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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy Half-Birthday!

Photo Credit:  jdurham from
January means different things to different people.  For many, it means colds, flu, and cabin fever.  For some, it means new beginnings and gym memberships.  For a few, it means a winter vacation to frolic in the snow.  For me…January is my half-birthday!  Woo-hoo!  Ce-le-brate good times, come on, and celebrate!  Sing it with me now…you know the words.

Honestly, I never once thought about my half-birthday until this year.  Since I was born in 1975, this is my special year to join a wise, sophisticated, and refined group of folks.  Yep.  You guessed it.  This July, I’ll turn forty.  As of today, I am a young 14,444-day-old woman.  To date, I’ve enjoyed 10,317 week days and 4,127 weekend days.  I’ve lived on this earth over 1 billion seconds.  Whew!  Good stuff.

Many of us live for the weekends, don’t we?  We start the countdown on Sunday evening.  Friday night can’t come fast enough.  While there is nothing wrong with having something fun to look forward to; I have to stop and think if I’m doing my best to enjoy the precious moment called today.  After all, (spoiler alert) there are far more weekdays than weekends, per my brilliant computer’s calculations.  How am I using my Monday through Thursday?  (Cause we all know that Friday totally counts for the weekend.  Heh.)

I’m a calendar girl…oh gosh…NOT what you’re thinking!  What I mean is…I love calendars and planners.  I love using a rainbow assortment of highlighters to get everything in order for the week.  My daughter loves to copy my calendar’s events onto her own calendar so she’ll know what’s going on too (apples don’t fall far).  I think schedules are good and I know children thrive when they know what to expect.  But, I have to stop and think again…am I doing my best to enjoy the “highlights” of today?  THIS.  VERY.  DAY.

Over the last week or so, I've had each of the kiddos home sick at some point.  Fortunately, it hasn’t been anything that some ibuprofen, cough meds, and antibiotics couldn’t handle.  (Insert prayer of thanksgiving.)  But, it does put things into perspective.  Sometimes we don’t value our health until sickness comes.  The greatest wealth is health indeed.

So, while counting our blessings of improving health over here, I also found some inspirational quotes that I’d like to share.  On this beautiful half-birthday of mine, I thought this assortment from William Arthur Ward was especially enjoyable:

  • Will someone else's life be brighter tomorrow because of what you have done today?
  • Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. 
  • Friendship flourishes at the fountain of forgiveness. 
  • A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition. 
  • Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records. 
  • To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity. 
  • Forgiveness is a funny thing.  It warms the heart and cools the sting.
  • When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. 
  • We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them. 
  • God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say "thank you?” 
  • The mediocre teacher tells.  The good teacher explains.   The superior teacher demonstrates.  The great teacher inspires. 
  • Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige.  It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character. 

Please don’t feel like you have to wait until your half-birthday to count your blessings and live with gratitude.  Let’s all start today…whatever today is…and notice the highlights (not just the gray ones in our hair).

Oh goodness…I think I feel a little poem comin’ on!

Happy half-birthday!  It's here at last,
Boy, those years - they flew by fast!
Forty used to seem so old,
I’ll be there soon, so I’m told.
Maybe it won’t be that bad,
Maybe I won’t be that sad.
Will gray hair look good on me?
Will arthritis find my knee?
Will my body droop and sag?
Looky here – a giant skin tag.
Are my bones supposed to crack?
Is that an ache there in my back?
Are those wrinkles on my skin?
Are those black hairs on my chin?
What about those spider veins?
And how ‘bout all those brand-new pains?
I will not fret; I’ll only pray,
Cause I’ve been blessed another day.
It’s okay.  I’ll be alright,
God and I are pretty tight.
I’ll trust in Him.  He’ll see me through,
The good times and the bad times too.
I’ll pray each day and thank Him more,
For all the things He has in store.
Grateful for another day,
His will be done; come what may.
I’ll try to put aside my fears,
And treasure all these precious years.
Today I think I’ll celebrate,
This side of the Pearly Gate!

May God bless each of you as you rejoice in your gifts, treasure your moments, and feel the Lord’s presence, especially on days you need Him most.  I will continue to pray for each of you. 

With a final reflection on my half-birthday, I pray that we all strive to have more faith.  If we allow it, faith will emerge from a well-spring within us.  Matthew Kelly explains it best - “Faith is about trusting in God, seeking to know and understand His ways, and struggling to follow and live in His ways.”  Sounds good to me!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  (No presents please - hee hee!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Run to the Sun

Photo Credit:  xpistwv from
Last week, I saw someone I hadn’t seen in such a long time.  It was so good to see him!  I wondered where he’d been hiding out all this time.  The days seemed so cold and dark without him.  I honestly wasn’t sure how long we could go on without seeing him.  Yep.  It was way past due for a visit.  Everyone was craving the warmth that he brought when he was near.  Yep.  You guessed it…Mr. Sun.  He finally peeked through the clouds last Thursday and we were so grateful!

I immediately ran outside when I saw him.  I couldn’t believe it.  I stopped everything and went for a walk just to be close to him.  I needed to feel the warmth on my skin.  I wanted to feel his presence.

I remember a similar feeling over Christmas break when we were in the snowy mountains of New Mexico.  It was absolutely gorgeous, but F.R.E.E.Z.I.N.G.  We had hand warmers tucked inside our gloves and wool socks, layers upon layers of clothing, hats, and fluffy Eskimo jackets, but our bones were still quite chilly.  However, when Mr. Sun came out during one of the days, I knew we’d make it.  Mr. Sun made it bearable.  The warm and gentle sun rays against our frozen faces made the bitter cold doable.  Despite the fact that our very breath turned into little ice cubes as soon as it left our lips; we were able to smile because of Mr. Sun.

My Uncle Erol sent a terrific piece the other day.  I’ve read this parable before and you may have too, but it is well worth another read.  Awesome.

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.  When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war.  He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier.  The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.  A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.  He said, “Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life.  He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly.  He often talked about you and your love for art.”  The young man held out a package.  “I know this isn't much.  I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.”

The father opened the package.  It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man.  The father stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting.  The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears.  He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture.  “Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me.  It's a gift.”

The father hung the portrait over his mantle.  Every time visitors came to his home, he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The father died a few months later and there was to be a great auction of his paintings.  Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son.  The auctioneer pounded his gavel.  “We will start the bidding with this picture of the son.  Who will bid for this picture?”  There was silence.

Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, “We want to see the famous paintings.  Skip this one.”  But the auctioneer persisted.  “Will somebody bid for this painting?  Who will start the bidding?  $100, $200?”

Another voice said angrily, “We didn't come to see this painting.  We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts.  Get on with the real bids!”  But still the auctioneer continued, “The son!  The son!  Who'll take the son?”  Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room.  It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son.  “I'll give $10 for the painting.”  Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.

“We have $10.  Who will bid $20?” 

“Give it to him for $10.  Let's see the masters.”

The crowd was becoming angry.  They didn't want the picture of the son.  They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.  The auctioneer pounded the gavel, “Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!”  A man sitting on the second row shouted, “Now let's get on with the collection!”

The auctioneer laid down his gavel.  “I'm sorry, the auction is over.”

“What about the paintings?” they demanded.  “I am sorry.  When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will.  I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time.  Only the painting of the son would be auctioned.  Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings.  The man who took the son gets everything!”

I just LOVE this story, don’t you?  It illustrates the riches we all can earn when we accept the son of God into our hearts.  As we make a home for Jesus in our hearts and in our lives, we gain everything…the Kingdom of Heaven.

When I was researching this tale, Snopes said that the original story was found in a book published in 1954.  In that long-ago version, the legend began with the death of a rich man and the auction of his household goods.  The only person to bid on a photograph of the dead man's son was an elderly woman dressed in shabby clothes.  She was later revealed to have been the child's nurse.  The child died at an early age and this nurse had loved the boy dearly.  The nurse wanted his photograph as a keepsake.  

In the original telling of the parable, the poor woman examined the photograph at home and noticed a bulge in the heavy paper on the back of its frame.  She made a small cut into the paper backing and pulled from the opening an envelope.  Inside the envelope was the wealthy man's missing will.  The will clearly stated that the rich man’s estate was to go to the one who still held dear the memory of his beloved son.

Do we hold dear God’s beloved Son?  Do we remember to put Him first, above all else?

Just as I couldn’t wait to run to the sun last week…let’s also run to the Son.  In doing so, we will enjoy the warmth of His embrace.  Let’s stop everything and run to Him.  We will feel His presence.  Let’s be close to Him.  He will make the cold, dark, and bitter days of this life bearable.  His love, mercy, and grace will make it all doable.  Just like the gardener and the nurse, we gain everything when we take the Son.  We get it all when we run…to the Son.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Photo Credit:  cohdra from
Hi there - I’m glad to be back!  I missed you.  Welcome to 2015 and Happy New Year to each of my Sunshines.  Yes, I can officially still say Happy New Year because our priest, Father Bentil, said that in Ghana, they say it throughout the whole month of January.  So…we’re all good!

I pray that your Christmas season included special moments of joy, peace, happiness, and love.  At our house, goodies were consumed; presents were unwrapped; prayers of thanksgiving were sent up; hugs were given out; Advent candles were lit; goodies were consumed (Oh, wait, did I already say that?  Heh!); and Happy Birthday was sung for Jesus. 

One of the aspects of Christmas morning that I’ve marveled at over the years is the way kiddos open their gifts.  They don’t just tear a tiny strip of wrapping paper off and move on to the next present, do they?  Nope.  They get after it.  They dig in and rip off every single solitary last piece of paper and unwrap their gifts completely.

Do we?  Do we unwrap our gifts completely?  Or, do we just reveal a tiny part of our gifts?  We each have certain special, unique, individualized gifts that God intends for us to unwrap and share.  I pray that we do just that in 2015.  I pray that we unwrap them…completely.

Many of you have been following the story of my precious goddaughter, Sydney, who is bravely battling cancer at age 11.  I have had the blessing of watching many generous people unwrap their gifts during this journey.  I have seen a glimpse of Christ’s love through each of them and for that, I am forever grateful.  I have gotten just a tiny taste of God’s abounding generosity in the things you all have done for Sydney and her family and I truly can’t thank you enough.

One of the exchanges that has touched my heart along the way is a note that Sydney’s Aunt Rebecca posted on facebook and the response from Sydney’s mother, Jennifer.  Here is what Rebecca shared:  “I got my mail today and Sydney had seven cards…that's SEVEN things for her!  I had two.  Even if it's mostly Sydney's mail I'm getting, I get to witness firsthand how incredibly heartwarming everyone is.  Just letting her mail pass through my hands and getting to be the one to deliver it is awesome!  But, let me clarify something.  Just because YOU don't send a card, or YOU don't cook a meal, or YOU don't give blood; YOU are doing the something that YOU are supposed to do.”

Rebecca continued, “Someone told me when they hand-quilted a beautiful quilt for Sydney, 'I am not real good at stuff like giving blood, so I just did what came naturally.’  What came naturally to her was exactly what she felt called to do and it is appreciated.  I also told her, 'You know that's one thing that I have learned through this whole process is that not everyone offers the same thing.  Some cook; some help with the kids; some give blood; some sew; some pray; some deliver groceries, etc. and that is exactly how it should be.  If everyone gave the same thing, then other areas would be neglected.  You are doing exactly what YOU know how to do and that is exactly what you are supposed to do.'”  

Jennifer replied, "I couldn't have said it better myself.  Each day, the compassion and generosity of people that we know and even people we don't know, literally brings us to tears.  Sydney can't comprehend what all people are doing.  We can't even comprehend it most days.  But, please know that even if we can't understand it entirely, we can appreciate each and every little and big thing people are doing for her and for us.  I could never put into words our sincere gratitude.  We are getting through something I never thought we could, because of all of these Christ-like individuals.  Even though we can't thank them personally, or post every act of kindness for all to see, we are grateful.  We know God sees how they are helping us to carry this cross and make it lighter for us.  May He bless them, every one." 

Many of you are following Sydney’s journey on her facebook prayer support page and may have already seen this exchange.  I thought it was worth a share again.  Why?  Because it emphasizes the importance of unwrapping your gifts.  YOUR gifts.  The thing that makes YOU special.  The one-of-a-kind quality that makes YOU…YOU.  It makes a difference.  I promise.

We had a blood drive for Sydney on January 5th and MD Anderson said it was the most successful in years.  What?!  Our little community had the MOST successful blood drive for MD Anderson in years?!  Yep.  Believe it.  Why?  Because when God is a part of something, the impossible happens.  When prayer is the foundation, the impossible is made possible.  We should come to expect and trust in that wonderful promise.

My heart is still so full because of the people I saw on January 5th.  I got to hug the incredible Prayer Warriors I knew and those I met for the first time that day.  I had the blessing of hearing stories about how walking this journey with Sydney has positively affected countless lives.

I am inspired. I adore watching God’s handiwork. I’ve been deeply touched by the love, prayers, and support for a little girl that people may or may not even know.  I am reminded daily that Prayer Warriors have their footprints in the sand too.  They are the footprints around God's as He carries Sydney and her family in His arms through these troubled times.

An extremely generous couple contacted me and offered to match dollar for dollar whatever we raised in the final Sydney Strong t-shirt campaign.  Amazing!  The bigger “wow” is that this couple doesn’t even know Sydney or her family.  I couldn’t thank them enough and this was their response, “Please don’t thank us.  If we, as a people, do not try to help each other and lift each other up in prayer, then we are truly lost.  Christ's love fills us.  We just have to be willing to let it out.  I think a lot of our problem is being humble enough to let Christ have control.  I think that life would be so much more meaningful if we would put His will before our own personal will.  We put too much faith in ourselves. However, when we fail, He is always there to pick us up.”  Beautiful.

I just started reading Matthew Kelly’s book, “A Call to Joy.”  It is one of his earlier writings from 1999.  Of course, I’ve loved it thus far, as I do all of his books.  Something that caught my eye was this quote, “Smile, say less and listen more, pray, and trust in Me, your Heavenly Father.”

I think it’s the perfect quote for 2015.  In this book, Matthew Kelly said that he wondered what exactly a smile was and came up with two things.  He shared that a smile is an overflow and a connection.  It’s an overflow of joy and excitement for life that abides in a person’s heart.  It’s a connection with another person who shares our struggle.  Kelly discovered that what gave him the joy and excitement for life was thanksgiving.  By seeing the gifts in his life and appreciating them, he began to feel joy.  Then…he began to smile more.  Let’s do the same, Sunshines.  Let’s fully unwrap our smiles this year.

Can we also try to say less and listen more in 2015?  Yikes.  That’ll be a toughie for many of us.  Oftentimes, when someone is speaking, we just kindly wait for them to finish up so we can start yapping.  Right?  Let’s unwrap the gift of listening this year.  True listening.

What about prayer?  Father Bentil encouraged our parish to do two things:  Pray more and sing louder (in church, particularly).  All the 4-and 5-year old kiddos even remembered this when asked at CCD on Sunday.  So, let’s completely unwrap the gift of prayer, Sunshines.  It will make the impossible possible. 

And trust?  If we can remember to trust in our Heavenly Father, we will unwrap a most sought after gift…that of peace.  True and lasting peace.  Join me in unwrapping this gift of peace.

Matthew Kelly encourages us to take baby steps.  “Smile three times more today than you did yesterday.  Say three things less today than you did yesterday and listen to three more people.  Pray for three minutes more today than you did yesterday.  And trustingly surrender just three aspects of your life, great or small, to God who is your Father.”

Baby steps.  We can do it!  Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!