Lessons from Hope

A year ago I began feeling like it was time to crack open my heart a bit. Since the deaths of my husband and parents I have built up very high walls around my heart to protect myself from more pain and possible loss.

After months of researching dog breeders, I chose a breeder in Texas and put down a deposit on a future toy Schnauzer puppy.

As I waited on the birth of just the right female, I made preparations for her much like you make preparations for the birth of a child. My emotions were a mixture of quiet expectation and yet fear of opening up my life to a new living thing. I began contemplating and praying about a name for her. I wanted a significant name that would be a good reminder of something I need in my life. On the day that the name “Hope” was suggested, I knew that was the right name because hope is something that I need to be reminded of every day.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my HOPE in God! I will praise Him again–my Savior and my God! Psalm 42:5 

For I HOPE in You, O Lord: You will answer, O Lord my God.  Psalm 38:15

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? HOPE in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5

How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose HOPE is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them: who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects the strangers. He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.  Psalm 146:5-10

This I recall to my mind; therefore, I have HOPE. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul. Therefore I have HOPE in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:21-25

…..we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the HOPE set before us. This HOPE we have as an anchor of the soul, a HOPE both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has enters as a forerunner for us. Hebrews 6:18-20

Finally the day arrived for Hope to fly to me from Dallas. The plan had been for a lady to hand carry her on the plane here to me, but hurricane Harvey disrupted those plans and the carrier was trapped in her home in Houston where all the airports were closed. So Hope had to fly from Dallas in a crate underneath in the pressurized area in the belly of the plane. Needless to say, when she arrived she was traumatized and a very needy puppy for the first three days. All that crying and neediness made me question whether or not I had made the right decision. Here I was a caregiver again! I began asking the Lord to show me what lessons I needed to learn from this little puppy and here are a few things that I have learned from her.

TRUST – Hope completely trusts me. Whenever we are training together, she keeps her eyes focused on nothing but me. Her sole care in in my hands. Oh, how much I need to do this in my relationship with Christ! Trust is something that was shattered the day Bob went to heaven because I couldn’t possibly see how this could work out for good for me. As time has gone on, I am slowly rebuilding my trust in God.

LOVE – Hope’s greatest desire is to be with me and to spend time with me. My goal should be to have that same kind of relationship with God and I have found that in these last almost 8 years alone, my relationship has become a deeper one. I am much more aware of God in the little things every day. He’s the one I talk to all of the time and my love for Him has grown greater even in the midst of my grief.

PLEASE – Hope wants to please me. Her greatest joy is to hear me praise her and exuberantly tell her, “GOOD GIRL, Hope! GOOD GIRL!” She wags her little stub of a tail as hard as she can and joyfully wiggles her body all over in excitement. Does pleasing God bring me joy like that? It should certainly be something I strive for even though I know that because I am human, I can never totally and perfectly please God.

DISOBEDIENT – As we have gotten to know each other better and Hope has become more comfortable with me, there are times when she chooses not to listen to my commands. She definitely knows what I am asking of her because she is looking right at me when I am telling her what to do. She’ll even start to sit and then quickly gets up before sitting completely.  She is either slow to obey or will not obey.  How like me this is! I can’t understand God’s ways and think that I know better than He does what is best for me. I find myself many times rebelling in my heart against His plan for my life now because it is not what I would have chosen at all.

COMFORTER – Little 5 pound Hope has become a comforter to me. She senses when my grief is great and will lie right over my heart. To me this is a picture of my comforter the Holy Spirit who prays the words for me when all I can do is groan with the deep pain I feel in my heart when I am missing Bob so much. A good, hard cry releases that grief and gives me a sense of relief until the next time grief ambushes me.

IN THE MOMENT – Dogs live in the moment. Hope is not thinking about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. I have always been a person that goes back and rethinks what happened yesterday that disturbed me and what might happen tomorrow. Living in the moment is something that I have begun to work on. It’s hard to keep my mind on the here and now, but I am finding that it makes life so much easier and less stressful.

One big surprise that has happened since Hope came to live with me 3 months ago is that I am sleeping 6-7 hours straight through on a majority of my nights. One of the biggest problems most widows have to contend with is lack of sleep. I would sleep 2-3 hours and then wake up before going back to sleep again only to repeat that same scenario. That is not restful sleep and has affected me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I tried everything but medication. However, it wasn’t until Hope arrived that this problem has been very much helped. Now, that just doesn’t make any sense to me and I can’t really figure out why she has made the difference, but she has and I am so thankful.

I’m sure that there will be more lessons that God has to teach me through Hope. Meanwhile, I will continue to be thankful for her – even when her daily times of puppy craziness are over the top. As soon as she works that energy out and tucks herself up against me in quietness and stillness, I know she is good for me. Who knew that a puppy can teach a widow so many things!

 

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The Widow’s Living Fence

Earlier this week I watched the West Minster Kennel Club Dog Show and as I was looking at all of the breeds of dogs that were being shown, one particular dog in the herding division caught my eye. I don’t know about you, but when God speaks to me, He usually does it through something I hear, something I see, or something I read. This time it was through something that the Emcee of the show said about this particular dog. He said that the Beauceron is called “the living fence“.

Wikipedia says that the Beauceron is “used both to both guard and herd sheep and cattle. It was once very useful against wolves. The breed served in both world wars as messenger dog, supply transport dog, land mine detection dog, search dog, police dog and rescue dog. The Beauceron is known in France as a guard dog, a helper around the farm, and/or a ring sport dog (primarily protection training). This athletic, healthy and long-lived breed has been bred to be intelligent, calm, gentle, and fearless.”

The way that the Emcee described the Beauceron – the living fence – and all of the words that Wikipedia used to tell exactly what this dog does immediately made me think of what the Holy Spirit does in the lives of believers. Jesus told his disciples in John 14:16-18 that He was going to send the Holy Spirit/Comforter to be with them after He ascended into heaven. He promised that He would not leave us as orphans.

The Beauceron is a herd dog that works with sheep. Now anyone who knows anything about sheep knows that they are just simply not too smart, directionless, defenseless animals who require a shepherd. In Psalm 23, God compares humans and their natures to sheep. Isaiah 53:6 also calls humans sheep. The job of a shepherd is to meet every need of the sheep: food, water, rest, safety and direction. The Beauceron is a sheep herder or a shepherd if you will.

When a woman becomes a widow, she loses the earthly protection and shepherding of her husband. She suddenly feels very vulnerable and, in fact, can be abused by others who want to take advantage of her vulnerability. But, if she has accepted Christ as her personal Savior, she has her own “Beauceron” – the Holy Spirit – who is acting as her living fence or Shepherd walking up and down and all around the parameters of her heart and life guarding and protecting her, helping her, speaking messages to her heart from God, supplying for her every need, and searching for and making her aware of land mines in the life of a believer that can trip her up.

Amazing the things (in this case a dog) that God uses in my life to call attention to different truths! And how comforting it is to me to know that I have the Holy Spirit acting as a ” Beauceron/living fence” around my life doing all of these wonderful things to take care of me.