Wednesday Prayer Day – Where It Begins

Gratitude Day 491

Wed., July 22, 2020

Luke 5:16 – But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

This. This is where I prefer to begin my mornings.

It doesn’t happen every day. Sometimes, two days may go by in a row where I do not prioritize spending time on the front porch. In this chair. Getting my heart right before the day gets going.

But this is where I would like to spend every morning.

On the front porch. Taking care of business with God before I take care of any other business.

Truth? I spend more time reading and journaling than I do praying. Sometimes, well, most every day, I get distracted and spend time scrolling and scrolling rather than focusing and focusing.

It’s just something that I do. For my heart. My soul. My life.

Does it change a lot the rest of the day? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Those minutes on the porch in that chair speak to me. Remind me. Challenge me to not loose focus. Make everything about myself. Remember Whose I am. Recall what a great life I have.

The rest of the day maybe filled with distractions. Too often, I lose focus. Yet, I still believe the time spent here, even if for only a few minutes, is important. Helpful. Defining. Significant.

Where’s the place you go to find the One who created you and offers you unending grace? Send me a photo. I would love to see your place.

For a special place to spend time with God each morning, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Hello God – Thank you for always being with me; whether I purposefully stop and spend time with You. Inspire me to find a little place where You and I can spend time together. Today. Tomorrow. Most days. Amen.

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Wednesday Prayer Day: Only Promise to Pray IF you Really Will Pray

Gratitude Day 487

Wed., July 15, 2020

Acts 20:36 – After he said these things, he knelt down with all of them to pray.

“Can I pray for you?”

The words may roll off of our tongues without even thinking about it. Or we respond to a social media post, “Praying” followed by praying hands memes. We send someone a sympathy card and assure the receiver that we will be praying for them.

Here’s the REAL question. After your promise someone to pray for them or type it in a comment or write it on a card, do you ACTUALLY do it?

Seriously.

Do you stop the scrolling, pause from writing, or go ahead and pray for the person while still on the call?

With limited community worship gathering happening these days, the sense of whether someone is actually praying for a situation is not as clearly defined. While we SAY we are, can we honestly say that we have prayed for every situation which we promised to do so?

When I became a pastor, my praying skills were, well, about a -10. Yes, I had prayed before meals, the Lord’s Prayer, and occasionally led a group of people in prayer. But I didn’t have the “perfect” phrases or style that would leave people weeping. I hadn’t read a book about prayer until after I became a pastor. And certainly, I would not be labeled as one of those prayer warriors that folks turn to because they seem to have a more direct telephone line to God.

Nope, I was none of those. Not in a long shot.

Yet, I believed in prayer. I knew it could bring comfort and peace into our lives. At least I wanted to believe it could. I wanted to assure people that God heard their prayers and might even answer some of them. I wanted folks to think God was A-MA-ZING and would know they were sincere and earnest in their prayer requests.

And then, real life ministry happened. People I barely knew assured me that prayer was a waste of time. They believed God had let them down way too many times. When I asked someone to lead prayer at a meeting, often folks realized their shoe needed typing or there was some speck of dirt on the floor that desperately needed attention.

To this day, I would classify my prayer life as moderate at best. I find myself praying short little prayers though out the day and am ashamed when I spend more time scrolling on my phone than seriously engaging God in a heart-to-heart discussion.

But this is real life.

Eventually, I became more comfortable with praying in worship or together with a group of folks. Why? Because I just did it. No special training. No life-changing experience when I suddenly “knew” how to pray. Nope, just speaking from my heart. Saying what’s on my mind. Trying not to get too fancy with catch phrases and simply let my heart speak more so than my mind.

Along the way, I discovered praying over the phone. In my early pastoring years, I also attended school several days a week. I tried to make the hospital visits and take communion to those unable to attend worship on a regular basis. I know I missed lots of those opportunities.

Sometimes, all I could do between reading multiple books a week and writing a paper on Luther’s position on justification was to pick up the phone and call. Before the end of the conversation, I would simply ask, “Can I pray for you?” Or sometimes, “May we pray together?”

The first time I prayed over the phone, internally, I wondered if this is how ministry is supposed to look. I was making up stuff as I went along and decided that asking for forgiveness sometimes seemed more appropriate than asking for permission. After those phone prayers, there would often be a pause. Maybe a sniffle or two. Then, the recognition that no one had ever prayed with them over the phone before.

