When You Say “I Will”

Gratitude Day 328

Sat., Sept. 21, 2019

Mark 10:9: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

A little note for my niece Carissa and her finance, Jesse, who will be married today.

Dear Carissa & Jesse –

Today, you are making the second most important decision of your life when you choose who your spouse will be. It’s the second most important decision because the first most important decision is choosing to have God in your lives. As you are having this marriage confirmed within the spirit and eyes of God, you combine both of these big choices into one single event.

When you say “I will” today, you are saying “I will” to many things:

  • I will love my spouse unconditionally; even when they irritate me, leave their underwear on the bathroom floor and are late for dinner … again.
  • I will honor this person the way I desire for them to honor me.
  • I will pray for and with this person knowing that when two people carry the yoke of any problem, it is lighter. Most importantly, I will turn over this person to God and ask for God’s guidance in their life, my life and our marriage.
  • I will overlook the meniscal flaws and instead make sure to point out the positive ways they affect my life.
  • I will stand with my spouse on the crappy days as well as the good days.
  • I will encourage my spouse to grow into the person God calls them to be, knowing this may look different from what I prefer.
  • I will listen to my spouse more than I will speak.
  • I will be my spouse’s biggest cheerleader.
  • I will extend the respect I desire for myself to my spouse.
  • I will frequently revisit the reasons why I chose this person as my spouse. I will extend the list of reasons why I want to spend the rest of my life with this person.
  • I will hold this person’s hand when they are challenged. I will hug them every time we have been blessed beyond our expectation.
  • I will expect our best years as something in the future.
  • I will keep my relationship with God as the foremost relationship in my life, followed quickly by my relationship with my spouse.
  • I will anticipate and know that God journeys with us. It is just our responsibility to make sure and include Go in our marriage every day.

Please enjoy and celebrate today. And tomorrow and every day forward, continue the important choose of recommitting to your spouse once again. Do this every morning. I pray your love and commitment to one another will only deepen and expand.

Blessings –

Uncle Rick & Auntie Dianne

For the joy of celebrating Carissa and Jesse’s marriage, I am grateful. 

Holy God – bless today the joining together of Jesse and Carissa. I pray you become the strong third string that holds their marriage and relationship together.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Give Thanks

Gratitude Day 327

Fri., Sept. 20, 2019

Philippians 4:4: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

It was right there in front of me. I just needed to read it.

“Give Thanks.”

Late last night, I pulled out a few fall decorations. Company is arriving today. Maybe I should make the house look a hare bit more like fall?

Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

As Hubby Rick snoozed in the TV room, I quietly moved a few things around. Pulled out the pumpkins. Switched out a few flowers. Drank in the scent from the pumpkin candle. And called it “good enough.”

This morning, I walked through the dining room. Fog hung outside, heavy and dense. Light was barely breaking through to begin the day. Crisp air wafted through the front parlor, coming through an open window. I sat on the couch in this room, which seldom has visitor. With a cup of coffee in hand, slowed down and saw the words.

“Give Thanks.”

The list would be long and cumbersome and laborious if I accounted for everything I am thankful for. It would begin and end with blessings I have beyond my imagination.

And so, let’s just leave it at, “Give Thanks.”

What are you thankful for today?

For the ability to give thanks and rejoice today, I am grateful. 

Almighty God – May I rejoice and be thankful for all the blessings I have in my life today. “Give Thanks” seems too shallow. Maybe not enough. Thankfully, Your heart knows all that is in my heart.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Today Will Be Enough

Gratitude Day 326

Thurs., Sept. 19, 2019

Matthew 6:34: Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I see the quote on the sign. And I want to make those words my words. I want to believe these words. I want to say, “Dianne, whatever you do today WILL be enough.”

But it only lasts about 30 seconds. My mind is racing. How will I ever accomplish all that is on the docket today?

Breath. Pray quickly. Breath.

Maybe another cup of coffee will make things all better.

Right?

Wrong.

The docket list sits just around the corner, along with stacks of papers and jobs and responsibilities behind my desk.

Whatever you do today will be enough.

