"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!'"
February 4, 2009
This is quite an exciting week for us! This is our 100th newsletter. Our very first newsletter was published on March 12, 2007. We are nearing the two year mark of having the "Gray Sheep" website. When we began this adventure, we had no idea how it would be received, how long it would last, or if anyone would even read our weekly newsletter. We feel so very, very blessed to be able to have this small ministry. This is very near and dear to both my and Jon's heart, and we feel a responsibility to each week write something that will encourage the readers; or something that will cause you to consider your own personal relationship with God; or something that will make you stop and think and/or want to read and study the scriptures for yourself.
Taking the time to write this newsletter is an important part of my week. I truly feel like God placed the idea of this website in my heart, and doing my best to honor Him and write those things that He places in my heart, is a responsibility that I take seriously. I'm sure there are weeks when you may enjoy what I write more than others, but realize that those may be the weeks when someone else needs to read that particular message. And there are times when what I write comes easily, and other weeks when I struggle with what to write. And at other times, I feel impressed to tackle a particular subject that is difficult to handle and has the potential to offend or make an individual feel uncomfortable; and it's hard to know how to best word the message. It would be nice if I could always write light-hearted things that make you laugh and feel good. But there are more serious subjects and issues that need to be dealt with at times. Truth is not always easy for us to deal with, but as God's Word tells us, "When we know the truth, that truth can set us free."
A couple of years ago, when Jon and I decided that I would try staying home to be a full-time housewife instead of a career woman, I didn't want to become a recluse and not have a purpose. I knew that I wasn't going to be around a lot of people, and wanted an avenue to somehow minister to others. I had been praying about it, and one morning was making our bed when the idea of starting this website came to mind. The more I thought about it throughout the day, the stronger the urge to do it became. I talked to Jon about it that evening, and he became excited about the possibilities. He had the knowledge on how to do all the technical issues of setting up the website, and I had the desire to write. As time went by, he decided that he wanted to begin writing his own paragraph each week. Who would have thought that we'd come up with 100 different topics to write about these past couple of years?! And hopefully, we'll be able to continue on for as long as we possibly can.
As a young girl, I enjoyed writing. In the 1970's hospitals didn't allow children under the age of twelve to visit patients in their rooms. So until I was 13, there were a few times when Mama was in the hospital and I couldn't see her. I would write her poems, make her cards, or write her letters for Daddy and my sisters to give her. I still have a few of those today that she had kept. I also would write little poems and stories for my dad and sisters.
I also remember the first "devotional" that I wrote. I don't think I ever showed anyone, and I'm not sure what happened to it. One summer night, Daddy and Mama had decided to sleep outside on the back of Daddy's truck. It was hot, and we had no air conditioning. I slept in their bed that night. I remember lying there and thoughts about Jesus being a lighthouse to the lost and being the light of the world came to mind. I found a piece of paper and a pen and turned a lamp on and wrote it all down.
Throughout the years I have spoken at churches and at women's groups. I have to honestly say that if given the choice, I would much rather write down what God gives me than stand in front of people and say it out loud. When I write it down I can read back over it and edit; but when I say it aloud, once the words leave my mouth I can't take them back and redo. And it's harder for me to articulate orally, then to write out the words. I know what I want to say, but get nervous and end up rambling, or am unable to get the message across appropriately. And people looking at me when I'm speaking can be pretty intimidating. So being able to write my "sermons" down each week is much more relaxing and more in my comfort zone.
Writing this weekly devotion has been such a blessing for me, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking back, I can see the different ways that God has prepared me for this throughout the years.
Psalms 37:23 says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord."
Proverbs 3:5,6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
There are times when God will lead us down paths that doesn't make sense to us, when we're going down them. We wonder what is going to happen, and are filled with many uncertainties. At times, it's hard to truly trust God when we don't know what's going to take place next. And it's especially difficult to not lean on our own understanding and try to figure things out. Being still and waiting are extremely hard to do.
When we allow God to order our steps and direct our paths, He will take us places that we would never have expected or dreamed of. But we will also find that trusting Him makes our life more peaceful and exciting. What God does through us, is always better than anything we'd dream up for ourselves.
Many times we may not always understand why we go through some things, or why certain situations happen to us. We may not know why we have to work at particular jobs or are put in the paths of certain people. Some things we may never know, but there are many times when later we can look back and see that God was preparing us for something. That was His way of heading us in the right direction, so that we'd recognize the right door when it opened.
May each of us allow God to direct our steps, even when we don't understand where He's taking us. My greatest desire is to have total and complete trust in God at all times. Not just say the words that "I trust God," but that my actions and thoughts will reflect that trust. I am convinced that I'd get in a lot less trouble and have a more peaceful journey through life, if I'd allow God to direct my paths, and quit trying to figure things out on my own. I often get too impatient, and want God to hurry up and reveal where He's taking me or why I'm going through the things that I am. So I try to figure it out by myself, and try to manipulate God's will to mine.
It would be easy to say, "Oh that's just how I am; I'm a strong, independent woman with a will of my own, and I can't change;" but that's not true. Submitting my will and my plans to God isn't always easy, but it can be done. And it must be done, if I truly desire to obey God and follow Him.
My prayer for myself, and each of you, is that we will submit our plans and dreams into God's hands, knowing that He has the best plan for our lives. It's okay to dream and have goals, as long as we are willing to have our plans changed, should God choose to do so. Sometimes I don't clearly know what God is doing or where He's leading, so I have to step out in faith in the direction that I feel urged to follow. Once I do, it usually doesn't take long to discover whether or not I'm headed down the right path. God will nudge me along and open doors, or else He will block the path ahead of me and allow another door to open that I may not have seen before. At times, my plans and dreams and goals may be good; but God's plans, dreams and goals for me is best. I don't want to just settle for good, when I can have the best.
Living the Christian life isn't always easy; in fact, at times it can be downright hard. But it will be the greatest journey we will ever take. I'd much rather make my life journey with God, knowing that He's right beside me every step of the way; than to try to manage by myself, relying on my own skills, knowledge, and wisdom to guide me.
The older I get, the more I realize how little I really do know. When I was younger and was a banking supervisor, and was overly-active in the church teaching Sunday School, playing piano, singing and speaking, and church secretary; it was easy to get full of myself at times, thinking I had a lot of knowledge and was wise and "super-spiritual". I look back now and see how many mistakes I made and that I wasn't nearly as smart as I thought I was. That doesn't mean that I didn't do a good job, or have the respect of others. I did work hard and did my best, and I believe that others loved and respected me. But I also see how easy it was to become prideful.
God gives each of us gifts (talents and abilities), and we all must choose what we do with them; we can use them or lose them or abuse them.
There is a verse in which Jesus tells his disciples that heaven has many mansions. "If it were not so, I would have told you." (John 14:2). That's always seemed like an odd thing for Him to say. But the other night, our preacher was telling about his visits to his grandmother's home that might hint at an understanding. When he went to his grandmother's home, he would eat anything in sight. He figured that it was okay, because "if it wasn't, she would have told him." Our heavenly Father has many great things in store for us. If He didn't, He would have told us.
SOUTHWESTERN CROCK-POT ROAST AND BEANS
1 1/2 to 2 lb. chuck roast
1 pkg. chili seasoning
2 cups uncooked (presoaked) pinto beans
2 cans Ro-Tel diced tomatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 soup can of water
Cover pinto beans in water and soak overnight. Drain and wash. Rub roast with seasoning. Place roast in crock pot. Pour uncooked beans around Ro-Tel, soup and 1/2 can water. Beans will cook in roast's juices.
Cook on high for 7-8 hours or until roast shreds easily. Serve in bowl or on warm tortilla garnished with grated cheese, cream cheese or sour cream, or picante sauce.
I have received something recently from a couple of people entitled, "Twenty-Five Random Things About Me". It's one of those fun things that can be done to get better acquainted with someone. I thought since was the 100th publication of our newsletter, I would write something about myself up. Depending on how well you know me, you may already know most of these things; but some may surprise you. These are just fun facts about me.
I got married for the very 1st time two weeks before my 40th birthday.
Jon is the only guy that I ever dated or kissed. Pretty odd in this day and age; but I never was interested in dating just for the sake of dating, which could lead to getting into the wrong relationship. Jon and I got to know one another as friends first, and by the time we began dating were both fairly sure that we would end up together as husband and wife.
(Other than God and my husband -- which goes without saying), my very best friends are my four sisters. I also have another best friend, Pam. I have other friends, but these are my "lifetime" bosom buddies. There is absolutely nothing that I wouldn't do for them, and know they feel the same.
