Gratitude Day 140 – Family

Tues., Oct. 23, 2018

Deuteronomy 26:11 – Then celebrate all the good things the Lord your God has done for you and your family—each one of you along with the Levites and the immigrants who are among you.

The house is now so quiet. So very quiet.

No conversations in multiple rooms. No action in the kitchen. No game going on around the dining room table.

Just me and my thoughts after a few days of every inch of our 3,000 square foot house being well occupied and used.

Over the weekend, several first cousins from my Mom’s side of the family, as well as members of my immediate family, gathered at our house for a little reunion. The last time this many of my first cousins were together was 15 years ago at my Grandma Sower’s funeral.

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My Mom had one sister six years older and a brother 11 years younger. My parents grew up in Iowa. They moved to Wisconsin after being married. I have basically lived my life in Wisconsin. My siblings and I did not grow up with our cousins nearby. All of my cousins lived in other states. While we “knew” each other, we haven’t really “known” each other.

Not all of our Sowers cousins were able to be together this weekend. When we started planning this get together, I was clear. Whoever could make it, great! If you couldn’t make it, this was OK as well. Life happens. One cousin who planned on being in Wisconsin ended up moving our remaining aunt multiple states this same weekend. We understood this was priority.

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Over the course of the weekend, we had a different mix of people at various times. We ate, visited, played games, shared stories from our past and present, had loud card games, went through pictures and items my Mom had saved, and truly enjoyed just being together. Here are a few things I discovered about my cousin family this weekend:

  • There are over 40 years between my eldest Sowers cousin and my youngest Sowers cousins. What we know, remember and our observations of our Grandparents is quite different. Some of these cousins never knew my Grandpa Sowers. We all knew my Grandma Sowers because she lived into her 90’s.
  • Growing up as members of different generations and in different locations around the U.S. has colored our worlds. Yet, we have this connecting factor of family blood. We ARE family.
  • It’s OK for us to have different memories, experiences and connections with our family heritage. There isn’t a “right” way or memory. For example, we had alvelskiers for dinner one night; a traditional Danish food that is a crossover between a pancake and a donut. It was interesting to hear what different branches of our family tree ate with alvelskiers.
  • Having time together outside of a funeral and over a couple days allowed for conversations to grow between people. We discovered that we “like” being together and sharing our lives with each other.
  • Wisconsin October weather is unpredictable. Our cousins saw rain, snow, sleet, wind and sunshine all in a few hours on Saturday. Some family members took in the University of Wisconsin-Madison football game, with one cousin experiencing a true Wisconsin Big 10 football game.

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When people are asked what is most important to them, the word “family” always rises to the top. How “family” is defined varies greatly. There is no one recipe for how families interact and spend time together. For us, simply hanging out and going through Grandma Sower’s jewelry box became a great opportunity to share stories, our lives and our common heritage.

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Like many such gatherings, there were conversations about how and when we might get together again. I pray these plans evolve and develop. Today, I am so grateful several family members put their lives on hold if only for a few hours, traveled to our little piece of the world sometime over the weekend and spent time together as Sowers cousins. It truly was a great weekend.

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For family cousins and the ability to spend time together, I am grateful.

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Lord God – thank you for family, time together and shared history. I pray families choose to focus on the things that draw them together rather than the disappointment that can pull families apart. Thank you for your Holy Spirit which is the glue that holds families together. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 139 – Renewed

Fri., Oct. 19, 2018

Lamentations 3:23 – They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.

Ever feel a little tired and run down? Like you need to be renewed? Maybe your soul is being steered in the wrong direction?

We have been remodeling a chunk of the upstairs of our 110-year-old Victorian farmhouse.  There is nothing like a deadline to push you towards getting things accomplished! We have company arriving today. While the entire remodeling isn’t completed, Hubby Rick and I have made significant progress the last few weeks.

We are taking the middle section of our upstairs and remaking it into a master bedroom with a walk-in closet and master bathroom. We also made room for a second closet to house a washer and dryer. To make this all work, we’ve created a hallway which allows for the various components to branch off of.

On the east side of all this area is a storage area which someday, we will also remodel. This spot is really like a bonus room. Rick dreams of a game room. And maybe this is what it will be.

Back to the current remodeling job: there were two doors that went into the storage area/bonus room/game room. Rick closed off these doors with drywall. One door would have been where the shower will go. The other door would have been in the middle of the walk-in closet. To replace these two doors, he put one door at the end of the hallway, which makes more sense.

After some discussion, we decided to rework one of the existing doors and make it work for this new spot. It didn’t make sense to buy a new door when we already have two doors. We would just change the door to reflect the new style of this area.

Before

This is how the door started. Basically, a 1950’s style blonde door. We actually like that it has windows because this will provide some needed light into the hallway. The blonde style just doesn’t work anymore. I convinced Rick to paint it.

One afternoon, Rick sanded down the door to remove the shiny finish. Then, he primed it. I had picked out a couple possible paint colors. After painting some of the other walls and doors in this space, I decided to paint this door the color of the bi-fold doors, trim and walk-in closet. This would keep the entire area bright.

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When Rick applied the primer, he did not tape the windows. He thought it would be easier to use a razor blade and remove the paint afterwards. After I painted the door, touched it up with a second coat and let it dry, it was time to remove the excess paint on the windows. Rick has a cute little razor blade holder. I started to remove the paint and decided a new blade was in order. After replacing the blade, the paint zipped off rather quickly.

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It was really quite easy and rewarding. Not a lot of time or energy and quick progress. I turned the door around and did the reverse side. Soon, the windows looked great and the renewed door was taking shape.

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It took a little time, effort and planning to renew the door. Would it have been easier to buy a new door? Probably. But we are trying to be faithful stewards and reuse items as we can. I think it is cool to keep as much of the previous items from the house in tack.

 

As I was scrapping away the paint, I began to see a metaphor to my life. I can identify various points in my life when I needed a renewal. I needed to sand away parts of my life that were not as productive or necessary. I needed a coat of the Holy Spirit to smooth out my imperfections and provide a good base daily living. While the top coat of paint can cover up things I don’t want anyone else to see, God knows the flaws lie beneath and overlooks them anyway. Sometimes, I need to scrap away the things that keep me from fully loving God and my neighbors; things that draw me more into myself and away from God’s guiding hand in my life. And throw these things into the trash.

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If I were completely honest, I would acknowledge that daily, I need this renewal. Yep. Every. Single. Day.

Thank goodness God doesn’t get tired of remodeling us. God doesn’t get frustrated when we’re been renewed and we quickly revert back to our previous unhealthy ways. God isn’t afraid of a little sanding, painting and scraping to bring us back into God’s loving arms. It doesn’t matter how much gets scraped away and thrown into the trash. God still sees us as beloved children of God’s kingdom.

It’s not God that’s afraid of renewal. Most often, it’s we who don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable enough. But when we do, the finished product is often oh, so beautiful.

After

Hubby Rick is hanging the door. I know it’s going to look great!

 

For a God who never tires of renewal, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for knowing when I need renewal before I do. Thank you for also knowing which parts of me need to be sanded, primed and repainted. May I willingly accept renewal in my life. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 137 – Disappointment

Wed., Oct. 17, 2018

Psalm 96:11 – Let heaven celebrate! Let the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it roar!

I messed up. Big time.

Each week, I meet with Isaac. He is a fifth grader and the student I mentor through the local school district.

Last week, Isaac was so excited to remind me that the day after we met was his golden birthday. Apparently, he had told me this the following week. And I forgot. Actually, I don’t remember Isaac telling me this. Clearly, I wasn’t paying attention.

It was the day before Isaac’s golden birthday and I was not at prepared to celebrate this monumental event for a pre-teenager. Isaac told me it was OK that I forgot. I promised that we would celebrate his birthday this week.

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Today is mentoring day. I am prepared. I have a bag full of goodies and a balloon to top it off. We will be celebrating Isaac’s birthday today.

I don’t know all of Isaac’s story, which is OK. What I do believe is that Isaac has encounter quite a bit of disappointment in his short life. Unfortunately, I added to it.

How do you feel when you are disappointed? Do you regularly get disappointed? By other people? Family members? Business associates? Friends?

Has God ever disappointed you as well? I know God has disappointed me.

It’s easy to say, “Disappointment is a part of life.” Actually, this is true. But hearing or saying those words really doesn’t make us feel any better, does it?

When I am on the side of letting someone else down, I often feel worse than they do. It is very important to me to follow through on any commitment I make. Not doing so causes me to be so hard on myself. My mind can easily spin a laundry list of no-do-good idioms of how silly I am.

So, can you imagine how God feels every time God is disappointed? We think we get disappointed in others? What about God? Every. Single. Day, God is disappointed. You. Me. Your best friend. Your worst enemy. We all disappoint God.

Yet, this doesn’t stop God from fully loving us, caring for us or wanting to move forward from the disappointment. Why is it that we can easily get caught in our disappointment? Why do we let disappointment overshadow all the good things in our lives? We let disappointment rule the emotional roost and it prevents us from appreciating and rounding up all the reasons we have to be grateful.

