Gratitude Day 197 – Signs of Gratitude

Fri., Jan. 18, 2019

Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe,

“You sure have a lot of things in your house with the words ‘grateful’ and ‘thankful’ on them,” our 8-year-old granddaughter Ellie told me recently.

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We were sitting at my desk searching the internet for fun gymnastic photos for Ellie. When I looked up, I saw two items on my desk, each with one of those words.

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She had a point.

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My mind quickly began recalling the various other items in our house that express one of these words or a variation of them. Point is? Ellie is right. There ARE lots of things in our house that include these words.

Then came Ellie’s next question, “Why?”

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Why do I have a variety of things expressing these words?

Because these words mean a lot to me. They capture the essence of one of my core values. No matter what is going on in my life or the world, I have much to be grateful and thankful for. Rather than spending ridiculous amounts of energy focusing on things that disappoint me or I wish were different (and often out of my control), I choose to surround myself with the thousands and thousands of ways I truly am blessed. Having little reminders throughout our house is a way to subcontiously remind myself that I am truly blessed.

Because, I am.

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Sure, I’d like to lose some weight. And be more productive with my time. I wish I would say all the right things in difficult situations, rather than the wrong things that often come out of my mouth. I’d like to be more humble and listen more. I wish I would stop comparing myself to others and be completely happy with who I am.

 

Most days, there is this little voice inside of me that tries to lure me to a place where I know I could easily become cynical and question why there always seems to be some crazy thing in my life lurking just around the corner. Before this becomes the most important thought in my day, I choose to counter these difficult thoughts with gratitude … thankfulness … blessings. Maybe having these little reminders scattered throughout our house is one way to remind myself that no matter what happens today, my glass is more than half full. I believe in a God who will help me navigate what ever challenge comes my way. At the end of every day, I have thousands of reasons why I am a very blessed person.

How did I answer Ellie? I told her I have items with these words scattered around our house because they are important to me. They are little reminders of what is most important, like she, her brothers and cousins. I hope these words will encourage other people to also be grateful and thankful.

I know this is a lot for an 8-year-old to capture. But, it’s how I feel. And why I surround myself with these words as daily reminders of what perspective I want to see life through.

So, what two or three words are the ones that inspire you the most? What few words do you want to have others see in you? How do you integrate these words into your daily life?

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For little reminders of what is most important to me, I am grateful.

Lord God – when life gets busy, full and overwhelming, it’s easy to lose sight of what is most important. Help us to find small, easy things to help us find our core values each and every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 196 – Refresh Wednesday

Wed., Jan. 16, 2019

Philemon 1:20 – Yes, brother, I want this favor from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.

Recently, I took a few hours one afternoon/evening and thought about what some goals are I have for myself in the next 365 days. I was not making resolutions. I contemplated areas where I want to improve in myself.

Goals vs. resolutions. Is there a difference?

I believe there is. Would you like to know my perspective?

Good. Here it is.

A resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something. A goal is the ambition to work towards a desired result. A resolution says, “From here on out, I will (or will not) …” A goal says, “Step by step, I’m going to work towards …”

See the difference?

I can “will” myself not to eat sugar. But I know there will be a day when I will. If I make a resolution not to eat sugar, I set myself up for failure. If I make a goal to consume less sugar and work towards a specific goal, I give myself grace to achieve this over time.

So, what is one of my goals for 2019?

Not to ADD more to my life but to freshened up things that are already a part of my daily journey.

Rather than look at a complete life overhaul (which is exhausting, demanding and unrealistic for me), I want to challenge myself to make slight changes and adjustments. Maybe it’s more of a mind shift in how I think about things. But after years and years of trying to do the overhaul method and failing miserably, I challenged myself to come up with a different approach.

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Freshen up it is.

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Here’s a very simple but quick way to illustrate what I mean.

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Before Christmas, we decorated our beautiful front porch for the holidays. Our gorgeous porch is the first spot that welcomes people into our home. It truly is the place where people can begin to feel the warmth and welcome I desperately want them wash over them as they come into our home.

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My sister, Debbie, helped decorate for Christmas. We took very simple things I already had, tastefully arranged them and inserted some beautiful evergreen arrangements Debbie whipped up. I purposefully suggested keeping this area less Christmasy and more wintery so it could transform from pre-Christmas to post-Christmas with little effort.

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The post-Christmas biggest challenge? See the cute little bench. The one Hubby Rick made from a $12 headboard that I purchased at a thrift shop? It needed to go back inside the house. It moved out here to make room for the Christmas tree. But now, the bench needed to go back inside the foyer, it’s rightful location.

This would be a quick refresh, not a big overhaul.

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First step – remove the white Christmas lights sprinkled in throughout the decorations. While it still looks cool at night, it is time to stop turning on the Christmas lights. Sigh.

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Second step – move everything off the bench, clean it and move it inside.

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Third step – move existing decorations around to make a winter wonderland without the bench.

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Total time to refresh the porch? 10 minutes.

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The only added item is the bin that now holds the sticks of wood. The bin was inside the parlor over Christmas. The sticks of wood were outside. I just put them back together and found a spot for them. Done.

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The whole refreshing time did take a few more minutes. Once everything was in its place on the porch, I put the bench back in its normal spot inside and added a few things to make it look cozy. I think this took another 5 minutes.

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And my heart sang with joy.

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Why remake when all we have to do is refresh?

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Where can you spend 15-20 minutes today and refresh something that will bring joy to your heart?

I’m calling today “Refresh Wednesday.” Look for more “Refresh Wednesday’s” coming up; little things I’m doing to help me work towards achieving goals in the next 365 days. Things that are quick, easy and help my heart sing.

For a quick refresh in my life, I am grateful.

Almighty God – You designed us just the way we are. Yes, you might want to make a few changes to our choices and behavior. But you give each of us unique personalities and perspectives. Place on our hearts little ways we can refresh our life today. Help us see the best way towards long-term change may not be a huge overhaul but simple steps on a regular basis. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 194 – Perspective

Mon., Jan. 14, 2019

1 Peter 2:4 – Now you are coming to him as to a living stone. Even though this stone was rejected by humans, from God’s perspective it is chosen, valuable.

Recently, our grandkids were at our house for the day. Granddaughter Ellie shared with me that she is signed up for photography in 4-H but only has a polaroid camera. We spent time looking at my “nice” camera, an entry model SLR Sony. After I showed her how to properly hold it, carry it and take a basic picture, she was off and taking pictures.

Soon, her older brother Waylan wanted to also takes pictures. After he went through the same basic learning steps, he also was snapping away.

After they were gone, I put the memory card from the camera in my laptop to see the pictures they took. The first one that popped up was this one.

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I knew that I was in for a treat.

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As I scrolled through the photos, one word kept coming into my mind: perspective. Their little brains just look at things from a slightly different perspective than my aged brain does.

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Things are just a little different from their vantage point of life, experience and stage of life.

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What they see is different from what I see.

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How they frame their lives as a child born in the 21st century with significantly different technology sources and experiences is vastly different from how I grew up.

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Yes, some of the photos were blurry. Mind you, this was their first time using an SLR camera. (I think this was little brother Dylan’s attempt to take a picture. I should have realized this when he asked, “Why is it always blurry?)

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What an interesting lesson for me.

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You see, we all see the world from a slightly, or maybe not so slightly, different point of view. It’s easy to think that our position is “right.” Or we become frustrated when someone has a completely different launching point than we do. We loose patience when someone makes the same mistake over and over, unless that person is ourselves.

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In a world that has cultured a significant “me” mentality, we’ve forgotten that others have points of view as well. Others have different vantage points than we do. Just because another’s perspective is skewed from our position, their perspective may not always be wrong and our position always right. They are just different.

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Do we ever contemplate what God’s perspective our world might be today? Does God laugh or cry when God sees the ridiculous, silly and potentially offensive things that we do?

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It can be very easy for us to assume God’s perspective and try to articulate it to anyone who will hear. Maybe we’re right. And maybe, we’re way off base from what God would say.

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I know this post began with just some pictures that our grandkids took over the weekend. But maybe in these simple photos, there is a lesson for us. Opportunity for us to ponder. Reasons to ruminate.

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Perspective. There’s a lot to discover here. If we only stop and think about some one else’s perspective than our own.

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For different perspectives around me, I am grateful.

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Almighty God – thank you for the simplest shift of perspective when I see through the lenses of a little person. May we be just a bit more tolerant of someone else’s perspective today. Help me see that my perspective may not be the only “right” perspective. And Holy God, may I not be completely frustrated when someone else’s perspective challenges me. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

All pictures taken by our grankids. No cropping or editting. Just their perspective.

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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

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Gratitude Day 118 – Perspective

Thurs., Sept. 13, 2018

1 Peter 2:4 – Now you are coming to him as to a living stone. Even though this stone was rejected by humans, from God’s perspective it is chosen, valuable.

I’ve been looking at the top of my piano and wanting something just a bit different. The decorations have been fine this summer. As we move towards fall, I am looking for something different.

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I know. The easy fix would have been to put a few pumpkins and fall flowers in the vases. And I will do this soon. But I felt like it needed something just a bit more than this.

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I looked at the rustic white candlesticks and had an idea.

Black.

Paint really is a designer’s best friend. It’s inexpensive and can change perspective of something so quick. I found a bottle of black spray paint in the basement. There happened to be a tarp in the back yard and so I went to work. Hubby Rick has taught me well: several thin layers of spray paint are more effective than one heavy, runny layer.

