Scratching the spot

Mia is our fourteen-year old, beloved family dog. She has been with my husband and me since we were newlyweds. She’s grown old and gray as our kids have grown up and active. Currently, she spends most of her time sleeping on the couch, monitoring neighborhood activity out the window, or occasionally escaping to see her best bud down the street. We love our old gal.

miawindow            miadog

About a year ago, the vet told us that Mia had become paralyzed in her back legs. We had noticed that she would drag her back feet a bit when we would take her for a walk. In the snow, you could see the imprint of her front paws and a dragged streak representing her hind steps. But she could still run and play, just slower…and maybe a bit clumsier.

We noticed another way the paralysis affected her when we scratched ‘the spot’ behind her ears. For years, our family has relished in seeing Mia’s hind leg twitch when we would successfully find ‘the spot’ on her neck that activated her scratching reflex. She’d lift and twitch her back leg while we actually did the scratching work around her collar. But now, her legs don’t feel that reflex, and she certainly can’t lift either back leg or stand on the remaining one to scratch her neck. So, we find her special spot and do the work for her, since she can’t do it herself. Her head twists to the side, her eyes get that ‘Oh my gosh…that feels sooooooo good….’ glaze over them…and there’s a little bit of ‘Thank you’ in those big brown eyes, too.

 

You know, we all have our times of being the old, crippled dog…or the loving caretaker. There are seasons in life when we find ourselves limited by our circumstances, and we need someone else to help us. Unexpected family crisis can freeze our life progress…our thoughts are locked on solving that problem, and we can’t focus on anything else. Conflict at work can be so monopolizing that we bring it home with us, and it lives in our house too, paralyzing our relationships with others. Finances, seemingly the base of our existence, can falter, leaving us standing helplessly and aching for solutions. Grief, depression, illness, transition…all stifling, limiting curses to our happy little existence. So many irritating itches, and no way to satisfyingly scratch them. We desperately need help, whether we lift up our beseeching eyes to anyone or not.

mia                               miab

We need connection with others. We need to metaphorically, or even literally, curl up on the couch with those who love us. We need to rest our head on that able body and moan, whine, wish, weep, and even snore. There has to come a time that we seek help from those who have loved us, those who have spent time caring for us, those who will love us no matter what ails us.

That said, sometimes, we will be the caregivers to our friends as well. Are we ready for that? Are we keeping ourselves emotionally and spiritually healthy? Do we lift up ourselves and our dear ones in prayer, seeking help for things that we are powerless to change? Daily, we should seek God and his merciful grace on our lives, so we are prepared to live this life he has given us. With this empowerment, we will be ready to ‘scratch the spot’ of those beloved companions who need us most.

miame

Second Corinthians 2:3-7

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Second Corinthians 7

Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.

 

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What little ears hear

ears

My son doesn’t like to be startled. At all. Ever. He doesn’t like alarm clocks ( I don’t either ), car horns ( unless he’s honking them ),  or fire drills ( they bring him to his knees).  I know this about my son, and I accept it. We all have our quirks. I don’t like jumpy things…grasshoppers, frogs, crickets…bunnies are only just tolerable.

We were with a well-meaning acquaintance doing a planned activity that ended up being a bit louder and startling than expected. My son balked. He ran from the fun to a safe space some distance away…and I was okay with that. I knew what was happening, and I knew he was finding his solace. Our host did not understand that so much. And there were some chastising words spoken toward my son. And that hurt me.

I wanted to plug my son’s ears. I wanted to erase the two minutes of time that had just occurred and take him back to when that person was a ‘safe’ person to be around. Without realizing it, that individual had just permanently damaged the relationship with my great kid. No longer was he a trustworthy companion in my son’s eyes because he had poked an already sore spot in my son’s psyche.

As a kid, I used to sing the song ‘Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See’ in chapel at school. (And subsequent verses, ‘Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear’ and ‘Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go’…) It was a cute little ditty, reminding us not to put ourselves in places where we shouldn’t be…places where we can get into trouble…or where trouble can find us. But what if trouble finds you when you’re where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, with the people that are acceptable company? What then?

Oh for cotton balls to shove in my son’s ears, band-aids to wrap his heart or bubble wrap to roll around his spirit at that moment. I agonized for him because I knew he had tried to be brave, and though he had succeeded in my eyes and his own, he had failed in the most verbal presence there. And there’s the key. He had succeeded, and there will always be verbal presences. He had sought his safe space where he could still participate, but from a distance. He had not denied the total experience. He had not thrown a fit. He had not screamed at the adult. He had not reacted negatively. He knew his limits and he lived within them. And I was proud of him.

I cannot follow my son everywhere and protect him from everything. That would create more problems than it would solve. But I can help him become strong enough inside that he is prepared when trials come along, expectedly or unexpectedly. I cannot shelter him from meanness but I can teach him to be brave in spite of it. I cannot block him from the evil that resides in this world, but I can show him that God is bigger than evil and that God lives in him…and loves him more than anything.

People hurt us. People close to us that know our inner struggles can hurt us deeper because they know our weaknesses. But we can heal and learn from those painful times. We can learn to protect ourselves emotionally when we’re around those people, and we can be compassionate enough not to act that way to others.

Oh, be careful little ears what you hear, and don’t become like the voices that spoke those words.

Psalm 103…parenting like God.

(Picture courtesy of blog.childandfamilydevelopment.com)