The Mary Experiment is Becoming Real … Very Real!

Gratitude Day 348

Tues., Oct. 29, 2019

Luke 10:41-42:  The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”

Good Morning, Sunshine! We have SNOW here in Wisconsin this morning, which means there will not be sunshine until maybe later today.

But I’m feeling very sunshiny, sun or not … because today, I’m sharing something that has brought so much joy to my life.

Almost two years ago, I began a quest to change some things in my life. After serving as a pastor for over 18 years, I stepped back from pastoral ministry to pursue other ministry opportunities I felt that God had placed on my heart. One of those ministries was being more consistent in sharing how I see God in my everyday life through this blog. I’ve turned this into looking for gratitude in the simplest of ways in my very normal life.

Behind the scenes, I also have been writing a book. Today, I’m so excited to share that the book is in final production stages AND will be released on Sun., Nov. 17. I know … like in 19 days.

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Let me introduce you to The Mary Experiment: When DOING and BEING Collide. This book is written for people who struggle to keep the right tension between feeling like they do enough while allowing themselves to simply be in God’s presence.

I have personally felt this challenge for decades. Too often, I have allowed my life to be over-full, over-committed and over-scheduled. Yet, I have yearned for a deep and satisfying relationship with God, those around me and myself.

Years ago, I realized there was a biblical story that addresses the tension I feel. It’s the story of sisters Martha and Mary. Martha is a doer. When Jesus comes to visit them, she is the one making sure every detail is handled. Meanwhile, her sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and drinks in very word he teaches.

Ms. Busy-Body Pants Martha becomes upset that Mary is not helping host their guests. Martha goes to Jesus and asks him to tell Mary to help her. Martha is surprised, maybe a bit annoyed, when Jesus tells Martha that her sister has made the better choice.

So much for help in making those fancy ham sandwiches.

The Mary Experiment captures my struggle towards becoming a recovering Martha. I share how I have tried to navigate my journey towards embracing my Martha-ness while building more Mary-ness in my daily life.

Many years ago, I read that everyone should write a book. But not everyone should have it published. Well, I am self-publishing this book. My dream is that this will be the first of many books that I will write.

Because I am self-publishing my book, I am responsible for every aspect of marketing the book. This is where I am looking for some assistance.

Would You Be Interested in Helping with The Mary Experiment?

There are a few ways that I invite you to consider partnering with me as I prepare to launch The Mary Experiment:

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  • Become part of my Launch Team. If you feel the topic of this book speaks to you and you would like to help spread the news about this book, please consider joining my Launch Team. Launch Team members are committed to reading The Mary Experiment before Nov. 17. I will make a PDF of the book available. Then, on Nov. 17, you will download a free Kindle copy of the book from Amazon AND post a review of the book online, preferably a positive review! It is not necessary to own a Kindle to download the book. You can use a Kindle reader to access the book. To leave a review, you must have purchased $50 on Amazon in the last year. Launch Team members will help promote the book in other ways. Most importantly, Launch Team members will help with the book BEFORE it is actually released. If you are interested in joining the Launch Team, please send me an e-mail at dideaton@hotmail.com. I will begin communicating directly with Launch Team members by the end of the week.
  • If you want to support my book but want a less involved role, please join the Pre-Release Team. I will personally let these team members know when the book is available online. The first few days, the Kindle version will be FREE. I’ll keep you in the loop about when it is available and how you can get a copy. Providing a review would also be very helpful! Join the Pre-Release Team by emailing me at dideaton@hotmail.com.

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  • Attend my Book Launch and Signing Event! On Sat., Nov. 30, I will have copies available at my house from 1:30-3:30 PM. Please stop by our home at 424 N. Franklin St., Poynette, WI. I will be personally signing books. You can hear a short reading of the book at 1:45 PM and 3 PM. We’ll have some fantastic treats as well! Bring a friend and stop by.
  • I have another Book Signing Event scheduled for Fri., Dec. 13 in Augusta, WI. It will be at Creative Touch Floral as a late afternoon/early evening event. I’ll have copies of the book available that I can personally sign as well as share some short readings from the book.

I welcome other opportunities to promote and share my book. If you have an idea of such an opportunity, please let me know. This book would be excellent for a book study. Read it together with a group of friends. I have a free accompanying Reflection Questions & Journal that is designed for such purposes. It is also a tool to help you develop your own Mary experiment.

It is SO HARD for me to ask and encourage people to partner with me in promoting The Mary Experiment. It’s not part of my normal MO. Yet, I am anxious for as many people as possible to have access to the information captured in the book. It is full of personal stories and examples of how I have struggled with the tension between doing and being. I know that I am not the only person who has lived this struggle! This is why I have been so passionate and committed to publishing this book.

When I began this blog, I had no idea that I would write and publish a book. Thanks for reading along and sharing feedback and insights when something touches your soul. Thanks for being a safe place for me to explore and share my ideas about a variety of topics. It’s been a joy for me to sit at my computer and share how God is woven into my daily life. I pray The Mary Experiment will continue this journey.

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For friends who follow Simple Words of Faith, I am grateful. 

Dear God – every day, You place before us new opportunities. I pray that we can honor the tugging’s of our hearts and follow Your leadings. Thank you for opening up new opportunities for me. I pray that others hear Your voice and keep You close to their hearts. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

Life Savers

Gratitude Day 217

Thurs., Feb. 21, 2019

Luke 5:19 – but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they took him up on the roof and lowered him—cot and all—through the roof tiles into the crowded room in front of Jesus.

As I sat down at the table in a restaurant, I looked down and was immediately transported back to a time and place earlier in my life.

Why? How?

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By a roll of life savers.

You know, those candies that have been around almost as long as the dinosaurs. The candy that comes in a roll of 14 candies with flavors of cherry, raspberry, watermelon, orange and pineapple.

As a child, I remember walking into our local Dime Store. It smelled of rubber and cleaning supplies. Here, you could by chain link by the inch (or foot), toothpaste, pots and pans and household paint all in one stop. A person could easily get lost wandering the endless aisles. If you didn’t want to spend half-of-a-day looking for contact paper, it was best to ask whoever was standing behind the counter for help.

At this same counter is where the Life Savers were stored. They were right below the counter, as part of the rows and rows of candy and gum that cost no more than a quarter. Right there in plain sight, easy to throw onto your pile of goodies.

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When the roll of Life Savers was placed in the center of the spot where I would be seated at the restaurant, my brain automatically went back to the door dinging when it was opened at the Dime Store back in little Augusta, WI. Yes, this story was unique to Augusta. But in an earlier time, didn’t every little town have their own version of Dime Store? Rows and rows filled with everything a man or woman or child could possibly need.

It’s been at least 35 years since I’ve had a Life Saver. And yet, I knew immediately what the candy inside of the roll with foil on the end would taste like, if I happened to pop one into my mouth.

Life Savers are intentionally shaped like a round life vest. A small, flavorful candy whose flavor explodes when placed in the mouth, Life Savers are just a little bit of sandy beach when winter has been dragging on too long.

At the restaurant, I meet my friends, Pam and Janice, for brunch. The Life Saver’s were Pam’s little treat for Janice and me; a little something special to bring a smile on our faces. I’ve known these ladies for more than half of my life. We’ve kept up on each other’s lives for decades. We know each other’s gifts and graces, as well as our growth areas. Our history is long and detailed.

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The Life Savers? Symbolic of our relationship with each other. We’ve tried to be there when the going was tough. After Janice was involved in a horrible car accident, I washed her hair while she was lying flat in bed and unable to get out because she just wanted clean hair. I’ve sorted through piles of things at Pam’s house, trying to find exactly the items she had requested via e-mail that I send to her overseas.

Likewise, they have been life savers for me. Helping me out when I needed something or someone to come in at the last minute and pitch hit for me.

These ladies, as well as so many others that I know, can be called upon in a moment’s notice. They are my life savers. They are my stretcher barriers. You know, the story of the man who was terribly sick and on a cot. Jesus was healing and teaching people on day. The ill man’s friends decided to take him to Jesus so he could be healed. When they arrived where Jesus was teaching, the house was so full no one could get into the building.

 

These life savers didn’t give up simply because it was crowded. No, they hauled their ill friend up to the roof, figured out where Jesus was stationed below in the house, removed the roof just enough to let the cot and the man down through the hole into Jesus’ lap.

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They were the ill man’s stretcher barriers, folks who knew what the right thing was to do. Life savers – people who know your needs almost more than you know them yourselves.

We can go through life alone and maybe even do OK. But isn’t life a lot more fun and interesting when you have a couple stretcher barriers hanging in the wings with a roll of Life Savers in their hand?

