When Small Things Are Big Things

Gratitude Day 289

Thurs., June 20, 2019

Ephesians 6:7  – Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,

Mother Teresa said, “The Lord likes small things best, especially those done with love.”

Amen, sister.

In our local community, the school year is over. Nearly ever Friday during the school year, I help coordinate a food program through our local school called, “Blessings in a Backpack.” Each week, about 60 kids in our small, local school district receive a bag of food with two breakfast items, 2 meal items and at least 6 snack items. During the 2018-2019 school year, we were able to provide students with shelf-stable milk every week as one of those snack items.  

The food bags are made available to any student who might be struggling with food insecurity. For some students, this bag of food maybe the only food they receive all weekend. For others, the food bag helps stretch other food resources. Our goal is to provide food for students who might not otherwise have all the food that they need.

This is the third year we have partnered with our local school district to make food bags available for students. Each year, the program has grown more, and we’ve impacted more kids and families. During summer school, we also provide free bag lunches for any student. Between what we provide during the school year and through the summer school program, our little program provided over 3,000 meal bags to students in our local school district.

This is amazing in our little community.

What is even more amazing? The support we’ve received for this program. We have about 30 volunteers who provide time to the program. Most of these volunteers help pack the food bags. We also have volunteers who order and bring the food to our packing site, organize our volunteers, oversee our finances, keep the lines of communication with the school, provide administrative roles, write grants, send thank you’s and a whole host of other roles.

Yet, the program would not be successful without donors. Our Blessings program has received so much support. Local businesses, organizations and individuals provide resources so we can offer great food bags for the kids. Honestly, we’ve done very little promotion because we have received such generous donations.

Why do we do this? Because every kid deserves to have food. Sometimes, people ask why we are providing for a child when their parents are making poor choices. My response? The kids have very little say in how family resources are used. Our goal is to ensure kids have access to food. Period. Nothing else.

This week our volunteers and some donors gathered for an appreciation night. When people heard the number of bags we’ve distributed in our small school district during the last school year and summer, they are flabbergasted.

Sometimes, as volunteers, it’s natural to wonder if your role made a difference. Let’s go back to what Mother Teresa said, “The Lord likes small things done best, especially those done with great love.” It doesn’t matter how big or small a contribution is. When it is done with great love, God smiles. God rejoices. God celebrates that we are willing to help those around us, even in a very small but meaningful way. What we may consider a simple way to serve may make a huge difference in someone else’s life.

I pray that we can remember that serving someone else is serving God. And God loves a faithful servant.

How might you do some small thing today and make a different in someone’s life today? Look for something. Anticipate it. And then, do it.

For opportunities to do small things and make a difference, I am grateful.

Lord God – It is amazing the way you can orchestrate opportunities for people to make a difference in someone else’s life. I pray we accept those opportunities and welcome them in our lives. May we remember that serving is not for our benefit. No, it’s a way to worship You and serve another. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Bracing Up

Gratitude Day 281

Wed., June 5, 2019

Matthew 11:29-30 – (Jesus said) “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I have the most creative husband. He never ceases to amaze me with what he comes up with to fix a potential problem. Here’s a case in point.

We’re adding a master bathroom to our house. Previously in this space was a small kitchen. At one point, our house was set-up as two apartments; one upstairs and one downstairs. This is why there was a little kitchen on the second floor.

Our goal has always been to restore the home to a single-family dwelling. As we decided what to do with our upstairs, we felt creating a special master bedroom suite made sense. So, Rick ripped out the kitchen, moved a couple walls and made space for a master bathroom. He also built a closet for a washer and dryer.

While I love to take baths, our plumber convinced us that putting in a nice larger shower stall was the way to go. I decided to use a little nicer tile and materials in this area. Rick and I talked at great length about whether he felt comfortable taking on this project. While he knew it would require expanding his skillset, he really wanted to do it. He’s used the school of hundreds of Youtube videos to learn more about building and installing the shower. Of course, these videos don’t always agree on what is the best way to go about doing something.

