Dear Spring – Where Are You?

Gratitude Day 274

Mon., May 20, 2019

Job 29:23 – My words were eagerly accepted like the showers of spring,

Dear Spring –

Somehow, I feel like you forgot to stop this year. Yes, there was one or two days where temps were near normal. But we were hoping for more than one day here and another day there. If someone is holding you captive, please send an SOS. WE. MISS. YOU. Please decide to still show up this year. We’d love to have you stay for awhile.

Your Long-Lost Friends –

Hubby Rick & Dianne

If you live somewhere where spring has arrived in full force, can you please send it to Wisconsin? Somehow, it seems spring has forgotten to arrive. Yes, the birds are back and the spring flowers are trying not to shiver too much. We did have that one 75-degree day and it was beyond lovely. I had every door in the house open.

Since spring has been more than a bit elusive this year, I’ve tried to bring a little spring into the house. Here are a few quick and easy ways to make your house, and possibly your heart and soul, feel a little more like spring. All of these are super easy, not expensive and hopefully will brighten your house. Maybe your attitude as well, if it is missing spring.

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  1. Pick a green branch from the yard and put it in a vase. These were some in our backyard. When I was running recently, I saw some pretty branches in the road ditch with little flowers on them. I wished that I had the means to cut them with me, as I would have brought them home and stuck them in the vase as well! Yes, put a little water in the bottom of the vase. The leaves may only last a week or so … but since they are free, who cares?!! When they are wilting and sad looking, go pick some more.

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  1. Find a pretty plant from the grocery store. A few people have asked about this plant. It’s a calla lily that I bought at the grocery store right before Easter for $9.99. Seriously. This little guy has brought way more than $10 of joy into my heart. I love the deep purple lilies. Every week more continue to open. Even granddaughter Ellie thought it looked “spectacular” on the table.

After I bought it, I brought it home and put it in a pretty container that I have. I left it in the plastic holder from the store because my pretty container doesn’t have a drain hole. This way, the lily won’t get too wet. Water as necessary. There is nothing quite like adding a little green into the house that spells S-P-R-I-N-G.

  1. Change a pillow. A couple weeks ago, I was asked to teach a class at a high school interior design class. I know. I am not an interior designer. I just like to have things I love in my house. Well, and yes, Hubby Rick has helped me redo a thing or two.

Anyways, I wanted to show students some easy design tricks. Switching out the pillows was one. Everyone agreed that the contrasting pillow looked better. Sometimes, just moving one little thing can breathe a new feeling into a space.

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  1. Clean a drawer. Or maybe the refrigerator. Either one works. Our refrigerator needed a going through. It had been, um, let’s say, too long. It was amazing how good it felt to clean it out! I know. This isn’t one of those sexy jobs in the house. Who wants to spend a couple hours cleaning the fridge? I didn’t … but I’m glad I did. I was so excited to fill it with pretty, fresh veggies and fruits.

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  1. Set-up a fun seating area. Yes, the porch is ready for visitors. Please stop by for peach iced tea. Bring a jacket if you have to!

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We also have these fun swings in our backyard. Wanting to make them look just a little different from last year, I added different pillows and this nifty metal table. Done. They are ready for spring. Now just a few nice mornings to sit out there? Please?

Whether spring has fully arrived at your house our not, what is one little thing that you can do to add a feeling of spring? Something that will lighten you heart and soul. A small change that will make you smile each time you walk by?

I know that spring showers are necessary. And sometimes, this means gray days and a chill in the air. But I am so ready to rototill the garden, plant veggies and the beautiful zinnia hedge that absolutely makes our garden stunning. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy these quick and easy ways that have made my days feel a bit more like spring, even if outside the window, it is less convincing.

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For the promise of more spring-filled days, I am grateful.

Lord God – As the days lengthen and the sun stays present just a bit longer, I am excited for the hope of those things that make my heart feel like spring. Yes, some have arrived. The trillium, the birds, the lawn getting mowed. Help me be patient and appreciate every day, whether the weather is just as I would prefer or not! Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Gospel Lived by Action

Gratitude Day 273

Sat., May 18, 2019

Deuteronomy 4:9 – You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves and tell your children and grandchildren as well.

It’s Saturday morning! And here are just a few random thoughts on this cool Wisconsin weekend.

  1. It’s baseball season. Our house is clearly Milwaukee Brewers fans. Well, one is especially in love with the Brewers which means we’re all in love with the Brewers. Therefore, I receive updates about the Brewers at all hours of the day; most notably when Hubby Rick gets home from work as the sun is coming up and he is crawling into bed.

As much as we love and follow the Brewers, they aren’t our #1 teams. Sorry, Brewers. Whatever team our grandchildren are playing on outranks you.

