"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
September 3, 2008
On September 4th, it will have been one year since Daddy passed away. In some ways it seems like it's been a lot longer than that, and in other ways, it doesn't seem as if it's been nearly that long. Even though the loss has become easier with time, there are still days when it doesn't seem real.
Jon and I spent two weekends in August in Missouri. We own four acres, which is part of the property where I grew up, and we had some dozer work done. The second weekend we were there, I thought about my dad the whole time. I missed him so much and wished he was there to see what Jon and I were doing with our land.
First of all, I remembered how happy Daddy was when he first gave me those four acres and I moved a mobile home onto it. He was excited that I would want to live there on the property where I had grown up. Jon and I hope to build a house there some day within the next few years. I know that it would thrill Daddy that Jon and I would want to build a house and live on the property that he gave me. I wish he were still here to see us working on the land; and also know that we are planning to build a house and live there someday in the future.
Secondly, Daddy was a bulldozer operator for several years when I was young. He had enjoyed doing dozer work, and enjoyed watching the work being done. I told Jon that if Daddy were still here, he would have been right down there with us the whole time. The guy doing the work for us knew that my dad had operated a bulldozer years ago, and mentioned that if my dad was there, he would be wanting to get on his dozer and operate it.
On the hillside where part of my land lies, Daddy kept pigs or a cow off and on over the years. Usually just one of two at a time that he would fatten up to butcher. As the land started getting cleared, we found old truck tires that had been cut in half and used for feeders. There were rusted out metal barrels that had been cut short and probably used for watering tanks. We found partial barbed wire fences in several places where the wire was rusted and had fallen down. It looked like Daddy must have strung up a temporary fence in different locations whenever he bought a pig or calf, and didn't always use the same pen. I could picture Daddy walking down there, taking care of the livestock and stringing up fence.
Jon and I are keeping the old pond that Daddy had built years ago. Right now there are trees pushed over into it that need to be burned, and vines along the banks that need cleaned out, once the snakes hibernate for the winter. But for sentimental reasons, I want to clean out around that pond and keep it. We have some ideas of what we'd like to do to landscape around that area some day.
In addition to all the memories of Daddy that I had that weekend, I also kept thinking of questions regarding the land and him dozing that I wished I could ask. The dozer operator also asked me a couple of questions about the land and things he observed that I wish I knew the answers too, but probably never will.
It was just a very sentimental couple of days filled with memories and thoughts of Daddy. Even though I missed him and was sad that he was no longer here with me, I didn't feel the deep grief and mourning that I experienced the weeks following his death.
I believe that there is a natural process a person goes through when they lose someone whom they love and are close to. I have heard people make comments to the effect that when a Christian dies, those who are left behind should not cry or mourn or be sad. Yes, you can have peace knowing that your loved one is in Heaven with Jesus. But there is also a void left behind. An important part of our life is gone. So we will experience sadness, and feel the loss of no longer having that person as a part of our every day life.
Jesus understood completely. In the book of John, Jesus is speaking with His disciples before his death on the cross. It is a pretty lengthy dialog that He has with them. Jesus is trying to explain His death and resurrection, and told them that in a little while they would no longer see Him, then they would see Him once again. In John 16:20 Jesus says, "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy."
There were many who wanted Jesus to be crucified, and when He was, they rejoiced; not realizing or recognizing Jesus as the True Messiah. But Jesus knew that His disciples would be saddened, and would weep and lament when He died. He knew that they loved Him and would mourn.
Jesus understands our emotions and feelings much more than we give Him credit for. We think that He is in Heaven, and we're way down here on earth dealing with all the pain and heartache and difficulties of life; and He's untouched by what we're going through. But Jesus spent 33 years here on earth living and walking among man, and He experienced firsthand what mankind feels and has to deal with. Jesus knows when we're grieving, He knows when we're hurting, He knows when we're in pain, He knows when we are worried, He knows when we feel joy, etc.; and He understands each and every one of our emotions. God created us, and He created us to experience and feel. He doesn't expect us to tamp down our emotions and be unfeeling; we're not robots. But we are flesh and blood with a wide myriad of emotions.
