one for all.

When I stand for our national anthem – and I always stand for our national anthem – I often get a little choked up. In the short span of that song playing and one or all of us in the place singing along, I do a quick run-through of some things that, honestly, I wish I could say I did more often… In my heart I say and pray things like,

“Thank you, God – thank you, thank you!! For the men and women throughout many past years who stood watch and worked hard through chaotic nights of battle and tense days of peacekeeping; which now allows me to stand here in this freedom and abundance and safety that is not a given in every corner of the world…

“Please protect our military people around the world and the police officers and firefighters who defend and serve us every day… Guide them, cause them to be wise and skilled, and bring them home safely to their families.

“Please help our country to BE good and DO good; we need to be better than what we are right now. Please turn the hearts of our leaders toward You, help them to humbly seek You. Please guide them.

“And, Father, please help ME to be a good neighbor and love well…

“… in the la-and of the freee! And the hooome of theee braaave!”

THAT’S what I am pondering and praying as I stand for our anthem. I have no idea what’s running through the hearts and minds of others at that moment! At least – I never knew until one man took a knee during that song one day about two years ago and TOLD us what goes through HIS mind…

If you want to know why Colin Kaepernick stayed seated during the national anthem, then you need to watch an 18-minute YouTube video of an interview with him published August 29, 2016. And if you want to know why shortly after that interview he began taking a knee instead of simply staying seated during the anthem, then you need to read or watch some of his and Nate Boyers’ interviews about that, as well.

Until you’ve done both of those things, you really cannot have an INFORMED opinion on Mr. Kaepernick’s choices. You just can’t. But if you listen to his thoughtful words and the reasoned explanation he offers and you still disagree with his choices – that is your freedom.  I do wish, though, you’d recognize that he has the same freedom to disagree with YOU… 

Because that flag you say he is somehow disrespecting? It stands for liberty and justice for ALL… And when this nation is still falling short of ensuring THAT for ALL its people, and when some of us won’t even acknowledge that shortcoming let alone fight to correct it – I’d say we should all take a knee, in one way or another. 

I do think it’s possible to be humble and grateful for all the good in our country at the same time we speak boldly about all that’s still broken. Colin Kaepernick chose his “platform” for doing just that. How are you gonna do it?

~September 6, 2018~

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Big shoes to fill…? Nah.

As a kid I was mostly impressed with the size of Goliath – I mean, nine feet tall?! Come on! And I was also VERY impressed with the accuracy of young David’s slingshot work – one stone, first try, giant down. Boom.

But now? What I REALLY love about that story – is that David wore his own clothes into that fight. 

Other people, of course, at first tried to tell him he was too inexperienced. And definitely presumptuous. Why are you even here, little guy? Shouldn’t you be doing that thing you always do, that out-of-sight thing which we all agree is necessary and fine work, but THIS…? This is dangerous work, risky work. Who do you think you are? *sigh* But okay, IF you insist on doing this, here’s the way you gotta do it: wear the clothes and carry the weapons that belong to the king; these things have helped HIM be successful, so they’ll serve you well, too…

But nope, David knew instinctively that the only thing he could bring to the battle was the stuff he was familiar with – his own story, his own weapons, his own trust in his trustworthy God.

Later in David’s life someone wrote of him, “David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”

I think his “integrity of heart” maybe first showed up on the eve of this great, classic confrontation with Goliath, where fear could have made him reach for somebody else’s tried-and-true battle gear…. but instead he reached for the things he knew were true about himself and true about God. 

Integrity of heart means ALL of you – all the stories and struggles and strengths that have brought you to today are exactly the things needed for today. No need to pretend, no need to perform. 

Advice when big, scary things are looming: Show up. And wear your own clothes! 

God will show up, too. Always. ❤️

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~August 26, 2018~

Here.

It’s January. And a glance at the photos on the wall brings tears. Wondering what will become of all those happy faces… What is the future? What is OUR future…? I am shaken.

It’s March. A glance at the photos… A glimmer of hope. Maybe those faces will again be shining with joy…. I am quieted.

It’s April. I know it’s over. My heart is shattered. A glance at the photos brings more aching tears… But I will not replace those most poignant memories until it’s official. I am waiting.

It’s May. It’s official. It’s time to take down the most painful of those photos, the ones that used to point to the happiest of days… Now they cast a shadow… I am stunned. 

It’s June. Another sunrise, and another sunset. And then another. Until it begins to feel like a real life… And God reminds me that this day, this season whatever it looks like, is the one life I have. A glance at the wall tells me I have an opportunity to celebrate what IS… So I gather happy photos of this season and arrange them in the frames. I am stirred.

It’s July. A glance at the wall brings a slow smile. It’s not as perfectly color-coordinated as before; the photos not a professional pose of our best selves… But instead it’s blended bits of each of us… Some new stuff mixed with old. A little awkward; new normals feeling a little unnatural still. And one photo of a beautiful sunset walkway that reminds me even the good stuff rises and sets – and then does it again tomorrow, a little bit differently. I am here.

~July 5, 2018~

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long threads

It was the night before our trip to San Francisco, and Gary and I were awake late – packing at the last minute. Because that’s how we do. We had already fielded calls from both of our moms – expressing concern for our safety with the Northern California earthquake and aftershocks they’d been hearing about in the news. Because that’s how THEY do.

So as we gathered suitcases, we turned on the TV to catch the news about said aftershocks, only to see that the News had been taken over by other events happening in Los Angeles… Four LAPD officers, who had been accused of severely beating a man (Rodney King), had been acquitted in a trial earlier that day. And LA was breaking out in big, deadly riots…

The next morning as we headed to the airport for a half day of flying, we began to run into delays. The smoke from the rioting and vandalism was so thick around the LA airport, that other flights all over the country were being affected because of rerouting… So we gathered extra magazines and snacks and patience, and offered some heartfelt prayers for the people of LA, as well.

When we finally touched down in the San Francisco airport that evening, the day had already been long and tense. Every person we’d sat beside or waited with had added a story to the unfolding saga of the Los Angeles riots. And we’d caught faint hints that the violence was spreading out to other parts of California, too. So as we began to drive north toward Bodega Bay we were a little on edge, with visions of riots and almost-forgotten-earthquakes dancing in our heads.

And then we got lost. And then we got found! But then we got confused about whether we wanted Route 101 or Route 1.

We made the wrong choice.

Let me tell you, California Shoreline Highway Route 1 is no joke, driving in the pitch-black of night.

But finally we arrived at the Lodge we’d booked for our stay. And as we walked in to register, the night desk clerk said, “Oh, great! You made it! We were afraid maybe you’d been stranded when rioters closed the Golden Gate Bridge…”

Umm, no. But thanks for pointing out how precarious our lives seem to be right now…

And that was just the beginning of this momentous trip. Our plan had been to explore Bodega Bay and San Francisco for a few days, and then drive south to Santa Clara to see Todd Rundgren and Utopia in concert. Gary is a big fan, and apparently this show was a big deal. Last time together before they retired, or something like that. Clearly, I was just along for the ride and the extracurriculars. But the Utopia show was the endgame.

As we greeted a new day, we learned that rioting had indeed erupted in San Francisco the night before. A curfew was set for the evening hours, and National Guardsmen were going to be policing. So we decided to occupy ourselves in the more rural activities of the Bodega Bay area. And the first idea we came upon was a hot-air balloon trip.

Now, we did not realize that there are two parts to this kind of Wine Country hot-air balloon adventure. The one part of the adventure is when WE are in the balloon, and others in our group are following along in a “chase vehicle” below us. And the second part of the adventure is when we are in the chase vehicle, as the others are taking their turn in the balloon.

One part has all the thrills of flying high like birds, with a steady wind in our faces and absolutely breathtaking views below us. And the other part has all the terrors of drag racing with a maniac driver who thinks he can keep one eye on the balloon in the sky and another eye on a road map, even as he drives at crazy speeds along winding coastal highways, desperately trying not to lose sight of the balloon, all the while saying things like, “Golly, the wind is strong today! We’re getting pretty close to the ocean! They’ve got to get that balloon down NOW, or they’re going to have a water landing…”

So that was that day. And yes, the balloon landed safely. As I recall, the balloon landed on the side of a mountain, just short of blowing out to sea… A very nice rancher came out to greet us, as we scared her cattle and alpaca herd with the super loud and startling sound of the balloon “burners” navigating a tricky landing on a steep slope.

We drove back to our Lodge, passing through peaceful Santa Rosa as we meandered homeward, taking deep breaths and feeling grateful for the quiet. And as we arrived at the Lodge, someone remarked to us that if we intended to go back out that night we should AVOID SANTA ROSA, because they’d had some rioting there that day…

Well of course they did!

So we spent another quiet day or two in Bodega Bay, still reluctant to make a trip into San Francisco because of the lingering riot rumors. And then finally it was time to move to our hotel in Santa Clara, to be in town for the Todd Rundgren concert.

Everything in Santa Clara was clean and crisp and state-of-the-art; and exactly what you would expect from an up and coming city in Silicon Valley. As we were checking-in at our hotel, Gary was making conversation with the concierge and happened to mention that we were there for the Todd Rundgren/Utopia show. It was a rather small venue – aka “an intimate gathering of Rundgren fans” – so we weren’t sure anyone would have heard of the concert, but we hoped the concierge could give us directions for driving there later that night.

And she chuckled. Actually, it was kind of a snort, as she said, “Gosh! I thought that place closed a long time ago! It used to be a dance club. Like, for body-slam dancing…” Her raised eyebrows told us she didn’t think we really “belonged” at that kind of “show”…

Our curiosity piqued, we immediately took a drive over to see the club. And one quick glance explained the concierge’s thought about the club being long closed. It definitely looked… unkept. As in, if all of the rest of Santa Clara had a polished newness about it, this one block was the forgotten ruins of the early pioneer days… or maybe the 60’s. Whatever.

Later that evening we arrived for the concert pretty early. Ticket information had been a bit sketchy, but we expected “General Admission”, meaning no assigned seating. What we hadn’t expected was NO SEATING. As in, this is usually a body-slam dance club, thus there are no seats.

Also, no air conditioning.

But hey, we’re here! Surrounded by a bunch of other like-minded fans, eagerly waiting for the show to start.

And waiting. And waiting. And…waiting.

Finally, a warm-up band came out. I don’t remember much about them… I think I was getting a little light-headed with the standing and the heat and all the people pressing in, having no sense of personal space because NONE OF US HAD SEATS… And then the warm-up band finished; but still no Todd and Utopia. And no announcer to tell us why the delay.

More waiting.

The crowd began to stir; and then the chanting started: Bullsh**! Bullsh**! Bullsh**!

At some point we had already asked a staff person at the club if it was possible to leave for awhile, perhaps get some fresh air in the parking lot, and then return. But we were told there would be no re-entry allowed.

So with the crowd chanting “Bullsh**!” and getting angrier as the wait continued, and no idea when the show would actually start – TWO HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES past what should have been the starting time, we made the reluctant decision to walk out of the club and go back to our hotel.

Bummer. BIG bummer. No Todd Rundgren show. Which was the POINT of the whole trip, right?! Ugh. Just… ugh.

But no! There’s more!

We had one last day in California, the rioting seemed over, and we decided to squeeze as much of San Francisco into that one day as possible. First, though, Gary had to call his office to check on a few things. So he found a pay phone in the hotel lobby to use – this was 1992, and pay phones were still a thing. But before he could begin his call, Gary heard the guy in the phone booth next to him talking to someone, seeming to be dictating a story for a newspaper or magazine. And he was reporting on the Todd Rundgren Utopia show! And the guy was saying things like, “Best show they’ve ever done!” And, “The fans waited two-and-a-half hours! But it was SO worth it!”

Two hours and thirty minutes.

Yeah. If you’re doing the math you are realizing right now that we missed that show by TEN MINUTES. We’d stood in that hot room for hours, and then left just ten minutes too soon.

UGH!

And THEN, throughout the rest of that day as we played tourist all over San Francisco, guess what topic of conversation we kept overhearing in various places…? Everywhere we went, someone was talking about the Todd Rundgren concert, how great it was, and how the band had travel delays that made them arrive two-and-a-half hours late, but wow, best show ever, they played for three hours etc etc…

So, Gary and I have told the story of San Francisco/Todd Rundgren a time or two over the last 26 years… And it just never had a satisfying ending! I mean, what can we say? We had a lot of “near misses” that trip – good AND bad – but, it kinda feels like we just shoulda stayed home that week…!

But last night, that story finally got a worthy ending… Gary, along with his good friend Collin and our forever-son-in-love Holden, went to see Todd Rundgren and Utopia in a beautiful theatre in downtown Chicago. Nothing went wrong. Nobody rioted, no alpacas were startled, there were no earthquakes. It was just a concert. With seats, for sitting!

It was JUST a concert! But it’s a picture to me of how LONG the threads of life are; how winding it is, full of questions and mystery…

When life seems precarious or plans seem uncertain, it’s good to remember that God plays the long game. Some stories seem to have unsatisfying endings. But sometimes – maybe – that’s because it’s not yet the ending.

 

~May 23, 2018~

IMG_7793 (002) G and H at Utopia

with us, for us

Yes, I am one of THOSE people – I decorate for Christmas early, and I love snow.

It’s not that I skip over Fall (I love Fall!) or forget to be thankful at Thanksgiving. It’s just that the evergreens and candlelight and scents of Christmas somehow comfort me, reassure me. So I run toward remembering the Hope of Christmas:

God keeps His promises.

And snow – it’s like God throwing confetti! Snowflakes, brushing my face like kisses. A whisper, “Look up!” And it reminds:

God is FOR me, cheering me on.

So in those early December days several years ago, when I knew my dad’s race was almost finished, I’d sit quietly with only candles and tree lights breaking the darkness of the room. And the thoughts of all the years with him, both the beautiful and the hard, were held in Immanuel’s hands. As were my tears. And God whispered to my heart that He was filling in all the gaps. All the things that “could have been”, and all the things that were – God was perfecting and redeeming it all.

God keeps His promises. Some we see now, and some we’ll see later.

And then that one Thursday dawned, with a quiet, deep, day-long snowfall that covered every tree in white and carried my dad’s heart Home. And mine, too. I’d never felt closer to Heaven and never been more in the presence of Jesus than in those days…

Because the Truth that is deeper than Loss is that we weren’t made for THIS… Bodies that let us down and relationships that wound us and addictions that torment us… We were made for life with HIM. For the almost-beyond-belief JOY of “Immanuel” – God with us. And us with God! No separation, no tears, no regret, no hiding. The way God had intended in the Garden long ago. Creator and Created, walking together in bright, deep friendship.

This past year has been steeped in loss for a lot of people close to my heart… And the thankful and merry and calm and bright keeps getting punched in the heart by the remember-when’s and the we-used-to’s… And the Christmas lights bring quick tears because he used to LOVE those. And “Elf” still makes me laugh, but man, I miss HER laugh…

And we stumble through this walk in the gray, which we would’ve never chosen and could’ve never prepared for. Because we. weren’t. made. for. this. We’re not Home yet.

There are not enough beautiful words or cheery bells to ease the ache. Just Immanuel – still with us, and for us. And He is our comfort and joy.

He is.

~November 25, 2017~

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#MeToo

I saw his name recently, and I froze a little. It wasn’t even him – just a guy with the same last name…

 

But – the name made me zoom in on the photo above it. And then I un-froze because I think photo-guy-with-the-same-last-name might be his son and how awful that he HAD a son because he’s probably a jerk of a dad and how awful that his son has that same dark, sullen look about him and I wonder if this son is mean to his wife or girlfriend or coworkers or oh God if he is hurting his children or his DOG I will want to/have to/need to find him and STOP HIM.

 

I just wanted him to stop. Stop sitting behind me in class and reaching around to grab my breasts every time the teacher looked away.

 

Every. Time.

 

I’d jam my sharpened pencil into his kneecap; he’d just laugh. He usually kept his hands close to the back of my chair, and he’d lean forward as much as his desk would allow. Hovering, breathing, preparing to slither closer at the first opportunity. One time I noticed his fingers were curved over the front edge of his desk, so I planted my feet hard into the floor and shoved my own chair backward, hoping to crush his awful, groping hands. He inhaled, quick and quiet. Then laughed.

 

He was a punk kid – older than his years.

 

I was a sheltered, timid girl who didn’t know how to talk to the male teacher about why I needed to sit elsewhere in this classroom where everyone had assigned seats and I was at the back of the room, alone, with this guy.

 

I was hyper-vigilant in the hallways because he liked to surprise me by getting too close and “accidentally” pressing against me or casually brushing his hands across my hips or pushing his fingers between my legs; all of this hidden in the crush of high school students moving hurriedly between classes.

 

And if this description of events has you mentally cataloguing the ways I COULD have or SHOULD have handled him – me, too. Believe me – me, too. I critique my younger self and have tons of advice for her.

 

But why is that? Why do I remember it and you hear it for the first time – and we all jump to analyzing MY part in the story? It’s not because any of us think his behavior is acceptable; I think it’s because we all know this story – and his behavior – is uncomfortably common. Expected, even. And why is that? Why the hell is this kind of story NOT a surprise to anyone?

 

#metoo

 

~October 20, 2017~

 

His face.

I looked into those dark eyes and wasn’t completely sure he even saw me. Newborns have questionable focusing abilities, right? But I was already memorizing his every tiny feature and tuned in to every faint sound, every little movement… AND. I. ADORED. HIM.

And then as real as the rhythm of my own heartbeat I heard the unexpected words, “That’s how I look at YOU, Marge.”

In those days, God’s voice wasn’t one I listened for very often. I’d sort of given up on the God of my childhood. That God was mostly critical and waiting for me to fail and looking at me with irritation and disappointment.

But for some reason, I still believed God was my Father and saw me as His child. And looking at my own son, my firstborn, I realized for the first time in my life what that actually meant – the bone-deep, fierce, nothing-will-ever-shake-my-love-for-you kind of DEVOTION.

And the startling truth was that it was a completely one-way deal at that moment. That little guy couldn’t do even one thing for me. He couldn’t help himself, let alone help me with anything. There were no conditions to my love for him. No reciprocal agreements between us. He couldn’t do anything for me, but I knew I’d do ANYTHING for him – sacrifice for, fight for, die for. Without one moment of hesitation.

And God whispered to my heart, “That’s how I look at you, Marge.”

While my perspective and focusing abilities are questionable, He is gazing intently into my face; He’s already memorized every feature of my soul and is listening intently to every cry of my heart. And His face is soft with love for me.

While I have not even one grand accomplishment to offer Him, His heart is BURSTING with affection for me.

While I am mere hours-old in the whole span of eternity, God has carefully planned for my life and committed Himself to me – for all of my days. He will fight for me. He has already died for me.

On the day I first saw my son’s face, I also saw God’s face in a brand new way. And it was an important mile marker in my God-journey: God’s defining posture toward me (toward you, too!) is as a loving mother bent over her newborn – attentive and adoring and ALL IN. He loves us BEFORE we ever grow up enough to love Him back.

So – happy happy happy birthday, Zach!!! From day-one you’ve been a Gift to us, and a picture of the Grace we longed for. We are so proud of you – the man of integrity you are, and the life and love you and Jessie are building together. Love you BIG!!!

~August 2, 2017~

 

LOOK AGAIN

We thought we’d invented her name; we’d never seen or heard it anywhere else, and it wasn’t in any of our Baby Name books. I think we started with “Kirsta”, which WAS in the book, and kept tweaking it until we landed on “Kira”.

And then she arrived. Our beautiful little dark-eyed treasure. Our Kira.

While still in the hospital we heard from some friends that they had OTHER friends with a daughter named Kira, and their friends said the name was originally Persian and meant “sun”.

And we loved the name even more then. How perfect that our happy little baby girl – who was MOST content when held heart to heart with us – had a name that brings thoughts of warmth and light and life.

Over the years we heard more. “Kira” has meaning in Slovakian culture, and in Ugandan and Burundian, too. In Russian it can translate as “leader of the people”, and in Japanese “kira kira” means glittery or shiny. It’s the title of a book and the name of a Barbie doll and has some connection to the River Nile.

But as her mom, I mostly think of sunflowers when I ponder the name. And when I ponder the girl I think of her love of being heart-to-heart, from day-one and every day since.

Today, on her twenty-second birthday, Kira got a small tattoo that says “look again”. It’s the way she lives her life – taking the time to look beyond the surface of a person, to see their heart and their intrinsic worth that relies not a bit on what they can do or not do, offer or not offer to the world…

“Look again” says the person in front of me is always worth the pause, the interruption. It means things are not always as they seem, so if I’m gonna jump to a conclusion, make it a hope-filled and grace-filled one.

Kira asked the tattoo artist to copy the words as I wrote them. My imperfect handwriting is part of the message… Life is not perfect.

Look again, because life doesn’t always happen as we’ve planned. Look again and keep looking for God at work, because you might not see Him in this first minute, but you will see Him eventually. Because He’s faithful. He’s there.

Sunflowers and looking again and this beautiful young woman’s birthday – today has been full of joy. Happiest birthday wishes, Kira!!!

~ June 13, 2017 ~

The Gift, continued.

When Gary returned Cameron to the Dog Pound, the staff had told Gary he could also return the dog license paperwork to them and that would save the next owners the cost of the license. Sometimes having those expenses already covered is an incentive for someone to choose that particular dog when they come looking to adopt, apparently.

Gary said he’d do that soon.

But very early the next morning we received a phone call from the Pound, and the director carefully asked if we were still planning to turn over the dog license paperwork. I was a bit confused as it had hardly been a day since we’d returned Cameron and it wasn’t REQUIRED that we return the license, it was just a nice gesture if we chose to do that. So I told her we planned to but just hadn’t gotten to it yet. And still, she pressed me! Could we bring it soon? Like, now? There was someone there who wanted to adopt Cameron!

I quickly asked Gary if he could take the paperwork to the Pound before he went to the office, and he agreed. We were both puzzled at the pressure, but the director seemed pleased and maybe relieved. It was just a bit strange.

Later that evening, Gary finally had a chance to tell us the rest of the story.

When he’d arrived at the Pound that morning to turn over the paperwork, there was just one other car in the parking lot. Rundown and raggedy, the car had seen better days. Inside, waiting for his arrival, was a mom and her two kids, a teenage boy and a younger girl. They had maybe seen better days, too. All three were very sweet, and the mom especially was very appreciative of Gary making the effort to bring them the license paperwork. She said quietly to Gary that money had been a little tight lately, but it was her son’s 18th birthday and all he wanted was a dog, and Cameron had caught his eye…

Gary was teary-eyed as he told us the story, and I got big tears, too.

But Kira got big faith. “Well, now I understand! I knew we were praying for God to open doors, but I couldn’t see why He’d let us get Cameron and then have to take him back. But now I see! It was so we could help that family get that dog! So the boy could have a dog for his birthday. He’s gonna love Cameron!”

Oh, my.

Yes. Indeed.

And that day Kira began to believe God had the perfect dog already in mind for us, too. I sorta thought the perfect hamster still sounded good. But you don’t mess with childlike faith.

So she prayed, and she searched online for dogs that fit our criteria. I cautioned that we would move VERY slowly with the next dog we considered for adoption; we didn’t want to have any more heartbreaking trial runs…

And about three months later, Kira mentioned she was seeing this dog on the Humane Society website that seemed perfect. (Almost too perfect?) He was small/medium size, cute as a button, and he’d been at the Shelter for six weeks. (If he was perfect, why wasn’t he already adopted?) I was not eager to pursue this, but Kira insisted, and she did have an IOU from us, after all.

So we went for a visit. We walked through the same doors God had quite literally closed for us three months before, and we met two-and-a-half-year-old Doc.

Doc was not terribly impressed with us, honestly. He played with us a little, but didn’t cuddle. Kira commended him for not snuggling with strangers, and explained to me, “You wouldn’t lay your head down in a stranger’s lap, either, Mom.”

Good point.

We learned Doc’s family had moved here from Indiana, and couldn’t keep him at their new home. He didn’t like most other dogs but did have one little dog friend he enjoyed playing with at the Shelter. He was white; a mix of Poodle and West Highland Terrier, they told us. Oh, and he didn’t like bikes or vacuum cleaners.

We talked and prayed and came back for another visit, and finally decided he was meant to be a part of our family.

And he fit. Perfectly.

He went to the door when he needed to go outside. We discovered he could sit upright, balancing on just his bum with his front legs folded in front of his chest. He knew how to “shake” paws. He’d wait at the bottom of stairs till we gave permission for him to come up. He stayed off furniture, till we gave him permission; and then, he’d always choose the highest spot with the softest cushions. He didn’t chew on shoes or get into trash cans.

And mostly – he cuddled. He LOVED to cuddle. Kira had been right – he just didn’t cuddle with strangers.

And suddenly, we’re dog people! I never thought we’d have a dog, could never see us with a dog. But now couldn’t imagine our family without him.

Then about six weeks in, Doc gets seriously ill with a rare virus. It’s especially uncommon for our part of Ohio, and it can be fatal. It’s also transmissible to humans. Suddenly we’re fighting for his life. And a little bit afraid for our own.

Our vet has only ever seen two such cases, and neither survived. But she digs in. She fights for our Doc. And Doc fights, too.

And I’m realizing, I’ve been calling Doc a gift to our family since the day we brought him home. I truly think great big Angels kept him company at the Shelter and also spread their wings to keep him from anyone’s view during his six weeks there, before we found him, because God was keeping Doc for US. He’s God’s gift to us – and our Enemy is trying to steal God’s gift!

So I began to pray fierce, commanding prayers, telling Satan to take his hands off God’s gift. And slowly Doc got better. And by Christmas, we had an all-clear report.

Thank you, God, for good gifts.

We had Doc for ten years. Man, he was so loved. He understood our jokes and protected us from the UPS guy and helped us provide MilkBones, Inc. a hefty profit year after year. He was such a patient listener! He stayed close when someone was sick or sad.

He saw us through The-Year-of-Two-Weddings-and-an-Aneurysm.

And he was so steady and so courageous when his health began to fail and he was in pain.

What a good, good boy. We miss you, Doc-man! Love you always. And, happy birthday.

~ April 3, 2017 ~

IMG_0015

The Gift.

“We should probably get Kira a dog for her birthday.”

I knew my husband was speaking English, but the words could not have been any more confusing to me had he spoken a haphazard collection of Mandarin Chinese vowels.

Wait. A dog? Why? This is so random and… just random! Did you say “probably”? I don’t understand the “probably”. A dog? Like, a living dog? I’ve already shopped for her birthday gifts – THEY’RE ALL WRAPPED ALREADY. Her birthday is in three days. We’ve never discussed dogs. Well, not REALLY discussed dogs. Why are we now discussing dogs?

What I actually said out loud to Gary was something like, “Really? You think?”, because I’m articulate and quick on my feet like that.

Gary said he’d been thinking about it lately because Kira is turning ten, and ten seems like an age when kids can help care for a dog, and we’d often told her we’d think about a dog when she was old enough to take responsibility for it…

Which was all true. Also true was that when I’d said we’d “think” about it when she was older, I had actually meant we’d think more thoughts on it and no doubt decide we should not get a dog.

Then came the God-card: “It just seems like God made Kira with a deep love for animals, and I think we should honor that in her.”

Oh, snap.

Honestly, Kira had wanted a pet since she was old enough to talk. She’d wanted a dog for years, and we’d always put her off. Then when she started asking for a horse, we decided a hamster might be a good compromise. So we’d adopted hamster Zoe.

Though Zoe liked biting more than cuddling, Kira loved her fiercely. We even nursed Zoe through an upper respiratory infection, complete with vet visits and hamster-sized doses of antibiotics. Zoe survived the pneumonia, and several months later died peacefully in her sleep. Kira decorated a lovely hamster casket-box and we buried Zoe in the backyard with a solemn ceremony and a sweet prayer by Gary. Friends sent sympathy notes and one even brought flowers. All of the feels, man.

We’d spent a few months mourning Zoe, and then we adopted Mufasa. Mufasa was also deeply loved; an accomplished escape artist and a handsome, sturdy little hamster dude. And still going strong when Gary brought up the birthday dog idea.

Frankly, my plan was to keep adopting hamsters for Kira one at a time until she left for college.

But the birthday dog idea quickly took on life between me and Gary, and it truly did seem like God was prompting an addition to our family. Which meant we had to move fast. AND we immediately established some guidelines: no puppies; already house trained; medium or small size; no yippy barkers, and he or she had to enjoy cuddling with a ten-year-old girl named Kira.

Our first call was to the county Humane Society, and we arranged to go for a visit the next day with the ONE medium-size dog they had there at the time. The next day was a Saturday, so we were REALLY cutting it close for a Monday birthday surprise, but it felt like the right thing to do. And we didn’t know where else to go looking for non-puppy adoptions, anyway.

Saturday afternoon we arrived a little before opening time at the Humane Society, so we sat in our car praying some more over the dog decision in front of us. I remember praying specifically that God would open and close doors as He knew best, and lead us to the dog that would fit our family perfectly.

While we were praying, another car pulled up and the people went inside, because it was now past opening time. We followed the other people inside shortly after – only to see them disappearing into the visitation room with “our” dog.

They had first dibs on that cute little guy because they’d walked in first, while we sat in our car praying for God to open and close doors for us. Huh. Go figure.

The Shelter had no other medium size dogs, so we figured that was that. God must have another plan; we’d give Kira an IOU on her birthday and let her help choose her dog later.

Good plan.

Kira loved her birthday IOU, and soon after, she invited a friend to go with us looking for a dog to adopt. This time we went to the local Dog Pound, because there were still no small or medium size dogs at the Humane Society.

Now, unlike the Humane Society, the Dog Pound has all kinds of dogs that have been brought in off the streets, with unknown histories. The dogs aren’t really tested for temperament issues or medical issues or adoptability. So I was concerned about choosing a dog there, and praying again that God would open and close doors and lead us to a dog that fit us perfectly.

And that’s when Kira spotted soon-to-be-named-Cameron. Love at first sight. He was a beagle mix, friendly but not yippy/barky. Medium size. Handsome guy.

I kept praying, “God, if this is not the dog for us, please close this door.” And there was nothing. No fire alarms telling all of us to evacuate the building. No Dog Pound staff member telling me someone else had dibs on this dog. Nothing.

So Cameron walked to the car with us, and home we went. Well, first we had to stop at the pet store to load up on everything we needed. Which, we honestly had no idea what we needed. A flea shampoo seemed an obvious choice, though.

It was late afternoon now and Gary was working that evening. So the first order of business, the bath, fell to Kira and me. I’m not really sure how clean Cameron got in that bath, but Kira and I had a good swim workout. The Medium guy seemed to have a Large strength and an Extra Large mind of his own.

I heard faint alarm bells, but also had complete confidence that God had opened and closed doors, so we were good, right?

Then Cameron discovered leather chairs were better chew toys than the things purchased at the pet store. And little girls were easy to push around. And biting hands was fun, too. Peeing in the house after just being outside was also a favorite pastime. And howling.

Oh man.

Zach came home from football practice, and Cameron seemed a bit better behaved when interacting with Zach; he was calmer and seemed to “listen” to Zach. And we noticed the same when Gary came home later. Cameron seemed better all around when interacting with men.

Well huh. That’s not good when we really wanted a pup who would bond with Kira.

Then we all went to bed. And by “all” I mean all the humans in the house, and by “went to bed” I mean we all lay in our beds with pillows covering our faces trying to drown out the howling. Cameron was in a large crate with a soft bed, close enough to Kira to hear her breathing. But nothing stopped the howling except Gary laying on the cold floor right next to that crate, all night long.

On the floor. All. Night. Long.

When morning dawned, Kira announced that maybe Cameron wasn’t the right dog for us. “When he bites me, he doesn’t even comfort me afterward!” Oh, sweet girl.

Gary had been out for a morning walk already with Cameron, and again, Cameron was fairly well behaved when Gary was nearby. But with Kira’s words, we all admitted the same: Cameron needed to go back to the Pound. He was not the right dog for a ten-year-old girl. At least, not without some very intense training, which we just didn’t have the time or resources to invest.

They’d said we could “return” him if we discovered any health or behavior problems, because they don’t do any such screenings. So before Gary took him back to the Pound, we all sat on the floor in a circle with Cameron and prayed over him. We prayed he’d have a long and happy dog life with new owners who would fit him perfectly and love him forever. We took pictures. He panted and smiled. He nipped at Kira a few more times. We hugged him goodbye.

And off he went.

……