Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Get Up... Dress Up...Show Up

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 24: Today, I am grateful I can choose to get up, dress up and show up, no matter how I feel.

Add this to my quote file:

"No matter how you feel, get up. Dress up. Show up." -Regina Brett 

I like adding, "And, never give up.

Pat Braun Schroeder, I blame you... I mean thank you.  I learned to love words and vocabulary sitting in your 6th grade class. I discovered that music lyrics were poetry and words can be powerful. It may have been the year I started writing down quotes and collecting them. 

Smart, witty and insightful quotes have been like a power source. When a good scripture fits with them, even the hardest days are more manageable. 

Some days, I don't want to get up and get out of bed. Some days are hard. Still, the decision to not be defeated comes more from intentional behavior than from feelings of strength and readiness to face each plot twist in our life's story. 

Feelings and emotions add a richness to our lives... like spices to a meal. I savor them at times, but they can not always be trusted. Feelings and emotions can be the very thing that causes me to take my eyes off my Lord and doubt what I know to be true in the deepest places of my soul. 

My God is always with me. That never changes. 

My feelings are going to ebb and wane... but "I, the Lord, do not change."  He says, "I am with you. Always!" A promise and an insurance policy. 

Now, I believe in gut instinct. I have reaped the benefits and suffered the consequences.  Still, that is not exactly the same thing as "a feeling". Watch children and dogs assessing a situation. They are great at the work. They have amazing instincts. Feelings and emotions heighten our senses, but they muddy the waters. 

The power of decision to do what we need to do and not what we want to do... or what is easy... that is where strength is found.  

My college had a dress code. We could dress up or simply wear dress clothes. On test days or presentation days, the power of dressing up impacted how I faced a test or a challenge. It was more for me than any audience. I was able to lasso my fears and control them better when I knew I looked like I was in charge of the day. It was a choice. A conscious choice. 

Intentional decisions when in the midst of a challenge, a struggle or a hard day, that is where we tap into unknown courage. Remember... our God is with us until the end of the age. 

Joshua faced opposition, trials and challenges. He got up every day. Dressed to lead. Took a stand. And, lead his people with success into the promised land. 

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lordchoose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” -Joshua 24:15

Don't let emotions and feelings make too much of a situation that is merely a decision. Pray up. Power up. Get up. Practice improves success. 

Today, I am grateful I can choose to get up, dress up and show up, no matter how I feel.

Monday, January 23, 2017

School Bus Drivers

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 23: Today, I am grateful for school bus drivers. (image by Curly Girl)

My brother,Matthew and I have joked that if we ever wrote a book about growing up rural Midwest country, we would have to use "You Can't Make This Stuff Up". It is true. 

April, Matt and I would get on a school bus after school at 3. Our route took us to the Clifton Grade School and then to the far edge of Iroquois county. Our driver form many years, Eula Vaughn, once told me she clocked 70 miles when she ran the full route.  That explains why we would get off the bus close to 4:30 some evenings. We were the last stop.

We crossed rickety bridges... on more faith than solid foundation. We forged through pea soup fog in the old big yellows. We pushed our way through spring downpours and fall storms. We remember some scarier rides in the late 70's and 80's when the snows were deep and the winds were high.

Our school bus drivers turned those rigs, loaded with kids, around on some crazy narrow roads in every kind of weather. I do remember some conditions when we knew we had better be on our best behavior, so they could do their best. There was a mutual respect between drivers and kids... or the driver didn't last long.  Those cut out for the job, did it for a lifetime. 

Our drivers... Aunt Mary, Jeannie Kemnitz  and Eula Vaughn drove with confidence. They had a job to do and a schedule to keep. 

We didn't have cell phones. If something happened... like a loose cow who wouldn't move out of the road... we waited on the cow. Cattle may not technically have the "right of way", but they take it anyway.  
Looking back, I think school bus drivers must be some of the bravest people on the planet. Soldiers are called into dangerous, unpredictable situations at a minutes notice. A school bus driver does it every single day. 

The kids on their routes are their kids. They master "the looks" that communicate when the line of "too far" has been reached. 

