Why Did I Think We Needed a Puppy?

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I have always been anti-dog.  My house is already full of loud, messy, needy creatures.  What do I need a dog for?

“It would be so good for the children,” my husband would argue the pro-dog position.

“They are so cute!  And it would be fun,” the children would chime in.

“Don’t worry, we will get one…someday…when we have a lot of land and the dog can be an outside dog,” I would always answer.

I had no intention of sharing my home with a stinky, hairy animal that may or may not destroy the furniture and pee on the rug.  God, however, had different ideas.

I drive to a farm once a week to purchase raw milk and pastured eggs.  A few years ago, beagles began showing up on the farm until there were three beagles in three separate pens.  Soon there was a litter of the cutest little balls of fur in one of the pens.  The children would “ooohhhh” and “ahhhhh” over them and try to pet them through the chain link fence.  The puppies would trample over each other to get to the children, wild with excitement.

The children would come home with tales of the adorable puppies.

“Just call and find out how much they are,” Chris urged me.

“We don’t need a puppy right now.  I don’t WANT a puppy right now,” was my reply.

“Just call,” he said.

After I called and found out that each puppy would require a sum of $450, the talk of getting a puppy ceased.  The puppies grew up and were all adopted.  Then six months later another batch of puppies would appear wobbling out of their little dog house and into the penned-in yard.  I let the children have fun talking to them and petting them, but my heart was unmoved.  I never thought that beagles were that cute anyway.

This September, there was a new litter of seven puppies.  The farmer invited me and my children to peek into the dog house.  We saw the tiniest black bundles snuggled up to their mother. They seemed different somehow.  They were black and white.  Had any of the other beagle puppies been black and white?  I couldn’t exactly remember.

Soon they grew enough to venture into their yard.  I felt strangely drawn to these tiny creatures.  They were so adorable.  Areli took a pictures of them with her phone.  Cute, right?

The farmer let the children hold one, and they were in love.

“So how many of them are you going to take home?” the farmer asked.

I just laughed!

The next week there was a new sign at the farm that read, “Border Collie Beagle Puppies $100.”  I started thinking, “Hey, we could afford $100!  If all the children would pitch in, they could cover all the costs and help to take care of a puppy.”

Yet my thoughts scared me!  What was I thinking, even considering this?  We didn’t need a puppy!

I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.  The children would be overjoyed to have a puppy, and I would love to fulfill their heart’s desire.  I told Chris my thoughts and he said, “If YOU want to get a puppy that is all the confirmation I need!  Call them and ask if we can pick one out.  You better hurry before they sell them all!”

I called the owner, who was the wife of the farmer’s brother.  She told me the funny story about these $100 puppies.  She and the farmer’s brother were planning their wedding and decided not to breed the beagles this season since the puppies would arrive right around the wedding date, early September.  Well nature, the dogs, or God himself had different plans.  When the female beagle was in heat, the Border Collie who lives on the farm chewed into her cage.

I laughed about the unplanned pregnancy that had produced such adorable pups.  I set up a time to bring the entire family to the farm that Friday evening.

On Friday morning I was feeling very nervous about this rather impulsive, impractical, and life changing decision…to go PICK OUT A PUPPY!  What was I thinking?!  I asked God to give me a scripture to confirm that this was a good decision for our family.

He gave me Psalm 34.  I read the beloved verses such as:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him and be radiant so your faces shall never be ashamed.

The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Peace began to flood my soul and I thought, “A puppy must be a good thing that God wants to give to us.”

Later that day, all 11 of us crowded into a room in the barn.  The floor was wet since all the puppies had just been given a bath. They were so little and cute and active!  They would run around wagging their tails rapidly; licking, chewing, and jumping the entire time.  I had prayed that the Holy Spirit would highlight the perfect puppy for our family, yet I couldn’t even tell them apart!  I finally settled on one puppy that seemed to like Ashlyn. I always had thought that a dog would be good for Ashlyn since she loves animals. Cooper and Cadin picked another puppy with distinctive brown eye brows who was identified by the owner as the most active puppy of the bunch.  Areli and Cole had bonded with a shy little girl who had been so scared by the bath, she spent the first half of the visit in her owner’s arms.  Once she was let down to the floor, Cole scooped her up and she fell asleep. photo-10Areli took a turn cradling the sleeping pup.  Cole and Areli were in love.

After much discussion and debate, we finally settled on the sleeping pup.  A sweet and docile dog would be a good complement to our overactive boys.  She was the only puppy that the owner had already named because she was the favorite.  Her name was “Happy” due to her constantly wagging tail.

It was a good thing we went to the farm that night because the very next day, all six of Happy’s brothers and sisters were adopted!  We decided to keep her name “Happy” because we couldn’t all agree on a name.

Chris wanted to name her “Dog.”

Cadin wanted, “Gigi.”

Cooper thought something like, “Skullcrusher” would be more appropriate.

Areli and I preferred a sweet name like, “Ellie”.

Cole suggested, “Gonorrhea,” for the entertaining shock value.

Mercifully, the named had already been chosen!!  Now we just had to wait until Oct 8th when we could take Happy home.

After the exciting trip to the farm, I sat down to read through Psalm 34 again.  When I got to verse 8, it was like a revelation from God.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good;

HAPPY are those who take refuge in him.”

God knew that Happy was the puppy for us.  I felt that He knew it all along, and that He had planned all of us to bless us.

When October 8th came, we were all very excited!  The children held a rather apprehensive Happy on the van ride home.  She had already gotten bigger!photo-4  She seemed uncertain about her new home and finally found her happy place, snuggled in Ashlyn’s lap.

Neither Chris nor I had ever had a dog.  We knew very little about being dog owners.  I had gotten all kinds of books and DVDs from the library which the children and I had been studying.  I was preparing myself for a lot of work initially.  Areli said she would take Happy out during the night.  Cole said he would train her.  The other boys said they would take her out for walks and play time.

I had a vision in my head inspired by the many books and movies I had seen about dogs.  The children and the dog would be best friends, almost inseparable.  She would look up at them with adoration in her eyes, longing to please.  She would join them on their adventures in the woods.  They would become responsible pet owners and grow in maturity.

Three days after we brought her home we noticed something in her fur.  Fleas!!!  Just two of them, but I had never had fleas in my house before.  The internet said that one flea could turn into hundreds, maybe thousands in just a week.  My skin started to crawl and I was officially freaking out.  How do I naturally deal with fleas?  We gave her bathes in flea shampoo and vacuumed every day.

After a few weeks, we were all worn out and it seemed as though Happy hadn’t learned anything.  She hadn’t learned to sleep through the night and Areli was walking through her day like a zombie.  Cole hadn’t trained her to do anything.  Someone was assigned to watch her at every moment and take her outside every half an hour.  Still, dog pee and poop on the carpet was the new normal.

I thanked God that our carpet was so old that it really should be replaced anyway, but the smell and the extra cleaning was frustrating.  Just to make it interesting, Happy barfed and had diarrhea a few times as well.

I began to realize that I really knew nothing about dogs.  Is this all normal?  Is she ok, or is she sick?  What would I do if she got sick?  I know all about taking care of children and babies.  I know exactly how to treat all of the childhood maladies, but a dog I had no clue about.  How could we afford vet bills?  What vaccines does she need and which ones are unnecessary?  Should we get her spayed and how?

I reminded myself that Happy was a BLESSING from God and He would work all this out.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I would remind myself over and over again.  My happiness was not in the circumstances but in His unchanging love and goodness.

More weeks passed and Happy continued to chew on EVERYTHING!  We had to keep the floor cleaner than if we had a baby crawling around.  When she got something that could be dangerous, it became a game of, “who can catch the puppy and pry this thing out of her mouth.”

The most distressing reality to me was the fact that she like to chew on PEOPLE!  My people!  My little defenseless people!  Annalise was afraid of Happy because Happy could knock her down.  I would have to hold Annalise or put her in her highchair when Happy was around, and this was incredibly inconvenient.  Courage wasn’t much better, but at least he could run away and climb up on the furniture to escape her reach.

Courage took to hitting and kicking the puppy.  I thought he was just being naughty, until I realized that he was really angry at this new “baby” for hurting him and scaring him.  The truth was, I was angry too and couldn’t blame Courage for his emotions.  I tried to teach him how to play with her nicely, but it ended up more like refereeing a mixed martial arts fight.  Happy just thought they were her brother and sister and wanted to play.

Ashlyn, who loved to play with Happy, would mess with the puppy endlessly.  This resulted in many bites and scratches.  The saddest moments for me would be when one of the middle boys would be playing with the puppy.  Happy would get over excited and bite hard.  The boys would end up bleeding and crying.  My idyllic vision of pet ownership was crushed.

I became very upset over the entire situation.  My day was much more difficult and messy and sad and frustrating.  Why did I think we needed a puppy?  I began to wish that I never had this stupid idea!

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I tried to remind myself.

dsc_0093The children began to fight with me about taking Happy outside and cleaning up after her.  When I talked to Chris about all of these things at supper time, his response was very simple.

“This is just a dog.  All of you promised to help with her.  If you don’t help, or if you give Mama a hard time about it, I will get rid of the dog.  I have no problem posting on Facebook, ‘Free Puppy.’”

Chris was very serious.  I actually wanted to take him up on his offer!  What a load would be lifted!  Yet, I felt that God had brought us this specific puppy, and it wouldn’t be right to give her up.  I felt that eventually she would be a great blessing to our family, although in the moment I couldn’t quite imagine how.

Dealing with the inconveniences of a new puppy is a rather small trial.  Yet God was using this to teach me lessons I needed to navigate through the real trial in my life; the heartrending trial that is just too deep and personal to write about yet.  I was dealing with a situation that I had always hoped and earnestly prayed that I would NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH.  And now that I was in the middle of it, I just wanted to retreat.  To be done, to give up, to admit defeat.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I remind myself every time I look at our puppy. Just like this puppy, I know that God will use this horrible situation for my good and bring a blessing out of it.   I can’t imagine what the blessing will be, but I am trying to believe that there is ALWAYS a blessing to everything that God allows to enter our lives.

J.R. Miller expressed it perfectly when he wrote:

“Every difficult task that comes across your path – every one that you would rather not do, that will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle – brings a blessing with it.  And refusing to do it regardless of the personal cost is to miss the blessing…

“Every battle field you encounter, where you are required to draw your sword and fight the enemy, has the possibility of victory that will prove to be a rich blessing to your life.  And every heavy burden you are called upon to lift hides within itself a miraculous secret of strength.”

Now the puppy has become less of a trial.  The children had a real attitude adjustment and began helping more willingly.  They began to have fun playing outside with her and taking her to the park.  She began to sleep through the night!  She started to calm down with the chewing and biting.  She actually became very gentle with Annalise and better with the other children as well.  She started to obey some commands!

We take pleasure in petting her silky fur and scratching her belly as her tail thumps on the floor.  We love to snuggle with her on the sofa when she curls up to take a nap.

photo-12 She has stopped using our house as a toilet (most of the time) and her schedule has become more predictable.  The flea infestation that I had worried about never manifested.  Whenever I look at her I can’t help but think that she is the prettiest puppy in the entire world, and I am glad that she is ours!

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Happy is a constant reminder that Happy are those to take refuge in Him and every trial holds the promise of a blessing whether we can see it or not.

It’s a Christmas Miracle!

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You may not think that lip balm is the stuff of miracle, but you would be wrong. I was getting ready to make my weekly trek to the farm where I buy raw milk and free range eggs, Beulah Land Jerseys.  I had used the last of my lip balm that morning and couldn’t scrape any more out of the container.  It is a special kind that protects me from the painful cracking that I had been prone to.  I don’t like any of the products that are sold at our grocery store, but I hadn’t been able to make a special order online.

“How am I going to get some lip balm today?”  I wondered to myself as I walked out the door, already feeling like my lips were getting dry!

I got to the farm and there was a display set up that was never there before.  Raw honey and homemade lip balm!  I was ready to write a check for the milk, eggs, and lip balm when I realized that all my checks had run out and I had forgotten to get new ones.  Yet I found enough cash and coins to pay my bill exactly…and I almost NEVER carry cash.

A Christmas MIRACLE I tell you!!!

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It is my tradition to shop at Community Aid before Christmas.  I go on their half off day.  This year I found this simple yet beautiful angel, other lovely decorations, a box of books for the children, four bags of stocking suffers, clothes for my baby girl, a purse and hat for me, plus a few other gifts.

ALL FOR LESS THAN $60! Another Christmas miracle!

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Trying to make Christmas special for nine children is a challenge, especially when money is tight.  The grandparents who live in Colorado decided to send us money to buy presents, rather than sending them all through the mail.  Chris and I received the great joy of shopping for brand new toys and gifts for our children.  I joked with Chris that we should save a little money to buy tickets to the new Star Wars movie, a Christmas gift to each other.  We had so much fun shopping for the children that there was no money left.

A day later Chai came to me after school, very excited about something.  It turns out that a local church wanted to bless some families in the area.  Someone at Chai’s school had nominated our family.

“We got five $20 gift cards to Wal-Mart, Mom!” Chai told me.

I was considering what we needed the most and then I had an epiphany.  Wal-Mart sells gift card to other places!  So Chris and I went to Wal-Mart and bought a few little things for the house and…

A DATE NIGHT that is completely paid for.  I am so excited to go eat a dinner that I don’t have to prepare or clean up, a leisurely dinner with no interruptions.  I am beyond excited to see a movie in the theater, which happens less than once a year.  The joyful anticipation of going out with my husband is such a gift.

A lovely Christmas miracle!

These are seemingly small things, but they remind me of how much God loves me.  He cares about the little things and plans the working of the universe in advance to put these lovely circumstances into place.

Of course the real Christmas miracle is something that none of us can completely understand.  That the Son of God, who had all power and all authority, limited himself to become one of the most vulnerable and powerless creatures on earth – a newborn human.  He allowed himself to become totally dependent on his mother for the development and nourishment of every cell in his body. He placed his most precious life into the hands of his adopted father.  He trusted him to protect and listen and guide. He put himself at the mercy of imperfect parents to provide all the love his ancient yet somehow brand-new heart craved.

I find my heart crying out, “Jesus, I am in awe of you!  You are the miracle that I will never tire of, never get over, and never reach the end of!”

Merry Christmas to you all, and may you all feel the wonder of this miraculous season!

 

Blue, White and Yellow = The Goodness of God

It all started in my parents’ basement; the part of the basement that was used for storage of boxes of old stuff, stacks of newspapers, flowerpots with dirt still in them, tomato stakes, and odds and ends.

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I found this lovely example of blue and white china down there, and I claimed them as my own.  I placed them in my room among my eclectic collection of all things I considered pretty as a young girl.  It was one of the only decorations I took with me when I got married and moved into my first apartment.  It took an honored place on my grandfather Beyer’s old bookshelf, one of the only actual pieces of furniture we owned in those early years.

Somehow that piece of china took hold in my mind as a representative of a happy home.  I developed a picture of my dream home over the course the next few years.  It was a big farm-house with a wrap around porch, a happy place for our happy family.  The most important rooms of the house (the kitchen and dinning rooms) were painted a warm, sunny yellow and adorned with white trim and white shelves.  And what graced those white shelves?  Blue and white china!

We lived many years in rentals or in a home we thought we would soon sell.  I lived with the Realtor beige and white, still seeing those yellow walls in my mind.  In 2007 we purchased a nice home in Pennsylvania.  It wasn’t a farm-house, but it was big with a porch in front.  I didn’t have “THE dream home” or the yellow walls…or the white shelves, but I started to collect the china.  My in-laws purchased my next few plates at an antique store for my birthday.  I had nowhere to display them, so I carefully packed them away.  I started picking up pieces here and there, at thrift stores or yard sales.  A tea-cup with delicate blue flowers, a plate with a cozy cottage and a bridge, a pitcher with an unusual design of blue triangles.  A dollar here, fifty cents there.  Each one a treasure, each one unique, each one a representative of God’s goodness to me.  He has the entire universe to run, yet I felt Him share my joy with each special find.

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Some friends had a china cabinet in their basement that they didn’t use, and they offered it to us.  I was overjoyed!  I had a place to store my treasures where I could see them each day.

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It was my birthday in February of 2010.  That was the glorious year that IT happened!  My husband bought me bright yellow paint!  I could hardly believe my good fortune!  Our weird sage/aqua walls in the kitchen and dinning room were going to be transformed to yellow!  We still had many young children, so we  had to prep and paint after they went to bed.  We continued to paint until 3 o’clock in the morning.  Chris was a trooper.  I was high on excitement and hardly felt tired.  I was getting my yellow walls!

It was quite a shock at first.  It wondered if I had picked the correct yellow color.  But the sun was shinning inside my home 24 hours a day, seven days a week!  “Daffodil” yellow grew on me until I couldn’t keep from saying, “I just love this!”  It is amazing how small things can make such a dramatic different.  Slowly I acquired some white shelves and more blue and white china.  Now I am surrounded by beauty everyday, and it has improved the quality of my life.

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Some days I marvel at the fact that we are still dwelling here, in this beautiful home.  We were close to foreclosure during the hard times.  While we were living through those difficult months, we thought back to the miracle that this home was.  We knew that God had given it to us, and we knew that He could take it away. Chris was walking on our porch one night, feeling the heartbreak of loss, when God spoke to him.

This is YOUR home, and you will sell it when YOU want to.

When Chris told me that, I was so touched by the loving heart of my Father.  He owned everything, everywhere.  He had bought our very lives with the blood of His son.  He did the miracle to get us this house.  Yet He said that it was ours, and that we could choose when we wanted to sell it!

God was true to His word and worked out the details so we could continue to own this house, our dream home!  He has done many more miracles to enable us to put food on the table day after day, pay all our bills month after month, and go shopping for blue and white china year after year.

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Each piece reminds me of His incredible concern for every small detail of my life.  Here I am, living my dream!  My husband doesn’t care a thing about blue and white china; but to me, it symbolizes the amazing, unending goodness of God.