Joy & Peace

ImageEvery time I walk in my house, I’m greeted by the same scene: three happy, jumping, twirling, joyful dogs. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been gone 10 minutes or 10 days. If I’ve had the best day of my life or the worst. If I’m wearing dirty jeans and a t-shirt or my best suit. They are thrilled to see me.

It’s one of the many reasons I love dogs. And their ability to lose themselves in the moment is something I envy.

Some of our dogs have had difficult lives. They’ve been mistreated and abused. Neglected and harmed. Starved of food and human compassion.

Yet they have the ability to move past that history and live wholly in the present. Full of joy and completely at peace.

I often wonder how they do it. Because peace and joy are elusive for me despite my constant prayers for them.

Sometimes I have trouble letting go of the challenges and difficulties of everyday life. Sometimes old hurts will crop up, or painful reminders of the past. And sometimes the pain and suffering of those around me will cause me to doubt that we have a God who loves us.

We live in a world that can be scary. Where people we love get sick and planes fall out of the sky. Where relationships end and jobs are lost. Where people and animals are abused. Where bad things happen to good people.

And none of it makes sense.

But in those times, I am reminded that I do have a God who loves me. He is the One who has provided the family who loves me. The friends who cheer me. The church that encourages me. The creation that awes me. And the dogs that inspire me.

To some these dogs may simply be pets. Household companions. Wagging tails and cute faces.

But for me, my dogs also serve as a source of inspiration. A reminder that no matter my past, present or future circumstances, I can be full of joy and at peace in this moment.

They are a true blessing, and a reminder of God’s love for me.


Auto-matic Behaviors

ImageOne of the challenges of having rescue dogs is that you rarely get anything close to a real history on them. This is the sum total of what we know about Lily:

  • She was dropped with her litter of puppies at a high-kill shelter in Mississippi.
  • She was heartworm positive.
  • She hadn’t received any vaccinations.
  • She has scars on both her face and legs.

That’s it.

So you’re left to put the pieces together based on observed behavior.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • She loves food. All food. Anytime. All the time.
  • She hates the cold.
  • She loves lying in the sun.
  • She can jump a 4’ fence.
  • She loves to sleep.
  • She’s very protective.
  • She loves to cuddle.
  • She has a strong prey drive. Especially for squirrels. And black SUVs.

Yup. Black SUVs. When we first began walking her, Lily chased pretty much every car that drove by. But once she got comfortable on her leash, it shifted to being almost exclusively black SUVs. Which can lead one to imagine all kinds of crazy scenarios about what might have sparked this fixation.

We’ll never know the cause of her behavior. But we have to live with the consequences.

When a black SUV drives by, Lily chases it. She doesn’t think about it. She doesn’t think about what she’ll do if she catches it. She just does it.

And it’s dangerous.

Because Lily will never win in Dog v. Car.

I do my own version of chasing cars. I just do it in my own mind. I chase thoughts around in my head. What-if’s. What then’s. Whatamigoingtodo’s. They spin and churn and roll around my brain and I chase chase chase chase them. Until I’m so wrought up I can’t even think straight.

My automatic behaviors may not be as dangerous as Lily’s, but they’re just as destructive.

God tells us to cast all our anxieties on Him. And I’m working on it. But I have to admit, I haven’t mastered it yet. Just like Lily hasn’t quite gotten past chasing those darn black SUVs.

Lily and I are quite a pair. But I’m hopeful and trusting that God’s going to help us both overcome our automatic behaviors in time.



Collateral Damage

Lily in the sun

When Lily first joined our family, walking her was positively ghastly. She dove hard after nearly every single car that drove by, and it took every ounce of strength to keep her on the sidewalk and moving forward.

But we have been working hard with on her leash skills, and she’s made amazing progress. So much progress, in fact, I had nearly forgotten about those crazy lunges after moving cars.

I was given a reminder this past weekend.

It was a beautiful day and Lily was walking like a champ. A squirrel darted past us as soon as we walked out the door, but she left it alone after a quick look its way. We walked by the two Chihuahuas next door without so much as a sideways glance. We even passed a small boy on a bike, which still tends to be a challenge for her to resist.

Perhaps resisting all those smaller temptations had used up her willpower, because Lily let loose when the USPS truck quickly pulled up to the mailbox next us. She. Went. Nuts.

And the next thing I knew, Lily dove at the truck, knocked me off balance, and I was down on the sidewalk. The result: torn jeans and a badly skinned knee.

Lily didn’t intend to knock me over. I was simply collateral damage. She lashed out and I was hurt as a result.

Unfortunately, I’ve been creating some collateral damage of my own lately.

Due to some unfortunate circumstances in my life, I have been turning into ANGRY GIRL. You know, the one who’s perpetually scowling and snaps at you for no good reason. I hate that girl.

The fact is, sometimes circumstances stink. Sometimes they’re downright rotten. But I have a choice in how I respond to those circumstances, and it hasn’t been pretty lately.

Jesus tells us we will be known by the LOVE we share. Even in yucky circumstances. Even to people we feel have wronged us. Even when the very last thing we feel is sharing love.

It is required of us to LOVE others. Everyone. Always. No matter what. That is my testimony and that’s the only way that people will know I love Jesus. Not by the cross around my neck. Not by the music I listen to. And not by the Bible verses I can spout. By the LOVE I show to those around me. Every. Single. Day.

I am far from perfect. I am a work in progress. And that’s okay. But I’m praying that I can stop allowing my testimony to be collateral damage and I can start being an example of the love I’ve been shown by my God.

And if any of you see ANGRY GIRL, do me a favor, and tell her she needs to take a hike.