Friday, February 29, 2008

Those Smelly Dogs

I don’t like dogs. Now, before all you animal lovers out there start pitching a fit, please hear me out. We own two dogs – Annie (Shitzu) and Shamgar (Lhassa). They live in our house, much to my chagrin. But, my husband is a dog lover. My children are dog lovers. And so, I put up with the dogs.

But as I said before, I really don’t care for dogs. They stink. They get fleas. They make messes. And, did I mention, they stink? So, I try to stay far away from them. I burn a lot of candles. I go through many cans of air freshener.

There is a problem, though. Those dogs really love me. I have no idea why they love me, but as much as I try to push them away, they stay at my feet. They would stay in my lap if I would let them.

They follow me everywhere. Sometimes, I go in my bedroom and shut the door just to get away from them. But do you know what they do then? They sit at the door, whining and scratching until the whining and scratching is more annoying than the doggy smell, and I finally get up and let them in.

Not only that, but Shamgar sleeps at the foot of our bed. At my feet, actually. And if he hears any unusual, semi-scary sound, he is right there, ears back, teeth bared, ready to tear into any would-be intruders. He is my protector, keeping me safe from lions and tigers and bears, oh, my! I am happy to say I have not had a problem with lions or tigers or bears at my house. Thanks to Shamgar.

As I recently pondered this annoying, albeit humorous dilemma, I realized something quite profound. The reason the dogs adore me is because . . . drum roll please . . . I love those dogs! I may not like them, but I love them. For you see, love is not a feeling. It is an action.

I feed them. I give them water to drink. I bathe them, and let them in and out of the house when they whine. I take them to the vet. I give them their medicine all wrapped up in a piece of cheese.

Where Annie and Shamgar are concerned, I have set my feelings aside, and acted in the way I know is right. I have acted in their best interests. I have seen their needs, and met them. I have shown them that I care for them, and they have responded.

I am ashamed to admit I haven’t always been so gracious with humans. There are people all around me who need love, who need to know someone cares about them, who need a kind word of encouragement. But sometimes, I don’t actually like those people.

So instead of acting in the way I know is right, I avoid them. I go the other way when I see them coming. I see their needs. But when given the opportunity to meet those needs, all too often I shut the door in their faces.

But that is just plain wrong. After all, I’m not always likable. There are times when I am grouchy or annoying or just plain hurting, and I need others to love me anyway. I am so grateful for those people in my life who have stepped up to the task, and acted not on feelings, but on what they know is right. And because of their actions, those people will always have my loyalty, and my total and complete devotion.


I hate it when I get these profound insights. Ignorance is so much easier. But now, I realize in a new way that love is an action, not a feeling. And while acting on our feelings is easier than always doing the right thing, it is not nearly as rewarding.

I mean, think about it. If I had acted only on my feelings, I might have been devoured by a tiger long ago.

1 Corinthians 13:4 – 8 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bottoming Out

I am a child of the eighties. Yes, I proudly wore the football-sized shoulder pads in my bold-print silk dresses. I had big, curly, teased-out-to-there hair, which I often wore in a pony-tail on the side of my head. I owned legwarmers. I carried a comb in the back pocket of my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. And I listened to Michael Jackson on the radio, back when he was actually popular.

But all of that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg. I . . . (drum roll, please) was a roller-skating queen! Well, I never actually had a crown or a sash, but I did have my own roller skates. White, with blue wheels. And yes, attached to those skates were the big fuzzy pom-poms that separated the cool kids from the almost cool kids.

And I was good.

Now, the fact that I was actually good at roller skating when I have never been able to walk into a room without routinely tripping over something has always been a mystery to me. Nonetheless, I could really skate.

I could skate backward.

I could do the little whirly-spin thingies.

I could do the Cotton-Eyed Joe on wheels, without ever breaking a sweat.

And so, this past Saturday, when my dear husband and my dear children suggested that we go roller skating, I did what any self-respecting roller-skating child of the eighties would do.

I told them they were nuts.

Seriously, I hadn’t been skating in over twenty years! I currently have all of my bones intact, and I like it that way. I had no desire to tempt fate.

Unfortunately, they didn’t care. I was outvoted, three to one, and off we went to the skating rink.

Of course, right there in the entry, over the ticket window, was one of those enter-at-your-own-risk-and-you-can’t-sue-us-if-you-die signs. Very comforting.

We got our skates, and I took my time helping Foster with his. Then, I laced up my own skates. Too big. Aww, shucks. I strolled back over to the skate counter and exchanged them for a different size. Hey, I could make this last all afternoon if I tried! I leisurely laced up the new skates, and this time they fit. DRATS!

Finally, the mother part of my soul won out over the self-preservation part. I didn’t want to send my babies out to be trampled by strangers. If they were going to break anyone’s fall, it was going to be mine.

And slowly, slowly, it all began to come back to me. Those wheels under my feet weren’t that scary after all. Before I knew it, I was teaching my children to skate. I was skating backwards, urging them forward. I was smiling and laughing. Believe it or not, I was actually having fun!

I couldn’t believe it! After all these years, I still had it! I could skate! Before long, I was out there, making a fool of myself, doing the Macarena, whizzing past the floor monitors, skating like I had back in the day and having the time of my life!

And then, there it was – blaring over the loudspeaker! The new and improved version of “The Boot-Scootin’ Boogie”! Well, if that’s not an invitation to show off, I don’t know what is. Off I went like a bullet, scootin’ around that floor like I did this every week. I was singin’ along with the words as my poor family pretended they didn’t know me, when BAM! There I landed. Flat on my bottom. That is the first time in my life that I have been grateful for the extra padding I have acquired there in the last few years.

And do you know what I did then?

I laughed and laughed. And then I got back up, and started skating again. (A little slower, a little less showy.)

And I honestly had the time of my life.

Proverbs 16:18Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Friday, February 15, 2008

Soar Like Eagles

Have you ever seen a real, live bald eagle? I have. Last week, my parents took the kids and me over to see the bald eagle’s nest in Llano County. And it was a sight to behold.

The nest itself was enormous! It rested in a bare-branched tree, and took up the better part of the middle branches. After just a few moments of exclaiming over its hugeness, it moved! There, in the middle of the nest, was a baby eagle, bobbing its head up and down as if to say, “Look at me! I’m the one you came to see!”

We pulled out our binoculars, and watched the young bird for a long time. It gave us quite a show, sometimes opening its mouth wide, sometimes ducking to hide, other times spreading its wings in wishful thinking. After a while, we began to wonder where its parents were.

Surely, they weren’t far away. But we couldn’t see them. We had heard that both parents stayed close, watching over their baby, sharing in the responsibility of seeing their offspring safely to young adulthood. But as far as we could tell, that little guy was all alone.

Then my dad, (just call him ol’ Eagle Eye,) saw him. The Daddy Eagle. He was sitting on the very tip-top of a thick, bare tree trunk, and he actually looked like an extension of the trunk. But closer examination through the binoculars revealed that, yes, that was the Daddy bird. He had been there all along.

Our attention was then drawn away from the baby, as we watched the guardian. He was situated in the next tree over from the nest. He was several yards higher than his child, and could see directly into the nest. As a matter of fact, he could see everything that went on in that entire region. He sat there quietly, only moving his head from time to time in an effort to keep watch.

After a while, our attention was drawn back to the baby. It was getting more and more restless, flapping its wings and opening its beak wide. It seemed to be approaching panic level. “Somebody feed me! Somebody take care of me!” I could imagine the little bird calling out.

Then, it happened. With a spread of his tail feathers and a glorious swoop of his wings, the daddy eagle soared! It was honestly one of the most beautiful things I have seen. The grand eagle soared majestically through the air, above the nest, into some far trees, back above the nest, and then he swooshed down into the valley beyond view, toward the Llano River.

The baby bobbed. He squawked. He seemed to worry and fret and complain, wondering why somebody didn’t come and take care of him. If only he knew. His daddy was there all the time. If only we all knew . . . just because we can’t see Someone, it doesn’t mean He isn’t there. Watching us. Protecting us. Providing for our needs.

Before long, the daddy showed up again with some kind of yummy, nutritious treat. The baby disappeared in the shadow of his father’s wings. All was right with his world.

Isaiah 40:31 “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Friday, February 8, 2008

Facing the Giants

Don’t you just love it when the underdog becomes the top dog? I do. It gives me hope. Because honestly, many days I feel more like the underdog.

Last year, the New York Giants didn’t have a good year. As a matter of fact, their head coach, Tom Coughlin, was nearly fired! He was having some problems with his players, and things just weren’t going well.

This season didn’t start out much better. The Giants lost their first two games of the season, and everyone wrote them off as losers. Has-beens. Wanna-bes.

But they hung in there. They persevered. They kept their helmets down, and plowed through, and won their next six games. They barely made the playoffs! Still, there were nay-sayers.

“The Giants are just lucky.”

“They haven’t got a chance.”

In order to continue on, they had to beat the Buccaneers . . . in Tampa Bay.

“They’ll never pull it off.”

Then, they had to beat the Cowboys . . . in Dallas.

“No way. They are goners.”

Then, in the third coldest game in NFL history, they needed to beat the Packers . . . at Green Bay.

They did it! Despite the odds, despite the doubters, they rose up and won each and every game leading up to the Super Bowl!

But wait a minute. The other team to make it to the Super Bowl was the New England Patriots. The Patriots hadn’t lost a single game. They were 18 – 0.

Going into this game, the Giants were the 12 point underdogs. So, I guess you could say the Giants had to face the giants.

New York trailed most of the game, and no one expected anything else. They simply weren’t as good of a team as the Patriots . . . or were they?

Then, with thirty five seconds left in the game, the Giants threw a beautiful pass to score the winning touchdown! But then, they had to keep Tom Brady, the NFL’s best quarterback, from completing a pass of his own.

Lo and behold, against all odds, they did it. The Giants won! The Giants actually faced off against their own giants, the Patriots, and they won the NFL Super Bowl title!

I am so proud of that team. And I’m not really a Giants fan. Hey, aside from the Bulldawgs, I’m not even a football fan! But I have been in their shoes before. We all have, at one time or another. You know what I’m talking about - feeling like failures, feeling like everyone is against us, feeling like we will surely live up to all the negative things people say about us. But the New York Giants are living proof that with hard work, perseverance, and a little faith, we can come out on top – in spite of the odds.

I guess it all comes down to the choices we make, day after day after day. We can choose to believe the worst about ourselves. We can set our goals low, and avoid disappointment. Or, we can set our goals high, and believe only the best. We can choose to sit around and think about what could have been. Or, we can put our helmets down and keep plowing through, despite what anybody else says.

The Giants knew they could win. They knew that for them, the Super Bowl was a possibility. They ignored the people who doubted them, and they pressed on. And on. And on. And now, the only giants left standing are . . . the Giants.

Makes me feel a little bit taller, just thinking about it.

Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward . . .”

Friday, February 1, 2008

What I Want for my Birthday

My birthday is coming up. As a matter of fact, by the time you read this, I will have kissed one decade goodbye and said hello to a new one. But no worries. Birthdays don’t really bother me. Hey, considering the alternative, I’d say a birthday really is a cause for celebration!

My daughter has been asking me for weeks, “Mom, what do you want for your birthday?” I haven’t been able to come up with a good answer to that question, because honestly, I have everything I really want. I am very blessed. I have a family and friends who love me, a warm, cozy place to live, a car that gets me where I need to go, and a mall within close driving distance. I have a coffee pot on my counter, and an almost full can of coffee in the pantry. Life is good.

But, after giving her question much thought, I have come up with a list of things I want. Here, in random order, is my ultimate wish-list.

I want . . .

1. World peace.

2. Everyone to just be nice to each other.

3. My twenty-year-old body back.

4. A big, juicy, bacon cheeseburger from Mel’s.

5. All of our soldiers to come home safely.

6. A maid.

7. A butler.

8. A chef.

9. An automatic mean-person, gossip buster, that will zap anyone who forgets to just be nice. (Oh, I guess that wouldn’t be nice. But this is my list, so my actions don’t count.)

10. A peppermint chip Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Why do they only make those in December?

11. For my parents to live long, healthy lives, and to die only one day before I do.

12. To die peacefully in my sleep, after a long and prosperous life.

13. To win a Nobel Prize for literature.

14. To be an invited guest at the White House.

15. For my children to grow up to be happy, responsible citizens.

16. For my children to stay little.

17. To always be able to find my remote phone when it rings.

18. For the Bulldawgs to win the state championship next year.

19. Longer legs.

20. For one of those home-makeover shows to come and clean out my garage for me.

I know, I know. The chances I’m going to get everything on my list are, well, zero. But I’m from the “Aim for the Stars” school of thought. If I set my sites high, one or two of my wishes might actually come true. Oh, pardon me a minute, would you? My phone is ringing . . . ringing . . . ringing . . . where is that thing, anyway? Oh, there it is.

“Hello? Oh, hi!” (It’s one of my dearest friends.) “What’s that? You want to take me to Mel’s Burgers for my birthday? You bet! I’ll meet you there at 1:00.”

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”