Those Oh, So Silly “Treats” in My Life

Gratitude Day 285

Fri., June 14, 2019

1 Timothy 1:15 – Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

The past several weeks, I have been blessed with many great opportunities. Ways that I have had an opportunity to be involved with, participate, serve or help someone else.

In case you missed it, “blessed with many great opportunities” is code for “I struggle with saying, ‘No.’”

I’m the type of person who can say “Yes” to nearly everyone except herself. I can and will re-arrange my schedule to accommodate any request … unless the request is for my personal wellbeing or care. Then, everyone else’s request takes precedence.

When I feel like I’ve had a very full day or I haven’t prioritized time to exercise or quiet my soul, I often “treat” myself to something unhealthy, trashy or a complete time waster.

But, oh, it feels so good.

I know. Instead of watching an episode of some ridiculous television show that is certainly not based on reality, I should go for a walk or a run. Rather than fill more time with something that can only be defined as a means of escaping my overcommitments, it would be more constructive if I cared for my heart and soul. But instead, I treat myself to ice cream. There’s a reason I do not regularly keep ice cream in the house. I’d easily weigh 300 pounds if I did.

So why do I convince myself that I can speed through a pre-recorded silly TV show in two-thirds the time by skipping all commercials but don’t feel I have time to read a great book? Or how can it be that my anxiety level seems to immediately lower the moment any flavor of ice cream melts in my mouth?

Because I struggle with caring for myself, I allow myself to “treat” myself to something that definitely is not a treat but simply a “break” from the real world. It’s an escape. A time waster that allows me to step out of my sinful nature and relish, “Well, at least I’m not like her …”

Oh, the mind gymnastics we allow ourselves to play.

I know it would be far more helpful to read something helpful or well-written than slump down into a comfy chair in front of the TV. Or just allow our tired and weary soul a chance to be. But instead, I convince myself that a small treat or reprieve is justified.

When your heart or soul is tired, is there some silly “treat” you allow yourself to experience? Like me, do you feel a little guilty about it … but not enough to change your behavior? How do you move away from feeling you “deserve” this silly escape and direct your behavior towards something more positive and helpful?

Today, I’m grateful that I know a God who overlooks my silly choices and behaviors. Who accepts me the way I am and loves me in spite of when I make less-than-desirable choices.  Who doesn’t give up on me.

For God’s acceptance of me, I am grateful.

Lord God – thanks for accepting me, warts and all. Thanks for overlooking my shortcomings and poor choices. Thanks for accepting me the way I am. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Very Good Surprise

Gratitude Day 2834

Tues., June 11, 2019

Psalm 139:15 – Nothing about me is hidden from you! I was secretly woven together deep in the earth below,

Every once in a while, it’s fun to pull off a secret adventure.

Last week, with the help of several friends, we surprised our friend Pam Karg.

Pam is a woman who likes to think she’s always in the “know.” She knows this person and she knows that person. Often, she connects various people when she thinks there would be a mutual benefit in two people knowing each other. She knows what’s going on whether she’s living in America or Armenia. She honors herself in being connected, informed and knowledgeable a little about a whole lot of things.

Because Pam likes to be the one in the “know,” this is why it was even more significant that the surprise was on her. She didn’t know what was happening until the very last minute.

Pam flew back to American to participate in the Cooperative Communications Association (CCA) Annual Institute. This is an organization which she has been involved for decades. CCA’s membership is comprised of various folks who work in communications for American co-ops. Some are writers, others are photographers and there are those who simply love working with other communicators. Pam was a speaker at the institute. What she didn’t know is that she was also receiving the organization’s highest honor, the H.E Klinefelter award.

A group of CCA members nominated Pam for the award. Interestingly, Pam was the 60th recipient of this award and in just a few weeks, she will turn 60.  Pam’s Mom, Mary, wanted to attend the banquet where Pam would receive the award. My role was to assist Mary in getting to Savannah, Georgia and to the banquet.

Was Pam surprised? More like shocked. Overwhelmed. Caught completely off-guard. When Mary and I arrived at the social hour preceding the banquet, Pam literally had to leave the room for a hot minute to compose herself. Did I mention this is a woman who is never at a loss for words?