We’re taking in as many of the grandkid’s games as we can. Friday night, we went to little Dylan’s game, which was his second game of the season. If you want to be entertained, take in a baseball game played by 7-year-olds. The rules are a little different. There are only four innings. Everyone gets to bat every inning. The coaches take turns pitching. Little bodies speckle the infield and the outfield. It’s not uncommon to see two little boys bust a move randomly in the outfield when they have lost interest in watching who is batting. There was one little girl on the opposing team. She barely hit the ball into play but started running towards first base after the coach encouraged her to do so. The catcher took his face mask off, just like the big boys do, grabbed the ball and threw it towards first base. He was right on the money and the ball bonked the little girl in the back of the helmet. At the end of the inning, she came running over to the sidelines and asked her grandma, “Did you see me get hit in the back of the head?”

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Here’s our little Dylan up to bat. Keep swinging, Dylan. We hope you, and your brother Waylan, have fun baseball seasons.

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  1. It’s garage sale weekend in our hometown. I’m not much of a garage-saler. Certainly, I don’t need more stuff. But … garage sale weekend is a good reason to visit the neighbors who are having a garage sale. And support the local Presbyterian church that has a food stand. I might have brought home a couple items to use when I host a bridal shower this summer. Shhh … don’t tell the Brewer fan in our household.

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  1. If sometimes you procrastinate, then this might be a book for you to read. I’ll be honest. It’s difficult to admit that yes, sometimes, I procrastinate. I do the “easy” things, wanting to quickly cross something off my to-do list, rather than focusing on the “important” things. Why do I do this? A project feels a bit overwhelming and so I delay starting it. Or I think it’s going to take a lot of time and I’m not in the right spot to mentally take it on. Too often, I am a perfectionist and I know this project maybe stretching my skill set. Or a whole host of other reasons.

This book is challenging me to rethink how I prioritize what I do, how I do it and delay putting off those things I say are important but don’t ever get around to. If you struggle with similar patterns, run to your library and get this book.

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  1. Love captured all in one photo. That’s the second-baser from last night’s game with Grandpa. Sometimes, this is how a sleepover looks in our house. Boys downstairs. Girls upstairs. Softly snoring as the sun just tips over the horizon. And I couldn’t love it more. These next generation Vielhuber’s who we pray see that faith is an important part of our lives. Not so much because we say it … but because we live it in the choices we make every day. We try to embody a quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel daily. Use words only when necessary.”

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For special times with special little people in our lives, I am grateful.

Holy God – in this game of life, I pray the actions I make every day reflect my desire to reflect Your place in my life. May I always remember the best lessons are modeled in how I conduct myself every minute of the day, especially to those little people who we call our own. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Just a Little Talk with Jesus

Gratitude Day 272

Fri., May 17, 2019

1 John 4:11 – Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

I just wanted to feel closer to someone. I wanted this relationship to be at the place where I yearned for it to be. You know, like the person is REALLY a very good friend of mine?

At one point, I did feel close to this person. I’d spent time with this person and had shared much of my life with him.

Then, life happened. I got busy. I didn’t make time for the relationship. I chose everything over keeping a close relationship with this person. It wasn’t the other person who moved. Or stopped investing in me. Or no longer wanted to be on a first-name basis with me.

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It was me. I’d stopped counting on this person as a dear, close, personal friend.

Then, one day, I wanted it back. I wanted to, once again, share my biggest joys as well as my deepest secrets. I wanted to feel his unconditional love and lack of judgement. I wanted assurances that there would always be a soft place for me to land. I didn’t want to keep plodding along in life, knowing this relationship could and should be deeper. More intimate. More fulfilling.

I decided to reinvest in this relationship. I decided to reinvest in Jesus.

It’s not that I ever stopped believing in Jesus. Or praying. Or worshiping. I just wanted Jesus back inside of me.

If you want to feel close to someone, you have to invest time and energy into the relationship. If you don’t, you won’t feel close. This is what happened with my relationship with Jesus.

I no longer had private, personal conversations with Jesus. Prayer was more of a quick little event to cross off my to-do list. I had stopped talking with Jesus throughout the day and boy, did my heart feel it.

So, what should I do?

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I went back to the stories of Jesus. I committed to revisit and rediscover who Jesus was and what his purpose was. I would reread those accounts of Jesus’ life and make them personal for me.

Yes, I have read the gospel accounts hundreds of times. One semester of seminary, I think I read the gospel of John like 20 times for a particular class. This time? I’d read the stories of Jesus not because I was writing a sermon or planning what to teach during a class. I would read all four gospels, straight through, to see why Jesus is important to me.

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My plan included reading one chapter of a gospel every day. I started with Matthew because, well, it’s the first gospel in the New Testament. And continued with Mark, Luke and then John. Along with my well-worn Bible, I kept a journal where I wrote down interesting things that I read about Jesus each day. Most importantly, I write a couple sentences after reading each chapter about what this chapter meant to ME. Not someone else; another theologian or pastor or seminary professor. What did Jesus’ words and actions mean to me?

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For the last several months, nearly daily, I’ve pulled out my extremely well-worn Bible and read a chapter. My favorite Bible is running on fumes. It’s held together with, get this … duct tape. Honestly, it’s not even held together anymore. The spine is broken. Unless I hold the Bible together, part of it falls out when I open it up.

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Some days, reading the chapter was fun and easy. Other days, I’d read the words and think to myself, “What did I just read?” Some days, I was so confused about what I read yesterday that I would re-read the chapter again. Some chapters were confusing two days in a row.

Most weeks, I read a gospel chapter 6 days. I never let myself miss two days in a row. I was committed to completing this exercise.

What happened as I read through Matthew, then Mark, Luke and eventually John? I discovered a more personal Jesus just for me. When I came to a favorite chapter, I was excited to read it again. I rediscovered why having regular talks with Jesus is important, necessary and healthy. A broken relationship can be restored.

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I’m still figuring out who Jesus was, what lessons are most important and what to do with my life most days. But I do feel just a hare bit closer to him. I’m excited to read the Word of God again and let it speak to me.

Will there come another time in my life when I will feel far from Jesus? Yep. Will I need to redo this exercise sometime again? Absolutely. For now, I’ve rediscovering how important it is to spend with Jesus on a daily basis. Not because Jesus needs this; but because I do.

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For rediscovering a closer relationship with Jesus, I am grateful.

My Dear Friend Jesus – thanks for not giving up on my when I moved away in our relationship. Thanks for staying right there, waiting for me to discover how much I want you in my heart and life. Thanks for being patient with me. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Love in the Form of a Plant

Gratitude Day 271

Thurs., May 16, 2019

1 John 4:11 – Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Love can show up in many different ways. Recently, it arrived at my house wrapped in a little planter filled with flowers.

 

It was Saturday. Hubby Rick and I were both home, doing various projects around the house. Mid-day, Rick asked if I knew that there was something on the porch for me. Actually, I hadn’t been out the front door and so, I wasn’t aware there was a little something just waiting for me to find it.

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It was this cute little planter with a variety of plants inside. Dropped off by my friend Jo.

Just because.

For me.

She was thinking of me and wanted me to know this.

Along with the plants, she left just the nicest little note. Hand-written just for me.

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When I called Jo to let her know how meaningful her little gift was, I told her that there were big old fat tears rolling down my face.

No shame here. Just how it was.

Want to make someone feel like a million bucks? Send them just a little something, just because. Drop off a little gift that represents something that they love for no reason at all. Show them how much you care and respect and love them as a human being. You’ll be amazed how much your little effort will mean to them.

They just might have big old tears rolling down their cheeks and a smile plastered across their face.

Just try it. See what happens. No expectation. No desired return. Just a quick and little way to say to someone, “You’re special. You make a difference in my life. Maybe this little something will make a different in my life.”

It might even bring big old tears to your eyes.

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For Jo’s expression of kindness, caring and love, I am grateful.

Lord Jesus – thank you for bringing special people into our lives. Thank you for providing opportunities to share love and caring to someone else. May we be encouraged to do something … just because. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Powerful Prayer

Gratitude Day 270

Wed., May 15, 2019

John 17:11b – (Jesus said), “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

It’s terribly powerful when someone prays specifically for you.

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It’s happened to me many, many times. One thing I miss about Sunday mornings now that I am no longer serving as a pastor? Hubby Rick praying for ME on Sunday mornings.

We had this long-standing tradition. Before I left the house, we would stand in the kitchen and Rick would pray for me. If he happened to attend early worship with me, then he’d pray for me in the car before I walked into the church. Every Sunday, Rick asked that God would use me as God’s servant; speak through me; touch the hearts of those in worship. Those prayers helped get me in the right spot to lead worship.

These days, we still pray before we walk into worship. We sit in the car, grab hands, touch foreheads and ask that God speak to us during worship. If I am providing music, Rick asks that God use this to enhance worship as well.

Really, these prayer times? Probably my favorite time of the week. We stop, pause and are in union with Christ.

As a pastor, I have had countless opportunities to pray with and for people. There were many times when the prayer would end, a person would turn to me and say, “That’s the first time I have ever been prayed over.” Or specifically prayed for. It was very humbling to be in such intimate times with so many people.

On the last night of Jesus’ life, one of the last things he did at the Last Supper was pray for the disciples. Look at the verse above. Jesus pleads with the Father, “Protect them. Make them one in my Name.”

Jesus knew those disciples were pretty special people. He’d spent three long but quick years with those guys. He ate with them, slept with them, played jokes on them and walk thousands of miles with them. He taught them over and over and over. But his last gift to them? He prayed for them.

Talk about a humbling experience at the end of a super cool dinner party.

