Gratitude Day 83 – God’s Inheritance

Mon., July 16, 2018

God firstEphesians 1:18 – I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people …

This past weekend was a blessing:

  • Writer’s conference
  • A new friend
  • A fair
  • Checking on my nephew’s lambs
  • Needed rain
  • A long walk and couple quiet hours Sunday morning
  • Worship at the church where I grew up
  • Dedication of a communion set in honor of my Mom
  • Time with family and friends
  • Picked green beans from the garden when I got home

We have a rich inheritance in God’s kingdom. Do we stop long enough to see it and appreciate it?

I pray so.

For this rich inheritance, I am grateful.

Lord God – you are such a part of our daily lives. I pray we see it, welcome it and appreciate it. I pray we do not take it for granted. I pray our hearts are tuned into you and your place in our lives today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 82 – Perspective

Sat., July 14, 2018

2 Corinthians 12:7 – I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. 

“Cancer has been a blessing in my life,” she said.

That’s right. A blessing.

Liz Curtis Higgs

Liz Curtis Higgs is an author and a speaker. While sharing her story, Liz explained how God has used cancer to teach her about life. Doused with honest humor, Liz had her audience in stiches about cancer. She spoke openly about the wig she was wearing and how this too has been a blessing. Somehow, she turned her hairpiece into a story that none of the attendees will forget.

For 30 minutes, Liz captivated a room filled with people who want to be successful writers, much like she is. She taught us how to do this with her own story. She explained how her journey with cancer this last year has taught her new things; things she wanted the rest of us to learn from her. I’ll share just a couple of her great one-liners:

  • Liz has discovered that everything she’s been teaching through her writing and speaking is true.
  • When someone is hurting, they just want to hear that you love them and that you are praying for them.
  • When we deal with the thorns in our lives, God will lavish God’s love on you.
  • Learn to love a good insult. Through it, may we learn to delight in it.

Liz packed a lot of punch into her words. She did it very humbly and openly. She has made me look at the thorns in my life from a new perspective.

For this, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for the gift of perspective. The honesty that cancer can be a blessing. Someone may read these words and think cancer has not been a blessing to them or their family. I pray this thorn in their life will be turned into a blessing. This can only happen through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 81 – Proud Grandma Moment

Waylan Fair 2018

Fri., July 13, 2018

Psalm 128:6 – And may you see your grandchildren. Peace be on Israel!

This is our 11-year-old grandson, Waylan. He loves any animal under the sun. Literally. His happiest days are when he is with animals.

This week, he took a steer to the county fair. Thursday was show day. Unfortunately, his steer was a pill and did not cooperate. Maybe a different environment was too much for him. Before it was show time, Waylan made the difficult decision to leave the steer in the barn and not show him. Waylan had helped show another exhibitor’s calf earlier in the day. And another exhibitor let him how an animal for showmanship, which is when the youth is judged on how they handle the animal. He did very good in this class.

Right after Waylan’s showmanship class, the M.C. announced that four special awards would be given this year. For his age bracket, Waylan was selected to receive this award. Even though he was not able to show his steer, Waylan still participated and loved being a part of the fair.

It’s disappointing when something does not turn out as anticipated. I think Waylan’s Dad (Hubby Rick’s son, Darran), was more disappointed than Waylan that the steer did not show. While showing in showmanship, Waylan had a big smile on his face and loved doing what he loves so much: being with animals.

Waylan and head

Waylan worked hard this week at the fair. He pitched in and helped with all the animals various club members had at the fair. An adult shared with me that Waylan was one of the hardest-working boys he observed at the fair. To me, this is far more important than the color of ribbon he received or whether or not the steer eventually made it into the show ring.

It is easy to loose sight of what is really most important in our lives. Maybe Waylan taught us adults a lesson today. Have fun doing what you love and forget about the rest.

 Waylan in ring

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – when we are disappointed, we often seek someone to blame or accept responsibility for the problem. Maybe, the lesson is something other than this. May you always steer us towards the little lesson we can learn from any challenging situation. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 80 – Community of Sun Prairie, WI

Cody Barr

Thurs., July 12, 2018

Acts 6:6 – The community presented these seven to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

A community about 20 miles from our house had an explosion last night. In downtown Sun Prairie, WI, a contractor hit a 4” gas line. Rescue personal and the local utility company worked diligently to shuffled people out of the affected area. About 45 minutes after the leak was reported, there was an explosion, caused by leaked gas. Several injuries were identified, to rescue personal as well as civilians. Sun Prairie Fire Department Caption Cory Barr lost his life. He is pictured here with his twin daughters. He is also survived by his wife.

For the past week, people cheered the rescue operations of a Thailand soccer team who were removed from a remote underground cave. One rescue worker died. Amazingly, the entire team and their coach are now safe at a hospital.

Rescue personal are special. When everyone else is running from a tragedy, rescue folks run into the problem. We see this time and time again. 9-11. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Fires. Rescue people did not think about themselves but about the people whose care and safety they are entrusted.

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The local Sun Prairie police and fire departments have reiterated multiple times how this situation could have been much worse. As they choked back tears and buried their emotions about loosing one of their own, trained personal remind us that so many more lives and families could have been affected.

This is selfless giving. Yes, this is what they are trained to do. When tragedy happens, they do their jobs.

During an early morning update early, rescue personal were peppered with questions. When can affected people return home? When will the name of the person who died be released? What could have been done differently? Yes, the reporters were doing their jobs. But these folks were running on very little sleep. Safety is their number one concern. They remained professional, patient and compassionate. They showered nearby police and fire departments with compliments for providing additional help and assistance. They asked for help and it showed up.

Sun Prairie

We see tragedies happen all around the world. When it happens closer to your neck of the woods, you take note. Hubby Rick worked last night. He delivers fuel for a local convenience store chain and was near Sun Prairie after the explosion. He described the fire as significant and visible from quite a distance.

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There has been an outpouring of support for the Sun Prairie community, the Barr family and other displaced individuals and families. When challenging things happen, I pray we show up, lay hands on those affected and pray for them. This is what communities do. This is what God’s community does.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – please be with the families and business who are reeling in grief tonight. Wrap your loving arms around them and hold them tight. May a community rise-up and surround them with compassion, care and love. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 79 – Text Message

DSC06278

Wed., July 11, 2018

Acts 15:31 – The people read it, delighted with its encouraging message.

Would a couple sentences of encouragement be a great way to start your day?

If so, I have an offer for you.

It’s free.

It’s simple.

It’s quick.

And it’s very painless.

Earlier this year, I started a little daily group text for some family members. In the morning, I send two or three sentences of encouragement. A thought for the day. A verse of scripture. A short little prayer to begin the day.

This spring, I’ve held a couple focus groups. Because I am in the process of writing a book, I use these groups for feedback and unofficial research. At one focus group, the daily text came up. I had added my friend Mindy to the daily text. She had a challenging start to the year. I thought these little words of encouragement might be uplifting for her. The other ladies were interested in the daily text. For the last several weeks, another small group of people have also received an encouraging text message at the beginning of the day.

Here’s a typical morning text:

Dear God – Remind me today it is impossible to remake all of life in one day. All at once. Without any challenges. Thanks for loving me just the way I am. Amen.

That’s it! Oh, this text had four sentences.

Now, I’m offering this morning text to you. I want to expand the pool a bit. See if other folks might enjoy receiving a short thought as your day begins.

It’s very easy to “enroll.” Simply text simplewordsoffaith (all one word) to 33222 and you will be signed up! If you sign up today, you will receive tomorrow’s text message. It’s really that simple.

For now, the service is free. Once enrolled, you will always remain an early participant and not ever be charged. In the future, who knows? This is all very new to me. I’m figuring it out as I go.

Reading a blog takes more time. You must “find” it, whether in your e-mail, on Facebook or my website. This text message will magically arrive every day. If you decide these text messages aren’t for you, let me know and I’ll remove you.

Maybe you know someone who isn’t interested in reading a blog but might enjoy a text message. Encourage them to sign-up! Currently, I have less than 15 people who receive the text messages. How many people can be encouraged to sign-up in the next week? Could we reach 500 in one week? I have no clue. Please share this blog post or tell someone who might be encouraged by a simple daily text message.

Self-promoting myself is very hard. I’ve thought long and hard about whether to offer this text message service. My decision is based on positive feedback I have received from those who currently receive it.

Please do not mistake a text message from me as God’s word. I only pray these words will point you back towards the One whose word is truly encouraging and inspiring.

For God’s word, I am grateful.

Lord God – you speak to us in so many unique and different ways; ways that are beyond our understanding. I pray you speak to us creatively this day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 77 – Peaches

Mon., July 9, 2018

Amos 8:1– This is what the Lord God showed me: a basket of summer fruit.