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Thank you, Pam, Janice and all those other ladies who have been such important stretcher barriers for me. You mean the world to me.

For stretcher barriers who are also life savers, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for bringing people who represent your hands and feet to me into my life. Thank you for all those stretcher barriers and life savers who enrich my life daily. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

Gratitude Day 212 – Refresh Wednesday

Wed., Feb. 6, 2019

Proverbs 7:6 – When from the window of my house, from behind the screen, I gazed down

Today’s Refresh Wednesday isn’t a recent project. It’s one I’ve had for quite a while. But it’s a fun one … one I hope you’ll enjoy.

Interested in knowing more?

Great. I’d love to share.

When Hubby Rick was about 5, he and his family moved into an old house. Originally, the house was built in 1850 by a General Starks who was part of the Union Army during the Civil War. He moved to Wisconsin from out east. When he came upon the small village of Ableman, WI (now known as Rock Springs, WI), he bought land because the countryside reminded him of the area where he lived out east. The year after the house was built, a barn was built.

While the house was an elaborate house in its original day, by the time Rick’s family moved to this house, it had fallen into disrepair. In fact, Rick’s maternal grandfather felt his daughter and son-in-law had made a poor decision in purchasing this house and farm. Over the next few decades, Rick’s family upgraded the house and made significant improvements.

At some point, new windows were installed. For years, the old windows were kept. A number of years ago, Rick brought home a couple of these old windows. I’ve used a few of them for decorating purposes in our houses. I’ve enjoyed using something historical from the house where Rick grew-up. And it doesn’t hurt that I LOVE me some good, old antique items.

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When I started this project, this particular window no longer had glass in the panes, which was what I wanted. To prepare the window, I twisted a few eye hooks into the sides of the panes. Then, I used some thin but sturdy wire and hung it between the eye hooks. The wires became “clothes lines” of sorts, on which I can hang various items. Some window panes have two clothes lines; some have one.

This design allows me to change the decorations seasonally. For fall, I used items I had at home: cut-outs of leaves and such. For Christmas, I use repurposed Christmas cards. I keep an envelope with the fronts of some of my favorite cards and hang them during the holiday season. I’m behind on getting some hearts and Valentine’s hung up for February. (I kept thinking I’d get home hung and picture snapped. It didn’t happen.)

At Easter, I’ve hung cut-out Easter eggs. In the summer, I’ve hung pictures of flowers from our gardens that I’ve taken and printed. To hang items, I use small clothes pins from a craft store. I keep a supply of them on hand.

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Windows have an interesting role in the Bible. Noah made sure there where windows in the Ark. Windows were used to lower people out of a location. Sometimes, particular items were hung from a window to identify the house. Once, a man was listening to Paul speak, who, apparently was long winded. After the man fell asleep, he fell out of a window!

I like to think of windows in another way. Windows allow us to look INTO a building or house. They also provide an opportunity for us to look OUT. Both ways, the window provides the vantage point of what we are able to see. A big window? Why, we can see a lot! Just a little window, it’s harder to see in and out.

Each of us chooses how much we allow others to glimpses into the “window” of our lives. We choose how much, or how little, another person can see. When someone takes a glimpse into your life, what do they see? Are they able to quickly determine what your priorities are? Through your actions and choices, is it clear what truly is most important to you? Or does the glimpse into your world portray a life lived differently from what your main priorities are?

While initially this window came about as a fun way to decorate for various seasons of the year, its true message is far more important and reaching. I pray this window is a reminder to let others look into my life and see God as an important part of my daily life. When I look out of the window of my daily activities, I pray they reflect what is most important to me and are easy for others to determine. When people gaze down into the window of my life, I pray Jesus is clearly there, for all to see.

For windows into our lives, I am grateful.

Holy God – may we see the windows of our lives as an opportunity to share glimpse of what is important to us. I pray we align our life priorities with what others see when they gaze into our lives and world.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 210 – A Fishing Lesson

Mon., Feb. 4, 2019

Matthew 4:18-19 – As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.”

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“This is what the Saturday before the Super Bowl looks like in Wisconsin when the Packer’s didn’t make the Super Bowl,” was Hubby Rick’s favorite saying of the weekend.

 

He is right. The Packers didn’t make the Super Bowl. And this picture was taken the Saturday before the big game.

Would you like the rest of the story? Good. I’d like to share.

About a week ago, our eldest grandson Braeden asked if Rick would go to an ice fishing tournament with him this past Saturday. We made it a little extended trip. We had dinner with his daughter’s family the night before the tournament. Our eldest two grandsons enjoyed the pool at the hotel where we stayed.

The fishing tournament started at noon on Saturday. We dropped off the non-ice fishing grandson and headed to the tournament. It was held in the village of Independence, WI, population about 1,300 people. After multiple days of not getting above zero this past week, Saturday’s 30 degrees weather brought out everybody and their sister and brother.

Coming into town, trucks and cars were parked everywhere. Literally, everywhere. We drove near the lake so Rick and Braeden could unload. In the few minutes it took to get their gear together, multiple vehicles drove by, looking for a parking spot close to the water. There were none left.

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Maybe it was the warm weather. Maybe it was the $20,000 prize if the tagged fish was caught. Maybe it was comradery of being out fishing with a whole bunch of your new best friends. The 37-acre lake was packed with ice fishing shanties, nearly on top of each other. It looked like various-sized pup tents stacked next to each other across the lake.

I found other things to do while the guys fished. Rick has a new electric ice auger. Braeden was more than excited to try it out. Other fisher people let Braeden drill them a fishing hole. Everyone seemed impressed with Rick’s new toy.

The middle of the day is probably not the most ideal time to catch fish. Rick and Braeden saw a few caught fish go by. All caught fish were taken to the headquarters tent. Before we left, Rick and Braeden saw the ones caught. Unfortunately, they did not add any to the display.

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It was neat to see families take in this outing. Kids and adults pulled sleds filled with poles, equipment and augers. People openly shared with each other. After awhile of no fish biting, the guys recruited fishing neighbors for a snowball fight. They took note of all the different kinds of hats people wore.

When Jesus began his public ministry, he enlisted guys to be part of his inner circle. These guys were his best friends, his traveling companions and eventually, the ones who carried out the work Jesus began. When Jesus choose guys for this group, he didn’t go down to the local church (synagogue) and recruit the most educated. He didn’t ask local teachers for names of the star Hebrew students. Jesus didn’t hunt down guys with the best test scores or highest IQ’s. No, Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee and simply asked a few fishermen to join him. No big fanfare. No bells and whistles. Just guys who knew how to use a net.

Jesus assured the guys that they would use their fishing skills. Now, they would fish for people. While their “catch” would be different, skills needed to do their work were very much the same.

We may not fully understand the significance of Jesus’ choice. Think of a CEO of a very large company asking a few entry-level workers to become vice presidents. CEO Jesus wasn’t most interested in their education. CEO Jesus just wanted folks who knew and understood their trade.

I value education and people dedicated to helping others learn their trade. There is value in research and development. Yet, I also greatly appreciate those willing to do the tough and dirty jobs; just like the disciples.

In this fishing lesson, Jesus reminds us that God doesn’t call the qualified. God qualifies the called. It’s a lesson that Jesus taught over and over; and began when he called his first disciples.

When I picked Rick and Braeden up mid-afternoon, they didn’t seem disappointed that they catch no fish. As Rick and I discussed the day, we affirmed that pulling a fish through the hole wasn’t the most important goal of the day. Spending time with his eldest grandson and modeling life lessons was far more important. This was the real fishing lesson. And with this metric, Rick scored a touchdown.

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For fishing lessons that don’t involve real fish, I am grateful.

Lord God – it is often difficult to understand just how counter-intuitive the lessons that Jesus taught where. May we see how his priorities and choices were so different and yet representative of God’s kingdom. I pray we are encouraged to dig a little deeper into these lessons and see what kind of fish we should be trying to pull through the ice (or water.) 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

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

Gratitude Day 178 – Nativity

Sat., Dec. 15, 2018

Luke 2:7 –  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

There are so many fun Christmas decorations: trees, wreaths, bulbs, garland and such. My favorite Christmas decoration?

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The Nativity.

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For me, the Nativity draws us back to the reason we even celebrate Christmas.

Would you like to see some of the Nativity’s we have at our house?

Good. Let’s take a tour.

This was my first Nativity. My Mom gave it to me for Christmas many years ago. I love the stick-like figurines. It’s made of wood and a bit more rustic, which I love.

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This year? I now am using her creche.

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My Mom also gave me this Nativity. Notice how Mary cradles Jesus so tightly and how Jesus’ hand rest just above the Son of God’s head.

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This one hangs on the wall. Isn’t the rustic wooden frame super cool?

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I’ve always loved this particular Nativity. I loved it enough that I gave a couple of these away as presents one Christmas.

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Some are a little more cutie.

And then, there are the ornaments. I picked up out a couple favorites to show you.

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Many years ago, Rick made several of these outdoor cut-out Nativities. He gave them to our parents and other people. We still love to put it out ever year.

Why are Nativities one of my favorite symbols at Christmas? For me, they represent the crudeness of the stable. The humbleness of the first visitors, shepherds. The simplicity of how a King would be born into this world.

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Mary, Joseph, the baby. Possibly some shepherds and sheep. Maybe three kings with some gifts in hand. Nothing more complicated. Yet, these figurines tell the story of how a Savior came to save the world.

Thanks be to God.

 

For Nativities around us this Christmas, I am grateful.

Lord God – while we don’t know exactly how that first Christmas looked, we certainly like to guess. I pray the many nativities round us draw us back to this story: the stable, the shepherds, the Savior of the word. 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 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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Gratitude Day 168 – Unwrapping Christmas

Sat., Dec. 1, 2018

Matthew 2:11 – The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

As you read the following quote, please note the year it was written:

“Twenty-five years ago, Christmas was not the burden that it is now. There was less haggling and weighing, less quid pro quo, less fatigue of body, less wearing of soul; and most of all, there was less loading up with trash.”

–  Meredith Deland in Harper’s Bazaar, 1904

Can you imagine what Meredith Deland might say today if she observed some of our Christmas traditions? Might she be even more appalled?

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In the last years, I have tried to unwrap Christmas and refocus on the true meaning of what I feel Christmas is: the birth of a baby that became the Savior of the world. Yes, it’s hard to give up those traditions which we have embodied for years. (True confession: I ordered Christmas cards again this year. A lot of them, even though I keep thinking I’m going to edit this whole deal. So, I send them out again because LOVE hearing from people that I often do not see.) I will bake our favorite cookies. But there are areas where I try to pull back the glitzy wrapping paper and get to the true heart of Christmas.

One way I do this is how I approach gift-giving. I’m not trying to convince anyone to stop giving gifts to people they love. I encourage us to be more thoughtful in how we go about gift-giving.

To help spur us into why reconsidering gift-giving, look at these statistics:

53.1% of people report receiving unwanted gifts during Christmas. This amounts to $16 billion of unwanted gifts every year. (What COULD be done with this money?!) Reports indicate 18% of gifts are never used and 4% of gifts are immediately thrown into the trash.

This speaks nothing of overspent Christmas budgets. Or how one-quarter of Americans are still paying off last year’s gifts.

What are we to do? How can we reframe Christmas gift-giving into something more meaningful? Can we stop buying for those who really don’t need or want a gift? Can find joy in other ways?

Here are a few suggestions to help us unwrap Christmas:

  • Stop purchasing gifts for those who don’t need or want a gift. Choose alternative ways to celebrate. For many of us, if we “need” something, we find a way to get it. “Waiting” until Christmas for a special gift happens less often. From the beginning of our marriage, Hubby Rick and I agreed NOT to purchase each other Christmas gifts. Rather, we make contributions towards families who have a need. Last week, Rick announced that he had completed his Christmas shopping. A young driver that Rick works with will soon begin his second round of cancer treatment. The co-drivers collected money and gave it to him at Thanksgiving. I’m confident my “Christmas” present is important to this family that has young children. Each year, Rick and I pick families and given them a little extra cash at the holidays. The cards and letters back from these families have made us cry. In subsequent years, often these same families have paid forward our gift to another family in need. Rick and I love giving these gifts as our presents.

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  • Wrap up special and funny family items and turn it into a gift exchange. This is my FAVORITE way we have unwrapped Christmas. My nieces and nephews would agree. For the last several years, I have put together the Deaton family gift exchange. I wrap up items from our family. Some are special and meaningful, i.e. – my Dad’s dog tags. Others are quite silly – the 4-H songbook when my siblings and I used to go Christmas caroling to shut-ins. I include little stories with the items. At our Deaton Christmas, we open these gifts in an orchestrated way. The process has become so special I’ve had to create “rules.” To learn more about how we do this, read my post about the Winnebago camper, the highly coveted gift in last year’s exchange. Family members repeated tell me: DON’T STOP doing the Deaton family gift exchange. This event special because it has also become a way we pass family history and stories from generation to generation.
  • Make a gift. Last year, I made a crayon wall hanging for our granddaughter, Ellie. After she opened it, I realized her brothers felt disappointed they didn’t receive something like this. This year, I am making presents for our three youngest grandkids. Being crafty is not a requirement. I still have the shelf my Dad made for each of his kids one Christmas. My sister-in-law Linda gives us canned goods from her garden each year.
  • Make a donation to charity. While Charitable Tuesday is past, I am confident charities will still accept donations. It can be a monetary gift or an in-kind gift. Take your children or grandchildren shopping and let them pick out items to donate. Our local food pantry is encouraging people to donate toiletries this Advent. Blankets, pj’s, coats (new or gently used) – there’s always a need.

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  • Make a birthday box for Jesus. I will share this calendar during kid’s time at church on Sunday and encourage their families to make a birthday box for Jesus. They can give the box to a family in need or bring it to Christmas Eve worship, where it can be donated to the local food pantry.
  • Memorable “silly” presents. We do this with our grandkids and Rick’s kids. I wrap items from the Dollar Store or other silly items in little gifts bags. We take turns opening these bags and seeing what silly thing is inside. There is always exchanging after we’re done, because who wants pink bifocals other than Grandpa? The kids talk about the oranges, apples, flarp, and goofy mustaches they got at our Christmas celebrations.
  • Plan a special outing. Pick something you can do together: sledding or ice skating, a movie, bake cookies and deliver to neighbors or something else that you come up with. We’ve stayed overnight at a hotel with a waterpark with our grandkids and nephews in lieu of more presents. Create a tradition which focuses on something other giving gifts and expresses how special our loved ones are.

Yes, I am buying a few Christmas presents. It’s hard to completely get away from this, especially when kids or grandkids are involved. I’ve watched our grandkids count how many packages each received and compared with each other. When this happens, this as an opportunity to unwrap why we give gifts at Christmas.

The wise men didn’t show up empty-handed at the stable. While their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh seemed unpractical for a baby, their symbolism was powerful; then and now. Giving gifts can be very powerful and positive. Maybe we just need to unwrap how and why we give them this Christmas season.

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For the chance to unwrap Christmas and focus on heart-felt gift giving, I am grateful.

Holy God – unfortunately, we’ve taken the concept of giving gifts, represented by the wise men, and often turned it into something driven by consumerism and unrealistic expectations. May we be inspired to unwrap Christmas in a new way this year. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 163 – Living


Mon., Nov. 26, 2018

Luke 20:38 – He isn’t the God of the dead but of the living. To him they are all alive.”

Recently, Hubby Rick and I began the transition from fall to winter. This meant putting away the wicker porch furniture for the winter. It felt like a sad day. With the porch furniture in the carriage house, winter is coming soon. But so is Christmas!!

However, I found an unexpected surprise on the front porch.

This ivy plant.

Seriously. It is STILL ALIVE.

Have I mentioned that we’vhad multiple nights of below freezing? And snow?  

About a week earlier, I stopped and looked at the ivy one day. It was a cold day. I touched the leaves and they were stiff. Frozen. Not flexible. I thought to myself, “That’s what happens when you don’t take a plant inside before it freezes!” And went on with my day.

This is why I was SO SURPRISED to find the leaves unfrozen, flexible and really doing very well!

What happened in-between?

I can’t explain. But this ivy plant was not ready to call it quits yet. It’s now in the house as I try and figure out what to do next with this plant. In the meantime, it lives.

Death is a scary topic formany people. Highly avoided and taboo. Interestingly, for God death is anything but a difficult topic. In fact, we read repeatedly over and over in the Biblethat God is not nearly as interested in death … but in living. In fact, the scripture verse above reminds us that God wants all to see themselves as living… even after death.

How can this happen? Deadpeople come back to life? It happens because a man named Jesus came to earth as God’s son, died but didn’t really die. As God, Jesus was resurrected and granted life once again.

We, too, can experience this same living. It’s really quite easy: believe in God. Believe Jesus did thisjust for you. Out of pure love for you.

How does this happen?

Sorry, I can’t fully explain. Just like my ivy plant that didn’t die but lives inside my house.

Whether I can fully explain this or not, I’m just going to enjoy this. Just like I’m going to enjoy the ivy plant.  

For an ivy plant that still lives, I am grateful.

Lord God – there are miracles around us every day. Some days we see them; some days we don’t. May we seek life over death and value you, O God, who prefers living over death. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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