The Second Saturday of November

Gratitude Day 359

Sat., Nov. 9, 2019

Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

The days of peach iced tea are probably over for a while. With winter arriving quick, early and with a presence, I’m thinking hot chocolate will become a more regular drink.

Last night, Rick was curled up on the couch. Have I ever mentioned that he REALLY dislikes winter? Well, he does.

He was covered up in a blanket and informed me that he has no intention of putting the blanket away until April.

Welcome winter.

So, here’s just a few things that have been whirling around in my life these past few days. Maybe something here will inspire you today!

A new Christmas song. Yes, I’ve seen the cartoons about staying in the right lane. October is for Halloween. November is everything Thanksgiving. And then, December welcomes Christmas.

BUT … I ran across a new Christmas song and REALLY want to share it with you. So, if you prefer no Christmas until after Thanksgiving, skip the next portion. If not, read along.

Grammy-winning artist Chris Tomlin released a new Christmas song called “Christmas Day” the beginning of the month. It’s part of a collection of songs that will be released before Christmas. Tomlin says he loves to create new music to worship Jesus.

Here’s the video. Take a listen. Let me know what you think!

If you are looking for an interesting historical fiction book, try The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. The book starts in the 1910’s in Italy and takes the reader on a journey from Italy to the United States through the eyes of an Italian boy named Chiro. He eventually becomes a shoemaker in the United States and marries a young gal he met back in Italy who is also in the U.S.

The story is historically based on the author’s grandparents who were from Italy and both moved to the U.S. I did not realize this until after listening to the book. At the very end, the author was interviewed, and she shared the book’s connection to her grandparents.

As I listened to her story, I wished that I would have asked my grandparents more about their early history. While I know some things, I know there is much more that I could have learned.

If you know a person who has an interesting story to tell, go and listen to them! Drag it out of them. Do not let their interesting stores die because no one keep them as part of family history.

Some days are just better than others. And this is OK. Recently, I had a day when I felt in a funk. Nothing seemed to work right. All the things I wanted to get done just never quite got finished. I haven’t been sleeping well and was tired.

It just was king of a rotten day. When Hubby Rick made a joke at dinner, her did not receive the response he was looking for.

I really try to be a positive person. But let’s be real. It’s nearly impossible to always put on a happy face.

Reality is so much more honest. Give yourself permission to be OK. Embrace it.  Accept it. And move on. There is no advantage for me to stay stuck in a difficult spot. One bad day is not a pattern. It’s an oops.

I’m confident today will be a better day. I know this because I will make sure it will be a better day. I will be inspired by the many ways I can express gratitude in my life. I know that

For perspective even on yucky days, expected or unexpected, I am grateful. 

Lord God – be patient with me when I’m having a yucky day. On these days, please keep me focused on all the goodness in my life rather than being discouraged by the challenges. May we always know that you are with me. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

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Overflowing Gratitude

Gratitude Day 350

Sat., Nov. 2, 2019

2 Corinthians 4:15:  All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.

As I was beginning this post, I realized that TODAY is the #350th gratitude post that I have done. WOW. This means, I’ve accounted for 350 different ways I’ve found gratitude in the past number of months.

What have I discovered about gratitude? Here’s a few things.

No matter what is going on in your life lately, YOU can ALWAYS find something to be GRATEFUL for. Period. On Friday, three of our grandkids didn’t have school. So, Hubby Rick and I spent the day with them. We did some fun things and had a great day. We were in the car on the way back to their house when something happened between the kids in which the youngest, Dylan, felt very upset. And all the emotions came running out.

I had a quick stop to make. When I got back to the car, it was determined that people would rotate their spots in the car so Grandpa could sit in the very back with Dylan. He talked to Dylan about what had happened and how even though something happened that upset him, he STILL had much to be thankful for. He always has enough food. He has his own room in a nice house. He has people who love him, which Rick shared with him how much he loves him.

The whole conversation was maybe 60 seconds long. Did it completely change Dylan’s attitude? I don’t know. What it did do was refocus Dylan on what he has rather than what he feels he didn’t have.

Quite honestly, I think there are a lot more people than our 7-year-old grandson who could hear this lesson and remember it in their lives. Including me. This is exactly WHY I started focusing on gratitude.

Expressing gratitude should not be a last resort but a first resort. When we feel beat-up in life, it becomes very easy to focus on how we have been wronged. When this happens, we often can only see what we would like different. When we can turn to gratitude first, then it reframes our whole situation. Too often, we think of gratitude only when things are going well. Personally, I think it’s even MORE important to discover and articulate gratitude when nothing seems to be going right.

Small gratitude is just as important as big gratitude. I think we get caught up in the idea that unless we go big with gratitude appreciation, then it isn’t truly gratitude. I completely disagree. Big gratitude can be too easy. When we are clear in expressing gratitude for the smallest and most everyday things, then we develop a deeper appreciation for everything. When we handle small things well, God may offer us more difficult situations. This can overwhelm us, or we can see this as an opportunity to positively affect God’s kingdom. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the size that’s so important to God. It’s our heart.

I plan to keep looking and sharing my personal gratitude experiences because it’s good for my soul. And hopefully, once in a while, my thought resonates with someone else.

What are YOU grateful for today? How do YOU celebrate gratitude in your life daily? How has this affected YOUR life?

For discovering gratitude in so many different ways, I am grateful. 

Holy God – I pray we see gratitude as something that is so very basic in our lives; as much as air and water. Instill within us gratitude in every cell in our bodies. May our appreciation and gratitude inspire and encourage others to do likewise. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Lovely Home

Gratitude Day 346

Sat., Oct. 26, 2019

Psalm 16:1:  The property lines have fallen beautifully for me; yes, I have a lovely home.

It’s Saturday. Unfortunately, I won’t be watching much college football today but attending a ministry meeting. Before I take off for this, I just wanted to share a few things that have been playing on repeat in my heart and soul this week.

On Friday, the leaves literally rained down. We had a hard frost Thursday night. On Friday, every tree in our neighborhood lost many of its leaves. So many of our neighbors had their yards raked and looking nice. Yesterday, around every tree was a puddle of crisp fall-colored leaves. Leaves that crunched while walking through them. It was a gorgeous crisp fall day.

This song has been on repeat in my brain ALL. WEEK. LONG. It’s not a new Christian song. Maybe I just needed the message shared in the words right now.  Here’s the first verse and chorus:

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Just click on the link and listen to the words while you enjoy the rest of this post.

I enjoyed the lovely Downton Abbey movie this week. I came a little late to the Downton Abbey series. Once I discovered it, I so enjoyed it. If you haven’t seen the series, not to worry. Two of the main characters, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, bring you up to speed at the beginning of the movie. My favorite part? The Dowager Countess played by Maggie Smith does not disappoint with her well-known zingers. But we also see more of her heart in the movie. Even old bittys can share their softer sides.

Prayer is so important. Earlier this week, I blogged about Pray without Ceasing. For those of you that shared a prayer request or celebration, thank you. Someone asked if I had a prayer request to share back. And yes, of course, I do. Lots of them. I apologize for being vague … but let me just say that Hubby Rick, I and our family appreciate any prayers offered for us. Rick and I are fine. Sometimes, things happen that we cannot control nor understand. I’ll leave it there for now.

Finally, a great joy in our lives this past week was we are officially moved into our remodeled master suite. And we LOVE it. We took a section of the upstairs and made it into a proper master suite. There was a bedroom in this area. You are seeing the new and improved remodeled version. I’m loving the décor. It just feels so “us.” This room has a king-sized bed. It feels very luxurious after sleeping in a full-sized bed our married life. We are amazed how much warmer this room is. The windows face south and the sun pours into the room during the day. Blinds on the windows provide a way to darken the room when Rick is sleeping after his night shift.

Rick built us a great walk-in closet. I finally moved our clothes and such into the closet. We designed a system that fits our needs and budget. It’s just right for us.

Now that we are using this area, I wonder why it took so long to get us moved. We are waiting for the plumber before we finish the new master bathroom, which is across from the closet. In between the bathroom and closet is a new laundry closet. I wanted everything completed before moving into the space. I’m glad that I didn’t wait any longer.

One night, Rick and I were sharing how much we enjoy this room. It feels so grown-up for us to have this bedroom. It’s not an over-the-top bedroom but so beautiful compared to the humble beginnings in which we were raised. The bedroom and closet were not very expensive updates. A little planning, elbow grease and DIYing application can truly change a space. I truly appreciate having a home that speaks to us and literally has become us.  

As Psalm 16:1 says, “I have a lovely home.” Hubby Rick and I have chosen to make this a place that is special to us. We have chosen to invest ourselves and our assets into creating a space that we love and love being in. We feel so very blessed that we have had the opportunity to do so.

When life is challenging or the days are long, we both love just coming home. To our lovely home. And this is a very, very good thing.

For being blessed with a lovely home, I am grateful. 

Lord God – Whether its crunchy leaves or a song on repeat or the joy of falling into a bed in a room that brings such peace, thank you for these small daily reminders that we are truly blessed. No matter what is going on in our lives, I pray we always see your hand of blessing making fingerprints in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Six for Saturday

Gratitude Day 342

Sat., Oct. 19, 2019

Matthew 7:12: (Jesus said,) “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

It’s Saturday … the weekend. Here’s just a few random thoughts from the Vielhuber household. You just might notice a theme here.

Everyone is in the customer service business. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. In the last two weeks, I’ve received good customer service. Other times, it’s been rather rotten. Whether you are “officially” a customer service person or not, we ALL have opportunities to be kind, thoughtful and respect of other people. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

The Golden Rule is golden because it should reflect how we want to treat others. When you have an opportunity to make someone feel special, take the extra 30 or 60 seconds and do it. Seriously. Most of the time, this is all it really takes.

Don’t judge a person’s life by their cover. What’s on the inside my surprise you. In Ripon, WI, Dennis Valstad was just an ordinary guy. He worked at the local canning facility and later the dry cleaners. Not wanting to retire, he drove fertilizer truck and delivered fire trucks.

Dennis died this summer. After his funeral, his will was read. Everyone who attended his funeral or visitation received a share of $500,000. After careful tallying, 267 people each received $1,872. In a family of five, each person received a check.  

Dennis also left gifts to other charities and organizations. Most people would not have thought Dennis had these resources. A couple who are planning a destination wedding intended to invite Dennis to their wedding and pay for his travel expenses. Instead, Dennis’ gift will help cover wedding costs.  

Moral of Dennis’ story? Be creative in being a good person. Surprise someone by being completely different than what might be expected.

People love to support local needs. I am thankful to be involved in a couple local programs which help people teetering financially. Yesterday, the board for one of those groups met. This group provides food for needy families in our community.

I’m so proud to be part of a group that makes it easy for people to get food. We don’t ask about income or job status. If possible, we’d like an address. That’s it.

People may wonder how the food pantry can have enough when we make it so easy to qualify. I say, “Be generous in your giving and others will want to be a part of this.” I see this over and over. Be generous with your time, talents and resources. Others will do likewise. When we set the example of holding loosely to what we have, God blesses this. It’s easy to do the right thing … if we allow ourselves to look beyond wanting to make too many rules.

Another reason why people are generous with our local food pantry? They know every donated dollar, can of food and loaf of bread stays local. Right here in our community. People love to support something that truly affects their neighbors.

Working together to help others is always a good thing. As I sat at the food pantry annual meeting, I thought about how this program works closely with another program I’m involved with; our local Blessings in a Backpack Program. Because we’ve developed a great relationship with the school, we are able to supply very specific needs the school students. When we’ve had extra Blessings food, we’ve made it available at local community events.

I could go on and on with other examples. My point? Wheels do not need to be remade. Partner with others to get things done. Make a difference with small, little things that make a huge impact on other people’s lives. THIS is living the golden rule.

Begin to think now about how YOU can make a difference this holiday season. It’s a time of year when people tend give a bit more. Hubby Rick and I talk through how we want to help others before the end of the year. We have an unwritten guideline that says we will give to others about the same that we spend on Christmas gifts each year.

Why do we do this? For most of the people we will give gifts, the gift is not a necessity. Rick and I feel it is just as important to share with those who have true NEEDS; not just WANTS. It’s a way that we can look beyond ourselves and see where there are gaps and try to help with those gaps.

Be in the customer service business every day. This goes back to my first point. I know we’re all busy and don’t always make time to do everything we could or should. I’m very guilty of this myself. I should stop and chat with my neighbors more. I could be more patient with a representative on the phone. Sometimes, I just need to take a deep breath. Not focus on the clock and be the hands and feet of God to someone else today. When I do this, I am rarely disappointed.

