Gratitude Day 185 – A Clean House and Soul

Sun., Dec. 30, 2018

Isaiah 32:18 – Then my people will live in a peaceful dwelling, in secure homes, in carefree resting places.

And then it was quiet.

So quiet.

After 8-9 days of company and overnight guests every night, today Hubby Rick took our eldest two grandsons’ home. He wanted to go ice fishing on his way home, so I stayed home.

To the quiet. To the peace. To time by myself.

We feel very fortunate that we’ve had so many days filled with family and friends. At times, the inn was a little full. Getting beds prepared between guests was quick. But we loved every minute of it.

Home is a favorite place. As we have remodeled our Victorian farmhouse and made it our own, it has become a place where I love to just be. It’s filled with items very meaningful and special to us. I never tire of being home alone because it is a place of peace for me.


Home alone, I went full-on into cleaning mode. Yes, I also am a little OCD about a clean house. Getting beds ready for future guests. Cleaning bathrooms and smudged floors. Finding letters leftover from Scrabble and eaten boxes of candy left behind. Organizing the fridge leftovers. Running another load of dishes, now that I have more dishwasher soap, after making a quick trip to the store last night. Wiping down the smears and food left behind on the stainless-steel appliances. Do they ever really get clean?


Cleaning the oven. When I opened it, I couldn’t believe I’d let it get so dirty! Seriously??!! I’m slightly embarrassed by this for those who have peeked into my oven in the last number of days.


Load after load of laundry.


Quietly letting the red and white roses hang their heads after looking so perky and beautiful for many days in a row.

As I cleaned, put away and did some deep cleaning, my heart felt quiet. Good. Satisfied. I love being in my house. I love it even more when it is clean. It truly becomes for me a carefree resting place.


Yes, I’m one those people who will stay up half the night before leaving on vacation to make sure the house is clean before I leave. I want to walk into a house with everything in its place when I get home.

Some people don’t like to clean. Comments like, “It will just get dirty again,” are true. For mean, having a clean house creates a place of peace. Calm. Serenity.

As I cleaned today, I contemplated many things. What do I look forward to in 2019? What are some short-term and long-term goals for me? How can I create moments where I feel peace and serenity on a more regular basis?

I realize a clean house may not create this feeling inside of you. That’s OK. But where is that place for you? What activity helps you feel like you are back where you want to be? Where do you find peace and serenity? How have you built this into your life lately? Will you make it more of a priority in 2019?


For a clean house and a happy soul, I am grateful.

Almighty God, thank you for each and every person who has been in our house these last many days. I feel blessed to have them in our home. And thank you for the quiet today, the opportunity to feel peace, calm and serenity. I pray these quiet moments with you today were as meaningful for you as they were for me. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 186 –2018 in Review

Mon., Dec. 31, 2018

Jeremiah 29:11 –  I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.

I didn’t plan to write this post. Then, I decided that sometimes it’s just helpful to look back, reflect and see how things change in a person’s life. Without benchmarks, it’s often difficult to see where or how something has changed. With this in mind, I am reflecting upon things that have changed, are different, are joys and maybe even a disappointment or two from the past year. Here goes:

Kendra's wedding

  1. I am a very blessed person. By “blessed,” I mean there are so many things in my life which bring me joy every day. I have a super husband. Hubby Rick doesn’t read my blog. When someone mentions something they read here, he may have a deer-in-the-headlights look. He is a great supporter, encourager and often takes one for the Vielhuber team. Other ways I’m blessed? A family that enjoys each other most of the time! Last January, our Deaton family celebrated my Mom’s life together. A great group of friends from many different stages of my life. Great health. A home we love. The list goes on and on. Little things we take for granted: living in a country where we have great freedom, opportunities and plenty (really to excess.) I’m blessed that every day I have the opportunities to do so many things which I enjoy doing.DSC06580
  2. A little over a year ago, I stepped back from serving two churches as the pastor to make more room in my life for things that I’ve felt God calling me to do. This has been a huge change, and quite honestly, taken more time to adjust to than I expected. It’s the first time in my adult life in which I wasn’t “working” a ridiculous number of hours all the time. I have yet to wake up a single morning and wonder, “Just what am I going to do today?” I’ve had flexibility to work on some things that I’ve put off for years. The amount of volunteer work I do has only increased. Recently, Rick attended an event without me because I had prior commitments. When someone inquired where I was, he said “she’s out trying to save the world.” There is a lot of truth in his comment and why I haven’t had a boring day yet. Because of Hubby Rick’s support of my decision, I focus on things that I want to and not feel guilty. It’s been a great opportunity for me to switch gears.letters
  3. Where have I focused some time and attention? Sorting and going through boxes and boxes of things from my Mom. Truthfully, it’s more than my Mom’s things. It’s my grandmother’s and some of my things as well. I’m not quite done … but have made significant progress. I’ve gone from 30+ boxes and totes to just a few. It’s taken a lot of time. Was it worth it? I’m still undecided. My advice? Encourage loved ones and yourself to work on getting through family information and treasures. Doing so allows people the opportunity to enjoy the things you will unearth now. And makes it more manageable for the next generation. I’m a lot more discerning about what I keep of my personal things after going through decades of information.DSC06751
  4. Going through this stuff as well as my Mom’s death encouraged me to invite the first cousins on my Mom’s side to our house for a weekend. This get-together was truly a highlight of the year. I’m optimistic we will do something again.

    After multiple tries, this was the best I could do …
  5. Rick and I enjoy time with our grandkids as we are able. A couple days ago, we had all five for the day. At times, it was loud! It’s a joy anytime we get to spend quality time with them. One highlight was spending nine days with the eldest two grandsons on a youth mission trip to Washington D.C.DSC06807
  6. Rick and I continue updating our 110+-year-old house. We’re in the middle of hopefully our last “big” project and it’s turning out fantastic! I hope to share more by spring.
  7. One disappointment? I haven’t completed writing the book I had hoped to. I’ve worked on significant sections … but it’s still needs a lot of work. Honestly, I haven’t moved it up high enough on the “priority” list; something that will change in 2019. There is another whole part of book writing: developing an audience, marketing and such that also needs my time and time at Midland
  8. Another personal challenge has been feeling part of a faith community on a regular basis. Many weekends, I fill in at various area churches, whether in the pulpit or playing music. I enjoy “choosing” when to help with worship and sharing my spiritual gifts. Because we are at a different churches throughout a month, it’s hard to feel connected to one faith community as I would like.


I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging more consistently this year. Thank you for reading my words. I appreciate every single person who takes valuable time to read how I connect faith to the normal, everyday aspects of life. I pray these words offer encouragement for you to find faith in the simplest ways in your life. The best way for more people to see my blogs are for readers to share and encourage others to follow it. If you find value in what I share, please encourage others to follow along.

I’m still working on a few goals, personal and professionally, for 2019. One thing I know for sure? God has a plan for me in 2019, as well as for you. I pray that you include God in your daily journey. Find the hope and peace God longs for you to know in your daily life.

Before 2018 closes down, make a short list of the things you’ve experienced in 2018: the great, the good and the “needs improvement” areas. I pray a quick reflection can be personally rewarding for you.

Rick & Dianne

For a very blessed 2018, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for accompanying me along every step of my journey in 2018. Thank you in advance for being a part of my life and spiritual journey in the upcoming year. I pray that we look to you daily and regularly to see the plans you have for us. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 184 – Treasures

Fri., Dec. 28, 2018

Luke 2:19 – But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

There are SO many things to treasure at Christmas time. Here are just a few things that have been happening in our world the last few days.


Our friend Tatev visited us for several days over Christmas. It’s always a treasure to have her stay with us.


We hosted family on Christmas day. Here is Hubby Rick and nephew Kevin in rare form. After an early morning of ice fishing, maybe they were a bit tired and easily amused! (As the picture was being taken, Rick informed me that it had better not end up on the internet. Sorry …)


A whole bunch of other things happened but I have no pictures to show them.


Everyone’s Christmas is unique and different. Every year, our celebrations are just a bit different.

I pray we find special moments in these days that we can treasure; memories for future days and times.


This week is a good week to ponder. I pray you are finding some time to do so. I’m looking forward to some soon!

For simple treasures in our world, I am grateful.

Lord God – it’s easy to look at social media and see someone else’s treasures and overlook our own treasures. It’s easy to think that other families have “better” celebrations. It’s easy to expect things to be different than they are. I pray we can find special treasures in these days. Help us to ponder the deeper meaning of the season and this time in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 183 – Light of the World

Wed., Dec. 26, 2018

John 1:9 – The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

From Christmas Eve night to Christmas Day, doesn’t it seem like the world stops? Seemingly, all divisions seem to stop for maybe, 36 hours. Less chaos. Less drama. Less confusion.

I know all Christmas celebrations aren’t grand and perfect. Things happen. There is disappointment and let downs.

But for a short period of time, doesn’t it seem more peace? More getting along? More love?

Why can’t we seemingly stretch this quiet and peace from 36 hours to a bit longer period of time?

Why can’t we hang onto the feeling at the end of Christmas Eve worship and stretch it out a bit?

family Christmas Eve
Part of my peeps …

It seems to happen at every Christmas Eve worship service I’ve been a part of. We sing Silent Night. Everyone has lighted candles. Maybe a bit of wax drips on our clothing. Or a candle gets a little too close to the woman’s hair in the pew in front of the young child.

But when the song ends and maybe a few words are shared, no one wants to leave. We all stay glued to our pews or chairs. We want this moment to just hold on …

trio on Christmas Eve

It happened on Christmas Eve again this year. Jared and I played our guitars during Silent Night, just like the song was sung for the first time, 200 years ago. His daughter, Ella, helped lead the singing. We finished. A few words encouraged people to take the light into the world. Go in peace.

No one moved.

It was beautiful. It was precious. It was special.

candle at Silent Night

Look at this candle from Christmas Eve one more time.

It’s a symbol that God came into the world … as a baby. As a human being. Because God loves us.

Now, we are to take God’s light, which represents God’s love for us, back into the world.

Before you rush back into the normal, regular, every-day-life events, please hold onto the candle. Hold onto the light. Sit with it for just a bit longer. Remember why we sing Silent Night. Why we light candles. Why we celebrate Christmas Eve.

Christmas is just but one day. However, we can live as children of the light every day. Let’s do so. Together. Let’s be the light together.

For God’s light in this world, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for coming into this world. I pray we find love and peace in your light. May we stretch ourselves and be the light of You in this world today. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 182 – Silent Night

Mon., Dec. 24, 2018Silent Night music score background

Luke 2:6 –   While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

It’s a Christmas tradition that began 200 years ago tonight. By accident. Out of desperation. When a pastor and the choir director had to make lemonade out of lemons. In the 11th hour.

Would you like to know the rest of the story?


Vintage silent night

It happened in the tiny village of Oberdorf, high in the Australian Alps on the afternoon of Dec. 24, 1818. Joseph Mohr, the local Catholic priest was desperate. The church organ had given out. It was impossible to have it repaired before the evening Christmas Eve service. He wrote a few stanzas about the Christmas season. Miraculously, the church’s organist, Frank Gruber, composed a simple tune to accompany the words. The original score was written for two voices: a tenor and a bass, and two guitars.

During the midnight service, the song, “Silent Night, Holy Night” was heard for the first time. Or in German, “Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!”

Quickly, the song moved beyond the tiny village … but without attributes to Mohr or Gruber. It wasn’t until the 1850’s, a full 30-years later, that Gruber and Mohr realized their little song was quickly becoming the most beloved piece of Christmas music.

Tonight, millions of church will sing “Silent Night” in worship. Most of them will have this song at the end of the service, with people holding a brightly lit candle in their hands while singing the words.

There are many, many traditions I love about Christmas. The moment I feel like it REALLY is Christmas? Singing “Silent Night.”

Festive Christmas carol background with music

Years ago, I bought a guitar. I thought I would quickly be able to pick up the guitar. How naive I was! With just a few lessons under my belt, I chose to make Christmas Eve and “Silent Night” the first time I would play the guitar in worship.


I love ending Christmas Eve worship singing this song to guitar; just like what happened on Christmas Eve in 1818. As we sing the beloved words, I look around the room. I see candles bringing a warm and deeply meaningful glow to the room. My heart swells. A lump develops in my throat. I have a hard time getting the words out. I sit quietly after we finish singing, not wanting this peaceful moment to end. I want to hold this experience in my head and heart just a little longer.

Kids are ready to rush home and see if there was a visitor while they were gone. There is dinner to eat, games to play and time to enjoy being together.

But I want to hold onto “Silent Night, Holy Night,” just a little longer.

I don’t think it was a very silent night for Mary in Bethlehem. The worry of finding a place to lodge and going through childbirth with just the man you have committed your life too seems terrible daunting. Yet, Mary rose above all of this and more. In the end, she found the night to be a very holy as she cradled the Son of God. Even in a sticky stable, Mary knew this baby would change the world.

Do we know this? The baby, whose birthday we celebrate tonight, would change more of history than any other human being? Can make more imprints on our lives than we can imagine?

Because of this, we too, can have silent nights and holy nights.

I pray you are able to attend a worship service tonight and rehear the Christmas story. At minimum, light a candle and sing, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Hold unto the moment beyond when the words are completed. Write them in your heart and hold onto them tightly throughout the year.

Christmas Eve Silent Night

For silent and holy nights, I am grateful.

Holy God – we pray: silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and milk, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace. Amen.

Blessings & Merry Christmas –


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Gratitude Day 180 – When Plans Fall Through

Thurs., Dec. 20, 2018

Luke 2:7 –    And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Sometimes, things just don’t turn out the way they are supposed to. What we have planned gets abruptly changed. Often, all we can do is find little “band-aids” to hold things together in the meantime.

Around Thanksgiving time, I decided to make quilts for our youngest three grandchildren for Christmas. While I have quilted, it’s been awhile. I had one month to get this pulled together.


One night, I found myself at a fabric store. I didn’t have planned patterns nor was I sure how much fabric I needed. I just bought fabric. I would “make it work” and figure it out later.

With limited time, I chose simple patterns that I could easily piece together. I set-up shop and got busy sewing.


Recently, my friend Mary Ann purchased a piece of sewing equipment called a longarm. This machine does the quilting part of making a quilt. It sews together the top, the bottom and the batting or middle section together. Mary Ann was willing to help me quilt these blankets, bringing me one step closer to finishing the quilts before Christmas.


I arrived at Mary Ann’s house late one afternoon this week. Quickly, we began the process of getting a quilt on the longarm. With the quilt in proper position, Mary Ann went started the machine. It wouldn’t work. After trying everything she could think of, no success. Then, she called the store where she purchased it. After a conversation with a woman there, Mary Ann called the main office of the company who makes these machines. A nice man helped Mary Ann trouble shoot the machine for over an hour. They thought it was good to go.


But it wasn’t. Yes, it worked for a while. Then, it didn’t. For the next few hours, we witnessed the machine work and then not work. It felt like a temperamental 2-tear-old; willing to work somethings and other times, completely disagreeable.


In the meantime, we began another quilt on a regular sewing machine with a special quilting foot. By midnight, we called it a day with not nearly the work done we had anticipated.


When the machine is working, it’s slick. When it doesn’t work properly, it’s more than frustrating. Some communication malfunction seemed to prevent it from operating properly. Mary Ann would patiently try different things … until the longarm would work for a while. And then, it wouldn’t.


We kept plugging away. Unfortunately, I had booked myself with other things in the afternoon. I knew I had to leave by a certain time. Just before I left, we finished quilting two quilts. I left granddaughter Ellie’s quilt behind. Mary Ann will work on it as the machine allows itself to be agreeable.

Mary Ann and I tried not to let frustration get the best of us. When we made progress, we celebrated. I was grateful for Mary Ann’s assistance. Mary Ann was excited for me to see her new toy. We kept these thoughts in the forefront; not whether the machine worked properly.


As we worked on the quilts, I thought about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her life didn’t go as she planned. One visit from an angel turned her life upside down. She planned to get married to Joseph, have a raft of kids and live a rather boring life in Nazareth. Instead, she became the mother of the Son of God.

Who would have thought traveling to Bethlehem near your due date would be a good idea? Mary made the trek while terribly pregnant and assumingly very uncomfortable. She didn’t seem to complain and simply accepted this as her role.

When it was time for the baby to be born and they couldn’t find a house with room, they welcomed the shelter of a barn. What first-time mother would be excited about giving birth with sheep and cows are nestled around you? And expect the cradle to be a feeding trough? When Mary’s plans got changed, she rolled with the punches and “made it work.”


After the baby was born, Mary didn’t have a warm blanket for Jesus. She only had strips of cloth to wrap the baby in. No real blanket? Are you kidding me?

Whether the quilts for our grandkids are completely done or not when we open presents with our grandkids, they will be much nicer than the bands of cloth Mary wrapped her precious baby in on the night of his birth.


What do I have to complain about?

A machine not working properly?

My poor timing of everything?

Things out of my control?

My let-downs pale in comparison to Mary’s disappointments and frustrations. She accepted every change of plan with barely a blink of an eye and kept plugging along.

Makes my frustrations look like a cakewalk.

It’s just a matter of perspective.

As much as I think I can control and “make it work,” there are times when I just need to go along for the ride. And not miss the scenery along the way.

Whether the quilts are fully done before we celebrate with our grandchildren, I do not know. What I do know is that I choose whether to get frustrated or not. Can I simply be happy for the “strips of cloth” in my life that help me hold things together?

I sure hope so.


For perspective when things are no longer in our control, I am grateful.

Lord God, how did Mary kept the right perspective while her world was turned upside down? May her example inspire me to use whatever “band-aids” available to hold things together. May I turn to you when plans fall through and be guided by your wisdom. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 180 – Less Is More Christmas

Thurs., Dec. 20, 2018

Luke 2:10 –   The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.  DSC06974

OK, it’s just a few days before Christmas. Two days ago, I was trying to figure out how I was going to get everything done that I still want to accomplish before Christmas. Later, I regrouped. I rethought. And I came up with a new plan; one, I’m confident is more realistic.

Why do we try to do SO MUCH during the holidays? Are we consumed with the right things?

Too often: No.

Interested in my revised plan?

Good. Here it is: Top 10 Most Important Ideas Right Before Christmas:


  1. DON’T add any more people to your gift-giving list. If they weren’t on your list by now, DON’T ADD THEM. In fact, look over your list and decide where you can cut back if you are still navigating the shopping/wrapping/preparing gift business. (For those of you whose gifts are perfectly wrapped and under the tree, well, you can skip to #9.) The rest of us? Simplify gift-giving. Buy less, use something you already have or just decide that time with this loved one is more important than a gift. Look at the 5-Minute Gift and be inspired to make something that will be special for this person


9. DO plan time with a special friend, family member, spouse, etc. I’ve had time with my dear friend Mary Ann this week. We had a specific project that we planned to work on. Problems beyond our control slowed us down. Way down. These special Christmas gifts I had planned will probably not get done by the time I had hoped. Rather than focusing on what isn’t getting done, we’ve hung out and enjoyed a delicious malt Mary Ann’s husband, Bob, made for us.

8. DON’T try to squeeze in one more party than what you’ve already got on the calendar. Running to five different celebrations in 36 hours isn’t heroic. It’s craziness. Pick one or two. Let the rest go.

  1. DO extend the holidays and celebrate beyond the normal Christmas time. I had hoped to have a dear friend over before Christmas. There is literally not a day when we can both make it work. So, we picked a day after Christmas. Problem solved. I’m feeling great that we will see each other. We’re both feeling less stress and know this will be more enjoyable for both.


  1. DON’T have ridiculous expectations. Somewhere along the way in the next five days, someone will loss their temper. Someone will feel left out. Someone will be disappointed. Maybe you will be the one! Hubby Rick often reminds me that it is best to have low expectations and be pleasantly surprised when something goes beyond your bottom-of-the-totem pole expectations.


  1. DO plan on down time. Hope in the car and drive around and look at Christmas lights. Make a batch of hot chocolate and watch a movie. Get out your favorite card or board game and have a mini-marathon session. Let your soul be restored; not frazzeled.


  1. DON’T decide this is the week to go on a diet, try a new exercise routine or follow a tight budget. This are all noble and great ideas. Just probably not this week. Pick a date in the near future when starting to make a change is more realistic.


  1. DO take time and think about the last year. What were some of your favorite moments? When could have you responded to a situation with more grace? What lesson did you learn this year can you take forward and use as a spring board for future growth and change?


  1. DON’T expect the week to be only filled with Hallmark-worthy pictures and moments. Most of us don’t live in Unrealisticville. Keep your celebrations true to who you are and the traditions you value.


  1. DO remember the good news of the season. The angels told the shepherd’s the news was for all people; not just some poor shepherds who were herding wooly sheep on a Judean countryside. This good news is for us as well! How might we keep focused on this great and wonderful news? THIS is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Everything else is residual.

There will be moments in the next five days when I will forget to focus on this list. I pray that I remember to come back to this list of 10 simple ways to come back to the whole reasons we celebrate Christmas.


For simplifying Christmas, I am grateful.

Lord God – may we not be afraid to slow down and hear the angels sing today. May we be amazed that the Messiah has been born. Help us see the most important aspects of Christmas this year. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 179 – A 5-Minute Gift

Tues., Dec. 18, 2018

Matthew 2:11 –  They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Anyone trying to figure out a gift for a loved one yet? And feeling the reality of just a few more shopping days before Christmas?

I have a solution for you. It’s quick, easy and you may not even have to leave the house!

Would you like to “borrow” my 5-minute gift idea?

Good. Here it is:


A recipe memory box.

The last number of months, I have been going through boxes and boxes of things from my Mom and grandmothers. These 30 or so boxes have been moved multiple times. Last winter, Hubby Rick shared with me that either I go through these boxes or he would start putting them into the garbage. The hint was taken.

As I have gone through these boxes, I have found some treasures, some interesting things and some things that just needed to find their way to Goodwill, the garage or someone else’s house.

One day, I ran across just a few of my Mom’s recipes. My Mom had a large box of recipes. She also had tons of recipe books as well as recipes in binders. I found maybe 20-30 recipes, truly a small sampling of her recipes. I’m not quite sure why or how these recipes were separated from the others. I laid them aside, wondering what to do with them.

Eventually, I came up with this idea. I asked my sister, Debbie, to send me some spoons from my Mom’s everyday silverware. I asked her not to ask me why; just put them in the mail and send to me. And she did. Once I had the spoons in hand, I was ready to make these recipe memory boxes.


I purchased shadow boxes for the ones that I made. I got them from Michaels for about $10 each. Choose what size you want. My boxes were 12×12”. If you don’t have an official shadow box or don’t want to go to the store and get one, don’t! Use a regular picture frame that you have on hand. You may not be able to include a piece of silverware. Maybe you have something else you can use instead.


First, I removed the back of the shadow box. I used the white piece of paper in the box as the backing for the recipes. I kept it all very simple, not wanting to add anything extra to what was already there.

Then, I picked out the recipes I wanted to use for each box. A high priority was to use recipes hand-written by my Mom. I chose to use original recipes, not copies, as I felt this made them really look authentic. Several of the recipes have stains on them, earned by repeated use by my Mom. Some have frayed edges. Most were discolored. I thought each of these attributes only made the recipes look more special. I tried to pick recipes that I felt might be significant for the family member who would be receiving each particular box.


I put the spoon on first towards the bottom of the piece of paper with a hot glue gun. Apply hot glue only on the surfaces that touch the paper. Next, position the recipes where you want them to be. I put two recipes in each box. You can use as many or as few as you wish. Run a bead of hot glue around the perimeter of the recipe, flip it over and attach to the backing paper.

Let the glue set-up for a few minutes. Put the paper with the recipes and/or silverware into the box. Close the back. Wrap. In 5-minutes, you can have a special, meaningful and very cool Christmas present.

Maybe recipes aren’t your thing. Think of something that meaningful for your family. Arrange it on a piece of paper cut to the size frame or shadow box you have and in 5-minutes, you’ll have a present!


I made recipe memory boxes for the Deaton women in our family. They LOVED them, or at least this is what they told me!

When the magi came to visit baby Jesus, they brought seemingly very unpractical gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh. Actually, each gift shared something very special about Jesus:

The gold reminds us that Jesus is the king of kings;

The frankincense symbolized Jesus’ deity as God;

Myrrh, a common embalming oil, represented death.

As I get older, the reason for giving gifts has changed. I love gifts that share a tradition of the past and hope for the future. Well-worn recipes draw us, Mom’s family, back to a time when we enjoyed the foods she made for us and her passion to cook and bake.

Before you run off to the store to get a last-minute gift, stop. Think. Reflect upon something you have that might be meaningful to a loved one. Something that tells a family story or history. Find a fun way to share this gift with loved ones. I have a hunch these gifts will be dearly loved and treasured.


For gifts that help us discover our family and heritage, I am grateful.

Almighty God – as the magi presented gifts to Jesus and his parents, we too, present gifts to people important to us. I pray we see the ultimate present of Christmas as Jesus, God’s son, who comes to us in the form of a baby. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 178 – The Journey of Family

Mon., Dec. 17, 2018

Luke 2:3-4 – Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.

This past weekend, Hubby Rick and I made our annual journey to Augusta, WI for the Deaton family Christmas. On Saturday, my siblings and our significant others, my nieces, nephews and their children all descended upon my sister Debbie’s house for our annual Christmas celebration.


For our family, this is our annual journey to the little town where I grew up. Augusta is small; about 2,000 people. It’s where I graduated from high school, where our family attended church and grocery shopped. There was even a time when I held the title Miss Augusta.

When it came time for my parents to move off of the farm where they raised their family, they moved into a house on Main Street … in Augusta. While I have not lived in the Augusta area for decades, this is still the area where I grew up. Where I remember going to the Red Dot café with my Dad. Where I still know every word of the high school cheer song when it is played.

Instead of Bethlehem, our family journeys to Augusta each Christmas. Together, we read the Christmas story, eat a large meal and take the annual Deaton Christmas photo. It has become a tradition that we all look forward to and no one wants to miss.


Knowing we’re covering multiple generations, we’ve tried to make it fun for all ages. There’s a craft for the kids. Favorite Christmas cookies. Usually, a card game. This year, we included our dear family friends, Donald, Celeste and Ruthie, who were neighbors when we lived on the farm and have been a special part of our family.

Several years ago, we started the Deaton Family Gift Exchange, which has truly become the highlight of the day. Rather than purchasing gifts, I wrap up a whole bunch of family “treasures.” We have a white elephant gift exchange. Some of the gifts have significance. Some are just plain silly. Others are not highly sought out by anyone. With each gift, I write a little story, explaining the significance of this item.

I knew this year’s gift exchange would not top last year’s Deaton Family Gift Exchange. After multiple requests, the beloved Winnebago camper was the highlight of last year’s exchange. It’s the camper I received for Christmas when I was 5 or 6. Every Deaton child, neighborhood children and young kid who walked into my Mom’s house probably played with the Winnebago. Nephew Ben proudly ended up with the Winnebago last year. It keeps a special spot in his living room.

As I wrap and prepare the gifts, I’m never quite sure what items will be most sought after. Or what item no one will want. Again, this year, I was completely surprised.

bucket #1

My great-niece Snow was the second person to unwrap a present. Naturally, she picked the biggest box, as any 5-year-old would. Inside? This bucket. Immediately, we ALL knew the history of this bucket.


Probably an old lard bucket, its sat underneath my Mom’s kitchen sink for decades. Literally, decades. This was her potatoes and onions bucket. She also put peelings and other scraps into the bucket. When it was time to feed the sheep, the bucket was taken with and emptied.


This bucket as a lot of usage miles on it. Hubby Rick could not believe that I had driven this beat-up bucket to our house, only to wrap it up, so it could make the journey back to Augusta one more time.

Snow tried diligently to pawn the bucket off each time a new gift was unwrapped. She wasn’t very successful. Later, Rick “traded” Snow for the bucket, specifically, so he could leave the bucket under Debbie’s tree, a gift for her to discover later.

bucket #2

At last year’s Deaton Family Christmas, my Mom was there. It was really the last day she was fairly alert. The next day, she began a steady decline in which just a few weeks later, she passed away.

How fitting that Mom’s bucket became the gift everyone had a story about and the one we talked about all afternoon.


When Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem, they had no idea how this one trip would change their lives. When my parents traveled from central Iowa to northern Wisconsin on a very cold day in February 1961, could they anticipate how this one trip would change our family forever? I hardly think so.


Life is full of journeys. Some of these journeys are exciting. Some are difficult. Some take bends and corners we’d rather live without. Every family has a journey. Every family has history. Every family has things that draw out memories and stories, just like this bucket.


Our Deaton family isn’t perfect. We have lots of things that we’d like to change. At times, we disappoint each other and forget to give each other enough grace.


Yet, we’re still family. We are the ones who will continue the journey my parents began years ago. I love that we take time on Christmas to remember parts of this journey, share it with each other and keep the spirit of my parents and our grandparents as part of our Christmas celebration.

Our village isn’t Bethlehem. It’s Augusta. It’s part of our story, our journey.

What’s your journey?


For journeys of family yesterday, today and tomorrow, I am grateful.

Merry Christmas from the Deaton’s.

Holy God – it’s nearly impossible to understand how one journey to Bethlehem changed so much. It’s difficult to imagine the emotions and feelings Mary and Joseph felt as they were on this journey. As we journey in life, may we always see you as part of our journey. May we keep our eye on you, the one who knows best how we should steer our journey. Amen.

Blessings –


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