THE NEW EWE

"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!'"

Luke 15:4-6

March 23, 2011

Springtime is here -- enjoy!!!

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

I have mentioned in previous newsletters that since marrying Jon, I have tried new things and experienced things I never imagined possible. Jon has never pressured me to do something he thinks I will be uncomfortable doing, but he also will never ask me to do something that he isn't willing to do himself. I am not a fan of heights, but in order to better experience or enjoy things, I have pushed passed that fear to do things I never thought I'd be able to do. Afterwards, I'm always proud of myself and excited about the adventure Jon and I were able to share. And I realize that the dread beforehand is generally worse than the actual deed.

When the opportunity for Jon to travel to Singapore to do a job came about unexpectedly, he wanted me to travel with him so we could experience the country together. I had heard of Singapore, but other than knowing it was in Asia, I knew nothing else about the country. I am a country girl and had never traveled internationally, and in fact, never thought I'd leave the good ol' USA. The flight was several hours long, and the thought of flying for hours over the ocean made me a bit nervous. If something happened to the plane, we had no where to land. But I knew there was no other way to get there. I learned that on international flights, not long after getting in the air everyone shuts their window shade and the lights are dimmed for the majority of the flight. People pass the time by sleeping or watching their own individual movie monitor. You can't see outside so have no idea if it's day or night out. You basically lose all track of time. There's no room to get up and move around, except to make an occasional trip to the restroom. The aisles are narrow (unless you are extremely wealthy and can afford several thousand dollars for a first class ticket, which was way beyond our means) and you really don't want to spend much time in the tiny, stinky bathrooms. If you get a window seat, you have to crawl over people to get out; and if you have an aisle seat, you have people crawling over you to get out. From the time we left the Tulsa airport until we arrived in Singapore (with three layovers) was over thirty hours, then there was a thirteen hour time difference. But our experience in Singapore made the long flights well worth while.

While there Jon and I rode the Singapore Flyer which was a really nice glass enclosed ferris wheel and was several stories tall (picture to the right) . I knew if I gave myself time to really think about it, that fear would hinder me from getting on it. It worked out that we bought our tickets and were immediately able to board, so I didn't have a chance to look things over and really consider what we were doing. Jon later told me that he was surprised I had gone on it and did so well. Granted, I couldn't stand at the edge of the glass wall and look down, but was able to enjoy the ride by sitting or walking around. It was an experience I'll never forget. We walked across scary looking rope bridges that were either over water or thick vegetation, on some of our Singapore adventures. In the picture to the left, Jon is walking across one such rope bridge, while feeding the birds. I took the picture, but walked across the bridge right behind him. We walked through an enclosed building at the zoo with bats, birds, and various other kinds of animals freely moving around. That wasn't particularly my cup of tea, but I knew Jon would enjoy it; and I have to admit, it was very interesting and not nearly as frightening as I worried it might be.

One summer we went to Sea World in San Antonio and went inside a cage (even paid extra to do it) where colorful birds were flying around and would drink from the cup of nectar we held. We fed dolphins and were able to touch them. I was excited about being that close to dolphins but was a little unsure about letting the birds land on me, but it was a fun experience.

Last summer when we went to Yellowstone on vacation we went through the Teton Mountains and made a stop at Teton Village. While there we rode a glass enclosed ski gondola up to the top of the Teton's and got out and walked around. There really was only one point on the ride up where I looked through the window and thought, "If this cable breaks, we're going to be falling a long way down and they'll never find us!" Of course, being found would be the least of my worries if the cable broke! But the experience of standing on top of a mountain peak and walking around was absolutely breathtaking and I'm so happy I didn't allow fear to hold me back.

I've tried different types of food that I never thought I'd try. Jon tends to try new things when we go out to eat, and I generally lean towards ordering the same things each time. But I've adventured out of my comfort zone and have tasted new things; some I've liked and some I'm not a big fan of. Jon likes sushi, but a couple pieces is all I can handle. But we've eaten at different types of restaurants and I've found that there are a lot of different foods that I do like. I've started venturing out more and trying new foods and have found a lot of new things (new to me, anyway) that are quite tasty. We've recently tried a Mongolian Grill that has ended up being one of our favorite places to eat out. On our way back from Houston last summer, we stopped in the middle of nowhere (or so it seemed) and ate lunch at a mom and pop type diner. Lots of cars parked out front gave us the clue that it was either really good, or was the only place in town to eat. It ended up that we had the best catfish there that we've ever had.

We tried a few different things in Singapore, and only had one major disaster. We ordered something from a food hawker's stand, thinking it was some type of fried fritters. We bit into one and it was some kind of vegetable protein stuff that was mushy and nasty tasting. Jon can usually eat about anything, but even he couldn't stomach it and we had to throw them out. Another time we ordered from another food hawkers stand and Jon ordered a duck and noodles dish and I ordered a beef and noodle dish. Jon got his food first and it was really good. I took one bite of mine and sweat popped out on my forehead, tears were running down my face and I felt like my insides were on fire -- and that's no exaggeration. It had some type of hot pepper chopped up in it that was the hottest I've ever tasted, which apparently is common in authentic Thai foods; but it didn't say spicy on the menu. We switched dishes and Jon was able to get some of it down, but he too had the same reaction as I did.

