Redemption in a Dog: Our Sammy

Sammy Redemption final(1)

There are days when a writer has to sit down and bleed at her computer…to just open up, spill all the words in their messiest, most imperfect, often-ugly forms, and get out what’s there.

It happens some days and, on most of them, those words stay locked away.

Today is one of those days for me, but those words won’t be locked up. They can’t be. They’ll be shared because they absolutely should be.

This is the day I want to tie up a story that’s been told in pieces over the years…here and there, in different places in our lives to others…and share the entire thing. It will be long, it will be messy, and not everyone will understand.

I get it, but I invite you to stay anyway.

It’s a story that needs to be told, and I’m going to do it in honor of the sweet golden retriever boy who shared our lives and love for over 12 1/2 years. He died just over two weeks ago, and it’s taken me that long to even find words that might attempt to tell about all he was to us. We miss him fiercely and heartbreakingly, but his presence and the ways God grew us through him will always stay with us.

So this. It’s for Sammy.

Sammy smiles final

It started on a Monday night in January of 2006, the kind that was rainy and gloomy and wasn’t stormy, though that would’ve made a great intro. 😉 Indonesian rain and gloom in January is about as close as it gets to winter in the tropics. At any rate, we just needed to get out of the house so we braved the rain on the bike and drove down the hill to the closest Starbucks.

Watching the tropical rain pound the windows from our cozy couch seats, we worked on school…planning, grading, lessons…and occasionally chatted about life. After a few hours, with the mall closing down in just about 20 minutes, we decided to pack up our things and head upstairs to check out the new pet store before we went home.

I don’t remember how it all went down, but I’d like to think it’s as if I semi-remember/imagine. 😉 I stepped off the escalator and locked eyes with a golden retriever puppy. He was panting, he was smiling because goldens smile so darn big and it’s awesome, and I was instantly smitten. I must’ve begged pretty hard to get my hubby to say yes, but within 20 minutes, we’d visited a cash machine, paid for our new family member, purchased a crate, and were on our way home, me and our new boy in a taxi.

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Our, we’ve-got-two-dogs-now, season of life had begun.

It seems like yesterday. And I have to stop here and let myself cry a little because the time just flies so fast. There are so many memories of that night…tied to dogs, tied to a place, tied to a time in our lives that can only be in our hearts now.

We already had an almost-3-year-old Golden Retriever at the time, Andre, and he was truly our baby. (Eye rolling is permitted here as long as it’s gentle.) I guess when I tell you that, I also remind myself that there’s more to this story than just loving a dog. Now, dogs.

It wasn’t all daisies and rainbows from the beginning, though…rather it was double the poop, double the dog hair all over everything, double the cost, double the crazy. And double the love. He kept us up most of his first night home and for a few more after that, life was always a literal wrestling match between the two dogs, and sometimes we felt like we were going crazy whenever we (or anyone else for that matter) walked through the door. But we smiled and laughed and loved it all…I guess we’re just created to be dog people, and we let them add all the love and crazy that came with them to our lives.

And we continued our lives overseas, too…some days were easy, some days not so much. That’s life in another culture when you have a busy job and ministry. It’s good most days, but that good can mix with hard, too…and we messed up a lot. We chose to love…or try to love…anyway, embracing it all, and we had two sweet, big-hearted furry boys along for the ride to help us feel a little more at home.

It was a sweet life, and there were so many incredible blessings. We wouldn’t trade those. Not for anything. 😀

And then there was the year when we decided that maybe we’d like some human kids, too, and by maybe I meant we absolutely couldn’t wait to be parents and by the time we we realized this, nine months felt like an eternity. I never imagined we’d struggle. But after months and months it became clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy road.

And I guess our dogs became even more precious to us.

Andre&Sammy final

Maybe that’s right and maybe it’s not…but there are no apologies in this story today. I’m just sharing it…all of it, my heart wide open.

When I go back to that season, I remember how heartbreaking it was to see one pregnancy announcement after another. Knowing that there was still no baby for us. There were so many days, for me, of surrender and choosing joy in all of it. The faces of my doggy boys made me happy, made me smile, made me forget my aching heart for a few moments at a time. In a very real sense, they were our kids, at least in that season. They filled a void that not everyone can understand.

And so it hit us hard and out of the blue the September morning of 2007 when my husband walked into my 4th grade classroom. I’d just sent my kids off to music class, and I looked up to see his face. I’ll never forget the look on it.

Sammy’s gone.

Somehow, without anyone seeing, someone had taken our precious boy from our yard. Our housekeeper had been home, but like always, she’d let the dogs run around the yard during the day. We had no clue that anyone would ever dream of taking him. Who does that?!

Apparently there are people who do.

That moment tore my heart out as we raced to figure out a plan, whatever that looked like, in a country where things worked differently and where we couldn’t always communicate well.

We didn’t know what to do, but we had to do something.

We spent days and days blanketing the city of Bandung with flyers, promising that we’d keep the police out of it, that we’d offer a large reward…we just wanted our sweet dog back.

Multiple times a day we’d hop on the bike and drive down to the two places in town known for selling stolen dogs. One, shamelessly set up on a street corner and the other in front of a shopping mall, we’d go and ask them over and over: Have you seen our dog? Please help us. We won’t tell the police. No police. Just a reward. Please help us get him back.

We spent six days living like that, on broken sleep with even more broken hearts while still trying to do our “jobs” at school.

Talk about messy people in a broken place.

During the day, my students…oh, my students. They would pray. They would encourage me with the love they poured on a teacher they’d only known for a couple weeks. One was so bold as to approach me one morning and say, “Mrs. Schroeder, God gave me a vision of Sammy. He’s going to come home.” I weep at her faith, even now.

To top it off, all of this went down during our Spiritual Emphasis Week at school.

While my faith was floundering and shrinking and the devil was having his way in my own life, Jesus was being lifted up. Satan wasn’t going to win, and even if I didn’t feel that…everyone else claimed it for me.

Four days after Sammy was stolen, something happened. I’ve gone back to this day, over and over, for two poignant reasons.

That Sunday afternoon I’d reached a breaking point. My hubby had just hopped on the bike (again) to drive by the two stolen dog markets (again) and I knew in less than an hour he’d be home (again) to tell me Sammy was nowhere to be found…again.

The tears had been constant, but I remember them flowing like they never had before. It hurt too much, physically, to even sit up and so I let myself lie down on the cool tile in our hallway. Face down.

And I wept. Tears-pooling-on-the-floor, wept. At first I wept for myself and my broken heart, but then, even more, I wept and surrendered. God, Sammy’s yours. I love him and I want him back so badly, but if this is Your plan, then he’s Yours. If I could just have him one more day…one more. But, still. He’s yours. Face down, I prayed those words as I pressed my forehead into the floor, as if that would make my prayer holier…or something like that.

And looking back, there was more to that surrender than a dog. I think I was surrendering it all then. My plans, my dreams, my hopes, and yes, my dog…and my future children, too.

And even after I sat up again, I cried more. It was maybe the most paradoxical, soul-crushing-soul-redeeming moment of my life. Yes, the two can co-exist.

A few minutes later my husband returned to get me, and we went down to the second market again. I think we went back there that day because I just needed to be there. I needed to look into the eyes of whoever was working the joint that day and let him know that there were real people and feelings behind this.

I remember approaching the mass of people huddled around all of the animals, locking eyes with a man working there, and immediately trying in my oh-so-broken Indonesian, covered with tears, to ask him to please find our dog.

That was when a miracle happened. I call it one anyway.

A fully-covered Muslim woman, with only her eyes showing, touched my arm tenderly. What an odd thing to see her there, standing and looking at dogs, something her culture didn’t allow. Ma’am, may I help you please? In perfect English.

I explained to her what was happening. She turned to the man and, in Indonesian, gave him every detail.

I thanked her and then I never saw her again.

But I hold on to that moment to this day and wish with all my heart that I could go back and thank this woman again…because my husband got a phone call two days later from the man we’d spoken to. He knew who had our dog, and he’d arranged for Tobin to meet him at a Dunkin’ Donuts, down by the mall, with cash, so this man could go buy back our dog and return him to us. (Yes, it was exactly like it sounds. Basically paying a ransom. At a Dunkin’ Donuts. In Indonesia. Everyday stuff.)

In just minutes, Tobin had hopped in a school vehicle with one of the drivers and another employee and they were on their way. We were skeptical that this was legit, but it brought a shred of hope. Something we’d prayed for, something to hang on to.

I went back to my kiddos, who had abandoned their recess to stand in a circle and pray. (Golly, this just makes me love them all over again.) And then I went back to teaching…my cell phone sat on my desk, and I shamelessly left the volume turned up, waiting for the phone call that my shaky faith still didn’t believe would come.

But it did. My phone rang and I set a record getting to it.

It’s him, it’s him!!!

That’s all we heard. His cries were loud enough that my entire class heard.

My boy was found.

I’ve never forgotten the emotion of that moment as I told my students to go tell everyone. That’s what they needed to do…what we needed to do. We had to let the people who’d lived this with us, who’d covered us in prayer, who’d supported us though they didn’t understand…that God had answered our prayers.

We’d all knocked down the doors of heaven…and God said, Yes.

He said Yes. And He not only said yes to one more day with our dog…he said yes to 11 YEARS, 1 MONTH and 2 DAYS more. That’s humbling.

I think so often of those days, and while they don’t bring the heartache that they used to anymore, they do remind me of a relentless God. For six days, Tobin and I did everything to wholly pursue getting our dog back. To redeem him and bring him home to us.

And, friends? Our God is the same way.

He moves heaven and earth and relentlessly…WITHOUT. GIVING. UP…pursues those He loves because he WANTS us more than anything.

That makes me weep. He wants to redeem every single one of us.

Sammy & the fam

It’s true that the life we lived with Sammy gave us so many memories. He lived so many things with us besides being stolen and then redeemed…he was there for the everyday joys, heartaches, big transitions, so much love. He lived life with us no matter which hemisphere we resided in, he welcomed Mae and Mac home as babies, let them climb all over him as toddlers, he kept on loving us every day, and he became part of the lives of the people we love so much, too. It’s hard to see that come to an end. It makes me cry today. Every day.

But Sammy leaves us with a lesson that our hearts have held on to for so long…it’s a lesson in the faithfulness of God.

Friends, we serve a God who hears us and knows the cries deep in our hearts. He understands heartache and there are times He allows it, but He never leaves us alone. He brings redemption and that redemption looks so much bigger than we can even imagine.

Tobin and I have talked a lot over the years about what might have happened if Sammy hadn’t come back. It’s not really a place we ever needed to go…but it’s something that would come up as we’d reflect on the miracle…and it really was…of him coming home. Several people told us, gently, that there was no feasible reason Sammy should have been returned to us. And, yet, God allowed it.

We’re so grateful.

Family-101 final

We said a hard goodbye to our sweet boy two weeks ago. My hubby and I both held him as the vet gave him a shot and he went to sleep for the last time. Our hearts broke and the tears felt endless for a few days…and honestly, I’m sitting at my computer bawling. It’s ugly and messy and that’s ok today and tomorrow and in the next days.

But, even as the tears just poured down our faces, we also couldn’t help talking about him as we drove home.

About how God gave us SO. MUCH. MORE. than we deserved in that sweet dog. How the love and the time and the memories were multiplied so much I can’t even do the math…and about how God knew how much we needed him and so He let us keep him longer.

We’re holding on to that right now…and we’re finding ways to remember him. The dog hair on everything feels sacred right now, which is totally stupid. But if you see me and there’s a dog hair on my shirt…just leave it there, yeah? It’s a mark of love.

I will never forget this sweet dog. Our Sammy Boy, who will always occupy a special corner of our hearts and lives and remind us of the faithfulness of our Father in all seasons.

I will always be grateful for what God did in our lives through him.

Goodbye, sweet boy. We will miss you with all our hearts.

Sammy redemption final

Sig

The Dance Between Now and Heartbreak

sammy1

There was a time not so long ago when I’d sit down and the words would pour out. I’d share my heart, my life, and the flavor of coffee creamer I was currently obsessing over with anyone who might listen.

As (slightly) self-indulgent as it sounds, those were good days.

I felt like someone and something in this great, big, bloggy world…and like I might be making a tiny difference when my words were out there, perfectly crafted or imperfectly messy. Either way was ok.

They were my words.

And then the words got fewer and further between and, for awhile, almost completely stopped. There are seasons of life like that, and as the words fell off and away, much like the leaves fall from the mighty oaks in my side yard during October, I entered a season of winter. And like every season, I knew it would pass.

We moved through the pain of heartbreak over a miscarriage, the loss of our sweet first golden, a life-threatening pregnancy gifting us with unimaginable joy and total chaos in the form of a little boy, and marriage difficulties that threatened to tear us apart.

It felt as if winter were lifting just a tad, and then things got hard again. It’s not like I expected them NOT to…life isn’t supposed to be a smooth ride around a predictable, even track.

But the fog was lifting a bit, and there was some clarity. Even joy.

And every day has been a dance since then…not always the good kind, but a dance. I was never a good dancer, and sometimes I can picture myself as a ballerina, but then I laugh over the obvious grace that would not accompany me, were I to be center stage in a tutu. (BAHAHAHA!!!) 😀

K, I needed to publicly laugh that one out. Mad love to all the ballerinas out there…YOU are AH.MAZE.ING.

There’s joy some days…smiles, laughs, and I think to myself, I can do this thing. I can raise this toddler boy and love my daughter well and even be a good wife, the kind who thinks ahead on dinner and stays up on laundry and (GASP) keeps the dining room table clean.

And then there are the days when I’m not those things, and it’s hard. It hurts. And life becomes more difficult. Those difficulties aren’t earth shattering, really. Like I said, they’re life.

But sometimes, life smacks us hard.

There’s this sweet doggie boy, our Sammy, who has shared our lives and our love over the last almost-thirteen-years and has poured so much into our family just by being him, and we know the end is near. We’ve been told there’s a tumor and we’ve got months at best, and in the middle of all the other struggles, I find myself waiting for heartbreak.

And it’s so, so hard. Some days, I really have to remind myself to breathe as I look at his sweet golden face and the joy he has brought us.

I can’t imagine our days without Sammy, and yet we know they’re coming.

And it’s this kind of dance I’m tripping through right now…the kind that soaks up every single moment because we have to but knowing that things can turn tomorrow, and our hearts will shatter even more.

I hate the in-between.

And I have fought God on it with all of my being some days…yet the other days I find some type of reconciliation and cuddle my Sam a little closer and remind him that, even though he can’t hear me at all, he has been an absolute gift to us, and we love him so much. SO much.

And I’m not even sure why I’m pouring out all of this, mostly-unedited and all-messy, and sharing it today except I think it might be necessary for me as I try to figure out how to say goodbye to a constant in our lives, one who made our lives better and some days just made us smile a bit more through the dark times.

Maybe I don’t have a right to hurt so deeply, especially over a dog. But as any dog owner knows…they’re never just that. There’s a deep ache in the pit of my stomach all the time. I don’t suppose it will go away for awhile, even if there’s full surrender and even if it’s the kind that says, It’s ok, God. It really is.

Because it is.

Ok.

At the end of the day, much like the rest of us, God has always known how long we’d have this doggie boy. He knew…on that heart-wrenching day, eleven years ago (ironically, exactly eleven years ago) when I found myself, face down on the floor, pouring out my heart and begging Him for one more day with my missing dog…He knew He’d give us almost eleven years more instead.

I serve a good Father, and so even as the pit deepens and aches just a bit more and the tears fall hard and steady, streaking my eyeliner, I can cling to His goodness and know that as we face something so sad…He’s there. Has always been and will always be.

It’s the lesson I’ve always come back to when I think of Sammy…that God has shown Himself faithful, and He’ll continue to.

Maybe you’re there today, friend? I don’t know. I just know how much I need that reminder as I stroke my hand through his fur and rub his ear yet another time, hoping and praying we’ll still have tomorrow.

It’s the dance between the now and the heartbreak I know is coming. I guess we call it life?

But I’ll dance it in flip flops and jeans with tear-filled eyes and cling to the Goodness I know is my Father. May you see His goodness today, too, no matter where your circumstances find you. And may you love a little deeper, knowing it’s all a gift.

And a good gift.

Thank you, God, for Sammy and for today.

Sammy2

Sig

On August: Smiles, Messes, and One Really Big Shark

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Somehow the calendar page turned today and I found myself staring at the month of September.

September is one of my favorite months. It’s that strange one that flips between summer and the promise of sweater weather, the one when the pool is still up and used even if there are acorn shells and crunchy leaves covering the ground. (It’s also the only time of year that I feel like I can reasonably pull off wearing shorts with long sleeves. That’s just weird and probably not very trendy, but I’m not sure I care too much.) 😉

I could lament forever that I can’t believe August is over, but now that we’re staring at this month…I guess I’m good with it. We survived transition, we made it through some hard days–the kind when we cry while we remember, and now life is falling into a bit of a routine. A bit…we’re still finding normal somewhat, but it feels more settled.

I haven’t been very good at keeping track of my favorites the last few months…but I still felt the bloggy urge to write about August somehow. So here we go.

Random, to be sure…but here’s the good, the bad, and what just was. Is. I love my life and the blessings God has given us.

I’ve been working my way slowly through Wild in the Hollow. Everyone I know who’s read it has devoured it in mere hours. I’ve been wanting to devour it, but Amber’s words hit so close to home that there are times I need to close the pages and find a quiet corner for soul processing. It’s such a unique read, unlike anything I’ve ever opened. I recommend it so much. (And actually, one of you is going to get a copy of it if you make it to the end of my ramblings.) 😉

Wild in the Hollow final

I think my daughter is completely adorable in her school uniform. Who knew that khaki, blue, white, and red (and the shades that fall into those categories) could create such cuteness? She’s just growing up and stealing my heart a little more each day. She also started soccer last week, had her cheerleading debut with some of her BFF’s on Friday night, AND there’s a LOOSE TOOTH in there, too. Hold me. T’was a full week and such a turning point in her life. I feel like she’s really a growing-up girl now…full of wonder and change. It’s fun watching her become.

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We saw War Room on Sunday night. I have to be honest and tell you that the weekend in our house was not full of peace and oozing with kindness. Hubby and I…well, we just had a few of those days. We didn’t so much like each other those days, and I know Satan was just dancing all over our hearts. It was horrible. How ironic that we’d made plans to see the movie with friends…and even up until the moment we walked into the theater, I could feel my marriage being attacked.

But we stayed and we watched (and I cried–more than once) and the movie was SO. GOOD. And I’m praying the truths from it will seep into our beings as we walk this road. Marriage…it’s no fairy tale. But it’s still beautiful, and I love him and I love my Father. We belong together forever, even on the messy, ugly days.

It’s been almost a year since we lost our sweet Andre. Sometimes I feel out of place and wrong for still grieving a dog. He was my sweet boy, and we still miss him so much. If you think of us on the 19th, will you whisper up a prayer? I think we’ll probably need to go away that day because I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to handle being in the house where he spent his last hours. Golly, I miss my boy.

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I’m a mess. It’s just been a messy month. Do you ever have those? I’ve had ugly cries in the church balcony, angry words with my Father, and too many moments of bitterness. I’ve beaten myself up over it all…but then I come back to the promise that He can turn this mess into something beautiful. I’m waiting for the beauty He’s promised.

Oh, and I got a tattoo. Yeah, you read that right. I’ve actually had it for a month, but it wasn’t something that I knew how to write about, so I just didn’t. Instead, I just kind of let it be seen sometimes and if people wanted to ask I told them the short version: I wanted a tangible reminder that my Father makes everything beautiful. Someday I’ll tell you more of the story. :)

tattoo final

I signed up to run a 15k. I have exactly 68 days to train for it, which is only slightly scary. My current distance sits at about a whopping 3 1/2 miles. Oh, boy…good thing I just bought a new pair of running shoes. 😉

For about a month I have been telling my husband I need the beach. I just love it…I miss my surfing days and the sand between my toes and the sound of the crashing waves and the soul peace that comes from breathing deep and feeling small in the vast. We’ve been teetering back and forth on possibly taking a long weekend this fall and going, but we honestly haven’t been able to make a decision. So, wishing for the beach…I am. Completely. Not sure it will happen this year, but a girl can dream, right?

And you would think that a video like this might change my mind. Alas, no. I still heart the saltwater sea. I swear it calls my name. (Though I can’t get enough of the following 42 seconds. Seriously…cracking up.) 😀 AND potentially praying that I don’t get eaten by one of those ever…

And that…well, that’s life for us now. It’s good and full of blessings…and writing like this reminds me of just how blessed I am.

