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

February 11, 2009

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

Valentine's Day is coming up on Saturday. That's the day that's associated with hearts, flowers, and romance for adults; and exchanging paper valentine's and having parties when you're a kid.

I remember in elementary school, the teacher would have us decorate a box with paper doilies, or make a container of some kind out of construction paper or a paper plate with our name on it. We would all buy those cheap little packages of valentine cards and give everyone in our class one. It was a big deal to have the party and everyone open up all their cards. The teacher would pass out red hots and those little candy hearts with the messages on them. It was a day when we were all made to feel special.

But once I got in high school, it was a holiday where only those who were dating got the special attention. I began to realize that this was actually a special day for "couples", and those of us girls who didn't have a boyfriend were out of luck.

As I continued to grow older, I came to recognize this as the day where single people were left out, and often ended up feeling depressed and lonely. There were many times when many of the other ladies at work would receive flowers, and their conversation would center around the special evening that they had planned with their spouse. There were times when churches would have parties or banquets for Valentine's Day. Of course, I was usually invited, but always kind of felt like it was a "pity" invitation, and didn't particularly want to go anyway when the focus was on love and relationships and romance. It just seemed to emphasize my singleness. I still remember those feelings, and try to be very sensitive to those single folk who I know would like to be married to that someone special.

Now that I'm married, I have a different perspective on Valentine's Day. Any occasion that I have to spend time with my sweetheart and do something special, I like to take advantage of. Jon and I have been married less than four years and in many ways still feel like newlyweds, and in other ways feel like we've known one another and been married for much longer (in a good way). I think not having children to distract us from one another helps keep the romance alive. We don't have to focus on or give care to anyone other than each other.

We still hold hands, Jon opens doors for me, we say "I love you" all the time, kiss whenever we get the chance, enjoying just quietly sitting and cuddling, and want to spend time together. We don't particularly even enjoy being apart from one another overnight. To be honest, we both like having "alone time" to ourselves occasionally, but only for a few hours at a time. But we truly like spending time with one another, and being together. Sometimes we're just down right sappy!

A lot of people would probably think that we border on being ridiculous. We always go to bed at the same time (unless Jon decides to stay up and watch Dr. Who on a Friday night); I get up and fix Jon's bowl of cereal and pour his juice for him during the week, and set with him while he eats before leaving for work; if one of us decides to take a nap on the weekends, we'll both go lie down; we have three chairs and a love seat in our living room, and always spend our evenings sitting together on the love seat. I walk Jon out to the garage in the mornings, we say our goodbyes, and I watch him back out and close the garage door for him. We always sign "I love you" to one another, right before he backs the car out all the way. Jon generally calls and tells me when he's on his way home from work. If the roads are slick, he calls when he arrives at work so that I know that he's safe. Plus there's a hundred other little things that we do for one another. I've had a friend or two tell me that Jon and I spoil each other, which is probably true.

So if our relationship is that close all throughout the year, why is Valentine's Day so special? For me, it's just another excuse to show Jon my love. To do something out of the ordinary for him, to make him feel special and loved. I don't want Jon to ever doubt that I honor and respect him as my husband. I never want him to doubt my love for him. And I don't want to ever take our love and marriage for granted. So why not take every opportunity available to do something extra-special for my husband?

This year Jon and I ended up celebrating a week early. He has been busy over the past few months working on a project for a design competition. Since he works to bring home a paycheck during the week, the only free time that he's had to work on this project is in the evenings or weekends. He has still managed to fit in time for his wife, but it's been a very busy time.

We knew that the weather forecast was for warm temperatures, so decided to get away for the weekend prior to Valentine's Day. We stayed at a really nice inn in Branson. We spent some time with one of my nephews and his family on Saturday. We had special time for just the two of us that evening. Then relaxed and slowly made our way back to Oklahoma on Sunday. It was a chance for the two of us to get away from the normal routine, relax and have fun, and spend some quality uninterrupted time with one another.

Yes, we do spend time together all the time; after all, it's only the two of us. But it's nice to sometimes have that time without a computer or the telephone or having household duties to attend to or meals to cook or various other interruptions. I think we all need a change of scenery occasionally. And when you do something out of the ordinary, the two of you are experiencing it together as a couple. It's one of those special moments that you can remember and look back later and say, "Remember when the two of us did ... or when the two of us went to ... or the two of us spent that weekend or vacation ..."

As I was thinking about this, I began thinking about my relationship with God. Too often, God only gets what time I happen to have left over after doing everything else. I have good intentions of spending time reading my Bible and praying and cultivating my relationship with God, but other things get in the way. Usually I try to spend time with God in the mornings after Jon leaves for work. But how many times have I thought, "I'll just put a load of laundry in, then I'll have my devotions?" Only I get sidetracked with other things, and before I know it Jon is home from work, and I have never taken the time to do so. Or I think, "I need to take care of these errands first thing this morning, then I'll stop and read the Bible and pray;" only I get busy and forget.

I question myself: is the time I spend with my husband more of a priority to me than strengthening my relationship with God and making time for Him each day? As a wife, it is my duty to cultivate my relationship with Jon and to work on our marriage to keep it strong and healthy. But is my marriage more important to me than God? There is a lot at risk if I don't work on my marriage and be a godly wife to my husband. There are a lot of temptations in this world. There are a lot of forces working to break down marriages and homes. It's easy to get used to each other and take one another for granted, and let cracks form in the foundation of your relationship. I love Jon with all my heart, and am determined to keep our marriage strong and our relationship filled with love and respect. But am I willing to put that much time, work and effort into my relationship with God?

There is so much more at stake if I lose my salvation. If I allow my relationship with God to weaken and fall apart, I have all eternity to lose.

Should we ever finding ourselves in a position where our relationship with God, our spouse, or other loved ones is suffering, then we need to take heed and nourish it, in order for it to flourish and grow once again.

When Daddy passed away in September 2007, I brought a peace lily home that someone had sent to our family. I'm normally not great with house plants, but have managed to keep this plant healthy and green for over a year now. When it starts drooping, I water it and that's pretty much it. I also dust the leaves off occasionally and make sure that it doesn't get direct sunlight. But so far, this plant has done great and looks good.

On the other hand, when Jon's grandmother passed away in November of last year, his mother gave us a peace lily that was sent to the funeral. I thought, "I've done well with the other peace lily, so this shouldn't be a problem." This plant is shaped differently from my other peace lily, and is taller and the stems holding the leaves are longer. It did great for several weeks and looked great. I have cared for it exactly like I do my other one.

But then it started drooping and looked like it was dying. I researched online to try and figure out what I could do to save it. It looked like the stems were too weak to hold up the leaves. The stems all bent into a crook (u-shape) right at the ends where the leaves grow onto them. They all fell over and were hanging over the sides of the pot. I had no idea what to do with it, and it looked like it was beyond recovery. As a last resort, I went and bought some miracle grow for house plants. I used it when I watered the plant late on a Friday afternoon. I knew that I sure wasn't going to hurt it, so it was worth a try. I didn't see any changes right away, and wasn't sure whether or not it was going to do any good. The next morning, Jon and I got up and were sitting in our living room. I glanced over and was shocked! The plant was standing up straight and tall and all the crooks in the stems had straightened up. You couldn't tell that anything had ever been wrong with it.

I could have given up and thought, "This plant is hopeless and past the point of saving, so I may as well just throw it away and get rid of it;" and tossed it in the trash. But I chose to try and do whatever I could, in order to save it.

It's strange at times the things that we put time and effort into to save; while other things that is much more significant and important, we'll write off as being hopeless, or as taking too much time and work. Are we willing to try and save a plant, but let our own relationships with God and loved ones suffer?

It is a pet peeve of mine when organizations will spend millions of dollars on advertising to try and get donations for saving dogs or whales or trees, or for global warming, etc. It gripes me to see millionaires and billionaires whine about America's economy (or want a bailout), yet they own 4 or 5 huge mansions, have personal jets, own cars that they'll never drive, throw money away every day of their life to cater to their personal wants. I get aggravated when I hear how much pro athlete contracts are worth, how much Hollywood actors/actresses get paid for TV shows and movies, and how much some top executives make per year. Yet, those are the ones who you will hear talking about the need for a "change" in America. Yet would any of these individuals be willing to give up their fat paychecks and bonuses to help the economy or those families who are jobless or homeless or in desperate need?

I know that many times I need to stop and get things in perspective, so that I will focus on the right things. I need to make sure I'm not more interested in getting a plant to live or saving money for a new car or house, than I am in taking care of my marriage and relationship with my husband. I need to make sure I'm not more focused on fixing up my house or planting flowers in my yard, than I am in cultivating my relationship with God. And I also need to be sure that I don't point my finger and condemn others, unless I'm willing to reach out and help those in need.

What's important in your life? What things do you focus on and give your attention and time to? First of all, may each of us make sure that God is our priority; and that building a strong, lasting relationship with Him is of the utmost importance. Secondly, may we not ever take our spouse for granted and assume that our marriage will always be loving and strong; but instead take the time and effort to do those special things to daily strengthen that bond, so that nothing can ever sever it. When Jon and I have been married for 20, 30 years or longer, I hope that we are still romantic; that we still hold hands, that he opens doors for me, that we can look at one another in a crowd and give that secret little wink or know what the other is thinking, that we still want to spend all our time together, etc. I don't want our relationship to ever become old and stagnant, but want it to be full of life and love.

Several years ago, my oldest sister and her husband pastored a church in Springdale, AR. There was an elderly couple, probably in their late-70's, who were members of the church. They had been married for well over fifty years. I absolutely loved watching this couple relate to one another. They still held hands all the time, he would sit with his arm around her, open doors for her, and you could tell that they were still crazy about each other. That made a huge impression on me. I commented to my sister several times about how much I loved seeing this couple together; and that if I ever married, I wanted to be like them. Their love and devotion for one another was very genuine and real, and was very obvious. I can't remember their names, but I can still picture them in my mind. They had no idea the indelible impression that they made upon me. I will never forget them and the example they were to me.

When you truly love and respect someone, it's going to show; that goes for God and for our relationships with others. I want my life to be a testimony to all who see me that I love God and that I love my husband. I want others to see Jesus in me, and the peace and joy that He gives me, and think, "That's what I want in my life!" I want everyone who sees me and Jon together to recognize the deep love and respect that we have for one another and think, "I want a relationship and love like theirs!" I want to leave a positive indelible impression upon others.

May we all "Love the Lord God with all our heart, mind and soul." And may we then love our neighbor (which includes our spouse, loved ones, friends, co-workers, etc.) as ourself. And may each of us strive to be an example of what a true Christian and a godly spouse is, to every individual we come in contact with.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

A wise person once told me that if you ever have difficulty with a relationship with a person in your life, you should first focus on your relationship with God. They usually go hand-in-hand. And fixing your relationship with God tends to fix everything else.

It has a lot of wisdom. Matthew 6:33 says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you." Loretta knows very well that she comes second in my heart. God comes first. I also know that I come second to God with her, too. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Some people might wonder how it's so easy for me to take a back seat. But I think the easiest way to explain it is that I've learned a habit of realizing that everything I have, including Loretta, is God's first, and mine second. This life and this world are temporary, along with everything we own.

ON THE MENEWE:

Upside Down Pizza

1 jar pizza sauce

Meat

Mozzarella cheese

Can of crescent rolls

Favorite pizza toppings

Preheat oven to 350. In a glass baking dish, spread sauce on bottom. Sprinkle desired pizza meats over the sauce (pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, etc.). Spread favorite pizza toppings (mushrooms, onions, etc.) over meat; the more toppings the better. Generously top with Mozzarella cheese. Unroll crescent rolls over the top, pressing edges together to form a crust. Bake until golden brown.

LAMB TALES:

Jon and I just had a great get-away weekend. When we found out how nice the weather was going to be, we decided to take advantage of it and have an early Valentine's Day celebration. Jon started the weekend off right by bringing me home a dozen red roses on Friday. They are beautiful, and I was so surprised.

There is a nice inn in Branson, MO that we had stayed in before, and decided to do so again. It only has around 30 rooms, and each is decorated in a different theme. Two of my nephews did some repair work there a couple of years ago after a hailstorm, which is how we originally heard about it. The owners are Christians and great people. They have a dining area, and the owner cooks breakfast for you.

We also spent some time on Saturday with one of my nephews and his family. They live east of Springfield, MO and Jon had never seen their house. Their home is an old schoolhouse that has been remodeled and built onto; and is still a work in progress. My nephew and his wife have done a good job, and added some very cool, personal touches to the house. They are very creative, while being quite frugal. For example, he took some old slate that came off the roof of an old barn his in-laws own in Ohio, and used that for the backsplash in their kitchen (using a tile saw to cut it into squares). We took them out to eat Saturday evening at Lambert's in Ozark, MO, which was absolutely wonderful! We had to wait an hour to get in, but it was well worth the wait. It's all (plus more) than you would ever want or need to eat. My nephews two kids (ages 3 and 1 1/2 ) kept us entertained while waiting to get into the restaurant. Winston is 3 and is learning new words and all kinds of new information. Right now, everything is an "adventure". His dad took him and his little sister to the park that morning, and he told me that they had a "park adventure". He's also learned the word "super". He's "super strong" or is "super smart" or has "super powers". Very cute! And little sister is a petite bundle of energy; constantly moving, and quite a hand full.

Jon and I spent a romantic evening in Branson and didn't have to check out until 11:00, so were able to take our time and relax Sunday morning. We, of course, had to make a stop for a few minutes by the family home in Lampe, before heading back to Oklahoma. We sat in lawn chairs and just enjoyed the peace and quiet for a while. The weather was perfect, it was so still and quiet; with the exception of a few birds singing. Sitting there, we could feel our minds and bodies begin to really relax, and afterwards felt refreshed. Oh how we love the country!

Everyone needs to take time to get away with their sweetheart once in a while and relax -- get away from the phone, computer, kids and grandkids if you have them, and regular daily routine. Romance is good and makes you feel special, regardless of how long you've been married. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money, but find something that the two of you enjoy doing together and go do it; take a walk, ride horses or bicycles, or go for a drive. Jon didn't spend a ton of money by buying the roses from a florist, but got them at Walmart. They didn't come in a vase, but I have extras at home. They are gorgeous and look every bit as pretty as those you pay a lot of money for. For me, it's not how much money Jon spends on me, but that he did something special for me, without me having to hint or ask for it.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13: 4,5)

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

Thanks for taking the time to read our newsletter each week; we truly appreciate each and every one of you.

And we really do enjoy hearing your comments and words of encouragement from time to time.

I'm not sure if you realize just how heartfelt our thanks is, or how deep our gratitude.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org