Wisdom and Your Heart

I’m currently listening to The RobCast’s Wisdom series.  Part two really hit home for me, because it relates to the journey I’ve been on since I attended Tennessee Episcopal Cursillo #73.  Everything we do in this world flows form our understanding of our own hearts and our understanding of how God created us to live in the world.  When we have wisdom, we also have joy and connectedness.  I often find that Rob Bell distills the Good News into a tangible stories that are easy to relate to and that evoke profound spiritual exploration.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-PN7aYjODM]

Meet Gus

Gus came to us in May of 2015.  My husband has always liked cats, but up until the last few years, we’ve been limited to two pets in the house.  Since I came with two dogs, there wasn’t room for a cat.  A friend from church was looking for a good home for a cat she had adopted.  She loved him, but her mother had developed allergies that prevented his staying with them.  It was my husband’s birthday, so I jumped at the chance to bring him home a cat.

We decided to introduce the dogs one at a time.  We choose Bear first, because he was the sweetest and quietest of the bunch.  Gus took one look at Bear and hid under the couch for the next two days.  When he finally came out, his only contact with the dogs was to let them know he was NOT interested.  Of course, after a week of Bear’s requests to play, Gus finally gave in.  After that, the fun began.
Having never lived with a cat, I was in for several surprises. First, I did NOT know cats were nocturnal!  Since Kelsey was still living at home, she typically slept in her room with her dog and the door closed.  We slept with our dogs and a closed door.  Little did I know that our new family member would spend the night terrorizing me and the dogs.  He attacked my feet multiple times.  I also woke up to Bear loudly demanding to be left alone.  Needless to say, we stopped sleeping with the door closed!

The next adventure started when Gus discovered the dog door.  At the time, the dog door from the previous owner, which fit none of our dogs, was still in the door.  Gus noticed it swaying back and forth one day and tried to sneak out.  Since we had been told he was an indoor cat and never went outside, we decided it might be a bad idea for him to venture into the back yard with our three dogs–two of which were natural hunters.  So we locked the dog door.  Later that day, he snuck out again.
My husband bought him a harness and started taking him for walks, and my daughter ducked taped the dog door shut, but Gus was a determined little kitty.  Within a week, he snuck out again and didn’t come back for several hours.  We were all terrified he wouldn’t come back, but he showed back up demanding food later that afternoon.  We decided to stop worrying about him when we found him jumping down off the roof.  This, of course, began another new kitty adventure…
Over the next few months, Gus deposited moles in the kitchen, mice in the living room, and a snake under my desk.  Fun thing to find in the middle of your work day!  He brought in birds in the middle of the night that woke up the dogs… and us.  Thankfully, now that we have 36 acres, he brings the critters to the woods, the garage, or the hay barn!  He’s developed into the perfect farm cat. He keeps the outbuildings free from mice and snakes at night and comes in for snuggles during the day.  He ended up making my husband very happy!

Meet Tank

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m taking some time to introduce the four-legged residents of Appy Creek Farm.  Next up…  Tank.  Tank is a 17 month old Great Pyrenees/Bull Mastiff mix.  We picked him up from a farm in Shelbyville.   Since his bitch was a working livestock guardian, he was born and living outside.  He was covered in fleas and sores from scratching at the fleas, but from day one, he was and is the happiest dog I’ve ever met.  While Bear wins on gentleness and compassion, Tank wins on sense of humor.  You can’t keep a straight face around this dog.

Like any good Great Pyrenees, he wants to be outside on patrol.  When he’s inside, he’s glued to a window, and when he’s outside he’s watching every square inch he can see.  His job is definitely protecting the family.
I’ve also learned that the breed is incredibly smart and very independent.  Tank loves to let us know his opinion in any given situation!  His favorite move is when Dad tries to take him for a walk, and he wants Mom.  He will literally park himself behind me and hug my leg until I either give in or make him go to Dad!

Every dog teaches us something.  Tank is teaching me patience, sense of humor, and persistence!
He’s only completed a basic obedience course.  It will be a while before he’s ready for a more advanced class.  He’s smart and learns quickly, but he still has a problem with attention span. In my experience, extra large dogs don’t really mature until they’re two, so I expect that training results will get more consistent then.  For now, we just keep the practice consistent.
I fully expect that someday Tank will be a very well-trained, highly obedient guard dog, who loves to snuggle and keep us safe.