Oh, I so want to believe this. But feel failure is lurking along the fringes of today. Waiting for me to fail. Knowing that at the end of the day, there’s a good possibility that I will feel disappointed. In myself.

Almost two years ago, I began a journey. An experiment. Could this dyed-in-the-wool Martha busy body find a bit more Maryness in her life? She’s the sister who chose not to do but opted to sit at Jesus’ feel and be with him. After decades of doing, doing and doing … could I slow down to the posted speed limit and allow myself to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from the teacher?

There have been brief moments of breakthrough, followed by days of overdoing and overcommitting. Every time I feel that I’ve made a tiny step forward, my contentment of “having things under control” washes down the drain.

Anyone else feel my struggle? Question their enough? Long for a life that feels more manageable?

Generally, I do not think of myself as a person who worries. There is one exception. Will I accomplish enough today? Will I get the “right” things done?

Will today be enough?

Breathe. Pray, even if quickly. Let the Spirit wash over you and quiet your soul.

Let whatever you do today be enough.

For a place to share my struggles, I am grateful. 

Holy God – come to me. Come to my sister or brother who is struggling today. May we know that we are enough. Our today is enough. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Lessons from the Ducks

Gratitude Day 326

Tues., Sept. 17, 2019

John 19:14: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—

We may be familiar with the passage of scripture where Jesus assures us that he is our shepherd. He knows every single sheep and his sheep know them. We know his voice and he knows our voice. We desire and long to be with our shepherd, just as he longs for us to be in his loving arms.

Do you think Jesus can also be a Royal Duckmaster?

While Hubby Rick and I spent a few days enjoying some Sabbath, we traveled with friends to Memphis, TN. Our friends arranged for us to stay at the historic Peabody Hotel. You might know this as the duck hotel.

The Peabody is a grand, southern hotel. It’s been a hotel for most of the last 150 years. In fact, it was celebrating their 150th anniversary while we were in town.

The Peabody was a part of the original downtown Memphis and is one of the last iconic hotels remaining in Memphis. While some people visit the Peabody to see this great example of a time-tested hotel, let’s be real.

Most people visit because of the ducks. Five little guys who waddle around the Peabody like they own it because, well, basically they do.

Ducks have a long-standing tradition with the Peabody. All the way back to the 1930’s. Frank Schutt, the general manager of the hotel at the time, had returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. He and his friends left three live duck decoys in the fountain, which they found highly amusing. The ducks were such a hit that since then, five Mallard ducks (one drake and four hens) make the fountain their play station every day.

The ducks live in a quite substantial penthouse, a replica of the Peabody, on the hotel’s roof. At 11 AM every day, the ducks ride down the elevator. When they reach the lobby, a red carpet has been rolled out for them that leads them to the huge travertine marble fountain in the hotel lobby. The ducks frolic around the fountain until 5 PM, when they leave the fountain and take the red-carpet walkway back to the elevator and return to their home on the roof.

All of this is highly choreographed by the head Duckmaster. In 1940, one of the hotel’s bellman volunteered to care for the ducks. He earned the title of Duckmaster after he trained the ducks to march into the hotel lobby to a John Philip Sousa march.

Yes, one of the “must see’s” in Memphis is the march of the ducks. It’s easy to see the ducks know exactly what to do. Their trip to and from the elevator takes really only seconds as they know the route well. Of course, the Duckmaster, decked out in a fancy red jacket, is there to make sure no one strays from the red carpet.

On the day we watched the ducks march back to the elevator, an assistant Duckmaster was chosen and named. It happened to be her birthday. Apparently, she requested to be the assistant Duckmaster for the day and her wish was granted.

It’s clear these ducks know exactly what to do. When to do it. Where to go. How to get there. They are not amateurs at being the Peabody ducks. No, they know exactly what to do.

As Jesus’ sheep, are we as skilled as the Peabody ducks? Do we listen and follow directions as well as the ducks? Do we stay on the path that keeps us aligned with God’s kingdom?

