Tag Archives: life

Not the Dog I Wanted

I have to confess that Carl was not the dog I wanted. I wanted the brown female dog that had died when her mother rolled on top of her. But knowing it could take a long time before a brown female was born, my husband and I settled on the fawn colored male.img_4753

Earlier in my life I had owned a male dog and found him harder to train and just didn’t bond with him. So when we brought Carl home, I knew that I had to have an open mind and a willingness to cultivate the relationship.

Before working with Carl, I had to cultivate positive thoughts about this little puppy. So instead of focusing on Carl’s obnoxious behaviors of constantly nipping everyone who walked in the door, howling in the middle of the night and marking his territory, I shifted my thoughts to how much joy he was bringing to my family and friends.

I had to be intentional with this cultivation.  My thoughts towards this little Frenchie had to be positive and encouraging. When a negative thought came fleeting through my mind, I had to transform it into a hopeful outcome.

After four years with this little dog, I have realized that nothing worth having in life will come easily.  The most precious things will take time and effort.  Each meaningful relationship, career, and hobby has taken a lot of cultivation to witness a bountiful harvest.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4 states it beautifully:

To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down and a time to build up;

A time to weep and a time laugh;

A time to mourn and a time to dance.

As we cultivate our lives, we need to be attentive to the specific timing that God has created for our unique lives. If we try and rush the outcomes, we will lose out on the harvest that God is creating for us.

So as I write these words and think about my little dog, I know that there will always be more cultivating to do. And that is fine with me.img_4765

 

 

 

Living Life in the Present

Carl loves his walks.  Next to being fed, taking a walk around the block is what he lives for. He and his sister Bee constantly compete for who will lead their pack around the three mile path marked out by their humans.IMG_4776

With his ears perked up and his body stiff and alert, Carl walks like he is on a mission. As he struts forward, he is always attentive to his surroundings. You could say that Carl lives in the present.

We all could learn from Carl.  So often, I find myself drifting in my thoughts to either my past or my future.  This is particularly true right before a vacation.

My husband and I will be going on a cruise in the near future. Just the thought of being out in the middle of the ocean with 80 degree temperatures can sweep my thoughts away. Carnival Cruise lines has an app that you can open and it states to the minute how long it will be before we will set sail. At this time it will be 8 days, 1 hour and 59 minutes.

Every day for the last week, we have opened the app just to see the numbers drop and the time draw closer and closer to our cruise. There really isn’t anything bad about doing this. We all have thoughts that captivate us and send us into another time and place. Even though it isn’t bad, there is a better way to spend my moments. In the present.

I have come to realize that if I spend too much time focusing on the future, I miss out on the gift of the present. The Apostle Paul learned a lesson that I believe we all can benefit from.  He stated, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

So instead of dreaming about the future, I need to be content in the present. God doesn’t promise me the days ahead but as long as I am breathing, I do have the present to enjoy.

Carl is back from his walk and resting in his favorite place. He sure knows how to live his life to the fullest. Even when he is sleeping, he seems pleased with his present circumstances. If my dog can be happy with his life, surely, with the help of Jesus who gives me strength, I can  enjoy mine.IMG_4774

 

 

Carl’s Christmas Outfit

Carl knew it was coming.  If it wasn’t for the car ride and being ushered into the pet store wasn’t enough of a clue, being surrounded by several employees assisting with the buckles and straps was a sure sign that he was going to get a Christmas outfit.

Given that Carl can sometimes be mistaken for a baby deer fawn, reindeer ears would be the most appropriate for this holiday season. So with the prompting of a little treat, Carl allowed all the humans to smash his head into the brown head piece.IMG_4748

As cute as Carl looked as a reindeer, it was clear that this wasn’t what he was. He was a French bulldog with an outfit on. God had created him to be a dog, no matter what costume he was wearing. How often do we put on costumes and pretend to be something that we aren’t?

We can play many parts as we go through our lives but unless we are living out the life that God has given us, we are going to feel like a bull dog made up like a reindeer.

Jesus was the most authentic person that ever walked the earth. He knew who he was and his true purpose. John 14:6 states it perfectly, “Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

If we truly believe this, we should be getting to know Jesus and finding out how to live out the life that God has created us for. This can begin by reading the Gospel and praying for insight.

As for Carl, he knows he is a French bulldog.  If he has to be dressed up for Christmas, he will tolerate the reindeer outfit, but a Christmas tree is taking it a little too far.IMG_4750

 

Our Deepest Desire

It was clear what Carl wanted. We were sitting at the breakfast table when Carl placed his paws in my lap.  Looking at me with those soulful brown eyes, if he could speak, he would be asking for some of the sausage dish that could be seen on our plates.

I pushed his paws off me and firmly told him that he would not be getting any food off my plate. With a sad demeanor, Carl turned from me and slowly walked back to the couch and curled up in his familiar spot.56605741629__FFAC95CB-502E-4A67-BCDA-3817A1CED79C

Carl is not the only one that wants.  We all do.  And the want list only seems to increase during the holiday season. Children are conditioned from birth that Christmas means getting what you want. Presents are stacked under the tree by parents with the hope that their loved ones will find enjoyment from the gifts that are given.

But if you think about it, will the presents fill the desire of what we really want?  As the gifts are unwrapped, a sense of anticipation rises up in our hearts. But no matter what is inside, it just can’t give us the long lasting satisfaction that we all yearn for.

So where can we find this satisfaction that our hearts so desperately desires? Will it be in the things that take up the space in our homes? Or in the accomplishment of a lifetime goal? Could it come through a relationship that has been sought after?

What if our greatest want or desire could be satisfied by the baby in the manger? The newborn cuddled up in the hay.

Take a long look at the babe.  The one that the angel told the shepherds to come worship.  The one that the star directed the wise men to. God’s only son. Christ the king.

So often we lose sight of the gift that God has given us. The only gift that will fill the void that He actually created within us.  So in this season, let us not forget the reason to celebrate. If this means opening up your Bible and reading the story as it is actually written, do it. Or if music can resonate in your heart, play music that is intended for worship of our savior’s birth.

Carl will surely return to the table and try to persuade me to give him what he wants. And as he places his paws on my lap and looks at me with his soulful brown eyes, I will use this as a reminder of what is truly desired.IMG_4656

“Thank you Lord for sending your only begotten Son to earth as a baby. I want to particularly thank you for allowing this baby to grow into a man, one that understands my frailty and temptations. Thank you for allowing Him to die on the cross so that I can live life to the fullest.”

Christmas Preparations

Carl moved into the narrow kitchen space and looked up at me with his deep brown eyes. It was clear what he wanted.  Any kind of morsel would do but he definitely favored the salty taste of meat. Since I have been spending more time in the kitchen to prepare for Christmas, Carl and Bee have been following my every move.IMG_4616

No matter when I return to this location, they can be found underfoot just waiting for me to drop something into their dishes. It can be annoying at times but I have to admit that when I am desperate, I can take the same posture towards God.

I find it interesting that the weeks leading up to Christmas can be a time that I find myself shooting arrow prayers up to God for things that I want but may not necessarily need. With a fuller than usual calendar and a burning need to fit in, I can end up with feelings of anxiety that don’t usually exist at other times of the year.

When I find myself feeling apprehensive about my Christmas circumstances, I find it best to reflect on the exact details of the events that led up the creation of this holiday. Instead of baking cookies, shopping for presents, and going to as many parties as possible, Mary was preparing for the birth of her son.

There were no parties for her to attend. Just the opposite. The gossip must have been freely flowing about how this young girl had become pregnant. Friends and family were probably quick to think the worst and offer no support.

But even though she had been alienated from society, she did find comfort with her cousin Elizabeth and her betrothed husband Joseph. Elizabeth and her husband were experiencing their own miracle with the birth of their own son after being barren for all of her child bearing years. And Joseph had been visited by an angel in a dream that clearly told him to take care of this young woman.

As I reflect on my own circumstances and that of Mary’s I have come to the conclusion that God will always provide. This provision may not come in the form that we expect but it will come.

Carl’s waist line clearly demonstrates that his needs have been met and will continue to be met as long as he lives in our home. He may not always get an extra morsel of food but he will have plenty. IMG_4603

As for me, when I struggle with all my Christmas responsibilities, I will try to take my thoughts back to over 2000 years ago when a young woman was willing to give up the comforts of life for the salvation of the world.

 

Loneliness

Loneliness swept over my little dog like a hurricane swirling onto shore.  Carl starred at me as I left the back porch with a look of sure terror. It was clear that he wondered if I would ever come home and if he would be left stranded in the solitude of his existence.IMG_4232

So many of us experience loneliness on a regular basis. My husband is a courier that travels to remote places where people are literally stranded without human contact. He has shared with me how some people will do anything to extend a conversation so that they don’t have to walk back into isolation.

The other day I was listening to a talk show and the topic of loneliness was being discussed by a psychiatrist. The doctor mentioned that being alone can be just as bad for your health as obesity and addictions. Given our society’s push for independence and how needing people is seen as a weakness, it isn’t difficult to understand why loneliness has become such a problem.

Psalm 68:6 states that God puts the lonely into families. If this is the case why are there so many lonely people out there? In the same verse it states that the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. In other words, when we act independently or prideful and give the air that we don’t need others, we will probably end up alone.

Carl is hardly ever left alone for more than a couple of hours. And when he is left, his sister Bee is always with him. IMG_4037But it is clear that he has an intense need for human contact. Even though it can be a pain at times, we have come to appreciate feeling so needed.

 

Happy Birthday Carl!

Of all days to have a birthday, it is today. Carl is now four years old. I hope that this will be a special day for him, but I won’t know for sure. Instead of enjoying the day with him, we are headed to Washington D.C. with our grandchildren and Carl is staying at Suite Paws, a pet resort.IMG_0096

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that this fawn colored Frenchie would be such an important part of our family. But the truth be told, Carl has had a profound impact all of us. Given his very needy personality and endless displays of cute expressions, he has melted our hearts into a soft pile of mush.

This morning on the way to taking Carl to his destination, he looked at me with his soft brown eyes and caused me to question even going on the trip and leaving him. But the desire to give up the trip passed and he willingly went into the door that would separate us for the weekend. IMG_4250

Thankfully, there are no doors that keep us away from God. It may seem that way at times, but when I open my Bible, I am comforted by the words that tell me otherwise. Psalm 23:4 states this truth, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.”

This Psalm has always encouraged me when I felt alone. Knowing that I have a shepherd that loves me and wants me to believe that in the darkest times of my life, He is with me.

Hopefully Carl will not feel alone and abandoned in the next couple of days. Instead, I hope he will enjoy playing with the other dogs and know in the back of his mind, that he is loved. Happy Birthday Little Guy.

Our Unfulfilled Purpose

Carl doesn’t care too much about anything but getting his needs met. Two meals, water, a place to sleep and lots of stroking are all the essentials to a happy life. For the most part, this is the same for all dogs.  They go through life doing what they are intended for, being loved and loving the people in their lives.IMG_4135

If you think about it, all animals have a specific purpose that they go through life fulfilling without much effort. So why then is it so hard for us humans to be content in the role that we were created for?

The answer can only be found within the pages of the Bible. Adam and Eve had everything they needed or could want in the Garden of Eden. They began their existence fulfilling their purpose by living in harmony with God. All was going well until Eve was tempted by the serpent.

Genesis 3:1-6 states,

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

How often are we tempted by the one thing that we are told to stay away from? Just like Eve, we can fall into temptation because we have desires for things that are not from God. Notice how she saw that the apple was pleasing to the eye. How often are we distracted from spending time with God because of our pursuit of what is pleasing to the eye?

God had given them everything they needed but Eve wasn’t content with it. She believed the serpent’s lie and decided she wanted more. It is when we pursue the things that we want that we can lose sight of our real purpose.

Carl doesn’t think about his purpose and he doesn’t have to. He goes through life being a dog that seems content with who he is and what he has. We all have so much to learn from Carl and the animals that are around us. If we could focus on our true purpose of glorifying God, what an incredible world we would have.IMG_4115

 

The Blessings of Waiting

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.IMG_2080

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.IMG_2163

 

Categories of the Mind

Today, Carl was a mess as we walked around the neighborhood. It seemed every time we turned a corner, there was a four legged pooch ready for an interaction with my dog. The problem is that Carl has yet to learn that he is not the king of the hill and all dogs are not going to bow down to him.

So after spotting the fourth dog coming down the slope, I decided that I needed to pull Carl onto an opposite path and get his mind off of the furry animals that seemed to appear from all directions.IMG_4096

The problem is that in Carl’s mind, he has established categories that his experiences fall into. Dogs on leashes always receive the same reaction from my furry friend, no matter how we try and change up the situation.

Before I can judge Carl too harshly, I need to contemplate the categories I have set up in my mind. Earlier experiences reaching all the way back to my childhood have structured my brain into thinking about certain people or situations with either a positive or negative vibe.

Even when I may not know a person or experienced a certain situation before, these categories in my mind take over and create a reaction. This is what happened when Jesus started his ministry and why the religious leaders of the time were so ticked off.

The religious leaders and the majority of the Jews had categorized in their minds what the messiah would look like. And Jesus was clearly not what they were looking for. Even today, we all have an idea of what church should look like as well as what it means to be religious. Often, we miss out on knowing the real Jesus because our spiritual category is set in stone.

As hard as it is, we must look at the categories that we have set in our minds and be open to the real Jesus. Just as we need to change, I hope that Carl will also be able to remove some of his categories about other dogs. It sure will make walking him an easier task. Only time will tell.