Six for Saturday – A Few Life Lessons

Gratitude Day 319

Sat., Aug. 31, 2019

Matthew 16:25 –If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

Good Saturday Morning Friends –

I have missed you. I have missed being able to sit down and share a few thoughts about life, faith and how the two integrate the last few weeks. Today, I’m going to share Six Things for Saturday, which maybe really a few things I’ve explored and discovered the month of August. Grab a cup of your favorite coffee or a glass of peach iced tea. Let’s reconnect for a few minutes and kick off this holiday weekend together!

Sometimes, life happens. And we just need to let it be. Going into August, I knew it was going to be a busy month. I’ve been working on two significant projects: one affiliated with my part-time job (which is more like full-time during August) as well as a big job that I’ve personally been working towards. The work job is nearly completion. My personal job? I’m making significant progress.

If you are slightly interested in knowing more about this project, I’ll share a bit today. Other times, I’ve mentioned about working on a book. My goal has been to have a rough draft completed by Sept. 1.  I have one more chapter to finish up today … and then, I’ll have a completed rough draft! Now, the entire book needs to go through several more revisions and editing and other steps. But achieving this first milestone has taken me awhile. I’m excited about being so close. Yes, there will be a lot more investment on my part in the next few weeks. But I am excited about the progress that I’ve made. Please stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more in the next couple of months.

In light of these big projects, unfortunately some other things had to get set aside, if only for a while. And yes, blogging was one of them. I’ve shared this previously and I am even more convinced of this: Trying to achieve balance in one’s life is impossible. At various periods in our lives, our time and attention will be draw towards some things more than others. This is OK. When this happens, it’s impossible to keep every life ball in the air. Instead of trying to do so and fail miserably at most of them, understand it’s just fine to let some things fall down the priority checking list, if only for a while. This doesn’t mean something is no longer important to us. It just says that it’s a lower priority for the minute. Extending ourselves grace in these situations is SO. IMPORTANT.

If you are in the middle of trying to juggle multiple hats or balls right now, be gracious with yourself. Look at your life and intentionally pick something to just be for a hot minute. You can come back to you later.

When life feels very full, self-care is terribly important. Some days, I make more this more of a priority than others. In some ways, I feel I attended to myself a bit better this past month than I have during other very busy times of my life. I exercised nearly every day. I had a quiet/devotion time about 75% of the time. I prioritized time with Hubby Rick on the weekends. Caring for ourselves, no matter what is going on in our lives, IS IMPORTANT. Why? It helps us keep perspective, understand why we do what we do and allows us to feel good about what we do and ourselves. When I’m run dry and have no more to give, I’m not very effective. Self-care says that we value ourselves and our ability to give back.

Sometimes, it’s easy to let the urgent take priority over our lives. Be intentional about these choices. As a pastor and a person in general, often, my day will be completely changed by a phone call, e-mail or some unexpected event in a day. Suddenly, I find myself letting go of everything I had planned for a particular day and allowing the urgent become the day’s focus.

There are some urgent requests that are truly urgent. In these instances, we need to drop everything else and focus purely on the situation at hand. But do this intentionally. Other times, we let the urgent sidetrack our priorities and goals.

Sometimes, a grandma duty request comes late the day before I am asked to help out. This is an urgent request that becomes an intentional request that I will fulfill. I am finding it a little easier to let some urgent requests wait for a minute until I have time to truly focus on them. It’s OK to let the urgent requests take priority. Just be intentional about this choice.

Looking for a great book to read at the end of summer? I highly recommend the historical fiction book, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. Awhile back, I recommended another book by Kelly, Lost Roses. This book was set during World War I. Lilac Girls was set during World War II and was the first book Kelly wrote. The story is told from the perspective of three women: an American woman named Caroline Ferriday, Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor who was the only female doctor at the all-women Nazi camp called Ravensbruck and Kasia Kuzmericak, a Polish girl who spent several years at Ravensbruck. Caroline and Herta were actual people who lived during World War II. Kasia was one of Polish women who became known as the Rabbits; women on whom the Reich performed experimental treatments.

The story of the Rabbits was completely new to me and one that struck a chord with me. This is a story about forgiveness, redemption and secrets that were hidden for decades. I actually listened to the audio version of this book, which I enjoyed immensely. Each character has a different reader, which made the book so interesting. The story opened my understanding of World War II from a different perspective. It’s a very interesting book to read and one I feel is worth the time.

Life is full of choices. Every choice we say “Yes” to means we say “No” to something else. For years, I’ve tried to say “Yes” to everything. I’m realizing that this is not always the best choice. Just because I say “No” to something does not mean this is unimportant to me. We will often say “No” to very important things. Reality is that we can’t do everything. I find that I don’t have unlimited energy and focus, which means I have to carefully pick where to direct my energy and focus every day. Some days, I do a better job of this than others. What I do hope is that God becomes part of this conversation and choice. It’s still very hard for me to say, “No.” But I know this is what I need to do.

I appreciate every single reader who reads these blogs. I appreciate every “share” and “like” someone gives. I love having a few people who follow along and use this as a daily devotion or way to quiet their soul. Thanks for being patient with me of late. I pray these simple words of faith bring just a bit of sunshine and reflection to your day.

For continued lessons about life, I am grateful.

Holy God – As we journey through these days, thanks for continuing to provide us opportunities to learn more about You, ourselves and our relationship with You and others. Thanks for always being there for us. I pray we find you in our little neck of the woods today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Happy Anniversary, Hubby Rick.

Gratitude Day 318

Mon., Aug. 26, 2019

John 15:9 – (Jesus said,) “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love.  

Dear Hubby Rick –

On this day, nineteen years ago, we said, “I do.”

What a glorious day this was. A day that forever changed my life and one that I never want to take for granted. It is the day by which so many other events in my life are measured by.

Often, I think of something as “post-marriage” or “pre-marriage.” I celebrate the precious moments that we have had together and often wished you had been a part of my life much earlier; even though I’m not sure you would have fully “liked” that Dianne.

I have discovered so much more about myself, other people and relationships because of your spot in my life. My faith has matured, my compassion deepened, and my experience grown. I’ve explored feelings, situations and realities that I would have never encountered without you in my life. Walking with you has made me a better person.

Thank you for being patient with me when I needed to process something or come to a clearer understanding of something going on in our lives. Please forgive me for all the times I have poked fun at you; especially your age. You’ve continued to love and care for me, even in moments when I disappointed you and let you down.

While we had weathered a few challenging storms before our wedding day, we were not always prepared for various situations in our marriage. Together, we have remained committed to each other above everything else; something that makes me love you even more.

One day, you told me that while there would be times when it appeared that I would not be the most important priority in your life. But at the end of the day, I always would be the most important thing in your life, after your relationship with God. Thank you for this gift. Unfortunately, I needed to hear this, know this and believe this. I admire you for taking this commitment seriously and living it. When I have failed to live with this same commitment towards you, thank you for accepting me with my flaws and shortcomings.

I pray that I view every day with you truly as a gift. I celebrate every opportunity we have to spend time just with each other. While we have collected chestfulls of memories in these nineteen years, I pray that we are blessed with many more years and opportunities to build our memory banks.

Thanks for adding laughter and humor to my life. Thanks for supporting so many of my crazy ideas and thoughts. Thanks for listening and encouraging me. Thanks for praying with me, sharing a faith journey together and keeping our relationship always rooted in God’s love for us and each other.

Most of all, thanks for saying, “I do.”

All My Love –

PD

For the blessing of Hubby Rick being my husband and such an important part of my life, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for bringing a spirit-filled man named Hubby Rick into my life. Thank you for drawing us together and helping us fall in love. May we always see our relationship as rooted in Your love and celebrate the ways you made us so unique and different from each other. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Garden’s Bounty

Gratitude Day 317

Tues., Aug. 13, 2019

Jeremiah 29:5 – “Build houses and settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the food they grow.

Truth: I love to garden.

Yes, this should have been on yesterday’s summer list. Since it didn’t make it, I’m giving the garden its own special shout-out.

That’s how much I love a garden.

Actually, Hubby Rick loves to garden almost more than I do. He loves preparing the soil, planting the seeds and hoeing the weeds. Yes, even the weeding is fun for him. When something is getting close to harvesting, he bounds into the house, excited to pronounce that another growing season is successful.

We’ve been harvesting veggies for awhile now. Green Beans, crowns of broccoli, peppers of every color and cute little orange tomatoes that seem to multiply overnight. Now, the bigger red tomatoes are ready to pick. The bean plants continue to blossom and each day there are a few more cucumbers. Rick has guided the squash and pumpkin plants into the flowers so the non-vine plants have plenty of room to grow. We find baby pumpkins growing in the day lilies and itty-bitty squash hanging from the tomato cages.  

Our garden isn’t very big. We just get a lot out of every inch of the garden.

We don’t have to garden, as previous generations did to fed their families. For us, gardening is a hobby. Something we do because it is relaxing, fun and enjoyable. Yet, the excitement of new veggies never grows old.

We enjoy putting something into the ground and watching it grow and develop into something we can eat. Rick and I never tire of this. Nor do we ever take this process for granted. Each cucumber, bean and cherry tomato is an amazing creation. How each is unique and special and fulfills something different from the other vegetables is purely amazing.

Truth: I love to garden. It brings me great joy. Where will you find joy today?

For the blessings that come out of our garden, I am grateful.

Holy God – somehow, you created foods and gardens as a way to feed us. Your imagination and creativity in all of this is amazing. As we eat fresh veggies or fruit today, may we appreciate Your creation. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Summer

Gratitude Day 316

Mon., Aug. 12, 2019

Luke 21:30 – When their leaves appear, you know that summer is near.

These are a few of my favorite things of summer:

Flowers

Cucumbers

Long walks

Fair food

Backyard fires

Peach Iced Tea

Ice Cream

Bike Rides

Outdoor music

Kayaking

Eating on the porch

Late sunsets

I’m sure there are more. Here’s a start.

What are some of YOUR favorite things about summer? Drink every single one of those things in during these lovely days of summer.

For blessings all summer long, I am grateful.

Dear God – May we not wish away a season, a month, a year or other some other thing. Instead, may we simply love every opportunity that lives before us these days. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Water for the Soul

Gratitude Day 315

Fri., Aug. 9, 2019

Ezekiel 19:10 – Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard, planted beside the water. The vine had many branches and gave much fruit, because there was plenty of water.

I love summertime flowers.

I LOVE hydrangeas. I LOVE zinnias. I LOVE having flowers in the house and outside the house.

As much as I love flowers, I also LOVE having beautiful non-flowering summer plants as well. My favorites? Coleus and sweet potato vine.

Both plants have many fun and different colors and shapes. They are also stunning together. This is why I love to pair them together in pots on our beautiful front porch.

About a month ago, we had multiple days of very warm weather. You could almost watch the coleus and sweet potato vine grow daily. The plants went from cute little guys swallowed up by the larger pots to nearly taking over the porch. They are quite striking in their appearance right now.

However, with bigger plants means they require more water. While the pots are decent sized, the plants have gotten so big they drink up every bit of water given to them.

One great thing about coleus and sweet potato vine? When they are thirsty, they let you know. They simply curl up their leaves and not-so-quietly say, “I’m a little parched right now. Could you give me a drink?”

Our porch faces the west. Every afternoon by 3 PM, the leaves on the plants are speaking to us, longing for a wet drink of water. Literally within minutes of receiving the water, the leaves uncurl, spread back out and let their beauty sing all over again.

Every day, this happens. Literally. If I am not home for a day or two, I’ll ask Hubby Rick to water the plants. Recently he asked, “Every day? They have to be watered every day?”

Yep. Every day.

Likewise, our souls need watering every day. Well, at least my soul does. If I go more than 24 hours (well, really more like one hour) without connecting with God, I find myself drying up. The leaves of my patience, compassion and attitude begin to curl up and become more interested in protecting myself than looking for where God wants me to shine and show God’s beauty to someone else. But when I take a long drink of the trough of communication with God, I discover more peace. More acceptance. More joy.

Just because I reconnect with God and spend some time going back to the One who created me does not mean I expect God to be at my beck-and-call. I am humbled daily when I realize that God knows my limits and abilities so much better than I do. God understands my warts and vulnerable spots. God also is ready to help me work through them … especially when I refresh myself with just even a minute or two of prayer, re-centering myself and a word of God in my life.

If the plants need daily nourishment and water, why should my soul be any different?

It’s when I go through droughts of time without God in my life that I find myself becoming more self-centered, shallow and looking for ways that I have been wronged. Just like the plant leaves, I need a daily reminder of refreshment from something outside of myself that keeps me grounded in where my strength comes from.

As I watered the plants just yesterday, this little message became so terribly poignant to me. For another reminder to water my soul daily, I am grateful.

Gracious God – thank you for longing and yearning to water my soul regularly and consistently. I pray that I make this a consistent and important part of my daily living. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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10,000 Practices

Gratitude Day 314

Thurs., Aug. 8, 2019

Isaiah 49:8 – At the right time I heard your prayers. On the day of salvation, I helped you.

Sometimes, we just need a little practice.

Or maybe, a lot of practice.

Professional athletes will repeat the same action over and over. Then, when they are in a situation while competing, their body will automatically perform a certain function. Their brain will not have to think. It will simply do.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Josh Jackson high-fives fans while riding a bike to practice at the first day of training camp on July 25, 2019 in Green Bay, Wis. Gpg Trainingcamp 072519 Sk32

They practice the same action at least 10,000 times.

Bakers and chiefs will make the same food over and over. Until it is just right. Tweaks here and there to their recipe until the food simply melts in your mouth and it tastes heavenly.

They make the same item for what seems like 10,000 times before it is just right.

There are things that I do without even thinking about them. Brush my teeth. Make coffee in the morning. Put gas into the car. I’ve done these things more than 10,000 times. I’ve practiced and practiced these actions to the point that I don’t think about them when I do them. My body knows just what to do. I’ve done them so often, sometimes, I stop and question if I did them today or not.

When it comes to prayer, why do we expect our prayers to be one-and-done? Why do we only say them once and expect the answer immediately? Why are we so impatient and anticipate that God will answer them as soon as we have spoken the words?

Why shouldn’t we view prayer more like requiring 10,000 practices before we get an answer?

Why aren’t we committed to practicing prayer over and over before we might get it right?

Why should God answer a prayer before we are so vested into a prayer that we’ve prayed it so many times that we don’t even have to think about it anymore?

The problem with prayer? We say it once. Or twice. Maybe three times. And if God does not answer it immediately, we conclude that “God doesn’t answer our prayers.” Maybe, our approach should be that we need to keep practicing prayer. Saying the same one, or slightly modified prayer, over and over, until we truly become prayer experts.

And as we do this, see how we change in the process. See how our faith grows and changes. See how God works in and through our lives because we want to become prayer experts so badly. Maybe, if we commit to praying over and over the same prayer, we begin to truly understand what prayer is.

Before you give up on prayer, commit to praying the same prayer 10,000 times. Give God 10,000 reasons why your prayer should be heard. Commit to the process. See what happens. You might be amazed at the results.

For a willingness to commit to prayer for the long-haul, I am grateful.

Dear God – Forgive us for the times we gave up on prayer way too early. Forgive us for our short-sighted times of skipping out of being a true prayer warrior. Instill in us the desire to truly become a person who has prayed so much, over and over. May we desire to become followers with at least 10,000 prayer practices. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Words Matter

Gratitude Day 313

Mon., Aug. 5, 2019

Colossians 3:8 – But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk.

We say these sentences, sometimes without even thinking.

“Things will get better with time.”

“You have such great memories.”

“He’s in a better place.”

“Let me know what I can do for you.”

As I sat with two friends, they shared how these sentences have been said to them time after time. Both have lost important people in their lives. Both are going through grief. Both miss the person who has left a huge hole in their lives.

We, on the other hand, dole out these platitudes one after another because, well, they make us feel better.

But do they make the other person feel better? Really? Do we honestly always believe our words? Or do we say them because we feel the need to fill the silence? The hole? The grief?

I’ve said them. I’ve had them said to me. And I’ll be honest. If you don’t really believe those words or know for sure that they are true, please don’t dole them out.

Just listen.

Just hold the other person’s hand.

Just be.

I know it’s so much easier to say those words that others say All. The. Time. But maybe, just maybe, think about what those words are saying before speaking them. We’re talking about a person’s feelings. We’re exploring someone’s grief. We’re trying to address a big old hole that may or may not be ready to be filled.

We feel the need to say something. Anything. Whether we fully understand what we are saying or not.

But please. Only use words you know to be true. Words that are not a platitude but something that will speak to the other person’s life today.

Otherwise, just be. Silence is OK. Grief needs time. And be my friend who lives beyond platitudes.

Please forgive me for the times I said those words to you without thinking. Without understanding. Without truly being present for you. I simply didn’t know better.

But I’ve heard my two friends speak. And now, I know better. My words matter. To you. I pray that I will be move careful about using words that will not hurt. That will heal. Otherwise, may my words be words of silence. And let me be OK with this.

For rediscovering that our words matter, I am grateful.

Holy God – too often, we find ourselves filling space with platitudes and words that we may or may not believe. Words that have been spoken to us or others in their moment of struggle. And without really thinking through what we say, we simply repeat them. Help me be more discerning with my words. What I say. How I say it. To whom I repeat it. My words matter. May my words be more ambassadors of your grace than simply words that I repeat without fully believing or understanding. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Keep It Simple

Gratitude Day 312

Sat., Aug. 3, 2019

1 Peter 2:2 – As newborn babies want milk, you should want the pure and simple teaching. By it you can mature in your salvation,

We had a neighborhood gathering at our house last night. About 25 of our neighbors meandered over to our house for a wonderful night. It was potluck. One neighbor provided the meat and buns. We provided calico beans (my Dad’s favorite) and a location. The weather was ideal. We had people sitting inside the house and most enjoyed the wrap-around porch. Eventually, many wondered outdoors, and we enjoyed a near-perfect summer night in Wisconsin.

I had such good intentions. I wanted to snap a few pictures of our evening together.

It didn’t happen.

The only photos I have are of these flowers that I used to make little arrangements for the tables. I wanted a little something to dress up the tables.  Something simple and easy but yet nice.

So, I did the simplest thing I could think of. I cut flowers out from the road ditches and put them into little Mason jar for table arrangements. Super cute and so simple. I did the whole project in about 20 minutes, including picking the flowers from the road ditches.

The flowers can be a metaphor for our lives. Too often, we want to make things complicated. A big deal. Overwhelming. Maybe, God calls us to be simple. Nothing flashing. Nothing overwhelming. Nothing difficult. Just who we are.

Life gets full. Life can be too complicated. Sometimes, we just need to gather over a burger and a brat and share our lives with each other. Nothing complicated. Nothing flashy. Just who we are.

Too often when we find ourselves in the midst of a challenging situation, we get bent out of shape. We worry and develop anxiety. We don’t know what to do.

Actually, we do know what to do. Think of the simplest next step you can take. It doesn’t have to be very big. Just one little thing you can do to remedy the situation.

Then, do it.

Just this one little step. See what happens. Hopefully it won’t require tremendous work or schedule reorganization. In fact, it shouldn’t. Because this is just one small step.

Then, step back. Look. Listen. Breathe. You did it. You did one small step.

Maybe that is enough for today.

For lessons in simplicity that never grow old , I am grateful.

Lord God – Sometimes, we keep looking at the forest and we forget to see the individual trees. Help us see the individual trees of life: the simplest of things that truly make a different. Help us be agents of simple. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Never Ending Smiles

Gratitude Day 312

Thurs., Aug. 1, 2019

Luke 18:15-17 – Some people brought even their babies to Jesus so he could touch them. When the followers saw this, they told them to stop. But Jesus called for the children, saying, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these children. I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a child, or you will never enter it.”

Look carefully at the smiles in the pictures with this post. They will make your day. The kids, the players, the people standing by; they all have smiles.

Jul 25, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (81) rides a bicycle to the first day of training camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The National Football League (NFL) started training camp this week. The Green Bay Packers have a long-standing and super cool tradition. Kids line-up with their bikes by Lambeau Field. They are hoping and waiting for a player to pick their bike and ride it across the street to the practice field.

The parade of bikes going from one location to the next on a specified route is something some Wisconsin kids look forward to all summer. It truly is one of the best traditions in all of the NFL.

Jul 25, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Curtis Bolton (40) rides a bicycle to the first day of training camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Notice grown men riding pink Barbie bikes. Sometimes with training wheels. Or 300 lb. guys trying to balance themselves on bikes that weight less than they do. One in a while, there will be a Packer player who finds a cool bike on which they almost fit. And then, they pedal past the thousands of people line-up and high-five them as they ride by.

The kids walk along side the player riding their bike. Usually, they carry the player’s helmet.

I have no clue who came up with this idea. Or how it started. But it’s a good one.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Josh Jackson high-fives fans while riding a bike to practice at the first day of training camp on July 25, 2019 in Green Bay, Wis. Gpg Trainingcamp 072519 Sk32

Sometimes, we forget to enjoy the amazement and awe of a child. These kids may or may not know who the player is riding their bike. The who is not nearly as important as the why. These kids just want 30 seconds of feeling like someone saw them. They look forward to connecting with these guys who is wearing green and gold. Whether the players realize it or not, they are making the day for all those little people whose bikes they are riding.

Sometimes, we like to protect “important” people from people on the fringes. People who are too young or from the wrong social class from coming into contact with a very important person. Jesus broke down these barriers when he demanded that the children has the same access to him as adult people.

Maybe Jesus needed a break from all the postulating adult people he often had to deal with. Maybe he just wanted to laugh. Possibly, he was trying to make a point. Whatever the reason, I’m sure glad he told those present, and says to us today, “Accept the kingdom of God as a child. Otherwise, you won’t get to experience it.”

We know professional sports are big business. Unfortunately, some of those guys riding bikes today will not make the final Packer’s roster. Do the kids who brought their bikes to Lambeau Field today really care? I just don’t think so. For today, getting to hold the helmet of someone they looked up to was enough.

Think about the kids who gathered around Jesus. Did they really know who this man was … or were they so excited that an adult wanted to play Legos with them? That day, playing Legos or whatever game first century Jewish kids played, was enough.

Jul 25, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packer Mason Crosby (2) rides a bicycle to first day of training camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

How might you engage with a young person today in a manner that will be enough for them? Go for a bike ride. Take them for ice cream. Play catch. Color with them. Spending time with them will put a smile on their face. Most likely, it will plaster one on your face as well. There is a good chance it may be a day that the kid won’t forget for a very long time.

For lessons from children that never grow old, I am grateful.

Holy God – forgive us for forgetting to look at the world and life through the eyes of a child. Restore some childlike qualities in us today. May we find a little person with whom we can share a special moment today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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