Gratitude Day 186 –2018 in Review

Mon., Dec. 31, 2018

Jeremiah 29:11 –  I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.

I didn’t plan to write this post. Then, I decided that sometimes it’s just helpful to look back, reflect and see how things change in a person’s life. Without benchmarks, it’s often difficult to see where or how something has changed. With this in mind, I am reflecting upon things that have changed, are different, are joys and maybe even a disappointment or two from the past year. Here goes:

Kendra's wedding

  1. I am a very blessed person. By “blessed,” I mean there are so many things in my life which bring me joy every day. I have a super husband. Hubby Rick doesn’t read my blog. When someone mentions something they read here, he may have a deer-in-the-headlights look. He is a great supporter, encourager and often takes one for the Vielhuber team. Other ways I’m blessed? A family that enjoys each other most of the time! Last January, our Deaton family celebrated my Mom’s life together. A great group of friends from many different stages of my life. Great health. A home we love. The list goes on and on. Little things we take for granted: living in a country where we have great freedom, opportunities and plenty (really to excess.) I’m blessed that every day I have the opportunities to do so many things which I enjoy doing.DSC06580
  2. A little over a year ago, I stepped back from serving two churches as the pastor to make more room in my life for things that I’ve felt God calling me to do. This has been a huge change, and quite honestly, taken more time to adjust to than I expected. It’s the first time in my adult life in which I wasn’t “working” a ridiculous number of hours all the time. I have yet to wake up a single morning and wonder, “Just what am I going to do today?” I’ve had flexibility to work on some things that I’ve put off for years. The amount of volunteer work I do has only increased. Recently, Rick attended an event without me because I had prior commitments. When someone inquired where I was, he said “she’s out trying to save the world.” There is a lot of truth in his comment and why I haven’t had a boring day yet. Because of Hubby Rick’s support of my decision, I focus on things that I want to and not feel guilty. It’s been a great opportunity for me to switch gears.letters
  3. Where have I focused some time and attention? Sorting and going through boxes and boxes of things from my Mom. Truthfully, it’s more than my Mom’s things. It’s my grandmother’s and some of my things as well. I’m not quite done … but have made significant progress. I’ve gone from 30+ boxes and totes to just a few. It’s taken a lot of time. Was it worth it? I’m still undecided. My advice? Encourage loved ones and yourself to work on getting through family information and treasures. Doing so allows people the opportunity to enjoy the things you will unearth now. And makes it more manageable for the next generation. I’m a lot more discerning about what I keep of my personal things after going through decades of information.DSC06751
  4. Going through this stuff as well as my Mom’s death encouraged me to invite the first cousins on my Mom’s side to our house for a weekend. This get-together was truly a highlight of the year. I’m optimistic we will do something again.

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    After multiple tries, this was the best I could do …
  5. Rick and I enjoy time with our grandkids as we are able. A couple days ago, we had all five for the day. At times, it was loud! It’s a joy anytime we get to spend quality time with them. One highlight was spending nine days with the eldest two grandsons on a youth mission trip to Washington D.C.DSC06807
  6. Rick and I continue updating our 110+-year-old house. We’re in the middle of hopefully our last “big” project and it’s turning out fantastic! I hope to share more by spring.
  7. One disappointment? I haven’t completed writing the book I had hoped to. I’ve worked on significant sections … but it’s still needs a lot of work. Honestly, I haven’t moved it up high enough on the “priority” list; something that will change in 2019. There is another whole part of book writing: developing an audience, marketing and such that also needs my time and attention.kids time at Midland
  8. Another personal challenge has been feeling part of a faith community on a regular basis. Many weekends, I fill in at various area churches, whether in the pulpit or playing music. I enjoy “choosing” when to help with worship and sharing my spiritual gifts. Because we are at a different churches throughout a month, it’s hard to feel connected to one faith community as I would like.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging more consistently this year. Thank you for reading my words. I appreciate every single person who takes valuable time to read how I connect faith to the normal, everyday aspects of life. I pray these words offer encouragement for you to find faith in the simplest ways in your life. The best way for more people to see my blogs are for readers to share and encourage others to follow it. If you find value in what I share, please encourage others to follow along.

I’m still working on a few goals, personal and professionally, for 2019. One thing I know for sure? God has a plan for me in 2019, as well as for you. I pray that you include God in your daily journey. Find the hope and peace God longs for you to know in your daily life.

Before 2018 closes down, make a short list of the things you’ve experienced in 2018: the great, the good and the “needs improvement” areas. I pray a quick reflection can be personally rewarding for you.

Rick & Dianne

For a very blessed 2018, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for accompanying me along every step of my journey in 2018. Thank you in advance for being a part of my life and spiritual journey in the upcoming year. I pray that we look to you daily and regularly to see the plans you have for us. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 178 – The Journey of Family

Mon., Dec. 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bucket #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your journey?

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

Merry Christmas from the Deaton’s.

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

Blessings –

Dianne

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Lessons on Living and Dying

DSC06181Mon., Jan. 15, 2018

Romans 6:5 – For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Early in our marriage, Rick and I often commented on how fortunate we were that all of our parents were alive. We knew this was not something to take for granted. We tried to make special times and memories with our parents as a married couple and appreciate who each person was.

Just a little over five years ago, my Dad was the first parent to pass. (https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2013/01/04/dads-departure-has-come/) Ten months later, my mother-in-law, Ersel, passed away. (https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2013/11/24/everybody-loves-ersel/). Then, June 2016, my father-in-law, Tony, left this world. (https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2016/06/19/good-bye-tony/)

Our last parent, my Mom, left this earthly world on Sat., Jan. 13. While her health had been steadily declining, the last three weeks, she changed nearly daily. Having stepped back from serving churches six weeks ago and with an understanding boss from my part-time job, I had the flexibility to spent significant time with my Mom the last three weeks of her life. While with her, I often privately reflected upon the lessons my Mom taught and was teaching me about living and dying. I share a few here.

My parents taught their children how to work hard. I remember being encouraged if I worked hard enough, anything could happen. No doubt about it, my Mom was a hard working individual. In ministry, I have often reflected upon the story of Martha and Mary in Luke’s gospel. Martha is a busy-body who wants to be a great hostess when Jesus and his friends show up at her house. Sister Mary is not distracted by all the preparations and simply sits at Jesus’ feet. When Martha is fed up with Mary’s lack of assistance, she asks Jesus to get Mary to help her. Surprisingly, Jesus sides with Mary’s decision to just be in his presence.

My Mom spent nearly all of her life being a Martha. She raised four Martha children. Possibly, she overworked her body into some of the health challenges she struggled with. Even in the last months while living at a nursing home, Mom would often talk about “all the things” she wanted to get done. It’s hard to flip the switch and move into a more Mary-like lifestyle, something my Mom never really became comfortable with. I watched this happen these past few weeks. It has encouraged me to continue reflecting upon how Martha’s can build more Mary into their lives.

Fiercely independent, it was NEVER easy for my Mom to ask for assistance or help. As my siblings and I became more involved in her care needs, it was very difficult for her to accept this. The nursing home staff loved her independence, even if it drove them (and her children) a little crazy. I greatly treasure her acceptance of help in her last days. Helping her eat, rubbing lotion on her skin, reading to her, listening to music and praying together became the single most important parts of each day.

We are not in control. There were many times we saw Mom’s independence continue in her last days. She taught us patience, interestingly not one of her dominant traits. We discovered the gift of peace and just being. Her living and dying journey brought my sisters and I together for several days, something that has seldom happened in our adult years. We discovered that we were along on Mom’s journey and needed to just accept how it transpired, which we came to peace with. I’m confident my sisters and I will treasure those last days together and pray we honored our Mom in the process.

Our greatest peace comes from knowing that in death, Mom would not really die. She simply would be united with Christ in a resurrection just like his. We knew and felt Mom’s whole journey was surrounded in God’s love and grace. We learned to accept each day with Mom as a gift and one to relish and enjoy.

In the days and weeks ahead, I’m confident I will remember and relive many more lessons I have learned through Mom’s living and dying. I close with the last sentence from Mom’s obituary and encourage you to honor my Mom’s living and dying by participating:

As an memorial, the family encourages you to reach out in kindness to someone or play a game of UNO in memory in her.

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No Deaton gathering is complete unless there is a game of UNO. 

Almighty God – I thank you for the woman who was my Mom. Thank you for loving her and through her, teaching me so many important lessons on living and dying. I celebrate her life and death. I pray You will continue to teach me things through her journey of living and dying. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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