And I feel like giving away a copy of Wild in the Hollow because it’s just so beautiful. (And it’s going to find a spot on my bookshelf forever, I think.) To enter, leave me a comment…either here or on facebook…and share a blessing. That’s it. :) I’ll pick a winner on Friday and shoot you an email/Facebook message to let you know you’ve won.

Happy Tuesday, friends. Make it a beautiful one. :)

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Why We Probably Won’t Ever Rescue a Stray Cat Again

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I decided that a sunrise photo from the upper floor in our Indo house was a much better picture for you today than one that actually goes with this story. I loved seeing this so many mornings…what a reminder that His mercies are new every single morning.

Oh, late-March Monday morning in the Chicago burbs.

You sure got me.

SNOW. Really?!

Ok, I might need to confess that my brain has this thing where when the calendar turns to March, I suddenly think that life should be daisies and green and NO. MORE. SNOW. (I realize that it IS still March in the Midwest.)

And alas, spring is not to be just yet, and here I sit looking out my dining room window, watching the inches of white fluff pile up onto Mae’s swing set, the same one she was finally able to play on in the last weeks after a frigid winter.

But I’ll get over it because there’s coffee and I’ve got words to share.

First of all, I took sort of a little unplanned hiatus from Indo stories the last two Mondays. My heart needed a break to process life, and it was time well spent.

Life is good, it really is, and I’ve got things to share. Soon. (AND they’re already written which is, like, a miracle.)

But today I want to keep doing what I said I was going to…sharing my stories and giving you a glimpse into Indo life. :)

This story is one that came up in a conversation with friends who were visiting last week. I warned hubby that I was going to share it…complete with maybe a little drama. 😉

His response? I’d expect nothing less from you.

He knows me well…and I love him. Truly.

And when I read this story, I’m reminded that I’m really blessed to be sharing this life with him.

Thanks for reading. :)

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Tobin and I laugh now about a lot of things that have happened to us…and not just the Indonesia stories, though those adventures do seem to provide quite a bit of entertainment for people even a few years after our return to the States.

I’ve come to accept the fact that adventure just seems to find us…something that I have truly learned to appreciate and value.

Because hindsight is 20/20, it’s always easier to look back and smile. For one thing, my husband is here, home with me, and our family is safe and healthy and happy.  But there were a few days in March of 2008 where every possible scenario ran through my head…the kinds when I feared a life without him.

So, it’s no secret to anyone who knows us that we love animals.

We brought home a golden retriever puppy when we’d barely been married a year. We had nothing but instant love for the newest member of our family…love to the point of, less than two years later, purchasing a one-way plane ticket to Indonesia for him. (Scoff not…at the time, it cost more to get him there than it cost for both of us. Combined.) But that’s just what you do for family.

Less than a year into our Indonesia life, we adopted Sammy…our other golden. Our lives were suddenly full of happy puppy days and tons of golden retriever love…we love it that way still, even now that we have a daughter, who only just makes the love overflow even more in our house.

Neither of us had ever been remotely interested in owning a cat though we have nothing against them. But in Indonesia, it almost felt like it made more sense than it didn’t. At our first house, especially, we had quite a rat problem that, thankfully, the dogs were able to somewhat keep under control, but we thought a cat might help keep them out of the house completely. Still, we never pursued actually getting one.

And then one Thursday night, my husband came home from the high school boys’ Bible study he co-led and immediately came to find me. Almost out of breath, he told me that he’d found a cat about a block away, huddled on the side of the road. It had been there for hours, just bait for another, bigger animal. He said it looked sick, and would I be okay if he decided to bring it home so we could take care of it?

I was a bit shocked that he asked, but I quickly agreed.

If only we had known what was coming.

That night we noticed, almost immediately, that there was something severely wrong with this cat. It could barely walk without falling over and would twitch almost constantly. We set it up with a litter box, food, and a blanket in a box in a spare bedroom and closed the door for the night.

I secretly wondered if there was a point to even trying to help it. The cat was in really bad shape, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what happened for a few days.

Oh, a few days…we truly had no clue what those “few days” would actually look like.

The next morning Tobin was up early, checking on our new friend. He was sitting on the bed, holding the cat and petting it, when Sammy nosed his way into the bedroom, immediately frightening the cat.

The cat’s reaction? Was to sink its teeth deep into Tobin’s hand.

Here we are…5:30 a.m. on a Friday morning and dealing with a cat-from-who-knows-where bite.

Not good.

I immediately got on the internet, and…to this day I have no idea why…looked up symptoms for rabies. We always hear about the foaming mouth stuff when it comes to rabies…never the symptoms that precede it.

Guess what?

One of the early signs is neurological issues…including twitching.

We made a quick, somewhat frantic, call to our school PA and tried to come up with some type of plan.

Let’s recount the facts…Indonesia. Possible rabies. We had no idea what to do…with the responsibilities of life staring us down.

While I got ready for school (and desperately tried NOT to freak out) Tobin called around and found people to cover his classes. Following the orders of our PA, he hopped on his bike and drove to the nearest hospital where rabies vaccinations could possibly be available.

I went to school; I had every intention of keeping life that day as normal as possible, but my emotions were exploding so much I could barely stay calm. After teacher devotions that morning, a friend offered to take my class for the first few minutes so I could get myself together.

And I finally cried.

Once I got the tears out, I went downstairs to my classroom, streaky eyes and all. My students, ever the prayer-warriors, wanted nothing more than to pray for my husband, and so that’s what we spent our Bible class doing. :)

Tobin showed up later that morning with the news that he hadn’t been able to find a locally made rabies vaccination, but that the hospital had given him a Tetanus shot.

I wanted to be snarky and make a comment about the fact that a TETANUS SHOT probably wouldn’t do much good, but I held it in.

I knew he was panicking, too…we just had different ways of showing it.

He had found an imported-from-France rabies vaccination in town, but our out-of-pocket expenses would be over $500…and so he was trying to find a local one first. Knowing that he had a window of 24 hours, he spent most of the day looking but eventually went back that afternoon for the imported vaccination.

So…rabies vaccination: check.

We thought it was over. (Well, once he finished the series of shots that would happen over the course of the next few weeks.)

But during a school music concert that evening, Tobin noticed something.

A redness creeping up his arm.

At the suggestion, again, of our PA, he took a Sharpie and marked how far the redness had spread. We were alarmed, a few hours later, to discover that the infection was progressing at a scary speed.

Oral antibiotics were begun the next day, but the redness continued to creep…and we were starting to worry.

In almost a curious way, Tobin asked our PA, So what will happen with this infection if we let it go? Will it eventually just go away?

She wasn’t being cruel, just direct, but her reply? No, it will kill you faster than the rabies.

We now realized that we needed to get this thing under control. But the problem was that every option was being tried. It wasn’t like people were sitting around watching Tobin get worse. They were trying everything.

And speaking of control, I was having major control issues by now.

Because cat bites, international medical care or the lack thereof…they don’t teach you how to deal with those things is training.

And I was terrified.

There was nothing I could do to help my husband, and I was scared he might not be okay.

As the oral antibiotics continued to fail, our PA finally found a series of antibiotic shots that, thankfully, worked.

The red that had crept halfway to Tobin’s elbow by this time was finally stopping and even receding a bit.

After several more shots and a few more weeks, the swelling and red were completely gone though Tobin still had a scar from the bite.

And we were so incredibly thankful…like the kind where I really can’t express our thankfulness in words.

I never imagined we’d be in a place like that…a place where something happened and there was nothing we could humanly do to help.

God taught me a lot during those few days. That He’s got it worked out, and when things seem hopeless, He’s still got a plan.

No matter where we are.

Oh, and the imported shot that cost us $500? Insurance paid every single penny. God is pretty amazing, isn’t He? :)

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Oh, Rats!

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Well, here we are.

Another Monday.

I’m determined to like Mondays, I really am. I have to admit that coffee helps them as coffee does generally improve my outlook each morning. 😉 (And I’ve probably had too much of it today, too…hello, Starbucks flat white. Where have you been all my life?!)

Ahem.

It wasn’t my intention to only blog on Mondays, either. It seems like life has gotten in the way a little…or, rather, life has needed to be lived not in front of a computer screen. Some weeks are like that, and I’m determined to be ok with that and not apologize for it. (Though I think that’s why you get a rather random intro every week…it’s my way of still writing out my thoughts a little.) 😉

I went back and forth with what to share with y’all this week. My hubby commented last week that my story sounded different from what I usually post. I was like, huh? I guess the difference is that last week was more serious instead of funny. (I do have a good mix of stories from both sides, but that’s not something I thought about.) I don’t want to lose readers or bore you to tears by being intense and serious all the time…it’s just that life in Indonesia wasn’t all giant puddles and falling in squatty potties. (No, no, not really…but that would have made an awesome story!)

So I’ll try to mix up the laughter and the tears. Thanks for sticking with me. :)

Aw, this one. It’s fun. (I say that a lot, don’t I?) 😉 One of the things we just had to deal with in Indonesia was rats. They flocked to us…or packed to us or whatever it is that rats do.

They could smell our foreign blood, particularly this girl’s, and they came running through grass and gutters and garbage piles just so they could give me good stories to tell. Funny enough, those stories have become precious pieces of my heart…ones I’d love to go back and live all over again. I guess I really loved Indonesia, didn’t I?

Yes. I REALLY did. And I still do. :)

I bring you…a tale of a rat and two dogs. It’s a doozy.

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37

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Along with cockroaches and snakes, one of the creatures I never got used to?

Rats.

*shudder*

My first interactions with them were from a distance…I’d often see them hanging out in the gutters or ditches, usually when we were on the bike.

Once in a while, if I was walking outside at night, I might hear one nearby, but it was kind of one of those things you don’t stick around to process too long. At least I never did. 😉

One time when we were driving, one ran in front of us, so close that we almost hit it.

But we made it through our first year in Indonesia, keeping our interactions with them to a minimum, and that was just fine with me.

I can do this. I can live here, I’d say to myself.

But sometime during our second year in that house, we started to hear the pitter-patter of little feet on what we thought was the roof.

We had our jaga (guard), who watched our house each night, do some checking for us. He couldn’t find evidence of anything, but we continued to hear the noises, and they were starting to make us nervous.

Eventually we figured out that there were, indeed, rats…but they were running between the floors of our house. The way our house was built, there was space between the floors, giving them just enough room to run through and around and play rat tag…and totally creep us out.

We were also very aware of the fact that, with two big dogs, it was only a matter of time before there was a nasty interaction.

Andre was the first to have a go at it.

For weeks…and I do mean weeks…we watched our golden retriever camp out by a certain spot in our yard. After he’d done his business, he would lie down on his belly, nose outstretched toward a little hole/crack in one of our gutters. (Concrete gutters are built into the ground in most places in Indonesia to deal with the copious amounts of rain we’d get during rainy season.) We were curious about what was so interesting down there, but we could never see anything until the night he “got it.”

Andre was a quick killer…one chomp and that rat was toast with minimal bloodshed.

Sammy was our more aggressive golden, though…he’s the one who gives us most of the good stories. His first “kill” was just a few weeks after Andre’s, and he caught this one in the kitchen. It had been hiding behind the washing machine, and he cornered it, chomped it…

And even though he could have just stopped there, he chose not to…shaking his head while holding the now-dead rat and, thus, spraying blood all over the kitchen walls.

Yes, it was a lovely mess to clean up since I know you’re all wondering.

We also said silent prayers, following that kill, that Andre would be the rat killer among the two in the future.

As the years went by, we really tried not to stress over the rats or the fact that they were becoming an inevitable aspect of life in Indonesia. And we were doing well…or so I thought.

When we made the move to the new campus and set up a new house, rats became a problem again almost immediately…I was starting to wonder if they could just sniff out expatriate blood and know who would be the most freaked out. 😉

Our pembantu (house helper) was living with us for several days each week, and one night she, my hubby, and our two killer doggies went down in history with possibly the most memorable rat-kill the world (or at least Bandung) has ever known.

I was sitting in the living room on the couch, prepping for my lessons the next day, when I heard a strange sound coming from the laundry area. Since both of the dogs were in the room with me, I connected what we were most likely dealing with…and so did Sammy, who immediately sprinted in there to survey the scene.

My feet had literally just hit the floor when I saw it come flying through the kitchen and into our family room.

I wasted no time…I took a flying leap, laptop still in my hands, and sprinted to another piece of furniture in the next room.

For the next few minutes that rat used our family room as his own, personal, obstacle course and sprinted over and under and – what seemed like – through furniture, constantly chased and nosed by two dogs who wanted a piece of him.

Literally.

Hearing the commotion, our pembantu came out of her room, saw what was happening, and grabbed a broom. (Just one of the many, many reasons I loved this woman…I don’t think she was afraid of anything.)

She expressed her idea to contain the rat by opening the door to the garage…and the rat eventually ran in there, followed closely by the dogs, herself, and my husband. (I stayed outside and listened.) 😉

It was one of those seriously hilarious scenes, even though I couldn’t actually see what was going on. There was noise, clatter, and even things falling over as four beings were in hot pursuit of this terrifying beast. I could hear her smacking at it with a broom, the dogs growling…it was really hysterical. (And I was totally laughing while I listened to it all.)

And then…quiet.

Pin-drop quiet.

The door opened, and Andre…ratless…emerged. The look on his face expressed all I needed to know.

He was extremely proud of his kill. (The one that our awesome pembantu was now picking up with a plastic bag and disposing.)

We were just breathing silent prayers of thanks that Andre had been the one to get the rat and not Sammy since many of our belongings were stored in the garage.

And that particular rat kill was over.

Oh, there were more…and they continued up until we left the country because, well, the rats continued.

There have been many times when this story has come up in conversation with friends…it was one of those that we’ll never forget. Yeah, it’s a little (or a lot) yucky, but may it was the proof we needed…

Proof that God can always give us the strength to survive some pretty unpleasant situations.

And laugh about them…and even cherish the memories of them…later.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Always There

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Haha…I’m laughing to myself.

😀

SERIOUSLY.

The things I will do to put off posting on Mondays.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me, please…I want to share these stories.

But sometimes I have to get over myself first, and it takes random things like shoveling FEET of snow and wasting my brain on old NKOTB videos (thanks to my bloggy sister who posted that one) 😉 before I’m quite ready to go there.

The truth is that my Monday morning snark really has nothing to do with this chapter.

Right now I have a lot of words to choose from…of course, that will change as the weeks go by. Well, unless I write more chapters, which will probably happen…there are even a few more ideas saved in the notes section on my phone right now. :)

So I asked my hubby yesterday which one I should share…and he immediately said, Sammy.

He hasn’t read my book…in fact, there are only a handful of friends who have seen a few pieces of it and one friend who’s read the whole thing. Tobin is reading it right along with the rest of you, and yet, somehow he knew there would be a chapter about this.

He knows me and he knows the many things God used to shape me during our time in Indonesia. They weren’t always easy things…and this is definitely one of them that is still painful.

A slight disclaimer: this is oh-so-very-UNedited. And it made me laugh when I read the two scenarios that I managed to combine. But to me it makes sense. And even if it doesn’t to you, I hope the truth here will resonate.

It’s one I need today…and every day.

Thank you for being here. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

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20

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8

I haven’t made it a secret that Indonesia was not easy.

It wasn’t something I dwelled on as we lived the day-to-day, but there were definitely moments when it became a blunt, in-my-face reminder.

There were moments of homesickness that made me hide under a blanket, curl up into a ball, cry every tear inside me…and eventually bring myself to the point of realizing that since I couldn’t will myself “home” that I would have to crawl out of my cave of despair and face life again.

I always came out, and life always went on, and it even included smiles.

I will never forget a certain day in Decemeber of 2005.

We’d been in the country less than five months…definitely still members in good standing of the newbie group.

But we also wanted to break out of that somewhat and learn to live in this place that was our home and would be just that until God gave us a definitive calling for something else.

And as part of our “breaking out?”

We hopped on the motorbike, determined to find a certain restaurant I had eaten at once.

One. Time.

One time, a little restaurant, in a city of about three million people.

We had a vague idea of where it was, but compounding that very vagueness was a maze of one-way streets. A drive that should have taken us fifteen minutes left us still on the bike ninety minutes later, the sun beating down, the dreaded farmer tan forming on my arms, and our spirits sinking.

Oh, and we had a form of bike butt that I can’t even talk about. Because, for some reason, I remember the pain, and it still makes me cringe.

It was one of the worst feelings to be so lost and have no clue where we were going. (Or, if we were going to get there. Ever.)

Anyway, more and more and more wrong turns later, and after almost two hours of driving around (with a gas stop for a very empty tank), we finally arrived at the restaurant. Ate lunch. Did a little shopping at the outlet store next to it. And left.

Feeling a euphoria mixed with some form of what-on-earth-just happened-here.

Frustration could have ruled the day, but we were both in the same place, I think.

We were finally, really living in this place…finding our independence.

And it felt spectacular.

But was that day easy? Absolutely not. As much as it is etched in my mind for eternity, it is not a day I want to repeat. Ever. (Well, I would repeat the lunch-and-shopping part of it…those were definitely aspects I always enjoyed.) :)

There were so many days and even weeks like that…times when we were left to figure things out or trust that it would all work out even when we had no clue how that might happen. Things always did work out, but sometimes not without a lot of confusion, frustration…and tears.

Perhaps one of the hardest things we experienced was so much like this first account…and yet so different.

We’d just begun our third year of Indonesia life, and we were no longer the new kids in town. We were moving into the mentor role and had just spent the week prior with new staff, helping them set up their houses.

It was a good place to be…and we were truly enjoying life and where God had placed us. We were also coming off of a summer spent in Indonesia…the one summer we chose not to return to the U.S. It had been a difficult two months but was not without blessings, either…including a trip to Bali to celebrate our 5th anniversary.

We’d also had some transparent talks as a couple about our relationship with God and how we both felt there were areas we could improve, specifically with spending more time in His Word.

For the previous two weeks we’d been intentionally rising early to do this in the morning rather than late at night as our eyelids began to droop.

We were being intentional…and we were growing.

That’s why we were blindsided…We. Just. Didn’t. See. It. Coming.

It was a Wednesday morning, and I had just sent my fourth graders to their specials class. I was attempting to dig through the stack of grading that had somehow miraculously appeared on my desk, just two weeks into the new school year, when my husband walked into my room.

I took one look at his face and knew instantly that something was very, very wrong.

Sammy’s gone.

Those words still bring tears to my eyes as I, once again, see the image in my mind of my husband standing in front of me, tears in his own eyes.

Though our pembantu (house helper) was at our house and it was broad daylight, someone had stolen our precious golden retriever without anyone seeing.

To say that the days that followed were horrible is an understatement. We couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function…and yet all of our school responsibilities went on as expected. My students became accustomed to a teacher who did all the things asked of her but did so with red, swollen eyes and a spirit that seemed to be sinking lower with each passing minute.

We spent every free moment combing the city, blanketing it with fliers, and taking locals with us who would translate for us as we explained to pet stores and the two “stolen” dog markets that there was a big reward, and we would not call the police. We just wanted our dog back.

And in between those things and teaching, we would just try to breathe…somehow.

But it almost felt like helpless floundering.

We felt so lost.

I remember the Sunday that followed because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The pain was too great, my heart was too heavy, and my God seemed too far away.

I found myself face-down to the floor, my forehead pressed against the ever-dusty tile, and wept to that God. The One Who had promised that He cared for His children, the One Who said He cared about the robins and sparrows, the One Who had promised He’d always walk by my side.

I don’t know how long I stayed in that position, but I know it was for a while because I had a pretty good mark on my forehead for a few days. And I can’t even tell you everything I said between my tears, but I do know that I told God, Sammy’s Yours. I want him back, but he’s Yours.

Two days later, Sammy was returned to us through a series of events that I know my Father orchestrated…but that one is deserving of its own chapter.

Again…that feeling of complete bliss but mixed with some wondering, too, of what on earth had just happened to us.

Having our precious doggy-boy returned to us was a day neither of us will ever forget, but is it a day or a week that we ever want to repeat?

I don’t think that question even bears the need for an answer.

And we’ve since revisited those emotions…emotions that can still be strong enough to bring tears. I’ve combed through the story in the past, searching for something deeper that God may be still trying to teach me, and I think I’ve finally found it in the midst of another season when I just don’t see.

It’s not earth-shattering, it’s not going to shock any of you.

But it is Truth.

There are times in life that are just hard. And while we cry and hurt and wonder, we must never, ever forget Him…He is always there, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Today my Sammy is still his crazy, loud, wonderful, golden-retriever self…and he is a living reminder of this Truth.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

See Ya, 2014

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It’s safe to say, almost-a-million times, that I’ve put off writing this post.

I’ve been aware for several weeks that I needed to sit down and, somehow, find a way to put 2014 into words.

Words that are honest but also bring hope. Words that remember but also look forward.

It’s proven to be much more of a challenge than I thought it would be.

But that’s ok. Today I’m finding you and my blog dashboard after an embarrassingly-late sleep in and two large mugs of coffee…and I think I’m ready to share.

So let’s get to it. Though I am extremely tempted to refill the coffee mug yet again before I chat. We’ll see. 😉

When I look back a year and read through some of the things I shared with you all, I realize something. I had so much hope for 2014.

That hope looked like a lot of things. Restoration in relationships, especially my marriage. Hopefully an addition to our family. Topping it all off with a book deal.

I like to dream big. :)

When I make that list of things, there is a certain semblance of failure that threatens to creep into my heart. And while I won’t let it creep in, the tears are definitely creeping toward the corners of my eyes, and I have to blink them back.

There’s so much I wanted from 2014…so much that wasn’t just NOT given, but was also taken. It’s easy to dwell on those things and let them define a year.

A year. The truth is that we had a packed year. A crazy one. A difficult one. And there was a lot of good in the middle of it.

This was the year we finally got to take our sweet girl to our second home. I still can’t stop the tears of joy when I think of the first time we introduced her to strawberry juice or she rode on a motorbike or she gave our beloved pembantu a hug. We had dreamed of being back in Indonesia as a family, and I still have to pinch myself when I remember that we actually got to go.

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There were also some pretty sweet reunions with some of my favorite sisters.
To steal a line from Logan…or was it Sarah Mae? 😉 It still blows my mind that the internet gave me some of my best friends. They are truly a gift, one I am so grateful for.

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And part of me wishes I could just stop there so you could all see the good…but I know I need to keep going and keep it real. :) Because there are other pieces of the year that need to be shared…

And they SHOULD be remembered because they’re forever-pieces of the story He’s writing.

The hope our family had of another child broke to shards on a sunny July morning, and it has taken months to even begin to pick up the pieces. Our hearts still ache and the tears still fall, and while I will make no apologies for those things, I also know that I need to hold onto Hope and continue to walk forward. It’s there, even when I don’t see it, and I need to claim the promise that His plans for me are good ones.

We said a heart-wrenching goodbye in September to a beloved member of our family. It was a sudden, painful blow, and while there are so many good memories of the wonderful 11 years with our sweet boy, we just hurt. Still. And we accept that He gives and takes away, but that isn’t without tears. And those tears just have to be part of life for this season as we move forward and love the ones we hold in our arms.

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And maybe a silver lining in all of this loss is that God has knit us closer together as a family and especially in our marriage.
We have clung to each other as we’ve tried to cling to Him. God has deepened our marriage, forcing us to walk with Him together on the many, many days we don’t see. We love each other more deeply (though we can still argue with the best of them!) and we choose to walk this life together, now, more than ever…even if there are days when it’s tempting to throw it all away.

And we also hold on a little tighter to our girl, too…though she did give me a reminder the other day. Mommy, soon I’ll be too big for your arms! Never, my girl. Never. 😉

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I’ve also watched Him take the book-writing dream and say a firm, No.
That one…it’s hard to swallow. Writing and publishing a book has been so much of what I’ve let define me as a blogger…and yet, it’s not what He’s calling me to.

That makes me cry, kind of a lot. And yet, through so many things, I know He is just saying that it isn’t what I should be doing right now. I’m being called to a season of depth and connection, not building and branding. I’ve needed to let go…for awhile now. And as I’ve slowly accepted that and loosened my grip, I can’t tell you how much peace it’s brought. How much pressure it’s released.

And it’s also confirmed something in my heart.

You see, I want to tell my stories. I don’t want to sell them.

And so…you’re all going to be getting them this year. On the blog. Every Monday, I’m going to share one. Unedited, raw, heart-stories that come from a tender place in my soul from an unforgettable time in my life. Stories He gave me that I want to share.

I lived them, and so it’s time to tell them. I hope you’ll be back every week to read them. :)

Honestly, it’s easy to read all of this and and wonder how on earth so many paradoxes can coexist. In some ways I’m shaking my head…but mostly, I have to remind myself that I don’t see the whole picture. Oh, I’d love to…but alas. 😉

If I’m being completely honest here, it’s tempting to say (audibly AND loudly), See ya, 2014. Don’t let the door smack you too hard in the #!* on the way out!

Brutal honesty here, folks. 😉

And yet, I want to walk away from this year, knowing without a doubt that none of it was wasted.

I see it so much already…in the prospect of sharing my words for the simple fact that I can tell my stories, in expectantly looking forward to the good He holds for us, in the ways He is taking the heartbreak and making something beautiful from it.

It’s what I hope for in 2015.

Which brings us TO 2015…at least tomorrow. Will you come back? I want to tell you about the word He’s given me for the year.

It holds Hope, a different kind. One that I think He might be using to knit our hearts back together.

I truly love each one of you who have spent even a few seconds here. Thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart.

Goodbye, 2014.

(And have a Happy New Year, my friends!) :)

Photo Credits: Kim Deloach Photography, Alan Levine

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I’m linking up at God-sized Dreams today as part of our One Year Celebration…seriously, can you believe it’s been a year?! We’re all sharing stories and updates from what God has done this year…so hop on over and join us. :)

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I’m also linking up with my sweet friend, Kristin, for Three Word Wednesday. :)

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Sig

As I Am

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I love this picture of Sammy.

It’s just him on any day…I honestly don’t even remember which day this was. He was just lying down. Being cute. Not even moving when I pulled out my phone for a photo…yeah. He just is.

Nothing special but maybe everything that is special. And I love it. :)

So it’s been three weeks since there have been words here.

And today I finally decided it’s ok to write no matter what.

Honestly, I’ve been waiting for something. And if I continue to wait for it…I guess there wouldn’t be words today. Or maybe for a lot more days.

I’ve been waiting for that moment when I had the grief thing figured out. The kind of day when the smiles just came and the words poured. The kind when I felt no pain or no sadness or no wishing for what might have been. The kind when I could admit that I’d moved on completely.

And then I realized that’s just not life. And it’s not what He wants for me, either.

Just like He wants every day, He wants me to come as I am.

And that’s hard. But it’s the right thing to do.

It’s hard to sit and pour things from a heart that’s been beaten down. A heart that struggles to find Hope even though I know it’s there. A heart that has been through so much loss and has wondered…often…if God is really there.

My hubby and I were talking on Sunday during our long road trip from Minnesota to home about that. About how so many times during this season we’ve had to fall back on what we know of our Father…because we have a hard time feeling any of it.

As I am…it looks rough. Ragged. Puffy, tired eyes. A few extra pounds from the running that hasn’t happened.

And when I took a selfie a couple of days ago, I could see it all. I could see a thousand things that were wrong with this picture.

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I was tempted to change the color settings, to crop things a little…to make it look a little better than it actually is.

But the truth? Is that God doesn’t want that from any of us. He doesn’t ask us to spend hours on the way things appear before we come to Him.

He already knows it. All of it. And the best part of it all is that He chooses to love us despite it. Despite the flaws, despite the imperfections.

I don’t have this all figured out.

I don’t know what my days are going to look like.

Tomorrow might be a truly wonderful day…full of laughter and sunshine and memories with my girl.

Or, it might be a hard day, too…with tears and questions and more tears.

And that’s ok.

Today it’s ok, and tomorrow it is, too.

Because His mercies and His promises are for me every day…not just on the days when life feels good.

It’s part of the journey and it’s where I am.

As I am.

Sig

My Andre…

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It’s been three days.

It seems like so much longer, but that’s how hard days can seem. The way they stretch and linger is painful…heart-wrenching.

He and I, we sat on the couch together three days ago. He was resting, his chest rising and falling…my hand there with every breath. In between games of Sudoku…something to keep my mind off of it all…I’d look over at him.

Feel the tears well up.

Whisper a prayer that it was all a bad dream.

Breathe into his ear how much I loved him.

Repeat.

We knew it. The vet had confirmed it just the day before, but we knew. We knew it was almost over.

Eleven years that had made up a lifetime were about to end.

It was soul-crushing, the kind that leaves a hollow, painfully deep ache.

And even in the ache, I caught myself reflecting…

Reflecting on a life together that began on a beautiful September Saturday in 2003. He bounded toward us, and I almost said no because he was bigger than the cute, wiggly, 12 week-old puppy I really wanted. But there was something about him, and we just knew.

We knew this was our puppy. And so we took this almost-five-month-old, still wiggly, ball of fur home with us and named him Andre.

He was totally an Andre…always happy, a little goofy, and perfectly sweet. We were in love immediately.

He bounded into our lives, ready to take on any adventures that might come with it. And had he known what was coming, maybe he would have turned around…but he didn’t. He stayed, he boarded planes, he crossed cultures, he welcomed more family members, he followed us wherever we went…and he lived every single day with exuberance.

Every single day for eleven plus years…and those years passed by too quickly.

And we watched the calendar pages turn, wondering where it was going. The one consolation was that he was still so much a puppy…so playful, so full of love.

And it continued until the end. Only in his last weeks did he show signs of slowing down…and that was why my hubby decided he needed to be checked out.

It didn’t take long to hear the words tumors and a week or two…and those words broke our hearts to shards. He wasn’t in any pain…but we carried that pain.

Knowing that he could slip away at any moment made it hard to even breathe.

Just 24 hours after we knew, it was time. We watched through tears as he used up the last of his love on people…that was so Andre. And then, exhausted, he found a spot in the grass to breathe in some of his last moments. We carried him to the van, and Tobin and I went.

We drove in tears, we gave final hugs, we went into the room, the three of us together for the last time.

We held him and told him, over and over, what he already knew. We loved him so much…and he had been the best dog in the world.

And my arms were wrapped around him, my hand on his heart, when he went.

The tears fell…more than I’ve ever cried, I think…as we said goodbye and forced ourselves to leave the room and find our way home…a home that will never feel the same again.

It’s three days later, and the tears still pour.

I miss my boy. I miss the way he greeted me with a smile and a butt wiggle multiple times a day. I miss the way every second was a gift worthy to be lived with exuberance. I miss the cuddles and the snuggles and the endless amounts of dog hair all over me.

I miss it all so much.

I miss him. And I will forever.

And I sometimes wonder why we chose it when we knew it would come to an end. But, really, we know the answer to that…and it’s the same answer that helps us breathe through the moments that hurt so much.

It’s Love. He lived it so well.

And so we laugh through the tears and smile and talk about the Andre stories…about the times he went swimming in places he shouldn’t have, about the time he ran into a tree, about the millions of ways he filled our lives with love.

We go on. Because the best way for us to honor his life is to live ours like he did.

Goodbye, sweet, sweet boy. You were a gift to us in ways we can’t even describe. We thought we were making your life better when we brought you home, but you were the one who made us better. Blessed us. And gave us a life full of love that will stay with us forever.

To Andre. You are forever a part of us…and forever in our hearts.

family-final

Sig

Behind the Scenes: The Blanket Stealer

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Today’s post comes courtesy of a wife and mama who’s had a scattered Monday. Hey, sometimes it just happens. 😉

When I can’t focus, I talk about the fluff.

And today…well, it’s literal fluff. 😉

If you’ve been around this place awhile, you know about Sammy.

He’s our younger golden of the two at eight years old, but he acts about eight months old. He’s all crazy puppy and all love. Truly. And you will also never, ever meet a more loyal dog.

We kinda love him. A lot.

And it’s not really a secret in our house that our dogs are a bit spoiled. Not completely, but there are certain things they get away with. They regularly make themselves comfortable on our bed or on the furniture. (We just clean the dog hair off a lot. Pretty much every day, or at least it feels like it.) They beg when we eat. While we make them lie down while we’re actually eating, they do usually get a scrap of people food. And there are presents for them on Christmas and cuddles for them every day.

Every hour. 😉

They’re part of the family, and if dogs can reason, I’m pretty sure they know that.

Around Christmas time, I was the recipient of two awesome blankets. A sherpa throw that is UH-mazing and a heated blanket that has been my best friend during this never-ending thing called the Polar Vortex.

I will occasionally have to wrestle these blankets away from my daughter…she clearly shares her mama’s love of NOT. BEING. COLD.

Don’t worry…there’s zero bitterness in there. 😉

But my dog? Really?

I literally hopped off the couch for less than two minutes to run upstairs and do something. Left the heated blanket on because, well…IT’S COLD and I really can’t wait to Just. Crawl. Back. Under. It. And. Be. Warm. Again.

I thunder down the stairs, turn the corner, and…

Sammy.

On my blanket AND my pillow. All cozied in and snuggled up and looking about as cute as he possibly can.

Oh, the eyes…the please-don’t-move-me, look. Melt.

And while everything in me just wanted MY BLANKET BACK, it was too cute not to photograph. Hubby is good with a camera, yeah?

So that’s the story.

Of my cute, furry, sweet golden retriever and how he totally steals blankets and the comfiest spots in the house.

And since I know you’re wondering, T convinced him to scoot over a few minutes later, just enough so I could reclaim my spot.

And then he snuggled right up next to me.

It was a good afternoon. :)

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Happy Tuesday, friends! Today I’m linking up at Crystal’s space for Behind the Scenes with some of my favorite friends. We’re sharing the silly and sweet and sometimes-tear-jerking moments that happen behind the camera lens…I hope you’ll take some time and pop over to read some great stories.

Social media and online relationships can make us feel like everyone else has it all together. We’re edited, proof-read, Pinterest-perfect versions of ourselves (or so some might think!) when – in reality? There is an unfinished pile of laundry around the corner. That cute toddler smiling for the camera just had a massive meltdown seconds ago. That yummy breakfast-for-dinner you just showed us on Instagram? It’s because the cat licked the chicken that was supposed to be for dinner.

“Behind the Scenes” is a fun link up where we show those photos – but tell the real story behind them. The sneak peek behind the scenes, a look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it.

crystalstine.me

Sig