The Bane Between "Today" and "The Good 'Ole Days"

Gratitude Day 411

Sat., Feb. 22, 2020

Romans 12:2: Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

Yesterday, Hubby Rick and I stopped a visited his 101-year-old Aunt Mil. Mil never married and never had children. Her mother, Rick’s grandmother, immigrated to the United States as a young woman from Czechoslovakia. In 1911, Grandma Vielhuber had a ticket for the Titanic. Circumstances happened and she did not get on the ship. Later, she came to American with her sister. Their goal was to make enough money to return to the old country and open a bakery.

Grandma Vielhuber never left the United States. Instead, she was married twice. After her first husband died a mysterious death, she married the man who was Rick’s Grandpa Vielhuber. She gave birth to six children; one which died as an infant. She worked hard and raised a family. Later in life, Grandma Vielhuber built a house in Madison, which is where Mil lived until she moved into an assisted living a couple years ago.

Mil still speaks with a broken old country accent. Her room is intentionally sparse, with only the absolute necessities. As frugal as the day is long, Mil has lived a life focused on finding pleasure in the simplest of things: a beautiful flower garden, lunch with those she cares for and recording the weather EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Imagine a person who has never had a cell phone. May not know what the internet is. (Mil worked for the University of Wisconsin-Madison but retired before e-mail and the internet were necessities within the workplace.) Facebook and Instagram are as foreign to her as an African safari. She does not need 144 characters on Twitter to let anyone know how she feels about something. Just ask her and she will tell you. Point blank.

Yes, Mil is old fashioned. Set in her ways. Opinionated. Yet, she can recall events at 101-years-old that most of us have only read about. Not in an encyclopedia but on Google.

It is amazing to watch a woman who has lived her life basically the same way for decades … and is completely comfortable with it. Does she know what she is missing out on because she doesn’t have a smartphone … let alone any phone? Nope. Is the value of what she feels is important to her influenced by those who purposefully try to influence trends and stances by social media? Absolutely not. Will what she value today be any different today than it was tomorrow? A most certain and emphatic, “No.”

As I sit at my laptop and type these words, I am very much aware how technology, the internet and social media are tools that I depend upon. Tools that I have embraced and utilize and leverage. Yet, I hope and pray that I see them purely as “tools” and not the “end all” for what is important to me.

Yet, the question begs to be asked: “Is there a point when all these ‘tools’ that we embrace, and use become counter-productive to our culture?”

You bet.

I get tired of the fake news that is quickly re-posted and repeated without any vetting or discernment. I know that I spend too much time on social media and let it pull me away from nurturing deeper and more meaningful real-life relationships. Do I enjoy seeing what is going on in other people’s lives? Yes. But do I need to scroll through more sponsored posts and ads than actual real-life content to find those few valuable nuggets of content that comes from real people that I know?

There’s a bane between today and yesterday. A struggle between how much technology/new-fangled stuff/screen time/the latest and greatest with a simpler, more wholesome time when people had real conversations and didn’t depend upon text messages. Too often, I see us hiding behind our safe and comfortable screens rather than making an actual phone call to a person and have a real-life conversation. I know that I am as guilty as the next person and that I am calling the kettle “black” right now.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this nearly 2,000 years ago; long before we relied upon things held in a person’s hand for a barrage of information. “Be careful,” Paul said. “It’s easy to conform to what the world says is important rather than challenging your mind to dig a little deeper and see what God says.” It’s not just the source of our information that Paul is challenging us on. It’s the depth of what we ponder and think about that Paul wants us to explore as well. Will our faith and interaction with culture be an inch deep and an ocean wide … or are we willing to look deeply into our souls, relationships, minds and experiences and see where God is leading us? Do we take time to really listen to God, explore God’s word and see where we are being led? Or do we depend only upon what culture says?

Personally, I do not think Paul says we should ignore culture and what is happening in the world around us. Theologian Karl Barth explained it this way: hold the newspaper in one hand and scripture in the other and make sure one influences the other. With fewer actual newspapers being read these days, maybe our 2020 interpretation of this might go something like this: it’s OK to have a smartphone with lots of access to news and information and Google. But let’s not forget to run all of this information through a lens of God’s priorities as well.

Some may say Aunt Mil is living in a time and place that is no longer relevant for today. And they may be right. Yet, there is a poignant lesson for the rest of us as well. When technology/the internet/social media/search engines/platforms become the center of our focus and universe, then it’s time to re-evaluate. We can have quality time with each other and leave our phones behind. We don’t have to have immediate access to information and entertainment and what is going on in everyone else’s lives that we forget to live our own life.

Yes, I will be using technology today. I’ll check e-mail multiple times throughout the day. I’ll post something on social media and smile when someone else thinks the content I post is worthwhile. Yet, I hope that I also am fully aware that there is more to my life than staring at a screen. I pray you know and embrace this today as well.

For opportunities to learn from our elders and embrace culture with our faith, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – it seems that Paul’s words to keep culture and faith in the appropriate tension are even more appropriate than when he wrote them nearly 2,000 years ago. May we not see the tools of today’s culture as a means to an end. May we embrace knowing You as the center of our faith and life. Amen.

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Make Today Amazing!

Gratitude Day 408

Tues., Feb. 18, 2020

Psalm 145:6: They will tell about the amazing things you do, and I will tell how great you are.

Did you know that today will be amazing? Yes, it will … because you simply are an amazing person! You are amazing because you were created by an amazing God. I pray that you will be blessed all day long.

Today, I’m sharing a mishmash of things that have been speaking to my life lately.

This book. When reading for fun, I am terribly into historical novels. The Tattooist of Auschwitz clearly fits into this category. The storyline is inspired by true events. Lale Sokolov. A Jew, Lale went to Auschwitz with the hope that if he went to a concentration camp, the rest of his family would be sparred. Because he knew multiple languages, he is put to work marking people when they arrive with the number they would be known by.

Because of his unique position, Lale sees and experiences a different type of life at the concentration camp. This includes risking his own life to provide food for other prisoners to keep them alive. Lale falls in love with Gita and hopes for the day when he and Gita can live as husband and wife.

The author, Heather Morris, met the true-life Lale and captured his story in this book. It’s a gut-wrenching, lovely example of how people endure the most difficult of situations. I just became aware that there is a sequel called Cilka’s Journey. I have this book on hold through the library and can’t wait to read/listen to it!

This music. When I’m working at my computer, I often yearn for some quiet, background music that won’t distract me. I’ve tried a variety of YouTube videos, which are also free. I’ve tried lots of these videos. This is one that I adore because it is real Christian songs played on the piano with no music. You can listen quietly to the music doing a variety of things … and no one has to know its Christian music.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/awesome-country-apple-fritter-bread-5618421

This bread. I LOVE quick breads, muffins, and such. Lately, I’ve cut back on carbs. But on Saturday, I just like I wanted to make something. So, I made this apple fritter bread. It’s intended to taste like an apple fritter but without the deep frying.

I would say it’s quite successful. I was even more happy that I made it when a friend popped in for a spontaneous visit! We had cups of coffee and thick slices of this bread and agreed it tastes quite nice. It’s easy and with no special ingredients, easy to make. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of my loaf before it was all gone. (P.S. – Marci – here’s the recipe!)

The Mary Experiment. Several people have shared that they are working through the book with a small group of people. This truly warms my heart!! This is EXACTLY what I hoped people would do! I hope many of you will find a couple people to discuss the book with. Use the questions at the end of each chapter. Or download the full study guide, available here for free: https://app.convertkit.com/forms/designers/1110952/edit

If you live within in a few hours of Madison, WI, I will happily come and join in your group for an evening. It would be very rewarding for me to meet with and hear what others are discovering about themselves as they read this book. Just send me an e-mail (dideaton@hotmail.com) or contact me on Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook … if you happen to follow me there, would you be so kind as to leave a review? You can either do it on the Simple Words of Faith page or the Dianne Deaton Vielhuber Page. When people visit my sites for the first time, they often look at reviews written by other people. If you find benefit from either the blog posts or the daily text message prayers, please mention this in your review. Thanks in advance for providing these!

And if you know someone who might enjoy reading these blog posts, please refer them! I know many of you read these off of social media. I encourage you to sign-up through simplewordsoffaith.com to receive the blog posts as an e-mail as well. Not receiving the daily text prayers? Just text simplewordsoffaith to 33222.

No matter what is going on in your life today, God and I both think you are AMAZING! Go make it a great day!

For a God who created each of us as amazing people, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Hi God – You truly are amazing. When I see your fingerprints in my life, the lives of others and in the world around us, I pray that I will never stop being amazed as well. Thank you for always being with me. Amen.

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You ARE God's Story

Gratitude Day 402

Sat., Feb. 8, 202

Isaiah 5:7: I have given you the story of God’s people. 

I love stories. I love to tell them, write them, share them and hear them.

So, when I heard about a new children’s book that tells the story of God creating the world, I felt the need to have a copy.

It’s a lovely little book that begins in the very beginning. A little boy and his friends go on a journey to discover the beginning of all things. The illustrations are fantastic. The words easy to read. It takes the creation story and makes it tangible and realistic.

Before the book ends, it makes the story personal with these words:

But always remember, ‘cause this much is true,

God had a purpose for making you YOU.

Amen. Again, and again, AMEN!

In the next pages, readers are challenged to take the gifts and talents and shticks that God has given us and use them to make a better world. With simple little examples, the author makes this realistic and doable.

This little power-packed book ends in a special way. God didn’t stop with the creation story. No, it was just the beginning. Here’s how the book ends:

Amen. Again, and again, AMEN!

This wonderful little book almost wants me to try and write a children’s book. Not sure I will but it reminds me that we can take God’s story, our story, and put it into words that work for all ages.

Amen. Again, and again, AMEN!

This week, I was reminded of another story that has a powerful ending. It’s based on the song, “It Is Well.”

Originally, the words were written by Horatio Spafford. A successful attorney and real estate investor, he lost a fortune in the great Chicago fire in 1871. About the same time, his beloved four-year-old son died of scarlet fever. Feeling a vacation would do his family some good, he sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to England with the plan to join them after completing some business.

However, the unimaginable happened. As the ship traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, there was a terrible collision. The ship sunk and more than 200 people died, including all four of Horatio’s daughters. Once his wife, Anna, arrived in England, she sent a telegram to her husband with these words: “Saved alone. What shall I do?”

Horatio quickly took a ship headed for England. The captain was aware of the tragedy. When his ship approached the spot where the previous ship had sunk, he summoned Horatio to let him know that they were passing through the area where his daughters had died.

While going through this area, Horatio’s soul filled with words of comfort and hope. These words became a well-beloved hymn:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to know,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Contemporary Christian singer Kristene DiMarco has reworked this hymn into a more contemporary version. Take a listen to her version. Listen carefully to the words which honor Horatio’s words so well:

I don’t know what is going on in your life today. I don’t know if you have struggled this week or if you feel very filled. This is what I do know:

God had a purpose for making you YOU.

You are part of God’s story because …

The story God wrote was just the beginning.

If there is a storm in your life right now, I pray that you can find peace that God is with you in this part of our story. And the day when you can confidently say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Amen. Again, and again, AMEN!

For being part of God’s amazing and wonderful story, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – it is amazing to think of your ability to create a world so unique and special and creative. It is even more amazing to ponder how you have made each one of us special and unique. Thank you for making us US! If our story includes some type of struggle right now, I pray we can turn to you and say, “It is well with my soul.”

Amen.

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Lessons from January

Gratitude Day 397

Sat., Feb. 1, 2020

Hebrews 11:4: It was by faith that Abel obeyed God and brought an offering that pleased God more than Cain’s offering did. God accepted Abel and proved it by accepting his gift; and though Abel is long dead, we can still learn lessons from him about trusting God.

February 1st! The first month of 2020 is gone …

Today, I look back and think about the lessons I learned (or really, re-learned) this first month of 2020.

Sabbath is good. Sabbath with family is important.

Hubby Rick and I had the unique opportunity to join my sisters, some cousins and other extended family on a Caribbean cruise. This is the first time we had done something like this, and it was definitely a success! Growing up, my siblings and I didn’t spend lots of time with cousins. Only two cousins lived rather close (2 hours) and they moved when I was still in elementary school.

Now as adults, we have discovered it’s fun to do things together! The lesson here: make time for relationships (new or rediscovered) as an adult. Yes, we have a common heritage. Yes, our personal experiences of that heritage may be different. Celebrate and enjoy where you are today and appreciate your heritage!

Life’s rhythms change. Find a new way to enjoy and celebrate each day. Back from our Sabbath, I found it a little difficult to jump back into life. So, I thought about how I could embody each day in a slightly new and different way. While I have been on social media for years, I have always been slightly protective of what I post. Recently, I started posted a picture a day which reflects some little area of my life. These pictures are more of me than anyone else. They are a way for me to celebrate the most normal parts of my day and give thanks to God for these ridiculously “normal” parts of my life.

So, follow me on Instagram (diannedeatonvielhuber) or Facebook (Dianne Deaton Vielhuber – make sure it’s my personal account and NOT my work admin account) if you want to see where I see God in my daily, ordinary, every-day life. I pray these photos encourage others to discover God as well!

If reading the Bible has become stale for you, try a different translation. I have used the NIV translation of the Bible for devotions for YEARS. Back from our Sabbath, I picked the The Message one day. It’s not that The Message was new for me. I’ve used it historically at various times. This version was sitting on my bookshelf.

What I discovered is the biblical stories came alive in a slightly different way for me because, well, the words ARE DIFFERENT! It’s brought forth a new freshness as I read scripture. Sometimes, just a slight shift CAN make a difference!

One more for the road. I’ll let the words speak for themselves.

We are never too old to discover new lessons in our lives. Where has God been speaking to you? Where have you made a slight shift and discovered something different about yourself?

Lessons are SO IMPORTANT. Realizing them in our lives is also important.

Have a great weekend!

For new or re-discovered lessons in my daily life, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – thank you for continuing to be a living God in my life. A living God that is active and present and challenging me to discover new things about myself. Or simply relearn things that I might have forgotten or pushed aside. May I celebrate regular lessons in my life. Amen.

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Simple Saturday

Gratitude Day 393

Sat., Jan. 25, 2019

1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light.

Just in case no one has told you this week … YOU ARE AMAZING!

You are a special person, created by God, to do great things for God’s Kingdom!

Each day, you extend kindness and do great things for God’s kingdom. You put others first and find a way to make things work.

Thanks for being AMAZING!

Now … just a few things I’m thinking about this day.

Yesterday, I donated blood. It’s just a small way that I could extend kindness to someone else. Each day, I’m sharing a photo from my day and a few thoughts about how this little thing is a part of my daily spiritual journey. To see these thoughts, please Facebook friend me at Dianne Deaton Vielhuber or follow me on Instagram at diannedeatonvielhuber. I know not everyone has social media … so I’ll try to share here sometimes as well.

Two months ago, I launched The Mary Experiment. It’s been such a rewarding experience! Every week, someone sends me an e-mail or tells me how the book has helped them. I LOVE THIS! My deepest desire in writing this book was to inspire and encourage others. So, thanks for sharing … and please continue to do so. If you haven’t purchased the book, it’s available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions.

People share with me how much they enjoy the reflection questions and prayers at the end of each chapter. I would LOVE to have conversations with people about The Mary Experiment and encourage others to reflect on their own personal journey. How can this happen? We could have a book signing at a location near you. I could visit a small group you are a part of and we could dig deeper into the reflection questions or go through some of the free devotional guide. I would love to speak to a any size group about my experiences. Honestly, I am open to anything! If you have an idea of how I can be a part of something you are aware of or a part of, please contact me. Let’s have a conversation! It makes my heart so happy when others share with me their experience of reading the book. Let’s help make it available to more people!

Promise to take a few minutes for YOURSELF today. Do something that you love, enjoy or relish time to do. Make it 15 minutes or 30 minutes or a full hour! Hit the pause button on life and do something that fills you up and restores you. Find a little way to include some Mary time in your life. Drink it in. Celebrate it. Remember that YOU are AMAZING! Thanks for reading along here at Simple Words of Faith. I appreciate everyone of you AMAZING people!

For all the AMAZING people who I get to share life with, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – may we appreciate this day and being part of You AMAZING family. I pray we never take this for granted. Amen.

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Are You Listening?

Gratitude Day 389

Sat., Jan. 18, 2019

Matthew 13:9: Are you listening to this? Really listening?

This is how I closed my last e-mail: See you in a week or so.

So, hmmm … how did a week stretch into two weeks?

It just did.

I could tell you all the excuses I can find that are for real. Like, how it took us one-and-a-half days to get home because of bad weather in Chicago. Bad weather = an unexpected flight to Key West AND an overnight in Dallas. Or how about an hour after we finally got home, we held our last Christmas celebration. For real. In very Martha-like fashion, I pulled together a meal with a help from the local deli. Two long travel days ended with windshield time taking grandkids home and visiting family. Thank goodness Hubby Rick took last Sunday night off!

Yes, a week off means more time at work the following week. And unexpected distractions that well, took more of me than I care to admit. It was Wednesday before I finished up the vacation laundry. Seriously. I walked around laundry baskets for days before the last clean piece of clothing was finally put away.

In the midst of this, I made one little change that has made a difference in my spiritual life. As 2019 closed out, I shared a 2020 Bible Reading Plan which takes you through the entire New Testament in 2020. I tried to make it realistic by only including scripture passages for five days a week. A chapter a day for five days per week, and YOU can read the entire New Testament! (Plus a few bonus passages.)

Determined to follow my own plan, I packed the smallest Bible I have for vacation. Trying to take less baggage, you know. When I got home, I decided that I wanted to use a different translation than I normally do. For years, I have used the NIV translation in my personal devotions. Wanting to switch it up, I pulled out my copy of The Message written by Eugene Peterson. The Message is the Bible in contemporary language. It’s not so much a literal translation of the Greek (New Testament) or Hebrew (Old Testament). Rather, it’s a personal message written in words we can all relate to.

One of the first days, I used The Message, I ran across this in Matthew 13:

(Jesus says,) “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

Yikes. I stopped dead in my tracks.

Matthew 13 includes a well-known parable in which Jesus tells about harvesting seed. Some seed falls on the road, which doesn’t take root. Some seed falls on the road, which is a metaphor for a person who hears God’s word and responds enthusiastically. But when the emotion wears off or something difficult happens, well, faith dies. Some seed gets enveloped by weeds. This person lets worry and wanting more strangle what is heard. Once again, faith falls to the wayside.

Finally, Jesus tells how some seed falls on the good earth and produces a huge harvest. This person takes the News they have heard and shares it with others.

Are you listening to this? Really listening?

Of course, we always see ourselves as the seed that falls on the good earth with a hearty harvest. It’s someone else whose faith doesn’t take root or turns away when something difficult happens in their life. Even if there are weeds in our life, well, we can name a lot of other people who have way bigger weeds than we do.

We focus on the seed. But …

Are you listening to this? Really listening?

I think of the Verizon guy who spent a couple years traveling around the U.S. asking people if they could hear him now. Today, the Verizon guy is no longer the Verizon guy. He’s the spokesperson for another cell phone company. I’m not sure why he jumped ship. My guess is some other company got his attention and he listened to them more than he listened to Verizon.

Who do YOU listen to?

If I was truly honest, I would admit that there are way too many other things in my life that I listen to … before I listen to God. Sure, every once in a while, I stop and listen. But too often, the clamoring noise of “the urgent” occupies me. Or the distractions that lure we away from what I know should be my focus wins out.

Today, I am committing this day to listening to God. Will my life be dramatically different at the end of the day? I have no clue. Will God speak to me in a profound way? Not so sure. What I do know is this:

I have spent way too much of my life listening to all the other voices in my life and ignoring the voice of God.

It’s time to take back listening. Listening to God. Whether I receive a profound message or even some little small message from God today, it’s time for me to use my two ears more than my one mouth. It’s time to really listen to God.

For new reminders out of a different translation of the Bible, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – I’m a little ashamed at how seldom I truly listen for You in my life. Forgive me for letting all the other noises drown you out way too often. Speak to me today. Quietly or loudly. In a still, small way or with a demanding voice. I pray I hear You in my life today. Amen.

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

Gratitude Day 388

Sat., Jan. 4, 2019

Hebrews 4:9: So, you see that a sabbath rest is left open for God’s people.

There will be a time today that Hubby Rick and I will be leaving on a jet plane.

Yep, we’re getting out of the Wisconsin winter and going someplace WARM!

And we are excited! We’re going with family and cousins and will be enjoying sun and water and all things that make a vacation great.

I already know it will be fabulous!

Truth? A little secret?

I almost feel like it’s a little extravagant that we get to go on such a nice vacation. It’s not like completely over-the-top. But it will be nice. Fun. Warm. I can almost feel the warm of the sun on my face … and we are still in the cold!

Honestly, there’s a bit of me that feels guilty. Not everyone gets to take a vacation this winter. Some will trudge through the snow and cold ALL. WINTER. LONG. While here we are, jetting off somewhere south.

Should I feel guilty that we get to go on vacation? It’s a mixed bag for me. It certainly makes the winter feel less oppressive when we get to spend some time where it’s warmer.

