Gratitude Day 161 – Thankful

Thurs., Nov. 22, 2018 – Thankfulthankful

Psalm 118:29 – Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good. His faithful love continues forever.  

The pies are baked. The corn casserole for the community dinner is laid out, ready to be assembled in the morning and popped into the oven. Yes, I cheated and bought the dinner rolls rather than making them. Someday, I’m going to really learn how to make good dinner rolls. But not this week.

Instead of making dinner rolls, I had a meaningful conversation with a dear friend on Thanksgiving Eve night. In the moment, conversation was a higher priority than making rolls. And I don’t regret the choice.

A year ago, I would have tried to do both: make bread and carry on a conversation. These days, I trying to have a little less busy-body Martha in my life and a little more contemplative Mary.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m wasting time.

Sometimes, I feel like I don’t get enough done.

Sometimes, I delay doing something seemingly important for another day.

It’s hard to let go of Martha. But she’s trying.

Why? Because I don’t want to miss out on the little things. Too often, we focus only on the milestone moments of life: baptisms, first day of school, prom night, graduation, first car, first job, first apartment by ourselves. Marriage, first child and buying a house. A 40th birthday and then a 50th. All important events. All milestones. All significant.

But what about the afternoon sitting by the lake? The bike ride with a grandchild? The good book that just wants to be read?

When Hubby Rick and I were dating, I remember us promising each other to make sure we always would take time to just be with each other. We have … and we haven’t. More so because of my lack of prioritization than Rick’s. We have wonderful moments and we have days in which we don’t see each other awake.

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How might we find the important little moments of today? Put down our phones and have a conversation with the people around us rather than on social media. Turn off the television during dinner and go around the table and share something that you so appreciate in your life. And then, keep the T.V. off and play a game that works for all the ages present. Go outside and take a walk and marvel at the beauty of the world around you. And when you do pick up the phone, may it not be to check Black Friday deals but to call someone who you weren’t able to see today. Tell them that you love and appreciate them and make a date to get together soon.

And simply be thankful. Give thanks not for the big things in life … but for the seemingly insignificant. Appreciate the young boy’s comments about his Mom. After she died of cancer, he was asked what was the most special memory of his Mom that he had. His answer? When she sat with him on the couch and they ate popcorn together.

Sit with someone and eat popcorn today. And cherish every minute of it.

Everything else can wait for a day. Even the dishes could wait.

I am convinced the most meaningful times in my life will always be the simplest of times that I would love to recapture. Like going for a ride with my Dad and talking cows. Snuggling on the couch with a grandchild. Having a cup of coffee with my Grandmother. Picking out fabric with my Mom. Matching my hand in Hubby Rick’s hand.

These are the things I am thankful for today.

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And this card. It was made by one of the kids from one of the churches that I used to serve. It came in the mail just recently. Somewhere, somehow this little person knew to include God in the card, along with Thanksgiving. Just a little reminder that God’s love endures forever.

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For the simple and deeply meaningful moments in life, I am grateful.

In some ways, it seems to silly to need a day in which we stop and remember to be thankful and grateful, Holy God. I pray we find your love and blessings in the littlest of moments of every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 160 – Bread 

Wed., Nov. 21, 2018

Matthew 6:11 – Give us today our daily bread.

Just in case you need a dessert for Thanksgiving, I HAVE THE PERFECT SOLUTION.

Nope, it’s not pumpkin or apple pie. It’s not a decadent chocolate dessert. It’s …

BREAD PUDDING.

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Yep, I know. Bread pudding and Thanksgiving aren’t exactly two things that go together. But if you make this bread pudding, you just might change your mind!

I make this recipe around the holidays. Every time, and seriously, I mean every time, I make it … someone tells me it is THE BEST. Last Friday night we had a neighborhood gathering at our house. That morning, I decided to make this infamous bread pudding. Why? The day before, Eric at work asked when I was going to make my famous bread pudding. Eric talks about my bread pudding every holiday in a very loving way. Yep, a guy. In love with this bread pudding.

What makes this bread pudding different from every other bread pudding? The sauce. What makes this sauce?

Port Wine.

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Port Wine is different from other wine because it has grape brandy add to it. I live in Wisconsin. FYI – Wisconsin consumes more brandy than like all the rest of the United States. For those who live outside Wisconsin and are wondering what brandy is, brandy is a distilled wine that is aged in barrels.

About 30 minutes from where we live is a lovely little winery called Wollersheim Winery. Several years ago, this winery began making a Port Wine. Actually, the bread pudding that I’m raving about? I picked up the recipe from Wollersheim Winery. A chief from a local eatery named Blue Spoon Café provided the recipe to the winery when they were having a special event. I use a white Port when making this recipe. I’m sure a red Port would work just as well.

Here’s the recipe for this fabulous bread pudding recipe:

Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding with Port Wine Reduction Sauce

Bread Pudding:

8 cups stale bread cut into pieces

4 cups milk

2 cups sugar

½ cup melted butter

4 eggs

2 TBSP vanilla

1 c dried cranberries

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients. Mixture should be very moist but not soupy.

Pour into a buttered 9×9” baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 75 minutes until top is golden brown. Serve warm with sauce.

Port Wine Sauce:

½ cup butter

1 ½ cup powdered sugar

1 egg yolk

½ cup Port Wine

Cream butter and sugar over medium heat until all butter is absorbed. Remove from heat and blend in egg yolk. Gradually pour in the Port, stirring constantly. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve over warm bread pudding.

A couple of my personal notes:

  • I use old, leftover bread that I’ve kept in the freezer just for bread pudding. I like to use a variety of bread and always include some form of wheat bread. Seriously, I’ve been known to use hamburger and brat buns, sour dough, whatever I have handy. Don’t use your good fresh bread (unless you have nothing else). I cut them into medium-sized cubes.
  • I often make 1.5 batches of the recipe. I have a pan that I put it in and this is the exact among that fits. This way, I may have a little leftover after the party or event I made it for!
  • I bought a bottle of Wollersheim Port several years ago. There is just enough left for one more batch of sauce. While you can drink Port, I keep this bottle of Port just for this sauce. I’m confident there are other Ports available. What if you can find Port? I suggest brandy or wine or a combination.
  • Leftovers are great! Just pour the remaining sauce over what’s left. Pop into the fridge and reheat your next serving. Make it dinner some night … you won’t regret it!

While speaking at the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This week, most of us will eat more than we should. I pray that we are always thankful for the food we have, the availability of food and the overabundance of food we experience in the United States. In our abundance, it’s easy to forget and overlook the thousands and millions of people who don’t have enough to eat right in our neighborhoods. Let’s not forget to help out these people as well. Donate to the local food pantry. Provide food to local Thanksgiving meals. (I’m making the vegetable for the meals being provided to folks on Thanksgiving; my favorite corn casserole.) Take a plate or more to someone who won’t have enough. And certainly, give thanks for the abundance most of us experience on a daily basis this week.

So, if you need a dessert for Thanksgiving yet, give this bread pudding a whirl! I think you’ll be glad you did.

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For daily bread (and a delish bread pudding), I am grateful.

“Give us this day our daily bread …” It’s our request, Lord, to be fed on a regular basis. May we remember that feeding comes in a variety of ways: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual feeding. I pray we feed our souls in all these different ways today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 158 – Target Treasures

Mon., Nov. 19, 2018

Proverbs 24:4 – let good sense fill the rooms with priceless treasures.

I succumbed to buy Christmas items before Thanksgiving.

I know. Sigh. It’s true.

I am one of those people who really tries not to rush the season. I tend to wait and enjoy the Christmas season after Thanksgiving. (Except last year when the tress went up before Thanksgiving because we hosted a holiday open house the Sunday after Thanksgiving.) So, I usually don’t shop, wrap, bake or do much of anything Christmas until the end of November.

But last week, I couldn’t help myself. It happened while in Louisville, KY for the sheep show. My sister Debbie and I found a Target very close to the hotel. And we were sucked into the bargain bin area, right when you walk into the store.

You know the area? Where they have items that are very seasonal and usually $5 or less. Of course, this area was all Christmas the night we walked into the store. We barely had a cart and sure enough, we were filling it with fun and inexpensive Christmas items. We both walked away with several cool things that were not terribly expensive. Items we might use to decorate our houses or items we can use for gifts. All very reasonable. When we checked out, neither had spent much money and yet we felt like we had some super cool items. Let me share with you a few of the favorite treasures we found.

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Material Buckets – My sister Debbie owns a flower shop. She also sells giftware. These quickly caught her eye. She talked about putting together buckets of fun treasures that some one could stop in at the shop, pick up and have a ready made present. They are decent sized, about 12” wide and deep. So, there is room to fill. And they come in super cute fabrics. I love the grey, but the plaids are lovely as well.

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Metal Buckets – if you prefer something non-material, these metal buckets might work. Debbie talked about putting small Christmas trees inside of them. They could be a real miniature tree or artificial.

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Artificial Tree – These little trees are so cute! My favorite part? The wooden square holder they stand in with galvanized sides. Trees are about 12-14 inches tall. There are different styles of trees, including some flocked. (You could put in the metal bucket, but then the cute holder would be covered up.)

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Bottle Brush Trees – So, these are ALL. THE. RAGE. They are everywhere. I had not bought one and didn’t plan on it. Until I saw these at Target. They had three different sizes and lots of different colors. Debbie bought every silver one they had for a business client she decorates for. Yes, I bought a few as well.

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Ladies socks – They come in this cute little gift box with three pairs inside. A great little hostess gift.

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Snowflake ornaments – For $1/each, how could I not pick up a couple?

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Packages of snowflake ornaments – actually, Debbie found these in the Christmas area. Three ornaments for $3. She was looking for something new for her tree. I believe she found it.

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Bath salts – I am a complete bath gal. In the winter, I love to warm up by taking a bath before I go to bed. And I’m convinced it helps me sleep better. For $1/per star filled with bath salts, aren’t they fun gifts to give to the bath gal in your life?

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Thank you notes – Fun little notes that have just enough of a holiday flare.

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Christmas pencils – 10 pencils for $1. I picked up enough packages that we will put in our Blessings food bags for the school kids before Christmas.

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Metal Houses – I thought these were super cute. Different sizes and shapes. Wouldn’t they look cute with a little candle on the inside?

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Wooden snowflake and yarn star ornaments – Each year, I give our grandkids an ornament. I’ll pick something from this staff for them this year. Each of these ornaments was $1. I love the star ones in particular.

It would have been so easy to go nuts and fill a cart. Debbie and I both refrained and picked out just a few of our favorites. We both have lots of Christmas decorations, which I really want to sort through again this year. (Hubby Rick reminds me constantly that if I bring something new into the house, something must exit.)

I’m celebrating adding just a couple small, fun and inexpensive new things to the mix. My theory? Find a couple special treasures that aren’t expensive and display them well. Make them priceless treasures; things you will love to have for years to come. Just a couple items that feel extra-special because they were carefully chosen. Or a couple fun items you can share with someone who is important in your life.

It can be SO EASY to go overboard in the next few weeks. I’m trying to follow my own advice and pick out special treasures: in gift-giving, baking, decorating and everything else Christmas this year. The real treasure is the birth of a Savior. I pray what I do in the next few weeks will always help me remember this treasure in my life.

For simple treasures in life, I am grateful.

Lord God – it’s not yet Thanksgiving, and we can easily become preoccupied with all the Christmas preparations. We can easily become overwhelmed. I pray we find a few simple, yet meaningful, treasures by which we focus our holiday preparations. And continually remember the real treasure is the birth of the Christ-child. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 157 – Creation Timelines

20181117_091303Sun., Nov. 18, 2018

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Early Saturday morning, Hubby Rick and I spent time with the youngest two grandchildren. Rick’s son had taken his eldest son out deer hunting. Ellie and Dylan were sleeping on the large section couch when we arrived. It was a great opportunity for us to just hang out on the couch with the kids.

Dylan will be 7 next week. He made sure and reminded us multiple times that he will turn 7 on Thanksgiving. For years, he has been into dinosaurs and everything dinosaur. Lately, we’ve noticed that he has been more interested in reptiles. Until today.

Dylan was choosing a program to watch on TV. He happened to choose one that featured dinosaurs. In a completely serious face, he turned to Rick (who was seated right next to him on the couch) and asked, “Were you around when the dinosaurs were around?”

I almost lost it. Literally. I tried SO HARD not to burst out laughing.

Hubby Rick tried to pick up his jaw off of the couch and simply replied, “Yes, I guess I was around that long ago. I’m that old.”

Oh, the innocence of a 6-year-old. I just wish this little guy could hang onto it FOR EVER.

Dylan is really very good with numbers. He can add and subtract in his head. Later in the day, he asked Grandpa to help him learn multiplication. As a first-grader. What he’s not very good at yet?

Time lines.

Shortly after he asked Rick if he was alive when the dinosaurs were alive, he acknowledged that his Grandpa is 64. Dylan just hasn’t quite figured out that it was more than 64 years since the dinosaurs were roaming the earth.

Sometimes, we get hung up on timelines when it comes to scripture. Some people want to interpret a more literal timeline. Others can’t reconcile science’s timeline with the Bible and declare the Bible less reliable than the dating of fossils and such. I’m one of those people who feel science and the Bible don’t contradict each other but can truly compliment each other.

Personally, I don’t get hung up on creating a scientifically accurate timeline of science and the Bible. But then again, I’m not a scientist. I can appreciate those who put a lot of energy into trying to figure this out. My gifts are in a different wheelhouse. I look at faith from a more reality-based position of how faith is a part of my life today.

Maybe 6-year-old Dylan has the right concept. There are just somethings we can’t explain when it comes to faith, science and reality. Maybe admitting that we don’t have all the answers is really OK. What’s wrong with assuming that there are questions we can’t answer? Maybe how we feel about God and God’s spot in our lives is more important that a finely-tuned timeline? Isn’t this where faith ultimately steps in?

Individually, we decide how much not having a specific answer to a question that may not have a concrete answer will bother us. Maybe my tolerance for such things is higher than for others. Personally, it is a lot more freeing for me to put my energy into seeing where I can find God today, in my every day, ordinary life, than trying to determine exactly what year dinosaurs were around and how this fits into a biblical timeline.

We know dinosaurs are older than dirt. (I guess this makes Grandpa Rick also older than dirt. At least in Dylan’s little world.) I also believe God is older than the dinosaurs, as the creator of everything. Trying to wrap my head around how God created EVERYTHING blows my mind away. This, to me, is really more fascinating.

And celebrating Dylan’s birthday. We did this later in the day, attending a local Christmas light parade, followed by dinner at Pizza Ranch, which Dylan choose. It was a good day.

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Please forgive the awful pictures. Mrs. Dinosaur was trying to hold the giggles inside while snapping the pictures. Great Dane Auna also thought she needed to be part of the conversation and pictures.

For innocence in life, I am grateful.

Almighty God – sometimes, we try to make your job our job. Yes, inquisitive minds are important and helpful. Yet, may we also discover the times when we simply must stutter because we don’t have a complete answer to the timeframe of all time and creation. Help us to truly be amazed by your wonderful creation. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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