Thursday, September 30, 2021



Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 273: Today, I am grateful for October.

I find myself nearly giddy as autumn changes fill the air. Cooler nights... and soon the days will be cooler, too. My heart wishes for a long fall filled with rustling leaves in many shades of brown, gold, red, green and purple. I will  try to not take one beautiful fall day for granted.

"As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” -Genesis 8:22

Yes... the seasons will change. It is a promise. I will miss summer's flowers and butterflies, but autumn is not without its beauty and delights. Can you list 31 October delights? 

Today, I am grateful for October.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Love Grows and Overflows

Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 272: Today, I am grateful for a love that grows and overflows.

"I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return." -Philippians 1:9-10 

This is a beautiful passage. It is full of the good stuff. Do we pray for a love that grows and overflows? Note a growing and overflowing love is the first request. The second is a petition to God to keep growing in knowledge and understanding. A worthy request because when you combine them, you grow in understanding of what really matters so we can live better. 

Do we pray this way, or do our prayers look a little more like a shopping list? A humble and sincere prayer can help prime our hearts to be more open to His will and His ways. We don't want to miss the Spirit's nudges because we have life out of focus. 

Loving deeply and fully triggers a growing knowledge and understanding... not the other way around. We can't achieve "pure and blameless" on our own. He covers us with His unfailing love that restores our souls. 

Love big. Love loud. Above all else... love. 

Today, I am grateful for a love that grows and overflows.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Nature's Night Choir

 Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 271: Today, I am grateful for nature's night choir.

Another reason to celebrate open windows and cool evenings is nature's night choir. The sound is magnificent. Not one voice attempts to drown out the other. The melody calms and unexpected crescendos keep us listening for what comes next until sleep claims us. 

Nature's night choir has an occasional soloist in a coyote or a night bird. You might even hear a duet as one voice calls out to the other in hope or with longing. The music of the night is unique to each landscape. What you hear at the beach differs from the prairie's night song. 

Earworm was singing "Joy To The Word', the hymn we associate mostly with Christmas, but I love it any time of year. Now Earworm has switched to the 1975 Three Dog Night version, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog...." I imagine both of these songs are stuck in your head, too. Singing earworms are contagious. 

Wherever you are, open the window  and listen to the night choir after the sun has fully set. It takes nature awhile to warm up and tune up. Nature cannot be rushed. 

At the end of the day, we can put this days troubles to bed and rest. We can give thanks with a grateful heart. 

"Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts." -Colossians 3:16

"The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him!" -Exodus 15:2

We will exalt Him. It is written that every knee will bow and every tongue confess. Nature can teach us the song. We need only to quiet our hearts so we can hear the melody. 

Today, I am grateful for nature's night choir. 

Monday, September 27, 2021


Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 270: Today, I am grateful for oatmeal.

A simple one today. Oatmeal is a staple in many diets. 

Oats are good for horses and animals. If the Cheerios commercials are right, oatmeal is good for the heart. Oatmeal has fiber and it can be dressed up in many ways. We have an Amish Oatmeal recipe we have been eating in our family for years. It shows up when we have visitors and I have made it many times at Easter and Christmas. 

I use oatmeal, sometimes, when I make a meatloaf. I learned it from my Mama who learned it from her Mama. It works well. 

Oatmeal can be gluten free, which comes in handy when there are loved ones and friends with allergies. 

Oatmeal is a star ingredient in some of our favorite desserts from Grandma Guttendorf's Pride of Iowa cookies and Magic bars to The Love of My Life's favorite no-bake cookies. 

Grains add goodness to our days. Especially oatmeal. 

"The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep, and the valleys are carpeted with grain. They all shout and sing for joy!  -Psalm 65:13

Today, I am grateful for oatmeal.

Sunday, September 26, 2021


Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 269: Today, I am grateful for those with discernment.

Sometimes, right and wrong is a clear choice. There are other times when we are not sure in the moment, how God would have us respond.

The Proverbs are something we could study for a lifetime and still not grasp it all. This verse speaks of wisdom, good judgement , knowledge and discernment.

“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. -Proverbs 8:12

Discernment is underrated. It isn't showy. Discernment is being able to look at a scenario and choose how to respond... or how to wait upon the Lord. There is usually a pause that accompanies discernment. Human pride is a wicked tyrant that steals our peace and our joy when we jump too fast, speak too swiftly and act without discernment.

