Glorious Unfolding.....

    I sit and watch the big Rottweiler as he leaps and twirls about the backyard in his dance of joy and I reflect on the experience of the last couple of months caring for him through his recovery, and of things I have been reading and of a song I just listened to on the radio.

   This joyful dog was born somewhere down south in New Mexico, a little over a year ago, and at the young age of 9 weeks he was attacked by another dog and severely injured, suffering damage to his head, crushing of one nasal cavity and giving him a misshapen face where his eyes don’t quite line up, and his jaw is off-center. We found out recently through a search of his medical records that he was bitten by a snake a little while after his first injury. This too in the face.

  So the dog grew up and as he grew his body overcompensated and created a huge bony growth on the left side of his head, a growth with bony fingers pressing down into his left eye and a growth that filled up with nasty infection and created a constant pressure, probably must like a severe sinus infection to us.

  Much of that story was told in a previous blog post. But today my thoughts are drawn to how things unfold in life, and how although bad times can seem unsurmountable and more than we can endure, the story is not over yet.

  The dog zooms about the yard, leaping like some kind of heavy weight sumo wrestler trying to do ballet. He is both graceful and clumsy. He is exuberant! He feels so darn good and life, in his opinion, just doesn’t get any better. But it wasn’t always so for him. There was a time when all he knew was the dull ache and pressure in his head, an ache that dulled life for him, prevented a good fast frolic from being enjoyable, and I cannot but marvel at the glorious unfolding that I have been able to witness as I have watched this dog go from the misshapen Quasimodo, to the exuberant and joyful QuasiBoBo.

  As I watch him frolic in the yard, I ponder the story that I read recently in the book of Ruth, a Bible book I have read frequently over the years and yet this time something else jumped out at me in the story. Naomi, the mother in law of Ruth, a woman who left the land of her birth and followed her husband into Moab. She bore him two fine sons, and watched them marry Moabite women and somewhere along the way everything went wrong. Her husband died, leaving her alone, and then both her sons died, leaving her bereft and broken.

  Naomi must have had some wonderful character traits, because both of her daughter in laws wept at the thought of losing her, as she informed them of her intention to return to the land of her birth. So much so that Ruth decides to follow her and declares those famous lines; “entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, whether thou goest I will go, thy people will be my people and thy God my God.” There must be something that shined out of Naomi’s life to have created such a bond that the daughter in law is now willing to follow her into a land where Moabites are not too popular, and to do so as a young widow.

  I think of Naomi. Of how totally lost and broken she must have been. Dead husband. Dead sons. Nobody to provide for her and probably not much to live for. She tells her people to stop calling her Naomi and to call her Mara “for the Lord has dealt bitterly with me”. I can’t say I blame her for that, she for sure endured a terrible loss, and carried a heavy burden.

 Yet I imagine this woman as she took her final breath and then stepped into the presence of the God that she had always believed in, when she at last could see how everything turned out in her story, when she could behold from beginning to end the glorious unfolding of the most wonderful story ever told, and one that she had played a part in. The look on her face as she realized that from the line of her daughter in law Ruth, and her kinsman redeemer Boaz, had come the Savior of the world! When she realized that the hard life she had lived, and the witness she had made to her young daughter in law, the witness that drew that young woman to follow her home, and thus meet Boaz and marry him, and have a child, who had a child, who had a child and one day, in a stable in Bethlehem a babe was born to a young virgin……..what a glorious unfolding of grace that came straight out of the broken, heartrending trials of a woman named Naomi.

 And as I rise to get ready to leave for work my thoughts drift to my father, a man who suffered a lot of hardship and disappointment in life and I imagine his face, as he took that final breath and stepped into eternity, and as the Savior whom he had served most of his life unfolded the glorious story of all the lives impacted by his faithfulness. And I pause for a moment and look up, and imagine hearing my dad, from that great cloud of witnesses whisper “run, daughter”……”run your race…..the story is far from over….and what a glorious unfolding it will be!”.

 

 

 

 Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing love
And the story has only begun

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise god has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

We were made to run through fields of forever
singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

Of this glorious unfolding
We will watch and see and we will be amazed
If we just keep on believing the story is so far from over
And hold on to every promise god has made to us
We’ll see the glorious unfolding

Just watch and see (unfolding)
This is just the beginning of the beginning (unfolding)

 



New Life and Second Chances….Lessons I Have Learned From Dogs

    A couple of months ago I met a Rottweiler named Quasimodo. A rather quiet and gentle soul. Quasi was attacked by another dog when he was just a few weeks old, and his nasal cavity was crushed. As he grew and matured his body compensated for the injury and grew an enormous mass of bone on the left side of his head. So Quasi, now one year old, has this huge domed hump on the top of his head, a mass so large that is caused his left eye to be squeezed shut and thus giving him his name.

 Quasi has known no other life, all his days have been spent with the burden and the pressure of his injury. This is his life, this is as good as it gets for Quasi. Sure, he has had some good times, some tasty bones, naps in the sun and interactions with others, but all took place with the burden and the pressure of the old injury, squeezing shut his eye and causing pain, sort of like having a permanent sinus infection.

 I immediately fell in love with this dog, with his grossly misshapen head and his quiet and kind brown eye. You could just feel the “very special” radiating off this dog. On that first day that we met, I was only able to spend a few minutes with him, on a quick walk around the park, but he captivated me from the moment I first saw him.

 The next week Quasi went in for surgery, to remove all that extra skull from his dome. When they cut into him they found this hardened bony dome was filled with nasty pus and gore. The vet was brilliant in her work and worked diligently to remove all the infection and once the surgery was over, Quasi’s head was more normal shaped.

 He arrived back to the rescue that evening, and the dog that had been quiet and gentle was now dancing. He danced and he lept and he was so darn happy. Although he had a huge cone on his head, and gauze packed into his surgery wound, with a drain hanging out the top of his head, and he looked a frightful hot mess, but he didn’t care. All Quasi knew was that the burden, and the pressure were gone! And he felt wonderful! He felt alive! And he wanted nothing more than to dance and to run and to leap, not caring at all that he was slinging blood and gore all about him, plastering it upon the walls and the people. For the first time since his injury, Quasimodo was dancing!

 Sadly I did not get to see this wonderful sight, but I had it described to me, and it filled my heart with joy for this beautiful very special dog!

   A few weeks later I got to spend some time with Quasi. What a different dog from when we first met. His head was filled with stitches and somewhat misshapen, and he had a bit of a Frankenstein appearance now, he was wearing his huge cone, but he had such joy in his eyes. He was a new dog. The same and yet not the same. He was alive, he was joyful, and looking at him all I could see was beautiful hope and redemption.

 Quasimodo reminds me of myself. Of how I lived my life, up until my high twenties, with a burden and a pressure upon it that I could not describe, nor understand, nor get rid of. There were good times, and great experiences, but all were somewhat marred by that pressure and yearning that spoke to my soul saying “surely this is not everything?” “Surely there is something more?”

 And somewhere into all that mess that was me, and my life, God reached down and called my name, and something inside me awoke, and something I had always carried, not even realizing the full weight of it, fell away, and I was free and I was changed. Jesus, the one who touched lepers, had touched me and I would never again be the same. All that stuff mucking up my life, all that weight pressing down upon me, all that yearning for “something more”, was gone and I was new and different.

  I know how Quasimodo must feel, I know why he dances, he has been given a new life, totally and completely different from the life he once had. He didn’t even know that such a thing was possible. All of his days of memory had been filled with that pressure, that big ugly puss filled burden on the top of his head. It had marred everything. Even the good moments of life, the tasty bones, the time spent with the people he loved, all of that marred by that steady pressure of pain, that steady burden of infection. He is a new dog now.

    I have since been blessed to be able to foster Quasimodo for a bit and currently he is entertaining us with his antics and teaching me the lessons I need to learn from him, before he moves on into his special forever home.

    He has already shown me how there is always hope, even when you can't feel it, can't see it, can't even contemplate the possibility of it. He has found a new life, a second chance, and its like nothing he could ever dream. He will get to be all that he was created to be, he will dance, he will frolic and he will bring love and companionship to his special human. Quasi has joy now, an unbridled joy, he feels good, he feels so good that he can hardly contain himself.

   He has already shown me the art of dancing, even if you have ugly stitches and a huge cone on your head. And just watching him, seeing the joy in his face reminds me of redemption. Something that I too rejoice in and am greatly thankful for.

    Quasi has been redeemed. His redemption was bought for him by someone else, an act of total grace and one for which he cannot repay. And he is overjoyed by this new wonderful life he has been given. There is so much more to come for him, but right now its a lot of times in crates, and wearing a giant cone on his head but still he dances. He is the very picture of joy personified. It's as if he can now see the hope in front of him.

 He is a hoot to watch, and already I see that God has much to teach me through the antics of this very special dog.

     God bless you Quasimodo, and grant you long life, peace, people who adore you, tasty bones, naps in the sun, long walks by the river and all the other good things that every dog should have. Until then…………teach me His ways and His lessons as I watch you heal up.

   


 

You're shattered
Like you've never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you're never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Beginning
Just let that word wash over you
It's alright now
Love's healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
'Cause your story's far from over
And your journey's just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
'Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven's working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again
Your heart to beat again
Beat again

Oh, so tell your heart to beat again

 

 


Walking By Faith

    This morning, as I sat looking out over a dreary, wet landscape and gray, rainy sky I meditated upon the morning's reading, Numbers 12 and 13. I pondered Caleb, a leader of his people and a man of great faith.

     Caleb and eleven  other leaders were sent into the promised land, to spy out the land, to see if it were fruitful and to see if it could be taken. These twelve men found a fruitful land, abundant with crops, fertile and lush. But eleven men came back with tales of woe and terror. They saw an impossible task. They saw the fear of tomorrow, they dwelled upon the "what ifs" and in so doing they reported back that it was impossible to go forward. Victory was impossible. Going forward was certain death and destruction. They had gone in, and spied out with earthly eyes.

   Not so with Caleb. He saw a future bold and bright. He saw victory. He saw a land promised to him and he saw the God of glory marching forward before him as he marched to take it.

  Can you imagine how difficult that was? Here he stands with eleven men, all leaders of the people, all, presumably men he respected, and every last one of them is reporting that this land they just returned from was impossible to take. Everyone of them spoke against going forward, and everyone of them promised certain destruction if their words were not heeded.

  Have you ever stood alone? Stood believing on a course of action when everyone else was opposed? In times like that you start second guessing yourself. You begin to falter, you begin to think maybe they are right.

   Not so Caleb. He stood firm, he believed in the God who had gone before him every time past, the God who had delivered, the God who had sustained, the God of the impossible, the glorious, amazing, terrifying God of glory. And God had said this land would be given to them. So Caleb didn't see fortified cities and mighty warrior's with earthly eyes. Instead he looked upon this promised land with eyes of faith.

  Walking by faith and not by sight isn't easy. Everyone around you will often be clamoring about the certain destruction that is coming, how the situation before you is an impossible one, and without meaning to they will encourage you to be cautious, to stay put, to accept the lesser and to stop dreaming about the impossible.

