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Tuesday:) Toni Tales~True Stories

9 Mar

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ― Desmond Tutu


I generally don’t like to toot my own horn…wait a minute…yes I do! It’s not really tooting, it’s more like sharing warm and uplifting stories from my notebook that I call my life.

Yesterday, I was coming home from my walk, strolling up my driveway, when I saw the mail truck two houses down. I figured I’d just wait a few seconds and grab my mail. I didn’t have quite enough time to run into the house to get a Dr. Pepper or some cookies. Usually, if I see the mail truck close by, I’ll run in and get something for the carrier. They put in a long day, and I like to show my appreciation. Last week, I had time to run and get a Dr. Pepper for the mail lady, a different one, not our usual Miss Penny. I hadn’t seen this lady before. She was on the phone, so I just gave he a wave, and she nodded and mouthed the words thank you. 

So, after putting the mail in the box, she pulled up to my driveway and said, “I wanted to thank you for the Dr. Pepper the other day. I apologize. I was on the phone with my brother in Louisianna, and I didn’t get a chance to thank you properly. That was so nice. I feel bad.” 

We talked a few minutes, and she told me about her family. Her brother rarely calls her, and she needed to talk to him. I asked her where Miss Penny was and she said, Penny got transferred to Fairview, but trained her on the route, and calls her every day to see how it’s going. She said, “I told Penny that this nice lady gave me a Dr. Pepper the other day, and I felt terrible that I didn’t get a chance to thank her.” 

Then, I smiled when she said that Penny told her,”Oh, that’s Toni! She’s always doing nice things. She’d bring me cookies or brownies or something to drink. She’s a real nice lady. You’ll love her.” Well, I was honored that Miss Penny remembered me by name, and that I made her day a little brighter. Now, Miss Desra is my new mail lady, and now she knows my name, too. 

It’s funny how just a small act of kindness or a simple hello, can really make a difference in someone’s day. Do you know your mail carrier’s name, or the guys who mow your lawn, or the cashier at the grocery store? 


Sunday Sermon and the Spiritual Samaritan

4 Aug

“A Spiritual Samaritan lives knowing that if we were to leave this world tomorrow, we were the best humans we could be and we touched the lives of as many souls as possible. We are not asked to be perfect. We are asked to make a difference.”
― Molly Friedenfeld
Today’s Gospel was the story about Jesus feeding the multitude with only five loaves and two fish. Here’s what I derived from the words. I’m very good at boiling things down into a few words…If you believe, He will provide.

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.”

After church, I walked three miles, worked on packing up a few more boxes, then realized it was 2:30 pm and all I had to eat was that little communion wafer.(Not so filling) I called my friend, Della, and we had a yummy late lunch at Olive Garden. Then, I drove over to the Art House where my friend Jill Luigs was working on some sewing projects. I had a few bags of fabric to give her. She makes the most amazing projects out of scraps and fabric that is often shared by friends and neighbors.



Jill and I had an in depth conversation about how sometimes our needs and wishes are met when we have faith. I’ve always believed that the more you give, the more you receive. I’ve always tried to share my blessings, my time and my gifts with others.

It’s funny, at Olive Garden, I had a $4 off coupon on two dinners, so Della and I each saved $2. So, I left a 30% tip for our nice waiter. Pay it forward. After my visit with Jill, I had to pick up a few things at Lowe’s. On my way back to my car, I saw a lucky feather near my car. Another sign?


Leaving Lowe’s, there was a young family standing on the corner. A mother, three small children, and a dad holding a sign saying, “I lost my job. Can you help us?” Well, I’ve heard that sometimes these are scams, but you know what, what if they were hungry and thirsty after being out in the sun and heat all day? I am wanting for nothing, and have more than many, I can share my blessing. I pulled over, reached into my purse. I had a bunch of singles, and a twenty. That little voice inside my head said, “You can spare a twenty.” I rolled down my window and handed the man $20. He touched his hand to his heart and said, “Bless you! Bless your family!” I drove away thinking, “Yes, I’m already blessed.”

I’d like to think that if I were to leave this world tomorrow, that I was the best I could be, made a difference, and that I touched the lives of many souls, just like the quote says.


Friday Friends, Firemen and Funny Peeps

19 Apr

“You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made,’ [Chef Bugnard] said. ‘Even after you eat it, it stays with you – always.”
― Julia Child, My Life in France
I had all the ingredients set out last night so I could get up early and start my baking frenzy. As I opened the fridge to take out the eggs, oh no, only two eggs. So, off to the store I went. Foolish me, I thought I’d have time to make frosting, bake and decorate ten dozen cupcakes in the morning, take a long walk, and be out of the house by two. Ha! But, I did manage to post my progress hourly on my Facebook page. Here’s the progress.

Set out ingredients, then go to the store for the eggs I forgot.

Make a funny face with the cake mix and eggs.

Make two batches of cream cheese frosting. Vanilla and chocolate.

The chocolate cupcakes had a dollop of cherry pie filling, the yellow had a peach slice.

Frost and decorate a zillion cupcakes and mini cupcakes…then share with friends.

Justin and Karri…my good friends at Papa Murphy’s Pizza. Hi guys!

Firefighter Taylor over at Station #1. He looks pretty pleased.

The firemen at Station #2 invited me inside. On my way out, I found a lucky penny next to the fire truck. ( a very lucky sign. Someone up there saying, “Good job!”)

My senior friends at Towne creek loved the cute cupcakes, too. I took a few over to my friend Lynne’s house, and took a few over for the triplets next door. BUT… I ran out of peeps. Oh no. I had more cupcakes to decorate for tomorrow. I went to three stores tonight and everyone was out of the bunny peeps. So, I ended up having to buy some yellow chick peeps at Walgreens. I have a few more firehouses to get to tomorrow. (I was disappointed at first, but then I thought…huh, those cute firemen are “chick magnets,” so it will be quite appropriate.)
So, here’s to all my “PEEPS” out there.

Theme Song Thursday: “Help” One Another

7 Feb

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

McKinney and nearby communities braved the ice, snow and frigid temperatures to support St. Peter’s Empty Bowls project, feeding the hungry one bowl at a time. Visitors were able to chose from one of hundreds of handcrafted donated bowls created by local craftsman, students and professional artisans.

Delicious soups, breads, desserts and beverages were served, while friends and neighbors enjoyed an evening of entertainment, laughter and community. A separate silent auction of professional artisan bowls raised over $3,200.

The amazing part of this fundraiser is that all the profits help support our community. Volunteers donated their time, local restaurants provided the food, artists donated the bowls. A community coming together to “HELP” one another.

Two videos: live from St. Peter’s Episcoplal Church in McKinney


Me and Miss Sherry admiring our lovely bowls.

E Flat Porch Band entertaining the crowd.

A community coming together to support the less fortunate.

Friday: Flesh and Blood Friendship From Chaplain Jim

30 Nov

Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.
George Eliot

My friend Army Chaplain Jim shared a heart-warming Thanksgiving story from his childhood. You never know when an selfless act of kindness might influence another human being for the rest of their life. It will make you think how you might be able change a life or perhaps how someone influenced yours.

One of my most memorable Thanksgivings was when I was in 5th grade on a rainy fall day in north Florida. My dad had disappeared– his binge-drinking alcoholism that he had hidden for I don’t know how many years, had in the months before Thanksgiving that year, become the guiding theme of my family’s life. The church had a community Thanksgiving dinner that day in its basement– probably because they knew the pastor’s family– my family– would be needing it with the pastor– my dad– disappeared, and God only knew where.

What was most memorable about that Thanksgiving was David, another 5th grader, who had quickly become my best friend in that town. He walked from his house to mine in the rain– probably about a mile or so– and the two of us walked together to the church through the rain with his new baby brother in the stroller he was pushing. That simple act of grace by another kid still brings tears to my eyes as I write about it 39 years later. David was enfleshing the presence and love of Christ for ME, in the midst of MY shattered world–not just for “somebody” who might need it, but for ME. That one incident of grace, of Jesus enfleshed for me in another kid, is one of the handfull of experiences in my life that immediately comes to mind when I think of what grace and what Thanksgiving is all about.

For all I know, maybe his parents put him up to it, I don’t know. He may not have even known how powerful his little walk in the rain was for me. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is a flesh and blood kid became the flesh and blood love of Jesus for me when I needed it most. David didn’t have any special training to be Jesus for me– other than having been brought up in the church by a loving, Christ-centered family.

I’m guessing the kids you have are flesh and blood kids too. I’m guessing they have friends too, and at any given time– even this Thanksgiving– some of those friends are as desperately in need of the flesh and blood love of Jesus as I was on that rainy Thanksgiving day. I’m guessing you have friends. Knowing just enough statistics to be dangerous, you can count on the fact that someone among YOUR friends and acquaintances is in need of the flesh and blood love of Jesus this Thanksgiving, just as much or more than I was 39 years ago this week.

A little paraphrase from an old show you probably don’t remember can be a reminder: “Who knows what suffering lurks in the hearts of men– Only the Spirit knows…”– But the Holy Spirit is also eager to use you and your kids– young and “untrained” as they may be– to be the flesh and blood love of Jesus today, this Thanksgiving, and each and every day. Are you willing and able to work miracles of grace with something as simple as a walk with a friend? Are your kids aware that, young as they are, they can make a difference for eternity in a friend’s life without even knowing it? Your welcome to share my story, or your own story this Thanksgiving, to remind them of God’s calling in THEIR lives too.

Thanks David– and keep being a blessing- Rev. Jim

Chaplain (Major) James R. Lewis
371st Sustainment Brigade
Brigade Chaplain
DSN: (318) 430-4106



Friday: Friends, Fun and a Feast

16 Nov

Don’t get up from the feast of life without paying for your share of it.
Dean Inge
I had a pretty fun day today. Stein Mart was having an early bird special sale, so I got my bird up early and went shopping. Normally, I shop for an hour or two and come home empty handed. Not today. Everything fit perfectly, was unbelievably cheap, and my only problem was trying to haul it all back to my car. I got home in time to grab a bite to eat and pack up some supplies and food to take to my Towne Creek senior art group.

You know that old saying, “It’s either feast or famine?” Well, today we feasted. I brought taco chips and cheese dip, Karen brought homemade beef stew! Kris brought a platter of chips, cheese curls, and pretzel mix, and Della brought roasted chicken and strawberry cheesecake. Oh man! It was like Thanksgiving on steroids.

Kris brought her jewelry supplies to make angel book marks with our paper beads, and and Della brought things to make homemade gift bags. Everyone was working on fun projects and then we feasted. It was a wonderful day with friends.

Kris assists miss Nelma with her project.

20131115-221813.jpgMiss Bonnie decorated a bag with a bird and glitter. A little white trim was added to her birdhouse.


Mr. Angel was working on a painting, but came over to join “bag ladies.”

Then, the magnificent feast!

Don’t we have fun every Friday? I guess it’s either feast or feast. We never do the famine thing. Life is good when you pay for your share of the feast.

Wednesday| More Words of Wisdom from Chaplain Jim

31 Oct

Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.
My friend and pen pal Chaplain Jim, deployed and far from home, had some interesting thoughts to share about Halloween. Who would have thought that inspirational people and role models had anything to do with Halloween? I certainly hope that I have lived a good and inspirational life for my children, friends and family. I’ve learned from the best…my mother, Trini. I guess it does work.
From Chaplain James Lewis:



While it may still be a mystery what J.K.Rowling might mean with “Hallows,” outside of her writing the meaning of the word that many might wonder about this time of year is pretty easy to find. “Hallow-een” is a derivative of the old word “hallows,” meaning “saints,” and a contraction of “evening”– sometimes written “e’en.” “Halloween” is a conglomeration of a range of religious festivals, to include pagan “harvest festivals,” and “Samhain,” a Celtic tradition in which the veil between this world and the world of the dead is thought to be most thin and permeable. That range also includes a Christian version in which it is the evening before the celebration of all the saints/ HALLOWS day, hence “All HALLOWS- e’en,” shortened to “HALLOWEEN.”

So if you’ve ever thought it better for your church to “celebrate” this time of year with a seemingly innocuous “Harvest Festival” rather than “Halloween”– think carefully on that! A “harvest festival” is clearly a pagan festival, while “Halloween” is a solidly CHRISTIAN word! And if we believe what the scriptures clearly teach, that Christ has VICTORY over death, then a reminder that death is no real enemy, as the “spooky” celebrations of Halloween imply, seems to make more sense that to be afraid of death!

Another way to “redeem” Halloween, if you were to think it needed redemption, is to celebrate with your kids those saints or “hallows” who have inspired you across your life. In some traditions, saints, or HALLOWS, are a collection of specific super-heroes of the faith– something like “The Justice League,” or “The Avengers” in a spiritual sense. In other traditions, all who are faithful unto the end are celebrated as “all HALLOWS.”

So who are the saints or “HALLOWS” who have inspired you over the years, whom you try to emulate, to say “I want to be like _________ when I grow up”? If any of those HALLOWS in your life are still living, I’d encourage you to send them a note to let them know what they’ve meant to you, and to share your appreciation while you can. It can both mean a lot to those who have inspired you, and can remind you of your own inspiring HALLOWS, and what you strive for in your life.

Remember too, that you are (or should be?) one of those Hallows/inspiring saints for YOUR kids, and for the other kids and people in your life– are you living to be an inspiration to them? Whether you think about it or not, your kids and others ARE looking to you, and you ARE “inspiring” others whether you are trying to or not. You may be inspiring them in saintly, hallowing ways– or you may be “inspiring” toward less holy pursuits, values, decisions and living.
Reflect for a moment on what you ARE inspiring your kids and others in your life toward– Are you sure that’s the inspiration you WANT to be, or that Jesus wants you to be?

Rev. Jim



Wednesday Words of Wisdom

24 Oct

Too many people talk the talk, but very few actually walk the walk…practice what you preach; Action speaks louder than words.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of making a new friend. Yes, I was talking to strangers again. I don’t just write about it, I actually practice what I preach. I was at Snug on the Square for a quick lunch and saw a lady sitting by herself. I walked over and asked, “Mind if I join you?” She smiled and said, “Sure, sit down. I was just about to leave, but that’s ok.” Well, we talked for about half an hour and I found out a lot about this lovely lady. She moved to McKinney to be closer to her family and grandchildren after losing her husband to a long illness. We shared some stories and I reached over and touched her hand and said, “Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if everyone took a little time to meet and touch a stranger’s life every now and then.” She agreed.

Miss Barbara says she likes to walk around the Square in McKinney to shop or get some lunch when she has nothing to do. Hey, me too. Already we have a lot in common.


Let me know if you talk to a stranger and make a new friend, even if just for a few moments. You never know, it might be for a lifetime.

Wednesday: Words of Wisdom from Chaplain Jim

3 Oct


Normally, I have profound words of my own to share on Wednedsay, but today, I’d like to share a recent post from my friend, Chaplain (Major) James R. Lewis. I met Chaplain Jim at DFW shortly before his deployment to Kuwait this summer. We have been corresponding ever since, and his letters are always moving. He is already thinking about his flock and the Christmas season. Perhaps you might be moved by his words and share with a soldier this holiday . *****************UNCLASSIFIED//NONE

Operation Christmas Stocking
It’s probably safe to say that one of the most beloved Christmas song outside of the churchy-type Christmas carols, is the Irving Berlin song made a favorite by Bing Crosby’s numerous renditions of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” When it first came out, it wasn’t thought of as being that special, but in the months leading up to Christmas of 1942 when we first had numerous Service Members overseas for Christmas in WW II, it quickly became a favorite. According to Wikipedia at least, it was in October of 1942 that the song first got big. And though it’s barely October this year, already for myself, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”

Several years ago when I was last deployed, with a LOT of help from churches, veterans organizations, scout groups and more, folks back home provided Christmas Stockings for all the Soldiers in my Brigade and its downtrace units who were not able to go home for Christmas; Soldiers who, like myself, were also dreaming of a white Christmas– but it didn’t happen in Iraq! I’m in Kuwait this year for Christmas– and no snow is in the forecast here either. Not that it’s really the snow that makes Christmas what it is, but it’s a good excuse to ask for help again!

As with before, I’d like to be able to provide Christmas stockings for all the Soldiers and others form whom our Brigade is responsible. I expect other Chaplains will be helping this time, and we have a smaller footprint in the sand these days, so we won’t be needing as many as last time, but we will need help from back home to make this happen. If you personally, or a group, a church, a Veterans organization, a scout group you are associated with might be interested in helping with this project, please let me know. I’m putting together a list of those specifically interested in helping with this project so I can send a list out to you with the details of what TO get, what NOT to get for these stockings. Drop a quick note to me in the next few days at if you or a group you are associated with would like to help.

And how does this fit with Family Discipleship? Well, it doesn’t take much to realize that the way we celebrate Christmas, our Little Ones could very quickly and easily draw the mistaken conclusion that Christmas is something like a celebration of THEIR birthday, just in a bigger way, so it’s all about THEM! I HOPE that’s not the message we want to get across to our kids! How, then, do we get the message across that Christmas is JESUS’ birthday, not theirs? And how do you give a birthday present to Jesus?

Have your family read Matthew 25– the whole thing if they can handle it, but at least starting at verse 31 with the parable of the sheep and the goats. Use that as a way to start talking to them about how to give Jesus a birthday present– and then figure out how to do that as a family this year (and EVERY year!). Christmas stockings for Soldiers far from home might be able to resonate with young children, so it can be an ideal tool to use, so I invite you to join the party.

Happy birthday Jesus!
Rev. Jim

Chaplain (Major) James R. Lewis
371st Sustainment Brigade
Brigade Chaplain
DSN: (318) 430-4106


Tuesday Tips and Tidbits

2 Oct

Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Today, I couldn’t decide what to make for lunch, so I opened up the fridge. Hmm? Not much there. Ah, I remembered the avocados in the freezer. When I learned about being able to freeze avocados, it changed my life. I buy them on sale, cut in half, scoop out, sprinkle a little lemon juice, and slip in a plastic bag. I use the little sandwich bags, squeeze out most of the air, then freeze. They defrost pretty quickly, but I was in a hurry and nuked it (microwave) a few seconds. A warm tortilla, melted jack cheese, fresh tomato…easy…awesome.


Doesn’t that look yummy?

Monday, I had the pleasure of having lunch with my tennis friends. Everyone brought something to share. Of course, I am the “Brownie Queen” of McKinney, so I made my famous brownies. When asked for the recipe, I always say, “It’s an old family recipe, but I’ll share. Buy a box of brownie mix, follow directions, sprinkle about 2 handfuls of chocolate chips on top of batter, then bake. Voila!” The nice thing about leftover brownies is, they find their way to Fire Station #5. Always appreciated!

Another tip…always share!