We couldn’t see each other faces and see what response the other person was experiencing. Yet sometimes emotion does come through a phone line. In a text message. Or an e-mail.

With continued limited interactions, let’s embrace the power of praying for someone. We can do it during our quiet time or when we think of someone. We can even type a text prayer or send an e-mail. But I also pray we pick up the dang phone, call the person who we have been thinking about, chat with them … and then pray aloud with them on the phone before we end the conversion.

Seriously. It doesn’t have to take more than 30 seconds to pray. If we just make it a priority.

Saying we are going to pray for someone … and actually praying WITH someone are two different animals. One is passive and nice. The other? Potentially personal and something that can reach down into your heart and cause your throat to close up and your nose to get just a bit sniffly. Sometimes, the risk is worth it.

For finding prayer’s power, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Almighty God – may we see prayer as a great opportunity to engage your power and might. I pray we will make time to contact someone when we think of them and pray with them today. Amen.

It’s Wednesday night! Join me for Devos with Dianne at 8 PM CST on Facebook Live. Have a piece of bread with you!

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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.

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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.

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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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Summer 2020 is NOT Cancelled

Gratitude Day 471

Fri., June 5, 2020

Luke 21:30 – When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.

Anyone else feeling like Summer 2020 has been cancelled?

Here in Wisconsin, many hometown celebrations have been cancelled. Lots of county, local and even the Wisconsin State Fair have pushed the pause button for 2020. Concerts in the park, local music festivals, art fairs, entertainment venues … the list goes on and on and on of organizations that have carefully evaluated their situation and opted to delay their 2020 event, season and/or offering.

Summer camps, Vacation Bible Schools and summer school are limited at best, virtual for many, abbreviated for tons and if being held, definitely not “normal” at all. I’ve seen the family reunion cancellations on social media. Many baseball, softball, soccer and other youth and adult sporting events are opting out for the summer. Even the Major League Baseball is still in negotiations about if and what their 2020 season will look like.

Graduation parties, weddings, and confirmations = delayed. My only remaining aunt turns 90 in July. Many family members planned to spend 4th of July weekend in Denver honoring her life. Just this week, we received an e-mail from her children sharing the celebration has been canceled. Aunt Bev has not been able to leave or have visitors at her assisted living since. MARCH 8TH. We’re talking nearly 90 days of stay-in-your-little-room-while-you-get-your meals long. I’m not sure many of us have anything to complain about compared to Aunt Bev.

Don’t even get me started about vacations. I have an arm’s length long of folks I know, including ourselves, who have cancelled or delayed a trip. Many, indefinitely.

It might be easy to think that Summer 2020 might as well be cancelled.

Here’s my advice. Grieve. Be sad and disappointed.

But guess what? IT’S NOT. Summer has NOT, I repeat, NOT been cancelled.

Nearly every day, Hubby Rick says, “I love the summer!” We CAN have a great summer! Like so many other areas of our lives right now, we just need to think a little creatively. Open up our boxes and look at what IS possible … in a safe environment. Minimizing risk. Ways that we can celebrate some of those long-standing summer traditions as well as new ones that we establish this year. Yup, there is nothing wrong with some new traditions. And this certainly is the year to start them.

Following as a laundry list of ideas that you and your family, possibly neighbors and friends, can do to celebrate some of your favorite parts of summer. This list of ideas isn’t the end-all. I would love for this list to encourage you to come up with your own ideas of how you can have tons of fun this summer. It just takes a little more thought and creativity than going to your local fair or taking in a Brewers game this summer. Maybe, YOU just need to discover some unique and new ways to do things this summer!

June Dairy Month – normally, this time of the year, we’d be hosting a build-your-own Sunday for our neighbors. Well, this isn’t going to happen this year. Alternatives? Buy 1lb. packages of cheese curds from a local cheese plant, attach a cute little “Happy June Dairy Month” tag to them and deliver them to your neighbors.

Missing a June Dairy Month Breakfast? Invite friends to pick-up curbside breakfast from your favorite local diner. Then, gather socially distanced in your back yard and pretend you are eating at a local dairy farm. Or, offer curbside pick-up at your house for friends who love attending dairy breakfasts on a Saturday in June.

Missing seeing your friends? Set a bring-your-own park picnic with some of your besties. Have everyone bring their own lunch, whether pickup or from home, their own lawn chair and bug spray. Stake out a large enough area at a local park in a shady place for a couple hours. Have everyone sit in a circle with at least six feet between chairs. Eat lunch, chat, and catch you. Believe me – you’ll love it!

Hometown Celebration Withdrawls? On the day that normally would have been the parade, invite people from your neighborhood to simply walk down the street and greet each other from the sidewalk. Carry balloons, throw candy to the kids or even water balloons if it is hot! Live in the country? Drive to a few of your neighbors and throw candy at their garage.

Missing the concerts in your local park this summer? Invite a neighbor or friend who has a sound system to set it up on a particular evening. Invite friends and/or neighbors to bring their own lawn chairs and favorite beverage while the neighborhood “DJ” spins 60 minutes of tunes. Make sure there is a way for people to make requests such as writing songs on a white board. Ensure your neighbors are OK with this!

Enjoy nature! We’ve dusted off our kayaks and used them several times this spring. Our grandkids love getting to paddle around a lake or pond and have definitely figured out how to navigate them. Yesterday, we had a great day of kayaking, fishing, hiking, and swimming on a beautiful summer day. Rick and I regularly bike and walk and take in the thousands of green colors. Yes, the state parks are going to be busy this summer. Some of the smaller and/or private parks may not be as busy. Hints for using parks to avoid large crowds: go early or later in the day. Avoid holidays and weekends if possible. If a trail appears bumper-to-bumper with people, find a different trail. Bathrooms may or may not be open. Concessions stands probably are not. Plan ahead. We picnic in the parks and take our drinks, making sure we clean up after ourselves.

We ARE going to miss attending fairs this summer. When I asked our 13-year-old grandson how the coronavirus has affected him the most, he said having the county fair canceled. This is a kid who loves animals and loves exhibiting them. While many fairs have been canceled, there are some that are putting in tons of efforts to try and still have some portion of their youth exhibit. If you are missing the fair season, plan a night where your family eats all of your favorite fair foods: corn dogs, slushies, etc. Find a way to have them. Yes, I know it’s not exactly the same but recreate as you can. If you are like our grandson who really would love to exhibit at the fair and will not be able to, create your own “fair” experience at home. On the day that the show would have happened, have the youth “show” their animals, if only for your family. Award ribbons. Make comments. Create a place for them to still have the experience, if only in your own back yard.

What about all the graduation, birthday, anniversary, family reunions and other celebrations? This is where creativity can abound. A drive-by parade is great. A ZOOM party is very doable. Sending cards and small gifts is a no-brainer. One neighborhood gal’s mom announced a day or two in advanced about her daughter’s birthday on social media. Lots of families and her friends dropped by the day of her birthday and left little things in their lawn all day. I’m guessing it’s a birthday she won’t forget. Yes, it won’t be the same this year. However, doing something different and more creative can actually create fantastic memories. Video chatting is available on many smartphones. Become comfortable with technology so that you CAN be in contact with loved ones.

Cancelled summer vacations. Unfortunately, there are lots of cancelled trips. Just yesterday, one of our grandchildren and I had this conversation. So, what can you do? Plan safe and realistic day trips. Make it a driving trip where you stop at a variety of locations which will be outside and come in limited contact with other people. Take your own food and snacks with you or do curbside pick-up and have a picnic.

Create special evenings/days with your family at home. “Pretend” is a great game I played with my siblings growing up. Today, it’s too easy to spend time in front of a screen and not use our imaginations. Rick and I have created a dinner setting which reminds us of another favorite time and memory. We talk about what made this memory so special and recreate it is in our own little way … at home.

Use your yard, porch, and other open outdoor spaces. Last week, friends stopped by for awhile. I brought drinks out to our porch and we had a wonderful time chatting and sharing. We kept our distance from each other. We never touched. Yet, we connected. I hope we can do more of these very small drop-in visits this summer.