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A basket, or really a box, of summer fruit made it to my house this week. A box of beautiful Georgia peaches.

I live in Wisconsin. This past week, a semi-truck full of Georgia peaches and pecans stopped in a neighboring town for an hour. Since I was already in town, I bought a box of peaches.

The kind woman who sold them to me asked, “You’ve bought from us before, right?” I felt like I was the only person in the rather long line who was a newbie to buying peaches from this semi in the greenhouse parking lot. While she gave me a slip of paper with instructions, she reiterated what the paper said out loud. Take the box home, put the peaches on a counter or table and let them ripen for a few days before using them. Then, they can be refrigerated but not before.

I followed her instructions to the tee. I laid a towel on our buffet and carefully placed every peach on the towel. Then I waited. Every day as I walked by, I pinched one of the peaches to see if they were softening. By Friday night, they were ripe.

I awoke early Saturday morning and realized I had no sugar in the house. (Part of my plan to reduce my sugar intake is not to have sugar in the house. And, I didn’t.) I waited until the grocery store opened and zipped over to get some. Once home, I began the process of canning peaches.

It has been awhile since I’ve canned peaches. While I can and freeze every summer, I just haven’t canned these orange-maroon tinted globes for a while. Betty Crocker helped me remember just how long I should blanch them and a couple other hints I found helpful. In the end, I basically canned them just like my Mom canned peaches. She would buy a couple boxes of peaches each summer. As a youth, my sisters and I formed an assembly line and helped can them.

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I prepared a hot water bath to blanch the peaches. Here are some ready to go into the boiling water.

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One tricky spot is letting the peaches blanch long enough to easily slide the skin off easily without over cooking them. About a minute worked best for me.

As soon as I removed the blanched peaches, I put them into a sink filled with cold water. Let them cool before trying to remove the skin. Patience here means the skins come of easier.

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Then, cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. While I longed to have these picture-perfect half-moon rounds of peach every time, the reality is much different. It isn’t very easy. Most of these peaches were so large, half of a peach did not slip easily into a freshly-cleaned jar for processing. The quartered peaches fit better.

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The peaches should be pit-side down in the jar. Fill the jar with a sugar-water syrup. I used a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. Some people like a sweeter syrup. I prefer a more natural peach taste.

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Once the lids are tightly attached to the jar with a ring, processed the jars in a hot water bath. For the quart jars, I processed them 30 minutes. The pint jars were processed for 25 minutes. Let the jars cool before moving them far.

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I was processing the last batch of jars when Hubby Rick asked if I had made a peach cobbler as well. I assured him it was in the oven. We shared it with friends at a potluck that night. It was fantastic.

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In sharing with people that I canned peaches over the weekend, I have heard this comment more than once: “People still can?” Yes, we do. I am not a master-canner. I do not can as much as my Mom nor my Grandmothers did. But I love to continue this family tradition. I often give home-canned items for presents and pray the contents bless the people I share them with.

We haven’t cracked open a jar of the canned peaches yet. I’ll wait for a cool fall day when we can enjoy another fantastic peach cobbler with guests. Seriously, aren’t the peaches just so pretty in the jars?

For wonderful peaches, one of the fruits of God’s kingdom, I am grateful.

As summer fruit comes into season, may we celebrate the unique and special care You took for everything created in this world. May the sweetness of the peaches point me back to the sweetness of Your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 76 – Morning

Sat., July 7, 2018

Lamentations 3:22-23 – Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.

morning

This is how my morning began. Two of my favorite things: a gorgeous hydrangea and a rich cup of coffee.

While waiting for coffee to brew this morning, I hear an endless chirping of early morning birds. I feel the coolness of the remaining night air coming through the window. I look at the peaches on the counter, waiting to be canned this morning.

And these words come to mind:

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed they hand hath provided;

Great is they faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

It’s a new morning. It’s a new day. The Lord will be faithful to you, and to me, whatever happens this day.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty and Faithful God – we turn to you as dawn breaks and a new day begins. Great is Your faithfulness, even when we might loose sight of You in our lives. May we see Your glory and faithfulness, in something as simple as our favorite flower or first cup of coffee, tea or juice. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 75 – Music

Fri., July 6, 2018

Psalm 57:9 – I will give thanks to you, my Lord, among all the peoples; I will make music to you among the nations.

