Lessons from COVID-19: Ministry In Your Own Back Yard

Gratitude Day 486

Tues., July 14, 2020

Acts 1:8 – (Jesus said,) “Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We’ve watched so much happen in the last four months; things we could have never anticipated or expected even five months ago. When these unforeseen events happen, it’s easy to look for someone else to “fix” these challenging situations; even the ones in our own back yard. Yet, sometimes, we’re the ones called to help with the “fixing.”  

Meet Jackie Goplin. Jackie is many things.

She’s a wife and a Mom to Brad and Julie. She’s a farmer, with her husband Eric and son Brad, who is the sixth generation to farm on their family dairy farm. She’s active in her local church, where she serves as music director and financial secretary. Along with her husband, she’s produced and directed 20 community musicals. They hope they can complete their 21st production that was canceled because of COVID-19. She’s a retired high school music teacher. In fact, my connection to Jackie goes back a few decades when she was my high school band director.  

It’s her most recent title that got my attention and caused me to reconnect with Jackie after many, many years. She’s one of those “fixers” that has bridged two important components of their local community, kids and dairy farmers, and sought to support both through this pandemic.

As soon as schools shut down during the pandemic, providing food to students and families that rely on free and reduced breakfast and lunch became imperative for local communities. Across the United States, dairy producers were asked to dump their highly crafted raw milk because processing facilities did not have immediate demand for this perishable product. With schools and restaurants closed, dairy processing plants found themselves with millions of pounds of milk that were no longer needed until alternative ways of processing the milk could be established.

Jackie and her family farm near Osseo, WI, a very rural community. Jackie taught down the road at the Whitehall School District for 22 years. The Goplin’s attend Peace Lutheran Church of Pigeon Falls. With milk processing facilities in nearby towns, word quickly spread about the possibility of these processing facilities having to ask their patrons to dump milk.

Step in Jackie and a few of her friends. Beth Stay attends the same church as Jackie. Convicted that there must be something that could be done, Beth approached Pastor Mary Ann Bowman. Pastor Mary Ann quickly brought Jackie into the conversation because, well, she and her family are dairy farmers.

The duo were inspired by Rich Miller, a milk hauler from Ellsworth, WI, who personally contributed $5,000 to buy cheese curds and donate them to local food pantries. His donation was quickly doubled and allowed Ellsworth Creamery from having to ask dairy producers to dump milk.

Jackie and her friends modified their response and created a program called Curds for Kids which provides cheese curds to families in several school districts within Trempealeau and Clark counties. Curds for Kids includes cheese curds with the free food distribution that school districts coordinate for families within their districts. During the school year, six school districts included cheese curds in their food packages. Over the summer, four districts have continued to include cheese curds in their weekly distributions.

How the food is distributed to families varies depending on the school district. Some schools send buses to families each week. Other school districts partner with local food pantries. In other areas, families come to the school and pick-up their packages. Curds for Kids works with each school food service department to accommodate their system in supplying the cheese curd portion of the food boxes.

Curds for Kids was truly started on a wing and a prayer. Known as a very generous and community minded congregation, Peace Lutheran Church of Pigeon Falls provided the initial funds to kick-start the program. Jackie, Beth, and Pastor Mary Ann leveraged local TV stations, spread the word via social media and contacted Feed My People in Eau Claire, WI, which has non-profit status. Feed My People partnered with Curds for Kids from the beginning and is the financial arm of the organization. They handle collecting funds and paying expenses, which allows the volunteers to focus their time and attention on coordinating the program as well as raising funds.

Amazingly, Curds for Kids raised $20,000 in about ten days, which allowed the program to know it would be able to provide cheese curds through the end of the school year. Since April 15th, Curds for Kids has provided 15,000 1-lb. packages of cheese curds to students. Several company sponsors have made very generous contributions which has allowed the program to continue into the summer. One of Jackie’s former students had t-shirts made and is currently in the third round of selling them. Another former student held a concert and raised money. Through lots of personal contact to local businesses, Curds for Kids raised about $50,000 to support their curd distribution.

Much to the organizer’s surprise, they also received another generous $15,000 donation from Returning the Favor. Hosted and coordinated by Mike Rowe, who is best known for his television series, Dirty Jobs, Returning the Favor reached out to Jackie and Beth this spring. After several virtual meetings with producers, Returning the Favor surprised Jackie and Beth with their donation mid-June. Pastor Mary Ann helped coordinate the announcement, which included a cow boasting the financial contribution and lots of area folks driving by and celebrating. Returning the Favor’s donation cemented cheese curd donations for the rest of the summer.

Curds for Kids has brought these rural communities together in so many ways. It provides a healthy food source for kids as well as continues to support local dairy farmers; many which are family farms that have a huge financial imprint within these communities. It allows for continued dairy product promotion and education. The partnerships between the school districts, plants that produce the cheese curds and the volunteers demonstrates how folks working together CAN make a difference.

Spiritually, Curds for Kids provided the church and its congregants a way to help others through a pandemic. As volunteers work together for a good cause, they see cheese curds as a new way of evangelism and doing good works within their community.  

Personally, Jackie found herself idle at the beginning of the pandemic. Normally, she would have been working at school three days a week. Now, she uses those hours to help others and fill a gap that quickly came to light at the beginning of the pandemic.

What is the future for Curds for Kids? The organizers continue to figure this out as they go along. Currently, they are working with food service staff to see if cheese curds can be part of the regular food service offerings. Will they keep distributing 1-lb. packages of cheese curds for students to take home as well? It all depends on their financial backing. “We’ll keep handing out cheese curds until we run out of money,” Jackie says.

So often when we think of Jesus’ directive to share the gospel with others, we assume it’s someone else’s responsibility. Or that it requires going on a mission trip to a place far, far away. Jackie and her friends are a reminder that God calls everyone of us to serve in God’s kingdom right in our own backyard. Thank you for accepting this call, Jackie. We pray that the curd ministry continues for many months ahead.

To donate to Curds for Kids, please go to Feed My People and click on the Donate Now button.

To watch the Returning the Favor announcement, please click here. The Curds for Kids portion begins at 5:00.

For those willing to do ministry in their own back yard, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Thank you for the Spirit’s presence in Jackie, Beth, and Pastor Mary Ann their willingness to be the fixers within their community. May their story inspire others to do the same. Amen.

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And Then the Four Weeks Were Gone …

Gratitude Day 485

Fri., July 10, 2020

Judges 15:19a – So God split open the hollow rock in Lehi, and water flowed out of it. When Samson drank, his energy returned and he was recharged.

A short four weeks ago, Hubby Rick began his four-week Sabbatical from his job. In just two days, he will resume driving truck four nights a week.

Clearly, he’s a little sad to be going back to work. A self-proclaimed sun worshipper, he has not complained once about the heat and humidity of the last number of days. Instead, he takes three showers a day and may even go for a bike ride during the most brutal timeslot of the day. His silver white hair contrasts quite loudly with his deeply browned skin. He knows the chances of him dealing with melanoma in some future date are much higher than most other folks.

While on Sabbatical, Rick has gladly accepted opportunities to do “mission” work for other folks. Sometimes I tagged along. Other times, he loaded up his tools and put in hours helping someone with a project. While his project list at home is shorter, it is not wiped cleaned. And we’re both OK with this. Rick is an extremely hard worker. Yet, he also appreciates time to enjoy things that he loves: a long walk, fishing in his kayak, both of us dipping our paddles into the water on the same adventure, wearing out the tires on his bike, hitting golf balls and keeping our lawn, garden and landscaping in tip-top shape.

Some nights, he grilled dinner. Other days, I made meals. We don’t keep a strict meal schedule and may find ourselves searching the refrigerator on our own when our tummies are grumbling. We enjoyed a couple short get-a ways with just the two of us and had planned days with grandchildren, which often involved some sort of water activity.

During these last four weeks, I know that I spent too much time in my office whereas Rick spent endless hours outside. Sometimes when I walked downstairs to replenish my water bottle, I’d discover him taking an afternoon siesta on the couch, recharging himself for his next round of activity.

Rick and I are night and day. Ying and yang. Mary and Martha. Planning in advance for Rick is a couple hours whereas I would have loved to make a list of everything we wanted to do while he was on Sabbatical. Hopefully, I was wise enough to realize this was not MY Sabbatical; it was Rick’s. And I must give him space to do what he wanted to do and not purely what I had in mind.

He never tires of reminding me how much he LOVES the summer and how every day is truly a gift from God. Rick has a light and giving heart and maximized these qualities the last four weeks.

One of Rick’s qualities that I admire the most is his ability to find joy EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. He has the art of seeing good in most every everything he encounters. He needs no recognition and simply quietly goes about his business with the ultimate goal to bring happiness and joy to someone else.

Of the qualities that I struggle, Rick seems to have in abundance. Clearly two opposites attracting, some of his Mary-ness has rubbed off on my Martha-ness that focuses too much on getting things done. He is a living parable that daily reminds me to focus on those things which truly mean the most to me … and forget about the rest.

With this little glimpse into what retirement might look like for us, I enjoyed watching Rick thrive in this Sabbatical. It’s certainly an encouragement for me to be less tied to what I THINK must happen versus paring down to what MUST be done each day.

For Rick’s time of Sabbatical, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Thank you for this time when Rick can refresh. Thank you for the variety of ways he has served others through mission work. I pray that You bless his return to work. Amen.

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

Praying About Everything

Gratitude Day 484

Wed., July 8, 2020

Philippians 4:6 – Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.

You would think with all of the time we get to spend at home these days, I would be caught up.

Or catching up.

Or nearly caught up.

Nope. It just isn’t happening.

Well, at my household, that is.

I’m still working on “things” I thought I would get done in March. Yep, March. Not May.

Why does everything seem to take so much longer these days? Maybe, it’s just me.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to get caught up about what is NOT getting done. I do it all the time.

Look at the verse at the top of the page. Or don’t … and just look at this quick paraphrase instead:

Worry about nothing. Pray about everything.

The end.

While I would not say that I am a worrier, I would say that I fret about what doesn’t get done in a day. Or week. Or month.

So, maybe this verse should say:

Fret about nothing. Pray about everything.

Maybe you don’t worry. Or fret. Maybe you overthink. In that case:

Overthink nothing. Pray about everything.

You get the drift. Replace the first word with the word that you find most often in your life. But leave the next four words alone. Don’t touch them. They are the words that can’t change because they are heart of the saying.  

Now, read them again.

Pray.

About.

Everything.

Amen.

Every day.

All day.

Today.

Tomorrow.

The next day.

Give up worry.

Pray instead.

So, rather than focusing on what didn’t get done in your day, focus on praying. Maybe, just maybe, the rest will begin to make sense.

Vector religions lettering – Don’t worry about anything pray about everything. Modern lettering. Perfect illustration for t-shirts, banners, flyers and other types of business design.

For the constant option for prayer, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – so often, we choose to focus on something that really isn’t very helpful. We find ourselves stuck and putting energy into what we can’t control. Help me turn my focus back to You. Amen.

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

Lessons from COVID-19: Navigating Change When the World Has Changed

Gratitude Day 483

Tues., July 7, 2020

Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Have you felt a little overwhelmed with all the stuff going on right now?

The last four months have ushered in SO. MUCH. CHANGE in our lives.

Change.

Some people love it.

Some people loathe it.

We’ve ALL been experiencing lots and lots of change lately. A lot of this change is out of our control. Navigating consistent change can be too much; especially when it feels like it happens almost daily.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (WDACTP) has put together a podcast series that addresses recognizes how challenging all this change can be. Their podcast, Rural Realities, provides helpful information for all people, whether you live in a rural area or not.

I love it when I have the opportunity to partner with a group of people who are genuinely interested in helping other folks. When I was asked to be part of Rural Realities, I didn’t hesitate. If something I share would help one person, well, I wanted to be a part of this.

The Rural Realities podcast includes information about a variety of topics related to recent changes and agriculture. My podcast addresses how we can deal with all of these changes internally. I would love for you to listen along and let me know what you think! Please feel free to share the podcast with someone you know who might be struggling right now.

Here’s the link:https://datcp.buzzsprout.com/1160120?fbclid=IwAR3woZ8uvQdD47zayxoUcNMlC1T-lfJubyq63-iLq1Xrw9Xp9Je7IFDurlw

It is so easy to become overwhelmed with life these days. Let’s not try and go it alone. If you are feeling like everything is too much, please reach out to someone. We all have change limits. When we reach our limit, it’s best to say, “I need help.” I can’t fix anyone’s problems … but I will listen. And I pray we remember the One who will be strong and courageous with us when we’re feeling down, overwhelmed or out of our league.

For those who have listened to me when I felt overwhelmed, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – some days, things may feel OK. And then, another day, everything feels like it is just too much. Help us to know when we need help. Assistance. A listening ear. May we not go it alone but reach out. Amen.

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

Wanted: 90 Birthday Cards

Gratitude Day 482

Mon., July 6, 2020

Psalm 90:14 – Fill us full every morning with your faithful love so we can rejoice and celebrate our whole life long.

Can I ask for you folks to help me out? Please?

A few weeks back, I shared my Aunt Beverly’s story. She lives in an assisted living in Denver, CO. And she has been confined to her room since March 8th.

Almost four months. We’re nearing 120 days since Aunt Bev has been able to leave her room for anything other than an occasional pick-up of her mail.  

All of her meals are delivered to her room. Her son is able to drop off things at the front desk for her. But basically, Aunt Bev has been confined to her room for four months.

I CAN’T. EVEN. IMAGINE.

After I shared Aunt Beverly’s story, many of you replied back with me how much her story touched you. So now, I’m going to ask for a little help back in return.

All for Aunt Beverly.

You see, she turns 90 on July 17th. The past weekend, several cousins and family members were planning on celebrating with her in Denver. Of course, everything was canceled.

Her children are not overly optimistic that Aunt Bev will be able to do anything special to celebrate her birthday. They are coming up with some creative ideas to try and honor their mother. Yet, they are struggling with how to properly honor this vibrant woman who will most likely be stuck in her room as she becomes a nonagenarian.

So, can you PLEASE help me?

Recently, during our weekly visit/chat/devotion, Aunt Beverly shared with me that basically all of her friends have died. She misses having friends, even more so during this pandemic restriction time.  

That’s why I’m hoping that 90 of my friends will adopt Aunt Bev and make her their friend, if only to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Here’s my goal. I’m looking for 90 of my friends/acquaintances/people who follow Simple Words of Faith to send Aunt Beverly a birthday card.

That’s it. Just send a card. Nothing else. If you have a birthday card, great. If you don’t, send whatever card you have. Slap a 55-cent stamp on the envelope and send it on its way. Please try and have the card arrive by July 17th, which is the actual date of Aunt Beverly’s birthday. If it’s a day or two late, PLEASE send it anyways.

Can you PLEASE help me out?  

I’ve checked with her kids. They are completely on-board with throwing her a card shower. They are so excited for me to ask 90 people to send their mother 90 cards. Can we overflow her mailbox so much that the staff have to set-up a special box? Will we get enough people to send her a card that she will spend the ENTIRE day opening birthday cards? Are there at least 90 people who were moved by Aunt Beverly’s story enough that they will send her a card for her 90th birthday?

Let’s address the cards to Aunt Beverly and have the staff at her care facility wondering where all these family members have been that sent her a simple card for her birthday.

Can we help Beverly celebrate her whole life long in the next 11 days by receiving so much love from people who simply want to bless her special day? With a card?

PLEASE, can you help me out?

I’m counting on all of you. And I’m confident you won’t let me down.

Here’s her address:

Aunt Beverly Anderson

10200 E Harvard Ave Apt. 200

Denver, CO  80231-3946

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU. I can’t WAIT to see how many cards Aunt Beverly receives.

For help in celebrating a special woman’s birthday, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – For even the most vibrant of people, being confined to a room for four months is wearing. I pray that You will help keep Aunt Beverly’s spirits up, as well as be brightened by an overabundance of birthday cards. I pray that together, we can make her life and birthday so incredibly special. Amen.

If you know someone else who LOVES to send cards or would like to help celebrate Aunt Beverly’s birthday, please share this blog post with them.

What I Learned in June

Gratitude Day 481

Tues., June 30, 2020

Psalm 18:19 – He brought me out to wide-open spaces; he pulled me out safe because he is pleased with me.

In just a few days, we will have reached the unofficial half-way point of summer: 4th of July. Yes, the summer has been different. Yet, I pray that you are finding special ways to fill your heart and soul this summer. I have been! Here’s a few ways.

This book. Years ago, a friend shared this book with me. And it sat on a shelf until this past week. While it says that it is a book about photography, DO NOT let the cover fool you. Yes, it talks some about photography. Honestly, this small 80-page book is chuck full of life lessons. Seriously. These little lessons are ones that we’ve heard before. Maybe I just needed to hear them again. And again. Here are a few examples:

Search for and discover your identity. The better you understand yourself, the better you can make art.

Your personality is the one feature that you own. Use it. Copy it. No one can copy you. Your personality should become or reflect your style.

Most people waste time. Sometimes it looks like they think they will live forever. Any day, any hour wasted is lost forever. You can never get it back. The long you wait, the less you can achieve.

There is always a “Next Step.”

I know photography books aren’t for everyone. But this is so much more than photography. SUCH. GOOD. WISDOM.

Share Your Heart. I always feel a little awkward sharing things that help praise on me. So, I hope you’ll see the true point in me sharing. In the last month, I’ve received two very nice, very sincere comments about my book, The Mary Experiment. The first came from a teenager. She sent me a letter and shared how this book changed her life. To put this into perspective, I’m not sure a lot of teenagers write letters these days. This already says this young gal is exceptional. Secondly, that she took the time to write exactly how she feels she was influenced by someone else. A teenager. It’s easy for us to lump teens into a category in which many spend the majority of themselves focusing on themselves. Lauren is one of those girls who looks beyond herself and is such a giver.

The second person who shared with me how the book has impacted her was basically on the other end of the spectrum from Lauren. Connie celebrated her 85th birthday a few weeks ago. She’s basically 70 years older than Lauren. One day, she picked up the phone and called me. We chatted about a few other things and then, she shared her experiences of reading The Mary Experiment. Again, I was blown away. Now, in reality, one might have expected the letter from Connie and a text from Lauren. But neither happened this way. What did these two situations say to me? When something important is on your heart, please take the time to share this information with the person who will benefit in knowing how you feel. That Lauren and Connie went out of their way to convey back to me something so personal is HUGE. BIG. NOTEWORTHY. And it has made an impact on my life.

Imagine how two people, taking time to share their hearts, made a difference. We must ALWAYS make time to share our heart with the person who we feel has made an impact. It is so easy to be busy, not take time and think they already know. Whether they do or not, take the time to personally share the message.

Sabbath time. Hubby Rick and I have been committed to taking Sabbath time while he is on sabbatical. Yes, he’s doing things that feed him. Together, we’re making sure we take extra time to enjoy life together. Over the weekend, we took about 36 hours of Sabbath with friends. It was WONDERFUL. Time away, if only for a short time, can feed the soul. Enjoy small things. Celebrate little wins. It’s OK to change it up and do things differently this summer.

For finding space this summer, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Even in these strange and different times, there is SO. MUCH. OPPORTUNITY for us to grow. Change. Find space. Help us embrace these opportunities and not be afraid. Amen.

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Saturday Thoughts

Gratitude Day 480

Sat., June 27, 2020

Proverbs 24:3 – By wisdom, a house is built; by understanding it is established.

