Wednesday Prayer Day – Be Still

Gratitude Day 497

Wed., Aug. 12, 2020

Psalm 46:10 – Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.

Be still.

And know that I am God.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

Yet, being still really isn’t that easy.

Especially during a pandemic.

Should kids go to school or not?

Should there be sports this fall?

Whan an effective vaccine be found?

Be still?

Right.

Rather than honoring God as God, we sit perched on our executive chairs of control. We are SO. SURE. We know what is best for ourselves and everyone around us. And we go out of our way to make sure everyone knows who is in charge.

Listen again.

Be still.

Listen. Hear. Know.

Stop trying to be God. Take over. Be in control.

Instead, let God do God. Take a break. Turn your faces upward and towards God rather than burying them in your cell phones. Whatever it is that is demanding too much, just stop. Organize a stay-cation with the One who is God. Spend  time every day just simply being with God. Reconnect with God’s constant place in your life.

Be still.

Know God.

That’s all.

Amen.

For the reminder to be with You, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Be still. Know that God is God. The end. Amen.  

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Tonight is Devo’s with Dianne – 8 PM on Facebook Live. See you then!

Lessons from COVID-19: How 130 Birthday Cards Can Change A Person’s Life

Gratitude Day 496

Tues., Aug. 11, 2020

Psalm 9:1 – I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I will talk about all your wonderful acts.

Nothing like 130 birthday cards to brighten up a 90-year-old woman.

A few weeks ago, I asked if 90 of my friends would be willing to send a birthday card to my Aunt Beverly. She was turning 90 and of course, her birthday plans had all been canceled because of COVID-19. Having been sequestered to her room at a care facility since March 8, Aunt Beverly was down. Discouraged. Disappointed.

Until the birthday cards started showing up.

At first, there were just a few cards. One day, 13 arrived. A couple days later, she had a total of 22 cards. On the actual day of her birthday, Beverly had 87 birthday cards. From across the United States.

And she was so pleased.

After the cards started arriving, I “called” her for our typical Sunday worship/devotion time. She began our conversation with, “Dianne, what have you done? Why am I getting all these cards? Many of them from Wisconsin?”

There was no getting around it. I had to clue her in about what was happening because hopefully, a lot more cards would be arriving.

And they did.

A few days before her birthday, Aunt Beverly was able to see her son, Steve, for the first time in about four months. It was required that they meet outside. Beverly toted the cards along to show Steve. She was so excited to show them to him.

On the actual day of her birthday, my two friends Mary and Rhoda jo

ined me for a special call to Aunt Beverly. Steve had dropped off bread and juice at the front desk and it had been delivered to Beverly’s room. This allowed for us to have communion together … something Aunt Beverly had not had for months. There was a little hesitation when she couldn’t get the juice bottle open, but she did. It was a special moment when we honored Aunt Bev by celebrating communion together.

While not quite 90 cards arrived by her birthday, I was optimistic there were still some on there way. The cards continued to arrive for about another week. The numbers continued to climb and toppled out at 130.

Aunt Beverly has been completely amazed with all of the cards. She’s looked through them several times. She loves to see the various places from where they came from. It truly has brought so much joy to her life.

Her favorite part? Easy. How many of the cards were addressed to Aunt Beverly. It has tickled her so much how many of the cards where personalized just for her.

Aunt Beverly has requested that I let my friends know how much these cards mean to her. I’m sure you all understand that it’s not really possible for Aunt Beverly to respond to each person individually. She and I hope this group “thank you” will suffice.

Nonetheless, Aunt Bev wants everyone to know how much she has enjoyed your cards. One of the challenges of growing old is outliving your friends. Yes, this is Aunt Bev’s case. Yet, she now feels like she has gained a whole new bunch of friends. From all across the United States.

So, from the bottom of our hearts, “thank you” for making one woman’s day/month/year. Recently, a friend shared with me a news story she saw on national TV. It featured a woman who turned 90 and was in the same situation as Aunt Beverly. In a care facility and unable to celebrate her birthday, she received something like 80 cards.

Well, you guys blew that number out of the park! While Aunt Beverly didn’t make national news, the joy and excitement and pleasure she has received from those cards truly outshines being on national television.

Sometimes it works out that my friends Rhoda and Mary join in for my Sunday devotion/worship time with Aunt Beverly. The three of us called her this last Sunday. It’s been so fun for these ladies develop a friendship with someone new. I’m not sure who feels more special about it: Aunt Beverly or my friends. In the end, it has been so fun to watch how these ladies, who have never physically met, are choosing to become friends as we spend a little time reflecting upon God together.

Here’s my little encouragement for today: please never underestimate the power of a card. Or some little act of kindness. When we choose to do one little thing each day for someone else, I think we would be amazed to observe how our demeanor and feelings about ourselves WILL change. Try it … and find out.

In letting Aunt Beverly have the last word, she specifically wanted to me to thank all of her new “nieces and nephews” from across the United States for remembering her birthday. And she loves you all.

For those willing to help brighten one woman’s life, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – I pray that we NEVER forget how important the little things are. It’s so easy to put all of our time and energy into the seemingly big things. Yet, it’s amazing how doing a little thing every day can profoundly change our attitudes, feelings and outlook. I pray we will find little ways to make a difference every day. Amen.  

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

Just in case you’d like to send Aunt Beverly another card, here’s her address again:

Aunt Beverly Anderson

10200 E Harvard Ave Apt 200

Denver, CO  80231-3946

Simple Things for Saturday

Gratitude Day 495

Sat., Aug. 8, 2020

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight.

A well-known woman shared this week that she is experiencing low-grade depression right now. Whether you agree with her views, please hear her words. She’s struggling and trying to figure it out. She’s made herself very vulnerable. She’s admitting that we all have a point where the angst of what we’re living through right now can be, well, too much.

When I saw the headline and read the first few sentences of a particular news story, an epiphany came over me. I’ve found myself feeling off of late. OK, honestly, like for a few months but more so lately. Yes, I do things. Yet, I find myself flittering away time. I choose easy, low hanging fruit rather than focusing on the really important things. I do the simple, easy, and no-brainer tasks rather than digging deeper and really thinking about various things.

Let me be clear. I’m not depressed. What I’m saying is that things just feel out of whack right now. Making tough decisions just feels harder than normal. Everything seems to take longer. What I have planned for one week keeps rolling into the next week and the following week. Again, and again.

Today, I realized that I’m not sure that I’ve ever really been in a situation quite like this before. Yes, I do things. For the most part, I get the big stuff done. But the new stuff? The dreams I think about? The desire to put myself out there and try something different and new? Things that normally excite me? I lack the desire to dig in and get them done.

When I heard Mrs. Obama’s confession this week, I stopped for a minute. I connected. I realized that some of her words could be my words. I’ve been thinking for days about whether or not to share how I feel in light of this revelation because, well, my situation isn’t dire. Or earth-shattering. Or making a difference whether we have food on the table and a place to live.

I’m not dealing with a dying person. Neither Hubby Rick nor I are unemployed. We’re doing fine and continue to know and believe that we’re some of the least affected people in all of this situation. Still true today.

Yet, I also know things just feel off. Weird. Not normal. I keep praying that my focus will improve. That I will pick something to complete and actually do it. I keep hoping that there will be a little desire within me to make this next week the one when I make a shift back into a more productive mode.

So far, this hasn’t really happened.

And so, I keep bumbling along.

Why am I sharing this? Just in case someone else is bumbling along right now, not quite feeling the way you’d like, please be OK with it. I know that I will have another productive season in my live. I know that we’re living in a time and place that feels and is vastly different from anything we’ve experienced before.

And so, I keep trying to give myself some grace. Space. Permission to let this time be filled with low hanging fruit. And saying this is OK.

Here’s what I’m trying to do right now. Not give up on myself. Trust in the Lord with all my heart. Keep plugging along. Being OK with extra breathing space right now. Knowing that emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically this maybe the best medicine for me right now.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, can we bumble along together?

On a lighter side, here are a few things that I’ve enjoyed recently.

This story. It’s an incredible story about forgiveness. Seriously. Take the time to watch.

Yes, it’s been a month since the 4th of July, but take a minute a listen this song performed by some members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A few orchestra members socially distance on the lawn of a house and cheered up their neighbors. Listen one of John Philips Sousa’s greatest songs.

This book. I read it over a decade ago. Feeling the need for grace in my life, I recently re-read it. It’s interesting to see how society has shifted in the last 10+ years. Yet, there’s still a lot of relevant stuff here about our need for grace and how we view grace with others.

I close today with this. It’s not original to me. I’m not quite sure where it came from. Nonetheless, the message is one that I feel we could all use.

And let’s keep trusting in the Lord. Not rely only on myself. Looking towards God to keep our paths straight.

For a God who doesn’t give up on me, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – thanks for being patient me more so than I am patient with myself. You know what’s going on with me. You know where I’m struggling. Keep present with me. Keep speaking with me. Help me to keep trusting in You. Amen.  

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Lessons from Judging: The Time I Judged at the County Fair

Gratitude Day 494

Mon., Aug. 3, 2020

1 Corinthians 4:4b-5a – Because the Lord is the one who judges me. So don’t judge anything before the right time—wait until the Lord comes.

As a youth, one of the highlights of the summer was participating in the county fair. Held the middle of July, it was a week full of activities, exhibiting, friends, possibly winning some awards and most definitely learning how to lose gracefully.

Each spring, I would go through the entry book and pick out items and classes that I wanted to participate in. In the 10 plus years that I exhibited at our county fair, I tried a variety of projects. Most years, I tackled more projects than I should have. The day before the fair, I would be sewing buttons on my clothing project while something was baking in the oven. We’d still have dairy cattle to clip, sheep to wash and produce to pick out of the garden. It was always a mad dash and rush, along with some very strategic organizing, to get everything to the fairgrounds and entered.

Yet, it was always a memorable week. My paternal grandparents always made the trip for Iowa and warmed the bleachers while my siblings and I showed sheep and dairy cattle. We took turns working in the food stand and participating in various programs. As a young 4-Her, I learned character when earning a ribbon that wasn’t blue and a class winner.

This past week, I was invited back to participate in the Eau Claire Summer Showcase. This was county fair week where I grew up, slightly renamed because, well, pulling off a county fair during a pandemic is challenging.

With significant modifications and regular consultation with the county health department and parks and recreation department (who oversees the grounds where the fair is located), the fair was not a typical county fair. The Summer Showcase was closed to the public. Needing to limit the number of physical bodies on the grounds, organizers strategically developed a schedule limiting the number of people while giving youth an opportunity to present their projects. Items were disinfected regularly and all kinds of other precautions were implemented and carried out. For example, breeding animals were only on the grounds the day they were exhibited.

Months before COVID-19, I was asked to judge at the fair. Trying to limit exposure, participating judges were asked if they would be so kind to judge additional departments. This is why I judged food, food preservation, houseplants, cut flowers, some Exploring projects as well as the dairy cattle.

On the day Hubby Rick and I drove to the fair, we discussed judging. Because I’ve had my projects evaluated and previously serving as a judge, I empathize with those who feel a project has been evaluated differently than anticipated. Sometimes, we’re disappointed. Other times, we surprised with the results.

Clearly, “judging” is very subjective. What I like and prefer maybe very be different from another’s opinion. As I pick winners and champions, it feels very subjective. In a normal fair situation, youth may be present to hear comments and reasons for placings. In a COVID-19 fair, it became extremely important to me that feedback be provided on a comment card. During the dairy cattle show, I tried to explain to every youth my reasons behind the choices, making the show educational as well as a learning opportunity.

In the last few days, I’ve thought often about what it means to be a “judge.” Am I qualified? Can I appropriately explain my opinions and give others permission to have their own opinion? Will I be consistent? Will youth walk away from this experience feeling like they gained knowledge or learned something new? Can we have fun and make this a great experience, even during a pandemic?

It’s humbling to be asked to judge. Yet, I find myself judging other people and situations outside of a fair situation ALL. THE. TIME. I elect myself judge and jury about a situation where I may or may not know all the details. I expect grace for myself and justice for everyone else. I often assume that my opinions are best, right and can explain my reasons why.

Paul wrote in a letter to the church at Corinth to be careful about judging. “The Lord is the one who judges,” writes Paul. Wait until the Lord comes to judge, he continues. God will search the secret purposes of people’s hearts.

Yes, this sounds judgmental on God’s part. Often, it is read this way. Yet, I see SO. MUCH. GRACE. in God. At the end of the day, I think God has a much clearer perspective on judging than I do. Thank goodness.

Part of participating in a county fair, as well as many other situations, IS to receive feedback on something that we do. If we’re honest, there’s a part inside of each one of us that yearns for positive feedback. We want to hear all the good we do and skip over the yucky stuff. For the young gal whose heifer was not cooperating during the dairy show yesterday, I assured her that the first year I showed cattle, I stood at the bottom of a class. While difficult in the moment, it was a moment that I learned something about myself. I discovered that I need grace for myself … just as much as I need to extend grace to others.

I certainly do not have the whole judgement deal figured out. It’s a topic that I go back to and never quite get it solved. This week, I realized this is OK. When I try to be the one who is the ultimate judge, then I’ve lost sense of Whose I am. Yes, I can express my opinion about things and even share my reasons. At times, I am asked to render my opinion. But ultimately? I need to let God remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to judging. And so many other things.

For a not-so-gentle reminder about judging, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – Please forgive me for the many, many times that I felt my judging was so much better than Your ability to judge or someone else’s. Keep right in my heart that You are the ultimate judger; not me. May I respect and honor this in my life. Amen.  

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The Time We Had Unexpected Visitor

Gratitude Day 493

Wed., July 29, 2020

Matthew 9:10-11 – While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Yesterday, we had an unexpected visitor at our house.

Not a two-legged version. No, a four-legged version.

Rick called it a ground squirrel. Our neighbor lady called it a mole. I call it a rodent that needed to return outside.

Bigger than a chipmunk, he wasn’t terribly big and had a tail. Quite honestly, when I saw him move, he zipped rather fast, which was just fine with me.

Hubby Rick is back to work, which means he gets home around sun-up and goes to bed. Late morning when he awoke, he asked me where the mouse traps are. Not sure we have any, I asked why he wanted one. “Something’s been chewing on the manual for the dehumidifier in the basement,” was his reply.

Within the next hour, he announced that our new resident was NOT a mouse but something bigger. With the basement door open to our first floor, our little buddy became brave enough that he’d found his way onto the main floor of the house. Rick saw him scoot by.

So now, what are we going to do?

Rick wasn’t sure exactly where he went. Behind the fridge? The stove? Under the door and into the downstairs bedroom? We wasn’t sure.

We have an exceptionally large two-piece buffet that is original too the house. Both our visitor and I were surprised when I quickly saw him as I peaked behind the buffet. There is a hot water radiator used to heat the house also behind the buffet. He quickly hid behind the radiator, not sure what to do next.

Fortunately, the buffet is in a little room just beyond the rear entrance of our house. It would be a quick and easy exit for him … if he headed the right direction. Not wanting him to escape back into the main area of the house, Rick blocked the possible alternative routes while I made sure he stayed behind the buffet. Soon, he was squeaking at us. I’m not sure if he was hungry, scared or simply wanting attention. At least we knew he was still behind the buffet. Using a broom, Rick kicked him out from behind the water radiator. He came around the door and fortunately, headed towards the light and out the back door.

Whew! Disaster averted. We plan on being gone the rest of the week and certainly DID NOT want him hanging out inside the house while we were gone. We could imagine the damage that he could do.

Of course, all the while we were trying to coax him back outside, Rick and I were discussing HOW he got into the house. We think he came in through a basement window that has had outside access. Clearly, the window must be closed while we are gone.

More than once, Jesus ended up at a house during his public ministry and not everyone was so sure he should have been at the house where he was. He had just called Matthew, a tax collector, to join his inner circle of friends who were also identified as his disciples. Now, a tax collector was not always the most honest of people in first century Jewish culture. Basically, a tax collector would charge whatever he thought he could get out of a family for taxes. A portion went to the Roman government and the rest? Well, the tax collector pocketed for himself as his income. The more pressure a tax collector could enforce upon people while paying their taxes, the more lucrative the position would be.

This made tax collectors less than model citizens and certainly not the most admired of folks by the local church leaders. The church leaders are appalled that Jesus not only asked Matthew, a known swindler of a taxpayer, to join his inner group. Jesus also accepted an invitation to his house for dinner. A double whammy.

None of this bothered Jesus. He went ahead with his plan to call Matthew and demonstrate for everyone that sinners were acceptable and expected within God’s kingdom.

He was a lot more forgiving of who was in the same house as him than I was with our little rodent friend. I felt quite like a Pharisee wanting to chase the little guy out of Dodge and make sure he wasn’t getting into my things.

Yes, I know the situations are different. I am fully aware that this little guy isn’t the Son of God and really needs to return to his natural habitat.

Yet, I know that regularly, it’s SO. EASY. for me to judge others, just like the Pharisees. I question whether or not someone deserves the unlimited amount of grace that God extends each one of us or wonder if God should grant me an extra dose of grace, whether I deserve it or not. I look at what things how I want them and assume I know best. Whereas Jesus saw things I could see and was aware of more going on in a situation than I ever will be.

I pray that we can be more accepting of others, much like Jesus. Be open to see and hear and observe how someone with a significantly different background is loved just like we are.

I pray we see ourselves more as agents of grace than enforcers of the law.

Grace wins over law every time. Let’s remember this the next time we have an uninvited visitor into our lives.

For lessons that can teach us well today, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – may You open my fear to be comforted by You. Help me accept that Your kingdom is much richer than I can ever imagine. Amen.  

It’s Wednesday which means it’s Devos with Dianne tonight at 8 PM CT o Facebook live. See you then!  

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As Wheat Harvest Draws Near …

Gratitude Day 489

Mon., July 20, 2020

John 12:24 – Let me make this clear: A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies. Because then it sprouts and produces a great harvest of wheat—all because one grain died.

Recently, Hubby Rick and I were driving through the countryside. As normal, Rick is scouting the crops. Is corn tasseling? Are there water puddles in the fields? How close is the wheat to harvesting?

It’s the last one – wheat harvesting – that brings back a variety of memories in this last half of July. Rick’s Dad, Tony, loved to grow winter wheat. In the years that I knew Tony, getting the wheat harvested was always a busy and slightly stressful wheat for the Vielhubers.

Truth? It was more than just one week that occupied lots of chatter about wheat harvest. It began in the fall when the wheat was planted. In the spring, maybe the wheat would need spraying or fertilizer. As the heads began to turn golden, Tony began calling the local co-op, daily, inquiring what the local price was for a bushel of wheat. I’m sure the folks at the co-op would look at their caller id and know exactly why Tony was calling.

The decision about when to harvest includes more than just the price. Another important factor is the test weight of the wheat. This is influenced by how much water the wheat plant is retaining. There’s a magic test weight window, in which the wheat isn’t too weight or too dry. This often becomes the deciding factor of just when wheat is harvested.

The last number of years, Tony’s grandson, Andy combined the wheat. Rick would get the wagons lined up to offload the wheat from the combine. Rick and Tony drove the wagons down to the co-op where it would be determined how many bushels of wheat there were as well as the test weight. After the wheat grains were harvest, the combine left the shafts or steams of the wheat in the field. These would be baled into straw, which was sold and used for bedding for animals.

The last number of years Tony grew wheat, Rick found himself handling more of the responsibilities involved in harvesting; all in between his work shifts. He would work all night, get a couple of hours of sleep in the early morning, only to be awoken by Tony because the combine was hitting the field and someone would need to drive the wagons the couple miles to town to the co-op. Tony would drive some of the wagons. But as he neared 90-years-old, how often he drove the wagons behind his little John Deere tractor became a concern.

Then, there was getting the neighbor to bale the straw into large round bales and get the bales delivered to whomever purchased them. If Tony’s decades old truck wasn’t working quite right, Rick would line-up someone else to haul the straw and that it would be safely delivered. Every year, it seemed there would be a few hick-ups along the way, as is often the situation with field work. Every year, Rick would confide and say, “This is the last year Dad is going to raise wheat,” knowing that when fall came, it would be so very difficult for Rick to not fill the drill with wheat seed and make sure it got planted. Come fall, the wheat that Tony held back for next year’s seed would find its way into the ground so it would grow into next year’s wheat crop.

One grain of wheat in a bag in the shed really isn’t extremely helpful. Basically, the seed dies when it is harvested, and it stops growing. But when the seed is put back into the ground and is watered, it begins to grow once again. The seed sprouts little leaves when creep out of the ground and the whole process of growing new plants repeats once again.

Our faith, Jesus says, is a lot like this wheat seed. Faith can become stale. Nonresponsive. Dead. Just like the wheat seed, it needs some water, encouragement, heat, and light for little leaves to sprout back to life. Sometimes the dead seed stays like this for a while; just like seed stuck in the shed. Until WE decide to take some steps to bring it back to life, it can and will remain dormant.

When our seed of faith goes dormant, we often blame God. “Where are You?” we plead with God. “You didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted … so I’m going to pout.” Or “Why do I have to do all the work or wait for You? Can’t you see I’m on a timetable?” we plead.

But then again, God’s timetable is not our timetable. Maybe our prayer was answered … and we didn’t like the answer. So instead of acknowledging it, we simply ignore it. Quite honestly, when we don’t feel close to God, it’s not God that did the moving. We did.

If you feel your faith is parched, dry and on the verge of dying, check yourself. Have you been watering your spiritual soul with regular doses of prayer? Are you finding opportunities to worship God in some small way every day? Are you looking for God in consistent scripture reading?

Are you depending only upon your own ideas and wisdom, assuming you know better than God?

Honestly, it’s really OK when our seed souls feel far from God. I find that often, best growth happens when I haven’t felt awfully close to God. Even in the near-death times of our seeds of faith, I pray we don’t give up on God. Be disappointed. Be hurt. Be angry. But please, don’t turn completely way. Instead, find a new or consistent way to keep even a little bit of nourishment going towards your seed of faith. And as you journey through this time of disappointment, keep looking for God. You might be amazed at what happens.

For the lesson from wheat near harvest, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – as we see so many wheat fields a beautiful golden brown, may we recall Jesus’ words about keeping ourselves close to God. Even if our faith is feeling a little tired and distracted, may we keep searching for You. Amen.

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The Time the Microwave Needed Fixing

Gratitude Day 488

Fri., July 17, 2020

Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

The glass jar stood perched on the counter right inside the main entry door into the house. It was summer. Days were filled with baling hay, picking peas and beans from the garden, and training sheep and calves for the county fair. The jar was a constant reminder that the microwave in the kitchen was no longer in working order.

It was the summer after I graduated from high school. I had picked up a mid-day waitressing job, which allowed me to help with chores in the morning, work my shift and then be back home for afternoon milking. As I entered the house with an pocketed black apron still tied around my waist, I dropped the coins acquired from tips in the jar. Bills were saved for college.

This same summer, my younger sister picked strawberries. She added money from her earnings into the jar as well. Other coins and a few bills slowly began to cushion the bottom of the jar. Mom added a few coins. Dad dropped in the change found in his pocket. Every once in a while, someone would count the money just to see how close we were to acquiring enough money to fix the broken microwave.

It was awfully slow going. Would we ever get enough money to fix the microwave?

Years earlier, Mom received the microwave as a Christmas gift when microwaves were relatively new. On the farm, her the family felt the microwave would speed up meal prep for Mom. Mom was less than impressed with the purchase, which felt like a huge luxury at the time. Maybe she thought her cooking skills would be dumbed down by a machine that could melt butter in 90 seconds.

When our local high school offered microwave cooking classes, Mom signed up. Food actually could be prepared in the microwave. She embraced ways to cook favorites in considerably less time.

Yes, some foods were best not prepared in the microwave. Dad didn’t like crunchy vegetables which never got soft in the microwave. Baking was tricky. By the time dough was cooked in the center, the outsides were beyond crispy.

When the microwave stopped working that summer, everyone was dependent upon it. We made popcorn on Saturday evenings and used it to thaw meat. My dad’s culinary skills extended only to making toast. But he could heat up water for instant coffee.

As much as we wanted the microwave fixed, we were keenly aware funds were not available. I’m not sure how much money we needed. It might as well have been $10,000.

That’s when the glass jar became stationed right inside the door. Optimistic we could quickly collect the needed money, days turned into weeks, which turned into months. In the kitchen, the microwave collected dust.

My paternal grandparents always spent the week of our county fair in Wisconsin. While my sister and I put the finishing touches on our fair projects, Grandma Deaton inquired about the jar on the counter. Someone filled her in about the broken microwave. A check was added to the jar. Our grandparents anted up the funds to get the microwave fixed.

You would have thought we had just won the lottery.

Today, when something breaks at our house, if it is something we depend upon or needs replacing, Hubby Rick or I go and buy it. Yes, we discuss whether or not it needs replacing. I may look online for costs. But if we think we need it, we get it. We don’t put a jar on the counter and deposit coins or bills as we enter the house.

At the time, the microwave broke, my parents were experiencing significant financial burdens. Our entire family knew it. We had each taken on a way to bring in additional income. Mom worked off the farm. The kids had summer jobs. An occasional trip to the root beer stand for a float after chores was a huge splurge. We ordered the kiddie or momma sizes because the daddy size was way too expensive.

After four months of a pandemic that has financially hit some families significantly, there are families who look at their monthly bills and the coins left in their checking account and wonder how rent or mortgage will be paid next month. They wonder if they should pay their cell phone bill or go to the grocery store. These are real discussions.

If you are one of those families whose coins have been emptied out and you are not sure what to do next, here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit your local food pantry. This is why we have them. Use them. DO. NOT. BE. ASHAMED.
  • Call the businesses you cannot fulfill your financial obligation and talk with them. Don’t ignore the bills. Be proactive.
  • Prioritize your expenses. Wait on anything that is not absolutely necessary, i.e. – microwave.
  • Be creative. Think outside the box. Are there things you can liquidate? Opportunities to bring in even a small amount of income?

If you are doing OK and maybe even have a little extra, what can you do?

  • Think through your family and friends. Is someone struggling and too proud to ask for help? There are ways you can help. Send gift cards, have groceries show up at their house, etc.
  • Aid in a non-financial way. Watch children, drive somewhere, take over extra food from your house.
  • If you aren’t sure who to help, inquire through a non-profit, church, or other organization. Leadership are often aware of folks who need assistance. You will probably not know who receives the assistance. Be OK with this.
  • Whether you are a person feeling anxious about your current financial situation OR wondering how you to share blessings, begin by turning to God. No one at our house expected our grandparents to provide the resources to get the microwave across the finish line. They saw a need … and helped out. They were inspired to do so.

Look for inspiration to do the same. Share your heart with God. Let God carry your burden with you. Together, you and God will figure this out.

For God’s desire to carry our burdens with us, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – be with those who are struggling financially right now. Open their hearts for help. Bring someone into their lives who can share the burden. May we always turn to You first for inspiration and guidance. Amen.

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Lessons from COVID-19: Ministry In Your Own Back Yard

Gratitude Day 486

Tues., July 14, 2020

Acts 1:8 – (Jesus said,) “Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We’ve watched so much happen in the last four months; things we could have never anticipated or expected even five months ago. When these unforeseen events happen, it’s easy to look for someone else to “fix” these challenging situations; even the ones in our own back yard. Yet, sometimes, we’re the ones called to help with the “fixing.”  

Meet Jackie Goplin. Jackie is many things.

She’s a wife and a Mom to Brad and Julie. She’s a farmer, with her husband Eric and son Brad, who is the sixth generation to farm on their family dairy farm. She’s active in her local church, where she serves as music director and financial secretary. Along with her husband, she’s produced and directed 20 community musicals. They hope they can complete their 21st production that was canceled because of COVID-19. She’s a retired high school music teacher. In fact, my connection to Jackie goes back a few decades when she was my high school band director.  

It’s her most recent title that got my attention and caused me to reconnect with Jackie after many, many years. She’s one of those “fixers” that has bridged two important components of their local community, kids and dairy farmers, and sought to support both through this pandemic.

As soon as schools shut down during the pandemic, providing food to students and families that rely on free and reduced breakfast and lunch became imperative for local communities. Across the United States, dairy producers were asked to dump their highly crafted raw milk because processing facilities did not have immediate demand for this perishable product. With schools and restaurants closed, dairy processing plants found themselves with millions of pounds of milk that were no longer needed until alternative ways of processing the milk could be established.

Jackie and her family farm near Osseo, WI, a very rural community. Jackie taught down the road at the Whitehall School District for 22 years. The Goplin’s attend Peace Lutheran Church of Pigeon Falls. With milk processing facilities in nearby towns, word quickly spread about the possibility of these processing facilities having to ask their patrons to dump milk.

Step in Jackie and a few of her friends. Beth Stay attends the same church as Jackie. Convicted that there must be something that could be done, Beth approached Pastor Mary Ann Bowman. Pastor Mary Ann quickly brought Jackie into the conversation because, well, she and her family are dairy farmers.

The duo were inspired by Rich Miller, a milk hauler from Ellsworth, WI, who personally contributed $5,000 to buy cheese curds and donate them to local food pantries. His donation was quickly doubled and allowed Ellsworth Creamery from having to ask dairy producers to dump milk.

Jackie and her friends modified their response and created a program called Curds for Kids which provides cheese curds to families in several school districts within Trempealeau and Clark counties. Curds for Kids includes cheese curds with the free food distribution that school districts coordinate for families within their districts. During the school year, six school districts included cheese curds in their food packages. Over the summer, four districts have continued to include cheese curds in their weekly distributions.

How the food is distributed to families varies depending on the school district. Some schools send buses to families each week. Other school districts partner with local food pantries. In other areas, families come to the school and pick-up their packages. Curds for Kids works with each school food service department to accommodate their system in supplying the cheese curd portion of the food boxes.

Curds for Kids was truly started on a wing and a prayer. Known as a very generous and community minded congregation, Peace Lutheran Church of Pigeon Falls provided the initial funds to kick-start the program. Jackie, Beth, and Pastor Mary Ann leveraged local TV stations, spread the word via social media and contacted Feed My People in Eau Claire, WI, which has non-profit status. Feed My People partnered with Curds for Kids from the beginning and is the financial arm of the organization. They handle collecting funds and paying expenses, which allows the volunteers to focus their time and attention on coordinating the program as well as raising funds.

Amazingly, Curds for Kids raised $20,000 in about ten days, which allowed the program to know it would be able to provide cheese curds through the end of the school year. Since April 15th, Curds for Kids has provided 15,000 1-lb. packages of cheese curds to students. Several company sponsors have made very generous contributions which has allowed the program to continue into the summer. One of Jackie’s former students had t-shirts made and is currently in the third round of selling them. Another former student held a concert and raised money. Through lots of personal contact to local businesses, Curds for Kids raised about $50,000 to support their curd distribution.

Much to the organizer’s surprise, they also received another generous $15,000 donation from Returning the Favor. Hosted and coordinated by Mike Rowe, who is best known for his television series, Dirty Jobs, Returning the Favor reached out to Jackie and Beth this spring. After several virtual meetings with producers, Returning the Favor surprised Jackie and Beth with their donation mid-June. Pastor Mary Ann helped coordinate the announcement, which included a cow boasting the financial contribution and lots of area folks driving by and celebrating. Returning the Favor’s donation cemented cheese curd donations for the rest of the summer.

Curds for Kids has brought these rural communities together in so many ways. It provides a healthy food source for kids as well as continues to support local dairy farmers; many which are family farms that have a huge financial imprint within these communities. It allows for continued dairy product promotion and education. The partnerships between the school districts, plants that produce the cheese curds and the volunteers demonstrates how folks working together CAN make a difference.

Spiritually, Curds for Kids provided the church and its congregants a way to help others through a pandemic. As volunteers work together for a good cause, they see cheese curds as a new way of evangelism and doing good works within their community.  

Personally, Jackie found herself idle at the beginning of the pandemic. Normally, she would have been working at school three days a week. Now, she uses those hours to help others and fill a gap that quickly came to light at the beginning of the pandemic.

What is the future for Curds for Kids? The organizers continue to figure this out as they go along. Currently, they are working with food service staff to see if cheese curds can be part of the regular food service offerings. Will they keep distributing 1-lb. packages of cheese curds for students to take home as well? It all depends on their financial backing. “We’ll keep handing out cheese curds until we run out of money,” Jackie says.

So often when we think of Jesus’ directive to share the gospel with others, we assume it’s someone else’s responsibility. Or that it requires going on a mission trip to a place far, far away. Jackie and her friends are a reminder that God calls everyone of us to serve in God’s kingdom right in our own backyard. Thank you for accepting this call, Jackie. We pray that the curd ministry continues for many months ahead.

To donate to Curds for Kids, please go to Feed My People and click on the Donate Now button.

To watch the Returning the Favor announcement, please click here. The Curds for Kids portion begins at 5:00.

For those willing to do ministry in their own back yard, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Thank you for the Spirit’s presence in Jackie, Beth, and Pastor Mary Ann their willingness to be the fixers within their community. May their story inspire others to do the same. Amen.

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And Then the Four Weeks Were Gone …

Gratitude Day 485

Fri., July 10, 2020

Judges 15:19a – So God split open the hollow rock in Lehi, and water flowed out of it. When Samson drank, his energy returned and he was recharged.

A short four weeks ago, Hubby Rick began his four-week Sabbatical from his job. In just two days, he will resume driving truck four nights a week.

Clearly, he’s a little sad to be going back to work. A self-proclaimed sun worshipper, he has not complained once about the heat and humidity of the last number of days. Instead, he takes three showers a day and may even go for a bike ride during the most brutal timeslot of the day. His silver white hair contrasts quite loudly with his deeply browned skin. He knows the chances of him dealing with melanoma in some future date are much higher than most other folks.

While on Sabbatical, Rick has gladly accepted opportunities to do “mission” work for other folks. Sometimes I tagged along. Other times, he loaded up his tools and put in hours helping someone with a project. While his project list at home is shorter, it is not wiped cleaned. And we’re both OK with this. Rick is an extremely hard worker. Yet, he also appreciates time to enjoy things that he loves: a long walk, fishing in his kayak, both of us dipping our paddles into the water on the same adventure, wearing out the tires on his bike, hitting golf balls and keeping our lawn, garden and landscaping in tip-top shape.

Some nights, he grilled dinner. Other days, I made meals. We don’t keep a strict meal schedule and may find ourselves searching the refrigerator on our own when our tummies are grumbling. We enjoyed a couple short get-a ways with just the two of us and had planned days with grandchildren, which often involved some sort of water activity.

During these last four weeks, I know that I spent too much time in my office whereas Rick spent endless hours outside. Sometimes when I walked downstairs to replenish my water bottle, I’d discover him taking an afternoon siesta on the couch, recharging himself for his next round of activity.

Rick and I are night and day. Ying and yang. Mary and Martha. Planning in advance for Rick is a couple hours whereas I would have loved to make a list of everything we wanted to do while he was on Sabbatical. Hopefully, I was wise enough to realize this was not MY Sabbatical; it was Rick’s. And I must give him space to do what he wanted to do and not purely what I had in mind.

He never tires of reminding me how much he LOVES the summer and how every day is truly a gift from God. Rick has a light and giving heart and maximized these qualities the last four weeks.

One of Rick’s qualities that I admire the most is his ability to find joy EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. He has the art of seeing good in most every everything he encounters. He needs no recognition and simply quietly goes about his business with the ultimate goal to bring happiness and joy to someone else.

Of the qualities that I struggle, Rick seems to have in abundance. Clearly two opposites attracting, some of his Mary-ness has rubbed off on my Martha-ness that focuses too much on getting things done. He is a living parable that daily reminds me to focus on those things which truly mean the most to me … and forget about the rest.

With this little glimpse into what retirement might look like for us, I enjoyed watching Rick thrive in this Sabbatical. It’s certainly an encouragement for me to be less tied to what I THINK must happen versus paring down to what MUST be done each day.

For Rick’s time of Sabbatical, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Thank you for this time when Rick can refresh. Thank you for the variety of ways he has served others through mission work. I pray that You bless his return to work. Amen.

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Lessons from COVID-19: Navigating Change When the World Has Changed

Gratitude Day 483

Tues., July 7, 2020

Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Have you felt a little overwhelmed with all the stuff going on right now?

The last four months have ushered in SO. MUCH. CHANGE in our lives.

Change.

Some people love it.

Some people loathe it.

We’ve ALL been experiencing lots and lots of change lately. A lot of this change is out of our control. Navigating consistent change can be too much; especially when it feels like it happens almost daily.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (WDACTP) has put together a podcast series that addresses recognizes how challenging all this change can be. Their podcast, Rural Realities, provides helpful information for all people, whether you live in a rural area or not.

I love it when I have the opportunity to partner with a group of people who are genuinely interested in helping other folks. When I was asked to be part of Rural Realities, I didn’t hesitate. If something I share would help one person, well, I wanted to be a part of this.

The Rural Realities podcast includes information about a variety of topics related to recent changes and agriculture. My podcast addresses how we can deal with all of these changes internally. I would love for you to listen along and let me know what you think! Please feel free to share the podcast with someone you know who might be struggling right now.

Here’s the link:https://datcp.buzzsprout.com/1160120?fbclid=IwAR3woZ8uvQdD47zayxoUcNMlC1T-lfJubyq63-iLq1Xrw9Xp9Je7IFDurlw

It is so easy to become overwhelmed with life these days. Let’s not try and go it alone. If you are feeling like everything is too much, please reach out to someone. We all have change limits. When we reach our limit, it’s best to say, “I need help.” I can’t fix anyone’s problems … but I will listen. And I pray we remember the One who will be strong and courageous with us when we’re feeling down, overwhelmed or out of our league.

For those who have listened to me when I felt overwhelmed, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – some days, things may feel OK. And then, another day, everything feels like it is just too much. Help us to know when we need help. Assistance. A listening ear. May we not go it alone but reach out. Amen.

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