What I Learned in May

Gratitude Day 466

Sat., May 30, 2020

Psalm 119:116 – Be true to your word, Lord. Keep me alive and strong; don’t let me be ashamed because of my hope.

Does anyone else feel like the month of May has been FOREVER? Like 90 days long? I look at my May calendar and it is has a lot more open, white days than a “normal” May calendar would. But honestly, I’m not sure what normal is anymore!

We’re navigating a tough time right now. It’s not just the COVID-19 stuff that has my heart confused. We’re watching incredible videos that are difficult and impossible to understand. Responded to an awful incident with more violence just feels and seems crazy to me.

Life feels a lot like this sign right now: crazy curvy and a lot unknown ahead. I snapped this photo while driving a few days ago because, well, I feel like it’s a great metaphor for how I feel about life right now. As much as we’d like the road to be straight and predictable and reliable, it isn’t. Nope, it’s a lot unpredictable.

Will there in-building school this fall?

Can we ever plan a vacation again?

When is it “safe” to return to worshiping at a church building?

What can we do this summer, after so many concerts, sporting, fairs, and fun summer events have been canceled?

Will working at home continue for how longer? Will some folks just continue working from home indefinitely?

And on, and on, and on.

It is easy to worry about these and a million other things. Yet, worry, to me, is one of the most useless emotions we can have. Worry accomplishes little, other than distracts us, gets us worked up and zaps a whole bunch of energy.

Of course, the natural question is, what do we do instead of worry?

Start with J.S.T. Just. Sit. There. With God. Listening. Being. Waiting. Maybe something will come along. Maybe nothing will. Both are good. Both are fine.

Then, find a way to serve someone else. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Seriously. Nothing difficult or challenging. Just a little way to take your mind and energy off of what you don’t have control over and directed towards something you CAN control.

Our neighbor Kathleen is rounding the corner towards 90. She desperately wants to stay in her home. Before the virus stay in place began, she started receiving Meals on Wheels five days a week. While this is great, I wondered what Kathleen did for weekend food. It didn’t take me long to realize this IS something I can help with.

Now, part of my Saturday routine is to make a few things to walk over to Kathleen. It’s usually extra food that I’ve made for Hubby Rick and myself. When I drop it off, Kathleen and I have a visit. Kathleen admits she enjoys the visit just as much as the food. Honestly, it does both of our souls good. I’m trying a few new recipes and Kathleen gets to try them out.

I’m convinced one of the most important take-aways we can take from this time of life is simply how important it is to bless other people because we feel blessed ourselves. Even if you aren’t sure you are blessed one particular day, still serve, and bless another. It may shift your perspective on your personal interpretation of how blessed you feel.

Choose hope. Hope is what encourages me to stay strong with God. Hope is what promises days filled with peace and love. Hope is what assures me that no matter what the road looks like ahead, God and I will navigate it together. Every. Single. Day.

And this, my friends, is what I relearned in May. Nothing new. Just old lessons that needed to be revisited.

Thanks be to God.

For relearning lessons, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Hello God – Oh, how often I forget important life lessons. As I am gently, or not so gently, am reminded of just a few lessons again of late, may I see them as gifts from You, Lord God. Thank you for continuing to teach my heart and soul. Amen.

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A Small Sliver of the Big Picture

Gratitude Day 465

Thurs., May 28, 2020

Ecclesiastes 3:10 –I have thought about this in connection with all the various kinds of work God has given to mankind.

When the envelope arrived in the mail, my name as the recipient was hand-written on the front. This was enough to intrigue me and encourage me to rip it open right away.

Inside, I found this simply delightful little gift.

It was from a friend. Someone I met a few years ago. A person with whom I instantly connected in the first time that we met. She has a beautiful soul that bubbles with laughter and tears and smiles and hugs all in the very same sentence.

For over two months, she has not been working. I’ve ran into her a couple times at the post office and we pretend to hug and share a few words. I’m optimistic that there will soon be a day when we can have a real conversation and giggle and share those things that often are left unspoken.

It was after one of those chance meetings at the post office that the envelope showed up at my house. With this bookmark and a little hand-written message inside. Here’s what it says:

Please accept this small gift as a gentle reminder that we are all connected. By creating a large picture and cutting it into bookmarks, I am reminded of the bigger picture – connection. By the separation and decoration, I am reminded we each have our own beauty to share. When we are all pieced together, we participate in the bigger picture.

All I can say is this: Amen.

Amen, sister.

What a beautiful, beautiful story. My friend paints a picture. Then, she cuts the picture into bookmarks and sends them to folks with a little message that says your bookmark is part of a larger picture. Likewise, your soul, your heart is part of a larger picture as well.

In these days of social distancing and continued limited contact, do we not need to hear that we ARE connected? Part of the large picture? Have our own beauty to share?

God’s picture is SO. MUCH. BIGGER. Then our picture. How God sees us fitting into this picture may be different from what we see. God gifts us with incredibly unique and special gifts. Our role is to discover those gifts and then leverage them for the glory and honor of God’s kingdom.

Just like my friend did. When she put her pictures into bookmarks for others to enjoy.

How I would love to know what the rest of the photo looked like. But I don’t. Instead, I relish the details, the colors and unique character of the little piece I have been entrusted with. Thanks be to God.

For connections beyond ourselves, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – Thank you for helping orchestrate special connections with other people in my life. When I struggle to see exactly how I fit in, give me glimpses of the large photo so I can be comfortable in knowing that my sliver is part of a much bigger and totally beautiful painting, crafter by You. Amen.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

J.S.T.

Gratitude Day 464

Wed., May 27, 2020

Mark 1:35 – Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.

It began with a glass of my favorite iced tea. On our gorgeous porch.

Just me and some iced tea. Add in an optional notebook and a writing utensil.

Oh, and one more thing: the letters: J.S.T.

Hmm … what is J.S.T.

My new slogan: Just Sit There.

Truth? The last number of days have been, well, interesting. A variety of things, good and challenging, that have taken up rent in my brain. Some of it is good. And could be exceptionally good.

Other rental space? Not so much.

And so, I sat. No agenda. No computer. I did set the alarm on my phone for 30 minutes. I had promised myself to only include the phone for the timer. No other reason.

It was amazing how much life I observed while simply sitting. A whole bunch of different birds, out chirping and singing away. It had rained earlier in the afternoon. Now, the birds were out getting dinner and sending little love notes to each other.

Clouds rolled by and new formations were formed. The wind picked up and slowed down again.

All while I simply sat. Watched. Listened. Observed.

Most days, I begin the day with a time of reading and prayer. But honestly, most often, I’m trying to get through this so I can cross it off of my to-do list. Yes, there is contemplation. But it’s not the same. It’s planned. Expected.

The J.S.T time? No schedule. No agenda. Nothing. Just me and my thoughts when they come about.

I never get tired of reading how Jesus often went away by himself. To pray. To listen. To J.S.T. Did he always receive a profound, life-changing thought or inspiration in these moments? I don’t know. What I do know is that he could just be and that was enough.

Maybe there is something going on in your or a loved one(s) life that is distracting you. Or maybe you’re trying to juggle working from home with homeschooling and other things. I think we’re all getting a little stir-crazy from being cooped up for weeks on end. It’s easy for our thoughts to venture in an unhealthy place.

Sometimes, we just need space to sit. Be still. Be. And listen. If you want to write a thought down, do so in your notebook. If not, just be. Listen to your soul. Know that this might be the most valuable 30 minutes of your day.

If you feel like you are struggling right now, hop on over to a podcast that I recently recorded about mental health. You can find it here:

And pour yourself a glass of your favorite summertime drink and join me on the porch for Devos with Dianne at 8 PM central time on Facebook Live. I’ll have my peach iced tea. And we’ll think about how J.S.T. can make a difference in our lives.

I wish you could join my on my porch. Have included just a few photos so you feel like you have.

For moments of just sitting still with God, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Why do we make things so complicated, God, when maybe all we really need to do is sit with You? Encourage me to find J.S.T. time for just You and me. Amen.

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Today, It’s All About the Flag

Gratitude Day 463

Mon., May 25, 2020

Psalm 33:20 – We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield.

This. This is the symbol for today, Memorial Day.

Yet it has more personal meaning for me. Attached to the flag is a tag with this information:

Richard Deaton

US Army – Korea

This is my Dad’s flag. It’s a flag in honor of him that the Augusta VFW has in honor of him. On Memorial Day, the local VFW displays a flag for every veteran that used to live in Augusta and has died. (Well, except those Memorial Days when it rains. Because some of the flags are so fragile, the flags are kept safely stored on rainy Memorial Days.) This is the flag used to honor my Dad.  

When the weather is acceptable, hundreds of flags line the streets and cemetery. It’s a breath-taking sight. Current members spend hours preparing, hanging the flags, and then storing them afterwards. It’s truly a labor of love in which the respect local veterans and their service.

My Dad served in the Army during the Korean conflict. He was stationed in Germany as part of the Cold War defense. Yet, his service there qualified him as a Korean War vet. Dad spoke very little about his time in the service. I know this isn’t unusual, as it’s difficult for folks who have not served to relate and understand.

On this Memorial Day, many celebrations, parades, and gatherings have been cancelled. I pray we still find ways to remember this important day. Recognize those for whom this day is set-aside. Appreciate the freedom and choices we have in this country; opportunities we have because freedom is something others have guaranteed through their service.

Shields are important because they offer protection and safety; from enemies, from people who can lead us down a challenging path; from natural occurring events that are destructive.

We all need shields in our lives, not just for spiritual reasons but for other reasons as well. Yet, may we always see God as the one, true protector and shield in our lives. I pray as we see flags out and about today, we’ll pause. Reflect. Be thankful. Appreciate. Honor. Remember.

For God’s shield of protection in my life, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Almighty God – we thank you for the many, many ways that You protected us each and every day; especially the ways we do not see. Amen.

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God of the Small Things

Gratitude Day 462

Sat., May 23, 2020

Luke 16:10 – (Jesus said,) “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

We often think of Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial beginning of summer. Yet, the weekend may feel quite different. Many Memorial Day celebrations cancelled. Normally full of graduation parties, many of these have been delayed. Brat Fest has been canceled. Normally, lots of bands would be playing outdoors and neighborhood gatherings or chicken BBQ’s. Things are just a lot different this year.

Yet, there are lots and lots of reasons to celebrate this weekend:

  • We live in a country based on the ability to make choices.
  • We can hang our flags outdoors.
  • We can visit a cemetery and remember loved ones.
  • We can appreciate the folks we know who have served in the armed forces.
  • We can know that we are loved by Jesus.

So, rather than being disappointed in what we cannot do this weekend, let’s celebrate what we CAN do. And do it well.

I’m reminded again and again simply how important the little things are. These little things have captured my attention lately:

This book. It’s written by a man who was a doctor and was diagnosed with cancer while finishing up his residency. The book wasn’t quite finished when he passed away, but it was published. This man love literature. He was a skilled surgeon. He integrated his faith into both. An interesting read for those who struggle with how science and faith and words fit together.

Mr Rosebud tree the end of the week.

This tree. It’s blooming again in our yard and its beauty stuns we every year.

These kayaks. We dusted them off on Thursday and took three grandkids kayaking. Yes, the water was chilly. We might need one more, as we couldn’t fit all of us in two kayaks. We’re looking forward to using them more this summer.

This baby bird. While the grandkids were at our house this week, they discovered this new bird. He didn’t quite know how to fly yet.

This picture. It’s taken just a couple miles from one of the first churches that I served in Denzer, WI. A local lady took it. Isn’t it so cool?

These apple blossoms. They are blooming right now and are stunning.

How many wonderful, little things can you explore, discover and enjoy this weekend? A whole lot more than you’d ever expect.

For God’s blessings in the little things, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – May we never tire of the little things that often are the big things. Amen.

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It’s Wednesday Prayer Day!

Gratitude Day 460

Wed., May 20, 2020

Numbers 6:23-26 –Now the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons that they are to give this special blessing to the people of Israel: ‘May the Lord bless and protect you; may the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; may he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace.’”

On Wednesdays, I love to focus on prayer and share some of the insights I try to embrace in my personal prayer life.

Recently, I ran across a musical video that takes a blessing and turns it into a totally beautiful musical setting.

Here’s the setting for the scripture the song is based on: Moses has led the Israelites out of Egypt. It took ten plagues for Pharaoh to release his main work force and it only happened after the plague in which the eldest son was killed. Moses and the Israelites left hastily. After the were gone, Pharaoh had releaser-remorse and wanted his skilled workers back. He sends his army after the Israelites and they are swallowed up in the Red Sea.

Now Moses and the Israelites are wandering through the dessert. The early chapters of Numbers give instructions for taking a census, how to set-up their camp and variety of other things. But right in the middle of these instructions, God comes to Moses and tells him to have his relative Aaron and Aaron’s sons shower the people with an incredibly special blessing. It’s a blessing that might have been used in worship. It’s a prayer that pours out God’s special blessing upon God’s people.

I encourage you to relax for a few minutes. Listen to this music video. Pray the same words that Moses prayed over the Israelites. May this prayer richly bless you today.

For God’s blessing upon us today, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – thank you for these special words: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon and give you peace. Amen.

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Lessons from COVID-19: Should Busy Be a Four-Letter Word?

Gratitude Day 459

Tues., May 19, 2020

James 1:10-11 – But a rich man should be glad that his riches mean nothing to the Lord, for he will soon be gone, like a flower that has lost its beauty and fades away, withered—killed by the scorching summer sun. So, it is with rich men. They will soon die and leave behind all their busy activities.

Things are feeling a bit different these days. Hubby Rick and I drove on the interstate a few days ago. While Rick drives this same patch of highway every day he goes to work, I had not been on it for WEEKS. Literally, weeks.

The first thing I noticed?

The traffic. The last time I had been on this stretch of road, it was a few semis and us. Seriously. Not much else. But this more recent day? Lots more regular car and truck traffic. People like us, driving somewhere, that we had not been in a long, long, time.

In our area, some stores are beginning to open; most with capacity limits. In fact, our beautician contacted me recently and wanted to know if Rick and I wanted haircuts. My reply looked like this:

“YES!!! HOW SOON???”

The salon has multiple safety measures in place, which we will gladly abide by. I know a haircut sounds rather silly right now. Yet, all of our neighbor ladies are feeling very much like I do these days. A haircut cannot come soon enough.

Make no mistake. We’re a long way from “normal.” I still avoid shopping any more than I have to. When it is necessary, I purposely choose times that I think will be less busy than another time. Soon and very soon, I will have to go to the grocery store. We can’t live on condiments alone.

I’ve been having this running conversation in my head these last number of weeks: Do I really want things to return to “normal.” Is “normal” what we really want? What we should want?

Do we want to be constantly –

  • Overscheduled?
  • Overcommitted beyond belief?
  • Unable to have meals with our family?
  • No longer appreciating finding ways to entertain ourselves with our own devices?

There are so many great things that have happened. Actual book sales have soared. We’re having real phone conversations with people and being creative about how we celebrate and honor life events for those we love. We’re planting gardens and sourcing food locally and baking; my, how we are baking. We are walking and biking and playing games outdoors.

Yes, I know there is significant stress around work and jobs and homeschooling and finances and a whole host of other things. Depression and anxiety and stress are very real and not to be glossed over.

How we greet each other may not change for, well, quite a while. Being with a large group of people outside of a grocery store or big box store may not happen for a hot minute. Curbside and delivery and mail order will continue to be more of the norm. Thinking of how our actions affect someone else must be more than a fleeting thought because, well, it’s not just about ourselves anymore. It wasn’t before, but somewhere along the line, we kind of forgot this.

I pray that we use the word “busy” less … and “blessed” or “appreciative” more.  May we focus less on having a “perfect” life and prioritize our most valuable players (MVP’s) of our lives as being far more significant than having just the right accessory for our bathroom.

I read these words from my book, The Mary Experiment: When DOING and BEING Collide recently. They hit me hard because, well, am I living my own words? Not. So. Much. This is the passage:

Rather than trying to achieve a perfect life, let’s put our time, energy, and resources into having a meaningful life. We can be so busy that we don’t have time to live. Let’s choose life over busyness. Can we adjust the size of our life gardens, so they are more manageable? Will you let your list of person MVP’s guide your choices? Will you intentionally develop a personal relationship with God, center it around listening, and allow it to undergird your very being?”

The Mary Experiment, p. 101

Before we rush back to our crazy, over-flowing lives, may we intentionally decide to ease back into life. Put back into place only those things that we absolutely love and bring us joy. Let’s choose life over busy and see how that works for awhile longer.

For silver linings from challenging times, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Thank you for being with us these last number of weeks. As we have tried to discover and reflect upon what truly is most important to us, I pray we continue to focus our daily living on these choices. Thanks for being along with us in this journey. Amen.

On Devos with Dianne this week, I’ll be addressing YOUR faith questions! If you have a question that You would like me to answer, please let me know ASAP! Love to have you join me on Wednesday night a 8 PM CT on Facebook Live.

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Spring Planting

Gratitude Day 458

Mon., May 18, 2020

Luke 13:19 – (Jesus said,) “It is like what happens when someone plants a mustard seed in a garden. The seed grows as big as a tree, and birds’ nest in its branches.”

On Saturday, Hubby Rick and I spent much of the day outside working in the yard and garden. We begin the day by walking downtown to the local farmer’s market and buying some vegetable plants: tomatoes, peppers, and Brussel sprouts. Once home, Rick went to work getting the plants into the ground. He planted other things in the garden as well. Later, he weed whacked and mowed the lawn.

I dedicated the afternoon to cleaning out the flower beds and moving a variety of plants. Sometimes, things just need to be adjusted and moved. Some plants do not take off as well as I would like. Or their size is different from what I anticipated. A couple plants didn’t winter well, and some perennials were spreading faster than I would like. Another bed is completely overgrown, so I wanted to thin out the day lilies. While this bed is not completely done, I moved many day lilies to a new little flowerbed next to our carriage house. By evening, both Rick and I were feeling like we had accomplished lots in our yard.  

Our timing was spot-on. We anticipated that it would rain Saturday night and most of Sunday. Yesterday, we had a wonderful and nice, all-day gentle rain that will jump-start our little garden and all the various flowers that were planted and moved on Saturday.

This is how plants begin: small seeds that are buried into the ground. With appropriate water and sunlight, soon the shoots poke out of the ground. Seeds become plants, which hopefully become beautiful veggies or fruits or lovely flowers. We are already tasting that first tomato and feeling the crunch of carrots in the fall, as well as anticipating the cucumber slices that will dazzle on salads or become perfectly crunchy pickles.

But with the plants also comes the weeds which can take over unless they are dealt with. Or sometimes, the plants reproduce quickly, and they begin to encroach on other flowers, and they take over a garden. There are also the plants who are stressed and do not make it through the winter. And yes, sometimes after a plant is moved to a more ideal spot, it thrives and grows and loves it new little piece of land.