I picked out a larger porcelain tile that I wanted run vertically in the shower along with an accent glass tile that we would put in the middle of the back wall of the shower. Rick has previously installed shower tile … but nothing this big and with a whole new floor base as well. He carefully decided what the best way to do all of this was.

After the shower floor tile were installed, he began working on the walls. I was gone the day he put up the first tiles. When I got home, naturally the first place I would go was to see the progress in the bathroom.

Imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw all of these boards supporting and bracing the installed tile. Hubby Rick had designed a maze of support boards to make sure the tile would stick to the wall.

It was rather ingenious. However, when I’ve seen shower tile installed on HGTV, I’ve never seen them use these types of support boards. I’m just saying …

Rick admits that this has become a much bigger project than he anticipated. Possibly he bit off more than he could chew. He changed his method for installing the tile a bit and after this, the tile went up much more like he envisioned.

I must give Rick credit for coming up with a way to make sure the tile would stay on the wall. His bracing system may look a little crazy and question if the tile were applied correctly. Yet, his thought process of making sure the tile would stay on? Creative.

As Christians, there are days when we need a little help bracing ourselves up. When doing it alone is really more than we can handle. Where extra support makes all the difference in the world. If you’ve had one or more of those types of days lately, what braces you up? What supports you? When you’ve lost control and can no longer do it alone or by yourself, where do you turn to for extra support?

We can and should enlist help from friends and family. We can look for a little different approach, like Rick did with the tile. Most importantly, we are to turn to  

God can creatively shore us up and make sure we have the tools necessary to make the best decisions possible.

Jesus was very clear when he told the disciples, “Don’t go it alone. Take my burden upon you and together, we’ll make it through.

We’ll make it through the financial crisis we are in. The health issue will somehow be resolved. The disagreement will subside over time. Too often, I witness others (including myself) try to work through something on our own versus calling upon God’s help in this department.

Maybe the purposes for Rick’s braces were simply to be a reminder for me to brace myself up with the Lord when life gets full, busy and distracting. My biggest make sense

I don’t know what’s going on in your life today. I don’t know if you feel burdened or distracted or overwhelmed. Whatever it is? Enlist God to bring a sweetness to your life. Let God’s yoke help you journey through this time before.

FYI – The shower is coming along nicely. The braces are gone. I’ll show more pictures after we have it completed.

For God’s yoke that years for us to ask for help, I am grateful.

Holy God – thanks for all the unique and beautiful plants that graze our areas. May they encourage us to celebrate life on a daily basis. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Blooms of Spring

Gratitude Day 280

Mon., June 3, 2019

Song of Solomon 2:12 – Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

Sometimes, our souls need to sing.

After a stretch with lots of commitments, I arrived home last Thursday afternoon with the opportunity to enjoy the outside. In spite of other projects that could have filled my attention, I headed outside. It was time to do some gardening.

I had bought some annuals nearly two weeks earlier but had not made time to get them planted. There were some perennials that I wanted to move. And yes, more mulch was needed as well.

After a few hours outside, progress was made. As the west sky turned dark blue and purple and eventually black, it was time to wrap things up for the night. The rest would have to wait until Friday.

In the morning, I continued relocating plants and putting the pots together. Eventually, I had just one more thing to do: plant a zinnia hedge along the edge of the garden. In the summer, these zinnias make me happy. They are super easy to take care of and are stunning to observe. I like to buy a variety of zinnia’s, mix them together and plant them into the soil. And wait. Wait until their blossoms are big enough to gather into a lovely bouquet and display in the kitchen.

I suggested to Hubby Rick that he get some mulch. Thankfully, he took the hint and picked up a load. Better yet – he started to unload it, bucket by bucket, as he spread it in the flower beds. It looks amazing.

In just a few hours, the flower beds and yard when from “not too terribly exciting” to gorgeous. The cleaned-out beds, the rearranged plants and the contrasting mulch made us feel like the yard had just burst into new life. This spring cleaning was so worth it.

