Stormophobia: a dog’s life

We adopted a dog from our local animal shelter last week. I’ve been requesting a second dog for a while, but my husband is a ‘one dog man’. But when my son’s best neighborhood buddy moved away…well, he needed a young whippersnapping companion to take the boy’s place. (wink, wink) Our old family dog is more of a sleeping companion these days.

So, we brought home Dodger, a white boxer with the face of a grumpy grandpa, the snore of a motorcycle, and the flatulence of a Mexican restaurant. He’s a sweet, sweet fella, and he’s fit right into our family. Even our ol’ gal Mia, who has been with us for almost eleven years has accepted him as her brother.

This evening, we had a summer thunderstorm, not uncommon around these parts. Our family usually snuggles up together on the couch and listens to the thunder, the wind, and the rain. We might even open windows to smell the fresh air. Tonight’s storm rolled through just as the kids were dozing off to sleep, and they missed our snuggle time. But Dodger was totally aware of what was coming along.

From the first distant rumble, he was on guard. He began pacing through the house, looking for shelter. Up and down the hall, up and down the stairs, staring at me, locating my husband, and back again. Whimpering occasionally, he was in constant motion…trying to find his haven in his new home. Or maybe, he was just trying to get away from the storm altogether. He hopped on the couch with me (usually forbidden) and sat at attention, eyes darting from window to window, wherever the lightning flashed or rain sounded loudest. Then, he hopped down and returned to his pacing, pausing briefly to have an explosive blowout on my son’s floor (I hope that was just something he ate and not a storm-triggered behavior. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long, disgusting summer…)

As I was thinking about how to comfort Dodge and how to break this cycle of panic, I thought of his past. He came to us from a home where he was always kept outside, due to a family allergy. If the behavior I saw tonight was his response to being inside during a storm, I can only imagine how terrified he was being outside through each storm. I hope that the more storms he ‘weathers’ inside with us, the more settled he will become…and the pattern of panic will be broken.

This behavior caused me to think of people who are trying to live a new lifestyle and how hard it is to break out of the old response patterns. Breaking free is liberating, but first it’s terrifying. How do you know who to believe or trust? It’s like Dodger looking for his own solace…his own place of shelter because we humans couldn’t be trusted to make the storm go away. Starting over often means that you can only depend on you because others have failed so often and so deeply.

It takes courage to want a new response, to be tired enough of the old panic-and-poop to find a new way to respond. It takes strength to pull out of an unhealthy situation and pace around looking for a new, healthier way. Though fear may be a driving force, it still drives us on to seek something better.

I will be researching how to settle Dodger’s storm fears, but I won’t forget his first storm with us…or the impression it made on me. That utter panic of ‘This has got to change!!!! How can I make this stop?!?!!’ made me recall my own past panics and how infinitely thankful I am to have survived and thrived.

God is good. God is always with us in our storms. He sees us wandering and wondering how to make it all go away. And he reaches out to us to show us the way. He wants to wrap his arms around us, stop our shaking, and hold us until the worst is over. We just have to be willing to trust his love more than our own methods of comfort.

Psalm 147: 3

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 103:1-5

1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

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VBS: It’s not just for the kids

