"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

February 26, 2014


In July of 2011, Jon traveled to Brazil to work for three weeks. One of the weekends that he was there one of the Brazilian men, whom he was working with, took Jon and a couple other Americans, who were also there working on the same project, to Rio de Janeiro for sightseeing. While in Rio, they got to go to the famous Copacabana Beach. One morning, along the beach was booth after booth of vendors selling various goods.

Jon found an old man who had hand-crafted some Macaw birds, and he bought one to bring home to me. We both thought that the bird had been carved out of some type of lightweight wood and brightly painted to resemble the Macaw. The bird was also a little mouth flute. You blow into the tail, and there are holes in the sides of the bird and as you put your fingers over the various holes it makes different pitches in sound.

For some reason, Jon and I have ended up collecting little animal figurines from our travels. We have some from Singapore, Germany, Brazil -- and even a hand-carved bird from the great state of Tennessee. We always want to get something as a keepsake, and hand-carved animals seem to be what we always find.

In our dining room I have a shelf that has some of those animal figurines on it. A while back, I woke up around 4:45 AM and was unable to fall back to sleep. I didn't want to wake Jon up, so tried to quietly slip downstairs. I was walking around the living room and had turned our fireplace on, and then needed to use the bathroom. I hadn't turned any lights on, and when I walked through the dining room I knocked that shelf off the wall. It came crashing to the floor and woke our dog up, which woke Jon up. So much for being quiet!

I was picking up the animals, that had been sitting on the shelf, and was surprised to see the Macaw bird laying in two pieces. I thought, "How could a wooden bird break in half?!" The next morning I looked at it closer and was shocked to see that it was not wood, as both Jon and I had thought for the past three years, but it was made out of some type of red clay. The bird was maybe an eighth of an inch thick, and then hollow on the inside. The good news is, the break was clean and we will be able to glue the bird back together.

If the bird had never been broken, we would have spent the rest of our lives thinking that it was carved out of wood. There was no reason to think otherwise. Only after being broken did we see that it was much different than it appeared.

We all have gone through, or will likely go through, some type of difficult situation at some point in our lifetime. I have heard people look at others who are going through a hard circumstance and comment that they'd never be able to handle something like that. The thing is, none of us know what we are capable of until we are forced to walk through a deep valley. It's only when we are broken that what's inside our heart is revealed.

There are those who, from outward appearance, seem to be strong and have it all together. But when they are put to the test, they fall apart and you see a completely different side of them. They may allow their circumstance to make them bitter, hateful, negative, or just downright mean. From all outward appearance they may have seemed to have been a good christian, but when their heart is revealed, you see an inside that is hollow and ugly. They may blame God for their trial, and may even curse Him. Their reaction is so unexpected, that it often causes a lot of hurt to their family and those who know them. And it does harm to the individual that is being tested.

People can generally only put up a good front for so long. As long as they are being blessed and life is good, then they can slide along and smile and act happy. But at some point, what's truly in the heart will be revealed. They will say or do something that will usually end up hurting those who love them.

Supposedly happy people have crumbled and made unwise decisions regarding health issues, marriage, career changes, finances, etc. There comes a time when they can no longer keep up the facade that they've shown to the world, and they do things that hurt others, as well as themselves. The truth of the heart will eventually be revealed, one way or another. It may be through hardships, trials, testing, or just everyday life in general.

On the other hand, there may be those who appear weak and who would be unable to cope should life throw them a curve-ball. Not necessarily weak as being spineless or a wimp; but perhaps they are just quieter and more reserved, or seem to depend on the help of others more than some, or it may just be that no one has really ever seen them respond to a crisis and think of them as being dependent on others. But when adversity does happen, you see an inner strength revealed that is surprising. All of a sudden, they are making wise decisions and being strong and handling their tough situation like a true warrior. People are encouraged by the peace that emanates from such an individual. A whole unseen side of them is observed that had never been noticed before.

I'm not sure that any of us truly know how we will handle tough situations, until we are faced with them. We don't know how we will stand the heat of the fire, until we're thrown into the furnace -- so to speak. We may think that we would be strong and able to keep the faith, but until we actually go through trials, we really don't know. Perhaps that's why it's often easy to judge others who deal with adverse situations differently than we think we would, or think they should. We have an ideal picture in our mind of how things should be dealt with; but until we're the ones who are being tested, then we really don't have a true understand of what our response would be.

Matthew 12:34 tells us, "For whatever is in your heart determines what you say." Another version words it, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Whatever has been stored up in our heart is what is going to come out of our mouth.

At times it's easy to act holy when in church or to be good when we're out in public; but what are we really like in our home? What are our hidden thoughts and secrets and struggles that we battle, that perhaps no one even sees or knows about? When we are taken through dark valleys and have difficulties to deal with, what is going to be revealed from our heart? Will our words and response be hate-filled, angry, and bitter; or will they be full of faith and love?

In Luke 16:15, Jesus had been talking to the Pharisees. He told them that if they were faithful in little things, then they would be faithful in large ones. If they were dishonest in little things, then they wouldn't be honest with greater responsibilities. Jesus went on to tell them that they couldn't serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. The Pharisees didn't like the message the Jesus was preaching to them and scoffed. Jesus then said, "You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your heart."

