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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!