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

January 28, 2015

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

In life, there are tough situations that individuals go through that they never anticipated or thought they'd ever have to deal with. Many times, I've heard outsiders look at those situations and comment, "I could never do that!" The things that they see others dealing with looks impossible or too difficult to handle. But I've learned, that when we're faced with those difficulties, most of us find the strength to do things we never thought possible.

This past week has been a particularly difficult one for my husband's family. My father-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimers a couple of years ago, and recently he has suffered a swift decline. My mother-in-law had to make the difficult decision to move him to a nursing home. She realized that the most loving thing she could do for him was to get him the full-time professional care that he needed. During the process of making that decision, finding the right place, and getting all the paperwork filled out and processed, there were several days of him needing someone with him 24 hours a day. He seemed to be getting his days and nights mixed up and was growing more and more confused, and less able to do things for himself. It's growing more and more difficult for him to process his thoughts and find which words to use.

My mother-in-law was exhausted and stressed, so Jon and I went Saturday and Monday nights to spend the night with them so she could go upstairs and get a full night of sleep, while we stayed downstairs and cared for Jon's dad. Then Sunday night, Jon's brother spent the night to care for him. Jon and his brother had to do things to care for their dad that they never thought they would have to do.

I wasn't there Sunday night, so I can't speak for what Jon's brother had to do, but I do know what Jon had to deal with the two nights we were there. It was heartbreaking to watch my husband have to help his dad do very basic things; but also very heartbreaking to see my father-in-law's confusion. This is a man who was a mechanical engineer for many years, who owned his own business designing and building custom machines for customers. He was an extremely smart man and very inventive. Throughout both nights I listened and observed my sweet husband care for his dad with such incredible patience and love.

My mind began to go back and reminisce about the very personal care my sisters gave my mom back in the early 1980's. Mama had colon cancer and had a colostomy. I was 15 when she passed away, which meant my four sisters ranged between 20 and 29 in ages. When my mom was bedfast, my sisters had to daily irrigate her colostomy. That was not a pleasant job, but something that had to be done each morning. Out of their love for Mama, my sisters put aside their personal aversions and thoughts of what they thought they could or couldn't handle, and did it anyway. It was a stinky, smelly job, but they managed to do it. Being the youngest, I didn't have the responsibility of caring for Mama, like my older sisters did. Before she became completely bedfast, they and my dad had to help her to the bathroom and take care of her. It is only as I've matured that I've realized what this required of them and how difficult it must have been.

Before my brother-in-law's death from a brain tumor, he required 24/7 care. My sister, her kids, Jon and I did things for him that none of us ever thought we could do. It required us setting aside our inhibitions and do what needed to be done, in order to assure that all his needs were met. Little did Jon and I know at that time that it was preparation for the care his dad would need two-and-a-half years later.

A scripture that has been on my heart the past few days is John 15:12-13 (NLT), which says, "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."

I think we often read these verses and think this means that the greatest way we can love someone is to be willing to die for them. The truth is, most of us will never be required to lay down our own life for someone else. Whew! That lets us off the hook; right?! No, it doesn't.

I think that loving others the same way that Jesus loved us and laid down His life for us may not necessarily mean dying a physical death on someone's behalf. Instead, I truly believe that it means us laying down our own life for someone by giving up our time, personal agenda, and inhibitions; and showing love by doing what we could never do in our own strength for someone else. It means we may have to put our personal life and desires and pleasures on hold for a period of time, in order to give of ourselves to someone else. It means not being selfish, but putting others first.

I think the purest form of love, that we can show another individual, is to make the tough decisions and choices in order to do what's best for them; regardless of what others may say or think, or what we may or may not want to do -- or what we think we can or cannot do. It may require wiping a parent's bottom when they can't do it for themselves, or changing their Depends. It may require us taking their hand to reassure them or walking slowly beside them when their balance is off or helping them in and out of bed. It may be us making the decision to give them the professional care they truly need and put them in a nursing home, when we can no longer give them what they require. It may be spoon feeding them when they can't do it for themselves, and wiping the food off their face afterwards. It may be washing urine-soaked clothes and sheets. It may be irrigating their colostomy. It may be putting our plans or activities on hold, in order to go spend time helping a parent or family member.

Genuine love isn't just for those days or during those years when life is fun and everyone is healthy and everything is going smoothly; but it's shown in it's purest form when we have to do those things we don't want to do or think that we don't have the stomach for, regardless of how stinky or dirty it may be. It's making the ones we're caring for feel secure and loved. It's setting aside our pride and personal agenda and putting someone else above ourselves. It may require us being exhausted and wondering how we're going to get through another day. But someway, somehow God gives us what we need for each moment of each day.

Jesus loved us when we were dirty and stinky and not at our most lovable. He didn't turn up His nose at us because we were sin-sick. He didn't say, "I'll love you and hug you and care for you when you're healthy and clean and can take care of yourself." Instead, Jesus loved us regardless of our situation and did for us those things that we could not do for ourselves. He showed us the most ultimate love by laying His life down for us when we couldn't help ourselves and were fragile and lost. He loves us those times when we may be cranky and whiny and irritable and not at our most lovable.

When both of my parents passed away, one thing I can honestly say is that I had no regrets over my relationship with them. I knew without a doubt that they loved me, and knew that they knew that I loved them. Everything that needed to be said, had been said. Everything that needed to be done, had been done. When they were gone, one thing I have never said or thought is, "I regret......" in regards to my relationship with them or things I wish I had done differently.

If you have a family member or friend whose health is failing, I strongly encourage you to search your heart and see if you need to have a heart to heart with them, or need to help them, or whatever it may be. Don't let their life on this earth pass by, then after they're gone, you go through the remainder of your life with regrets over something you should have said or done while they were here.

Take John 15:12-13 to heart and love others like Jesus has loved you. There is no greater joy than to experience both the receiving and giving end of genuine, perfect love. Be willing to give that "greater love". It may seem too difficult at times, but it is well worth your time and effort. Accept that greater love from Jesus, then He will equip and help you to show that type of love to others.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I never would have wanted to help take care of my own dad. I do it because it's needed. But as much as I'd rather not help, I know Dad would never have wanted to need the help, either. I don't usually like to look at things from the other person's point of view. Mostly because I end up doing things I wouldn't want to do otherwise. But I'm glad I helped with my brother-in-law years ago, and I'm glad I'm able to help my parents now. It was very gratifying to hear Mom snoring away for two nights.

ON THE MENEWE:

The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever

Cake:

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 Tablespoons (heaping) cocoa

2 sticks butter

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 whole beaten eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together. Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat.

Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture.

Pour into sheet pan (18x13 pan) and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Frosting:

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1-3/4 sticks butter

4 Tablespoons (heaping) cocoa

6 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pound (minus 1/2 cup) powdered sugar

While cake is baking, make the frosting. Chop pecans finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the pecans; stir. Pour frosting over the warm cake and spread evenly.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

This is a conversation that happened recently between my niece, Janee', and her 5 year old son, Jax; who just happened to have a loose front tooth at the time:

Jax: "What if I lose my tooth?"

Janee': "I'm going to tell you something... I'm really the tooth fairy. Even if you lose it, I'll still give you a dollar."

Jax: "Really!?! You can fly? I thought the tooth fairy was small, but I guess you can grow or shrink."

That didn't go quite like Janee' had planned!!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Love never gives up, never loses faith,

is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. - 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

http://www.graysheep.org