Monday, September 24, 2012

Really...Who DOES that?

I would venture to say that almost every day, at some point, I come across a fellow human being who does something that I don't like, I don't understand, that I don't agree with or that just plain annoys me in some way. I mean...people do some weird things that just leave me shaking my head saying..."Who does that?" Case in point: A couple of days ago, I was getting gas in my car and saw someone a few rows over smoking a cigarette while pumping gas. Is it not bad enough that I'm standing there watching the gas pump readout furiously escalating past the $75 dollar mark? That alone is stressful enough without this knucklehead putting himself and everyone else around him in danger of being blown sky high on a beautiful fall day. KABLAM! Yo, dude...that big, red NO SMOKING sign applies to everyone. Even you. Seriously...

Or the lady driver who sped up and cut me off so she could be one car ahead of me in the pickup line. And we were there 45 minutes before school got out! Were they handing out 'Absurdly Early and On The Ball Mom' awards that day and I didn't get the memo? Why the big rush? I don't get it. Someone (well meaning, of course) actually sent me a Facebook message last week saying that it was a good thing my dog had been put to sleep because (and I quote) "I'm just glad he died peacefully. It would have been a lot worse if he had died after being hit by a car or something where he had to suffer." Now don't get me wrong, I know they were trying to be comforting and I appreciated the intent but I was really grieving and that just missed the mark for me.

I worked myself up into a real lather the other night over something someone said to me because it hurt my feelings and (if I'm honest) brought some of my own insecurities to the fore. I allowed myself to be provoked into irritation and I know I was unable to hide the fact that I was annoyed. After I got home, I prayed and reflected on the situation which led me to a place that I can see now was exactly where God wanted me to be. The situation shined a light into a dark area that is: my often narrow focus on myself. Or what I call 'Me-ism.' Being so aware and involved with my own reality and how it makes me feel that I unfortunately miss out on the opportunity to learn something important or to experience something special in my life or the life of someone else. Me-ism happens to everyone. It was happening to the guy at the gas station. And the lady who cut me off in the line at school. Even the well meaning friend who made a thoughtless remark. It happened when I became overly sensitive and reacted negatively with a friend. We can all be self absorbed and do these kinds of hit and run offenses toward others without even realizing what we've said or done. I know I need to work on that and with God's grace and mercy, I'm becoming more aware. Please keep me in your prayers and offer me forgiveness as needed as I grow in my journey of faith.

The Bible says we are to strive to live our lives as Jesus did and let me tell you, He is a pretty tough act to follow! I try not to carry offenses and to be forgiving but sometimes, in the moment, it can be hard  (okay, sometimes impossible) to overlook the behavior of others and keep a calm and loving demeanor. Believe me, I've tried. I guess the best we can do is ask for guidance, apologize when necessary, try to look beyond the sins of others and keep trying to mature and grow through the renewing of our minds through God's word.

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) says, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?'  Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.' "  

By the way, This means forgiving ourselves, too.

Once upon a time, there was a godly man who had purposefully traded a heavenly existence for a life of hard work, long hours of teaching and who gave his all for the sick and the broken. After performing miraculous healing and acts of provision for those in need, he continued being misunderstood and misrepresented, being scorned, despised and rejected. Eventually, He was tortured and killed and endured, even embraced it all in the name of LOVE. Asking forgiveness for His tormentors even as He suffered and died. He defeated death and the grave and kept His promise to return and show Himself alive to those who believed in Him. All in the name of redeeming those who had wronged Him. All in the name of justifying those who had rejected His father's love for them. He did it all for love. I mean, really...who DOES that?

Only Jesus. He is where I am putting my focus. Less 'Me-ism' and more 'He-ism.' More on loving as He loved. Forgiving others as He forgave me. On trusting our heavenly Father with this life He has given me. Of living with an attitude of gratitude for this experience on Earth. If I continue to do that, whether I understand it or not, everything else falls perfectly into place in the exact time that it should. Jesus is alive and well and living in those who, by faith and trust, believe in the whole story just as it is written. Unbelievable as it may seem, there are some who continue to tell this remarkable story because they are confident in the knowledge that there is power and life everlasting in accepting as truth the good news of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Really? Who does that? Well...I do, for one. I pray everyone who reads this will hear the call and surrender it all. And live, really live. Happily ever after.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Losing Lucky...From Reeling to Healing

We've all been there. Cruising along on auto-pilot, feeling pretty good about life and feeling somewhat comfortable and maybe even a little carefree. Then, WHAMMO...major turbulence in life swoops in, knocks you sideways and forces you to grab the controls and try to right yourself before you go into a tailspin. This is the way I would describe the events of this past weekend. We've taken a beating and been sent reeling but we banded together and are unsteadily but surely making our way back onto solid ground.

Mattie's journal entry the day we saved Lucky
Let me explain. A few months ago, we adopted a dog who was scheduled to be euthanized. You've seen their haunted faces on the pages of Facebook. Looking pitiful and frightened, your heart melts and you think: Maybe I can make a difference, I can save this dog and give him a good home and we'll all live happily ever after. That is exactly what I thought and intended. That's how we found our other dog, Sparky. The kids and I fell in love at first sight with Lucky. He had a little heart on his forehead which we took as a sign that he needed our love. Impulsively, I made the call, saved the day by saving the dog, and made arrangements to drive the six hours to Port Isabel, Texas to pick him up. We made it into a little mini-vacation and stayed at the beach the day before we picked him up. It was a wonderful time of expectation and giddy nerves as we were anticipating meeting Lucky and bringing him home.

Lucky meeting Daddy and Sparky
It was seamless. Although he was heart worm positive, he showed no symptoms and the Laguna Madre Humane Society offered to cover the cost of his treatment. He was easy. He was obedient. He was sweet and quiet and slept the whole way home. He met our other dog and they got along fine right from the beginning. After a few hiccups during the adjustment period we realized he was a perfect fit for our family. He pooped and peed outside. He was loving and sweet, a total mush and he followed me adoringly around the house. We grew very attached to each other and I loved him so much. He was too good to be true. I see that now.

There were signs. He was aggressive toward other dogs which we attributed to his being in the shelter. He was very protective and was uneasy when people came to the front door. All of this stuff seemed workable and he was improving all the time. We let our guard down and believed we had hit the doggie jackpot with our sweet Lucky dog. This weekend, we unfortunately lost it all.

One of Mattie's little friends came over unexpectedly for a visit on Saturday. Lucky had never met her before. There were a few other neighbor kids over and the usual noisy chaos was in full swing. This little girl reached down to pat or hug him. He was confused and stressed and he lashed out and bit her in the neck and hand, and scared her to death. Her ear was cut and she needed medical attention. We cleaned her up, comforted her as best we could and David and I drove her home. After we were sure she was okay we got into the car, looked at each other and I burst into tears, knowing that Lucky would have to go. Even though he was wonderful with our kids and had never done anything like this before, there was no other choice. Biting someone is one thing but he had intentionally gone for her throat. Of course we could never risk that happening again to anyone. Ever. After consulting with the shelter and the vet, the decision was made that Lucky would have to be put to sleep. We were crushed. Devastated. We were emotionally wrecked and I was wracked with guilt.

The kids took it hard, all of them sobbing and begging us not to take him away. Michael wrapped his little body around Lucky's kennel, trying to shield him as David came to take him out. His agonizing cries of "Nooooo, don't take him away, he's sorry...he didn't mean to" will haunt me for the rest of my days. The kids insisted on taking a picture with him which I did all the while my stomach was churning and I was trying desperately in my mind to think of a way to save him, knowing there really was no way. We all took turns saying goodbye. As I cried and hugged him for the last time he nuzzled my face with his velvety soft nose and licked the tears from my face. Loving me and comforting me as always. I was undone with grief. I felt I had failed him miserably. I felt guilty and wished I had never seen his picture on Facebook, never set my kids up for this trauma. If not for me, that little girl would have been safe. Guilt and regret washed over me in relentless waves.

David asked me to promise we would all stay together and grieve as a family until he returned, which we did. We cried and shared memories and laughed through our tears. Michael said that he thought maybe God knew Lucky only had a little more time to live so he gave him to us to love before he had to go. We all took great comfort in that. As we were holding onto each other in our grief, David was in a veterinary clinic in Beaumont holding our sweet Lucky in his arms, whispering words of love and praise into his ear as he peacefully passed away. This was a terrible, tragically beautiful moment etched permanently into our family story. Painful but peaceful. We held on tight and prayed and wept and we loved each other through it. It is amazing how the worst moments in life tend to unearth the treasures deep inside of us.

I've struggled to make sense of all of this but quite frankly, I haven't been very successful. It is senseless. Period. But I've learned that God really can take any bad situation and turn it around for our good. That God is purposeful and that He is the great Master Conductor of this symphony we call life on earth. There will be moments of discordance. Things may seem off beat for a time. We will feel that we are suspended and holding indefinitely with no rhyme or rhythm to the process. And yet with one wave of  His hand, there is resolution and resonance. Harmony is restored and the movement is complete. All that is required is that we obey His direction and let the music flow in His perfect timing.

Today, we are beginning the process of healing. I am drifting with the tide as calmly as I can. I'm so grateful for the ebb and flow of tears and emotions which allows us to release the pain and cleanse and heal our wounds without overwhelming us all at once. Our heavenly Father put such loving care into us, His creation. He truly is an awesome God. We were never promised a life free of pain or troubles. He did promise that He would never leave us or forsake us. We experienced that promise this weekend first hand. We felt the prayers and the love of friends and family. It has been hard but we are on the mend and all will be well in time.

Rest in peace, sweet Lucky
 I told my kids this weekend that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. They seemed pretty skeptical and I guess I don't blame them. Love is a risky proposition. The outcome is that at some point there will be loss and it will be painful. There's no way around that. But I believe it is what we were ultimately created for and that love is the very essence of God. Yes, I wish I still had my beautiful dog but after all is said and done, I guess you could say that at least for a time, I was Lucky in love.