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Friday, March 30, 2012

Bitter Disappointments

Some days you awake with reasonable expectations, only to discover that your day goes completely the wrong way. Often, it is involuntary, imposed by another.
Recently, a cat was brought to the kennel. She hated it. Every day. For ten days.

This week I've had to deal with some disappointments. Some were reasonable expectations of others who failed, others were my own unreasonable expectations. Either way, it's been a difficult and emotional week.

Because each situation was out of my control, I didn't want to spend too much time stewing over the problems. This wasn't easy. I found myself praying - a lot! Frankly, I had to tell God that the disappointment was too much at one time, and too deep. In short, I told him to handle it.

And he has. While the situations have remained, I've let go of the pain, the desire to be vindicated, and the wallowing in self-pity (okay, mostly).

This option is open to you today as well. If you are not at the point of disappointment or even on the cusp of it, you can share each of your complex emotions with the Lord. It's an amazing and liberating experience to be honest with God. The best aspect of this practice is the ridding of a "root of bitterness." In its place, something beautiful can grow instead.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's Your Tail-Wag Quotient?

Foster has struggled a bit lately. When he's not running into things, he's wincing in anticipation of running into things.
It's heartbreaking.

Over the years, many people have asked me "how do you know" when the time has come to say goodbye to their beloved dog or cat. While the answer is never definitive, I suggest a 50/50 rule. In other words, once the pet has more bad days than good days, then it's time to start considering.

For Foster, I feel we're coming closer to the line. However, this morning, he attacked his ball with gusto, giving it a good shake and his tail was wagging. As long as I see these glimmers of Foster's happy nature, his quality of life is quite good.

While this rule certainly isn't applied to people, each of us makes a decision every day as to the quality of our lives. Sure, there are turkeys who try to keep us down. In the midst of it, we can find ways to still "wag our tails" in spite of negativity.

It's easy to be negative. Often, I need to tell God I can't handle certain problems and He'll have to take care of them. Even more frequently, I beg to have His strength to get through the day with a glimmer of joy. I believe that is a prayer he is happy to answer.

If you find your attitude lagging today, reach out to the Lord. Beg for His power, His forgiveness, and His everlasting joy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kody Works Out

This is Kody (hi Kody!).
Kody is a rescued Border Collie mix whose owners are on "the older side." Kody has always needed a lot of exercise. When his owners couldn't provide it, they tried to let Kody roam as he would, since he always returned home. That didn't work out so well. Now he has a designated walker to give him his much exercise.

"A good dog is a tired dog." Exercise reduces a dog's anxieties and gives a positive physical jolt to their systems, as it does for us humans as well.

Have you read how puzzles and games our good for our mental health, creating a work-out for our brains? Developing a practice of connecting to God is good for our spiritual health.

All of this requires "discipline." It's a taboo word in our culture. "Do what feels good" is the mantra we hear over and over, along with "you deserve it." Discipline implies we must put aside what we want to do naturally and do what is difficult.

When we put our spiritual house in order, the other matters of physical and mental health are also likely to improve.

Like Kody, we can't always be trusted to give ourselves the best "work out." We may wander to places that others don't want us, or run in the dangerous road. Perhaps we are like Kody in that we need Someone trustworthy to lead us.

Friday, March 23, 2012

We All Need a Little Grace in Our Lives

It's hard to say which is cuter, isn't it? Since this is a blog about dogs, we'll stick with that. Meet Gracie (that's the pup on the right! Hi Gracie!). Gracie was here for a little more than a week while her family went on vacation.
Gracie is only about four months old. She had no accidents. Zero. None. Nada.

It's possible she is the world's most perfect puppy. She was basically the model of perfect kennel behavior, including spontaneous rolling over for belly rubs.

Adorable.

It almost makes me want a puppy. (almost)

Chances are very good that while Gracie grows she will make mistakes. She'll inevitably eat something she should not, jump on someone with muddy paws, and even have an accident. Her owners will love her anyway.

Isn't that the way God is with us? Doesn't the Lord look upon us with love, even when we are making huge messes of our lives, bothering others, disrupting the order of everything? Yes. It's His Grace, sure and simple.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"I Stand at the Door and Woof"

Here's Dooley (hi Dooley)! Isn't he cute?
Dooley belongs to a friend of mine (hi Sue!) and is allowed to run around without a leash. Imagine my surprise after we returned from a long walk and I let him off the leash so he could burn off some more energy. He went right to the kennel door.

At home, Dooley gets to look out the window and patrol his neighborhood. Yet he wanted to be in a cage in a kennel rather than run around. Why?

I strongly suspect it has something to do with the treats that I gave him now and then.

Is there anything in your life that tastes so good that you follow it anywhere, even if it leads to a metaphorical cage? Do you ever inadvertently find yourself restricted when you thought you were getting your freedom?

It always surprises me how quickly I can become ensnared by the false promise of some pleasures. An entire bag of Girl Scout cookies only seems like a good idea for a very, very short period of time. And that's not the worst of it.

I don't know about you, but I can't easily change my patterns. I need God's power, and my admission that I'm weak. It's not easy, but it is better.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Going Home

Here's Ellie, all packed up and ready to go home after a visit to the kennel (hi Ellie!).
Ellie's owner travelled an hour and a half to bring her. Ellie has diabetes and requires a shot of insulin every twelve hours. Having difficulty finding a kennel to accomodate this, she talked to her sister (hi Jean!) and we connected.

Ellie is a very bright dog and apparently has picked up some acting lessons along the way as well. When her owner was backing out of the driveway, Ellie lunged and barked, locking eyes on the car, desperate to get her owner to come back.

Then, unless you've actually seen it, you probably won't believe what happened next. After the owner was out of sight, Ellie turned and voluntarily walked to the kennel, wagging her tail! Inside, she wanted to play with a toy. She took a treat.

What happened to the dog that seemed horrified to see her owner go? Could it be the dog was trying to manipulate her owner? It's happened more often than I can tell you - the dog makes a scene, but as soon as hope for changing the owner's mind is gone, the dog reverts to absolute normal, resigned to make the best of the kennel life.

But when Ellie's owner came back six days later, oh what a reunion! Both were happy to see each other. And look at Ellie's face - doesn't it look relaxed? She's happy.

We are travellers through this world. It's not easy, and not always what we want with our lives. We can beg and plead for God to change our circumstances. Sometimes it happens. Oftentimes, it does not. God can change US though - and He wants to, so much. When we allow those changes, making us more like him and less selfish, it is a good life.

"Going home" for us puts a smile on my face. Though the time before that happens may be years away, I can make the most of my time here, knowing my Master is not far away, always with my best interest in His heart.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Go With Your Strengths (But Know Your Weaknesses)

Perhaps you've noticed, as I have, that lately people will realize something they are not good at, then say they'll need to work on it. While that's true, more and more "experts" are encouraging a person to acknowledge weaknesses, but work on your strengths.

One of my weaknesses is that I am not a perfectionist. In fact, I'm often not even careful. Like on Wednesdays post here on the blog, I posted a picture of the wrong dog. Oliver the Chihuahua was the stand-in for Oliver the Jack Russell Terrier. Unfortunately, I didn't notice since I just posted the picture in my gallery of photos that said "Oliver." Someone did notice - the owner of Oliver the Chihuahua!

OOOPS.

Some mistakes do not have life-threatening results, such as the wrong picture. However, it's not that big of a leap for someone to think that if I am not careful in the little things, then perhaps I won't be careful in the big things - the matters that are life-threatening.

For instance, right now there is a dog in the kennel that is diabetic and needs shots of insulin every 12 hours. If I make a mistake in this situation, the result would indeed be life-threatening. (And this is why my phone's alarm is set to go off twice a day to make sure I don't make a mistake)

In other words, I really do need to work on my weaknesses if for no other reason to establish and maintain trust in all matters, big and small.

While the owners of both "Olivers" are kind and forgiving people, being more diligent about the "little" things makes for good practice of the "big" things.

That's why today's post has a picture of Olive, the cat. Note her scolding tone.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Acting Big

Do you remember the playground accusation that so and so was "acting big"?

Here's Oliver (hi Oliver). This past week, Oliver was the smallest dog in the kennel. However, he may have had the biggest attitude.
Terriers tend to be very confident in general and Oliver was no exception. When faced with a giant dog, he merely looked up and kept his tail alert.

What do you when you face a wall of opposition? Do you cower in the back of the cage or march up to the giant dog and stare it in the face?

From where do you draw courage?

For me, it took facing many difficulties to learn the confidence and courage that was supernatural. Only the Lord could change me from the inside out. There were so many things I feared when I was in my early twenties. I thought if I could actively worry about them, expect the negative outcome, then I could control it and prevent it from happening.

Now that's some messed up thinking.

It took many circumstances, far worse than I ever could anticipate, to drive me to God. Turns out I was not controlling the universe. In fact, I had very little say. At first it made me mad. Then it made me furious. But finally, it brought me peace.

Now there are few things I worry about. Having gone through a lot of tough stuff, I know I can do it again. This time, I won't be alone. With God all things really are possible. And that's how you face the giant dog in the face without backing down.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fences Make Good Neighbors

Meet Luigi (hi Luigi!). Isn't he adorable?
As you can tell, Luigi is a small dog. Sometimes when we see a dog in a cage, we think it's cruel or pathetic.

However, when Luigi saw this dog come in:


Luigi was thankful for the fence between them.

Boundaries are important in relationships. Sometimes we hide behind them in a healthy way, but the lack of any are also problematic.

What purpose does the fence in your life serve? Are you thankful for it or do you hide?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Next Stop World Domination

Meet Bo (hi Bo!). Oh how I wish this picture had turned out better. Not only is Bo a handsome devil, his expression upon pilfering this toy from another dog's kennel run was priceless.
As you'll see, the toy's size is disproportionate to Bo's. It's not like that was going to slow him down one bit.

Bo is one of those Dachshunds that has a big, tough personality, but at the same time is a delight and friendly. In short, if Bo were a world leader, he may be a lot like Napoleon. His owner told me that Bo likes to play with Basset Hounds. At the kennel, no dog intimidated Bo. Given the opportunity, Bo liked to sneak into other dog's kennel runs to sample their food. Or steal their toys.

One of the reasons I like Bo so much is he reminds me of my tendency to take over. However, in a person, it can be less than charming. It's something I have had to learn to tone down, keep in check, shut my mouth...sit on my hands...you name it - it needs controlled. At the same time, not too many things bother me or intimidate me.

That makes it a little tough to "submit" or listen to others. Having been told, and realizing it myself, that I'm "uncoachable" has been a gift.

Often our best qualities can work against us as well. Conversely, our worst qualities can protect us and serve us well in times of crisis. But when it's time, we need to override some of our tendencies and work with and not against others.

When asked what my biggest obstacle in my spiritual life is, I've had to honestly answer that I tend to rip God from the throne and sit there myself. The problem is, I'm not well-equipped to control the universe and barely manage my own life.

It's not good to take on a toy too big.

What is your best quality that works against you? How do you turn it around?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nothing to be Trifled With

Never have I owned a cat as lion-like as Captain. From appearance to attitude, his attitude and demeanor is larger than life.
We often have differences of opinion on what is appropriate cat-behavior in the home. While he considers countertops and boxes that hold food fair game, I strongly disagree.

At the same time, his strong-willed nature is second to his sweetness. He is as loving and affectionate as one can hope for in a cat.

It's often easier to label a cat, or a person, all good or all bad. We don't like to deal with dichotomy and contradiction. We like to know a person in black and white, so we will know how to treat them.

Not so fast.

God, as all-powerful, all-knowing, is also all-loving. His judgement is a form of love. What? Yes - for the same reason we don't let children play in traffic, rules are gifts. Consequences are gifts. Labeling God one way or another makes a mysterious, unseen Diety easier to understand, and also control. To live with the mystery and the unknown requires faith. That's what makes it so complex and demanding.

What are you trying to control with a label? Who needs your patience and understanding today?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Unbridled Enthusiasm

Here's Jimmy. He's being quiet and sedate. Normally, he's quite the opposite because he's a puppy. A GIANT puppy.
This past Thursday, I finished the first draft of my third novel. It was such hard work and now that it's done, my brain is just not quite re-booted. Yet in my heart, I feel like a puppy.

"His mercies are new every day."

Ever notice how a puppy or child wakes up with new energy? I so NEED that! While my age doesn't help me with youthful energy, I can enjoy the joy of a new day and the opportunity to start fresh with forgiveness and love.

Today, no matter where you are on your journey, commit to a fresh path with the Lord.