"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!'"
April 25, 2018
We have four huge pecan trees in our yard; one right in front of our house and three in the back. Pecan trees lose their leaves later than some of the other variety of trees, generally not until November; but they are also one of the last to bud out in the spring. They also drop a lot of small limbs; some would probably refer to this as "self-pruning", but I refer to it as being a nuisance, due to having to pick them up before mowing most weeks.
When our trees are bare, the ones in the backyard don't look too bad. They are straight and tall with fairly nicely shaped branches. But the big pecan in our front yard is the opposite. When it is leafless, it is quite ugly. The branches are gnarly and twisted and misshapen. There's really not much beauty to be found when looking at it.
One of the large, long limbs used to go over the roof of our home, but our insurance told us that we needed to have it cut back; which really was wise. Other limbs have been broken off or trimmed or damaged over the years. And some of the branches are just how they grew.
Around mid-April we begin seeing buds form on the branches, and then see little bits of green begin to show up. Finally, in the first week or two of May the trees are fully leaved out and covered in green leaves. When that happens, a great transformation takes place. No longer do you see the bare, gnarly, ugly branches; but you see a beautiful tree, fully covered in bright, green leaves.
The thing is, this tree has a long history. I'm not sure what all it's history is, because I've only lived here for the past 12 years, 10 months. From what I've been told and pieced together, probably over 100 years ago, pecan saplings were planted here to begin a pecan grove. Then about 40-50 years later, plots of land apparently began to be sold off and people began building houses in this area. The house that we live in was built approximately in 1968, so this marks the 50th anniversary of our home being in existence. Jon's parents bought this house when it was only about a year or so old, and they owned it until we bought it from them in 2011 (we rented it from them beginning in 2005, if you're doing the math of how long I've lived here). Since we've moved here, we've had to have two huge pecan trees taken out of our backyard, due to the trunks rotting, and one taken out that was right beside of our home, due to it leaning towards the house. But thankfully, we have been able to keep the four trees that we have.
The tree in our front yard may not look very pretty when the leaves are gone, but it has survived when other trees around it have been cut down; it has survived storms; and it has remained healthy and strong. It has been a steadfast fixture by the front door of this home for 50 years. Prior to that, perhaps it had young boys climbing it or offered shade to weary travelers or workers who were walking by. It has gone from being a part of a pecan grove, to providing shade for a front yard and a stiff branch for a tire swing. It has a history... a story... and proudly remains standing, regardless of everything it has endured.
That tree is like many of us; and no, I'm not calling me or you ugly or gnarly or misshapen. But we may feel somewhat battered and beaten by life at times. We have weathered storms, endured life changes, as well as society and cultural changes, aged, felt like we've had people climbing and walking on us at times, and been pruned from time to time.
We've watched as some around us have been cut down and taken out, for various reasons. Some were taken because God called them home. Some were not as deeply rooted as they should have been, therefore, were able to withstand times of drought or troubles that arose. Others were hit by the storms of life, and allowed the damage to integrate into them to the point where they never recovered. Then there are those who have the potential to be strong, but there are a few dead places in their live that needs to be cut away, but they refuse to do anything about it, so their life is neither pretty nor great. They are a tree that has a lot of healthy green branches that leaf out and look great, but in the midst of them are a couple of dead branches that need to be pruned back, and the leaves on them are dead and brown.
But then there are those who are strong and tried and true. They may look worn and weary and battered and scarred due to everything that they've been through in life; in fact, to the world, they may seem unappealing and worthless. But when God looks at them, all He can see is the beauty. He knows what is underneath, what all that person has been through and what all they've survived; but when His blood, love, grace, and mercy cover them, what shows through is the strength and honor of that person.
Isaiah 61:3 is written about those who mourn in Zion (Israel), but I believe that the promises for them is the same promise for us to day. "He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory."
On our family property in Missouri, we have a lot of oak trees. Sitting to the side of the house where I grew up are two large oaks. They, too, are strong trees that have been around for many, many years and have survived much.
When life is difficult, we have the promise that God will give us beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. If we remain faithful in our righteousness, we will be like great, mighty, strong trees that the Lord has planted for His glory. I like that! We don't have to be weak saplings with a shallow root system that is tossed about with every storm that comes, not knowing whether or not we'll survive. We can be like those strong oaks or pecans that stand the test of time and have a history; that endure and are planted for the glory of God.
One of Loretta's sister's grandkids saw our bare pecan trees with all those other kinds of trees already filled out, and they said our trees were dead.
They did look dead. Even now, they are only barely starting to bud out. You really need to look closely to see tiny buds on the smaller trees.
But deep inside the trees, they are all flowing with sap, and new life. They are growing stronger, and preparing for a good summer.
The point is that it usually isn't possible to see what lies below the surface, and what is soon to come. We only know because we've seen the same trees do the same pattern year after year.
Aunt Ruth's Punch
2 packages strawberry Kool-Aid
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 large can pineapple juice
1 (2 liter) Mountain Dew
2 large juice cans of water
Mix all ingredients together. Can be refrigerated or put in containers and put in the freezer to make slushy (my favorite!).
A friend reposted this on Facebook from Gods411:
Science says that we need at least 4 basic elements to survive: water, air, food, light
Look what the Bible tells us about Jesus:
I am the Living Water
I am the Breath of Life
I am the Bread of Life
I am the Light of the World
Science was right, we need Jesus to live!
"For broken dreams the cure is, dream again and deeper." - C.S. Lewis
We love you!
Loretta & Jon