"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!'"
May 18, 2011
A few mornings ago, Jon and I were sitting outside on our back porch eating breakfast. Suddenly, we saw this squirrel hurling through the air, with a tree branch falling with it, and it made a loud thump as it hit the ground. The nearest limb is probably 25 feet from the ground, and the squirrel was up above that, so we're not sure exactly how far up in the tree the squirrel was when the branch gave way. The branch was probably 1/2-inch in diameter and apparently was partially dead and unable to hold the weight of the squirrel. The squirrel ran off to the trunk of the tree closest to the one it had fallen from, climbed up a few inches and sat there for a long time without moving. It looks like it would have been stunned and perhaps had a broken leg or something, but eventually another squirrel chased it up the tree and it made it okay. And we never found a dead squirrel in our yard, so it must have survived without any repercussions. But we could only imagine how frightful the squirrel's experience had been and thought surely it had to have had a major headache; if squirrels get headaches -- perhaps even a concussion. That may have been a limb that the squirrel had climbed out on dozens of times, thinking it was perfectly safe, but then suddenly and unexpectedly it found itself flying through the air as the branch broke off. Perhaps it was sitting there calmly eating its breakfast, when the unexpected happened.
We all have had those moments when we feel like we've been hurled unexpectedly through the air, not quite sure how our landing is going to turn out. It may be something that we've done many times before, only the outcome turns out completely different that one time, as the rug is yanked out from beneath our feet. We sit there in stunned disbelief as we try to figure out what went wrong. And if we're not careful, we then begin to look around to see who we can blame. We all like our comfort zones, our steadfast routines, and like the sameness and consistency of some things never changing; but the truth is, life is often filled with change. It's easy to focus on the change as always being something bad happening. But sometimes change can be very good and beneficial. And there may be times when the only way we're willing to try something new or alter our direction is by having those sudden events occur where we're forced to make a change. In some instances, it's not necessarily that we're doing something bad or wrong, but we need our thinking or perception adjusted.
All too often we focus on the types of changes that are bad or sad or those that make us mad. I don't want to look at the negative, heart-breaking, life-altering moments. Instead, I want to put our attention on those changes that can be funny, positive or for the betterment of our lives.
Overall, Jon and I have a pretty settled routine that we follow. To some, our lives would seem very bland and boring; but that's what we like, most of the time. We're both contented with our life and are generally happy. But there have been a few times when God has thrown some unexpected turns and twists in our path. I can't always blame God, because there have been times when I've thrown some unexpected curves into Jon's life.
When Jon and I got married his wardrobe consisted of black jeans, t-shirts with slogans (some from college and high school), a few sweatshirts that also had slogans on the front, a couple dress shirts, and a pair of black tennis shoes. He worked at his dad's machine shop, so those things were fine for that job. But I thought he should have at least a few solid colored t-shirts and more dress shirts for church, special occasions, and when we went out to nicer places. I also bought him a couple pair of blue jeans. For the first few years of our marriage, I also had to "encourage" Jon to get a haircut when his hair started getting shaggy. I messed with Jon's whole way of thinking regarding clothes and appearance. Not that he didn't look handsome, but I tried to help him understand that jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes didn't always cut it for all occasions. Our way of thinking regarding clothes were on completely different ends of the spectrum -- and that's not an exaggeration! He thought I should only have one pair of shoes to wear with everything -- yeah right! He's finally accepted that's not going to happen!!
We have come a long way, baby, over the past (almost) six years!! Jon now goes and gets haircuts without me mentioning it or asking. He now has black jeans, blue jeans, a couple pair of dress pants -- and even a pair of overalls. He has hiking shoes, steel-toed shoes, leather work boots, nice shoes for work and church, his old work shoes for wearing when doing odd jobs (when I finally bought him new shoes and made him stop wearing them to work and church), house shoes, and his infamous "tux" shoes. When we got married, Jon and his best man rented tuxes (because Jon didn't own a suit) but I talked him into buying a pair of black shoes to wear with it instead of renting the uncomfortable shiny tux shoes. Jon has only worn these shoes maybe half a dozen times, because in his mind they are "tux shoes", since he wore them with a tux; and I've yet to convince him otherwise. They're just nice black lace-up shoes. Makes me laugh! Jon does have some slogan t-shirts, but also has lots of solid nicer looking t-shirts, as well as several short-sleeved and long-sleeved dress shirts. For the past three years, Jon has worked at a job where there is a dress code, so appearance is more important than when he worked at the machine shop; and he does have business meetings with customers where he's representing the company. I've even got him liking the square-tailed dress shirts where he doesn't have to tuck them in. Jon still mainly wears black jeans for work and church, which is fine. But a while back he even asked me to go buy him new black jeans because the ones he had were looking faded, were looking raveled around the hem and the length had shrunk up some. I can honestly say that Jon has done a turnabout in his thinking regarding his appearance and clothing; not quite a 180, but maybe we're at about a 120.
I never dreamed that I would be "retired" at my age. I thought I would be working at a bank until I was in my sixties. Jon and I had some lean financial years when we first got married, and I never imagined that we would ever get to the place where we could afford for me to stay home. I feel like I'm living my dream! Being married to an incredible man and getting to be a stay-at-home wife far exceeds any of my imagined expectations. I love it and love my life! Being able to stay home and care for our house and yard, take care of errands and any shopping we need done, paying bills and handling our finances, and making life easier for Jon so that he can relax and not have to do those things when he gets home is a blessing to us both. It makes a huge decrease in the amount of stress we have. Jon can deal with his job, knowing that I'm taking care of things at home and he doesn't have to worry about it. It's a win-win situation for us both.
Our ultimate dream is to build our retirement house in the country. We both love the country and it's our goal to eventually live there. But for the interim time, we have to live in the city where Jon's job is. We've been able to buy our home from Jon's parents, which is a blessing to both us and them. Instead of paying rent, we're paying them mortgage and several years down the road will own something that's ours. We don't have to bother them with maintenance and are responsible for the insurance, taxes and upkeep. God worked out all the details so it was beneficial for all of us.
God has abundantly blessed Jon in his job. He is a departmental manager and has a great group of dependable guys who work with him. Because of jobs the company has been given, Jon and I were able to go to Singapore a year and a half ago (work related for Jon, and purely pleasure for me). It was a memorable trip and something we never considered being able to do. The biggest trip we had ever dreamed of doing is someday going to Alaska. It never even entered our minds that we could dream bigger and go someplace internationally! We have one fairly certain, and a possibility of two, international trips coming up later this year. Jon has been project manager overseeing a job that will require him to go to the international location to do the initial start-up. And there may be a possibility of a second job coming up that he could manage that would require us taking a dream trip. (And yes, Jon, I know it's not a done deal and not to get my hopes up too high yet!) I had never entertained the idea that this little country girl would ever travel outside of the USA! When Jon and I have talked of going to Alaska, I thought that was as far away from home that I'd ever travel.
When I was single and thinking about what my future husband would be like, I have to honestly say that it never even entered my mind that I could marry an electrical engineer or someone who was computer savvy and did programming. That was so far out of my interest, that someone who had those capabilities was not even a consideration. In fact, I didn't even know what an electrical engineer was and anything computer related was somewhat foreign to me, except for the basics. Back then, if I had given a description of what the man I was to marry would be like, I would have said that he would be a preacher and would be able to sing well so we could sing together. I'm sure God got a laugh from that! Jon likes to sing, but he doesn't do well at it (sorry honey!) so we really can't sing duets together. Although he's a strong man of God, he's not a preacher. And he's about as brainy and smart as anyone I know and a complete geek (which he says is a compliment, in case you think I'm slamming him!). He's not anything like I imagined someone I married would be like, but I have to say that he is far better and exceeds what I thought I wanted in a husband. Jon and I are the perfect match for one another, and I have to say that "God did good!!" when He matched us together as husband and wife.
My point is, you can't plan out life. No matter how carefully you may try to attend to details, things will not always go as you expect. In fact, it seems as if life seldom goes as we plan out. But surprises are not always bad. It's how we handle them and our attitude that make the difference. I have to say that as I look back over my life, yes, there has been some heartache and tears and sorrow; but overall, I have been tremendously blessed. God has done a much better job at directing my steps than I could have done myself. He's put some pretty awesome surprises and blessing in my path, and I'm so grateful and give Him thanks.
I've seen people live as if they always expect the worst to happen to them, thinking that way they'll never be disappointed. They seem to go through life with a dark cloud hanging over their head, constantly waiting for the "limb to break" and send them flying off their perch. They seem to believe that bad things always happen to them and good things always happen to everyone else.
I was visiting with someone one time and something had happened, not to their liking. I can't remember what it was, but at the time I remember thinking that it really wasn't a big deal. But her words were, "I knew this would happen. I always have the worst luck and nothing good ever happens to me." I've heard her make comments along those same lines many other times and she seems to sincerely believe that life always hands her the lemons or leftovers and she never has anything good to happen in her life.
If you go through life always looking for the worst to happen to you, then that's probably what you're going to always see because that's where your focus is. You're so afraid that if you expect something good, then it won't occur and you'll end up disappointed. But who's to say that what does happen isn't the best for you? Maybe you're so zoomed in on looking for the bad that you don't even recognize the blessing when it takes place.
Yes, Jon and I have both been disappointed and our well laid plans don't always go as expected. We went to Lampe a couple weekends ago and it was perfect. The weather was beautiful, we had a lot of time to sit outside and relax, we got some needed work done but still felt like we had lots of time to rest and enjoy ourselves. Neither of us wanted to go back home on Sunday and wished we could spend the entire week there. So we decided to go back again this past weekend. It was a totally different experience. It rained on us almost the entire drive there, sometimes extremely hard, and it was very windy. It was cold and cloudy on both Friday and Saturday. There were a few things we wanted to get accomplished and things just didn't jive, and we encountered a few problems. We did get to relax and got a few things done and it was enjoyable, but just not to the level that it had been the previous weekend. When it came time to go home we didn't experience that feeling of wishing we could stay longer. We were a little disappointed that things didn't quite go as planned, but we still found some enjoyable moments to our weekend and overall were glad that we went. We went to a community gospel singing on Saturday evening and got to see a lot of family and friends and heard some great music. When we looked back over our weekend, the good outweighed the bad; but it was due to our perspective of making the best of our cold, rainy, uncooperative situation.
Proverbs 16:9 says, "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."
We can make all the plans that we want, but it's the Lord that actually directs our steps. We often have very little or no control over what happens in our life, although many times we try to force our will to happen. But God knows what the future holds in store for us and when we allow Him to direct our steps we'll find that our lives are much better. That squirrel had absolutely no control over that branch breaking off, causing the long fall to the ground. But God cared enough to protect it from permanent harm or even from death. After several minutes, it was back up in the tree going about its business; although it may have been using a little more caution. If God cared enough about that pesky squirrel to care for it, how much more does He care about us! Nothing happens that catches Him off guard or takes Him by surprise. But God cannot control our reaction to those moments of unexpected surprises. We can choose to go with it and enjoy the moment and make the best of it, or we can complain and pout and feel like our life doesn't matter. Let's choose to allow God to direct our steps and see how much better He can do at orchestrating our lives than we could ever do. Look out for the surprises along the way and enjoy them!
Loretta didn't cover all the frustrations of last weekend. It actually started before we even left. We have a beast of a lawnmower that we use for the rocky slopes where we don't want to use a more tender mower. The trip before, I replaced the carburetor, the spark plug, and all the filters. No luck. So before this trip, I got more ambitious. I replaced the coil and spark plug wire, and drained the old gas out of the carburetor to use fresh gas I knew didn't have any water in it. Some luck, but it wasn't going to start. We only had two main things we wanted to do for the weekend, and mowing the roughest areas was one of them.
The other thing we wanted to do was plant some posts for a fence. We planned to buy the posts after we got there, but we took the concrete with us. Fortunately, Loretta was wise enough to suggest we put a tarp over everything. But I didn't cover the concrete well. The concrete itself wasn't that bad; there were only a few lumps that started to set, and for fenceposts, I didn't really care. But the bags that hold the concrete didn't hold up well. One of them fell apart at the first touch. I had to scrape it out of the truck into a bucket as much as I could in the rain.
As much as I want to get a lot of good work done, I also wanted to get out in the country to get closer to God. I don't doubt anyone can feel close to God in the city, but it just feels more natural in the country. One morning, it was too cold and rainy looking to start on the fence, and we didn't have the big mower, so I went for a walk to pray and enjoy the country. But I kept thinking about the work, and when I looked into the woods, I kept thinking about which vines and weeds needed to be cut out, and how great it would look if I could mow it. Then I noticed the sunrise. There were thick, dark clouds all around, but the sun had a hole to peek through to light up a few clouds on the eastern horizon. The reds and yellows were so peaceful and relaxing that I was able to forget about all the work I had planned. The sky was something I had absolutely no control over. Usually things I have no control over make me nervous to outright frightened. But the sunrise was totally out of my control, and more relaxing than a Valium. If God was trying to get us to quit working for awhile to stop and enjoy His creation, it worked.
We were able to mow the cleaned, level ground later, and did manage to get quite a bit of the fence done. But more importantly, we had a chance to relax and enjoy God's creation.
(These are my favorite! I've also seen them listed as "No Bake Cookies" but growing up we (and those in our area) all called them Wackies.)
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 stick butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 Tbsp. Cocoa
Put sugar, milk, butter and cocoa in a saucepan and stir together. When mixture reaches a full rolling boil, boil for 1-1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and add oats, vanilla and peanut butter; blend well. Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper and let cool. Hope and pray that they harden so you don't have to scrape them up and eat them with a spoon! (Tip: I've tried making this with skim or low-fat milk and they never would set and get hard, so this is one recipe where you need to use the real stuff and not try to cut calories.)
This past weekend when Jon and I were in Missouri we attended a community gospel singing on Saturday evening. It was very enjoyable and we got to see lots of family and friends. The pastor of the church I grew up in, one of the board members (who also happened to be my 6th and 7th grade school teacher), a cousin's husband, another cousin, and one of my uncles were one of the featured groups that Jon and I both thoroughly enjoyed. The board member shared this story about the pastor, who happens to really enjoy playing golf:
A few weeks ago, Pastor Ely was on vacation and decided to skip church on Sunday in order to play a game of golf. He was far away from home and knew that no one there would recognize him; besides he was the pastor and was in church every Sunday, so thought playing hooky one Sunday would be okay. God and one of the angels were watching him and the angel asked, "Do you think perhaps he should be punished for laying out of church and playing golf?" God answered, "Yes! I'll take care of it." On the next hole, Pastor Ely got a hole in one! The angel was confused and asked God, "I thought you were going to punish him! What kind of punishment was that, since he got a hole in one?" God smiled and said, "That's the worst punishment I could have given him. After all, who can he tell??"
Allowing the "Fruits of the Spirit" to reside in your life will make you fruitful, not fruity!
We love you!
Loretta & Jon