Search This Blog

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!