When Jon and I try something new or do something he knows is out of my comfort zone, he'll ask, "Are you sure you want to do this?" Then he's right there beside me, holding my hand, and enjoying the experiences with me. I'm thankful that I've not allowed fear to keep me from doing some of the things I've been given the opportunity to do. And I'm thankful that Jon has always been there to enjoy them with me.

I asked myself, "Why am I able to do these things that are out of my comfort zone and that are not typical activities I would choose to do?" The answer I came up with is, it's because I completely and whole-heartedly trust Jon. I know that he would never intentionally put me in harms way. If he truly thought something was dangerous and we would get hurt, he would never ask me to do it. Granted, unexpected things can happen at any given moment, but that could happen in our day to day life, too. But I trust Jon explicitly and know that he loves me and would never ask me to do something that he thinks would endanger me.

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."

I was thinking about the different opportunities Jon and I have had and the things I've done; even though I was somewhat fearful and it was completely out of my comfort zone. I asked myself why I was willing to try all these different things, and came up with the answer that I was willing to try them because I trust Jon completely, and without reservation. The above scripture then came to mind and the question, "Do you trust God as much as you trust Jon?" I would like to emphatically and whole-heartedly say, "Yes!!" But my actions say otherwise, more times than not. That question made me stop and really think.

I know that if Jon and I were doing something and I were to get hurt or sick, he would feel bad. But I also know that my response would be, "Honey, it's not your fault! You had no idea this was going to happen and I don't blame you. Things happen!" I would want to put his mind at ease and assure him that I don't hold him responsible and still loved him.

But how often do things happen differently than what I prayed, and my immediate response is to blame God and get upset with Him for not doing things the way I thought they should be done? Or someone gets sick, or is diagnosed with a disease, or has to have major surgery, or has to have radiation and chemo, or dies, and I've prayed for their healing and the outcome didn't happen like I thought it should. Do I trust God enough to still love Him and not put the blame on Him? If something bad happens to a loved one and they're taken from me, do I trust God enough to accept it as His will and continue holding fast to my salvation, or do I become angry? When finances are tight, then my car breaks down and the washing machine stops working and I get sick and need to go to the doctor, do I explicitly and whole-heartedly trust God to provide for all my needs? Do I trust God or Jon the most when I have a problem that needs to be taken care of? Who do I rely on the most?

Do we honestly trust God more than we trust our spouse or a close family member or a best friend? When unexpected, unexplained things occur do we lean on our own understanding and try to figure it out for ourselves and act as if the situation is too tough for God to take care of? Do we think He can't handle it without our help and interference? Do we look to ourselves or someone close to us first, then only use God as a last resort, if all else fails? Or can we do as the scripture says and "Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and lean NOT on our own understanding?" Even when it doesn't make sense to us, are we still able to fully trust God? When life seems to be a mess or something heart-breaking or dreadful has happened, do we acknowledge Him in all our ways, and believe that God is directing our paths? It's easy to believe that God is directing our paths when we're being blessed and everything is going great. But when we hit a pothole and fall down and skin our knees, it's more difficult to trust that He's still watching over us and directing our steps.

The misconception seems to be, if everything is going smoothly then God is directing our paths; but if something bad happens, then we have got on the wrong path and out of the will of God. But that's not always so. Life happens to the best of us! Death, heartache, fear, sickness, disease, accidents, financial difficulties, tragedy, job loss, etc..... happens to us all. No one is exempt from any of these things. But when they happen, do we still trust God?

If we were to go through a disaster like the recent Japan tsunami and everything we owned was wiped away in a few split seconds, and we were to lose family members as well, could we still stand on Proverbs 3:5,6 and say, "Lord I choose to trust in You with all my heart. Even though I can't even begin to comprehend why this has happened, I choose to not lean on my own understanding. Instead I make the choice to acknowledge You in all my ways and trust that You are directing my paths."

We may not always understand the various paths that God leads us down, and we may never see any rhyme nor reason for it. But the mark of a true love is when you can continue putting your faith and confidence in God even then. Not a love that is dependent upon our emotions and how we feel at a particular time, or a love that is dependent upon what God is doing for us at a specific moment, but a love that chooses to trust regardless of what is happening.

I had to be honest and say that there are times when I do trust Jon more than I do God. I look to him for answers and solutions, instead of praying and allowing God to work. Why am I able to trust Jon so completely? Because I know him and know that he loves me and has only my best interest at heart. Jon has proven that he wants only what 's best for me and that he will do his best to always protect and care for me. I know his heart and know that he respects me. I know Jon well enough to know that he will never willingly allow anything bad to happen to me; therefore, I can fully trust him. Perhaps it's also easier to trust Jon because he is tangible. I can see and touch and hear him. We can discuss things. My relationship with God is built on faith because I can't see or touch Him, but He is no less real than Jon is. In fact, He is so much better at working things out than Jon could ever be; for God can see the whole picture, not just the present moment.

That brought me to my next self-examination question. Is it possible that the reason I sometimes have trouble completely and explicitly trusting God is because I don't know Him as well as I should? Is God more of an acquaintance or friend, than a Father? Do I know Jon better than I know God, even though I've been a christian for more years than I've known Jon? If I truly knew Him, then wouldn't I know that I could trust him without question in all situations, regardless of what they were? As I look back over my life I can see where over and over and over again, God has been faithful and reliable. He has shown me that He is trustworthy.

I concluded that I need to get to know God better. He is my Heavenly Father, yet I sometimes act as if He's only there to call upon when I'm desperate or nothing else has worked. Instead of a Father, often I tend to treat Him as someone I like to talk to occasionally or spend time with when I'm in church.

I want to get better acquainted with God and truly know Him as a loving Father. I want to love and trust God more than I do my husband. I know that He loves me and will never leave nor forsake me. There may be times when life holds disappointments, but still I want to choose to trust God; even when I don't understand. The words to the hymn 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus' sums it all up best.

"Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus; just to take Him at His Word. Just to rest upon His promise; just to know 'thus saith the Lord'. Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him. How I've proved Him o're and o're. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus. Oh for grace to trust Him more."

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

Okay, how do I follow that? I'm puzzled why Loretta trusts me. If we're walking along hand-in-hand, and she isn't paying enough attention, I'm likely to walk her into a wall. She's gotten to where she'll always stop as soon as she sees the mischievous look in my eye.

There are quite a few kinds of trust, I think. There have been people I would trust my life to. They would never think of hurting me. But if I loaned them $1, I'd never expect to see it again. And there are some I would trust to take advantage of any chance to make me look silly in front of others.

I trust that God works all things to my good, but I have no idea how. And I'm not sure I'll like it, any more than a vine likes being pruned.

ON THE MENEWE:

Applesauce Bars

1 cup oil

1/2 tsp. Salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1 cup raisins

1 cup warm applesauce

1 cups nuts

2 cups flour

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix oil with sugar. Add soda to applesauce, then add the sugar mixture. Add flour, salt, cinnamon, raisins, nuts and vanilla; blend well. Turn into greased and floured 10x15 pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cut into bars while slightly warm. Brush with icing.

Icing:

2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 tsp. Vanilla

2 Tbsp. warm milk

1/4 tsp. lemon flavoring

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Mix together until smooth. Frost warm applesauce bars.

LAMB TALES:

Last Tuesday I was sitting in the house working on the computer when I heard a rustling outside the window. There's a large flower bed outside the window, that was then covered with leaves. I didn't pay much attention, thinking it was squirrels rummaging around for pecans. We have large pecan trees in our backyard, and the squirrels are plentiful! Later I got up and happened to glance out the window of our backdoor. Imagine my surprise when I saw a wild turkey sitting on my back porch! I then saw another one close by in the yard. When Jon and I spend time in the country (in Missouri) we have seen wild turkeys a few times, but this isn't something you expect to see in a neighborhood in the city. I grabbed the camera and ran out the front door, around to the side of the house, hoping to get a picture without scaring the turkeys away. At that time, I saw four turkeys foraging around in our yard. I took a few photos, then came back inside. By that time they were by our shed, towards the back of our yard, so I decided to chance walking outside onto our back porch. They looked at me, but kept on foraging for food and didn't seem to mind me being out there. Another turkey came from behind the shed, which brought the total up to five. I sat outside and watched them and took pictures for over an hour. I knew this was something that Jon would thoroughly enjoy seeing, but they flew over the privacy fence into our neighbor's yard. I figured that was the last we'd see of them. After Jon arrived home from work, we decided to grill and were out on the back porch talking as Jon lit the grill. I was telling him about the turkeys and we happened to see a shadow of one sitting on the back fence behind our shed. Before long, all five flew back over the fence into our yard. Jon got the camera out and snapped several more pictures. They would walk around the yard and didn't seem to mind us being outside with them. They were there that time for a couple hours, then when it started getting dark, they flew back over the fence into our neighbor's yard. That's the last we have seen of them, so I'm assuming they have made their way elsewhere by now. It was an unexpected surprise and fun to watch them. The only kind of irritating thing is, they must have initially flown over the fence from our front yard when they first arrived. We have a piece of lattice by the chain link fence beside the house with blackberry vines growing on it. The turkeys must have landed on it and knocked it over. The two end pieces are still stuck in the ground, but the entire middle section was flat on the ground after the turkeys arrival. But we really needed to do some work to make it sturdier anyway with the vines on it, so this just forced the issue so we have to take action quicker. Below is a photo of two of the five turkeys that visited us last week. They were all huge!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. - Nadine Stair

(It's not necessarily about going barefoot, but about enjoying the little things in life more.)

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org