Search This Blog

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Are You Available?

Photo Credit:  taliesin from
“Are you available?”  That’s a question you might have asked or been asked somewhere along the way.  Are you available this weekend to help me with a project?  Are you available on Friday evening for dinner?  Are you available to chat because I need a listening ear?

There is a masterpiece of a quote in Dynamic Catholic’s Confirmation program that I want to share with you:  “For thousands of years, God has been using ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  God delights in dynamic collaboration with humanity.  He doesn’t necessarily choose the people who are the best educated or those who are good-looking; He doesn’t choose people because they are in positions of power or authority; and He doesn’t always choose the most eloquent and persuasive.  There is one type of person that God has used powerfully over and over again throughout history.  It is the prerequisite for mission.  God does incredible things with the people who make themselves available to Him.”

Man, I just LOVE that!  How AVAILABLE are we?

Saint John Paul II once said, “It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”

“What you are…is God’s gift to you.  What you become…is your gift to God.”  (Hans Urs Von Balthasar)

As I reflect on many of the uplifting words shared in the Decision Point Confirmation program, I am continually inspired.  I was especially motivated, energized, and encouraged when I read this one:  “You were made for mission.  You have a unique blend of talents and abilities that are perfectly suited to carry out whatever mission God has assigned to you.  You have been placed on this earth at this time to fulfill a specific mission.  If you don’t embrace and fulfill your mission, it will be left undone.  Nobody else has been assigned that mission.  Just you.”

Um…no pressure, there, huh?  Seriously, when I read that, I am thrilled to think that God has a mission that was designed just for me.  Wow.  Just for little ole me.  God also has a mission created just for you.  Matthew Kelly says, “Find your mission and it will change your life.”

Matthew Kelly also reminds us that the most common preface to any sentence in the Bible is:  “God said…”  The wonderful news is that God hasn’t stopped speaking to us.  Perhaps we’ve stopped listening, but He hasn’t stopped speaking.  God continues to speak to us daily through prayer, the Scriptures, the sacraments, through other people, circumstances, and events.

Speaking of events, there was an incredibly memorable one this past Sunday called, “St. Baldrick’s at Schroeder Hall.”  The event was held to raise awareness for pediatric cancer research and I truly felt God speaking to us while we were there.  I’m sure that everyone felt it.  And, I’m certain that each of you will feel it when you watch L-Ann Imaging’s video that captured the day’s moments.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long, healthy lives.  On their website, it says, “We do one thing and we do it well: fund childhood cancer research.  We take great care of the funds raised by our generous volunteers and supporters to direct every possible dollar to carefully selected research grants.”  They say that they’re crazy enough to believe that shaving heads can find cures for childhood cancers.  I know one thing…all those who braved the shave on Sunday believe it.

However, it was so much more than men, women, and children shaving their heads to support those little ones undergoing cancer treatment.  Each one of the shavees gave a part of themselves that day in a very special way.  There were tears.  There was oodles and oodles of hair.  And, there was love. 

One thing that really amazed me was that the coordinator, Dina, has dedicated a countless number of hours to put on this event for the last seven years.  She’s raised tons of money and she’s shaved her head.  And, guess what?  She’s doing it all in honor of a friend who lost her son to cancer seven years ago.  She doesn’t have a child with cancer.  But, what she does have is…mission.  She made herself available to God to be used as an instrument to bring hope to those who might have lost it somewhere along the way.  Thank you, Dina.

Dina and all of those who supported the St. Baldrick’s event in any way said “yes” to the mission that God created just for them.  Their yes was contagious and it was beautiful.  Over $20,000 was raised that Sunday afternoon and 30 plus heads were shaved.  The barbers donated their time and the use of the hall was donated.  So many individuals said “yes” to their God-given mission that day.  So many people made themselves “available” to bring a glimpse of Christ to someone else.  I can’t thank them enough.

And, you better believe that our family soaked it all up and celebrated until the very end.  I will never leave the second-oldest dance hall early.  NEVER.  Thank you, Chris, for the perfect boot-scootin’ music!  Hope to see everyone there next year!

I’ll leave you with this…when God asks, “Are YOU available?”…what will you say? 

