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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I See You

Photo Credit:  hotblack from
My sister-in-law, Kerri, shared a facebook post the other day that really caught my attention.  It was this:

“If there is any need that is perpetually unmet on this planet, it is the need to feel seen.  To feel seen in our humanity, in our vulnerability, in our beautiful imperfection.  When we are held safe in that, a key turns inside of our hearts, freeing us from our isolation, transforming our inner world.  If there is anything we can offer each other, it is the gift of sight.  ‘I see you’ – perhaps the most important words we can utter to another.”  - Jeff Brown, Love it Forward  
Three simple words.  I.  See.  You. 

It makes so much sense.  Doesn’t our day seem a little bit brighter when someone notices us or compliments us or sends a smile our way?  Someone we know.  A complete stranger.  “I see you” can be spoken or felt and it can make all the difference.

For two days in a row, we were in town running errands and decided on a Subway lunch on both days.  The first day, the lady helping me seemed a little preoccupied or tired, but courteously made me my delicious turkey, bacon, avocado sub on flat bread nonetheless.  I thanked her and wished her a good day.  She cracked what looked like a small smile in the right corner of her mouth.

The next day, I was craving the same sandwich…bacon-anything really.  Bacon on bacon.  Whatever, you know?  To my delight, the same lady was working.  I was given another opportunity to make her smile.  When I walked in the shop, she recognized me.  I told her that the sandwich was so super yummy yesterday that I had to come back for more!  She smiled an even bigger smile and said, “Now, that’s what I like to hear!  It means I’m doin’ m’job!” 

Wouldn’t you know…this go around, I noticed the sandwich was a little heavier.  People are certainly more generous when they’re happy, ya know?  I thanked her for the sub and she thanked me for coming.  “Come back soon,” she called out as I was leaving.

I’m pretty sure that she felt, “I see you” and I’m so glad.

It was a quick trip to Subway because I was hungry.  But, as Matthew Kelly reminds us, “There are so many ways to be hungry.  Most of the world goes to bed every night hungry for an honest word of appreciation.  Make sure the people in your life know how much you appreciate them.”

I’ve been thinking about my Sips of Sunshine readers lately.  I just want to take the time to say thank you.  Thank you for spending some of your time reading my blog.  Thank you for liking my Sips of Sunshine facebook page.  Thank you for signing up for an e-mail subscription on my website.  Thank you for sharing my posts.  Thank you for your words of encouragement and inspiration along this amazing writing journey.  I appreciate each of you.

I’ve enjoyed your responses to my summer challenges too.  I congratulate each and every one of you who tried the 24-hour complain-free challenge as well as the challenge to come up with one hundred gifts and blessings found in the most routine of your days.

Please tell me you are ready for a third challenge, because here it comes!  I challenge you to “see” five people each day for a week.  And, what I mean by “see” is that you make the time to smile at or compliment five strangers a day for a whole week.  I’m 100% certain that you can do it.  Feel free to share your stories with me.

Like Matthew Kelly says, “The good we do is never lost; it never dies.  The good deeds of your life will live on in other people, in other places, in other times.”

I love the concept of paying it forward, so that makes me over-the-top curious about and eager to read Jeff Brown’s book called, “Love it Forward,” where “he reminds us that we are never alone in this beautifully relational human dance.  We become the love we have received, and we love it forward to those we touch.  We are each here to participate in this sacred dance, stepping on each other’s toes and turning each other toward God one clumsy step after another.”

I just love that!

Here’s to us, dancing through this life together and taking the time to notice one another.  Three simple words.  I.  See.  You.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  No Sips next week.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Double Dose

I’ve been in clean-out mode over here.  Most people do spring cleaning in the, well, you know…spring.  It’s late July and I just got the memo.  I started in the kids’ bedrooms and ended up in my closet.  In the process, I stirred up some twenty-plus-year-old-dust in a few boxes from my high school days.  Is really old dust more toxic than new dust?  I dunno.  But, I read in the um, South Texas Journal of Dust Bunnies that dusting is bad news.  That’s exactly why I don’t touch the stuff!  (hee hee!)  What I DO know is that I’ve been sneezing ever since the purge.  Achooooooo!!!

Anyhoo!  Aside from the mid-summer allergy fit, I have certainly enjoyed going through the boxes of memories.  There were oodles of pictures, handwritten letters and cards (remember those?!), crunchy roses, newspaper clippings, and report cards.

I haven’t made the time to go through all of the cards yet, but I did most of my reminiscing while looking through a stack of graduation notes that were rubber-banded together.  I tell you what – 1993 was a few years back!  I am one of the ones who still thinks that the 90’s happened last decade.  Boy, time flies!  Tucked in that pile were some wonderful pieces of wisdom.  Someone had made me a copy of page 154 from the first version of Max Lucado’s book, In the Eye of the Storm.

There were many pearls of insight on that page that I want to share with you:
  • Love God more than you fear hell.
  • When no one is watching, live as if someone is.
  • Succeed at home first.
  • Pray twice as much as you fret.
  • Listen twice as much as you speak.
  • Only harbor a grudge when God does.
  • Never outgrow your love of sunsets.
  • Treat people like angels; you will meet some and help make some.
  • ‘Tis wiser to err on the side of generosity than on the side of scrutiny.
  • Don’t feel guilty for God’s goodness.
  • Never let the important be the victim of the trivial.

I enjoyed reading the notes of encouragement, hope, good wishes, forgiveness, friendship, and love.  I had fun recalling the Homecomings, Proms, and Sadie Hawkins’ dances, along with the outfits and the hair.  And how ‘bout this?  Per some faded Sadie Hawkins’ certificates, I am currently married to at least four other guys from my high school!  Goodness gracious.

Who would’ve thought that something as ordinary as going through old boxes would make me smile?  It’s hard to believe that many of my buddies are getting dangerously close to 40.  I remember being bummed that I was the “young one” in the class, especially when it came time to get a driver’s license.  This year, I’m relishing in the fact that I have a summer birthday!  Woo-hoo!  Thirty-nine forever baby!  Thirty-nine forever.

Anyway, it always amazes me how some of the most ordinary things in my day make me pause and reflect a bit.  For instance, at the Buc-ee’s store in Wharton, I saw two wall signs that brought me joy – “Be You(tiful)” and “When you stumble, make it part of the dance.”  It was a simple pit stop while filling up the gas tank and it really made my day.  I just chose to “open my eyes,” which I don’t always remember to do.  I’m glad I did.

Just today, I was going through some things on my desk and found this gem:  “Care more than others think necessary.  Trust more than others think wise.  Serve more than others think practical.”  Good stuff.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t made much time to read this summer.  However, if it counts, I did start a book called “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  In it, she challenges us to intentionally embrace a lifestyle of radical gratitude, while slowing down to catch God in the everyday moments.  She made a list of one thousand gifts…each discovered in between the most mundane-hum-drum-monotonous-kinda-days.

I wondered if I could come up with a thousand gifts to be thankful for that are tucked inside my most ordinary of days.  I made a mental list and immediately came up with ten:

  1. The hum of an air conditioner in summer
  2. My children giggling
  3. My husband’s hug
  4. A chat with my mom
  5. A moon that lights up the sky
  6. The ability to see and hear
  7. Mail in the mailbox
  8. The ability to walk and dance
  9. The smell of dryer sheets
  10.  Praying in the car with my family

Mrs. Voskamp dares us to live fully right where we are.  I like that.  I know I challenged you all on my last post to be complain-free for 24 hours.  Well, here’s a new challenge for this week.  Come up with one hundred (we’ll start small) blessings found in the most routine of your days.

Living with gratitude helps us to wake up and see our blessings.  Matthew Kelly challenges us to examine our conscience daily in order to remain sensitive to the things that prevent us from being grateful or becoming the-best-version-of-ourselves.  We should rejoice in that sensitivity because it is grace alive and working within us.  I pray daily for this grace.

If we look around, we’ll notice that the Lord has bestowed a healthy dose of gifts upon us.  I know I am one step closer to 40, but it startled me a bit when I thought I had double-vision on my birthday.  After I blinked a few times, I realized that I was indeed seeing double…but, in a good way.  One of our cows had twins!  That’s right and they’re adorable.  Surely that is some sort of sign, right?!  Well, I think I’ll simply take it as a double dose of blessings and I look forward to the year ahead as I strive to become more aware of the many gifts tucked inside my everyday.  Won’t you join me?

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

24-Hour Challenge

I’ve been elbow-deep in lime green paint over the past couple of days.  We’re decorating the girls’ room and we let them pick the color scheme.  They chose lime green and hibiscus pink with a cute little heart, flower, and peace sign border.  It’s coming together nicely, but I certainly find myself more and more appreciative of those who paint for a living.  Whew!  At the end of the day, I’m not sure if there is more paint on the wall or my shirt, hands, knees, face, and elbows.

The kids have been helping me paint, which has been an adventure in itself.  I assured my husband that my apprentices and I would clean up (uhem, or cover up) any and all paint drips off of the floor before he comes home from work.

There’s a great deal of prep work that goes into painting, isn’t there?  Wiping ten years of dust off the walls, taping the door frames, taking off switch plates and outlet covers, putting sheets on the floor, and practicing my balancing skills.  The last one is because we shoved all of the furniture into the center of the room and there is only about 12 inches to work with around the perimeter of the room.  I have to squeeze my little step ladder in between there and use my monkey toes to hold onto the ladder rungs as I make my way up.  I do this while ever so carefully holding paint in one hand and a roller in the other.  I’m almost ready for the circus.  Sign me up.

One of the other tasks I wanted to tackle was to re-paint the wooden letters for their names.  For their baby room, the letters were painted red because we basically just made a makeshift nursery out of the guest bedroom, which had lots of framed Coca-Cola puzzles from college.  It wasn’t really your typical “nursery” look, but it worked.  Some researchers say that bolder colors in a baby’s room may make them smarter?  We’re going with that and not the “we’re-too-tired-to-paint-a-baby’s-room-right-now” reason.

We didn’t think the red letters would mesh well with their new paint selections, so we headed to Hobby Lobby.  In a grand effort to hurry up and check that off the list, I let the girls pick out some glitter spray paint.  I thought we could just spray the letters and rock along.  Wrong.  That red paint was there for the long haul.  The girls sprayed.  I sprayed.  The girls sprayed some more.  The letters just got gloppier and goopier the more and more paint we used.

Poo.  Painting Fail.  I knew that we needed to start from scratch.  The next step was to sand that glop off the letters and use some white Kilz to create a brand-new canvas to work with.  I’m happy to say that the glistening white letters are now ready to become a masterpiece.

At first, I was really bummed that my quickie spray paint job was not the answer.  I hoped to just cover it up and move on.  Nope.  I had to take some extra time, slow down, and start anew.

All of this got me to thinking about a certain 24-hour challenge.  We’ve all been challenged to do something that we don’t or wouldn’t normally do, right?  On facebook recently, I’ve seen folks doing Cold Water Challenges.  I know others have done intense obstacle course races.  Some have signed up for triathlons and marathons.  Many of those things would certainly push our limits physically.  But, this challenge I’m sharing is different and quite possibly even MORE difficult!  Yep.

The 24-hour challenge I read about recently is this:  try to go 24 hours without…complaining.  Gasp!  Is it possible?!  Can it be done?!

I was on the phone with my husband the other day and told him that I planned to do this 24-hour challenge.  He asked me when it started and I told him, “24 hours ago, so you’re out of luck.”  Ha!  No, seriously.  I told him that I felt like I had gotten into a cycle of complaining too much and I was eager to give it a shot.  He was thrilled.

Our complaining normally starts out innocently enough…”My feet hurt.  I have a headache.  I’m so tired of the kids’ bedtime shenanigans.  I hate mosquitoes.  It’s miserably hot.”  We complain about people, aches and pains, jobs, money, government, weather, sleepless nights, our weight, wrinkles, our hair, not enough time, too much to do, etc., etc.

Many times, we wake up grumbling.  We kvetch about this or that all day long and we don’t even seem to notice that we’re doing it.  I found this to be all too true.  My 24-hour challenge was certainly not easy.  My husband called me within an hour of starting it and asked how the kiddos were doing.  With ear-deafening screeching in the background, my instinctive answer was to start complaining about them not getting along.  However, I took in a deep breath, remembered my challenge, and told him that we were working through some things at the moment.

The crazy thing is that I honestly felt so much better that entire day – mentally and even physically.  Since I wasn’t fixated on what was wrong, things were a bit brighter.  But, don’t take my word for it.  I challenge you to try it too.

Just like the letters I needed to paint, it was best for me to take the time to start anew.  Adding layer upon layer of paint didn’t cover up what was underneath.  It just made things worse.  I needed a clean slate and a fresh beginning.  I needed to get rid of some layers.

Similarly, adding layers and layers of little complaints just leads to a goopy mess before we even realize it.  I encourage you to press the re-start button and challenge yourself to a complain-free 24 hours.  It might take awhile to sand some of those layers off, but I think you’ll be glad you did.  I know I was.

On a positive note, I’m thinking that my non-complainy day earned me a breakfast in bed made with love by my precious kiddos!  (It happened to be an anniversary gift from them too, but I’m going with my first inclination.  It makes me feel good to think that I earned a reward for my nice behavior that day – hee hee!)  The food they prepared was delish, but listening to them work together and get along while whispering in the kitchen so they wouldn’t wake me was the real gift.  No complaints from this momma!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  No Sips next week!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Goals and Souls

Photo Credit:  Prawny from
So, I’m not sure if you’ve heard or not (ha!), but there’s some serious futbol goin’ on ‘round here.  I have to be honest…until last week; I had never watched a soccer game on TV.  I mean, I played a little soccer growing up and I think I was once on a YMCA team called the Comets or Kickers or Hurricanes or something.  But, all I basically remember about the game was that I needed to kick a black and white ball toward a white net somewhere on a green field.  And, the highlight of the game was definitely the juicy orange wedges that some sweet mom cut up for all of us sweaty kids on the team.

But, I tell you what!  I was majorly impressed with what I saw on the TV screen!  I mean, to run and run and run is one thing, but to kick the ball while you are running and then, weave in and out of the intense faces running toward you, and finally, somehow attempt to get it past a goalkeeper who can guard the entire goal with one giant leap left or right!  Wowsers.  Just wow.

Those matches last week left me hungry for some soccer knowledge.  Sooooo…I hit the books, well, Wikipedia(Surely that counts).  Here’s what I found out in case you want to know too.  The FIFA World Cup is an international association football competition contested by the senior men's national teams of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The championship has been awarded every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it wasn’t held because of World War II.

Per Wikipedia, the tournament involves 32 teams that compete for the title at venues within the host nation(s) over a period of about a month.  A qualification phase, which takes place over the preceding three years, is used to determine which teams qualify for the tournament.

The World Cup is the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games.  The cumulative audience of all matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup was estimated to be 26.29 billion, with an estimated 715.1 million people watching the final match.

“The Knockout Stage” is the part of the tournament going on now.  It’s a single-elimination tournament and begins with the round of 16 (the second round).  This is followed by the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, the third-place match (contested by the losing semi-finalists), and the final.

Whew - are ya still with me?!

So, at the end of each World Cup, awards are presented to the players and teams for their accomplishments (in addition to their final team positions in the tournament).  There are currently six awards:

1)  The Golden, Silver, or Bronze Ball for the best player, second best, and third best, respectively. 

2)  The Golden Boot (sometimes called the Golden Shoe) for the top goal scorer.  Most recently, the Silver Boot and the Bronze Boot have been awarded to the second and third top goal scorers, respectively.

3)  The Golden Glove Award for the best goalkeeper, decided by the FIFA Technical Study Group.

4)  The Best Young Player Award for the best player aged 21 or younger at the start of the calendar year, decided by the FIFA Technical Study Group.

5)  The FIFA Fair Play Trophy for the team with the best record of fair play, according to the points system and criteria established by the FIFA Fair Play Committee.

6)  The Most Entertaining Team for the team that has entertained the public the most during the World Cup, determined by a poll of the general public.

And you thought you could get away with just chillin’ out this whole summer without learning anything new!  Hee hee!

However, what really captivated my attention were the goals.  Since I never watched a soccer game on TV, I had no idea that one single goal would produce so much enthusiasm from the team, the fans, the coaches, and our family sitting on the couch watching the game.  I was used to basketball and football scores.  NOT the same in futbol.

When that ball made its way down the field as if in a pinball machine rocketing back and forth between players, I realized more and more how incredibly difficult it must be to make a goal.  The skill of the players was absolutely incredible.  They used their head, nose, knees, chest, feet, and toes just to keep that ball going.  We went crazy when the ball finally found a home in the net, even if it was only one single, solitary point for the entire game.

I’m certain that’s how the angels in Heaven react when one lost soul finds their way.  Just one.  I can just imagine the party in the clouds when just one of us finds our path to Jesus.  As Father Bentil reminded us at Mass over the weekend…Jesus wants us, loves us, and needs us….even with our weaknesses, mistakes, and shortcomings.  Jesus needs us to share His Gospel with our very lives, as imperfect as we are.  I loved the hope in that message.

So, if you too have some newfound futbol fever, check out the excitement on that field next time you see a team score a goal.  The joy is hard to measure and the celebratory elation is contagious.  When you are watching the merriment, I encourage you to imagine how the angels celebrate when one soul finally finds its way to the Lord.  It makes me smile to think about goals and souls.  At the end of our own journey through this life, I hope there is an award and I really hope it’s gold.  Wouldn’t you love to have a golden ticket through the Pearly Gates?  I sure would!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

(I composed this blog post on Sunday and just finished watching the USA’s heart-breaking loss to Belgium this afternoon.  I’m still so proud of our team and hope to root them on again in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia!)