I know there have been too many times when I’ve wandered off the path, thinking I could manage better on my own. While in hindsight, the path was rather clear, I thought I knew better than Jesus and chose my own path. Sometimes, I follow the voice of the Shepherd … sometimes, I don’t. Some days, I waddle along following God’s desires for me. Other days, I’m more than happy to rebel.

Yes, the analogy only goes so far. I have a lot more choices than the ducks do. My environment is not as closely contained as the Peabody ducks. I have more opportunities to wander away and make alternative choices. But just like the Duckmaster, Jesus is constantly hanging around and waiting for me to need him once again. Sometimes, Jesus even sends assistants to help me and I ignore then or completely miss them.

If only I was as loyal as the Peabody ducks.

If only my life was as easy as being a duck.

For a good shepherd who constantly seeks me out, I am grateful. 

Lord God – we are very fortunate to have a Good Shepherd who knows us better than we know ourselves. Who makes himself available to us constantly. Who knows your exact voice. May we yearn to design our lives around being great followers of the Good Shepherd. 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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Dusting Off Faith

Gratitude Day 324

Thurs., Sept. 12, 2019

2 Thessalonians 1:3:  We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.

Sometimes, it takes time to fully appreciate something. A little maturity can go a long way.

Several winters ago, Hubby Rick built the crème del-la crème of playhouses for three of our grandchildren. Basically, he built a miniature version of Waylan, Ellie and Dylan’s real house for the kids to play in. This wasn’t just any old playhouse. It has a loft, furniture, curtains and even electricity. Shutters on the outside, a chimney and a front porch make the house seem very real. The gate doors on one side of the house make it practical. Rick spared no amount of energy or effort in making this the playhouse one any kid would want in their back yard. For the full story, take a few minutes and read this.

Fast forward several years. A couple weeks ago, granddaughter Ellie asked if I would help clean-out the playhouse. Over time, things have accumulated in the playhouse. There’s sand and dried play dough and leftover bottles and food wrappers inside. The chickens used it for awhile as well as some hornets. While well-loved, the cleaning lady needed to pay it a visit.

After school, Ellie and I went to work to restore the beauty of the playhouse as much as we could. We ran into a few challenges. The sliding windows are broken. Rick put indoor/outdoor material in the loft which was now covered with a layer of sand.  While I was prepared for cleaning, the cleaning lady didn’t bring any tools along to fix a few missing screws. Those fixes will wait for another day.

We hauled everything out of the playhouse and cleaned it all up. Ellie chose what she wanted back inside, which we neatly arranged after a good cleaning. We put in a rug in the center, one I had at home. It used to be at Rick’s mom’s house. As Ellie and I laid it down, I mentioned how she had a little piece of her great-grandmother’s house now in her playhouse.

After we were done, we closed up the doors and reopened them like a reveal. It was so fun to see the expression on Ellie’s face as she saw the playhouse through new eyes and with a bit of maturity. While I know this playhouse has been used extensively, it just needed a little elbow grease to bring it back to a place where books will be read, pretend meals fixed and games played. She laid on grandma-great’s rug and let out a big sigh. It was like she felt home all over again.

Faith is maybe a bit like the playhouse. When faith first becomes personal, we are excited and can’t wait to share our experience with someone else. Initially, faith often feels easy and simple. Over time, faith can begin to feel a little more challenging. It gets bogged down by real life and complications and others who want to root in and take up residence. Faith usually doesn’t disappear. It just gets covered up with a layer of sand or mud or dirt.

When we are able to dust off faith and clean up some of our habits in which we become a bit lazy in practicing our faith, slowly, we begin to feel more optimistic about faith. With just a little work, maybe faith won’t look so difficult or hard and actually will inherit a whole new feeling. Faith never left us or disappeared. It just simply was covered up by other things. With a little effort, cleaning and going through, faith looks refreshed, remade and ready for another whirl.

When Ellie’s dad got home, she quickly asked him to go see the cleaned-up playhouse. Her one caveat? He had to take off his boots before he could enter. She wants her cleaned-up playhouse to stay this way. A little older Ellie longs for it to be used again; this time, with a little more care and attention.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Unfortunately, we didn’t take any before photos. And my helped snapped the photos included with this post.