Jesus doesn’t stop there, though. Go to John 17 and read down a little further. At verse 20, Jesus now prays for ALL BELIEVERS. Jesus prays for you. Me. And everyone who wants to know him. Jesus opens up his prayer to include us all. He prays that WE will know him and why he came. He prays that believers will live in unity with each other. He petitions God that we, Christ’s believers, will choose not to let things pull us apart but that we will be one big family, just like the disciples. Maybe a dysfunctional at times family. Maybe a family that disagrees. But a family that holds onto essential Truths in our lives.

Somehow, I think we’ve forgotten that Jesus prayed for us. Prayed that we’d hear his message and decide to keep together with other believers. Prayed that we’d be protected from evil. Prayed that we would see Christ’s glory.

When we think of Jesus’ most powerful prayer, we often think of the Lord’s Prayer. I love the Lord’s Prayer. It’s deeply meaningful for me. I pray it every night after I crawl into bed.

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But I also need to remember that one of the very last actions Jesus took was to pray for Me. For You. For everyone who yearns to know Him. Think of Jesus praying specifically over and for you. That’s what he does in this prayer. And it’s terribly powerful if we see it this way.

For Jesus’ prayer specifically for me and you, I am grateful. 

Holy Jesus – It’s so difficult to articulate how deeply meaningful it is that You prayed specifically for me. You yearn for us to be in union with You. I pray we stop and see how powerful Your prayer can be for us. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Simple Shift

Gratitude Day 269

Mon., May 13, 2019

James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

It is amazing how a simple shift can completely change a situation.

Well, in this case, it was really just a coat of paint.

I’ve previously shared photos of our front porch. It’s lovely. Really, you all should come and sit on it with me and we’ll drink gallons and gallons of peach iced tea. We’ll watch the cars drive by, we’ll talk about the books we’ve read, we’ll enjoy the birds and flowers and everything else spring.

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But I’m even more excited to have you visit … now that the porch looks like this!

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Isn’t it amazing what a little paint can do?

The wicker furniture looked nice. But a little, well, worn. Maybe a bit tired. Possibly like it had been to a few too many dances in the same outfit.

It just needed a little pick-me-up. A little spritz of fresh. A little shift that would declare that it was ready for a few more dances. Or at least, many more visitors.

About two-and-a-half years ago, we were given the furniture by a very nice couple. They wanted more room at their condo and thought this wicker furniture would look perfect on our porch. We brought it home and cleaned it up. The following spring, I found some new cushions, which gave it a little freshen-me-up then.

Now, it’s two years later. Two more years of wear and tear. Two more years of use and abuse. (It’s not really abused, as it sits under the porch. But it just sounded, you now, good.) Anyways, it was looking like the girl who needed a haircut or a new dress.

Remember that date night when Hubby Rick and I went to Menard’s one Saturday night? I brought home with me several cans of ultra-matte charcoal grey spray paint, specifically for freshening up the wicker furniture. (Note: read the label and make sure the paint is intended for whatever type of material you are covering.) On this past Saturday, decided to make the shift, the transformation. In just a few short hours, I had what looked like completely new furniture.

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This project is easy. You don’t have to be a skilled DYI’er to do it. Just place a tarp where you will be painting. I used the front yard, where all our neighbors could wonder what I was up to next.

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Then, I begin painting. This spray paint had primer in it, so I skipped the priming step. Also, we don’t expect this to be a long-term solution. If we use the furniture a couple more years, we’ll be thrilled.

Hubby Rick always tells me, “lots of thin coats is best.” I tried to follow his rule. Yes, the first coat was thicker than the other coats. But I didn’t try to cover everything during the first go-around.

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After the first coat, I let the furniture dry for a couple hours. Then, I went back and filled in with a second coat. Let it dry. A third coat was the final coat. Depending on what you are painting, more coats maybe required. Cushions would cover up huge portions of the wicker. I was also OK with a little “rustic” showing through. After it had dried a third time, Rick helped me move the furniture back up on the porch.

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We stood back and gushed about how great it looked.

As I was painting, I could tell that a little shift with paint was going to give the furniture a new life. Just a few coats of paint would make this furniture look like it fit in with the rest of the house. It’s new haircut or dress or whatever you want to call it (paint job) reminded me how sometimes, one little shift can make such a difference.

A card to a person who is struggling.

A text message that is just checking in.

An invitation to coffee just to see how someone is doing.

A piece of dessert that says, “I care.”

We can all claim the, “But I’m so busy card.” Or, “Next week, I’ll make time.” Or, “When things slow down.” Then, we’ll make time to do these things.

But does the day ever really arrive? A slot in our scheduled ever get opened up?

Only if we make it.

