Gratitude Day 207 – What I learned in January 2019

Thurs., Jan. 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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For learned and relearned life lessons, I am grateful.

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

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 192 – Patience

Thurs., Jan. 10, 2019

Job 21:4 – Are my complaints against another human; why is my patience short?

I have a standing weekly appointment with a 5th grader. His name is Isaac. On Wednesday mornings, Isaac and I spent about 45 minutes together. At least part of the time together, we work on some project related to Isaac’s schooling: math, writing or reading. Lately, we have been working through a cursive book.

This week, we reviewed a couple stories that Isaac had written. His teacher encourages creative writing. She had shared with Isaac that I like to write. So often, we review Isaac’s writing.

Of course, Isaac is most interested in me reading his story. Unfortunately, I divert to looking for spelling errors, run-on sentences or wrong punctuation. Like many people, Isaac writes exactly like he speaks. Sentences contain multiple thoughts and are one long mess of multiple thoughts strung together with adverbs and conjunctions.

Isaac’s teacher suggested we review one story in particular and see if there were any corrections we could make. This is a story we had looked at last week and I knew there were some improvements to be made. I also knew that it is very difficult for Isaac to accept suggestions about ways to improve his story.

As we walked through the story and I encouraged Isaac to look for misspelled words and endless sentences, it didn’t take long for Isaac’s patience to be tested. With each new suggestion, his response to me became sharper and shorter. Normally, Isaac is very positive with me. Behavior I seldom see, but is more common with school faculty, began to boil up.

Patience1.jpgWhile Isaac was not displaying patience, I decided my best response was to address it in a quiet, non-threatening tone, mustering up all the patience I could.

As soon as I question Isaac’s tone, he quickly became defeated. But … he kept his emotions in check. We talked through it and the rest of our time together was more positive.

Oh, it would have been so easy to lose my patience with Isaac. Unfortunately, I think this is the response Isaac most often expects from other people. When he gets a different response, he doesn’t know how to respond.

Why do we loose patience? Why do we seemingly have more patience on some days than others? Why can I have so much patience with some people … and very little with others?

Because we are human. Possibly, we expect to have less patience with some people and this becomes our reaction. Maybe some people just push our buttons more. For those who have been gifted with extra-ordinary amounts of patience, I bless and respect you.

When I really loose my patience, I immediately regret it. And promise me to “not let this happen again.” Alias, it always does.

How might we equip ourselves with more patience? Appreciate all the patience God has granted us. Acknowledge God’s endless bucket of patience that God covers us with. Encourage ourselves not to respond how others expect us … but choose to respond in a way which models care, grace and love.

Let’s also commit to pray for people, like Isaac’s teacher, Mrs. Wentz, who must have endless amounts of patience every day. She’s dealing with a lot of 5th graders for more than 45 minutes.

For the opportunity to embrace patience, I am grateful.

Holy God – I can’t imagine the amount of patience you have embodied with me, let alone all the others around me. May your Spirit encourage me to extend extra patience in just the right moments. May we discover appropriate ways to respond in potentially challenging times when it would be so easy to lose our patience. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 127 – Blessing Others

Sat., Sept. 29, 2018

Ruth 2:4 – Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem. He said to the harvesters, “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.”

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I love being able to bless other people. It’s one of my favorite things to do. This is one reason why I’ve become involved in a program called Blessings in a Backpack.

This is a program which helps provide weekend food to school students who might not otherwise have enough food. Our local Blessings program works with our local school district to provide this food to students who would be blessed in having this food. In our local program we provide 10 items of food a week: 2 breakfast, 2 meal items and 6 snack items.

It is amazing to watch this program work. The majority of the food is purchased through our local grocery story, who works with our program to provide the food at the most reasonable price possible. Volunteers order the food, pick-up the food, pack the food and deliver the food to the schools. Our volunteer leadership team coordinates the volunteers, finances, connection with the school, administrative roles and marketing promotion.

This past week was National Blessings in a Backpack. Here are the volunteers and owner of the local grocery store who packed the food bags that were delivered to the school on Friday.

Why do I choose to be involved in this program? Because it is providing food to students. I feel making sure every student in our school district has adequate food is my responsibility and my opportunity. Some of you may feel this is not your calling or responsibility. Yet, I feel we all have the opportunity influence kids in our community. This is one way that I choose to be involved. I envision every time a student receives a food bag they feel blessed and cared for.

Maybe being part of a local Blessings program is not feasible for you. I challenge you to become creative and discover a special way that you can support school-aged you in your community:

  • Mentor or tutor student(s) in your local school district.
  • Help cover the cost of lunches for students who many not have funds to do this
  • Provide funds for a student’s lunch break
  • Listen to students read
  • Help a student with homework on a regular basis
  • Volunteer to help with recess
  • Be a volunteer assistance in a classroom or homeroom regularly
  • Ask at your school or library how you could support local kids
  • Pray for the school, administration, students, teachers and all staff.

Whether you have school-aged kids or not, we have unique opportunities to be a part of the kid’s lives within our community. This is how we shared important things from generation to generation.

No matter your age, physical abilities or other commitments, I pray you find a way to support kids within your community.