For the opportunity for faith to grow and mature, I am grateful. 

Holy God – sometimes, we feel like faith isn’t worth the effort. We put our energy into other things or decide that something else is a higher priority. God – forgive us for the times when this happens. And when we’re ready to dust off our faith and explore it again, thanks for always being ready to be a part of this. Help us mature in our faith and find it anew as often as we need to. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Remembering

Gratitude Day 323

Wed., Sept. 11, 2019

Romans 8:26:  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Eighteen years ago today, life changed. For some, it stood still. For others, it was clouds of disbelief. We felt anger, sadness and grief. Our emotions could not keep up with the quickly changing world around us.

Normal life changed. Today’s normal is not the same as 9.10.01 normal. Now, we are aware of different things, live by enhanced laws and no longer question if something can happen here in the United States. Because it already has.

It was a terrible day. An awful day. A day that seemed to never end. One day seemed to stretch into a continuous day that soon became days and then a week. We were awed by the stories, the bravery and the sacrifice. Some people were motivated to make decisions they might not have otherwise made. We discovered that life can be very short and every day truly is a present.

Yet in the midst of all the yucky, some amazing things happened. We hugged a little tighter. We checked in with others out of pure concern. We expressed our faith and were not afraid to pray: out loud, in public and with others. We tried to make sense of the evil, only to discover there are times when there simply are no answers.

Some blamed God. Some blamed God for not stopping the awful. Some blamed God for allowing such awful things to happen. People yearned for God to speak, to say something, to help us hear the right voice. And when it appeared that God was not speaking, it seemingly became more challenging to defend our God.

And then, I discovered this one verse tucked quietly away in Romans 8. A verse that I had probably read countless times … but never really embodied. But this time, post 9.11, the words became my mantra. When I do not have words to speak or words to pray, it’s really OK. In these moments, the Spirit steps in and groans with me. For me. On behalf of me. My need for words is put on hold. I only need to sit at Jesus’ feet and pray for strength.

Wow. What a gift.

What a generous and wise God I serve. I don’t always have to have words. When my words run out, I still have an Advocate, the One who intervenes for me. This Spirit knows my thoughts, my feelings and my emotions. This Spirit

I pray we remember today. We honor those whose lives were cut short. May our prayers for those who survived and those whose families are missing a loved one continue today and days forward. Don’t worry whether or not you have exactly the right words. For if you don’t, the Spirit will step in and groan with you.

What a gracious God we have. Thanks be to God.

For a gracious God who always knows where we are spiritually, I am grateful.  

Dear God – Surround those who struggle with today. Be with those who can’t quite make sense of what happened 18 years ago. Help us hug a little tighter today, contact someone we haven’t been in touch with for awhile and not be afraid to pray. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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We All Need Sabbath

Gratitude Day 322

Thurs., Sept. 5, 2019

Leviticus 16:31 – It will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. This is a permanent law for you.

My Dear Friends –

Hubby Rick and I are taking a few days off. We’re visiting friends and checking out a part of the country we aren’t as familiar with. We plan to laugh, eat, tell stories and share our lives. The guys will talk smart and the ladies will ooh and aah over all the right things.

I’m just ready for a little Sabbath. A time for my heart to find peace. Quiet. A time of rest. I’m discovering that over time, I need moments of more being and less doing. I know; I’m a slow learner.

Maybe I’ll check in along the way. If not, I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m just taking a short Sabbath.

For opportunities for Sabbath, I am grateful.

Dear God – Thanks for the opportunity to spend a few days with less obligations in my life. Time to rest, relax and enjoy great company. Thank you for the wonderful example of Sabbath. May Your example inspire me. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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10 Reasons Why Friends Are Important in Life

Gratitude Day 321

Tues., Sept. 22, 2019

Philippians 4:1 – Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.

I am a fortunate woman. I have dear friends.

On Labor Day, a few friends and their spouses spent the afternoon at our house. These ladies and I were roommates our senior year in college. We shared the third floor of an old house in downtown Madison and made many special memories together.

Yesterday, we laughed, talked, shared and enjoyed a lovely afternoon together. It had been awhile since the four of us were together. Yet, it never feels like it’s been long, as we pick up conversations basically where we left off the last time that we were together. It is also deeply meaningful for me to have our husbands join us.

After time spent with these special ladies, I began to think about why friends are important to me. Here’s a few reasons why friends help me in my life.

They are people I can turn to when I need to process something or just need someone to listen. I am well aware that I do not have all the best ideas or thoughts. Sharing a situation or my perspective with another person is helpful because they can help me see what is going on from another direction. Maybe I am missing something. Or need another person’s insights. Yes, it’s always my choice about how to handle a situation. But hearing someone else’s take is always beneficial.  

They accept me for who I am. I certainly am not perfect and make mistakes regularly. Thankfully, I have friends who overlook these errors on my part. Yep, they are OK with pointing them out to me. I just need to be humble enough to understand they are trying to help me become a better person.

We have a shared history together which allows for levels of trust and respect. When you spend time with another person and you get to know them, often, there is sharing at a deeper level. Making ourselves vulnerable is not always easy. Yet, when we allow ourselves to do this, we connect on a new level.

They make me laugh. Sometimes, I take myself too seriously. I may take life too seriously. Having friends who help me laugh and find the lighter side of life is oh, so refreshing.

They are truly concerned about me. When life has a lemon or two in it, sometimes, we just need someone to tell us, “You will make it through this.” Thank goodness I have friends who will do this for me.

Together, we celebrate life milestones. When you have friends for multiple decades, it means that a lot of water has gone under life’s bridge. I appreciate being able to cheer for my friends and their accomplishments. And appreciate when they have returned this favor with me.

We care about each other. We explore life together and what gets us down. We also share our dreams and future ideas with each other. This happens because of mutual love and care for each other. We ask about each other’s families and truly are interested in what’s happening in each other’s lives.

We appreciate each other’s gifts and graces. I love that my friends are different from me. I celebrate their unique and special gifts. I’ve drawn upon their areas of expertise to help me.

We understand that quality of time is far more important than quantity of time together. Each with our own lives and jobs and priorities, friends understand that other things often come first. When we can have moments together, we celebrate and enjoy them.

As important as our relationships are, we also celebrate other friendships that we have with other people. I’m so fortunate that I have friends from so many different aspects of my life. I never feel like one group of friends feels like another group of friends is more important to me. We understand these various friend groups are what allows us to experience more of life. And this is a good thing.

I never tire of reading about Jesus and his group of friends. I truly believe they embodied many of these same concepts as friendships do today. Jesus gives us such a great example of how to develop, maintain and keep friends. They were the cornerstone of his life and ministry. I pray this is true for me as well.  

For deep and meaningful friendships, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for the various deeply meaningful friends that are a part of my life. Bless each one of them today. Thank you for the example and model of friendship through Christ’s life. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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All Things September

Gratitude Day 320

Mon., Sept. 21, 2019

Genesis 27:4a – Prepare my favorite dish and bring it here for me to eat.

My Favorite Things About September:

  • Wearing a sweater
  • All foods with apple
  • Winter squash soup
  • The smells of cooler weather coming through the window
  • Soft sunsets with gorgeous colors
  • Hydrangeas blooming
  • The need for a hot drink to keep you warm in the morning
  • Pumpkin muffins
  • Watching the school bus drive by our house
  • Anticipation of a short fall vacation
  • The dog days of summer that stretch into September

What are YOUR favorite things about September? Love to hear them.

Enjoy these glorious days of September; with a hint of warm summer tied together with cooler evenings and chilly mornings.

Lots to be thankful for. Lots of blessings.

It’s a new month. Celebrate all things September.

For turning the page on the calendar to a new month, I am grateful.

Dear God – It’s amazing how you designed the season of fall: a reprieve from the heat and a bridge before it gets terribly cold. May we enjoy and celebrate every single September day as a gift. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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