It was a fun evening honoring and recognizing Pam’s lifetime of work and achievement. She’s not only worked for co-op’s in the United States; she has taught about co-op’s and communication in Armenia, Georgia and multiple African countries. For the last 15 years, Pam has been globetrotting to various countries and locations, sharing her heart and passion for agriculture, women and her faith. Whether it was teaching African woman how to preserve food or assisting Armenia college students who were applying for colleges in the United States, Pam has selflessly given of herself and her time.

Yes, Pam can be loud and boisterous. Yes, she likes to be the life of the party. And yes, there have been times when, as her pastor, I’ve had to encourage her to tone it down or see it from someone else’s perspective. Yet under all of that brazen exterior, there’s a heart of gold that only wants others to find joy and peace in their lives.

When I think of the various people with whom I’ve been acquainted with during the five plus decades of my life, I see all different kinds of individuals and personalities. It amazes me how God has specifically granted us unique and special gifts to use for the glory and honor of God’s kingdom. Pam’s gifts are so specific for her and her heart. What she does is so unlike any other of my friends. This is what makes her special and unique.

When God calls us into a new or different way of ministry, sometimes, we can be caught completely off-guard. Pam could have decided that God’s call in her life was too radical or unexpected. Instead, she accepted the surprise that she would live most of the last 15 years overseas. She has chosen to live and work with folks who do not have the amenities that most of us in first-world countries do.

Few people are called to serve the way Pam has been called. When initially Pam felt a stirring in her heart to spend six weeks in Armenia serving, she never expected this to turn into 15 years and multiple countries. Yet, it has.

Often, we’d like to think we have good senses of humor. But the One who REALLY has a great sense of humor? It’s God. Countless times, I’ve seen God show up in a completely unexpected way and surprise so many people. As much as I’d like to take a little credit for Pam’s big surprise last week, I know the real orchestrator of this whole deal wasn’t a small group of people. Nope. It was God who worked in and through a whole bunch of people for this surprise to come to fruition.

Yes, God needs lots of people to be God’s hands and feet and voices and ears. Too often, we like to take credit for something that could only have been orchestrated by someone bigger than you and I. For some reason, we sinful human beings are so much quicker to blame God when something awful happens but then pat ourselves on the back when something special comes through. How easy it is to overlook the real possibly that someone bigger than you and me planted and watered seeds for this awesome thing to happen.

While you may or may not have been called to serve and travel to different parts of the world, God has a special call for you to fulfill in your life. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Do you know what it is? Are you listening … or simply making excuses because God’s call seems a bit too audacious to your liking?

What I admire about Pam is that she heard this call … and accepted it. As the call and opportunities have opened to additional countries and for longer periods of time, Pam has continued to listen to God and God’s messengers in her life. She makes no secret about wanting to do this in her life.

I pray that we see God’s call in our lives right now. I pray that we understand the calling and implementation of the call is far more important than any accolade or recognition we might receive. I pray we are inspired by people like Pam who maybe a little crazy but are just crazy enough to listen closely to God and follow God’s lead in his/her life. Most importantly, I pray that you won’t keep God’s calling in your life a secret but rather feel compelled to share it with others.

For God’s special call in your and my lives, I am grateful.

Almighty God – it is amazing how you gift and call us to serve Your kingdom. Help us not be afraid to do something that seems big and audacious and challenging. May we accept Your special call in our lives for today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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June Dairy Month

Gratitude Day 283

Mon., June 10, 2019

Job 10:10 – As cheese is made from milk, you created my body from a tiny drop.

Here in Wisconsin, we love June Dairy Month.

It’s an entire month dedicated to eating as many dairy products as we like. Why? Because so many dairy products are produced here in Wisconsin! We love ourselves milk, chocolate milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, custard and yogurt all month long. Throughout the month, lots of events hosted so people can get on a farm, eat some dairy products and witness how well dairy cattle are cared for.

Our former neighbors and dear friends, the Lohr Family Farm, hosted such an event last Saturday. For five years, Hubby Rick and I lived literally just down the road from the Lohr’s. Parents Mel and Doris started this dairy farm decades ago. Their son, Greg, oversees much of the day-to-day operation. Doris still manages the books and finances and oversees the calf operation. They hire other folks to help care for the animals, harvest the crops and assist in all activities that make a dairy operation hum daily.

Doris & Mel Lohr

About a year ago, the Lohr’s built a new facility. Their old barn was worn out. They also wanted to build an operation that would provide an excellent environment for their dairy cows, which they accomplished. In a barn filled with 220 cows producing milk every day, you basically never hear a cow “Moo” because they literally feel like they are living in a 5-star hotel and receiving all the amenities which keep them very happy.

Five-gallon buckets soon to be filled with cracked eggs.

Lots of people showed up at the dairy breakfast. Some came on Friday and cracked eggs and set-up tents for food, entertainment and education. Early Saturday morning, people began cooking scrambled eggs and pancakes. Before 7 AM, lines of people enjoyed plates filled with excellent food made right on the Lohr farm. As a live band played in the background, kids swarmed the petting zoo and people enjoyed the near perfect weather for a day on the farm. Before leaving the farm, everyone enjoyed locally made Culver’s a custard Sunday, topped with strawberries or fudge honey topping.

We live in a society today where connections to where and how food is raised and produced are not as close as they once were. Decades of people were either raised on a farm or visited grandparents who lived on a farm. Today, the only chance most people have to be on a real, working farm is when they participate in an event like the Lohr’s hosted. It’s the one time of the year when people may have an opportunity to see happy cows producing tons of nature’s most perfect product: milk.

Here in Wisconsin, lots of this milk becomes cheese. Cheese that is used on pizza, pasta dishes, salads, and sandwiched between two crackers. You can choose from hundreds of varieties and pick your favorite to mix into scrambled eggs or other foods that simply taste better with a little cheese.

It’s hard work, running a dairy operation. The Lohr’s, and so many other dairy farmers, are committed to providing a safe, healthy and excellent product while treating their animals with love that would rival how many children are raised. For the last five years, the dairy industry has experienced historical low prices while input costs have remained elevated. Thousands of dairy producers have exited the industry in just the last two years, unable to provide a reasonable living for their families.

Some of the Lohr family … unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the entire family!

During this June Dairy Month, I encourage you to enjoy lots of nature’s most product. Find a local event that you can attend and drink in all the hard work and love that these people provide their animals. Buy a few extra dairy products this month and enjoy your favorites every day.

People could park a few miles away and ride a bus to the dairy breakfast.

You see, just as God created you and your body, God created these wonderful animals called milk cows and the milk they produce. May we appreciate all of God’s creation and celebrate those who care for it so well.

Happy calves at the Lohr Family Farm

For God’s wonderful unique and creation, I am grateful.

Lord God – it’s amazing to discover how carefully you created an animal that can produce a product that feeds our bodies so well. Thank you for the folks like the Lohr Family that have dedicated their lives to providing us with a healthy, safe and wholesome product that we can feed our bodies. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Kindness Starts at Home

Gratitude Day 282

Fri., June 7, 2019

Romans 12:3 – I realize how kind God has been to me, and so I tell each of you not to think you are better than you really are. Use good sense and measure yourself by the amount of faith that God has given you.

There’s a saying that goes something like, “A little bit of kindness goes a long way.”

One of Hubby Rick’s favorite sayings is, “It’s easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Recently, I saw this saying and thought it was spot on:

Often, people will say to me, “She/he was a good person.” Most often, I hear this when I am preparing someone’s funeral. I find it interesting that “good” is the default word often used. To me, “good” is such a subjective term. What I consider “good” may or may not be what you determine as “good.”

But when it comes to kindness, I think it’s much easier to have a more equal kindness scale. Yes, people make rank certain things higher on the kindness scale. But we can theoretically agree what should even approach the kindness list:

  • Holding the door for someone.
  • Saying “please” and “thank you.”
  • Going out of a one’s way to do something for someone else.
  • Picking up the tab for a meal.
  • Giving a bouquet of flowers for no reason at all.
  • Taking time to visit with someone.
  • Acting interested in something a person you know is participating in.
  • Dropping whatever you are doing to help someone in need.
  • Passing over something you want and giving it to another person instead.

Yes, there are hundreds and thousands of other ways to be kind to someone else. Some of these things take seconds to do. Others can take hours or days or weeks.

We also can quickly identify when kindness could have been extended … and it wasn’t. Most often, it would have taken 30 seconds or less. And the choice is made not to do it. Unfortunately, the lack of kindness often becomes the focus on the relationship rather than applauding some kind gesture that did happen.

I’ve been the receipient of many kind gestures lately. Each one was just as meaningful as the last, whether it was quick and over or a longer period of time. What amazes me about kindness? Often, it takes no more time and effort to extend a quick little moment of kindness than it does to withhold it. We think we don’t have time or energy or resources to extend a moment of kindness; when in reality, doing something for someone else can actually give us energy. Crazy as this may sound, it’s the TRUTH!!

So today, grasp an opportunity laid before you to be kind. Don’t stop with just one instance of kindness. That would be too easy. Challenge yourself to find multiple opportunities to extend just a big of kindness to someone else. See how this affects your attitude, your demenor and your outlook. Maybe, just maybe, it will also put a spring into your step!

For recognition of God’s kindness to me being meaningful enough that I extend kindness to others, I am grateful.

Holy God – may we come to appreciate just how deep and significantly it is that you love us. Rooted deeply in kindness. May we be inspired by your kindness to us that we make extending kindness a regular part of our day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Bracing Up

Gratitude Day 281

Wed., June 5, 2019

Matthew 11:29-30 – (Jesus said) “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I have the most creative husband. He never ceases to amaze me with what he comes up with to fix a potential problem. Here’s a case in point.

We’re adding a master bathroom to our house. Previously in this space was a small kitchen. At one point, our house was set-up as two apartments; one upstairs and one downstairs. This is why there was a little kitchen on the second floor.

Our goal has always been to restore the home to a single-family dwelling. As we decided what to do with our upstairs, we felt creating a special master bedroom suite made sense. So, Rick ripped out the kitchen, moved a couple walls and made space for a master bathroom. He also built a closet for a washer and dryer.

While I love to take baths, our plumber convinced us that putting in a nice larger shower stall was the way to go. I decided to use a little nicer tile and materials in this area. Rick and I talked at great length about whether he felt comfortable taking on this project. While he knew it would require expanding his skillset, he really wanted to do it. He’s used the school of hundreds of Youtube videos to learn more about building and installing the shower. Of course, these videos don’t always agree on what is the best way to go about doing something.

I picked out a larger porcelain tile that I wanted run vertically in the shower along with an accent glass tile that we would put in the middle of the back wall of the shower. Rick has previously installed shower tile … but nothing this big and with a whole new floor base as well. He carefully decided what the best way to do all of this was.

After the shower floor tile were installed, he began working on the walls. I was gone the day he put up the first tiles. When I got home, naturally the first place I would go was to see the progress in the bathroom.

Imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw all of these boards supporting and bracing the installed tile. Hubby Rick had designed a maze of support boards to make sure the tile would stick to the wall.

It was rather ingenious. However, when I’ve seen shower tile installed on HGTV, I’ve never seen them use these types of support boards. I’m just saying …

Rick admits that this has become a much bigger project than he anticipated. Possibly he bit off more than he could chew. He changed his method for installing the tile a bit and after this, the tile went up much more like he envisioned.

I must give Rick credit for coming up with a way to make sure the tile would stay on the wall. His bracing system may look a little crazy and question if the tile were applied correctly. Yet, his thought process of making sure the tile would stay on? Creative.

As Christians, there are days when we need a little help bracing ourselves up. When doing it alone is really more than we can handle. Where extra support makes all the difference in the world. If you’ve had one or more of those types of days lately, what braces you up? What supports you? When you’ve lost control and can no longer do it alone or by yourself, where do you turn to for extra support?

We can and should enlist help from friends and family. We can look for a little different approach, like Rick did with the tile. Most importantly, we are to turn to  

God can creatively shore us up and make sure we have the tools necessary to make the best decisions possible.

Jesus was very clear when he told the disciples, “Don’t go it alone. Take my burden upon you and together, we’ll make it through.

We’ll make it through the financial crisis we are in. The health issue will somehow be resolved. The disagreement will subside over time. Too often, I witness others (including myself) try to work through something on our own versus calling upon God’s help in this department.

Maybe the purposes for Rick’s braces were simply to be a reminder for me to brace myself up with the Lord when life gets full, busy and distracting. My biggest make sense

I don’t know what’s going on in your life today. I don’t know if you feel burdened or distracted or overwhelmed. Whatever it is? Enlist God to bring a sweetness to your life. Let God’s yoke help you journey through this time before.

FYI – The shower is coming along nicely. The braces are gone. I’ll show more pictures after we have it completed.

For God’s yoke that years for us to ask for help, I am grateful.

Holy God – thanks for all the unique and beautiful plants that graze our areas. May they encourage us to celebrate life on a daily basis. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Blooms of Spring

Gratitude Day 280

Mon., June 3, 2019

Song of Solomon 2:12 – Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

Sometimes, our souls need to sing.

After a stretch with lots of commitments, I arrived home last Thursday afternoon with the opportunity to enjoy the outside. In spite of other projects that could have filled my attention, I headed outside. It was time to do some gardening.

I had bought some annuals nearly two weeks earlier but had not made time to get them planted. There were some perennials that I wanted to move. And yes, more mulch was needed as well.

After a few hours outside, progress was made. As the west sky turned dark blue and purple and eventually black, it was time to wrap things up for the night. The rest would have to wait until Friday.

In the morning, I continued relocating plants and putting the pots together. Eventually, I had just one more thing to do: plant a zinnia hedge along the edge of the garden. In the summer, these zinnias make me happy. They are super easy to take care of and are stunning to observe. I like to buy a variety of zinnia’s, mix them together and plant them into the soil. And wait. Wait until their blossoms are big enough to gather into a lovely bouquet and display in the kitchen.

I suggested to Hubby Rick that he get some mulch. Thankfully, he took the hint and picked up a load. Better yet – he started to unload it, bucket by bucket, as he spread it in the flower beds. It looks amazing.

In just a few hours, the flower beds and yard when from “not too terribly exciting” to gorgeous. The cleaned-out beds, the rearranged plants and the contrasting mulch made us feel like the yard had just burst into new life. This spring cleaning was so worth it.

Are they areas in your life that are just ready to bloom and need a slight bit of encouragement? Possibly some rearranging? A little bit of time and attention? As summer is upon us and opportunities abound, contemplate what you can do to fill your soul and bring some happiness into your life.  

For dirty hands, freshly water plants and the promise of beautiful blossoms, I am grateful.

Holy God – thanks for all the unique and beautiful plants that graze our areas. May they encourage us to celebrate life on a daily basis. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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God In the Simple

Gratitude Day 279

Sat., June 1, 2019

Hebrew 5:12 – By now you should have been teachers, but once again you need to be taught the simplest things about what God has said. You need milk instead of solid food.

Just a few thoughts as the weekend officially begins. Thoughts that encourage me to realize that simple is never overrated. In fact, we need regular doses of simple milk in our lives to help restore our souls.

  • Hubby Rick and I have observed several rites of passages these last several days. Earlier this week, I shared about our nephew Kevin, and his most recent rite of passage with high school graduation. We also met our newest granddaughter, Jensyn. Birth and graduation. Two pretty big rites of passages. Yet, also events that simply bring us back to simple beginnings. Events we know we simply use to mark time once again in our lives.
  • Another huge rite of passage? Leaving this world. About a month ago, I shared the story of our dear friends, Howard and Rhoda. Over a week ago, Howard began a journey towards the last moments of his life. It’s been a special time in which I had the honor to help care for Howard in his last days. Being a part of this type of journey is terribly humbling and powerful. It’s also a huge reminder that there are some things we have absolutely no control over. Thanks, Rhoda, for letting me walk this path with Howard and your family.
  • For the last two school years, I have participated in our local school district’s buddy program. Wednesday mornings, I’m at the school, hanging out with my buddy, Isaac. This week was our last session, as well as the end-of-the-year ice cream social to celebrate all the buddies and their mentors. During the ice cream social, school counselor Mrs. Sukowski took a few minutes and chatted with Isaac and me. She asked what types of things we did together. Isaac is finishing 5th grade. Normally, students “graduate” out of the buddy program after 5th grade. Isaac asked Mrs. Sukowski if I could be his buddy next year, even though he is going into 6th grade. The counselor asked Isaac why he wanted to continue to meet with me. Here’s his answer: “She’s fun, funny and smart. Besides that, she’s my best friend.” Folks – there have been times when I have wondered if the one-hour I spend each week with Isaac is important. I’m not sure that I really am his best friend. What his comments say to me is that if I brought a little stability into his life, every hour that I spent with him is simply important.
  • Finally, spring arrived. The last two days, Rick and I have spent some time freshening up the yard and flower beds. It’s the best therapy for me. And having lily of the valley blooming right now makes doing these tasks simply a complete pleasure.
  • One last picture for the road – Grandpa and 7-year-old Dylan after his baseball game on Friday night. Little people baseball is simply the best.

For simple things that remind me what truly is important even when life can be very full, I am grateful.

Gracious God – You are the master of simply. Too often, we are the ones who muck things up and make them too difficult. May we find You in the simply places of life this weekend. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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