We’ve been eating lettuce out of our garden for over a week now. And it’s WONDERFUL! Hubby Rick picked this lettuce before it rained yesterday. Believe me … it’s yummy!

Fresh lettuce and fresh fish … that was dinner Friday night at the Vielhubers! While Rick has been on his Sabbatical, he’s gone fishing a few times. This was part of his haul from Friday afternoon. In full disclosure, I know the photo isn’t great. Why? Rick took the photo. On his flip phone. I was running an errand when I received this text with the photo: Fri. Nite fish? No wasted characters on Rick’s flip phone. (Side note – Phones are almost a nuisance for Rick. His stayed behind when he went fishing. I only know because I heard it ringing while he was gone.)

If you are looking for something new to watch, try Belgravia. This is created by Julian Fellows, who also was involved in Downtown Abby. Belgravia is also set in England. It begins in 1815 and jumps to 1840 in the middle of the first episode. Personally, I don’t find Belgravia quite as riveting as Downton Abby. But for someone who finds the upstairs/downstairs and English hierarchy interesting, Belgravia does include this as part of the storyline. Belgravia is distributed by Epix. If you are an Amazon Prime member, the first two episodes are free. Then, you can sign-up for a 7-day trial period of Epix, which I did, and am making my way through the rest of the available episodes. I have discovered that sometimes, I like to have something in the background when I’m working on something that is not in a room with a television. This show fits this bill.

These scripture cards. I’m not one to promote something that requires people to buy. But this time, I’m breaking my own rule. I have followed Emily Lex for quite a while. She used to blog regularly but has transitioned into doing other things. During 2019, she painted a little miniature painting EVERY. DAY. OF. THE. YEAR. Yup, 365 of them. She posted her little paintings on Instagram daily. She’s not doing the same this year. But people loved her little paintings. She has turned some of them into scripture cards. The paintings have a scripture verse with them on little cards. And she’s selling them. Many of her followers have requested being able to purchase her cards. This is one way she is making them available. I’m anxious to receive a set. Just take a look at the cards. They are pretty and fun to look at.

There truly is no place like home. A couple weeks ago, our 89-year-old neighbor, Kathleen, shared with me two notecards that she had ran across. The outside of the notecards is a pencil sketch someone made of our current house. The house was sketched at a time when there were more trees around the house. Immediately, I knew that I wanted to frame one of the notecards and keep as a remembrance of this old house. The photos do not do justice of the notecard and frame. I took them at the wrong time of the day. Yet, I think this little card shows how our house has changed over the years. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Kathleen and her family lived in this house. At the time, it was set-up as two apartments with one upstairs and the other downstairs. Since we have lived here, we have converted it fully back to a single-family dwelling.

I love this house. There are parts of this house that remind me of the house on the farm where I grew up. It has a front and a back staircase, just like that house. The front staircase is a beautiful open staircase, much like the one I grew up with. Hardwood floors, wood siding, a peaked attic: these are all reminiscent of the house from my childhood. During the last few months when we’ve all spent so much time at home, I’ve loved this house even more.

I know it’s silly to place so much happiness in a house. I know it’s far more important to treasure things outside of this world than those here and now. Yet, truly, I do believe this is more than a house; it’s a home. Our home. Where Rick and I have created lots of memories. Yes, we’ve tried to restore it and make it feel loved once again. Whenever someone walks into our house (which, of course there has been very little of lately), we want them to feel welcomed. Loved. Like they have just been wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold winter night.

Kathleen could have kept the notecards for herself. She also lived in this house. With her family. Yet, it’s such a small but meaningful gesture to have this framed notecard that I can take with me when we move out of this home someday. We have no plans to move right now. But when we do? I’ll leave the second card behind for the next family with hopes that they will make this house a home as well.

For the feeling of when your house is a home, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – Who knew when we moved into this house nearly five years ago how much we would come to love our little place. Thank you for making this house available to us at that time. More importantly, thank you for inspiring us to make this our home. Amen.

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