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Once I was lost

It’s coming upon a year since we adopted our little girl Maisie, a dog who was recued from the streets. We have watched her turn from a timid, sad creature to a happy and healthy furry friend.

I got home late one night this week and walked Maisie when the sun had already set, and any lingering daylight was almost lost in the clouds of a rainy day.

We met a neighbor and her dog as we headed toward our house. In their tussled greeting of each other, Maisie pulled free from her collar and my heart went to my throat. She is a fast runner and had escaped from the house a few times, but I had been able to retrieve her after a few minutes. As soon as she was loose  from the collar and leash, she sped away in the direction of a cat we had passed a little earlier. I could hear her yelping go farther in the distance as she was on the chase.

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep . . . ” Psalm 119:176

I hurried to the door of the house and called for Sweet William to bring the treat jar. I’ve enticed Maisie to me on other occasions with a shake of the jar.

I went toward the sound of her yelping, calling her name and shaking the jar. This time it was not working.

My neighbor put her dog in the house and came to our yard to help me. We could hear and see glimpses of Maisie’s white hair as she ran through the little woods that surround our house. Our calling was lost on her. She was intent on finding the trail of that cat.

My neighbor thought Maisie was close enough once as she lunged for her, then fell flat on the ground. Our efforts were failing.

Maisie came out of the wood, nose still to the ground and ran around our house. She was headed to other houses, other neighborhoods, the busy road just beyond. I went after her knowing she has no sense about traffic. If she went to the road, I feared the worst, that she would be hit by an oncoming car. If she left our neighborhood, there is not telling where she would end up.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? —Luke 15:4

It was dark by now and there were no glimpses of my little girl, no sounds of her bark. My dread was that she was gone. Gone too far for me to find her tonight. I would have to look tomorrow when it was daylight.

Maisie could not know that the only food she might find out there in the raw world would be trash, her water would be stale and muddy. She would search for someplace out of the weather to sleep and she would be cold. There would be no kibble provided, the kind that keeps her healthy and her coat shiny. She would be unprotected where coyotes roam and people with shotguns are not afraid to use them. She would not have a fence where she could run and play and still be under the watchful eyes of Sweet William and me.

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. –Luke 15:16

She did not realize that we are the fountain from which her every blessing flows.

As I headed to the house where Sweet William was praying for her to return, I heard him call me, “She’s in the fence.” How in the world?

My neighbor had enticed Maisie with one of the treats we were both carrying in our hands, and she had lured her inside the fence behind the house, the fence we put up just for Maisie. The fence with both gates open for her to run into.

The kindness of God leads us to repentance. –Romans 2:4

I gathered up the wet, muddy mess she was, carried her to the bathtub and began to wash her. I found a bloody place on her neck where she had probably tangled with the wild blackberry brambles throughout the little woods.

As I rinsed off the sudsy water, I leaned my face down to Maisie’s face and I cried, tears of relief and thankfulness that she had come home to us. She does not know how much she is loved; how much trouble we went through to bring her home; how we choose her and paid the price for her; how we continue to love her, provide for her and look out for her best interest.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. –Jeremiah 31:3

I dried her off and put medicine on her wound.

He anoints my head with oil. — Psalm 23:5

I did not even try to explain the dangers of the outside world to Maisie. It would not have done any good. She thinks like a dog and acts like a dog because she is a dog.

Surely I was sinful at birth . . . –Psalm 51:5

I could not make her understand that the limitations we have imposed on her are for her good, to keep her healthy and to protect her, to give her a long, happy life with people who love her and want good things for her.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. — Isiah 55:8

Maisie is on house arrest for now, and she wears a restraining collar when we walk outside. It’s not meant to hurt her, only to keep her in my control. This discipline is for her good.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. — Psalm 119:71

She is a little subdued today, and perhaps a little worn from her heyday of perceived freedom. What she thought was pure bliss would have ended badly had it not been for the persistence of people who cared about her. She has to remain within our boundaries, not because we are being mean, but because we love her.

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Now remain in my love. John 15:9b

Maisie once was lost, but now she is found. And so was I.

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Summer work, soul work

While I call them the gardens, this year it seems more appropriate to say it’s a jungle out there.

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This spring and summer has not been my best time for accomplishing much outdoors. It has been the year of the dog for us, though Chinese lore designates that title in 2018. Our little girl Maisie requires walks twice a day and lots of play time in the middle. I have given that to her more often than I’ve been down on my knees in the dirt with garden gloves.

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As a rescue animal who fended for herself much of her young life, Maisie needed our attention, training, and affection. She is rewarding us with obedience and companionship. She is settling in as our dog.

Last week I was able to go to the yard a couple of days. After a downpour of rain, I pulled on my garden boots and pink work gloves, carrying the kneeling pad and a few tools. I soon filled box after box of weeds pulled from all sorts of places. The occasional cloudburst drove me to the deck to rest a bit. Then I would trudge back to the work area.

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Another day, I determinedly took the weed sprayer and began the long-overdue task of killing poison ivy and the extreme overgrowth of neglected flower beds.

Both days I finished soaking wet with perspiration because, once again, it is hot at my Kentucky home. I felt encouraged that something like a small beginning was produced in those hours of work.

However, there has been some friendly fire in the gardens. Plants that should have been left in the ground were uprooted as I pulled weeds feverishly. Some purposely planted flowers were sprayed with poison accidentally in my hurry to get more accomplished. Two out-of-control Rose of Sharon bushes in full bloom were trimmed to the point of having almost no flowers left.

It happens when I leave something neglected for too long.

It happens in my soul as well. The small roots of discontent, comparison, and unthankfulness can turn into something ugly rather quickly. While the Holy Spirit prompts me with the Scripture and His still small voice, I can ignore both and go my own way, neglecting the needed soul-work, intending to deal with it later.

It’s never a good idea to put it off too long.

Weeds grow too close to flowers and reproduce quickly. Roots entangle with each other. Dislodging the weed often results in the good plant being uprooted.

I need to learn the lesson. It’s better to address the issues that bear on my spirit promptly. It’s wise to forgive quickly. I would do well to turn loose of the cares of life and stop the comparisons that burden me down. I should be discerning the bounty of gifts that are evident every day.

I need to count my blessings.

I realize life can be hard. How well we know that. There are mountains to climb, rivers to pass through, bridges to build, and rocky roads to travel.

I am assured that God goes with me every step of my journey. I am encouraged that there will be grace enough. I am told to let patience do it’s work in me so I learn endurance and will be made complete.

Instead of pushing aside those gentle nudges of the Spirit, I want to be more conscious of His whispers and quick to respond to my need for Him in every season and at all times. He is always with me and willing to help me address the complications of my life sooner rather than later. What might seem like a more convenient time only delays the inevitable.

He is the Teacher, the Comforter, and the One who goes with me whether for a daily walk or into the jungle.

There is still beauty in the gardens despite my neglect. And God still works to produce beauty in me through His tireless love, with the goal of reflecting the beauty of Christ at the end of it all.

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In memory of Little Dog

Our Little Dog died yesterday morning after more than a year of health problems.  It’s been a couple of hard days.

Pets bring so much to our lives; they are certainly gifts God gives to humans.  Our Buddy taught me lessons in his years with us.  I wish I could be as forgiving as him, as loyal and faithful.  I wonder if I will ever learn to love completely like he did or to be content with my own Master the way he was with me.

I will remember him and how he made our lives full.

When he was just a ball of white fluff cupped in my hands and I asked “Can we keep him?”

How puppy training was as much for me as it was for him.

How he chased the grandchildren down the hallway, running the length of the house.  The children jumped on the bed to escape.  And then they did it all over again.

Early morning routines when we were the first ones up and outdoors, the first ones to catch a glimpse of the sunrise.  And the world was quiet.

Bath time, him all lathered up looking like a wet rat and shivering until I dried him and wrapped him in a blanket and we warmed up together.

How his big bark coming from such a small creature made me feel safe when Sweet William had to be gone for the night.

The way he loved road trips, long or short, and just the question “You ready to go?” brightened his eyes and sent him to the back door in anticipation.

That he always like our food more than his own.  And nothing was better than sharing popcorn with Sweet William.

How his tummy had an internal clock that sent him to the dog dish at 5 pm every day.  And if we weren’t paying attention then he would flip the metal bowl over until we understood.

How his eyes rolled up to look up at me when I was dressing for work.  Those eyes asked, “So you’re leaving me again?”

The way he greeted me when I returned and always with such great joy.

How as he grew older, he was ready for bed even before Sweet William and me.  And after snuggling in at the foot of the bed he raised his head to look at us at least once just to be sure we were still there.

When his health failed and allergies developed, how I dressed him in baby pajamas and socks to keep him from scratching.  And he was just the cutest thing.

How he never backed down from a big dog and always went for their ankles.

That he loved us no matter what.  That he forgave us every single time.

Recently I read something on Susie Davis’ blog about living, growing old and dying.  She said,

“If our lives weren’t so exquisite, so beautiful, and if the people in our lives hadn’t mattered so terrifically, then this wouldn’t be so hard.”

Life is exquisite no matter the shape or size it takes.  If our pets were not so exquisite, such gifts from God, if they didn’t teach us unconditional love and so many other attributes, if they didn’t matter so terrifically, then letting them go would not be so hard.

But they are exquisite, and they do matter terrifically.  And it is hard to say good-bye.  And I wonder who will greet me at the door now like I was the best thing since honey on a biscuit?

What would my life have been like without Little Dog?  I cannot say.  I only know that our days have been richer for having loved him and having been loved by him.

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