A Gift Named Winnie

Happy post!  Some of you have probably seen my recent FaceBook post showing off my new little dog, Winnie.  This is such a cool story that I wanted to put a little meat on the bones of that picture, so you can see how God blesses His children in the midst of their trials.

Just to refresh, I made the difficult, but correct decision to put my sweet Missy down a few weeks ago.  And 2 weeks to the day after that, I was back at the same emergency vet with a very sick Daisy, who wasn’t to return home for another 3 days.

So, adding those two tearful events into a life that was already quite tearful seemed overwhelming to me at the time.  But all ended well for Daisy and she is back to her normal crazy self.  (I was kind of hoping to take a little of the crazy off, but no such luck…)

Long before Dale passed away, we had discussed downsizing the number of pets we had, which was 2 dogs and a cat.  Eventually I would want to be in a townhome that would not have a fenced back yard.  So, we both agreed that once Missy was gone, we would become a one dog-one cat household.

And I was absolutely OK with that.  I know that’s hard for some of you to believe…but it’s true.  😊  I think this must go along with aging, but I found myself wondering how many more dogs I would have in this life, and how many more cars.  That’s right, cars.  Anybody else find themselves doing that??  So, I had the math all figured out and agreed that this would be the time to start the downsizing process in the dog world.

I came home from dinner last Friday night and checked my FaceBook newsfeed before going to bed.  What would show up but an adorable Boston/Frenchie face named Winnie who was needing a home.  The post was from a friend named Lynn whom I had met through the Boston Terrier rescue almost 8 years ago.  She lives in Iowa City and we had never met in person.  Winnie was 5 years old, surrendered from a home, got along great with kids, other dogs and cats and was so, so sweet.

Huh…what do I do with THAT?  Well, I did send a private message to Lynn saying, “Do I need to talk to you about this dog??”

Then I prayed that God would either open up doors for me to adopt her, or clearly shut them by giving her to someone else.

The next morning, I called Lynn and we chatted a bit about Winnie’s personality and her history.  It all seemed SO right, especially the part about Winnie NOT being a strong alpha dog.  Can’t have two of those in this household.  But one problem.  I couldn’t get Daisy over to Iowa City to meet Winnie because she has become terrified of riding in the car the past few years.  (In fact, that is exactly what I was working on when I erroneously gave her too many hot dog treats resulting in her trip to the emergency vet.  Word to the wise…)

I asked Lynn if she thought it would be enough for me to come meet Winnie in Iowa City and then decide if her personality seemed compatible with Daisy’s.  To which she replied, “We will be in Des Moines tomorrow and can bring Winnie along.  I can help introduce them.”  WOW!  Can you say, “Door.  Wide.  Open!?”

So, at 11:30 the next day, Lynn showed up with Winnie and it was love at first sight for me.  Such a happy, loving little girl!  But now the big test.  Introduce her to Daisy.  So off to the back yard we went awaiting the big meet and greet.  When I brought Daisy out, there were a few seconds of some fairly aggressive sniffing and then…that’s it!  No signs of stress or aggression in either dog.  That, in itself, is a minor miracle, as those of you who know Daisy might attest!

By noon, it was a done deal (minus the follow-up paperwork) and Winnie had found a new home.  She slipped immediately into a comfortable routine here, getting along great with both Daisy AND the cat, Max.  He quickly decided that she was no threat and has already started trying to play with her a bit.

As I was looking through all of Winnie’s paperwork, I found the original document from when the previous owners had purchased her and, surprise (?), she came from the same breeder as Daisy!  One more confirmation that this was absolutely the right decision.  Winnie was meant to be part of this family.  And apparently, they both have the TV-watching gene…

I couldn’t help but be amazed at how all of this transpired so quickly, and so clearly!  While I truly had no intentions of getting another dog, God obviously had different plans.  I started to see the blessing that this was in my life, after some very difficult weeks and months.  Winnie was God’s gift to me, when I wasn’t expecting it.

How good and kind is our God?  It brings tears to my eyes (happy ones) when I think of the depth of His love for me to bring this little punkin into my life when I didn’t even know that I needed her.  But God did, and chose to bless me beyond what I could have hoped for.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?”  Matthew 7:11.  Or to those who don’t even know to ask!

Thank you, God, (and Lynn!) for this gift named Winnie.


What About Joy?

Recently, I’ve had several friends ask me to pray that God would bring joy into their lives daily, particularly through their trials.  Or through the trials of their loved ones.  Let’s face it, in today’s world, we are bombarded, surrounded, inundated, and overwhelmed with gloom and doom.  One must almost unplug from the world to get some relief, it seems.