Are they areas in your life that are just ready to bloom and need a slight bit of encouragement? Possibly some rearranging? A little bit of time and attention? As summer is upon us and opportunities abound, contemplate what you can do to fill your soul and bring some happiness into your life.  

For dirty hands, freshly water plants and the promise of beautiful blossoms, I am grateful.

Holy God – thanks for all the unique and beautiful plants that graze our areas. May they encourage us to celebrate life on a daily basis. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Where Is God When Bad Things Happen?

Gratitude Day 278

Fri., May 31, 2019

Psalm 42:10 – Even my bones are in pain, while all day long my enemies sneer and ask, “Where is your God?”

Life can change literally in minutes.

Unfortunately, my friends Rob and Lisa Leach recently discovered this reality.

Rob, Lisa and their three daughters live outside of Linwood, KS on their dairy farm, Lin-Crest Farm. Late Tuesday afternoon, a mile-wide EF-4 tornado wiped out their farm. Every farm building and silo are gone. Their house sustained damage. Rob’s sister’s house is also a complete loss. At least a dozen of their 125 dairy animals were killed or had to be put down because of injuries. Unfortunately, they lost some of the greatest animals that ever grazed the farm’s hills, including animals they have shown across the U.S. Many of the surviving cattle have serious injuries requiring much veterinary care.

Rob and Lisa were home milking cows when the tornado struck. They were able to get to the basement of their house with their dogs. Their three daughters were in Wisconsin. Rob’s sister and her family rode out the storm in the basement of their house with a mattress over their heads. No family members were hurt in the storm.

Because of all the damage to the farm, vehicles could not get into the farm. As friends and complete strangers began arriving with trucks and trailers to move the remaining animals to other locations, people had to lead the animals down the driveway through the debris. On Wednesday, over 100 people showed up to express their deep concern and love for the Leach family, as well as begin the process of helping them salvage what remains of their farm.

The Leach’s are very aware that many, many other people in their community have been dramatically affected by this tornado as well. Rob has been a member of the local fire department for decades. Here are the words Rob posted on Facebook this week: “My Fire family has been incredible. More plan to come even as they have been dealing with countless emergencies in our beloved community. I can’t help but be overwhelmed with guilt for the kindness we’ve been shown. I can never repay it. We are well aware that we weren’t the only ones whose lives were affected in this little town that we love.”

I cannot imagine what Rob, Lisa and their daughters are experiencing right now. Shock, anger, disbelief and extreme sadness. Yet, their posts also reflect deep gratitude that no family member was hurt. They are terribly appreciative of all the people who have showed up to help and assist them. Already, dents into cleaning up the wreckage are being made.  

When these awful events happen, it is very easy to question where God was. Why didn’t God prevent this from happening to these salt-of-the-earth people? Here’s my response:

God was there as they sat huddled in the basement with a mattress over their heads.

God was there when the trucks and trailers simply showed up to move cattle.

God was there as each surviving animal was walked down the driveway and into a trailer to be moved to their next location.

God was there when people arrived with food and water.

God was there as so many volunteers have spent and continue to spend hours reopening the driveway and helping clean up the mess scattered through the trees, over the land and piles of rubbish dotting their farmland.

God was there as vets stitched up and attended to the animals that were injured by the storm.

Maybe, even more important, God will be with Rob, Lisa, their family and others who have been affected by recent natural disasters:

God will be there as the reality of what has just happened and how this affects their future truly sinks in.

God will be there as they begin to make decisions about what is next.

God will be there as they struggle with the financial implications they will need to address.

God will be there each and every step of this journey.

And someday, God will be there when this and other countless families and begin to formulate solid next steps, which may or may not look like how their lives were before the tornado.

I cannot begin to answer why this happened. Or what is the silver lining. All I can say is that God wants to journey with Rob, Lisa, their daughters and countless others who have had their lives turned upside down through this awful storm in their lives. God yearns and desires for those who are hurting, disappointed and feeling beat up. God is not here to “fix” everything but to be another set of shoulders to help bare the burden.

If we’d read the very next verse of Psalm 42 after the one posted above, we’d read this: Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless? I trust you! And I will praise you again because you help me, and you are my God.

