Gratitude Day 22 – Food and Those Who Produce It

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Mon., Apr. 23, 2018

Psalm 104:14 – You let the earth produce grass for cattle, plants for our food.

At least three times a day, most people open a fridge, a lunch bag or a menu and eat. As we fill our bodies with life-giving food, are we aware of where this food came from? The necessary steps for it to be available for you to eat?

Yesterday, my friend Janice invited me to attend a movie with her called, “Farmers for America.” This documentary explores how food is produced in America. It shared some interesting facts:

  • The average American farmer is 60-years-old.
  • In the next 10-20 years, about two-thirds of the American land where food is grown will change ownership.
  • Because of the high costs associated with entering production agriculture, it is increasingly difficult for many younger people who want to be farmers to follow their dreams of being a farmer.
  • Rural American is changing dramatically.

The movie explores what this means for future food production in the United States. It shared examples of people creativity growing food. Growing vegetables on vacant lots in Detroit. Specialized hoop structures which allow food to be grown year around in cold climates. Farmers offering internships to assist younger people.

At the end of the day, we have very few basic needs. Food is one of them. While this basic need does not change, this documentary shows how food production is changing in the U.S.

Here in the U.S. and even world-wide, we do not have a food shortage problem. We have a food distribution challenge. When people become more aware of sourcing food locally, this supports a local economy.

Today, I am grateful for the many people who dedicate their lives to the production of food. I am grateful for the people who work for businesses and organizations who support production agriculture. I am grateful for our universities, extension and other branches who encourage research and act as resource branches to production agriculture. These are the folks who guarantee us a safe, affordable and reliable food source.

On my way home last night, I bought groceries. In one quick stop, I could load up a cart with fresh fruits and vegetables. I could buy quality protein. I bought a box of Rick’s favorite cereal and my preferred loaf of bread. Often, we do this with little thought of the thousands of people who were involved in growing the food.

Outside of buying groceries, what is one little thing you can do this week which would encourage the people who work long hours to grow the food you eat? How might you support local farmers who are involved in production agriculture because this is their passion?

God allows for beautiful land on which crops are grown for our consumption as well as animals which we may eat. It’s a very complicated system that doesn’t just happen.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for the spring rains which encourage new growth. Thank you for the people who have dedicated their lives to producing food for us to eat. May we appreciate your role as well as their roles in providing our basic need of food. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 21 – Being God’s Hands and Feet

Sun., Apr. 22, 2018

1 Corinthians 12:21 – That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet.

When God’s hands touch our hands, our hands continue the work of God’s kingdom. Our work for God’s kingdom comes in many different forms. Often outside the traditional box.

I have been blessed to serve God’s kingdom in various ways. Shortly after hubby Rick and I were married, we moved into a house provided by a church I was serving. The house was in the country and our closest neighbors were dairy farmers. We became fast friends with Mel & Doris Lohr and son Greg, who farms with them. Having grown up on a dairy farm, I dusted off my cow milking skills and put them to work a few times when we lived by the Lohr’s.

The Lohr’s have contemplated a different arrangement for their dairy operation for years. Their operation has labor intensive. Finding and keeping employees has been an issue. The buildings were worn out. It was time for Mel and Doris to allow Greg more ownership.

20180421_120641This week, the Lohr’s initiated their decision. They moved their cows into a new home. Rather than being milked the traditional way, they installed four robotic milkers. Instead of people going to the cows to milk them, the cows go to a specific place were robots handling cow-milking duties.

20180421_144322There are about 1.3 million cows in Wisconsin, where I live. In Wisconsin, dairy farms contribute about $43.4 billion to the state’s economy. Of the 9,520 Wisconsin farms, 96% are family owned. These owner-operators work tirelessly to produce a very healthy high-quality product. They take extreme pride in caring for their animals. All the dairy producers I know go out of their way to ensure the animals are well cared for, feed and healthy.

For the Lohr’s, switching barns and milking methodology cows was a huge undertaking. The cow’s office was moved. They have a new lunch room, the bathroom is in a different location, their beds have changed and their water coolers look completely different. The way they earn their keep (provide milk) has been turned upside down. The cows have more choice about when the eat, sleep and be milked.

Because everything is so different and new, early on, the cows need a little encouragement. The extended Lohr family has stepped it up this week as well as their employees. Since Tuesday, lots and lots of volunteers have become hands and feet to help the cows adjust. People have been in the new barn round-the-clock.

Saturday, Rick and I took an afternoon shift. After our arrival, we were given a 10-minute course of what to do and look for. Then, we were turned loose to find which cows were overdue to be milked.

20180421_120404The whole system is highly technical. The automation is becoming more fine-tuned each day. Saturday was day 5 since the cows were moved. Both Rick and I are amazed how quickly the cows have adapted. They are divided into four groups, based on age and milking stage. By the end of our shift, the youngest cows basically have the system figured out. Some older cows just need a little more coaxing.

20180421_120027In their brand-new hotel, the cows are so comfortable and content. In the hours we helped, we only heard one cow “moo.”

As nifty as this whole new operation is, the overarching cloud is the difficult dairy economy right now. The price dairy producers are paid for the milk they produce are at record lows. In the 1980’s, the dairy economy went through several challenging years. Many good dairy operations were ultimately forced to stop, my family included. The Lohr’s have staked their entire financial future on this new set-up. The low income only adds another layer of stress. It’s difficult for most of us to understand the significance and challenge of this. Believe me – it’s there.

When Doris called and asked if Rick and I could take a shift, there was no hesitation. Yes, we wanted to help our friends. Yes, we were curious to see their new operation. Yes, we would do this because this is how we put into action God’s call to extend God’s hands into the world. We were grateful Doris asked us.

Most people cannot be hands and feet directly for the Lohr’s. But you can help. Help them and all dairy producers by buying an extra gallon or two of milk a week. Or cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt or ice cream. If your family cannot consume them, donate them to your local food pantry. Do this again next week. “Fixing” this dairy economic situation is tricky. Each of us can increase consumption and help family operations like the Lohr’s.

One of my seminary professors said that going over 30 miles to help someone is missionary work. Rick and I were more than pleased to be make the Lohr’s our little mission trip and be God’s hands and feet today.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – the opportunities to be your hands and feet in your kingdom are endless. Unfortunately, we aren’t always very comfortable for asking assistance. I pray we can become see that when your hand touches ours, the opportunities for us to serve your kingdom are just beginning. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 20 – A Simple Fire

fire in back yard

Sat., Apr. 21, 2018

Hebrews 12:29 –For our God is a consuming fire.

Hubby Rick started a fire in the chimenea tonight. When he has smaller boards or branches, he often starts a fire in our backyard. As you can see, the old oak boards burned brightly tonight!

Fires are interesting. They never stay the same, constantly moving and changing. When our grandkids are visiting, they love to have a fired in the backyard. Often, we roast hot dogs or marshmallows. It’s easy to sit around a fire for extended periods of time, with or without conversation. Who bores when watching a fire?

Fire is a common concept in scripture. Fire is used to eliminate sinful and challenging people in the Old Testament. The alter becomes a place where sacrifices and offerings are burned and dedicated to God.

In the New Testament, this changes. For Christians, Christ becomes and sacrifice that takes on our sinful nature. Jesus deals with it once and for all. No more sacrifices are needed. Believe in God’s redeeming work through Christ becomes the focus.

Look at this verse from Hebrews: For our God is a consuming fire. This sentence can sound daunting. Most often, we think of fire as eliminating the awful and bad. Yet, after a fire, new growth can happen. This is why people burn fields and road ditches in the spring. Eliminate the old so the new can poke through and experience new life.

Maybe this is what the Hebrew scripture is referring to when it says, “God is a consuming fire.” The reference here is to worshipping God. Through worshipping God, we can see our hearts can become overjoyed with a God who longs to consume us fully.

It is hard to maintain ourselves spiritually so that we feel God’s consuming presence in our lives. Having little things that re-direct me back towards God and God’s saving grace makes recognizing God’s presence in my life much easier. Something as simple as a fire in the chimenea.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – Thank you for being in my daily live. Thank you for simple things, such as a fire, to help us see you. May we desire to let our worship of you be such that we find new birth in you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 19 – A Good Letter

letters

Fri., Apr. 20, 2018

2 Corinthians 13:11 – I close my letter with these last words: Be happy. Grow in Christ. Pay attention to what I have said. Live in harmony and peace. And may the God of love and peace be with you.

It’s time to deal with the boxes.

Several years ago, we moved my Mom from a house into an apartment. There were several boxes of “things” we did not take time to go through. Filled with papers, photos, historical things. I brought the boxes home and promised myself to go through them.

A couple years later, my Mom moved to a nursing home. A few more boxes joined their friends at my house. In-between, we moved.

These boxes are nearing frequent moving status.

There are at least a15 of these boxes at my house. Nearby, I have a few boxes with my own stuff. Rick reminds me that the next time we move, any of these boxes not gone through are going in the garbage.

I have gone through some boxes. The stack has lowered slightly. Before Christmas, I do a quick pass through to find super cool things for our Deaton family gift exchange. Last week, I tackled the boxes for a few hours. It became overwhelming and I usually am not easy overwhelmed.

We started remodeling the future master bedroom suite of our house. The boxes aren’t in the remodeling area but close by. Rick has not-so-gently told me it is time for the boxes to either be gone through or disappear.

I set up a separate area to start going through the boxes. I have a strategy and method now. While I made it through several boxes today, more remain.

What did I find? Lots cards, pictures, family mementos and historical items. There are multiple generations represented with boxes from both grandmothers. I am separating cool items for future Deaton Christmas gift exchanges.

The number of cards is borderline crazy. Many cards have a hand-written letter with them. While I haven’t read all the letters, I am grateful for them. The art of hand-writing letters is disappearing. We send an e-mail, text message or post on social media. When was the last time you wrote a letter? I try to write a few words in a card. This is not the same as writing a letter on a nice piece of stationary. Beautiful handwriting can almost look like art.

These letters remind me that words have meaning. A written letter says, “I care for you and I am making time to speak just to you.” I won’t read EVERY word of these letters. It’s impossible. I have appreciated reading a sentence or two from a letter.

The New Testament contains several letters. We attribute Paul as the author of many. Some letters were written in response to a letter he received. The challenge with this then we only get half of the conversation. I consider his letters very important and influential in the Christian faith. I often use Paul’s words in my life and teaching. I don’t think Paul ever intended for people to be reading his letters 2,000 years later.

I pray we do not lose the art of letter writing. The power of words amazes me. The love we extend to another person as we write special words to someone we care for is powerful. For this, I am grateful.

Letters aren’t new. They have been used for thousands of years. Yet, each one of us can rediscover the power of a written letter.  Encourage us to write a letter today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 16 – Conversation

Focus Group 2

Tues., Apr. 17, 2018

Colossians 4:6 – Let your conversation be gracious as well as sensible, for then you will have the right answer for everyone.

Monday night, a small group of ladies gathered at my house. This was the second focus group that I held as research for the book I am writing.

 

I love it when you can get together with a group of people and no matter how much time has passed, conversation just picks right back up. This is how it was with this group of ladies. The words flowed easily and without effort. We each had an opportunity to share our feelings and views. Often, we affirmed something shared by another person. And I am convinced God spoke through us to each other tonight.

I am grateful for many women in my life like this.

I pray you have people with whom you can have these conversations.

Best part of the night: they were all willing to come back to my house for some more “research!” Thanks Jo, Pam, Heather and Kelly! I am grateful for each one of you.

Lord God, thank you for bringing people into my life through whom you speak. I felt your presence with us tonight. And I pray that you use me in other conversations just as you spoke through these women to me tonight.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 15 – Snow Day!

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Mon., Apr. 16, 2018

Isaiah 55:10-11 – For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there, without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

While the calendar says April 15, it looks and feels more like January 15 here in Wisconsin. Since Friday, we have been the recipients of multiple inches of snow, rain and sleet. Amounts vary depending on where you live in Wisconsin. Out our back door, a blanket of about six inches of fresh snow graces everything.

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Today almost felt like a snow day. Rick and I did go to church. Gratefully, we made it both ways safe and sound. Once home, we had brunch before he left for work. With the snow and lack of people outside, it really felt like a good old-fashioned snow day.

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This afternoon, I did several things. I watched episode one of this season’s “Call the Midwife,” a wonderful historical fiction show on PBS. I think there were five episodes from this season already on the DVR. The rest will wait for another day. I worked on some personal things. When I ran to the grocery store for a couple things, the parking lot was nearly empty, even though it was still afternoon.

I hope many families and people simply took a snow day today. Why? Our lives are too full. Too complicated. Juggling too many things. Sometimes, God may say, “Slow down.” And unless something physically makes us slow down, we make excuses to keep going.

Everyone is tired of winter in Wisconsin. We’re ready for green grass and tulips and budding trees. May we not rush so fast through spring that we fail to appreciate God’s goodness and glory all around us. A forced snow day isn’t all bad. Sometimes, it’s a great attitude adjustment.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God, maybe through a snow storm, your word for us this day was simply, “Slow down. Do less. Even do nothing. Just be.” I pray we see these opportunities to just be with you as great gifts from you. And may we be grateful for them.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 14 – Baby Lambs

baby lamb

Sun., Apr. 15, 2018

Isaiah 40:11 – He protects his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them in the fold of his garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.

For years, my sisters and I raised sheep. Our ewes would have baby lambs during the winter. Come spring, we would pick which lambs to show during the summer 4-H fairs.

My nephew Kevin has continued the Deaton family tradition of showing sheep. Each spring, Kevin and I sort the sheep. We pick out which ones he will show, what ones he might sell, who are the best options for his summer 4-H projects.

Saturday morning was “sorting lambs” day. While it was April 14, it looked more like Jan. 15.  A blanket of fresh heavy snow covered everything. Wind kept things fresh. Inside the shed converted to housing the sheep, we were protected and ready to sort.

Before we ventured into the sheep pen, we first visited the pigs. Also a 4-H project, these four cute little guys are already full of personality. The lone female nuzzled Kevin’s hand looking for her favorite treat: animal crackers. The littlest pig arrived just Friday. While quite a bit smaller than the other three pigs, all have become fast friends. When we had finished sorting the lambs, a quick stop back by the pig pen found all four snuggled together, sleeping and keeping warm.

baby lambs 2

Today, we had extra help in sorting the sheep. Rick manned the gates and kept the right lambs in the pen where we did the sorting. Sister Denise was the record keeper. We sorted, the ewes (girls) and the rams (boys). We looked at their wool quality, size and confirmation. The lambs cooperated and we were able to make quick decisions.

This has become a fun annual outing for Kevin and I. Living in town, I don’t have the option of having sheep. Working with the lambs and checking them out brings back many memories and experiences from when I was involved with a flock

Caring for lambs is a daily job. Each lamb is special and has its own personality. Kevin knows who’s each lamb’s mother is and who her grandmother was. Recently, the bottle lambs were weaned. This was after several weeks of multiple trips a day out to feed the lambs.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus cares for every one of his sheep; you and I. When one of God’s sheep is struggling, Jesus is nearby, offering comfort. When we need extra attention, it’s there if we just notice it. God promises to care for all the sheep in God’s flock. And God doesn’t let us down.

For this, I am grateful.

Thank you for calling each one of us as a lamb in your flock. Thank you for caring for us in dark valleys as well as on mountaintop experiences. Thank you for offering us comfort, grace and mercy. May we be grateful for Jesus being our Good Shepherd. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 13 – Food

Blessings bags

Sat., Apr. 14, 2018

Matthew 5:35-36 – (Jesus said), “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’

Friday mornings are Blessings mornings. This is the day a group of volunteers’ pack weekend food bags for students in our local school district. Each Friday, we provide food for students who might not otherwise have enough food for the weekend. Weekly, students receive 8-10 items: 2 breakfast items, 2 meals and at least four snacks. These items will not cover all their weekend food needs. Our goal is to ensure students have something to eat.

Are there hungry students even in our little Poynette School District? What I do know is there were 56 students this Friday morning that may not have enough food. I am grateful we can provide some food for the weekend.

I became involved in the Blessings in a Backpack Program over 18 months ago. After the local school board confirmed support of our local Blessings program, we organized a great group of volunteers to carry out the program’s mission. There are six core volunteers who oversee an area of the program: shopping and packing, volunteer coordinator, community coordination, fundraising, financial and overall coordination. Another 25 volunteers help pack and distribute weekly food bags.

Do the weekend food bags make a difference? The stories say so. One little boy was sick on a Friday morning. When the school nurse wanted to call a parent to pick him up, he said he wouldn’t leave until he had his food bag. After winter break, two girls showed up in the school office on Friday morning. The volunteer drop-off person was also in the office. The girls asked her if she is “the food lady” because they wanted to make sure they would be getting food bags.

The Blessings program is so well supported in our community it basically runs itself. Volunteers just do their jobs. The financial support has been not been short of amazing. I was reminded of this again this week, when several substantial unsolicited donations showed up out of the blue. Every gift, whether large or small, indicates support of feeding hungry kids. And for this, I am grateful.

I have been involved in many, many different volunteer groups in my life. All with good missions. All with great volunteers. All with great purposes. The group I am the most humbled by is our little Blessings in a Backpack Program. Why? Because everyone wants to help feed hungry kids. Period. There are no other motivations. Everyone has the same goal.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – when Jesus said to “feed the hungry,” he was serious. We lift up the students and families who are a part of any Blessings in a Backpack program. We also pray for anyone, anywhere how has a food need. May we be your hands and feet in our local communities and take seriously Christ’s call to feed the hungry. Thank you for the many, many people who help feed the hungry every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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