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It was a beautiful day. Literally, each paint coat only took minutes to dry. Soon, all three candle holders were sufficiently black and ready to go back to their homes.

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Isn’t it amazing the difference some black paint makes?

If you prefer the rustic white before picture, it’s OK. It’s just a matter of perspective.

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Thankfully, we don’t always have the same perspective. We see things from different vantage points. We have different ideas and concepts and potential options. Sometimes, just a small shift in perspective can help us see something from a completely different perspective.

Whose perspective am I most challenged by? God’s.

Whose perspective do I most often appreciate, even when I’m not always happy and supportive in the moment? God’s.

Have you had the situation when you wonder why God was not more aware of your position? You question why God didn’t listen to you.

When we allow ourselves to see something from a slightly different perspective, we begin to see why God didn’t listen to us earlier. Praise the Lord.

It is so easy to ditch God and question God’s judgement on something. Occasionally, we become aware that God’s perspective really is more appropriate than our perspective. In the moment, it’s hard to see. But sometimes, I pray we see that God has a much wider and broader and deeper understanding than we ever will.

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For a different perspective than my own, I am grateful.

Lord God – thanks for being patient with us when we want something our way right now. I pray that we can open ourselves to the possibility of your perspective. Sometimes, just a slight shift is all it takes. I pray we let You help us see new perspectives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 82 – Perspective

Sat., July 14, 2018

2 Corinthians 12:7 – I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. 

“Cancer has been a blessing in my life,” she said.

That’s right. A blessing.

Liz Curtis Higgs

Liz Curtis Higgs is an author and a speaker. While sharing her story, Liz explained how God has used cancer to teach her about life. Doused with honest humor, Liz had her audience in stiches about cancer. She spoke openly about the wig she was wearing and how this too has been a blessing. Somehow, she turned her hairpiece into a story that none of the attendees will forget.

For 30 minutes, Liz captivated a room filled with people who want to be successful writers, much like she is. She taught us how to do this with her own story. She explained how her journey with cancer this last year has taught her new things; things she wanted the rest of us to learn from her. I’ll share just a couple of her great one-liners:

  • Liz has discovered that everything she’s been teaching through her writing and speaking is true.
  • When someone is hurting, they just want to hear that you love them and that you are praying for them.
  • When we deal with the thorns in our lives, God will lavish God’s love on you.
  • Learn to love a good insult. Through it, may we learn to delight in it.

Liz packed a lot of punch into her words. She did it very humbly and openly. She has made me look at the thorns in my life from a new perspective.

For this, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for the gift of perspective. The honesty that cancer can be a blessing. Someone may read these words and think cancer has not been a blessing to them or their family. I pray this thorn in their life will be turned into a blessing. This can only happen through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 36 – Perseverance

Stacie

Thurs., May 10, 2018

2 Thessalonians 3:5 – May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Let me introduce you to my friend Stacie. Stacie is generous, helpful and caring. She thinks of others before herself. She is raising a family with her husband, Bill. Bill is out of town this week for work and Stacie is looking forward to his return today. She looks like a regular Mom, spouse, daughter, friend and companion.

But Stacie is anything but regular. Look just a little closer. Maybe you will see her trusty companion: her power scooter. About 10 years ago, Stacie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Rather than letting this disease define her, Stacie is redefining herself. Her power scooter is not a limitation. For Stacie, it is an empowerment.

After being diagnosed, Stacie worked until physically, it became too taxing on her body. Today, she “works” in a different way. She uses her phone to call people who might be lonely or need assistance. Stacie keeps in touch with other people who have MS but do not have the support she receives. Most importantly, Stacie maintains a very optimistic attitude about her situation.

Does she have more challenging days than others? Of course. Yet, Stacie keeps sight of the important things in her life. Would she like things to be different? Of course. Yet, every time I see Stacie, I am amazed how she graciously tackles life and keeps going, no matter what cards she is dealt. Her perseverance amazes me.

Seeing Stacie is always a good reality check for me. So many things I simply take for granted are quite different for Stacie. Getting out of bed on my own. Doing a load of laundry. Walking up a couple steps. For me? Simple. For Stacie? A completely different story.

Stacie works at managing her symptoms and disease as best as she can. She keeps as active as possible. After a few minutes with Stacie, I am in awe of how she manages. Her perseverance is simply amazing. It encourages me to look at my life slightly different. Why should I be bummed about the seemingly insignificant road bumps in my life? I am a very blessed woman who has been blessed with a friend like Stacie.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – I lift up the thousands of people who are affected by terminal illness like Stacie. May your Holy Spirit be a part of their daily journeys. For those who lake a strong support system, please bring into their lives someone special to assist them. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Happy Birthday, Nate

Sat., May. 13, 20

Nate & Tony

Hebrews 11:1 – Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. 

Today, would have been Nate Vielhuber’s 39th birthday. Nate was my husband Rick’s eldest son. When just 21, Nate was killed in a snowmobiling accident. Our lives were forever changed.

Rick and I were dating when Nate was killed. It was very early in our relationship. I was also the pastor for the church were Rick and his family were members. This means I presided over Nate’s funeral; the second funeral I ever conducted. I barely knew how to officiate a funeral. I certainly didn’t know how to officiate my boyfriend’s eldest son’s funeral. I will never officiate at a more difficult funeral.

Losing a child is heart wrenching. The littlest details are deeply etched in my memory. The sound of Rick’s voice on the middle of the night phone call. The shock displayed on Rick’s parent’s faces as we told them. The outside temperature the night of the chilly January visitation. The specific tie Rick wore to the funeral. The pain deep in my gut while driving back to seminary the day after the funeral as I crossed the bridge between Wisconsin and Iowa entering Dubuque. My inability to tuck the emotion away that same day.

Yet, my pain was a shallow puddle compared to the overwhelming and long-standing pain Rick experienced. I attended seminary several days a week the first months after Nate’s death. On my way home, I often stopped to see Rick. It was impossible to predict his state of mind before arriving. Would it be a good day? An awful day? Somewhere in-between?

Because we had not been dating very long, my personal relationship with Nate was not well developed. I am very much aware that for some, this should mean my grief isn’t significant. Honestly, my grief is often tied up in the grief I have witnessed Rick experience. Yet, I grieve the lost opportunities, the unfulfilled dreams, the sadness of how this loss dramatically affected every Vielhuber family member.

When I meet someone new, a question I am often asked is how many children we have. I’m still unsure how to answer this question. First, I explain Rick has children and I do not. Do I say Rick has two or three children? If I say two, I’m not including Nate. If I say three, further explanation is needed. Rick struggles with the appropriate answer just as much as I do.

Several months ago, Rick showed me a picture he ran across while going through things at the house that was his Mom and Dad’s. It is the photo with this post. Nate was probably 13 or 14. He was with Rick’s Dad fishing in Canada. This picture rides in my car now.  One day, our youngest three grandkids were in the car. They saw the photo. Grandson Waylan asked Rick if the people in the picture were his Dad and Rick. Grandpa gently shared that no, this was his Uncle Nate and his Grandpa-Great.

When gathered for family get-togethers, it’s rare Nate’s name is not mentioned. Our grandchildren know they have another uncle. I enjoy Rick repeating the same stories of times he had with Nate: failing to make pie crust for home economics class; shooting potatoes; taking confirmation class together and a whole host of others. After the death of a child, it is easy for parents to loose perspective on God, faith and life. I am amazed how Rick has allowed this significant loss in his life to deepen his view of God. Rather than being bitter about the shortness of Nate’s life, he praises God for the exciting 21 years he had with Nate.

Nathanial means “gift from God.” There is no question, Nate was a gift from the beginning. Today, I say thank you, God, for the gift of Nate, the day of Nate’s birthday.

Our hearts are sometimes sad when we remember a loved one no longer with us, Lord God. Other times, our hearts swell with laughter and tears. Be with any this day who are missing a loved one. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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It’s a Matter of Perspective

these 40 days.docxMar. 22, 2014

John 19:1

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

This week, Rick and I got the dreaded spring cold. We are both stuffy, achy and blowing our noses constantly. The beginning of the week, my back, neck and shoulders were so stiff. I really wanted to treat myself to a massage but didn’t. Being stiff made me feel rather miserable.

Today, I was with three teenaged Confirmation students. We watched The Passion of the Christ. Personally, I feel the most graphic part of the movie is when Jesus is flogged by the Roman soldiers. Flogged is a fancy word that is the act of methodically beating the human body with special implements such as whips, lashes, rods and the like. It’s as severe form of punishment as I can imagine.

After watching the perceived beating that Jesus took, my stiff back is very minor.  What do I have to complain about? My cold will be gone in a few days. Jesus’ withstood unimaginable beating and whipping. Why? So that I can experience eternal life.

When things are awful for us, we can be melodramatic. We say something is a nightmare or the worst thing ever. But really? Yes, our situations may be difficult and painful. But anything in comparison to Jesus’ flogging? Not a chance.

After seeing this movie again, I will complain much less about the obtrusive things in my life. They really just are not that big of a deal. It’s a matter of perspective.

Lord God, why is it that everything seems much more difficult when we are personally experiencing something? Others may be walking a difficult lot in their lives. But when it affects us, we have a new perspective. Yes, we do have certain challenges and difficulties in our lives. And thank you for walking with us through trying times. Challenge us not to lose perspective. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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