlessly wandering around the house bumping into things (and each other) feeling completely lost.

And one thing about living in the country is that when the electricity goes out, it is pitch black…I mean…your eyes are open, but there is a BLACKNESS like you would not believe.  I panicked, thinking that I might have gone blind...but, that’s just me.  I don’t always choose the most logical reasoning.

We enjoyed our rest and relaxation nonetheless.  We had some carefree timelessness and we thank the good Lord above for that.  It was wonderful…and much needed.

Before the break, I chatted with one of my adorable friends, Kim W.  She was so excited that her eyes just danced when she told me that she had an absolutely perfect idea for my next Sips of Sunshine.  She was so precious when she explained how she had unraveled a marvelous connection between the movie, “50 First Dates” and our Lord.  (You must be saying, “Do tell…do tell!”  That’s what I was saying…)

I hadn’t seen the movie in forever, so I googled it to remember the synopsis.  Basically, Adam Sandler (Henry) lived the good life on a Hawaiian island and romanced all of the tourist women, with no strings attached.  It all changed when he met Drew Barrymore (Lucy).  Henry and Lucy hit it off from the get-go, but Henry was stumped when Lucy acted as if she didn’t know him at all with the start of each new day.

In the movie, Lucy had short-term memory loss and so each night, all memory of her entire day was erased.  But, Henry was so in love with Lucy that he went to great lengths to capture her heart.  So, every day he had to find unique and imaginative ways to show her that he loved her and captivate her attention…again and again and again.  (Funny what love will do, huh?)

Wow.  I see the connection, Kim.  I do.  I do!  I really do!  God is so incredibly in love with us that He will go to great lengths to show us His love…again and again and again.  We, like Lucy, so easily forget though, don’t we?  Daily.  We forget the wonderful things He has done.  We forget all of the answered (and thankfully “unanswered”) prayers.  We forget the good health.  We forget the roof over our head.  We forget about the food on our plates.  We forget about those who love us.  We forget about the gift of our amazing faith.  We forget about the gift of His only Son.  How easily…we forget.  And, do we even sometimes act as if we don’t know Him at all?  Hmmm…

Along the same lines, there was another instance during Spring Break in which I thought about God’s eagerness to get our attention and strengthen our faith.  (Bear with me…)  My kiddos had some gift cards in hand that they were itchin’ to use.  Amongst aisles and aisles of toys and art supplies, guess what they decided on?  Duct tape.  Granted, this isn’t your ordinary elephant gray duct tape.  This is the kind that comes in neon colors, leopard print, pink and black zebra stripe, snake skin, rainbow paint splatters and Hello Kitty® (just to name a few). 

Everyone knows about duct tape, right?  The strong, flexible tape with a long-lasting adhesive that is resistant to weathering and has been around since the early 1900’s?  Yep, and it has a bazillion uses, too.  My kids asked if I ever played with duct tape as a kid.  I honestly could tell them that I had not ever thought of it.  Duct tape seemed dull to me as a child.  It didn’t captivate my attention, ya know?  I’m thinkin’ that I’m not the only one with those same sentiments about duct tape.

WELL, WELL, WELL!  Did you know that there is an entire website full of “Ducktivities?”  Yes, there are countless fun crafts that you can make with the stuff!  Purses, wallets, rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, shirts, pants, hats, roses, and picture frames…all out of Duck tape®!  Unbelievable.  Who knew?!

My roundabout thought process is this:  Here we have duct tape…something great…something strong…something with wonderful potential…(our faith, possibly?) that just needs a fresh take.  Who knew that adding a bit of color would attract children to duct tape?  DUCT TAPE for cryin’ out loud!  What if our personal faith just needs some “color?”  What if we just need to find that “thing” that paints our faith in a brighter shade for us?  The potential is there.  We just need to search a bit more on the color palette and get creative.  Is our faith going to “stick?”  Will our faith be resistant to all of the forces that could cause it to “weather?”  Will it be “strong and long-lasting?”

I love learning about my faith.  Being a cradle Catholic, I have taken many things about my own faith for granted, I admit it.  The beauty of the Holy Mass and the power of the Rosary are just two off the top of my head. 

At times, we just need to take baby steps.  Sometimes we need to find that special something that will help us love our faith even more and live it out loud.  I don’t think that the following story is a coincidence.  Our incredibly thoughtful friend, Milissa, handmade each one of my family members a rosary in our favorite colors.  She actually did a “color survey” about a month ago – I just thought she was bored.  Little did I know that she was working on a labor of love with her survey results.  That little stinker! 

Anyway, about the same time that Milissa gave our family the new rosaries, our friend, Michael, sent a beautiful e-mail reminder about the power of the rosary…since it is both prayer and meditation and is addressed to the Father, our Holy Mother, the Blessed Trinity, and is centered on Christ’s life. 

In the e-mail, it explained that when we pray the Rosary, the Blessed Mother comes to our side and brings choirs of angels with her.  Amazing.  And, since Mary and Jesus are joined at the heart, Jesus is also there.  And, because Jesus cannot be separated from the Holy Trinity, the Father and the Holy Spirit are present as well.  And…where the Trinity is, all of creation is, so we are also surrounded with a beauty and light that we cannot imagine in this life.  The graces are abundant.  I had forgotten…

My kids were ecstatic about using their very own handmade rosaries.  And, for those of you who know me…we usually head into church…as the priest walks in.  So, for our family to get to Mass EARLY to pray the rosary…well, let’s just say that it is truly a miracle in itself.  We’re still working on it, but we have tremendously enjoyed the times that we’ve prayed the rosary as a family before Mass.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.  I have always had a rosary, BUT, for some reason, our brand-new, handmade-with-love, ever-so-colorful rosaries re-ignited the passion for praying it.

To wrap it all up…let’s be more aware this week of the many ways that God is trying to make us fall in love with Him over and over again each day.  (Thank you, Kim!)  And, like the fancy duct tape, let’s find that thing that will add fresh “color” to our faith-life to make it (or keep it) strong, resistant to weathering, and help us stick ever close to our Savior.  (Gotta love those puns!  hee hee)

Oooh!  And, how exciting that a new Pope was elected during Spring Break, too!  Fresh hope in a sometimes weary world.  A humble and insightful man was chosen in Pope Francis as he takes his place as Saint Peter’s successor.  It was so refreshing to watch as Pope Francis asked the people for a blessing before he blessed the people.  Simply awesome.  Francis, in honor of Francis of Assisi, is the perfect name during such a time as this – one of material prosperity, but much spiritual poverty.  God bless him and may God bless all of you!  My friend, Dorian Speed, has done a beautiful job with her new website all about the papacy – be sure to check it out!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Breakin'

Photo Credit:  rikahi at

My son asked me when I was planning to post my next Sips of Sunshine.  I said, “Oh, probably on Tuesday, like I always do.”  He said, “You know it’s Spring Break, Mom.  Why don’t you just do a poem like, ‘Roses are red, violets are blue; it’s Spring Break, no Sips for you.’”

Oh goodness – I love that silly kiddo!  But, to prevent myself from becoming a recent pin on Pinterest, I think I’ll just do a quick Sips this weekend and take the week off with the kiddos.  (The pin said, “I used to make cookies with my Mom.  She blogs now, so I pretty much just raise myself.”)  Not.  Gonna.  Be.  That.  Mom.  No way!

However, I thought it would be fun to at least share some random giggles with you to get your week started off right.  I’m on an e-mail list that sends “family-friendly” jokes each day.  Here are some of Mikey’s Funnies from last week that might make you smile, too:

“When a man marries a woman, they become one.  The trouble starts when they try to decide which one.”  (Ain’t that thuh truth?!  ha ha)

  1. When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don’t let her brush your hair.
  2. If your sister hits you, don’t hit her back.  They always catch the second person.
  3. You can’t trust your dog to watch your food.
  4. Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
  5. You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
  6. Don’t wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.

  1. Raising teenagers is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.
  2. Wrinkles don’t hurt.
  3. Families are like fudge…mostly sweet, with a few nuts.
  4. Laughing is good exercise.  It’s like jogging on the inside.
  5. Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy.

  1. Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.
  2. Forget the health food.  I need all the preservatives I can get.
  3. When you fall down, you wonder what else you can do while you’re down there.
  4. You get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster.
  5. It’s frustrating when you know all the answers, but nobody bothers to ask you the questions.
  6. Time may be a great healer, but it’s a lousy beautician.
  7. Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age just comes alone.

