Lessons from a Dirty Dog

I ate cookies for breakfast.

That was the only thing handy in the kitchen besides potato chips. And everyone knows you shouldn’t eat potato chips for breakfast.

Would it help if I told you it was 11:00? It seems a little more forgivable to have cookies for lunch. But then I would have to admit that the day was half over when I entered the kitchen for the first time. It was 11:00 and I had accomplished nothing. Nothing but finishing a good book that had kept me reading into the wee hours and then kept me glued to my bed in the morning.

I guess it goes without saying that I recommend the book–Laura Story Elvington’s, “When God Doesn’t Fix It.” I can’t remember the last time I read any book over a single weekend. I’m not even sure when I last finished a book. But the deeper look into the struggles Martin and Laura faced during his brain tumor and dealing with his resulting memory loss had me pondering through many of her insights about the God who sees and yet lets us suffer. God allows circumstances to show us that our problem is sin.

By 2:00 pm, I could still only claim to have crossed two things off my list. I was still in workout clothes–which means I hadn’t had a shower.

And I hadn’t actually worked out. I was just dressed like I was going to when I pulled in at Peaceful Way to pick up Julie Ann. She had spent several days there playing with Jack while we were in Kentucky.

Julie Anne seemed happy enough to see me when I entered the garage. She quickly lost her enthusiasm, however, when she realized what was coming next. But I had to do what I had to do because my little white dog looked more like a nasty grey wolf. She had dirt, grime, grease, and just general filth matted through her coat. It was a good thing I hadn’t bothered with clean clothes and a shower because this was going to be a mess.

Julie Anne fought me as I placed her in the sink and held her under the stream of water. She squirmed and slithered in my grip as I lathered whitening shampoo into her nasty fur. It was not coming clean easily and she was certainly not making it any easier.

I didn’t enjoy it any more than she did, but it had to be done. It was fine to run around the farm like a street urchin, but I knew once I took her home, she wasn’t going to want to be outside. She was going to want to be with me. She was going to want to cuddle in my lap, perch in my chair, snuggle on my couch, lounge on my carpet, and roam through my office.

I couldn’t let that ball of dirt do any of those things. I just couldn’t. If she was going to be with me, she was going to have to be clean.

But she sure wasn’t happy about it.  As I adjusted my hold on her soapy, squirming self, she seized the opportunity to try to spring from my hands.  I let out a bit of a shriek as I struggled to maintain my grasp.  What she thought was a leap of freedom would likely be death by concrete.  It was a long way down and there was nothing between my soapy hands and that garage floor.

By some miracle, I was able to hang on.  Barely.  So rather than a dead dog, I just had a half clean drama queen slithering back into the sink.

I was too relieved to be irritated at her.  And even more than the relief, I felt a twinge of humility that came from a pointed picture of myself in the hands of my Creator–perhaps more freshly in my mind after my read of “When God Doesn’t Fix It.”

He comes for me.  He picks me up when I am a mess.  He wants me to be with Him, so He takes me straight to the sink.  In love, He begins to clean me up.  I squirm, I twist.  I try to get away.  And He holds me close.  Directly in the way of the constant stream of cleansing water.  Patiently scrubbing the dirtiest, nastiest, most unattractive parts of my being.  He isn’t trying to torture me…It just feels that way.  And it takes longer and hurts more because I fight Him all the way.  We’ve been through it hundreds of times, and I still don’t trust that He knows what is best.  I’m convinced I’d be happier if I could only jump out of his grip.

When Julie Anne was back to a recognizable state, I set her down and she shook violently.  No gratefulness, just good riddance.  She couldn’t wait to get away from me.  She would look 100 times better when she dried (provided she could stay out of the dirt long enough), but she didn’t seem to care.

She is a dog. And some things she will never fully understand. That’s why I don’t let her make her all own decisions. Because she would go splat.

She would probably do things like eat cookies for breakfast.

So…I haven’t learned this lesson: this lesson of embracing the scrubbing process. I venture to guess you haven’t either. And neither has Laura Story Elvington.

God doesn’t have an obligation to “fix it.” He might. He might not.

