Gratitude Day 45 – Farmer’s Market

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Sat., May 19, 2018

Romans 15:2 – Each of us should please our neighbors for their good in order to build them up.

Last Saturday, our local Farmer’s Market was open for the first time. Hubby Rick loves asparagus. With no asparagus beds on our property, I walked down to the market to purchase some.

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In our little town, the Farmer’s Market is small. Maybe a dozen vendors. Madison is about 30 minutes away. Saturday mornings on The Square around the state capital are known for a fantastic Farmer’s Market. Blocks filled with vendors, people, dogs, kids, strollers, food, flowers. And this is in the first few tents!

Last week, I opted for our local market. Two vendors were selling asparagus. I bought from both. We have enjoyed asparagus several times this week.

Farmer’s Markets are great local enterprises. It’s a way for us to eat local, enjoy our neighbors and support local business. It is a way to build up our local area and offer an additional service to the community.

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I know our local Farmer’s Market is a tiny slice of the Madison version. Size is not important. Rather, being a part of your community is.  No matter what day of the week your community Farmer’s Market is held, take a stroll through it. Take in the sight of golden honey, breathe deeply the scent of fresh herbs and drink in the color of freshly-picked flowers. Appreciate local people choosing to make their products available to others. Celebrate the day and your local community.

20180512_102342We live in a great little community.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – Thank you for the towns, villages and cities around us. Thank you for people choosing to be a part of their area. Help us discover a way we can enjoy and support those within our community. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 44 –

Isaac

Thurs., May 17, 2018

James 5:10-11 – Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! 

One person can make a difference. Change things. Have significant impact on another person’s life. I have had several such people in my life. People who just showed up and made a difference. A couple examples:

  • While taking a basic writing class in college, the teaching assistant asked me to visit during office hours. His agenda was not what I expected. “Why aren’t you an Agricultural Journalism major?” he asked. (I was majoring in Agricultural Economics at the time.) Based on a 20-minute conversation, I switched majors and changed the direction of my career.
  • Isaac Lim flew from Singapore to Wisconsin with a message for me. Seriously. Like 9,252 miles. He was a guest speaker at the church I was attending at the time. As his taxi driver for the week, I took him shopping one day so he could buy gifts for his family. The afternoon basically became Dr. Lim informing me that I had a call into pastoral ministry. A few months later, I was in seminary. Within nine months, I began serving two churches. At one of those churches, I met future Hubby Rick. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

These people, along with others, have shaped my life. As wise sages and prophets, their words and willingness to coach me have changed my life. They showed up and imparted wisdom to me as God’s special messengers.

Last summer, I signed up to be a school mentor. Our local school enlists volunteers to help students. Sometimes it’s doing homework. Maybe it’s listening. Other times, it’s playing a game.

On Thursday mornings, I go to school and spend time with 4th grader Isaac. We do math, read a book, problem solve, or finish a project. Isaac likes it when we play games. Chess and Yahtzee are his favorites. Often, Isaac shares a beef stick with me. At times, I bring Isaac a little treat.

Over time, Isaac and I have become buddies. After Christmas break, Isaac greeted me with a hug … in front of his friends. He was worried when I didn’t show up another week. When an adult extended sympathy to me after my Mom died, Isaac asked if he heard correctly. When I confirmed my Mom’s death, he quickly said, “I’m so sorry.”

One afternoon this week, the mentors were invited to an ice cream social with the kids. Beforehand, the mentors shared a bit of our experiences with each other. Most every volunteer spoke of getting more out of helping the students than what they felt they were giving them. When the students arrived, they brought us sundaes with our favorite toppings and a thank you card.

note from IsaacMy role with Isaac was to be his buddie. Not a pastor. Not his teacher. Not his parent. A sage willing to listen and play chess with missing pieces. It is not important whether I know if I have truly been a mentor or prophet to him. What is important is that I showed up. Period.

Who is someone you can show up for today?

Before Isaac left to catch the bus home, he told me it was a great one. I asked him what made it a great day. “I saw you twice today!” he said.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – I’m confident we can think of several people who made a difference in our lives. Thank you for allowing these wise prophets to be your messengers. Bring into our lives people with whom we can be a mentor and friend. When these opportunities come along, may we seize them. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 43 – A Nutty Message

nuts about you

Thurs., May 17, 2018

John 13:34-35 – (Jesus said,) “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”

My mornings most often begin by going into the kitchen and making coffee. As I walked into the kitchen early one morning, I found a special message on the kitchen island. From Hubby Rick. He works nights and had left me a little morning surprise:

Good Morning. Did you know I’m “nuts” about you??

