"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 26, 2015
There is an old saying about "best laid plans of mice and men" (I looked it up and it's a line from a poem by Robert Burns -- plus all I could remember were the first three words); meaning that no matter how carefully we plan something, it can go awry. Sometimes we can plan something down to the last detail, yet it doesn't always work out as we had hoped.
In life we can make plans, whether it be for the future or something in the present, and we usually have to adapt and change directions. Often it is because what God has planned for us is not what we had planned. Sometimes it's because we didn't plan well in advance; while other times, circumstances arise that we have to adapt to.
On the recent trip that Janie, Devin, and I took to Florida we ran into this on our way home. We left Orlando early on a Saturday morning to head back to Oklahoma. Our plan was to drive to Gulfport, MS and spend the night. There was no particular reason for this destination, other than there was a plantation in Louisiana that we wanted to tour on our way home and this would put us within two-and-a-half hours from our desired location. We had stopped several times throughout the day for various things, and reached Gulfport around 8:00 or so that evening. We were tired after a full day of driving and ready to stop and rest for the night.
We saw what looked like the major exit that would lead to an outlet mall (where we wanted to walk around and do a little shopping), plus several hotels. We stopped at a hotel and Janie went in to check on a room, only to find that it was more expensive than we could afford. We drove on down the street to the outlet mall, and looked up other hotels on our phones and called to try to get a reservation. There were no rooms available, that we could find. So we went into one of the stores and walked around for a little while, then hit the road again, hoping to find a room in the next town.
The problem was, there were no towns along that stretch of interstate that were big enough to have a hotel. By this time, it was dark and had started to rain off and on. I was driving and don't like to drive on dark, wet roads; but then, neither does Janie. We drove about another hour before reaching a suburb of New Orleans. We kept seeing billboards advertising hotels and restaurants, so were pretty sure we'd be able to find a room. Prior to getting to that town, the interstate branched off in 3-4 different directions. There was major road construction taking place on the road that I had to take; and they were working on it at night. There were a couple of police cars sitting there with their lights flashing. The road kept going back and forth across the different lanes and were marked by cement barriers and orange barrels. But the original road had white reflectors dividing the lanes, but since the single lane road now crossed back and forth, those reflectors were useless. I was the first car in line, so had no taillights to follow. Between the wet highway, those white reflectors in a random pattern across the road, the blue lights from the police cars flashing and reflecting on the highway, I could barely make out where I was supposed to drive. To be honest, it was scary for both Janie and myself!! But finally, we made it through and found a hotel for the night. A major thunderstorm was blowing in by the time we got checked in. But we were able to get inside without getting too wet or windblown. The good news was, we were only about an hour and a half from the plantation the next morning, so didn't have as far to drive.
Honestly, this situation was lack of planning on our part. We had traveled our entire trip with no problem getting a room when needed. Our route wasn't particularly out and we played it by ear as we went, both on the drive to Orlando and then on the way home. We had assumed that finding a hotel when we needed one would not be a problem. But we had to change our plans and adapt to something different than what we had originally mapped out, due to taking for granted that we would be able to find a room when needed.
Life can be like this at times. We may not have our days planned out in detail, but we have a general idea of where we want to go in life and what we expect to happen. But there may be times when we get to a particular destination, only to find that we have to change locations and adapt to something different.
There may be times when we have to change directions, the road looks treacherous and we're not sure which way it's going, and there are distractions hindering us from seeing clearly; but if we will persevere and keep going, the end will eventually come and smoother paths will lie ahead. It's not necessarily always easier paths that lie ahead, but it does smooth out and we know that we are safe.
My father-in-law has been in the Alzheimers unit in a nursing home since February. This is not the journey that he and my mother-in-law had mapped out for themselves. They had owned their own business for many years, and had plans for their retirement years. Shortly after retirement, they bought a house and were excited about fixing it up to their taste and liking; which they were mostly able to do. They had plans to possibly travel and visit their daughter and her family in Houston more often; or perhaps visit various other places. Following retirement, they would go to the park and walk and feed the ducks daily, weather permitting. They walked to go out to eat, walked to go get ice cream, walked to their postal mailbox to get mail, and were out and about enjoying their days. Even after my father-in-law started having noticeable issues, they were still able to continue doing things together for quite some time.
But then the day came when my father-in-law's health declined to the point that he needed full-time nursing care that my mother-in-law was unable to give him. With the support of Jon and me, as well as Jon's siblings, my mother-in-law made the difficult decision that the time had come that he had to have care and constant 24/7 supervision that couldn't be given at home. What was supposed to be my in-laws "golden years" changed and they had to adapt and change directions in their journey. My father-in-law has had to adapt to being in a place where he doesn't want to be; and because of the Alzheimers, he doesn't understand why he has to be there, because often in his mind, there is nothing wrong. My mother-in-law has to adapt to living alone, now has to make all the decisions on her own, and doesn't have her husband there with her at home to enjoy day to day life with.
They had retirement mapped out on their journey as a goal and destination to reach; then they'd see where the Lord led them, thinking it would be together and they'd spend the rest of their lives enjoying the companionship of walking a new path side by side following retirement. But that's not what happened.
One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11. (NLT) "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
I also like the promise in Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT). "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take."
When I was growing up, I had dreams of being married and having a family. I always had thought that I'd have my own babies, raise them to be (hopefully) godly, responsible adults who would find godly spouses, and then I'd be a grandma one day. But that's not the plan that God had for me. Honestly, there were many years when I felt like something was wrong with me or I must have done something to lose God's favor, because He didn't answer my prayers to that end. And truthfully, I wasted a lot of years "waiting" for the right man to come along, that I should have used more wisely and enjoyed more; instead of frittering away time twiddling my thumbs and wanting something that I didn't have.
That wasn't the plan that God had for me. He had a much different path than I had envisioned as a young lady. God didn't bring Jon and me together until I was 38 years old, and we didn't get married until two weeks before my 40th birthday. I didn't have babies and won't have grandkids. But that doesn't mean that God messed up or didn't love me or was punishing me for something. His ways were just beyond what I had imagined or thought. Different doesn't necessarily mean worse. Jon and I have been blessed in other ways that has exceeded our every expectation or dreams.
Trusting God with all of our heart doesn't mean that we always get our way and that life is perfect. But it does mean that God will give us a future and a hope.
Even though my dad is in a place he doesn't like, he did agree to go, and agreed at one time that it was the right choice. He doesn't remember that, now. But it's still the right place for him.
None of us like that he has to be in the nursing home. But we also see that he is in a place where he can help others. He has witnessed to other residents, has helped several of them adjust to their new lives, and has helped others from time to time. He is there for his own needs, but he is also there to help others, and serve God in a way he never would have imagined.
Easy Tortilla Soup
1 quart chicken broth
1 can Rotel
Pour the chicken broth in a large saucepan; add the can of Rotel tomatoes. Put the chicken in with the broth mixture. (Note: I've used a couple cans of canned chicken several times. My favorite is to buy a rotisserie chicken in the deli and debone it. Or if you want, you can cook the chicken yourself and use that. Whatever you do, it will be fine.) Add the corn. (Another note: I usually always use frozen corn and just dump some in. If using canned corn, drain the juice off first.) Cook the ingredients together until it gets hot and the flavors have enough time to mix; probably approximately 20-30 minutes. Turn the heat off and add in a chunk of Velveeta cheese that has been cut up (so it will melt quicker and easier); stir a couple times so the cheese will melt into the juices. Serve with crushes tortilla chips over the top of each individual dish. You can also add a dollop of sour cream to the top of each bowl, if desired. The ingredients can be adjusted according to how much you want to make. Leftovers reheat well.
The difference between two of my niece's kids:
Jax (worried about first grade and if he'll have friends): "If there's a bully, I'll just walk away."
Jemma (who will be in kindergarten -- with her sassy attitude): "No-o. If there's a bully, I'll just stand there and make THEM walk away!"
"A person's everyday life speaks louder than 1,000 sermons." - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon