Sick Dogs, Golf, Husbands, and an Old Fashioned Humbling.

When was the last time you were humbled? I mean take-you-to-your-knees-where-the-scuffed-caps-are-so-full-of-gravel- you-have-to-pick-it-out-with-tweeezers humbled. No matter how together it seems like we are, we all have to bend our knee some time, huh?

Before we begin the drama, there are some things you need to know.

1.) I love my husband deeply and would never, ever, ever do anything to disrespect him.

2.) In our marriage we have had more ahem disagreements over dogs than we have had raising our four children.

3.) I love dogs. I see them as having their place in our lives and love loving on them, but Jiggy is definitely Cliff’s.

4.) Never on the planet has a golf tournament only lasted 4 hours. Ever. Ever. Ever.

5.) Seemingly unrelated, I was feeling worthily equipped by God Himself to lead a Bible Study entitled “Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions” by Lysa Terkurst. During the last few years I have had to walk through some extreme emotional fires where flames licked at my soul. Although a few gray hairs at the temples are proof of some singeing, I’ve survived and learned getting wound up is frankly not worth it. Even the death of my mom a few months back was such an amazing passing that yes, I have my moments, but how could we not be even more secure in what is to come? Truly, everything is in God’s hands, and I am blessed to help him out.

Now that I look back, the day I opened the study book and viewed the DVD, I innocently opened a spiritual Pandora’s box, which I should have known. Everytime, a target is drawn right on my sternum, and God enthusiastically accepts the invitation to mess in my business.

The next day, my husband came in and was very concerned. Our German Shorthair hunting dog was droopy and had shed a significant amount of weight in just a couple of days. Could I take his baby to the vet the next day? The dog was bad enough that he feard Jiggy would be put down.

If one isn’t familiar with German Shorthairs, they are extremely lean, athletic dogs with the sweetest personalities. They have two traits that are a blessing and a curse. They are amazing problem solvers and can figure out latches, locks, cabinets, you name it. The Houdini’s of the canine world. Hence our outdoor pen has no gate. It is wired shut at a corner.

The other trait is high energy. Like in a nuclear bomb. Jiggy has spiderwebbed a windshield because he was so excited to go for a ride, he rocketed through the air, bonked his head on the glass, and was in the backseat without even a shudder. When we would go for a walk, he would pull so hard that he would go into an upright position. Yes, the Long’s had a circus dog and our arms are 2″ longer than our other ones. Unless on point, he continually danced a ‘jig’ and tried to get me to dance so heartily, I ended up with a black eye.

When I went to the pen, poor Jiggy didn’t come out of his house nor raise his head. I wrestled him through the unwired corner, sporting a plethora of scratches in the process. The vet was bamboozled at this skeleton of a dog and tests were taken. The Insure of dogfood and recipes of how to cook for the sick fellow were sent home, and I made a bed in the house. The day was spent boiling hamburger and rice to no avail, nor anything offered to him. Since the dog refused to drink out of a bowl, one of the toilets became his. I poured Pedialite or grape Gatorade in it. Eventually, he started drinking. Whew!

And drink he did. All night long, every hour on the hour, we were up letting him out.

The next morning Cliff had taken the day off and jetted out to golf in a fundraising tournament right outside of town. “This tournament is only supposed to go to noon, then we’ll load up the dog and off to Robin’s we will go. Will be there before normal, so we can eat supper with her. Keep me posted on the hound.” And off he went. So began Day 2 of big, brown, sad eyes looking up at me and following me absolutely everywhere like a puny preschooler.

As the day went on, the dog seemed worse. He didn’t want to be alone, so I sat with his head in my lap. His breathing was labored, and his heart was fluttering in his chest 90 to nothing.

Just like Mom. I unpeeled myself from the pooch.

Unwelcome feelings of grief tried to arise, but I stuffed them by going into a flurry of activity that really didn’t accomplish anything. Maybe if I kept going, they wouldn’t catch me.

“Stupid dog! And not even my dog! Cliff is out with friends and doesn’t even act like he cares about his dying dog.”

Or me!

I paced and messaged Mr. Text, Cliff, several times. No response. “Yoo-hoo!” I mimicked his texts that always come right when I’m in the middle of leading a study or something equally as important. “Once I had a wife….” When I stop the world to find out what is wrong, I usually learn that he is just missing me and bored. That tends to run up my spine and makes my eye tick while mixed with a mere pinch of sweet.

No answer.

About 1:30 pm, a good case of mad started to steam up my insides.

Robin made the mistake of calling just then. “What’s wrong?”

My plight vomited itself in her ear.

“Mom, I’m sure Dad has good intentions. You know he’s on a team of other guys and can’t up and leave.”

“Well, he doesn’t have good intentions when it comes to his dog!”

Silence “Um, I think Bren just woke up.” Click.

Then Casey calls. The stress two weeks of almost slipping about the surprise engagement her boyfriend had up his sleeve for the next day still hung like a developing funnel cloud. Plus I had worked myself into feeling like going 14 rounds with Rocky over Jiggy. “Whatever you do, don’t get married and have to deal with a sick dog!” I spat.

“Okay….” Casey stammered and simply listened to the pitbulls of marriage and how the vet was supposed to call, but hadn’t yet.

On the couch, our version of Skeletor continued to labor. “I can’t do this again. At least with Mom I knew what was happening. I can take feeling so helpless.”

Then about 3 p.m. Cole called. “Mom, aren’t you guys about to McPherson to pick me up? I thought the tournament was supposed to be over.”

I dry-heaved my tale with tears only a sniff away.

Finally about 4pm a text from Cliffy Gilmore–“I’m really trying to get away from here. Be home soon.”

“And just how long is soon? Hours from now. So much for taking off work so we can be gone earlier.” My tone dripped with corrosive acid as I watched Jiggy stagger in the grass to do his business.

Suddenly, the critter haphazardly jogged up to me. His carmel swirled eyes spoke of only love appreciation through misery.

And I totally lost it.

I sobbed. So much had happened in a short time. Mom’s long battle had finally been transformed into a homegoing, one branch of our family tree was being grafted 1352.51 miles away in California, and the dynamics of Daughter #2’s whole life was changing the very next day. Even with the good of it all, wouldn’t the world stop long enough for me to breath? My belt of responsibility, keeping our family’s positive pants up, was falling down around my ankles. And I was so exhausted by it all that I wasn’t sure I had on clean underwear.

My mom would have had such words of wisdom or humor to fix things. My head would have nuzzled perfectly in that special curve between her shoulder and neck. And there would be no more comforting perfume than was my mama’s scent.

Now was not the time for missing my mom to surface.

But it was beyond my power to stuff it down again. Just like doing everything in my ability to keep a fading dog alive was beyond my power. Or the vet’s schedule lining up with mine. Or the hands racing by bold numbers on a clock.

(Or the husband, who, when the story came out, was tied up with a feat of honor that endeared him to my heart even more, but too private to share.)

On my porch steps I prayed, wept, and released the Cracken of emotions that I had bottled up for way and had embarrassingly little do with Cliff.

“Lord, please can I ask a favor? If Jiggy dies, I’ll handle it, but it would do my heart so good if he lives.”

And God nuzzled me in that little place between his shoulder and neck with a perfume that smells only of him. He reminded me that I have never lost my mama, but I’m the one that is on layaway until He and I get some stuff like my reactions busted up with a hammer of grace.

Where sin increased and abounded, grace (God’s unmerited favor) has surpassed it and increased the more and superabounded. Romans 5:20b

For the record, we made our destination on Friday night. I did not strangle my husband, but in fact I had my happy pants on with a lovely ironed crease down the leg. The dog turned a slight corner after that prayer. It is three weeks later, and only God knows if he is going to make it through a weird liver condition. My ‘stupid dog” attitude has turned into Florence Dogingale and am not complaining about dog slobber trails anymore or being a short-order cook for the doggie buffet.

And just like God, He gave me a lay-it-on-the-table Unglued story to start the study with. Ah yes, how thankful I am for His lavish grace and his patience as he tweeks this masterpiece in the works.

Our challenge for today: Can I trust God and believe that He is working out something good even from things that seem no good?

*I know there is a lot more serious situations in the world, but would ask you to shoot up one for ol’ Jiggy. Thank you.

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Gazing Back Over This Thief’s Footprints

How insignificant our daily footsteps seem as we plod through the ordinary. If we only had a clue to how orchestrated they truly are. Join me as I gape in awe at some of our recent ones.
*A shopping trip to Mega LumberLand with detailed list and full intentions of buying bathroom remodeling supplies that fell paint-roller flat for no particular reason. Hence, we left with confused expressions and not so much as a paint brush.
* A compulsion propelled me to excavate the mysterious treasure trove of Mom’s cedar chest. This led to organizing the pictures inside-which overflowed to labeling and sorting all of our own family photos-which led to me vowing to go through every scrap of paper in our office-which led to ‘why don’t we just paint the walls,’ which led to engulfing mass chaos inhabiting three main rooms in our house.
*After writing Mom’s eulogy, I put the papers in a padded folder to try to look muy professional, on a day I felt anything but that.

So why are these random actions significant? If we gone into our crazed inspiration mode, where nothing in our path is sacred in our remodeling path, when Mom died, we would have been down to one bathroom.

And no shower.

For eight people to navigate for four days. Not that it couldn’t have been done, but so we were blessed that we didn’t have to.

And despite the office project insanity, all of Mom’s pictures and special items from her past were pre-laid out for us like a memorablia fan. What great memories they triggered to pass on and made her tribute sparkle.

The padded folder. After giving the eulogy, I scooped all the papers off the lectern that I had gently laid aside as I had read through them. Whew! I was so relieved that I hadn’t blubbered, passed out, or fell off my heels. Now I could just sit down and be in the role of just being the grieving daughter. Once I plopped in the pew beside my husband, the pastor began the sermon, starting with: “I had planned to do a twenty- minute sermon, but it seems that Kelly stole my notes.” The place erupted.

I whispered to Cliff, “Do you think I should I take them to him?”

“Well, yes!” he answered incredulously, as my father-in-law flashed a proud fist-pump for my slick thievery.

I frantically retrieved the papers and tiptoed them up the center stage steps, as if no one could see me. I handed them sheepishly to Pastor Dale. Later, he wove the incident in as a perfect illustration for a point he was trying to make. It was like he had seen it coming, it was crafted in so masterfully.

Besides my mom would have thought this episode was hilarious!

In awe, I sat, as he continued to read on. Psalm 121 was one he plucked out of the blue. There was no way he knew it was one of the very last pieces of scripture I read her. And why did I pick that one? I had no idea it was one of her most loved passages–until I read through some of her bible study workbooks a few days after the all the funeral dust had settled.

So all these incidents got me to pondering: If God shows himself at time a time when our feelers are up and tuned as a result of a desperate need to see His hand in the situation, how often does He ordain our oblivious daily steps? Don’t we need to see him as much in the hum-drum? Do we need to slow down and be intentional about watching for what He is choreographing around us? Or do we just allow His orchestrated notes be stealthily whisked away by thieves such as the time-crunch and busyness gods, chasing the stupid, or just flat being weary of life’s harshness?

Well, I’ve decided to steal God’s notes from Psalm 40:4, for I’m certain He’ll smile and flash a fist-pump when He hears me pray: “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O’Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you have planned for us no one could recount to you; were I to speak and tell them, they would be too many to declare.” Yes, Lord, open my eyes, because I don’t want to miss a thing! Amen.

When a Good-bye Is Not Forever-The Unbelievable Last Gift

As you read this, it’s kind of tough, but please stick in to the end. You’ll be glad you did.

If you haven’t lived in this area, you wouldn’t know the story. My fun-loving Mom has been a neurological Pearl Harbor for several years. If the genetic code of chronic depression and Alzheimer’s wasn’t enough, the after-effects of the Radiant Patient Award to kill the bugs of brain cancer, followed by fluid on the brain, well, it’s amazing she still knew us most days and had it together enough to breathe.

That is until a couple of weeks ago. All signs pointed towards heaven for our Mermaid. (see When Your Parents are Named Cleon and Myrlee) I arrived at her care home with my F150 truck’s backseat packed for an unknown period of time. Mom was working hard to sleep, although I knew she would not truly wake up again. Of course, I talked about everything in the world–just in case she tuned in. Funny times, great memories, what I knew of wonders promised in the Bible, and of course, tears fell.

At one point, a favorite aide of hers, Katrina, was trying to get her to open her mouth, and Mom stubbornly pursed her mouth. Yep, that would be my mom. We shared a chuckle at the glimmer of personality through the fog. After I reminded Mom that she had been through a lot worse stuff than this, she relaxed and the mission was accomplished.

Later that evening, I cracked a stupid joke that only my family would catch, and a corner of her mouth turned in a grin and she moved a little. A sign she was with me, so jumped at the opportunity to I share my heart. I assured her of who was going to take care of whom, and that it was okay to leave at anytime. A private and precious time I will cherish forever.

Then we went through a night of hard sleeping to wake, knowing soon, yes soon was going to be her moment. Fourteen hours had passed since that last smile–just fading breathing. Cliff, my knight to my rescue, arrived, and two Hospice workers, that I had met the day before, just happened to cruise in the door.

Suddenly, Mom’s expression changed. I wish I could explain it. Nothing terribly profound, just ever-so slightly different. Cliff came behind me and hugged my shoulders.

Softly, I asked her, “Mom, do you see them? Are Grandpa and Grandma Moore there to meet you?”

Her mouth began to move, forming letters she didn’t have the breath to voice.

“Are you seeing Ann? After 50 some years, it’s about time best friends got together. And is Delmer there? What about Aunt Elva? You know, she met Grandpa when he left.”

Oh, did she try to fill us in! Her lips puckered and opened, her tongue flicking.

“Mom, you know you have those grandbabies up there we haven’t even got to meet. Jesus is an excellent babysitter, but don’t you think it’s time to meet their grandma?”

Still, she tried.

“Mom, if you see Jesus, you go run and hug his neck.”

And at that moment, she quietly left.

The Hospice nurse confirmed it. When I looked around the room. A sense of awe had taken over. And while there were tears, unspeakable joy was on all our faces. And Peace comfortingly patted Sorrow’s back and assured that all would be more than okay.

How does one leave any better than that, I ask? What a gift God allowed her to share. Her passing makes us ponder how thin the veil between this life and eternity is and fertizlized the hope in our hearts.

Of course, I have my moments. My eyes well at almost nothing and packets of LiL Traveler Kleenexs fill my pockets, which I will probably run through the washer. My brain is kind of fuzzed out as of late. Afterall, she was my mama, we’d been a team for a very long time. BUt I smile continually because in her leaving, she left a ministry that death can not stop, but keeps sparkling with eternal hope.

If you see any of our family in the grocery store, at work, or out and about, and if someone says, “I’m sorry to hear about your mom,” don’t be surprised to overhear, “Thank you so much! She went out in grand style. Here, let me tell you about it.”

(Oh, how this verse has been made clear to me now.) “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15 Precious indeed!