Gratitude Day 8 – Friends

1st focus group

Mon., Apr. 9, 2018

1 Samuel 18:1 – When David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan and David became bound together in close friendship. Jonathan loved David as much as he did his own life.

I am in the process of writing a book! This is a project I have been dreaming about for a while. While the book writing is a little slower than I would like, each week, I make a bit more progress.

A couple weeks ago, I determined a little research for the book would be helpful. Who would help me? How about some friends?

Sunday night, a few friends came to my house. I explained in advance the reason for the gathering. I called it a “focus group” and said I anticipated it would last about 90 minutes.

Three hours later, we were still saying our good-byes!

I do not get to see these women very often. There was some major catching up to do. We were able to zero in on some areas I felt some practical insights would be helpful for me. A couple times, we wandered a little off subject, but we were always able to make our way back to the book’s topic.

What did I learn last night? I share a few things:

  • Some of us were raised by women who continue to influence our lives today. Seriously influence our lives. I put myself in this camp. Eleanor spoke of folding napkins like her Mom prefers. And we caught her perfectly folding her napkin before she left the table!
  • These parents are all interested in raising their children to be well-grounded adults who have a wide variety of opportunities. This includes teaching children how to contribute to the family, help themselves and make good choices.
  • The word of the night: fulfillment, followed by contentment.
  • There was a little hinting that possibly the guys (spouses/partners) were feeling a little left out? Unfortunately, Rick was working so the invite did not include the guys.

I plan on doing a few more of these focus groups. If you live in Wisconsin and would like to be a part of one, please let me know! Hanging out with friends, as well as getting a few insights for my book excite me.

Unfortunately, Sarah Luedtke left before we snapped the picture. Sorry Sarah! Next time. Thanks, ladies for participating in this focus group. For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – you are an advocate for connection and friendship, as there is connection and friendship within your own Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We see this in many relationships within scripture, just like the friendship between Jonathon and David. Thanks for bringing into my life people who can support and encourage me. I pray we can do this for each other through your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Gratitude Day 7 – Only Imagine

only imagine

Sun., Apr. 8, 2018

Colossians 1:5 – Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel.

Hubby Rick had a “date night” on Saturday evening. I convinced Rick to go to the theater and see the movie, “I Can Only Imagine.” It is based on the true story of Bart Millard, the lead singer of the Christian band, MercyMe.  Bart’s childhood was colored with abuse from his father. He leaves home after high school graduation and joins a band. When Bart eventually returns home, he discovers his father is dying from cancer. Shortly after his Dad’s death, Bart wrote the mega-hit Christian song, “I Can Only Imagine.”

The movie is real, touching and tells the back story of the song. It helps us understand the struggle that is often part of music writing.

The song came out while I was serving a church in rural Mazomanie, WI. Lyle was a widow who faithfully attended worship every week. He was taken back the first time Carrie sang the song in worship. He often told Carrie and I that she would sing “I Can Only Imagine” at his funeral. And she did.

What makes this song fantastic are the words:

I can only imagine

What it will be like

I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine

 

Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

This is a beautiful picture of heaven. And for this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for inspired songs that allow us to worship you. Thank you for words in songs that help us catch glimpses of heaven. Thank you for using people on earth to help us imagine. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Gratitude Day 6 – Today’s Gratitude

journal.jpg

Sat., Apr. 7, 2018

Psalm 28:7 – The Lord strengthens and protects me; I trust in him with all my heart. I am rescued, and my heart is full of joy; I will sing to him in gratitude.

Gratitude … it’s such an easy response. Yet, it’s a hard response.

When life gets full, busy and overwhelming, gratitude maybe one of the first things that falls off our radar screens. This is what happens to me.

Does this ever happen to you?

Hubby Rick is so great at pointing out daily gratitude expressions for the smallest of things: a beautiful sunset, snuggling on the couch, a robin singing. Yes, he has his limits. If I hear one more time, “I am soooo sick of winter.” I get it. It is April 7. We STILL have snow on the ground.

Enough digression.

A personal goal the last several months has been to more keenly appreciate gratitude in my daily life. For me, the best way to integrate gratitude daily is to develop a means of concretely recording gratitude.

Step in: recording a daily gratitude journal entry.

Yes, gratitude journals are all the rage. Yes, I think they are a great way to record and acknowledge gratitude in our daily lives. I have put a small twist on my daily gratitude expression.

