Gratitude Day 203 – Urgent vs. Important

Sat., Jan. 26, 2019

Psalm 86:6 – Listen closely to my prayer, O God. Hear my urgent cry.

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One of my 2019 goals has been to focus more on the really “important” things in my life versus the “urgent.”

There’s a difference? Glad you asked.

The “important” things: these are the “big” things that bring you joy, happiness and inspiration. The things that you want others to know as your signature items. The values and work (paid or unpaid) that you feel is where you make a difference in people’s lives.

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The “urgent” things: the things that you feel “must” be done. They often are the more mundane items that are important (i.e. – paying bills so the electricity or phone doesn’t get turned off) but not all the sexy. They often mask themselves as being seemingly quick and easy tasks that can turn into items that suck your time, energy and attention.

 

I’ll list what I think are some “important” things in my life and what are the seemingly “urgent” items.

Important: writing for this blog as well as the book that I’m working on; much of the volunteer work I do as ministry work as well as things I do for the local school and community; my part-time marking job; daily devotions; taking care of my temple through proper eating and exercise, investing in important relationships.

Urgent: managing our finances; laundry; shopping; making and keeping necessary appointments; keeping up with the house; meals and food; some volunteer responsibilities that I’d like to reduce in my life.

Of course, there is a whole bunch of stuff that falls in-between. Sometimes, these things are important, i.e. – planning a vacation. It’s important to have time away to spend with loved ones and recharge your soul. This can be urgent when you need to get things booked, plans made, etc.

What falls in-between will vary from person to person. One person’s hobby can be important, whereas a similar item for another will be a nagging urgent. Reading for spiritual growth is important to me. Reading e-mail and other things often feels very, very urgent.

What about social media? This can very different for various people.

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Too often, I let the “urgent” run my schedule. I look at my to-do list and think, “I just want to get some of these quick items crossed off my list. Then, I’ll work on some of the bigger, more important items.” The problem? “Urgent” items always take longer than I anticipate. Beginning an urgent item often leads to a whole bunch of other urgent items. Before you know it, time goes towards the “urgent” and the “important” get shoved to the back for another day, week, month or year.

Anyone else feel my pain? And so, the struggle continues.

This week, I was determined to spend more time with the “important” than the “urgent.” My to-do list had plenty of “urgent” things. All week, I might get a couple done. Most kept getting rolled over into tomorrow’s to-do list. Friday morning, I realized some urgent things needed to be tackled or dropped off the list.

Time management gurus often say some of our “urgent” things should be thrown into the wastebasket.

Anyone else feel the pain of trying to let these things go? And so, the struggle continues.

I spent most of Friday working through the “urgent” list, ignoring the “important” things I desperately want to put my time into.

And so, the struggle continues.

I have rocked some “important” areas so far this year. I love the new way I’m doing daily devotions and loving it. I’m exercising for at least 20 minutes a day. I am blogging regularly and writing some. But so many other “important” things never see the light of day.

And so, the struggle continues.

If you struggle with this, I’d love to hear your insights. How you try to manage this? What is your best tip to not let your life get consumed with the urgent?

And so, the struggle continues.

So often, this same struggle is often found in our prayer lives. How often do we pray for the really “important” things? How much of your prayer life is consumed with the “urgent” requests? Just another example how the “urgent” often takes over.

Having answers for these types of challenges can be hard. What we should not do is stop seeking or trying to find ways that resonate with us and our lives.

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For help in determining what the “important” things in our lives versus the “urgent”, I am grateful.

Lord God – thanks for being patient with me when I struggle to do the really important things. I appreciate your graciousness in allowing us to make these daily choices. May I find ways to focus on the “important” versus the “urgent” in my daily life. Amen.

 

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 202 – Working Together

Thurs., Jan. 24, 2019

2 Corinthians 6:1 – Since we work together with him, we are also begging you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

And then, there was winter.

After scooting by the beginning of winter with very little snow and very mild temps, well, winter has arrived.

In the last 24+ hours, we’ve had 8-10 inches of snow. And we had several inches last weekend. I know, it’s not like living in Buffalo, NY … but it’s snow.

snow plows

We live north of Madison, WI. Today, I saw this cool picture. Count all of those snow plows, working together. They are on a main commuting route in Madison called The Beltline. How cool is this?

I know. Some people were complaining that not enough snow was moved before the morning commute. Or there wasn’t enough snow or salt. Or the side streets weren’t cleared. Let me just say … it’s impossible to get all the snow moved at the same time so that everyone can get just where they want as quickly as they would like. The roads department can’t do it all right now.

What this picture shows me is something super cool: teamwork. A bunch of folks working together, for the benefit of others. A little reminder that sometimes, we need to remember the bigger picture. We aren’t the center of God’s universe. When we figure this out, well, it really is a happier place for us.

Can we just stop wanting more for ourselves and decide that the best way to feel good about ourselves is to help someone else?

Can we set aside our personal preference for the benefit of a larger group?

Can we encourage others to do their best and in turn, then be encouraged to do our best?

When we see ourselves as Christians, then we are part of a larger community. Christians aren’t a community of one. They are a part of a huge family that includes people that are very different from you. In fact, there maybe some you don’t even really like. They are going to look different than you do, care for things that aren’t as important to you and irritate you some day. And just as you are a beloved child of God, SO ARE THEY.

I think we Christians can do some really amazing things here for God’s kingdom on earth. If we’d only work together and decide what we hold in common is really more important than where we differ.

So, let’s give each other an extra dose of grace today. Let’s find some folks who are excited to work together. Go make a difference in someone’s life, a community or the world. We can plow through a lot of barriers when we work together.

For a wonderful example of working together, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for giving us wonderful examples of working together, with the best example of all found in the Trinity of God. Help us to focus on the things we agree on more than the areas where we disagree. May we unite and work together for the glory and honor of your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 199 – Serenity

Mon., Jan. 21, 2019

Ephesians 4:2 – Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love,

Anyone struggling with not keeping up with the goals you have for yourself?

Me too.

And then, I ran across this saying:

other serenity prayer

You maybe familiar with the Serenity Prayer. It goes like this:

God grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

It’s a common prayer used in recover and 12-step programs. But this isn’t the only place it can be helpful. I think it’s a great reminder for daily living. It’s OK to acknowledge there are things we can and cannot affect and change. And it’s OK to be able to identify between the difference.

I also like this alternative version because it reminds me that I don’t have to be perfect. Some days, I feel like I am able to be more gracious with myself. Other days, not so much. On those days I’m not very gracious, it’s easy to focus on everything that I could have done better. I could have eaten better, made more time for exercise, checked more things off of my to-do list, wasted less time, focused on the most important things first … the list goes on and on.

Maybe, some days, it’s OK to not be at the top of your game. It’s acceptable to take life a little slower and enjoy moments.

So, if you are one of those people who isn’t very gracious with yourself, read these words carefully. Maybe even speak them aloud, as a prayer. Not only say them; believe them.

I’m a beloved child of God.

I am enough for today.

Grant me the grace I need right now.

Help me see my value and worth through God’s eyes and not just my own.

May I know God loves me, just as I am.

For accepting grace for myself, I am grateful.

Holy God – sometimes, it’s just easier to see our faults than recognize the good things we’ve done. Help us be gracious with ourselves. May we know that you love us just the way we are. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 192 – Patience

Thurs., Jan. 10, 2019

Job 21:4 – Are my complaints against another human; why is my patience short?

I have a standing weekly appointment with a 5th grader. His name is Isaac. On Wednesday mornings, Isaac and I spent about 45 minutes together. At least part of the time together, we work on some project related to Isaac’s schooling: math, writing or reading. Lately, we have been working through a cursive book.

This week, we reviewed a couple stories that Isaac had written. His teacher encourages creative writing. She had shared with Isaac that I like to write. So often, we review Isaac’s writing.

Of course, Isaac is most interested in me reading his story. Unfortunately, I divert to looking for spelling errors, run-on sentences or wrong punctuation. Like many people, Isaac writes exactly like he speaks. Sentences contain multiple thoughts and are one long mess of multiple thoughts strung together with adverbs and conjunctions.

Isaac’s teacher suggested we review one story in particular and see if there were any corrections we could make. This is a story we had looked at last week and I knew there were some improvements to be made. I also knew that it is very difficult for Isaac to accept suggestions about ways to improve his story.

As we walked through the story and I encouraged Isaac to look for misspelled words and endless sentences, it didn’t take long for Isaac’s patience to be tested. With each new suggestion, his response to me became sharper and shorter. Normally, Isaac is very positive with me. Behavior I seldom see, but is more common with school faculty, began to boil up.

Patience1.jpgWhile Isaac was not displaying patience, I decided my best response was to address it in a quiet, non-threatening tone, mustering up all the patience I could.

As soon as I question Isaac’s tone, he quickly became defeated. But … he kept his emotions in check. We talked through it and the rest of our time together was more positive.

Oh, it would have been so easy to lose my patience with Isaac. Unfortunately, I think this is the response Isaac most often expects from other people. When he gets a different response, he doesn’t know how to respond.

Why do we loose patience? Why do we seemingly have more patience on some days than others? Why can I have so much patience with some people … and very little with others?

Because we are human. Possibly, we expect to have less patience with some people and this becomes our reaction. Maybe some people just push our buttons more. For those who have been gifted with extra-ordinary amounts of patience, I bless and respect you.

When I really loose my patience, I immediately regret it. And promise me to “not let this happen again.” Alias, it always does.

How might we equip ourselves with more patience? Appreciate all the patience God has granted us. Acknowledge God’s endless bucket of patience that God covers us with. Encourage ourselves not to respond how others expect us … but choose to respond in a way which models care, grace and love.

Let’s also commit to pray for people, like Isaac’s teacher, Mrs. Wentz, who must have endless amounts of patience every day. She’s dealing with a lot of 5th graders for more than 45 minutes.

For the opportunity to embrace patience, I am grateful.

Holy God – I can’t imagine the amount of patience you have embodied with me, let alone all the others around me. May your Spirit encourage me to extend extra patience in just the right moments. May we discover appropriate ways to respond in potentially challenging times when it would be so easy to lose our patience. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 135 – Truly Seeing

Sat., Oct. 13, 2018

Ephesians 3:17-19 – I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.

We have these $1 glasses all over our house. Literally. Everywhere.

They are Hubby Rick’s reading glasses. He buys them in large quantities, like 10 at a time, from the Dollar Tree. Of late, he’s purchased the exact same pair over and over. And they are everywhere.

Let me show you.

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In the TV room, which is also where he keeps the laptop that he uses to check his dispatch before he goes to work. He also uses these glasses to check his paycheck, look up things on e-bay and play cards on the computer.

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The bathroom, where he shaves, to double-check his work.

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The kitchen island, where he reads the mail.

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Where he keeps his keys, so he can remember to take a pair with him when he leaves the house.

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On his desk in the basement.

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Right across the room from his desk is his work bench. This is exactly how I found it. With three pairs of glasses.

I didn’t go into each of our vehicles, which also have a pair of glasses. Or his fishing tackle box. Or in the carriage house. If there are three pairs on the workbench, I can’t imagine how many are in the carriage house: probably, one next to each saw and then some.

And yet, on most days, I still hear, “Where are my glasses?”

So often, I just want to say, “Which pair?” (Next time, I’m going to send him to the workbench.)

Recently, I read these few lines of scripture from Ephesians at the beginning of this post … and I felt like I was seeing these words for the first time. I mean, really seeing them. While I have read them possibly a hundred times previously, it was like I was wearing a new pair of glasses. Maybe, my prescription was just a bit different and I was seeing them in a new light.

I believe in God’s grace. I’ve felt and witnessed it hundreds of times. But sometimes, I begin to think I have to “do” something for God’s kingdom to receive God’s forgiveness and grace.

We can easily turn God’s grace into something we have to “earn” and fail to remember that God has already taken care of everything. We just have to accept this grace over and over. Day after day. Week after week. Appreciate, value and know God’s grace makes a difference in our lives.

As I read these words from Ephesians, I zeroed in on the fact that God’s love is wider and deeper than I can ever love God back. The height and depth of my love is so very shallow and narrow compared to the love God gives to me and you. My love can’t be the same measure as God’s. Nor does it need to be. Because God is God and I am me.

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A few years ago, it became clear that I had aged into the life stage of bifocals. I tried to use those cheap glasses like Rick does. I also needed depth correction. I decided it was just best to have one pair of glasses that would correct both.

 

Every time I get a new pair of bifocal glasses, it takes a little awhile for my eyes to adjust to the new lenses. My eyes have to figure out where they need to look, based on the different size and shape of lense. Once I get used to the new lenses, I no longer have to think about it. My eyes know exactly what to do.

There are times my understanding of grace gets blurry and I think I have to “do” something for God to fully love and appreciate me. The reality? There is nothing I can do to earn it. Grace is too expensive and too costly.

After reading these words from Ephesians again and seeing more clearly how God views me, I am going to see Rick’s glasses scattered all over my house a bit differently. They will help me remember that God’s grace is sufficient for me. I just have to let God be God and I be me. It is easy to rib Rick about all these glasses. Maybe they have just been waiting to help me to see grace more clearly.

I need grace daily and multiple times throughout the day. In the TV room. In the bathroom. In the kitchen. Before I leave the house and as I go into the world. I pray I take God’s grace with me wherever I journey.

For eyes that see more clearly today, I am thankful.

O gracious and loving God: thank you for loving me so much larger, deeper and more fully than I can ever love you. Thanks for the reminder of your grace this day. Help me see more clearly every day Your spot in my life.Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 90 – Dealing with Stress

Fri., July 27, 2018

Job 30:16 – My heart is broken. Depression haunts my days.

Today, I am including a video link to this blog. Please take the time and watch the video.

Why is this video important? I grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm. In the mid-1980’s, American agriculture when through a significant shift. Many farmers had expanded in the 1970’s. In the 1980’s interest rates soared. My parents were like so many other producers at the time. They had expanded and taken on additional debt. When interest rates increased, it became difficult to cover just the interest rate costs of this debt, let alone the principle. My parents struggled for years. Throw in some additional health issues that my Dad had, and the stress was overwhelming.

When I was in college, my parents made the difficult decision to liquidate their assets. I went home to the farm the weekend this decision was made. In the back-entry way of the house, my parents and I made the final decision about what they should do. A sale date was selected, only about a month out. While these were the best decisions my parents could make at the time, it was very difficult, upsetting and stressful.

I returned to college on Sunday night. As I shared with some of my roommates the hard decisions made over the weekend, one of my roommates turned to me. Her farming parents were also experiencing some of the same stress. She said, “While your parents are selling the cows and machinery, my parents are getting a divorce. Be thankful for what you have.”

She was so right. We never have to look very far to witness someone else or another family dealing with a more stressful situation.

Fast forward to today. American agriculture is in a very difficult situation. Some would say a crisis. The price farmers are receiving for their products are record lows when adjusted for inflation and cost of living. Through a part-time marketing job, I have remained involved in the dairy industry. Hubby Rick and I own a small farm which his son runs. Times are tough for farmers right now. Very tough. When I talk with people actively involved in producing food for America, they question the soundness of keeping their children and grandchildren involved in production agriculture.

The video gets to a very personal level of how stress can have a life-changing effect on families. It speaks of how suicide and stress are overwhelming. Yes, these stories relate to people involved in agriculture. However, in our little area, we have seen an increase of suicide recently. As I listen to people try and process why someone go the route of suicide, I believe their words are not just for people who have been involved in farming. Their words are for anyone who has stress in their lives.

Please share this video with anyone who you feel is struggling with depression, stress, loneliness, feeling isolated, or other challenging feelings. Maybe just knowing someone else has struggled with these same feelings will be helpful.

For people willing to share their stories of stress, suicide and depression, I am grateful.

Lord God – when the stress is overwhelming and someone feels so alone, I pray that you will bring a person into their lives. Someone to just listen and hold their hand. Someone to convey your message of love and grace. Help us see those around us who might be struggling right now. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 66 – Letting Go of Superwoman

superwoman

Fri., June 15, 2018

Matthew 19:26 – Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.”

The music builds. One second, she’s a seemingly “normal” woman, dressed in business casual and carrying a stylish handbag. A second later, a bright red cape flies behind her perfectly proportioned body, covered from head-to-toe in spandex. A huge “S” covers her torso. She calls into action her special super-power. In the bat of an eye, Superwoman is off to conquer her next big adventure or save a person’s life.

We feel a little flutter in our tummy. Maybe, we, too, can be a super-hero. Maybe we too, can change people’s lives.

Unfortunately, I have bought completely bought into the idea that being a Superwoman is possible. Average will no longer cut it. I must up my “A” game and develop my own skill set of super-powers. I, too, must be Superwoman, I convince myself.

What is a Superwoman or Superman? While your definition may vary from mine, here are a few thoughts.

Superwomen handle multiple jobs (paid or unpaid), are heavily involved in their local community and seldom miss a child or grandchild’s special event. The dishwasher cleans this morning’s breakfast dishes before anyone rushes out the door, ready for post-dinner dirty dishes. A meal sizzles on the stove or in the oven as he or she stands at the counter paying bills. The house is company-ready at all times. The fridge is stocked with items for an unplanned, last-minute meal to be delivered to the neighbor who has just gone through a family tragedy. Her children’s school notes are signed on time. A color-coded family calendar hangs visible. An extra $100 is tucked in her wallet “just in case.” She knows just when to contact a struggling friend, rarely allows for an accumulation of unanswered text and e-mail messages, and gathers her slew of great friends together for a memorable evening in a moment’s notice.

Anyone else feeling miserable, highly underqualified for the job and overwhelmed all at the same time?

Did you see my hand shoot up quicker than yours?

I have spent most of my life trying to be this Superwoman. And failing miserably. It may seem I have things together on the outside. But on the inside, I yearn for peace. Contentment. An afternoon to sit on the beautiful swings Hubby Rick recently built and installed in our backyard (I should post an update) … and not feel guilty.

Over and over, I have willed myself to get my life under control. To cut back on the great opportunities that are part of my life. Be more efficient with my time. Lose the 10 pounds my doctor really, really wants me to drop once and for all. Have the right thing to say. Keep the snarky comment to myself.

My will lasts about 30 minutes and I fall off the Superwoman bandwagon.

This week, I tried to be Superwoman and failed. Work things haven’t been accomplished. I missed a funeral because of another commitment. Why didn’t I reschedule this? These next few days will be overfull. I am not sure I am mentally, emotionally or spiritually in the right place.

My thoughts are clouded with, “Who have I let down this week?” Maybe what I should be pondering is, “Why have I let myself down again?”

Then, I see these words in my journal: God sees something in me that I don’t see in myself. I see all my fears and insecurities and worries and just general yuck. God looks at me and sees something entirely different. God sees something God can use for God’s plan and purpose.

The words are a paraphrase from Everyday Holy: Finding a Big God in the Little Moments by Melanie Shankle. I took Melanie’s words and personalized them. I tried to get this Superwoman to see that I don’t have to be super-human. What is impossible for me is possible for God. I don’t have to be all, do all and understand all. This is not my job. It’s God’s job.

Today, I’m trying to extend myself a bit more grace. A bit more acceptance. A bit less Superwoman and a bit more Dianne. If only for today.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God forgive me for the times I think I must be Superwoman. Help me let go of when I want to be all and do all rather than resting in your loving arms. May Your peace and contentment rain over my day and bring me joy, happiness and gratitude. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Hungry For … 

iStock_19304111_Hungry Boy

PassportPassport to Prayer – Lent 2016

Wednesday – Feb. 17, 2016

Psalm 107:9: For he satisfies the thirsty soul and fills the hungry soul with good.

When our stomachs are hungry, they tell us. But how do you know when your soul is hungry for prayer? Too many days without spiritual prayer leaves us cranky and difficult; much like a child who is “starving!”

Does your family say grace together? Are you comfortable praying when in a restaurant? When with people outside of your family? These are not times to catch-up on your prayer life, but they are another opportunity to connect with God throughout your day. Challenge your family to make grace part of every meal. May this be an important way for your family to connect together and with God.

We know grace only takes it a minute. Yet, sometimes, we skip it. Dear Lord – just as we satisfy our physical hunger with food, may we see the great need to satisfy our spiritual hunger with prayer. Help us to pause before each meal and give thanks to you. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

I have put together a Passport of Prayer for Lent 2016. Would you like the complete Passport to Prayer guide? Please e-mail me at dideaton@hotmail.com

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