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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Marbles in a Jar

Thanks to Rick for the inspiration and the pic!
Monday was the first day back to school for many.  I find it interesting that we also received more rain on Monday than we have in the last several months combined.  However, I’m doubtful that it was actually rain.  I’m leaning toward it simply being all of the mommas’ tears falling down after dropping their babies off at school.  All grade levels included here, but to pre-K, kinder, and all freshman (high school and college) mommies…thank you for the extra rain.  We needed it!

Of course, I guess some parents were really crying tears of joy as they dropped off their offspring.   Relentless picking on siblings, obnoxious behavior, and wall-climbing have been known to occur during hot summer days.  Who knows?  Anyhow…I digress!

Facebook was loaded with classic back-to-school pictures.  Most of the children were eagerly smiling (surely the grins weren’t forced…”Smile – or else!”  Ha!).  Many had their eyes closed because they were actually still sleeping.  And, some were pouting because they weren’t interested in a photo shoot before sunrise. 

Whatever the case, most folks were up early and had butterflies in their tummies.  There were new backpacks full of school supplies, new shoes, socks, and clothes.  All the lunchboxes were sealed with love and their mommy’s note tucked neatly inside.  Many kiddos had fresh haircuts or new dos and so many had grown taller by an inch or two or ten.  And, it appeared that the tooth fairy was also very busy this summer!  Whew!

As my friend, Rick, posted on facebook:  “From birth to high school graduation, children are with their parents for about 934 weeks.  By 2nd grade, only about 500 weeks remain.  Time moves fast.  God gives them to us for a lifetime but only in our homes for so long.  Seize the day!”  He and his son had recently attended a church retreat for second graders and the opening illustration was two jars – one with 934 marbles and the other with how many marbles (weeks) remain until high school is over.  Yikes!

One of his friends commented, “Seize the day with our children, our grandchildren, our parents, our spouses, our friends!  We could have jars for them all, but we don't know how many marbles would be in any of them.  That should make us be more attentive than ever!”  (Love it!)

Then, there were some humorous responses to his post that I also enjoyed.  “In today’s age, kids may stay at home after college, so that 934 is trending up!”  And another one was, “But then we get grandparent jars, right?!”  (hee hee – Amen to that!)

Along with all of the back-to-school buzz on facebook, there was another tell-tale sign that school was starting for us.  The church pews.  They were much fuller on Sunday and it was awesome.  Maybe some were there to pray they’d get a good teacher (or students) or maybe they prayed that schools banned homework.  Whatever the reason, it was wonderful to see everyone back from vacation!  The Spirit that pulsed through that church gave me just what I needed to start my week!

In addition to the glorious music during Mass, Father Casey’s words really hit home with me.  But first, I’d like to share a quick story of his:

“During Mass one day, a priest asked his parish family, ‘Whoever wants to go to heaven one day, please stand.’  Of course, everyone stood.  Then, he asked, ‘Whoever wants to go to hell one day, please stand.’  Of course, no one stood.  Except for ole Jake in the back.   Standing at the altar, the priest called out to him, ‘Jake, are you telling me that you want to go to hell?’  ‘No, Father,’ Jake said, ‘I just hate to see you standing all by yourself.’”

All funnies aside, Father Casey had some great reminders of how we should live a life that will lead us to heaven.  He said that the devil loves to whisper, “There is no rush to offer love.  There is plenty of time to forgive.  No hurry.  No hurry at all.”

Of course, after looking at Rick’s marble example, it is obvious that time is a thief.  We should be ready for God at all times.  Our time does in fact…run out.  As Janel Esker states, “I don’t think that means being hyper-alert, expecting God to pounce from around the next corner.  Instead, I think it’s being like the mother of a teenager; able to rest (with one eye open), but with a highly tuned intuition about her child’s feelings and needs.”

Esker goes on to say, “We don’t know the exact moment we’ll meet God next and we don’t know the exact time God will call us home.  But, we can prepare ourselves for those moments by nurturing our prayer life, refusing to let wounds fester, seeking forgiveness, and living each day out of gratitude.”

We truly don’t know how many marbles are left in our jar, our children’s jar, our parent’s jar, our friends’ jars or our family’s.  In order to stay vigilant and make the most of the marbles we have left, maybe we needn’t look further than our children’s school supply list:

1)  Glue – to remind us to stick together and be there for each other.
2)  Pencils – to be sharp and ever alert, for we know not when our time on earth is over.
3)  Scissors – to cut through old grudges and chains of regret, anger, hatred, and guilt to loosen the grip that they have on us.
4)  Erasers – to remind us that we all make mistakes and that Jesus can forgive us, so we can start anew.
5)  Markers – to help us leave a lasting mark in this world by being a true Christian who does the right thing even when no one is watching.
6)  Notebook paper – to write down all the blessings we have to be thankful for each day and then read them often.
7)  Highlighters – to highlight the areas in our life that could use improvement through prayer and God’s guidance.
8)  Tissues – to wipe away our tears or someone else’s when true forgiveness takes place.
9)  Crayons – to bring color to a sometimes dreary world by brightening our corner with hope, faith, love, peace, and joy.
10) Folders – so that we can organize our life in such a way that our priorities are in the right order.

That’s all for this week, Sunshines.  Use those marbles wisely and have a wonderful first week of school!  Students…be brave, be kind, be grateful, and always give your best!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Our Clothesline

Photo Credit:  Kevin_P from
The countdown is officially on with literally one handful of summer days left for the children in this household.  In our grand effort to squeeze out a few more drops of fun, we’ve managed to fit in some swimming and fishing at one of our very favorite spots…Port O’Connor, Texas.

One day last week, after the girls swam and my son hooked a nice redfish, I draped their drippy clothes out on the line.  My parents hung a clothesline between their bay house and a pecan tree and it’s perfect for towels, swimsuits, and a lucky fishing shirt or two.

There’s always a nice breeze by the water (a humid one, but a breeze nonetheless), so I sat down for a moment to soak it all in.  As I watched the clothes sway back and forth, I got lost in remembering a poem I had recently read:

A clothesline was a news forecast to neighbors passing by,
There were no secrets you could keep when clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link for neighbors always knew,
If company had stopped on by to spend a night or two.
For then you’d see the “fancy sheets” and towels upon the line,
You’d see the “company table cloths” with intricate design.
The line announced a baby’s birth to folks who lived inside,
As brand-new infant clothes were hung so carefully with pride.
The ages of the children could so readily be known,
By watching how the sizes changed you’d know how much they’d grown.
It also told when illness struck as extra sheets were hung,
Then nightclothes and a bathrobe too haphazardly were strung.
It said, “Gone on vacation now” when lines hung limp and bare,
It told, “We’re back” when full lines sagged with not an inch to spare.
New folks in town were scorned upon if wash was dingy gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows and looked the other way.
But clotheslines now are of the past for dryers make work less,
Now what goes on inside a home is anybody’s guess.
I really miss that way of life- it was a friendly sign,
When neighbors knew each other best by what hung on the line.
~Author Unknown

A simple clothesline says so much, doesn’t it?  Of course, these days we have facebook, twitter, and pinterest and we know EXACTLY what folks are doing…and it’s NOT laundry!  Ha ha ha!  Only kidding, only kidding!

I also ran across another short clothesline poem by Sylvia Spencer and part of it goes like this:
It gets very heavy when it starts to rain, this is the time it feels the strain.
With the weight of the water upon its back, it sure feels heavy and ready to crack.
The sun comes out just in time, to save the life of the poor clothesline.

I’m not certain of the poet’s intent, but I read a little deeper into this slice of her poem.  Can’t we be a little like that clothesline as we take on more and more of life’s rain?  We saturate ourselves in droplets of worry, trickles of stress, and drips of anxiety each and every day.  After awhile, our burdens are too heavy to bear.  Even the strongest of clothespins cannot withstand the pull.  However, if we’d just let the “Son” in, the weight would become amazingly lighter as He absorbs life’s rain.  As the sun can save the life of a poor clothesline, I’m certain that the Son can save us too.

While we’re on the subject, what types of things might drench our spirits?  For those of us who worry for the sake of worrying, there are many things that soak our lines – too many to list really.   Luckily, there is “The Worrywart’s Prayer Book” by Allia Zobel Nolan that we can turn to.  I recently shared a few of Nolan’s words with a good friend of mine.  Here goes:

“TODAY is the tomorrow that you worried about and…all is well.”  (Gotta love that!)

“Hair graying?  Chin sagging?  Wrinkles around the eyes?  Face it, for most people, losing our looks is no ride in the park.  But, for worrywarts, it’s as though our one and only friend is leaving for the coast, and we’re trying every trick in the book to make her stay.”

“Oh my goodness, we fret, our foreheads look like tire treads.  And oh my gosh, we moan, our skin is drier than an empty canteen.  We’re sagging here and puffing out there.  We’re jiggling here and drooping down there.  Our heads are balding while our upper lips can grow enough hair for a small wig.” (Please be laughing as hard as I am over here!)

“And those mirrors that used to be friends?  Well, they’ve turned on us.  And no matter how many times we check ourselves out at the bathroom sink or in the reflections of store windows, it’s always the same:  we don’t recognize the person we see.  It’s enough to make us call 911.”

“‘A stranger’s invaded my body,’ we’ll report.  ‘And I don’t know what she’s done with me.’  No matter what we do, inevitably, earthly beauty fades.  And fretting about trying to stop it is as futile as trying to stop a bud from turning into a leaf, or day turning into night.”

“We’d be better off focusing on what we think the purpose of this stage of our lives is all about.  God is trying to remind us that the things of the flesh are transient, and we’d better get our spiritual affairs in order.”

“After all, our purpose here is not to win eternal beauty, but eternal life.  The Lord is interested in our soul, so let’s concentrate all of our efforts on making it as desirable as possible.  Let’s put on the creams of forgiveness to make it soft and subtle, the make-up of love to cover our rough spots, and a radiant garment of faith to make us beautiful in His sight.”  (Ooooh – so good!)

This last little story is about flooding our time with worries of yesterday.  I thought it was worth sharing as well…

“If a stranger tried to rob us of our todays by forcing us to think about yesterday, we’d probably put up a big fight.  Yet when the stranger turns out to be us, we wallow in the past wantonly and we seldom try to stop ourselves.”

“The past is something we cannot change.  It’s kaput, over, done with, finito.  The smart way of dealing with it is to accept it, learn from it, then drop it like a hot shot.  Otherwise, it can hold us captive for hours or even days, as our thoughts pull up a chair with worry, guilt, regret, and their sisters, ‘I should have done this’ and ‘I should have done that.’  Then, they have a grand ole time gabbing about what might have been.”

“While this party continues long after we can gain any lesson from it, we lose out.  All the good things God has planned for us in the present slip by unnoticed, without so much as a how-do-you-do.”

“Worrying about the past is not only a time-waster, but it’s also like questioning God’s plan for us.”  (Who am I to question His Plan for me?  Certainly He can see down the road so much farther…)

So, to wrap it up, let’s not drag our clothesline down with things soaked in all that is life-draining.  Life’s rain can be life-giving, but only if we invite the sun, um, Son, to do His part, too!

Monday, August 12, 2013

One Little Something

Photo Credit:  jmiltenburg from
Surprise!  An early Sips this week…

Father Ramsey shared a story at Mass this past weekend.  It went a little something like this:

There was a retired couple, Frank and Sally, who lived up north and they had had enough of the bitter cold weather.  They decided to take a trip down to Florida to warm up.  They planned their flight and then something came up for Sally.  Frank decided to go ahead and leave as planned to get their vacation home ready.  Sally was to join him the following day.

When Frank got there, he unpacked and freshened up their place.  Not being very savvy with technology, he made a feeble attempt to send his wife a quick e-mail.  He did pretty well, but inadvertently missed one letter in her e-mail address.

The e-mail didn’t make it to Sally, but it did happen to be another woman’s address and made it to her inbox instead.  This particular woman had just lost her husband (also named Frank) and had in fact buried him that very day.

While sitting at the computer that evening, going through all of the e-mailed sympathy notes, she came to one in particular that made her fall out of her chair.  Her grown children heard the commotion from the other room and came immediately to check on their mother.  Not being able to get many answers from their mom, they noticed an e-mail from Frank.  It read:

“Arrived safely.  Man, it’s HOT down here!  See ya tomorrow!”

And there ya have it!  One little letter made a BIG impact didn’t it?!  Whew!

I often think of how “one little something” can really affect other people’s lives…especially if that “one little something” is combined with other “one little somethings.”

For instance, my friend, Randall, shared a story on facebook the other day that was inspiring...and now I’m passing it on to you.  He called it “Pennies from Heaven.”  He said that his mom always told him never to be too proud to pick up a penny on the ground.  Now that his parents have passed away, he continues to pick up pennies.  The heads-up pennies are his dad saying hi and the tails-up pennies are his mom sending her love.

He said he always seems to find pennies when he has achieved something or when he’s having a tough time.  Not only is it comforting to find penny love from his parents, it also adds up. 

Randall started a project in 2011, on his dad’s birthday, August 1st.  From August 1st to July 31st he collects the money he finds on the ground – pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars.  In 2011-2012, he found $32.17 and went to a local steakhouse.  In 2012-2013, he found $61.62 and had an even bigger steak – woo-hoo!  Looking at the trend, I can’t wait to see what Randall does with the 90-something dollars he’s likely to find this go around!

The point is that one little penny combined with many other little pennies really can add up to make a difference.  Just ask Randall.

A theater production is another event in which many, many God-given talents combined together can bring so much joy to others.  My husband and I took our children to see Beauty and the Beast last week at our local theatre.  To say that it was breath-taking is putting it mildly.  Our 4-year-old daughter almost started crying when she thought it was over at intermission.  We were on the edge of our seats in admiration of the amazing voices, acting, costumes, set, props…pure talent…alive on that stage that evening.  It was New York City right here in south Texas!

One person’s incredible talent, combined with another, plus another, plus another and we were able to enjoy a spectacular show that we won’t soon forget.  It was the combination of gifted actors and actresses that left us thirsting for more.  But, if you would’ve taken out any one of them, it would not have been the same.

One letter, one penny, one actor or actress…“one little something” that made a big difference.

So, this also reminds me that any action, no matter how seemingly small, can make an impact.  The whole pay-it-forward thing always brings a smile to my face.  Why?  Because it works.

One person feeling loved will more likely have the ability to extend love to another.  One person being told that they are good at something will then have the courage to tell someone the same.  One person being told that they are appreciated will be more apt to show appreciation in return.

After all, when we meet our Maker at the Pearly Gates, He won’t ask what car we drove, how big our house was, or how much stuff we acquired.  He’ll ask, “Did you love?”  Thank you, Father Ramsey, for that reminder.  And, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the heart is the main symbol for love.  We can’t live without our heart, just as we can’t truly live without love.

Now, what “one little something” can WE do this week to love like Him?  Let’s look for all the opportunities, even if sometimes we have to squint.  And, let’s pick up that Bible too – we don’t want to be caught cramming for finals at the very last minute – that never works out too well – hee hee!

Have a great week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In This Car

We just rolled in from our first out of state family vacation.  We took a road trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas with the kiddos.  You know you haven’t taken your kids too far from home when your daughter asks, “Do they speak another language in Arkansas?”  I assured her that our destination was indeed far (10 hours in the car), but not quite THAT far.

The road trip there was itself an adventure.  But my friends, Donna and Melissa, each equipped me with some “must-haves” for a long ride in the car.  Donna lent me some nifty travel bingo cards she had made and laminated and Melissa insisted that I have Mad Libs to make the trip fly by.  For the life of me I couldn’t remember what Mad Libs were until I saw the book at a Cracker Barrel restaurant along the way.

How could I forget Mad Libs?!  Being a lover of words, that was one of my very favorite pastimes as a kiddo!  So, I grabbed the world’s greatest word game off that shelf and couldn’t wait to get back in the car (I thought I’d NEVER say that!)

My six-year-old daughter wanted me to share the story that she created while I drove and my husband asked her for nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives.  The edition we bought was “Camp Daze,” so the stories all related to summer camp.  Here goes:

“The most important game you will play at camp is tennis.  Tennis is popular with young people, soft people, and even with elderly skunks.  Playing tennis gets you out in the nasty air and is really stinky exercise.  You can wear special rats made especially for the court.  The most important part of tennis is the serve.  To serve, you throw the macho man high in the air and hit it into your opponent’s miserable sasquatch.  Then you rush up to the Loch Ness Monster and sleep.  The various strokes in tennis are called the overhand mountain, the hardy volley, and the back-liver return.  And, if you win, you must remember to run up and leap carefully over the grass.  Then slap your opponent on the bear and say, ‘Wow!’”

Another funny one was about a camp kitchen inspection:

“Inspectors from the State Department of Health and Motels came here today to inspect the crunchy kitchen and to make sure that our lumpy cooks were washing their underarms before preparing our smelly meals.  And, that there are no little aardvarks or tarantulas running around in the kitchen and spreading grass.  They checked the lunch prepared by our dietitian Lou Holtz.  We had spaghetti and garbage can balls.  On Tuesdays, we have boiled pelican with rice.  On Wednesdays, we have a choice of zoo soup or a boat omelet with oil sauce.  The inspector found a lot of ants in the salad and said there was too much hair in the milk.  In the future, we will have less bacon to eat and more turnips.  But, I bet it will still taste bruised.”

Kids always laugh at words like smelly, stinky, yucky, and nasty.  So, the car was full of giggles for much of the way.  After pit-stops, hungry stops, gas stops, and stops to stretch our legs, we finally crossed the Texas state line!  Seriously.  If you’ve traveled to ANYWHERE from Texas, you will know that getting OUT of Texas is the biggest obstacle!  Whew!

Anyway, after we arrived and got settled into our “home away from home,” we had such a wonderful time.  We mined for quartz crystals, rode roller coasters at Magic Springs theme park, swam at Crystal Falls, discovered cool sciency things at Mid-America Science Museum, fished at beautiful lakes, took long walks in the woods, and just enjoyed carefree timelessness with the fam.

When our nine days came to an end, it was difficult to leave.  Why?  We had nothing there…no material items that is.  All we brought were a few clothes, a couple of fishing poles, a camera, and ourselves.  It was hard to leave because of the memories we made there.  We knew we’d take the memories with us, but the distraction-free time we had there was hard to say good-bye to.

Aside from the fact that we would terribly miss our extended family (who all live in Texas), I think it would have been easy to just stay.  We didn’t have any “stuff” to clutter our time there.  What do I mean?  Well, Janel Esker of Liguori Publications had some absolutely amazing reminders in last week’s church bulletin that I want to share with you.

“We all could use a good Hoarders-like-clean-out of our homes, closets, and cars.  We have a lot of stuff.  And stuff requires work – cleaning, maintenance, and storage.  The number of storage facilities in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years.  Think about that:  We need buildings to do nothing but house stuff we can no longer fit into our homes.”

“In itself, stuff isn’t bad.  The problem occurs when stuff turns into clutter and it clutters our homes, our lives, and our hearts, and it certainly can clutter our relationship with God.”

“Think of the time we spend protecting our stuff with insurance, lockboxes, and alarms.  Think of the energy we expend deciding who will get our stuff after we’re gone – which child or relative should have which piece of jewelry or collectible.  Think how often we complain about not having more stuff when we ought to be living every day with immense gratitude for all we already have.  Such time and energy could be spent much more fruitfully in service to God and to each other.”

“Do our possessions possess us?”

Wow.  Aren’t her words powerful?  It feels so good to de-clutter…on so many levels.

To end this week’s Sips, I wanted to share one final thought.  Many times, while driving home, we’ve seen smoke in the direction of our house.  Living in the country, many folks have burn piles, so it’s a common sight.  I don’t know how many times we’ve prayed that it wasn’t a home burning (like ours).  But, each occasion has given me a quiet opportunity to remember what truly matters.  With my husband in the seat beside me and our three kids in the back, I remember that what actually matters to right here in this car.