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

December 5, 2018

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

We have huge pecan trees in our yard. Pecans are notorious for "self-pruning". Very few weeks of the year goes by that we don't have small limbs and twigs that need picked up. Therefore, we know that it is best if we can mow one last time after all of the leaves have fallen, in order to mulch them up. If not, we'll end up with a thick layer of leaves covering our lawn with hidden limbs and twigs mixed in, which makes it difficult to mow come spring. Living in city limits, we really can't burn the leaves. So if we don't mow, then we need to rake and bag the piles of leaves up.... then try and figure out what to do with all of those full leaf bags.

Two or three weeks ago, we had a beautiful warm-weather day, so I decided that it would be a good time to do our last mowing for the season. Our trees were bare, so I would be able to mow and mulch them all up. I began in our backyard. About halfway through mowing, our zero-turn mower suddenly died. Jon put more gas in it and was puzzled because it didn't take as much as he thought it should. Our mower still wouldn't start. In the meantime, I noticed that one of the front tires was flat. So thinking that the mower might be flooded and needing to sit for a few minutes, Jon took that time to fix the tire. Afterwards, it still wouldn't start. Jon did all that he knew to do, to no avail.

We have a self-propel push mower, so I got it out of the shed so that I could go ahead and finish the mowing. I mowed for maybe 10-15 minutes when suddenly it made a loud noise, like I had ran over something metal, and it stopped. Jon came over and the blade guard had fallen off and was twisted. Jon thought perhaps I could go ahead and use the mower, when he noticed that a part from underneath the mower that was falling off. So that mower was no longer useable.

We tried to push the zero-turn mower back to the shed so that it wouldn't be sitting outside in the weather all winter, but couldn't get it to budge. Two of my nephews came a few days later to borrow our truck and they tried to get the mower back into the shed, but they couldn't move it either.

This past week, I had a bright idea. My sixteen-year-old nephew has his own vehicle and could always use extra gas money, so I asked if he would want to come rake our front yard and bag up the leaves and we'd pay him. He came on Tuesday after school, and brought his leaf blower with him. His thought was that he could blow the leaves into piles, instead of having to rake. It is an electric leaf blower, so he had brought an extension cord and plugged it in.

He had worked maybe half an hour before coming into the house where I was cooking dinner. His leaf blower had got really hot and stopped working, and when he had unplugged it from the extension cord it was black where it had caught fire inside the plug. It stank really bad! Jon had him leave his leaf blower at our house so he could check it out, and my nephew went home.

On Thursday, I knew that my nephew was coming back to our house to work in our yard again. By the time he got out of school and drove there, he would only have about an hour or so before it would get dark. So before he arrived, I went out and started raking the leaves in our front yard into piles so that he could begin bagging them upon his arrival. There was rain in the forecast for the next day, so we needed to get as much done as possible before the leaves got all wet and nasty.

By the time he got to our home, I had a lot of leaf piles ready for him to pick up. I finished a little more raking, then went out to our ditches, which had leaves piled up on each side of our driveway to the top of the culvert. We needed that cleaned out before it rained.

Two doors down from our house lives a widow woman, who I'm guessing is in her mid to late seventies. I have only talked to her a couple times in the thirteen years that Jon and I have been married. She knew Jon's mom from when they lived here for so many years, but Jon and I have never become acquainted with her.

I had heard her out mowing and working in her yard all afternoon. While I was raking, our next door neighbor man, who is in his eighties, had come outside and was doing a little raking around his house and messing around in his yard. He had got his mower out, but then I noticed this lady talking to him for a few minutes, and then she started mowing his yard. I really wasn't paying that much attention. I thought perhaps she had volunteered to mow due to it being leaves from her trees that had got in his yard; I didn't really know.

As I was knelt down bagging up the leaves from our ditch, I glanced over and saw that she was mowing on our side of the neighbors house. But the property line goes over about 3-4 feet on that side of his house, so I assumed she was just finishing up the remainder of his yard. I was busy working and not really paying attention, but then after a while I thought, "She has been mowing a while on this side," so looked up again and saw that she was mowing our front yard for us.

