Posted in Faith, Family

To be known

"Sweet One"
Our house guest on 9/9/18

Ahhhh yes, this is a picture of our sweet guest whom we met Sunday morning after arriving home from visiting with friends in Port Clinton for the weekend.  I have a nickname on my street.  I put out bird seed and corn, and as a result, squirrels, rabbits and ducks tend to come to the tree in the front of our home.  I’m known as “Snow White” and I love it.  I’m not sure all of my neighbors are fond of my furry and feathered friends, but I listened.  I don’t want to be an annoyance to others with gardens, so I tailored back a bit when there were deer starting to come (how I miss them, but I do live in the city…).

So, Kevin and I arrived home on Sunday morning, and before he went to pull into the garage, I went to hop out of the car in the driveway.  I saw a small duck by the front tree.  Nothing unusual – there are usually way more than ONE duck, but I figured she beat the crowd of 25-40 we get from time to time.  When I got out and closed the door, she didn’t really seem to move.  Hmmmm.  I knew since we had been gone, there wasn’t a lot of feed down, so I went to the garage and got the bag of crushed corn to spread out.  I figured I wouldn’t be able to get too close, but I’d spread it nearby for her.

As I neared the base of the tree, the little duck got up a bit and then stumbled.  She clanged.  Yes, clanged as something metal hit her foot.  I started to sense something was wrong, so I looked at her right webbed foot and it had a fishing lure with a metal flap sticking out of it.  I paled, and looked over to my hubs in the garage who was beginning to unpack the car.

fishing lure

“Babe!!”  I screamed.  He was surprised, and stuck his head out, “What??”

“Something is wrong with her.  Can you come here?  Can you help?!?”

I didn’t even know what was going on, or if we could help, or how…all that mattered was getting that thing out of her!  I began to pray.

Lord, you see her.  What happened?  This looks really bad.

It had rained for two days straight.  The front lawn was saturated.  Even the small bit of leftover corn that was on the ground in front of the tree was sitting in a pond made by the overflow of water.  The little duck tried to get away from me by this point.  I had knelt down in my jeans a few feet from her, and tried not to panic.  It was raining and I wanted to cry.  I can’t stand seeing anyone or anything in pain.  You cry, I cry.

Kevin assessed the situation and then lovingly said, “Grab the fishing line, and hold it gently.  Don’t let her get away.”  So I grabbed the line that was trailing behind her, about eight feet, and held on.  I couldn’t stop repeating, “It’s okay, baby, it’s okay…it’s okay, it’s going to be okay.”  I had no reassurance but I wanted to calm her.  She tried to take off of the ground once, but I held fast to the line.  I was so worried I was hurting her worse!

She landed again, and realized she wasn’t going to get away.  Kevin walked slowly to me, and knelt down as well.  He placed his hands on her back and sides and held her tightly.  He slowly rolled her a little bit to the side and that’s when we saw the three-pronged fishing barb in her underbelly.  My stomach sunk!  Tears began to pour and I had to take a deep breath.

Then Kevin looked at me and said, “Hun, I need you to hold her exactly as I’m doing while I go get some pliers.”

“I’m sorry, what?!?…Okay…I’ll try…”

More tears, more prayers.

Kevin lifted his fingers from the duck, and as he did, my hands replaced his.  I felt the beating of her heart, blood rushing through her little body so fast.  I’m sure mine was matching hers.

Oh my goodness, I don’t think I can do this…

Her little duck face was pressing into the grass a bit, as we had her on her stomach.  I slowly re-positioned her so she could relax a bit.  My hands literally encompassed the entire width of her little body.  I kept taking my thumbs and softly rubbed her back while whispering that it would be okay.  “It’ll be okay, sweetheart, it’ll be okay.”

How is it that we can comfort others when every fear known to man is flooding our own minds?  Love seems to take over.

My legs, of course, started to burn as I was sitting in an awkward position- concentrated on holding the duck.  Not too tight, but not too light to where she would take off and I’d have to grab the string again.  I shifted. Ugh, it was freaking me out!

Kevin quickly returned, and was so calm, told me how to hold her while he worked.  He was able to remove the entire hook from her foot. I couldn’t even fathom how she got snagged like that!

Then my thoughts went to a fisherman who had to have known that there was something attached to the end of his line…anger began to burn in my heart.  How could they leave her like that!?!  And then I had to pray it away and accept that I didn’t know how it happened.  Maybe there was no one to blame, or maybe there was, but it’s not my place.  God knew, and the good news was that she came to our yard and was getting help.  I let out a sigh of relief, but had to pray away that she might begin to bleed or try to bite us, or fly away…there were a number of possibilities that could happen, but panicking never seems to solve anything.

“Babe, I need you to make sure you don’t let her go.  I have to do the stomach now.”  I looked into his eyes, and saw tenderness.  More tears.  More prayers.  “Wait, let me shift.”  And I adjusted my footing in the wet grass, my knees burning in pain, but I imagined nothing like what this sweet girl was experiencing.  Her heartbeat was still a million miles a minute.  I rubbed her back some more, and then rotated her a little.  Lord, hold us.

“Hold her still here…”  he pointed. And I did.  My mind was asking the Lord for the physical strength to hold her and calm her, and please heal her, and let her be okay.  Kevin twisted the pliers, and little pieces broke off.  He worked so tenderly, and our little duck never made a noise or tried to get away.  She just laid there.  He worked some more, and some more little pieces removed from her underside.  And finally, he took a break, wiped his face (rain was dripping from the tree above us onto our faces the entire time), and looked at me.

“She may get a little agitated.  This last one might hurt.”  I held her a little tighter, and he tried again to get the last piece that was twisted into her feathers on her stomach.  I couldn’t even look. I was so afraid to see her wound.  It was hard enough to know she was in pain in my hands.

“That’s the best I can do. I think she’ll be okay.  You can let go when you’re ready, but be careful.”  His words scared me, because what if I let go too quickly? What if something happened and she yanked? I know the Lord calmed my spirit, because I was still repeating, “It’s going to be okay…it’s going to be okay, sweetheart…”  Her little body was facing down, but her head was turned a little to look at us.  I lifted my hands.

She didn’t move.

I began to cry again.

And then I realized she was in shock.

“Honey, maybe step back a little bit.  Let her readjust.  She’s probably really freaked out right now.”

Kevin reassured me.  I stood up and moved to the other side of the tree.  And within two minutes, she finally moved.  Not quickly, but enough to get herself right side up again.  I then cried tears of joy.  I didn’t want to leave her side.

She’s not my pet.  I have a dog that is my shadow, and my heart is so full because she’s in our home.  But man, I would’ve taken that little “sweet one” into my house so fast.  Bella Bean probably wouldn’t have even minded. She is so passive now. 😉

I moved into the house to help him unpack.  But I wanted to see if our little girl in the front yard would make it.  There was no blood.  No cry.  No frantic movement.  We removed the fishing line, she had a wounded foot, but there was still a small piece of the lure in her stomach.  There was nothing we could do anymore.  I had to rest in the fact that God knows her length of life.  For me, it was everything to hold an animal I have admired for years in my front yard.  Because of her woundedness, she allowed us to get close and we were able to have an impact.

From inside the window, I watched her, and she leaned forward, starting to eat the seed at the base of the tree, and I cried tears of thankfulness.  Within a few minutes, she then took off.  Low to the ground, but she began to glide higher as she went.

Kevin met me in the living room and wrapped his arms around me.  I was still crying.

“Thank you so much for helping her!!”  I sobbed into his neck and he hugged me so tightly.

“Babe, I know your heart.  I did what I thought would work.”

Then a few minutes later in the kitchen, he said, “I wonder if she’s one of your regulars, and she knew it’d be okay to come here.”  An interesting thought.  What if she had been here the whole time we were gone? How long HAD she been here?

And from the living room couch a few minutes later, Kevin said, “How wild for her to be here when we got home.”  Yep, I thought.  I’m so glad we were able to be here for her.

She arrived on Monday evening for dinner, but got chased out by other ducks, and I saw her fly over to a neighbor’s driveway waiting.  She was limping, so I knew it was her.  When a kid on a bicycle went by, she took off, low to the ground.  Darn it!! I thought.

And so now, it’s four days later.  A squadron of mallards came for dinner at 7pm tonight and of course, my nose was pressed to the window.  I didn’t see her.

“Lord, will you send her here for dinner, just so we can know she’s okay?”

The group of mallards took off, and then within minutes, she showed up.  She laid down by the food and began to eat.  A louder duck landed nearby and walked up on her, but they ate together in peace.  She stood up once to move, and because of the hobble, I knew it was her.

“You heard me, Lord…thank You!”

duck 2 I know it’s not the best picture, but she’s in the front.  I sat on the porch until it got dark to make sure she was able to eat.  She did, and then she took off again with her friend.

I love these little sweet animals.  I love interacting with God’s creation.  I don’t engage those whom I know will hurt me. I keep my distance.  But I absolutely am intrigued by behaviors, markings, patterns, etc.  Animals are incredible creatures with instinct and protective behavior, but they are still here on Earth for a reason.  Sure, someone could take my ducks and have dinner tomorrow.  I get it.  But I love to admire them.  I think they’re beautiful and I love interacting with them.

A few weeks ago, I built trust with a squirrel who comes once a week to my feeder from across the street.  She and I are able to sit a few feet apart from each other on the front lawn. She will take unsalted peanuts from my hand and plant them in my grass.  Will she find them all again? Probably not.  But she is doing what comes to her naturally.  I find it fascinating.   Our Lord is so creative and I love to see Him glorified by them.

I share all of this to share about being known. My husband doesn’t think I’m crazy for feeding animals.  He knows my love, appreciation and fascination for them.  He’s crazy about me, so he stepped into my panic and helped the duck.  It was a moment in time where we both worked toward the same outcome, trusted each other, and were both relieved when it was over.

This weekend, we celebrate seven years being married.  He truly is my best friend.  He deals with my quirks, my need to verbally process my emotions, my love for seeing success in forgiveness moments.  He understands my ache when I am rejected, and lovingly encourages me to stay who I am, that those who reject me are missing out on something special.  He and I had a hard year.  We learned more about each other this year than the other six combined.  But we grew, we endured, we recommitted.

Loving someone else is risk.  It involves taking them at their best and their worst.  And forgiving constantly without remembering.  Because peace should reign in the walls you call home.  And we have something we’ve both prayed for, for years.  It takes work, but it’s so easy at the same time.

I’m so incredibly grateful for the moment on Sunday that the Lord allowed us to have with “Sweet One” the duck.  It reassured me that my Lord sees me, and knows my heart, but so does the man He’s entrusted with it.  And I’m grateful for their love.

I love you with all of my kidney, Kevin.  ❤

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Posted in Faith

It’s Christmas!

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Today, we celebrate Jesus’ birth! 🙂

Reflecting on Luke 2, I love to think about what was happening on that night.

A census was issued by Caesar Augustus to have families return to their birthplace. Joseph and Mary made the trek to Bethlehem to be counted.  He was going to register Mary who was pledged to be married to him. Most of us are familiar with the story of an innkeeper that told them there was no room, however Answers in Genesis gives this account as a reasonable explanation for what really happened:

Joseph and Mary probably stayed with Joseph’s relatives in Bethlehem, but because of the large influx of people, the house would have been crowded and the kataluma (guest room) was full. Consequently, Joseph and Mary would have been relegated to living in the lower level of the house. It is hard to believe that pregnant Mary would have been turned away from a relative’s home in a society that greatly valued familial ties.

Archaeologists have excavated first century homes from the Judean hill country. They have discovered that the upper level served as a guest chamber while the lower level served as the living and dining rooms. Oftentimes, the more vulnerable animals would be brought in at night to protect them from the cold and theft. This sounds strange to many of us, since we wouldn’t dream of bringing some of our cattle into the house at night, but even today in some countries of Europe (e.g., Germany and Austria), the farmhouse and the animal quarters are often different parts of the same building.

This is where the manger comes into play. Mary likely gave birth to Jesus in the lower level of a crowded house, in which some of the animals had been brought in for the night. She then wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and laid Him in the manger (feeding trough).

And thinking of the shepherds out in the fields that night, it’s incredible to think what they saw and heard.  It probably started out as a normal evening, and then within moments, an angel appeared (most likely, the shepherds had never seen them before) and told them not to be afraid.  Sure, no problem.  But then, the shepherds are told:

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. -Luke 2:9-12

Can you imagine just minding your own business and then a being appears next to you with a message? And then immediately after that, the sky opens and more angels show up, singing?

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST HEAVEN, AND ON EARTH PEACE TO THOSE ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS!

To be alive and witness these events had to be amazing! I know the shepherds had to be initially fearful, because an angel told them not to be, and there must have been an ignition in their hearts to go see what was happening because they “hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Luke 2:16

Here’s the part I love: He used unlikely messengers.  And I’m not talking about the angels.  I love that God chose shepherds to carry the message to the people.  Then they spread the news of what they saw, praising and glorifying God for what they had seen and heard.  Oh, to be near people that rejoice and get excited about what the Lord is doing! Never before, did they have hope like that! Up to that time, those who knew the Lord only knew that one day He would send a Messiah to save them, and here they were in the fields, getting the message firsthand.  What an honor!

I’m in awe, as well, of the role of shepherds. They obviously take care of sheep, but how exactly? They provide food, water, protection in the field and when walking through rivers, shelter from storms, and restoration to the fold when one runs off.

And how incredible that the Lord used the same role to describe Himself, to say that He is our Good Shepherd! In John 10, Jesus explains to the Pharisees about those who are able to enter the sheep pen by the gate, not other means. He is equating access to the Father through Him, our Good Shepherd.  He says that those who know Him hear His voice, which is the same as shepherds who have a specific call to their sheep.  Others can mimic the shepherd, but the sheep won’t respond.  So it should be with us.

I segued to shepherds because I love the correlation between one who protects sheep and the ONE who protects us.  Jesus was sent by God to become man, to be able to identify with us in our flesh, to be tempted and resist, so He could prove that we could do the same. He also humbled Himself by doing His Father’s will.  He sacrificed His life for His sheep (US!) and died on the cross so that when God and the Holy Spirit resurrected Him three days later, not only did He fulfill Scripture, but He conquered death FOREVER for those who believe in Him.  Death no longer has a hold on us!!  And there is also now a WAY, a DOOR to get to the Father that is not through human means, no matter what people tell you.  We have FULL ACCESS to our Heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.  And all of this was to be accomplished by our Lord whom we celebrate today.

So it’s an honor to reflect on the good news that brings us great joy this Christmas morning!  Jesus came to Earth to fulfill His redemption plan for us.  I am so thankful for the way He modeled righteous living, His continual and unending mercy and grace, His forgiveness that is never withheld and His precious, sacrificial love.  He was fully God and fully man so that He could redeem us.

When you are sipping coffee, watching wrapping paper fly by, and listening to Christmas music, may you take a moment to stop and reflect on all that this baby meant and still means for our salvation.

Glory to God in the Highest INDEED!

Posted in Faith

Comfort

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The precious dog above, is my lab/greyhound mix rescue named Bella.  Her third birthday is today and unfortunately, I also scheduled her annual vet visit (complete with vaccinations) this morning.  I tend to do that for myself, just so my birthday becomes a health reminder as well.

Our morning ride to see Dr. Taylor was calm, however as we got to the parking lot of Landings Animal Hospital here in Avon Lake, Bella looked out the window and observed another dog in the backseat of the car next to ours, and she began to whimper.  I’m assuming she wanted to play because her tail went crazy and she began to whine expectantly.  The owner of the dog next to us, just grabbed the pets’ leash, let the dog out of the backseat, shut their car door and went inside the building.  I kept Bella in the car for five more minutes so she could calm down and so that when we did go into the vet, the other dog would be comfortably in their exam room.

When we finally entered the building, Bella and I were placed in an exam room immediately, she was weighed and we were left to wait for Dr. Taylor with a small treat.  She began to whine, sniff the floor, pace, and whine more…higher than I’d ever heard her whine.  I couldn’t seem to console her, and she kept going to the door to smell underneath.  I’m sure she knew there were other pooches/animals in the building.

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When Dr. Taylor finally arrived, Bella got a little more antsy, but he easily hooked the slip collar over her neck and led her back to the weighing table.  She went up on the table, and shook.  I would LOVE to know what goes through their poor little minds when we take our animals to the vet.  These are not torture chambers, we swear!!

He examined Bella, felt for any nodules/fatty pockets/lumps/bumps/etc. and checked her gums.  His once-over gave me comfort, as he stated that Bella was right where she should be, weight-wise, and her gums/teeth looked perfectly healthy.  He asked if there were any issues, and I told him of one that we had been treating her for in the past, that finally seems to be resolving.  Then he prepared to give her the vaccinations we came to get.

Bella just stared at the table she was on, looking so uncomfortable.  He took the stethoscope and placed in on Bella’s chest.  In an effort to calm her, I reached out and put my hand on her little head and said, “Bella, you’re my strong girl.”  Dr. Taylor leaned back, pulled the stethoscope off of her, and looked at me.

“When I put the stethoscope on her chest, her heart was beating a mile a minute, ” he said. “But when you reached out to touch her head, her heart immediately slowed down…amazing.”

I thanked him, and it made me realize something.

A touch means so much.  It’s no secret that in our home, Bella for whatever reason has bonded strongly with me.  When she is frightened by storms, or frantic when her tummy is upset, she runs to me.  She will wake me up out of a deep sleep, dig her head into my chest and lay there until she is calmed.  I love that, because I love her closeness, and I know when she is uneasy, I am able to give her some peace.

I’m sure you know where this is going.  😉

As a child of God, when I am anxious or when something doesn’t make sense, I seek out my Lord.  After pushing away other worldly attempts to become calm, I have found that only Jesus and His Word and Presence are able to relax me.

Yesterday, if you had put a stethoscope on my heart while listening to the radio and the tragic news of yesterday’s loss in Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary, you would’ve heard my heart beating a mile a minute.  Instead of feeding on the details of the massacre that has a nation searching for God in this, I turned on WCRF (103.3FM, a local Christian radio station) and listened to Chris Fabry explain that he would be veering off of his normal programming to address concerns from listeners and to pray for those affected by the evil that touched Newtown, CT.

He stated how easy it is to listen to the grisly details and focus on the intensity of the situation, but ultimately, this boils down to evil.  And instead of questioning and shutting out God, we need to open up our hearts to Him and become the hands/feet of Jesus and reach out to those who are hurt/lost so that they can see/feel the light of Christ within us.

WE…yes WE believers…are the light that Jesus left behind to shine in His world.  God’s Son was made manifest into the being of a human, to carry the weight of all sin, even the sin of yesterday, so that hope could renew those who are hurting.  We are the ones who the lost will turn to, maybe to blame and throw out hatred since they can’t see God in the chaos.  But nonetheless, we are the ones who can share a comforting word that isn’t empty, provide hope where there doesn’t seem to be any, and offer a listening ear to a person who is hurting.  Service to others, is the very nature of Christ, and honors our Lord when we take the focus off of blame and intensifying hatred, and direct it to the one who is the great Healer.

Comfort seems to come in many ways, but the only comfort that can truly bring us to a place of peace, is through Christ Jesus.  When I cried yesterday listening to the news and saying, “Lord, this is a time when people may reject You.  How can we show them that you aren’t to blame?”  He responded with, “GO…”.  And however that is seen as a necessity in your interpretation, Go…

Don’t be afraid to answer questions from unbelievers.  Don’t be afraid when someone hates you because you represent the God they think abandoned them.  Don’t turn and take the hate personally.  Open up your heart and mind to the mind of Christ, and offer the words He puts on your lips to comfort.  When someone’s heart is beating a mile a minute, your touch could bring the calm they need…and point them in the direction of their loving Savior’s arms.

May all of those affected by yesterday’s senseless tragedy, find comfort in the arms of Christian believers who can offer hope.  May they find renewed hope in the news of Jesus and the grace and mercy He provides.  Lord, please give peace to those seeking answers. Please let the hands/feet of Jesus in that neighboring community reflect the light of Christ and encourage those who have questions/lack of understanding/lack of hope.  And if there’s anything we can do here, let us see your will and do it.

God bless everyone who reads this and may they take Your blessing and run with it.