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

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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 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 166 – Rustic Wonderland

Thurs., Nov. 29, 2018

Matthew 1:20 – But as Joseph was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. The baby inside her is from the Holy Spirit.

What makes a house and a home?

Little touches that say to family and friends, “You are loved and welcome here.”

I love to decorate for Christmas. Why do I do this? Because I pray our house will not just be another house on the block. I hope our house will be viewed as a home where people are loved and welcomed. This is why I created a Rustic Wonderland on our front porch. When people drive or walk by or bound up the steps to our lovely porch, I pray they feel like this would be a good place to stay for a while.

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My goal this year was to decorate using only things I already had. Buy nothing new. Find new ways to use what I have. Enjoy the results thoroughly.

Why? I am so ready to not purchase things. I am so ready to simply repurpose what we have. I am so ready to shop what’s in the house and carriage house and spend more time enjoying the finished results than create something that takes lots of time, energy and resources to pull together. Yes, I love having a pretty porch during the holidays. Yet, I feel too often we focus on the “what” of Christmas rather than remembering the “why” we celebrate the season.

So, welcome to our Rustic Wonderland. Ready for a little tour?

Good. I’m excited to give you one.

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Sister Debbie helped me pull this together. Fortunately, she is an excellent florist. She can whip together beautiful arrangements before I can get her the things, she needs to make them. She created all of the gorgeous evergreen arrangements, inside and outside of the house. (In a couple days, I’ll show how we decorated the inside of our house.)

Here’s how we went about putting together a Rustic Wonderland.

We began with a clean slate. I removed the summer furniture and fall decorations. Debbie contributed the greens and wreath. Other than one strand of lights we had to buy, everything else come from our house or the carriage house.

You’ll find a lot of old things on our porch that help us remember important phases, people and times of our lives:

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  • The well-used washtubs were my mother-in-law’s. With quite rusty bottoms, Debbie put ice cream buckets filled with oasis into the tubs. Into the oasis, she inserted various kinds of pine, evergreens, logs and twigs to create the designs. Hubby Rick cut the birch logs years ago. I keep recycling them. After placing the tubs into position, we put a brick in the bottom to keep the tubs stable.

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  • In the summer, the grey shotgun containers are filled with flowers. Why not use them now for evergreens? Because they are quite deep, we put a brick in the bottom, then the ice cream bucket with oasis, which makes for easier decorating.

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  • When I was a young girl, this sled was a Christmas present. The baler twine pull has been on this sled for YEARS. Hubby Rick found the skates at his former house years ago. I love to combine these two items together as they represent both of our former lives.

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  • Rick made this bench. It is usually in the entry way of our house. Since the Christmas tree is now there, we moved it to the porch and used it as a centerpiece for the Rustic Wonderland.

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  • The green box? Just like a tool box that used to be on a John Deere tractor on our farm when I was growing up.

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  • This enamel wash bin looks super cute with the antique lantern, greens and pine cones. The lantern came from Rick’s parent’s house.

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  • To make the wreath fit in with everything old, we simply added a different bow. For a fun twist on displaying the wreath, hang it with burlap or ribbon.
  • A quick design tip? Fill any container with pine cones from the yard. Add a little ribbon or evergreens if you wish.

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I hope these Christmas decorations beg friends and guests into our home. A porch or entry way is the first statement people observe about the folks who live inside the house. The message I would love for people to take away from our porch? “This isn’t just a house. It’s a home.”

After Gabriel visited Joseph, he didn’t take her to his house. He took her into his home. He wanted this young teenaged-girl to feel like his home would be a safe place for her. Joseph wanted this girl, specially chosen by God to carry God’s son, to know she was loved and welcomed into his humble abode.

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What does the entrance to your home say about you and your family? Is it inviting? Does it welcome your family and visitors into a place where memories will be made? Where they will be loved and welcomed?

Want to see what our Rustic Wonderland looks like at night?

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For houses that become homes, I am grateful.

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Holy God – It’s a subtle detail, but an important one. Joseph took Mary to his home, not his house. May we follow his example and create safe places for our families, friends and guests where they will always feel loved and welcomed. Amen.

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Blessings –

Dianne

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Overwhelming Disappointment

Sad

Passport

Passport to Prayer – Lent 2016

Thursday – Mar. 17, 2016

John 11:25: Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Read John 11, the death and raising of Lazarus. For some reason, it takes Jesus two days to get the short distance to Mary and Martha’s house after he has heard Lazarus is dead. Martha is livid. She stomps out to meet Jesus and let her know how disappointed she is.

Today, recall the times you feel Jesus disappointed you. Don’t be shy. Get down to the nitty-gritty, as Martha did. Clearly express the feelings and emotions you experienced. Once you have done this, draw in long breaths of air. Release these feelings as you exhale.

You know we’ve had the same feelings as Martha, Lord Jesus. There are many times when we feel you have let us down. Help us release our disappointment this day. Forgive us for the many times we’ve focused more on our disappointments in you rather than the joy we experience in your kingdom. 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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9 Months

9 monthsDec. 3, 2015

Luke 1:30

 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.

We often think of the Christmas story starting at the beginning of Advent. Actually, the story began nine months earlier when the angel visited Mary and she became pregnant.

When planning for a vacation, wedding or special event, nine months can seem like a ridiculous time in the future. Yet other times, nine months whizzes right by.

A little over three months ago, we moved into our current house. When we first moved in, I was optimistic that in a few short weeks, we’d be settled in and know where everything is because everything would have a home. We might not have the entire house remodeled, but we would have a chunk of it done.

Then, there is reality. Yes, we’ve made progress. But I’ve been without a kitchen sink for over a month. I’ve only unpacked one or two boxes of dishes. It seemed to make sense to wait until I could actually put them on shelves. Just this week, I begin to use my office room rather than a couple folding tables that had been moved several times before finding a semi-permanent location.

Nine months. How long did Jesus’ pregnancy seem to Mary? Did it go fast or slow? Shortly after Mary discovers she is pregnant, she disappears from Nazareth and visits her elder cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. After decades of longing for a child, Elizabeth is finally carrying a baby! Once born, Mary heads back to Nazareth, now visibly pregnant.

I think of how much our lives have changed in the last three months. Yet, I know the challenges for Rick and I pale in comparison to when Mary became pregnant. Here’s a teenaged girl having to quickly make difficult, grown-up decisions. Following God’s lead, Mary handled this seemingly impossible call on her life with great finesse.

The next time I’m complaining about the messy, unorganized house we’re living in, I pray I can remember my messes are not nearly as difficult as the 9-month situation Mary found herself if. I pray I have the same fortitude to follow God’s lead as Mary. And in nine months, look back and see where how things have changed.

Lord God – whether nine months seems long or short, Mary willingly allowed chaos in her life for our benefit. Her decision to accept the call to carry Baby Jesus forever changed the world. May we accept opportunities to change our world in the next nine months. Amen.

Blessings  –

Dianne

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