For every opportunity to live the golden rule that comes my way today, this week and this month, I am grateful. 

Dear God – We spend so much time focusing on how we want others to treat ourselves that we forget to think about how WE are treating others. Challenge us to think less of our needs and more of how we can assist someone else today. Help us become comfortable about going outside of our closely held boxes and shine Jesus’ love upon them. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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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 –

Dianne

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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 –

Dianne

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6 for Saturday

Gratitude Day 332

Sat., Sept. 28, 2019

Matthew 20:26: (Jesus said,) “But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant.”

On occasion, I have posted what I call “6 for Saturday.” Basically, these are six random thoughts/things going on in my life.

Here’s today’s version.

While it’s football season, we’re still in baseball mode. Hubby Rick LOVES the Brewers. Imagine this: it’s 5 AM. Rick has just arrived home from his 12-hour overnight shift, during which he has probably listened to three MLB games on the radio. This would include an east coast game, a Midwest game and a west coast game. Because it’s VERY IMPORTANT that I know how all of those teams did at 5 AM, I get the recap of last night’s games as Rick crawls into bed. Who pitched well. Who had a home run. Where the Milwaukee Brewers (our team of choice) is in the playoff rankings. It was rather exciting this week when the Brewers secured a spot in the playoffs. When the NFL games began a couple weeks back, Rick informed me that “it’s too early for football right now. I’m still into baseball.” Baseball is it, my friends. I am filling a pulpit this weekend, which means I get to preach. I’ve decided a message tying baseball to the spiritual journey is most appropriate. Hopefully, there are a few baseball fans in attendance, other than my hubby.

I am hosting a one-day garage sale today. I am not a garage sale person. I don’t beat the bushes for the best deal. I have never actually hosted my own garage sale. I’ve hosted the church garage sale at my house and taken things to other people’s garage sales. When I floated this idea past Rick a few weeks ago, he got onboard and decided he had things to sell as well. Why am I having a garage sale? I’m still in the purge mode. I’m at the point where the things I’m getting rid of are nice and many. It’s time to say good-bye. I PRAY a few people stop by and fall in love with stuff they can’t live without because I can.

My favorite book genre right now is historical fiction. And I found another great book: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. The book tells the story about a fictional Mississippi River family in the 1930’s. While living near Memphis, the family’s five children were taken away from their parents and become wards at the Tennessee Children’s Home, which did exist and was run by Georgia Tann. Tann was an early promoter of adaption. While her concept was noteworthy, how she connected kids and potential families was riddled with layers upon layers of impropriety. Modern-day Avery Stafford discovers that her grandmother has a well-hid secret. The two stories intertwine and take the reader on a wonderful journey. What happened at the children’s home was deplorable. This book brings to light a fascinating story.

Fall is officially here. I pulled out a few decorations before company arrived last weekend. Rather than shades of orange, red and yellow, I’m feeling more neutral this fall. I’ve decided this is A-OK. I’m using white and grey with a hint of blue; decorations I already had. We have two large pumpkins in our garden that I’ll decorate with after our garage sale. Listen to your heart. Make your soul sing with happiness.

Look at this beautiful picture of Madison, WI. We live about 30 minutes from downtown Madison which is surrounded by four lakes. Wisconsin’s capital sits on a narrow isthmus where two of these lakes nearly touch. This is such a gorgeous picture, showing exactly how downtown Madison looks.

I’m making this my quote of the week. Jesus was so unique in his approach to leadership in that he turned the generally accepted leadership style upside down. In his day, Jewish leaders distanced themselves from certain responsibilities because they felt these jobs were “beneath them.” But look at what Jesus says. Don’t expect to be a leader unless you also plan to serve. Today, we put so much emphasis on being a good leader. Jesus says, “Before you can declare yourself a leader, first, you must be a servant. Period. End of story.” I recently read where the number of volunteers in the U.S. is declining. We are forgetting that leadership begins with how we treat others. We discover this best when we allow ourselves to serve others rather than expecting to be served. This is a lesson that never grows old. One that needs to be repeated and repeated and repeated.

I’m inspired by the leader Jesus. Who inspires you? How do you view the concept of servant leadership? How can you serve someone else today and, in the meantime, model leadership?

For Christ’s example of servant leadership, I am grateful. 

Lord God – thank you for Jesus’ example and words which encourage us to be leaders AND servants. May we discover a way to serve You and someone else today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Being a Good Friend is Always in Style

Gratitude Day 325

Sat., Sept. 14, 2019

Luke 10:36-37: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Being a good friend never goes out of style.

Ever.

This story has been shared all across the U.S. And it’s a good one. It also happened within the school district where I graduated high school!

The first day of school can be daunting. It was for 4-year-old Axel. Nervous about his first day, his mom wanted to mark the occasion by taking a picture of him on the school bus. While Axel was super excited to go, when the bus door opened, he started crying.

The bus driver, Isabel Lane, had an opportunity to make a difference … and she did. She comforted Axel and showed him an open seat right behind the driver’s seat. Lane held out her hand, Axel grabbed it and they became friends. Lane knew Axel needed to be comforted and this was the best she could do at the time. Axel’s mom snapped this photo. She declares that Axel now gets on the bus every day, ready to go to school. Best part? He loves school.

While his teachers may be great and he gets to meet new friends, my guess is Axel’s bus driver has made all the difference. She embraced the opportunity to be his first new friend with his school experience. Thank you, Isabel, for being Axel’s Good Samaritan. Being a friend to every person who steps on your school bus is always in style.

This story is a bit of a follow-up from a blog that I did earlier this spring.

In 2018, Brenda Statz’s husband committed suicide. They farmed and milked cows. For years, Hubby Rick picked up their milk and delivered it to a processing facility. When Rick stopped hauling milk, his son Darran hauled the Statzs’ milk. While the Statz’s had stopped milking cows before Leon committed suicide, the stress of farming was an issue for him.

Earlier this summer, NBC came to the Loganville, WI area and captured information about this story, as well as how the current challenging dairy and agricultural industries are impacting farmers. Here’s the story aired on the NBC nightly news a few weeks ago. If you look closely, you will see Darran, Rick’s son, who has a cameo appearance. He’s the guy kneeling down by the milk tank. He’s at Randy Roeker’s farm, who is also featured during the story.

Loganville is a small, rural Wisconsin community. After Leon committed suicide, others came forward and shared the stress they are feeling because of the challenging state of agriculture. A group now meets regularly at one of the Lutheran churches in Loganville. It’s open to anyone struggling. Speakers share information. My guess is that knowing there are other people who have some of the same feelings that you are having is the most comforting aspect of this group. People have a place where they can share what’s going on in their lives. While some of these people may have been geographical neighbors for years, they are discovering and sharing a new way of being a friend.

Being a neighbor never goes out of style.

How might you be a good neighbor today?

Jesus tells the story of a man who is attached by robbers while traveling along a road. Two mean, one a priest and another a Levite, walk by the man and choose not to help him. These are religious leaders who should have known that helping their neighbor is the second most important commandment in God’s kingdom. But they chose not to.

Instead, it was the Samaritan who stopped and helped this man. Samaritans and Jewish people didn’t really get along during Jesus’ day. He took pity on the injured man and bandaged his wounds. It’s the Samaritan who found a safe place for the same to stay and even covered the expense of doing so. As the story ends, we discover it’s the person who extended mercy who is identified as a good neighbor.

Maybe you won’t see an injured person along the side of the road today. But you might see someone who is scared and anxious who just needs a helping hand. Or someone who is going through an awful time who needs a listening ear and a long hug.

Be a good neighbor. It’s always in style.

For the opportunity to be a good neighbor, I am grateful. 

Lord God – too often, we see an opportunity to do something and we justify inaction by saying, “Someone else will do this.” But maybe, just maybe, You put us in this situation so we could be a Good Samaritan. A good friend. May we embrace these opportunities before us today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Six for Saturday – A Few Life Lessons

Gratitude Day 319

Sat., Aug. 31, 2019

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

Good Saturday Morning Friends –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For continued lessons about life, I am grateful.

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

Blessings –

Dianne

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Water for the Soul

Gratitude Day 315

Fri., Aug. 9, 2019

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

I love summertime flowers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yep. Every day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings –

Dianne

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