Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Heart

I was 11 years old when we brought her home.
Somehow we had managed to convince our parents that we needed a puppy and that evening, on a Mother's Day, we adopted one of the best members of our family and brought her home. A lab to the core that puppy loved to be loved. First time we saw her she was on a human lap and it remained her favorite place despite her added years and added pounds. More than once you'd find she'd managed to get on the lap of a pool side lounge chair victim and marvel at her skill and tenacity, always more impressed than upset.

She was smart enough to play dumb, lazy enough to play deaf, sneaky enough to undo the lock on the gate and let herself out.
For a dog loving kid she was a dream come true and the CUTEST puppy you could imagine with her over-sized ears and big feet. Being a shy kid who didn't talk much she certainly heard more than most. Even to the point where if she was in my presence I couldn't shut up for how in habit I was of vocalizing my thought process in front of her.
On summer nights with a clear starry sky, I'd sneak out of my bedroom window and meet her in the yard under the blue light of a full moon, dream of fairies, let my imagination run wild and see her, resting comfortably next to me, leaving me content to have just her. Meeting with Jesus began to carry a third person party as she began to be my gateway into His presence. I had always felt it was repetitive to talk at God, only hearing my voice and no face to react to my confessions or pleadings. Since I felt it was pointless to voice what He knew my thoughts already were then I used her audience to say them out loud since she didn't. The first sentences were addressed to her and by the heart of the issue it was God I was comfortably talking to, no longer feeling ridiculous. She was a vessel for Him and an example of unconditional love and it's impossible now to separate her from my growing attachment to God for how much she was apart of it.

She was always there. Through my awkward years, through the hell of high school, through my first time away from home, and the uncomfortable years of change and becoming an adult. Every birthday eve at home was spent by her side. Every hardship and threat of loss sent my weeping fears to the comfort of her constant, fearless peace. Every big decision was processed with her patient long ears.
It was painful to leave her when I left home for months and when I got home I made good on all my promises of making up for it. I took her on car rides and we hiked mountains and played in creeks away from the hot stifling city.
By the time she entered geriatric years my number one fear and dread would be the day that I would lose her. Her mortality was off limits. Simply because I could not imagine life on earth without her. Instead I imagined her with me on every adventure, every change and found myself feeling less lonely. Even in my dreams of Jesus coming back on a white horse and seeing Him for the first time, she's right there with me.
But she was getting old. She was slowing down. She looked so tired.
Someone once asked me, "What will you do if Toby dies?" I said, "Then my heart will die with her."

And it has. 14 years she has been with me. 14 years of habits built with her as my best friend. But now my best friend is gone, and so naturally my heart has followed after her.
I had spoken to her many times about Heaven and all that I was planning and dreaming of and scheming with her. But on a Sunday I gave her a valid message of instruction to go on ahead and see rest before I could.

It's a peculiar pain of love to make a decision against the cry of every fiber of your being for the good of something else. If it were up to me she would have lived for forever. But the decision that came to me that Sunday was how I had to send her away and decide that that day would be our last here on earth and decide to be separated... for her sake.
She no longer had to be a vessel of God's love. She fulfilled her purpose above and beyond and I knew it would be selfish to keep her here and in pain purely for my sake.

Each family member, including pets, were able to say their goodbyes and by the time we got to the vet the second wave of pain was coming over her again. My dad, brother and I never left her side and spent our precious time praying over her, thanking her, thanking God for her, loving her and praising her all through her final seconds on this earth. I got down on my knees, took one last look at her brown eyes and she looked into mine as sleep overcame her, listening to her breathe one last time I gave the okay, much to my horror, to send her on her new adventure. I have never squeezed her so hard than I did after that awful moment. Hugging her that tight used to make me fear I'd hurt her, but I didn't need to hold back anymore. Even in her death she was comforting me. Her soft coat and warm body were still with me. I wept bitterly. I wailed as I have never thought possible. You learn all kinds of things about yourself that you didn't know were lying in wait for such a day.

It's now been over a year since her passing and the process of grief, you learn, is on going, never reserved for just one finite season. But it's taught me to hope, to let go, to believe and to love. It's remarkable that God still uses her as a vessel, even in her absence and memory.

Now I look to embark on the treacherous road of giving my heart away once more. The time has come to hold another canine in my arms and relish the feeling that a living creature belongs to me. I can't wait. I can't wait to have that unconditional love again... the companionship... the adventures... the constant. The friend.

Guilt tries to creep in, wonders if I'm replacing Toby, but I know it's impossible. If I had got my way and she would have been able to live for forever than I would still be bringing this puppy home to meet her. I only regret that he won't be able to meet her. But I'll tell him about her and let him be the confidante I need to listen to me miss her. And I'll let God use him as a new vessel, a vessel that proves there is a season for everything and that moving forward is a brave and adventurous task. And that, as G.K. Chesterton once said, "Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as on a root."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I have been doing some serious daydreaming about two things lately. Two things that keep me from sleep due to the sheer excitement of desire and the ache of needed patience and trust.

Now if I could just merge these two daydreams into one reality.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Celebrity Ego

If you fancy fame and crave die hard fans but find you come up short on the talent and/or celebrity status totem pole, then, my dear friend, I would recommend you go to India. Granted, in order for this formula to work you have to be an obvious foreigner. I think. I can't find any other explanation for why we were so sought after on eastern shores and so mournfully neglected at home. It spoiled us. Truly. Having a fan base for no reason is incredibly addicting.

Mary did forewarn us but we, the nobody Americans that we were, dismissed it with disbelief.  
Very soon we were happily proven wrong.

Here are some creepers sporting a move that I came up with in junior high. Charlotte managed to catch them here and... Don't worry about the guy in the white shirt. That's David. We know him. Those behind him are another matter.

But they got this picture of Charlotte capturing the above photo and me giving a thumbs up to being popular.

It started this way of people passing by and sneaking pictures but as we progressed towards the mausoleum our new found fan gathering made progress in approaching us and asking to take a picture with us... which made my naturally cautious self incredibly suspicious.

But that's why you travel with a person named Charlotte who LOVES being famous. She began accepting these proposals with belief that people were finally realizing her picture value. She was also suspicious that maybe they were mistaking us for someone famous. So she told some people she was. Because who would doubt her claim to being a winter Olympian.

Pretty soon we didn't need a fake claim to fame, we simply were famous. And pretty soon Charlotte began charging people to take pictures with her as an opportunity for bartering leverage. "I'll give you 100 rupees... and a chance to take a picture with me."

This was a group of boys I sent after her and here she is asking for money for her picture.
Pretty soon you come to find you'd be surprised if any of these picture seekers want anything other than an autograph. And then you'll find how unbelievably quick you adopt a personality of polite entitlement.

Towards the end of the day you can hear my politeness begin to fade away. In my defense I had like 10 minutes to get through the Agra Fort before closing.

Then we got caught in a photo progression with our Pizza Hut waiter who not only got some photos with us...

 ...but also managed to give us his facebook information.

And finally, below, we have a sweet woman who worked at the airport, saw my camera around my neck and asked if she could take a picture with us. Despite the fact that it was my camera and she'd never see a copy of the picture she was still pleased.

Then.... well then you go home. And you wonder with shock and awe why people here aren't asking for your picture. Why? What is wrong with them?
And you begin to miss the people who treated you so well like the Bollywood actress that you see yourself as. Leave your house on a windy day in India and you will, I guarantee, be in your own Bollywood film. They're ridiculous but they aren't lying.