When we take the time and make the effort to do one simple thing for someone else, WE may truly be the hands and feet of God to that person. God can make great things happen in people’s lives. But sometimes, God needs messengers and helpers and partners to make these things happen. This is where we come in. We can be a special private partner of God … and not even know it. We can be the good and perfect gift initiated by God in which we are the conduit that allows this really cool thing to happen.

If we shift our priorities, shift our schedule, shift what is most important today, amazing little things can happen. On Saturday, I decided not to wait all summer to paint the furniture. I wanted to enjoy the freshened-up furniture all summer.

We can wait all summer to make a difference in someone else’s lift. To provide a slight shift in their day or perspective. Or we can do it today. It’s our choice.

So, please come sit on our porch for a while. If peach iced tea isn’t your thing, I’ll find something that is. And let’s let God shift our perspective for a couple hours.

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For God’s ability to help us shift our own and someone else’s perspective, I am grateful.

Almighty God – You do amazing things in our lives every day. And sometimes, you even use us in the process! Help me see the opportunity to make a little shift in someone else’s life today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Mother’s Day Grace

Gratitude Day 268

Fri., May 10, 2019

Proverbs 31:28-29 – Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

I’m not a mother. And this time of year, I become very acutely aware of this.

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While other women my age are being taken out for brunch or receive beautiful baskets of hanging flowers, I’m trying to not feel like the third wheel in any setting. I just want to slink away quietly into the shadows where no one can see how uncomfortable I feel.

It’s not anyone’s fault that I feel this way. These are my feelings, my struggle, my uncomfortableness with whether I do or do not fit into Mother’s Day celebrations and remembrances.

As we remember our moms and honor other women who have been a part of our lives, I’m confident there are lots of women who just want to pull a blanket over the head and stay under the covers until Monday when the world moves on from Mother’s Day. Women whose stories may be very different from mine … but also acutely aware that there’s a day once a year when they aren’t quite sure what their spot in this world is.

Women who have tried and tried for a baby … with no success.

Women who’ve lost a child … and yearn to see their precious baby (no matter what their age when they died) once again.

Women who miss their mom and would love to have just one more meaningful or pointless conversation with them.

Women who feel disappointed with the results of their parenting skills and only wish their child would be in a better spot.

Women who know they won’t be able to birth a baby and wonder what they did wrong to deserve this sentence.

Women who chose not to have children and feel like they have to defend this decision.

Women who feel abandoned by their mother and they wonder why their mom chose not to be fully a part of their lives.

Women who lost their mother at a young age and struggle with why this happened.

Women whose mother was not emotionally or mentally able to cope with life and may not have been available to their child.

And a whole bunch of other women whose stories should be on this list and aren’t.

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When I meet someone for the first time, a common question is, “How many children do you have?” It’s a normal question. One that should be easy to answer, right? My usual answer states that Hubby Rick has children and we have grandchildren. Awhile back, I was at an event and was introduced as the stepmom to one of Rick’s children. When this happens, I always feel a little cautious. Rick’s children have a mother … and it’s not me. His kids were young adults when Rick and I were married. They have never lived with us. My role just always feels a blurry. Once again, I’m confident that I’m not the only woman who feels this way.

Yes, I have been involved in lots and lots of children’s lives. Thankfully, Rick and I have had lots of quality time, including sleepovers, with our nieces and nephews, our grandchildren and sometimes even other little people that we have been entrusted with. I love playing games or cards with them, baking brownies or cupcakes, reading books together, watching a movie, going on a hike or a bike ride. I treasure these moments as some of the most special ones in my life.

But these moments don’t qualify me as a Mom. More than once, I’ve been in a store with some of our grandchildren and been mistakenly identified as the kid’s mom. Usually, one of the kids pipes up and says something like, “She’s not our Mom. She’s our grandma.” Then, there is the shift of eyes from the kids, to me, back to the kids … and they simply walk away. And we move on as well.

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For those of you who are mothers: please celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend. Celebrate well. I hold no ill feelings towards you. I pray that you have a wonderful weekend with those who mean so much for you.

I share these words simply to bring to light that there are women who just feel a bit out-of-place on Mother’s Day. I simply ask that you extend them a little Mother’s Day grace. Acknowledge that this day maybe one that is uncomfortable for them. They may not be unsure of their spot or role. They may be sad and disappointed. And it’s OK.

When I served as a pastor and it was Mother’s Day, we would usually have a flower to give to the women who were present. I carefully chose the words I said, wanting to honor all women. I reminded folks that Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to honor and remember any woman who has been an important role model or person in your life. Lots of women can influence us and impact us. Why not honor all of these women today?

The last half of Proverbs 31 is entitled, “The Wife of Noble Character.” It’s an extremely comprehensive list of how a woman could and should life her life. The list is daunting. While reading it, you may wonder to yourself, “There is no one who can fulfill all of the things on this list.” And you would be right.

Yet, we can aspire to embody many things on this list. Whether we are a Mom or not. Whether we are a wife or not. Whether we would be considered a person of noble character or not. This isn’t a checklist for who is “good” and who is “bad” in God’s kingdom. This list doesn’t determine who is “in” and who is “out.” It’s a list intended to be an encouragement. Something to aspire to. A way to encourage us to give our all to God’s kingdom.

In the end, there’s only one thing that is needed. And this would be grace. I pray we all experience a little Mother’s Day grace this weekend. May we see this as the way we should live our lives every day, not just on a special occasion.

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For God’s unlimited amount of grace, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for unending amounts of grace in our daily lives. May we extend this same grace to anyone who needs a little more space and understanding these days. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Promise I Plan to Keep

Gratitude Day 267

Thurs., May 9, 2019

1 Corinthians 3:6 – I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

It’s a promise that I know I can uphold. Easily. A no-brainer.

And I’m ready to make sure I do.

Our neighbor Nancy called last weekend. She and her husband Terry have a beautiful yard. You know, one of those yards that could be on the front of a Scott’s fertilizer bag? (No yard envy here … just saying.)

Hubby Rick and I have been working to improve our yard and landscaping. Last summer, we changed some of the landscaping around our house. Nancy helped by providing some hostas. There were some more hostas I wanted … but it was now July. Hot. Dry. Not the best time to move them. So, we decided to wait until this spring.

The hostas that I wanted were now sprouting in Nancy’s yard. She’s ready to have them thinned. Nancy wants to get rid of plants; I want the plants. It’s really quite a good win-win situation.

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Sunday afternoon, I brought up the wheelbarrow from the basement. Yes, spring has been so slow coming this year, we hadn’t even gotten it out of the basement yet. I found a shovel and wheeled myself, the shovel and the wheelbarrow right over to Nancy’s yard. After showing me the plants she wanted thinned, I went to work digging out some of these plants. Nancy informed me that I had picked the perfect time because, within the hour, it was supposed to start raining. (Truth be known, I had no clue. I simply had waited for Rick to go to work.)

Once I had the plants loaded up into the wheelbarrow, I prepared to head back to our yard. Before leaving, I said to Nancy, “What do I owe you for the plants.”

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She turned to me and said, “Absolutely nothing. Just be eternally grateful for the plants.”

Now this is the promise I can keep.

I’m not sure Nancy knows that I look for ways to find gratitude in my daily life. It’s not important whether she does or not. What is noteworthy? The most important way that I can repay her for the plants is for me to appreciate, love them and be grateful for them.

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With her words, Nancy is speaking my love language. Gratitude is right up my alley. I consider it one of my core values. It’s one of those things that I CHOOSE to find in my daily life.

And Nancy is just giving me another reason to choose gratitude.

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As I was digging out dirt to make spots for the hostas in my flowerbeds, darker clouds were getting closer to our house. Soon, big drops of rain started to fall from the sky. It didn’t take long for me to discover another reason to be grateful. With rain coming, I would not have to water the plants once they were in the ground. Mother Nature would take care of this.

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The plants are taking off beautifully. In fact, after some rain and a bit of sunshine, the sprouts are beginning to turn into gorgeous shades of green leaves. This picture was taken just a couple days after they were transplanted. See how much bigger they are already!

While I planted the hostas and Mother Nature watered them, it’s the Lord God that is making these lovely plants grow. Faith needs this same development process. A little seed of faith gets planted into our hearts and mind; worship, reading God’s Word and prayer water this faith; but ultimately, we need the Lord God to assist in bringing the right people and opportunities for our faith grow. Our little seeds of faith can’t grow alone. They need nurturing, love and encouragement from our Heavenly Father. When this happens, it’s a beautiful thing. Something, I’m eternally grateful for. Something, I feel very fortunate that has happened in my life.

All summer as I watch these plants develop, get bigger and make the space next to our carriage house look beautiful, I’ll remember Nancy’s words. “Just be eternally grateful for the plants.”

It’s a done deal. A promise I know that I can keep.

For Nancy’s generosity and the opportunity to be grateful for her gift to me, I am grateful.

Lord God – how special for Nancy to share the most important way for me to appreciate her gift is by showing gratitude. Thank you for speaking to me through her. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Perfect Day

Gratitude Day 266

Tues., May 7, 2019

2 Samuel 22:31 – “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.

There’s a line in the movie Miss Congeniality that often is quoted the end of April. The scene goes like this.

Playing the role of Stan Fields, William Shatner is the master of ceremonies for the Miss America contest. He asks a contestant, Cheryl Frasier, played by Heather Burns, “Miss Rhode Island, describe your perfect date.”

Most of us expect to hear her share something like going to the theater with dinner at a special restaurant. Or taking a boat ride as the sun is setting. Dancing until the band quits playing. Instead, Miss Rhode Island misunderstands the question and says, “That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25, because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all it requires is a light jacket.” As everyone snickers around her after this answer, Miss Rhode Island realizes she completely misunderstood the question.

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Yet, every April 25, we find Cheryl Burn’s answer floating around on social media and spoken aloud. Here, in Wisconsin, as we hope and pray that it is a day requiring only a light jacket and not a winter coat.

In Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch shares with readers his real-life experiences with his favorite college professor, Morrie Schwartz, as he journeys through the last days of his life. Morrie has ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease and Mitch makes visiting him a priority. Through these weekly “classes,” Mitch has poignant conversations with his former professor.

During his 13th visit, Mitch and Morrie discuss the perfect day. Morrie is trying to make peace with the knowledge that he will ultimately die. In the process, he discovers the really hard thing: making peace with living. He shares how the important questions have to do with love, responsibility, spirituality and awareness and sees these as the ultimate questions that he should have been trying to answer all along.

Morrie can no longer walk nor stand up. Mitch asks Morrie if he had one perfectly healthy 24-hour day, what would Morrie do. Here’s Morrie’s answer:

“Let’s see … I’d get up in the morning, do my exercises, have a lovely breakfast of sweet rolls and tea, go for a swim, then have my friends over for a nice lunch. I’d have them come one or two at a time so we could talk about their families, their issues, talk about how much we mean to each other.

“Then I’d like to go for a walk, in a garden with some trees, watch their colors, watch the birds, take in the nature that I haven’t seen in so long now. In the evening, we’d all go together to a restaurant with some great pasta, maybe some duck – I love duck – and then we’d dance the rest of the night. I’d dance with all the wonderful dance partners out there, until I was exhausted. And then I’d go home and have a deep, wonderful sleep.”

Mitch questions Morrie, “That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

It was all so simple, so average that Mitch was disappointed. He wondered how Morrie could find perfection in such an average day … and then, he realized this was the whole point.

At various times in our marriage, Hubby Rick and I have discussed our “perfect” day. Naturally, our perfect days look a little different. However, we might have both experienced a near-perfect day last Saturday.

Like every morning, I made coffee as soon as I get up. I clean the fridge while Rick putters around. I notice our neighbor, Sharon, outside and have a chat with her. Sharon’s husband, Larry, is moving through the stages of dementia rather quickly. It has changed his and her lives considerably.

Remembering that lunch is in the oven, I end our conversation rather quickly. Rick and I eat at the island, where we often share a meal together. Then, we go for a walk, something Rick loves for us to do together. Rick had started removing the winter decorations from the front porch. He washes down the porches with a hose while I work in the flower beds. Rick has already sprayed off the wicker furniture and I arrange it and some decorations on the porches, wanting to create a warm and welcoming spot for visitors and us to enjoy all summer long.

Then, we go on our most common date night these days: a trip to Menard’s and Home Depot. Our mission is to pick out things we need to continue the master bath project. It’s after 9:30 PM when we’re done shopping. We find a nearby Culver’s and have a quick dinner while the workers clean the restaurant. On the way home, we listen to the Brewer’s baseball game. They are now in the 15th and 16th innings. Rick watches the 17th inning on TV, while I prepare music for Sunday worship. I’m the one who sees the Brewers load the bases in the 18th inning and watches Ryan Braun make his sixth hit in the game to drive in the winning score.

It was nearly a perfect day. Not too hot, not too cold. Just a light jacket was needed. Doing the things Rick and I enjoy doing together, having discovered the important things are the ones we do together. In our own way, we’ve touched love, responsibility, spirituality and awareness throughout the day. It’s been a near perfect day.

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What does your perfect day look like? Given 24-hours to do whatever you want, what would you choose to do?

Why not do this today?

For discovering what makes a day perfect, I am grateful.

Almighty God – when life seems too full and too busy, may we find refuge in You. Place it upon our hearts to discover the perfect ways you come into our lives each and every day. May this be enough for today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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When Life is Terribly Unfair

Gratitude Day 265

Mon., May 6, 2019

Isaiah 53:4 – Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

Sometimes, life is simply unfair. There is no other way to describe it. It’s simply crappy and unfair.

In the last week, I become aware of two situations in which life seems terribly unfair. I don’t know these ladies. I’m using them as examples of how life seems to beat up the wrong people at the most inappropriate times.

Rachel Held Evans

Meet Rachel Held Evans. She is a Christian author who has written several books. I read “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” a couple years ago. Rachel shared her story of how she decided to try and literally follow the Bible’s instructions for women for a calendar year. Each month, she pursued a different virtue and shared what she discovered.

Almost two years ago, I attended a “Writing for Your Life” conference in Michigan. The main speaker was Barbara Brown Taylor, who has written a couple books that I absolutely adore. I realized this conference might be the closest geographical opportunity I might have to hear her speak, so I signed up. Besides, the conference would be an opportunity to learn more about possibly pursuing a Christian writing career.

