A “Pay It Forward” 35 Years in the Making

Gratitude Day 341

Fri., Oct. 18, 2019

Deuteronomy 15:7:  If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.

“We’d like to donate some money to the Blessings Program you coordinate,” the caller said.

Her name was Gail. We kind of know each other. Well enough that she felt comfortable calling me.  

Donate money to the Blessings program?

Yes! Great! Yeah! I love these kinds of calls!

The rest of the story? Well, that’s where it is SO. COOL.

Gail called me as a representative from the Poynette Class of 1984. Recently, they held their 35th class reunion. As part of their event, they included a “Pay It Forward” aspect.

Here’s how it worked. They asked their class members to give money. Class representatives said they would find a good local program to contribute to. Would the Blessings in a Backpack Program like the money?

Well, yes, of course we would. Just one condition.

A condition?

Yes. Can you and some other class representatives stop by my house so I can take a picture? I just think we need to let others know about you super cool idea.

“No problem,” said Gail.

Recently, Gail and four of her classmates stopped by our house. It was raining. It was a little cold. We stood on our lovely wrap-around porch while I talked a mile a minute about our local Blessings program. They probably felt like they got ran over by the word train, as I squeezed in as many words and facts and figures as possible in the 15 minutes they stood on my porch.

And then, we took the picture.

We wished they had a big check. I assured them the envelope was just fine. The money they handed over to me, $480, will provide weekend food for four Poynette students during the entire school year.


Then, I asked them. How did they come up with the idea? Why Blessings?

These classmates graduated 35 years ago. They are now in a position where some of them can make a little donation back into the community. Some of them still live in the Poynette School District. Some don’t. Yet, they wanted to set an example for other classes of how they can gave back whether they live in the district or not.

How cool is this?

If I’m ever asked to serve on a class reunion committee, know what I’m going to do? I’m not going to volunteer to get the food organized. Or secure a location. Or put together a booklet about the class members. (Been there, done that.)

I’m going to organize a “Pay It Forward” event. I’m going to ask class members to share a little bit for a local project in the community where we graduated from high school. Make a little difference for some kids today. Let our action say that we’re glad we graduated from this community, this high school. Choose to support the school and community whether we live there or not.

The Poynette Class of 1984 came up with a great idea for their class reunion. I know. Going to a class reunion can be, well, OK. I’ve attended most of mine class reunions. I’ve attended a few of Hubby Rick’s class reunions as well. They are nice. Fine. Good to catch up.

But a “Pay It Forward” aspect?

I’ll be there in a New York minute. Count me all in!

If you are having a class reunion soon or later or whenever … consider a “Pay It Forward” aspect. Doesn’t matter if it will be your 10th reunion or your 50th class reunion. It’s a great opportunity to give back to the place you received your diploma from.

For creative ways to give back to a community, I am grateful. 

Holy God – We just might say, “This is crazy!” a few times today. Assure us that this is OK. Help us see those times when we are crazy as just part of the journey towards something totally awesome. Amen.

Blessings –


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Turning “This is Crazy!” into “This is Awesome!”

Gratitude Day 340

Thurs., Oct. 17, 2019

2 Corinthians 5:13:  If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake.

At some point in nearly every day, I think to myself, “This is crazy.”

Crazy can be a whole bunch of things:

  • Too warm, too cold, too windy or too wet
  • Too much wasted time
  • Too long of a wait or poor customer service
  • Way longer than I planned
  • Too ridiculous or silly
  • Too outside of my comfort zone
  • And a whole bunch of other things.

I’m working on a couple bit personal projects right now. How much longer EVERYTHING takes than I think it should be well, simply, crazy.

But I’m looking for the day when the craziness turns into awesomeness.

Awesome because:

  • The book I’ve been working on will be written, published and getting into the hands of others
  • I will have learned a whole new bunch of skills
  • My comfort zone box just increased significantly
  • And a whole bunch of other things.

There’s really a fine line between crazy and awesome. A situation can be so wickedly cool that it goes beyond awesome. Likewise, the journey to get where you would like to be can be daunting, challenging and exhausting. This is way more crazy than awesome.


Until you reach that spot where everything feels, oh, so right. You’ve crossed over into the place where all the craziness is soon forgotten, and the rewards are so worth it.

Here’s the deal. We need a lot of craziness sometimes before we can appreciate and honor the awesome moments.

I’m guessing there were several people who quickly identified Jesus as crazy. Unpredictable. Disruptive. And they were right. But those are the traits that also brought him to the point where he could do something so awesome, we’re still talking about it like 2,000 years later. How awesome is that?

When life is feeling a bit crazy, celebrate it. Own it. Love it. Why? Because sometime soon, the craziness will evolve into something so totally awesome even you will be surprised.

It happened to Jesus. It can happen to you.

For the spirit of craziness that leads to awesomeness, I am grateful. 

Holy God – We just might say, “This is crazy!” a few times today. Assure us that this is OK. Help us see those times when we are crazy as just part of the journey towards something totally awesome. Amen.

Blessings –


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Pastor Appreciation Month

Gratitude Day 339

Tues., Oct. 15, 2019

2 Timothy 1:5: I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

October is filled with lots of good things.

Football games.

All things pumpkin.


Corn mazes.

Warm sweaters.


Another notable aspect of October?

It’s Pastor Appreciation month.

Before I lose you here … can you please just hang with me for a minute or two?

I know that I come at this from a little different perspective. I’ve been a pastor for 20 years. I’m not currently serving a church(es), and I want to give a little shout-out for my colleagues.

I know there are ALL kinds of special days/months. Sometimes, we wonder if Hallmark or someone who wanted to sell cards and candy and stuff came up with these “special” days. While some of these days zip by and I barely notice or recognize them, I’m advocating for Pastor Appreciation Month.

I realize that not everyone who reads this blog has someone that they consider their “pastor.” That’s OK. However, has someone ever baptized your child(ren)? Called on a loved one while at a hospital? Helped your family with a memorial service or funeral? There’s a good chance the person who provided service(s) was a pastor.

I’m not asking you to do something outlandish or wild … unless you want to. I’m asking you to think of the person who you would consider calling if you were in dire straits. Send them a card, preferably a handwritten one (e-mail only if you don’t have their address) and share how much you appreciated them and their services. If you want to do just a little more? Buy them a coffee card or a CD of their Christian band or bring a surprise lunch to their office one day. (True story – one October, a woman brought lunch to the church office. We sat in hard chairs and munched on greasy burgers and oily fries. It was WONDERFUL.)

I know we are all have lots of things to do. We have countless options of things we SHOULD do today. Can you add just one more little thing to your list? Appreciate the person who has been a spiritual guide to you. Let them know this. Share how your life is different because of something they did or said or how they were just present. We all have people who have assisted us spiritually. Whether they are a “pastor” or a person who lives faith, just let them know that you appreciate them. It’s what gets them through during their bad days.

I speak of this … because I know this. When I’m having a bad day, sometimes I pull out my “Dianne” file. Yes, I really do have one. It’s in the credenza with all the other files that I keep, whether I really need them or not. In the “Dianne” folder, I find cards people sent me to thank me. Encourage me. Show their appreciation. On those days when I’m feeling like I’m not sure what I do makes a difference, sometimes, I put this folder out. Read what people sent me. Gave me. Wanted me to read and hear. And often, it makes me feel just a little better. No matter how vain it sounds to have a folder with your name on it, it’s a place where I can keep those things that I do want to remember. Especially on bad days.

Paul wrote his good friend Timothy two letters. In the second letter, Paul reminds Timothy of how his mother and grandmother influenced his faith. Did Eunice and Lois get to read or see this letter? I have no clue. What I do know is that we’re still talking about them, thousands of years later because they made a difference in a person’s life.

Make a difference in a person’s life today. Let the person who helps you spiritually know it makes a difference in your life.

For the opportunity to appreciate my spiritual guides, I am grateful. 

Dear God – Thank you for bringing into our lives people who have helped us with our faith. May we be encouraged to let them know the difference their presence has made in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –


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Six for Saturday

Gratitude Day 338

Sat., Oct. 12, 2019

Jeremiah 5:24: They do not say to themselves, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’

And just like that, fall is here in Wisconsin.

Yes, by the calendar we’re a good three weeks into fall. Yesterday, the temperatures fell all day. The warnings were frost were heeded. Today, we’re digging out warm sweaters and winter coats and trying to remember where we last put our gloves and a hat.

Fall is here.

To fully embrace all things fall, here are just a few things going on at the Vielhuber household lately:

  • Pumpkin bread. It is so yummy!! Nothing quite tastes like fall than a warm sliver of pumpkin bread and a great cup of coffee. It was my breakfast of champions today.
  • Bouquets of flowers inside the house. The weather people predicted frost for last night. Hubby Rick helped me pick some of the late-season zinnias and marigolds from the garden. I just wasn’t ready to let them go. We’ll enjoy them scattered around the house in vases.
  • Where do I put this overflowing house plant? Every summer, I put him outside on the screened in porch. And HE. LOVES. IT. More sun but not too much. Room to grow and multiply. But what do I do with him now? He’s so big and nice. And takes up lots of space. I just put him on the radiator last night so he wouldn’t freeze. But next? Hmmm….
  •  It’s pumpkin time! We had one big and beautiful volunteer pumpkin in the garden. Yesterday, we picked up two more at a little roadside pumpkin stand. A flat-bed hay wagon full of pumpkins. With a self-pay box on the wagon. Pumpkins for $1, $3 or $5. We bought two $3. They are perfect.
  • Tomato Soup. I love making soup when it is cold outside. I had some tomatoes lingering in the refrigerator. Hubby Rick suggested soup. I must say … it was delicious. Super easy and oh, so good!
  • This stinking cute picture. It’s not fall related. It’s our granddaughter Ellie. So enthralled with the flyers we had just picked up at the printing place. I’m completely in love with her and the photo. Even more cute? I had just picked her up from volleyball. Now, shes’s looking at the girls who play on a varsity team.

It’s all things fall today. Embrace it. Breathe deep and smell the change in the air. Hear the leaves crunch as you walk across the lawn. Taste the pumpkin flavor. Feel your teeth go through a crunchy apple. Praise God and be thankful for this day. This life. This season of your life. This season of fall.

For the gift of the season of fall, I am grateful. 

Holy God – may we never take for granted the amazing seasons we get to enjoy. Help us drink in whatever season we currently are. May all of creation bring a smile to our faces today. Amen.

Blessings –


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Please Never Stop saying “Thank You”

Gratitude Day 337

Fri., Oct. 11, 2019

Philippians 1:3: Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.

It’s amazing how two words can carry so much weight. Impact. Opportunity.

“Thank you.”

It takes like 1.2 seconds to say these two little words. But, oh, the impact they can have.

I’m not sure who developed the concept of giving thanks. Or saying, “Thank you.” Well, maybe I do but that’s my own idea. Thank God, literally, that these words became part of the English language.

They are two of my favorite words.

My Mom taught me well. When someone does something for you, send them a thank you. Other times to send one? When someone is especially nice. Or extremely thoughtful. They deserve a thank you. A handwritten thank you. On real paper. With a stamp on the envelope so it can go through the mail.  

I’ve written hundreds of thank you notes. Well, probably more like thousands. At one point, I thought owning stock in Hallmark might be a good idea. When in a store that sells cards, I often swing by this section just to see what they have for notecards. And thank you cards. Something that I can use to write a note to someone else. I remember all the options that I have at home … and still, sometimes walk out of the store with more options.

As much as I love sending cards, receiving a thank you card always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Did someone send it to me because their Mom insisted on sending out thank you’s as well? Or is it a heart-felt thank you?

Last night, I received a thank you from a group of high school girls. Completely unexpected. Wasn’t on my radar screen. So, when it ended up in my hands, I felt a little giddy opening up. What would be inside?

The sweetest message from 10 high school seniors.

It made me feel special. Appreciated. Glad that I was able to do something special for them.

Know how to make someone feel special today? Send them a card. A note. A thank you. Make someone’s day.  

I pray that saying “thank you” never goes out of style. We need people in every generation and of all ages to know the importance of doing this.

There’s power in words. There’s power in, “Thank you.”

The question came from the back seat of the car. Articulated by our seven-year-old grandson, Dylan.

For remembering the power of “thank you,” I am grateful. 

Dear God – How shallow life would be without the words, “Thank you.” Thanks for creating a way for humans to express appreciation. Place in my heart and mind someone that I can bless with a thank you today. Amen.

Blessings –


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“Dianne, Do You Ever Swear?”

Gratitude Day 336

Thurs., Oct. 10, 2019

Exodus 20:7: “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”

The question came from the back seat of the car. Articulated by our seven-year-old grandson, Dylan.

“Dianne, do you ever swear?”

Completely out of the blue. No build up. No anticipation. Just right to the point.

“I’ve never heard you swear, Dianne. You just don’t swear. Have you ever said a swear word?”

What an interesting observation, Mr. Dylan.

I assured Dylan that, yes, I have sworn. At times. But I try not to swear on a regular basis.


I’m not sure that I gave the best possible answer when I said, “I think swearing is unattractive.”

I had a teachable moment … and missed it.

About 30 minutes later, we were still in the car. We had completed one errand and were on our way to the chili supper at a local church. I don’t think the questions about swearing were connected to us attending a church dinner. Yet, Dylan asked basically the same question. Again.

And again, I missed an opportunity to talk about why swearing isn’t such a great idea.

I think I was completely stuck on the point that Dylan has never heard me swear.

Let’s be clear. Yes, I have sworn. At times, I lose my patience and spit something out that I regret later. Do I purposefully try not to swear in front of kids, including our grandchildren? You bet. I prefer to set an example which includes choosing words that get my point across without dissing God. It’s not God’s fault I’m angry in the moment. Why should I use a word that does not respect God?

Maybe what I found most interesting? Dylan personalized this situation when he said that I had never sworn in front of him. He just has never heard those words come out of my mouth.

Before anyone signs me up for “Grandparent of the Year” award, I have not earned it. Rather, I pray that we see how important our words are.

There’s a lot of noise in our lives these days. We can surround ourselves with constant voices and words all day long. Personally, I relish the times when I am in the car alone, just with my thoughts. I need moments to reflect, refresh and rejuvenate. I often replay conversations in my head. What could have I said differently? What surprised me?

As I replayed this conversation while driving home, I was disappointed with my response. But here’s the lesson I took away: choose your words carefully when speaking to the little people in your life. For that matter, big people as well. Words matter. The tone of your voice matters. The loudness in which you speak is noticed. Just when you think someone isn’t paying attention, they are. You have an opportunity to speak with your actions as well as your words. Do both well.

I wished that I would have explored the no swearing reason with Dylan more clearly. I could have handled it differently. Maybe for today, just knowing that swearing is something I choose not to do is enough.

For questions from little people that make ME think, I am grateful. 

Holy God – sometimes, it’s too easy to disrespect you. We use words that do not honor you and our neighbors. May we see that our words matter. Help us say things that honor you and those around us today. Amen.

Blessings –


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New Day … New Perspective

Gratitude Day 335

Tues., Oct. 8, 2019

Colossians 1:11: We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy.

I was so excited to be home yesterday. Most Mondays, I work at the office for my part-time job. I switched days this week so I could have a whole day at home to catch-up on some projects that desperately need my time and attention.

The day went nothing like I had planned.

Our internet hasn’t been working well for days. Really, a couple of weeks. I decided to tackle getting this fixed by calling customer support. A couple hours later, and the internet’s speed was only marginally faster than at the beginning of the morning. A technician just left. He made one quick and easy adjustment … and the speed is back where it should be! He kindly also showed me how I can fix this myself next time.

In spite of slow internet speed, I noticed some suspicious transactions on two of my financial accounts. This meant another batch of calls to the two financial institutions. One was very helpful. The other? Not so much. I’m still working on getting this resolved but optimistic that I have protected myself for now.

This isn’t the first time one of my financial accounts has been compromised. These days, I don’t think it’s “if” someone will get into one; I think it’s only a matter of “when.” This is part of where we are today.

Unfortunately, I began to lose my patience after spending the entire morning on the phone … with little to show for it.

This morning, I came to realize that my first-world problems are, well, just this. First-world problems. Yes, these things are inconveniences. Compared to the person who doesn’t know how she will feed her children tonight? Minor. What about the man who knows he will be evicted this week? My “challenges” are a blimp in the road. I am not facing an undiagnosed illness that I have been struggling with for weeks. Nor dealing with an ultimately terminal disease.

Yes, these irritations distracted me, kept me from focusing on where I desperately wanted to focus my attention. But at the end of the day, they are a 1 at best on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being catastrophically life changing.

What in your world seems to be draining you? Challenging you? Distracting you? How significant is it really?

Today is a new day. The sun is shining in my little piece of the world. I have the opportunity to work on all those things I was so convinced would be accomplished yesterday. I pray that as I go through this day, I’ll keep more perspective on what comes into my world. I’ll try to keep the less important things in relation to what else is going on in my world and the world around me.  

For new perspective about potential distractions in daily life, I am grateful. 

Lord God – forgive me for when I wasn’t as patient yesterday as I should have been. Thanks for the reminder that my first-world problems really are minor compared to so many other things people will deal with today. Thanks for helping me learn this lesson … again.  Amen.

Blessings –


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The First Sip of Coffee

Gratitude Day 334

Sat., Oct. 5, 2019

Ecclesiastes 8:15: So, I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.

Morning truly begins with the first sip of coffee.

Yep, I am a coffee monger. I LOVE coffee.

Growing up, I didn’t like the taste of coffee. I loved the smell of coffee. When my Deaton grandparents visited, I would sit with my Grandma and simply smell her coffee. And she let me. We would pull a spoon through the milky liquid, drinking in the fresh smell of beans.

In college, I began drinking coffee; out of necessity more than because I liked the taste. Over time, I developed an affinity for the taste of coffee. Now, I’m hooked. It would be a very, very sad day for me if I could no longer drink coffee.

There’s another reason I love coffee. My Dad enjoyed drinking coffee. As I drink a cup of morning coffee, I often think of having this first cup with my Dad. He drank what I call “candy coffee”; so much sugar and cream in his coffee that the true flavor of coffee was masked. For years, I drank black coffee. I now keep half and half in the frig. Sometimes, I pour a little half and half into the cup, just in honor of my Dad. It makes me feel a little closer to him while drinking that first cup.

Hubby Rick also likes coffee. But his coffee habits are different than mine. He drinks three-day-old coffee. Yep. Stuff I won’t touch. And he doesn’t prefer it steaming hot, but lukewarm. When my coffee cools down, I warm it back up. No cream for Rick. Straight black. The darker the better, he feels. Flavored coffee is not his friend. I love trying different flavors and know my favorites.

While I usually have that first cup of coffee in the morning by myself, I also enjoy having coffee with Rick. Or a friend. Or with a meal that I eat with another person. Having coffee is a way that I experience happiness in my life. I’m sure it ties back to thinking I’m having a cup of coffee with my Dad.

For years, Dad went to the local coffee shop daily. Sometimes more than once. When my parents still lived on the farm and my Mom needed to get ahold of my Dad, she called the coffee shop. (These were the days long before cell phones.) This isn’t the Starbucks or coffee shops of today. This was the local hometown café with a big table right inside the door where the local farmers gathered for coffee and a game of dice. It had a cafeteria-style countertop with red stools where you could sit and eat a piece of homemade pie along with a cup of coffee. This café was the place where Dad and other local guys gathered to catch up on crop harvest, milk prices and local gossip. It was a place where everyone knew his name and he knew everyone else’s.

Once out of college and with a real job, when I visited at my parents, sometimes my Dad asked me to join him at the café for coffee. I never turned down these opportunities. As the only woman sitting at the table with a bunch of guys, it was not for the faint of heart. But it was a way to connect to Dad’s world. I knew that I received Dad’s stamp of approval for Hubby Rick when he invited Rick to join him for coffee at the café. Rick fit right in with the coffee-clutch guys.

As I sit in front of my laptop this morning with a cup of coffee to my left, I take another sip and think of the happiness it brings me. It’s just coffee. Nothing special. No fancy brewing or added flavors and lengthy process to make. Yet, it brings me happiness.

What is something that brings happiness to the beginning of your day? A little reward for all the hard work that you did yesterday? A way to begin the day centered with something that gives you hope?

For happiness in a cup of coffee, I am grateful. 

Holy God – we are encouraged to find little pieces of happiness in our days. Fun that carries us through another day filled with opportunity. May we savor and drink these moments in. Amen.

Blessings –


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Simple Things that Make a Difference

Gratitude Day 333

Wed., Oct. 2, 2019

Psalm 116:6: The Lord protects the simple and the childlike;

I am reminded again and again how important the simple things of life are.

I call this blog Simple Words of Faith for a reason. My whole goal here is to connect faith to our everyday, ordinary lives. The “real” parts of our lives. Where the rubber hits the road. Where we find just a little bit of faith and God at the intersections of ordinary, real life.

It happened again for me in the simplest of ways. While I didn’t snap a single photo to capture the moments, I realized later, these little things are exactly what I want to treasure in my daily life.

Sometimes, I am present when three of our grandchildren get off the bus after school. These three are Rick’s son, Darran’s children. Darran runs a milk route. This means he picks up milk from dairy farms and transports it to a processing facility. This isn’t a straight 9 to 5 job. Sometimes, he runs late and needs someone to be with the kids until he gets home from work.

This fall, I have made myself available to do this. Together, the three kids and I spend quality time together.

Ellie is 9 and is into cooking. Well, really baking. A few weeks ago, she told me what she wants for Christmas. She marked some cookbooks and other cooking items on my Amazon account so I would not forget what she really, really wants.

Today, I brought along promised cookie dough so we could make cut-out cookies. As soon as she knew I had brought dough along, she was washing her hands. Her brothers, Waylan and Dylan, were only interested in taste-testing the dough. They headed upstairs to find other things to do.

We used season-appropriate cut outs to make the cookies. I showed Ellie how to tell when a cookie is appropriately baked by touching the top of a cookie and seeing if your fingerprint remains. We frosted and decorated the cookies as well.

Soon, Ellie was looking for a container. She wanted a container, so she put cookies in it, and she take them to school and share them with her classmates. “What a great idea,” I told her. We found a container just large enough to hold all 25 cookies. Unfortunately, the dough wasn’t gluten free. So, one boy won’t be able to eat these cookies. Next time, I’ll know.

I loved how she decided to share these cookies with her classmates. She wasn’t just thinking about how she could keep them for herself and her family. It made making the cookies with Ellie even more special.

After we finished the cookies and worked on a school project, I hunted down Dylan. Earlier, he had showed me a game he was making. Using paper and a pen, Dylan’s game had counted squares on it. Participants roll a dice and move their little paper tokens through the maze to the finish line. On some spots, players receive rewards. On other spots, people are penalized. While the rules changed a bit every time we played the game, I loved seeing Dylan use his imagination. His creativity shown through and included a written list of rules. we discovered that his game was really fun to play.

Making cookies. Playing a homemade game. Nothing big. Just simple things. But oh, so meaningful times that I get to spend with our grandchildren.

I purposely try not to look at my phone while I’m with the kids after school. Our time should be playing outside, making a special trip to the Dollar Store or helping them with something they want to do. Making sure homework gets done. I treasure every afternoon that I get to spend with these important people.

Pause for a minute. What is something that seems so simple but really makes a big difference in your life when you do it? How often do you make time for this? Why is this activity so special to you?

I’m sorry that I didn’t get any photos of the cookies nor the game. My memories just recorded in my brain. But they certainly are special ones.

For rediscovering the simple things in life, I am grateful. 

Lord God – Too often, we get caught up in making sure things get done. And we miss out on prioritizing things that will fill our soul. Thanks for the weekly time with our grandkids. I pray they value this time as much as I do. Amen.

Blessings –


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