Gratitude Day 168 – Unwrapping Christmas

Sat., Dec. 1, 2018

Matthew 2:11 – The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

As you read the following quote, please note the year it was written:

“Twenty-five years ago, Christmas was not the burden that it is now. There was less haggling and weighing, less quid pro quo, less fatigue of body, less wearing of soul; and most of all, there was less loading up with trash.”

–  Meredith Deland in Harper’s Bazaar, 1904

Can you imagine what Meredith Deland might say today if she observed some of our Christmas traditions? Might she be even more appalled?

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In the last years, I have tried to unwrap Christmas and refocus on the true meaning of what I feel Christmas is: the birth of a baby that became the Savior of the world. Yes, it’s hard to give up those traditions which we have embodied for years. (True confession: I ordered Christmas cards again this year. A lot of them, even though I keep thinking I’m going to edit this whole deal. So, I send them out again because LOVE hearing from people that I often do not see.) I will bake our favorite cookies. But there are areas where I try to pull back the glitzy wrapping paper and get to the true heart of Christmas.

One way I do this is how I approach gift-giving. I’m not trying to convince anyone to stop giving gifts to people they love. I encourage us to be more thoughtful in how we go about gift-giving.

To help spur us into why reconsidering gift-giving, look at these statistics:

53.1% of people report receiving unwanted gifts during Christmas. This amounts to $16 billion of unwanted gifts every year. (What COULD be done with this money?!) Reports indicate 18% of gifts are never used and 4% of gifts are immediately thrown into the trash.

This speaks nothing of overspent Christmas budgets. Or how one-quarter of Americans are still paying off last year’s gifts.

What are we to do? How can we reframe Christmas gift-giving into something more meaningful? Can we stop buying for those who really don’t need or want a gift? Can find joy in other ways?

Here are a few suggestions to help us unwrap Christmas:

  • Stop purchasing gifts for those who don’t need or want a gift. Choose alternative ways to celebrate. For many of us, if we “need” something, we find a way to get it. “Waiting” until Christmas for a special gift happens less often. From the beginning of our marriage, Hubby Rick and I agreed NOT to purchase each other Christmas gifts. Rather, we make contributions towards families who have a need. Last week, Rick announced that he had completed his Christmas shopping. A young driver that Rick works with will soon begin his second round of cancer treatment. The co-drivers collected money and gave it to him at Thanksgiving. I’m confident my “Christmas” present is important to this family that has young children. Each year, Rick and I pick families and given them a little extra cash at the holidays. The cards and letters back from these families have made us cry. In subsequent years, often these same families have paid forward our gift to another family in need. Rick and I love giving these gifts as our presents.

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  • Wrap up special and funny family items and turn it into a gift exchange. This is my FAVORITE way we have unwrapped Christmas. My nieces and nephews would agree. For the last several years, I have put together the Deaton family gift exchange. I wrap up items from our family. Some are special and meaningful, i.e. – my Dad’s dog tags. Others are quite silly – the 4-H songbook when my siblings and I used to go Christmas caroling to shut-ins. I include little stories with the items. At our Deaton Christmas, we open these gifts in an orchestrated way. The process has become so special I’ve had to create “rules.” To learn more about how we do this, read my post about the Winnebago camper, the highly coveted gift in last year’s exchange. Family members repeated tell me: DON’T STOP doing the Deaton family gift exchange. This event special because it has also become a way we pass family history and stories from generation to generation.
  • Make a gift. Last year, I made a crayon wall hanging for our granddaughter, Ellie. After she opened it, I realized her brothers felt disappointed they didn’t receive something like this. This year, I am making presents for our three youngest grandkids. Being crafty is not a requirement. I still have the shelf my Dad made for each of his kids one Christmas. My sister-in-law Linda gives us canned goods from her garden each year.
  • Make a donation to charity. While Charitable Tuesday is past, I am confident charities will still accept donations. It can be a monetary gift or an in-kind gift. Take your children or grandchildren shopping and let them pick out items to donate. Our local food pantry is encouraging people to donate toiletries this Advent. Blankets, pj’s, coats (new or gently used) – there’s always a need.

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  • Make a birthday box for Jesus. I will share this calendar during kid’s time at church on Sunday and encourage their families to make a birthday box for Jesus. They can give the box to a family in need or bring it to Christmas Eve worship, where it can be donated to the local food pantry.
  • Memorable “silly” presents. We do this with our grandkids and Rick’s kids. I wrap items from the Dollar Store or other silly items in little gifts bags. We take turns opening these bags and seeing what silly thing is inside. There is always exchanging after we’re done, because who wants pink bifocals other than Grandpa? The kids talk about the oranges, apples, flarp, and goofy mustaches they got at our Christmas celebrations.
  • Plan a special outing. Pick something you can do together: sledding or ice skating, a movie, bake cookies and deliver to neighbors or something else that you come up with. We’ve stayed overnight at a hotel with a waterpark with our grandkids and nephews in lieu of more presents. Create a tradition which focuses on something other giving gifts and expresses how special our loved ones are.

Yes, I am buying a few Christmas presents. It’s hard to completely get away from this, especially when kids or grandkids are involved. I’ve watched our grandkids count how many packages each received and compared with each other. When this happens, this as an opportunity to unwrap why we give gifts at Christmas.

The wise men didn’t show up empty-handed at the stable. While their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh seemed unpractical for a baby, their symbolism was powerful; then and now. Giving gifts can be very powerful and positive. Maybe we just need to unwrap how and why we give them this Christmas season.

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For the chance to unwrap Christmas and focus on heart-felt gift giving, I am grateful.

Holy God – unfortunately, we’ve taken the concept of giving gifts, represented by the wise men, and often turned it into something driven by consumerism and unrealistic expectations. May we be inspired to unwrap Christmas in a new way this year. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 167 – What I Learned in November

Fri., Nov. 30, 2018

Ecclesiastes 11:8 – No matter how many years anyone might live, let them enjoy all of them.

The days maybe long but long but the years are short.

I’m not sure who came up with this quote. But I feel like this is my life.

Actually, I feel like the days AND the years are short.

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This is why at the end of the last few months, I’ve sat down with my calendar and looked it over. What have I learned the last 30 or so days? What is something that I want to remember and keep close to my heart? Then, I’ve taken those little thoughts and turned them into something to share. Why? I hope it encourages us all to stop with a cup of coffee, tea or favorite beverage and reflect.

So, what have I learned during November? Here we go!

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  • The motto for my life maybe truly be: jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. Every day seems so different. One day, I’m officiating a wedding. The next day, I’m playing taxi for a friend. A couple days later, I’m helping plan a community harvest dinner because I’ve double-booked myself and will be in Louisville, KY helping show and transport sheep instead of cooking in Wisconsin during the dinner. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a little bit of information about a whole lot of different things. Maybe you’ve noticed this on my blog! Does it seem like I have ADHD when it comes to blogging??!! My point is this: I’m confident God takes us on this wonderful journey of life. Sometimes, we may go through or experience something that doesn’t make complete sense at the time. Somehow, everything will get pulled back together and make sense … in God’s time. For now, I strap on a seat belt and enjoy the ride!

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  • I tried something new this month: A Paint Nite! Lacking the crafty gene, I still signed-up for an opportunity to paint a sign. I’ve hung the sign in our beautifully remodeled bathroom. Here it is. Doesn’t the sign’s black background looks stunning in our grey, white and black bathroom? On the day I participated in this Paint Nite, I signed up for another one! Yikes! Another group of friends invited me. I just couldn’t say no.

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  • When we moved into our current 110-year-old house, the relator told us we were moving onto one of the best neighborhoods of our little town. She’s right. Several times in the last months, Hubby Rick and I have hosted neighborhood get-togethers. Mid-November, we hosted another one. Our great neighborhood is changing! Several couples and people have lived here for years. Literally, years. These couples have known each A LONG time. Then, there is Rick and I. We’ve lived here 3+ years. We’re younger than the old-timers but much older than the three mid-to-late 20ish couples who have purchased homes on our street. While we cover different generations and have unique perspectives, when we get together, we truly have a great evening. We eat, chat, discover new things about each other and all leave with smiles on our faces. Sometimes, we need to get up from behind our computer, tablets, phones and TV’s and have real conversations with neighbors. Try it. Maybe you’ll discover some new things and people! Our neighborhood is planning another gathering for January!

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  • Right after Thanksgiving, Rick and I enjoyed a couple quiet days at home. We didn’t do a lot. One morning, we actually sat in bed with our laptops. A couple years ago, I would have never imagined my non-tech-savy hubby would be doing this. While I was catching up on e-mail, Hubby Rick was watching YouTube videos about installing bathroom tile. We are in the middle of building a new master bathroom. And trying to make it quite nice. While Rick has installed tile before, he is feeling out of his comfort zone with the tile I’ve picked out. Anyways … those couple quiet days WERE WONDERFUL. Simply blissful. After leaving the house sparingly, I convinced Rick to go somewhere Saturday night. We went to Pizza Hut for the salad bar. We are officially boring. There were a lot of things I could have tackled. And I did some things. I also decided if I’m going to put some Mary into my life, Ms. Martha needs to chill once in a while. Amazingly, she did. And she liked it. There will be enough opportunity for things to fill our days, nights and weekends in the next few weeks. For those couple of days, I tried not to feel guilty about a slower pace.

Before you become occupied with your Christmas to-do list, take a minute. The years are short. Sometimes, the days feel even shorter. What was something meaningful you discovered in November? Reflect. Enjoy. Savor.

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For opportunities to reflect, explore something new, gather with neighbors and just be, I am grateful.

Almighty God – we’re on this journey of life with you. I pray that we do not overlook or miss the great life-lessons you place before us. May our days not become so packed we miss spending moments with you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 166 – Rustic Wonderland

Thurs., Nov. 29, 2018

Matthew 1:20 – But as Joseph was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. The baby inside her is from the Holy Spirit.

What makes a house and a home?

Little touches that say to family and friends, “You are loved and welcome here.”

I love to decorate for Christmas. Why do I do this? Because I pray our house will not just be another house on the block. I hope our house will be viewed as a home where people are loved and welcomed. This is why I created a Rustic Wonderland on our front porch. When people drive or walk by or bound up the steps to our lovely porch, I pray they feel like this would be a good place to stay for a while.

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My goal this year was to decorate using only things I already had. Buy nothing new. Find new ways to use what I have. Enjoy the results thoroughly.

Why? I am so ready to not purchase things. I am so ready to simply repurpose what we have. I am so ready to shop what’s in the house and carriage house and spend more time enjoying the finished results than create something that takes lots of time, energy and resources to pull together. Yes, I love having a pretty porch during the holidays. Yet, I feel too often we focus on the “what” of Christmas rather than remembering the “why” we celebrate the season.

So, welcome to our Rustic Wonderland. Ready for a little tour?

Good. I’m excited to give you one.

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Sister Debbie helped me pull this together. Fortunately, she is an excellent florist. She can whip together beautiful arrangements before I can get her the things, she needs to make them. She created all of the gorgeous evergreen arrangements, inside and outside of the house. (In a couple days, I’ll show how we decorated the inside of our house.)

Here’s how we went about putting together a Rustic Wonderland.

We began with a clean slate. I removed the summer furniture and fall decorations. Debbie contributed the greens and wreath. Other than one strand of lights we had to buy, everything else come from our house or the carriage house.

You’ll find a lot of old things on our porch that help us remember important phases, people and times of our lives:

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  • The well-used washtubs were my mother-in-law’s. With quite rusty bottoms, Debbie put ice cream buckets filled with oasis into the tubs. Into the oasis, she inserted various kinds of pine, evergreens, logs and twigs to create the designs. Hubby Rick cut the birch logs years ago. I keep recycling them. After placing the tubs into position, we put a brick in the bottom to keep the tubs stable.

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  • In the summer, the grey shotgun containers are filled with flowers. Why not use them now for evergreens? Because they are quite deep, we put a brick in the bottom, then the ice cream bucket with oasis, which makes for easier decorating.

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  • When I was a young girl, this sled was a Christmas present. The baler twine pull has been on this sled for YEARS. Hubby Rick found the skates at his former house years ago. I love to combine these two items together as they represent both of our former lives.

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  • Rick made this bench. It is usually in the entry way of our house. Since the Christmas tree is now there, we moved it to the porch and used it as a centerpiece for the Rustic Wonderland.

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  • The green box? Just like a tool box that used to be on a John Deere tractor on our farm when I was growing up.

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  • This enamel wash bin looks super cute with the antique lantern, greens and pine cones. The lantern came from Rick’s parent’s house.

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  • To make the wreath fit in with everything old, we simply added a different bow. For a fun twist on displaying the wreath, hang it with burlap or ribbon.
  • A quick design tip? Fill any container with pine cones from the yard. Add a little ribbon or evergreens if you wish.

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I hope these Christmas decorations beg friends and guests into our home. A porch or entry way is the first statement people observe about the folks who live inside the house. The message I would love for people to take away from our porch? “This isn’t just a house. It’s a home.”

After Gabriel visited Joseph, he didn’t take her to his house. He took her into his home. He wanted this young teenaged-girl to feel like his home would be a safe place for her. Joseph wanted this girl, specially chosen by God to carry God’s son, to know she was loved and welcomed into his humble abode.

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What does the entrance to your home say about you and your family? Is it inviting? Does it welcome your family and visitors into a place where memories will be made? Where they will be loved and welcomed?

Want to see what our Rustic Wonderland looks like at night?

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For houses that become homes, I am grateful.

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Holy God – It’s a subtle detail, but an important one. Joseph took Mary to his home, not his house. May we follow his example and create safe places for our families, friends and guests where they will always feel loved and welcomed. Amen.

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Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 165 – Spiritual Gifts

Wed., Nov. 28, 2018

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 – To some people the Spirit gives a message of wisdom. To others the same Spirit gives a message of knowledge. To others the same Spirit gives faith. To others that one Spirit gives gifts of healing. To others he gives the power to do miracles. To others he gives the ability to prophesy. To others he gives the ability to tell the spirits apart. To others he gives the ability to speak in different kinds of languages they had not known before. And to still others he gives the ability to explain what was said in those languages.

I did not receive the spiritual gift of being crafty.

I believe this. I know it. I am aware of my limits when it comes to all-things-crafty.

So, what made me think that I should sign-up for a sign painting party?

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My friend Tracy.

While in college, I belonged to a woman’s organization called Association of Women in Agriculture or AWA. I have SO MANY fond memories of AWA. I lived in the AWA houses for two years. My bestest college friends were involved in AWA. These are the ladies continue to be important people in my life.

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When the current college students invited alumni to participate in a sign painting night, my AWA friend Tracy contacted several friends and encouraged us to join her. Without thinking this through, I signed-up. Had I paused long enough to realize my non-existant crafty gene would need to surface, I might have skipped out.

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When an e-mail came asking me to pick a board and a design, I still didn’t feel too far outside of my comfort zone. I could do these things. Thankfully, someone else prepared the patterns to put on the boards. All I had to do was paint some letters, right?

Wrong.

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I found a Christmas-themed sign that I liked. It fits the décor of my house and didn’t seem too complicated. I envisioned creating the sign in like an hour followed up with time to chat.

 

This is not exactly how it turned out. Remember, I don’t have the spiritual gift of craftiness.

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When we arrived, our chosen board laid next to our chosen pattern. My board was natural colored. I wanted a black background. My first step was to paint the entire board. Just before I began to paint, Tracy arrived. She also knows that craftiness is not her spiritual gift and opted to make this purely a social outing. Not wanting her to sit out of all the fun, I recruited her to help me. Two non-crafty people would be better than one non-crafty person, right?

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Thank goodness we were next to some college students who are blessed with the crafty gene. They became our trusted guides.

Ultimately, Tracy and I knew painting a sign was not the highest priority of the night. Creating a sign was purely a vehicle by which college students and alumni could hang out together. Highlights of the night: seeing my friend, meeting college students and alumni I did not know while sharing a couple hours with other women interested in agriculture.

Tracy and I puttered away on my sign, chatting about lots of things as we worked. When we hit a topic that peaked the interest of the college girls, they chimed in. Tracy and I enjoyed hearing their perspectives on a topic, often different from our, uhm, mid-life points of view.

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Because of the black background, my sign required a bit more work. Eventually, finishing the sign took the effort of a village. Tracy and I recruited Cierra to help us. As everyone else was tearing down tables, cleaning brushes and putting paint away, we were still working on my board. Cierra has more of the crafty gift in her little finger than I have in my entire body. She was the perfect assistant.

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Several times, the New Testament lists various spiritual gifts. One example is found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Read the list again. See what gift is not listed? The gift of being crafty.

Amazingly, God gifted each one of us with very special and unique spiritual gifts. Your spiritual gifts are not the same as mine. Thank goodness we don’t all have the same gifts. This would lead to a very boring world!

When we feel we do not have a particular spiritual gift, does this give us permission to shy away from participating in something which utilitzies this spiritual gift? Absolutely not! Humbling ourselves to discover something new can be meaningful. We become clearer about what our spiritual gifts are. It allows others to use their spiritual gifts for our benefit. It helps us keep perspective and know none of us have all the necessary spiritual gifts.

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Each sign turned out unique and special, just as the spiritual gifts we have are unique and special. Rather than become frustrated when we lack a spiritual gift, may we celebrate and affirm the gifts God has blessed us with. Over time, our spiritual gifts may change. May we be open to how God works in and through our lives and appreciate every single spiritual gift we have. Just as importantly, may we choose to share our spiritual gifts within God’s kingdom.

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For unique spiritual gifts, I am grateful.

Almighty God – thank you for creating us individually unique. May we celebrate the spiritual gifts we find within our lives and use them for the glory and honor of your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 164 – Harvest

Tues., Nov. 27, 2018

Psalm 67:6 – The earth has yielded its harvest. God blesses us—our God blesses us!

As you put a spoon into acereal bowl this morning and taste your favorite version of the milk-laden grainchoice, will you think of the farmers who produced the milk or harvested the grain which became the cereal?

As you pull a knife through the chicken or beef that you have for dinner today, will you understand the dedication and commitment required to raise those animals and the necessary process to bring these choices to your table?

Most of us look in our refrigerator or pantry or freezer and grab whatever looks good in the moment to nourish our bodies. It’s hard to imagine what is all behind getting food from a production operation to your table … or the restaurant where you are eating.

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Harvest season is finally wrapping up in Wisconsin. A very wet late summer and fall delayed harvest. Early snow delayed things down for a while. While some crops still remain in the fields, most of the harvest is now off the field and in a bin ready to be turned into products you and I eat and enjoy daily.

It’s been a tough year for production agriculture. Record low prices for multiple years have taken its toll. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis announced that 84 production farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana declared Chapter 12 bankruptcy for a 12-month period that ended in June. This is more than triple the number that filed in the previous 12-month period.

What does this mean? There are fewer and fewer people who produce the food Americans, as well as many people outside of the U.S., eat. Long-lingering low prices producers receive make it challenging for farmers to keep producing food.

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Why has this happened? It’s not an easy answer. Some is spurred by overproduction. When farmers receive low prices, they often increase production to create more income, which may only create an even more challenging situation. Trade challenges with other countries have not helped. Decreased consumption of some products, like dairy milk, make the situation challenging. Promised help from the federal government has been slow in coming and not enough for some.

Most people don’t think much about where food comes from. In the U.S., food is inexpensive compared to other countries around the world. Consumers have access to lots of food and choices for relatively low prices. What’s not to love?

Production agriculture experienced a similar situation in the 1980’s.  My parents became part of a mass exodus from production agriculture. This current downturn, however, seems longer, more challenging and carries with it a deeper sting.

I am grateful for this year’s food harvest. I extend a shout-out to the folks who work long, hard days to provide millions and billions of people a safe food supply. I pray we all can be a little more appreciate of those who supply a healthy food supply for the rest of us. And have empathy for those production agriculture people who are hanging on by less than a thread. The struggle is real. It takes a toll emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.

Give production agriculture a Christmas present this year by buying locally and increasing usage of unprocessed food. Donate to a need family, local food pantry or local non-profit as an example of how to celebrate the production agriculture folks around us. Say an extra prayer for these folks or lend them a listening ear. Don’t know any production agriculture folks? Drive down the road until you find a farm and realize they are the ones who help provide you food. Reach out to them and thank them. It will mean more than you can ever imagine.

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For harvest and an abundance of food, I am grateful.

Holy God – we are blessed with another abundant harvest. We are blessed with access to food and variety of food. May we appreciate those who have dedicated their lives to harvesting food for everyone else. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Thanks for my good friend Lisa Leege who took the pictures while riding in the combine with her Dad, Roger Zimmerman.

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Gratitude Day 163 – Living


Mon., Nov. 26, 2018

Luke 20:38 – He isn’t the God of the dead but of the living. To him they are all alive.”

Recently, Hubby Rick and I began the transition from fall to winter. This meant putting away the wicker porch furniture for the winter. It felt like a sad day. With the porch furniture in the carriage house, winter is coming soon. But so is Christmas!!

However, I found an unexpected surprise on the front porch.

This ivy plant.

Seriously. It is STILL ALIVE.

Have I mentioned that we’vhad multiple nights of below freezing? And snow?  

About a week earlier, I stopped and looked at the ivy one day. It was a cold day. I touched the leaves and they were stiff. Frozen. Not flexible. I thought to myself, “That’s what happens when you don’t take a plant inside before it freezes!” And went on with my day.

This is why I was SO SURPRISED to find the leaves unfrozen, flexible and really doing very well!

What happened in-between?

I can’t explain. But this ivy plant was not ready to call it quits yet. It’s now in the house as I try and figure out what to do next with this plant. In the meantime, it lives.

Death is a scary topic formany people. Highly avoided and taboo. Interestingly, for God death is anything but a difficult topic. In fact, we read repeatedly over and over in the Biblethat God is not nearly as interested in death … but in living. In fact, the scripture verse above reminds us that God wants all to see themselves as living… even after death.

How can this happen? Deadpeople come back to life? It happens because a man named Jesus came to earth as God’s son, died but didn’t really die. As God, Jesus was resurrected and granted life once again.

We, too, can experience this same living. It’s really quite easy: believe in God. Believe Jesus did thisjust for you. Out of pure love for you.

How does this happen?

Sorry, I can’t fully explain. Just like my ivy plant that didn’t die but lives inside my house.

Whether I can fully explain this or not, I’m just going to enjoy this. Just like I’m going to enjoy the ivy plant.  

For an ivy plant that still lives, I am grateful.

Lord God – there are miracles around us every day. Some days we see them; some days we don’t. May we seek life over death and value you, O God, who prefers living over death. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 162 – Slow Down

Sat., Nov. 23, 2018

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Job 18:7 – Their strong strides slow down; their plans trip themselves.   

Today, we slowed down. Hubby Rick and I. He slept late. I had visitors. I worked on some things I wanted to get done. Rick got the snowblower ready for winter. We went for a long walk. I folded laundry. We ate leftovers.

We slowed down.

Yes, I had invitations to go shopping on Black Friday. Sorry sister and sister-in-laws: it’s not that I didn’t want to spend time with you. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to be with a whole bunch of people shopping today.

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I wanted to slow down.

Already, I’ve read multiple times about people who are anxious about what they need to do before Christmas.

Yikes. I don’t have any Christmas lists made yet.

I want to think differently about Christmas this year.

I want to slow down, relish the moments, skip the craziness and enjoy the moments.

I realize this is a lot like my post on Thanksgiving.

Yep, it’s where my heart is at right now.

I see it all around me. We are in too much of a hurry. We all (including myself at times) want shortcuts. We want the quick fix, expedited shipping for free, instant results and efficiency at its finest. Because, you know, we have SO MUCH TO DO.

Maybe, just maybe, can we expect LESS this holiday season? Can we be happy with OK and pleasantly surprised when something happens better than we anticipated because we had low expectations?

Can we just slow down and enjoy the moment rather than running through them, onto the next best and greatest “experience” we can check off an imaginary list?

Maybe I’m taking to heart this saying I read today (with slight modifications made by me):

Before a person can do things, there must be things this person will not do.

Every time we choose to do something, we also choose not to do a whole bunch of other things. Every time we choose not to do something, we are freed up to do something that we find personally meaningful and gratifying.

For just a few minutes, slow down. Think about what slowing down in your life would look like and mean.

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For time to slow down, I am grateful.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for encouraging me to slow down. To let my soul catch up with my mind. For moments to just enjoy rather than frantically rush. Help me to choose the right things to not do this Advent and Christmas season. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 161 – Thankful

Thurs., Nov. 22, 2018 – Thankfulthankful

Psalm 118:29 – Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good. His faithful love continues forever.  

The pies are baked. The corn casserole for the community dinner is laid out, ready to be assembled in the morning and popped into the oven. Yes, I cheated and bought the dinner rolls rather than making them. Someday, I’m going to really learn how to make good dinner rolls. But not this week.

Instead of making dinner rolls, I had a meaningful conversation with a dear friend on Thanksgiving Eve night. In the moment, conversation was a higher priority than making rolls. And I don’t regret the choice.

A year ago, I would have tried to do both: make bread and carry on a conversation. These days, I trying to have a little less busy-body Martha in my life and a little more contemplative Mary.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m wasting time.

Sometimes, I feel like I don’t get enough done.

Sometimes, I delay doing something seemingly important for another day.

It’s hard to let go of Martha. But she’s trying.

Why? Because I don’t want to miss out on the little things. Too often, we focus only on the milestone moments of life: baptisms, first day of school, prom night, graduation, first car, first job, first apartment by ourselves. Marriage, first child and buying a house. A 40th birthday and then a 50th. All important events. All milestones. All significant.

But what about the afternoon sitting by the lake? The bike ride with a grandchild? The good book that just wants to be read?

When Hubby Rick and I were dating, I remember us promising each other to make sure we always would take time to just be with each other. We have … and we haven’t. More so because of my lack of prioritization than Rick’s. We have wonderful moments and we have days in which we don’t see each other awake.

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How might we find the important little moments of today? Put down our phones and have a conversation with the people around us rather than on social media. Turn off the television during dinner and go around the table and share something that you so appreciate in your life. And then, keep the T.V. off and play a game that works for all the ages present. Go outside and take a walk and marvel at the beauty of the world around you. And when you do pick up the phone, may it not be to check Black Friday deals but to call someone who you weren’t able to see today. Tell them that you love and appreciate them and make a date to get together soon.

And simply be thankful. Give thanks not for the big things in life … but for the seemingly insignificant. Appreciate the young boy’s comments about his Mom. After she died of cancer, he was asked what was the most special memory of his Mom that he had. His answer? When she sat with him on the couch and they ate popcorn together.

Sit with someone and eat popcorn today. And cherish every minute of it.

Everything else can wait for a day. Even the dishes could wait.

I am convinced the most meaningful times in my life will always be the simplest of times that I would love to recapture. Like going for a ride with my Dad and talking cows. Snuggling on the couch with a grandchild. Having a cup of coffee with my Grandmother. Picking out fabric with my Mom. Matching my hand in Hubby Rick’s hand.

These are the things I am thankful for today.

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And this card. It was made by one of the kids from one of the churches that I used to serve. It came in the mail just recently. Somewhere, somehow this little person knew to include God in the card, along with Thanksgiving. Just a little reminder that God’s love endures forever.

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For the simple and deeply meaningful moments in life, I am grateful.

In some ways, it seems to silly to need a day in which we stop and remember to be thankful and grateful, Holy God. I pray we find your love and blessings in the littlest of moments of every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 160 – Bread 

Wed., Nov. 21, 2018

Matthew 6:11 – Give us today our daily bread.

Just in case you need a dessert for Thanksgiving, I HAVE THE PERFECT SOLUTION.

Nope, it’s not pumpkin or apple pie. It’s not a decadent chocolate dessert. It’s …

BREAD PUDDING.

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Yep, I know. Bread pudding and Thanksgiving aren’t exactly two things that go together. But if you make this bread pudding, you just might change your mind!

I make this recipe around the holidays. Every time, and seriously, I mean every time, I make it … someone tells me it is THE BEST. Last Friday night we had a neighborhood gathering at our house. That morning, I decided to make this infamous bread pudding. Why? The day before, Eric at work asked when I was going to make my famous bread pudding. Eric talks about my bread pudding every holiday in a very loving way. Yep, a guy. In love with this bread pudding.

What makes this bread pudding different from every other bread pudding? The sauce. What makes this sauce?

Port Wine.

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Port Wine is different from other wine because it has grape brandy add to it. I live in Wisconsin. FYI – Wisconsin consumes more brandy than like all the rest of the United States. For those who live outside Wisconsin and are wondering what brandy is, brandy is a distilled wine that is aged in barrels.

About 30 minutes from where we live is a lovely little winery called Wollersheim Winery. Several years ago, this winery began making a Port Wine. Actually, the bread pudding that I’m raving about? I picked up the recipe from Wollersheim Winery. A chief from a local eatery named Blue Spoon Café provided the recipe to the winery when they were having a special event. I use a white Port when making this recipe. I’m sure a red Port would work just as well.

Here’s the recipe for this fabulous bread pudding recipe:

Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding with Port Wine Reduction Sauce

Bread Pudding:

8 cups stale bread cut into pieces

4 cups milk

2 cups sugar

½ cup melted butter

4 eggs

2 TBSP vanilla

1 c dried cranberries

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients. Mixture should be very moist but not soupy.

Pour into a buttered 9×9” baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 75 minutes until top is golden brown. Serve warm with sauce.

Port Wine Sauce:

½ cup butter

1 ½ cup powdered sugar

1 egg yolk

½ cup Port Wine

Cream butter and sugar over medium heat until all butter is absorbed. Remove from heat and blend in egg yolk. Gradually pour in the Port, stirring constantly. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve over warm bread pudding.

A couple of my personal notes:

  • I use old, leftover bread that I’ve kept in the freezer just for bread pudding. I like to use a variety of bread and always include some form of wheat bread. Seriously, I’ve been known to use hamburger and brat buns, sour dough, whatever I have handy. Don’t use your good fresh bread (unless you have nothing else). I cut them into medium-sized cubes.
  • I often make 1.5 batches of the recipe. I have a pan that I put it in and this is the exact among that fits. This way, I may have a little leftover after the party or event I made it for!
  • I bought a bottle of Wollersheim Port several years ago. There is just enough left for one more batch of sauce. While you can drink Port, I keep this bottle of Port just for this sauce. I’m confident there are other Ports available. What if you can find Port? I suggest brandy or wine or a combination.
  • Leftovers are great! Just pour the remaining sauce over what’s left. Pop into the fridge and reheat your next serving. Make it dinner some night … you won’t regret it!

While speaking at the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This week, most of us will eat more than we should. I pray that we are always thankful for the food we have, the availability of food and the overabundance of food we experience in the United States. In our abundance, it’s easy to forget and overlook the thousands and millions of people who don’t have enough to eat right in our neighborhoods. Let’s not forget to help out these people as well. Donate to the local food pantry. Provide food to local Thanksgiving meals. (I’m making the vegetable for the meals being provided to folks on Thanksgiving; my favorite corn casserole.) Take a plate or more to someone who won’t have enough. And certainly, give thanks for the abundance most of us experience on a daily basis this week.

So, if you need a dessert for Thanksgiving yet, give this bread pudding a whirl! I think you’ll be glad you did.

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For daily bread (and a delish bread pudding), I am grateful.

“Give us this day our daily bread …” It’s our request, Lord, to be fed on a regular basis. May we remember that feeding comes in a variety of ways: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual feeding. I pray we feed our souls in all these different ways today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 159 – Give Thanks

Tues., Nov. 20, 2018

1 Thessalonians 5:18- Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.

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Sometimes, it’s hard to live out this Bible verse.

No matter what happens … give thanks?

Seriously?

Really?

Really.

When the fall is wet, and crops can’t be harvested, give thanks.

When your heart is broken, give thanks.

When a loved one deals with the evils of addiction, give thanks.

When the weather is crappy, give thanks.

When you are bone tired and there are things yet to do today, give thanks.

When there doesn’t seem to be enough funds to cover the bills, give thanks.

When loved ones are having a hard time getting along, give thanks.

When you can’t find the right job, give thanks.

When life is depressing, give thanks.

When everything seems familiar and yet challenging at the same time, give thanks.

And a whole bunch of other scenarios, give thanks.

I know. It’s not easy to always give thanks. Often, it really is easier to belly-ache, complain, be afraid, not ask for help and/or wallow in self-pity than to give thanks.

Just for one day, try to give thanks for everything. Yup, everything. See what happens.

And let me know.

For God’s wisdom that I am to always give thanks, I am grateful.

Holy God – it really is so much easier to be unhappy than to constantly give thanks. Help shift my perspective today, if only ever so slightly. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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