In Tribute– To Woman’s Best Friend

On a hot fourth of July several years ago, a distraught dog wandered down our street looking for cover. We didn’t recognize the animal, but understood  how the booms, blasts and sizzles had frightened him enough to break his lease, hop the fence, and find us. Not thinking, my husband let the animal into the garage.

My curious, young daughter discovered him and the next thing we knew she was screaming, arm bleeding, while the dog cowered in the corner.  A trip to urgent care left her with stitches, a tetanus shot, and a permanent fear of dogs.

Skip ahead ten years. My art-loving daughter needed a tutor and found a local artist who gave lessons in her studio. Our first day we were introduced to a spice-colored Australian cattle dog named Nutmeg sitting primly beside her master, exuberant tail wagging, her happiness to see us wiggling out of every muscle.

At my daughter’s hesitance, I mentioned  her fear of dogs to the teacher. We learned Nutmeg was the official queen of the studio, greeting visitors, alerting us to the passing of the postman, and keeping watch on the neighborhood dogs out walking their masters. I held my breath.

The dog, though, studied my daughter with those warm, brown eyes of hers, keeping her distance, but maintaining her presence. When my daughter needed to work on animal eyes, Nutmeg offered hers for inspection. When fur became the issue, Nutmeg patiently stood by while the teacher and my daughter examined hers. 

Nutmeg became the on site model for all things canine—an ears, nose, and throat specialist. When not needed, the dog slept quietly at my daughter’s feet, occasionally offering a chew toy for a quick toss across the room. With each interaction, my daughter’s fear slipped into the past. 

This week Nutmeg died. She’d developed an intestinal condition over the summer which led to the diagnosis of cancer.  Her owner, my daughter’s teacher, could barely contain her grief while she and my daughter drew German Shepherds at their weekly lesson.  Romans 12:15 says: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” Had I known of the dog’s death, I would have insisted on a different subject for this week’s lesson.

Nutmeg will be missed, perhaps by my daughter most of all. The dog’s gentle nature and unreserved love worked to restore the trust my daughter lost in an unfortunate childhood incident.  No human could have done it better.

 

When the Creative Well Runs Dry

Edmund Burke, eighteenth century philosopher often credited with the beginnings of modern conservatism, said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. “

Shaken by recent world developments, I found my reservoirs of creative energy empty when this week’s blog loomed.  The reports of violence against children, the threat of a militant group determined to destroy Middle Eastern democracy, and the ongoing needling of Israel by its neighbors all hovered like a cloud of hurricane proportions. What could I possibly write to make a difference in the face of such evil?

Then someone asked, “Why doesn’t God speak anymore?”

The question jumpstarted my thinking. I knew the answer.

God did speak. Eloquently. He sent his only son Jesus to the earth to live among men and teach them about God’s kingdom. He watched those same men accuse his Son of blasphemy and send him to the cross at Calvary. Then our loving heavenly Father stood back while his Son bled to death. An earthquake shook the ground at his passing. The holy veil in the Jewish temple was torn in two.  Three days later Christ rose from the tomb. After forty days spending time with those who believed in Him, Jesus ascended into heaven with more than five hundred witnesses marveling at His transformation.

God had spoken. What more was there to say?

The choice is now ours to make—for the person who has spent their life warming a church pew to the man for whom the name Jesus is nothing more than a swear word. We can examine the claims Jesus made while he lived among us. We can explore his horrific death. We can look at how he changed history.   

Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” Evil may torment us, destroy parts of our world. It may encroach upon our freedom—even our lives. But evil cannot separate us from the love of God if we place our trust and eternal future in Jesus’ care. He promises to walk with us through our challenges.

John 14:27 reads, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Heaven awaits. God is in control.

Evil—you will not triumph.

Book Pick–When the Morning Glory Blooms by Cynthia Ruchti

Few books have moved me like When the Morning Glory Blooms by author Cynthia Ruchti. The fictional tale involves three women from three different generations who have all been touched by society’s attitudes toward unwanted pregnancy.  Ruchti cleverly explores the moral standards from each of the time periods and how those traditions affected the women caught in the spotlight of conflict.

Becky’s  twenty-first century world is rocked by the pregnancy of her teenage daughter and the new grandmother struggles to raise a grandson while the daughter completes her high school education.  In the midst of an unstable economy she leaves her career, dependent upon her husband’s income to see them through. All of her choices bring consequences she doesn’t foresee and Becky wonders where God is in the midst of the turmoil.

Sixty years earlier Ivy struggles to provide for her unborn child while her fiancé Drew fights in Korea, unaware he is the child’s father. To keep her sanity she helps chronicle the memoirs of Anna, one of the residents in a senior care facility where she works. Anna’s remarkable journey ignites hope in Ivy, and the history she records will weave its way through the lives of each of the three women—Becky, Ivy, and Anna—despite the time period in which they live.

This story is not one you will read in a day. The skill with which Ruchti delivers the narrative will keep you spellbound.  The richness of the characters, the color of the writing, and the truths the book examines are ageless, raising questions which affect every generation.  Available from Amazon.com and wherever good books are sold.

Proverbs 31 Woman–Making the Grade

This week I canned green beans.  

For the younger set who may be reading this, I filled glass jars with snapped beans, placed a tin lid on the top, added water, and processed the containers in a pressure canner. When they were finished, I set them out to cool and listened for their ping as each jar sealed.  

A Facebook friend posted that she and her teenager canned pickled beets this week. The daughter said the little noise each lid makes as it seals is the most satisfying sound she knows. I agree. There’s something about being part of the process of providing for your family which nurtures the soul.

 When I first married, the example of the Proverbs 31 woman hung over my head like a sword. The lady rose early, cared for her servants, provided clothing for her children, made sure everyone was fed, bought property, sold goods, and spent her nights at the spinning wheel. Reading about her sacrifices was exhausting.

 But as time passed I realized there’s something of the biblical woman in almost every mother I encounter. Imprinted upon our hearts is the gift of caring for others and few individuals handle those responsibilities as well as mothers do. The nice thing is we all accomplish the task differently. The woman who drives to the store twice a week to keep her teenagers fed knows the time and energy involved. The woman who watches sales to outfit her kids with quality clothing understands the meaning of commitment. For me, filling jars with various food items is something I’ve always done—not doing it would be like forgetting to breathe.

 Whether you clip coupons, car pool, job share, or make jam, take comfort knowing you are fulfilling the role God called you to. Each task may look different on the outside, but it achieves its goal on the inside, right near the heart.

 Proverbs 31:10-31 finishes with these words: “Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”

To Bloom Where Planted

Earlier this spring my husband brought home two discarded whiskey barrel planters from a work site. Delighted by their size and matching exteriors, I filled them with compost, planted flowers, waited for blooms. The containers didn’t disappoint.

About a week ago, though, I noticed an odd green leaf poking out the side of the barrel. An unwelcome visitor. Like a duck in a bevy of swans, the vine dared to creep out among the flowers.

I stooped to pluck the offensive intruder only to discover it had bloomed. How could I destroy something that so obviously wanted to thrive? And what was it? A cucumber? A squash? A watermelon? Curiosity piqued, I left it to grow.

Thriving where one is not comfortable is a common theme in the Bible. Daniel, a young Jew, was captured and transferred to Persia. While there, he continued to worship his God and rose to a position of power under King Darius. Tricked into signing a decree that no one could worship any other gods for thirty days, Darius regrets sending Daniel to the lions’ den. He says in Daniel 6:16 “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you.” Faith prevailed and Darius declared Daniel’s God the only one to be worshiped.

Similarly, Esther lived among the Persians, a young Jewish woman in the care of her uncle Mordecai. When the king banished his wife and sought a new one among all the eligible maidens in the kingdom, Esther was chosen. Afraid, Esther is asked to approach the king on behalf of her people. Mordecai advises her in Esther 4:14 , “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

My little leaf has since trailed itself into a three-foot vine. Blossoms appear every couple of inches, but nothing tangible has developed. Perhaps nothing will. I’m content to wait. The seedling is blooming where it was planted.

So should we all.