Poetry Archive

What God Gave Me Through a Coffee Cup

bloom-flower-suffering-river

God sometimes speaks to me in simple images in the quiet minutes of the morning in which I am beginning to awake.   Yesterday was one of those days in which He spoke to me in the reentry hour.  It was sort of a dream, but more like a small vision, there one minute and gone the next.  It was an empty coffee cup, porcelain white and perfectly clean with a small white bloom attached to the inside of the cup, as if its dainty stem had grown right out of the porcelain.

I awoke, feeling that it was of God, but somewhat puzzled by the image.  In my humanness, my first instinct was to look at it literally, so I assumed He must surely be telling me to stop drinking coffee, that perhaps something would bloom, that great things would come  if I could only stop drinking coffee.  I shelved the thought, hoping He had some other message for me other than giving up coffee. Then, I stumbled to the kitchen, got the kids off to school, and sat down to have my quiet time.

Lately, I have been reading the Streams in the Desert devotional because it speaks deep truth to me in the midst of difficult seasons.  Last week was one of those weeks when I needed its words.  I awoke on Monday, and instead of seeing a sweet vision from God in the reentry hours, Satan arrived to twist and torque every muscle in my upper back and neck.  My neck froze to the point where I could not move it more than a centimeter in any direction, so many hours of my week were spent lying in the bed staring at the ceiling while family and friends tended to my children.

In the previous week, my physical therapist had told me that my neck looked better than He had ever seen it.   So, I just knew the time had finally come.  I was healing from Lyme, and God was finally coming to remove the yoke from this neck and He, for sure, was going to allow me to paint and write all that I wanted.  And then, Monday came and the rest of the week was filled with ice packs, heating pads, an MRI, a steroid dose pack, and quite obviously, no writing or painting.  Needless to say,  I was a bit discouraged and began to imagine myself stuck in this cycle of pain, and I completely lost sight of what God might be doing in the midst of it.

So yesterday, I pulled out the Streams in the Desert devotional after pondering what the image of the coffee cup might convey.  The devotion for that day spoke of God as an artist, using many “brushstrokes of sorrow” to paint into his masterpieces, you and me, so that we can be used to show his glory. It spoke of waking up and opening our hearts to the lessons that God intends for us to learn in our suffering.  And it warned of the danger of our “cup of sorrows” being emptied, and us having failed to glean the truths that God wanted to teach in the midst of the trial.   It spoke of opening our hearts to pain and suffering and rejoicing in it.

So today, I woke up and smelled the coffee and began to meditate on all that I have learned through Lyme. God began to open my heart to receive the truths He wanted to teach me.   I do believe God is going to empty my cup of Lyme and neck sorrows, and in its place, something clean and beautiful will have bloomed inside of me.  Something sweet and soft and gentle that was not in my heart before.  Something pure that only grows inside the cup of suffering.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the bloom until the cup has been emptied, but I am asking God to give me the grace to see it even in the midst of the journey.  And I wonder if meditating on the bloom that’s coming forth is part of my healing, if healing sometimes comes when we stop trying to push away pain, and surrender to it for a season for the sake of God’s purposes.

It is often writing that helps me focus on the bloom rather than the gloom in the midst of trials, so as much as the Lord allows,  I am going to write as I travel the rest of this  journey.  And I invite you to come along with me, to glean truth with me, to walk with me as I make my way toward the finish line of Lyme treatment.  Sharing with you holds me accountable to getting my thoughts down on paper, and through that process, I see little bits of his bloom come forth in places I least expect.  But most of all, I desire to share this healing adventure with you because  I know I have not traveled this path to allow all these lessons to dead end on me.  So over the next few weeks,

my coffee i will keep
to wake me
from my sleep
as i seek
the treasures
God has given me
through
the deep cup
of suffering…

Amen.

 

Don’t you remember…?

Open.Wide

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?  Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?  Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?  How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  (Matthew 16:5-12)

 “Be on your guard against the yeast…” my Lyme doctor implied. She didn’t say it like Jesus did, but somewhere it was woven into her one hundred page treatment manual. Taking four or five antibiotics in unison over long periods of time doesn’t allow for the ingestion of much yeast. Of course, I have treated myself to a little bread or sugar once in a while, but as much as I have been able to, I have avoided breads and sugars.

The Lyme bacteria feeds off of simple sugars, so the goal, at least as far as I can understand it, is to starve it by avoiding foods that are high in sugar or carbs. It sounds simple enough. It seems that just knowing that I am feeding the enemy by eating sugar would allow me to stay the course.

Although I have been relatively faithful to the diet, I have spent a good bit of time feeling as if I am walking a tightrope, wondering how far I can lean to the left or right and still not fall. I have wondered if those few sips of coke or the little bit of chocolate or the occasional splurge on a desert could leave me standing at the end of an unsuccessful Lyme treatment asking, “Why did I lean so far to the left or right? Why wasn’t I more rigid about the diet?”

In other words, I begin believing that it all depends on me.

Over the past few weeks, the fatigue and joint pain have returned, and I have found myself questioning if I will ever return “home”, if this season of captivity will ever end. And I am recognizing that one of my largest fears is that it could all be my fault, that if I had been stricter about the diet or more faithful to the steaming hot baths, or not forgotten those few doses of antibiotics on busy days, that surely I would be well by now.

It has been a year and a half now, but I am still holding tight to God’s promise that this season will pass over. I read the passages in Exodus last week about the Passover meal and was reminded that the Israelites were instructed not to leaven their bread, to leave out the yeast.

I sometimes have a habit of taking God literally when often He is speaking of spiritual parallels, so the Passover verses left me thinking God must be reminding me to avoid the yeast, that perhaps part of this season passing over me was somehow linked to avoiding the yeast and sugar and bread that I have been trying to avoid for eighteen months.

So I awoke this morning ready to jump back on the no yeast train and ride to the finish line of Lyme treatment. But in my quiet time, I stumbled across these verses where Jesus is rebuking the disciples for taking him so literally when he is speaking to them figuratively.

He says to them, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?  Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?”

He points them to a memory of bread, but the bread is not the point. The point is the miracle that Jesus performed, the five loaves of bread feeding the five thousand.

Don’t you remember…?” He asks. And then he points them to the miracle. He points them to himself, the bread of life. He wasn’t rebuking them for forgetting to bring the bread, but for forgetting Him and the miracles that he had performed along the way.

So as I read through these verses, I began to hear the spirit speak, Don’t you remember all of the miracles I have performed along the way? Don’t you remember how I rescued you in your twenties? Don’t you remember how I pulled you from the pits of despair in your thirties? Don’t you remember that I said healing would come in your forties, that your time in the desert would be over? Have you forgotten that my word does not return void? Maintain a healthy diet, but in the end, do not be so arrogant as to think that your source of healing is you. It does not come from you. It comes only from my Spirit living in you.

Staying on your tight rope takes your eyes off of me and onto you.  It causes you to forget me.  And the forgetfulness of me is nothing but the yeast of the Pharisees, a gospel of rules that is no gospel at all, an ungospel that spreads like yeast through the whole batch of dough.

So…

He says, “Go”
free fall from your
rope pulled tight
knowing you will land
in the soft hands
that formed you
before time began.

Run free
through fields white
and ripe for harvest.
knowing light
will shine
from your darkest
days of Lyme.

Treasures stored
in the dark
pleading for art
to come forth
from the womb
of this woman
too long in labor

I need your favor
as you teach
me to savor
each stitch
you have sewn
along the way.

I praise through pain
as remembrance
changes me
sets me free
rains light
on ropes pulled tight
across my chest

Rest in Me
He speaks
in sweet
lines
of mercy
Sleep long
and deep
knowing
I am strong

even

when
you
are
weak.

 

 

The Reentry (Part 2)

 

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“I am weary of pain like a withered flower but
He is clearing a path for others to tread.”

Reentry*

1. A second or new entry

2. The act of returning from outer space.

If there is one feeling that has been most prevalent through Lyme treatment, it is the feeling of wanting to be covered, of wanting to be hidden in some small chamber until the season has passed over.  I am not sure why this childhood image came back to me, but in my darkest moments of Lyme, I imagined myself crawling into the Mork and Mindy egg and staying there until I felt like reentering family life.

My deepest longing during this journey has been for healing, but also for the permission to retreat, to be sick for a season.  I have wanted affirmation, wanted someone to say that it’s okay to be sick, and it’s okay to tend to your owns needs for a while so that you can heal. There were times when I received that affirmation, but as a mother of three, there were also many moments that I spent fighting for the right to be sick.  Because if you don’t have the right to be sick, you don’t feel that you have the right to heal.

I have floated in and out of good seasons and bad seasons but sixteen months into treatment, I still have days where I am fighting for the right to heal, for permission to rest when I need to and for the permission to take a couple of hours to myself to write or paint in order to pull myself out of the depression and brain fog that comes along with switching medications weekly.

Lyme leaves me feeling as if I am in a foreign land, as if I am in outerspace, trying to push my way back through the earth’s atmosphere in order to land and be present at the dinner table. At times, it takes everything in me to come back to earth and be present in the moment.  The worst thing about those moments though is that I can look down from my Mork and Mindy egg and see my life passing by before me.  It feels as if I am watching a black and white TV show that I know should be in full color.  I am fully aware of what I am missing.  I feel it in every ounce of my being, but often the meds leave me feeling as if my brain is sitting in quicksand, and it seems next to impossible to step into the fullness of life.

I wish I was one of those strong sick people, one of those women that others comment about and say, “Oh, she is so strong. She never complains. She never talks about it.” I can’t say that I have been her. I haven’t been the one that smiles through clenched teeth and says, “I’m fine” when I am not.  I come from a long line of frank women, and if you ask me how I am feeling, I will more than than likely give you a frank answer.   I have tried not to bore people with long-winded conversations about my physical issues, but at moments, I am sure that I have failed in that too.

Since I am not going to land in the Strong Sick People Hall of Fame, I will be frank and tell you that today I am weary.   I feel like the astronauts on Apollo 13, waiting for the reentry in a broken vessel, fearing that I may not approach at the right angle, fearing that I may not do enough of the right things, take enough salt baths or steam showers, or eat enough of the right foods to get me to wellness. I fear that I may not have what it takes  to make it to the finish line of Lyme,  that I might not be able to stand the heat of the reentry process.

In my doubting moments, I ask myself, “What if my husband can’t take any more of my communication blackouts at the dinner table? What if I never reenter and this is as good as it gets? What if I never return “home” from this season of captivity?

More than anything else in my life right now, I want to go home. I want to reenter, to emerge from my Mork and Mindy egg and walk in the fullness of life. Today, it is ever so clear to me that instead of stepping into fullness, I am beginning to allow bitterness to fully take root in my heart.  I am growing bitter that Lyme has lingered way too long.    I am bitter about all the black and white moments that could have been in full color, and I am sad that I will never get those moments back.   I am bitter that my neck is still fully inflamed and won’t allow me to do the things I love. And I am bitter toward the diet that is beginning to feel like months of manna in the desert.

The Israelites grew bitter about months of manna too.  They forgot how God had delivered them from Egypt, how He had parted the Red Sea after he turned the River Jordan to blood.   They forgot that the angel of death passed over their firstborn son at the midnight hour.   They forgot that they were told to eat in their traveling clothes so that they would be ready for departure from captivity.

In essence, they forgot what God had done.  And so have I in my eagerness to depart the land of Lyme.

My doctor says she can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I am ever so grateful for that.  I still have days where I wish for my Mork and Mindy egg, but they are fewer and farther in between.  And I am holding on tight to the truth that God will complete the work he began in me.   He still hasn’t delivered my Mork and Mindy egg in which I can hide, but He did send me these words that He spoke to Moses. They covered me all the more.

He said, “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” Exodus 33:22

He said he would have to hide me in “the cleft of the rock” when he showed me the glory that would come from my suffering because it would be too much for my little heart to bear.

So today, I reenter.  I allow God to hide me in this painted rock, and I wait for God’s glory to pass by as he brings me home, like he brought the Israelites out of captivity from a foreign land.

At first I thought it was too soon to reenter, that my heart was too bitter and too weary to remember publicly.    I was concerned that I would spew more venom than victory, but as I read the words of Leanna Tolensky a few days ago, I knew it was time to go, time to reenter the remembrance of Him.

She said, “We will not live in the dark, even if that means we have to walk around squinting for a time. We will let ourselves be seen.

…Our emergence doesn’t happen when we are at our most brave. It often happens when we are at our most bruised.”

So I emerge from my Mork and Mindy egg, standing bruised, asking God to give me the words to say as I reenter this painted rock,
knowing full well
that all the moments
on which I dwell
the ones
tainted black and white
seeming dead
have only
cleared
a path
for others
to softly
tread…

A trail
of  painted stones
whispering
words
to the faint and weak,

“You are not alone.

You are not alone.

You are not alone.”

Now do this
in remembrance
of me.

 

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Click on photo to enter the Apollo 13 rabbit hole

The Reentry (Part 1)

 

Everything has been made beautiful“There is a time for everything and a season
for every activity under the heavens.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Reentry.

1.  A second or new entry

2.  The return from outer space into the earth’s atmosphere.

God said that at some point I would reenter The Painted Rock. I don’t remember exactly how he said it, but in some form or fashion, He said that I would reenter this blog which has for the most part delivered silence for the past eighteen months.

I wish that I could sum up the past year and a half  in one blog post, but it would probably take months to unpack all that God has done in this season. I could say that for the most part, these months have been a time to heal, but along with healing also comes a time to weep, a time to mourn, a time to laugh, a time to let go, a time to uproot and many other “time to’s”.

To be honest, I thought that by this time, I would be writing about a time to let go of Lyme treatment. I was supposed to be well by now.    I had asked God to heal me by my birthday of last year, and I believed with all of my heart that He would do it.  But July 29th came and went, and God made it clear that my season of “captivity” was not to come to an end yet.  I still faced months more of the healing process, and today, the yoke that he has promised to remove from my neck still seems heavy upon it.

“Remember me,” he has spoken over and over in this season of captivity, and He has led me time and again to using this blog, The Painted Rock, to remember him, to tell the story of how He delivered me from captivity like He delivered the Israelites from the Babylonians.   I thought perhaps it would be on the other side of Lyme treatment before He called me to remember.  Over the past week, though, He has made it clear that the reentry is here. Well or not, its time to go even though my body doesn’t feel ready, and my heart feels too full of sin and frustration to be splayed on the internet.

I spent the last week in an utter state of self-absorption and self pity. My pharmacy let me know that they would no longer be filling any of my Lyme prescriptions, so I spent hours on the phone sorting through Express Script orders and insurance issues and running back and forth to the pharmacy.   I started two new medicines on Monday which left me feeling as if my spirit and body were treading through quicksand.  The middle child was home sick Monday, and the firstborn Tuesday through Friday.  The cat decided to abandon his toilet and began using the bathtub instead.  (yes,our cat IS potty trained, at least he is most of the time). Thumper, the family bunny escaped twice this week, leaving me chasing him over and under furniture during my only opportunities for a little alone time.  And in addition to my 210 pills a week, he has needed eyedrops three times a day. My firstborn has needed doctors visits and antibiotics and new thermometers,  the youngest has needed ear drops and doses of cough syrup, and the middle child has needed a string of eye doctor appointments and eyeglasses so she can see the blackboard at school.   And I have been in desperate need of seeing clearly myself in the midst of it all.