Find your mission.  Your life will not be the same.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Be sure to click on this link to watch the video!  Turn up the volume and grab a tissue…

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Superstar

Photo Credit:  monosodium from
Have you ever felt like a superstar?  Maybe you earned some sort of medal, degree, ribbon, trophy, or other honor?  Maybe you did something amazing at your job, church, school, or another organization?  Maybe you conquered one of your greatest fears?  Maybe you saved someone’s life?  And maybe, just maybe, you won the bedtime battle with your children and they peacefully drifted off to Dreamland without any whining, procrastination, or groaning?  Nah.  Probably not that last one.  Good try though.

Well, I felt like a superstar on Sunday.  Let me tell you why.  My Aunt Jeanne organized a little karaoke fun for some of the family this past weekend.  Where you ask?  At a local bar?  Nope.  At a dance hall?  No again.  Well, actually it was at a hall…a dining hall…at a nursing home.  Yep.  You read that right.

My aunt has such a special place in her heart for the elderly and she wanted to bring them some sunshine and smiles.  She said that Sundays can be the loneliest days for them since there aren’t as many activities planned like during the week.  So, her daughter, Kelly, who has an amazing karaoke set-up with about a gazillion songs and several microphones, plugged in her system at 2:00 pm and the fun began.

We were all a little nervous since we didn’t know what to expect.  This was definitely our first karaoke dance gig at a nursing home.  There were about 40 people in wheelchairs just staring at us.  But, something miraculous happened when the music started.  Frail hands started clapping and unsteady feet started tapping.  And then…smiles happened, that’s what.  It was a beautiful thing.

My cousin, Kelly, has such a knack for karaoke and a deep compassion for the elderly as well.  She and I have a backstory.  Basically, we did karaoke before karaoke was cool.  As children of the 70s and 80s, she and I would place our two jam boxes close together.  We would play a George Strait cassette on one of them and we’d record ourselves singing with George on a blank tape in the other jam box.  Nashville, here we come…or at the very least, Amarillo By Morning!  I remember some Judds, Garth, and Reba too.  Oh, if we could only find those tapes!  We had such a blast, didn’t we, Kelly?  Good memories.

Anyway, my Uncle Michael played his fiddle for everyone and my other cousin, Teresa, sang a few songs.  Wow!  She has a voice that will take your very breath away because of its beauty.  Personally, I can’t listen to music and not dance, so there was also some dancing involved.  My mom and dad, my brother and his wife, their kids, and my kids all got out on the dining room “dance floor” and scooted a boot.  Why not?!  My husband would have been right there in the mix had he not been at work.  Next time, babe.

Do you know when things got really good?  No…no one danced on tables.  Guess again.  The smiles grew extra big when we took the microphone around the room.  Oh, you should have seen them!  One fella was singing along with Willie Nelson and another gal belted out Blueberry Hill with Chubby Checker.  Don’t even get me started on “The Twist!”  Come on baby, let’s do the twist...yes, there was twisting involved.

My friend, Peggy, took lots of pictures and a video, actually.  (I still love you, Peggy, no worries.)  Peggy’s mom is a resident there at the nursing home.  Her sweet mother was one of our fabulous singers.  She was all dolled up and sang Kansas City with Fats Domino like nobody’s business!  I just loved watching her.

Do you know what made me tear up a little afterwards?  My aunt told me that there was a lady there that she hadn’t seen smile since June.  Guess what?  She smiled.  THAT is when I felt like a superstar.

I know in my heart that we were there that day for a reason.  It was a unique experience…one that I won’t forget.  Our nursing home visit on Sunday afternoon was a great reminder for me.  It was a wonderful lesson of compassion and love for my children as well.  I knew it as soon as I saw one of the ladies reach out for my daughter’s hand to hold as she asked her name and how old she was.  I felt it and it was powerful.

The elderly are sometimes forgotten, I think.  It’s not easy to watch people grow older.  If we look past the things that are sometimes uncomfortable, we might see a bit of ourselves in them?  Maybe a little food is left on their chin or maybe they need to wear diapers…but if we look into their eyes, we can see a glimpse of their childhood, their teens, their adult years, and their golden years of retirement.

Essentially, they are…you and me.  Peggy’s mom sang her grandchildren to sleep for many years.  One of the gentlemen who lived there volunteered countless hours at a local non-profit organization.  I’m sure each of them has a story to tell.  They rocked their babies.  They had jobs.  They took road trips and laughed.  They worked hard and enjoyed dinners with family.  They cried when they buried a friend. 