Today... as a school district employee... I am confident that our Transportation Director is one of our finest assets. She tries to take good care of her drivers so they are in a good place to take good care of their student riders. A dairy farmers daughter, the early mornings and long days don't phase her. She is priceless. Johnny-on-the-spot... or Nancy-on-the-spot in this case... every driver and every student counts. The bus garage is a community of people... a work family... who take their service seriously. Thank God they do. How often do we really pause to thank them? 

God must have a special corner in heaven for school bus drivers. Courage, confidence and self-control are required. 

Helen Keller said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. When you can't see or hear, walking across a new and unfamiliar room would be an adventure. Your have two choices; live in fear or be fearless in the adventure. 

What every God has called you to do on this gift of a new day... don't miss the adventure. 

If the day ahead seems overwhelming... pray for guidance. I am sure school bus drivers can pray and drive. 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. -James 1:5

Today, I am grateful for school bus drivers. They are good people. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Steadfast: Resolute and Unwavering

Art by Laura & Jason van Dyk- visit Godsfingerprint.net 
Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 22: Today, I am grateful we can choose to be steadfast.

Steadfast: resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.

This image is from a couple who calls their art "God's Fingerprint". 

Sometimes, I discover new-to-me artists who really speak to my heart. They have some amazing pieces. I am not sure which print I would want to order first. This one is at the top of my wish list. 

Bison once roamed the Midwest. We have an animal sanctuary nearby where they still do. They are the most regal of creatures to watch. They tend to stand in a herd, but occasionally, one will stand apart from the crowd. 

This image captures a quiet strength. The bison looks steadfast.  A perfect choice for the scripture:

"Be STEADFAST, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." - 1 Corinthians 15:58 

Yes. I like that word. Steadfast. It is solid. 
Not arrogant. Not flashy. 
Simply firm and unwavering. 
Always abounding in the work of Lord, know it has a purpose.

Storms come and go.

Today, I am grateful we can choose to be steadfast.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Straighten Your Crown: Our God Is Not Mocked

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 21: Today, I am grateful that God is not mocked. 

Remember being a child? To be mocked, mimicked with hurtful intentions or faced with bold rejection or unfriendly defiance, it evoked something inside us that cut straight to the core of our spirit. It didn't just hurt our feelings. It wounded our souls. 

Childhood has moments that are at best...merely survived. We don't always escape without  a few scars. 

Mama Ina Mae is a wise soul. Growing up extremely poor, I imagine she faced her fair share of mockery and rejection for her lack of new and stylish clothing or the latest and greatest stuff. She has lived a life of gratitude in every season. 

She was grateful, any time she had enough. She has never lacked the joy in sharing. 

Mama Ina Mae loved milk, but "milk was for the babies" and she could only have one glass a day. The oldest of seven children while she lived at home. There were always babies who needed it more. Mama didn't sneak more for herself. It wasn't in her nature. She would be more likely to give up her cup if there wasn't quite enough. She is a tough act to follow in the act of giving and living graciously. 

Mama's kitchen table was the original vintage, eclectic mess. Dad loved to pick up garage sale treasures from tableware assortments. They threw nothing away, unless it was broken. They would give it away, if someone expressed an interest or need. But, most wouldn't. What they had was meant to be used, to be shared and to serve. 

By the time I was a pre-teen, I had realized we didn't live like most of our friends. I did NOT always appreciate that fact. I don't know when I realized we weren't "poor" but Dad and Mom's habits were established. They would pay for quality in things that would last, but few things fell into that category.

I wanted to have the kinds of jeans everyone else was wearing. I wanted to fit in. I didn't want to be different. I wanted.. I wanted it now. 

Then, I learned a valuable lesson when they determined the "reasonable and customary" plan. They would provide what they thought jeans should cost, and I would earn the money to pay the additional portion for my trendy "Body Lingo" jeans from JC Penney. I learned, sometimes I was happier up-cycling garage sale items or enjoying Lindgren cousins stylish hand-me-downs. I could do more with less, if I was creative. 