While things are slowing opening up, we’ve been intentional about who we add to our circle of contact. First, we added grandchildren. Even with them, we spend as much time outside as possible. Our closest contact is when we’re in the car together. Contact with other folks has been outside, at a safe distance and with no touching. There are ways we can connect with people, do fun things, and still have a great 2020 summer. Be cautious. Be smart. Be careful. Enjoy. Create some unique and fun memories this summer. Make it your best summer yet.

For the anticipation of a great summer, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Amen.

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

What I Learned in May

Gratitude Day 466

Sat., May 30, 2020

Psalm 119:116 – Be true to your word, Lord. Keep me alive and strong; don’t let me be ashamed because of my hope.

Does anyone else feel like the month of May has been FOREVER? Like 90 days long? I look at my May calendar and it is has a lot more open, white days than a “normal” May calendar would. But honestly, I’m not sure what normal is anymore!

We’re navigating a tough time right now. It’s not just the COVID-19 stuff that has my heart confused. We’re watching incredible videos that are difficult and impossible to understand. Responded to an awful incident with more violence just feels and seems crazy to me.

Life feels a lot like this sign right now: crazy curvy and a lot unknown ahead. I snapped this photo while driving a few days ago because, well, I feel like it’s a great metaphor for how I feel about life right now. As much as we’d like the road to be straight and predictable and reliable, it isn’t. Nope, it’s a lot unpredictable.

Will there in-building school this fall?

Can we ever plan a vacation again?

When is it “safe” to return to worshiping at a church building?

What can we do this summer, after so many concerts, sporting, fairs, and fun summer events have been canceled?

Will working at home continue for how longer? Will some folks just continue working from home indefinitely?

And on, and on, and on.

It is easy to worry about these and a million other things. Yet, worry, to me, is one of the most useless emotions we can have. Worry accomplishes little, other than distracts us, gets us worked up and zaps a whole bunch of energy.

Of course, the natural question is, what do we do instead of worry?

Start with J.S.T. Just. Sit. There. With God. Listening. Being. Waiting. Maybe something will come along. Maybe nothing will. Both are good. Both are fine.

Then, find a way to serve someone else. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Seriously. Nothing difficult or challenging. Just a little way to take your mind and energy off of what you don’t have control over and directed towards something you CAN control.

Our neighbor Kathleen is rounding the corner towards 90. She desperately wants to stay in her home. Before the virus stay in place began, she started receiving Meals on Wheels five days a week. While this is great, I wondered what Kathleen did for weekend food. It didn’t take me long to realize this IS something I can help with.

Now, part of my Saturday routine is to make a few things to walk over to Kathleen. It’s usually extra food that I’ve made for Hubby Rick and myself. When I drop it off, Kathleen and I have a visit. Kathleen admits she enjoys the visit just as much as the food. Honestly, it does both of our souls good. I’m trying a few new recipes and Kathleen gets to try them out.

I’m convinced one of the most important take-aways we can take from this time of life is simply how important it is to bless other people because we feel blessed ourselves. Even if you aren’t sure you are blessed one particular day, still serve, and bless another. It may shift your perspective on your personal interpretation of how blessed you feel.

Choose hope. Hope is what encourages me to stay strong with God. Hope is what promises days filled with peace and love. Hope is what assures me that no matter what the road looks like ahead, God and I will navigate it together. Every. Single. Day.

And this, my friends, is what I relearned in May. Nothing new. Just old lessons that needed to be revisited.

Thanks be to God.

For relearning lessons, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Hello God – Oh, how often I forget important life lessons. As I am gently, or not so gently, am reminded of just a few lessons again of late, may I see them as gifts from You, Lord God. Thank you for continuing to teach my heart and soul. Amen.

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A Small Sliver of the Big Picture

Gratitude Day 465

Thurs., May 28, 2020

Ecclesiastes 3:10 –I have thought about this in connection with all the various kinds of work God has given to mankind.

When the envelope arrived in the mail, my name as the recipient was hand-written on the front. This was enough to intrigue me and encourage me to rip it open right away.

Inside, I found this simply delightful little gift.

It was from a friend. Someone I met a few years ago. A person with whom I instantly connected in the first time that we met. She has a beautiful soul that bubbles with laughter and tears and smiles and hugs all in the very same sentence.

For over two months, she has not been working. I’ve ran into her a couple times at the post office and we pretend to hug and share a few words. I’m optimistic that there will soon be a day when we can have a real conversation and giggle and share those things that often are left unspoken.

It was after one of those chance meetings at the post office that the envelope showed up at my house. With this bookmark and a little hand-written message inside. Here’s what it says:

Please accept this small gift as a gentle reminder that we are all connected. By creating a large picture and cutting it into bookmarks, I am reminded of the bigger picture – connection. By the separation and decoration, I am reminded we each have our own beauty to share. When we are all pieced together, we participate in the bigger picture.

All I can say is this: Amen.

Amen, sister.

What a beautiful, beautiful story. My friend paints a picture. Then, she cuts the picture into bookmarks and sends them to folks with a little message that says your bookmark is part of a larger picture. Likewise, your soul, your heart is part of a larger picture as well.

In these days of social distancing and continued limited contact, do we not need to hear that we ARE connected? Part of the large picture? Have our own beauty to share?

God’s picture is SO. MUCH. BIGGER. Then our picture. How God sees us fitting into this picture may be different from what we see. God gifts us with incredibly unique and special gifts. Our role is to discover those gifts and then leverage them for the glory and honor of God’s kingdom.

Just like my friend did. When she put her pictures into bookmarks for others to enjoy.

How I would love to know what the rest of the photo looked like. But I don’t. Instead, I relish the details, the colors and unique character of the little piece I have been entrusted with. Thanks be to God.

For connections beyond ourselves, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – Thank you for helping orchestrate special connections with other people in my life. When I struggle to see exactly how I fit in, give me glimpses of the large photo so I can be comfortable in knowing that my sliver is part of a much bigger and totally beautiful painting, crafter by You. Amen.

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

J.S.T.

Gratitude Day 464

Wed., May 27, 2020

Mark 1:35 – Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.

It began with a glass of my favorite iced tea. On our gorgeous porch.

Just me and some iced tea. Add in an optional notebook and a writing utensil.

Oh, and one more thing: the letters: J.S.T.

Hmm … what is J.S.T.

My new slogan: Just Sit There.

Truth? The last number of days have been, well, interesting. A variety of things, good and challenging, that have taken up rent in my brain. Some of it is good. And could be exceptionally good.

Other rental space? Not so much.

And so, I sat. No agenda. No computer. I did set the alarm on my phone for 30 minutes. I had promised myself to only include the phone for the timer. No other reason.

It was amazing how much life I observed while simply sitting. A whole bunch of different birds, out chirping and singing away. It had rained earlier in the afternoon. Now, the birds were out getting dinner and sending little love notes to each other.

Clouds rolled by and new formations were formed. The wind picked up and slowed down again.

All while I simply sat. Watched. Listened. Observed.

Most days, I begin the day with a time of reading and prayer. But honestly, most often, I’m trying to get through this so I can cross it off of my to-do list. Yes, there is contemplation. But it’s not the same. It’s planned. Expected.

The J.S.T time? No schedule. No agenda. Nothing. Just me and my thoughts when they come about.

I never get tired of reading how Jesus often went away by himself. To pray. To listen. To J.S.T. Did he always receive a profound, life-changing thought or inspiration in these moments? I don’t know. What I do know is that he could just be and that was enough.

Maybe there is something going on in your or a loved one(s) life that is distracting you. Or maybe you’re trying to juggle working from home with homeschooling and other things. I think we’re all getting a little stir-crazy from being cooped up for weeks on end. It’s easy for our thoughts to venture in an unhealthy place.

Sometimes, we just need space to sit. Be still. Be. And listen. If you want to write a thought down, do so in your notebook. If not, just be. Listen to your soul. Know that this might be the most valuable 30 minutes of your day.

If you feel like you are struggling right now, hop on over to a podcast that I recently recorded about mental health. You can find it here:

And pour yourself a glass of your favorite summertime drink and join me on the porch for Devos with Dianne at 8 PM central time on Facebook Live. I’ll have my peach iced tea. And we’ll think about how J.S.T. can make a difference in our lives.

I wish you could join my on my porch. Have included just a few photos so you feel like you have.

For moments of just sitting still with God, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Why do we make things so complicated, God, when maybe all we really need to do is sit with You? Encourage me to find J.S.T. time for just You and me. Amen.

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