I slammed the dishwasher door on Friday when the dog appeared at the door having rolled in dead fish for the second time in a week, meaning my thirty minutes of free time that day would be taken up with a dog bath.  I told God how mad I was.  I asked him why he had to make everything so hard.  “Is this some sort of sick joke? Do you think this is funny?” I asked through clenched teeth as the fish stench entered my nose.  “Why don’t you want me to ever have any time of my own?” I asked him as I grabbed the bunny shampoo to go wash the dog, hoping perhaps it could be lethal to dogs.

I tied his leash to the iron gate of the garden and angrily told him to sit.  I expected him to resist, to lie down on his back in defiance, or to try to run.  But he stood in one place, perfectly still as the early-morning cold water poured from the hose.

It was a beautiful spring day.  The sun was making its way up over our untended garden. Light and shadow moved in unison all around us begging for me to move towards the light, to push away darkness and enjoy bathing the dog.   I took a deep breath, surrendered to joy and began to move the shampoo through his black hair.   I scrubbed every inch of his body from head to toe, under the ears, in between his toes, under the collar, hoping to cover every strand of hair so that every trace of the stench would be eradicated.

He stood still, through every second of my scrubbing and rinsing. Shivering, his eyes looked deep into me, calmly waiting for it to be over.  He seemed to know he had only one choice and that was to surrender.

When I finished rinsing him clean, I dried him with a towel as he rolled on his back delighting in every minute of the attention. It was as if he had been waiting his whole life for that moment. As I watched him,  I wished I could be him for a minute, soaking up all that affection, having someone else tend and care for me.

I told my husband last night that I was a bit starved for his attention, that I needed more of his affection, that I needed to see his love for me in action and not just hear it from his mouth.  I told him I needed him to remember that I’m still healing, that I’m still battling for a life unyoked of Lyme.

I meant what I said in the moment, but today as I begin to see clearly, I wonder if it’s really me that needs to remember.  I wonder if it’s me that’s doing the forgetting.  I wonder if I have forgotten how God rescued me in the early years of our marriage.  I wonder if it’s me thats forgetting that my husband just bravely stepped out of his job,  like Abraham, not knowing where he’s going.  I wonder if it’s me forgetting that he is battling too.

For some reason recently, I cannot see clearly in the evening.  It is as if I become blind to truth in my tired and wretched state. Morning comes and for a few brief hours before the meds kick in, I am able to see.  This morning, as I write, I see.  It is painfully obvious that I need a good bathing from head to toe. A sitting still while God bathes me in his love, speaking truth to me in all my shivering.

That’s what writing does for me. It allows me to sit still as God speaks truth. It calms me in the storm.  I am not sure what it is about words flowing out onto paper, but somehow it allows me to see more clearly who God is and what He is doing.

I’ve been asking God for a year and a half when he would allow me to reenter The Painted Rock, when he would give me permission to write about the stones of remembrance I have painted thus far in my journey with Him.  And this week, I received my answer.

“Why are you waiting for permission to do what you were made for? Go love people.”

That is what God used Bob Goff to tell me as I scrolled through Instagram a few days ago. And I think the best way I can love people at this juncture in my life is to carve out time to remember Christ because it is that remembrance that causes the tears of thanksgiving to flow out
into one river,
joining two hearts
into one
ready to run
the race God
marked out
for us
when he carved
our names
in the palm
of his hand
before time began.

We stand
dressed
in traveling clothes
awaiting
the reentry flight
as this season
passes over
us
releasing burdens
from the shoulders
of a woman
and a man
yoked together
to remember
Christ
as one.

I stand still,
neck yoked
outside the garden gate,
God pouring remembrance rain
down my spine,
asking my shivering heart
to receive his grace
as I return from outer space
in order to land
In the hand
of a God
who sweetly said
to me
years ago
as I lay
soflty sleeping
in early morn,

As you surrender to the soft place of my purposes, my plan of action comes forth. He spoke it as I was departing from sleep and beginning to reenter the world of awake.

I awake and see
clearly now that
sometimes
it’s in the stillness,
in the quiet
reentry,
in the
shivering surrender
that a plan
comes forth
from God’s hand
taking us full circle
to his land
of promise.
Him singing
soft words
that speak
to a season.

It
has
come…

It
has
come…

It
has
come…

only

to
pass
over
you.

Amen.


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Be Still

be-still-chair-God-scripture

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted
among the nations.  
I will be exalted in the earth.”

I lie still on the massage table as she attempts to loosen this tight rope running down my spine. She tells me to relax since there is nothing I can do to assist her in her work. My job is to simply breathe deep and be still as she massages out the toxins and impurities. She reminds me to breathe, tells me not to resist, so I breathe deep through all her kneading and pressing.

As I lie still, I think of the picture that my four-year-old Katie colored just recently. She has rarely drawn anything other than smiley faces and rainbows, but in the midst of all my resentment and frustration with these bodily restrictions, she smiles, holds up a picture, and says. “It’s you, Mommy, you’re sleeping on a boat.” I smile back, tell her it is a beautiful picture, but what God speaks to me is even more beautiful. He reminds me of the time Jesus slept in the boat in the midst of the storm.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27)

So God used the storm to display his glory, to show the disciples who He was. And they were the ones who should have been sleeping, fully trusting in their Lord to care for them. Sleeping like a child in the boat because the God of the universe was at the helm. Breathing deep through the storm.

And now I see how I sound just like the disciples, asking Jesus, “Don’t you care if I drown?” “Don’t you care if I drown in doctor appointments, and frustrations and disappointments of these bodily restrictions?” I ask, but I see Katie’s picture, and I hear Jesus whisper, Peace, be still. The only thing you are drowning in is unbelief. It is the resentment of your restraints that actually restrains you. Breathe deep, lie still, and trust me. The calming of the storm will display my glory and will teach you who I am…

So I lie still, and I breathe deep as the therapist presses her elbow into my sciatic nerve. The pain is more than I can bear, and as she presses, tears are in danger of being pressed out. I try to relax, breathe through the pain, but I have not felt pain like this since the birthing of children, of breathing deep to get to the joy on the other side. And I remember that my life was birthed through Jesus’ pain, through his sweating of blood and acceptance of a cup in Gethsemane. A cup that He willingly took. “Take this cup away from me,” He said. “Yet not my will, but thine be done.”

I think of that word “Gethsemane” and how it means olive press and how the enormous pressure of the stones of the press pressed out every drop of oil from the olives, so that not a single drop was wasted. And I know that not a single drop of Jesus’ blood was wasted, and God reminds me that my pain will never be wasted, even as the tears threaten to be pressed out.

Her strong hands massage the knots and toxins out of my muscles making them more supple, causing them to move more freely. “You think I torture you,” she says “but it is for your good…” So I submit to the pressure, breathe deep, allow the tears to be pressed out.

I wanted to scream at God the other day for all his pressing, question him for these 15 years of back and neck issues, but then I hear him whisper,
I’m teaching you to breathe, to be still in the storm, remembering that I am God. It’s the breathing deep, the resting in the storm, the sleeping in the boat, that allows Me to massage out the impurities, these things that keep you bound, this resenting of restraints that restrains you even more, this will of yours that needs to be pressed out so that I can bring wholeness and healing, so that your love for me is more pure, so that your love for others is more pure.

Father, your love for your people made Jesus press out blood in Gethsemane and maybe your love for your people makes me press out tears on this table, on this olive press…

Paul said, ”We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)

She finishes her pressing out of this mortal body, then tells me to stand up slowly and get dressed. I clothe myself, walk out of the massage parlor, and as I am driving away, I see that the name of the spa is “Rejoice,” and I am reminded that Paul tells me to rejoice in my sufferings, in these light and momentary troubles.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.” Colossians 1:24

So as my tears press out, Christ fills these cups that I wish he would take from me, but as I take the cup, he fills up what is lacking in Christ in my flesh. So I take the cup at this Gethsemane, this olive press pressing out my own will, that will which can only hinder Christ’s beautiful body, the Church. Because it is the taking of cups in Gethsemane that allows my cup to overflow. So I swallow hard, and I breathe deep, and I get still, and I know that He is God…

 

Love is Like a Dog to Me

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Painting by five year old, Virginia Brooks

Spade sees us far off in the distance. He is waiting to welcome us home, spinning, jumping, ears flopping in the driveway. He seems to be dancing almost. He delights in my return, in the return of my children. I pull in the garage, and he runs to the car door to greet me, jumping up and down so that I can see him through the window. Bursting with joy and excitement.

I wonder why he continues the ritual because it was just recently I even noticed his driveway dance. Most of the time I am way more focused on what needs to get done than on receiving his love. I just want to open my car door, get the children unbuckled, make sure they have remembered their backpacks and socks and shoes they have shed in the car. I forget he is there as the list of to-dos start to run through my mind. “When will we get homework done and who needs to be dropped off where and what will I make for dinner, and whose library books are due and who needs to practice math facts and who needs to do what chores?”

My thoughts run away from Spade and all his dancing and delighting in me. “I don’t have time to pet you right now,” I think, “and there is too much in my hands anyway, too much for me to carry to the house.” He walks right in front of me, trips me as I walk toward the back door. I nudge him away with my foot, ask him to move out of the way. “Why do you always have to stand in my path,” I think to myself. But he seems unphased by my nudging away, and continues to walk just in front of my feet.

Santa Claus brought Spade on his sleigh three years ago on a cold Christmas morning. A seven month old because Santa knew that would be easier for Mom and Dad. No trips to the restroom at three a.m. was the thought, already crate trained according to the trainer Santa got him from. But Santa did not know that crate trained did not mean house trained, so in reality Santa dropped an untrained teenage dog down the chimney, said, “Ho ho ho” and drove out of sight.

To introduce his awkward self, he leapt in the middle of our coffee table, all four legs flying in different directions, crosses, nativities, and books flying from the table. Then he introduced himself to my mother the same way when we walked next door to open our gifts. And a few weeks later, I set the kitchen table for dinner complete with drinks and silverware just in time for Spade to run across the room, leap in the middle of the table, and run laps around it, sending drinks, placemats, and silverware soaring.

Santa was also unaware that English Cockers need tons of affection and simply cannot stand to be alone. Separation anxiety, they call it, which manifests itself through hours upon hours of clawing at doors if left outside for more than one minute. Santa must have forgotten that I had a six year old, a three year old, and a nine month old child, and who has love leftover for a dog when you are a mom of three?

We had asked Santa for an outside dog, something I could love when I wanted but one that would be content alone. Instead, we received a needy want-to-be lap dog that still insists I walk him to his bathroom spot in the morning. He will not leave the back door if I do not, and will spend the next few hours clawing the door, until someone finally gives in and lets him in.

When I crouch to tie the children’s shoes, he wedges right in between us and begs for attention. I push him back, but he wedges right back in, over and over, until I have to pin him to the ground just to get the children’s shoes tied. When I paint, he lays on my feet, and when I write he lays under my desk. When I get in the car, he sneaks in the door and jumps to the way-back seat and refuses to come out so that I have to climb over the seats and physically lift him out of the car. When I attempt to let him out, he rolls over and lays on his back so that I have to drag him out the door by his collar. And when I let him out one door, he figures out a way to get in another. And all these behaviors are simply because he cannot stand to be separated from me.

But when my six-year-old comes home, he finally leaves my side to be with her. She loves that dog with the same kind of never-ending, unconditional love that Spade showers on us. Everywhere she goes, she make two quick clicks out of the side of her mouth and calls his name to invite him to come. She delights in his presence, notices his every move, lays with him, snuggles with him, plays dress up with him, invites him to all her candid dance performances, feeds him, and if ever he scratches on the door, she lets him in, accepts his affection, and delights in it.
Recently, Virginia painted a painting of Spade, and when I asked her what scripture she would like to put on it, she thought about it for a minute and said, “Love is like a dog to me.” I told her I thought that was a beautiful phrase to add to her painting, so we stamped all the letters, glued a ribbon on the back and she hung it on the back door right above the plexiglass that now covers the door. As we hung it, I noticed the grooves where Spade spent the first year of his life scratching at my back door, before we were forced to cover it. And as I studied the grooves his paws had made, I was reminded of the words that Jesus spoke, “I stand at the door and knock,” and I realized Virginia’s words were not far from God’s truth, that love really is like a dog to me.

The love of Jesus began to scratch at my heart as He whispered, I love you with a never-ending, never- stopping, never-giving-up kind of love. I will never stop knocking at your door, even on the days when you are so focused on doing that you forget about the being. Even the days, when you shove me away in the small shoe tying moments, because the clock is ticking and you forget it is I who made time and it is I who gave it to you. Even on the days when you never notice my presence, when you forget I am with you as you paint and as you write and as you carpool and as you cook and in every little moment as you live. Even when your hands are too full to reach out and touch me because you forget it is I who brings you joy and that receiving my love will empty your arms.

I love you even when you shove me out the door of your thoughts. I tend to turn your life upside down, tend to get right in front of you when your hands are full, even let you stumble a bit, so that you will remember I am present. I get in your way, alter your path, because I have a better one, one that involves laying down all that you carry so that you can kneel down to receive my love.

Like Virginia, would you call my name and invite me to go wherever you go? Would you delight in me like I delight in you? Would you see me for who I am? I am not someone that gets in your way. I AM the way, the only way. And my ways are not your ways. I am not focused on your always running away. I am delighting in your return. Would you open your eyes and see the delight in mine, the deep love I feel for you. “Delight in me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.” My yoke is easy and my burden is light because all I require of you is to receive my love, to keep coming home to me in repentance.

So Spade still waits in the driveway for me to come home, dancing and twirling and celebrating when he sees my van round the corner. He awaits my return like my Father awaiting his prodigal daughter. And I took notice of Spade yesterday, emptied my arms, and bent down to receive the love he had to give. And now I call him over by my chair at night and see in his eyes the love he has always had for me but I was too tired and busy and burdened to receive. But a love is finally growing down deep in my heart for the dog who has loved me with a never-ending, always-pursuing, always-forgiving, never-leaving-even-though-you-leave-me kind of love.

I once asked my husband if he thought Spade was the spawn of Satan sent to torture me in my child rearing years or if he thought Spade was a messenger from God sent to teach me patience. I was never sure which in the early days, but Virginia reminded me with a smile the other day that dog and God have all the same letters, and she was so proud of herself for figuring that out on her own. So dog and God have the same letters and in the end, Spade was a letter to me. A love letter dropped down my chimney from the God who loves me even more than the dog who is obsessed with me. I could cry to think of the times I have ignored them both and the joy I have missed in receiving their love.

So I return home, and I see the God spelled backwards far off in the distance, dancing and twirling, ready to shower me with his love. So I smile now and delight in all his delighting in me, and I remember the words of my Virginia, “Love is like a dog to me.” And as Spade celebrates my return in the driveway, I am reminded that love is always waiting for me to come home…

Luke 15:20 But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…