For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Word for the Morning

From the book of Jude--
20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Italics mine)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fred Tales

I have been so blessed by the ongoing concern about Fred. Thank you so much.

I have waited to update until we made a vet checkup. Fred is still gaining weight, still eating a cup and a half, or more!, of food a day. He runs and plays and eats things.

He has a strange fascination with flying bugs. One day he was in our backyard, and he caught a locust in mid-air. Usually, he will eat them, but for some reason, he didn't eat this one. He just carried it around in his mouth as he wandered around the yard. Then for no seeming reason, he opened his mouth, and when he did, the locust flew away safely.

The other really funny thing about Fred is his tail. His tail is VERY long, like so long that when he wags it, it taps him on the sides. Sometimes, this seems to annoy him because he will reach around and bit his tail. This is pretty funny, but once in awhile, he gets a good grip on it and jerks it. This pulls his back end out of balance, and he does a tumbling flip. He will do this for 10-15 minutes at a time, and when he gets tired of tumbling, he lies on the floor and will flip himself over by pulling his own tail.

He has added a great deal of humor to our family.

OH! The vet. He is very happy with how Fred is doing, and he feels that we've made it through the distemper, and Fred is fine. Fred got his next round of boosters this week, and in three weeks, he goes back for another check up and the rest of his shots.

Thank you all for your prayers for Fred and us. The Lord has honored them, and we bless you for your kindness toward our family!

Study on Luke 8

The following is from an email I sent concerning a group I would like to lead. I was asked for a detailed plan, and this was where the Lord took me. I hope it blesses you, and may your crop be bountiful and your barns overflowing!

Luke 8:1-15 tells the parable of the seeds. I have always heard that passage discussed from the perspective that the seed was the message of salvation. However, the Lord used it to show me some powerful truth about His Word as a whole. This is what He revealed to me:

In verse 11, the seed is the Word of God. There is nothing that limits the definition of the "seed" to the message of salvation or Biblical text. Obviously the Bible had not been written then. In the Greek "word" means "the word of God, meaning His omnipotent voice, decree; especially of God, the word of God, divine revelation, and declaration, oracle." This is important because people need to hear God's word--His declaration, divine revelation, and omnipotent voice--regarding their prayer requests. I can sit and tell someone all day that God listens to them, but how do they know it is true? The enemy can easily tell them, "Jerri's only saying that to make you feel better," but if I take out my Bible and read a verse that specifically addresses their prayer or if someone has a prophetic word or word of knowledge that addresses their prayer, that is a foundation to stand on. My desire in this group is to utilize the word of God in whatever form He wants to release it. I believe it is vital to look to the Bible for scripture to stand on and pray over our circumstances, but I also want to release words of wisdom and the gift of prophecy because I believe the Lord speaks through those gifts, and the word of God is powerful. It is the foundation on which our faith can rest while we wait to see the manifestation of our answered prayers.

In verse 12, Jesus talks about the seeds that fall along the path. My original comments in my journal were "People curse our seeds. We try to believe for great things, but either past experience or other people tell us how crazy it is, and we begin to believe them." That is it in a nutshell, isn't it? We want to believe the great things God says, but we look at the past and the evidence seems to contradict it or people tell us we are nuts, and we end up exchanging the great things for the great lie. Then I did a word study, and I found it to be a bit chilling, honestly. The NIV says it this way:

5"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.
12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

The seed, the word of God, was trampled on and eaten by birds. The word study for this, as I said, is a bit chilling, in my opinion.

The devil is the word "diablos", which is the name for "satan, so called because originally he accused or slandered God in Eden. The devil still slanders God by false and blasphemous suggestions. He is also the accuser of the brethren." From this alone, we can see that the seed falls, and the accuser comes along and makes accusations and blasphemes the Lord causing us to lose faith. What lies does the enemy tell? That God doesn't care? That we aren't good enough? That He would never use us? That God likes to see us suffer? That God tolerates us because He has to? And the most horrifying part is we believe it. We have to know God. We have to know His character. It is not enough to recite John 3:16. We have to know Him. We have to know His heartbeat. We have to know His face. We have to know the very essence of Him, or we will believe the lies about Him. The enemy is very good about twisting evidence and pointing fingers at God. We have to know the Lord so well that we don't buy the lies because every time we buy a lie, we lose our seed. Yes, the Lord can restore it, but the road can be long and painful. How much easier it would be to identify the birds and the things that trample our seed and learn to battle those things and not lose the seed at all.

And the words "takes away", "airo", means to hold in suspense or doubt. The enemy doesn't have to make us leave the Lord, just doubt that He will do what He says He will. In Mark, we are told that Jesus could not do many miracles because of people's lack of faith. All satan has to do is make us doubt or suspend our belief.

The part that really shocked me was that these people believed in their hearts. The word for heart is "kardia". It means "As the seat of the desires, feelings, affections, passions, i.e., the heart or mind. As the seat of the intellect, meaning the mind, understanding." The word "believe" is "pisteuo", which means "to believe in, have faith in, trust. Intransitively, to believe, be persuaded in the truthfulness of." I don't know what "intransitively" means, but the picture is pretty clear. These are people who really believed in the truthfulness of the seed, not those who thought it was a nice theology or a moral way to live. These were people who bought into and truly believed in its truth, but because the enemy was able to accuse and blaspheme God, and these people could not tell the lies about God from the truth of God, they left what they truly believe in and bought the lie. How many people believe God wants them healed but get trampled and lose the harvest? How many believe their prodigals are coming home, but the birds eat the seeds? We have to learn to protect our seeds. And the word "saved" means "delivered or saved". Can we take a step outside typical theological discussion and suggest people want to be delivered from painful pasts, grouchy bosses, or overbearing parents? Do we have to limit the word "saved" to salvation, or can it mean being saved from whatever oppresses a person? I believe God has the seed to deliver us from all oppression, not just eternal death, but we don't know how to raise a crop for harvest. The path can be an easy place to lose seed if we don't know how to protect it.

In verse 13, Jesus said some seed falls on rocks. Rocks look different depending on whose life we are looking at, but we all have to deal with rocks. Rocks are anything that keeps our seeds from taking root, any hard place that repels the seed.

Verse 13--"Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."

The word "receive" means "to accept deliberately and readily, take, or receive." So these people receive the word, but something causes them to not depend on the word or hold on to the word. Those are the rocks. If we are going to deal with rocks, we have to be open and honest, and we have to do it in a place of safety and accountability. The rocks are there because we let it get hard. Maybe a spouse can't see God's word about their marriage because the wounds keep them from wanting to do their part to fix it. Maybe someone isn't writing that screenplay because a professor in high school blasted them repeatedly on their papers and productions. Rocks can take all forms, but they have one thing in common--they repel seeds. Rocks have to be removed from the field if we hope to have a great harvest.

Verse 14 seems to be the most simplistic. It all seems to be wrapped up in the definition of "life". "Bios" means "life, the business and affairs of life, goods for living. Bios refers to the duration, means, and manners of life." Wow. The business of life keeps people from maturing, which means "to bring to perfect or ripeness". We get so caught up in trying to live that we never get ripe. We are so busy trying to accomplish something that we don't accomplish our calling, our purpose in the Lord. Have we so lost our identity that we don't understand the value of who we are? Have we missed the fact that only ripe fruit produce the seeds that then produce more plants and thus, more fruit? In the effort of daily life, have we forgotten the power of living? How do we allow the Lord to restore our values and renew our minds so we are matured and become seed for further harvest?

In verse 15, we are told about the seed on the good soil. The good soil has several ingredients:
-a noble and good heart
-hearing the word
-retaining the word

These ingredients lead to producing a crop.

This is what I found during my word study on verse 15. The word "retain" is beautiful. It means "to maintain possession of, hold on to firmly, keep with care and interest, to persevere, guard, keep secure." Well, that is a sermon in and of itself. "Persevering" means to "remain under. A bearing up under, patience, endurance, as to things or circumstances. (It) is associated with hope and refers to that quality of character that does not allow one to surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial. Particularly, with the genitive of thing, as enduring evil afflictions. Specifically, patience as a quality of mind, the bearing of evils and suffering with tranquil mind."
The Lord has impressed on me that He wants His people to identify the birds and trampling feet in their lives. He wants to remove the rocks lying on the ground, and He wants to rip out the weeds that choke us. If we seek Him, He will lead us to remove these hindrances and show us how to develop good soil that brings about good crops. If you look at the seeds that do not germinate, in each case, the word is not retained, and there is no perseverance. The trampling feet, the birds, the rocks, and the weeds, make it impossible to retain the seed and persevere. The Lord wants to deal with those things in each of our lives because He has a harvest for us.

Bore-ing Things

I have had my week of being still, sort of. This week has been back to the busier side, but we've adapted well. With Fred's help, I've been having morning quiet time. He is ready to go out about 6:00 or 6:30 each morning, and since I'm the only one home at that time of the morning who will get up with him, I'm up between 6:00 and 6:30, too. We sit on the deck in our backyard, and he does his Fred thing, and I pray and read my Bible. It's a good way to start the day.

While we are outside, we also water the various flowerbeds and our vegetable garden. This morning our vegetable garden need some special attention. Last week we lost one of our pumpkin vines. I've never raised pumpkins before, so I had no idea what this looked like, maybe just a one time thing. It was obvious this morning that whatever killed the other vine was not a one time thing because a second vine had the same symptoms. So I did some internet research and found out we have pumpkin borers. There are two ways to get them out. We can cut a slit open and find the little bug, or we can cut a slit and inject an organic mixture. Then we cover the hole with dirt and pray it kills the bug before the bug kills the plant.

When I talked to Nancy at The Natural Gardener in Austin, she said there is no way to prevent the little critters, but it takes a daily check of the vines to see if there is any sign of holes or boring. Talk about perseverance! Good thing Fred and I are up early, I guess.

It made me think of the parable of the seeds actually. Luke 8 presents the story this way:

11"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Verse 15 is the key. There are steps to producing a crop. Sadly, some of us want the no-maintenance crops. I've been one of those people. Basically, we want to hear sermons, attend Bible studies, read the right books, and regurgitate well and by osmosis, produce a wondrous crop. It doesn't work that way. According to Jesus, we have to hear the word. Then we have to retain it. The Greek word used here actually means "to fight for". The enemy will steal our seed if we don't fight over it, just like those little squash borers will kill my vines if I don't kill them first. Then we have to perservere. This is a fantastic word, too fantastic to explain here, but check out my post on what the whole passage means. I have to be diligent in making sure that the seed is growing and nothing is eating away at it. Just like I need to check that squash vine everyday, I need to go before the Lord everyday and ask if there is anything boring into my spirit that could kill my seed.

I'll be honest and tell you I don't enjoy the high maintenance garden experience, BUT I love the fruit. I don't always like having to deal with what bores into my heart and spirit, but I really do like becoming like Jesus. Don't you?

Praying your seed produces great things!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Finally Being Still

Isn't it strange how quickly a few days can zip by? I've actually had a few emails from folks asking if I am okay because they have not heard from me since last week's sadness. Yes, I am fine. I'm being still. After a rather wild few weeks, it seems like a wise thing to do, and it has been good, too. The wonderful thing about being still is God showing up. He says, "Be still and know I am God." Notice we don't get the invitation to be crazy busy and know He is God. Nope. Be still and know He is God. So I've been being still, and He's been revealing Himself. It's been quite delightful.

I hate to leave y'all hanging at that, but I really don't know what to say in explanation. I find when I get still in my recliner and close my eyes and begin to focus on Him, answers to questions come to mind. Sometimes a wonderful revelation will be made known to me. Sometimes I just feel His presence so intensely, and it is soothing and renewing. That is what has been going on lately.

I contacted Studio G, a women's magazine published by our church, and I will be submitting articles to them. This has once again sent me trudging around a mountain that I was hoping had been tossed into the ocean (if you get the metaphor). When I started writing for Handmaidens (, I got really nervous. I know Iona. I've known her for years. In fact, she is the one who felt led to set up my website, We know each other's hearts, and I am comfortable with her, but when I went on staff for her, my thought was, "What will I write?!" I felt completely under-equipped and overwhelmed. What had I done?! But I went back to the Lord and asked a simple question, "What do you have to say to these precious women? How do you want to say it?" Suddenly, the block was gone, and I was rolling a new format around in my head. Before I knew it, my first article was done.

With Studio G, I have had to go through the same process, except far more brief. I was sent a list of article suggestions, and I read them a few times and thought, "This is nuts. I don't write any of that stuff. What am I doing?" Honestly, I was on my way to working myself into a pretty good self-absorbed "I can't do this" when the Holy Spirit brought to mind Handmaidens. Suddenly, the tizzy fiizzled out, and I asked a simple question, "Lord, what do you want to say?" Right now, I have a few thoughts, but nothing absolute.

The only real absolutes I have are that I am only the one typing the message, not the One dictating the message, and if God has something to say, He'll tell me. In the meantime, I'll just keep being still and knowing He is God--the One who answers my problems, the One who soothes me with His presence, and the One who dictates articles He wants people to hear.

May your stillness be full of the knowledge of Him.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Abnormally Blessed

As I write the latest update on life here, Fred lies happily exhausted at my feet. He has spent much of his morning wrestling with toys and receiving treats for learning to sit. His breathing is deep and regular, and his personality is delightful. All in all, I think life is good for Fred, and Fred is full of life.

This weekend has found us full of joy and laughter. It is a wonderful change from the tense last two weeks. This weekend we were blessed to enjoy my father-in-law, who is on a 10-day trip around the south that allows him to see all three of his sons and their families. As it turned out, we were the first on the list, and we have had a great time.

We took him to some of our favorite restaurants, and Friday night we went to see Cars. Confession: I would have bailed out of it if I could have, but it was a family thing, and we all know how “family things” work. You go and enjoy the people even if you can’t enjoy the “thing”. Well, as it turned out, I enjoyed both. The movie was a hoot (southern speak for “very funny”), and the company was fantastic.

Saturday found us sort of wandering in and out of the house and getting ready for a big family get together. My mom, stepdad, and brother all came for dinner, and we had a great time. It was a family get together of the non-stressful sort—yes, those exist. We sat and talked and ate, and it was good.

Sunday was an easy going day. I bought a monster badminton set on my “out and about” Saturday, and my husband put it up yesterday morning. Talk about too much fun! We laughed so hard that we couldn’t play. It was a hit, and we all look forward to playing again. The rest of the day was spent being laid back. Rob and his dad watched NASCAR on TV, and last night the adults watched the NBA Finals game. GO MAVS!!!! The kids just enjoyed their day, and I treated them to some pool time at our neighbor’s.

All in all, the weekend was wonderful. Now it is Monday. Pop is at the airport by now, and Rob is on his way to work. My son has returned to his room, which had been Pop’s for the weekend. Life has pretty much returned to normal, and the children, who loved having Pop here, have said it is nice to have life the way it usually is. In fact, they are wondering when we are going to have our usual breakfast, so I shall go do my usual part of getting our day going.

Hoping you enjoy the abnormal blessings of life and find comfort in the consistent ones.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Update on Fred, our Other Puppy, and Sad, but Freeing Information

Several of you have asked me to keep you updated on Fred (our third puppy). I took him to the vet this morning because he is coughing. The pneumonia is a symptom of distemper. We didn't know that. We thought the coughing was just the kennel cough that could last 7-21 days. Anyway, I took Fred in because distemper is highly contagious and often deadly. In fact, we read that 50 years ago this stuff would wipe out all the dogs in a city. We've learned a lot about distemper.

Some things we learned that have actually made us feel a bit better:
---Ginger was sick when we got her. She never was very social. She wouldn't play with the other dogs or us. She wouldn't wrestle with toys. Robert left an action figure right beside her, and she never touched it. When we would try to pet her, she would walk away. All of those are symptoms of distemper that has affected the brain. Distemper can affect any system in the body, and one of the reasons we missed it with Tristan and Ginger is because it affected them differently. Ginger was affected neurologically. She was still eating and drinking yesterday, and other than the cough and being anti-social, seemed well. We mentioned it to the vet two days after we got her, and he felt it was just being sick from the kennel cough. In short, there was no way to know, and there was no treatment. We did the most humane thing possible. We gave her a loving home and then we let her go as gently as possible. According to the vet, that is all we could do. Amazing to think she was already too sick for us to help the day we brought her home, but those things happen.

---As for Tristan, again, we had no way of knowing. It attacked his kidneys and digestive tract, and by the time you notice the problem, it is beyond treating. Some of you heard me talk about the first day we brought him home when we thought we would have to take him back because he was eating the couch, terrorizing the kids, and acting uncontrollably. The vet thinks that might have been neurological, but it might have been an excited puppy. Hard to say. In any case, the dogs already had distemper when we got them. We just had no way of knowing, and it wouldn't have mattered anyway. They were already beyond treament. In some ways that is sad. In other ways, it is freeing.

---I went today to get a refund for Tristan and Ginger, and despite the 10 day limit, they were very kinds and gave us the refund. On the way in, we read a big sign that said the puppy room was closed and would not reopen for a few days. The man who helped us pick the puppies asked what had happened, and I told him. He shook his head. I asked why the puppy room was closed, and he said, "Distemper. We lost five puppies in the kennel because of it, so we have to sanitize everything." Yep, that sort of says it all.

As for FRED, he does have distemper, BUT he is eating. He has no fever. He drinks water. He is playful. He chews on anything you will let him have. He is loving and affectionate. He has GAINED weight. (Tristan went from 15 to 10 pounds, and Ginger went from 7 to 5 pounds. This is like you losing a third of your weight in 10 days. Imagine 50 pounds in 10 days. Yeah, they were sick.) He has a cough, but otherwise, he shows no sign of illness, so the vet is very optimistic that he will live through this. On the other side of this are questions. In short, whether there will be long term affects or not is "a coin toss", his words. He said the two main long term complications are neurological with either completely passive social behavior or aggressive behavior. How aggressive?, some of us ask. Well, a huge majority of the animals sent to be tested for rabies comes back distemper. I think that says enough. The other possibility is the equivalent of "failure to thrive" in dogs. They never get really sick, but they never get well. They are prone to respiratory things. He said, "They never get sick enough to justify putting them down, but they never really get well either." Again, he has no way of saying if these things will happen or not. They are things he wanted us to be aware of. In summary, he feels really good about Fred. He says he feels we have every reason to be optimistic. We have a humidifier in the sunroom with him to keep his breathing easier and to minimize swelling in his bronchial area, and he likes to eat our shoes.

So that is our update. Fred still needs prayer, and so do we. I cannot tell you what a wild blow this has been to us. It has been stunning emotionally.

Our son, though, true to his magnificent sensibilities adds a different perspective that keeps us smiling. He asked me if I thought God would leave the bones when the puppies died. I assured him that, yes, the bones would be there. He got all excited and asked, "Do you think we can fossilize them and have our friends over for an archeology dig like they do at the DinoDig?" Uh, no, son, I don't think that is good. I love Robert. He makes me smile and laugh when I need it.

God is so good!

I Love Quotes

I love quotes. This is one I found today that I wish I had truly understood during the first 3 decades of my life.

No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work.- Mother Teresa

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Who We Are

My dear friend Iona has her own blog, and I visit everyday. Sometimes she has a new post, and sometimes I read one of the "old" ones. I never seem to get bored. Today she talked about her blog being the recording of her life and how sometimes it simply records the mundane, but it is not meant to be churchy, just real. She is being honest. That is her goal, and she is very good at it.

The thing is, with Iona she doesn't need to be preachy. Her whole life is a sermon. I've known Iona a long time now, and I've known her to go through different seasons, various heart aches, and some rich blessings. During all of that, she has consistently leaned on God to sustain her. Even when her mind was full of questions, her spirit was full of faith. She doesn't have to be preachy. She just lives the faith she professes. It is far more effective, in my opinion.

I admire Iona. I not only admire her faith. I admire her style of life. I admire her writing. Sometimes I want to be like her. Sometimes I can just smile at how God blesses us with passions that look so different and yet so alike.

I am like Iona in that I write my heart, what is rolling around in my head. Iona tends to give a whole picture book in her blogs, and I tend to give a photograph and then express what it means as it rolls around in my head.

Years ago, a friend of mine told me I reminded him of a mystic. I didn't know exactly what he meant, but he is a Christian, and he said it in a complimentary tone, so I trusted it was a good thing. A few months ago I was in a spiritual disciplines class, and the teacher referred to mystics. He wasn't as complimentary. He was grouping people into categories based on belief in God's activity in today's world. There are those who believe God isn't active at all. There are people who think God is active and responds to prayer, but for the most part, He isn't showy. Then there is the group that believe everything means something that God is in every detail and He is always trying to communicate through all aspects of life. The last group, he said rather contemptuously, are called "mystics". My light bulb of understanding went off, and I smiled to myself. Yep, I'm one of those.

I won't elaborate on it at this time because I am growing tired. It's early, and I slept horribly due to the emotional duress of yesterday and the concern for our puppy we still have. However, I bring all of this up because I've been accused of being preachy, and I've been accused of being "sappy". It isn't my goal to be either, and I don't believe either of those are correct. It's just that I take the Word of God to mean what it says--
All things work to the good of those who love the Lord and are called unto His purpose.
I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to do you good, to give you hope and a future.
The steps of a righteous man are ordered of God.
Romans 1:20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

I could go on, but it truly is my belief that in all things God desires to reveal Himself. He wants us to understand His character, and He uses things we can understand to express complex qualities of Himself. So, if I sound preachy, know that isn't my intent. I am merely taking the situation given to me and seeking the Lord in it so that I might understand Him better. By understanding Him, my faith grows, and by seeing Him, I can emulate Him better. It is easier to be like Him when I know what He is like. My writing is simply a written form of what rolls in my head as I seek Him, and maybe it helps others, too.

Monday, June 5, 2006

If Only

It is during the hard times in life we either hold on to God's character or flounder with doubts. There seems to be no grey area. God is God or God is not. Well, I can tell you that I believe God is God, even when God doesn't make sense, and right now, there are a lot of things that don't make sense to me.

We had to put two of our puppies to sleep today. They had contracted distemper and were in the final stages. We chose the humane option and our vet gave them a sedative so we could love on them until they fell asleep, and then we gave the puppies to the assistant. We will pick up their bodies tomorrow, and we will bury them on the family farm where we buried our 14 year-old poodle last March.

I will tell you honestly, I am heart broken. I am filled with questions, and so are my children.

"Mommy, why would God give us the puppies and then let them die?" I don't know. That is a question I have as well.

"Mommy, surely God won't let Fred (our third puppy) die, too." I didn't think He would let Tristan die, so I don't know.

I'm not questioning God's goodness or His faithfulness. As I told the children, for 10 days Tristan and Ginger had a home where they were loved and cared for. They weren't abused or locked in a metal cage. They ran around, got snuggled, and had a comfortable bed. For ten days, they were not abandoned dogs at a pound. They were part of a family who loved them. Surely that had to mean something.

I have had friends in my life that were there for a season and then left. I've known people for a few hours who have left indelible marks on my life. For a long time I have said that some of the most important people in my life were not "friends" but well placed people who came and went so very quickly and yet impacted me greatly. Too often we dismiss the importance of a chance meeting or a brief "friendship". We erase the power of those blessings with the word "only". "We only dated for a short time." "It was only a stranger on the street that helped me when I was lost." How many heroes are only there for minutes or hours never to be seen again and yet beyond forgetting?

Granted, the puppies weren't heroes, but they were sweet. Some day years down the road, they may only be a faint memory, and for our young son, they may not be that, but today, today they are missing members of our family, and the effect is profound.

And I am one of those who needs to know that somehow all of this has a purpose. The Bible says that the Lord knows His plans for me and His plans are for my good, to give me hope and a future. I believe it was a God thing that we got those puppies in the first place, so I believe they were part of His good purpose for us. How does a good purpose last for only ten days? I don't know.

Maybe we needed to be reminded that this life isn't all about us. We got the puppies for our enjoyment. Maybe God meant for the puppies to be with us for their enjoyment. We were the only ones who wanted them. Think that is a big stretch? Maybe. All I know is there is not a sparrow that falls that my Father doesn't know. I know He watches over the beast of the field and man. I also know He cares enough for a mindless flower that He arrays it in robes that even Solomon could not compete with. Maybe God's good purpose was for us to be reminded that He does put those "Only" people in our lives, but sometimes, we are the "Only" people in other people's lives.

I don't know. I know that as I have spoken to those sick little puppies over the last two days, I have told them that I know they are part of God's good purpose for us, and I believe we are part of His good purpose for them, too. They got a home with a family who loved them for ten days. We got puppies who were grateful to have a home and a family who loved them for as long as they were here and then some.

That sounds good, doesn't it?

You know the paradox of "only"? "The." The only one to stop. The only one to help. The only one who wanted to adopt. It is an honor to be the "only", even when only you feel the responsibility, the satisfaction, the joy, the pain.... And if our whole part in this magnificent roller coaster of love and heart ache was to be the "Only" people who were willing to be a family for those who needed it, then I'm glad God picked us, and even if it breaks our hearts, I hope He picks us again because there is something wondrously blessed about being the "Only".

Saturday, June 3, 2006

The Keepr of my Soul

We went to church tonight. Pastor Brady preached on the need of the sheep for their Shepherd and the faithfulness of their shepherd. It was a good sermon, and Rob asked me when we got home what I had gotten out of it. I shrugged and answered, "Nothing yet." It was the kind of sermon that you let soak awhile and see what it brings up.

