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.

My Adventurous Husband with the Crazy, Impossible Dreams Might Just Be Right

 

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My husband, Chris, is very different from me.  In fact, he is quite the opposite.  He is spontaneous and impatient, prone to making rash and risky decisions.  He is also very driven.  When he has a certain goal in mind, all else fades to the background as he plows through valleys and climbs over mountains to reach that goal.  When he gets an idea in his head, it seems like an obsession to me.  I am a steady and reliable creature of habit.  I like to dwell, remain, and stay in my comfort zone.  I feel no need to go trailblazing into unknown and possibly scary territory.  To change my course is like trying to alter the flow of a river.  I have found that trying to deter Chris from a goal is like trying to stop a freight train once it is barreling down the tracks.  It is much easier to jump aboard and enjoy the ride!

We faced our first major financial decision as newlyweds.  Our apartment had washer and dryer hookups, but we had no washer and dryer.  We would spend hours at the Laundromat.  Chris reasoned that if we could put our Laundromat money towards payments on our own washer and dryer, we would be much better off.  I agreed, but when I saw the large price tag, I was terrified.  We ended up in our car in the Sears parking discussing the pros and cons. The worry of making a bad decision brought me to tears.  We ended up buying the brand-new, super-capacity Kenmore beauties, despite my abiding nervousness.  Eighteen years, 6 moves, and eight children later, they are still washing 2-3 loads a day!  Chris was totally right!

In 2006 we were renting a nice house on Market St where I found my Little Piece of Heaven.  Sure, I wanted to move eventually, but I figured that God would bring that opportunity right to us at the proper time.  But Chris was obsessed.  He was unsatisfied with our living conditions and upset that our rent money was going into someone else’s pocket instead of building up equity for us.  He talked to realtors.  He got lists of homes sent to him every week on the internet.  He kept finding houses that he wanted me to look at. The available four bedroom homes priced around $100,000 were not at all what I would call attractive or comfortable!  I didn’t want to look at these homes, not to mention consider living in them.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.  We even put offers on two of them.  They had been on the market for a long time.  We thought we could get a good deal, fix them up and then sell them for more…all in an effort to get closer to our real dream house.  Both houses were snatched up right before our offers came in.

Chris didn’t give up, however.  He talked to other realtors, looked at other houses, and kept viewing homes on the internet.  None of the homes interested me at all.  Basically, I had given up on owning a home.  One day Chris came across a picture of an older home, shrouded in dark awnings and overgrown shrubbery.  He set up a time to see it.  He walked in the front door, took one look at the high ceilings and beautiful woodwork and thought, “This is it!”

There was just one mountain of a problem.  It was more than twice what we could afford.  He set up a second time to view the house and wanted me to come along.  I so desperately wanted to refuse him, and I almost did.  I didn’t want to go see another ugly house.  I definitely didn’t want to go see a beautiful house, fall in love with it, and then have to face the reality that we could never afford it.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.

The house was built in 1924 and was in a beautiful neighborhood with tree lined streets.  I toured the gorgeous home, loving every detail of it! I tried NOT to love it…but I couldn’t help it.  I took a paper containing the specs of the home that included a tiny black and white picture of the exterior.  In my mind, that dreary picture was a picture of my dream home.  I placed the paper on top of my filing cabinet.  Every time I passed by and caught a glimpse of that paper, I would pray that God would do a miracle and give us that house!  Every time we passed the exit on the highway that would take us to the house, longing would fill my heart that someday that exit would lead to my home!  Every night before bed, the children would pray and ask God to give them that house!  Chris’ obsession had become a family obsession!

The realtor went to the owners with a crazy idea.  Even though the house had only been on the market for two weeks, he urged them to consider a sellers agreement, where we would make payments to them directly and take over the mortgage in a few years. It seemed like an eternity before they responded…THAT THEY WOULD!  Amazing miracle number one! Yet our soaring spirits sank a bit as we heard the terms.  The monthly payment was way too much, and we had to come up with $10,000 upfront.  Chris countered with $300 less per month.  They accepted! Amazing miracle number two!