Music. Pie. Ice Cream. Friends.

Sounds like a good combination, right?

Thursday evening, we took in the community band concert in the neighboring community of Pardeeville. During June and July, the band offers free concerts in a park next to the library on Thursday evenings. Hubby Rick and I decided to attend the concert this week; our first. Local friends, the Reineckes and their two sons, Rocky and Dakota, joined us. After enjoying pie and/or ice cream and as the sun dipped behind nearby trees, we settled back for a near-perfect evening of music orchestrated by 40 local musicians.

The evening’s musical selections all included a patriotic theme. Included were several John Philips Sousa marches and a musical tribute to all branches of the U.S. military. The band played a beautiful arrangement that combined “Eternal Father” with “Taps.” This video’s arrangement is different but captures much of the same interpretation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBvtrlnAQdQ. It’s worth the couple of minutes to listen to.

Rocky and Dakota had flags left-over from a July 4th parade. While Rocky finished his ice cream, Hubby Rick and Dakota pretended to be conductors. Later, Rocky and Dakota proudly waved their flags to the beat of the bass drum.

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The evening’s star was a little girl named Harriet. During one of the Sousa marches, the band director stepped away from the conducting podium to play tuba along with the band. With a tree stick in hand, Harriet approached the podium and “directed” the band. After the song concluded, we discovered several of Harriet’s family play in the band. Her father played the bass drum during the last song. With more songs to play, the band director stood back on the podium. Little Harriet wasn’t sure she wanted to hand back the directing responsibilities and stood along-side him. After this song concluded, Harriet to return to her chair but only after a little coaxing from Mom.

20180705_195449~2Through the art of music, I often find my heart spoken to in ways that I find deeply meaningful and profound. Music is a universal language. It bridges languages and ages and often is a common thread that unites people. It was this offering of music that brought together a group of people on a library lawn. A simple community event that spoke to us in each of our own ways.

For a couple hours one evening, we enjoyed wonderful local music, extended the 4th of July celebration another day and were entertained by little people all around us. It was a good night. All because of a music concert.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for the gift of music. Yes, there are so many different genres. Yes, some may speak more to one person than another. Thank you for this universal language which often reaches into our inner-most beings and touches us in unique ways. May we hear a song today which helps us connect with you, Almighty God. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 74 – Freedom

Living Flag

Wed., July 4, 2018

Galatians 5:13 – You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses but serve each other through love.

For me, this photo represents the 4th of July.

It is called The Living Flag. Today, a group of women will represent the American flag in the Witwen parade. They will sing, “You’re a Grand Old Flag” as they stride down the asphalt-covered road for more than a mile. This little blimp of a community goes from about 75 residents to possibly 10,000 people for one day. Proudly, the flag leads the over hour-long parade, followed by the color guard; a few bands; lots of antique tractors and cars; floats and large pieces of agricultural equipment. Lots and lots of candy will scamper across the warm asphalt. Big and little kids stuff bags and pockets with tootsie rolls and suckers.

Meanwhile, the distinct aroma of chicken BBQ lures people for lunch. Tickets are purchased and wagons full of to-go containers exit the serving grounds before the parade is over. Post-parade, lines of people will snake back to the county road where the parade once passed. The wait goes quickly, as people catch-up with a friend they only see once a year.

Armed with a tray of chicken and sides, people sit under broad shade trees and visit with new and old friends. They sit in folding chairs pulled up to wooden tables old enough to vote a couple times over. People select a generous slice of their favorite flavor of homemade pie early. While the last pieces of chicken are served, an afternoon of old-fashioned games commence. Water balloon tosses, three-legged races and a tug-of-war entertain people throughout the afternoon.

The Witwen 4th of July Celebration is about as old-schooled of an Independence Day celebration as you can find. A couple decades ago, television journalist Charles Kuralt deemed this celebration one of the last “real” 4th of July experiences. Little has changed in the last number of decades, except maybe the crowds have grown just a bit larger.

If you live in the United States, how will you celebrate freedom this 4th of July? In what ways will you express appreciation for living in a place where we have endless opportunities? Where your dreams can come true?

No country is perfect. The U.S. has her fair share of challenges. But for a day, let’s celebrate freedom and remember to serve each other in love.

Thank you for freedom, Lord God. As we celebrate freedom today, may we be mindful of freedom’s source, found in Your great love. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Photo credit: Rich Gruber

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