In this last sermon to His disciples, Jesus gives them many, many promises. And those promises were not just to those few men, but are still for us today. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and will not and cannot change. His words are eternal, and each generation can take hold of those promises and claim them for themselves.
John 14:1-3 says, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; it if were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
John14:27 "Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
When we go through times of sorrow, sickness, difficulties, etc., we can read the words that Jesus spoke to His disciples before His death, and know that He truly understands how we feel. He knows we'll experience times of mourning and weeping. We may endure times of tribulation and difficulties. Our lives may be filled with sickness and pain. There may even be times of doubt and frustration. But in the midst of each and everything we go though, Jesus is there to give us His peace. He tells us to not let our heart be troubled. Don't be afraid. He will be there with us every second of every day. He will take every step through life with us. Jesus will give us peace.
After Jesus ascended back to Heaven, His disciples were left to carry on the work that He had started. His time on earth was finished, but that didn't mean that they could just stop existing or working or ministering. There was still a purpose and reason for them being on earth. And I'm sure that although they missed having Jesus there teaching them and walking beside them and living among them; they remembered Him and the words He spoke and the lessons He taught them. I doubt that a day went by that they didn't remember Jesus and something that had happened or something He had said. There were probably times when they thought, "Why didn't I ask Jesus this question while He was here?" Or "I wish I had of truly realized how limited His time on earth was and cherished those years more than I did." I'm sure they regretted sleeping in the garden when Jesus asked them to pray. They may have had some regrets over things they had done or said. But yet, they knew the forgiveness and love of Christ, and continued the ministry in which they were called.
I no longer have Daddy here to talk to and learn from. His time on earth is over and he has begun his eternity in Heaven with Jesus. But that doesn't mean that I can just sit around and feel sorry for myself or stop existing or working. I still have a purpose to fulfill. There is a reason for my being left here upon earth. And it is my duty and obligation to fulfill the purpose that God has entrusted to me. I'm thankful for my memories of my parents. I'm thankful for the lessons I learned from both Daddy and Mama and the Christian heritage I have. But as godly and good as my parents were, I can't get to Heaven on their good merit. I alone will have to stand before God and be accountable for my words and actions and decisions.
Each of us have an obligation to fulfill the purpose that God has for our lives. We will be accountable for those things that we did or didn't do while on earth. And don't ever think that God has bypassed you and not given you a purpose or reason for existing. We each have a job to fulfill.
Jon and I have made the decision to not have children and raise a family. But that doesn't let us off the hook, nor give us an excuse to be lazy. We are still called to be an example to our nieces, nephews and their families. We are to leave a godly heritage for them to honor and respect. We also have a responsibility to friends, neighbors, co-workers, and those around us. And it's up to us regarding what type of memories and legacy we leave behind for our loved ones and friends.
Each of you also have a duty and obligation to teach your kids, grandkids, and other family members, and be a godly example to them in your words and deeds. What do you most want your family and friends to remember when you are gone? What legacy do you want to leave behind? Whatever it may be, this is the time that you have been given by God to live your life, make memories, and fulfill responsibilities. There are no do-overs in life. We each have one shot at it, and that's it. May we each be an example to those around us, and live each day so that our life is pleasing to God.
I've often heard the John Donne quote, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee." After a quick search, I found that the quote is actually, "send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." Not that it means any different.
There are several ways to take this quote. But the meaning that I've been taught is that when the funeral bells are rung, they aren't rung for the sake of whoever has passed on. They are rung for those who are left behind. That can have a lot of implications. When we lose a loved one, we all die a little. We were better for knowing him, and are less for losing him.
My own grandmother is very close to passing on. She's okay with it. Actually, she's eager. She'll get to see her Savior's face, and give Him a big hug. It's like going to a wedding feast, and she's hungry. When her time comes, the sad tolling of the bells won't be for her. She'll be singing with the angels, not mourning with us. But we will all miss her sweet smile, her words of wisdom, and her great cooking. We will miss her strength and peace. In short, we'll mourn for her. Not for her sake, but for our loss of her.