I finished what I was doing and began helping my nephew. Jon arrived home from work and I told him that this neighbor was mowing for us. We were both so surprised. She did what she could, then told me that if I'd have the guys scatter the leaves that were in piles then she could go ahead and mow over them to mulch as well. She ended up mowing our entire front yard, except for a small strip on the opposite side of our driveway. Wow!

This is someone that we really don't know. All we know is her name and that she has lived there for many years. We never have any contact with her or talk to her. Due to the neighbor that lives between us, we rarely see her.

After she finished, Jon filled her mower up with gas. While he was doing that, she had turned her mower off and was visiting with us. We were thanking her and I mentioned that we generally always mow one last time, but both of our mowers had tore up. She said that the neighbor man who lives between us had told her that. This lady also mentioned that she had been working in her own yard all day and was worn out. She said that keeping up with her yard work was becoming more than she could handle. Her husband passed away three-and-a-half years ago and she lives alone. She wasn't complaining or saying that to make us feel bad, but was just chit-chatting.

She mowed our yard purely out of kindness. She had no expectations of getting anything back in return for her labor, nor did she have any ulterior motives. There was a need, she had the means to meet that need, so she did.

The thing is, had I not been out working in our yard and putting forth some effort to clean it up myself, I doubt that she would have been so willing to come and mow for us. Had it looked as if we could care less if our leaves were raked and our yard cleaned up and looking nice, then I'm not so sure that she would have willingly come over and done the work for us. But she saw me picking up limbs, raking, bagging, and making an attempt to get our yard cleaned. Our joint neighbor man told her of our need, and she chose to help us out. Even though she was tired herself, she decided to show us kindness.

There are several things that I took away from this experience.

First of all, we often want God to do things for us without us putting forth any effort ourself. We don't want to have to pray and ask. We don't want to work. We don't want to suffer or endure hardships. We just want to slide through life and be blessed, coming and going, without ever having to do anything. But if we truly want to experience the blessings and miracles from God, then we have to put forth effort. We may have to go through some stuff. And we have to obey His Word. When we obey, trust, have faith.... God honors that.

Secondly, we all have opportunities to be generous to others and show kindness. We can't excuse our age or health or finances or time or tiredness or lack of opportunity or being widowed or alone or whatever reason we come up with. Each of us are given windows of opportunities to bless others; but it's up to us to be willing to do so. We have the choice to say no. We can make excuses or find reasons why we can't. But God gives every one of us occasions when we can help, encourage, and bless other people. We may have to put forth effort to look for those whom God places in our path, because if we aren't in the habit of giving to others and showing kindness, and have chosen to ignore those opportune moments in the past, then we may not be recognizing those opportune moments.

This woman that mowed our yard didn't owe us. She wasn't returning a favor. She wasn't asked to do this work for us. She wasn't guilted into doing it. She wasn't doing it grudgingly, nor was she complaining about it. Upon finishing, she didn't ask for anything in return. She didn't say, "Now you owe me!" She wasn't doing it for show or applause. She did it purely out of kindness and generosity!

She isn't a spring chicken full of energy. She is a older widow woman, probably in her mid to late 70's. I honestly have no idea if she is a christian or not. But when she was mowing, she had a very pleasant expression on her face, and Jon's comment to me was, "It really looks like she's having fun and enjoying herself!" She was being a generous giver, and seemingly enjoying herself while doing so.

There are several scriptures about generosity and giving.

"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25

"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38

"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." 2 Corinthians 9:11

Often when the word "giving" is spoken from the mouths of christians, it causes people to cringe or to judge the church. "All they want is our money!" Yes, we are told that we are to pay tithe, but giving is so much deeper than that.

Giving isn't money only, although that is definitely a part of it. We can give our time. We can give of the talents and gifts that God has entrusted to us. We can give resources that we may have that others don't. We can give a listening ear. We can give words of encouragement. We can give a hug or shoulder to lean on. We can give friendship. We can give love.

Galatians 6:9-10 says, "So let's not get tired of doing what is good. (Other versions say 'become weary" or "lose heart" in doing good.) At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone -- especially to those in the family of faith (or who belong to the family of believers)."

This doesn't mean that we do good to only other believers or church-going people; but whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to all people.

There are also many verses regarding kindness.

Ephesians 4:32, "And be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you."

Colossians 3:12, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."

Proverbs 3:3, "Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart."

Jon and I were recently talking that everything we have has been entrusted to us by God. We wouldn't have anything if it were not for God. So if God has blessed us with every thing that we have, how can we not bless others and give to them in return? How can we not show kindness to others?

So here is my challenge to you for this holiday season: Find at least one person and be a generous giver to them, showing them great kindness. Pray and ask God to show you who He wants you to bless, then see who He places in your path. Don't let the month of December end and you then say, "Oh well, I didn't really feel like He placed any particular person on my heart to bless, so I didn't do anything." If we ask God, then look for opportunities, He will answer. We just have to be willing to make the choice to obey. God is not going to hit us over the head or have a lightning bolt strike down to let us know that, "This is the person!" God may bring someone to mind, or we see someone when we're out and about whom we can show kindness to.

As discussed above, being a generous giver and showing kindnesses can be done in so many different ways! Perhaps you have finances that someone needs and that is how God uses you. Perhaps there is someone who has lost a family member this past year and this is their first Christmas without them, you can write a note letting them know that you understand, or simply give them a hug and tell them that you care. Perhaps it's helping someone with yard work. Perhaps it's you giving a good coat that no longer fits to someone who doesn't have one. Perhaps it's stopping and helping someone fix a flat tire on a cold, rainy day. Perhaps it's cooking a meal for someone having surgery. Perhaps it's calling an old friend that you haven't talked to this year and letting them know that you're thinking of them. Perhaps it's making someone a handmade gift to lift their spirit. Perhaps it's paying for the meal of someone in the drive-thru line behind you at a fast food place. These suggestions are just a drop in the bucket. The list is endless on ways that we can be generous givers and show kindness!

I've challenged myself to be a generous giver and show kindness at least once a week during the month of December; and if God places more people in my path, then that will be even better. I would love to do this on a daily basis. But honestly, I don't want it to end with Christmas. I want this to be my lifestyle. I want to give generously to others every time I have the opportunity. I want to show kindness. And I want to do so, not grudgingly, but with a thankful and grateful heart.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

One great way to give and bless others is to bake goods for your office. Someone gave us 3 boxes of cookies for the whole office. One of the bosses brought a variety of candies, cookies, and fudge, and passed them around the office. His wife made them, and he got to give them out. It isn't all that expensive. It does take quite a bit of work, but the kids can help out a little.

ON THE MENEWE:

Crockpot Peanut Clusters

2 pounds white almond bark

4 ounces Baker German Chocolate Bar

12 ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips

24 ounces dry roasted peanuts

Add all ingredients to the crockpot. Cook on low for 1 hour without stirring. After an hour, stir to combine ingredients. Cook another hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Drop spoonfuls of the peanut mixture onto wax paper. Allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

This week's newsletter has struck a chord in my heart. I have been reminded of the numerous times that people have been generous givers and have shown me kindnesses.

Throughout the years I have had people mow and weed-eat for me, pay for my gas, buy me meals, make me a birthday cake and deliver it to my house, kill a black snake that had got inside my house, come and pick me up when my car broke down, buy me a new dress, write me cards or notes of encouragement, giving of time to help me get the property ready when I bought a new mobile home, just to name a few.

I've also been reminded of ways that God has used me to be a generous giver and show kindnesses. Buying clothes for kids when their parents were struggling, babysitting, cooking meals, sending cards or emails, giving rides and going to appointments, giving of my time and going along for the ride when someone didn't want to go someplace alone, etc. Most recently, I had a free day at home and first thing that morning I was reminded of a jelly roll quilt fabric that I had bought several months ago, but had never used. I knew that morning who I was supposed to make a quilt for, using that very fabric. The same day that I started the quilt, this person posted online about a particular health issue that they were dealing with that was seemingly getting worse. They had had a really rough two weeks. I knew that God had placed them on my heart, and I had saved this fabric roll for this particular time, for a reason.

It is a good feeling when someone is a generous giver and shows us kindnesses when we need it. But it is also an awesome feeling when we get to be the ones who give and show kindnesses.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

God is not trying to modify us; He is trying to transform us. - Deborah Crone

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

http://www.graysheep.org