Time came to sign the paperwork, and we still had no money to put down. Chris continued to plow ahead, scaling that mountain and signing away!  I was terrified and thought back to the washer and dryer purchase so long ago.  How small that decision seemed compared to this one was!  I sat with the realtor, the paperwork, and a kitchen timer in front of me.  I was timing contractions that had been coming every twenty minutes for baby number six.  I was about to have a baby, and here I was, facing one of the biggest decisions of my life!  I wanted to call it all off, or have a conference like we did in our car in the Sears parking lot.  I wanted to cry my heart out and beg Chris to back out of the whole thing!

Quietly a peace descended upon me, and my emotions stilled.  My contractions stopped.  I saw the hand of God moving heaven and earth.  I saw that it was He who had put that obsession into my husband’s heart.  I signed the paperwork and believed that God would work out the rest.  Amazing miracle number three!

I didn’t have any more contractions for almost a week.  My grandmother joyfully offered to give us the money we needed and a bit more!  Amazing miracle number four! Chris’ mom flew in from Colorado in anticipation of the new baby’s arrival.  That night my water broke, but there were no contractions.  In the morning, we thought we would pass the hours by showing my mother-in-law our new home!  It was a hot and humid day in August. I walked around my home, and I began to get contractions.  They increased as I showed off my four large bedrooms and gigantic bathroom on the second floor.  They increased even more as I went down to view my spacious and clean basement with shelves and shelves of storage space.  Finally, we all gathered outside to return to our rental house.  I leaned on the truck with one intense contraction.  It was hard to escape the pain with heat emanating from the sun above and rising from the blacktop below.  I thought, “What have I done, coming here while in labor?  I need to get home!”

We arrived home in plenty of time to fill the baby pool in our bedroom and call the midwife.  Our little Cooper was born a few hours later, healthy and happy!  Some weeks after that, we began to move into our new home.

june 2014 229We are still in this home, paying the mortgage (our mortgage!) eight years later.  That is the real miracle!  We have weathered job losses, economic downturns, and debt reduction programs.  We were close to foreclosure during the hard times, yet we are still here!

Three years ago Chris became obsessed with another goal, to become a business owner.  He talked to a business broker and received emails about local businesses for sale.  He read books about entrepreneurs and conversed with friends who were business owners.

“Oh brother,” I thought. “Here we go again!”

He inquired about a Signarama shop just blocks from our house.  He went to visit with the owner and saw the shop.  He was convinced that this was it.  He wanted me to see it all and tell him what I thought.  I really didn’t want to!  But I did, because he asked me to.

When I saw the shop I thought, “This is definitely NOT it!”  A sign shop, full of vinyl to make signs?  How boring!  I never had any interest in being a business owner, nor ever thought about making signs.  Chris began the slow process of turning my course.

We talked with the regional VP of Signarama to learn more about the franchise.  What emotions surfaced when I thought about this proposition; spending all we had plus going into debt to acquire a business?  Terror!  Pure fear!  Fear of not having enough to pay our bills.  Fear of heading towards foreclosure again!  Fear of making a big whopper mess-up of a decision!  Quietly peace descended upon me, and I heard the voice of God.

“Do not fear making mistakes.  Mistakes aren’t as powerful as you think they are.  You see them as huge giants that can rob you of your destiny.  That is not true.  Your mistakes cannot negate my promises or my power or my faithfulness in your life.  I can cause all your mistakes to prosper and use them for good.  In fact, your mistakes are your servants.  Use them to learn about me, yourself, and your destiny.  Use them to draw near to me.  Do not fear making mistakes.  Make all decisions in confidence and faith.  I AM able to lead you and keep you in my perfect will.  I AM faithful!”

So we took the plunge into business ownership.  It has been harder than we had ever imagined.  Some of my fears have come to pass, but I realized that they weren’t so bad after all.  God is in control, and He is bringing us through this into the abundant prosperity that He has promised!  Chris is learning to slow down his freight train to prayerfully consider my wisdom.  I am learning that my adventurous husband with his crazy obsessions might just be tapping into the very heart of God!

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“The moment you are in is pregnant with possibility.  DON’T kill it with fear.” – Bill Johnson

            I won’t kill it with fear!  I will move forward with faith and confidence!

I WILL ENJOY THE RIDE!

           hershey park