All people – young and old – just need someone who cares.  Kindness is beautiful and friendship is a rare treasure.  Henri Nouwen has a touching quote about friendship:  “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

Wanna be a superstar?  Be THAT kind of friend.  Wanna make someone’s day?  Visit a nursing home.  Oh, and don’t forget to bring your mic and dancin’ shoes because they’ll love you forever, Karaoke Queen (or King)!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lean On Me

Photo Credit:  click from
I hope you all enjoyed your Spring Break week making some great memories sprinkled in amongst the sprinkles of rain.  I’ve seen many awesome facebook pictures of family road trips, camping, Disney World, time in the snow, as well as a few who took to the beach…rain or shine.  We hung out closer to home with cousins and friends and did some bowling, fishing, trampoline jumping, laser tagging, and…roller skating.

Let’s talk about that last one a bit more.  How long has it been since you laced up a vintage tan pair of roller skates with orange wheels?  Last week?  Last month?  Last year?  Or…like me, maybe 25 years ago?

My hubby and I took our kiddos roller skating this past Sunday.  We bought the kids their $8 wrist bands for unlimited skating.  Ten minutes later we were back at the cash register renting two “skate assisters” for the girls.  If you haven’t seen them before, these assisters are basically PVC pipe walkers with wheels used to keep skaters steady until they learn to balance and gain the confidence needed to skate on their own.

After watching the kiddos skate around the rink for fifteen minutes, an incredible urge to skate overcame my sensible senses.  Maybe it was a certain nostalgic song?  Maybe it was to show my kids that momma isn’t that old?  I don’t know, but I absolutely loved to skate as a child and watching them whirl around the rink brought back wonderful memories. 

I.  Must.  Skate.  As a kid, I had a little jam box ready with a stack of my favorite cassette tapes and I would blare my music on the front porch as I skated for hours and hours on our horseshoe-shaped driveway.   I recall that I could turn on a dime and I could even skate backwards.  Very cool.

Could skating possibly be like riding a bike, I wondered?  Could it be that once you learn to skate, you never forget?  I didn’t ponder on it too long as I bravely sashayed up to the cash register with my eight bucks.

If you are still wondering if skating is like riding a bike…it’s really not.  Hey…let’s put wheels on the bottom of shoes and see how it goes.  I clumsily made my way around the rink, while grabbing on to anyone and anything that I could get my hands on.  Then, as I ever so gingerly made the last turn, I pointed my skates in the direction of my daughter’s skate assister.  Neither of the girls were using them anymore.  Heck…it had been a whole 30 minutes; those girls were pros.

Don’t judge, but I grabbed one of those wheelie walkers and confidently made my way around the rink.  “Now, THIS I can do!” I thought to myself with a sly grin.  The only people with skate assisters were the pre-schoolers, myself, and another random dad trying to impress his offspring.

Let me tell you what…skating with my “walker” was an experience!  I was cruisin’…sailin’ past those young whippersnappers!  Hee hee!  Honestly, I was having a blast.  I’m quite certain that everyone was looking at me, but with my hair flyin’ and my lips singin’, I didn’t seem to notice, I guess.  The good folks at the skating rink were either laughing or smiling.  I guess I brought some happy into their day?  My kids thought it was hilarious and I think my husband was proud of me for finding my inner “Rink Rat” on the skate floor that day.

There was only one accident to report and it wasn’t even my fault.  My husband and I were taking a rest with the kiddos on the edge of the skating rink when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a 6-foot-3-inch monster of a man with flailing arms clumsily plowed right into us going 200 mph.  His size 15 skate found my shin bone.  I saw stars.  He apologized, scooped his pride up off the floor, and skated off.  I, on the other hand, was left with a throbbing nest of goose eggs on my tibia.  Ouch!  As much pain as I was in, I am so thankful that it was my leg and not one of my children’s!  Thank you, sweet Jesus.

Since I was immediately afraid of getting a mess of blood clots out of the incident (I overreact sometimes…what can I say?), I decided to keep moving.  Maybe that would help?  Just.  Keep.  Moving.  So, I carefully got up, praying that my lower leg wouldn’t buckle underneath me.  Nope.  Not broken.  I’m good.  SKATE ON!  As, Pat Benatar belted out that Sunday afternoon over the speakers, “Hit me with your best shot!”

All afternoon, I relied heavily on my skate assister.  I also found a new appreciation for the term, “Lean on me.”  I leaned.  A lot.  And, I have to admit that I really didn’t mind who saw me lean.  My leaning was so obvious and I was okay with it.

Bill Withers released a song in the 1970’s called, “Lean on Me” that I’ve always enjoyed listening to.  It’s a comforting song.  There’s just a special feeling that goes along with knowing that you can lean on someone.

A few of the lyrics that I like are: 

“Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow.  But if we are wise, we know that there's always tomorrow.  Lean on me when you're not strong and I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on.  For it won't be long ‘til I'm gonna need somebody to lean on.  You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand.  We all need somebody to lean on.  I just might have a problem that you'll understand.  We all need somebody to lean on.  If there is a load, you have to bear that you can't carry, I'm right up the road; I'll share your load, if you just call me.”

The song ends with Mr. Withers singing “call me” numerous times…louder and then softer…call me…call me…call me.

As I reflect on the friendship that I formed with my skate assister over the weekend; it serves as a reminder that it’s okay for us to lean.  It’s also okay for others to see us lean.  And, who should we lean on?  The Lord.

In Proverbs 3:5-6, it says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Go ahead and lean.  As the song says, “We all need somebody to lean on.”  God eagerly awaits and beckons us with an ever-so-gentle, “Call me, call me, call me.”

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How Will We Be At 93?

Photo Credit:  pedrojperez from
I just had to share this story from Mikey’s Funnies:

A married couple in their early 60's was celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in a quiet, romantic little restaurant.  Suddenly, a tiny fairy appeared on their table.  She said, "For being such an exemplary married couple and for being loving to each other for all this time, I will grant you each a wish."

The wife answered, "Oh, I want to travel around the world with my darling husband."  The fairy waved her magic wand and - POOF! - two tickets for the Queen Mary II appeared in her hands.

The husband thought for a moment: "Well, this is all very romantic, but an opportunity like this will never come again.  I'm sorry my love, but my wish is to have a wife 30 years younger than me."

The wife and the fairy were deeply disappointed, but a wish is a wish.  So the fairy waved her magic wand and - POOF! - the husband became 93 years old.

Oooopsie!  But, what a wonderful reminder of how we should be a little more aware of what we wish for…what we hope for…what we pray for.  Sometimes our selfishness gets the very best of us.  Sometimes our “me-thinking” greatly surpasses our “we-thinking.”  We falter and our selfish desires back-fire.

There is one thing that helps to get me back on track when I start down that road.  That one thing is gratefulness…for what I already have.  When I stop to count the abundant blessings in my life, it sure does curb my “all-about-ME-ME-ME-prayers.”

How about this not-so-spring-like-weather we are having on, um, Spring Break?  We could pout, moan, and groan and let it royally bum us out or we can be thankful for the fact that we will have some amazing dewberries and breath-taking wild flowers soon.  Yep.  My son reminded me of that.  An attitude of gratitude.  It makes a difference.  As my husband kayaks out to the barn, I just close my eyes and envision the roadside wildflowers in a rainbow array of colors.

We have the power to make the decision.  Will we be a person of gratitude, regardless of what comes our way?  We get to choose the answer to that question and that particular answer affects everything.

Here is another story about a completely different 93-year-old fella than the man in the paragraphs above.  This charming tale is also from Mikey’s Funnies:

A 93-year-old, petite, well-poised, and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, moved to a nursing home today.  With his hair fashionably combed and face shaved perfectly, you wouldn’t guess that he was legally blind.  His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.  As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.

"I love it," he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

"Mr. Jones, you haven't even seen the room; just wait."

"That doesn't have anything to do with it," he replied.  "Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.  Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged.  It's how I arrange my mind.  I already decided to love it.  It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up.  I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.  Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away…just for this time in my life.”

How will WE be at 93?  Here’s to being the thankful, grateful kind at 93…or 73…or 53….or 33…or…however old you are.

Here’s a prayer of gratitude to help us on our way:

Dear Father,
I am so grateful for everything that you have given me.
Thank you so much for the loved ones in my life,
For the many ways in which I am cared for and supported.
Thank you for the countless ways I can serve and give to others.
Thank you for the rich tapestry of colors in creation,
For the beauty which is all around me,
For the skies and the ever-changing cloud formations,
For the breath-taking sunsets and early morning mists.
My heart is so grateful and brimming with thanks.
I could write a thousand books about your great goodness,
And still have many stories to tell.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I thank you with everything I am.
All my being cries, “Thank you Lord!”  Amen.
(Author Anonymous)

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


The other day, my sweet hubby offered to go to the grocery store and grab a few things after work.  He requested that I make him a (uhem, SHORT) list.  In addition to milk and eggs, he wanted me to see what light bulbs we needed so he could get those too.  You see, over the course of a year or so, we’ve had several bulbs go out and we just neglected to tend to them.  We said, “We’ll get to that later…”

So, I went through the whole house and made a list.  Results?  Seventeen.  S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N!  (My poor dad will be horrified to read this, I’m sure…)  Between bathrooms, bedrooms, the kitchen, the dining room, living room, and even the refrigerator, seventeen bulbs were out.  One here, one there, and we were living in darkness.  Goodness gracious.

I would not have guessed that we had a whopping seventeen burned-out bulbs in our home.  But, over time, one became two…two became ten…ten became seventeen…and we didn’t even really notice. 

Sometimes the darkness of sin creeps up on us in just the same here, ten there and we hardly notice over time.  Sin rejects God’s plan for us.  It robs us of the peace that God so desperately desires for us.  Sin fills our life with chaos and anxiety.  How can we possibly stay on the right path with so many distractions and temptations lurking at every corner?  Fruit.  What?!  Yep.  Sin sneaks in when we reject the fruit…that is, the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Hmmm…fruits of the Holy Spirit.  What in the world is that anyhow?  If we wipe away the cobwebs from our gray matter, we might remember learning about the fruits of the Holy Spirit during our Confirmation preparation.  Yes?  Maybe?  Nope.  I needed a review as well, so let’s take a shot at it.

Our priest, Father Bentil, actually spoke about the fruits of the Holy Spirit during Mass this past weekend so it was perfect timing for me.  He encouraged us to greet each other with, “May you have a fruitful Lenten season,” and so he explained that greeting in a bit more detail.

Father Bentil shared that if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to thrive within us, then we will be producing these spiritual fruits.  These fruits will enable us to become more and more like Jesus.  God’s purpose will become our purpose.  Spiritual fruit will be evident in our lives as we change and transform.  People will notice.  We will notice too.

What are some of the fruits of the Holy Spirit?  Father Bentil quoted Galatians 5:22-23 during his homily.  “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Matthew Kelly also has some beautiful reflections on these fruits in his “Decision Point” Confirmation program:

  1. LOVE – To love God above all things and to love others as God calls us to.  (I strongly feel that love isn’t number one on this list by chance…)
  2. JOY – This is more than just being happy and full of cheer.  Joy is a feeling deep within that is awakened by the expectation of good things.  Joy can be found even when things don’t go our way.  (Remember the apostle Paul who wrote letters of joy while in prison?  That’s right…prison!)
  3. PEACE – The calm tranquility that is present when we follow God.
  4. PATIENCE/FORBEARANCE – Enables us to endure our challenges, inconveniences, and difficulties without complaining.
  5. KINDNESS – Concern and compassion for others in need.
  6. GOODNESS – Doing what is good, honest, and right in every circumstance.
  7. FAITHFULNESS – Being reliable and trustworthy.
  8. GENTLENESS – As Father Bentil said, “Who doesn’t want to be around someone who is gentle?”  I could not agree more.  Those who are gentle are mild in speech, temperament, and behavior and they treat others with tenderness.
  9. SELF-CONTROL – Taking control of our desires so that we can focus on what is good and right.
There is a great analogy that came to my mind as I was thinking about these fruits of the Holy Spirit.  On Valentine’s Day, the high school students in our school district sold carnations as a fundraiser.  I bought some and had them delivered to my children.  My little ones were surprised and excited about receiving their flower from us.  My 11-year-old son thought the flower was cool, but thought it would be even cooler to put his white carnation in a jar with water and lots of blue food coloring.  So, that’s just what he did when he got home.

After a few days, the carnation’s petal edges began to turn blue.  After a couple of weeks, the blue color became darker and darker as the flower soaked up more and more of the food coloring.

Isn’t it the same for us?  As we soak up more and more of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to flourish in our lives, the fruits will become more and more obvious.  We won’t be able to hide these fruits as we allow the Holy Spirit to flow freely through us and shine for all to see.

As Matthew Kelly explains, “You may not know it yet, but these are the things you want.  You want these fruits more than anything else you have ever wanted.  In fact, every yearning you have is for these things.  We try to substitute other things for them, but it never works.”

Here’s to allowing the Holy Spirit IN and letting the fruits OUT.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!