Nothing is hidden from God. He knows our every thought. God also knows our every struggle and the areas in which we are tempted. He knows our failures and weaknesses. We don't have to try to carry our burden alone; or try to deal with our struggles and weaknesses by ourselves; or try to be strong in our own power and might. God is merciful and full of grace and is a very present help in time of our need. Whether our need is a trial, temptation, struggle, etc., God can help us be victorious, and give us the needed strength to persevere and overcome.

James 1:12 says, "God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."

So what's inside our heart? If we were to be broken through testing or trials or temptations, what would our heart look like? Would we be strong in our faith or would we curse God and turn our back on Him? Would we walk through the valley while keeping our focus on Jesus, or would we allow our circumstance to overwhelm us and become bigger than God? Is our heart full of good treasures, or is it empty and hollow?

A good guide that we can go by is how we respond to everyday situations. When someone does something we don't like or that offends us do we immediately become angry and spout off hateful words, not caring who hears or if we in turn hurt someone's feelings? When we get an unexpected bill in the mail or we get a notice from the bank of an overdraft, do we immediately get mad or start fretting about finances? When someone says something about us or a family member that we don't like, do we immediately go on the defense and start spouting off our mouth? Do we become critical or judgmental of others; especially if we think that someone may possibly be critical or judgmental of us? Do we hear the whole story and find out details before jumping to conclusions -- and telling others? Do we tend to be negative and critical in our everyday words and thoughts? Do we get upset with God when every prayer isn't answered as we think it should be? If so, then when we're tested, more than likely we will have those same type of responses.

But if we trust God and respond in love and faith on a daily basis; if we're able to hold our tongue and speak positively and with kindness; if we listen before responding; pray before jumping to conclusions; and the list could go on...... then that is likely how we'll respond when faced with adversities. I admit that more times than not, I tend to respond more like the last paragraph than this one, and I need to allow God to do a whole lot of work on my heart!

I often turn to Psalm 139, for I know that I often falter and fail and allow worldly thoughts and attitudes to fill my heart and mind. There are times when I feel like I'm a mess! But this Psalm reminds me that God is always present, and that He can clean my heart and forgive my sins. Some of the verses in that Psalm are:

(New Living Translation) "Oh Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I'm far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand. I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away for your presence! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there.........

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous -- how well I know it...... You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day passed. How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, You are still with me......

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life."

Another prayer I like is from Psalm 51:7-12: "Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; You have broken me -- now let me rejoice. Don't keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal (or a right) spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence, and don't take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of my salvation, and make me willing to obey you."

I don't want my heart to be empty and hollow. I don't want to look one way outwardly to others, but have a heart that God sees as being completely different from what I'm displaying to the world. I want to be real and genuine and be the same both outwardly and inwardly. I want God to fill my heart with good things, and those be the things that everyone sees in me.


When I think about what is hidden under the surface, I usually think of variety chocolates. Or, maybe that's because Loretta got me some variety chocolates for Valentine's. Fortunately all the ones she gave me are good--no sour cherries or overpowering raspberries.

We're fortunate that the bird can be repaired after it's been broken open, and what's inside was revealed. With chocolates, once you taste the inside, it's gone. You might learn that the one with the squiggles on top aren't so good. But the one you ate is broken, and gone. Even if you taste half, no one would want to share the other half.

The scripture says that He will spit out the lukewarm. Don't be the lukewarm chocolate with the unpleasant center.

[It's been a long day. I'm tired. Does it show?]


Smothered Steak

2 lbs. Round Steak

1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 Tbsp. Oil

1 can Water

Salt and Pepper

1/2 c. Onion, chopped

Flour (to dredge meat)

Tenderize meat, if needed. Cut mean into strips. Mix flour, salt and pepper together; roll meat in flour mixture. Heat oil in skillet, then brown the meat. (You may need to add more oil to skillet and brown the meat in batches.) Take the meat out and place in oven dish or crock-pot. Leave the oil and drippings in skillet to make a gravy. Put onions in pan and cook a few minutes to soften; add mushroom soup and water; stir to mix together to make a gravy. Bring to a boil and pour over meat. Bake in 350 oven until the meat absorbs most of the gravy and is tender, about 1 hour or a little longer. Or cook in crock-pot for 2-3 hours. Serve over mashed potatoes or over cooked egg noodles.


I like it when I find products that actually work well. One of the best spot removers that I've ever found it Grandma's Secret Spot Remover. I have used it on various things and it works really well. It is touted to remove oil, grease, paint, make-up, blood, ink, wine, coffee..... I have not tried it on all those things, but the things that I have tried it on, it has taken the stain out. I bought mine at Hobby Lobby (in the fabric department), but I have found it online and it shows that you can buy it at Walmart, Amazon, and various fabric stores. If you need a good spot remover, I would recommend that you try this product.


Every weakness you have is an opportunity for God to show His strength in your life. - unknown

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9


We love you!

Loretta & Jon