Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Power of a Puppy

If you are my Facebook or Instagram friend, you have noticed that I'm in love with a fluffy little mop of fur named Bella. From the first moment I saw her, I knew she had to be MY dog. My husband was a bit harder to convince, but you'd never know it now. He too has caught the Bella bug. In fact the whole family is infected. We love this girl like crazy. It's been a little over 4 months since Bella came into our lives and changed us in ways that seem a bit too profound to credit to a dog. But who cares, I'm going to do it anyway.

Bella has focused our family foursome on loving and caring for the same thing. Of course we all love God, our family, friends, and Compassion. But this little dog is holding Happiness with a waggly tail. We all want what's best for her. And most of the time we work together to make this happen. As a mother of 11 and 15-year-old's rare to have both my girls care about the same thing. My husband has always had hobbies/interests, but in the past these obsessions are his alone. Bella has united us as a family.

Bella makes us stop. When Bella's doing something cute (which is just about all the time) one of us will call out, "Hey, look at Bella." No matter how "busy" we are, we'll stop what we're doing, pull away from the TV, computer, homework, Bible study, the laundry, dishes, or piano practice and look. Not a big deal - but it is. Because life moves fast. And Bella reminds us that it's the present that matters. Moments where we stop and look together are moments that we spend together, building memories and sharing smiles. These were far too few before Bella came into our home.

Bella makes us sit. We cuddle more since little Miss Flufferbutt came to our family. (Sorry Mom, I know butt is a bad word.) We love our "Bella Boop." Snuggling with a warm puppy is one of life's great pleasures. If you haven't done it, you are missing out. We sit on the couch, bed, or even on the floor and curl up with our girls...all of them.

Bella makes us play. Have you heard a sixth grader shriek and tear around the house with a 7lb dog the second she gets home from school? No? You're lucky. 'Cause it's LOUD. The stomping, the flopping, toys flying, paws racing. Sometimes it's too much. But mostly it's the sound of pure joy. This summer we spent countless hours as a family watching Bella race through the grass, hopping like a rabbit. I can't remember laughing and grinning that much in a very long time...if ever. I've noticed puppies don't really do naughty things. They are just living life, having fun, and learning along the way. And if you're smart, you join in.

Bella makes us focus. It's not just puppies that need training classes. We all do. Sometimes when your family gets as old as mine, you fall into ruts. You do the same old things, act in the same old ways, and forget that perhaps there's something better. Having a puppy has given us a clear vision for what it means to enjoy life. Things as simple as taking a family walk used to be forgotten...but not with a puppy. The "mine" game transforms into "what does she want to do?". And we remember how to share, submit, and serve.

Life isn't all puppy kisses and rainbows. But around here these days, living in the soggy NW, with a doggie named's pretty close. I am grateful.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thanksgiving Defined

This week it was my turn to bring a "spiritual practice" to the pastoral team. Sometimes I try to put together something more elaborate, but this week simple was key and it felt right. Our agenda including planning our annual Thanksgiving service and so I set my heart on thanksgiving and came up with a few reflections around giving thanks. Reading Ann Voskamp's excellent book, "One Thousand Gifts" has been inspiring me to live a life fully right where I am. (Somedays are easier than others.) It's also made me realize that all worship begins with thanksgiving. So I offered a sheet of paper with the graphic you see here and these instructions: Take a few minutes to think about some of the gifts God has given you. How might you express this gratitude in your actions, spoken words, and reactions throughout the rest of the day? Compose a written prayer of thanksgiving.
Here was my response:
God you are good. I want my heart, my mind, my words, and my actions to be set on thanksgiving - appreciating and worshipping you for all that you've done in my life  - FOR MY LIFE. Too often I spend time thinking about the places/pieces of my life where I want. You are helping me to see this is a waste of time. My goal should be to live fully right where I am and to live each moment in gratitude. In that spirit, I can trust you will move me forward and ever closer to You. Thank you God for loving me completely. Help me to return that love with thanksgiving.