Still, there were moments, the fears of an insecure adolescent would pop up over the littlest things. Mama Ina Mae, always the encourager and optimist, would share her twist on Eleanor Roosevelt's "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." 

Mama Ina Mae kept it simple. She would say, "If they are making fun of you, they are leaving someone else alone."  

Now, why did that make me feel better? Being mocked never feels good. Being made fun of is soul crushing. Still, her unspoken message was that she saw me as braver, stronger and more capable of surviving a little "tough stuff" than someone else. She taught  me to reframe my struggle, to nurture and protect. 

What a breath of encouragement, every time she said it. And, I don't think I even understood it, until this very moment, how much those words impacted my life. Mama Ina Mae's message infused a mother's strength into my backbone. I could stand steadfast because I was knit in her womb by God's hand. I was unique and I was loved. Other's opinions were rubbish. When you know who you are, you cannot be mocked. 

Mama was affirming but not coddling. Others perceptions are not our fingerprint. God made us unique and creative. We must know who we are in His eyes. There is no reason to feel like less... or more. Just learn to be. Know your worth to the Creator of Life... to the great I AM. 

He died for us. He is our Father, Christ is our brother and savior, and his Spirit lives in us. How much can a label on a pair of jeans or the car we drive matter? It is just stuff. It can be swept away in a heartbeat through life's storms... through illness... through drought or through war. 

He is our enough. Our God will not be mocked and we are His. Straighten your crown, my princess and my prince... you are a child of the King of Kings! 

"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." -Galatians 6:7-8

We can "sow to the Spirit and reap the eternal". What are we sowing? What are we sewing? Our God is not mocked. 

The choice of a nation. 
The choice of a family.
The choice of an individual.

Will we choose or refuse his Lordship. There is a supernatural, calming, confident strength that arrives when we know who we are to Him... and in Him. 

We have no reason to fret. We have no reason to reason to cower. We have no reason to kowtow to the worries of this world. 

Today, I am grateful that God is not mocked. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Little Mermaid

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 20: Today, I am grateful "The Little Mermaid" happens tonight. 

My excitement runs over!

Our Jr. High musicals have been simply blown me away over the past 3 years and tonight... The Little Mermaid opens tonight at the Bertha Frank in Morton. 7pm Friday and Saturday and 2pm Sunday for the final show. Tickets are $3 and $2 (for the K-8 crowd). Seriously fun and live theater for less than half the price of one movie ticket. 

Prince Eric is especially dear, as I remember his birth like it was yesterday. He is the son of my dear friend, Wendy,  and I can't wait to see him tonight in his role tonight. It seems like yesterday he was singing with our preschoolers at Church. 

Honestly - I can't wait to see all of the students. They are talented and have been well coached and well directed in preparation. 

This musical a favorite of mine.  Ursula is my favorite villian. What? You don't have a favorite villian? That part will be played by the niece of my friend Kathie and she is the cousin to Walker's lifelong friend, Josh. When I told Tara of my silly, soft spot and affection for Ursula, even though I know she does bad things... Tara put it so well, "Ursula doesn't mean to be bad. She just wants what she wants."

Perfectly put Tara! I know you will rock the Ursula role. I am still pondering her assessment of Ursula. 

How many times am I just like her? How many times do "I want what I want" without first offering my days, my time and my life as an offering. Back to Romans 12:1-2-

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This verse keeps running through my mind, so I must need to pray on it a little more. As a child, this verse perplexed me. As an adult, it is a constant challenge. 

To offer all that we are ... or talents and our shortcomings... the whole package... to our Lord without reservation. 

TO BE an offering.
TO BE up to whatever he places in our path. 
TO BE able to discern what is his will, what is good and acceptable.  

We don't need to be perfect. He already is.  He is the great I AM. We just need 

TO BE available, listening and ready. 

Today, I am grateful "The Little Mermaid" happens tonight. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Be Thristy

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 19: Today, I am grateful we can choose to be thirsty.

"God isn't worried whether the cup is half empty or half full; He wonders which thirsty person he will give it to." - Bob Goff, Love Does

This quote quickly took me two places different... but related... thoughtful spots. It might be a short post today. 

It doesn't matter if we are an optimist or a pessimist by nature. We are all programmed differently. Some prefer to be called a realist  and not a pessimist. Some people are "Pooh" and others are "Eeyore". Both are priceless and precious in God's sight. Wouldn't life be boring if everyone was the same?

The second thought came just as quickly:"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." - Jesus, Matthew 5:6

"Are" is a "be" verb. Jesus was speaking to a big crowd. It is a plural form. Be hungry. Be thirsty.

How can we be thirsty today?

Today, I am grateful we can choose to be thirsty.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 18: Today, I am grateful for patterns.

Patterns are pleasant. In poetry and music, we call them rhythm and rhyme. My brain works a little freakishly in Dr. Seussical patterns at times. Song lyrics stick... where I leave park my car doesn't unless I establish a pattern of parking in the same place. Pieces of a song can... and do... get stuck on "repeat" in my head... thanks my friend Earworm who keeps on singing them. ''

Patterns are for people who need to express their God given creative breath, but are not sure where to begin. Mama Ina Mae, a seamstress, filled the sewing room with fabric and patterns from Simplicity, Butterick and McCalls. A pattern was a starting point for the creative leap. 

Chefs use a recipe. Some will alter it and make it their own, while others find their joy in picture perfect perfection that matches the image on the recipe card. 

Since God created us all to be uniquely woven in our mother's womb... we don't all find the same fabrics and prints appealing... or spices. Some like denim and leather. Others prefer tulle and lace. Some crave cinnamon and others cilantro (tastes like soap to me). The world is full of goodness. 

The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1 NIV) It is all beautiful, but we do have personal preferences. 

One trip to Disney, I was on a quest to find "the biggest, tackiest earrings" I could find for my treasured friend Shelley. She was our Child Life Specialist when I worked at St. Jude. She had a silly and tacky earring collection. It was a conversation starter and relationship builder for many years for families new to cancer and the St. Jude community. She offered a little humor and hope into a scary time, with ridiculous earrings. The earrings became a pattern of behavior that increased comfort and broke the ice to build relationships. 

Now... the definition of "tacky" did vary. (On occasion, she would be gifted with a pair that I might actually wear with the right outfit... and we would laugh about it.) Wearing ginormous, tacky earrings became a pattern of behavior with a purpose for Shelley. 

The boys loved the cockroach earrings. She had trolls, skulls, spiders, flowers and more. Everyone was amazed she could pull off dangling cans of playdough from her earlobes. If they brought it, she would make them feel special for the gift. Then, she would wear them. No matter how tacky, how heavy or how ugly. The pattern was set and relationships grew. 

By the way, when I did finally find the "perfect" earrings for Shelley at the Wide World of Disney store... the mother of all Disney stores. I was a bit embarrassed by the truly tacky purchase. Randy briefly explained my choice to the check-out girl and sarcastically asked, "Now, aren't these beautiful?"  She smiled with Disney trained professionalism and replied, "We try to have a little something for everyone." We had to laugh. Oh my! They dangled more like mini Mickey chandeliers than earrings. Shelley accepted and wore them with her typical grace. 

Building relationship matters. Patterns of behavior help us do that very thing. Each relationship is special and unique and special in it's own way. Customs and cultural patterns help us grow in what we know and understand about the people in our lives.  

When Jesus disciples asked "How should we pray?", he gave them a pattern. We call it "The Lord's Prayer". I was intrigued when I stumbled on a prayer Nehemiah prayed that is very similar in pattern. In the garden, on the night before he was taken to be crucified, he, again, hit some of the same elements. 

Prayer can be powerful. How we pray speaks to the relationship and our agenda. Do we treat prayer like the drive through at McDonalds with our orders submitted, or are we true friends of Jesus and the Living God with a relationship built through patterns and prayer?  

For me... coffee, gratitude and Jesus is the best way to start my day. It's my pattern, but it doesn't work for everyone. Try a pattern and see what fits. If necessary, make some alterations and be creative. 

Today, I am grateful for patterns.