I am a meat and potatoes girl. I enjoy Italian and Mexican foods very much, but my real comfort foods are the "country home cooking" items.... fried chicken, pork chops, pot roast, chicken fried steak, etc., gravy and any type of potatoes.
There are so many various ways that you can fix potatoes. Here are just a few of my favorites:
Baked -- topped with butter, salt and pepper, sour cream, cheese and bacon bits.
Mashed -- cut your potatoes in chunks and cover with water. When tender, drain; add a little milk, butter, salt and pepper and mash.
Loaded Mashed Potatoes -- cook the potatoes the same as when making mashed. After draining the water off, add sour cream, salt and pepper, butter, shredded cheese, and bacon bits. Mix together until smooth.
Potato Salad -- cook the same as when making mashed. Add miracle whip, mustard, salt and pepper, chopped boiled eggs, bacon bits.
Fried Potatoes -- cut potato either in slices or thin strips. Heat approx. 2 Tbsp. oil in a skillet. A cast iron skillet or one where you can really brown the potatoes makes them best. Add potatoes and diced or chopped onion, salt and pepper and cook until tender. The browned ones that stick to the pan and are crunchy are the best.
Hash Browns -- browned with a little salt and pepper. My favorite recipe for hash browns is the "Hash Brown Casserole". Add cream of chicken soup, salt and pepper, sour cream, onion, shredded cheese and melted butter and stir together with the hash brown potatoes. Put in a casserole dish and top with corn flakes and melted butter. Bake.
Scalloped Potatoes -- an easy recipe is to thinly slice potatoes and place in a casserole dish. Salt and pepper. Add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup and 1 can of milk. Top with cheese and bake.
My mom used to make potato cakes out of left over mashed potatoes. Add a little flour to the left over potatoes. (I think some people add an egg.) Shape into small round cakes (approx. 2 inches in diameter) and fry in hot oil until browned.
When Jon and I were recently in Lampe having some dozer work done, we had been busy working all day Friday and Saturday. Even though we were really tired, we decided to go ahead and drive on home Saturday evening. We wanted to sleep in our own bed, and Jon wanted a day to relax before going back to work on Monday.
Before we left, Jon sowed grass seed in the area where we had the dozer work done. While Jon was finishing up the sowing, I cleaned the house and packed everything up. Jon had drove our car down to the area where he was sowing so he wouldn't have to carry the 50 lb. bags of grass seed. I had stacked all our things together at the end of the sidewalk so that it would make it easier to load into the car, once Jon was finished. Later I was sitting in a swing watching Jon load the heavier things into the car's trunk. The car was shut off at this time. We were talking and I saw one of the rear tail lights blink a couple of times. I thought it was strange, but thought possibly the sun had just hit it just right and was reflecting off the light. After looking around, I saw that area was completely shaded; but it had been two very distinct blinks of the light. Then it did it again... two blinks.
I told Jon that the tail light had blinked twice, then a few seconds later did it again. He looked at me like I had absolutely lost my mind! He said he was sure that the sun had just come through the leaves of the tree and had reflected off the tail light. After all, there was no way those lights could have blinked when the car was shut off! I just shrugged and said okay, because there was no way that I could prove what I had seen. I will argue if I'm positive that I'm right, but if I can't prove it or am not 100% sure, then I most generally will drop it.
Shortly thereafter, Jon was going to set something in the backseat of the car. The doors were locked. It suddenly dawned on him that his wife wasn't crazy after all!! He had the car keys in his jean pocket and when he bent over to pick something up to put into the car trunk, the button on our automatic door lock had got pushed. Apparently it did that twice when he bent over. He commented that I had just dropped it when he didn't believe me and said okay, instead of trying to convince him of what I'd saw. I told him that it was pointless to argue because he wasn't going to believe me unless he saw it for himself or was otherwise convinced. Maybe next time he'll believe me when I tell him that I see something odd.... then again, maybe not!
Walk through life; don't run. It may take longer, but you'll enjoy the journey much better, and won't miss out on things along the way.
We love you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our newsletter. We appreciate you very much.
Loretta & Jon