For the ability to bless school-aged students, I am thankful.

Almighty God – thank you for the opportunities that we come along to bless others. I pray we seize the opportunities to give your love, grace and peace into other’s lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 44 –

Isaac

Thurs., May 17, 2018

James 5:10-11 – Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! 

One person can make a difference. Change things. Have significant impact on another person’s life. I have had several such people in my life. People who just showed up and made a difference. A couple examples:

  • While taking a basic writing class in college, the teaching assistant asked me to visit during office hours. His agenda was not what I expected. “Why aren’t you an Agricultural Journalism major?” he asked. (I was majoring in Agricultural Economics at the time.) Based on a 20-minute conversation, I switched majors and changed the direction of my career.
  • Isaac Lim flew from Singapore to Wisconsin with a message for me. Seriously. Like 9,252 miles. He was a guest speaker at the church I was attending at the time. As his taxi driver for the week, I took him shopping one day so he could buy gifts for his family. The afternoon basically became Dr. Lim informing me that I had a call into pastoral ministry. A few months later, I was in seminary. Within nine months, I began serving two churches. At one of those churches, I met future Hubby Rick. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

These people, along with others, have shaped my life. As wise sages and prophets, their words and willingness to coach me have changed my life. They showed up and imparted wisdom to me as God’s special messengers.

Last summer, I signed up to be a school mentor. Our local school enlists volunteers to help students. Sometimes it’s doing homework. Maybe it’s listening. Other times, it’s playing a game.

On Thursday mornings, I go to school and spend time with 4th grader Isaac. We do math, read a book, problem solve, or finish a project. Isaac likes it when we play games. Chess and Yahtzee are his favorites. Often, Isaac shares a beef stick with me. At times, I bring Isaac a little treat.

Over time, Isaac and I have become buddies. After Christmas break, Isaac greeted me with a hug … in front of his friends. He was worried when I didn’t show up another week. When an adult extended sympathy to me after my Mom died, Isaac asked if he heard correctly. When I confirmed my Mom’s death, he quickly said, “I’m so sorry.”

One afternoon this week, the mentors were invited to an ice cream social with the kids. Beforehand, the mentors shared a bit of our experiences with each other. Most every volunteer spoke of getting more out of helping the students than what they felt they were giving them. When the students arrived, they brought us sundaes with our favorite toppings and a thank you card.

note from IsaacMy role with Isaac was to be his buddie. Not a pastor. Not his teacher. Not his parent. A sage willing to listen and play chess with missing pieces. It is not important whether I know if I have truly been a mentor or prophet to him. What is important is that I showed up. Period.

Who is someone you can show up for today?

Before Isaac left to catch the bus home, he told me it was a great one. I asked him what made it a great day. “I saw you twice today!” he said.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – I’m confident we can think of several people who made a difference in our lives. Thank you for allowing these wise prophets to be your messengers. Bring into our lives people with whom we can be a mentor and friend. When these opportunities come along, may we seize them. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 13 – Food

Blessings bags

Sat., Apr. 14, 2018

Matthew 5:35-36 – (Jesus said), “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’

Friday mornings are Blessings mornings. This is the day a group of volunteers’ pack weekend food bags for students in our local school district. Each Friday, we provide food for students who might not otherwise have enough food for the weekend. Weekly, students receive 8-10 items: 2 breakfast items, 2 meals and at least four snacks. These items will not cover all their weekend food needs. Our goal is to ensure students have something to eat.

Are there hungry students even in our little Poynette School District? What I do know is there were 56 students this Friday morning that may not have enough food. I am grateful we can provide some food for the weekend.

I became involved in the Blessings in a Backpack Program over 18 months ago. After the local school board confirmed support of our local Blessings program, we organized a great group of volunteers to carry out the program’s mission. There are six core volunteers who oversee an area of the program: shopping and packing, volunteer coordinator, community coordination, fundraising, financial and overall coordination. Another 25 volunteers help pack and distribute weekly food bags.

Do the weekend food bags make a difference? The stories say so. One little boy was sick on a Friday morning. When the school nurse wanted to call a parent to pick him up, he said he wouldn’t leave until he had his food bag. After winter break, two girls showed up in the school office on Friday morning. The volunteer drop-off person was also in the office. The girls asked her if she is “the food lady” because they wanted to make sure they would be getting food bags.

The Blessings program is so well supported in our community it basically runs itself. Volunteers just do their jobs. The financial support has been not been short of amazing. I was reminded of this again this week, when several substantial unsolicited donations showed up out of the blue. Every gift, whether large or small, indicates support of feeding hungry kids. And for this, I am grateful.

I have been involved in many, many different volunteer groups in my life. All with good missions. All with great volunteers. All with great purposes. The group I am the most humbled by is our little Blessings in a Backpack Program. Why? Because everyone wants to help feed hungry kids. Period. There are no other motivations. Everyone has the same goal.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – when Jesus said to “feed the hungry,” he was serious. We lift up the students and families who are a part of any Blessings in a Backpack program. We also pray for anyone, anywhere how has a food need. May we be your hands and feet in our local communities and take seriously Christ’s call to feed the hungry. Thank you for the many, many people who help feed the hungry every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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