Living outside the normal edges of pain. I look in greedily, hungry for life. I wallow around the sides, kick a stone, pick it up and throw it in, landing with a hallow thud. I wait, hoping someone will see, but no one does.
I pout. I scowl. I kick and even bigger stone and hurt my foot. Then I sit down and cry. Weeping overtakes me because I haven’t let it out for so long. I pour out tears I never knew I had and sorrow throws me off balance.
In the dirt now, tear stained and ruined, I feel a glow radiating on my back. I am afraid to look up. The heat is intense, the warming gaze probing. Covering my head, I turn a tear stained cheek upward, and out of the corner of my eye, I see His essence. His gaze is the sun and his smile swallows the air around me.
I close my eyes and a gentle hand warms my back. His presence soothes and His gaze like fire ignites the cold inside of me. I know He’s real. I know He sees. I know He feels the dug out hole inside of me made by myself and others. He looks me eye to eye, puts His forehead on mine. His air soothing my breath and calming my heart.
He wraps His arms around my waist, lifts me out of the dirt.
My Beloved, He says.
My Jesus. This is my Jesus. My comfort. My help. My love. My friend.
Our buddy got tired. This isn’t a really great picture, but I took it last Friday night when we were having our regular Friday pizza/movie night. I thought Winston looked so cute, but so worn out. He would have turned 14 on November 6.
Yesterday while we were sleeping, he kept on coming into our room, trying to get my attention. I finally got up to let him outside and realized he had gotten sick pretty much all over the house. By morning, he was not responding to me and just wanted to be left alone. I took him to the vet and they said, “It’s time”. I’ve known for awhile that he was in the end of his days, and didn’t want him to linger in pain every day from sore knees and other dog old age problems. But it was hard, very hard.
Winston was our first kid. Rob and I got him a year before we had Maddie, so he lived long enough as our only kid for a long time, fully boding with us, learning to trust us and love us. He was just a little white fur ball when we got him. He rode under the front seat of the car when we brought him home, quivering in fright. I remember the first day we had him home, he layed on Rob’s chest and fell asleep for a long, long time.
He was very docile and compliant….until we had Maddie. He was afraid of her little baby cries at first, but a switch flipped in him once he realized this was a “Puppy” the three of us were supposed to protect with our ferocious barks. From that day on, any time anyone would come to our door or walk into our yard, he would bark and bark, terrifying the on-commer with his less than one foot tall ferocity.
As soon as the stranger walked through our door, knowing they must be one of the good guys, he would nuzzle against them waiting to be petted and loved. One of the things we will always laugh about when we remember Winston is how he would love to take care of the girls when they were babies. If I laid them on the carpet for just a minute and left the room, I would come back to the room to find Winston hurridley licking their faces and hands to get that icky soap smell off them so they would smell “clean” like his dog breath.
He did have the worst breath of any dog ever in the history of the world.
When Maddie was about 18 months old, we used to take her, Winston and baby Whitney over to a field by our house we nicknamed “The Running Field”. He’d run and run in circles, getting his puppy energy out. Maddie would yell at the top of her lungs, “WEESAAWW!” because she couldn’t say Winston. I still refered to him as Weesaw till the day he died.
He was such a good buddy to our girls.
In one year, he got mauled by a neighbors dog, had two surgeries, got hit by a truck, but miraculously he survived it all. When we brought Ellie our Golden Retriever with a cleft pallet that drools, coughs, hacks and sputters, Winston thought we were the most evil dog parents ever. He hated her. She would nip at his tail playfully. He would growl at her. She’d nip playfully again, bowing her head down in front of him. He’d growl, she’d nip, until he finally gave in and they became best friends.
When I came home from the vet yesterday, Ellie sniffed me and gave me the saddest eyes ever. She looked at the van, hoping her little buddy would hop right out and give her her daily “dog lick bath” from Winston, but he didn’t come out. She’s been walking to the laundry room, looking for him, circling around the house, then laying on the floor pouting. It. Breaks. My Heart. She knew her buddy was sick yesterday. I could tell she was very worried about him. She’s never been an only dog child, so it will be interesting to see how she responds in the next few days. The girls are already clamoring for another puppy, but I won’t be ready for that for a long, long time.
The girls are all handling their grief in different ways. Belle went right to her room when she found out, wrote and illustrated an entire book dedicated to her best buddy. She took it pretty well. Maddie and Whit took it very hard. He’s been their one connection to their early childhood days that bring them so many fun memories. They have each other, but Winston was their other best buddy.
I could not watch the movie Marly and Me because I knew Winston’s day was coming. I finally got tricked into watching it a few months back and sobbed through the whole thing. I’ll never watch it again because it will just make me too sad. I’ll miss our little buddy.
Don’t assume everyone around you is ok. Friends, colleagues, students, and neighbors might look ok from the outside, but chances are very good they are struggling with something. You probably are too…you’re just good at hiding it.
At our house, we’ve been struggling. We have had one of the sickest seasons we’ve had so far. With Belle in Kindergarten all day, breathing in the germs of 25 other Kindergarten breathing, sneezing little people, she has brought home lots of germs. Maddie and her friends share clothes and make-up, along with their germs, and in Whitney’s class, all the kids share tables and germy supplies.
This morning my neighbor texted me when I told her not to send her middle-schooler into our house of germs to wait for the bus, she texted back “Can I bring dinner?”
Four simple words that made my day a whole lot easier, took the pressure off, gave me back two hours of dinner prep and clean up.
God made each of us fit into the tapestry of humanity in a unique way. Where do you fit? What do you have to offer? Dinner? A kind word? A ride? These things seem so small, but when you are on the receiving end, you realize what a big deal these small things really are.
Don’t shrink back from kindness when you have it to offer. Be generous.
So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Romans 12: 6-8
There are times when I feel on top of my game, like everything couldn’t be better, and I’ve got everything under control. It’s usually about then that something starts to unravel and I see myself for who I really am, or who I can be when I am not at my best. The pain I deal with from having rheumatoid arthritis is about 80% under control on a day to day basis. This past weekend, because of being so sick for the past few weeks, my medication got completely out of whack, bringing that pain control down to about a 5% level. That’s about the level where the ugly in me comes out. I feel so bad for grouching at my kids when they do normal kid stuff that I normally wouldn’t bat an eye at.
I was so discouraged this weekend, not only because of my lousy attitude, but at the level of pain that literally possessed me. It made me angry, sad, and uptight all at once. I really thought I was getting “better”. I was so frustrated to realize that was not the case.
My grandpa Lanting dealt with severe pain and illness for the 10 years that I knew him — the last 10 years of his life. A week or so before I was born, he suffered a major heart attack and was not expected to live. The elders from my mom and dad’s church came to pray for him that he would be healed. They prayed for him, and he lived 10 more years. I was so grateful to know him, and see how my grandma loved him and took care of him. One thing I will never forget as long as I live was my grandma telling me what my grandpa said to her once. He said, “I used to ask God Why Me?, but now I realize that I ask God, Why not me?” He came to the realization that just because he was losing his health didn’t mean that God didn’t love him or was unjust, cruel, or unkind. He was living out the end of his days as a human spirit perfected in God’s grace in an imperfect body. He knew his body would be made well again once he finally met his Savior face to face.
I am so grateful for a legacy of faith. I am so grateful that my grandma took the time to share with me about what my grandpa learned through his 10 years of suffering. The faith that has been handed down to me is something I treasure and hold on to in times of pain. Reflecting on the faithful words of my parents and grandparents’ experience gives me hope and strength I hope Rob and I can pass down to our children and grandchildren.
With all the germs coming in and out of my house, it was bound to hit me sooner or later. I really don’t get sick that often. Normally, when I do, I have it for two days or so, then I’m fine. This illness has been the most sick I have been in about 5 years. I got full blown influenza with a side of sinus infection—not fun!
Things I have learned from being sick:
It’s hard for me to ask for help
It’s hard for me to not feel guilty for laying on the couch in the middle of the day
It’s hard for me to receive help when I don’t ask for it
This morning I got the nicest email from my wonderful friend and mentor Gail MacDonald. We sent her and her husband Gordon a copy of our book, and her words of encouragement to me spoke right to my heart. Sometimes words can be healing, and I am so thankful for her friendship, kindness and support.
So, for the next few days, I am mending, healing, and trying to soak up the love that others have poured out to me in such a kind and gracious way. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s hardest to be on the receiving end of things.