A couple of years ago, after retiring, I found myself in a state of limbo. I had spent all my life either in school or teaching children. I had a purpose and my life was full. Once I retired, I began to feel lost. I described it to be like the Israelites muddling around the desert for forty years. These people had no destination and neither did I. After a year of trying to rediscover who I was, I decided to start blogging. I was nervous and very insecure about the process. Did I have a voice? Would anyone want to read what I had to say? Fear swept in and I put off the process for a while. Then Carl came into my life and everything changed. He was my muse. All I had to do was look into his brown eyes and the story unfolded before me.
A lot can happen in 48 hours. The clouds have gotten heavy and the winds have started to blow. Instead of being alone though, Carl now has four other dogs and a cat to keep him company. Four children are making our house their home, and my son in law and his mother are hunkering down to ride out the hurricane.
Carl seems happy to have so much attention and is enjoying this time without a clue of the reason for the onslaught of humans and canines. The television is on more than usual and everyone is praying that Florence will not create the devastation that the forecasters are calling for.
There must be countless numbers of other families that are feeling the impact of this storm even before it has made landfall. People who are headed west without a clear destination. Others that have settled in with family or friends that ordinarily they would never consider spending a night with.
God is good and good all the time. He is sovereign and even though no one can understand the reason for the devastation that is getting ready to take place, we must put our trust in His will for our lives. I know for me, there are many lessons that I am in the midst of learning.
“Lord, please help all of us, particularly me, to see your goodness through the storms of our lives.”
Carl doesn’t hug. He will jump up on my lap and rub against my leg but he doesn’t hug. I never thought about how dogs or any other animal lacks the ability to embrace until the other day. I must admit I am typically a tentative hugger.
I grew up without many hugs from family members and up until just recently wouldn’t initiate a hug. I had a good friend that challenged me to change how I hugged. Instead of a weak squeeze with a little pat on the back, she encouraged me to use a strong grasp that let the person know that I cared.
Why did God create us to embrace others? What emotion or unfulfilled need is met with a strong hold by two people? I never gave this much thought until the other day. I had gone to visit a family that lost their young son from an aggressive cancer.
Once I entered the house, the grieving mother approached me with an intense hug. This hug was different. It was like a need was being met by transferring the heart of one to another. The embrace lasted longer than most and once we separated, I couldn’t help but feel that God had actually created us to hug.
As I thought about hugging, I decided to research in the Bible to see if there was any mention of Jesus hugging others. And to my astonishment, there is not one verse that states that He hugged anyone. One friend stated that He probably didn’t embrace others due to the amount of power that he held.
In Mark 5: 25-34, there is an account of a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years. She has been to doctors but her condition has only gotten worse. When she heard about Jesus and how He had been healing others, she made her way through the crowd and reached down and touched the hem of his garment.
“Immediately, her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
There could be many other reasons why hugging by our savior is not mentioned. It may not have been the custom or the authors didn’t find a purpose in writing about it. Anyway, I do believe that God did create us to hug each other.
As for Carl, getting him to put his paws in my lap is probably as close as I will get to a real hug. But that is okay. God has given me enough people to hug and Carl seems to be content with a good pat on the head.
Carl spends most of his day in the waiting mode. He is either waiting for the delivery of food, human contact, or a good walk around the block. When he is in the act of waiting, it is clear that this is not what he wants to do. He demonstrates this by looking right at us and letting out a squeal that reminds you of a wild pig. When this tactic doesn’t work, he will lay down on the floor and produce a pitiful expression.
No one likes to wait. It makes us feel awkward and uncomfortable. Just yesterday I went to the drive in window at my bank and found one car in front of me. Given my most recent wait times, I was expecting a couple of minutes but after five minutes, I began to fight off feelings of agitation. When my watch indicated that I had been waiting ten minutes, I began to think of ways to get out of line.
Waiting in line is one thing but waiting in life is completely different. Have you ever thought of the times that you believed it was time to receive what you wanted and how you felt when you had to wait?
So often we make plans and insert them into our heart only to come up empty. It could be a successful career, a spouse, a baby, a huge house, and the list goes on and on. No matter what your situation is in life, you are probably waiting for something.
Proverbs 16:9 states a simple fact that can be easily understood but hard to digest. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
In other words, we can make plans and become passionate about them but God will have the final say on what will actually happen. We also need to remember that God does this because He loves us. He knows when it is best for us to wait and when it is time to be given what we desire.
As I have grown older and hopefully a little wiser, I can reflect back on my life and look at the times of waiting as a blessing. I had to wait to become pregnant with both of my children and know I appreciate them much more because of the wait. And at the other end of life, my husband and I had to wait for the death of our parents. All four of them had terminal illnesses that lingered for months and for one, years.
During these times of waiting, my character was revealed. Many days were spent in a constant desire to be in a different place of life. But even as difficult as it was, I do believe God intentionally placed me in a state of waiting to refine me.
It is too bad that Carl doesn’t change due to all of the waiting he has had to endure. I have heard the waiting that we go through referred to as the white spaces in our lives. I find it fitting that Carl happens to be a white dog and thus the white space that has made his home in my life.
Disappointment could be clearly seen plastered across Carl’s face. I didn’t have time to take him for his walk and as he followed me around the house, he shared with me his pitiful frustrated state of mind. He knew when I put my tennis outfit on instead of my walking clothes that I was going to leave him behind.
Disappointment is a bitter emotion that can cause us to turn from our faith and rely on our feelings. When we are not studying the truth and something happens in our lives, our natural response is to immediately turn to our feelings as the picture of our reality.
But if we are in the Bible and digesting the facts of God’s word, when disappointment does coming knocking, we will be better prepared to accept any situation that comes our way. David and Saul are great examples of this. David, meditated on the truth and was constantly calling out to God. Saul on the other hand, relied totally on his feelings when making decisions.
Even though Saul was king, he didn’t feel like it. He constantly compared himself to David and lived in a state of disappointment. These feelings drove him to spend his entire life hunting down David in order to make himself feel like the king.
David on the other hand was living in danger every wakening moment but didn’t see his life based on his emotions but on the truth that God never breaks promises. He had been anointed as king and he believed that his God would ultimately place him in this role.
Many times in the book of Psalms, we can witness David working through his emotions based on the truth. Psalm 61:1-4 is a clear picture of how this man dealt with his feelings.
“Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.”
David starts with a plea based on his emotions but he quickly takes the focus off his feelings and turns it towards the truth about God.
We have so much to learn from this scripture and how to overcome the entrapment of our feelings. As for Carl, he will never understand this principle of putting the facts before his feelings. Even so, I am thankful for him even if I have to constantly assure him through the emotions of his disappointments.
As Carl made his way down the sidewalk and through the neighborhood, I absentmindedly followed. I was clearly not paying attention as my foot caught the lip of the concrete slab, which instantly caused a stabbing pain to rush through my foot.
Carl was oblivious to the pain that I was experiencing. He was absorbed by his inner world and what I felt didn’t even come up on his radar. The fact that he didn’t seem to care about my welfare didn’t bother me too much. I know that I can be as insensitive to the needs of others when I get too wrapped up in my own affairs.
As I write this, I am sitting in an airport with a wide assortment of different kinds of people packed all around me. But with the closeness of all the people, I have no idea who they are and what their needs are.
Matthew 22: 36-40 gives us a clear picture of how God wants us to become.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
As we go through this life, we need to discover the love of God that can only come from Him. Once we understand His love for us, we can begin to love ourselves. And lastly, once we have the love living in us that only He can create, then and only then we can love our neighbor.
So often, we don’t love ourselves enough to give to others. If we can understand how much God loves us it can transform us into confident people that can go beyond ourselves to meet the needs of others.
As for Carl, I know he will never comprehend this concept and thus will never be able to love others. It will always be about him and never about the people in his life. But that is okay. He is only a dog.
Even though it was a short trip, I can tell that Carl missed me. Immediately after arriving in the house, the little dog was jumping up and down wanting my attention. To make sure that I would continue looking in his direction, he pulled the blanket off of Bee’s bed and pulled it down the hall.
After Carl pulled the blanket away from his sister and myself, he then started chewing on it and refused to give it up. I knew if I tried to pull it away from him, he would win the tug a war battle. So my only option was to ignore him.
Have you ever felt ignored?
It can bring the worst out of people. Just this weekend, a woman that I met felt disregarded by a waiter. Instead of assuming the best, she complained bitterly to the manager which almost caused the employee to lose his job. All because she felt ignored.
But it is when we think we are being overlooked by God, that our perception of life can take a downward spiral. Watching people get promoted, achieving their dreams, or witnessing their success can create bitterness in our lives. Many times when we work hard and only see people surpass us in their endeavors, the bitterness can create a hardness towards God.
So how do we keep our hearts close to God?
Paul was a man who had every right to be upset with God. After giving his life to proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, his life plunged into a series of lifetime trials and struggles. But instead of becoming bitter, he made a decision to become what God created him to be.
Paul states it simply in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Carl realized that he needed to take a different approach. Leaving the blanket on the floor, he came up beside me and rubbed his body up against my leg. As he pressed his body close, he seemed to relax and realize that he was loved without having to exhibit negative behaviors. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take on Paul’s attitude and imitate the actions of a little dog named Carl?
As we looked down at our fawn colored French bulldog, stuck between two carts and looking terrified, we knew we had to act quickly. Thankfully the cart behind us had smashed their brakes in the nick of time and saved Carl from a life threatening injury.
Once Carl was back up in the lap of my husband, we continued down the parade route. I couldn’t believe the number of carts that participated in this event. People of all ages and demographics took part in this spectacle. Later I learned that this golf cart parade has been going on since 1974. CRAZY!
As the week went by, Carl enjoyed the attention he received from strangers. Many who had to leave their own pet at home just wanted a minute or two to stroke Carl’s back and share about their own dog that was left behind.
Early each morning, before the sun peeked out from the horizon, my husband would get up and call for us to join him on the beach. This morning we rose extra early so that we would make sure to see the bright orange ball rise above the ocean line.
It is a good thing that most people that were lingering on the beach had also been jostled out of bed by a loved one. Since I didn’t have a chance to run a comb through my hair, I felt like I was in similar company.
I must admit that watching the brilliant sun rise gave me a sense that our creator was providing a new day for all of us to enjoy. One tall man with a huge smile greeted us as he passed. Then before I knew it, he had clasped the hands of a middle aged man and could be heard praying.
Isn’t it cool how if you are looking for a spiritual connection, it can be easily found? It is all about being in touch with the Holy Spirit. This man was a great example of how God will place the exact person in your life if you keep an open mind and heart.
Days have taken on a pattern. Getting up early for a walk on the beach and through the campground. Once we get back, Carl takes a little nap before everyone gets up from their slumber. After breakfast, it is off to the water park where there is an area suited for all age groups.
It has been extremely hot this week and Carl spends most of the daytime hours in the comfort of his air conditioned guest house. But once the sun makes its way towards the horizon and the sand is no longer hot, Carl makes his way onto the beach and prances down to the water.
As the week came to an end, Carl has made many new friends. Instead of the typical jumping up behaviors that we witness at home, the little dog has been transformed into a docile pooch.
The last night of our vacation, Carl and I made one last trip to the beach where the sky was being lit up by fireworks. And even though the popping noise is loud, he doesn’t seem fazed by it. All he seemed to want to do is find the next person to rub his head and be told how wonderful he is.
But as we all know, vacations will always come to an end. And as wonderful as Myrtle Beach was, getting home to our own house and routine seems to be just what Carl is dreaming about.
Carl appeared to have control as he walked with his head held high leading the way through the neighborhood. It wasn’t until he encountered a cat that he realized that he wasn’t able to break free and pounce on his arch enemy. Instead of being in control, Carl realized that he could only go as far as the leash would take him.
We all want to be in control of our circumstances in life. And as long as we assume everything is going the way we think it should, we set ourselves on cruise control and hold our heads up high. It isn’t until we encounter a situation that we don’t see the outcome, that we realize that we don’t have any control at all.
Many years ago, my husband and I owned a catamaran sailboat. He absolutely loved the feeling of getting the air into the sails and bring the boat up on one side. On the other hand, I was petrified when the boat would rise above the surface of the water.
This was particularly true one Labor Day weekend when we placed the boat into the calm sound and steered the boat through the inlet over to the beach. For two days, everyone enjoyed riding out into the ocean and skidding across the water. But on the day that we had to return the boat to the sound side in order to place it on the trailer, the winds and waves picked up drastically.
As I climbed onto the boat, my adrenaline was pumping and a deep seated fear entered my entire being. I knew that if the boat turned over, it may be impossible for my husband to right it up again which could have led to our deaths.
As the winds whipped around us and the waves caused us to dip up and down on the water, my husband realized that something was very wrong. Apparently the ropes had not been tacked correctly and he couldn’t steer the boat. So with only one option, he handed me the steering device and told me to not let go while he climbed down the side of the boat to correct the situation.
During those few moments, I knew that I had no control of what would happen next. There was nothing that I could do but pray and hold fast. This is what it must have felt like when Noah and his family entered the ark and closed the doors. With no sail or rudder, this family must have wondered what would happen as the rain hit the roof and the boat began to rock back and forth.
Genesis 7:17-24 states, “For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.”
I am sure the entire time that Noah and his family were inside the ark they must have known that they had no control. They only had faith that God would see them through the situation.
Though my ordeal only lasted an hour, I prayed a lot and rested in the fact that God was in control, not me. As for Carl, he will never understand God’s sovereignty but that’s okay. I will let him think he is leading even when he isn’t.
Carl didn’t realize when he plopped his body up on the red vinyl surface and made himself comfortable that he was adding to the memories that had already existed from sitting on the bold red couch.
This particular piece of furniture had been bought as a pair and first made its way into our lives when my father in law, Joe, had purchased it over a decade ago. When I first saw the pair positioned in his living area, I was a little taken back by the color. But as time went by, I began to feel a fondness for the bold red couch.
Many kinds of memories have been created from the red couch. When Joe had been diagnosed with lung cancer and my husband and I were catapulted back into his life, many a night was spent sitting on the red couch watching an array of shows like Mash or Columbo. But when the time came when Joe had to be moved against his wishes, I had to have one of the hardest conversations I have ever had while sitting on the red vinyl couch.
Once all of Joe’s valued possessions were selected to be moved, this piece of furniture made its way to the small sitting area that was then his new residence. Many days Joe sat on the couch as he watched his television or waved to the new neighbors that walked past his open doorway. New friends and old ones came to visit and sat on the red couch until one Friday afternoon when Joe took his last breath.
So now the couch has made its way to our garage where happier memories are being formed. Instead of memories laced with sadness, the piece of furniture is a place where people sit to watch sports on TV or grandchildren playing on scooters and bicycles. My husband even pulled it out onto the carport the day of the eclipse and called Carl to join him as they both peered into the sky.
Carl has now found a place on one of the cushions to place his body when everyone finds their way into the garage. Instead of sitting on the cold floor, he jumps up and finds his place that everyone assumes has always been his.
No one knows what will ever come of the red couch. Hopefully, many more memories will be created that will extend for years to come. Time will only tell. But until the couch is taken to the dump or handed down to someone else, it will serve as a reminder of the past and point us to the future.
To learn more about my father in law, Joe, please read my book, Here We Go Joe.