"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!'"
June 6, 2012
One of my favorite places in Celle, Germany was the St. Marien's Church, which was 720 years old. I would go sit inside the church a few times each week for a time of meditation and prayer. There was something very special about that church.
I found out that we could pay one euro and go up into the church tower, so one Saturday Jon and I decided to do so. To be able to climb to the tower of a 720 year old church, in Germany, was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. There were 234 steps from the bottom floor up to the tower. I read somewhere that it was 74 meters high, which is a little over 242 feet. I looked up how many stories that would be equivalent to, and it is approximately 16 stories high; give or take because story height can vary. All I know is -- it was way up there!
To the left is a picture of one section of steps. The steps were probably about 18 inches wide, and the metal railing on the outside with the post in the center is all there was for safety measures. They were spiral stairs that wound round and round and round all the way up to the top. There were two or three landings, where we could rest. I'm sure that was not the original purpose of the landings! We guessed that the first landing was an original entrance into the building or to an upper area of the church, because there were huge double doors that had at one time went inside the building. We never did figure out what the purpose of the second landing was. There were windows around the outside walls, but no doors. It was probably a 10x10 area. Perhaps it was used as a watchtower at one time.
I am not a big fan of heights, but really wanted to do this. Of course, we had no idea what to expect until we got inside the stairwell and started climbing. At one point we passed the area where the church bells were located. There was wire between the stairs and bells and no landing, so we had to try and balance on the stairs and take pictures. They were very interesting. There was one huge bell in the center with a date of 1427 on it. To one side were two smaller bells, one hung above the other; and on the other side were two smaller bells hung over a larger one. When I say "smaller" bells, I really don't mean small. The center one was huge, so they were smaller in comparison to that.
You could look over the side of the railing, and see way, way down! By the time we made it to the last landing, before reaching the tower, I wasn't sure whether or not I was going to be able to make it to the top. I was feeling queasy and shaky. Jon took a few pictures, looking out the windows on that landing, while I took deep breaths and mentally prepared myself to go the rest of the way. I knew if I quit then and didn't go the rest of the way up that I would be disappointed in myself afterwards for giving up and not going all the way to the top of the tower. Jon looked up the stairwell and told me that he was pretty sure we were almost to the top, if only I could make it up that last section of steps.
So I took a deep breath and made a decision to not quit and forge onward to the top! We reached the top of the stairs and there was no turning back. You either had to go out the door to the outside, or turn around and go back down. As you can see from the picture, the door was a little shorter than me, so Jon had to really duck down to get through. The cover over the stairs was this beat up old metal dome. I made it outside and leaned back against the side of the dome to rest and get acclimated. My legs were really shaky! You can also see in the photo that there were wooden slats for the flooring. Jon said that there was a tar roof underneath. But what we felt underneath our feet were soft wooden boards that you could feel squish a bit under our feet as we walked on them. That didn't help the confidence level much! In the background, you can also see that surrounding the perimeter of this tower was a metal rail about waist high, then mesh wire above.
After getting all the way up there, I knew that I had to at least walk one lap around the perimeter to look at the scenery. Needless to say, I did stay close by the dome and didn't venture over to the edge. Jon said that he felt uncomfortable getting close to the edge and stayed back a foot or so and leaned forward to take pictures through the wire. The church tower is by far the tallest building in Celle. Remember when you look at the picture of me standing outside that we were at least 16 stories high at this point! It was quite the adventure!!
The view was absolutely spectacular! To the right is the Ducal Palace, then you can see just a small portion of Celle. It was awesome to be able to walk around and see a 360 view of the town.
The church bells ring every 15 minutes, so we waited until they rang before heading back down. We didn't want to be right beside them when they started ringing. Jon was kind enough to walk in front of me on the way down so I could just concentrate on my steps and follow him, and not chance looking over the side. Jon made the mistake of looking over the side of the railing while we were at the top and saw how far down it was and got a little queasy.
We did make the mistake of doing this first thing in the morning, and our legs were weak and achy the remainder of the day whenever we had to go up and down steps; which there seemed to be a lot of that particular day. We toured the Ducal Palace and went to a museum afterwards, and they both had many steps.
We were both really glad that we climbed to the top of the church tower and had that experience. The view was well-worth the climb. But we had no desire to repeat the adventure. We had the pictures to prove that we'd really done it. And it's a memory that the two of us share and is something we'll never forget.
Since marriage, Jon and I have had many wonderful experiences that the two of us have been blessed to share. We've both tried things that we wouldn't have tried alone and have memories that are so precious to us both. Life is meant to be enjoyed and treasured, and Jon and I are doing our best to make the most of each experience God gives us.
Sometimes in life we're given challenges and we have to make the choice whether or not we're willing to persevere and see it through to the end, or if we're willing to give up and never see the finished results. Many of those things may be difficult and sometimes we may not know whether or not we're heading in the right direction, but we step out in faith, believing that God will redirect our steps if we head in the wrong direction.
A few weeks ago, Jon and I heard a sermon where the minister made this statement that has stuck in my head: "Don't use prayer as an excuse to procrastinate." Yes, we do need to pray before making big decisions and pray that God will direct our lives. But many times people will use the excuse, "I'm praying about it," to keep from having to make a decision to do anything. They don't want the responsibility of making a change, so use prayer as an excuse to procrastinate and not have to make a decision and do anything. There comes a point when God wants us to take a leap of faith and get out of our little comfort zone and trust Him to take care of us.
In Genesis chapter 12, God instructs Abraham to "get out of your country, from your family, and from your father's house, to a land that I (God) will show you...." God never told Abraham his final destination or where he was going to end up. He just said, "Go." So Abraham departed as the Lord had directed him to. He was 75 years old at this time. He wasn't a spring chicken! And Abraham's choice to obey God and not question him not only affected him, but also his wife, Lot (his nephew), and all their servants. He packed up all their possessions and took off, trusting that God would tell him which way to go. The result was pretty spectacular. God blessed Abraham and he was very wealthy and blessed.
But how many of us would have argued with God's instructions to go and say, "I need to pray about it first and make sure I'm making the right decision," or "I have to pray about it until God tells me what my final destination is going to be," or "I need to pray and make sure that I really did hear God and it's not just me wanting to make a change," or "If it's really God, then He'll tell me where I'm going before I take off." We would sit in the very place that God told us to move from, and procrastinate leaving, and possibly never obey and get up and go. Therefore, we would end up missing out on God's blessing and favor upon our lives.
Faith and trusting God is a choice, just as procrastination and giving up are choices. Trusting God and faith are not instincts that we are naturally born with, but are things we must learn. And we don't learn trust and faith during times of blessing, but through difficulties and trials. It's when we are faced with challenges that we choose whether or not we're going to believe that God will be faithful and choose to step out in faith and trust Him. God rarely (very rarely) spells out in black and white exactly what we're supposed to do or which decisions are the right ones. We pray for wisdom, then take a step of faith and leave our comfort zone.
Moving from Missouri to Oklahoma back in 2003 was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. I felt like I needed to make a change, but really didn't know what to do. I had my own home at the time and a great job and was surrounded by my wonderful family and friends. I'm sure there were people who thought I was nuts to leave all that behind and move to a place where I didn't have a job or really know what I was going to do. My sister told me that I was welcome to live with them. I wrote my letter of resignation and kept it in my desk drawer at work for a couple weeks before turning it in. Then one morning, I just knew that this was what I was supposed to do and handed it in. It was tough! But looking back I see how God directed my steps. I was put in contact with a banker in Tulsa before moving and talked to him and was basically promised a job. After getting here, I went in to see him and he had no positions opened. Did that mean I'd made a big mistake and needed to turn around and run back home? No! It just meant that I had to pray for God to open up another door. I moved here in June and met Jon in December of that same year. Had I not moved here, Jon and I likely wouldn't have met and I would have missed out on meeting the man that God had specially designed to become my husband. Even had we met, Jon said that he would never have pursued me or tried to form a friendship if I had been living in Missouri while he was here in Oklahoma. Did I know when I moved here that I'd meet Jon and get married? No! In fact, I had given up on ever meeting the right man and getting married. But God knew where I needed to be and I had to take a huge leap of faith and leave my comfort zone behind.
Had I quit and not completed the climb to the top of the church tower in Germany, I would have always regretted it and missed out on seeing the beautiful sight of being able to see how Celle looked from up high. Had I not been willing to leave the comfort of Missouri and the security of a good job, I would have missed out on marrying an awesome man.
Sometimes we have to stop praying about it and start acting. We have to choose to step out in faith and see what lies ahead. We can miss out on some of God's most wonderful blessings by spending all our time praying and never doing anything about the desires that God places in our heart. He's not going to pick us up and move us Himself. God isn't going to force His will on us. We have to step out and take action. When we do, our knees may be shaky and we may feel queasy and wonder if we can do it, but if we persevere and keep going, the view from the top will be spectacular!! God just may amaze us with what lies before us!
It was a long story just getting to Celle. We were supposed to go a long time ago. But it kept getting delayed. For several months, we really expected to go in mid December. We were both excited about getting to see some of the Christmas displays, stores, and decorations. But the trip got delayed again. It got delayed again a few months later. Twice.
To be honest, I wasn't completely excited about traveling. It looked like it would be a good trip. But I really don't like long travel. And I wasn't entirely confident I could fix a few problems our customer was having.
But each time we got delayed, we decided to trust God that His timing was best, and that it would work out. When we finally did get there, and started exploring, most of the museums, some shops, and other events weren't open until the week before we got there. If we'd gone when we thought we should go, we would have missed out on quite a bit.
I want to point out, though, that we did get prepared to go. One time, we were even packed, had everything arranged, and got up early to head to the airport before we got the e-mail to tell us to cancel our flights. Our timing was wrong, but God took care of us, and set it right.
White Chocolate Truffle Cake
(I've made this and it is very good!)
3 cups cold milk
2 small packages of instant white chocolate pudding mix
1 prepared Angel Food Cake (I used a French Vanilla Cake Mix)
3 cups strawberries
Blueberries and/or raspberries
1 (12 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed
In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Cut the cake into 1-inch cubes. (I'm not a fan of Angel Food cake, so I baked a French Vanilla cake and used it and it turned out wonderful.) Place a third of the cake cubes in a trifle bowl or 3 1/2 quart serving bowl. Top with a third of the pudding, 1 cup of sliced strawberries, and 1 cup of blueberries and/or raspberries, and third of the Cool Whip. Repeat, making two more layers. Garnish with the berries. Serve immediately or cover and chill until serving.
** I didn't use the entire cake and ended up with probably a third of the cake left over. I also ended up making only 2 layers, instead of three. My sister made this using strawberries and blueberries. I did that, then used raspberries in with them on the top layer -- but could really take or leave the raspberries. You could just use strawberries, but adding the blueberries to it makes it pretty and really tasty. The layers of pudding and Cool Whip aren't very thick. My sister and I both agree that this is better either made the day before and letting it set, or making it early in the day and letting it set for several hours before serving. This is a light (not calorie-wise) dessert and good for summer.
I found this hint on cleaning fruit that is purchased in the store: Fill your sink with water and add 1 cup vinegar; mix. Add all fruit and soak for 10 minutes. Rinse off fruit and dry. Water will be dirty and fruit will sparkle with no wax or dirty film on it.
Admitting mistakes is not a fault; failing to correct them is.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon