"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!'"
August 5, 2015
I love planning trips and vacations! Let me clarify: I would not want to work as a travel agent and plan trips for other people, but I do like planning trips for myself and whoever may be traveling with me (which is always either Jon or my sister, Janie). Janie, Jon, and I all three enjoy seeing and doing the same types of activities when traveling, so I know what to look for when planning a trip. Honestly, I can spend hours scouting out routes and towns and interesting things to see and do.
Janie and I are currently on a trip together. She is interpreting for the deaf at the General Council of the Assemblies of God in Orlando, Florida this week, and Devin (her son) and I made the trip with her. We came to this same destination two years ago. We left a few days early so that we could take our time and sightsee on the way to Orlando. We're always anxious to get back home, so don't make as many stops.
Neither Jon nor Janie are as much of a planner as I am. Therefore, I spend time looking at possible routes, and what we could do, and how much time it would take between destinations to see if it's feasible, etc. Even after I think I have it all planned out, I keep looking and making changes, trying to find the best routes and interesting/fun things to do along the way. (I'm actually writing this newsletter prior to Janie, Devin, and I leaving on our trip, so cannot yet tell you if I was successful on planning a really fun trip for the three of us this time or not!)
Generally, I am usually pretty successful when planning vacations and trips. But there have been occasions when things didn't work quite as well as I had hoped. We don't always make nightly reservations ahead of time, in order to allow us more flexibility to make detours and stops and changes, should we see something we really want to do. That has caused problems a couple of times, but for the most part, works out fine.
A few years ago during the fall season, Jon and I decided to take the Talimena Scenic Drive. Our plan was to take our time, stop at a hotel for the night, then come home the next day. We got to the end of the scenic drive and the town at the other end had no vacancies due to a motorcycle rally. We drove to the next town and they were having a big hot air balloon festival so there was not a room anywhere to be found there, as well as nothing available in any of the surrounding towns. We ended up driving all the way back home, arriving really, really late.
Last year, Janie and I went to the International Deaf Conference in San Jose, California. We had a route somewhat planned before leaving home, but changed it a few times along the way. We decided since we were within driving distance of the Grand Canyon that it would be a shame not to at least drive and see a small portion of it. Then since we went there, we were close to Hoover Dam, so decided we should go there, also. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing both places and were so glad we made the stops. But then we ran into a difigalty (not sure you'd find that word in a dictionary!).
Since Hoover Dam is in Nevada, we decided that we would go north across the state and then cut across to California. Our plan was to go to Yosemite National Park the following day, so headed that direction. We left Hoover Dam at dusk and we thought we'd drive a couple hours and then stop for the night. Have you ever been across Nevada?? We could find NO towns whatsoever in which to stop! We drove and we drove and we drove and we drove. There were no signs indicating any towns -- anywhere -- and we didn't even see any lights in any direction. We finally saw lights on the horizon and thought perhaps we had finally hit the jackpot. That was not to be! It was a truck stop, with a strip of rooms behind advertising....umm.... prostitutes. There were lights by each door indicating if the room was available or not. It was creepy!! We pulled over long enough to change drivers, then got out of there as fast as we could. FINALLY, we found a town and an empty motel room! Driving through the state at night in complete blackness, we had thought it was the most barren, flat, ugly place ever. The next morning when we walked out of the motel room in the daylight, we were so shocked to see that the town was surrounded by mountains and it was beautiful!
Life is often compared to a journey. Sometimes we have unexpected blessings that fall into our path and we are pleasantly surprised. Other times, things can happen along the way that is difficult and not to our liking. We can plan and plan our future, but it doesn't always turn out as we would want; sometimes it's better than we ever dreamed, and other times it's much worse than we could have ever imagined.
The journey we travel through life contains many different terrains. Sometimes it's as if we're climbing a mountain. We become so weary from the climb that it feels like we're not going to make it. It seems insurmountable and impossible to ever get to the top; and it may feel as if danger surrounds us on every side. But when we finally do reach the top, we see the beauty and majesty of God surrounding us.
Other times we may be going through a valley. In Psalm 23, David refers to it as walking through the valley of death. A valley is a low area surrounded by hills or mountains, which can make it appear to be shadowed and dark. We may feel like we're in a situation where there is absolutely no way out. But a valley typically has a river or stream running through it, so while there, God does provide nourishment for our soul.
There may be times when it feels as if life is like a desert. It is barren and dry and seems endless. The sun beats down and all you see is endlessness going on and on and on. Last summer when driving back from California, Janie and I drove through the Mojave Desert. We didn't plan it and didn't go there because we wanted to; it just happened to be where the interstate went through. It seemed as if we were never going to get through it! There wasn't anything to see or do, the heat was excessive, and the straight road went on and on and on...... But finally, we came to the end and the scenery almost immediately changed. When we walk through the dry, barren, hot, seemingly endless deserts in our life it can feel as if we're walking in circles and it will never come to an end. But it will! God will bring us to the other side and provide an oasis for us.
Then life's journey contains those green pastures where there is shade, plentiful water, and blessings abounding all around. I love those places best; as I'm sure we all do. That is where God brings us to restore our soul after going through difficult times. That's where we find rest and restoration. But that's not where we grow and mature spiritually; that happens when we're climbing the mountain, going through the valley, or struggling through the dry desert. So God doesn't allow us to stay and live in the green pastures of blessing and abundance or we would become dependent upon ourselves, feel as if we could handle life on our own, and stop trusting Him.
Wherever you may find yourself on life's journey, know that God is with you. He has never, and will never, leave or forsake you. Trust Him to bring you through life's hard times, then rejoice and rest in Him during life's good times.
Imagine if Loretta had given up on their way across Nevada, when they encountered the brothel, and had gone back to the town they'd passed several hours earlier. Or gave up and turned back several hours into the Mojave Desert, and turned around. Either time, they might have turned around just a few minutes before they reached the end.
Either time, they would have had to make the same trek the next day, and would have noticed how close they got to the other side before turning around. When we give up on life decisions or dedication to our faith or some other path we're on, we usually don't get to look over the path again, and see what would have been.
Loretta and Janie did prepare for their trip by getting gas. But they didn't know ahead of time how long the journey would be. The trip was on a highway, so they could be certain it would lead them to a town eventually. In the same way, when God sets us down some path we aren't familiar with, yet, we should prepare as much as we know how to. And we can trust that the path does have an end, if we will just stick it out.
1 package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
Soften cream cheese. Mix all ingredients together. Serve with fresh fruit.
Once upon a time, I lived in a very old, faded blue and white, dilapidated, tiny mobile home -- true story. Most would probably have looked at it and thought that it should have been uninhabitable -- also a true story. The front door would only lock from the inside (a lot of people in the area didn't lock their homes at that time, and I had nothing of value to steal back then anyway), and the back door had a screen door that had a hook lock on it, but the actual door had no lock. Actually, I don't know if they could be called front and back doors, for they were both on the same side of the trailer. One door was in the living room and the other in the bedroom.
Anyhow, one night I came home after dark and reach inside to turn my living room light on. It would not turn on when I flipped the switch! Have you ever had that feeling that someone is close by, but you can't see them? That is how I felt. It about scared my socks off! I backed out the door, asked if anyone was there, and prepared to run.... then I heard laughter. My two oldest nephews had decided that they wanted to spend the night with me, so their parents had dropped them off, unknown to me. They got this bright idea that it would be really funny to unscrew the light in my living room so that it wouldn't come on when I walked in and flipped the switch. It is funny now -- but at the time, I wanted to spank them!!
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise His holy name.
For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:4,5 NTL)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon