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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!


  1. husband, David, & I don't usually attend St. Joseph Catholic Church in Inez because we are members of St Agnes Church in Edna, but this past Saturday since it was cold & wet we decided to attend mass that evening. Our first attempt would be the 5pm service in LaSalle. Well...we drove up to the church to find no one around and the church dark. We happened to notice on the church sign that due to repairs church services would be held at St John Bosco Catholic Church in Vanderbilt at 4pm. Since it was quite obvious that we missed the 4pm service we decided to attend 6pm in Inez. We had plenty of time so we crept through the country and took our time to take in God's beauty. We finally arrive at St Joseph Catholic Church and heard first hand Father Bentil's "Happy New Year" and his sermon on praying louder and that when one sings they "Pray Twice"! Isn't it amazing how God think we attended the Mass that you touched on in your Sips of Sunshine "unwrap"! God Bless You! Hugs....Cindy

    1. Hi Cindy! So glad you and your husband joined us at St. Joseph's! You are welcome back anytime! I just love to watch how God works. ;-) Sending blessings for your 2015!