The basic premises were simple: The Shepherd never leaves us, and the Shepherd cares for us. Pretty basic stuff. At least it is until we realize the role of a Shepherd and the desperate need of the sheep. The Shepherd isn't just some guy with a stick. He's the guardian, the protector, "the keeper of our soul", as Pastor Brady says it. Imagine that. The "keeper of our soul."

The past few weeks have been weeks of turmoil for me. Some of it I think I've handled okay, and some I've just bottomed out on. Through it, I've been asking the Lord for direction, not just to get out of it, which is our first reaction, but I've also been asking what the cause was so I don't get into it again. I've tried to be completely truthful, even when it was clear that my "truthful" was pretty stinky and wreaked. Usually hurt feelings and the resulting anger stink.

And I have felt pretty embarrassed by my stinky side. It really is my heart to love and serve the Lord with all I am, and then this stinky stuff comes up. It hurts my heart to be that way because I know it isn't what God wants, and I hate the idea of hurting His heart. I wonder how disappointed or embarassed He gets because of the "stinky" sometimes.

But He is the keeper of my soul, even when my actions stink. I find comfort and peace in knowing that as the turmoil rages around me, and I sometimes rage within the turmoil, He is there, holding on, keeping my soul, knowing my heart is for Him even when my actions don't show it. I try to comprehend this. In the midst of the chaos and pain, even when it hurts so much that there is actual physical pain in my chest, He is keeping my soul, protecting it, leading it, holding it to Him. It has to be His keeping that draws my faith back to Him when evidence gives reason to believe things are beyond change or resolution. When all seems crazy, He holds me in His peace and bids me rest in lovely meadows behind peaceful waters.

Even in the midst of the storm and am what I do not want to be. He keeps me and leads me to be who I can be in Him. The Lord is my Shepherd-my protector, my provider, the keeper of my soul; I have everything I need.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Puppy Love

The puppies slept all night last night! We are in the process of house training them, and we have chosen to crate train them, which has been wonderfully easy. The only glitch are the middle of the night potty breaks. My husband and I reverted to the parental duties we had when our daughter was a baby. I take the "early" shift, and he takes the "late" shift. This means that I have been getting up with the pups to take them outside somewhere around 2 am. Rob does the 4:00-5:00 am trip. Last night they slept from midnight until 6:30 with no whimpering and no accidents in their crates. Unless you've been a parent, you have no clue how good that graduation step feels.

Unfortunately, the puppies are still fighting their kennel cough. It is a highly contagious cold for dogs. While the vet has confirmed that they should overcome it on their own in time, the duration is hard on them and us. They are easily tired, not very playful, not what we had expected from puppies, but then, we've only had two puppies during our married life. Both of them came from my parents, so they were healthy, well cared for, and given lots of attention. Our three puppies now were not so lucky.

Tristan, our hound puppy, is about 11 weeks old and had been at the pound for about a week. The vet feels like he was well cared for before that, though, and he is far more interactive and loving. In fact, you don't really have a choice but to love Tristan. He sort of ambles up, lays his beautiful hand face on you, and loves you first. He has good self-esteem. Ginger is a sweet girl, but she is the least assertive. In fact, when we try to love on her, she sort of shuts down and becomes completely inanimate, like a pliable statue. She is also the sickest. Fred is her brother, and he is pretty happy and loves to have his belly rubbed. He will walk up to you with his tail wagging and wait for us to invite him for snuggle time. Ginger never even walks up to us. Honestly, Ginger makes me very sad.

According to our vet, Ginger and Fred are about 9 weeks old. When he figured out the "drop date" for the pound, he said the puppies were dropped off right after they were weaned or maybe even a little early. He said it is obvious they are not well-cared for. Their health is one indicator, and their lack of social skill is another. However, he feels that they will come around as they get healthy and have time with our family. We hope so. In the meantime, we have committed to loving them, not because they are what we had in mind but because that is the choice we have made. They need love and folks to snuggle them while they heal. That's us.

Those are our puppies, but you know? I could point to a whole slew of humans who are very much like those wonderful puppies. They've been abandoned, dumped, or simply not loved on, and they need some good folks to commit to loving them and encouraging them on the road to being healed and becoming all they are meant to be. God chooses to make that commitment. I hope they see God in us.

Just something for us all to ponder.