Going to the Dogs… or Maybe Not

In our years of pet ownership, my husband and I have developed our own dog ranking system, partially in jest and partly because…  well, partly because. In order, the hierarchy is:

  1. Good Dog
  2. Has Potential
  3. Bad Dog

Allow me to embellish.

This is Mayumi:Yumi001

Mayumi is a Good Dog.

Most of the time, she is very obedient… with occasional exceptions, usually because I haven’t given her adequate exercise. When small children are over, she is gentle and submissive. As for tricks, she can jump through hoops, sit, stay, high-five with alternating paws, close the door (well, sometimes), and play dead.

As a puppy, she would only quiet at night if she could see me. Overall, she is my loyal companion who follows me from room to room and generally wants to be near me. She is calm and can be trusted with people of all ages and animals of all sizes. I love this dog!

This is Chestnut:

Chestnut Has Potential.

For the most part, he is obedient (occasionally even surpassing Mayumi in coming when called), but he does lack self-control. He adores people, often rather exuberantly in wild, oafish boundings and clumsy gyrations that  threaten the vertical stability of moderately sized humans. Chestnut also has trouble holding his licker and frequently leaves slobber trails on… well, everything.

Due to his… enthusiasm… we crate him when small children or elderly people are visiting. Not all furry things that enter our yard survive except the three skunks that got him first (really, three times !!!).

My husband and I joke that his tombstone will read RIP Chestnut: He Had Potential. 

I have no pictures of Sable, but she was aptly named. Sable was a Bad Dog.

In the few weeks she lived here, she managed to frighten the children (who were still very young), lose all off-leash privileges in the house, and made me rue the day I first saw her. One rare occasion when she was allowed off the leash in our yard, she attacked me. Fortunately, I had some training in judo and her challenge went rather badly for her while I was angry but unhurt. Sable became a junkyard dog.

…And this is our Miscreant thinning the herd of origami reindeer given us by the talented Mr. Leonard Gluck.:
But he’s in a different class entirely.

Before I came to know and love the Most High, I was as dark-hearted as Sable, a miscreant in an altogether separate category – an aimless and nameless wastrel.

Can I even express how grateful this repentant reprobate is to the King who expunged her record of lawlessness by sentencing Himself to death in my stead? Can I find words for my awe that He did not stop there, but took up His life again? No, words fail.

Where I deserved a pitiless death, I received mercy… and yet He did not stop there. With grace beyond my wildest reckoning,  He called this waif, “Daughter, ” lavished upon me a spiritual inheritance of inestimable value, and has brought light and life to all that was deadened and darkened within me.

My Lord and my God! May the wonder of it never cease to astonish me!

If my God is truly powerful; if His grace is truly sufficient; if I believe that fullness of joy is found in His presence – in short, if He is truly all He says He is – my life ought to reflect nothing short of complete devotion and steadfast loyalty to Him.

Where He is, I want to be. When He commands, I want to obey, and though I may slip up from time to time, overall I want to be fully His, wholly trusting Him and trusted by Him around people of all ages.

May I never be a casual partaker of Grace, giving the Almighty a perfunctory nod as I tuck His gift carelessly in a pocket while asking Him to bless my self-determined course.

In short, I do not want to a disciple who merely Has Potential…

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
(Colossians 1:9-10)

On the way out the door~~

Loved this post from Inspiration with an Attitude! Maybe I just needed a reminder that the presence of a promise doesn’t preclude the need of a battle or two (or three, etc.)…

INSPIRATION with an ATTITUDE

IMG_20150103_172451138Remember sending your kiddo off to kindergarten that first day?  Or camp?  Or that first solo in the car? (GAG!) Or college?  I remember the anxiety of allowing our teenage girls to go on month-long mission trips out of the country. The first one was to Hong Kong when it was still under British rule, and I found out (after the fact) that my 14-year-old smuggled Bibles into China.  She assured me it was safe. 

Because 14-year-olds know these things.

On one such excursion, one of our daughters reported that when she arrived at the staging complex, there signs posted everywhere that read “CALL YOUR MOTHER!”  Somebody there must have compassionately understood.

Now, by the grace of God, all three of our children have

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Renovation

This is my living room right now:

WIN_20170725_12_25_07_Pro

You’ll note the assorted pieces of a sleigh bed stashed behind the couch or atop the dog crate, the random rolled-up rug, my messy desk devoid of my photo processing desktop computer, the filing cabinet adorned with two lamps, and so on. If you could look to the right, you’d see a couple of dressers, assorted computer parts, a couple of nightstands, and a whole lot of homeless junk.

Not far beyond that lies a room which used to sport yellow and red handprints on a cheerful blue background, custom cabinets filled with curriculum and home school supplies, three desks, and a whiteboard.

Now the walls are muted to a neutral gray, the paint-stained carpet has been replaced with vinyl planking, and the room currently houses the planking and materials for a new flooring project.

I assure you, this is not the normal state of affairs at our home; we are in a state of flux. My husband has a little breather in his crazy work schedule and we are beginning  a long-desired (and possibly long overdue) removal of the carpet in as many places as we can afford.

Why am I telling you this?

I suppose it is metaphorical. My entire life is in the midst of remodeling project.

One week from today, all three of my children will attend the first day at Zion Christian Academy.  In other words, one week from today, I will officially be out of a job.

Naturally, I will still be parenting. I am assured that job has no end; only changing requirements. But for the first time in 16 years, the full-time parenting, shepherding, and educating of my children that is homeschooling will be at an end. We are in a state of total transition.

So what now? I wish I knew.

Just as this shuffling of furniture brings about much reorganizing and re-evaluating of possessions, so also I am finding myself sorting through many familiar habits and routines and trying to discern which ones will need to stay and which need to be tossed. Some I know must stay – my time with God, my study of His Word; these are non-negotiable. Others, well… we shall see.

Also, as the gutting of rooms brings many discoveries – some of great value like a letter to me from one of the kids when they were young; some less wonderful, like the cigarette butt left beneath the carpet by the builders – so I am finding many discoveries beneath the surface of my life.

Some are bittersweet – an increased intentionality in my time with the kids as the quantity of time together naturally diminishes. Still, each precious moment with my brood is so much sweeter even as they become more rare, so there is great joy.

Other findings are less lovely, like the lack of a college degree coming back to haunt me – the carelessly discarded stub of a reckless and wasted youth buried for years beneath the duties of a homeschool mom.

So today at the age of 43, I am sifting through the topsy-turvy assortment of abilities and desires that have shaped my life, evaluating them for usefulness during this next season, exposing them to my God for examination, and seeking His help in deciding what to keep and what to discard.

At this crossroads, I do not know which direction to take. Until I do, I will simply stand, prayerfully exploring my options and ready to obey once the order is given. It is a season of transition; a humbling time of reckoning for past decisions and a painful exercise in trusting God to reveal His purposes for me. During it all, I doggedly cling to the promise that His grace is sufficient for me even as I survey the wreckage necessary for renovation.

And I praise Him that no matter how crazy or hopeless things look to me now, the work He is doing will be well worth it in the end. Just like our new floors.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…

…And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:25-26, 28

Speaking of Pain…

Jesus wept.
John 11:35

Although I have read the story of the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11 countless times, after my most recent reading, two words have stayed with me: Jesus wept.

I’m not sure why this tiny sentence has remained in my thoughts. Perhaps it is the paradox that such a simple subject and verb construction would express so profound a concept as the sorrow of the Almighty. Or maybe at a time when certain family situations have touched a great well of sorrow and heartache within me, I find it comforting to know that He, too experienced emotional pain.

Why did He weep? Many have conjectured that possibly He wept because of the suffering of His friends, or maybe He wept that such a thing as death had entered into His creation at all, or because He knew that, in calling Lazarus back from death, He was calling his friend away from paradise and back into the drudgery and pain of life in a sin-scarred world.

I imagine that if our own reasons for weeping are complex, the tears of the Creator are shed for reasons that would confound our finite intellect. Still, it is safe to say that one reason Jesus wept is certain: He wept because He was in pain.

So it was that this smallest of Bible verses still lingered in my mind when I happened onto Facebook and saw a post by an old friend. He had posted a question that struck me as both ironic in light of this Scripture and terribly sad: “Why does God hate me?”

Ah, the incongruity! This God, the Creator of all who endowed His creation with the ability to either choose or reject Him; the King of kings and Lord of lords who willingly shelved His glory and donned the feebleness of mankind, Who chose to endure physical and emotional torment on our behalf; Who chose, even, to endure spiritual torment that one day on the cross… these actions do not describe hatred or even indifference.

If anything God can sympathize with us because He knows what it is like to feel distress and suffering. He knows what it is like to weep. He has embraced pain.

Can you imagine the depth and breadth of anguish experienced by the Infinite God? The cost of those tears is measured in currency far too precious to express. Allow me to share with you (and dare I hope that my old friend will read these words?) the poignant passage by G. K. Chesterton:

But in the terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt… He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”

Because He wept, we can know that He understood emotional pain. We can only imagine how his anguish is amplified beyond reckoning by His own infinite capacity to suffer. Because He chose to endure not only physical torture but the pain of rejection, of loss, of betrayal – in short, the pain of humanity – we know that in Him we can boldly approach the Throne of Grace to find mercy and grace to help in time of need.

And it is there, when we finally fall at the feet of the Most High in a posture of abject humility, confessing our need of Him in ultimate surrender and in trembling reverence, lifting our own tear-filled eyes to behold the King of glory, we will find something shocking. Rather than a countenance filled with the fury we know we deserve, we see instead His grief: a Father weeping both for the hurt that His child has endured and for the pain of rejection, but also a Father weeping for joy at the prodigal child returned.

Oh, how I hope and pray that so many hurting souls will come to the God who wept and find forgiveness, compassion, and a joy that never ends!

And Now For Something Completely Different

This is not going to be one of my normal posts and I’d like to start it with a confession:

I am not a terribly good patient. In fact, I may even be notoriously careless about such things as pain levels and general health.

To give you a snapshot of precisely how oblivious I can be, let me relate a conversation I had with my chiropractor (who specializes more in sports medicine PT than a traditional chiropractor):

Me, as I’m sitting on the table: “Oh, hey, do you remember when I came in with a swollen foot?” (He nods his assent) “Well, it still swells off and on when I walk.”

Him: “How long ago was that now?”

Me: “I don’t know. Probably two or three weeks or so.”

Him, checking my chart before rolling his eyes and looking over at me: “Or maybe 5 months…”

Me, somewhat sheepishly: “Or maybe 5 months… anyway, it still hurts…”

Of course, I also could have recounted several instances in which my poor, beleaguered husband had to try to guess at how bad I was feeling – like the time I had viral meningitis but didn’t think to go to the doctor until he carted me to the ER somewhere around the 60th hour of me being unable to hold down even a teaspoon of fluid…

Whatever. Suffice to say that I’m not the best at communicating my own pain levels, possibly because physical pain has been a part of my life for so long that I have grown accustomed to thrusting it aside and ignoring it until it becomes so noisy that I cannot.

So it didn’t really come as a surprise when, a little over a week ago, I woke one morning with some pretty intense back and neck pain. I remember telling my husband that I had to lay down again, although I did not manage to articulate why on the spot.

Now back and neck pain are not unusual for me and I had, in fact, had some degree of discomfort for several weeks. However, this pain had a quality that was entirely new. I remained intensely uncomfortable through the rest of the week.

Then one afternoon when I was talking with a friend and mentioned the pain. She pointed to my wrist and suggested I take off  the fitness tracker my husband had given me over a year ago in hopes of finding out if poor sleep contributed to my overall fatigue.

As it turns out, she had experienced similar back pain and had even had tests run but had no resolution of the pain until she removed her own fitness tracking device. Her mom had a comparable experience. Sure enough, within a few hours of removing the device, my pain had begun to subside to a more familiar intensity.

It made me wonder about the days when I was waking up with numb hands and chalked it up to possibly carpal tunnel. And it may well be coincidence; a fact I have not discounted.

Certainly I have had a history of chronic pain and some known medical issues in my thoracic and lumbar spine. However, I cannot help but wonder if there are others who have experienced something like this and if so, what might be the cause?

It still makes no sense to me, but I thought I’d ask. Has anyone else had weird or worsening symptoms appear after wearing a fitness tracking device?

Meanwhile, even the more typical types of pain which I am still dealing with serve only to make me look forward even more to this glorious future day:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4

Even in pain, “normal” or otherwise, I will still praise Him!

 

 

TBT – Midnight Musings

Hi, all! Due to a great deal of change and a busy summer, I’m finding it difficult to carve out time for blogging – either reading or writing. In light of my incredibly messy house and a small renovation project, I thought I’d just snatch enough time to borrow from my old blog today.

Here goes:

It is nearly midnight–a time I have only recently seen when a thunderstorm or nightmare wakes one of the children–and I am wide awake. Many thoughts have been careening through my head in the last few hours, and I am only just beginning to sort through them. Where do I begin? I suppose it would be best to begin with love. It was love that began me, after all.

When I speak so of love, I am not speaking of the rather clunky attempts humanity makes of the thing, nor do I mean to make a crude joke of the eros that was, nonetheless, certainly a fact of my beginning. I am speaking of Love as a Person.

It is written that God is Love, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. So you see, Love began me long before my earthly parents met or were even born. My Father had already set in motion a staggering number of events that would eventually lead to the birth of the child that was me. Astonishingly, this is no less true for anyone, whether or not they believe.

In this same multitude of events, my Father had also arranged for the death of that child, just as He arranged for the death of His Son. Jesus died selflessly, bearing my sins. I died shamefully only when I began to understand the weight of what He had given for silly, selfish, petty me.

Today (or to be particular, yesterday as of two minutes ago), as I celebrated His resurrection with my blood family and my church family, I thought of Paul as he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

True, my body is not dead, but a person is more than their meat. The part that is me, the eternal part intended for fellowship with God but stuck in rebellion, is crucified–hanged by the sheer perfection of Love and my own unworthiness of it–and it is dying the slow death of crucifixion as each year reveals yet another area of separation from God and yet a deeper wonder of the merciful Savior who stands ready to receive me into life–real Life–once the sanctifying death is complete.

This Savior is the One without Whom I would have no chance whatsoever of seeing my way free of the absolute bondage of sin; without Whom I would not even see the chains.

Oh, and all this is just a mote–just a speck that I am struggling to put into words! This is the second time I have been flooded with a love that was far too exquisite to be human, far too immense to be my own. Along with that pulsing, cascading, aching sharpness is the certainty that it is also but the merest breath of True Love. So much love, so much life, so much mystery rushes through my mind. . .

How I love each of my brothers and sisters in Christ… not only as brothers and sisters, but as members of the same Body. . .

How I love the gifts and strengths of each and long to see them finally unbound from that which is crucified . . .

How I am torn by the weaknesses of each–my own included–and weep at the frailty of flesh removed from glory by sin. . .

How I am at once exhilarated and frightened by the depth of this Love that is both an unquenchable fire and a rushing torrent of water. . .

How I am captivated by the wonder of it all, wanting at once to be consumed by it and yet still clinging to the old self out of simple fear of the unknown. . .

How even now as I sit typing, groping for words, I know that this Story is too expansive to be contained by mere words. I can only communicate in terms of my experience with taste, touch, smell, sight, emotion. . . I am captive of my senses, and yet I have the distinct impression that even sensuality is only “dirty” because of the corruptive twisting of sin.

In contemplation of self or in love of others, it is often impossible to separate the sinner from the sin. My God, blessed be His name! does not share that problem, and in Him all things are plain, pure, undefiled, and Real.

A child understands such simple and complete love without the complications or nuances added by a decaying mind, for we are born into decay, and the corruption grows as our bodies grow, infecting us more and more completely.

It is only by opening ourselves to Love, by allowing the crucifixion of that which is perishable, that we can be raised one day imperishable. It is another seeming paradox. But what is paradox but a thing to show the fragility of human understanding? One breath of truth and it all comes tumbling gloriously down.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.