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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Write Your Story

Photo Credit:  snowbear from
I’m sure many of you have received an e-mail similar to the following one over the years:

“This is part of a brain study.  If you can read the paragraph below, then you have a strong mind.  Better than that, they say that Alzheimer's is a long, long way down the road for you!”

7H15 M3554G3 53RV35 7O PR0V3 H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N D0 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5!  1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5!  1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG 17 WA5 H4RD, BU7 N0W 0N 7H15 LIN3, Y0UR M1ND 1S R34D1NG 17 4U70M471C4LLY W17H0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17.  B3 PROUD!  0NLY C3R741N P30PL3 C4N R3AD 7H15.

(The answer key that my daughter insisted I provide: This message serves to prove how our minds can do amazing things!  Impressive things!  In the beginning it was hard, but now on this line, your mind is reading it automatically without even thinking about it.  Be proud!  Only certain people can read this.)

What about this one?  Can you read this?  They say that only 55% of people can.  I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg.  Its the phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy.  It dseno't mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are.  The olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae.  The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm.  This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe.  Azanmig huh?  Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!  Ha!

(Here goes: I couldn’t believe that I could actually understand what I was reading.  It’s the phenomenal power of the human mind, according to a research at Cambridge University.  It doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are.  The only important thing is that the first and last letter be in the right place.  The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without a problem.  This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself, but the word as a whole.  Amazing huh?  Yeah and I always thought spelling was important! Ha!)

Although I have successfully read these passages above on numerous occasions, I still enjoy the challenge.  I re-read them each and every time they pop up in my inbox.  I want to see if my gray matter is still functioning at full (or at least, semi-full) capacity.  It always gives me a little jolt of delight when my mind works with me instead of against me.

Our minds are amazing, aren’t they?  God blessed us with something incredible.  We can multi-task, learn, recall all types of information, remember beautiful and not-so-beautiful times in our lives, help our children with difficult homework assignments, be creative, think, pray, and on and on and on.  Personally, I’m certain that I take for granted the fact that my brain is working properly when I get out of bed each day.  I need to make more of an effort to thank God for that.

On the flip-side of a mind that is bursting at the seams with information, thoughts, and creativity, there are certainly times when I experience tabula rasa.  What in the world is tabula rasa?  Well, I first heard the term a few weeks ago and it has ironically been “on my mind” since then.  Tabula rasa is a Latin phrase often translated as "blank slate" in English.  It originates from the Roman tabula or wax tablet used for notes, which was blanked by heating the wax and then smoothing it.

As a writer, I get antsy when my mind feels like a blank slate.  I am a bit anxious when I think that I just might not have anything at all to share.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nil.  Zero.  Nada.  However, during those times in which I experience tabula rasa, I have found that that is when I pray more.  I seek God’s assistance and advice.  I ask Him what He wants me to write.  I say, “Lord, write YOUR story and use me as an instrument.”

Recently, I heard a Christian song with the lyrics, “I’m an empty page.  I’m an open book.  Write your story on my heart.”  It resonated with me as I continued to ponder what tabula rasa meant.  It made sense.  If we feverishly attempt to fill the book of our life with all the words WE want to write, when do we let God fill in a chapter or two?  Do we ever put down the pen and let Him have some quality writing time?

Little by little, I’m actually getting more comfortable with tabula rasa.  I am learning to appreciate the delicate dance between having so much to say and having so little to say.  I’m also working on being okay with silence.  When I experience tabula rasa, my mind becomes quiet.  Then, I become quiet.  That is when I can truly listen.  Try talking and listening at the same time.  It’s not a great combination and we do it so often, don’t we?  I know I do.

Have you ever been at a loss for words?  Maybe a tragedy of some sort has affected your family or friends?  Maybe there is an unexpected death?  Maybe someone you love gets the news that they have a terminal illness?

These are prime examples of different chances to give God the pen and ask Him for the words.  They are perfect opportunities for God to guide our words…if words are even necessary.  Sometimes, there are no words needed.  What if we’re just supposed to listen?  At times, there can be a greater gift…that of presence. 

As a person who simply adores words, I used to think that I always needed to find the perfect words to share in any given situation.  Over the years, I have found that I don’t.  Sometimes, words aren’t what someone needs.  Many times, my presence is all someone needed.  What if YOUR presence is all someone needs?

Oftentimes, people are uncomfortable being quiet together though.  Haven’t you known someone who can’t help but fill every single solitary second with a word or a sound?  How about um and uh?  Those two-letter words like to hang around in the awkward silence, don’t they?

Anyway, with the increase in activity during the upcoming holidays, I realize there won’t be oodles of opportunity for being quiet.  However, I challenge each of you to squeeze in a few moments for the gift of silence.  Hand over your pen and let God write some of your story this Christmas season.

Actually, now that I think about it, one of my tabula rasa moments ended up as a children’s book, once I asked God to write the story.  I know I’ve mentioned it already…buuuuut…my first children’s book, Gabriel’s Golden Key, will be available in early 2016!  Woo-hoo!

I would also like to wish each of you a Blessed Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!  I thank God for each of you and I ask Him to bless you and your families.  Thank you for spending time with me over here at Sips of Sunshine.  It’s been such a pleasure for me to write these posts and I have loved all of your feedback throughout the year.  I will be taking a few weeks off from blogging to wrap up 2015, BUT I will definitely be back with lots of sunshine to share again in January! 

Oh!  I have a tiny favor…if you would be so kind, please feel free to share my blog with others and head on over to my Sips of Sunshine facebook page.  Be sure to “like” it and get updates on my book as it gets closer to publication date.  (Can you tell I’m just a teeny weeny bit excited?!  Yeah!  Thank you for sharing in my joy!)

Until then, let God write your story.  I hear He has a wonderful way with words!

See you in 2016, Sunshines!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Photo Credit:  wintersixfour from
How do you like that title?  Is that a misprint?  Is that even a real word?  Yep!  It’s a real word.  I actually found out about WYSIWYG last night.  You pronounce it like “wiz-ee-wig.”  Go ahead and say it a few times.  It’s super-duper fun to say and I won’t admit to how many times my 8-year-old daughter and I have said it in the last few hours.

I was studying some spelling bee words with her yesterday evening and we came across WYSIWYG.  We had to look it up because how can that possibly be a word, right?  It’s an acronym for “What you see is what you get.”  In 1982, a computer programmer came up with it to denote that a screen display will show the text exactly as it will appear in a print-out with all the underlining, italics, bold, and paragraph indentions, etc.

Okay!  So, if you were looking for something to learn today for the next time you are on a TV game show, there ya have it!  You’ll win the big money if you know about WYSIWYG. Ha! Ha!

I wanted to take WYSIWYG a bit deeper though.  (Of course, I do!)  What you see is what you get.  If I see with eyes of gratitude, will I get (or feel) more grateful?  If I see with eyes of appreciation, will I get (or feel) more appreciative?  If I see with eyes of love, will I get (or feel) more loving?

Many folks remember November as a time to be thankful.  I’ve seen numerous posts about counting blessings and being grateful for all the gifts we have.  I agree.  There is no better time than right now to “see” gratitude in order to “get” gratitude.  In November of 2013, I wrote a poem called, Three-Sixty-Four.  I think it’s the perfect time to share it again:

I’m thankful on Thanksgiving Day, but eager to do more.
Can I be grateful on that day, plus three-sixty-four?
What happens on those other days that fill up the year?
Do we pack them full of fret, negativity, and fear?
I’ve heard that it’s a thankful heart that welcomes lasting peace.
Once we are appreciative, our worries seem to cease.
Can we be thankful for the meals we eat that are cold?
We should because we do have food.  For some, that is gold.
Can we give thanks for laundry on the floor that is piled?
We should because we do have clothes to wrap our every child.
Can we thank God for endless lines at the grocery store?
We should because that means we have someone to cook for.
Can we be thankful for a child who never sleeps at night?
We should because we have a child to hold so very tight.
Can we thank God for troubles with the house, the car, and such?
We should because it means that we’ve been blessed with oh so much.
Can we thank God for pokey trucks and even traffic too?
We should because it gives us time to say prayers overdue.
Can we thank God for running late to where we need to be?
We should because it means we have a place to be, you see?
Can we thank God for aches and pains we have when getting old?
We should because there are some who’ll die too young, I’m told.
Can we be thankful for a house that’s messy on most days?
We should because that house is full of children that we raise.
Can we give thanks for times we’ve felt alone and so afraid?
We should because the Lord was close beside us as we prayed.
Can we thank God for times we disagree with those we love?
We should because we can forgive with grace from up above.
Can we thank God for extra pounds we just can’t seem to shed?
We should because that means for us, our family is fed.
Can we thank God for mornings that come too soon, we say?
We should because we have received the gift of life that day.
And what about those dishes stacked high there in the sink?
We’d thank the Lord for them too, if we’d just stop and think.
Burdens that we claim might be blessings in disguise.
Can we praise God with thankful hearts?  I think it would be wise.
Is it truly possible?  We can and we should,
To show our thanks for the Lord, crucified on wood.
Let’s work at being grateful for the blessings, down they pour,
On Thanksgiving Day for sure…plus three-sixty-four.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read this poem and it was a good reminder for me.  On a day-to-day basis, it’s so easy to lose our attitude of gratitude.  So easy.  Too easy.

I want to also thank the Lord above for our veterans, whom we celebrate everyday, but especially on November 11th.  I’m excited to say that my poem, A Military Heart, will be shared with the special veterans at my children’s school during their Veterans Day program.  I hope they feel the love and deep appreciation we have for them.

A military heart is unique, it must be true,
The blood that pulses deep within is red, white, and blue.
Its love is like a fire that grows when it is shared,
For complete and total strangers, they have truly cared.
All heroes past and present, at war and at peace,
My admiration for you all will never ever cease.
Veterans who went by choice or those who had been drafted,
I feel that God took extra care with certain hearts He crafted.
He had to make them strong and brave, but tender all the same,
He knit them in their mother’s womb and knew them each by name.
It would take a special heart to leave loved ones behind,
To kiss and hug good-bye with Old Glory on their mind.
The countless sacrifice they made for freedoms we enjoy,
For every man, every woman, every girl, and every boy.
For those who have such passion for our great U.S. of A,
Who’ll stand for life and liberty, so we can speak and pray.
If you see a warrior, please give them all our love,
For the heart that beats within them is a gift from God above.
We’re thankful, oh so thankful, for that heart we have admired,
For giving so unselfishly, although it may be tired.
We’d never know of its fatigue - it’s hidden way inside,
For that heart is full of love, as deep as it is wide.
On Veterans Day and all the days that come before and after,
We thank you for allowing us a life of hope and laughter.
To wake each day knowing what you must have seen and heard,
It’s hard to find the thoughts to share - there isn’t just one word.
What can we say?  What should we say?
A debt we just cannot repay.
I think I’ll just say thank you from the bottom of my heart,
I’ll pray for you - thank God for you.  That’s certainly a start.
I’ll do my best to wake each day full of gratitude,
I’ll make a daily effort with a thankful attitude.
I’ll live to nurture peace – I’ll try to do my part,
And I’ll thank the Lord everyday…for your military heart.

I will close this poem-filled Sips with a bit of WYSIWYG.  (I can’t help it!  I just love saying it!)  This week, ponder on what you see and how you see it.  Reflect on it.  If we train our eyes to “see” things with a positive slant, I’m certain that we’ll “get” a much more positive outcome.  What you see is what you get.  WYSIWYG.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's Time

Photo Credit:  MaryRN from
So, how is everyone enjoying (or not enjoying) this time change?  Over the weekend, I heard many people grumbling about it getting dark ridiculously early, with the days feeling ever so short.  The darkness of night crept in around 6:00 pm on Sunday and it felt like I needed to yawn, tuck everyone in, and give good-night kisses.

However, there was the blessing of an extra hour in there somewhere, right?  How did you use it?  Did you stay up later?  Did you trick-or-treat longer?  Did you catch an extra hour of snooze-time?  Or maybe you were captivated by a Christmas love story on the Hallmark channel that you’re getting for free so they can sucker you into adding it to your television package? (Yep.  I watched it.  Christmas already?!)

It amazes me how fast that extra hour goes by.  When there is a change in season or a change in the time, I always find myself feeling a bit more reflective.

Sydney’s mom, Jennifer, must have been pondering time as well.  She said that it was a challenge to pack for their “Make-A-Wish” Disney trip.  Why?  Well, Jennifer shared that at the same time they were eagerly packing for a week of fun, they found out that two of their very special friends from MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital passed away.  

Connor (5 years old) was diagnosed with cancer just before Christmas last year and passed away on Thursday.  Jennifer said that he and his family had been such an inspiration to them.  Connor’s parents encouraged them to never take a moment with your children for granted.  Connor’s family spent the past ten months celebrating his life and living it to the absolute fullest, never losing hope. 

Sydney’s other friend was Maddie Grace (10 years old).  She was bravely battling leukemia, but died last week due to complications from a fungal infection.  Sydney spent many days with Maddie in pottery and art class.  Jennifer said that Maddie will always be a part of them.

Jennifer shared that it is incredibly difficult to be happy at a time when others you care so deeply for are hurting.  “We are celebrating, following the anniversary of Sydney's diagnosis that she is in remission, while others are mourning the loss of their precious children.  It just doesn't seem right.  It isn't fair.”

Then she remembered Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
“There is a right time for everything.  A time to be born, a time to die.  A time to plant, a time to harvest.  A time to kill, a time to heal.  A time to destroy, a time to rebuild.  A time to cry, a time to laugh.  A time to grieve, a time to dance.  A time for scattering stones, a time for gathering stones.  A time to hug, a time not to hug.  A time to find, a time to lose.  A time for keeping, a time for throwing away.  A time to tear, a time to repair.  A time to be quiet, a time to speak up.  A time for loving, a time for hating.  A time for war, a time for peace.”

Jennifer also shared that Sydney's sweet friend Liz (7 years old) moved back home at the end of summer to finish up her last few rounds of chemo.  Two weeks ago, she had clean scans and they are happy to report that Liz is cancer-free!  They know that God heard all of the prayers for Liz, Connor, Sydney, and Maddie.  They also know that His plans are so much bigger than ours.  Jennifer said, “We often don't understand the plans and sometimes we don't agree with them, but we have to trust that He is a loving God and all things will work for His greater glory.  Thank you, Lord, for healing Liz and Sydney, and thank you, Lord, for allowing Connor and Maddie to be in Heaven with you for all eternity and for giving their families the strength and peace that only comes from you.  In Christ, Amen.”

Oftentimes, when I’m feeling down, worried, or anxious about something, I fight that feeling.  I think, “Why on earth do I feel this way?  I have so many things to be thankful for.  I shouldn’t feel this way.”  I fight it…tooth and nail.  However, in reading over the verses from Ecclesiastes, I realize that there IS a time for everything and every feeling.  It’s okay.  Let the feelings be what they are.  Don’t fight them.  Allow them in.  Feel them.  Acknowledge them.  Let them linger.  Ponder them.  Pray about them.  Ask God what to do with them.

I enjoyed the reminder that there is indeed a time for everything...bad or good.  Maybe you just turned 40 and you decided it was time to run a New York City marathon (Woo-hoo!!  Go Melinda!).  Maybe you decided that your closets wouldn’t clean themselves and you tackled that monster?  Maybe you decided it was time to let go of the burden of anger and you finally forgave that person?  Maybe you decided it was time to stop living in fear?  Maybe you decided it was time to stop procrastinating?  (Well, at least in the next month or so…ha!)  Maybe you decided it was time to let that special person know how you feel about them?  Maybe you shared a dream with someone, who then led you down the path of publishing your first book? (Yes, I totally did!  Shameless plug here, but my first children’s book will be available to purchase in a few short months!  Yeah!)

If you are looking for a sign to know whether the time is right to do this or that, maybe this blog post is it?  Maybe it IS time?  What are we waiting for?  Time waits around for no one.

Some of you love this time change.  Some don’t.  However, everyone talks about it each time it changes.  “Fall back and Spring forward” and everyone has an opinion.  Many love the early sunsets so that kiddos can get the sleep they need.  Others are bummed that they drive home from work in the dark and there is no time for anything outdoorsy when they get home.  Either way…we still have twenty-four hours in each day to make the most of.  Some of those hours are a wee-bit darker, but hey!

One last thing to ponder…are you wondering what it’s time for?  Maybe you have no idea.  Maybe you do.  Here’s a quick suggestion…maybe it’s time for joy…complete joy…the joy that comes from Jesus.  Is there anything robbing you of joy right now?  Is there anything standing in the way of your joy?  Sometimes, WE are in the way.  How about this prayer, “Lord, help me get out of the way so that you can fill me with joy.”

It’s time, Sunshines.  Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.  Love.  Learn.  Live.  Laugh.  Lean on the Lord.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!