Here’s how mine looks. Nearly every day, I begin by grabbing a very normal-looking journal. It had been hanging out in my office for quite a while. A book with blank, empty pages, just waiting for something to be written on them. Every day I write in my journal this is what I record:

  1. 3 Things I Am Grateful for Today
  2. 1 Thing that is Creating a Little Anxiety in My Life
  3. 3 Things I will Accomplish Today

3 Things I am Grateful for Today

Most often, these are things that happened to me the day before: a great conversation with a friend, time to write, dinner with hubby Rick, time with my Mom in the last days of her life, an understanding employer. Items listed here can also be rather mundane: a nice pen to write with, a phone call, the furnace working after it wasn’t working!

As I write these down, I do not to think too deep. Literally, the first three things that come to mind are what I write down. This is not a place to do deep soul searching or long-term planning. These three affirmations are quick, simple things you can appreciate in the hear and now.

1 Thing Creating Anxiety in My Life

Somedays, I feel more anxiety than others. Other days, I dig a little deeper. Why do I include this? Anxiety may keep us from fully appreciating a situation or area of our lives. When we name it, we begin the process of removing some of the anxiety, turning it over to God, and appreciating more fully where we are today. Saying we do not have anxiety in our lives indicates that we are trying to handle our lives on our own, without God’s guidance. Just writing one sentence about something I cannot control in my life allows me to recognize that God knows more than I do. God is God and Dianne is Dianne. It allows me to put whatever is lingering in my life in a prayer to God and ask for help and assistance.

3 Things I Will Accomplish Today

This is usually the hardest entry for me. Why? Because I want to accomplish more than three things today! My recovering Martha attitude says, “Three things are not enough!” By limiting myself to three things here, I try to focus on THE MOST important things to work on for today. Today’s to-do list will probably quite different. There will be a variety of things on this list. Here, I am stating what has highest priority for today.

Let’s be real. Are these the three things that do become THE MOST important things for me to accomplish today? Yes … and no. I still struggle with this. Sometimes, I make an entry here too general. I have eight things to accomplish at my marketing job. I make my work at this job one entry rather acknowledging all eight projects could be their own entry. It is a little way of cheating.

I am still working out areas of this daily journaling project, so I can maximize how this impacts my life, i.e. – how I account my most important things to do today. Do I complete this little gratitude project EVERY DAY of the week? No, but most weeks, I take five minutes and complete this six days a week. For me, it has become an important way to start my day.

I have spent very little time looking back at previous entries. Today was one of the first times I have done this.  An advantage of writing down responses is this becomes a tangible way to go back and see how your life has changed. Has your response to gratitude evolved? How have you grown as a person?

If you have not kept a gratitude diary or journal, try it for a month. See how it feels. Experiment with different ways. My process does not have to be your process. I share what I have been doing to encourage others to look for daily gratitude in their lives.

The blank pages of my current journal are nearing an end. Time to find another empty journal hanging out in my office. For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – maybe the greatest gratitude journal ever is The Bible: one long story and recording of your place in so many people’s lives. As I look to appreciate daily gratitude in my life, thank you for people a part of my gratitude story. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Gratitude Day 4 – Magnifico Snow!

snow in RS 2Wed., Apr. 4, 2018

Isaiah 55:10 – As the rain and snow come down from heaven and stay upon the ground to water the earth, and cause the grain to grow and to produce seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry …

We live in Wisconsin. While we are dreaming of spring, Mother Nature has other plans. Yesterday afternoon, it started to snow. I worked late at my part-time marketing job. As I was walking to my vehicle, I was overwhelmed with several inches of fresh snow, the very large flake kind, that made everything look gorgeous.

snow in PoyWhen I left early this morning, the sun was peaking out. All of creation seemed to glisten as the new snow hung on everything. In the dark, in the morning: I was grateful for the beauty of the snow.

The previous afternoon, Rick had sent me a text message: “Isn’t snow magnifico!!”

Let me share the back story. Several years ago, my friend Kristin and I traveled to Argentina. After being recognized with a teacher of the year award, Kristin received a grant to use towards continuing education. She is a Spanish teacher. She invited me to travel to Argentina with her, so she could learn about their culture. Of course, I would!

While there, we visited several schools to share about America culture. The most memorable visit happened while visiting the equivalent of a kindergarten class. It was late November. Kristin explained to the students how our winter was just beginning. In fact, there was snow on the ground when we left home.

In this Argentinian region, it doesn’t snow. When one little boy heard the word “snow,” he stopped Kristin mid-sentence. He could not help himself. He stood up and described snow to his classmates. During their winter season, he and his family had traveled to the southern area of Argentina. There was snow! He played in the snow, ate the snow, rolled around in the snow. He ended his description of snow by declaring snow as “magnifico!!”

My Spanish language skills are very limited. But even I understood his last word, emphasized with a huge gesturing of his hands.

Since then, whenever a snow fall is breath-taking, my husband declares it as “magnifico!” He is right. The snow we had last night was nothing short of magnifico!

While some people are bemoaning the snow, I am appreciating how this snow will turn into water, which will eventually lead to green grass, yellow flowers and winter wheat sprouting out of the ground. It maybe several months before we see snow again. If this is so, then the beauty of this last snow went off the Richter scale.

The good thing about April snow? It melts much quicker than January snow. In the meantime, I am appreciating the magnifico blanket of white powder covering our lawns, trees, cars and roads. And for this, I am grateful.

Lord God – may a little bit of snow remind us how you created an amazing way to care for the earth. Thanks for making this last snow fall completely magnifico. Help me to appreciate the beauty all around me. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Gratitude Day 3 – My Vote Counts

election dayTues., Apr. 3, 2018

Matthew 5:13 – (Jesus said,) “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Where I live, today was spring election day. I had the opportunity to cast my vote for various local, county and state races. Through my vote, I expressed support for those who I feel are up to the task of serving the public as an elected official.

I am grateful that I live in a country where I can express my opinion through my vote. I believe my one vote makes a difference. Whether the actual elections will be decided by one vote or not, my vote says that I take an interest in how decisions are made in the country I live.

For many Americans, voting is an opportunity not fully appreciated. If more people were passionate about expressing their vote, would not more people vote? Especially in an off-cycle election, such as this spring election?

Some people say they refrain from voting because they are not in favor of any of the candidates. I will be honest. There have been election cycles when I am not confident the candidates reflect the integrity and views I would hope for in an elected official. Yet, I still go through the exercise of going to the polling center and exercising my right to vote.

Why? I feel one of my roles as a Christ-follower is to be an advocate for Christ in the here and now. No candidate will every fully reflect my opinions and desires. This is impossible because sometimes my opinions change! Yet, my vote is one way I can express my opinion about those who might feel serving the public sector as a calling in their life. Before I vote, I pray for God’s guidance in helping me choose a person who will view their role as one that can bring salt to this earth.

I lived overseas for a year in a country where elections were handled very differently than in the United States. This experience encouraged me to make my one vote count every opportunity I have. For this, I am grateful.

Being a public servant is not an easy job, is it Holy God? I pray today for those who are elected officials locally, at the county, state and national levels. May your wisdom and guidance undergird their decision-making process.  Please encourage me to pray regularly for our elected officials and not just today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Gratitude Day 2 – New Life

Mon., Apr. 2, 2018

2 Corinthians 5:17 – When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand-new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!

About two-and-a-half years ago, we purchased a 110-year-old farmhouse. We have been updating, refurbishing and bringing new life back to this old girl. Structurally, the house was in good shape. Our goal has been to keep the original character while making it fit more of today’s lifestyle.

Initially, we redid several rooms in the house while we basically “camped” in the house. Since this initial significant undertaking, we have been more careful about only having one project going at a time. We have avoided having a whole bunch of half-finished projects.

This winter, we tackled the downstairs bathroom. While I spent several weeks with my Mom in the last days of her life, Rick was busy giving new life to this bathroom. When the house was built, there was not indoor plumbing. When the downstairs bathroom was added, we believe the original pantry off the kitchen was converted.

Sharing our DIY house projects is new for me. Unfortunately, I did not take “before” photos, which would show how much new life it now has.

DSC06218The project was inspired by this floor tile. I knew I wanted to choose a very traditional, period-appropriate tile from which the rest of the room would evolve.

DSC06208

Rick removed the awkward old cast iron bathtub. It was replaced with a stand-up shower. The traditional white subway tile is the same tile we used for the kitchen backsplash.

When we bought the house, there was an entrance from the kitchen into the bathroom. During the kitchen remodel, we closed off this entrance to make more room in the kitchen. Rick came up with the very creative way of turning the old kitchen entrance into a wonderful closet. Isn’t it great?

DSC06214The entire room has been updated. Weekly date nights became trips to Menard’s for supplies. Rick was excited to install the mirror over the sink into the wall and make it flush. This was until he discovered a large pipe going through the wall. We are still happy with the mirror, even if it sticks out from the wall a bit.

While there are many projects in our house that I am thrilled with, this bathroom’s new life makes my heart so happy. Every time I walk into this room, I feel extreme gratitude for Rick’s willingness to make every little change just like I wanted. He took a worn bathroom and turned it into a room that takes your breath away. Literally. When our grandsons were with us last week, they were so impressed with the new bathroom. When their buddy Jordan arrived, the first thing Bryce did was show him the updated bathroom. How interesting that this is what a 14-year-old chose to do first.

When a person discovers Christ in their lives, Paul writes the person becomes a new person on the inside. The person has been changed. They experience new life! I feel our downstairs has found new life. For this, I am very grateful.

Lord God, it’s just a bathroom. But it helps remind me of the new life I can find in you daily. Thank you for the gift of new life in Christ we can discover each day.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Gratitude Day 1 – Hope

Sun., Apr. 1, 2018

Hiking at Gibralter Rock
Hiking at Gibralter Rock

Romans 15:13 – So I pray for you Gentiles that God who gives you hope will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. I pray that God will help you overflow with hope in him through the Holy Spirit’s power within you.

Since the first of the year, I have experienced a fair bit of change. Some of these changes were initiated by me. With some of the other changes, I have had less control. I feel we choose whether to embody change for a positive application or allow change to overwhelm us.

I have tried to embrace each change with a sense of gratitude. When I focus daily on some little piece of my life in which I am grateful, the changes seem more manageable.

There are various ways I have been acknowledging gratitude in my life. I plan to share these in upcoming days. Yet, I have been wanting to capture daily gratitude in a more tangible way through this blog. Today, I start this then on Easter Sunday – a day that should be rooted in gratitude for what God has done for us.

One word I would use to summarize Easter would be hope. For me, a main theme of the empty tomb on Easter morning is that death does not have the last word. Hope does. No matter what challenges we might be experiencing, the hope of the empty tomb says there is something beyond this world. Our earthly lives are but a mere appetizer to something beyond what we know today. This encourages me to move beyond the sadness, disappointment and hurt in this world and to look at what lies ahead.

This message of hope has been at the forefront of my thought process the last several days. Rick and I have enjoyed having our oldest two grandsons, Braeden (15) and Bryce (14), with us for several days. Their buddy Jordan joined us for a couple of these days. We have been thrilled to have them with us. Yet, we are also keenly aware the boys are going through possibly their toughest days. Recently, their Dad passed away from cancer. The boys came to our house right after the funeral.

Rick and I have lost all four of our parents. Losing parents who have lived full lives is very different from losing a parent as a teenager. We are very aware that we do not and cannot understand our grandson’s emotions and feelings. We see our role as simply being a soft place for them to be.

So, we let them sleep late. We did rather mundane things like hit golf balls, go hiking and take them to a trampoline park. They rode bikes, ate ridiculous amounts of candy, played basketball and threw around the football with Grandpa. Like most teenagers, they kept their cell phones close at hand.

peter-2-bb.jpgOn Thursday evening, Rick and I were part of a Maundy Thursday service. Rick portrayed a confused and questioning Peter. After worship, we sat in the car with our eldest grandsons.  Rick spoke of the emotions he felt after his eldest son was killed. He witnessed to how faith has sustained him nearly every day of the last 18 years. We desire for Braeden and Bryce to discover their own faith. And we pray our lives are a small witness to the hope we find in something beyond this world and how this sustains us in the dark valleys of our lives.

Easter Sunday 2018
Celebrating the Risen Savior!

For me, the message of Easter is this: when we experience death, disappointment and loss in our lives, fear does not have to take over. The empty tomb gives us hope that even in our darkest moments, every day is Easter day. Today, I am very grateful for this.

Risen Savior – thank you for the profound gift of hope. In the glorious empty tomb, may we not allow fear, disappointment and loss to have more presence in our lives than hope. For this, may we be grateful. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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