Do I wonder whether it’s a good utilization of our resources? No … and yes. Rick loathes winter and a week away always puts him in a better mood for the rest of the winter. Yet, I also know it makes the rest of winter more bearable for both of us.

I also know this will be a great opportunity to spend time with family and cousins. Growing up, my family didn’t spend much time with our cousins. It just didn’t work out. As adults, I think it’s so cool that we CHOOSE to do things together. And I think we are all the richer for it.

So, I’m thinking of this time away as Sabbath. Time to recharge. Refuel. Refocus. Rethink. Relax. Reconnect.

I am a huge promoter of Sabbath. For me, Sabbath isn’t just a day of the week when we worship God. It’s time when we slow down our normal schedule and be. It’s Mary time. Yes, it will be filled with fun activities and good food and great laughs. But it’s also an opportunity to listen. Be. Get filled.

Whether you are able to get away for several days this winter or not, YOU can create Sabbath in your life. Spend an afternoon doing something that fills your tank. Create moments each day to read or meditate or be. Take an activity you love to do and turn it into time you spend with God.

We all are a little better after Sabbath. We all need time to decompress. We all need a fresh look at life.

See you in a week or so.

For the opportunity for Sabbath this next week, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – thank you for the example of Sabbath. Even You carved out space to be and recharge. I pray we discover ways to do this in our own lives. Amen.

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The Longest Night

Gratitude Day 379

Sat., Dec. 21, 2019

Isaiah 9:2: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.

Today is the longest night

Or the shortest day of the year.

It’s not any shorter hours-wise.

For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, it’s the day with the least amount of possible sunlight in the day.

The day when the sun comes up the latest and dips below the western skyline the earliest.

When I was a child and growing up on a farm, I remember coming home from school on Dec. 21st. While us kids often wanted a short break before heading outside to do our evening chores on the farm, I remember my Mom encouraging us on Dec. 21st not to wait. “It will be dark soon,” she would say. If we wanted any daylight to aid us in doing chores, we needed to get our feet into boots, put on our chore coats and move on outside … as quickly as possible.

We don’t know the exact date that Jesus was born. In fact, we’re not sure what month or even what season. Late December was chosen because this is when the least amount of light is possible. It’s like all the people have seen such darkness in the world. And now, the Light of God is coming into the world.

Why wouldn’t the Light arrive during the longest nights of the year?

Why wouldn’t the Light want to shine as brightly as possible?

Yesterday, Hubby Rick put up a lighted star on the side of our carriage house. Usually, there is also a nativity in this area. The nativity isn’t out yet … but the star is. Just before we ate dinner last night, Rick said, “Have you seen the star in the east?”

I thought he was being funny, when in reality, he just wanted me to look out the window and see the star of the east on the side of our carriage house.

It was dark. The light shone bright.

The Light of the World has come.

We celebrate it again in just a few days.

If you are feeling darkness in your life right now, turn east and find the star.

If you wonder if God loves you, turn east and please find a star that is shining bright, for you and all the world to see.

If you are feeling a little frazzled or distracted or not prepared for Christmas, just stop. Stop. Turn east. Find the star. See the Light of the World.

This IS enough.

This IS Christmas.

This IS what is most important.

See the light.

Feel the light.

Give thanks to God.

Amen.

And if you need just a bit of inspiration today, listen to a favorite Christmas carol.

For the Light of the World on the longest night of the year and every other night, I am grateful.

Dear God – Thank you for bringing light into a dark and often dreary world. Thank you for shining brightness into my life. May I reflect Your love to those around me. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

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Christmas Sights & Sounds

Gratitude Day 375

Sat., Dec. 14, 2019

Luke 2:19: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 

Today, I want to drink in the sights and sounds of Christmas. And I want to treasure them all.

We will be celebrating Christmas with my Deaton family today. For several years, we have celebrated Christmas with the Deaton’s a couple weeks before Christmas. This way, we CAN all be together. And we love it.

Over the years, we’ve developed a few fun traditions. We will have the Deaton white elephant gift exchange. Rather than buying gifts, I put together gifts that reflect our family. These are things from our parents and our grandparents and my childhood. Some of these things are fun. Some are silly. Some are very popular. Others – not so much. We do this because it’s a great opportunity to remember our family. We tell stories and while versions maybe slightly different, it’s OK. It just allows us to laugh and share together. The sight of people opening these gifts, wondering what they opened and if they REALLY want these items is priceless.