Today, I am reminded that in Jeremiah 29:13 and Matthew 7:7, we are encouraged to seek God with our whole hearts. Not just the leftovers. He longs for us to dig into His Word with the persistence of someone knocking on a door.

"If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." -Jeremiah 29:13

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." -Matthew 7:7

Yes, He is still waiting for more to return. No. He will not wait forever. We must seek Him to find him. To be able to filter out the noise of the world is easier some days than others. When we are confident of Whose voice we are hearing... we can know which way to go.

Waiting isn't only a matter of seconds and minutes on a clock. Sometimes, waiting is really abiding. Steeping ourselves in Him, like a teabag steeps in hot water.

Today, I am grateful for those with discernment.

Saturday, September 25, 2021


Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 268: Today, I am grateful for daughters.

It is National Daughters Day. I am truly blessed to have daughters-in-love. Yes, our sons chose our daughters. They chose well. They choose girls who were raised with Godly values and kind hearts. They are beautiful inside and out. We didn't have to make room for them in our hearts, they filled a missing piece.

I knew I would love having girls around. It is even better than I imagined. I wouldn't trade the gift of raising sons for anything. I am grateful God let me be a mom to boys. But today, I am thrilled to celebrate the girls that grew us from a family of four to a family of six. I am grateful for the many ways these daughters love our sons... and us.

I can't help but think of Naomi's blessing in Ruth.

"But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God." -Ruth 1:16

Some blessings should be counted often.

Today, I am grateful for daughters.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Jack Pine Pumpkins


Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 265: Today, I am grateful for Jack Pine pumpkins.

I hate to dust. I do it, but it does not bring me joy. I do not not collect things I have to dust. I make an exception for Jack Pine Pumpkins. Once a year, at the Pumpkin Festival, I bring home a little piece of art. These Jack Pine pumpkins are blown glass and satisfy what makes art irresistible to me... whimsy.

These little guys are obviously made by hand. The colors are varied and satisfy my love of the many colors in the big box of Crayola crayons. Not all are tilted, but I love the ones that are. They mix well with other glass pumpkins in the house. They are breathtaking.

This year, they did not make it to the festival. Apparently, they were signed up, but sold out at their previous show. I was disappointed, but am thrilled that in these uncertain economic times, the artists can still sell their wares and sell out.

These little pumpkins are perfectly imperfect. No two are exactly the same. Each on has its own personality. It makes shopping for one a big decision. The subtle differences make it an adventure. My Sister-in-love and nieces have shared in the challenge of choosing the right one.

Our God is an artist. He delights in His creation. Man, we are told, is His Masterpiece. He filled human lungs with His breath. He designed most of creation to behave in "nature's way". We see it in wildlife and in the way nature evolves and survives. Humans, he gave the freedom to choose to behave outside of human nature. Choice can over power natural wants and desires. Choice allows us to choose Him over other natural desires and impulses. The ability to love beyond what we want as individuals, to love Him and others bigger and better.

He sees us as perfectly imperfect. Isn't that amazing?

" I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me." - Philippians 3:2

We can press on .We can press into Him. We are like little glass pumpkins when His breath is blown into us, taking shape. Perfectly imperfect. Many colors, shapes and sizes. Some are a little tilted and flat on one side. Some are tall and slim. Others are short and more plump. All are precious in His sight.

Today, I am grateful for Jack Pine pumpkins.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Neil Diamond Songs


Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 264: Today, I am grateful for Neil Diamond songs.

I love music and sentimental things. I guess Neil Diamond is a must on my playlist. When The Love Of My Life purchased a stereo system (in 1987) with a fancy, new CD player, Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits was one of our first CD's. What's not to love about Neil Diamond.

Our Monte Carl loved Neil Diamond. In the past week, I've had at least three unexpected Neil Diamond songs pop up. It kind of feels like hugs from heaven. "Sweet Caroline" was played by one of the marching bands in the Pumpkin Festival parade. Everyone has to sing when that song plays. Then, "Heartlight" from the movie "E.T" was on the radio yesterday sweeping me back in time several decades. Most recently, my Earworm began singing "September Morn". It has my heart full of moments and memories. To love and be loved in return is special. "September mornings still can make me feel that way."

I'm not sure I can choose a favorite Neil Diamond's song. There seems to be a favorite for every mood and occasion. His song "America" is perfect for the Fourth of July. "Forever In Blue Jeans" makes me think of summer days and county fairs. "Hello Again" we performed in swing choir with some of my favorite people. Songs do bring back memories.

In the Old Testament, King Saul didn't have a CD player, a radio or a phone loaded with songs. He had a young man by the name of David who could sing and play the harp. David's music soothed the king's soul. King Saul was cranky, testy and unpredictable at times. Those around the king knew David was like a secret weapon to manage the moody king.

"And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away." -1 Samuel 16:23

Music is powerful. We have so much music available. The soundtrack of our lives grows each year. It impacts our mood, builds our courage and soothes our souls.

Today, I am grateful for Neil Diamond songs.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Autumn starts to Chill the Air


Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 263: Today, I am grateful Autumn starts to chill the air.

There is a special delight when the temperatures drop enough to make opening the windows desirable. Oh, how I love open windows. The breeze is cool and a blanket on the lap is just right for winding down at the end of a long day.

Snuggling and cuddling are part of the changing season. A warm beverage in a favorite mug hits the spot. Everyone has their favorite beverages and mugs. The autumn chill whispers of the winter winds to come, but reminds us not to hurry. Slow down. Savor the moments that are sweet and good.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." - Philippians 4:4

Today, I am grateful that Autumn starts to chill the air.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

We are not Hopeless


Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 262: Today, I am grateful we're not hopeless.

"Of course God does not consider you hopeless. If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is). Continue seeking him with seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting him." -C.S. Lewis

One of the best acts of evil the enemy employs is his attempts at stealing our hope. If he can defeat us by emptying our hearts of hope, it is easier to get at our souls. The beauty and power of the Father, Son and Spirit are witnessed in our ordinary days when we live with hope.

Hebrews 11 is a beautiful chapter. It points to some of the great men and women of faith. It tells us that "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

That is not a test of our faith, but a testimony to something we know deep in our hearts and from our head to our toes. We have a God who hasn't given up on us. But, we are told and see evidence through the scriptures that he does... in His time... call time.

Abraham and Sarah waited to know the promise of many children. Noah knew waiting as he built a boat in a desert. Moses knew the insane day of deliverance where the sea parted leaving dry land and then closed to drown the Pharaoh's army chasing them. Joshua saw the walls of Jericho come down in His time. Sodom and Gomorrah saw judgement... in His time. Jesus witnessed the political and religious leaders choose to release Barabbas, instead of Jesus when given the choice.

Saul learned of the relentless love of the Savior on a dirt road on the way to Damascus. Saul was seeking with seriousness, but he had missed something big. He, the one educated in the scriptures, missed the Messiah. Good thing, the Lord saw his passion and helped Saul/Paul see "the light" (literally and figuratively).

We have a God shaped puzzle piece in our souls that only He can fill. He is the missing piece that brings us wholeness and peace, even when it seems the world has gone completely mad. He is our portion... our enough... and our song.

Hope floats a boat in the desert, parts the seas and makes feet glide across the waters without sinking. It delivers us from fires unsinged and calls us home when it is "time for supper". We don't want to miss supper at the Father's table.

Today, I am grateful we're not hopeless.

Monday, September 20, 2021

His Word Stands


Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 261: Today, I am grateful His word stands forever.

Summer is fading away. We are slipping into autumn with all of its grandeur. Yes, it is magnificent, but it is, also, a very real reminder that the things of this earth are fleeting. They all pass away. In about 6 weeks, the landscape will be many shades of neutral, so today... we will celebrate the flowers that remain.

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever." -Isaiah 40:8

Today, we will celebrate God's unchanging Word. It stands the test of time. It does not wither or fade. The Word of our God rings true, even when it feels we may be consumed by lies and liars.

Daniel 3 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. I've long been fascinated by Daniel and his pals, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were at risk for being consumed by the fiery furnace. Daniel got his pass, as he stayed back to handle things at the palace. The other boys were faced with the big choice of bowing to an idol or facing the consequence of an angry king. Their courage and faith held. They were rewarded by the presence of God in their midst in a bold and powerful way! They knew the consequences but they remained faithful. They knew His Word would stand the test of time and the heat.

Today we know God answers our prayers. He does it in His time and with his omniscience. There are times I do not understand His ways, but I know His Word is truthful and timeless... and perfectly suited for our times. For such a time as this!

Today, I am grateful His word stands forever.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Pumpkin Festival Reflections and Remembrances

Daily Gratitude Year 9 - Day 260: Today, I am grateful for Pumpkin Festival reflections and remembrances... and making new memories.

I borrowed this from Vicki Horn, who borrowed it from someone else. I am grateful we were able to have a real Pumpkin Festival this year. Thanks to all who make this happen. It is a community effort in every way. So grateful for this place that has been my home longer than anywhere else and more than half of my life. The world can laugh at our passion for the pumpkins and the festival, but it brings us together in the most special way.
Stealing from a friend๐Ÿ˜‰…sums up Pfest!

“Little known fact: the small Illinois town I've lived in most of my life is the pumpkin capital of the world. And I don't make this claim in the "world's best coffee" sense. We're ACTUALLY the pumpkin capital of the world. We're home to Libby's pumpkin canning factory which processes over 80% of the world's pumpkins in our humble Midwestern town of just over 16,000.

This week, is the Morton Pumpkin Festival, otherwise known as "The World's Fair" to us locals. For those of us who grew up in Morton, this is a sacred week. We've planned important events, vacations and even weddings around these hallowed 4 days, and that isn't an exaggeration. We often attempt to describe to friends and family who are non-residents just how special this week is. After so much hype, some visitors are often left confused. If you're attending the festival for the first time this year, it's probably best for our sake to pretend as if your experience at the festival was the best of your entire life.

It's hard to put into words what exactly separates this festival from the rest, but here's a few of things about this week that we've grown to hold dearly:
+ Setting out chairs on the parade route weeks in advance
+ Experiencing one of the first few chilly days about a week before the festival arrives
+ The anticipation as the first tent is set up at Jefferson School
+ Seeing caravans of trucks transporting rides on 74 when you know that graviton is headed home to Morton
+ Opening day. Kiddos walking around with wide eyes as they can't decide which neon colored ride to spend their tickets on next.
+ Nostalgia sets in pretty hard when you realize you've never missed this week in your hometown and the memories come flooding back
+ The food, OHHH the food. Pumpkin chili and pork chops at the food tent, pumpkin ice cream at the roller rink, only the best pumpkin doughnuts on the planet from the dessert tent, an apple cider slushee from Uncle Bud's airstreamesque trailer, and let us not forget our humble pumpkin pie with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
+ Having a pumpkin ale at the beer tent while catching up with old friends, some you haven't seen since high school (while pretending to like pumpkin ale)
+ Grabbing another bowl of pumpkin chili and sitting down to cheer on competitors in the vocal competition
+ Looking at all the entries for the pumpkin decorating contest and being even more wildly impressed than last year
+ Browsing through the vendor tent and seeing how many free pens you can acquire and giveaways you can throw your name in
+ Heading down to the local library to view paintings and photographs from local artists
+ Making plans to wake at 6a for early morning pumpkin pancakes on Saturday
+ And when you don't wake to your alarm, the internal affliction between ordering pumpkin pancakes or pumpkin french toast at the downtown diner
+ Cheering on the faithful runners + walkers of the 10k and 2 mile run/walk while you happily eat another pumpkin doughnut on the sidelines
+ Having an excuse to don your new sweater for the parade because it's finally chilly enough
+ Happily waiting in a 2 hour line in order to enjoy some hot coffee from locally owned Eli's Coffee Shop (Morton, IL) during the parade
+ Watching the kiddos score all the best candy during the parade and end up sharing it with their fellow candy grabber next to them
+ Pretending the parade is for the kids but enjoying it just as much if not more so
+ Walking past the "cool" high schoolers hanging out by the Zipper and laughing to yourself remembering you were once one of them 10+ years ago
+ Taking an hour to walk 30 feet ahead of you because you run into so many people you haven't talked to in years
+ Grabbing more pumpkin ice cream and strolling down Main Street at night looking at the fall pumpkin displays the local shops have put together just for this week
+ Spending Sunday afternoon perusing through the craft tents while trying to hold on to every last remanent of the festival
+ After the last apple cider slushy has been drank and the last tent has been packed, seeing the battered grass on Jefferson park as a reminder of the fun that was had this year and already blocking off your calendar for next year's festival.
Today, I am grateful for Pumpkin Festival reflections and remembrances... and making new memories.
Jan Smith, Lola Marie Toedebusch and 25 others