But He does have an obligation to clean it. To purge it. To make us more like Him. If we want to be like him, He must clean us up. And while I may feel broken in the process, I’m learning to embrace every reminder that helps me squirm a little less and trust a little more. Fight a little less. Rest a little more. Complain a little less. Praise a little more. Be a little less like myself and a little more like Jesus.

God of Every Story

Listen to Laura Story’s song “God of Every Story.”

You might find it unremarkable unless you understand it for what it is: her story. A newly wed girl whose husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. A surgery that left him in good health, but not quite whole. A lifetime with a man who is not able to remember that he married her. That would be tough.

But God was not done writing their story and he held their family together. In 2012, they welcomed a baby girl into their family. And in 2014, their family expanded with twin boys. It is little wonder why she is not writing a lot of new music these days. Their house probably hums to the tune “the wheels on the bus…”

Their story is still not all told, but even the part we know now is amazing. Especially when Laura tells it in worship.

God of every story. The timing of this gentle reminder was not a coincidence. Just a few minutes before hearing that song, I had been on my way to work, minding my own business, when I had been suddenly struck with eminency of my own fears. The radio was tuned to a conservative talk station where I had been listening to Dave Ramsey rant the night before. Mind you, my commute is only about three minutes long. And in that three minutes, I expected to hear about Benghazi, Obamacare, or Common Core. But instead, the topic of discussion had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the reality of my deepest fears. There. I heard it. I couldn’t unhear it.

I won’t tell you what it was because it isn’t the point—but you might be able to guess. It may seem silly to you. That’s okay. It isn’t your fear; it’s mine. It might mean nothing to you; you might be able to explain it away; tell me I’m foolish; or tell me you’re sorry for me. But you can’t make it go away. Only God can do that. And so far, He hasn’t.

God of every story.

When my faith is tested, I often let my fears rule my heart. I often take my gaze off my Savior and my feet begin to sink. But this time, I resolved I wouldn’t do that—I wouldn’t get caught in the storm of my doubts but instead focus on the proof of His love.

I looked around at the stories I’m seeing God write. In fact, scrolling through Facebook was like paging through God’s brag book. Budding romances…blooming families…the glory of God’s creation…good gifts in small packages! I saw my adorable nephew swinging on a swing; a friend of mine named Jaime loving her new baby—a story God is writing that I can’t wait to hear more of.

My eyes locked on a photo of pink ballet slippers, “It’s a Girl!” it boasted and I was moved to tears.

My cousin was told as a young teen that she would never be able to have kids. For the last 15 years or so, she’s believed that she would never be a mom. For a girl, that’s a big deal. And I suspect that even to guys who might have otherwise been a big part of her life—that was a big deal. But from what I know about Joelle, she was faithful. She loved the Lord even though she didn’t love the facts as she knew them.

A wedding was long in coming for her. Then about a year and a half ago or so, she got married to a man who had cancer. He had fought it in the past and he was getting ready to go through treatments again. They got married knowing that they didn’t know what the future would look like. Which says a lot about the kind of girl Joelle is.

And the doctors said because of his numerous cancer treatments, he also was not able to have kids.

And that’s why this post is such a beautiful thing. Because now there are three in their family. Three miracles: A wedding. A sustaining. And a birth. Because God is the God of their story and He saw fit to trust them with one of His most precious gifts. Regardless of what the doctors had to say.

Then there is me. What is my story? I don’t know exactly.

Perhaps I’m up too close to even see it. When people even ask me “what’s new?” I don’t know what to say. No miracles.

But I guess I could say what’s new is what God is doing in me. What’s new is letting go of fears. Peace in the storm. Love instead of jealousy. Kinder words. A cleaner heart. A life less driven by fear and more driven by faith.

It doesn’t sound exciting and it’s not, really. Not a thriller or a romance. There are no ballet slippers with that. A work in progress isn’t “new” I guess, but it just that—a work. A story still being written.

But when God finishes, I’ll write a song about it. And I suppose I’ll have to work hard to come up with a title since “God of Every Story” is already taken.