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 204 – Old Man Winter

Mon., Jan. 28, 2019

Jeremiah 18:14 – Does the snow of Lebanon ever leave the highland crags? Or does cold water flowing from a distance ever fail?

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Old Man Winter has blown into Wisconsin … and has no intentions of leaving anytime soon.

Last week, we had snow and cold. On Saturday morning, Hubby Rick announced is was -22 outside shortly before I left for a meeting. This is -22 temperature; not wind chill.

We’re in for another round of snow on Monday and then days of bitterly cold weather. Like, not above zero as a high bitterly cold.

Looks like most every school in Wisconsin is canceled on Monday because of the impending snow storm. How many schools will be then closed because of the extended cold remains to be seen.

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For everyone, the cold weather is difficult and challenging. It’s even more so if you fall into one of these categories:

  • You work outside. People who move snow, work for a public works division, or others who are required to work even in awful weather.
  • Farmers and ranchers.
  • Police officers, EMT’s, fire fighters and other safety servants.
  • Plumbers, electricians and heating folks who help those with problems from the weather.
  • Truck drivers.
  • Meteroligists who people love to dislike when forecasts are awful or challenging to predict.
  • The homeless.
  • People living in marginal living conditions.
  • Elderly and those with significant health conditions.
  • And a whole bunch of other groups I’m failing to mention.

If you live somewhere where the weather is going to be challenging this week, be mindful of those who are dealing with the weather. Give them extra grace. Provide some way to help them. Count your blessings and realize how fortunate you are if you aren’t on this list.winter+weather

For those who live and work in situations challenged by snow and cow, I am grateful.

Holy God – please be with those who live in a place where the snow and cold can affect them this week. When a difficult situation arises, please bring others to assist and uphold those challenged by our weather. May we all be a pit more patient this week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 202 – Working Together

Thurs., Jan. 24, 2019

2 Corinthians 6:1 – Since we work together with him, we are also begging you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

And then, there was winter.

After scooting by the beginning of winter with very little snow and very mild temps, well, winter has arrived.

In the last 24+ hours, we’ve had 8-10 inches of snow. And we had several inches last weekend. I know, it’s not like living in Buffalo, NY … but it’s snow.

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We live north of Madison, WI. Today, I saw this cool picture. Count all of those snow plows, working together. They are on a main commuting route in Madison called The Beltline. How cool is this?

I know. Some people were complaining that not enough snow was moved before the morning commute. Or there wasn’t enough snow or salt. Or the side streets weren’t cleared. Let me just say … it’s impossible to get all the snow moved at the same time so that everyone can get just where they want as quickly as they would like. The roads department can’t do it all right now.

What this picture shows me is something super cool: teamwork. A bunch of folks working together, for the benefit of others. A little reminder that sometimes, we need to remember the bigger picture. We aren’t the center of God’s universe. When we figure this out, well, it really is a happier place for us.

Can we just stop wanting more for ourselves and decide that the best way to feel good about ourselves is to help someone else?

Can we set aside our personal preference for the benefit of a larger group?

Can we encourage others to do their best and in turn, then be encouraged to do our best?

When we see ourselves as Christians, then we are part of a larger community. Christians aren’t a community of one. They are a part of a huge family that includes people that are very different from you. In fact, there maybe some you don’t even really like. They are going to look different than you do, care for things that aren’t as important to you and irritate you some day. And just as you are a beloved child of God, SO ARE THEY.

I think we Christians can do some really amazing things here for God’s kingdom on earth. If we’d only work together and decide what we hold in common is really more important than where we differ.

So, let’s give each other an extra dose of grace today. Let’s find some folks who are excited to work together. Go make a difference in someone’s life, a community or the world. We can plow through a lot of barriers when we work together.

For a wonderful example of working together, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for giving us wonderful examples of working together, with the best example of all found in the Trinity of God. Help us to focus on the things we agree on more than the areas where we disagree. May we unite and work together for the glory and honor of your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 152 –  Snow is Here

Sat., Nov. 10, 2018

Psalm 147:16 – He covers the ground with snow like a blanket of wool, and he scatters frost like ashes on the ground.

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This is what we woke up to Friday morning. Snow in Wisconsin.

Yep, old man winter has arrived.

A couple weeks ago when it started freezing every night, Hubby Rick asked me, “When can we move to Belize?”

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This is the view he would prefer.

But alas, we are in Wisconsin. Where we get to experience ALL four seasons.

With the snow comes cold and wind. Heavy coats, mittens and boots. Shorter days of sunlight (when it shines.)

With snow, also comes mugs of hot chocolate, snuggles on the couch and the glisten of another great creation by God.

We can love it. Despise it. Wish is away.

Or we can appreciate the changing of the seasons.

For another change of the season, I am grateful.

Lord God – how can we not appreciate the wonderful way you have designed our world and all of creation? I pray we can fully embrace this today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 15 – Snow Day!

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Mon., Apr. 16, 2018

Isaiah 55:10-11 – For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there, without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

While the calendar says April 15, it looks and feels more like January 15 here in Wisconsin. Since Friday, we have been the recipients of multiple inches of snow, rain and sleet. Amounts vary depending on where you live in Wisconsin. Out our back door, a blanket of about six inches of fresh snow graces everything.

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Today almost felt like a snow day. Rick and I did go to church. Gratefully, we made it both ways safe and sound. Once home, we had brunch before he left for work. With the snow and lack of people outside, it really felt like a good old-fashioned snow day.

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This afternoon, I did several things. I watched episode one of this season’s “Call the Midwife,” a wonderful historical fiction show on PBS. I think there were five episodes from this season already on the DVR. The rest will wait for another day. I worked on some personal things. When I ran to the grocery store for a couple things, the parking lot was nearly empty, even though it was still afternoon.

I hope many families and people simply took a snow day today. Why? Our lives are too full. Too complicated. Juggling too many things. Sometimes, God may say, “Slow down.” And unless something physically makes us slow down, we make excuses to keep going.

Everyone is tired of winter in Wisconsin. We’re ready for green grass and tulips and budding trees. May we not rush so fast through spring that we fail to appreciate God’s goodness and glory all around us. A forced snow day isn’t all bad. Sometimes, it’s a great attitude adjustment.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God, maybe through a snow storm, your word for us this day was simply, “Slow down. Do less. Even do nothing. Just be.” I pray we see these opportunities to just be with you as great gifts from you. And may we be grateful for them.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 9 – Laughter

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Tues., Apr. 10, 2018

James 4:9 – Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair.

“Wake me when it is July,” came the muffled noise from under the pile of blankets.

We live in Wisconsin. Hubby Rick works nights. When he crawled into bed early Monday morning, it was still dark. He also announced that it was snowing outside.

Later, I was leaving for work. I usually make sure I have everything I need outside of our bedroom before I go to bed. This way, I can quietly exit in the morning and not wake Rick up. This morning, I forgot my watch. While grabbing it, Rick woke up. He took one look out the window, saw more snow flurries, groaned, flung the blankets over his head and made his pronouncement of hibernation.

Rick and I are oil and water. Night and day. We march to different drums. When God brought us together, it was not because we would be two peas in the same pod. No, we are different peas in separate pods on completely different plants.

 

This makes for rarely a boring marriage.

 

Early in our marriage, Rick would sometimes say, “Can you try to think the way I do?” Quite honestly, I cannot. Years of experience have allowed me to maybe be a little better guesser. More days than not, I continue to be surprised by how he thinks, what he says and his responses to the journey of life.

 

This offers lots of opportunities for laughter in our marriage. I am the serious, straight-laced member of our marriage. Rick is the cut-up. The “you never know what is going to come out of his mouth,” person. The “I can’t believe you just said that aloud … in front of other people” member.

Most of the time, his off-the-cuff one-liners bring some levity to my life. There are times his words are perhaps a bit annoying or embarrassing. Mostly, I am over this by now.

His line about wanting to stay under the covers until July is classic Rick. He does not like cold weather. Our electric blanket is still on the bed and will be for a few more weeks. He still wears long underwear … every day. When he leaves for work, he has a menagerie of t-shirts layered under his work shirt for warmth.

There are times when his comments may be slightly not what I would prefer him to say, especially in front of the grandkids. But mostly, they make me laugh.

And for this, I am grateful.

P.S. – When I got home from work tonight, his car was gone. Somehow, he found his way out of the bedroom and off to work.

Holy God – thank you for bringing into my life someone who brings me so much laughter. Thank you for helping me love someone who is truly an opposite to my personality. Thank you for your providence in knowing what I need long before I knew myself. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 4 – Magnifico Snow!

snow in RS 2Wed., Apr. 4, 2018

Isaiah 55:10 – As the rain and snow come down from heaven and stay upon the ground to water the earth, and cause the grain to grow and to produce seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry …

We live in Wisconsin. While we are dreaming of spring, Mother Nature has other plans. Yesterday afternoon, it started to snow. I worked late at my part-time marketing job. As I was walking to my vehicle, I was overwhelmed with several inches of fresh snow, the very large flake kind, that made everything look gorgeous.

snow in PoyWhen I left early this morning, the sun was peaking out. All of creation seemed to glisten as the new snow hung on everything. In the dark, in the morning: I was grateful for the beauty of the snow.

The previous afternoon, Rick had sent me a text message: “Isn’t snow magnifico!!”

Let me share the back story. Several years ago, my friend Kristin and I traveled to Argentina. After being recognized with a teacher of the year award, Kristin received a grant to use towards continuing education. She is a Spanish teacher. She invited me to travel to Argentina with her, so she could learn about their culture. Of course, I would!

While there, we visited several schools to share about America culture. The most memorable visit happened while visiting the equivalent of a kindergarten class. It was late November. Kristin explained to the students how our winter was just beginning. In fact, there was snow on the ground when we left home.

In this Argentinian region, it doesn’t snow. When one little boy heard the word “snow,” he stopped Kristin mid-sentence. He could not help himself. He stood up and described snow to his classmates. During their winter season, he and his family had traveled to the southern area of Argentina. There was snow! He played in the snow, ate the snow, rolled around in the snow. He ended his description of snow by declaring snow as “magnifico!!”

My Spanish language skills are very limited. But even I understood his last word, emphasized with a huge gesturing of his hands.

Since then, whenever a snow fall is breath-taking, my husband declares it as “magnifico!” He is right. The snow we had last night was nothing short of magnifico!

While some people are bemoaning the snow, I am appreciating how this snow will turn into water, which will eventually lead to green grass, yellow flowers and winter wheat sprouting out of the ground. It maybe several months before we see snow again. If this is so, then the beauty of this last snow went off the Richter scale.

The good thing about April snow? It melts much quicker than January snow. In the meantime, I am appreciating the magnifico blanket of white powder covering our lawns, trees, cars and roads. And for this, I am grateful.

Lord God – may a little bit of snow remind us how you created an amazing way to care for the earth. Thanks for making this last snow fall completely magnifico. Help me to appreciate the beauty all around me. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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White as Snow

Mon., Feb. 12, 2018

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  

For the last week, our Wisconsin neighborhood has had a pristine, beautiful new blanket of snow. When the sun is sparkling on the snow, it is simply breath-taking.

Our neighbors, the Hahn’s, are gone for several weeks this winter. They smartly head south and spend time in a warmer climate, avoiding the snow, wind and cold of a normal Wisconsin winter. A couple days ago, I looked out my kitchen window towards the Hahn’s. What I saw was magnifico: an untouched sheet of beautiful winter white snow in the lawn between our houses. Their driveway was completely untouched. There is no need for the snow to be moved while they are absent from the neighborhood. It was late afternoon. The angle of the low sun heightened the gorgeous twinkling of the miniture ice crystals. Literally, my expression was caught in my throat, overwhelmed with the raw beauty.

When I looked down the side of the house, I noticed some filled-in tracks close to the house. I’m not exactly sure what created these small divets in the snow. I didn’t want to disturb this beautiful sight by tromping through the snow to see if I could determine who made the tracks. The pictures I took completely do not serve the sight justice. Yet, I simply did not want to ruin this lovely scene in our yard.

One of my first thoughts after observing this unique scene in our yard: how the snow can be a metaphor for God’s desire to remove sin and shortcoming from our life. One of the mysteries of God is God’s decision to remove sins from our lives simply for the asking. Yes, the sins are bought with a cost: the life of Jesus. Yet, God willingly does this simply for our benefit. No questions asked. The sin is simply gone.

It’s hard to justify walking through the snow and disturbing the lovely scene currently there. It maybe hard for us to envision God giving up his only biological son’s life for our benefit. But God did. My sin life is far less pristine than the narrow strip of land between our and the Hahn’s house. In all of God’s glory, God overlooks all of my shortcomings and loves me anyone. God does the same for you. Thanks be to God.

Almighty God – how you can simply overlook our sin and forgive it is beyond me. But thank you for doing this … purely for my benefit. May I see your desire to wipe my slate clear as something deeply meaningful for me.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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