Thankfully, God doesn’t get hung up in disappointment. God moves forward quicker than the act of us letting God down. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve disappointed God, God moves on. Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve disappointed God, God moves on. No questions asked.

Does this mean forgiveness is cheap or free? Nope. Does this mean disappointment has no meaning in God’s kingdom? Absolutely not. What this means is we can’t measure God’s currency in the same way we measure our currency because they aren’t the same.

I am confident Isaac will and has overlooked the disappointment I caused him last week. I think I have it right this week: a bag with snacks, stickers, a game, a balloon … what else could a 5th grader want? I pray Isaac can share about his golden birthday with me tomorrow. And we’ll be able to extend it just a few more days with a little celebration tomorrow.

For God’s ability to overlook the times I disappoint God, I am thankful.

Almighty God – you are so quick to let go, move on and accept us just the way we are. Nonetheless, please forgive me for the many, many times I have disappointed you and others. May your great example inspire me to model your great love and actions in my life. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 136 – Honest Questions

Tues., Oct. 16, 2018

Job 1:8 – The Lord said to the Adversary, “Have you thought about my servant Job; surely there is no one like him on earth, a man who is honest, who is of absolute integrity, who reveres God and avoids evil?”

“When are we going to be done?”

It was such an innocent question. A question that has been asked millions of times by other young 4- or 5-year-old boys.

It’s the context that makes the difference. It was during Sunday worship, right in the middle of the message. The pastor, who happens to be the young lad’s grandpa, hesitated momentarily and spoke back to his young grandson, “I’ll try to speed up the sermon, Collin.”

There was a collective chuckle throughout the worship space.

HonestyI love this age-group of kids. They have their own thoughts and ideas, yet they are not yet jaded. In their innocence, they are brutally honest and often speak whatever is on their mind.

Just like what happened during Sunday worship.

Haven’t we all, at some point or another, thought to ourselves, “When is this sermon going to be done?” Or “Will this worship service ever get over?”

The difference: this young guy wasn’t afraid to ask his grandfather, during worship with no hesitation.

Have there been times and situations in your life when you really wanted to ask an honest question … but didn’t? Maybe we felt it would be inappropriate. Or we didn’t want to interrupt. Or we were confident we wouldn’t really get an answer anyways. Or an answer we’d be happy with.

So, we stay quiet. We formulate a variety of possible outcomes in our brains, often based on incomplete information. Our minds go a million possible directions with no guarantee we’ve even come up with the right response.

Even more important? Grandpa took a few seconds and answered his inquisitive grandson. And keep rolling along.

One reason people may stop asking God honest questions is because we feel there is no answer. Or we won’t receive an answer we’ll like. This should not stop us from asking honest questions: to God, our peers and those around us.

Job is admired because he was honest, lived with integrity and respected God and tried to avoid evil. His friends keep trying to convince him that the reason he lost everything, and I mean everything, is because at some point, he wasn’t honest with God. In fact, the opposite is true. Job never gavep on God. Eventually, God shows us and gives a powerful answer to Job.

Tough questions are OK … as long as we are honest. If we have respect for God and answers to prayers and requests are different from our wishes, God is fine with us questioning God. The question is: can we be OK with God?

Collin sat through the rest of the service, no more spoken aloud questions. He must have been satisfied with Grandpa’s answer.

What is the lesson for us? Ask God anything you wish. Seriously. You may reach a spot where you can accept God’s answers, whether you agree or not. But let’s not stop asking questions. Let’s keep them rolling.

For complete honestly, I am thankful.

Lord God – sometimes, our questions seem difficult and challenging. But for you, no question is impossible. May we listen when you answer our questions, even if the answer is very different from our desired answer. Help us be significantly honest with you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 135 – Truly Seeing

Sat., Oct. 13, 2018

Ephesians 3:17-19 – I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.

We have these $1 glasses all over our house. Literally. Everywhere.

They are Hubby Rick’s reading glasses. He buys them in large quantities, like 10 at a time, from the Dollar Tree. Of late, he’s purchased the exact same pair over and over. And they are everywhere.

Let me show you.

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In the TV room, which is also where he keeps the laptop that he uses to check his dispatch before he goes to work. He also uses these glasses to check his paycheck, look up things on e-bay and play cards on the computer.

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The bathroom, where he shaves, to double-check his work.

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The kitchen island, where he reads the mail.

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Where he keeps his keys, so he can remember to take a pair with him when he leaves the house.

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On his desk in the basement.

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Right across the room from his desk is his work bench. This is exactly how I found it. With three pairs of glasses.

I didn’t go into each of our vehicles, which also have a pair of glasses. Or his fishing tackle box. Or in the carriage house. If there are three pairs on the workbench, I can’t imagine how many are in the carriage house: probably, one next to each saw and then some.

And yet, on most days, I still hear, “Where are my glasses?”

So often, I just want to say, “Which pair?” (Next time, I’m going to send him to the workbench.)

Recently, I read these few lines of scripture from Ephesians at the beginning of this post … and I felt like I was seeing these words for the first time. I mean, really seeing them. While I have read them possibly a hundred times previously, it was like I was wearing a new pair of glasses. Maybe, my prescription was just a bit different and I was seeing them in a new light.

I believe in God’s grace. I’ve felt and witnessed it hundreds of times. But sometimes, I begin to think I have to “do” something for God’s kingdom to receive God’s forgiveness and grace.

We can easily turn God’s grace into something we have to “earn” and fail to remember that God has already taken care of everything. We just have to accept this grace over and over. Day after day. Week after week. Appreciate, value and know God’s grace makes a difference in our lives.

As I read these words from Ephesians, I zeroed in on the fact that God’s love is wider and deeper than I can ever love God back. The height and depth of my love is so very shallow and narrow compared to the love God gives to me and you. My love can’t be the same measure as God’s. Nor does it need to be. Because God is God and I am me.

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A few years ago, it became clear that I had aged into the life stage of bifocals. I tried to use those cheap glasses like Rick does. I also needed depth correction. I decided it was just best to have one pair of glasses that would correct both.

 

Every time I get a new pair of bifocal glasses, it takes a little awhile for my eyes to adjust to the new lenses. My eyes have to figure out where they need to look, based on the different size and shape of lense. Once I get used to the new lenses, I no longer have to think about it. My eyes know exactly what to do.

There are times my understanding of grace gets blurry and I think I have to “do” something for God to fully love and appreciate me. The reality? There is nothing I can do to earn it. Grace is too expensive and too costly.

After reading these words from Ephesians again and seeing more clearly how God views me, I am going to see Rick’s glasses scattered all over my house a bit differently. They will help me remember that God’s grace is sufficient for me. I just have to let God be God and I be me. It is easy to rib Rick about all these glasses. Maybe they have just been waiting to help me to see grace more clearly.

I need grace daily and multiple times throughout the day. In the TV room. In the bathroom. In the kitchen. Before I leave the house and as I go into the world. I pray I take God’s grace with me wherever I journey.

For eyes that see more clearly today, I am thankful.

O gracious and loving God: thank you for loving me so much larger, deeper and more fully than I can ever love you. Thanks for the reminder of your grace this day. Help me see more clearly every day Your spot in my life.Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 134 – Hope for Surviving Loved Ones

Fri., Oct. 12, 2018

Psalm 42:11 – Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God.

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In the last two weeks, I have become aware of two middle-aged men who committed suicide.

The first man’s story was shared with me by a friend. I did not know him. My friend and her family saw this man at a wedding just a few days before he took his life. He shared that evening about the financial difficulties he was experiencing. In spite of these challenges, my friend was shocked when she heard of his death.

This week, a man Hubby Rick and I know took his life. For years, Rick stopped at his farm and picked up the milk his cows produced and delivered the milk to a processing facility. When Rick stopped hauling milk, his son continued hauling this man’s milk until they sold their cows. This man struggled with depression for years. He had gone through lots of treatment and therapy. But the disease was more than he can handle.

Honestly, I cannot say that I know how the family members of these two men feel. Unless you have journeyed closely with a loved one who has struggled with depression and took their life, it is IMPOSSIBLE to know how the family members left behind feel. The last thing I would say to a loved one who has lost someone to depression? “I know how you feel.” Because I don’t. End of story.

In both instances, it was shared with me that the men’s struggle with depression which eventually led to suicide was a part of the funeral service. This is so important. Unless we recognize that depression is a disease, just like cancer or heart disease, the stigma will not go away. Like other potential terminal diseases, sometimes depression can be managed. Other times, it can’t.

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My heart goes out to the families of these two men, and the countless other families who have lost a loved one to suicide this year. I do not have adequate words to say to you. Too often, suicide leaves in its wake a wide path of struggle, confusion and sorrow. We want to know why the person chose suicide. We think, whether aloud or silently, “Didn’t they think about their loved ones left behind?” The training I’ve received related to suicide says this: once a person makes the decision to end their life, it is the only choice that makes sense. Thoughts about how others will react are always overshadowed by their own thoughts which convince them suicide is the only option. A peace comes about the person. They just have to carry out their plan.

It is nearly impossible for outsiders to understand how the depressed person can see suicide as the only possible solution. This is where the disease side of depression is so difficult to understand.