As we belted out the lyrics to a great Chris Tomlin song and learned the motions choreographed to go along with it, I heard the message for the first time. The closed-captioned words popped on the screen as the kids watched the singers and followed their motions…and I just stood there reading the song that I’d sung dozens of times before.
‘Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord…’
Huh…our strength will increase while we’re waiting on God. Lemme ponder that a bit.
I watched Connie, our 78 year old volunteer, dance just as enthusiastically as her second grade counterparts. I admired the excitement that flashed in her eyes. She saw me and said, ‘I love it!’ At her veteran place in life, she was learning new moves and new praises to God.
Other class leaders, moms-returned-to-full-time-work, were using the bond of VBS to spend with their own children because their new schedule limited the customary family time.
One grandad was helping in the snack area because his wife, one of our usual snack helpers, had a stomach virus. He had an opportunity to serve kids, his wife, and his God.
The classrooms were pleasantly stocked with youth helpers, cutting, pasting, tying, wiping, shushing, leading…finding their own niches in service.
‘Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord…’
Each adult present in VBS has had his/her fair share of waiting times. Waiting for a loved one to come through surgery, waiting for a diagnosis, waiting to find housing, waiting for a job interview, waiting for the check to come in the mail so bills can be paid…the waiting can be so long and weigh so heavily on us. But according to this inspiring praise chorus, which reflects Scripture, our waiting is what develops our spiritual muscles. Just like our physical body improves its tone with strength training, so does our spiritual self.
My dear dancing Connie has waited for health, family, housing, security…and it has brought her to a place of laughter and love to share with VBS kids.
The working moms have worked waited for interviews, financial stability, growth of children…and it has brought them to their knees in service to the kids of VBS.
The grandad has,no doubt, waited on his wife, his children, his grandchildren…and it has brought him back to waiting tables, doling out cheeseballs and lemonade, in the name of Jesus.
The youth have waited to grow up, to find their paths, to be independent…and it has brought them to church, in the summer, to serve little ones half their age.
‘Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord…’
If we are confident of the one we are waiting on, we can doing the waiting. If we look back at what he has done, in our lives, in the lives of others, in the Bible… we know that the waiting is worth it. He is faithful. He will not faint, he won’t grow weary…so neither should we. I admire my VBS colleagues and each of the stages of life they represent. They have waited…and will continue to wait…but they know that the waiting isn’t really so bad when you consider what strength is being built…
Isaiah 40:31
They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.
The will mount up with wings as eagles.
They will run and not be weary;
they will walk and not faint.

A Lover and a Fighter

I’m more of a lover than a fighter. I’d rather snuggle than feud, smile than frown, hug than reprimand. So it’s hard when life takes a swing at me. My instinct isn’t to swing back. My instinct is to find a soft place, lie down, and wait or the trouble to pass. But sometimes, that’s not possible. Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.07.29 PM

I’m changing jobs this fall, which is exciting and unnerving at the same time. My wee lass will be entering kindergarten, and my little lad is rapidly turning into a larger lad. I knew all these things were coming…I knew that the school year that just ended was a transitional one, and I had braced myself for the changes that were upon us.

What I wasn’t expecting Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.23.26 PMwas that my best friend would be moving, my son’s new best neighborhood pal would be moving, astalwart colleague would be moving, my beloved mom would be having spinal surgery, and that I’d miss my circle of peers as much as I do. Or that summer would begin with a solid week of rain.
Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.05.47 PM

So, the gray clouds have settled around me much like Pigpen’s dust cloud. I don’t want any of THOSE changes to occur. I just want to be able to start my new job and get my daughter adjusted to school while my support group cheers me on. Alas, my support group is in need of their own support.

So what’s this lover of a girl to do when life starts throwing punches? Sigh…at this point, I’m gonna start swinging back.

I went out running tonight. It’s the first time in twelve years I did. Last time I ran, I blew out my knee and had to have reconstructive surgery. I’ve been scared to run since then. Until tonight. I have to do something to push away the gray clouds that linger around me. Life isn’t going to let up, so I’ve got to become tougher. I need the physical activity to release the endorphins, I need to battle the midlife bulge, and I need to push away this cloud around me. Running i a cheap (free!) outlet for my frustration. I got legs…I got a road…I’m gonna use ’em.  Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.29.09 PM

It was a short run, but it was a start. I took my aged dog, and she was thrilled. Half a mile, a few short walking breaks. I’m not going to add to my cloud by comparing my accomplishment with anyone else’s. It was my half-mile.

We’ll see how this goes. Running isn’t going to make any of the changes stop, but it will improve my outlook on them. It’ll be good for me physically and emotionally. It’ll give my mind a break from the tensions. It’ll help me prepare for other unexpected blows from life.

  Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.26.56 PM I’d rather be a cuddly, snuggly, comfortable lover,Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.12.36 PM

    but for now, I need to take up the fight.    

All picture credits: peanuts.com

A little time in the sun

This has been an endless winter. Even though the calendar says it’s spring, meteorologically it’s still winter. We just got 8″ of snow today…and it’s nearly April.

BUT, a week or so ago, we did see the sun. Temps were mild, in the 60s. A few whispery breezes. A weekend of verdant promise. So, we got outside to soak it up like the dry and desperate sponges that we were. Running, kicking a ball, playing tag, hiding and seeking, swinging, inviting friends over…we tried to do it all because we knew that winter was rolling up his next snowball to throw at us.

While the kids were playing, I began to rake some long-forgotten autumn leaves away from a few green daffodil shoots. I love daffodils…so tall and perky…so proud of their victorious bloomin’ accomplishment. I figured they could use some spring cheer, so I stepped in and pulled some vines away and raked a few small piles of leaves away to provide them as much sunlight as possible.

As I raked, I discovered that those few green stalks had some buddies nearby, hidden under the brown mass of leaves. Only these stalks weren’t stately and fresh; quite by contrast, they were stubby and transparently yellow. Image

I was excited to find these little spring rookies and hoped that I wasn’t too late to cheer them. I dug into the leaves, crunchy on top, moist and moldy underneath and scraped them away. The more I scraped, the more shoots I found. Then, I was on a mission…like a dog who had found a long-lost bone. I pulled and raked and scraped and dug until I uncovered about twenty precious signs of life. Weak and disappointed they looked, all that effort of pushing up through winter’s hard soil only to find little comfort, just more gloom. I held out hope that a little time in the sun would help them cheer up.

The next day, I made sure to check on them. Almost exactly twenty-four hours later, they looked like their pioneering posy pals. The sickly yellow of their stems had darkened to a healthy lush green. Though not yet any taller, they stood straighter and more hopeful in the warm rays that shone on them. I showed the kids that the sad little weaklings we had uncovered just the day before now stood a chance at being just as beautiful as their friends…and no one would even know what they’d been through to get there.Image

It’s amazing what a little time in the sun can do.

John 8:12~When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Go ahead…read John 8:1-12

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%208&version=NIV

 

Inconceivable

Inconceivable. It is beyond my conception that my son is mere hours away from finishing kindergarten. Truly, I cannot wrap my mind around the thought. 

Wasn’t it just a few months ago that he was learning to walk, blabbering about nanas and trucks? Wasn’t he just out on the deck railing, carefully held by his father, pointing at the ‘mooooooon’ for the first time? I know it was just weeks ago that he began preschool and learned about the Mouse, the Bear, and the Red, Ripe Strawberry and wore those silly glasses as a disguise. And then, he learned about dinosaurs and made that playdough fossil. Didn’t we just meet his four-year old teacher and learn to love her and her amazing use of wikki sticks, glue, paper, and paint? Didn’t he just learn to count without skipping from twelve to sixteen? 

How is it possible that he has learned to read already and to tell time and to count money? How can his tiny brain hold life-altering facts about presidents and important American citizens? He already knows what ‘subtract’ and ‘chrysalis’ and ‘molt’ and ‘indivisible’ mean. 

I thought he was a genius when he stacked blocks on top of his milk cup and made a successful tower. Now, he’s writing paragraphs about metamorphosis. I thought he was amazing when he could find our state on a map. Now he can calculate how much money he has in his clammy handful of coins. 

He has grown up so much, mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually. He can do things that he has never done before…and with a confidence he’s never had before. He’s on his way to becoming an amazing little man. 

I want to smile, as if I approve of this change. I want to cry, to stop this growth. I want to hold him, to keep him close forever. I want to push him onward, to continue his development. 

I must grow and develop with him, as I have never been this far with him…and I want to keep going too. 

My love for him is inconceivable.