Tag Archive | Christian living

God Can Get Your Dog Out of a Tree

skye-watchingOne night this week my small cattledog Skye began to bark like crazy from the back of my yard. It was dark. It was raining. I called for her, but she wouldn’t come inside. No, whatever had captured her attention back there was much more interesting than I was.

I grabbed a flashlight and headed back. The back of our yard is filled with trees and scrub, so I had push through. I heard her, and I swung the flashlight all over but couldn’t see her. Then I saw motion overhead, so I flashed the light and found something black and white in the tree. Ah. A neighbor cat. Explained the barking. She loves to tree cats. Again I flashed the light under the neighbor cat, but still no dog, although I could hear her.

At this point I flashed up at the neighbor cat again. It was on a large, wide, broken trunk of tree, seven feet off the ground. Only it wasn’t the neighbor cat. It was my dog, over my head, in a tree, barking and whining like the world was coming to an end.

I thought she was stuck. I climbed over the back fence to the other side of the tree and began to coax her down. If she got close enough, I could grab her and pull her from the tree. She was still barking like the apocalypse was near. Then I happened to glance to my left, and I almost dropped the flashlight, because I was staring at a possum, six inches from my face at eye level, tucked into the crook of the tree.

I had no idea what to do next. Possums aren’t generally dangerous, but when you’re flashing a light in its face and your dog is above it barking like a wild monster–well, I would bite, too. So now I’m trying to coax my dog to the side while attempting not to get bitten by a terrified possum.

In the dark.

In the rain.

I yelled at the dog. I guess eventually I sounded angry enough to catch Skye’s attention, because she turned around, walked along the broken trunk (it was arched over the fence like a bridge, something I hadn’t realized until this very dark, very wet moment), and headed back down into my yard. I climbed the fence, grabbed the dog, and stomped into the house, both of us wet and tired.

The whole time I wished my husband had been there. I kept thinking if he hadn’t been at work, if he’d been here, he’d have known exactly what to do. I have known my husband more than half his life. I know for a fact he has no experience coaxing dogs out of trees while trying to avoid possums. In the rain. In the dark. But I also know for a fact he would have helped me. I always believe he can do anything. He’d have been out there in the rain with me because he loves me. Together we’d have figured it out.

As I was thinking about this, I came to a sad realization. It’s a truth I’ve posted about more than once this year, and I think it’s time to deal with this little problem. My husband loves me with an imperfect love. He doesn’t always have the skills to help, even though I tell myself he can do anything. And yet I trust he will always come and always help.

God loves me with perfect love. He always has the skills I need. And yet, I don’t always trust Him to come and help.

It’s a big deal right now for Christians to try to know their identity in Christ, to know what they mean to God. I realize I need to back up a step. Once again I am faced with the truth that I still don’t know God. Not very well. I’m pretty sure if I knew His character, understood His love, knew His real compassion and power and knowledge, I wouldn’t hesitate to call him to get my dog out of trees. I’d be able to trust Him with the souls of my children without fear. I could face ageing with a chronic illness without worry. I could line up my days with joy and not doubt.

So. This year I crashed and burned with my Bible reading. And I  think I know why. I need to simplify. Someone once told me I need to read a Bible passage and ask “What does this say about God? What does it say about me? How can I apply this?” Well, I need remedial Bible reading. For now, the question needs to be “What does this say about God?” And then I need to stop there.  Until I can answer that with some wisdom, until I can be consistent and stop falling back to the idea of God as angry or distant or unloving, I can’t possibly know myself or how to behave. (Okay, within reason. I’m not going to throw obedience to the wind. But the focus needs to be HIM.)

I have no idea how to keep our dog in the yard now that she knows she might find possums in trees. Now that she realizes she can climb trees. But at least now I know where to look if she goes crazy again. And I know who to call. Part of this is knowing God. Part of it is putting that knowledge to the test and calling on God all the time, for all things. He loves me. He’ll come. I never have to slog through the dark rain alone.

A Job Well Done

file0001984548061My husband, youngest son, and I are putting our house on the market. This means all those repairs we’d neglected–we are working on those. All the clutter we stopped seeing ages ago–it’s time to open our eyes and deal with it. It’s taken an insane amount of time, which is one reason this blog has been sitting in silence for a while.

When we moved into this house we were a family of five. Our kids were ages 4-9. Within a year another one arrived. Most of my kids’ childhoods happened in this house.

Now, this post is not a walk down memory lane. Truth is I’m not all that sentimental about houses. But I remember what it was like to have little kids and a house, and I wanted to spend more time dealing with the kids than the house. The house was background, and the family within was foreground.

So now, nearly two decades of semi-neglect later, I’m trying to get my house ready, and I want it ready fast. I’m not very patient. My first instinct is to cut corners. Make it look nice, even if problems are hiding under the surface. So what if the whole place falls apart in a year? As long as it looks good enough to sell…

Right. I’m trying hard to think about the family that will move into this house. It means I might spend a little more than I want for things I’m about to leave, like the new kitchen faucet, which should last forever without dripping. Some young mama living in this house doesn’t need dripping faucets. Or the floor I’m putting in the laundry room because I didn’t bother a year ago when the water heater blew out–it’s true I got cheap flooring, since that’s all I could manage, but I’m doing everything I can to make sure it’s put down well so it won’t be a problem for a long, long time.

The fight between my impatient self and my kind self has been rough. I fear that I’ll finally get this place ready to go and all the houses I’ve been watching will be gone, and I’ll be homeless. But I know I need to do my best. No, my work isn’t the same as a professional, but I do my best within the budget I’ve been given. And I won’t fix everything, but I’ll be honest about what works and what doesn’t. The problems won’t be huge, like hidden mold in the basement or a colony of bats in the attic. Whoever moves in should be able to focus more on the people within these walls than the walls themselves.

God has talked to me in the silence while I lay tile or paint walls. And more than once He’s had to say Do that again. That’s the sloppiest trim painting job I’ve ever seen. What’s wrong with you? or Don’t you think they deserve a laundry room floor that isn’t peeling in the corners? And I laugh and sigh and put on another coat or lay another tile. I work for Him. And that means a job well done, even when the last thing I want to do is put up yet another coat of trim paint.

Fat Caterpillar Times

fat-caterpillar-timesIt had been a strange week in our house. First, we had raccoons. For a few nights they were under our house in the crawl space. I heard them banging the underside of the bathtub and rattling around the pipes. I was really afraid they would ruin the pipes and I would hear free-running water under there.

A couple days later they were in the attic. Sounded like they were doing gymnastics up there. I would love to have a video camera set up to see exactly what a raccoon does in an empty attic. Our cats kept wandering the house staring at the ceiling, because raccoons are not quiet. They don’t seem to have any kind of stealth technology. When they were under the floor, I would find all of our animals sitting in a circle staring straight down, like they were expecting a demon to come up through the floor at any moment.

Meanwhile, we also got a letter that week from the water company. It was addressed to Occupant, and I almost threw it away. Glad I didn’t. They wanted to inform me that they realized water was coming into this house, and since we weren’t water company customers, that water would be shut off soon. We’ve paid a water bill in this house for seventeen years now. We were definitely water customers.

Except we weren’t. The computer said no, they’d never heard of us before. So, my husband paid a small fee for us to become brand new water customers. It was completely surreal.

That week I also started my twenty-first year of homeschooling. I have two years to go before I graduate all four of my kids from home. In years past I had more of a support network than I do this year. I am one of two home school moms in my church–the other is doing pre-school–and it’s very strange. I definitely keep my feelings on education to myself. Teaching at home is a lifestyle that touches everything we do, and it’s hard being alone in that lifestyle. Cultures clash sometimes. But since I’m the minority, I take the silent role. It’s a shift, but it’s not a big deal. Just something to think about as I deal with people in my immediate community.

Life ebbs and flows. Good days, bad days, strange days… It’s always new. Always an adventure. God sets our days up, and we live them out. Sometimes life can be devastating and filled with grief. And then some days the biggest threat is a raccoon punching through the roof. I don’t really mind the raccoon days. They’re the breathing times, when the rhythm of life is slow and lazy. Right now we’re experiencing a lazy time in our lives, and I rather like it.

I wrote a book where a character called these the Fat Caterpillar times, those times when we munch on leaves and don’t worry about much. In the book the character suggested using the lazy times to grow. Spend more time during those days reading the Bible, praying, creating a solid foundation. Because harder days are always on the horizon. My character said every one of us on the spiritual path will eventually become a butterfly, and change is hard. It’s those quiet munching times where we fatten up with everything we’ll need to feed us during the lean times, the shifting, changing times of hardship.

I’m not sad to be experiencing a fat caterpillar time right now. I have to work hard, though, to remember to cling to God during these times, to feed and drink deeply from His Word, to develop habits that will get me through the harder times, because they are inevitable. During the lazy, easy days of life it’s easy to let my growth routines fall into disrepair.

Meanwhile, we got the raccoons out of the attic. I need to keep an eye on the water account in case something strange is going on with our digital identity. I need to focus on this brand new school year with my final child and student, who is about to make big decisions for his future.

And mostly, I need to make sure I develop strong habits now to support me. Eventually I will need them, and times of change are so much easier to handle if this fat caterpillar has a belly filled with truth.

When the Vacation is Over

DSC01056My family just returned from a week in Florida, spent on Ormond Beach just north of Daytona. We had a great time, and I plan to post a few things about that, because vacations can be great times of discovery and clarity. Today, though, I feel the need to capture my feelings right now, as our vacation ends. Because I handle the end of a vacation badly. Worse than badly.

First, we had planned to take two days to drive home. So, when we said goodbye to the beach on Saturday morning, I was expecting to drive about six hours, find a hotel, have one last summer swim, eat someplace nice, and sleep on a soft, large bed. Then my son would eat waffles at a hotel breakfast bar, and we’d mosey on home, with one final trip to a fast food place before we returned and reality hit.

Halfway through the day, my husband informed me he planned to push on through and take the twelve hours all in one day. It would save us money on a hotel, and money was an issue. And it would get us home sooner. To him, that’s a good thing. To me, the housewife who also works from home, not so much. To him, it meant a couple days to hang around the house and do nothing before work Tuesday (this was a holiday weekend.) To me, it meant getting back to work a day early. I was not thrilled.

But he had the wheel, so we drove home. And I, the person who grieves the end of vacations anyway, grieved hard. I’d expected one more day. And it doesn’t sound like much. One day. But it felt huge. Summer was over. Reality was back. Instantly my mind began to churn through things I needed to do at home, how much work needed to be done, and how unfair it was that home has such different meaning to each of us. Instead of easing myself back into the pool of life slowly, I’d just been shoved off the high dive into ice water at the bottom. Continue reading

Wooing the Prince

DSCF5974I read a marriage devotion recently, and I think, in a few simple words, it may have completely changed the way I look at my husband. And since he never reads my blogs (or my books, for that matter. Hey!), I can talk about it here.  (Don’t fear. That’s largely the end of me talking about my husband. He’s safe. This now selfishly shoots back to me.)

The devotion writer pointed out that the surest way to offend someone is to mistreat that person’s child. I know this is true. Just a few days ago at church a young boy was cruel to my youngest son, and I wanted blood. It doesn’t take much to bring out mama bear.

God is pretty fanatical about his kids, too. I mean, He sent his natural son to die so He could adopt a bunch of other sons and daughters. We have a lot of value to him. Nobody mistreats us and gets away with it, not long term. The Old Testament, especially, is filled with verses about how God will come for his people, sword out and battle ready. Nations that mistreated his kids went down, and they went down hard.

Those of you females reading this might be aware of the current trend for Christian women to think of themselves as princesses. In a world that body shames and life shames and passes cruel judgments, we need to be reminded that we are royalty, beautiful and beloved in the eyes of God. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

And yet strangely I was surprised when the devotion writer pointed out that I married a prince. If I am beloved and beautiful and special to God, so is my spouse. He’s the son of a King. That same God who comes with sword drawn to defend his princesses–yeah, you guessed it. He’s pretty enamored with his princes, too. And I have been entrusted with one. There is a special one in my home all the time, one who is flawed sometimes, clueless sometimes, wise and powerful sometimes, and always one the King loves deeply.

I don’t know why I never thought of it this way, except I think our culture can be hard on men. I say this as a mother of three boys and one girl. Sometimes girls are taught it’s okay to abuse boys verbally. It’s okay to be hands on and play rough with the boys. Teasing boys and making fun of the entire sex–that’s acceptable. The boys are supposed to respect and love the girls as the princesses they are, and yet the girls aren’t always taught that it’s not a one-way street. They aren’t taught to see those boys as princes, sons of the living God as much as they are daughters, and just as worthy of respect and honor. It breaks my heart, because sometimes it breaks my boys, who will one day be men.

When we got married, my husband asked me not to play the wife game where we women get together and bash our husbands. He’d heard women do that, and it bothered him. It was a strange request, because he doesn’t ask things like that. This mattered immensely to him. He needed me to be on his side both when I was with him and when I was with others. (Okay, I lied. I’m talking about my husband again. But it’s good things!)

I’ve never forgotten that request. My prince, the son of my King, is vulnerable. I think most of God’s princes are. He wants to succeed at parenting, husbanding, life in general. But sometimes he’ll fail, and he needs to know I’m on his side. I’m not perfect, either, and sometimes when I’m hurt or angry I might slide into the wife game where we compare our husbands’ imperfections, but I try to guard my mouth and heart and protect him. He does the same for me. Both of us have royalty to protect and cherish. It’s a beautiful thing.

I married a prince. His Dad is a Big Deal. Am I acting like I care? Do I respect both the prince and his Father? Whether or not my husband respects his princess isn’t the question here (although, FYI, he does.). This is about me and how I perceive the man gifted to me. Do I focus on his moments of imperfection, or do I focus on his growth, on his journey to become the man he will be for eternity, a completed, mighty, grown son of his Father?

Of course, I can’t forget I’m raising little princes and princesses, too. The people in my world are important. They matter more than I can comprehend, just like I matter more than I can comprehend. I’ve been entrusted with a huge job, raising, loving, guiding, protecting such important people. It’s amazing to me that God put so many of his precious sons and daughters into my care. I pray I take that charge seriously and treat them as their Father wants to see them treated.