The Leaches – I’m optimistic that God is here to help you. God may show up in a casserole, a skid steer filled with gas and ready to rock and roll, a donation to help you survive the next period of time. God may not look exactly as you think God should look. But God arrives most often in completely unexpected and unusual ways. I pray that you will let God and the thoughts and prayers of others be your source of strength in these next days and weeks ahead.

Maybe Rob said it best with these words: “Each day will get better. We will eventually find a new normal. From the bottom of our hearts, Thank you.”

For God’s presence in our lives, especially on the rotten days, I am grateful.

Almighty God – all we can do is lift up the Leach family and others recently affected by natural disasters and pray your presence will sustain them in the difficult days ahead. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Celebrating a Rite of Passage

Gratitude Day 276

Tues., May 28, 2019

Proverbs 16:3– Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

It’s been a great few days.

High School Graduation. Celebrations. Cousins visiting. Playing cards. Meaningful conversations. Lots and lots of good food.

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Last Friday, my youngest nephew, Kevin, graduated from high school. Hubby Rick and I, as well as the rest of our family, celebrated with him over the weekend.

High school graduation is truly a rite of passage. One of those important life accomplishments. A line in the sand between youth and adulthood.

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Kevin graduated from the same high school that I did … a million years ago. I had not been to a graduation ceremony in this school gym in many years. It was a little surreal to sit in the bleachers and watch the Augusta High School class of 2019 graduate. It brought back memories:

  • High school friends that I still keep in touch with. And those I have less contact with.
  • Names of favorite teachers who taught and encouraged me.
  • As the band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” I recalled playing the exact same music.
  • The large fans positioned behind the stage where we sat. Breezes from the fans lifting the pages from the commencement address I would share off the chair where I would sit on which they had been carefully placed. Each of the speakers trying to locate the pages of our individual addresses after we were seated on the stage.
  • Walking to receive a diploma.

High school graduation is one of many rites of passage: baptism, confirmation, graduation, marriage. And then, there are the “unofficial” rites of passage as well: first kiss, mowing the lawn, driver’s license, opening your own bank account, purchasing a home, being present when someone dies, first flight on an airplane. All these rites of passage are significant, important and meaningful.

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Life is full of these moments as well as many every day, ordinary things as well. In the 50+ years of my life, I have pondered so many times:

“What does God want me to do?”

“How do I handle this situation?”

“What direction should my life take?”

“Am I following God’s will for my life?”

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Kevin will ask himself these, and countless similar questions, many times in his life. I continue to explore these questions and other deeply meaningful ones on a daily basis. As believers, this is what we should do: seek and desire God’s leading, guidance and influence in our lives. Every. Single. Day.

I have made mistakes. Kevin may someday look back at a choice and wished he had made a slightly different choice. This. Is. OK. Why? If we commit to God our desires and choices and wishes of our heart, someway, somehow God will honor these choices and the plan will be supported by God. Even when we make a decision or choice that might not be God’s first choice, God can help steer our lives in a slightly (or not so slightly) different direction and take what we’ve chosen and make something amazing and great happen.

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Yes, there will and is disappointment. Heartache. The desire for do-overs. In these moments, I have often discovered this is when I grow the most. Learn something new about myself. Discover that I have abilities beyond what I imagined. God can and will use all of this for something wonderful … if we only trust God enough to allow it to so be.

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No matter what stage of life you find yourself in these days, celebrate it. Throw yourself a little party for the latest accomplishment you felt good about. And go right back to God and ask God to continue paving the path before you.

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Congrats, Kevin, on all the many, many things you’ve accomplished. You will do great things. Just please, take God along in your journey.

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For observing another person journey through a significant rite of passage gracefully, I am grateful.

Lord God – We celebrate the people near and dear to our hearts who have accomplished a significant rite of passage. Inspire these people to be all that they can be. Encourage them to seek your heart as they make life decisions and choices. Thank you for consistently blessing the plans we make in consultation with you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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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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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 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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