Q:  Should I have a baby after 35?
A:  No, 35 children is enough.

Q:  I’m two months pregnant now.  When will my baby move?
A:  With any luck, right after he finishes college.

Q:  How will I know if my vomiting is morning sickness or the flu?
A:  If it’s the flu, you’ll get better.

Q:  What is the most common pregnancy craving?
A:  For men to be the ones who get pregnant.

Q:  What is the most reliable method to determine a baby’s sex?
A:  Childbirth

Q:  My wife is five months pregnant and is so moody that sometimes she’s borderline irrational.
A:  So, what’s your question?

Q:  How long is the average woman in labor?
A:  Whatever she says, divided by two.

Q:  My childbirth instructor says it’s not pain I’ll feel during labor, but pressure.  Is she right?
A:  Yes, in the same way that a tornado might be called an air current.

Q:  When is the best time to get an epidural?
A:  Right after you find out you’re pregnant.

A little girl, dressed in her Sunday best, was running to church as fast as she could, trying not to be late for Bible class.  As she ran, she prayed, "Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late!  Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late!" 

While she was running and praying, she tripped on a curb and fell, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress.  She got up, brushed herself off, and started running again.  As she ran, she once again began to pray, "Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late!  But, please don’t shove me either!"

I hope these funnies brought a little sunshine your way.  May God watch over you and your families during this Spring Break week.  May you enjoy carefree timelessness and make memories galore!

I’ll leave you with some food for thought…Jesus died over 2000 years ago, but nobody has ever referred to him as the “late Jesus.”  Nowhere in history.  Ever.  He is never referred to in the past tense.  How about that?!  He is the living God!  Wow.  I love that, don’t you?

This same living God doesn’t want us to fret our way through life.  He wants us to trust Him.  He wants us to trust that He knows “how” we are supposed to do our “what.”  Faith is the victory.  Trust comes before the victory.  Let’s trust and give thanks…always.

Here’s to Spring Breakin’ 2013!  See ya next week…

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Make it Texas-Sized

Photo Credit:  KellyP42 at

On March 2nd, the great state of Texas (yes, I’m extremely partial) celebrated a birthday – Texas Independence Day!  It got me to thinking about all of the things we love about our state.  Somewhere among its 268,820 square miles, 26 million-ish people, and two time zones, every Texan has that “thing” that makes it home for them.

For some, it’s the wide open spaces, cotton candy sunsets, and roadside bluebonnets that ripple like ocean waves in the wind.  For many, it’s stockshows and rodeos, farms and cattle. For countless others, it’s cowboy hats and boots, armadillos, juicy steaks, and pick-up trucks.  For lots more, it’s the smell of Friday night football, grand stadiums, and the Fightin’ Texas Aggies (Whoop!  Yes, partial again!)   For my son, it’s the endless Gulf of Mexico that calls his name every chance he gets to throw out his lucky line.  Of course, there’s a bunch of Texas-y stuff in between that I don’t have the space to mention…

Then, there are the funny Texas jokes that are oddly all true.  For instance, we use air-conditioning year-round since our seasons are hot & humid, hot & dry, hot & sticky and hot as hell-o.  We put up signs that say, “Don’t cross this pasture unless you can do it in 9 seconds because the bull can do it in 10.”  Fire ants guard and protect our property with a vengeance.  Texas mosquitoes are larger than humans.  We don’t park closest to a store – we park in the shadiest spot we find.  And, when we take a road trip, we allot one whole day to get out of Texas alone.

We also like the word “ya’ll.”  “Ya’ll” means four people and five or more friends is “all ya’ll.”  We’ll never refuse a tall glass of sweet tea.  We say “fixin’ to” quite a bit and that means we’re about to do somethin’.  We give our honeys heart-shaped steaks instead of chocolates for Valentine’s Day and we love big hugs.  We “piddle around” and are sure to use our manners by saying “ma’am” and “sir.”

I love Texas.  We go BIG or stay at home ‘round these parts.  We can’t help but make our pancakes, eggs, and waffles into the shape of the Lone Star state we adore.  This weekend our family planted a garden.  What was the name of the tomato plant?  Yep.  “Big Boy.”  And my youngest daughter told me just this morning that she loves my kisses.  Why?  “Because they are SO BIG, Momma!”  Yes, that’s right…go big.

But, probably one of the most important things we (all of us…not just Texans) should go BIG on is forgiveness (gulp!).  A friend of mine recently gave me a wonderful little book called, “Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody,” written by Allen R. Hunt.  I devoured the book.  With only 92 pages, I read half of it in one evening and finished it up the next morning.  I couldn’t put it down.

The book includes eleven real-life stories of people who discovered the undervalued power of forgiveness that is often ignored.  Hunt says that forgiveness “is underrated mainly because it is underused.  We fail to capture the power of forgiveness because we are afraid of it, because we have grown comfortable in our familiar wounds, or because we are sinfully stubborn.”

The journey of forgiveness is broken down into three parts in Hunt’s book:  “(1) Receiving Forgiveness: Experiencing God and forgiving yourself, which may be the most difficult forgiveness of all.  (2) Deciding to Forgive: No great journey ever started with anything less than a decision to begin.  (3) Sharing Forgiveness: The law of the harvest is simple – If you want something in your life, share it generously with others.”

Mr. Hunt does a beautiful job at explaining the importance of capturing this untapped power that we all have inside.  He says that “Every place you open the Gospels, Jesus is sounding the bugle of forgiveness.  The truth is obvious:  Jesus, very simply, is all about forgiveness.  So much so that His first sermon is just one word, ‘Repent!’ as He makes it plain that we need forgiveness.  And His last words are uttered to the Father from the cross on behalf of the soldiers below (‘Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.’).  In other words, forgiveness provides the first and last word of Jesus’ entire ministry.”

Wow.  Could forgiveness be the key to unlocking the jail cell of past hurts and wrongdoings?  Is it possible for us to forgive the unforgivable?  Can we start living in the present and look forward to the future with an amazing freedom we only longed for at one time or another?

Grudges.  Resentments.  Feeding off of old wounds because they are comfortable.  Stubbornness.  Blame.  We can continue to keep score, but it’ll fracture us.  It will cause us to completely crumble, one little piece at a time.  The angry poison will eventually kill us from the inside out.  The weightiness of being unforgiving will not only hold us back… it will break our back, as Hunt explains.

Could a father ever find it in his heart to forgive a man for detonating the bomb that killed his daughter?  Could a young man wrongly convicted of rape spend almost 20 years in prison and practice forgiveness by focusing on “fixing forward” since he couldn’t “fix backward?”  Could a woman release the toxic venom of anger by showing her son’s and husband’s killer what a mother’s love really is?  Could someone forgive a man she saw torture and kill her family and friends at a concentration camp?


But, the unbelievable answer is yes and these are just some of the stories that Hunt shares in his book about the underestimated power of forgiving.  Hunt also reminds us that forgiving is not forgetting.  Those are two very different things.  He says that forgiving is setting aside the past, rather than forgetting it.  He encourages us to spend our efforts on making the present the most fruitful it can be.  He doesn’t say we have to forget the hurt – he just pushes us to move past it.  And, if we want others to forgive us, we need to forgive…ourselves…and others.

Hunt says, “We need forgiveness, and God wants to forgive.  He yearns to forgive.  His very heart is forgiveness.  But notice also the words of Jesus as He shares the Lord’s Prayer, when He teaches His disciples, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’  Jesus is not merely saying that we need forgiveness.  We know that we do.  God binds Himself to the promise that just as you forgive others, He will forgive you.  The more you forgive, the more you will be forgiven.”  Wow.

We abundantly receive what we give away.  Do we yearn for love?  Give it away.  Do we desperately want peace?  Give it away.  Could we use some blessings in our lives?  Give blessings away.  Do we long for the freedom of forgiveness?  Then, we must freely give it away.

We might think that forgiveness just isn’t in our blood.  Maybe we come from a long line of grumpy, grudge-holding, score-keeping ancestors and that is just the way we are.  Maybe we are.  But, we could always use today to pivot in a different direction.   We could start today.  We have the unique opportunity to touch the heart of God…because His very heart is forgiveness itself. 

Can we acquire “freedom from our past and freedom for our future?”  It’s possible for other people, we might say, but is it really possible for US?  The answer is a resounding yes.  For that kind of freedom….let’s choose forgiveness….and let’s go BIG when we do.

Everybody needs to forgive somebody, so…let’s make it Texas-sized.