The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far …

Sat., Mar. 17, 2018

Psalm 78:2-3 – For I will show you lessons from our history, stories handed down to us from former generations.  

Rick - carToday would have been my father-in-law Tony’s birthday. This morning, I asked Rick if he planned to wear every article of green clothing he owns today. Why? This is what his Dad did on his birthday. In spite of not a lick of Irish blood in his veins, Tony literally wore green from head to toe on his birthday; whether the greens matched or not.

Rick assured me he would not do this today. Yet, in honor of his Dad, Rick wore new sunglasses today. Still with the tag on them. Just like Tony would have.

Tony's hat

This is the hat Tony wore for many summers: driving tractor, mowing lawn, anytime he was outside for an extended period of time. Walmart price tag and all. I considered it his Minnie Pearl hat.

Today, Rick greeted me with Minnie Pearl sunglasses. Price tag and all. When he asked if I had a pair of scissors in the car, I first had to snap a picture before making the sunglasses public ready. As I removed the tags, Rick said, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?”

He is so right. There are things in which Rick is not like his Dad. And then, there are things in which I wonder if I’m living with my father-in-law. Or even, my Dad.

Rick often tells me stories from earlier times. Just like Tony did. I know Rick heard many of these stories a hundred times. There may come a day when I have heard the same story a hundred times. I pray that I am patient enough to simply listen to the story one more time.

These are how traditions, lessons and stories are handed down from generation to generation. These are how little things that make families unique and different are captured and repeated. These are the ways we help our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews understand a little bit more of their heritage.

corned beffWhile Vielhuber is 100% German, we are having traditional corned beef and cabbage tonight. It’s one of Rick’s favorites. The corn beef is buried below the cabbage, carrots and potatoes. It smells heavenly.

By the way, Happy birthday in heaven, Tony. I’m sure you are enjoying every shade of green possible today.

Lord God – thank you for our families and special traditions that come from our heritages. Thank you also claiming us as part of your big family. May the traditions and heritage of being a Christian hold a special place in our hearts. Amen.

Blessings –


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Our Favorite Things

napkinsFri., Mar. 16, 2018

2 Corinthians 11:3 – But I am frightened, fearing that in some way you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to our Lord, just as Eve was deceived by Satan in the Garden of Eden.    

While in a Dollar Tree store this week, I made an impulse buy. I stopped to buy something very specific. On this day, I splurged and bought these pretty napkins. Two packages!

Why? On my way to the checkout line, they caught my eye. I loved the simplicity of these breath-of-spring napkins. And I remembered my Aunt Beverly’s words from a few years ago. At this stage her life, she said she no longer denies herself simple, yet meaningful, life pleasures. She words were something like this, “Life is too short for poor quality napkins, gritty towels and cheap coffee. I splurge on my favorite things.”

Honoring Aunt Beverly’s words, I spent $2 on these guest-towel type napkins.

Since Aunt Bev shared this with me, I often recall her words about simple things that I love.

Like nice napkins. (Notice the real napkins here as well. Another one of my simple splurges.)

cafe du monde cupGood coffee … now in my newest favorite coffee cup.

easterSimple holiday decorations that make the table look, well, cute.

towelsSoft towels. Or better yet: soft towels prettily arranged in the bathroom.

We moved into our current house about two-and-a-half years ago. Most weeks, I have fresh flowers in a vase on the kitchen island. Why? Because I LOVE walking into the kitchen and smelling them. They are usually the $8.99 bouquet from the grocery store. With a couple extra minutes of arranging, along with a pretty branch from our backyard, they almost look like a bouquet I could have purchased from my sister’s flower shop. What I didn’t buy this week was fresh flowers. The island is currently graced with over dry roses in clear vase with no water. They were a $4.99 post-Valentine’s Day special. Right before we left on vacation, I dumped out the water but left the flowers. They are no longer photo-worthy.

Some other simple, yet favorite, things:

  • the smell of sheets off an outdoors clothes line. I have been missing this smell for quite a while since we don’t have a clothes line. Maybe a summer project?
  • Ice cream. I have eaten very few sweets since the first of the year. Easter Sunday will be a splurge day, possibly with ice cream for breakfast.
  • “Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens …” Words from my FAVORITE movie, “The Sound of Music.” I never bore of watching this classic.

Too often, life becomes filled with big demands, unrealistic expectations and over-the-top responses.  We willing accept the adage, “Go big or go home” with little reflection. The flashy and noisy take precedence over the quiet and simple all too often.

But what’s wrong with simple? Easy? Low maintenance?

I believe God is less impressed with the bells and whistles than we are.

Why can’t simple devotion to God and what is important be enough?

Maybe I’m just aging out, but simple is sounding pretty good these days. Maybe next time, I’ll buy three packages of the pretty napkins. And pretend Aunt Beverly is coming for a visit.

Thank you for placing in my life several simple, yet favorite, pleasures: things that remind me how faith in You should be pure and simple.  Amen.

Blessings –


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A Little Sabbath

20180310_163349Mon., Mar. 12, 2018

Exodus 20:8 – Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.   

Sometimes, we just need a little Sabbath. A time when we intentionally slow down, stop the busyness and explore life in a different way. When we remember whose we are and who we are.

Recently, Rick and I returned from some Sabbath time. Usually, we fly somewhere with warm weather in January. Occupied by other things in January, we opted for a driving Sabbath this March. Some 2721.7 miles later, we were back refreshed and appreciating many things.


We began by driving to Dauphin Island, AL to meet up with our friends, Mel and Ruth Ann. They spend six weeks of winter Sabbath on the Island. We visited them. Since we arrived at their condo after dark, we could not fully appreciate the sand and ocean until the next morning. It was wonderful to walk barefoot along the beach, stick our toes in the gulf water and be intrigued by the countless things on the shoreline, including Jellyfish.


After worshipping at the Dauphin Island UMC on Sunday, we spent much of the afternoon at the Bellingrath Home and Gardens. Developed by Walter & Bessie Bellingrath in 1935, their home and gardens started as a fishing camp. Today, they are an exquisite grounds reminiscent of when the Bellingrath’s lived there. The thousands of blooming azaleas made the stop even more impressive.


Our friends agreed to spend a few days with us in New Orleans. Over 25+ years ago, I visited New Orleans. The French and Spanish inspired architectures continue to impress. Our first stops included the open-air French Market and Jackson Square.

New Orleans is home to a World War 2 Museum. While we spent several hours taking in exhibits, we could have spent many more. Instead, we hopped on the St. Charles Street Car and rode through the gorgeous Garden District. We walked through a cemetery and enjoyed spontaneous jazz musicians on Bourbon Street. I couldn’t leave town without some traditional crawfish boil while Rick opted for local shrimp.


20180307_103636The next morning, we stopped at Café du Monde for beignets and chicory coffee. They were BETTER than I remembered. The atmosphere was enhanced by local jazz musicians.


We all wanted to visit the Lower 9th Ward, which sustained significant damage from Hurricane Katrina. We walked through the little Living Museum where we were able to visit with a local resident who lived through Katrina and the aftermath. She is working to encourage families to resettle the Lower 9th Ward, as many have left. We drove by empty lot after empty lot, sometimes with only the cement steps from the previous home remaining. Yes, there are new homes and homes that have been repaired. Even on the day we drove through, we saw homes with tarps and boarded up windows reminiscent of Katrina’s damage.

Since we had all been involved in Katrina relief work in Biloxi, we stopped there as well. Mel and Ruth Ann have visited Biloxi several times post relief work. While the local economy is rebounding, there are still open areas which have not been redeveloped.


Before leaving Dauphin Island, we toured Fort Gaines, part of the local Civil War history.


Then, we drove to Laurel, MS. Recently, I have followed the HGTV show Home Town. We arrived at the store owned by Ben and Erin Napier and their friends five minutes after closing time. I inquired with the ladies leaving the shop where we would find some of the historic homes which have been remodeled. Since we own a 110-year-old Victorian Farmhouse, I am intrigued in seeing how other people have updated older homes. We drove through the streets of Laurel, looking at old homes, until it was dark.


We also drove through an area Rick wanted to see: the Mississippi Delta. We picked out rural Mississippi roads and drove right through the heart of the Delta. With overflowing river banks and a seemingly challenged local economy, we felt we had taken a step back in time, minus the modern combines, planters and tractors. Rick hoped we would see cotton being planted but it was too early. We did see one tractor smoothing out last year’s cotton plant stubble on the mounds of dirt where the plants grow.

I type these words on a Sunday, the traditional Sabbath day of the week for Christians. Both Rick and I worked today. Yet, we loved several days of life with little set schedule: eating when we wanted, walking for hours and reading a devotion book in the car as we took in the scenery around us. We deeply appreciated Mel and Ruth Ann’s hospitality and their willingness to explore New Orleans with us. We return to regular activities this week. Yet, we will be sustained by extended Sabbath time with our Lord and with each other. And we are more committed than ever to make extended Sabbath a part of our lives.

Somehow, Lord God, you know we need Sabbath. Thank you for allowing us to enjoy a period of extended Sabbath. Your creation, the history around us and the friendships we enjoy always continue to impress us. Thank you.  Amen.

Blessings –


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When Plans Fail


Tues., Feb. 27, 2018

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

Recently, I had one of those really embarrassing moments. I showed up for an appointment an hour late. So late, I missed the opportunity to participate in the planned event.

I coordinate a local non-profit that provides food to school-aged students who might not have enough weekend food. A local business invited me to share information about the program to employees during a luncheon. I had it in my calendar for 1 PM. The lunch was at 12 PM.

Here I was, standing in at the business. Samples of the food bags in hand, ready to share why the company’s recent donation would make a difference to students in our local school district. I was mortified, embarrassed and disgusted with myself.

Continue reading “When Plans Fail”

Friday Thoughts …

feelings emojis

Fri., Feb. 23, 2018

Proverbs 29:11 – Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

Anyone else feel like their emotions have been on a huge roller coaster ride the last 10 days?

Parkland.jpgOn Ash Wednesday, an unbelievable event happened in Parkland, FL, where 17 people at a school were killed. What a range of emotions the students and staff that go to this school have experienced, as well as their families and the entire community. The wake of this and similar events emotional carnage is impossible to measure.

On the flipside, our household has enjoyed watching the Olympics. Need a little pick-me-up?

Google “USA Women’s Hockey Olympic shoot out” or “USA Women’s Cross-Country Team Finish” and your adrenaline will quickly be pumping! Did you catch any of Lindsay Vonn’s emotional interviews? It is impossible for those of us who have never been involved in preparing for the Olympics understand the depth of time, commitment, sacrifice, determination and breadth of emotion the athletes and their families endure.


Billy Graham.jpgMany hearts have been touched in the death of an American icon, Billy Graham. Often dubbed, “American’s Pastor,” Graham took seriously the gospel’s call to take the word of Jesus to the ends of the earth. Graham took this charge literally. And changed millions of lives as a result.

Our country, communities and individuals have gone through lots of these emotional roller coasters before. Personally, my emotions can go from joyful to hurt or embarrassed in 3.5 seconds.

It’s hard to imagine Jesus going through an emotional roller coaster. I’m confident he did. We see this captured in “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) upon the depth of his good friend Lazarus to compassion he expressed to the children (Luke 18:16) as he drew little people into his arms.

What can we learn from recent events? Billy Graham? Jesus? Just a few thoughts:

  • Allow yourself to experience emotions. It’s OK. Let’s give ourselves permission to do so.
  • Emotions can challenge us into action. When our hearts are deeply touched by something, may we be the ones who say, “Can something different be done?”
  • Keeping ourselves calm is not easy. When calmness is elusive, may faith in Christ bring us calmness and quiet our over-active souls.
  • Even when our bodies wear out and our roles on this earth changes, may we have enough good sense to allow Christ to continue to speak through us.

Making ourselves vulnerable is more than a little challenging for some stoic people. It’s easy for these same stoic people to wish those who wear their emotions on their sleeves would find a more appropriate way to show emotions. Maybe what we all need is just a little more understanding of emotions like Jesus seemingly had.

Lord Jesus – thank you for sharing with us how important it is to exhibit our emotions. Help us keep calm in your love and truly be agents of your grace to others.  Amen.

Blessings –



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More Than a Little Patience

computerSat., Feb. 17, 2018

Ecclesiastes 7:8 – The end of a matter is better than its beginning and patience is better than pride.

Some days, I have a little more patience than others.

A couple months ago, I ordered a new laptop. As I move into a different stage of life, a new laptop would be a symbolic way to lead the change. My previous laptop was over five years old. It had been used hard. Someday, it would stop working.

The new laptop arrived at Christmas. Because of other priorities, I didn’t get it up and running. Meanwhile, the screen on my old laptop stop working. I creatively figured out how to copy the files off the hard drive. I plugged the HDMI cable from our television into the computer and copied the files onto a flash drive.

I knew setting up the new laptop would take a few hours. When I finally made it a priority, it became clear the laptop was not running as it should. The internet connection didn’t work. Not a computer guru, my limited computer wisdom was exhausted and the laptop was still not working right. It was time to call the manufacture for assistance.

Why is it whenever I call a company for technical support or assistance, my patience meter bottoms out? I lose all ability to keep a calm and steady voice and quickly become frustrated. This instance was no acceptation. I deserve a demerit for lack of patience with the tech who tried to help me out.

The solution involved rebooting the entire system which would take hours. We set-up a time for a call-back the next day to see if the laptop was working. The internet connection was now operational but there were still some bugs. During this session, I was a bit more patient and less sharp with the tech. A couple more hours on the phone and whew, the laptop seems to be operational.

I am embarrassed at my lack of patience through this process. The techs were doing their jobs and trying to help me. I was not gracious. I could only focus on the time this was taking me. I was not a very gracious customer.

I cannot begin to imagine the number of times God has wanted to overhaul me and I ignored God. Maybe just some tweaking and I was not patient enough with God to hear and see what God laid out before me. Did God give up on me when I needed an overnight timeout to get a different perspective? Thanks goodness, no! When God checked in with me the next day or week or month, was I able to reflect upon the situation from a different view? Could I step back and appreciate the wisdom and help coming my way, even if I wasn’t completely onboard?

Thank goodness God is far more patient with me than I deserve. Thanks be to God.

Lord God – thank you, thank you, thank you for being patient with me!  Amen.

Blessings –


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The Beginning of Lent

Lent 2018 image AW-page-001Wed., Feb. 14, 2018

While most people will see today as Valentine’s Day, I pray many will also acknowledge today as the beginning of Lent: Ash Wednesday.

It’s the day Christians begin a 40-day pilgrimage towards Easter. It’s a time for us to contemplate our relationship with God: who God is in our lives and what God means to us.

I love this quote by Alicia Britt Chole: Lent is about thinning our lives in order to thicken our communion with God.

Often, Lent is thought of as a time we deprive ourselves of something. I have abstained from sweets during Lent for years. While this is OK, if Lent is only eliminating a food we love, then maybe we are missing some of the intention of Lent. Ultimately, Lent is about providing opportunities for us to feel closer to God.

I’m attaching a link to a “Daily Lent Activity List.” 2018LentList

Provided by Portico Collective, this is a nice list of ways we can maybe think about how God is part of our daily lives in a very practical and real way. I encourage you to print off the list and check off a box each day. This is one of my Lenten priorities.

Father God – thank you for this long-standing tradition of re-examining ourselves during Lent. Teach me something new about You and myself this next 40 days. May you amaze and surprise me daily.  Amen.

Blessings –


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Loving Your Valentine Every Day

Rick's JournalTues., Feb. 13, 2018

John 13:34 – Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  

Years ago, I remember someone saying Hallmark “created”  a whole bunch of holidays to sell more cards. Tomorrow maybe the grandest of Hallmark holiday of them all: Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is more than just cards. It’s flowers, chocolates, candies, balloons, jewelry  and a bunch of ways we express love to someone we care for. My tradition with our grandkids: Subway gift cards!

My sister, Debbie, is a florist. It’s no secret. Valentine’s is one of her busiest days of the year. Right next to Mother’s Day.

Why? People like to acknowledge special people in their lives. Many of us will finish addressing Valentine’s Day cards today. Lots of heart-shaped cookies will be baked tonight, as well as yummy cupcakes, later adorned with lots of red and pink sprinkles. Whether Hallmark started the tradition of sending Valentine’s Day cards out or not, haven’t we all participated in the holiday?

For my husband Rick and I, we often approach holidays a bit non-traditionally. We may get each other a card, but with Rick, there is usually some little twist. Last year, I shared how Rick gave me a homemade birdhouse and a birthday card for Valentine’s Day! The birthday card was only over a month late, but who is counting? Several years ago, Rick showed up with a dozen roses a week earlier than Valentine’s Day. He couldn’t justify spending a ridiculous amount of money for roses on Valentine’s Day. He took advantage of the pre-Valentine Day prices and brought them home a bit early.

My ideas to honor my sweetie have often fallen short. After last year’s birdhouse, I was inspired to come up with a better idea for this year. I decided to create a year-long, daily reminder of some way Rick expressed his love and devotion to me every day.

It was actually very simple. I bought a generic date book at an office supply store. The particular one I purchased had two days on a page, with several lines for each day. Each day, I took a couple minutes and wrote down something meaningful Rick did for me the previous day. Some days were a little challenging. Until very recently, we did not see each other every day of the week. For years, in-between his work shifts, Rick stayed at his parent’s farm. This recently changed. Usually once a week, I would see him at the farm. This still left a couple days a week we didn’t see each other. On these days, I would be more creative: thankful for the text he sent, appreciate the way he provides for our family, admiration for how he is so dedicated to his job.

Feb. 14What was the purpose of doing this daily appreciation? It reminded me of 365 ways I love, value and appreciate my Sweetie Pea. Some days, my comments are very simple. Other days, there may be a bit more depth. None of my comments took more than a couple minutes to write. Each day, I chose to recall a personality trait, act of kindness or way Rick has made my life special and more meaningful.

This little exercise has taught me how to love and value my Valentine every day of the year; not just on a Hallmark holiday.

Whoever your Valentine might be (spouse, child, parent, special someone), how might you take just a couple minutes and express your love, gratitude and appreciation for them these next 365 days?

Feb. 13
One last day to fill in Rick’s journal before Valentine’s Day tomorrow!


Rick isn’t aware that tomorrow, he will receive this date book filled with my affirmations. Can you please help me keep the secret one more day? He doesn’t read my blog. Often, someone will mention something to him that I’ve shared in this blog. Please feel free to recall this to him … but just after Feb. 15. Thanks so much in advance!

Lord God – thank you for teaching us how to love each other unconditionally. May the way we love and express our love to those who mean the most to us always be rooted and reflect the great love we receive and acknowledge from you.  Amen.

Blessings –


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White as Snow

Mon., Feb. 12, 2018

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  

For the last week, our Wisconsin neighborhood has had a pristine, beautiful new blanket of snow. When the sun is sparkling on the snow, it is simply breath-taking.

Our neighbors, the Hahn’s, are gone for several weeks this winter. They smartly head south and spend time in a warmer climate, avoiding the snow, wind and cold of a normal Wisconsin winter. A couple days ago, I looked out my kitchen window towards the Hahn’s. What I saw was magnifico: an untouched sheet of beautiful winter white snow in the lawn between our houses. Their driveway was completely untouched. There is no need for the snow to be moved while they are absent from the neighborhood. It was late afternoon. The angle of the low sun heightened the gorgeous twinkling of the miniture ice crystals. Literally, my expression was caught in my throat, overwhelmed with the raw beauty.

When I looked down the side of the house, I noticed some filled-in tracks close to the house. I’m not exactly sure what created these small divets in the snow. I didn’t want to disturb this beautiful sight by tromping through the snow to see if I could determine who made the tracks. The pictures I took completely do not serve the sight justice. Yet, I simply did not want to ruin this lovely scene in our yard.

One of my first thoughts after observing this unique scene in our yard: how the snow can be a metaphor for God’s desire to remove sin and shortcoming from our life. One of the mysteries of God is God’s decision to remove sins from our lives simply for the asking. Yes, the sins are bought with a cost: the life of Jesus. Yet, God willingly does this simply for our benefit. No questions asked. The sin is simply gone.

It’s hard to justify walking through the snow and disturbing the lovely scene currently there. It maybe hard for us to envision God giving up his only biological son’s life for our benefit. But God did. My sin life is far less pristine than the narrow strip of land between our and the Hahn’s house. In all of God’s glory, God overlooks all of my shortcomings and loves me anyone. God does the same for you. Thanks be to God.

Almighty God – how you can simply overlook our sin and forgive it is beyond me. But thank you for doing this … purely for my benefit. May I see your desire to wipe my slate clear as something deeply meaningful for me.  Amen.

Blessings –


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