Monday, July 14, 2014

testing, testing, 1, 2, 3...

Hi all... 

This is just a quick post to test if my email feed burner is working correctly... there have been reports you all aren't getting the posts you signed up to receive!  Gah!  Sorry... 

I'm NOT tech-savvy, but I have been fiddling around on the FeedBurner website and made some adjustments... so let's see what happens.  

If you receive this post as an email in your inbox, can you email me at and let me know it's arrived?  THANK YOU!  


Thursday, July 10, 2014

for the days when you feel like a failure {thoughts from a recovering perfectionist}

Just now, I turned around and walked out of my kitchen, leaving behind a mountain of dirty dishes and my second enormous batch of apricot jam in two days.  I just can’t face the stickiness yet, which is why I’m sitting writing this post.

I’ll just be honest.  I don’t like talking about my bad days.  (Notice there aren't any pictures of my sticky kitchen in this post... I don't like showing you my messes, either!)  I guess I want you all to think I’m the one with the answers, the one you can come to when you need encouragement and wisdom… Being honest about my failures - here - feels like a big risk for me, because I’m one of those people who compulsively likes to look like I have my act together. 

But the truth is?  I don’t.  Have my act together.  At all.  

And today?  I’m feeling like a total [gulp] failure.  

photo credit: I. Winsley
I really don’t like that word, that f-word.  I hate thinking about it, I hate feeling it, I recoil and cringe whenever anyone else has to use it.  

But since I’m being honest, there’s a moment or two every day (ok, a lot of moments) when I’m flailing wildly, grasping at straws, yelling desperately at Jesus for an emergency injection of patience or wisdom or love for someone proving particularly un-lovable at that moment.

I’m slowly learning the art of giving grace to myself, of appropriating every day the incredible endless grace I’ve already received in Christ.  I want to let that river of grace flow freely in my life, drink from it all the time.  

photo credit: I. Winsley
But… I still define my own “failures”.  I set my bar high, jump with all my strength - and don’t always hit my own mark. 

The low point of today’s “failures”?  My sweet baby girl followed her brothers out our front gate, promptly tripped and fell and cut her cheek on a sharp stone.  Even though I know in my brain that accidents can and do happen to every kid at some point, I still feel in my heart like a woefully negligent mother.  Somehow the sight of blood seems so much worse when it’s a little girl after two rough-and-tumble boys. :(

A bandaid and some ice cubes and she was back to normal, running around unfazed, but I sat there trying to push away horrible visions of her wedding day in a lovely white veil, trying unsuccessfully to cover up a scar on her cheek with make-up… (Yes, my mind leaps frantically ahead like this!  Doesn’t yours?)

The bottom line is (in my own opinion) I “failed” to protect my child.  I know it’s impossible for a parent to protect their child all the time from everything, but I still require it of myself.  Hmm.  Does that strike you as odd?

photo credit: I. Winsley
There are other felt “failures” too, staring me in the face.  I feel like I’m failing to meet my second son’s emotional needs, and my first son’s creative ones.  Today we ate the same boring food for lunch and dinner because the jam took over the kitchen.  Even with a house helper (who cut up all the apricots for the jam this morning), I still can’t make everything happen on time, and excellently. 

Every day, I desperately try to cover up, push away, deny, rise above, overcome the dreadfully uncomfortable fact that I. am. not. perfect. 

But today, I couldn’t escape it.  

I know we all get made perfect in heaven, but today that perfection felt eighty years away, and meanwhile my floors are gritty and my toilet bowl desperately needs to be scrubbed.

I feel like Jesus is giving me a test, right now, as I sit here gasping in front of my computer screen, ignoring my sticky kitchen and my kids who need their teeth brushed:  

Will you finally depend on My strength, now that yours has run out?

“I’m trying!” I want to shout.  “I really am, but do please tell me how I am supposed to get all of this done!  My daughter just peed all over the floor and is currently running around the house with nothing on her bottom half!  The kitchen is covered in sticky!  I’m exhausted and cranky and sick of potty-training a stubborn 20-month-old!  I’m tired of gardening and canning and all the other work that goes along with this rural, primitive life!  I’m just tired!  Period!”

I can dimly see Jesus, vague in the distance beyond my screen.  He’s nodding slowly.  Smiling a little.  Patiently waiting for my diatribe to finish.  

I’m not done yet.  “I’ve had to cancel three Skype meetings in two days,” jabbing the words at Him with my finger, “which I was really looking forward to, but because of our incredibly unreliable Internet - fast, slow, up, down - those calls are on hold indefinitely, and I am so frustrated.  I could really have used the encouragement this week, too.”

He’s still nodding, looking at me.  Not turning away.  Holding me with His eyes.

“The parenting never ends, the housework never ends, the laundry never ends, the stress never ends, my own pressure to meet every need excellently all the time, to cook food my kids want to eat for every meal - it never ends!  When can I get off this ridiculous hamster wheel?” I splutter, stabbing my open palms in his direction.  (I don’t add the rest of the truth He already knows: that the hamster wheel is of my own making.)

Eventually, I run out of steam.  I stop for breath.  I let the pause lengthen, wait to see what He has to say.  

photo credit: I. Winsley
For a minute, He doesn’t say anything.  

I start thinking of my sink full of dirty dishes and the mountain of unfolded laundry sprawling all over the veranda table.

Finally, He says just one simple phrase, quietly.

“Come to me.”  Silence.  I don’t know what to say.

After a minute He repeats it again, hands held out.

“Come.  To me.”

I gaze at Him, almost with disbelief.  I know what He’s inviting me to do, but my gut just can’t believe it’s that easy.  What about all my housework?  What about my failures?  Am I supposed to just leave it all behind?  Ok then, tell me who will do all this stuff?  Because it has to get done sometime!

Come to Me, and rest,” He’s beckoning.  Almost beseeching.  As if He’s longing to save me from myself.

I hesitate.

I close my eyes.  

I picture myself getting off the wheel, walking forward slowly, then more and more quickly towards His open arms.  I picture Jesus enfolding me; I breathe in His scent of cedar wood shavings and sweat and sunshine.  I take a deep breath in, and let it out.  In.  Out.  Deep, slow breaths.  

“I know I just need to come to you straightaway when I feel overwhelmed,” I admit, my head still burrowed into His chest, “but some days it’s just too overwhelming and I’m just too flipped out.”

“I know.”  Jesus is rubbing my back with a warm, comforting hand.  “Believe me, I’ve felt everything you’re feeling: overwhelmed, exhausted, pressed in upon.  Imagine crowds and crowds of needy people, and you have the power to heal and help them all, and the daylight hours only last so long, and you also have a responsibility to teach and train twelve hand-picked men in the ways and truths of God… Remember, I had all the same physical limits you have.  But - I had the same Holy Spirit, too.”  

I nod, still nestled against Him.  I could stay there forever.

“I know the work never ends,” He whispers in my ear.  “But - what about the joys?”

As I type the word “joys”, Ruby is sitting next to me on the couch, reaching her little fingers into the armhole of my sleeveless shirt to tickle me.  She grins, then chuckles, showing her dimple.  Her soft, round belly peeps out from under her nightshirt.  She smells of toothpaste.  She is utterly adorable.

photo credit: I. Winsley
Two minutes ago, my six-year-old came to find me, toothbrush in mouth - obviously my wonderful husband is picking up the bedtime slack tonight, while I write this - to sing me a random song he just made up: “Luggage in the morning / Luggage in the afternoon / Luggage in the evening, too…”  

When I asked quizzically, “Why luggage?” he replied, with typical logic, “Well, someone’s always got luggage somewhere… in the airport, in taxis…”  

photo credit: I. Winsley
Just now, as I was tucking my four-year-old into bed, he said to me, “Mom, I know why you call us ‘honey’…” he broke into a grin, around his thumb in his mouth, “because we’re soooo sweet!”  I laughed and tickled him and he chuckled and burrowed into his pillow with his blanket.  

I left their room with a lighter heart. 

Joys, indeed.  With joys like these coming my way daily, can’t I can weather a bit of “failure”?  Let’s re-define “failure” anyway.  Let’s quit setting these high bars for ourselves, since Jesus has already done all that is necessary.  My measuring stick is small, self-imposed and most of the time wrong.

Besides, it’s not about us anyway, or what we can do.  

It’s all about Him - and what He’s already done.

Take My yoke upon you.  Be Martha, if you must, but be Martha with a Mary heart.  Never stop sitting at my feet.  Never stop depending on Me.  

Keep drawing out of my well, deeper, deeper, all the strength and patience and stamina you need.  I never run out of joy, or courage, or peace, or long-suffering.  

A good friend of mine (a fellow recovering perfectionist) gave me a mantra to remember, whenever I’m pushing myself too hard, not giving myself enough grace: 

I can’t do it.

He can.  

I think I’ll let Him.

When have you felt like a failure recently?  How did you deal with it?  What does it take to make you run to Jesus and give up striving on your own strength?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

how to ensure your words endure {June lessons in listening}

{My one word for 2014 is "listen"... Each month I'm posting the lessons I'm learning - find the rest of my posts on listening here!}

As a writer and an artist, I want to be heard.  I long for none of my words to fall to the ground.  

But as a human, I know that’s impossible.  The limitations of my sin nature, my personality, my background and my experiences ensure that at least some, possibly all, of my own words will eventually disappear. 

I’m still mulling over Mark Buchanan’s thoughtful and refreshing book The Rest of God.  He describes his life as an author, pastor, and speaker, and admits his own similar desire for his words to endure.  

“Either God, God alone, keeps our words from falling and scatters them wide,” observes Buchanan, “or else there is nothing in them worth keeping and scattering in the first place.  Our concern, our responsibility, is simply to hear and heed God…”

John’s gospel begins, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory…full of grace and truth” (emphasis mine).

The only Person whose words are sure to endure is the Living Word Himself.  So, it follows that the only way for me to ensure what I say endures is to make my words the words of God.   

“Our speaking comes out of our listening,” Buchanan continues.  “What we say comes out of what we hear. We have to be people who listen, day and night, to God.  Our utterances ought to be as Jesus’s were: an echoing of the Father, an imitation of him….”

That’s a tall order.  When I read those words for the first time, my heart sank.  Given that I am not Jesus, that feels pretty much impossible!

But the word “echo” stood out to me: I might not be Jesus, but I can surely echo Him.  I can repeat back - pass on - the words I hear from Him in my own heart, the words I read from Him in the Bible, the things He shows me through experience and circumstance.  And if hearing God happens best when I am still, then the practices of Sabbath and listening are essentially connected. 

God is always speaking.

The Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God… Day to day pours out speech… Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

God is always speaking, but we’re not always listening.  

“There are so many voices,” says Buchanan.  “And there is such little time to listen, to truly listen: to winnow and test it all, to heed and reflect and respond...

“Sabbath is when we stop.  We slow down.  We play, we rest, we dream, we wonder.  We cease from that which is necessary and turn to that which gives life.  And in the hush that descends, we listen.”

The times when I can hear most clearly are times of stillness and quietness: in other words, when I’m cultivating a Sabbath heart. 

“God isn’t more likely to speak on your Sabbath than on any other day,” says Buchanan, “but you are more likely to listen.”

On the day the apostle John saw the Voice and the vision which became the book of Revelation, there are two key contextual details which Buchanan highlights: 

“One, he was in exile on Patmos.  He was, in other words, under an enforced silence and aloneness, a season of inactivity.  Two, it was Sunday, the Lord’s Day.  It was his Sabbath.  These conditions - the silence, the aloneness, the stillness, the Sabbath - might be beside the point.  Then again, they might just be the point.  It’s possible that they are mentioned because they form the necessary backdrop for true listening.”

~Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, ch 12 "Listen: Stopping to Hear God"

It is only when we’ve first heard from God ourselves that we have something worth hearing to offer to our listeners.  

In one of Ann Voskamp’s recent posts, she urges her readers to take time every day.  She says, 

“Daily disciplines are doors to full freedom.

“Everyday take time. Everyday take time to feel the sun and the wind and the rain and feel that you are loved — and then let your life overflow with that love so that a thousand others feel that love. 

“Everyday take time to live loved — and live so others feel loved. 

“Everyday take time. Time is there for the taking. For the unwrapping.”

This daily unwrapping of the gift of time, the gift of Sabbath rest, frees us to truly listen, first to God and then to others.  

Ann continues, “Give someone the gift of listening… linger and look into their eyes and really listen and this is free and nobody can buy it and what is better than paying attention to someone with all of you fully present?”

Give yourself permission to receive God’s gift of Sabbath rest - not just the 24 hours once a week when you stop and play and revive your soul - but every day.  

photo credit: I. Winsley
Take time every day to rest, to still your soul and listen.  

In learning to be still enough to hear God, we will learn how to be still enough to listen, truly listen, to others.

photo credits: I. Winsley

Saturday, June 7, 2014

of Bill Murray and keeping Sabbath {an unsolicited book review}

I recently finished reading one of the most restful books I’ve ever read.  It is, coincidentally, a book on the spiritual discipline of Sabbath; but whereas many “Christian” books leave my recovering-perfectionist-self feeling guilty and depressed about all the spiritual disciplines I’m not practicing or the good, Biblical things I’m not doing, this book left me feeling refreshed.  Life-filled.  Invited.  Excited about unwrapping the gift of Sabbath in my own life.  

Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God is a beautiful and, for me, timely invitation to explore the Biblical command to keep Sabbath rest.  His pithy, insightful writing opened my spiritual eyes to see how keeping Sabbath and developing a Sabbath heart enables us to discover not just actual rest, but the rest of God - the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness.

“In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth,” Buchanan muses.  

“But without rest,” he continues, “we miss the rest of God: the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply.  ‘Be still and know that I am God.’  Some knowing is never pursued, only received.  And for that, you need to be still” (p3).

Being still has never been easy for me.  I like to be doing, getting things done.  I tend to measure the “success” of my day by how many items I’ve ticked off my to-do list.  I struggle to live in the moment and I often resent interruptions.  I find it difficult to lay down my task and look the person full in the face.  

So this book was a much-needed breath of fresh air (and a kick in the pants) to show me how crucial Sabbath is to healthy, Biblical living.  And how much more expansive our potential for true productivity becomes when we joyfully keep Sabbath.  

One of the things that struck me was Buchanan’s differentiation between drivenness and purposefulness.  

He noticed that “the truly purposeful have an ironic secret: they manage time less and pay attention more” (78).  

He follows this up with an invitation to live generously.  Buchanan says that you actually generate “more” time by extravagantly giving your whole self, and all of “your” time, first to God and then to others.  

I wonder... is this really true?

Can I really generate “more” time by extravagantly giving time away?

Giving my time away definitely doesn’t come naturally to me.  I like to hang on to my time, count the seconds, hoard the minutes, and frugally dole out my hours.  The trouble with that approach is (hoarse stage whisper) - “It’s not really mine!”

If my time is not really mine, why do I hang on to it so tightly?  

Sabbath is about trust, Buchanan points out.  “[It] is turning over to God all those things—our money, our work, our status, our reputations, our plans, our projects—that we’re otherwise tempted to hold tight in our own closed fists, hold on to for dear life.” 

Oh yes.  I like hanging on for dear life.  It feels comforting to me.  Secure.  The trouble is, it’s exhausting! 

Buchanan continues, “[Sabbath] is letting go, for one day out of seven, all those parts of our identities and abilities in which we are constantly tempted to find our security, and discovering afresh that we are his children and that he is our Father and shield and defender” (98).

Is any of this hitting home for you like it did for me?  Doesn’t the idea of Sabbath sound delightful?  Just imagine: we’re offered - by God - 24 hours out of each week to take a break from our worries, our insecurities, and our drivenness, and just bounce joyously on the trampoline of the Everlasting Arms for a while?

In one of my favorite movies, “What About Bob”, Bill Murray plays a neurotic hypochondriac who relies on his psychologist for sanity and reassurance.  After Bob compulsively follows his psychologist and his family on vacation, turning up unexpectedly at the door of their cabin getaway, the irritated psychologist finally comes up with a way to get Bob to leave him alone: he tells Bob to take a vacation from his problems.  

“A vacation?” Bob is incredulous.  “From my… problems?”  A look of sheer joy spreads over his face, as the suggestion sinks in.  “Hah!  A vacation!  From my - problems!!”  He backs away happily, hands in pockets, and strolls off whistling. 

Dr. Marvin is overjoyed that his brainstorm worked so well and settles in to enjoy his family vacation - until Bob shows up bright and early at his screen door the next morning wearing a local t-shirt, and announces, “Good morning, Doctor!”  The speechless psychologist quickly pulls him around the corner and demands in a frantic whisper, “What are you doing here?”

Bob happily replies, “I’m on vacation! I’m just dropping by!  How are you, Doctor?”  

Flabbergasted at how his plan has backfired, Dr. Marvin proceeds to concoct a series of elaborate plans for getting rid of Bob, while his family gradually falls in love with Bob - who, on vacation from his problems, turns out to be a normal, likable guy.  

That’s what I want to do, once a week.  (Or every day?)  Take a vacation from my problems, and live in the realization that I am free from the power of sin over my life, and I have been invited into the rest of God.  

What about you?  Do you need a vacation from your problems?  Aren't you curious about the rest of God?

Stay tuned for more thoughts on Sabbath rest, coming soon… 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

the two (2) essential ingredients to being the perfect mom


And sleep.

That’s it.  

That’s all you really need.  

That’s what one of my best friends said to me on the phone the other day.  She went on, “The minute I get a little more of either of those?  My day just seems to go so. much. better!  And if I don’t have either of those?  Let’s just say, it’s not pretty!”

I could be the perfect Mom if I just had enough Jesus, and enough sleep.  


So… we could leave it there, perfect idealistic Mom-hood floating just out of reach, or we could explore together HOW to get more of those two essential ingredients?

Don’t we all want to be happy, contented, patient mothers?  

Then why is it so HARD to get enough Jesus, and enough sleep?

Well, to be honest, for me the first answer is probably: 

“Not enough self-control.”

Getting more sleep requires going to bed earlier (since the kids will be up at 7 no matter when I go to bed).    And the Internet is just so tantalizing in the evenings, especially if you’ve been soothing cranky toddlers or slogging through first-grade addition problems with a stubborn 6-year-old all day… and if you have SLOW Internet, it’s even more frustrating, because you can only watch 3 seconds of a YouTube video at a time, but those 3 seconds are so alluring you just keep wanting more… and more... until a whole hour has blinked by and you haven’t even finished watching ONE STINKIN’ VIDEO.  

Then you finally throw up your hands and say, “It’s not worth it.  I’m going to bed.”  But it’s already past 10pm, and it still takes a few minutes to get into your jammies, wash your face, brush your teeth… and you’ve been looking at screens for the last two hours, so you tell yourself you need some wind-down time in bed with a real book… which means its 11:00 before you finally turn out your light… and this happens. every. night.  (And you’re one of those people who need at least 8 hours of sleep to feel good.)

Um… yeah.  

So… late to bed means less sleep, which means it’s harder to get up before the kids, which means less time (or none at all) with Jesus in the morning… which means less awareness of His presence throughout the day… which means there’s a good chance the cycle will repeat itself that evening because you can’t hear that Still, Small Voice telling you what you really need. 

“Marshaling and directing your energies wisely.”  

I love that definition, because it implies that self-control is not just stopping doing something (which always feels impossible to me).  Self-control can be a forward movement, channeling your energies into wise directions.  

As Kat Lee says, “Choose what you want more over what you want now.” 

For me, that means choosing to close my computer at a decent hour, even if finishing a project is what I desperately want now.  It means winding myself down into sleep early enough to give myself a full 8 hours, so I can actually get up when my alarm goes off, so I can do what I want most: begin the day sitting in Jesus’ presence, receiving a fresh Word of truth. 

Chances are, if I make those choices, everybody’s going to have a better day.  

I might even turn into Supermom overnight. (Hah!)

Along with marshaling my energy wisely, another way I want to practice self-control is to make better strategic choices instead of indulging and then beating myself up.  

Back to the YouTube videos: I think the ever-practical Kat would say, “If your Internet’s slow but you still need your fix, take a minute after breakfast to click on one or two choice videos (to let them load), and then watch them in that right-after-lunch sweet spot when the kids’ tummies are full and they’re happy to play quietly for a half-hour or so.”  (Rather than fending them off at arm’s length with steadily increasing frustration as the Internet stalls again.  And again.)

Now that would be a good strategic choice, and here’s why:  

Limited number of videos (or __insert personal craving here__)
plus maximum enjoyment time (because they’re already loaded)

= controlled indulgence,

which equals sanity and refreshment, instead of guilt and remorse.


Marshaling and directing your energies wisely, and controlled indulgence. 

Bingo.  Self-control in a nutshell.  

That Perfect Mom crown you’ve been dreaming about?  

It’s actually within your grasp.  

(Just kidding.)  

But seriously, though.  With Jesus and sleep?  We can do anything.


What keeps you from getting enough Jesus and enough sleep?  Is there something else you’re not getting enough of these days that’s sabotaging your Mom-happiness?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

of awareness and stray dogs {May Lessons in Listening}

{For 2014, I'm focusing on the one word "listen" - read more of my monthly musings here!} 

The heart of good listening is being aware.

In a conversation, a good listener is aware not only of the words the other person is saying but of their tone, their silences, their body language, and as much of their history and context as the listener knows.  All these elements together give the listener a more complete snapshot of the emotional, psychological and mental state of the person to whom he or she is listening.

Taking all this into consideration, the good listener is able, for a moment or two, to step into the other person’s reality and see through their eyes.  From that insider’s perspective, the love, care and empathy they offer is truly genuine, and any advice or counsel truly useful.

But in my journey towards deepening as a  Listener, I’m discovering that this awareness nurtured by a habit of intentional listening is gradually enabling me to become aware of much more than words and conversations.

I’m growing a kind of sixth sense, noticing and absorbing things which I would have previously overlooked.  Situations I might have thought “chance happenings” before are taking on new and deeper meaning.  (Can you tell where I’m going with this?)  

(The “our” is in quotes because he’s only been with us a week, and I’m still holding my breath: will he sicken with a mysterious doggy illness and die?  Will a former owner turn up at our gates and demand his polite, gentle, well-mannered pup back?  I could never have predicted the storyline so far; I don’t dare try to predict the future…)

While I’m not sure I’m ready to say God sent him to us, I’ve definitely had moments this week where my as-of-January-2014-newly-pricked-up “listening antennae” have zinged slightly, and I’ve caught glimpses of what God might be doing?

Taking me out of my comfort zone.  I love my comfort zone.  Some of you probably think I must be outside my comfort zone all the time: living as we do in post-Soviet Central Asia, taking holidays in exotic-sounding countries, and spending half our “home” leave in a country I’ve lovingly adopted but which isn’t my passport country.  

All of that might sound pretty un-comfortable, but the truth is I actually thrive on it.  I really was made to live the life I’m living; it fits me like a glove. And the human penchant for familiarity and routine flows strongly through my veins, so I’ve actually become comfortable here, in this language I’ve been speaking for 10 years, in our third year in this house we’ve wrapped around us, in this neighborhood, in the role of wife and mother.  And - I like being comfortable.  

I do not like having my comfortable routine invaded unexpectedly and uninvitedly.  Which is exactly what has happened.

I think God might doing other things, too, with the arrival of this little dog, such as…

Thrusting upon our family a chance for our eldest son in particular to learn compassion and responsibility

Opening a door for all three of our kids to learn how to care for something smaller and more helpless than themselves

Providing a living parable for our neighborhood - in particular one little neighbor boy who spends part of every day at our house - to see Christian charity (in the best and oldest sense of that word) in action…

And also, I suppose, granting that little dog a chance to become the best version of himself instead of the worst, to learn how to develop mutually satisfying relationships with human beings…

(Not that I really care that much at the moment, to be perfectly honest, with everything else on my plate, about the development of the potential worth within a stray dog, but maybe - probably? - he’ll surprise me…) 

Learning to listen is like pricking up the ears of your soul (see? I’m using doggy analogies now) or swiveling your spiritual antennae to catch new sound waves of meaning in the ordinary things that happen every day….

Like hearing a redemptive analogy in the rescue of a scrawny stray.  

P.S.  For those of you wondering if we've named him, the kids have christened him “Wags”, after Wags-the-Dog from the Wiggles (ugh).  But I've found my own name for him, a word from my second language, a word I want to use every time I tell his story to a visitor…

I’m calling him “Shepket”.  Mercy.  

(Yeah, I know, it’s melodramatic - I can’t help it.  But hey, look - it shortens to “Shep”, the classic American dog name… and now you can laugh.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

ok, you can all breathe a sigh of relief {Part 2 of our stray dog dilemma}

So, all 100 of you (!) who read yesterday’s post and gasped in horror can breathe a big collective sigh of relief:

I climbed down into the manhole this morning, at 6:30am, to rescue that poor shivering pup.

Yes, I did.  I got soaking wet, since there was a pump down there spraying water, but wet jeans were nothing compared to how miserable the dog looked.  My main fear was that he (she? I haven’t gotten a good look yet) would snap at my feet as I came down the ladder, but nary a whimper.  Not a single peep.  He just laid back his ears and looked up at me.  

I may or may not have said, in a rather loud voice, while gingerly climbing backwards down the ladder of a manhole in Post-Soviet Central Asia, “Jesus, I cannot believe you did this for us.  And now I’m doing it for a dog!”

Wearing cloth gloves, I picked up the dog and carried him awkwardly back up the ladder with me, talking to him all the time, and we reached ground level in safety.  I wrapped him in an old towel I’d brought with me, carried him the 10 meters back to our gate, and deposited him gently in the big old doghouse just inside our yard.  

(The owners of this house used to keep a huge, ferocious, terrifying Rottweiler to discourage break-ins.  The entire street, especially the kids, used to be terrified to even walk past this house.  It’s a good thing we’re the last house on the street.)

Yes, we have lived in this house with a ready-made dog kennel for three years and don’t yet own a dog… But here I need to say a brief word about me and animals: The largest pet I’ve ever owned is a hamster, and while I was sad when I found poor Clyde stiff and cold in his cage, and shed a few tears as I buried in the backyard with a popsicle-stick cross, I have to say that losing Clyde did not break my heart. 

I did not grow up on a farm like my husband, who laughed at me on one of our early dates for meticulously avoiding piles of animal poop as we walked down a rural dirt road.  “It’s poop!” I exclaimed.  “I don’t want to step in it!”

“Yeah, but it’s just animal poop - all they eat is grass,” he reasoned.  “Now human poop, or dog poop - that’s a lot worse.”

And now, I have a real, live dog temporarily living in my yard.  (I say temporarily because I really have no idea what’s going to happen next.) 

I have zero practice feeding dogs, interpreting their body language (ok, most of it’s pretty common sense), dealing with things like fleas and worms and vaccinations, and especially no practice dealing with any of that in a barely-one-step-up-from-a-third-world country.  

So you could say I’m pretty overwhelmed by the whole situation.  Granted, so far the first day has gone relatively peacefully - no snapping or growling when we’ve fed him/her, and even some feeble attempts to show it wants to please.

By far the best moment so far, however, was my conversation with the scrawny little neighbor boy who spends half the day at our house almost every day (who’s actually here with me right now on the front steps as I type this, telling me a story lickety-split about a dog they had once who they fed and fed until it got really big, and then someone stole it, or it went into someone else’s yard and they never saw it again…)  

This little boy turned up at our gate around 8am this morning, and when we showed him the dog in the kennel he asked if it had snuck back into our yard.  (He’d helped fill in the hole with rocks yesterday but missed the drama with the manhole in the afternoon.)  

“No,” I said, “the dog got thrown down the manhole (didn’t know that word, had to pantomime) over there.  I couldn’t stand the thought of it being in there, so I climbed down this morning and…” I hesitated, trying to think of the right word.  Suddenly it popped into my head: 

Man uni kutkuzivaldim.”  

(Literally: I managed to cause it to be saved.)  

It’s exactly same word we use when describing what Jesus did for us. 

(Okay, go ahead and get all teary now.  It is just a dog, remember, not a person; I have a whole other post brewing about that topic… watch this space!)

P.S. The kids have done really well with the whole thing.  William looked relieved this morning at breakfast when I announced I'd retrieved the dog out of the manhole.  "It just wasn't right," I said, and he nodded.  "I TOLD those boys not to throw it down there, but they didn't listen to me," he said.  All three kids helped me bring it food and water, and have checked back in periodically all day to see how it's doing.  So... object lesson in progress!