The other main speaker? Rachel Held Evans. Rachel grew up in a traditional southern Christian conservative area. She attended a conservative college. Over time, she began to question some fundamentalist Christian beliefs she had been taught. Before the conference, I read two of her other books: “Searching for Sunday” and “Faith Unraveled.” In these books, she explores how she struggled with faith as she was challenged to rethink some beliefs she had been raised with.

At the conference, Rachel was introduced as the most influential Christian writer for her age group. Wow. These are big shoes to wear. Yet, her writing and speaking skills merit this declaration. I found her inspiring and real. She’s not afraid to address issues that often are delicate. Whether a person fully agrees with her theology and beliefs, her passion is contagious. I left the conference with great appreciation for Rachel and Barbara Brown Tayler.

About 10 days ago, I saw a Facebook post asking for prayers for Rachel. She’d had the flu and her health had steady declined. On Saturday morning, 37-year-old Rachel Held Evans died. She was very happily married and had two small children; a 3-year-old and a baby less than one-year-old.

Rachel’s husband, Dan, posted about the surrealness of her death and how he is waiting to wake up from an awful nightmare. He must feel that life is unfair and crappy these days. How could his wife go from a vibrant woman to dead in just a couple of weeks? I don’t have an answer.

Tenley Walker

Now, let me introduce you to Tenley. Last week, my sister Debbie sent me a message. Her son, Kevin, graduates from high school the end of this month. On Monday, Tenley, one of his fellow classmates and fellow FFA officer, was med-flighted to Mayo Clinic were brain tumors were found. After surgery, Tenley was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, the most common form of pediatric brain cancer.

Tenley is 20-something days from graduating from high school and her world has just been turned upside down. On her CaringBridge page, Tenley’s sister shared her reaction after she was told about the tumor. Tenley said, “So I don’t have cancer, just my tumor is cancerous.”

Talk about a young lady ready to live and take on whatever comes her way.

Disappointment is tricky. When it happens, we often look for someone or something to “blame.” Sometimes there is a place to direct blame; sometimes there isn’t. What makes disappointment even more tricky? With disappointment, there is always pain. And no one wants to experience pain.

Don’t we invest huge amounts of energy, time and money into avoiding pain? We shelter kids and grandkids from potential pain that might come their way. When we feel pain, we look for something to get rid of the pain. Whether it’s a pill or something else, we go to great lengths to mask and hide our pain so we won’t feel it and no one else will know it is there.

Is hiding pain a great idea? Yes, some types of pain should be avoided, like getting burned by touching a hot stove. But what about pain that could help us grow? Make us stronger? Maybe, it’s OK to let ourselves walk through, feel and experience the true depths of pain and disappointment.

For most people, this is a counter intuitive idea. Most people are experts at doing whatever it takes to bury pain. Too many people have little or no concept of how to deal with pain. And so, we never fully discover how pain can allow us to grow and become stronger. Life isn’t always meant to be easy. There is benefit from not always choosing the “easy” route but going through the much harder and more painful route.

This is how Jesus lived. Jesus didn’t hide out where it was safe. He didn’t always choose his words carefully, making sure not to offend someone. Most often, he chose not to hang out with the “right” people and was severely criticized for keeping company with the “wrong” people. The words, “safe,” or “comfortable” or “easy” were not part of Jesus’ vocabulary.

When life was unfair for Jesus, i.e. – hanging on a cross and dying, he didn’t say, “Life is so unfair!” No, he actually prayed for those who hurt him, made sure his mother would be taken care of and assured the sinner hanging next to him that he would see something greater beyond this earth. In every situation, Jesus set aside his personal pain … and provided opportunities for someone else to work through their pain. Their disappointment. Their lousy life situation. He didn’t simply erase or hide or minimize their hurt. He acknowledged their difficult spot and gave them hope.

Hope. I pray that Rachel Held Evan’s husband, Dan, and the rest of her family and friends, can one day find hope. I pray that Tenley sees hope as a bridge in helping her deal with the cancerous tumors the doctors found in her body. And I pray that whatever disappointment or pain or lousy situation you are going through, you find hope in a Savior that so desperately wants to journey with you through this time.

Jesus isn’t going to swoop in and remove the pain and disappointment. Jesus will not give you permission to hide or mask it. Jesus will walk alongside of you and say, “Let’s do this together. If you’ve lost hope, let my hope carry you along for a while.”

We have an alternative way to dealing with pain, disappointment and lousy situations. His name is Jesus, the author of hope. I pray you get to know his life story as well.

For the author of hope, Jesus, I am grateful.

Lord God – please be with Rachel’s family. Please be with Tenley and her family. Please be with anyone who feels their life is lousy as they deal with disappointment and hurt. I pray Jesus, the author of hope, will comfort those who are in pain. May he bring appropriate healing into our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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