  How do we walk by faith? Personally I believe we learn to walk by faith when we keep our eyes on Jesus. The God man, the One who left glory and majesty and took on flesh, the One who walked on water, the One who quieted the storm with a word, the One who said "Lazarus come forth!", the One who touched lepers, the One who freed captive souls, the One who's touch caused the blind to see and the lame to jump up and dance. 

  God's promises are sure. Caleb knew this truth. Caleb was willing to stake his very life on that truth. He did not allow the fears of the other eleven to discourage him. He knew the God of glory, he remembered the amazing feats of deliverance, strength and provision that had come from the very hand of that God of glory. 

  We can learn much from Caleb.

.

The Last Time

 I was reading some Buechner today, and he spoke of the Last Supper and how we too have last moments with loved ones, but we do not often recognize they are last moments. I wonder if we thought of this more often, perhaps it would help us to be at peace with things and to see what is truly important instead of the trivial things we often focus on.

  One day I will sit down for my last meal, but I probably won’t realize it. Often I go home after a workday, and I fret, and even feel a bit sorry for myself because now I must prepare something for us all to eat. I’m easy to please, a peanut butter sandwich works great for me, but my family prefer cooked meals. This can be irritating to me, tiring, and a drain on my dwindling energy. But when I think about that last meal, it changes everything.

What if tonight’s dinner is the last dinner I ever prepare for my husband….or my son? What if sometime between the eating of it, and tomorrow’s meal, God decided to call one of them home?

  When you start to ponder this, you begin to think of many “lasts”. The last hug, the last kiss, the last words……..we just don’t know what tomorrow holds. This past Sunday, in Cairo, Coptic Christians rose from their sleep, they got dressed, they fretted with dressing squirmy children, and they made breakfast. Perhaps they felt rushed, perhaps they were tired and stressed, perhaps they even felt drained by the constant need of their families. Eventually they completed these unrecognized “lasts” and headed out to church…..for the last time.

While sitting in their pews, perhaps singing, or praying or listening to the day’s reading, a bomb went off and 28 souls went home to Jesus. Did the ones left behind agonize over that morning’s lasts? Did the husband wish he had been kinder, did the mother wish that she had not so scolded the child for his exuberance? Perhaps they had breakfast together while watching the television, and there was little or no talking. Perhaps she read a book as they drove to church. How different it probably would have been had they all known that that morning contained all those lasts.

 This morning, a Facebook friend requested prayer for a man who's son died last night in an auto accident. There's a man out there somewhere, heartbroken, shattered, faced with burying a son.....a man who experienced a last and did not know it. I pray their last moment was a good one. That there was grace, love and compassion.

 I too have experienced lasts that I did not know were lasts. How I wish I could live them over again, more mindfully. My last phone conversation with my dad, my last phone conversation with Mel, even the last time I made lunch for my sons to take to school, and the last time I helped them with homework. The last piece of artwork that they brought home, excited to show me......so many lasts.

 Buechner went on to speak of how limited our time really is, and how sad it is that we do not see that every supper with our loved ones is "precious beyond all telling because the day will come beyond which there will be no other supper with them ever again". He states that "every one of our suppers points to the preciousness of life and also to the certainty of death, which makes life even more precious still and is precious in itself because under its shadow we tend to search harder and harder for light".

 Reflecting upon these things brings a strong desire to live more mindfully, to embrace the moments, to live as if each one is a last. To live those moments with my eyes wide open to the people and things around me, to the opportunities God daily places in front of me. To live those moments so that any unsuspecting lasts are the best lasts they can be. To recognize that each moment is holy, and that each task in life is important and worthwhile to God, be it doing the laundry or cooking a daily meal.God is present in every moment. I desire to be more aware of His presence in those moments.

 Can you imagine the difference we can all make daily, were we to live each moment, each greeting, each goodbye, each daily mundane task taken on for our children or our spouses as if it were the last time we would see that person? The last task we ever do for them? Our love for one another would grow, our relationships would strengthen, our compassion would increase and I believe we would have a lot more peace in our lives.

 Moments........that's all we have for certain.....this moment right here and now....nothing else is promised. Let's live them well, let's live them with love and compassion. Let's error on the side of grace and mercy. Let's endeavor to let others know that they matter. Let's stop and smell the roses, gaze upon the sunrise, acknowledge and feel the breeze as it brushes through your hair. Hold the hand of the one you love. Be thankful, take time to listen, reflect on what you are about to say......you just never know....this might be the last time.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."

Quotes are from Secrets in the Dark by Frederick Buechner

A Silent Cry For Help

 

On Sunday, the 25th of September in the year of our Lord 2016, I was sitting on our back porch, reading a book and anticipating an afternoon and evening of rest and relaxation. All my chores were done. It is rare to have an afternoon and evening of rest for me and I try hard to carve out my Sundays to just be still and enjoy things.

  Suddenly Samson began to bark, and bark as if there were something right there, something terrible, so I got up and quickly went over to the fence where he and Einstein were intently staring at something on the other side. I thought it must be a snake, and yet I saw nothing on the ground in front of Samson. Suddenly there was movement under our little pickup truck parked just on the other side of the fence. I saw a very long tail, beige in color……..perhaps a possum, but a very strange looking one and as I bent down to look my eyes fell upon a terrified little dog, a dog so covered in mats that it was impossible to see which end was which.

   The day was hot and she was panting profusely from the heat. I quickly caught up my dogs, locked them inside and retrieved water and a bowl for her, along with some food. Slowly but surely I enticed her out from under the truck and into my garage. As I dropped food upon the ground I noticed her violently pushing her face back and forth along the concrete. As she allowed me to get closer I realized that the knots of hair were hanging all in front of her face and she was unable to get food into her mouth. Her pushing her face along the ground was her attempts to get the hair cleared away so that she could pick up the bits of food.

 I took a few quick photos and quickly went in to retrieve scissors and more food. Slowly she allowed me to touch her briefly here and there and each time I quietly clipped away a mat of hair. The long tail I had first seen when she was under the truck turned out to be mostly hair, dragging at least 12 inches behind her. A huge massive braid of fur, like wool, heavy and filled with sticks and cactus. She made no sound. She simply cowered and trembled, dejected and afraid and yet desperately crying out “please help me”. My heart was broken for her pain and suffering. It takes a very long time for a dog to get into the condition that she was in. She had suffered years of neglect.

  So my relaxing afternoon and evening, became a project to try and free her from some of the terrible matting. The matting was so dense and thick that it was if she were covered in several layers of thick wool, wool woven into a blanket. Stuck deep with these masses of hair were thorns and sticks and goat head burrs.

  I could not do much around her head, I was unable to find her ears and feared I would inadvertently cut into one. Her feet were encased in the thick wooly mats and she seemed uncomfortable with me touching them, so I pulled a few burrs out and left her feet alone.

  Gradually she became comfortable with me, I think she realized I was helping her, and I was able to cut away a huge pile of fur. Still she was encased in the wool. I made her comfortable in a crate, gave her water and softened food and let her rest for a bit.

 The next day I took her to the vet. A local rescue (Pet A Bulls) had generously offered to take care of her medical needs. Late Monday I was informed that she had a small mammary tumor and terrible teeth. So today, Tuesday, she is having surgery to repair her teeth, remove the tumor and be shaved and set free of the mass of hair covering her poor little body.

Update October 12th 2016 : This little one has come alive and it is amazing to watch her little personality come out. At first she was so afraid, shaking in fear whenever you touched her or held her. Now she asks to be held and she loves to sleep next to you. She seems to enjoy wearing her little sweater and t-shirt. She loves to eat and she LOVES chicken liver! She is doing well with her housebreaking and is fully crate trained. She cannot push through the big dog doors at my house so someone has to let her out to potty, but she is doing very well. She gets along well with both the other dogs in my home and has met several others at the park and has had no issues with any.

 She is available for adoption now, through Pet A Bulls rescue in Albuquerque. She needs a home where she can live out her days as a little princess, where someone will provide regular grooming and little bows and paint her little toenails and spoil her rotten. She has suffered a lot in her short little life………I pray that all her days of suffering are at last over.

If you would like to donate to offset the cost of the medical care provided to this little one please do so at this address:

https://www.facebook.com/Pet-A-Bulls-Inc-177947685596925/app/190322544333196/

If you are interested in adopting this little one please see this address:

http://petabulls.com/adopt/

Please go to Pet A Bulls Facebook page and give them a LIKE for taking care of this little one:

https://www.facebook.com/Pet-A-Bulls-Inc-177947685596925/


Einstein the Foster Dog

  After the recent loss of my beloved Hektor, the Dogo Argentino I decided to foster dogs for awhile. I wanted to give back to the dog world some of the grace I have received over the years from a variety of good dogs. Fostering enables me to help dogs in need, and it helps me in many ways to deal with the grief of losing my dear friend Hektor. 

 So enters Einstein into my life. He entered a bit quicker than I wanted, but the need was there so I said yes and brought him home. When I first laid eyes upon Einstein he was sitting in the back seat of the vehicle of the nice rescue lady who had picked him up that day. The story I know of his life prior to this moment is that he was picked up as a stray, and the animal control officer who picked him up decided to keep him, but things didn't work out due to his male dog's refusal to accept Einstein. So he came to a local rescue called Pet-A-Bull. He was there for a bit, living amongst a horde of rescued pit bulls until he was adopted by some lady. I do not know how long he was with her, only that she had returned him that day, saying he was a great dog, but he was too rambunctious for her.

  The rescue really wanted him to be able to go into a foster home, and to not have to go back to a kennel at the rescue. I can see now, after getting to know him a bit why that was so important. Einstein is not the kind of dog who does well in a kennel.

  The little guy sitting in the backseat looks scared. How scary it must be to live your life at the whims of humans. Imagine yourself dropped tomorrow in some far away country where no one speaks your language and to be dropped there without any money or any means to care for yourself. People are babbling to you, waving their hands about, talking louder as you fail to understand their words. How scary that would be.

 Einstein was frightened, he was uncertain, he had no idea what was going on or where he might be headed. He was doing his best to trust people, for he is a lover of humans, but you could see in his eyes that he was worried. My heart broke as it always does when I see an animal in need.

 I transferred him to my vehicle along with his supply of dog food and off we went for home. I didn't ask much of him. I just talked softly about nothing much at all, telling him all would be well and that he was safe. He did not understand my words, but I think my quiet speech gave him some measure of relief. Still the little guy was apprehensive. After all, he had heard kind words from folks before, but things hadn't turned out like he had hoped.

 We arrived at home and upon entering he was just so scared and so submissive that we sort of left him alone for a bit. He gravitated straight to my son Josh and huddled fearfully under his computer desk. I wondered if at some point he had given his heart to some young man like Josh, for he seemed to think that safety was to be found right there under that desk.

 We gave him that entire afternoon to just settle in, only breaking his peace with potty breaks and even those were traumatic for him. He was afraid of the patio door and he slipped on the tile floor, giving me that look of betrayal as if I had set him up to fall. My heart went out to this little dog, written all over him was the desire to love and trust, the desire to be loved and trusted, and yet he was afraid. He had lost a lot in a very short time. Been saved from the life of a stray, met up with someone who wanted to love him but had to turn him into rescue, gotten slightly adjusted to the hordes of dogs at the rescue, then he had been invited into the home of the lady.....now here he was, in another strange place, with another lady, a lady talking softly and telling him everything was going to be okay........perhaps just as the last lady had.

 By the next morning he began slowly to come out of his shell, as if he had decided to dare to hope. He made a decision to just love us to death, almost desperate in his actions, like he was trying to say "I'm a good dog!, I'm such a good dog! Please love me! Please let me stay!"

  We began to go for walks and I was impressed with how quickly he responded to me and how eager and content he was to walk right there with me. I was not walking a dog, nor was I being walked by a dog....instead he and I were walking together. That's how it should be and yet I was surprised at how easily we had arrived at this state. It was Einstein's desire to be with me that made it so easy.

 He has been with me for 6 days now. He is a delightful dog. A worthy dog. This is the kind of dog that would lay right down and die for you if you were to ask him, and were he to understand that you needed him to. This is the kind of dog that wants only to be with his special person, to follow them about the house, to walk with them along country roads, to sleep with them in fluffy beds. He is friendly, he is playful, he is loyal. This is the kind of dog that wants to be with you, participate with you, and he delights in your companionship and attention. He is what I call a Velcro dog, loyal and devoted.

  Einstein is a very special dog and I pray, with all my heart I pray, that God will provide him with the quality home and person that he so deserves, and I pray that my eyes would be always open, for the lessons that God is sure to teach me during this time of caring for Einstein.

 When I watch Einstein as he plays in the yard, I see a dog that is worried. He is happy, but in his happiness he is quick to glance at me from time to time, to make certain I am still there, he is happy like a kid given an ice cream cone, but one who knows that someone might snatch it away at any moment. He is uncertain. He is a dog that has loved and lost and yet is so willing to love again. He is a good dog. I pray his person is worthy of such a dog.


Ode to a Big White Dog………Hektor the Big Tow Griego…..RIP

  Hektor, the Dogo Argentino, was my very first Dogo and a dog that taught me so very much over the many years we had together. On September the 14th, at or around 2:30 PM he passed from this life and left my heart broken yet again for the loss of a dog, a loyal friend and a treasured companion.

  Hektor loved two things dearly, very dearly. One was food…..the other was me.

 Hektor trusted one person…..he wanted to trust others but he always held a little back….but with me he trusted. He would do things that made him anxious, go places that were to him a little scary simply because I asked him to.

 There is a great honor in being trusted by a dog, any dog, regardless of personality, but there is an awesome honor in being trusted by a dog that is anxious or fearful. The weight of that trust weighs like a stone upon my heart today, the weight of the honor you bestowed upon me, your person, for your final journey.

 I saw the anxious look in your eyes as you beheld the veterinarian and her assistant sitting in your living room. I saw the conflict in your eyes as your heart told you, fight or flee……and I know my friend that this was the very hardest thing I had ever ask of you. I had to ask you to be still in the presence of strangers. To ask you to lie quietly on the floor and believe, this one last time that I, the one you trust so, mean only the very best for you.

  In the end you left in peace, and though it broke my heart to see you stretched out, knowing what was to come, it was good to see you totally pain free and resting. You haven’t rested well for some time. That anxious look you wear when we go somewhere scary, or do something that you are uncertain of, was a look you began to wear at home all the time. Pain intensifies anxiety.

 You are free from pain now my old friend, free from the anxiety of it. You have earned your rest time and time again. Thank you for the years of loyalty and trust. Thank you for all the walks we took. Thank you for all the times you trusted me when things looked so scary. You were always brave. One cannot be brave without the presence of fear. You were always brave. I always felt safe with you beside me when we walked out on the mesa together.

I miss you.

Yesterday I came home, and as the garage door opened I naturally looked for your smiling happy dog face and your great thumping tail…….and there was nothing.

 Five PM came and went and there was no reminder that it was dinner time. You always loved breakfast and dinner and you could set the clock by the anxious look on your face if I forgot what time it was.

 Yesterday I took Samson out for a walk along the high mesa. I missed your presence terribly. Missed the security of having the big white dog by my side, missed your steadfastness, for as you know, Samson, though beloved is like a flash of energy that never stops. You always loved to walk right beside me, my hand could brush the top of your back as we walked. I miss you.

  You will be laid to rest next to Miss Keeter, my “bestest” girl. It is right and fitting that you two rest together. But more importantly you will take your place within my heart, buried there for as long as I have breath and walk this earth……..and I will call you as I walk the mesa, and you can take your place along side Snubby, Charlie, Floppy Bear, Gunnar Goodheart and dear Miss Keeter………until the other side my old friend………I miss you!

 “For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long and at last. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked and the trees are roaring or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land, where most exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained, and nothing lost -- if memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog. One place that is best of all. If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, he will come to you when you call -- come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they should not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he is yours and he belongs there. People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them then, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.

The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.

by Ben Hur Lampman

 

  I would like to thank  Dr Lauryn Spohn and her office at Pawz To Care - Animal Hospital Bernalillo, for their kindness and compassion. They came to my home and they worked very hard to make sure my boy was comfortable and free of pain and anxiety before he passed. I will be forever grateful for that. My boy was never happy at the vet’s office and it would have been so hard to have him go out there. Thank you! Thank you! For all that you did to see him relaxed and comfortable and to allow him to go out in his home.

