Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Sammy, Small but Big-Hearted: Goodbye is Temporary

Sammy was never planned. But we loved him like he was an important part of the family. We always had big dogs in the past like Labrador retrievers. A little dog was not in our plan though I grew up with a poodle as a kid and tried to convince my husband that they were smart and great companions. At first he wasn’t excited about Sammy but he quickly stole his heart. After a few weeks, Sammy was part of the family.

Photo by Mary Heston

So you may wonder how we acquired this adorable toy poodle. One Friday night we went to a Spartan Booster Auction for our son’s high school. They were raising money for sports and extra curricular activities. We knew that we would donate to this cause but little did we know that our good friend would be the auctioneer. 

Somehow we left that night with a 3-4 pound 2 month old toy poodle! I guess I raised my paddle and he said, “Sold to the Hopkins!” 

He was keeping us up during the night at first, but soon he was potty-trained and sleeping in the middle of our bed. Sammy had won our hearts and was the center of our home. He even bossed the other two Labradors we had and they were very endearing to Sammy as he became the “alpha male” dog in the house.

So what did I learn from Sammy that I will take with me?

  1. Though you are small, you can make a big difference. Sammy didn’t really bite but he would steer the other dogs in place. You could never underestimate his ability to get them moving where he wanted them to.
  2. Sammy wanted to be where you were and whatever part of the house you were in. So when it was night time, he would make sure that he would be the first up on our bed anticipating that we were right there with them. He also loved to be the “sheriff” watching out for whoever passed or came to the door. Boy, couldn’t we learn to be “more present” in our friends' hearts and lives? We could all learn from this. Also, to watch out for those at the door and alert others about who might “prowl” about.
  3. Sammy was there when I wasn’t feeling my best. When I came home from the hospital after being there for 3 weeks, Sammy and Oscar were right by side.
  4. Don’t forget to cuddle and in Sammy’s case, show those you love that you love them. He did that a lot. Couldn’t all of us have a little more TLC and cuddling? I know I could.

  5. Dogs will be in heaven! It may sound strange but I feel confident that we will see Sammy again. After reading Romans 8, I believe that God’s “creatures now alive will be swept away” and I feel I will see all my beloved dogs. I believe that according to Genesis 9:9-15 where God spoke about the animals and he even talked about the covenant he had was also with the animals. When he spoke about Noah and the animals and “all living creatures” being part of a convent that God made when the rainbow appeared and that the earth would never be covered with water again. Most importantly, since God cares about “all his creatures,” and he gave us animals to love and have dominion over, to me I know I will see my Sammy, Oscar, Nellie, Sadie and so many other of my canine friends in heaven.
  6. Goodbye is not forever. Some day I will see you again Sammy along with all the dogs I’ve loved before… a Willie line that I used in my new dog song.

We miss Oscar and Sammy but know we will see them again some day.

Darcie was making her “sheep” puppets for our TV show but we had to put Sammy in there. What a great sport he was to always be up for whatever we did with him. As long as we paid attention, he was pretty content.

Gonna Be a Friend — for Sammy and Oscar

Gonna be a friend
Gonna be a friend
Just like my dog knows I am!
Gonna Be a friend
Gonna Be a friend
Just like my dog knows I am!

(Third verse):

Through my door many dogs
They have come and gone
To all the dogs I’ve loved before
To coin a Willie song
Heaven won’t be heaven
Without my canine friends
So be kind and be loving
We can learn from all of them

(Copyright 2021 by MaryRiceHopkins /Big steps 4U publishing)

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Mary's Not Dead


You would think that after my last blog post, I was “put out to pasture” or ready to set sail on my ministry to kids and families. Absolutely no way. I am not retired or done writing and recording. The MUSIC and MEDIUMS never change the the MESSAGE of Jesus and His love towards us never changes. 

So I’m ready for the next chapter. So what does that mean ? Here are a few highlights from my last blog post in 2014 almost 8 years ago. 

  1. Our daughter got married to a wonderful guy in 2015 and I was mother of the bride. Incredible day. They are doing well and were able to purchase their first home in the Northwest. 
  2. I’m now a Grandma and all of my songs that were old have taken on new meaning! Seeing and hearing my 4 year old granddaughter sing along with me is a huge highlight of my days.  
  3. I started writing more songs and finished mixing more TV episodes that viewed on several TV stations. More on that in days ahead. We know have a great YouTube channel where you can find a lot of our episodes. 
  4. I went to Europe several times and even in 2014 after my bout with pneumonia and sang at the top of the tallest mountain in Switzerland. What a God thing!  They told me I would never sing again. Boy, did GOD show them. The doctors are amazed and I am the “poster child” for the pulmonary folks at USC Keck hospital.
  5. I sang on Dr. Ben Carson’s Presidential campaign in 2017.  He was on the road in Iowa and my friend and producer, Michael Nason, was heading up many family events on his campaign. I was so elated to be singing right before Dr. Carson spoke in front of thousands who were listening on. Unfortunately he lost but he went on to do many great things with President Trump helping with HUB and the homeless situation at the time.
  6. Darcie Maze and I continued to do some traveling and ministering in different parts of the country including a Preschool / Kindergarten Dedication in Virginia, another one in Hawaii, and beyond. 
  7. The COVID 2020 year was unprecedented and all of our bookings were cancelled including Honolulu, Kaui and plans to go to Oberammergau in Europe.  My cousin and many others died of this dreadful Covid but as a family here, we all have stayed well. So thankful as things could be much worse.
  8. On a positive note. Because of Covid we decided to SHIFT gears with our ministry. The new buz word is PIVOT and that’s what we did !We looked for animators for my songs. In fact, I had a great audience of one. My Granddaughter!  Her favorite secular show was Cocomelon so I decided there wasn’t a Christian Cocomelon out there.  So go check it out and subscribe to our channel so we can keep making more videos.
  9. Since Covid, March 2020 we have done over 300 Facebook Live posts. We are on every week bringing hope and character lessons to families and teachers who tune in. If you want to follow us there go to for more info.  It has been amazing to hear and see how this 15 minute segment has made an impact.
  10. And finally, we've welcomed Lucy, our four-legged baby girl, to our family.                                                

There was a lot going on since I got so sick in 2014. God has miraculously healed me and I am 99 percent better than I was. God is SO good. I am breathing again when they never thought I would even talk again.

Now go be a Light in His Pumpkin Patch !!   

Here it is:

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mary Rice Hopkins: Miracle Walking--From ICU to Life

Who would have thought I would end up in critical care fighting for my life in ICU for two weeks? For about a week I was sick with the flu and in bed, off and on.

As the week progressed, I didn’t seem to get better. I tried many different over-the-counter drugs; felt lethargic, achy, had a mild sore throat and cough. When my symptoms didn’t improve, I tried to make an appointment with my doctor, only to find that she was out of town on vacation. 

What complicated matters, my husband Gary had the flu as well. He slept in our guest room so not to wake me.

That night, about 2:00 a.m., I woke up gasping for air and unable to breathe. I was cold and shaking, so I called my friend Darcie and asked her to take me to the ER. This was more than a cold or the flu. From there I hardly remember anything. 

I’ve always been a fairly healthy person with only the occasional cold. I work out and take my vitamins. The only time I went to the hospital to speak of was when I had my two kids.

Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, CA, admitted me and put me in a room on oxygen. But it didn’t have a lung department to take care of the seriousness of my situation so they transferred me by ambulance to USC Medical Center.

The next thing I knew I was looking up and saw five medical people around me. By the movement of the vehicle, I was obviously still in an ambulance. I heard one of the medics say, “She’s breathing now.” Another one of them held my hand. And even though I felt very alone and fearful, I knew Jesus was there.

When I arrived at USC, a doctor said, “You have pneumonia in both lungs.” 

And someone else said, “and H1N1.”

They placed me in ICU. Every breath was a struggle. They must have asked me ten times if I was a smoker. I kept telling them no and told them my lungs were very important because I’m a singer and need my voice.

I had what seemed like a billion tests, IV’s and shots. There it began, and from then on I had shots every day for almost three weeks. I used to be afraid of needles, but that sure took it out of me.

There were so many people there, including my friend Darcie Maze, but I can’t remember who they all were. So many doctors and nurses, and the next thing I know they were talking about a respirator, feeding tube, and ways to keep me breathing. A sense of peace came over me every time I felt afraid. The procedure of being intubated was scary. I had to lie on my back and could hardly move. With the respirator down my throat, I couldn’t say a word. It was painful and uncomfortable. My temperature was 103 degrees. I thought of my mom.

Only two months earlier I was with Mom in ICU before she went into hospice. She wanted me to go home to rest, squeezed my hand and said, “It would just kill me if anything happened to you.” She was always thinking of others before herself, and I’ve always thought that if I could only be half the person she was, I’d be satisfied. What an amazing woman of God.

As I lay there, and my thoughts were on her… at least Mom didn’t have to be here or know about this. Maybe it’s my time to see my parents again. But then I thought about my two kids and my “undone bucket list” and my sweet husband and dogs and on and on… I heard from the nurses and doctors, “You gotta fight this infection,” and “Take slow deep breaths.”

Tears ran down the sides of my face. There were lots of unknowns. I felt like my life lay in the balance when only a few weeks earlier I was standing in Florida on the stage receiving the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for children’s ministry.

So many thoughts would rush through my mind as I looked at these four white walls with no windows. I looked around until I found the clock, but couldn’t tell if it was night or day. I’ve always loved windows and light. Now I had to search and somehow find the light in all of this. How would I find that light at the end of this tunnel? It didn’t seem to be there. I couldn’t talk, noises bothered me, so I couldn’t watch TV, and the unknown scared me. 

Then, after two days in ICU, I woke up to a colorful room. My friend had asked people to send cards, balloons, or stuffed animals. No flowers were allowed. The surprised staff didn’t realize I was a singer with a kids’ TV show. The lyrics to my songs were written in cards and on the wall. This lifted my spirits and made me fight even harder to make it through. 

The next day, I woke up to see my son David standing by my bedside. What a great sight to see! Not only is he my wonderful son, but he is a sweet, compassionate man. With the respirator in my mouth and down my throat, I couldn’t say a thing to him.

My son put a sponge up to my dry mouth and parched lips and then rubbed my arms and hands with lotion. What a healing time for me. I thought of the times he got sunburned, or had a bruise and I’d rub his arms or massaged legs with lotion. Now, the tables were turned. 

Trisha, our daughter, took time off from work and flew down from Oregon the next day. Again, I was touched. Gary had recovered from the flu and sat in the chair next to me when I didn’t even realize he was there. He asked if he could move me a little, or put a pillow behind my neck. I thought that this must be serious for the kids to take time out of their busy schedules to be here.

Later, I found out that I was a miracle walking. Code Blue had been called in the ambulance meaning I had stopped breathing and almost died, and a couple of times after that. But God heard the prayers of all our friends and family. I had no idea just how serious my condition was.

All three brothers and their wives came by several times. The Rice family was never very demonstrative and I rarely heard “I love you” growing up, though it sort of went without saying. Recently, though, with the loss of our mom, we had a closeness that I had never experienced. Suddenly, with my life in the balance, my brothers threw any conservative reserve out the window, although my room had no window. It was so good to hear them say they loved me. I was so thankful for that. They laid hands on me and prayed fervent prayers for their only sister. Their words of encouragement came like I’d never heard before. I always cried after they left when I thought about our family, Mom’s legacy, our big and faithful God, and how He brought us through so many struggles.


Update 5/6/2014: Now I'm only using oxygen occasionally at night to sleep, and even taking long walks. Top pulmonary doctor at USC hospital says that I'm still a huge "miracle walking" and defying all the odds. We know it's because of the army of people praying.

Last weekend I sang for the "Renewal conference" in Elk Grove, California for 500 Early Education teachers. At the end I shared my testimony along, with Darcie Maze, about the miracle we witnessed. I was able to sing for half  an hour and lead them in worship. All 500 gave us a huge standing ovation. I felt loved but even more than that, like it was applause from heaven. Thank you Lord.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Defining Your Purpose for Having a VBS

If a genuine “WOW! I’M SO EXCITED” doesn’t well up within your spirit as you think about directing VBS this year, you may need to prayerfully define, or re-define, your purpose for having Vacation Bible School.

Perhaps the overwhelming responsibility of planning has blotted out your vision of sharing with boys and girls a living, loving Jesus.

God knows the best way to get things done at your church. God knows the most effective method for reaching children within the sphere of your church's efforts. Ask Him! Pray until you receive a God-given, clear vision of how to reach the boys and girls in your community.

Then always make a connection between your prayers and what you hear people saying. For instance, maybe you’ll start hearing: “We sure have lots of kids in our neighborhood. Sure wish there was some way to reach them.” Perhaps this year, instead of a traditional VBS, you feel God leading your church to sponsor one or more backyard Vacation Bible Schools. Your major purpose would then be community outreach and evangelism.

Or maybe after praying, you’ll realize your biggest headache each year are the crafts which means getting the needed personnel to help and rounding up the supplies. By eliminating crafts, this time slot can be used for playing Bible games to reinforce concepts, showing biblical DVD’s, and presenting special features.

To stay focused on your purpose, write down what God tells you through prayer and use it as a standard of measurement.

The “We’ve Always Done It This Way” syndrome can quench what God wants to accomplish at your church this year. Complacency stands as an enemy to change. Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to be flexible? Are you willing to try something only God can do? Are you willing to accept His purpose for your VBS? Are you willing to do everything possible to make this event life-changing?

Once you have a clear vision, then share it passionately with your volunteers. Repeatedly communicate the vision with clarity and purpose, until your staff becomes of one mind and heart together and rises to the challenge ahead.

Betty J Robertson

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Best Kept Secret in America: Genesee Home Pastoral Retreat Center

Angora Lake northern Sierra Nevada CA
Pastors are often fatigued with their unending responsibilities. Ministry is exhausting work; preaching, teaching, meetings, phone calls, hospital visits, counseling sessions, marriages, funerals, sermon preparation, and administration duties. Throughout the scriptures, God led chosen leaders off to be alone with Him for times of rejuvenation.

Genesee Home Retreat Center, in the northern Sierra Nevada of California, is the perfect place for a pastor and spouse to refocus. Four streams, six small fishing lakes, and numerous grazing meadows are all found on this incredible 1,600 piece of God’s creation. Peaceful forests, scenic meadows, idyllic creeks are all set against a backdrop of mountain peaks. The very location of this spectacular ranch can stir one’s soul. Quiet time for study, prayer and communion with God can be enjoyed.

The Genesee Home, a 19th century Victorian stone house once used as a stage coach stop, has recently been renovated to offer modern comforts and amenities. Every detail has been designed to provide couples a place to relax and reflect. A stay at Genesee Home includes a bedroom with a private bath, each with its own character for five nights, three meals per day, hostess gift, the use of the library and all recreation activities on the ranch.

Genesee Home wants the week to be affordable to all pastors or missionaries and their spouses. Therefore, they ask only to be reimbursed for approximately one-third of the operating expenses which is only $495 for each couple. This includes five nights stay in a beautiful restored Victorian Home and all meals. No rental car is needed, as guests are picked up at the airport!
Why not call (866) 715-REST right now!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pick a Child, Any Child

Southern California, early 1960s:

Most of my teachers didn’t know what to do with me. According to one report card, I lacked attention and self-control. Teachers tried to ignore me, but I made it difficult because I could never sit still. My second-grade teacher noted that I would rather make up stories and sing songs than do my other school subjects.

Thankfully, I had another teacher. Her name was Mom. If I hadn’t listened to my mother during my school days, I don’t know where I would be today. With tenacity, love and lots of prayer, Mom encouraged me to use my songs, gifts and talents. She made me aware of the wonderful truth that there is nobody else in the world like me. She encouraged me to be myself and to use whatever God put in my hands for His glory.

Thirty Years Later:

My mom developed a brain tumor and, at first, they thought it was inoperable. As she started sorting through the family heirlooms, my mom handed me a treasure chest of memorabilia from my childhood. In it were all my report cards that I had never seen, all the struggles of my childhood that were so difficult. When I asked her about it, she said, “Mary, I knew you were gifted and God would use your gifts to His glory.”

So it wasn’t until I was married and had my own children that I realized the extent of the challenges I had faced growing up. Funny how the report cards showed my problems, but my mother showed me my possibilities. And God showed me how to use both to become a committed musician and family-oriented minister.


After several strokes and a removal of the tumor, I praise God that Mom is with us today. My Mom was even featured with her homemade quilt on one of our weekly TV episodes. Because of her love, now I have our own weekly program that teaches good character through music and puppetry. I'm so glad she never gave up on this little child.

Will you be that one person who picks a young girl and helps her to believe she is very special and that God has a great plan for her life? Will you be willing to find that broken, wounded little boy who simply needs one person to show him God’s love and give him hope? Will you be there for the inner child of the mother who needs someone to remind her that she has the most important job in the world raising children to be all God wants them to be?

Pick a child, any child.


Creative Commons License
This work by Mary Rice Hopkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Planting God's Truth

Illustration by Pearson Scott Foresman
Acorns just aren't very fulfilled. Life is only good when they grow in fertile soil and become oak trees.
Do you think they lay on the ground, look up at the tree they fell from and think, "I wanna grow up to be just like you?"

Our children look to role models, too. We have the incredible responsibility (and fun) of helping boys and girls see Jesus as what they want to grow up to be like. We get to help make their soil fertile.

Teaching children this important principle and planting God's truth is the best job of all! I pray that the seeds we plant will bear fruit for years to come!

Gro├če Eichen