We take turns organizing a craft for the kids to do. Sometimes, the big kids may do the craft as well. Just another fun way to see each other spend time together.

Of course, we’ll have a meal together. Maybe play cards. Catch up. Laugh. Smile.

I have a new little surprise this year. Going through my Mom’s things, I found some old slides and plan on having a little slide show. Maybe it will be more interesting for some than others. And it’s really OK.

I realized last night that I forgot a couple things at our house. But the day will go on. The sights, the sounds … they will make for a very special day.

Quite honestly, the Deaton Christmas is the ONLY day we are ALL TOGETHER. Seven years ago, it was the last time we were all together with my dad. We knew his time was short … and so did he. He didn’t feel well that day and it was an emotional afternoon. Two years ago, it was the last time we were all together with my mom. She fell the day before the Deaton Christmas and within days, was on Hospice.

Rather than look at these days and be sad, I choose to celebrate that we had these special days with our parents shortly before they passed away. The sights and sounds of those Christmas celebrations are so important to me.

Yes, it’s a mere 14 days before Christmas Eve. I know there is always a lot going on this time of the year. But PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE. Slow down. Take in the sights and sounds of the Christmas season. So, what if that one last batch of cookies doesn’t get baked? It’s OK. The cards don’t get sent out until January or are only posted on a social media account? It’s really OK. Take a drive and look at the lights. Go Christmas caroling. Watch a favorite movie. Spend less time shopping and more time creating special sights and sounds of Christmas memories that you WILL treasure way beyond whatever gift that didn’t get wrapped and put under the tree.

For your Christmas listening pleasure, click here and let you ears receive a wonderful bouquet of music:

For a day filled with sights and sounds of Christmas as we celebrate with family today, I am grateful.

Dear God – rather than anticipating Christmas like a firehose that blasts life, may we treasure the smallest and best Christmas sights and sounds. Challenge us to grasp the smallest things that make our Christmas special this year. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

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Saturday Inspiration

Gratitude Day 373

Sat., Dec. 7, 2019

Amos 5:14: Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of heavenly forces, will be with you just as you have said.

Happy Saturday!

I am a person who loves to be inspired by others. I am a person who loves to be inspired by regular people doing little things that become extraordinary things day after day. Here’s a few things that have inspired me lately.

This Mom. It’s not too often that a Mom has three sons playing in the NFL at the same time. But Connie Watt does. Watch her share. The interview is about 10 minutes long … but it’s worth the time. Connie did not raise her boys to be NFL players. She raised sons who would be outstanding individuals that would inspire others. Oh, and she just happens to be from Wisconsin. You may have heard of her eldest son, JJ Watt. He’s not afraid to do big things for ordinary people through his foundation. And Connie helps him do it.

This 5-year-old boy named Michael. This week, Michael found his forever family. He was adopted! What makes the story super heart-warming? He invited his entire kindergarten class to witness this happen! Look at the picture. The hearts Michael’s friends are waving behind him. They are cheering him on. I don’t know all the details of what happened in this Kent County courthouse in Michigan. What I do know? This little boy was so excited to share a life-changing event with his friends. And the school, the teachers, the parents made it happen. Talk about a life lesson. Right here. Right there. A super cool Christmas present wrapped up in all the right kind of love.

A woman named Elizabeth. For the first time in a couple months, I’m sharing a message in worship tomorrow. I’ve felt inspired to dig a little deeper into the story of Elizabeth and Mary, found in Luke 1:39-45. When Mary discovers she is pregnant, she visits her elder cousin, Elizabeth, who happens to also be pregnant even though she’s way too old to be carrying a child. I feel both of these ladies are inspiring: Elizabeth for being so willing to mentor a younger woman and Mary for knowing she needed to seek the comfort of a seasoned woman. Whether you are a bit older or just getting started in your adult life, there’s lots here. I encourage you to spend just a few minutes with this story today.

I love sharing stories because I feel it is through stories that we CAN inspire ourselves and others. How will you write your story today? Who can you inspire with some little random act of kindness? What can you do to express love to a person near and dear to your heart?

For daily inspiration, I am grateful.

Dear God – Thank you for gifting us a book chuck-full of stories of inspiration. We call it the Bible. I pray we use these stories, as well as ones that we encounter every day, to inspire us to seek good and not evil.  Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

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