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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Lights Are On

Photo Credit:  cohdra from
I love Christmas lights.  I enjoy looking at all of the illuminated homes and yards during this time of year.  I’ve always loved how magical it feels.  I can’t recall a single year that my mom and dad didn’t put lights up around our home while growing up.  So, it’s interesting that in the last fifteen Decembers of my marriage, we’ve only had lights up for one of those Decembers.  Hmmm…

For some reason, I felt especially energetic this year and decided that it was indeed time to put up a few lights ‘round here.  We don’t have a ton of traffic where we live, but I thought the kids would enjoy it anyway.  I knew I would.  I thought I’d start small this year, so I grabbed a couple of spools of lights at the store.  I have to admit, I usually have wonderful “ideas” for ways to spruce up our yard and landscaping.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that I’m not the one who then typically tends to my beautiful outdoor accent ideas.  So, we keep it simple…the hubby and me.

I told my husband that I would put the lights up and take them down as well.  Pinky promise.  I vowed not to leave the spools of lights sitting by (or on top of) his “to-do list,” hoping that a little elf would get it done.  I kept my end of the deal and my daughter and I tackled the lights project last weekend while he was at work.

Let’s just say that I have a whole new appreciation for people who take the time to put up outside lights.  We didn’t even hang any from our roof.  Heck, we didn’t even use a ladder!  We only put lights up where my daughter and I could reach.  We put a few in the bushes and wrapped some around the front porch railings.  We felt pretty good about it.

My daughter and I worked and worked and had a great time together.  We couldn’t wait to see our finished product once the sun went down.  We only had a few scratches to show for our labors from the palm tree that poked us as we went around and around its base in a tight corner. 

I’ll share with you that when we started, we were so giddy with excitement that we took all the lights off of the spools and ended up with a tangled mess on the floor.  However, we plugged them in and somehow; we didn’t notice the tangles anymore.  All we did was ooh and aah about how radiant the lights did shine!  Mess or no mess…the lights were stunning!

If you don’t put up lights, no worries.  I absolutely do not want you adding that to your Christmas honey-dos.  However, if you have decorated with outside lights or plan to; I thought you might appreciate this little tidbit.

Why do we put up lights anyway?  Just to get frustrated by all the crazy tangled cords?  Um…no, that’s not it.  To get our lights put up just right only to find out that half the strand doesn’t work after all?  Um…nope, that’s not it either. 

When we have guests come over, we usually put a light on for them, right?  We turn on our porch lights so that our friends can find our home in the dark.  We put the lights on to let them know that we are expecting them.  Well, putting up lights around our home at Christmastime is a great way to remember that we are doing the same thing in our hearts...for Jesus.  We are letting Jesus know that we are keeping the lights on for Him.  We are letting Him know that we are expecting Him.  We are preparing for Him, the Christ Child, the amazing reason for this marvelous season of Christmas.

The thought that I enjoyed most was the fact that my kiddos and I were full of delight and joy when we plugged in our tangled mess of lights on the ground.  The lights were more amazing than the mess.  We overlooked the mess because the lights drew us in.

I think it can be the same for us.  We’re not perfect.  Actually, we’re far from it.  Sometimes, we’re just a mess.  However, in our mess, we can still shine a light for all to see as we prepare for Jesus’ birthday.  In our mess, we can still be a source of joy for others.  In our mess, we can still radiate hope to a world that desperately needs it.  In our mess, we can still illuminate someone’s path by praying for them.  In our tangled mess, we can still exude God’s love.

By golly, the lights are on!  Jesus, we are preparing for You.  We are expecting You.  We welcome You…into our hearts!

Merry Christmas to all of my precious Sunshines!  I have thoroughly enjoyed sipping sunshine with you in 2014 and look forward to our 2015 together.  No Sips for a few weeks, but I’ll be back after the first of the year with some new Sips of Sunshine just for you! 

Much love and many blessings to you and yours!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Gifts

Photo Credit:  pippalou from
It seems to me that there is always quite a bit more bulk to winter laundry.  The pile gets taller much faster with jeans, long-sleeve shirts, socks, jackets, and sweaters. Winter clothes take up lots more space in the washer than tank tops and shorts do, ya know? 

As I was doing a load last week, I forgot about a hand towel in the hall bathroom that needed washing, so I ran to throw it in at the last minute.  Much to my dismay, when I opened the top-load washer lid, all I saw were dry clothes jostling around a bit to the hum of the washer motor.  What on earth?!

I thought our old, um, “wise” 1990’s washer finally bit the dust.  Then, I noticed that the water level knob had somehow been moved to low instead of high.  Washing a BIG (too big probably) load of clothes in 4 inches of water never works out, I assure you.

So, I reset all the knobs correctly and started over again.

Water.  Precious water.  It is overlooked most days, I think.  Our bodies need water.  The earth needs water.  Animals need water.  Plants need water.  My laundry needed…a skosh more water.

There is a beautiful reflection by Bruce Barton called, “Two Seas in Palestine” that discusses water…and…love, actually.

There are two seas in Palestine.  One is fresh, and fish are in it.  Splashes of green adorn its banks.  Trees spread their branches over it and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters.  The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills.  So it laughs in the sunshine.  And men build their houses near to it, and birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there.

The River Jordan flows on out into another sea.  Here there is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter.  Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.

What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas?  Not the River Jordan.  It empties the same good water into both.  Not the soil in which they lie; not in the country round about.

This is the difference.

The Sea of Galilee receives, but does not keep the Jordan.  For every drop that flows into it, another drop flows out.  The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.  The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously.  It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

The Sea of Galilee gives and lives.  This other sea gives nothing.  It is named Dead.  There are two kinds of people in this world.  There are two seas in Palestine.

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece, especially since my sister-in-law, Kerri, just returned from the Holy Land, telling me all about these very seas!  She floated on the stillness of the lifeless Dead Sea and walked in the plentiful Sea of Galilee.  She passionately told me about the drastic differences in these bodies of water as we shared Thanksgiving dinner.  Her pictures and stories were fascinating!

I cherish what Matthew Kelly has to say about Barton’s reflection as well.  He says, “The world pretends that love is a mutual giving and taking.  But, that is not love.  In love, there is no taking, just giving and receiving.”  (LOVE this!)

The Dead Sea gives nothing.  It only takes.  It hoards.  It keeps.  It amasses.  It stockpiles.  It collects.  I pray that we strive to be different than this sea.  I pray that we will give and receive love as freely as the Sea of Galilee.  I pray that we will share God’s love unselfishly.  At the heart of it, we all yearn for chances to love and be loved.  Let’s take lessons from Galilee.

After reflecting on this kind of love, I was inspired to write a poem to share with you today, as I think about the Christmas season:

by Heather Spears Kallus

Advent begins - single digits of December,
In the hustle and the bustle, there’s something to remember.
It’s all about the gifts, many will say,
Paper, bows, and boxes on sale every day.
What to get?  What to buy?
Hurry, scurry - no time for hi.
It’s about the gifts underneath the tree,
One for him, one for her, a couple more for me.
Push and shove, the hunt is on,
But where’s the love?  Where’s it gone?
I don’t believe it’s gone for good,
I think it’s there…misunderstood.
Don’t fret; don’t worry - the presents are great,
But there’s more to it.  You’ll see.  Please wait.
It’s about the gifts; I could not agree more,
And, we should give more than we’ve ever before.
The gifts of selfless love and that of fervent prayer,
Which can be given and received absolutely anywhere.
We can love because He loved us first,
For love, so many, hunger and thirst.
By allowing God’s love to flow freely out,
We’ll begin to see what His love is about.
A life uncommon, our relationships deep,
God’s love is for sharing, not something we keep.
Love is a choice, not a feeling that goes,
It’s the perfect gift and doesn’t even need bows.
Love desires what’s best for sisters and brothers,
Love is kind and it’s patient, not jealous of others.
If someone offers prayer for you this very year,
I’m certain you’ll be smiling - from ear to ear.
It’s about the gifts; but please let us remember,
It’s gifts of love and prayer.  They’ll last beyond December.

I’ll end with these great words from Father Pedro Arrupe:  “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.  It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.  Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Good Sight

Photo Credit:  jmiltenburg from
I have a great story that I want to share from Mikey’s Funnies:

Do you know the legend of the American Indian youth's rite of passage?  A father takes his son into the forest, blindfolds him, and leaves him alone.  The boy is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it.  He cannot cry out for help to anyone.

Once he survives the night, he is a MAN.  He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

Here is one boy’s experience of that night:  He is naturally terrified.  He can hear all kinds of noises.  He feels that wild beasts must surely be all around him.  He’s afraid that some human might even do him harm.  The wind blows the trees, grass, and earth and shakes his stump, but he sits stoically, never removing the blindfold.  It is the only way he can become a man.

Finally, after a horrific night in the forest, the sun appears and he removes his blindfold.  It is then that he discovers his father sitting on the stump next to him.  He had been at watch the entire night, protecting him from harm.

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you; don't be distressed, for I am your God.  I give you strength; I give you help.  I support you with my victorious right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Oh, how that legend really hit home with me!  The father was there the whole time, keeping constant watch over his precious child.  Every single teeny, tiny, itty, bitty second…he was there.

Goodness, doesn’t that sound strangely familiar?!  Our Father is beside us the whole time, keeping constant watch over us, His precious children.  However, don’t we many times close our eyes and not realize that He’s there?

This Thanksgiving, I think I will pray for the gift of good sight…er, God-sight.  I will continue to ask God to help me see Him in other people, the hills and valleys of this life, the sufferings and the joys, the ordinary days and extraordinary days, and every drop of rain and each rainbow in between.  He’s there.

I was also reminded of God’s great love in the voice of a little girl.  I was sharing some trail mix with my daughter’s friend and she said, “Oh, I just love the M&M’s, don’t you?  I pick through all that other stuff just to find them.” 

Yes.  Yes, I do.  I love the M&M’s too.  Let us remember to sort through the things we may not love about our day and find the sweet blessings in the mix.

As I smile today remembering that sharing, I ask the Lord to bestow on all of us a child-like faith this Thanksgiving.  In Matthew 19:14, Jesus says, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Please join me in praising and thanking God for the many marvelous things He has done for us!  Let us also pray that we allow others to catch a glimpse of Christ in everything we do and say each day.  What a beautiful world this can be if we remember to make ourselves available to the Lord, so that He can use our very lives as instruments to bring others to know and love Him!

Who do we hope will catch a glimpse of Christ through us?  Everyone really…friends, strangers, neighbors, family, our spouse, and our children down the hall.

For you moms out there, I found some tidbits of awesomeness that I just had to share from Kelley’s blog.  She writes, “Be the mom you want them to remember.  The mom I want my children to remember is humble and willing to admit that she’s not a perfect mom.  I want them to remember that she’s depending on God to help her to be the mom they need.”  (Oooh – I just LOVE that!)

Kelley says, “I want my children to remember a gentle mom who gives grace when she can and discipline when necessary.  I want them to remember me pushing them to do their best and knowing that I’ll be there loving them regardless.  I want them to remember that I am a work in progress, just like they are, and that we can be a team – pushing each other toward the people God wants us to be.”

Kelley shares, “It’s okay to fail because kids need to know their parents aren’t perfect either.  You don’t want to be remembered as the perfect mom, but instead the mom that was demonstrating humility, love, grace, truth, gentleness, patience, and repentance.  Let them remember the real you.”  (Good stuff, Kelley!)

So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us pray for good, God-sight!  May we truly “see” God in the people and happenings around us.  And, let us pray for the grace to be the mom (or dad) that we want our children to remember.

May you and your families feel abundantly blessed this Thanksgiving and all the days in between.  And, here are two of my Thanksgiving poems if you missed them the first time around:  “A Special Guest” and “Three-Sixty-Four.”

Have a wonderful, thankful week, Sunshines!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Pilot

Photo Credit:  DMedina from
I read something from Mikey’s Funnies the other day that gave me a little chuckle.  It was so relatable and I just felt the need to pass it on to my precious Sunshines:

A lady, who was speeding, was pulled over to the side of the road by an officer.

She didn't have her seat belt on, so as soon as she stopped, she quickly slipped it on before the officer got to her window.

After talking to her about speeding, the officer said, "I see you are wearing your seat belt.  Do you believe in wearing it at all times?"

"Oh, yes I do, officer," she quickly replied.

"Well," asked the officer, "do you always loop it through your steering wheel?"

If you catch yourself laughing a tad too hard at this…maybe this WAS you?!  Oopsie - hee hee!

Speaking of steering wheels, I heard a great story in a sermon at church last weekend.  It served as a wonderful, much needed reminder for me.  It went something like this:

A pastor was taking a trip on a plane.  Everything was going smoothly until the pilot made an announcement, “Passengers, please fasten your seatbelts.  There is a storm up ahead and we might experience some turbulence.  Please don’t worry.  We’ll be out of the storm soon.”

The pastor noticed the passengers were getting a little fidgety.  And, once the turbulence began, most of the passengers were very uneasy.  That is, all of them, except for one little girl who was completely content and peaceful during all of this.  She never looked up and calmly continued to color in her coloring book.  The pastor even saw her smiling, as if absolutely nothing was going on around her.

As the plane shook a little harder, the pilot’s voice could be heard again, “Passengers, please don’t be afraid.  Everything will be okay.  We should be out of this storm in about three minutes.”  The passengers were restless in their seats and had death-grips on their handles.  All of them, except for the little girl, who continued to color…worry-free.

When the plane finally landed safely and all of the passengers were departing, the pastor walked by the seat where the little girl was sitting.  He just had to know how she remained so calm in the storm.  The pastor leaned down and asked her, “How is it that during the storm, you never looked worried or nervous?  You never squirmed in your seat.  Not even once!  I just have to know your secret.”

The little girl looked up from her coloring book and sweetly whispered to the pastor, “My father is the pilot.”  The pastor smiled at the little girl and continued to exit the plane.

Oh, how that story just resonated with me.  The little girl remained so calm in the storm because she knew her father would take care of her.  He said he would…and he did.

Is it possible for us to remain calm in the storms of this life?  I think it is possible.  But…only if we have the faith that our Father in Heaven will take care of our every need…great and small.

Countless times in the Bible, the Lord asks us to fear not.  He says, “Be not afraid” at least a bazillion times.  Well, if not a bazillion, it’s pretty darn close to that.

We were reminded in Sunday’s sermon that fear is not from God.  It’s from Satan.  The devil loves it when we’re scared.  He loves to see us afraid.  “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

It really pushed my buttons to think that Satan actually reveled in and took great pleasure in seeing us miserable when we’re overcome with fear.  Grrrr.  It made me even more determined to fight fear…in all aspects of life.  It makes me want to put out my hand and say, “Scary thoughts…go away…you are NOT welcomed here!”  For the heck of it, you can even shake your pointer finger back and forth and say No, No, NO…mmmm, MMMM, mmmm, mmmm, MMMM, mmmm, MMMM!!

Wouldn’t it be so nice to have the serenity of that little girl who sat calmly while everything around her was in turmoil?  Wouldn’t it be great to have that sort of inner peace so that nothing can make us come unraveled?  Wouldn’t it be lovely to weather the storms with such complete trust?  Wouldn’t it be just wonderful?

Actually, I believe it’s very attainable.  Yep, I do.  However, we have a choice.  We get to decide if we will accept and welcome that type of peace into our lives.  It’s a gift there for the taking and it’s free.  It’s called faith.

I updated my facebook cover photo with this caption, “Faith is not believing that God can.  It’s knowing that He will.”

Ooohhh…don’t you just love that?!  I do too.  God surely doesn’t force us to have faith.  He lets us choose it.  When we have faith, it gives God an open door through which He can enter in and pour His blessings upon us.  Even if we open the door just a teeny tiny crack – hee hee!

I thought these sayings about faith were worth a share:
  1. As your faith is strengthened, you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control.  Things will flow as they will and you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit. (Emmanuel Teney)
  2. Courage is fear that has said its prayers. (Dorothy Bernard)
  3. Faith enables persons to be persons because it lets God be God. (Carter Lindberg)
  4. Faith is the bird who sings while it is still dark.

I guess I have to ask myself these questions, “Who is my pilot?  Who is in charge?  Who is my calm in the storm?”  The answer is God.  But, so many times, I think I try to inch my way into the pilot’s seat and tackle the journey on my own.  Who in their right mind would want to fly a plane without one iota of experience on how to fly it?  What AM I thinking?!  Lord, help me to remember to scootch my way right back out of that pilot’s seat!

On days when I doubt and fear, I know those are the days that I’m not placing my trust in the RIGHT pilot!  When He says, “Please don’t worry.  We’ll be out of the storm soon,” I need to remember to trust in His desire to love me and take care of me. 

As Father Bentil reminded us at Mass this morning, “Take courage; it is I.  Do not be afraid.”  (Matthew 14:27)

I’ll leave you with a question to ponder…“Who is your pilot?”

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  We CAN do this!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Photo Credit:  Prawny from
I’ve been humbled and amazed by the amount of prayer support being lifted up for my precious goddaughter, Sydney, and her family.  I can’t say that I’ve ever witnessed the magnitude and generosity of prayer being offered like this before.  I mean, people are praying for this child all over the world…literally.  And, I am approached by folks daily who let me know they are praying.

I get hourly e-mails and facebook messages stating that someone somewhere is praying for Sydney.  It makes my heart smile and brings me unexplainable joy.  Numerous people have shared with me that their life has been greatly affected by the opportunity to “walk with” Sydney and her family on this journey.  Hearts are changing.  Lives are changing.

I even think that people who didn’t pray before are praying now.  My heart swells with awe at the thought.  It just so happens that our Bible study last week focused on prayer and I have some great tidbits of info. that I’d like to share with you.

What is prayer anyway?  Matthew Kelly explains that, “To pray is to talk to God about anything that is in your heart:  the things that bring you joy and the things that bring you sorrow; the successes you experience and the failures you encounter; your strengths and talents; your faults and weaknesses; your hopes and dreams.  In prayer, you talk to God about everything.”

I like this from Matthew Kelly too – “Prayer helps us discover who we are and what we are here for.  Developing a dynamic prayer life requires perseverance more than anything else.  Just keep showing up.  Some days you will feel like praying and many days, you will not.  But, if you keep showing up, you will develop a phenomenal friendship with God.”

Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Praying does not mean listening to yourself speak; praying means calming down and being still and waiting until you hear God.”  I’ll tell you what…the most beautifully intimate times I have had in prayer have been in a quiet church where there is no one else there but me and God.  I’m still and I’m listening.  (Both of those events can be a rarity for me at times!  ha ha!  Hey…don’t laugh.)

Throughout the last few weeks on Sydney’s facebook prayer page, I have often mentioned that we should pray unceasingly.  Unceasingly?  Doesn’t that mean constantly…continuously…24/7?  Well, if you are God, 24/7 prayer is possible.  However, if you are like me, you wonder how in the world can I truly pray unceasingly?  The desire is there…I just needed some direction on how to do it.

Well, in our Bible study, there just so happened to be a great reflection on the verse - 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”  We are encouraged to transform every moment of our day into a prayer.  How can we do that?  We can offer our inconveniences and sufferings as well as our joys and happiness during the day as a prayer.   Our day-to-day realities can become a prayer.

I think in order to offer the day as a prayer, we might start with a quick and easy morning prayer.  I wanted something that rhymed, of course, so it would be simple for me to remember.  So, this is what I wrote…“Dear Lord – I offer you this day, in all I think and say.  In everything I do, I offer it to you.  Amen.”

Honestly, it keeps me on track.  If I want to make my whole day a prayer, then I need to stay on the right path.  I don’t want to offer Him my leftovers or the second-rate-version of myself.  This morning prayer keeps me in check when I start off the day this way.

I love that everyone prays so differently.  I love that prayers can be as unique as the person offering them.  I enjoy traditional prayers as well as those that spring up from the depths of our soul with the words leaving our mouths as inspirational, heartfelt beauty.

The prayer process can vary so greatly.  However, for those of us who get stuck on where to even begin sometimes, here’s a nice little guideline from Matthew Kelly:

  1. GRATITUDE:  We can start with thanking the Lord for those things that we are most grateful for that day.
  2. AWARENESS:  We can think about the last 24 hours and recall times when we weren’t the-best-version-of-ourselves.  We can chat with God about what we might have learned from those times.
  3. SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS:  We can reflect on whether or not God was trying to talk to us through someone or something that happened that day.
  4. PEACE:  We can ask God for forgiveness and to fill us with His peace.
  5. FREEDOM:  We can reflect on ways that God might be inviting us to change our lives in order to have the freedom to be the-best-version-of-ourselves.
  6. OTHERS:  We can lift up all of those who we feel called to pray for.
  7. OUR FATHER:  We can end the prayer process with the Lord’s Prayer.

Personally, I think of Jesus as my friend.  I chat with Him all day long.  Oh, and sometimes I think….”Poor Jesus – He has to listen to me ramble on and on with senseless worries and fears and what-ifs.  Poor Jesus – He is so patient with me…why do I keep forgetting to trust Him and be not afraid?  Poor Jesus – He doesn’t get a word in edge-wise with me!  Poor Jesus – Why don’t I just listen to Him the first time?  Poor Jesus…

The GREAT news is that “Poor Jesus” loves me anyway.  Isn’t that awesomeness?  He loves our perfectly imperfect selves anyway and I am SO very glad.

Pastor Andy Schroer had a wonderful story in his blog recently.  It was called, “The Chair,” and I think it beautifully describes how I see Jesus.  Here’s a modified excerpt: 

A new pastor went to visit an elderly man from his church.  When the pastor arrived at the man’s home, he saw him lying on a bed.  Next to his bed was a simple chair facing the bed.

The old man offered an exuberant, “Hello!”  The young pastor replied with a smile, “Hello!  I see you’re expecting me.”  “No, who are you?” the elderly man replied.  “Well, I’m your new pastor.  I saw the chair there next to the bed and I just assumed that you were expecting me.”

“Oh, the chair,” the elderly man responded.  “Please sit down, pastor,” the man continued.  “For years I didn’t really understand what prayer was.  I would go to church and we would pray.  I would say 'grace' at mealtimes.  But I really didn’t understand what prayer was until a buddy of mine told me, ‘You know what you need to do, John?  Put a chair in front of you and imagine Jesus sitting there.  Remember He is there even though we can’t see Him.  Then just talk to Jesus like you’re talking to me right now.  That’s what prayer is.’"

About two weeks later, the pastor received a phone call.  It was the old man’s daughter and she was in tears.  Her father had just passed away.  “But something strange happened, pastor,” the young woman added.  “It seems that in the moments right before he died, my father got up from his bed, sat on the floor, and laid his head on the chair next to his bed.”

Oh how I LOVE this story and I’m so glad that Pastor Andy shared it!  No better place than in Jesus’ loving embrace! 

I am thankful to all the prayer warriors out there who have frequent heart-to-hearts with Jesus.  I especially want to thank you for your unceasing prayer for Sydney’s healing.  May God bless you in turn for the way you have blessed all of us. 

I also pray for and thank God for our veterans on this Veterans Day!  Here’s my Veterans Day poem called, “A Military Heart,” in case you missed it last year.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sydney Strong

Photo Credit:  JonLuty from
What does it mean to be Sydney Strong?
Just listen closely.  This won’t take long.
It’s carrying a cross with faith and grace,
Praying through suffering that you face.
Where courage is seen in all that you do,
For letting us trek the journey with you.
It’s not whining and fretting, “Oh, Lord, why me?”
It’s having eyes of the brave for all to see.
It’s walking by faith – His will we trust,
Relying on God, with hope, we must.
Being sure that God will fight for you,
Growing us in ways that we never knew.
Bringing families to fold their hands in prayer,
Allowing others to show how much they care.
Knowing God’s palm is way big enough,
For days of this life, impossibly rough.
Faith doesn’t make life a piece of cake,
It makes it possible, so we won’t break.
It’s not believing He can, but knowing He will,
Listening for His voice and just being still.
It fills us with hope – the Spirit’s power,
Causing people worldwide to pray by the hour.
Sydney Strong affects those we’ve never met,
And God’s master quilt isn’t done quite yet.
Can one person bring prayer to thousands of people?
Bring a number of them to a church with a steeple?
The answer is yes; I’ve seen it and felt it,
Humbled and awestruck; my heart, it does melt it.
Generosity I’ve witnessed steals words away,
Sydney Strong is something that’s here to stay.
We love you, dear Sydney, we’re all here for you,
Thanks for the reminder that God is the glue.
Thank you for smiling on days so hard,
For counting on angels to light and to guard.
For getting us out of our own little box,
Not building on sand, but only on rocks.
To overcome all with deep, fervent prayer,
Life, without faith, is too much to bear.
We promise to strive for Sydney Strong,
God’s mighty arms is where we belong.
God bless you, Precious, fight with your might,
Sydney Strong, my child, is a beautiful sight!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Hole in Heaven's Floor

Photo credit:  ronnieb from
This week’s Sips of Sunshine is all about my precious goddaughter, Sydney Kallus.  For those of you who haven’t gotten an urgent prayer request from me yet, well, here it is and here’s a bit of her story:

Sydney is 11 years old and her parents, Mark & Jennifer, found out on Friday, October 24th that she has Burkitt's Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.  Sydney will be undergoing treatment at MD Anderson in Houston to tackle this disease.  Please pray for her.

Along with your prayers, if you have children or grandchildren, please ask them to keep Sydney in their prayers, too.  Prayers are so powerful, especially those of children.  Please share this prayer request with your friends and family and add Sydney’s name to the special intentions at your church.  Let’s storm heaven with prayer for this precious child of God!

In addition to her parents, Sydney has two younger sisters and a baby brother, who love her dearly.  Sydney also has several brothers and sisters who are angels watching over her from heaven.

When I talked to Sydney the night before her chemo began, I asked her what kinds of things I could mail to her in a care package.  She listed some books that she wanted as well as some small toys.  Then, she said, "Hey, maybe you could send me a check for one million dollars?"  I told her that I would empty out some of my piggy banks and see what I could come up with.  We both laughed about it.  Then she said, "Seriously, for some reason, half of me thinks that you are actually going to send me a check."

Sydney, my sweet goddaughter, in addition to the one million prayers that I'm trying to round up for you, I'm going to give it my all to make your "over-the-top" wish come true.  I've set the GoFundMe goal for $50,000...but, you know I'm really hoping for a million, little girl!

Sydney is in desperate need of your fervent, unceasing prayers for her healing.  This disease is relentless and ruthless, but God is bigger!  Prayer is bigger.

My friend, Anne Marek, shared some absolutely beautiful words with me from her ACTS team director, ”We will tear a hole in that roof and lay her down right before Jesus for healing!"

“Her favorite bible story is of the paralytic man, where the friends of the man couldn’t get him to Jesus because of the crowds, so they cut a hole in the roof and laid him right before Jesus. Assure Sydney that there is a faithful community of believers along with a host of angels and saints in heaven that, with prayers, are doing just that with her….laying her at the feet of Jesus for healing. Also thank her for her own suffering, courage, and faith. She is an inspiration and is being an instrument of God, turning many hearts to God in prayer on her behalf." 

My heart is so full because of all the prayers being lifted for Sydney and her family.  The amount of “prayer shares” has been overwhelmingly breath-taking.  Thank you all so much for taking the time to pray for them!  I know they are comforted and strengthened by your prayers.  I know it means the world to them.  It means the world to me...

Matthew 18:20 reminds us, “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in their midst.”  He’s with us.  He’s with us.  He’s with us.

During the last few days, there have been many times when I just didn’t know what to say.  Then, I remembered the words to 7eventh Time Down’s song, “Just Say Jesus.”  “When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus.  There is power in the name.  The name of Jesus.  Whisper it now or shout it out.  However it comes out, He hears your cry.  Out of nowhere, He will come.  You’ve got to believe it.  He will rescue you.  There is just one name that’s strong enough to save.  Just say Jesus.”

Just say Jesus.  Over the last few days, I’ve found myself whispering the name of Jesus all day long.  Please join me…

I love it when God gives us concrete signs that He’s listening.  Sometimes the doubting Thomas in me just needs it.  A few days ago, I was in the middle of a nine-day novena prayer through St. Jude, begging for his prayers to God for times when we don’t feel strong in our faith and are desperately yearning and searching for hope.  During that nine-day period, I looked back on my home phone’s caller ID and saw that “St. Jude” had called several times.  God is listening.

I’m asking each of you to be on God’s caller ID when He looks back to see who was praying for sweet Sydney.  Not that God needs a caller ID…I realize that He knows what we want and need even before we ask.  However, it makes me smile to think that if He did have one, it would be overflowing with names lifting up Sydney in prayer.

With God’s grace, when each of us gets to heaven one day, I want you to look for the hole in heaven’s floor.  It will be there and it will be big.  The hole will be there because of you, the prayer warriors who stormed heaven in prayer begging for Sydney’s healing.

I love you, Sydney!  You are strong, courageous, faithful, loving, witty, smart, and inspiring.  It is a great honor to be your godmother.  I will not stop praying.

Thank you for your prayers, Sunshines.  For those of you who asked what else you can do in addition to prayer, please check out the Praying for Sydney Kallus Go Fund Me page.
(Beautiful Sydney at a dress-up birthday party over the summer)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Who Adds The " R " ?

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Smith from
Last week, I went to the eye doctor.  I was on my last pair of contacts and they were on their last blurry leg.  I was desperate and I knew it was time for an overdue check-up and some fresh, new, non-itchy contacts.  By now you know about me and my white-coat-syndrome, so you know that this little trip wasn’t easy.

However, if I didn’t want to be sporting my coke-bottle glasses from the 90s, it was time.  The Bible verse that gave me the courage to push past my racing heart was Philippians 4:13 – “I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.”  ALL things...including a quick trip for contacts. 

I felt like my prayers were already being answered in the waiting room.  A wave of calmness flowed through my body and I knew God was listening.  I also did something for the first time on this particular visit, and no, it WASN’T that I ran out of there with my arms wildly thrashing and flailing in the air (however, when my nerves get the best of me, it has crossed my mind before…).  When I filled out the paperwork, I wrote something that I have never written before on “official” paperwork.  In the little blank by “Occupation,” I filled in a six-letter-word…writer.

For some reason, putting that down in ink made my heart feel so full.  I realize that typically an occupation means a job, place of employment, or profession and is usually a paid position.  However, in my mind that day, occupation meant a vocation…a calling.  So, I went with it.  For several years, I had written stay-at-home mom, and heaven knows I didn’t get a paycheck for that.  Well…not a typical paycheck…I got paid with copious quantities of love, dirty diapers, boo-boos, and naptime snuggles, and I treasured it all.  So, I went out on a fervent limb and wrote “writer” this time.

A couple of years ago, I wrote this paragraph in a blog post:

When we follow a burning passion, transitions can be made.  We make them happen.  From “I like to write” to “I’m a writer”, “I like to run” to “I’m a runner”, “I like to paint” to “I’m a painter”, “I like to teach” to “I’m a teacher”, “I like to dance” to “I’m a dancer” and “I like to build” to “I’m a builder”…it’s our choice.  It’s up to us to add the zeal that adds the “r” at the end.

Last week, I added the zeal that added the “r”.  It felt purposeful.  It felt good.  It was something so simple really, but it made a big difference in how I viewed myself and my goals.

And, you know what?  My precious eye doctor read over my paperwork and asked me about being a writer.  I admired her for being so attentive to the little details.  In that dimly lit exam room, we had such a wonderful discussion that I almost forgot about being Nervous Nellie!  I told her about my blog and my writing plans and she listened intently.  Then, she told me about her daughters getting older and going off to college soon and I eagerly listened to her as she shared.  My decision to add the “r” was an amazingly encouraging step for me in many ways that day.

One of the first things I ever wrote about was…well…words.  You’ve probably heard many of these clever sayings before, but here’s an excerpt of an old blog post:

I love words.  I like the fact that words can be tricky.  For example, how does a “fat” chance mean the same thing as a “slim” chance?  And why is a wise “man” not the same as a wise “guy?”  Has anyone ever found the “ham” in a hamburger yet?  I’m still looking for an “egg” in my eggplant.  And then there’s “there,” as in, “They’re” going “there” “their” own way.  Whaaat?!  Now, “read” what you just “read” one more time – whew!

If writers “write,” why don’t authors “auth?”  If “teeth” is the plural of tooth, why isn’t “beeth” the plural of booth?  And what about one goose, two geese?  Does that make it one moose, two “meese?”  If there’s one mouse and two mice, shouldn’t there be one house and two “hice?”  Why is something “extraordinary” the total opposite of something extra “ordinary?”  How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck COULD chuck wood?  Why do we drive on the Parkway and park on the driveway?  And how is it that sometimes noses do the running, while feet do the smelling?

Along with liking wily little words, I love the fact that words can inspire, give hope, encourage, and show love.  I know that most people will forget the actual words we say, but they will never forget how our words made them feel.  Here’s to choosing words that make our friends and family laugh, smile, and eager to be the best version of themselves. 

I have to giggle at some irony though.  Last week, I confidently put “writer” down on paper and this week, I had a bit of writer’s block when trying to write this post.  So, the caveat is this…even after we embrace the “r”, it doesn’t mean it will be roses and peaches…and that’s okay.  Always go back to the source of your passion.  For me, it is words.  I read over old posts and remembered that it was indeed “words” that ignite the fire within me.

Words can encourage and be uplifting.  Words can change things.  Words can also discourage and tear down.  Words can be sharper than any knife and terribly hard to swallow.  Let’s remember to choose words wisely…and find our filter…if they need refining.

I love these quotes about words:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’” - John Greenleaf Whittier

“Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.”  - Natsuki Takaya

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone. - Audrey Hepburn

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world. - Robin Williams

Here’s to finding and embracing the passion that adds the “r”.  Who adds the “r”?  We do.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What Stinks?

Photo Credit:  xandert from
One of the little pleasures that I love in this life is a trip to Bath & Body Works®.  With coupons in hand, I search the store shelves for fun, fresh scents that will help welcome the advent of a new season.  The items that I particularly enjoy are the foaming hand soaps, shower gels, wallflowers, and lotions.

A couple of weeks ago, we were completely out of hand soaps, so I had a great excuse to head to town.  I was in the mood for fall flavors, so I found things like Pumpkin Cupcake, Cozy Vanilla Cream, Golden Autumn Citrus, and Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin.  Yum!  It was my lucky day since they were giving away one free hand soap “just because.”  Woo-hoo!  So, I quickly grabbed another comfy, autumn soap and was out the door.

When I got home, I excitedly placed a different hand soap at each of our sinks.  Then, I couldn’t wait to wash my hands, so I started peeling pears for a new Pear Crisp recipe I wanted to try.  After peeling half of my first pear, my hands were just plain filthy (Sort of…hee hee!), so I eagerly washed them with my Pumpkin Pecan Waffles hand soap.  Doesn’t that name sound delicious?  I thought so too.  But, then…for some reason…I wasn’t so sure.

I usually fall in love with all of the soaps I pick out.  Heck, I’ve loved them all so much that I don’t even smell them before I buy them.   I just grab and go.  Maybe I should have sniffed this one this time.  However, not wanting to rashly judge this soap too soon, I kept rollin’ along with my day.

I didn’t say anything to my husband about the new kitchen soap so that I wouldn’t plant any bad seeds.  I wanted to see what his unbiased opinion would be.  After he helped me with the supper dishes (I adore that man!), he washed his hands.  With the soap.  I scrutinized his facial expressions.  Maybe a nostril flare and an eyebrow raise, but not much besides that.  I continued to wait.

After two days of using the soap, he confessed, “You know…I don’t care for this soap at all.  It really stinks.  Yep.  It stinks.”  I agreed.  Then my children chimed in, “Yeah!  It stinks!”  We all agreed that the Pumpkin Pecan Waffles soap made us smell like we dove into a vat of syrup and ate stacks of pancakes and waffles with our fingers.  Total maple madness, just minus the sticky. 

Then, because of the long-lasting syrup smell, we felt like our hands were an icky mess and should be washed again.  So, we washed.  Again.  And again.  It was a vicious cycle really.  I’ll give credit where credit is due - the staying power of that scent is pretty amazing.  Too bad, it wasn’t really a smell that we wished to linger on and on.  It was our first epic hand soap fail.

I took the soap back to the store to exchange it (they are super awesome about that 100% guaranteed thing!), then I did a quick online search to see if our family was the only one out there that was turned off by the syrupy scent.  We weren’t.  I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks when I read some of the reviews.  We had been there.  We were certainly not alone on this one.

Oh goodness.  Syrup with breakfast, lunch, and dinner anyone?  What stinks?!  Our hands, that’s what!  Heh.

You know what else sometimes stinks?  The way we think.

In our Bible Study last week, we discussed what Matthew Kelly calls, “Stinking Thinking.”  Mr. Kelly says, “Even though God has given us incredible minds to reason with, we still do a lot of stinking thinking.”

Mr. Kelly said that much of the time, we fall prey to stinky thinking like…What’s in it for me?  If it feels good, do it.  What’s the least I can do?  These thought processes can sabotage us by making us feel greedy, selfish, isolated, and lazy.

If we want to rid ourselves of stinky thoughts, we need to wash them away...but whatever you do, please don’t use the waffle soap.  No, seriously, if we want to wash away the thoughts that stink, then we should pray for the ability to recognize truth, beauty, and goodness.  Our soul hungers and thirsts for these things.  The thoughts, words, and actions that inspire us and others to be more Christ-like are far from stinky.

In our Bible Study, we also walked away with six easy words to remember:  Just do the next right thing.  We don’t have to overwhelm ourselves with every detail of our future.  Only God knows how that will be.  We can release that burden now.  However, we can focus on baby steps, like choosing the next right thing.  With God’s grace, I know we can be successful.

Have you ever thought, “There’s no way that I can make a difference.  There’s no way that I can inspire.  I’m just one person.  Just little ole me.  I can’t do great things.  That’s impossible.  I’m not strong enough.  I’m not brave enough.  I’m not smart enough.  I’m not pretty enough.  I’m not good enough.  I’m.  Not.  Enough.”

Prime example of stinky thinking.  Negative to the core.

I read a wonderfully encouraging post by Pastor Andy this week called, “No Small Thing.”  It resonated with me on many levels.  At times, I’ve felt like he felt.  In my tiny corner of the blog world, I too, am small potatoes when compared to other Christian writers who have tens of thousands of facebook likes and blog followers.

But, like Pastor Andy reminds us, “Who despises the day of small things? (Zechariah 4:10).  When it comes to God and our service to Him, there are no small things.”   Pastor Andy encourages us with reminders that taking our children to church make heaven’s angel choirs break into song.  And the quiet prayers we say at night?  They powerfully affect the course of our life and the lives of others.  When we lovingly cook for our family or clean the house or toil away at a tedious job – whenever we faithfully live and work for God and others – God smiles and the angels sing.  Our service to God is never a small thing.  Thank you so much for the needed reminder, Pastor Andy!

Potatoes, big or small, can still nourish the body.  Right?  And, even when we feel like we are “small potatoes,” we can still nourish a soul or ten or twenty.  Right?  Right.  Every soul touched by the gospel by seeing and feeling Christ through others is a very big thing indeed!  There’s nothing stinky about that!

Like the syrupy-sweet smell that lingered on our hands, so too does stinky thinking linger if we let it.  Let’s say NO to stinky thinking this week.  Anytime a stinky thought tries to find its way in, let’s put our hand out and say, “No!  You are NOT welcome here!” 

We can do this!

Have a great week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Crooked Picture

Photo Credt:  jjulian812 from
Over the summer, we rearranged the kiddos’ rooms, did a little painting, and hung some new pictures on their walls.  My son’s room is all things fishing and one of the paintings absolutely, positively would not hang straight.  Of course, a lot of it had to do with the fact that it was hung by a single nail because that was just easiest at the time.  So, when he opened or closed the closet door, the picture moved.  Every.  Single.  Time.

For many, a crooked picture isn’t a big deal.  Some probably don’t even notice when a picture is tilted on the wall.  Others are like, “What picture?!”  However, as much as we tried not to notice, my son and I couldn’t help it.  Something had to be done about the picture.  He would climb on his chair every evening and straighten it out.  I would have done the same thing if he hadn’t already done it.  Apples don’t fall far, do they?

A few days ago, I got out the hammer and nails and I hung a second nail.  This required a little more work because the two nails had to line up.  Otherwise, we’d be back to square one with a crooked picture.  So, a few nail holes later (shhh, don’t tell the hubby what’s under the picture), we had success.  We had a painting that could now stay steady regardless of the forces against it.

The painting was secure, strong, and firm in its place once it had a second nail to support it.  Do we have a second nail in our life?  Who or what is it?  I thought of Jesus.

When we have Jesus beside us, we too can find the strength to stay steady regardless of the forces against us.  So, where can we find Jesus?  For me, He’s everywhere, if I remember to truly open my eyes.  If I don’t see Him or feel Him, it’s because I’m the one who moved.  He didn’t.

For some, God is found in people and day-to-day life.  For most, He’s there when reading the Bible or words of inspiration.  For several, God is felt through nature.  For many, God’s presence is strongest while sitting in church.  I read a great post by Pastor Andy Schroer about church and wanted to share a few wonderful reminders from him. 

Pastor Andy says, “We don’t go to church primarily to get, but to give – to serve our Savior God and others out of love and thanks for all that God has given us.  Being a member of a church means more than just parking your posterior in the pew on Sunday.  Don’t just go to church.  Be the church.  Participate.  Serve.  Give.  The amazing thing is, as you do, you too will be blessed.”

“There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is a ‘u’ in church. (I just LOVE that, Sunshines, don’t you?!)  As you serve God and others in church, as you participate in worship, as you hear God’s Word and receive His Sacraments, you too will be encouraged.  You will be strengthened.  You will be blessed.  As you give, God promises you will also receive.  Being a member of a church means serving and being served.”

I enjoyed the reminder to BE the church.  We need God and we need to be the church because, let’s face it; life can be downright tough at times.  We need a second nail to hold us steady when we feel like faltering.  We need a second nail to keep our eyes fixed in the right direction.  We need a second nail to balance the “crazy” that sometimes happens in this thing we call life.

I need a second nail for the inner peace that I so desperately crave.  As Pastor Andy also says in this awesome post about peace:

“Jesus promises peace.  But what kind of peace?  He doesn't promise us a life of tranquility here on earth, free of problems and pains.  He doesn’t promise us that if we just believe or pray hard enough, that all our hurts here on earth will suddenly disappear.  God doesn't promise us that kind of peace.”  (Dang!)

“‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Our road to heaven will pass through cancer and heart attacks, heartbreaks and hurt.  We will see the greyness of death in the faces of people we love.  We are forced to face our own mortality.  The peace God promises isn't the absence of pain and problems here on earth.”

“The peace the world cannot give is the peace of knowing that, because of Jesus, God forgives you and loves you even though you have said and done terrible things in your life.  The peace the world cannot give is the peace of knowing that, because of Jesus, the tranquility of heaven is waiting for us, where ‘there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:4).  The peace the world cannot give is the peace of knowing that our God will be with us, give us strength and carry us through every hardship and heartbreak we face.”

Pastor Andy says that the true peace God promises is the peace in the middle of the storm.  I'm thankful for that reminder because it’s easy to forget that we weren’t promised a life without difficulties on this earth.  We weren’t.  This is not our forever home.   

All too often we feel like God is letting us down when the storms of this life rage on and we can’t feel Him and we can’t see Him.  We wonder if He even sees us or cares.

However, we needn’t look further than His Holy Word.  “O God, have pity, for I am trusting You!  I will hide beneath the shadow of Your wings until this storm is past.  I will cry to the God of heaven who does such wonders for me.  He will send down help from heaven to save me, because of His love and His faithfulness.  He will rescue me from those who are so intent upon destroying me.”  (Psalm 57:1-3)

It’s a great feeling to know that we can anchor ourselves to God’s Word and the Sacraments for comfort and to remind us of all His promises.  I truly believe that we can weather the storms of this life if we’re anchored to the right Rock! 

Just like the crooked picture, it needed a rock (er, nail) to lean on.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!