I adopted another dog

You may or may not have noticed that since my beloved dog Ziggy passed away last August, I’ve barely been writing on this blog. I’m not sure if the two correlate but their timing matches up.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how we really ought to be forming new year habits rather than new year resolutions. Well, one of my new year habits is to write more.

Back in November, I adopted another dog. His name is Capone. He resembles Ziggy in his stature and coloring, but his personality is quiet different.

Capone is fearless. He spent the first few months of his life transferring hands from adopters to shelter employees to foster families, before finally arriving to me. He loves all people. At the adoption events, he became used to many different sounds and smells, all sorts of other animals, and humans both young and old. He’s a joy to take out in public because he makes everyone he meets feel like the most important person in the world, smothering them with hugs and kisses.

He doesn’t require much exercise at all or even training. For one, he’s a low energy dog and much prefers snuggling to running. For two, he’s extremely sensitive to commands and thus picks up quickly whenever I’m teaching him new ones.

In short, Capone is everything I could have ever hoped for in a dog. He’s perfect for me. And when I look at him, I can’t help but be reminded of God’s grace and goodness. That no matter how devastating a loss, God turns all things for good. And often, for better than we could have even imagined.

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Grief, Acceptance, and Grace

This past week has been a hard one. Filled with losses that don’t make sense.

A baby left in the car.
A sister’s body found outside an apartment building.
A dear friend who jumped into a lake and never resurfaced.

I think during such times of unexplainable tragedy, it’s natural for us to want to make sense of what happened.

How do you forget your baby in the car for 8 hrs.? How did you not see him on your way to work? How did your sister die? Why was she lying outside of an apartment building? Who was with her that night? How could such a good swimmer dive into a lake and not resurface? Why were there not cuts, bruises, or abrasions on his body?

What happened?
What happened?
What happened?
Why?!

I think of the five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I think that they must have left out the stage of wanting to make sense. Or is it part of denial?

I think about my dear friend in his last moments. About the baby. About the sister. In that moment, just before death, when time is frozen and all is quiet, what was he thinking about? His family? His life experience thus far? Childhood memories? Did he think, “Ok I’m going to die now”? Was he scared? Was he peaceful?

Questions. Questions. Questions.
These are what we’re left with when our loved ones are snatched away from us without warning. Questions to which we likely will never know the answers. “I don’t know,” being the sole answer we must carry forth.

I don’t know why.
I don’t know how.
I don’t know.

I think how as humans it’s against our nature to admit that we don’t know. It’s against our nature to accept that we may never know. That some things will never make sense. That maybe not everything is supposed to. Acceptance.

Acceptance invites faith, freeing the chains of uncertainty that bind us to the dark. Acceptance and faith, I realize, go hand in hand. Together they form the sliver of light in our stormy sea of darkness.

Acceptance is our freedom.
Faith our guiding hand.
And grace our greatest gift.
This much I know.

Interpersonal Issues

relationship issues
It’s easy when we’re having interpersonal problems (and how often are our problems not interpersonal?!) to look for someone to blame.

Sometimes we blame ourselves and nearly drown in guilt that may or may not be warranted. Sometimes we blame the other person, searching for flaws, being quick to point out what we find, and often creating an even bigger issue than the original one.

But what if we took a new approach to our many interpersonal issues? What if we stopped brooding over them and instead began to praise God for them?

Interpersonal issues reveal our weak spots, as well as our strengths. They present an opportunity to pause in awe of the delicate patterns which God has woven into our very existence. They ask us to look with wonder at the detail with which each person is carefully crafted; differences, imperfections, all of it.

Rather than trying to “fix” each other, we can instead marvel at just how complicated a species we are, and praise God because He is good and gives us grace.

5 Things I learned From Losing My Best Friend

beauty girl cry

Three years ago on this day, and for months after, I wanted to die. I had just lost the man I’d been in love with for four years in a tragic accident. He was also my best friend. When I say I wanted to die, it’s strange because it makes it sound as if I was suicidal. But I was never suicidal. It’s hard to describe the feeling and might be one of those things you can’t understand unless you’ve been there, but at the time, my future looked so black, I couldn’t imagine life without him. Besides, I wanted so desperately to see him and was convinced he was on the other side. I only hoped to die, so that we could be together again. It was the last sort of logic that I had left at the time.

Now here I am, three years later, and my perspective is quite the contrary. It’s hard to believe that today marks three years. Three years of pain, longing, and questions but also of healing, growth and indescribable grace. I question whether we can fully comprehend the sweetness of life without first experiencing its bitterness.

Today, as I miss my best friend like always, I realize not only was it an incredibly sweet gift to do life with him, but the lessons I’ve learned since that loss remain invaluable. Here I share with you 5 things I learned from losing my best friend.

  1. There is nothing more important in life than your relationships. As Max Lucado so tactfully puts it, “When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want? Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now?” We are called to love others. It is our mission. Our reason for being on Earth. And not just to love them halfheartedly either, when it’s convenient to us, for example. But to love them wholeheartedly, at all times, through all situations, no matter their actions or behaviors. This might seem like a daunting task but it’s this sort of love, relentless and all encompassing, that people most need to see. It is the kind that we need to be most intentional about giving. Develop relationships filled with love like this, and you will know what it means to live.
  2. The best things in life aren’t things. They can’t be touched, or even captured. To try is fleeting. They flutter around like butterflies, here one minute gone the next. An ever-elusive bunch. And when we grasp for them, we miss. But this is what we have hearts for. Our hearts get it. Our hearts know that the best things can’t be described with words. They must be felt. Our hearts know that the best things aren’t tangible…that these things aren’t meant to be captured or even understood; only appreciated.
  3. There are angels on earth. And they exist in your close friends and family. People are placed in your life for a reason. They’re strategically chosen and uniquely capable of holding you just how you need to be held at any given moment in time. We’re all just taking turns on this journey called life, so give love to others while you can. Before you know it, your time will come and you’ll need someone, too. It is then, that you’ll find your angels.
  4. Pain can be a good thing. The good thing about pain is that it breaks down the walls of your ego and forces you into the present – enhancing your awareness of and appreciation for all of the people in your life. When you experience deep suffering, you become comfortable with it. This allows you to empathize with others in ways you wouldn’t have been able to before. It causes you not to run from future sufferings, but to sit with them. Most importantly, it allows you to grow. The best lessons are often found when we are facing unanticipated change and loss. In those moments of vulnerability, longing, and desperation, we learn who we really are and what we are capable of. Pain is not a bad thing.
  5. Life goes on. You don’t think it will and you certainly can’t imagine it doing so, but it does. Whether you take part in it or not, life continues to go on all around you. Time waits for no one. The good news is, even if you’re deep in grief or simply feeling stuck, eventually you, too, will go on. There’s a hole inside of you from the loss and that hole never really seals back up. But that is the beautiful part. You learn to live with the gap, to embrace it. It becomes a part of you. It allows your light to shine through.

If You Were to Die Tomorrow…

If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow, who would you be with today and what would you do?

It’s an important question to ask every now and then to keep things in perspective. While most of us can’t control when or how we die, a lot of us can exercise some control over how we live.

And if we want to live a truly meaningful life while we have the chance, we ought to be thinking of death more often than we do.

The Scene at the Stream

The other day, I sat quietly by a stream watching the water flow, birds taking dips, and tiny fish swimming together. The beauty of it all was breathtaking. Nothing about the scene at the stream was rushed, forced, or controlled. It just was.

streamIf God can make this tiny stream and the life surrounding it flow so effortlessly while simultaneously pointing back to His own beauty and perfection, can’t I assume He is doing the same in my own life?

That’s when it occurred to me.

If we could truly grasp God’s love for us, all of our prayers would be praise.

Surrender (A Poem)

A milk has gone bad, throw it away.
Your tires are flat, switch them up.
No need to complain or make sense of these things
All that you’ve done is enough.

A lover has left, let them go free.
Wages were lost, look for more.
No need to dwell or make sense of these things
Resistance can be quite the bore.

Surrender to what is,
then do what you can.
There’s no need to ask,
“Why must this occur?”

For all that you need
is right where you stand.
And you can’t fathom Ways
that are higher than yours.

Conversation with God – NOW

Dear Child of Mine,

Stay present. Now is all you have. Don’t you see that the present is all that exists? It is where you find Me. It is where you find True Life. I am.

Do you not know that I am with you always? I am guiding your every step. Even when your fallen mind becomes distracted and begins to wander from Me, I will not let you go too far.

You are never lost. You are home. You are here. With Me. Now.

When you need to be reminded of this, come sit in My Presence, just as you are. It is good to stay grounded. I have everything under control and you are exactly where I intend for you to be.

So enjoy this moment, love the ones you’re with, and share The Good News about Me. It is really that simple.

You all complicated things when you introduced time. Have you forgotten that I am Timeless? Where I exist there is no time.

I am here with you, now and forever. Now, won’t you stay here with Me?

Presence (A Poem Inspired by Ecclesiastes 3)

A time to be born
A time to die
A time to laugh
A time to cry
A time to love
A time to hate
A time to start
A time to wait
A time to keep quiet
A time to speak out
A time to grieve and mourn
A time to dance and shout
A time to heal
A time to kill
A time to take action
A time to be still

There is a time and a place for every last thing under the sun
But to know what a moment calls for, you must be present for one.

Discipline

Discipline is not God trying to pay you back, it’s God trying to bring you back.