Friday, April 29, 2011

The Indignities of Aging

"Aging is not for sissies." Maybe you've heard the phrase as well. Just this morning, I wondered if becoming less photogenic was one more indignity of aging along with aches, pains, forgetfulness, etc.

Sandy, on the hand/paw, has found a new, softer bed. And possibly very fragrant.
Brandy has decided that while she has the option of going through a different door, she waits until someone comes out each morning to greet her and give the official "okay." It's hard to know if she's getting older and more confused (Happy Birthday Brandy!) or if she's completely brilliant and wants the "royal" treatment (it is the day of the Royal Wedding afterall).
Aging is an adventure which is not one we quickly embrace with any enthusiasm. It's hard to focus on the very few benefits we enjoy as we grow older (beyond the Golden Buckeye discount that is). However, there is the knowledge and wisdom we hope to attain. There is the confidence that grows from surviving and even thriving through difficult circumstances.

We can't control a lot of life and we can not control aging. However, we can grow toward God, laying down our weaknesses of all kinds, and ask for His nudging in the right direction, along with the peace and rest that surpasses all understanding.

What is the hardest thing for you to handle as you age? What is a (possibly unexpected) benefit?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Greener Pastures

Remember our friend Shiloh from Sunset Beach? Guess what - he's up North now. One thing that Shiloh enjoys is rolling in the grass, which he doesn't get to do much in Florida. Plus, the grass there is just weird.

And grass, very long, lush grass, is something in abundance in the Midwest right now. It may not be dry, but it's plentiful.

Do you find yourself thinking, and even praying, "if only" then you'd be happy? I know I have. But when "if only" is attained, is there really happiness? Happiness is fleeting and rarely does it deliver on what we expect. Instead, we need to rely on the Lord fulfilling the gaps, or at least realizing that the gaps we have may only be fulfilled eternally. Until then, the Lord walks with us through the difficulties, the joys, and the tedium of our life here.

Appreciate what we do have here - even if it is a simple lawn of green grass.

(that needs to be mowed desperately)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Persistence Through Difficulty

You know how Tilly is obsessed with her new squeaky ball. Yes, that's still going on. Throwing it upstairs wears her out quick(er) so I try that technique often. On one toss, it landed just right - lodged between the stair rail and the wall.

It had Tilly perplexed.
Eventually, she managed to pry it loose. Yes, then it was back to squeaking.

One thing I've learned about myself is that I often give up when something is too confusing or difficult for me. I really have to focus and do lots of self-motivation to get me to push through the hard stuff. Like eating lots of chocolate Easter eggs. That was supposed to be the reward for pushing through, but I didn't get that far.

Another thing I've learned is that usually what I'm dreading and avoiding does, in fact, is never as bad as I think it will be. Inevitably I wonder why I made it so much worse in my mind.

Having faith can be a challenge. Sometimes it is even hard work. Sometimes we avoid it and fill our life with other things than think and act through doubt to get us to faith. But it's so worth it! Why do we resist? The first step seems so daunting, but often it is not as bad as we expect it to be.

The reward couldn't be better either - a relationship with God is very satisfying, even in its mystery.

It's even better than a squeaky toy.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Don't Look Away Too Quickly

Foster and I got some bad news yesterday. His left eye has to come out.
Gross, right? Perhaps he can wear a pirate eye patch.

It's hard to look at Foster now, with his funky eye. It may be difficult to look at him after the surgery. Looking at things that are not pretty, even repulsive, is not what we want to do. Avoiding the ugly is normal.

However, sometimes we need to look at the hard stuff. While we don't want to needlessly be macabre and dwell on the negative, there is a place for contemplating the difficult. It's Good Friday, the day Jesus died an extremely difficult and ugly death. Often we want to race by this gruesome time and focus on Easter, the day Jesus conquered death. And that is the most important. But what Jesus did when he died an innocent man is hard to understand. It deserves our contemplation because it was no small thing. He paid a huge price that he could have avoided. But he did it for us, out of a love we can't understand.

It's easy to turn the channel from tragedies. It's easy to avoid looking at the face of someone who you know is going through something difficult. Reaching out and touching someone else's pain is not something we naturally do.

There is value in suffering, even though it seems like a contradiction. We can't always understand the why and how of it, but it's true.

Foster's surgery will not be something to celebrate. But after it's over, his pain will be gone. Jesus went through a terrible death so our eternal pains can be gone, if we just reach toward him.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kindness to Strangers

The last two days, Foster's bad eye has been looking pretty icky. He's not acting very happy either. When Tilly joyfully plays with her new obsession, the squeaky ball, he get annoyed.

When I walk the two dogs, Tilly is the most eager for acknowledgment and usually a person will give it to her. Foster used to be the star of the show, but not anymore. When someone does take the time to give him the attention he also wants (but is not quite so desperate for), he sits and enjoys the admiration and affection.

Every day, we may pass people who look rough. We don't know what they've been through. It's amazing how a simple smile can turn around a person. I don't know about you, but I've noticed more and more how smiling is a radical act. It's like a lost art or something - so many gloomy, worried people. And you and I have the power to change that.

If there is any joy in your life, let it pour out on your face. You may make the difference to someone who needs kindness and acknowledgment.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Succeeding or Failing....Together

This is Sampson and Wimpy (hi guys!)

When these two Springer Spaniels first come to the kennel, they act very cautious. If one doesn't want to go outside, then neither will the other. However, once they are acclimated, they do a fine job of having fun together.

I just read a book that included the phrase "People do better in groups." It made me think quite a bit about the truth of this. I exercise harder when I'm in a group. I'm more likely to do my Bible study lesson when the others have done theirs. Their willingness to open up gives me the permission to do the same. In other words, I do better.

It also made me think that sometimes people fail as a group too. After all, not every venture ends successfully. However, if it was a worthy goal, the act of striving together lessens the pain of defeat. And perhaps the goal was partially met, which is also a success.

God wants us to be in community with each other, even when it's difficult. But when we face something difficult, like Sampson and Wimpy, we succeed and fail together. And most likely, we'll achieve some success simply because we are together.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Everyone Needs a Buddy

On the left is Little Guy, former Cat of Highland Street, Ada, Ohio. On the right, the current Mayor of Ada, Buddy.

Sadly, Little Guy passed away recently, but he enjoyed a very long and eventful life, full of much love and admiration.

Buddy and Little Guy became friends when Little Guy's owner moved. Buddy lived outside, with apparently no owner, and decided to make friends with the new kid in town. Unlike many cats, they liked each other right away. They also both liked to visit the neighbors.

Buddy, who is now the lone pet of the owner (having lost a dear Golden Retriever not long before Little Guy), has been a very good companion. He has provided much inspiration for his owner. Below are a few of the lessons Buddy taught his owner, which he generally passed along for our education.

After Buddy's morning constitutional, he jumps on the ledge of his owner's window and peeks under the shade to let him know he's ready to come inside. Buddy knows the routine and exactly where to find his owner to let him know he's done being outside. God also knows where we are at all times. He's just waiting for us to let him in to our hearts.

In Buddy's back yard, there is a 7 foot post which he loves to scale. Once on top, he sits proudly and securely, surveying all that is his (cats don't seem to understand property lines). In addition to God knowing where we are, He also created all and it is His. We can rest securely in the knowledge that God is in control.

Even though Buddy doesn't speak (and doesn't even meow much), he knows how to tell his owner what he wants. When it's time to go out, he marches across his owner and paws at the carpet. His owner dutifully follows the cat and lets him out. In the same way, God communicates with us through His word, the Bible. Through it, he leads us and we can follow.

Thanks, Buddy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jaded by Beauty

Look! It's Brandy and Sandy.

The girls' owners report Brandy was startled by the sudden appearance of the crocus. Aren't we all surprised by Spring? Winter makes everything seem so very dead that it seems like nothing could survive.

But the flowers come up to remind us there is life after death.

Brandy seemed to enjoy the flowers presence, sniffing and pawing at them in wonder. Sandy, on the other hand (should I say "other paw") was indifferent.

Isn't it true that we pass by beauty on a daily basis because we are too busy or just too unaware? Yet the natural world is God's gift to us for our wonder and joy on this earth.

Today, look at the flowers, the trees, the animals with new eyes. And say "thank you!"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's 4 a.m. Do You Know Where Your Cat Is?

I did.

He was meowing in my ear. He didn't stop for two hours.

Yes, it was Dooley. While most of his recovery from the vet visit (see previous post) had been going along okay, it came to a screeching halt. And I do mean screeching.

It wasn't bad enough that Foster is regularly running into things so I must be more vigilant in watching him. No, Tilly had to find something completely vile to roll in when we went out to the kennel at night. She got to stay in the kennel. Perhaps this wasn't so bad since she would have added to the mayhem of cat isolation.

Needless to say, I'm a bit cranky this morning from lack of sleep. And I went outside and it was 40 degrees - a mere 45 degree drop from Sunday afternoon.

The complaints were piling up in my head when I thought - I'm fortunate to be able to afford (somewhat) to have the dogs and cats that I do....I have heat, I have air conditioning. I have a warm coat to put on when it's cold. Really, this isn't the worst thing that could happen (been there, done that).

So I thanked God that this is the worst I have today. It's really not that bad.

If I could explain to Dooley that having a rotten teeth removed and why he suddenly needed a special diet for his diabetes, he'd most likely understand and cooperate. However, there is no reasoning with a cat. I can't make him understand because we are different beings. I wish he'd trust me.

If God could explain it to us, we'd most likely be okay to endure the perceived suffering. But His ways are not ours - He is much higher than us. He just wants us to trust Him.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Unexpectedly Social

Owners rightfully let me know if their dog doesn't get along with others, or is scared, or just hasn't been exposed much to them.

Gus got a bad wrap because at his home, he got in a fight with another dog. Circumstances were not in his favor, from what I understand. He's always been fine at the kennel, and on a recent visit, he made lots of friends...with the ladies...

Oliver is a Chihuahua, so naturally has a size disadvantage. But that didn't stop him from being quite the ladies man either.

The kennel is neutral territory for dogs. Most (not all) dogs put aside their biases and protectiveness when they are here.

The same should be true for us. I've often heard "the ground is level at the foot of the Cross." In God's eyes, none of us are better than others. This came to mind this morning when I was praying for some Compassion children. They live in India, Kenya, and El Salvador. They are my brothers and sisters - equals.

Jesus is neutral territory - we need to come to him without our agendas, fears, biases, and need to protect what we perceive as "ours."

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Dark of Night..."

It's April, which means plenty of rain here in Ohio. It's not easy to be brave with constantly grey skies, but we're doing our best. Going out to the kennel to meet with kennel clients in this weather is fun for no one (or dog).

Florida has had its share of huge storms as well. But did that stop Shiloh and Jean from going out?

No it did not! Shiloh's "aunt" works for the post office, so he probably knows being hearty is part of life.

Storms can get us down. Enduring storms, however, can build our confidence. Don't be too eager to flee your current trial. There is something to be learned. And there's a lot to be said for enduring and coming through them.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Oh the Places We'll Go!

You know how when you get up in the morning you have a reasonable expectation of how the day will go?

The last two days have not gone that way for me. And this morning, they sure didn't go the way Dooley planned.

See? He's still mad. I bribed him with canned cat food, then snapped him up and stuffed him (and Franklin, who is now 20 pounds of cat) in a carrier to go to the vet for annual vaccinations.

Dooley's teeth are in bad shape, so he needs to go back in Monday for surgery. This is not good. He already peed a little in his crate due to nerves, then when I gave him a dose of antibiotic before I freed him from captivity, he ran around the house leaving orange foam everywhere. With twice a day dosing, we're both in trouble.

On the other hand, Tilly had an unexpectedly fantastic time during an unplanned trip yesterday. At their insistence, Tilly and Foster were invited along and asked to even come in the office. Foster searched the floor thoroughly, bumping into the furniture, while Tilly sprinted around and peed a little (lots of ill-timed peeing lately). They gave each dog a toy while we took care of business. Foster quickly located and disemboweled the squeaker from his toy. Tilly ran about the place with hers, squeaking incessantly.

Then, they let her bring it home.

It is still non-stop squeaking. Remind me to send them a thank-you note.

Sometimes the day brings unexpected misery and other times unexpected happiness. Generally, we don't get to choose. We must roll with the punches to the best of our abilities. No matter what today brings, God is with us, for every heartache and joy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Growing Older, Growing Better

Perhaps you remember Charlie Bob from last summer. Then, he was still a crazy-with-energy puppy. Now, he's a one year old. Sure, he's still energetic, but I could tell a difference that he's maturing.

While Charlie Bob still romps about, he also knows what he needs to do. He goes into his kennel run, sits for treats, and doesn't jump on me (as much).
It's not easy to grow up. We live in a culture that encourages us to be youthful, be crazy, and do what we want. While it's great to maintain a sense of playfulness all through our lives, being mature is what we are called to become. Over the years, I've come to realize there is a lot of peace in being a grown-up. For one thing, giving up the resistance to being a grown-up is gone! And it's not so bad, being an adult and all - I highly recommend it.

God calls us to grow in our faith as well. Maybe at one time, it was easy to just "believe" God is true and think that's all there is to faith. However, just like aging, we are to become mature in our faith. Knowing God, understanding His ways, and relying on Him has a lot going for it, even if it doesn't look like "fun" from the outside. There is a lot of peace in the process. Again, I highly recommend it.

Don't be afraid to grow up, chronologically and spiritually. It's actually quite good. Like Charlie Bob, age brings a touch of dignity to our souls.

Maybe we should now call him "Charles Robert."

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Pattern of Love

Recently, a couple friends of mine were (and still are) facing a crushing circumstance. There was no altering an inevitable heartbreak.

They were walking along the Florida beach, finding solace from a harsh Ohio winter and a tiny bit of relief. But escaping the circumstance was impossible.

Then they came across this:

There were no footprints around this seaweed heart (the ones visible were theirs).

Sometimes the hurt of our lives can not be relieved by anything on this earth. That's when something other-worldly breaks in to remind us of a greater comfort. God knows all our pain. He may not change the circumstance, but He walks through it all with us. That is how He mends our hearts eternally.