Gratitude Day 189 – Being Raised

Sat., Jan. 5, 2019

1 Corinthians 6:14 – God has raised the Lord and will raise us through his power.

While everyone is packing away their Christmas decorations and moving onto Valentine’s day, I’m still savoring Christmas. Technically, Christmas goes until today, which is the 12th day of Christmas. And so, I share one more Christmas post; maybe as a bit of inspiration for us to think about how we are “raised.”

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Hubby Rick and I don’t exchange Christmas gifts. We never really have, by choice. Honestly, I don’t expect Christmas gifts. We’ve consolidated our Christmas giving to our grandchildren and very little beyond this.

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However, we received one Christmas gift that truly is special. Rick’s sister, Linda, gave it to us. When she arrived at our house on Christmas day, she left it on our beautiful front porch, right next to the homey Christmas decorations we’ve enjoyed. A couple days later when it had snowed, I saw it on the porch and bought it inside. This is what it looked like.

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I put an old towel underneath to let the snow soak into. And soon enough, this is what it looked like.

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It’s nearly perfect for us.

Rick and I were both raised on dairy farms. We both have put in plenty hours milking cows, mowing hay and doing the yucky jobs that are part of growing up on a farm. Rick also hauled milk for 25 years. This means he picked up the milk from various farms and delivered it to the local processing plant where it was turned into cheese or butter. When Rick and I planned to get married, his son, Darran, took over the family milk hauling business. Darran continues to haul milk today.

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On my family farm, my sisters and I also raised sheep. For us girls, this was a way for us to put a little money into our savings accounts, which was used when we attended college. My sister Debbie still raises sheep and allows me to be involved every once in a while.

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Look a little more carefully at the old window. I knew exactly where it came from. It is an original window from the house where Rick’s parents lived the last 50+ years of their lives. This house was built in 1850 by a General Starks, who also happened to be a general during the Civil War. Built as a glorious house in its day, at one point, the house was a stage coach stop. This window is one of the original windows, indicated by the wavy glass. I have a few other of these windows in our house as well; used for decoration.

So much heritage in one window.

So much reflection about who Rick and I are and where we came from. How and why we were raised.

Yes, we were raised on farms. This has colored who we are, our work ethic, our occupations and how we view life. Rick’s son, Darran, has chosen to raise his kids very much like he was raised: on a farm, with animals and a dad who hauls milk.

While being farm-raised is a cornerstone of who Rick and I are, there is another similar aspect of our backgrounds. We were both raised with an emphasis of having faith in our lives. We both grew up going to church. Our families, as well as ourselves, have been very involved in a faith community like, forever. We make faith an active part of our daily lives; not just in what we do but also in the choices that we make.

Just as it is impossible for Rick and me to separate our farm roots from who we are, it’s just as impossible for us to separate our faith roots as well. We are both grateful that our parents made sure faith was just as important in our lives as making hay and feeding calves. Yes, we still struggle with faith and God’s role in our lives and the world. But at the end of the day, we know giving up on faith is just as impossible as not appreciating the hard work and dedication being involved in production agriculture requires.

So, how were you raised? What values were instilled in you as being most important? How do you share these values with your children and/or grandchildren?

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Sister Linda – thanks for the wonderful reminder of our roots. I’m still looking for a special place to put in our home. Maybe after the Christmas decorations are finally down.

For great reminders what being raised with what we consider important, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for giving each one of us life. Thank you for families and people who have taught us values that were important to them, which they passed onto us. I pray we see being raised in faith as a cornerstone of our very lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 184 – Treasures

Fri., Dec. 28, 2018

Luke 2:19 – But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

There are SO many things to treasure at Christmas time. Here are just a few things that have been happening in our world the last few days.

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Our friend Tatev visited us for several days over Christmas. It’s always a treasure to have her stay with us.

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We hosted family on Christmas day. Here is Hubby Rick and nephew Kevin in rare form. After an early morning of ice fishing, maybe they were a bit tired and easily amused! (As the picture was being taken, Rick informed me that it had better not end up on the internet. Sorry …)

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A whole bunch of other things happened but I have no pictures to show them.

 

Everyone’s Christmas is unique and different. Every year, our celebrations are just a bit different.

I pray we find special moments in these days that we can treasure; memories for future days and times.

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This week is a good week to ponder. I pray you are finding some time to do so. I’m looking forward to some soon!

For simple treasures in our world, I am grateful.

Lord God – it’s easy to look at social media and see someone else’s treasures and overlook our own treasures. It’s easy to think that other families have “better” celebrations. It’s easy to expect things to be different than they are. I pray we can find special treasures in these days. Help us to ponder the deeper meaning of the season and this time in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 183 – Light of the World

Wed., Dec. 26, 2018

John 1:9 – The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

From Christmas Eve night to Christmas Day, doesn’t it seem like the world stops? Seemingly, all divisions seem to stop for maybe, 36 hours. Less chaos. Less drama. Less confusion.

I know all Christmas celebrations aren’t grand and perfect. Things happen. There is disappointment and let downs.

But for a short period of time, doesn’t it seem more peace? More getting along? More love?

Why can’t we seemingly stretch this quiet and peace from 36 hours to a bit longer period of time?

Why can’t we hang onto the feeling at the end of Christmas Eve worship and stretch it out a bit?

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Part of my peeps …

It seems to happen at every Christmas Eve worship service I’ve been a part of. We sing Silent Night. Everyone has lighted candles. Maybe a bit of wax drips on our clothing. Or a candle gets a little too close to the woman’s hair in the pew in front of the young child.

But when the song ends and maybe a few words are shared, no one wants to leave. We all stay glued to our pews or chairs. We want this moment to just hold on …

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It happened on Christmas Eve again this year. Jared and I played our guitars during Silent Night, just like the song was sung for the first time, 200 years ago. His daughter, Ella, helped lead the singing. We finished. A few words encouraged people to take the light into the world. Go in peace.

No one moved.

It was beautiful. It was precious. It was special.

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Look at this candle from Christmas Eve one more time.

It’s a symbol that God came into the world … as a baby. As a human being. Because God loves us.

Now, we are to take God’s light, which represents God’s love for us, back into the world.

Before you rush back into the normal, regular, every-day-life events, please hold onto the candle. Hold onto the light. Sit with it for just a bit longer. Remember why we sing Silent Night. Why we light candles. Why we celebrate Christmas Eve.

Christmas is just but one day. However, we can live as children of the light every day. Let’s do so. Together. Let’s be the light together.

For God’s light in this world, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for coming into this world. I pray we find love and peace in your light. May we stretch ourselves and be the light of You in this world today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 180 – When Plans Fall Through

Thurs., Dec. 20, 2018

Luke 2:7 –    And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Sometimes, things just don’t turn out the way they are supposed to. What we have planned gets abruptly changed. Often, all we can do is find little “band-aids” to hold things together in the meantime.

Around Thanksgiving time, I decided to make quilts for our youngest three grandchildren for Christmas. While I have quilted, it’s been awhile. I had one month to get this pulled together.

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One night, I found myself at a fabric store. I didn’t have planned patterns nor was I sure how much fabric I needed. I just bought fabric. I would “make it work” and figure it out later.

With limited time, I chose simple patterns that I could easily piece together. I set-up shop and got busy sewing.

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Recently, my friend Mary Ann purchased a piece of sewing equipment called a longarm. This machine does the quilting part of making a quilt. It sews together the top, the bottom and the batting or middle section together. Mary Ann was willing to help me quilt these blankets, bringing me one step closer to finishing the quilts before Christmas.

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I arrived at Mary Ann’s house late one afternoon this week. Quickly, we began the process of getting a quilt on the longarm. With the quilt in proper position, Mary Ann went started the machine. It wouldn’t work. After trying everything she could think of, no success. Then, she called the store where she purchased it. After a conversation with a woman there, Mary Ann called the main office of the company who makes these machines. A nice man helped Mary Ann trouble shoot the machine for over an hour. They thought it was good to go.

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But it wasn’t. Yes, it worked for a while. Then, it didn’t. For the next few hours, we witnessed the machine work and then not work. It felt like a temperamental 2-tear-old; willing to work somethings and other times, completely disagreeable.

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In the meantime, we began another quilt on a regular sewing machine with a special quilting foot. By midnight, we called it a day with not nearly the work done we had anticipated.

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When the machine is working, it’s slick. When it doesn’t work properly, it’s more than frustrating. Some communication malfunction seemed to prevent it from operating properly. Mary Ann would patiently try different things … until the longarm would work for a while. And then, it wouldn’t.

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We kept plugging away. Unfortunately, I had booked myself with other things in the afternoon. I knew I had to leave by a certain time. Just before I left, we finished quilting two quilts. I left granddaughter Ellie’s quilt behind. Mary Ann will work on it as the machine allows itself to be agreeable.

Mary Ann and I tried not to let frustration get the best of us. When we made progress, we celebrated. I was grateful for Mary Ann’s assistance. Mary Ann was excited for me to see her new toy. We kept these thoughts in the forefront; not whether the machine worked properly.

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As we worked on the quilts, I thought about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her life didn’t go as she planned. One visit from an angel turned her life upside down. She planned to get married to Joseph, have a raft of kids and live a rather boring life in Nazareth. Instead, she became the mother of the Son of God.

Who would have thought traveling to Bethlehem near your due date would be a good idea? Mary made the trek while terribly pregnant and assumingly very uncomfortable. She didn’t seem to complain and simply accepted this as her role.

When it was time for the baby to be born and they couldn’t find a house with room, they welcomed the shelter of a barn. What first-time mother would be excited about giving birth with sheep and cows are nestled around you? And expect the cradle to be a feeding trough? When Mary’s plans got changed, she rolled with the punches and “made it work.”

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After the baby was born, Mary didn’t have a warm blanket for Jesus. She only had strips of cloth to wrap the baby in. No real blanket? Are you kidding me?

Whether the quilts for our grandkids are completely done or not when we open presents with our grandkids, they will be much nicer than the bands of cloth Mary wrapped her precious baby in on the night of his birth.

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What do I have to complain about?

A machine not working properly?

My poor timing of everything?

Things out of my control?

My let-downs pale in comparison to Mary’s disappointments and frustrations. She accepted every change of plan with barely a blink of an eye and kept plugging along.

Makes my frustrations look like a cakewalk.

It’s just a matter of perspective.

As much as I think I can control and “make it work,” there are times when I just need to go along for the ride. And not miss the scenery along the way.

Whether the quilts are fully done before we celebrate with our grandchildren, I do not know. What I do know is that I choose whether to get frustrated or not. Can I simply be happy for the “strips of cloth” in my life that help me hold things together?

I sure hope so.

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For perspective when things are no longer in our control, I am grateful.

Lord God, how did Mary kept the right perspective while her world was turned upside down? May her example inspire me to use whatever “band-aids” available to hold things together. May I turn to you when plans fall through and be guided by your wisdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 180 – Less Is More Christmas

Thurs., Dec. 20, 2018

Luke 2:10 –   The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.  DSC06974

OK, it’s just a few days before Christmas. Two days ago, I was trying to figure out how I was going to get everything done that I still want to accomplish before Christmas. Later, I regrouped. I rethought. And I came up with a new plan; one, I’m confident is more realistic.

Why do we try to do SO MUCH during the holidays? Are we consumed with the right things?

Too often: No.

Interested in my revised plan?

Good. Here it is: Top 10 Most Important Ideas Right Before Christmas:

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  1. DON’T add any more people to your gift-giving list. If they weren’t on your list by now, DON’T ADD THEM. In fact, look over your list and decide where you can cut back if you are still navigating the shopping/wrapping/preparing gift business. (For those of you whose gifts are perfectly wrapped and under the tree, well, you can skip to #9.) The rest of us? Simplify gift-giving. Buy less, use something you already have or just decide that time with this loved one is more important than a gift. Look at the 5-Minute Gift and be inspired to make something that will be special for this person

 

9. DO plan time with a special friend, family member, spouse, etc. I’ve had time with my dear friend Mary Ann this week. We had a specific project that we planned to work on. Problems beyond our control slowed us down. Way down. These special Christmas gifts I had planned will probably not get done by the time I had hoped. Rather than focusing on what isn’t getting done, we’ve hung out and enjoyed a delicious malt Mary Ann’s husband, Bob, made for us.

8. DON’T try to squeeze in one more party than what you’ve already got on the calendar. Running to five different celebrations in 36 hours isn’t heroic. It’s craziness. Pick one or two. Let the rest go.

  1. DO extend the holidays and celebrate beyond the normal Christmas time. I had hoped to have a dear friend over before Christmas. There is literally not a day when we can both make it work. So, we picked a day after Christmas. Problem solved. I’m feeling great that we will see each other. We’re both feeling less stress and know this will be more enjoyable for both.

 

  1. DON’T have ridiculous expectations. Somewhere along the way in the next five days, someone will loss their temper. Someone will feel left out. Someone will be disappointed. Maybe you will be the one! Hubby Rick often reminds me that it is best to have low expectations and be pleasantly surprised when something goes beyond your bottom-of-the-totem pole expectations.

 

  1. DO plan on down time. Hope in the car and drive around and look at Christmas lights. Make a batch of hot chocolate and watch a movie. Get out your favorite card or board game and have a mini-marathon session. Let your soul be restored; not frazzeled.

 

  1. DON’T decide this is the week to go on a diet, try a new exercise routine or follow a tight budget. This are all noble and great ideas. Just probably not this week. Pick a date in the near future when starting to make a change is more realistic.

 

  1. DO take time and think about the last year. What were some of your favorite moments? When could have you responded to a situation with more grace? What lesson did you learn this year can you take forward and use as a spring board for future growth and change?

 

  1. DON’T expect the week to be only filled with Hallmark-worthy pictures and moments. Most of us don’t live in Unrealisticville. Keep your celebrations true to who you are and the traditions you value.

 

  1. DO remember the good news of the season. The angels told the shepherd’s the news was for all people; not just some poor shepherds who were herding wooly sheep on a Judean countryside. This good news is for us as well! How might we keep focused on this great and wonderful news? THIS is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Everything else is residual.

There will be moments in the next five days when I will forget to focus on this list. I pray that I remember to come back to this list of 10 simple ways to come back to the whole reasons we celebrate Christmas.

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For simplifying Christmas, I am grateful.

Lord God – may we not be afraid to slow down and hear the angels sing today. May we be amazed that the Messiah has been born. Help us see the most important aspects of Christmas this year. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 178 – The Journey of Family

Mon., Dec. 17, 2018

Luke 2:3-4 – Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.

This past weekend, Hubby Rick and I made our annual journey to Augusta, WI for the Deaton family Christmas. On Saturday, my siblings and our significant others, my nieces, nephews and their children all descended upon my sister Debbie’s house for our annual Christmas celebration.

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For our family, this is our annual journey to the little town where I grew up. Augusta is small; about 2,000 people. It’s where I graduated from high school, where our family attended church and grocery shopped. There was even a time when I held the title Miss Augusta.

When it came time for my parents to move off of the farm where they raised their family, they moved into a house on Main Street … in Augusta. While I have not lived in the Augusta area for decades, this is still the area where I grew up. Where I remember going to the Red Dot café with my Dad. Where I still know every word of the high school cheer song when it is played.

Instead of Bethlehem, our family journeys to Augusta each Christmas. Together, we read the Christmas story, eat a large meal and take the annual Deaton Christmas photo. It has become a tradition that we all look forward to and no one wants to miss.

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Knowing we’re covering multiple generations, we’ve tried to make it fun for all ages. There’s a craft for the kids. Favorite Christmas cookies. Usually, a card game. This year, we included our dear family friends, Donald, Celeste and Ruthie, who were neighbors when we lived on the farm and have been a special part of our family.

Several years ago, we started the Deaton Family Gift Exchange, which has truly become the highlight of the day. Rather than purchasing gifts, I wrap up a whole bunch of family “treasures.” We have a white elephant gift exchange. Some of the gifts have significance. Some are just plain silly. Others are not highly sought out by anyone. With each gift, I write a little story, explaining the significance of this item.

I knew this year’s gift exchange would not top last year’s Deaton Family Gift Exchange. After multiple requests, the beloved Winnebago camper was the highlight of last year’s exchange. It’s the camper I received for Christmas when I was 5 or 6. Every Deaton child, neighborhood children and young kid who walked into my Mom’s house probably played with the Winnebago. Nephew Ben proudly ended up with the Winnebago last year. It keeps a special spot in his living room.

As I wrap and prepare the gifts, I’m never quite sure what items will be most sought after. Or what item no one will want. Again, this year, I was completely surprised.

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My great-niece Snow was the second person to unwrap a present. Naturally, she picked the biggest box, as any 5-year-old would. Inside? This bucket. Immediately, we ALL knew the history of this bucket.

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Probably an old lard bucket, its sat underneath my Mom’s kitchen sink for decades. Literally, decades. This was her potatoes and onions bucket. She also put peelings and other scraps into the bucket. When it was time to feed the sheep, the bucket was taken with and emptied.

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This bucket as a lot of usage miles on it. Hubby Rick could not believe that I had driven this beat-up bucket to our house, only to wrap it up, so it could make the journey back to Augusta one more time.

Snow tried diligently to pawn the bucket off each time a new gift was unwrapped. She wasn’t very successful. Later, Rick “traded” Snow for the bucket, specifically, so he could leave the bucket under Debbie’s tree, a gift for her to discover later.

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At last year’s Deaton Family Christmas, my Mom was there. It was really the last day she was fairly alert. The next day, she began a steady decline in which just a few weeks later, she passed away.

How fitting that Mom’s bucket became the gift everyone had a story about and the one we talked about all afternoon.

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When Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem, they had no idea how this one trip would change their lives. When my parents traveled from central Iowa to northern Wisconsin on a very cold day in February 1961, could they anticipate how this one trip would change our family forever? I hardly think so.

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Life is full of journeys. Some of these journeys are exciting. Some are difficult. Some take bends and corners we’d rather live without. Every family has a journey. Every family has history. Every family has things that draw out memories and stories, just like this bucket.

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Our Deaton family isn’t perfect. We have lots of things that we’d like to change. At times, we disappoint each other and forget to give each other enough grace.

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Yet, we’re still family. We are the ones who will continue the journey my parents began years ago. I love that we take time on Christmas to remember parts of this journey, share it with each other and keep the spirit of my parents and our grandparents as part of our Christmas celebration.

Our village isn’t Bethlehem. It’s Augusta. It’s part of our story, our journey.

What’s your journey?

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For journeys of family yesterday, today and tomorrow, I am grateful.

Merry Christmas from the Deaton’s.

Holy God – it’s nearly impossible to understand how one journey to Bethlehem changed so much. It’s difficult to imagine the emotions and feelings Mary and Joseph felt as they were on this journey. As we journey in life, may we always see you as part of our journey. May we keep our eye on you, the one who knows best how we should steer our journey. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 176 – Blue Christmas

Wed., Dec. 12, 2018

John 11:35 –  Jesus wept.

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Today, I want to be real. I want to dig a little deeper. I want to address the Christmas elephant in the room:

For some people, the holidays aren’t all that holly and jolly. Some people would love to just skip from Dec. 1 right to Jan. 2 or 3 and forgo all the merry-making.

“Can this be true?” you wonder.

You bet.

For someone else, you may be thinking, “Finally! A word for those of us who have little or no desire to tackle all the Christmas traditions that everyone else just SEEMS. TO. LOVE.”

There can be a variety of reasons why people feel the holidays are just one hot mess waiting to happen. Maybe it’s the first Christmas without a loved one. Possibly, the holidays brew up a whole bunch of memories of past-Christmases-gone-bad. For those who feel very alone or isolated, everyone’s cuter than Pinterest Christmas cards and perfectly decorated cookies and houses are JUST. TOO. MUCH.

For some people, the holidays are one big pot of anticipation that only ends up in let-down, disappointment and anxiety. I can’t say that I know how you might feel. What I can say is your feelings and emotions are very real. No, you aren’t crazy if you’d rather keep Christmas wrapped in a box shoved to the back of a closet rather than letting it be something wrapped and under the tree.

So, what is a person who feels the only possible Christmas this year is a Blue Christmas to do?

Breathe. And then breathe some more. And then, rethink your approach to the holidays. The worse thing to do? Plow right through the holidays, thinking “everything will be just fine …” when you know they won’t.

Your best opportunity to make it through the holidays in one piece? Do some pre-thinking and pre-planning to prepare yourself with a possible game plan. Decide in advance how you might best cope. And then, live out our ideas to the best of your ability.

Here are a few suggestions for trying to live through a Blue Christmas:

  • Decide that everything doesn’t have to be the same as it always has been. In 2000, Hubby Rick’s eldest son was killed in January. We were married in August. Come December, we would celebrate our first Christmas together as a married couple. However, Rick was in a funk. The one-year anniversary of Nate’s death was approaching. He was reeling in grief, just trying to make it through each day. Throw in a whole bunch of holiday anticipation, I knew we were in for a disaster. What did we do? We decided that we would only do the things that we wanted to do over Christmas, not what had always been done previously. Ironically, we cut our tree during a perfectly nasty snowstorm. We invited Rick’s family to our house on Christmas Eve. We decided not to purchase gifts for each other and began our long-standing tradition of giving gifts to needy families instead. We lowered our expectations to what seemed manageable. And we survived. Rick survived. We decided in advance what to do and not do. When an emotion came up that we hadn’t planned for, we punted and came up with a new game plan. We built space into Christmas week when we could just be together and watch the lighted tree. And nothing else.

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  • Add something which help you remember a missing loved one. Every year, I take a wreath to the cemetery and hang it on Nate’s grave. We hang this ornament we received from the funeral home in honor of Nate on our tree. Light a special candle or sing a favorite carol in honor of someone. Make this tradition something special and meaningful, if only for you. I make rosettes every year because my Dad loved them. Making them is a little “gift” I give to myself to honor and remember my Dad.
  • If being with certain people is a challenge, be realistic about time together. Establish a timeframe which is doable for you. If a big gathering is overwhelming, plan smaller, shorter get-togethers with people important to you.
  • Be mindful of how much you drink and eat. Go for a walk and get some exercise. Plan time to clear your head.
  • Share stories and memories of a missing loved one. Often, it’s difficult for families to talk about a person who is missing. I think it’s often therapeutic to recall things rather than avoid sharing them.
  • Give space to others who might be dealing with loss or disappointment. Sometimes, words aren’t necessary. Being present is more important.
  • Allow yourself to be sad and disappointed. Sometimes, we forget that even Jesus wept. When his dear friend Lazarus died, Jesus chose not to rush to be with his family right away. Instead, he waited three long days. When he finally arrived in Bethsada where Lazarus lived, he was ambused by Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. John’s gospel records a so-important detail of this story: Jesus wept. We see the Son of God expressing his emotions and grief in the truest of ways. Give yourself permission to express your emotions and grief as well.
  • Have something to look forward to in the New Year. Plan a trip, an outing or something that you know will lift your spirits. Have the time established and in place, so all you have to do is go through with your plans.

Grief and disappointment at the holidays can come in many ways. We often think it’s a person who as passed away. However, this disappointment can also come because of a fractured relationship, knowing that “things aren’t the same as they used to be,” or a variety of other reasons. Whatever the reason for your Blue Christmas, give yourself permission to acknowledge your feelings and emotions. Lower your expectations. Take bite-sized bites of the holidays this year and let this be enough. Read the story of Lazarus and see Jesus’ emotions. They were very real.

For the possibilities of dealing with a Blue Christmas, I am grateful.

Almighty God – while this is often a fun and exciting time of the year, you know those people who really aren’t looking forward to Christmas and the reasons why. Pour out an extra dose of grace upon these people. Surround them with your love and peace. Help others recognize their reason for a Blue Christmas and allow space for this. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 175 – Christmas Cards

Tues., Dec. 11, 2018

Jeremiah 29:25a – “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You sent letters in your own name to all the people in Jerusalem, 

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This is a fun time of the year to go to the mailbox. Why?

Christmas cards.

Do you like receiving Christmas cards?

I do.

And this is why I send Christmas cards.

Each year, I look at the Excel spreadsheet where I keep names and addresses of those families, I have historically sent cards … and promise myself to cut the list down. And every year, I end up adding more to the list and justifying those on the list.

Yep, there are many names on this list I only hear from once a year. People who have been in my life for awhile and who I just don’t have as much contact. And there are names on the list who I do not receive a card back. Yet, I still want to send them a Christmas greeting.

Yes, there are some families I would like to share more of my life. But in an interest to get the cards out before Valentine’s Day, I only write in a few cards each year. The rest? They get the computer-generated and Walgreens printed card with a few pictures on it.

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Yet, I try and take a few minutes and remember each family as I put their card together. As I put the address label on the card, our return address label as well as the stamp, I say a quick prayer for this family. It’s probably less than a minute … but I way that I lift each family up.

On Saturday, Hubby Rick and I attended a grandson’s wrestling tournament. I brought along a bag with boxes of cards and envelopes as well as sheets of stamps and labels. The middle-school boy just down from me on the bleachers kept looking at me. I think he was trying to figure out what I was doing, as I sat there putting together my Christmas cards and praying for each one as I did so. I think I was the only one out of hundreds, and I mean hundreds, at this tournament who was putting together their Christmas cards. I call it planning ahead.

Christmas cards are not as vogue as they once were. Some people feel they connect with people on social media and thus, no cards are necessary. Or don’t feel or want to take the time to send.

Personally, this is one Christmas tradition I enjoy and want to continue. Why? Because I pray this is an opportunity for me to connect with as well as bless each family, I sent a card to as well as each family I receive a card from.

Today when I got home from work, Rick had a stack of cards on the coffee table. Today’s haul of Christmas cards. As I opened and read and looked at the photos in each card, again, I said a quick little prayer for each family. Whether I know everything going on in this family’s life or not, God does. I can simply ask God to pour out a special blessing on each family and ask God to be with them, whatever they may be experiencing. And I’m thankful these families took time to send us a card … because they mean the world to me.

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For Christmas greetings and cards, I am grateful.

Lord God – 2,000 years ago, letters were how people communicated. We have these letters in our New Testament yet today: Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians and others. I pray as we prepared, send and receive cards we can create holy moments of blessing and connection with these families. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 170 – Peace at Home

Tues., Dec. 4, 2018

Luke 1:56 – Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Then she returned home.

I’ve had so much fun decorating the inside of my house for Christmas this year. Would you like to see some of the ways I’ve transformed my house into a peaceful Christmas place?

Good. I’d like to show you.

Just like the outside, I have some things old, just a few things new and all things simple and easy.

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Let’s begin with the tree. I’m a fresh tree tsar. Only real trees in my house. Years ago, my Mom wanted to switch to an artificial tree. She was afraid I would not come to her house for Christmas if she had an artificial tree. Yes, I still went. But in my house, I like the real deal.

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For years, I have used mismatched ornaments. A bit of this, a bit of that. Many that were given to me. This year, I didn’t plan on using new ornaments … it just kind of happened. My sister Debbie had some in her car. I had a few that I bought at Target. Soon, these were the only ornaments on the tree.

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Except this one. This ornament will ALWAYS be on our tree. It’s an ornament Rick received the first Christmas after his son Nate was killed. The funeral home had a special service for families who had lost a loved one in the last year. There were snowflake ornaments for each lost loved one on a tree, which were given to families at the service.

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On the banister going upstairs, I like to hang greens. Yes, these are artificial. (Sigh.) I haven’t figured out how to have fresh greens inside a month.

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This is the original front screen door for our house. Hubby Rick found it in the carriage house, covered with chicken poop. He power washed it, I put a coat of polyurethane on. It’s been on the stair landing since. It’s super easy to change out the decorations throughout the year.

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My Mom had a huge Christmas village. Last year, which was her last Christmas with us, she gave away pieces to her family. I’m enjoying having them out this year.

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My florist sister helped decorate my house. A bonus for me? Lots of fresh evergreen arrangements. Here’s my favorite, which is in our formal parlor.

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These decorations match nicely with the black tin on the table.

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In our dining room, Debbie made another fun arrangement for the table.

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We created a little village here, with fresh greens in the old milk bottles.

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While I prefer to decorate with burgundy over true Christmas red, we did incorporate a few red items. With the evergreens and the teal, it all fits together.

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In our television room, we have a fun centerpiece with a strand of little lights going through it.

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I’ve had this statue of Mary, Joseph and the baby for years. And I still love it.

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We decided to add just a bit of Christmas to our remodeled downstairs bathroom. The candles were given to me last year by a dear friend. They fit in perfect with the brush broom trees, which are all the rage this year.

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When I look out the kitchen window, I see these two ornaments, part of the bargain shopping I did at Target. And looked … it snowed!

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My favorite Christmas decoration of all? The Nativity. I have two in the formal parlor. This is one that my Mom gave me.

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The peaceful Nativity does not show us the wide range of emotions Mary experienced the months before Jesus’ birth. She was so unsure of everything that she stayed with her elder cousin, Elizabeth, for several months. Even though Elizabeth was too old to bear a child, she did. Shortly after Elizabeth’s son John was born, Mary returned to her little village of Nazareth. It was time to go home and prepare for the birth of her son. Did she know she would leave Nazareth again, this time for Bethlehem? Rather than giving birth at home, Mary was in a village where she knew virtually no one.

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Mary knew home is wherever you feel close to God.

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I feel this when I walk into my house. It’s a place of peace, calm and comfort.

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I pray your home will be a place of peace this Christmas; a place where you can discover anew the miracle of Christmas.

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For a home where I feel God’s peace, I am grateful.

Lord God – those months preceding Jesus’ birth were filled with so many emotions for Mary. She lived and stayed in many places. I’m confident, they all became a home for her. I pray we find your peace and calm this Christmas season in a special place; one where we can discover You anew each day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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