"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!'"
November 17, 2010
Several years ago, my dad deeded me four acres of land so that I could buy a new mobile home and have a place to set it. At that time I had a space cleared where the home set and had a small yard surrounding it, but never cleared the rest of the property. Since moving to Oklahoma and getting married, I sold the mobile home and the area where it was setting got somewhat overgrown.
When Jon and I got married, he became co-owner of the property. A couple years ago we decided to began the process of clearing off those four acres. We had some dozing done, and planted grass and began cleaning up. Now we are in the process of having more dozer work done and getting a lot of junk hauled away. It's been a long, tedious job and has taken time and money, but the end result is worth it. We still have a ways to go, but little by little the acreage is taking shape and looking beautiful.
The majority of our land is on a hillside and was initially overgrown with trees, brush, vines and weeds. You couldn't really see what lay beneath all that until we started having the dozer work done. It's been astounding the amount of junk we've found lying all over that hillside! We could see some stuff, but had no idea the quantity that had accumulated over several years time. And we've been quite amazed at the things we've found; but not amazed in a good way.
There was one pile that was overgrown with vines so you couldn't see what was underneath or how deep it was. There was another pile that was between a couple trees on a slope and the leaves on top and around it was so deep you couldn't see what or how much stuff was there. There was another pile beside it that was also on a hillside and leaf covered, so we couldn't see everything that was there.
The pile covered with vines we decided to burn, and after the fire was out and the vines and brush burned away, Jon began to dig around and found all sorts of junk. The guy who we've hired to do the dozing, pushed the other two piles up to the top of the incline and we were able to sort through it and see what all the hidden "treasures" were.
When we initially saw how much junk we had, my first thought was, "It will take us months to sort through this and get it all cleaned up!" It was somewhat overwhelming. I will write a disclaimer here that on that side of the hill where our property is, the majority of all the junk was not put there by my family. The house was rented for many years, and my best guess is that a couple of the renters used that land as a dump when they had big items that they wanted to get rid of. Having said that, I will say that when I was growing up Daddy would buy a pig or cow occasionally and apparently never used the same pen twice, because we did find lots and lots of barbed wire in several different places.
We found several car hoods, car seats, car parts, a couple old refrigerators, mowers, a homemade 3-wheeler, charcoal grill, wheels, a bathtub, and numerous tires. Looking at it all was.... well, it's hard to quite put into words! We knew that we could probably sell a lot of the metal, but we were going to have to either make a few trips to haul it off in the back of our truck or try and borrow a trailer from someone.
I had called a cousin to come and help us find a couple things where I had my mobile home setting, since he had done some of the backhoe work. It just so happened that he had hauled off some metal for a neighbor that morning and still had his big trailer hooked to his truck when he came down. His neighbor has been going through a tough time, has a family, and was needing some type of heat, so was trying to raise the money to buy a wood stove. When my cousin saw all that junk metal he asked if he could load it up, haul if off and sell it, and give the money to his neighbor to help him buy the stove. After selling the other metal that morning, he thought what we had would give the guy enough money to buy it. His trailer was completely piled full after he and Jon got all the metal loaded up. We took a picture of how much junk there actually was.
What a double blessing for us! We got the majority of that junk hauled away for free and off our property, and this man was blessed with unexpected money so that he could buy a wood stove. I've heard the expression, "One man's junk is another man's treasure." That stuff really had no value to us and we were anxious to get rid of it. It was just useless junk that was cluttering our land. But when my cousin loaded up that junk metal and sold it, the proceeds became a treasure for the man who needed a way to heat his home.
I was able to fill a couple commercial-sized trash bags with a lot of the smaller stuff that wasn't sellable and we brought it home and threw it in our dumpster. The only things we have left are about 25 tires; which we're going to take to a tire shop that takes old tires next weekend and pay them to get rid of them. It's worth it to us in order to get them out of our way.
Finally, what looked like an impossible task will be completed! Now we can focus on landscaping and putting up a new fence and making it look pretty. What once was an area filled with too many trees, brush, overgrown weeds and junk will be a grassy, shaded, beautiful hillside that Jon can mow. But it didn't just happen overnight; and it didn't happen without a lot of hard work, time and money. And keeping it looking nice will be an ongoing, unending project.
At times it's easy for us to look at what someone has and be envious. But what we're looking at may be the end result. We may not see what went into them achieving what looks so pretty and desirable. We don't see the hard work and time they put into it. At times we can think, "I wish my house or my yard looked as good as theirs does," but we don't want to have to do any work or put forth any effort.
Jon and I were looking at our land last weekend and I commented that if someone hadn't see it before, then they really wouldn't appreciate the work and time we've put into our property. Or they may have seen it before, then a couple years later see it again and forget the vast improvements that have been made during that time.
A lot of us "think" we want something until we're the ones having to do the work or spend the money, then we realize what all is involved. I've heard people comment that they'd like to play the piano, but they don't want to practice or take the time to learn. They want to be able to just sit down and start playing. For most people, it doesn't come that easily. Or they want to buy something, but don't want to save the money. Or they want a nice yard with pretty flowers, but don't want to plant them or take care of them. For most of us, there's always going to be a cost involved and hard work if we really want something badly enough. Very little comes for free.
There are a couple lessons I have learned from all this. First of all, what may seem insignificant and like junk to us can be a blessing to others. And I'm not necessarily talking about scrap metal. But there may be times when we're holding onto something that is of no value or use to us, but it can become a treasure to someone in need. How selfish would it have been for me and Jon to tell my cousin, "No, you cannot have that junk to help someone! We want to sell it and keep the money for ourselves." But we had the means to bless someone in need of a wood stove, in order to keep him and his family warm. His need was much greater than what we would have spent the money on.
Galatians 6:10 says, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."
When we have the opportunity to do good and bless someone, the joy that we receive in return is God's gift to us. It's a good feeling to be able to help someone in need. And sometimes God will turn around and send a blessing our way in return. We shouldn't do things for others expecting something in return, but blessings often come full circle; and those unexpected blessings are awesome.
Secondly, sometimes we need to clean up and get rid of the junk in our lives. I'm not certain that whoever threw all that stuff over the hillside realized how much had accumulated over time. They probably threw one thing away at a time and it didn't seem like that much. But over the years, it became a big mess. The leaves and vines may have hidden it somewhat, but it was still there. And it was rusting and rotting and filling with dirt and rock.
We can allow little "sins" to accumulate in our lives over time. It may only be one thing at a time that doesn't seem like that much, but if we're not careful we'll soon find that our whole lives are consumed with ungodly attitudes, actions and thoughts. We can try to hide them and cover them up, but they're still there. And if we don't get rid of them, it will cause spiritual decay and rot.
But there is hope. It may take some time, effort and work but God can cleanse us from all filth and clean the junk out of our lives and make us beautiful inside. And when that happens, it will be worth it!
At times in our lives, we feel very close to God. But there are also times when the weeds grow up and choke us out (Matthew 13 has the parable of the sower). Lately, I've been feeling like the weeds have grown up. Like our acreage, I need some trimming once in awhile. There is a passage, 1 Kings 19:10-12, that kept coming to mind. Elijah was seeking God's voice. He listened to a wind strong enough to break rocks, an earthquake, and a fire. But he didn't hear God's voice in them. Last, there was a still small voice in the peace that followed.
With a full time, high-stress job, some side work, land to tend to, keeping up a 40-year-old house, and all the other things in my life, I sometimes feel like I'm just circling among the wind, earthquake, and fire, but never have time for the still small voice. This week isn't good--I have to go to Houston for a day, and had to rush to get ready for that; when I get back, we'll go to Missouri; before we get done there, we will come home for a family gathering. Next week won't start well, either--I may have to go back to Houston for work. Next weekend, I should be able to stop and relax. That is, unless more things come up.
I can't really count on someday to slow down and just listen for God's will. I'm trying to relax each day. I try to spend 5-10 minutes each morning reading my Bible. And for the last few days, I'm trying to drive slower (and less aggressively). I'm trying to take things a little more slowly, and calmly.
It seems to help, but it isn't helping quickly enough!
2 cans chicken broth
2 cans cream soup
2 (8 oz.) pkg. Cream cheese
2 cups milk
32 oz. Pkg. Hashbrown potatoes
Salt and pepper
In a large pan, pour in chicken broth; add diced onions and cook until soft. Add hashbrown's and let cook 5-10 minutes. Add soups (can use cream of mushroom, cream of chicken or a can of each) and milk; stir and cook until smooth. Lastly add both packages of cream cheese; stir occasionally and watch closely because it will stick (turn burner to low). Salt and pepper, to taste. This makes quite a bit, so recipe can be halved.
Garnish with shredded cheese, bacon bits or green onion, if desired.
Jon and I had dozing done on our property this past weekend. We had the old septic tank filled in where I used to have my mobile home. The dozer operator isn't finished dozing in that area and had covered the septic tank back with dirt after filling it in, but hadn't packed it down. Before Jon and I left Sunday afternoon we went down to there area because that's the vicinity where we're planning to build a garage (hopefully next year) and a retirement house someday. We were walking around measuring, taking pictures and discussing where to build. I had been careful to walk around the area where the septic tank had been filled in, knowing the dirt was still loose. We were headed home afterwards and were going to stop and eat a late lunch. Jon was asking me something and I forgot to watch where I was walking! I turned around to look at something and wasn't paying attention where I was going. Unthinking, I walked across the loose dirt covering the septic tank (it did have the lid back on). Next thing I knew, my left leg went straight down through the dirt up to my knee. Thankfully, with the dirt being so loose I was able to quickly pull it back up. Since we were going to be traveling I had worn comfortable, loose pants. Jon was able to shake the material to loosen the dirt and brush most of it off. Why oh why can't these things ever happen to Jon?!? He said later he wished he had got a picture (he was walking behind me a ways) but it happened so fast he didn't have time to think about it.
It's temper that gets most of us in trouble and pride that keeps us there.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon