Wrapped Up in the Right Things

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Braeden's 5th grade team is also in red.
Braeden’s 5th grade team is also in red.

Sept. 16, 2013

Proverbs 4:25-26

Keep your eyes focused on what is right, and look straight ahead to what is good. Be careful what you do, and always do what is right.

What would fall in American be without football? Last Saturday, Rick and I watched two football games in which our two oldest grandsons played. Bryce is in 4th grade. His game was an intramural game with 11 kinds on a team. The coaches rotated the kids through various positions the entire game.

Then, we watched Braeden’s game. In 5th grade, his team played a team from another school. Braeden’s team had 22 players, enough for two 11 player sections. In the first half, Braeden’s section played defense and the other 11 kids played offense. They switched at half-time.

Braeden’s team played with a little more skill and precision, but not without error. Penalties and fouls were pointed out but yards were not lost. While playing defense end, the boy blocking Braeden simply wrapped his arms around his waist and held/hugged him. One coach told Braeden how to legally get loose and not give up. But it was hard to get out of the hold.

Sometimes we get wrapped up in things that get in our way. Nearly every day, I begin with a “to-do” list. Most days I would need 30 hours day to get everything done. By mid-day, I am often distracted and doing things not on the list. At day’s end, I sometimes feel defeated because I did not accomplish more. It happened again tonight!

Sometimes, the distractions are more important than anything on the to-do list. But I also let distractions be an excuse for not doing something I’m unexcited about doing. Life is not simply a to-do list. Jesus began every day with a detailed to-do list. He let himself be guided by the Spirit. But he clearly knew what was most important: daily spending time with his Father; developing strong relationships with those closest to him; making time for people on the fringes of society.

As Rick’s son, Darran, was picking up the youngest two kids from me late this afternoon, he said the last several days had been filled with endless delays. We can get frustrated and overwhelmed by things out of our control. Or we can seem them as opportunities to capture something we otherwise would have missed. Distractions and delays can annoy us … or they can be the Spirit teaching us. Which option do you focus on? May we be encouraged to do what is right, even if it wasn’t part of our original plan.

Lord God – why do we sometimes lack patience? Why do we get wrapped up in not doing the right things? I pray that daily, we will seek our guidance in our lives so we can look straight ahead and see what is right. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Running for the Crown

Items ready to hand out to the athletes.
Items ready to hand out to the athletes.

 

Just part of the water at our pit stop.
Just part of the water at our pit stop.

 

DSC01202

Here's comes an athlete!
Here’s comes an athlete!

 

Blue-clad t-shirt volunteers lined up to fuel-up Ironman athletes.
Blue-clad t-shirt volunteers lined up to fuel-up Ironman athletes.

Sept. 15, 2013

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

 

On Sun., Sept. 8, Madison hosted the Ironman Wisconsin. This is a physically daunting event where participants swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a full marathon (26.2 miles) in one day. I volunteered at a bike pit stop station in Mt Horeb, 20 minutes from our home. I was humbled to hear people had driven three hours from Chicago that morning to volunteer at the pit stop.

As the swim began at 7 AM, we set up the pit stop. We handed out water, a power drink, GU packets (a carbohydrate gel packet), bananas and small energy bars. We were instructed how to properly hand out items, not get in the way, slow participants down or cause accidents.

The bike route was two loops of the same route. Our pit stop was mile 30 and mile 70. Just before 9 AM, the first professional participants came whizzing by. Despite the pit stop being on a slight incline, these uber athletes were not fazed. We noted the first woman. After the professionals, athletes arrived in groups. Most athletes had drinks and food strapped to their bike. Some simply refreshed their water or power drink supply. Others depended upon what we were handing out.

I was a banana hander-outer. We told the athletes what we had. In a few hours, I yelled “Banana!” hundreds of times. It was helpful when the athletes told us what they wanted. Some hand-offs weren’t clean. There was another banana person after me, so they had another opportunity to snag one.

One way to enter an Ironman is to volunteer. Several folks at the pit stop planned on being in line the following morning with their blue “volunteer” t-shirt to sign-up for the 2014 event. While it sounded intriguing, I should try a mini-triathlon before signing up for the granddaddy. I also need to get into better shape and see if my aging body can handle the physical stress of a full-blown Ironman.

What these athletes do is amazing. I have biked over 100 miles on a ride and run a full marathon. Just not in the same day. The winner crossed the finish line at 8:40:15. He ran a 3:06:09 marathon. While not Olympic marathon speed, he completed a 4:34:58 bike ride before switching bike clips for running shoes. The first-place woman crossed at 9:47:07. She averaged 20.52/miles/hour on her bike and 7:28 minutes/mile running. Impressive.

When the New Testament was written, Olympic events happened in Greece. Winners were crowned with a natural wreath of olive branches and leaves which lasted just a while. They soon died. As Paul wrote about running for a crown, people knew he was talking about this. The crown we should be running for should be an eternal crown. It doesn’t come from completing the Wisconsin Ironman. It comes as we complete the task Jesus gave us of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Watching the Ironman Wisconsin was impressive and inspiring. Every clapped loudly as two brothers came by.  One has Cerebral Palsy. His brother road a three-wheeled bike with his brother strapped to the front. Another man pedaled up the hill with a disabled woman strapped to a tag-along behind his bike. As impressive as the professional athletes are, true Ironman heroes are the Joe-average athletes who train thousands of hours with time away from families, friends and jobs. As the day continues, it is less physical and more of a mental and emotional challenge.

The most important race I shall ever run is testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Some days, it’s easier to do than others! At times, it is emotionally and mentally draining, as well as physically and spiritually. My goal is not to be the best Christian: it’s to represent God’s grace in my daily living, attitudes and choices. When we do this, I believe there is an eternal crown waiting for us.

It was truly inspiring and amazing to witness athletes complete an Ironman. May it renew within me a passion to complete the greatest race of my life: to witness to Your grace daily. Give me the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual maturity to complete this great race for your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Shepherding Sheep

Ellie checking out Frost in the shed with Bambi in the background.
Ellie checking out Frost in the shed with Bambi in the background.

Sept. 9, 2013

John 10:14-15

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.

The lambs arrive! Flower is on the right and Bambi is on the right.
The lambs arrive! Flower is on the right and Bambi is on the right.

Raising sheep has been in my family for a long time. My sisters and I raised sheep through 4-H. Later, my Dad kept some sheep. My nephew Kevin is the latest Deaton to have sheep.

For years, I have talked about having a couple calves or sheep. This summer, Rick relented. Possibly he wants me to enjoy something for myself as I help care for his folks. He decided a couple sheep were easier than a couple calves or something else.

We made arrangements with Kevin to borrow a couple sheep and try it. There is a fenced in pasture close to Rick’s son, Darran’s house. We asked if we could section off a small part for the sheep. Darran was agreeable. Since I was going to be near Augusta one day, we decided I should bring the sheep back. Rick had only a day to make fence. Six-year-old Waylan came out and helped Grandpa build fence. Darran even helped out.  Waylan was so anxious for the sheep to arrive. He talked non-stop about the lambs.

Flower and Bambi have been a hit. They are very tame. The grandkids can easily pet and catch them. When I do something with the sheep, Ellie and Waylan are willing helpers. Rick built a little three-sided shed. After we put it in the pasture, I lead them into it. The next day, they comfortably laid in the shed. They knew it was theirs.

Flower and Bambi are from the same flock. But I’m not sure they were “best” friends before arriving at our farm. They quickly became best friends. When I walk or bike by, the lambs start bellering as soon as I am in sight. They come running down to the fence. They love attention.

Soon, Flower will need to be bred so she can have a lamb. We decided to keep lambs at our farm a few more months. This past weekend, Kevin showed sheep. On the way home, we sent Flower home. In exchange, Bambi’s twin sister came back with us. As soon as the lambs into different trailers, Flower and Bambi were baaing back and forth. They missed each other. While Frost is Bambi’s twin sister, maybe she forgot this and wanted her latest best friend, Flower.

While Kevin and his mom spend a lot of time with the sheep, it took a minute for Flower to remember them. Of late, Darran, the kids and I have been her shepherd. We have fed her, watered her and given her attention. When Kevin tried to sooth her, she didn’t buy it.

Today, Ellie, Dylan and I went out to see how Frost is adjusting to her new digs. Bambi and Frost were in the shed. Frost let the kids pet her and feel her soft wool. We talked to her and she warmed up quickly. The lambs followed us down to the gate. Bambi knows who might feed her and Frost tagged along. They know we are their shepherds for the next several months, something we enjoy.

Jesus told us that he is our good shepherd. When we are his sheep, he knows everything about us: what we like or don’t like; what makes us happy and sad; how our voice sounds and how we want to be loved. There’s one difference with him as our shepherd. He was willing to sacrifice his life for our benefit. He just didn’t act as our shepherd. He lived as our shepherd.

Would I give up my life for Flower or Bambi or Frost? Hard question. It wasn’t a hard question for Jesus. He just did it. What a shepherd.

Lord God – How easy it is to blame you when we encounter a pressured-filled situation. We want to change You rather than change ourselves. Help us remember that you walk with us through those faith preserving times of our lives. Encourage us to discover faith that perseveres. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Preserving Faith

Lots of garden-fresh veggies!
Lots of garden-fresh veggies!

 

Beautiful cucumbers from the Evelands.
Beautiful cucumbers from the Evelands.

 

Some of the pickles and spaghetti sauce.
Some of the pickles and spaghetti sauce.

 

And some salsa!
And some salsa!

Sept. 3, 2013

Hebrews 11:27

By faith Moses left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible.

I love to can. Unfortunately, our garden is not doing so hot this year. I was not confident I would have enough veggies to can or freeze this year.

While at a local high school football game, friends said their family garden had an abundance of cucumbers. The next morning, I had a milk crate of cucumbers in the kitchen sink. By day’s end, we had 16 quarts of beautiful dill pickles.

While we have some tomatoes, it is not the normal crop. I debated if I had enough to can. While at the local garden market, I saw boxes of tomatoes for $8. Sold.

I went home and began making my favorite spaghetti sauce and salsa. I laid out the wonderful, fresh ingredients on the kitchen table and marveled. Brilliant colors. Smooth, soft skins. Powerful flavors.  Fresh aromas. Ahh! As beautiful as they looked and smelled, this would not last long. The way to preserve them for the winter is to cook them, bottle them and process them. Those gorgeous veggies become yummy sauces and bases for lip-smacking-good lasagna, a great dip for chips and mouth-watering casseroles. Soon the kettle was cooking.

A few days later, I sent my father-in-law to get sweet corn from a neighbor, offered to us. A couple hours later, I had multiple containers of creamy corn to freeze, a favorite at Vielhuber family gatherings.

These vegetables began as little seeds and become plants that produced colorful, yummy  vegetables. But veggies only last so long. When preserved through canning or freezing, they stop growing and are food we enjoy all winter. This happens as they are cooked with heat, processed with boiling water and chemically changed.

Christian faith experiences similar situations. Raw faith is exciting and fresh. When difficult situations arise and we experience heat, faith discovers if it can persevere. Faith needs to encounter boiling points so we learn not to depend upon ourselves. We depend upon the One who journeys with us daily. Like the veggies, we need a chemical change inside of us to discover how to persevere in our faith.

Moses had been through a pressure-cooker situation. He’d watched Pharaoh and the Egyptians withstand 10 awful plagues. Finally, Moses was allowed to leave with the Hebrew people. As he left, he acted as if the Invisible One was visible. That’s how strong his faith had become.

Pressure and challenging situations are not fun. Remember the veggies and what happens to them as they are preserved. I pray your faith is just as preserved.

Lord God – How easy it is to blame you when we encounter a pressured-filled situation. We want to change You rather than change ourselves. Help us remember that you walk with us through those faith preserving times of our lives. Encourage us to discover faith that perseveres. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Missing A Tradition

Sept. 2, 2013

Numbers 28:18running shoe

Have a holy meeting on the first day of the festival, and don’t work that day.

It’s Labor Day: the day we take a break from our normal work activities. As I was planning the day with my mother-in-law, she said, “Isn’t today a holiday!” While it is, it is harder to think of it as a holiday when Rick is working.

For several years, Rick and I went to Dubuque, Iowa on Labor Day for an annual outing with one of my seminary professors and his wife. We’d run or walk a 5K down by the Mississippi riverfront. Les, my seminary professor, is a much more accomplished runner than I am. With specific goals in mind, he’d check off the goals as he accomplished them. I was happy just to finish! The first year, Les’ wife, Linda, and Rick volunteered along the route. Eventually, they both ran or walked. After the 5K awards were announced and Les retrieved his hardware, we would go to Perkins for a long, extended breakfast.

The run was a good excuse for us to get together with the Longden’s. Les and I talked ministry shop while Linda and Rick talked about everything but church things. All four of us enjoyed conversations about gardening, tractors, kids and grandkids. We’d end with hugs and promises to do it again next year.

We really enjoyed this Labor Day tradition. Unfortunately, this stopped when Rick’s work schedule changed. He now works on Monday and we miss this annual event. Today seemed a little flat with no 5K and breakfast. More importantly, I missed the long conversation. We just haven’t put into place another annual event.

Sometimes rituals can become too ritualistic. But traditions are important. Jewish people celebrate very specific major celebrations each year. They tend to be filled with tradition and are tied to very specific events from their history. For Christians, the two biggies are Easter and Christmas.

While Labor Day is a secular holiday, it can still have specific traditions. This is a good thing. Think of the traditions that are most meaningful to you and what time of year they are tied to. Would you miss those traditions if they stopped? Is there a tradition from you childhood that has not continued? Why? Can you put it back into place? Discern these traditions. Maybe you are the one to re-discover them and make them meaningful for your loved ones.

Lord God –Too often, it is only when something does not happen that we realize how meaningful it is for us. Help us rediscover a meaningful tradition and encourage us to put it back into our lives. May this tradition reflect your love and grace in our world. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Dog-Days of Summer

Aug. 28, 2013

1 King 8:27

Soloman said,  “But, God, can you really live here on the earth? The sky and the highest place in heaven cannot contain you. Surely this house DSC01169which I have built cannot contain you.”

 

While at Devil’s Lake State Park on a very warm summer afternoon, Rick and I drove by this picnic table. Notice the puppy in the inner tube? She caused us to both laugh. I know it is a she because I overheard her owner’s family call her Lucy.

These are the dog days of summer. People are getting in one last event, trip or fun activity before school starts. We were doing the same while at the lake. As we ate a picnic lunch nearby table, we watched Lucy. I suggested to Rick that she has the life he would love to have. His reply, “What do you mean? I have her life.”

When I was in seminary, I discovered an interesting theological term: realized eschatology. Eschatology is the study of the end times; what might happen with Christ’s return to earth, as proclaimed in the New Testament. While thousands of people have tried to predict and describe this, so far these people have failed miserably.

“Realized” changes the meaning. We do not have to wait until Christ’s return to experience some of heaven now. We can begin to experience God, God’s presence and the reward of being a Christian NOW while living on earth. Realized eschatology says we begin to feel and experience God’s rewards in the here and now, not just in the future.

At the time, this concept was a breath of air for Rick. It was shortly after Rick’s oldest son was killed in an accident. The days were challenging and sad. When I explained realized eschatology, Rick’s attitude changed. He could either live disappointed with his son’s death. Or he could look for opportunities to see God’s grace and presence in his daily life. He could experience God’s reward for him partially now. While Nate has experienced the fullness of God’s reward in death, Rick and the rest of us have the opportunity to experience some of God’s rewards now.

Too often, people choose not to see God’s reward now. They are disappointed and think the glass is half empty. Half glass full people experience God’s kingdom now.

In this sense, Rick has Lucy’s life. We choose whether we are content with our position and stage of life or if we allow frustrations to be more important. We determine if events are going to overwhelm us before they happen. Our perspective on life, God and the interaction between the two determines whether we experience a little bit of heaven while still on earth.

Rick loves summer. He loves the hot. For him, it is a good day when sweat rolls off of his nose when he is doing nothing. This is a little bit of heaven on earth. For Lucy, it seemed to be sitting in the inner tube. She wasn’t disappointed her new family is off doing some activity while she is tied to the picnic table. She is so excited to be at the lake feeling the breeze. These are her dog days of summer. What is yours? How do you experience realized eschatology?

Lord God – Too often we miss seeing the rewards of your kingdom in our daily lives. We tend to focus on what we do not have rather than the goodness before us daily. Remind us anew of the great promise of your kingdom. May we experience this today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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This Is Our Forever After

anniversaryAug. 26, 2013

Genesis 2:24

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Thirteen years ago today I became Mrs. Dianne Vielhuber. When I entered the ministry, I was not sure that I would get married. Who would want to marry a pastor? I met Rick at my first appointment. God does have a sense of humor!

I cannot believe I counseled couples before I was married. How silly was I! While I thought I was prepared for marriage, I quickly discovered I was naïve. Here’s a short list of things I have learned the last 13 years:

  • I will never be a mind reader, especially with my husband. Thinking the exact opposite of what I would like him to think is probably closer. If I only had $1 for each time he told me the first years we were married, “But I thought you would just know this.” I still get weekly surprises.
  • Never commit your spouse to something without checking with them first. Your idea of what they should do and their idea are not the same.
  • When something is REALLY important, I cannot expect my spouse to automatically know this. It is much easier to just tell the other person.
  • I cannot change who my husband is. I can only love him the way he is and change myself. Life is really a lot less frustrating when couples respect this.
  • Remember to thank God every day for your partner. Sprinkle your conversations with the words “I love you,” “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” and “Thank you” every single day. Seriously, every day.
  • Keep your marriage centered around Christ. When Rick and I include Christ in our relationship, it works much better. Rick is a beloved child of God and I need to treat him this way, even when I want to throttle him.

Recently, Rick and I went shopping together. This only happens about once every six months. I remembered why. While checking out, Rick tried to be his witty, charming self. The 16-year-old, new checkout person at Farm & Fleet didn’t know what to do. The 65-year-old lady at Menard’s looked at me and said, “Your house is never boring, is it?” My husband replied, “She’s been putting up with me for almost 13 years.”

We aren’t set any long-time marriage record. We still learn from each other every week. At the end of the day, I still am thrilled he is my spouse. I chose him 13 years ago. I choose him again today. This is our forever after.

Lord God – Thank you for ordaining marriage and providing a way for couples to make lifetime commitments to each other and you. I thank you for the man who is my husband. Thank you for making him unique and special. Help me appreciate this every day. Encourage me be a spouse that supports, loves, respects, honors and encourages him daily. I pray for couples who are struggling right now. Please bring forth reconciliation, compromise and a loving spirit. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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High School BFF’s

My High School BFF's - top: Missy; Left of slide: Heidi, Lisa and myself; Right of slide: Pam and Rita. Missing: Monica.
My High School BFF’s – top: Missy; Left of slide: Heidi, Lisa and myself; Right of slide: Pam and Rita. Missing: Monica.

Aug. 20, 2013

Luke 6:12-13

At that time Jesus went off to a mountain to pray, and he spent the night praying to God. The next morning, Jesus called his followers to him and chose twelve of them, whom he named apostles:

Recently, I spent an evening with six of my high school friends. Since several of us have lost a parent recently, I decided it was time for us to get together while not at a funeral home. Unfortunately, one wasn’t able to join us.

These girls are my oldest friends. We learned to drive together, played sports together, showed cattle together and went to prom together. Quite honestly, we have not always kept in close touch. The good news is that time has stood still and we picked up right where we might have left off at an earlier time. We had a wonderful time together.

I am fortunate. I have friends from lots of aspects of my life: high school, college, work, church, neighbors, mutual friends, etc. As I have matured, I have discovered the great advantage of having friends older than you, younger than yourself and from similar and different backgrounds. This allows a wide variety of people to draw upon in various situations.

Friends were important to Jesus. This is why he selected 12 guys to be his new best friends. All 12 did not know each other before they were thrown together into being his inner circle. There were two sets of brothers and they knew each other because they fished together. But the tax collector was not high on a list of someone they should befriend. I’m thinking Judas Iscariot really stood out … and Jesus intentionally did this. Each guy brought something a little different to the group. They help us see that it is not best for a group of friends to be just exactly alike; much like my circle of friends.

What Jesus does model for us is that we are not to journey through life alone. Family is extremely important and sometimes they become great friends. But different perspectives is often helpful.

I am thankful my friends were able to get together to laugh, giggle and share. We had serious moments and we had gut-laughing moments. I apologize to the woman who was trying to read a book while we were at the next table carrying on. Then again, I think she enjoyed seeing us have fun. Maybe it made her think of her long-time friends as well.

Lord God – thank you for the many special people that you have brought into my life. Too often, I fail to thank you for their special unique qualities that I have benefitted from. As Jesus intentionally chose an inner circle, I pray that we make sure and have those special relationships and people in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Apple of God’s Eye

Apples from Licht's Orchard
Apples from Licht’s Orchard

 

The apple-picking bucket
The apple-picking bucket

 

Judy and some of the apples I picked.
Judy and some of the apples I picked.

 

Licht's roadside stand. Not just apples -- also honey!
Licht’s roadside stand. Not just apples — also honey!

Aug. 19, 2013

Deuteronomy 32:9-10

For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance. In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.

One beautiful afternoon, I picked apples. Earlier this summer, our brother-in-law Dan died. He raised apples and sold them on a roadside stand by their farm. After Dan’s death, I volunteered to help Judy with the apples. The first variety was ready to pick. For a couple hours, I picked Jersey Mac.

As a kid, our family went to an apple orchard near Chippewa Falls on a Sunday afternoon and get apples. Sometimes we picked them and sometimes we took already-picked apples. I remember the smell of the shed, little buckets near the big bushel baskets filled with apples for people to sample the varieties. It amazed me!

My experience picking at the Licht’s was a little different. These trees seemed smaller. I draped an apple bucket over my shoulder and carefully dropped apples into it. When the bucket got full, I slide the cords out of little holders holding the open bottom tight. Carefully, I dropped the apples into a crate. Two apple buckets filled a crate.

I couldn’t reach all the apples since I am not as tall as Dan or the man who regularly picks. I backed the Kubota near the trees and stood on the back to pick. It is best to have an empty apple bucket when doing this.

As I picked apples, I envisioned families who might buy these apples. I had a mental picture of customers examining the various bags and picking the best apples. I could smell apple pies, cobblers, applesauce and caramel apples they might become. I imagined families visiting the apple stand as I did as a child. Some apples have scabs on them. My sister-in-law Judy said one man tells his kids the apples with scabs are the best ones and they fight over these apples!

Picking apples reminded me of this scripture. I am the love of God’s eye, scabs and all. Just as God shielded and guarded Jacob in a foreign land, God is with us when we feel in foreign territory. We are no less the apple of God’s eye than Jacob or any other person from God’s Holy Word, the Bible.

I anticipate picking apples again when another variety is ready. As I pulled away from the orchard with filled crates in the back of the Kubota, I sampled an apple. Yum. These apples are also making good pie and applesauce.

Just as there are many different apple varieties, there are countless varieties of human beings. Just as there are scabs on apples, we have our individual scabs from when we have hurt ourselves or others have hurt us. With your grace and mercy, You consider us the apple of your eye. How grateful we are for your great love in our lives. Please wash over us today with your love, support and grace. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Welcome to the Sandwich Generation

sandwich2Aug. 13, 2013

Genesis 7:1

The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.”

I am living the sandwich generation. My week involves helping keep my in-laws in their home, sprinkled with opportunities to help with our grandchildren. This is not a bad place to be. It is where I am.

About 15 years ago, I lived overseas as a missionary for a year in Kazakstan and taught English at a university. As part of the former Soviet Union, the people struggled with how to embrace western culture after living under socialism for generations. One thing stood out to me: their understanding of family. While most Americans say family is the top of their priority list, how we live it is different from my experience in Kazakstan. Often three generations lived together in a two-bedroom flat the size of your living room and kitchen. In this space, parents lived with their parents and children, sometimes even a fourth generation.

These families wanted their teenaged/young adult children to study English with a native speaker. I’m not sure how some families came up with the $30/month the University charged. But they did.

Most students were flabbergasted that as a single person, I lived in an apartment alone and drove my own car. One male student asked me, “How does your Dad fix your car when you live so far away?” The student couldn’t understand why my Dad had not taken care of my car for years.

I have thought of Kazak families these last weeks. Grandparents often did not work to provide childcare for their grandchildren. Individuals set aside personal desires so a younger generation could have new opportunities. I wonder if their views of family have changed since I was there.

Don’t get me wrong. Many American families work hard to have connected families. Parents and grandparents go above and beyond to help. I am not the only person experiencing being a sandwich. I thank God when I see people choosing to be sandwiched.

Isn’t God the ultimate sandwich generation? God intentionally choose to be the connecting point between generations. This helps me see how I fit into the larger picture of God’s family that precedes me by thousands of years and may live beyond my lifetime. My role is to honor, represent and model God’s presence in my daily life for those older and younger. I will not always live right, but I try to have glimpses of righteousness in my daily actions.

Sometimes, I bemoan that many things I had hoped to get done by now aren’t started. Being the sandwich generation is more important than those projects. There is always winter.

Throughout history, Lord God, you are the thread that connects one generation to the next. May we live our lives in such a way that we honor you in our actions, words and deeds. May we seek to make your righteousness part of our families from one generation to the next. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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