I play piano by ear. I've been playing for so many years, it's hard to remember not being able to do so. When I was little, my cousin Gayle played piano at church and would let me sit on the piano bench beside her and "play" along with her. What patience she must have had!
One summer a few years back I sang at the Passion Play once every week or two, for their whole open season. They had pre-show activities on the grounds and had set up a small stage by the theater entrance beside the food court tables, and invited local singers to come and do 30 minute sets. They had a big banner parade that ended there by the entrance, and they would have a song by the guest musician and someone would pray, then everyone would go into the theater to watch the play. That was one of the funnest singing experiences I've ever had.
I strongly dislike sewing! My sisters all used to sew, and insisted that I take high school home-ec class. I hated it. To this day, I'd rather throw a shirt away and buy a new one than have to resew a button back on. Thankfully, I rarely have buttons fall off.
I only started gardening and planting flowers after getting married. In Missouri, you can't dig a hole without hitting a bunch of rocks, but here in OK (where we live, anyway) I can dig all day and may not even see a rock. When I bought my new mobile home in 1995 (during my single days living in Lampe), my sisters used to tell me if I'd plant some flowers around it, it would look like someone lived there! My dad was shocked when I called him that first time and told him I'd planted a garden. He told me he never thought he'd ever see me have a garden, and my sister had the same reaction. I even canned and froze some of my produce which really surprised them!
I've never been a patient in the hospital (other than when I was born), never had stitches, never broke any bones and never been seriously ill. In fact, other than going for regular check-ups once I started getting older (yuck), I've rarely been to the doctor. God has blessed me with great health.
When I was little and still had my baby teeth, they were horrible; brown and rotten -- and that's not an exaggeration! But once I got my adult teeth, I have only ever had two cavities. I got free dental work when I was in elementary school, so I'm not sure I actually had cavities or if he just filled them to get a check from the state/county. But he did a bad job, which made both teeth crack when I was older and I had to get crowns. That's the only dental work I've ever had. And yes, I do go for regular check-ups. My sisters don't think it's fair because they've all had quite a bit of dental work and I've ended up with the prettiest, healthiest teeth of us all.
The three funnest trips I ever took (other than with Jon or my sisters) was with my friend, Pam. We had to go on two different banking trips; one to Hutchison, KS for a week and another to Memphis for 3 days -- both for training. We had so many crazy things happen on the Memphis trip, that kept us laughing the whole time. We were absolutely like two country bumpkins in the big city. Our third trip was for fun and was to Las Vegas for three days. It was a blast! We were in awe the whole time at how huge and magnificent the casinos were, and never once even played the slot machines or gambled. Once again, we were like two wide-eyed, open-mouthed, awe-struck country girls.
The dream trip that Jon and I would like to go on someday is to Alaska. We both enjoy watching travel/nature shows about Alaska, and to us that would be the ultimate vacation. We both love nature, and would love to see the wildlife and all the beautiful country there, and the aurora borealis. We have our fingers crossed that possibly for our 10th wedding anniversary we will be able to go.
When I was in eighth grade I won a first place trophy at a writing contest at College of the Ozarks for all the area schools. I won it for writing a one act play. I also have several metals and awards for district and state music contests. (Okay, those aren't like you win over a lot of other people. You had to sing in a room in front of a judge and got a rating, so there may have been 100-200 kids overall that got #1 (the highest) ratings.) But still, I have some medals! It seemed like a bigger deal in high school than it does now. (smile)
Jon and I enjoy taking nature walks together. We like going to state parks that have nature trails, or walking in the woods there by the home place in Lampe. He really wants to take me to Yellowstone National Park someday and walk the trails.
I don't know how to swim. When I was growing up, Daddy would take us to the creek sometimes to play around in the water, but it wasn't very deep and we'd just play around in it. I don't remember ever going swimming in Table Rock Lake, which was close to our house, growing up. I do enjoy being around the water; sitting by the lake or ocean is very relaxing. I even like getting wet, as long as my feet can touch the bottom. I like riding in a boat. And I'd even like to take a cruise someday. But I just can't swim.
After working in banking for so many years and having to dress up everyday (dress code used to be a lot more rigid than it is in some banks now a days), I no longer like dressing up. I'm much more comfortable in jeans, capris, tennis shoes and flip flops (not all at the same time!). And who in the world invented pantyhose?!?