What a stellar way to begin any morning.

In his own witty way, Rick found an opportunity to make his wife feel pretty darn special.

Our schedules are such that Rick and I do not always see a lot of each other during his work week. Often, I am gone before he gets up in the morning. We try to have lunch together a couple times a week. Sometimes even this is a challenge.

I am very lucky in the husband department. I know my husband loves me, cares for me and respects me. He adds lots of humor to my life as well. Rick is a master of taking some little thing and making it fun and meaningful. Like a couple packages of nuts that he picked up at the store. His favorite kind and my favorite kind. He didn’t stop there. He turned them into a way to make me feel special.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – Thank you for the special relationships in our lives. When life gets full and busy, it’s easy to take each other for granted. Place in our hearts a way to simply share with someone we love and care for deeply how much they mean to us today.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 42 – Joy

glasses

Wed., May 16, 2018

Acts 16:34 – The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. 

A couple weeks ago, Hubby Rick and I happily set up our wonderful porch for spring and summer. (See: https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2018/04/29/gratitude-day-27-the-porch-is-open/) We so enjoy this living space when the weather allows.

I am in this mode of reducing the amount of possessions I have. Maybe you also read recently that the average American home has something like 300,000 items. Seriously? I am not going to count. I am working on having less.

Yet, when I was picking up a gift recently, I saw these colorful plastic glasses. Just the colors I like to use to decorate the porch. They were less than $4 for all 8. It took me about 2.5 seconds to put them into the cart. Then, I found some super cute plates that matched the glasses. They were a little more expensive: $1.99 each. At first, I had four in my hand. Then 6. I quickly did the math. For less than $20, I could have some fun and springy new plates and glasses for our porch. Done deal.

20180504_105131A couple days later, I made brunch. We love eggs for bunch. I made a little extra effort this day, adding spinach, cheese and other veggies. The additional color in the eggs made the plates look even prettier.

It was a beautiful spring day. Naturally, we would eat on the porch. I was so excited to put the plates and glasses on this wooden tray, which I use to carry things to the porch. It was my Grandma Deaton’s tray, made by my Grandpa Deaton. She used the tray to carry meals out to their screened-in porch in central Iowa. It was a favorite place to eat when we visited their house.

20180504_105207I think brunch tasted even better on these pretty plates. The porch was filled with joy. Over some silly plates and glasses. I know … it’s rather ridiculous. But when joy fills our hearts, it is a good day.

I have a box in which I’m gathering things to donate. I did pull out 8 beat-up plastic glasses and put them in the give-away box before giving the new glasses a home. I know, it’s just a wash … but at least it’s not adding.

As much as I am trying to get rid of, it is amazing the joy these new items have brought into my heart.

For this, I am grateful.

The joy of something simple can so brighten a day, Lord God. May we find joy in some little thing today.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 40 – I Made It Through the Day

tree

Mon., May 14, 2018

Psalm 105:4-5 – Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced.

I made it through the day. I made it through Mother’s Day.

Earlier last week, God’s strength showed up in a very unexpected way. My friend Mary sent me a card. It said:

Dianne – Thinking of you as Mother’s Day approaches. These milestones can be challenging. Hope you feel the love and support. Mary.

I’m not sure Mary fully understood what this Mother’s Day would entail. She didn’t need to. She had a hunch that this day might be more difficult than normal … and she sent a card.

I knew in advance that May 13, 2018 could be a perfect emotional storm for me.

This would have been Hubby Rick’s eldest son, Nate’s, 40th birthday. This is the first Mother’s Day since my Mom passed away. And I have come to dread Mother’s Day because I am not a Mom. While I know it is a special day for many women, it is a difficult day for me and some women. We have our own reasons for not being comfortable with this day.

Rick and I talked in advance about how we would commemorate these events, which all fell on one day.

Friday night, we went out to dinner with Marcus and his family. Marcus was a classmate and buddie of Nate. Rick and Marcus drank Bud Light beer in honor of Nate. It was a good night. For many years, I gave my Mom perennial flowers on Mother’s Day. On Saturday, Rick and I visited a couple Amish greenhouses. We came home with some perennials along with a flowering tree which we planted on the sunny side of our house on Sunday.

This Mother’s Day was the first time in 19 years that I was not leading worship. Rather, I was sitting in the pew. I was apprehensive about attending worship. But we did. I was even more thankful the message was not about Mother’s Day. It was about being in a difficult place and not knowing how to get out of it. Hearing the pastor’s words encouraged me to contemplate sharing my feelings in this space.

The pastor’s words reminded me that from our brokenness, we can grow. When we experience disorientation and realize things can’t be fixed, we should go back to our faith. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word sheol is used to indicate a place of darkness. When our hearts are darkened, we experience our own version of sheol. In the darkness of life, Psalm 105 encourages us to seek the Lord and the Lord’s strength. When we are not strong enough, it is time to stop depending upon ourselves and depend on God and our faith in God. When things can’t be fixed, our best opportunity is to no longer expect ourselves to be strong enough.

Rather than being strong enough, I just needed to make it through the day. I just needed to make it through May 13, 2018.

My point in sharing my feelings is not to garner empathy or sympathy. It’s to share a glimpse into my heart on a day of darkness. And my choice to let God’s strength help me through the day. I purposefully choose to not let my mind and heart get stuck in a place of complete darkness. I could make it a good day.

As I felt brokenness on Sunday, I knew that God was with me. When you feel disoriented, I pray you will remember that God hears your prayers. Pray for strength to seek God and God’s strength. Pray that you will remember the wonderous things that have happened in your life even though your heart may be crying out in unrelenting pain. Pray for a brighter day tomorrow. Just make it through the day.

I made it through the day. I made it through Mother’s Day. For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for being with us in our brokenness and disorientation. I pray we turn to you on our sad days and seek your face. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 39 – Happy 40th, Nate

Nate - young

Sun., May 13, 2018

Matthew 3:17 – And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

I have been thinking about today for several weeks. Today is the day that Hubby Rick’s eldest son, Nate, would have turned 40.

Would have, because at the age of 21, Nate was killed in a snowmobiling accident. (For more of this story: https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2017/05/13/happy-birthday-nate)

It has been 18 years since Nate died. Never a day goes by that Rick and I do not think about it. To say this single event has had an impact on our lives, our family and how we look at life would be an understatement.

In honor of Nate, today, I reflect upon a few things I have learned because of Nate’s death:

  • Grief is hard. It never ends. Some days, grief is much easier than other days. I admire how Rick has not let the grief of losing a son take over his life. I see a man who has moved on with his life, continued to live his life and wants to make the most of every day.
  • Every day is a blessing. Every day. As a pastor, I have conducted well over 100 funerals. In a large percentage of them, I have spoken about today being called “the present” for a reason. We call today “the present” because every day is a present. We choose whether we consider and allow today to be a present.
  • People grieve very differently. Rick’s grief cannot be my grief. Nor can my grief be Rick’s grief. I am very careful about telling someone, “I know what you are going through,” because, honestly, I don’t. Even if I may have been in a similar situation, the details and feelings are never the same. It would be presumptuous for me to think I know and understand your grief.
  • Losing a child does not mean you love your other children less. When a loved one dies, it can become very easy to idolize this person. Rick has two other children. He loves them no less nor no more than he loved Nate. Sometimes, it’s difficult for a parent to convey how love for children is never divided. It’s just always there.
  • Faith is what can help us get through the loss of a loved one. Rick and I do not blame God for Nate’s death. Yes, we have plenty of unanswered questions around this situation and many others. I admire that even though Rick has questions, he still and always turns to God as the source of his strength. We can allow awful situations in our lives to push us away or pull us towards God. I pray we find God as a way to see through the foggy times in our lives.

Not too long ago, Rick and I sat with a woman who had recently lost her grown son very suddenly. As she apologized for being out of sorts, I held her hand and said she should be out of sorts. She had just lost her son. Just as God proclaimed that Jesus was his Son, whom he loved and with whom God was well pleased, this woman must continue to proclaim love for her son, with whom she was well pleased.

Nate - HS grad 001Rick – I know today you can proclaim your love for your son, with whom you were well pleased.

For this, I am grateful.

Father God – when we read carefully the words you spoke about your Son, we see the deep, deep love you have for Jesus. Thank you for displaying your emotions about your Son. It gives us permission to share these same emotions about our own children. I pray for any mother or father this day who is missing a child or grandchild. May your peace be with them. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 38 – Mr. Rosebud Tree

20180508_193758Sat., May 12, 2018

Ezekiel 31:9 – I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God.

We moved to our current home in August. The following spring, my friend Rhonda stopped by. She works in landscape architecture. I wanted some help with redesigning the landscaping in our yard. She would provide the expertise.

Our house sits on a corner lot and is larger than the normal in-town lot. It’s more like two lots, which we love. As Rhonda and I walked around the yard, we came across a tree right next to the wrap-around porch. It’s planted VERY close to the porch. In fact, I wasn’t sure it should stay. I didn’t know what kind of tree is was.

Rhonda told me. A rosebud. It will be beautiful mid-May. You’ll just want to trim it up a bit and let it be.

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Mr Rosebud tree earlier in the week. Note the closed blossoms. 

Good thing we took her advice. When it is blooming, it is gorgeous. I mean, drop-dead gorgeous. My amateur pictures do no justice.

With warmer weather this week, little buds appeared on the branches. The tiny petals began to open. By Thursday, the flowers were absolutely stunning.

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Mr Rosebud tree the end of the week.

I think of this tree as Mr. Rosebud Tree. I know, it doesn’t make sense. It’s a pink flowering tree with the tiniest of flowers. If it were going to be named, should not it be Ms. Rosebud tree?

When I typed those words, they didn’t fit. When I said them aloud, no can do. It’s Mr. Rosebud Tree. End of discussion.

Why? I am not sure. The delicate flowers, the smaller stature and size, the gracefulness of the tree does not seem to fit our traditional ideas of masculinity.

I went online to learn more about the rosebud tree. One source said a relative of the rosebud tree is believed to be the type of tree Judas Iscariot hung himself on. Is this remotely true? I think it is impossible to trace this back. It seems odd that a relative of our petite-looking tree could be the scene of such a difficult situation.

Maybe there is some deeper symbolism. When we are in an awful and difficult situation, there can be beauty at some point. Maybe the beauty of the rosebud tree brings hope to a very grave experience. God’s glory and grace allow even the most awful of situations to be declared “good” in God’s eyes.

In the verse from Ezekiel, the tree referenced is a cedar tree. Often, cedar trees are viewed as symbols of immortality and elevation in scripture. In Lebanon, where the flag features a cedar tree as a symbol of immortality, poets and artists have used the tree as a sign of strength and eternity. Ezekiel declares the cedar as the envy of all the trees in God’s Garden of Eden. With its many branches that point skyward, it is declared beautiful.

Just like our Mr. Rosebud tree. The flowers are here for just a little while. As we sit on the porch and have our brunch or lunch or dinner, their beauty, delicateness and vibrant color amaze me.

For this, I am grateful.

Holy God – your creation is nothing short of magnifico. This is the time of year when, each day, we can see something new and exciting. May we daily be amazed and grateful for the beauty around us. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 37 – Notes of Encouragement

notes from Pam

Fri., May 11, 2018

Romans 15:4 – For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

I began 2018 determined to take better care of myself. Generally speaking, I am healthy. Hubby and I consistently remind ourselves that we are so fortunate to be in such great health at our ages.

However, last fall, my doctor was rather direct with me. I am at the age where increasing my weight would not be a good choice. For the last few years, he has told me losing 10 pounds must be a priority. Twenty would be even better.

Fall was busy as I made some significant decisions about my future. I decided to begin the New Year with new eating habits. I have always been a fan of salads, fruits and veggies. I also know the amount of food (i.e. – calories) has been a problem. I am also a huge emotional eater. I eat when I’m happy, I eat when I’m challenged. I eat for no reason at all. To help change my habits, I began the year by limiting the foods I ate for 21 days. The first 10 days were the most stringent. The next 11 days allowed for some foods to be added back in.

During this 21-day period is also when my Mom died. I spent many of these days at the nursing home and my sister’s house. I was determined to follow the plan and took food with me to keep on track. Day 22 was my mother’s funeral. I celebrated by eating ice cream and a couple desserts. The next day, I got back on track with my eating. While I do not have hard and fast “rules,” I do follow certain guidelines.

What have I stopped eating? Sugar. About once a week, I do allow myself a little treat. But only once a week. I have cut back significantly on the amount of carbs I eat. I have not eliminated all gluten from my diet but am very mindful about when I choose to eat gluten. I have increased the amount of protein I eat. I eat fresh fruits and veggies every day.

My friend Pam was visiting at the beginning of the year. I shared with her my decision to improve my health and try to finally loose the ten pounds my doctor has highly encouraged me to lose. Pam stayed at our house for a few days while I was with my Mom. When I returned home, I began to find little notes scattered around the house. In the fridge. On the mirror. In the sugar container. In the pocket of my robe. It took me a few weeks to discover them all because they were in such unique spots.

These little notes of encouragement brought many smiles to my face. Some were very poignant: Breathe. Breathe again. Calm yourself – and get your hand off that no-no food. Others were encouraging: Add some spice to your life – and that bowl of vegetables you’re enjoying right now! (Yes, this one was in the spice rack.) Others helped me focus on why I have changed my eating habits: You’re doing this for you – and your health!

I collected all these little notes of encouragement and put them in a little crock which sits on my desk. When I need a little pick-me-up, I randomly pull out one of the notes and read it. And smile.

The New Testament is chock full of notes of encouragement. Letters, many written by the Apostle Paul, to groups of Christian believers or individuals he knew well. Sometimes his letters were in response to a letter he had received. He’s trying to help people sort through some mess. Other notes were written simply to encourage.

When those letters were written, I doubt Paul ever envisioned people reading and re-reading them nearly 2,000 years later. But we do. Why? Sometimes, we just need a note of encouragement to help get through the day. To help us sort through some challenge that might have drawn us off track. Notes of encouragement we can turn to and be inspired.

Paul’s notes are no different from the notes of encouragement Pam scattered in my life: in my running shoes, next to the “good” food, underneath a roll of toilet paper. Little slips that have brought many smiles to my face as I have read and re-read them.

It has been over five months since I changed my eating habits. While the scale has moved soooo slowly, I am trying not to focus on a number. I consider how I feel and my energy levels. When I just want to eat something off-limits, sometimes I just grab one of those notes from the crock and try to fill myself with these words.

Who is someone that could use a little note of encouragement in your life right now? Take three minutes and write one. On a real piece of paper. Stick it in a special spot or drop it in the mail to them. They will be grateful for a note of encouragement, just like I have been.

For these notes of encouragement, I am grateful.   

Blessed Lord – thank you for inspiring people to write down special words that we find in our Bibles today. Words that are there to encourage us. I pray we use opportunities placed before us to share notes of encouragement with those around us. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 36 – Perseverance

Stacie

Thurs., May 10, 2018

2 Thessalonians 3:5 – May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Let me introduce you to my friend Stacie. Stacie is generous, helpful and caring. She thinks of others before herself. She is raising a family with her husband, Bill. Bill is out of town this week for work and Stacie is looking forward to his return today. She looks like a regular Mom, spouse, daughter, friend and companion.

But Stacie is anything but regular. Look just a little closer. Maybe you will see her trusty companion: her power scooter. About 10 years ago, Stacie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Rather than letting this disease define her, Stacie is redefining herself. Her power scooter is not a limitation. For Stacie, it is an empowerment.

After being diagnosed, Stacie worked until physically, it became too taxing on her body. Today, she “works” in a different way. She uses her phone to call people who might be lonely or need assistance. Stacie keeps in touch with other people who have MS but do not have the support she receives. Most importantly, Stacie maintains a very optimistic attitude about her situation.

Does she have more challenging days than others? Of course. Yet, Stacie keeps sight of the important things in her life. Would she like things to be different? Of course. Yet, every time I see Stacie, I am amazed how she graciously tackles life and keeps going, no matter what cards she is dealt. Her perseverance amazes me.

Seeing Stacie is always a good reality check for me. So many things I simply take for granted are quite different for Stacie. Getting out of bed on my own. Doing a load of laundry. Walking up a couple steps. For me? Simple. For Stacie? A completely different story.

Stacie works at managing her symptoms and disease as best as she can. She keeps as active as possible. After a few minutes with Stacie, I am in awe of how she manages. Her perseverance is simply amazing. It encourages me to look at my life slightly different. Why should I be bummed about the seemingly insignificant road bumps in my life? I am a very blessed woman who has been blessed with a friend like Stacie.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – I lift up the thousands of people who are affected by terminal illness like Stacie. May your Holy Spirit be a part of their daily journeys. For those who lake a strong support system, please bring into their lives someone special to assist them. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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