I pray these two families, and countless other families who are walking a similar path, find God’s presence in their lives as they journey the anguish of life after suicide. I pray that we, as Christians and the church, will love them and be present with them. Words aren’t necessary. Only presence is. Our role is not to “figure it out” or “try to help make sense.” Our role is only to be present and continue to have hope in God. When loved ones may not be able to have hope, I pray we can be conduits of hope for them.

For people willing to journey with those struggling with depression and those whose lives have been radically affected by a loved one who struggles with depression, I am thankful.

Lord God – surround the families and loved ones who have a loved one that took their life with your loving kindness. Please bring into the survivor’s life people who will simply be with them. We pray advances towards understanding and possible cures for this disease are found. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 133 – Ordinary Day

Thurs., Oct. 11, 2018

1 Thessalonians 2:6 – We didn’t ask for special treatment from people—not from you or from others

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It was an ordinary day. A little rain. A lot of mud. Time with some of our favorite people: our grandchildren.

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Hubby Rick and Dylan played ball. Ellie and I went for a walk.

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We took in some fall sights and had lunch together.

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We went to the river, skipped rocks and watched the water.

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We rode the train together and visited the pet cemetery.

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It was an ordinary day. Nothing special. Nothing out of the ordinary. Yet, memories were created. Hugs given and received. No special treatment. Just an ordinary day.

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For God ordinary days with special people, I am thankful.

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Lord God – I pray we find you in the ordinary today. Too often, we expect you only in the extraordinary. But you are in the regular, every day just as much. May we find you in our ordinary day today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 132 – What is Real

Tues., Oct. 9, 2018

2 Samuel 22:32 – Now really, who is divine except the Lord? And who is a rock except our God?

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If you have a Facebook account, you have just lived through the huge Facebook hack of 2018. If you don’t have a Facebook account, this is what happened: account holders got a ridiculous number of new friend requests from people who are already their friends. Then, there was an inquiry if this was a hack or something else. Everyone was trying to figure out what was really going on, with many people more than a little annoyed by all the mess. Anyone else have a friend who asked why Facebook couldn’t shut down the whole deal?

This brought to light for me how difficult it is to determine when someone is really someone versus when it is someone trying to look like your friend. How can we determine what is real and what is fake?

Just like sometimes, people wonder if God is real or if God is fake.

Some think there can’t be a real God because a real God would not allow all the awful things in the world to happen.

Some believe a real God would always heal a loved one and not allow for suffering.

Some anticipate that a real God would always answer prayer just as we request.

Some argue that a real God would never allow a particular person or family repeated pain or loss or grief.

Based on things happening in a person’s life which don’t seem fair, right or loving, there can’t be a real God. There is only a fake God.

Yes, it can be very easy to feel this way. Sometimes, I have questioned these same things. And then, something happens that reaffirms for me that God is real.

My real God doesn’t promise to remove all hardship or suffering in life. My real God promises to journey with me through all those ugly moments in life.

My real God knows better than to answer all of my prayers because maybe, my prayers aren’t the best solution.

My real God does not cause every awful thing in this world to happen. There is evil in this world, which I cannot explain. Yes, there are times I wish my real God would squash evil. Instead, I am trying to learn to trust God even when evil prevails in the short-term.

It can be easy to allow thoughts of a fake God affect our lives. When this happens, I challenge myself to remember the times God was so apparent in my life. I recall the still, small voice that longs to be my guiding light every day. I thank God for prayers that have been answered and the wisdom God had to know that not answering some of my prayers was prudent at the time.

On the days we have a difficult time finding the real God in our lives, reflect upon this story. A pastor was sharing in worship one day about how his wife has prepared thousands of meals for him. He can’t specifically recall all the meals she has prepared for him. Some were better than others. Some he loved. Others, not so much. Yet, he appreciates and values every meal she has made for him. They all helped him be a better person, pastor and Christian.

Likewise, he has prayed a thousand prayers to God. He doesn’t remember them all. He’s heard thousands of sermons and he doesn’t specifically remember them all. As a Christian, he feels his job is to simply show up and let God be God. Every time he prays, every message he hears provides an opportunity for him to be just a little closer with God. He many not remember every specific prayer or message. But each one can help him be a better person, pastor and Christian.

Even when we maybe struggling to find the real God, please don’t give up. God is there. Sometimes, we have to sort through the fake gods in our lives to find the real God. I think it’s worth the effort.

For God being real in my life, I am thankful.

Gracious God – forgive us when we follow the wrong fake gods in our lives rather than seeking and following You, the real God. Help us to focus more on You and Your presence in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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