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Ears Straight Up

For all practical purposes Vern is an orphan. He was taken away from his parents when he was nine weeks old. He was whisked away to a home filled with humans and one sister dog. At first, he was clearly sad and couldn’t understand why he had been removed from the mother who had given him birth. But now, he has humans that care for every one of his needs and most of his desires.

I also know what it feels like to be an orphan. I am an old orphan, but still an orphan. My mom died over thirty years ago and my dad passed away in 2010. And even though I’m an adult, every once in a while, I still feel the loneliness that comes from losing my parents.

So about six weeks ago, I tripped and fractured my leg in three places. I had surgery and have been hoppling around ever since. I’m unable to get out of the house without assistance, so I’m basically house bound. Well, if you ever had a medical condition that has kept you isolated from the people you enjoy being around, you might understand the loneliness that can creep in.

I wasn’t surprised when the visitors stopped coming, but I was taken back by the sense of isolation and despair that walked in and wanted to take over. At first, I felt a little on edge, but as the days have gone by, I have become down right irritated and annoying. (Just ask my husband)

Jesus knew we would experience the feelings that come along with being an orphan or the times in our lives when we are lonely. He speaks to his disciples about the days after he leaves them. Days that I’m sure were filled with loneliness and extreme despair.

“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

And the great thing about this verse is it wasn’t written only for the disciples, but it was also intended to encourage us. You see, Jesus died, and after he ascended into heaven, he asked the Father to send us the Holy Spirit to reside within us for forever. How cool is that! So when I feel lonely, I can return to his promises and realize that I’m not alone.

Vern has been extra attentive since my accident. He finds every opportunity to snuggle up close and draw on the love that comes from being nearby. As an orphan, no matter the age, it’s nice to have others that can relate. Even if they have ears that stick straight up and snore a lot.

Stuck

Vern and Bee have enjoyed the days since my accident. They love having us home all day long to snuggle up against. Vern has been particularly attentive. Whenever it appears that I am in pain or lonely, he will jump up on my chair and slide his body next to mine.

Vern and Bee are only two of the many blessings that I have received through this time. Many people have appeared at my door with a meal and a conversation to distract me from my situation. I have had many emails and texts from individuals who have placed me in their prayers. My husband has been extra attentive and been willing to take directions on the chores that I once considered mine.

I pray that I will never forget the kindness that has been directed in my direction. But if I was to name my greatest blessing, it would be how I am stuck. You see before this accident, I had been praying to God to help me get out of a mindset that centered around worldly success. I was becoming more and more preoccupied with defining myself by the numbers and not by my creator’s vision of me.

As I look into the Word, I am reminded how men and women within God’s will were stuck. Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, was one such woman. Her husband and two sons had died leaving her abandoned in an ungodly land far away from her family and friends. When the story opens, Naomi is filled with grief and is unable to see her blessings.

With nothing to lose, she decides to walk back to her home, a place where she had heard that the Lord had visited. As she begins her walk, she is joined by her two daughters-in-law. But after she pleads with them to return to their home, one returns but her daughter-in-law, Ruth refuses to leave. And in that moment Ruth turns to Naomi and states, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

And in that moment, a bond is formed between these two women that will live for eternity. Naomi and Ruth do return to Bethlehem and Naomi marries one of Ruth’s relatives and both women are taken care of for the remainder of their lives. But that isn’t where the miracle ends. You see Ruth’s baby was named Obed, the father of Jesse, and the grandfather of King David.

So I have come to believe that God works when we are stuck. It is in these times that He does his greatest work. So as I sit with my leg propped up, unable to walk, I will turn my eyes upward and wait on the Lord.

As for Vern and Bee, you will find them waiting beside me.

The Gift of Time

On August 10th, I was on a camping trip in the mountains of North Carolina. On the last night of our vacation, I tripped over a lip in the tent we use to cover our picnic table. Immediately, I knew that something was wrong. The next day an ex-ray revealed the damage. I was told that I would need surgery. But the worse was that I would be unable to bear any weight for six to eight weeks.

I had retired in my mid-fifties from a career in special education and still felt good. I hardly ever sat down during the day and just the thought of being housebound for weeks on end frightened me more than the actual damage to my foot.

It has been four weeks and with surgery behind me, I’m looking ahead to the days of recovery and what it entails. But for now, I am still bound to my house and unable to go beyond the floor I occupy. Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who has been willing to meet my every need. My grown daughter left yesterday after being here through some rough days and Vern and Bee, my French Bulldogs have been very attentive.

But as I reflect back over the last month, my fondest memories will be of the visitors that have walked through the door and plopped down on a chair or my sofa. People that have pushed through the awkward feelings of how to deal with someone who is damaged or sick. People who have interrupted their own lives and given me the gift of their time.

If I have learned anything from this journey, it’s to make sure I don’t forget the people in my life that might need the gift of time. Since I can’t leave my house, I’ve tried to call, text, and email friends and family who come to mind. But once I’m able to get back on my feet, I hope that I’ll remember how I felt when a friend’s smiling face came bopping into my house.

Your Personal Words

Bee made her way to her bed and snuggled in for the night. My daughter was concerned with where she might be and looked back into the bedroom. At first glance, all she saw was a black and white blanket. But then after a couple of seconds, it registered in her mind that Bee was lying on top of the blanket.

Sometimes, we are given insight that can only be understood through the lenses of our present circumstances. Discernment over an issue or concern will only evolve in the right conditions.

 When Paul was walking to Damascus, his mind was set. He could only see the mission set before him. He had calculated how he was going to imprison the Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem to be punished. As he walked forward with other determined Jews, it appeared nothing was going to change his mind.

But then, a bright light appeared and Paul stumbled to the ground. He heard a voice, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go to the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4-6)

The men that were with Paul saw the light, heard a sound, but couldn’t understand it. I often wondered why. Why could only Paul hear Jesus’ voice?

I was discussing this with the women in my Bible study and came to realize that Jesus is a personal God. These words were only meant for Paul at this particular moment in time. God knew Paul’s heart and what needed to happen in order to change his course.

God also knows me and what it would take to get my attention. So with two months of no weight bearing and a nerve pain that keeps me up at night, I have been given the opportunity to stop and listen to his voice. And hopefully, I will eventually walk (literally and figuratively) away with discernment about the present life I have been so graciously been given.

As for Bee, she got out of bed this morning and is now clearly visible for all to see. She and Vern are ready to go out for their morning walk. A walk that I once took for granted, but now have come to truly appreciate.

The Power of Pain

Pain changes how life is filtered. It’s like entering a room that you want to exit but there’s no door. You want to get out and be anywhere beyond the excruciating nerve endings that set your body on fire. In my experience, my focus was on striving to stay in control of the emotions that wanted to send me over the edge. I took shallow breaths and looked upward. I focused on keeping the negative thoughts from sending me spiraling downward.

The nerve block began wearing off around 9 PM. Right when I wanted to go to sleep. But sleep would not come that night. Instead, I would lie and count the minutes until I could give myself another dose of medicine to hopefully cut back or kill the pain that grew in intensity.

As I was pinned to the bed, I reached beside me and stroked Vern’s smooth fur. Just having my little dog and husband nearby gave me a sense of strength and allowed me the ability to stay calm. But, as wonderful as it was to have others that cared from the outside, it was the knowledge that Jesus is within me that washed me with power.

Paul is given a thorn. No one knows exactly what it was, but it was bad enough for him to plead with God to take it away. You would think God would smooth away Paul’s troubles, but he doesn’t. Instead in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 it states, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Thankfully, the pain subsided and I am now managing it with medicine. Vern has stayed by my side and my daughter has joined forces this week to care for me. As I think back on those hours when the pain pushed me to my limit, I’m consumed with a gratitude in my heart for not only the relief I now have, but the experience of being made weak so Jesus could be made strong.

Pursuing Peace

Frustration has settled in like a storm cloud, ready to dump rain on everyone standing nearby. Bee has positioned herself over Vern’s bowl, determined to keep him from eating. The bully is unwilling to lessen her stance, no matter how long it takes. Vern is trying to get around her, but is fully aware that she is the alpha dog, a position that won’t change anytime soon.

I hobble around with my broken leg situated on the scooter, I have come to realize that each move has to be well thought out. Movements, prior to my accident, took only seconds, now have to be calculated in my mind so precious energy isn’t wasted. Frustration begins to seep through my thoughts, desiring to devour my peace.

As Paul writes letters to Timothy, he sits chained in a jail cell. Friends have left him, embarrassed by his circumstances. Only Luke, the author of the book in the Bible stays close by. There is a tinge of frustration as Paul writes Timothy, pleading for him to come and bring his books and parchment. Unable to act, Paul can only pray to God to meet his needs.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:22 “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. How often do we assume we can just have peace? But pursuing peace is an action. It takes effort. It just doesn’t happen. So for me, I will pursue peace in the midst of the frustration that wants to take me captive.

As for Bee, she has gone for a walk and is now trying to catch her breath, giving Vern an opportunity to eat his food. My husband places the dish outside and with Bee so consumed with catching her breath, Vern is able to eat in peace.

Jumping

Every night when my husband and I are getting ready to fall asleep, Vern jumps up on our bed, pushes his way between our bodies, and settles in for the night. On the other hand, Bee, our Frenchie with longer legs than Vern, has never learned the art of jumping. She settles for a bed with a couple of doggie blankets on the floor below.

I never thought about the ability to jump as much as I have since I fractured my leg. Given I can’t put any weight on my left foot, if I am to move over a barrier or down or up a flight of steps, I have to jump. Now, I don’t know about you, but as time has passed, my body doesn’t leave the ground as easily as it did when I was younger.

It’s strange how some people can leave the ground with the greatest of ease while others stay put in their situations. This can be true both physically and spiritually. We can all have the tendency to be like Bee, settling on the floor below. But then for some reason or another, we are forced to jump.

“But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

No matter our situation, we were created to not only jump but soar.

Vern can clearly jump onto whatever piece of furniture he wants to. Bee has to wait for someone to pick her up and is usually bound to the ground. I’m discovering the ability to jump can be difficult, but possible. And as I recover from my upcoming surgery, I’m hoping I will eventually soar.

Thankful for the Chains

My husband just left to take Vern and Bee for a walk. Before leaving, The harness goes over Vern’s head, then a leash is latched to a metal loop. The door opens and Vern veers outside to go. But where? Not in the direction he chooses. No, my husband determines the path and pace. Vern tugs, wanting freedom. But if he obtains the ability to run where he chooses, chances are good that a car will come across his path with an outcome too sad to contemplate.

So why is it strange to consider how a loving God will send us in a different direction? To lead us where we do not want to go. One that is intended for our good.

Two fractured bones in my leg has stopped me from going down a road I must not have been meant to venture. A wait for surgery and my computer being hacked has left me feeling vulnerable and exposed. A path full of challenges and opportunities for growth.

Why should I be surprised? Could the road I was headed down be full of cars ready to cause my demise?

As Paul writes his last letter, a letter to Timothy, Paul knows he will soon be put to death for his faith. The Jewish leaders hate his betrayal to their traditions and the Romans are fed up with all the unrest he has caused. So, one last time, Paul puts pen to paper. He begins his letter writing with the most incredible greeting: “To Timothy, my beloved child. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2 Tim. 1:2-3)

Three words stand out here. Grace- the free and unmerited favor of God. Mercy- compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Peace- mental calm and serenity.

“God gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim 1:7)

I am thankful for Paul’s chains. Through his chains, I can experience the knowledge that God loves me enough to veer me in a direction I may not want to go-but one that is created just for me.

Vern has returned from his walk. He lies quietly at the end of the bed. A sense of peace has wrapped around us like a warm soft blanket. A perfect place to contemplate the grace, mercy, and peace extended to all of us by our Loving Father.

Scooter Gratitude

If you have ever broken a bone in one of your legs, you can definitely relate to what I’m about to say. Two days ago, I went into the orthopedic office. Given my foot was extremely swollen and I couldn’t bear weight, I knew something was wrong. So I wasn’t too surprised when they pointed out the two fractures on the x-ray. Then in a very nonchalant manner, the technician brought in a set of new crutches just for me.

Now, I would say I’m in reasonably good shape for my age, but what they charged me to do next was downright crazy! After fitting the aluminum sticks to my height, and giving me a two minute training session, like a mother bird sending out her birds from the nest, told me to fly.

Walking on crutches is a skill that needs time and attention. And I had neither. When my husband stopped the car in the driveway, I was given the task to make my way down a cement path, up five wooden steps, across a threshold, and down a hallway before sitting down. And one small mistake along the way could cause further damage that I don’t want to even ponder.

For the next couple of hours, I had to consider if the trip to the bathroom or other destination was worth the chance of falling. And as the day turned into night and the few trips I did take wore on my arms and good leg, I couldn’t imagine how I would get along for the next six weeks of recuperation.

The next morning, after a couple of phone calls, my husband located a medical supply store and promptly left and returned with a rented scooter. Now I’ve seen people out in public scooting around on these strange looking four wheeled apparatus, but had no idea how essential this device was to their independence and recovery.

But now I do!

So this morning as I was studying gratitude and how important it is to our mental health, I knew I had to give a shout out to whoever the human or humans were that laid in bed and visualized how this little mode of transportation would change their life. So whoever you are, I want to personally thank you for allowing me the opportunity to slide down the hall, place objects in my nifty basket, and actually get from point a to point b without breaking another bone.

I know in the next couple of weeks, I will have to use my crutches and I want to go ahead and thank my husband for being willing to assist me during these challenging moments.

And lastly, I want to thank all my friends and readers of these words who have and will stand on the sidelines cheering me on throughout this healing process. You are the BEST!!!

When the Winds Stop

My dreams were scattered all over the place. What I had hoped for was not materializing. Expectations of next steps were falling flat and I felt stuck. I had recently experienced some success, and now the winds had stopped blowing.

To distract me from myself, my husband and I went on a camping trip to the mountains of North Carolina. As we hiked up and down mountain paths, discovering beautiful scenery and all kinds of foliage and wildlife, I was beginning to feel better.

But then, it happened. Something so stupid, so preventable occurred. As I was stepping out of a tent, my foot caught on the zippered bottom section, and my body twisted around and I fell to the ground. Instantly, I knew my foot was hurt.

As I was lifted up off the ground, my foot began to throb. When asked to put weight on it, I realized it was worse than I had imagined.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah had just experienced a spiritual high. He had demonstrated that God was alive and Baal was not. He has put the worshippers of Baal to the test by having them try to get their god to start a fire. When no fire started, He had his pile of wood soaked and then asked God to create a blaze. It was a spectacular demonstration of God’s power and should have given him lots of faith.

But as we all know, we usually sink into valleys after we visit the mountain tops. For Elijah, he encountered Jezebel, a queen that wanted him dead. So he retreated to a cave and stayed there until God came and whispered in his ear his next purpose.

The evening before we left the campground, I fell and am now in bed with two fractures in my ankle. Surgery is going to happen next week and I am trying to figure out what God is whispering to me.  It definitely isn’t the message I would’ve requested, but I’m sure there is a word of wisdom in this time.

Vern has been by my side almost the entire time I’ve been lying in bed. His presence has been calm and given me lots of peace.