Our faith journeys are no different. At times, we get just the right sunshine and water and our spirits feel rich and full. Other times, we’ve allowed the weeds of sin and evil to demand too much value property in our hearts and lives. Maybe we keep reproducing one area of our lives that prevents other areas of our lives from completely blooming and getting what they need. Hopefully, we are wise enough to cut back on this area and allow other areas the time and attention that they need.

Plants and flowers often start out as just tiny, little seeds. With the right environment and nurturing those seeds can grow into fantastic plants and flowers. The goal is for beautiful fruit and flower to be produced which become wonderful rewards as a result of the fruits of our labor.

As warm spring temperatures finally arrive and seeds become sprouts, it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to contemplate how our faith is growing. Are there some spots that need some weeding or holes that need attention? Is the fruit and produce results that we’re proud of? Do we need to shift some things around so that we keep our highest priorities in mind?

Jesus is the master gardener; ready and willing to be a part of your growing cycle. He is the one that can help take a little seed of faith in your life and allow it to grow into something beautiful. Spring is a fantastic time to contemplate your spiritual journey: where you can make slight adjustments and how you can continue to grow in whys that will produce fantastic results.

And it all starts with just a tiny little seed. Nothing more. Nothing less. I pray this little seed is tuned towards Jesus, the master gardener, and ready to be nurtured for the glory of God’s kingdom.

For the seed of faith inside each one of us, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – there are so many life lessons around us. I pray that we pause, see these in our lives and reflect upon how we can embrace them in our lives. Amen.

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How ARE You Doing?

Gratitude Day 457

Thurs., May 15, 2020

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.”

It’s a question that we’ve asked a million times: “How are you doing?”

We ask that when we see someone we know. At the grocery store. On the phone (for those of us who still make phone calls.)

How are you doing?

When I’m asked this question, I often wonder, “Does this person REALLY want to know how I am? Or are they being nice? Or do the words just come out of their mouth automatically without really thinking about this?”

I know that when I’ve asked this question and my intentions could be all of these options and more.

I find it interesting how folks respond.

“Good.”

“OK.”

“Fine.”

I’ve used all of those answers … and other words that really never get to how I’m really feeling.

So, let me ask you: How ARE you REALLY doing?”

May is mental health month. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard a lot about it this year because, well, there are other things like a little pesky virus that have monopolized our news media.

But if ever there was a time, we need a time to ask folks how they are REALLY doing, it’s right now.

Seriously.

Unfortunately, the statistics are there. As people experience more isolation, the incidences of abuse, neglect, anger, and abuse increase. Chargeable offenses increase. As much as we have tried to protect the health of folks, there is the possibility that folks are struggling emotionally and mentally right now.

I have noticed that in myself, I question myself a lot more. It’s easy for my brain to go places where it would not previously go. I have to guard myself from letting “possibilities” influence “reality.”

So, how ARE you REALLY doing?

Too often, we are asked this question once. We give a quick answer. On to the next thing. But right now, I’m asking you this personal question directly to you.

Take a hot minute. Stop and think about this. Do you feel yourself supported and uplifted on a daily basis? Are you making sure there is joy and happiness in your life? Where do you find yourself challenged?

If you are missing regular conversation and interaction with folks, build some into your daily life. Ask someone else. Show concern when they share. Give a thoughtful answer. And hopefully, they will ask how you are doing as well. If they don’t? Go ahead and share any way.

In these days, we NEED community. Connection. Safe places to go. Know when it’s too much. Please, please, please remember that God IS right there as well. Ready to grab more than God’s share of the yoke. If we’ll allow God to grab it. God certainly knows our souls need rest. Do WE know this and practice it?

May we take care of each other and ourselves these days. And genuinely want to know how each other are doing.

For being OK to say how I’m truly feeling, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Almighty God – It’s so easy to give a flat and quick answer when someone asks how we are doing. And yet, there are times when we need to allow ourselves to think about this a bit more. Hear how others really are doing. And may we come to You when our burden needs sharing. Amen.

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