   Rest in peace Hektor Griego 9/14/2016

  

 Hektor watching us fish.

 Hektor waiting on his favorite thing, FOOD!


  He spent his last day with me, sleeping on the bed, eating chicken and turkey and ice cream.

  I ask my friend to trust me one last time.

“There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who choose to travel in the company of animals. It is a cycle unlike any other. To those who have never lived through its turnings and walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible. Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive; our grief, no matter how powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given.”
Suzanne Clothier, Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs

   Here is an old blog post about one of the many important lessons Hektor taught me.

http://allisgrace.posthaven.com/do-not-be-anxious-dot-dot-dot-lessons-from-a-big-white-dog


Samson------The Dog I Did Not Choose

  Samson was selected sometime near Christmas of 2010, from a sink full of puppies in a crack house in northern Washington state. My eldest son braved the interior of that desolate house, walked in with his money and paid for a pup, and reached down into that sink and took out Sam. Sam was a gift for his wife Melanie, now deceased.

    The story of how Samson became mine is a long one, and it is filled to the brim with sorrow and loss, so we will just briefly say that he came to live with us for what was to be a short time, but due to the suicide of our daughter in law Melanie he became a permanent fixture in our home.

 I tried to arrange for him to be a service dog for my son, but the memories he invoked were too fresh and too painful. I tried to rehome him with people that I knew would love and care for him, but my son could not stand the thought of him living anywhere but with us. So Samson, the Australian Shepherd, Australian Cattle Dog mix became a permanent part of my pack.

  I am a bully dog person, a large giant dog person. My breeds of preference are the Dogo Argentino (of which I had two when Samson came), South African Boerboels, English Mastiffs, pit bulls, Cane Corsos and such.....you get the picture. Samson was not my kind of dog. He was a nuisance to end all nuisances. He had a zest for life and a heart the size of the bravest Dogo Argentino, but he had a scrawny body, his one defense was his speed, but even that was not sufficient because his heart told him he could take on anything and if that meant two giant Dogo Argentinos then so be it.

  When under duress from his larger pack members, Samson has the ability to blow his hair straight up all over, giving himself the appearance of a small and scrawny black bear. The seriousness of such situations are often dealt with by me while hysterically laughing at the sight. Wish I had a photo of that for you.

  Samson constantly herded the Dogos about the yard, nipping at their heels, barking like a lunatic and often getting attacked for his efforts. His quick evasions saved him several times, but if pinned with no escape he would go into full on scrap mode. Only my constant attentiveness saved him from almost certain death on several occasions. He did loose part of one ear, suffered the occasional puncture wound and a few bruisings from being thrown to the ground like a rag doll by exasperated Dogos.

 To be perfectly honest I didn't really care much for Samson. I kept him, and I cared for him, we allowed him the privilege of sleeping on our bed, I worked with him diligently to curb his desire to herd his fellow giant canines and slowly, over time he crept right into my heart and I just woke up one day, him creeping up to me in bed to be petted, and I realized "I love this little stinker".

  He has taught me a lot.

 Samson lives life fully and completely. There is no quit in him, there is no lounging about with him, if it is daylight and we are up then you can rest assured he is zipping about the house or yard with an energy that is boundless. He hunts ground squirrels, he digs holes to China, he collects every stick to be found, he chases the cat, he herds the dogs. He goes and goes and goes and it is a very rare thing to ever see him resting in the light of day. I purchased a herding ball for him and I have to take it away and lock it up, or he will herd it about the yard until he collapses, even in 100 degree heat. He is relentless.

  Toys must be carefully managed, because if left out Samson will grab them and parade them around before his larger pack members, taunting them with his prize. This too has came close to costing him dearly. But he delights in it. Therefore toys are always put away and only brought out when supervision is available to ensure safety for all.

 He is also brave and courageous. Foolish perhaps, but he does not back down from Dogo dominance. Even knowing the risks if I call the dogs from the kitchen patio door, Samson will bravely run out and assist them in quickly responding to my call (not that they need assistance), even if it means a sound tossing to the ground for his efforts.

 When night comes, and everyone has gone outside to do their business and had their nightly "bedtime bone" treat, Samson will walk straight into the bedroom, jump up on the bed, find his spot at the very bottom corner near my feet and he will barely even move until the clock goes off the next morning. Samson knows how to rest fully after having lived a day fully.

 He never gives up on me, he will bring sticks and twigs and bits of weeds he has ripped from the ground and present them to me with such a look of anticipation and delight upon his face, begging me with ever fiber of his being to toss the object that he might run after it. He is persistent. He will do this for hours if you sit outside for hours. He never gives up hope of getting through to me and perhaps enticing me to play.

  God uses Samson to teach me lessons.

Live life fully!

Work hard!

Play hard!

Be brave in the face of danger!

Do what you were created to do no matter the cost!

Be persistent in prayer, never give up on it.

Know when to rest.

When you sleep, sleep hard, sleep in peace.


  Thank You Lord for Samson, who has become so very dear to my heart. I did not ask for him, I did not really want him. I took him in out of love for my son and out of a desire to ease his pain. And yet what a blessing Samson is to me, what a delight he is. Thank You Lord for Samson.....the dog I did not choose, the dog who is dear to my heart.


 

 

Broken Made Beautiful......

  I want to tell you a little bit about my recent journey to the hills of eastern Tennessee and also to the hills of western North Carolina where I was born and raised. It is a story of broken made beautiful and a story of God's great grace and how if we are obedient to Him, if we can step out in faith and love like He wants us to, even when we are afraid that our love might be met with something less, He can and does work miracles. I was a bit afraid to go on this trip. I really didn't want the little bit that I had to be lost and a part of me feared that things might not go as I so hoped that they would.

 There will be missing parts to my tale, for to tell it fully would require a book and to tell it partially might lead to misunderstanding some of the characters of my story and perhaps misjudging them. This story isn't about judgment, it is all about grace.

  To begin I must tell a small part of our history, in order for you to perhaps be able to catch a glimpse of the miracles that I so clearly see occurring. I and my brother were raised by our father in the western foothills of North Carolina. Our mother left when I was very small and she married my father's brother. They had a daughter, my half sister.......and my first cousin....(no, that's not banjo's you hear). Needless to say you can probably imagine that the family was a bit torn regarding these things. My brother, my sister and me all paid a price in that tearing even though it was no fault of ours that these things occurred.

  My sister and I have met perhaps three or four times over the course of 50 years, once when we were children and the rest at various funerals. We have probably had no more than a few minutes to talk each time. We have been friends on Facebook for about three years now and have spoken on the phone once or twice. As for my mother, I believe I have seen her four times since she left and only for very short periods.

 I have always had a desire to know my sister, but circumstances and distance have always been an obstacle, along with my own feelings of inadequacy that kept me from stepping out there, lest it not work out and be a disappointment. I had truly believed that this was something I needed to set aside as chances are it just wasn't going to happen in this lifetime.

 My sister's fiftieth birthday was approaching and her family wanted very much to surprise her with something special. As it turns out she is a lot like me so that wasn't an easy thing. She doesn't get much excited about jewelry and clothes and such so they had their task cut out for them. It had came up in conversation how much she would like to have some time to spend with me, her and I had mentioned on our Facebook how we would love to be able to sit on the porch and chat someday. So they decided to purchase tickets and present her with me as her fiftieth birthday present. It was a new experience for me. I had never been someone's birthday present before!

  I was both excited and apprehensive about the trip. The excitement won out, for as I said earlier I had always wished for more time with my sister, time to sit and talk, time to get to know each other. Finally the day arrived and I boarded the plane to begin my journey. I won't bore you with the details of that journey from New Mexico to that beautiful Tennessee valley surrounded by rolling hills, needless to say I arrived safely.

 Her daughter surprised her by having her read a birthday card aloud while she faced the wall, I slipped in during the middle of this and stood waiting for her to turn around. She was surprised. Totally surprised. We both cried.

 And thus began a whirlwind of four days of hysterical laughter, some beautiful tears, many long talks, a lot of cigar smoking (probably too much cigar smoking) and a couple of fake tattoos (which in retrospect were probably a mistake on both our parts). We walked all over the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains and all over the city of Gatlinburg. I was able to spend time with her beautiful family and get to know them. We spent an entire day with my brother and we visited with his family, and I had the second hottest Prawns Diablo in my life, believe it or not they were served in a Mexican restaurant in North Carolina. Who would have thought!

  And of course nothing is ever complete in my life without some animals in it, so here's to Scooter, Trixie, Socks and Bullseye who all shared their canine kindness with me, and here's to Bessie 1-47, the kindly cows who tolerated my early morning conversations in the fields near my sister's home.

  But the real beauty of the entire trip was getting to know my sister, to find that she was very much like me, almost eerily so seeing how she was raised by our mother and I was not. During this four day period, God took all the brokenness between us, brokenness that was not of our doing and he forged a relationship. It is like I have known her always, and although I already loved her, she has now become quite precious to me. It was amazing how well everything went, how it was as if we had always known each other, and we marveled at how much alike we were. It was a bit like finding out you have a twin. I will forever treasure this time we had together. It was dear to me and in truth there simply are not the words to adequately capture what those four days meant to me.

  And I experienced another miracle of  broken made beautiful when I met and spent some time with my mother. I really did not want to, to be honest, it was just so much easier to keep these things at a distance less one be disappointed. I harbored no ill will towards her but I was accustomed to not having her in my life and content to continue it that way. But God kept pressing me that I needed to see her. In obedience to Him I did so, and I was greatly surprised when my eyes beheld this beautiful lady, with white hair, and her blouse all a sparkle, and I loved her. All that had transpired in the past was finished and my heart was filled with love for this woman who had given birth to me. We were able to talk and laugh and I greatly enjoyed the short time we spent together.

 The trip was amazing, it was renewing, it was beautiful in so many ways, a lot of it cannot be explained here in a blog post, as it's deeply personal to the parties involved, but suffice to say that it was a miraculous gift from a gracious God and I am in awe of all that He accomplished in my life and the lives of others during this short trip back home.

I have a sister......I have always had her, but now I know her and we have a relationship and she is beautiful, and wonderful and I love her to death. She now knows that she has a sister and a brother and hopefully she knows that she is as much a part of us as if she had come up along side us in all the hard times we endured growing up. She is family. The only regrets, the only sorrow that I have from this trip is that we all waited so darn long to get together, yet even in this I believe God orchestrated it all and His timing is perfect.

 


  Here are just a few of my photos from my trip that capture some of the physical beauty of all the places we went. From the view from my sister's front porch, to the North Carolina mountains I saw the majesty of God's creation, but the most beautiful thing will ever be the wonderful mosaic that God created from our brokenness. He does indeed make the broken beautiful.




Longing for Home

    Have you ever stood in awe of something? Ever had those moments where your heart is struck with wonder and joy and for the briefest of moments you feel as if you are about to finally grasp some great and profound truth only to have it fade to the edges of your mind, where you have to struggle and wrestle to bring it forth long enough to really ponder what it even was?

    Moments when you stand by a beautiful mountain lake, listening to the wind through the trees and gazing in awe at the beauty of it all and for a second, you have a feeling, that you cannot quite put words to, it is both perfect, and peace all wrapped up in joy, and in an instant the fullness of it has passed.

   Or perhaps you are gathered about the table, with the ones you love most, and you look upon their faces as they talk and laugh and for a second that feeling rushes in, of a perfect love, and a peace you cannot describe and a sense of rightness, of knowing that this, this right here, this fleeting second is how's it's all supposed to be. And as fast as you grasped hold it is gone again, leaving you with such a longing that it near takes your breath away.

  I call those moments glimpses of heaven, and the aftermath of them is longing for home.. Those moments when through the dark mirror of sin and  brokenness we for a second glimpse so briefly and so imperfectly the real beauty, the real love and peace and perfection that God intended for mankind, before we turned it all into one big hot mess.

 We all have memories of home, memories of the place where we perhaps felt most safe and at peace, memories of childhood where we ran through grassy meadows and we laughed and we had not a care in the world. They differ with everyone. The nostalgic longing for home may be for a place, it may or may not be the place of your childhood, it may be a person or a time, but we all long for it. We all want to go home. The trouble is the feelings are hard to put words to, and the place, that home we are searching for is often not even understood fully by us, even though we are the ones longing for it. And when we try and go back to that physical place, or that time where we believe home was at we find something missing.

 "......it is when he comes home that he recognizes most poignantly that he is, at a deep level of his being, homeless, and whatever it is that is missing, he will spend the rest of his days longing for it and seeking to find it."Frederick Buechner

  For me, those perfect moments, or perfect seconds, because often they do not last very long, are moments where I see a tiny sample, an imperfect sample, like a child's drawing of Disney World would not come close to equaling the reality of Disney World, of the wonder that God has in store for those who believe. For a brief second I catch a glimpse of home, my true home. Those glimpses make me yearn, with a deep and even painful yearning for the reality of that place, for the eternity of that place.

  Just as the moments of wonder and awe, the moments of love and peace create in me a yearning for home, so do the moments of despair. In the dark times the mirror is black, and I see no reflection of home, no sign of how things were meant to be, I see only how they are. I see the brokenness, the grief and despair, the death and destruction and bitter disappointment. When earthly hope is crushed it leaves only that yearning, a desperate yearning for home. This yearning, the one that comes in the dark times is a heavier yearning. A pressed down feeling, where you can only raise your eyes to the heavens and whisper "come Lord Jesus", where your eyes, for the moment lose the ability to see any beauty in the ugliness around you, you see instead only the brokenness of it all and in that desperate brokenness you just long so heavily for home.

 The older I get the more I yearn for home, and the more I fully understand that home is where Jesus is. The glimpses of light and grace I see in the earthly home I now live in, and in the faces of the ones I love on those brief moments when all is well, and in the beauty of the flowers, the mountains and the bright blue sky are only poor reflections of what He intended when he spoke it all into being and are only poor and dim glimpses of what He has in store for me on that day when I at last get to go home. 

  Frederick Buechner describes a moment when he and his family were at SeaWorld and where they experience one of those moments, one of those glimpses of heaven that brought tears to his eyes, and to the eyes of his family who were with him. He writes:

 "We shed tears because we had caught a glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom and it had almost broken our hearts. For a few moments we had seen Eden and been part of the great dance that goes on at the heart of creation. We shed tears because we were given a glimpse of the way life was created to be and is not. We had seen why it was the "the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy" when the world was first made, as the book of Job describes it and of what it was that made Paul write, even when he was in prison and on his way to execution, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice." We had had a glimpse of part at least of what Jesus meant when He said "Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh".

 The world is full of darkness, but what I think we caught sight of .............was that at the heart of darkness-----whoever would have believed it?---there is a joy unimaginable. The world does bad things to us all, and we do bad things to the world and to each other and maybe most of all to ourselves, but in that dazzle of bright water as the glittering whales hurled themselves into the sun, I believe what we saw was that joy is what we belong to Joy is home, and I believe the tears that came to our eyes were more than anything else homesick tears. God created us in joy and created us for joy, and in the long run not all the darkness there is in the world or in ourselves can separate us finally from that joy, because whatever else it means to say that God created us in His image, I think it means that even when we cannot believe in Him, even when we feel most spiritually bankrupt and deserted by Him, His mark is deep within us. We have God's joy in our blood" Frederick Buechner's  Secrets in the Dark “The Great Dance,”

 

 This morning as I write these words my heart longs for home. Home is where Jesus is, and were I only able to sit on the outskirts of heaven and view Him from a distance, were that all that was promised and no more could be hoped for, that would be enough and I would be content. I want to see Him, I want to fellowship with Him, I want to depend entirely and completely on Him, I want to run my race well for Him, I want to trust Him more fully, love Him more truly and place all my hope and expectations upon Him and Him alone. Home is where Jesus is. I try, sometimes with desperation, to create that home here on earth, or at least a child's drawing of it. I fail constantly in that attempt and I am so very often broken and discouraged when it all goes wrong.

  Jesus is "my hope and stay" and everything else I hope in, everything else that my expectations are placed upon, falls short, disappoints and ultimately leaves me empty and yearning for that which I cannot quite put words to......longing for home.....glimpses of heaven.

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You're the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You
Jesus, You're my hope and stay

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

You're my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You