I am an avid reader and have been ever since I was probably twelve or thirteen years old. My parents and all my sisters all loved to read, too. We grew up without a TV (imagine that!), so read a lot. My favorite genre is historical Christian fiction. I read for relaxation and enjoyment and don't want anything too deep or thought provoking. I rarely read any books that are not fiction. Well, I do read the Bible!
Probably my worst/least liked subject in school was math. Then I ended up in banking, working with numbers, for 16-plus years. Go figure!
I love my family! I love getting together with them any chance I get. I may get aggravated at one of them from time to time, but no one who's not related better say anything negative (especially about my husband or one of my sisters)! I'm very protective and proud of my family.
I was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit during a revival when I was five years old. It was the best decision I ever made. Having God to turn to, regardless of my situation or what is going on around me, is the greatest source of peace ever. I don't regret a day of living for God!
Jon is the perfect mate for me. Growing up, I used to think I would marry a preacher, but God had other plans for me. I never dreamed of marrying an electrical engineer, who also majored in computer science. I didn't even know what electrical engineering or computer science was (and most of it is still over my head)! But Jon and I perfectly compliment each other and fit together as pieces to a puzzle. I waited for God's best for me, and God sent me Jon!
I didn't start wearing glasses until my early-20's. My eyes just suddenly seemed to go bad. I wore glasses for years, then a few years ago decided to try contacts, which was a great decision for me -- I hated wearing glasses! I really wanted to get the laser eye surgery, until I watched the procedure being done on TV, which kind of grossed me out. But some days, I'd still like to check into it, but can't decide if the cost involved is worth it.
Jon and I made the mutual decision, for various reasons, not to have children when we got married. My age and the risk involved was a big part of that decision; plus we both only like being around kids in small doses, which doesn't make for being good parents. I absolutely do not have the patience with kids that I perhaps would have had 20 years ago. We have never ever regretted our decision, and know that we made what was the wisest choice for us. But there have been times when we've been curious and wondered what our baby would have looked like. What's funny is, we'd just like God to show us a picture! I most definitely don't want to be pregnant (just writing that word in regard to myself makes me hyperventilate!), and we absolutely don't want to have to raise and take care of a child (at our age, we'd be nearing retirement age before the kid graduated high school -- another scary thought). God has blessed us with many great-nieces and great-nephews to spoil, should/whenever I ever feel the need to be around kids.
My favorite drink is sweet tea. I'm not real big into pie, but really like brownies and cookies. And I could never be a vegetarian -- I like my meat and potatoes!
I like going barefoot! But my husband hates me putting my cold feet on him after we go to bed to warm them up (still trying to figure that one out -- seem like since he's warmer blooded and gets hot easier, he'd like the cold feet on his legs to help keep him cool), and says that my heels are rough as sandpaper. I've been trying to be nicer about wearing socks or house shoes in the winter, or flip flops during warmer weather. I don't think that really helps because my heels are still rough, but my warmer feet at night seems to make him happier.
The older I get, the more sentimental I'm becoming. I find myself reminiscing more and more, wishing I had written down more family stories that my parents, aunts and uncles used to tell, and wanting to look at old pictures. I'm realizing that time really does go by quickly, and time with loved ones is precious. With both of my parents gone, that makes my sisters and me (them more so than me since they're older) the "eldest" generation of our family now, which kind of makes me feel old and also a little sad. It also makes me feel a responsibility to be an example to the younger generations.
And now you all know a little more about me; probably as much or more than you really want to know!
"There are two things to do about the gospel -- believe it and behave it." - Susannah Wesley
The easier part is to believe it; the harder part is to behave (live) it.
I would like to wish my sister and brother-in-law, Janie and Jimmy, a "Happy Anniversary" on February 5th -- 27 years.
Also "Happy Anniversary" to Jon's parents, Stan and Diane, who will celebrate their 47th anniversary on February 6th.
As I've written in the beginning of this newsletter, this is our 100th publication.
God willing, we're looking forward to writing the next 100.
Thanks for taking the time to read our newsletter each week; we truly appreciate each and every one of you.
And we really do enjoy hearing your comments and words of encouragement from time to time.
I'm not sure if you realize just how heartfelt our thanks is, or how deep our gratitude.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon