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.

unloading

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.

empty barn

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.

Combine

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 127 – Gratitude Game

The-Gratitude-Game-for-Thanksgiving-768x1024

My Answers:

Person I am Thankful for: Hubby Rick

Place I am Thankful for: Our home

Food You are Thankful for: Ice Cream

Thing You are Thankful for: Readers of this blog!

Anything of Your Choice: Being a Child of God

What are your answers? Share one, two or all in the comments!

Blessings –

Dianne

Gratitude Day 37 – Notes of Encouragement

notes from Pam

Fri., May 11, 2018

Romans 15:4 – For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

I began 2018 determined to take better care of myself. Generally speaking, I am healthy. Hubby and I consistently remind ourselves that we are so fortunate to be in such great health at our ages.

However, last fall, my doctor was rather direct with me. I am at the age where increasing my weight would not be a good choice. For the last few years, he has told me losing 10 pounds must be a priority. Twenty would be even better.

Fall was busy as I made some significant decisions about my future. I decided to begin the New Year with new eating habits. I have always been a fan of salads, fruits and veggies. I also know the amount of food (i.e. – calories) has been a problem. I am also a huge emotional eater. I eat when I’m happy, I eat when I’m challenged. I eat for no reason at all. To help change my habits, I began the year by limiting the foods I ate for 21 days. The first 10 days were the most stringent. The next 11 days allowed for some foods to be added back in.

During this 21-day period is also when my Mom died. I spent many of these days at the nursing home and my sister’s house. I was determined to follow the plan and took food with me to keep on track. Day 22 was my mother’s funeral. I celebrated by eating ice cream and a couple desserts. The next day, I got back on track with my eating. While I do not have hard and fast “rules,” I do follow certain guidelines.

What have I stopped eating? Sugar. About once a week, I do allow myself a little treat. But only once a week. I have cut back significantly on the amount of carbs I eat. I have not eliminated all gluten from my diet but am very mindful about when I choose to eat gluten. I have increased the amount of protein I eat. I eat fresh fruits and veggies every day.

My friend Pam was visiting at the beginning of the year. I shared with her my decision to improve my health and try to finally loose the ten pounds my doctor has highly encouraged me to lose. Pam stayed at our house for a few days while I was with my Mom. When I returned home, I began to find little notes scattered around the house. In the fridge. On the mirror. In the sugar container. In the pocket of my robe. It took me a few weeks to discover them all because they were in such unique spots.

These little notes of encouragement brought many smiles to my face. Some were very poignant: Breathe. Breathe again. Calm yourself – and get your hand off that no-no food. Others were encouraging: Add some spice to your life – and that bowl of vegetables you’re enjoying right now! (Yes, this one was in the spice rack.) Others helped me focus on why I have changed my eating habits: You’re doing this for you – and your health!

I collected all these little notes of encouragement and put them in a little crock which sits on my desk. When I need a little pick-me-up, I randomly pull out one of the notes and read it. And smile.

The New Testament is chock full of notes of encouragement. Letters, many written by the Apostle Paul, to groups of Christian believers or individuals he knew well. Sometimes his letters were in response to a letter he had received. He’s trying to help people sort through some mess. Other notes were written simply to encourage.

When those letters were written, I doubt Paul ever envisioned people reading and re-reading them nearly 2,000 years later. But we do. Why? Sometimes, we just need a note of encouragement to help get through the day. To help us sort through some challenge that might have drawn us off track. Notes of encouragement we can turn to and be inspired.

Paul’s notes are no different from the notes of encouragement Pam scattered in my life: in my running shoes, next to the “good” food, underneath a roll of toilet paper. Little slips that have brought many smiles to my face as I have read and re-read them.

It has been over five months since I changed my eating habits. While the scale has moved soooo slowly, I am trying not to focus on a number. I consider how I feel and my energy levels. When I just want to eat something off-limits, sometimes I just grab one of those notes from the crock and try to fill myself with these words.

Who is someone that could use a little note of encouragement in your life right now? Take three minutes and write one. On a real piece of paper. Stick it in a special spot or drop it in the mail to them. They will be grateful for a note of encouragement, just like I have been.

For these notes of encouragement, I am grateful.   

Blessed Lord – thank you for inspiring people to write down special words that we find in our Bibles today. Words that are there to encourage us. I pray we use opportunities placed before us to share notes of encouragement with those around us. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 32 – Yummy Rhubarb

Sun., May 6, 2018

Genesis 6:21 – Store up enough food both for yourself and for them.

Contrary to the bible verse, I’ve been trying to clean out my freezer. With summer coming, I like to try and minimize the amount of food carried over from one year to the next.

Friday, we had plans to visit our friends, Howard and Rhoda. We would pick up Friday night fish and eat at their house. Wanting to take along a dessert, I checked the freezer. A few lingering containers of last year’s rhubarb were still hanging out. A double-banger: I would help clean-out the freezer AND get to make one of my favorite desserts. If cleaning out the freezer means sharing food with others, I’m all in.

I love rhubarb. There are many, many different ways to make it. My favorite? Rhubarb crisp. There are a variety of recipes. I want oatmeal in my version. Here is my favorite recipe:

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Notice: I’m not afraid to write in my cookbooks. (This is how I knew that I had the right recipe.) For years, I never thought to write in my Bible. While attending seminary, a professor talked about making your Bible your friend. He shared how he writes in his Bible to help him find certain passages more quickly. I immediately embodied his strategy and have been using it ever since.

If writing in a Bible is OK, then should writing in other books be OK? As well as cook books? You bet!

So, while the first pot of coffee was brewing early Friday morning, I whipped up the rhubarb crisp and popped it into the oven. Fifty minutes later, a heavenly aroma was wafting through our house. The rhubarb crisp was done. This is what it looked like. I made a double batch from the recipe:

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We had a wonderful evening with our dear friends, Howard and Rhoda. At the end of the meal, I was happy to hear they also like rhubarb as I served up the crisp. Yes, I broke my “no sugar” rule and had just a little bit of rhubarb crisp. The urge was stronger than my willpower.

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Thanks, Howard and Rhoda, for hosting us on Friday night. We had a great time.

We made a little exchange before we left. Rhoda had read about Rick’s “lost” rain gauge. While at the hardware store on Friday, she picked up a new one. The lost rain gauge dilemma has been solved! We brought home a new rain gauge. They are enjoying the rest of the rhubarb dessert.

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For Rick’s new rain gauge, as well as tasty rhubarb crisp, I am grateful.

Hospitality is one of the spiritual gifts we sometimes overlook. Thanks for bringing into our lives wonderful people like Howard and Rhoda. As Howard’s health continues to change, we pray for him and others struggling with Parkinson’s disease. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

P.S. – I brought along Joanna Gaines’s cookbook, so Rhoda would have a chance to thumb through it as well. She was very impressed!

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Gratitude Day 31 – A New Cookbook!

Fri., May 4, 2018

Genesis 27:4 –Cook some of that tasty food that I love so much and bring it to me. I want to eat it once more and give you my blessing before I die.” 

A package arrived on our front porch today from a friend. Surprised by this box, a huge smile crept across my face as I opened it.

Inside was this:

20180503_113258Yep, Joanna Gaines new cookbook, “Magnolia Table.”

I wasn’t just grateful for this book. I was excited as well!

I will admit: I am a Gaines follower. I watch the shows. I study pictures of her designs and use them for inspiration in our old Victorian farm-style house. Her basic style resonates with me.

When we redid the kitchen in this house, I KNEW white cabinets were in my future. Hubby Rick was convinced wood cabinets were the only option. When it came time to order them, I went by myself, as encouraged by Rick, so I could order exactly what I wanted. When the white cabinets arrived, Rick dutifully installed them, following the little sketch I drew on a used piece of paper. They are lovely and exactly what I had in mind.

More than one person while walking through our house have brought up the names of Chip and Joanna Gaines. We aren’t Chip and Joanna. We do not plan on going into the business of flipping houses. However, I will admit that recently, I walked into the former upstairs kitchen. Someday, it will be a master bathroom. Rick was in the room and we were going to talk design and lay-out. The first words were, “OK, Chip. What do you have in mind?”

I only spent about five minutes thumbing through the cookbook today. Here are my first quick reactions:

  • It’s more than a cookbook. It’s a story. Joanna shares tidbits about how she created the recipes and why she included them.
  • There are a variety of recipes inspired by the various lines of her heritage as well as traditional southern recipes.
  • It’s not a cookbook for someone carefully watching their diet. This is soul food. I have made some changes to my diet since the first of the year. I will not be cooking from this cookbook every day if I want to continue these eating habits. However, I do plan to use this cookbook; just in moderation.

Food is an important part of our culture. It’s how we gather together. Around a meal, sharing our lives along with something to eat. Think about it. Communion is a meal for Christians to remember why Christ came to earth.

In the scripture from Genesis, Isaac is old. He instructs his son Esau to go hunting and make the wonderful stew he is known for. He wants one more serving of this special stew before he dies. If we would keep reading the story, we would discover that Esau’s twin brother, Jacob, is encouraged by his mother, Rebekah, help make some stew and take it to Isaac before Esau does. Then, Jacob will receive the family blessing. This is exactly what happens; all over a bowl of stew.

20180503_113338I found a special place in a nook between those white cabinets for my new cook book. It’s right next to one of my Mom’s cookbooks. They will keep each other company there. Both are also pretty good cooks.

For this cookbook, as well as my Mom’s cookbook, I am grateful.

Lord God – I think of all the times great fellowship has happened over a meal! The many ways food is used to celebrate important event within the church. After a special event such as a baptism, a wedding or a confirmation. Even after the death of a loved one as a continuation of a person’s celebration of life. Each time we come to the communion table, we participate in a special meal ordained by you. Thank you for the people who love to cook and share their food. May we continue to be inspired through the breaking of bread to connect with brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

P.S. – We had more rain today. Rick still hasn’t found the rain gauge!

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Gratitude Day 22 – Food and Those Who Produce It

guyer-gardening-pic-2

Mon., Apr. 23, 2018

Psalm 104:14 – You let the earth produce grass for cattle, plants for our food.

At least three times a day, most people open a fridge, a lunch bag or a menu and eat. As we fill our bodies with life-giving food, are we aware of where this food came from? The necessary steps for it to be available for you to eat?

Yesterday, my friend Janice invited me to attend a movie with her called, “Farmers for America.” This documentary explores how food is produced in America. It shared some interesting facts:

  • The average American farmer is 60-years-old.
  • In the next 10-20 years, about two-thirds of the American land where food is grown will change ownership.
  • Because of the high costs associated with entering production agriculture, it is increasingly difficult for many younger people who want to be farmers to follow their dreams of being a farmer.
  • Rural American is changing dramatically.

The movie explores what this means for future food production in the United States. It shared examples of people creativity growing food. Growing vegetables on vacant lots in Detroit. Specialized hoop structures which allow food to be grown year around in cold climates. Farmers offering internships to assist younger people.

At the end of the day, we have very few basic needs. Food is one of them. While this basic need does not change, this documentary shows how food production is changing in the U.S.

Here in the U.S. and even world-wide, we do not have a food shortage problem. We have a food distribution challenge. When people become more aware of sourcing food locally, this supports a local economy.

Today, I am grateful for the many people who dedicate their lives to the production of food. I am grateful for the people who work for businesses and organizations who support production agriculture. I am grateful for our universities, extension and other branches who encourage research and act as resource branches to production agriculture. These are the folks who guarantee us a safe, affordable and reliable food source.

On my way home last night, I bought groceries. In one quick stop, I could load up a cart with fresh fruits and vegetables. I could buy quality protein. I bought a box of Rick’s favorite cereal and my preferred loaf of bread. Often, we do this with little thought of the thousands of people who were involved in growing the food.

Outside of buying groceries, what is one little thing you can do this week which would encourage the people who work long hours to grow the food you eat? How might you support local farmers who are involved in production agriculture because this is their passion?

God allows for beautiful land on which crops are grown for our consumption as well as animals which we may eat. It’s a very complicated system that doesn’t just happen.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for the spring rains which encourage new growth. Thank you for the people who have dedicated their lives to producing food for us to eat. May we appreciate your role as well as their roles in providing our basic need of food. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 13 – Food

Blessings bags

Sat., Apr. 14, 2018

Matthew 5:35-36 – (Jesus said), “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’

Friday mornings are Blessings mornings. This is the day a group of volunteers’ pack weekend food bags for students in our local school district. Each Friday, we provide food for students who might not otherwise have enough food for the weekend. Weekly, students receive 8-10 items: 2 breakfast items, 2 meals and at least four snacks. These items will not cover all their weekend food needs. Our goal is to ensure students have something to eat.

Are there hungry students even in our little Poynette School District? What I do know is there were 56 students this Friday morning that may not have enough food. I am grateful we can provide some food for the weekend.

I became involved in the Blessings in a Backpack Program over 18 months ago. After the local school board confirmed support of our local Blessings program, we organized a great group of volunteers to carry out the program’s mission. There are six core volunteers who oversee an area of the program: shopping and packing, volunteer coordinator, community coordination, fundraising, financial and overall coordination. Another 25 volunteers help pack and distribute weekly food bags.

Do the weekend food bags make a difference? The stories say so. One little boy was sick on a Friday morning. When the school nurse wanted to call a parent to pick him up, he said he wouldn’t leave until he had his food bag. After winter break, two girls showed up in the school office on Friday morning. The volunteer drop-off person was also in the office. The girls asked her if she is “the food lady” because they wanted to make sure they would be getting food bags.

The Blessings program is so well supported in our community it basically runs itself. Volunteers just do their jobs. The financial support has been not been short of amazing. I was reminded of this again this week, when several substantial unsolicited donations showed up out of the blue. Every gift, whether large or small, indicates support of feeding hungry kids. And for this, I am grateful.

I have been involved in many, many different volunteer groups in my life. All with good missions. All with great volunteers. All with great purposes. The group I am the most humbled by is our little Blessings in a Backpack Program. Why? Because everyone wants to help feed hungry kids. Period. There are no other motivations. Everyone has the same goal.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – when Jesus said to “feed the hungry,” he was serious. We lift up the students and families who are a part of any Blessings in a Backpack program. We also pray for anyone, anywhere how has a food need. May we be your hands and feet in our local communities and take seriously Christ’s call to feed the hungry. Thank you for the many, many people who help feed the hungry every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Fasting without Food

these 40 days.docxMar. 11, 2014

Joel 2:12-13

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your hearts, with fasting, with weeping and with sorrow; tear your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive.

I am seven days into fasting from sugar during Lent. No, the scale hasn’t moved. But this was not the purpose from restraining from sugar. It’s about being more dependent upon God and less dependent upon things I put into my mouth.

Today was the first day since the beginning of Lent I struggled with eating. When I got home this afternoon, I just wanted to eat. I choose a couple healthy and acceptable options. But the desire continued. I knew it was something between my ears and not something my tummy wanted. Finally, I convinced myself that a cup of coffee was sufficient.

While we often think of fasting as refraining from food, here are some other “fasting” options for us to ponder this Lent:

  • Fast from anger and hatred. Instead, dole out extra doses of love to those closest to you.
  • Fast from judging others. Thank goodness Jesus generously overlooks our faults.
  • Fast from discouragement. Some days I wonder if I am anywhere near what God would desire me to be doing with my life. God can take anything in my life and create meaningful purpose if I choose to let it happen.
  • Fast from complaining. Instead, recall the most recent moment of joy you experienced.
  • Fast from resentment and bitterness. Be generous with forgiveness, even when someone does not deserve it. Thank goodness God does not make forgiveness to us dependent upon whether we deserve it.
  • Fast from unnecessary spending this Lent. Find extra ways to give to others these 40 days.

Once again, fasts are most often about what is between our ears. If all these options are too overwhelming, pick one area and concentrate on this for the rest of Lent. Or challenge yourself to intentionally include one fast each week. Imagine what type of society we could live in if many people fasted from these things the rest of Lent. Wow. We can only imagine.

Lord God, change our hearts. Make them more like Jesus’ heart. May we be encouraged to fast and refrain from those things that tear us down rather than build your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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