I can absolutely relate to that.  There is so much in this world that can steal our joy.  For me, it’s all of the above and the trials of grieving through Dale’s death.  Some days it feels as though joy has taken a holiday somewhere besides my house, or this world.

So, I thought this would be an appropriate topic for today’s post.  Consequently, as I often do, I started some research to see what certain writers and pastors had to say about this topic.  I’m not looking for any pat answers; I want to see what theologians that I trust say.  And then apply that to my life and hopefully to yours.

Much of what I read was not new and just confirmed what I’ve believed about joy for years now.  And one concept I believed is that happiness is a much more “secular” goal – who doesn’t want to be happy?  Many of the graduation snippets I’ve heard lately feature speakers who are trying to guide the new graduates in their quest for happiness.  Contrast that temporary feeling with the deep, abiding concept of joy – a feeling that we can abide in, no matter what our circumstances.  Spiritually, I’d say that this type of joy, in its purest sense, can best be supplied by God.

You can imagine my surprise when I came upon a radio interview with Randy Alcorn a few years go where he turns this whole concept of happiness being secular and joy being spiritual on its head!  Others like Pastor John Piper, Pastor Charles Spurgeon and Joni Eareckson Tada seemed to share this same conviction with Randy.

My church teaches that when we have a framework/scripture collision, scripture must win out.  In other words, if what I’ve believed about something does not match up with what I now clearly see in scripture, guess what needs to change?  Certainly not God’s Word!  I have to adjust my thinking.

That’s exactly what I’ve just done in the past hour or so.  The premise of this radio interview was that the words joy and happiness in all the various Hebrew and Greek transcripts are essentially INTERCHANGEABLE.  They are synonyms for each other again and again and again in both the Old and New Testaments, along with words like gladness and contentment.

So, whether you buy into that thought at this point or not, stay with me as I take a look into some other nuggets of truth from God’s Word on this topic of joy:

God’s Word commands us to be joyful.  Many times!  Yikes!  That feels pretty impossible, right?  If we’re just trying to muster up this joyful feeling, no wonder that’s not working for us, at least not long-term.  We can’t do it!  So, if we stop there, it’s no wonder that we are frustrated and feel like attaining joy is an impossible task.

What compromises our joy?  Is it the circumstances surrounding us?  Our job, our mental and physical health, our relationships, our finances, losses in our lives?  Yep, I must confess – for me those areas often dictate how joyful, or happy I feel.

Let me suggest that we can still find joy and happiness in most of those areas I listed above.  And I believe it is right to do so.  When things are going well, rejoice!  But wouldn’t we love to land where Paul did, as he states in his letter to the Philippians?  “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Phil. 4:11

How do we get there?  Psalm 37:4 gives us one answer: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  As believers, it’s as simple and as complicated as that.  If we start to switch our focus to the character of God and all that He has done for us through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus on the cross, our “momentary troubles” can start to shrink in comparison.

Specifically, can we rest and find joy knowing that God is sovereign over all things?  Does this give us peace?  If so, camp out there for a while!

Do we find God’s Spirit speaking as we read His Word or go to Him in prayer?  Is fellowship with Him sweet?  If so, savor that – rinse and repeat!

Do we value Christ above all else?  Honestly, that’s a tough one, isn’t it?  We want to say we do, and hope that we can eventually achieve that, but many of the things of this world can leap frog over Christ and His supremacy.

Let me share a recent lesson I learned.  If you’ve read earlier posts, you know that I had to put my sweet dog, Missy, to sleep a few weeks ago.  About a week ago, my other dog, Daisy, got violently ill with vomiting, resulting in another trip to the emergency vet over the weekend.  She ended up staying there from Sunday until this past Wednesday morning as they treated her for pancreatitis and gastroenteritis, along with severe dehydration.  She was seriously one sick puppy.

I came home to so much quiet – no Dale, no Missy and no Daisy.  Through my tears, I pleaded with God to not take my Daisy.  Surely, He would not do that after I’ve lost so much this year.  Gratefully, He did NOT take Daisy and I’m happy (and joyful 😊) to report that she is home and very much on the mend.

But it caused me to think about what my response would have been if God had, in fact, chosen to take Daisy as well.  I seriously told people that I would just be done…  But would I?  What would the proper response be to another loss like that?  What would God be teaching me?  We really can’t know the mind of God; however, I did have to honestly ask myself, could it be that I cherish things of this world (my husband, my pets) MORE than God Himself?  Might that be His lesson? Yikes again…

It was a good reminder to me and maybe for you that our greatest joy and happiness lie in our relationship with Jesus Christ, and in trusting in the supremacy of God’s sovereignty.

This sounds pretty sweet, right?  So, getting back to an earlier question: why do we still find it so difficult?  I ask myself often, “Am I trying to do this in my own strength?”  And almost as often, the answer is, “Yes!”  If God commands us to be joyful and to delight ourselves in Him, then, through His Holy Spirit, He can surely supply it for us, if we allow Him to work that out in our lives.

Even knowing this doesn’t necessarily mean we master it perfectly.  But we need to put aside our strong desire to fix everything ourselves, in our own lives and in the lives of our loved ones.  And meditate on the scriptural fact that God’s Holy Spirit in us can accomplish all things, even giving us JOY in the midst of trials.  Or in the midst of our own self-improvement project.  Let Him be God and let Him sanctify you with the joy He so wants you to experience.

Book after book have been written on the subject of joy, and innumerable sermons preached on the topic, so this humble little blog post can’t possibly even scratch the surface of all that God’s Word says about joy and happiness.

So, go to God’s Word and search for scriptures related to this subject and then just let those truths wash over you and give you hope.  If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and have never been able to find lasting joy in anything you’ve pursued, maybe now is the time to hear God’s voice calling you.

Let me leave you with one scripture text that beautifully summarizes much of what I hope and pray this post has challenged you with.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13





The Good Ol’ Days

People often joke that the only thing good about the good ol’ days is that they’re gone.  While there is some truth to that, I still believe that most of us can find times in our lives when happy and pleasant memories bring a smile to our hearts and fill us with the warmth of nostalgia.

As I continue grieving the loss of Dale, I am spending a fair amount of time reminiscing about our “good ol’ days” together.  It’s one of the ways I can stay connected to him and focus on times that make me grateful for the life we had together.  But, it’s bittersweet.  As great as those times were, they are gone, never to return – and that also brings me sorrow.

Even during the days as Dale’s physical and mental health were deteriorating, I tried to maintain an attitude of being grateful for what we had and not being sad for what we were losing.  Easier said than done, for sure, and there were many days when I failed.  Can I apply that state of mind to my current state of affairs?

As I look through pictures, or just linger over some heart-warming memories, I have some regrets that I didn’t cherish those times as much as I should have while they were happening.  Can you relate to that?  Don’t we all do that to a certain degree?  We don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone.

I suppose that’s part of our human nature, to a degree, to have a greater appreciation in retrospect.  And there is likely some truth to the idea that we tend to remember what was good about those days and either forget or bury what might not have been so great.  But I do believe happy memories are a comforting gift during dark days.

Recently, a challenging thought came to me – “Am I appreciating THESE good ol’ days like I should?”  That’s a pretty crazy question, isn’t it?  Really?  I should be appreciating the days where I’m grieving the worst loss of my life?  How is that even applicable here?  And yet, somehow, I felt that it was!

I just finished some more “light bedtime reading” in Randy Alcorn’s (nearly 500-page) book entitled If God is Good – Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.  I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Seriously, Lynne, can’t you find something more ‘Disney-esque’ to read!?”

I wrote in an earlier post about how God does his best work in our lives through our trials, and that was definitely one of the main themes in the book.  The author cited story after heartbreaking story of people and couples and families who had been through tremendous difficulties in their lives (or were still in them) – and were often very angry with God or whomever they could blame for the tragedy at the time.  And yet, in retrospect, many of these stories ended with those involved being grateful for the lessons they learned, for the deepening of their faith, for the way they saw God using their tragedy to help others.  They would even go so far as to say that, despite the horrific experiences they went through, they wouldn’t trade it for all that they’ve gained in their knowledge and relationship with God because of it.

That is some pretty powerful testimony.  And it might be a bit hard to believe – that someone would be so grateful for the worst days of their lives.  And yet, we must take them at their word and learn from what they share with us.

So, will I look back on this season of my life and be grateful for it?  Better yet, how about appreciating the good ol’ days RIGHT NOW?  Mind you, I do clearly see God working in my life and am grateful for the lessons learned since Dale’s death.  But, if I’m honest, I’d have to say that I sometimes come to that gratitude a bit reluctantly.

I would still MUCH rather not be going through this pain, even if the outcome is for my good.  That’s my human-ness speaking.  Deep in my soul, I know that’s not where it should end.  Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  (Romans 5:3-5)  That’s a beautiful promise!

So, my prayer for myself and for all of you is that we will be able to appreciate what we have today and live more “in the moment,” regardless of whether we are in sunshine or storms, and that our hearts would be open to, and even searching for, the lessons we can learn no matter the forecast.