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

August 1, 2007

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

I have heard it said that when you are doing something that is God's will, you will not encounter any obstacles or problems. The reasoning behind this thinking is that when everything goes smoothly, then that is God's stamp of approval. When problems arise, then that should be our indication that what we are doing is wrong and we need to change directions. While that may be true at times, other times it may be that we are just dealing with life situations, and not everything in life is easy.

I do believe that God opens and shuts doors for us. Yet on the other hand, the Bible speaks of us enduring hardships* and going through trials**. Not every conflict or difficulty we face is an indication that what we're doing is wrong. Also, just because things are going well for us doesn't mean that what we're doing is right.

Jon and I became engaged in February and set our wedding date for June 2005. I knew exactly what I wanted for our wedding and the plans came together perfectly. We didn't have a large wedding, but I had everything planned down to the last detail. I found everything that I wanted, in the colors that I wanted. We planned the whole ceremony; who was going to do what, when they were going to do it, where they were going to stand, etc. It was amazing how smoothly everything was falling into place, up until two weeks before the wedding. From then until the day before the ceremony, when we left for Arkansas where the wedding was taking place, it seemed as if we just kept getting bombarded with things.

I had decided to rent my wedding dress instead of buying it. My dad and June were paying for that expense, and my sister who lived close to where the wedding was being held, found a bridal place where the dress rental was very inexpensive. I had gone and picked out a dress and was measured. I was told that they would place the order, and have it three weeks prior to the wedding and I could go pick it up at that time. I kept calling the store to see if the dress was in, and had left several voice messages because no one would answer the phone. Finally, the owner returned my call and informed me that she was not going to be able to get the dress that I had ordered. She told me that I could come pick out another dress and she would order it for me. I explained that my wedding was in two weeks and I didn't have time to order another dress. I told her that I was coming on Saturday and wanted my money back. She told me that I had to find another dress because she couldn't refund my money.

My sister and niece, who live here in Oklahoma, made the drive with me. We arrived at the store, and the door was opened and all the lights on, but no one was there. They had one dress in stock that was close to my size, so while we were waiting I tried it on. It was too big (imagine that!) in places and needed altered, but we decided that it would work. Finally my sister walked next door to a laundromat, and the owner was over there visiting. My sister knew I was very frustrated, and by the time it was all said and done, she had talked the lady into throwing in a veil, headpiece, and jewelry for free. I had to make a trip back up the week before the wedding to try on the dress to make sure the alterations were correct. The owner had done the worst job of altering imaginable! You could see the thread from where she had hemmed up the length on the outside of the fabric, and the stitches were very uneven and just horrible. She had altered one shoulder, but not the other. I was about to cry and knew I had ran out of options, so took the dress anyway. I dropped it off at my dad's house and that week one of my sisters went over and redid it.

In addition to all that, Jon and I were also facing opposition. We knew that God had brought us together. We loved one another and knew without a doubt that we were the right mate for each other, but there were some outside forces that we were having to deal with. Because of that, we were uncertain whether or not we were going to be able to proceed with the wedding we had dreamed of having. Two nights before our wedding an incident took place that was just about the last straw. We were supposed to head out the next morning to decorate the church, and have rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. What should have been one of the happiest weeks of our life was filled with stress and frustrations and tears (well, I cried...I'm not sure about Jon).

I told Jon, and also one of my sisters, that I was ready to elope. And we seriously considered it! I knew that Jon was the man that God wanted me to spend my life with, and one way or another we were going to be married. Jon and I discussed eloping, but knew in our hearts that we really did want to have a ceremony with our family and friends there to celebrate with us. We knew that there is a difference between a wedding and a marriage. A wedding ceremony will only last a few short moments in time, but the marriage is for a lifetime. Even though our focus was on our marriage, it was important for us to start our lives together with the blessing and attendance of the people who meant so much to us.

Our wedding ended up being absolutely perfect!! Neither of us can think of anything that we would have changed or done differently. We are so thankful that we didn't let our emotions and frustrations take over and keep us from the wedding that we had dreamed of and planned. God worked out our situation and smoothed the way for us.

The first fifteen months of our marriage was not easy, in many ways. We were doing everything right, to the best of our ability, yet we were still having deal with outside pressure. But we were determined to keep our eyes on God and with His help and guidance, persevere and be victorious over our situation. Because of that, our marriage became strong and we knew that it was built on a solid foundation. We learned that our relationship was rock solid and could endure whatever was thrown our way.

Even though things weren't always perfect and smooth, we knew that God had brought us together. We knew that the trials and tests we were enduring were going to make our faith and our marriage stronger, if we remain focused on God and not on our circumstances. We knew that it wasn't something that was going to last forever, though at times it seemed that way. We rejoiced when that time of hardship came to an end! God was faithful to keep the promises in His Word and was with us each step of the way.

There may be times when we become involved in a friendship or relationship that is not healthy or in our best interest. There may be times when we are tempted to engage in activities that are harmful and not for our own good. We may pray and beg God for something that He knows is not in our best interest. God may try to get our attention and direct us away from those individuals or temptations. We may hear our conscience speak to us and tell us that what we are doing or asking is wrong. We feel that nudging that lets us know that those things aren't right. Yet our will is so strong that we want our own way, anyway. We will justify why we should be involved with that person, or why it's okay to partake in that thing we know is wrong, or why we want God to give us that thing that we desire so much.

When that internal battle is taking place and you don't have peace, that is pretty much a guarantee that you are not just enduring a hardship or facing a trial. But you are out of God's will and not engaging in those things that are pleasing to Him.

But those times when you are in the place God wants you, you may go through difficulties and times of frustration. Even though you may feel overwhelmed from time to time, God will give you the assurance that you need. He will give you peace, in spite of your situation.

It is so easy at times for us to tell other people how they should handle their problems. We may not necessarily always tell them to their face, but we discuss their situation behind their back and say, “They should do this....” or “If it were me, I would do that....”. Yet when we are the ones who are dealing with difficulties, we perceive things from a different view.

I have seen people who mishandle money, or seemingly make unwise financial decisions, and it's easy for me to judge them and what they are doing wrong. But when I'm the one who is in the midst of financial difficulties, things look a little different. It's so easy to tell others that they need to trust God to provide and meet their needs. Yet when I'm the one who is looking at my checkbook trying to figure out how we're going to buy groceries or pay a bill, it's not quite so easy to have faith and believe God to supply what's needed.

One of the hardest things for me to do when I'm going through a trial or hardship, is to stay focused on God instead of my situation. It is so easy for me to start looking at my circumstances, and then I start getting overwhelmed. If I'm not careful, fear or worry will creep in. I lose my perspective. It's during that time, that my problem starts looking bigger than God! That is when it's easy to become discouraged and stop reading the Bible and praying, except perhaps to beg God for help from time to time. But that is when I really need to make the effort to read scripture every single day and spend time in prayer. Even when I may not feel that God is there or is even listening, I have to persevere and believe “by faith” that God's Word is true and that He hears me when I call.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, know that God does love you and hears every word of every prayer. Right now all you may be able to say is the name, Jesus, over and over. But when you say Jesus, you begin focusing on Him and not your problems. Don't let your circumstance become bigger in your eyes than God. Sometimes we need to stop looking at what is around us, and start looking up to Who is above us.

*Endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:3)

**That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7)

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12,13)

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I've heard many times and many variations that nothing great was ever easy. And yet, as Loretta mentioned, many people who face difficulty give up and claim that God must not be blessing it. But God blessed the Israelites when He freed them from Egypt (Exodus), and they faced forty years of hardship. Even from the start, they had to flee on foot--chased by chariots! When they got to the Red Sea, it's true, many of them wanted to give up. They grumbled that leaving wasn't really what God wanted, or even if it was, it wasn't what they wanted anymore. Things were so bad for them on the run that many of them wanted to go back into slavery rather than face the trials ahead. When they took their eyes off God and his promise, they fell behind, got lost, and lost many people. When they stuck to the plan, they were led through the problems (but not around them). Please don't be lulled into thinking everything will be easy. Satan may have been overcome, but he isn't cast away from Earth yet. He is still “filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12, NIV), and nothing makes him more furious than to see someone turn to God and make great strives.

ON THE MENEWE:

Sunshine Cake

1 yellow cake mix

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained

½ cup oil

1 pkg. Jello cheesecake mix

4 eggs

1 (8 oz.) sour cream

1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, undrained

1 (9 oz.) Cool Whip

1 Tbsp. sugar

Mix cake mix, oil, eggs, and mandarin oranges for 2 minutes, until almost smooth. Pour into 3 greased and floured round cake pans. Bake at 325 for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.

Frosting: Mix crushed pineapple, sugar, cheesecake mix (not the graham cracker crumbs), sour cream, and Cool Whip. Frost completely cooled cake. Keep refrigerated.

RAM-BLING IDEAS:

Grilling Tips:

Here's a way of cutting your grilling time in half when barbecuing chicken. First of all, cook the chicken on the stove top in boiling water for 10 minutes. This will allow the chicken to get hot throughout and therefore, the grill cooks it much faster. This also prevents burnt skin.

Grilling corn on the cob: Gently pull back the husks, completely exposing the kernels, but do not remove the husks. Remove the corn silk. In a large pot filled with water, soak the corn for 30 minutes. Remove the corn from the water and pat dry. Fold the husk back over the corn. Tie the husk with butcher string. Place the corn on the hot grill and cook, turning occasionally, until the corn is tender, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

**You can take a piece of bacon and wrap it spiral-fashion around the ear of corn before folding the husk back over and tying it with butcher string. The bacon will not be brown. If you want to brown it, gently remove the husks and put the corn under the broiler for a few minutes until the bacon is browned. Serve with butter.

LAUGHING LAMBS:

I worked many years at a bank in Missouri, and we would do fun things from time to time to break the monotony and for employee moral. We had stick horse races (we had to make our own stick horse), hula hoop competitions, pumpkin carving contests, would dress up silly, etc. And of course, we had a potluck luncheon at least once a month.

On one occasion we were supposed to all “ dress up”, and I came as a “redneck woman”. I wore old holey overalls, with a lime green t-shirt underneath with the sleeves cut off. I had my hair parted in the middle and greased down. I used mascara to darken the freckles on my face that I already have. I had another employee take a pen and draw a tattoo on my arm. The tattoo was a heart with an arrow going through it. Around the tattoo was written, “I Luv Bubba”.

We were a really close knit group of employees and were all good friends. Unknown to me, my fellow officers got together and decided that they needed to find a “Bubba” to come in and bring me flowers. They wanted it to be someone that I didn't know. They had been on the lookout for someone all day, and a couple of them had even made phone calls trying to locate someone. Later that afternoon a loan customer walked into the bank. He was a construction worker and had been out on a job so he had on dirty work clothes and was one of those “good ol' country boys”. My co-officers told him what they wanted to do and asked if he'd play along. Sure!

One of the ladies had some fresh flowers on her desk that she had brought from home, that she let him use. I was downstairs in my office when this guy came down asking for me. I walked into the bookkeeping department and he said, “Hi, I'm Bubba.” He handed me the flowers with a card that said, “Luv, Bubba”. Of course, one of the officers had followed him downstairs and used the bank's Polaroid camera to get pictures of all this. Everyone got a big kick out of embarrassing me. It really was very funny and a lot of fun. I had a reputation of playing practical jokes from time to time, and they definitely got me back!!!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

From our view, our circumstances can look scary and overwhelming; but from a heavenly view, God can see the whole picture.

May the blessings of God rest upon each of you.

We love and appreciate you all very much.

If you would like to e-mail us, we appreciate hearing from our readers.

Loretta & Jon

shepherd@grayengineers.com