Gratitude Day 207 – What I learned in January 2019

Thurs., Jan. 31, 2019

Proverbs 24:32 – I observed this and took it to heart; I saw it and learned a lesson.

On this last day of January, I pulled out my calendar and thought about what are some life lessons that I’ve discovered or rediscovered this month. Personally, I find this exercise helpful. Why? It’s so easy to let time go by without any evaluation. Each time I take a few minutes and do this, I discover a lesson that I want to take to heart.

So, what are some lessons I learned this past month? Thanks for asking!

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  1. In the central upper Midwest, we’ve ended the month with record-breaking cold weather. An Artic Vortex came screaming into Wisconsin and has hung around for a while. It has been officially colder in Wisconsin than at Mount Everest and Antarctica this week. The cold was preceded by two snow events. In the last two weeks, most schools in Wisconsin have canceled classes and events for six days!! Wednesday and Thursday – no mail delivery!

Many folks have stayed home or changed plans to stay out of the ridiculously cold temps. But some people can’t. As a chaplain with the local police department, I ride with the officers every so often. I had a scheduled ride-along one night during the blistering cold temps. Yes, I could have canceled. But if Officer Scott was working, why shouldn’t I join him? It’s more than police officers who work no matter what. It’s fire fighters, EMT’s, and other rescue personal. It’s farmers and ranchers, carrying for their animals. Its people helping those who have problems because of the cold. It’s the homeless. It’s the fragile folks.

Hubby Rick is a night truck driver and has worked every night since Sunday. Yes, he dresses accordingly, but yikes, it’s been cold! When he crawled into bed after a long shift, he asked when we are moving to Belize. He might have packed his bags right then, had I agreed.

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Today’s sun is deceiving. But doesn’t it look pretty?

 

  1. Recently, I dusted off an old hobby – sewing. For years, I sewed lots of things. Then, life happened. At Thanksgiving, I decided to make quilts for our youngest three grandchildren for Christmas. It was a bit of a push, but worth it. After they opened them, granddaughter Ellie wanted to be wrapped in her quilt like a burrito. Of course, her brothers followed suit. It was fun to watch them enjoy their quilts. And made the effort so worth it.

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  1. One of my new mantras for the year is 20-minutes. I’ve picked things important to me and dedicate 20-minutes a day to them. I use this concept with exercise and my devotional life. We often think we don’t have time to do something. Maybe, we really only need 20-minutes. This plan helps me focus on things important to me, if only for a short period every day. Best of all: it’s working!

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  1. A challenge that I’m still struggling with? Working on the most important things everyday and not just the urgent. I’m not sure I’ll ever get this fine-tuned. But naming the struggle is step one in dealing with it.

As you get ready to flip the calendar to February tomorrow, first pause. Think about the things that have been most meaningful to you in the last four weeks. What was something that you’ve been struggling with and would love to make progress? Ponder these things in your heart. Learn a lesson from the first month of 2019. Take it to heart and grow from this lesson.

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For learned and relearned life lessons, I am grateful.

Lord God – too often, we think lessons must be big and important life revelations. More often, you speak to us in a still, quiet voice of everyday life. I pray we see your hands touching our lives in these small and important daily lessons. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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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 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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