Meet Bear

Over the next few weeks, I want to introduce the residents of Appy Creek Farm, starting with our sweet therapy-dog-in-training Bear.  Bear is a 5 year old Lab/Dane mix, who got a rough start in life.  When we met him at Rutherford County PAWS, his adoption fee was only $15, because he’d already been at the shelter for more than 60 days.  At 90 days, he would be euthanized.  He was picked up as a stray and had a collar but no tags.  No one claimed him, which means he was probably abandoned.  At almost a year old, he weighed 85 pounds.  His age and weight mean his chances for adoption were pretty small.
My daughter and I were at the shelter because she had lost her dog of 7 years.  She was heartbroken and wanted to give another unwanted dog a home.  We were only looking at dogs with less than 30 days left.  She walked nearly every one, but I didn’t feel the others would be a good fit for our home, where we had a rather cranky, dominant senior dog.  She was ready to give up when I spotted a dog laying in the back of his cage.  He looked like he had given up hope too.

After convincing Kelsey to take him for a walk, they walked slowly out the back door.  She sat on a bench and started to cry.  Bear climbed up on the bench next to her and licked her tears.  She hugged him as if she was hanging on for dear life.  I knew we were taking him home, which is where the adventure started.
He had little to no training and was an 85 pound nightmare on a leash.  He refused to get in the truck, so the two of us had to pick him up together to get him in.  When we went to the pet store for supplies, one of us shopped, while the other used all her might to control our new unwieldy beast.  We decided to take him to a friend’s farm to let him play with her dogs.  Unfortunately, one her dogs decided to go after a horse, and poor Bear got caught in the crossfire.  The next morning, a trip to the vet revealed he had a broken toe, so for the first 6 weeks, he would have to leash walked despite our big fenced in backyard.
The next few weeks were almost as bad as having a new puppy.  Bear threw up almost every night for 3 weeks.  The first time we left him home with our other dog, we didn’t have a kennel his size yet, so we used our gates to keep him in the kitchen where our other dog was kenneled.  He ate the window sill.  🙁  Kelsey decided she didn’t want him, but I didn’t have the heart to take him back.  He’d been through enough and deserved a second chance, so he became my dog.  One of the greatest blessings of my life!

We enrolled Bear in a basic training course with our favorite dog trainer Cynthia Hollis of Sit-n-Stay in Christiana, Tennessee.  He was the star of his class.  During those six weeks, he and I bonded.  I too was going through a very difficult time in my life.  I had lost my horse, my grandmother, and my Dad.  Losing Kelsey’s dog hit me hard.  I was soon going to endure one more loss–my big brother Steven, which also hit me hard.  During that time, Bear was always at the ready with snuggles.  He never left my side.
In the past four and a half years, Bear has gone everywhere with me and is helping to fulfill my dream of having a therapy dog.  Bear and I are working toward registration as a therapy team with Pet Partners, after which I hope we have many years of comforting others!  He is a constant remind of God’s love and compassion.  Being with him has taught me how to slow down, how to love myself, and how to being a more compassionate and loving person.  I thank God every day for this wonderful creature!

Holy Week Recovery

My favorite time of the year?  From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.  For me, Lent through Easter evokes deep spiritual transformation and emotional release.  Easter Sunday marks a new year both spiritually and mentally, but like the actual new year, it generally starts with some rest and reflection.  Holy Week, with its multiple religious services, can be emotionally draining.  To really walk with Christ during that time requires some emotional fortitude.
One of my new spiritual practices was to write every day during Holy Week, which turned into some insightful reflections and revelations regarding my personal relationship with Christ.  Praying or meditating three times a day deepened my connection to God and his creation.  Of course, as with all new habits, the development of those habits necessitated significant effort.  All of my Lenten practices required more time interacting with other people.  As an Introvert, that alone leaves me needing a recharge.
So for me, the Easter season has become a quiet time of resting and letting the fruits of my labor grow with the Spring.  The little sprouts of spiritual growth bathe in the rain and the sun, and my Faith becomes a more passive activity of simply basking in the joy of God’s love.  For me, Easter isn’t about doing.  Easter is just about being.
My heart and soul are healing from the trauma and growth of Holy Week.  I am fully submitted to God’s will.  I am allowing God to God’s work while I await a call on Pentecost to go out into the world and do great works.  I’m living with Christ and letting his words shape my thoughts, words, and deeds.

Despite the joyous nature of the season, it is, for me, a time to be alone in God’s creation.  Spending time with my horses and my dogs in the quiet of the woods rejuvenates me and connects me more deeply to the Risen Lord.  It helps me to feel more deeply the joy of the Resurrection.  I find myself once again believing in the power of the Holy Spirit and the miracles that God will perform on our behalf when we ask in Christ’s name.
During the Easter season, I recharge my soul with the power of Faith, with the power God endowed to us in our Baptism by the fire of the Holy Spirit.  I allow myself to enveloped by the love of God and allow myself to accept that I am a beloved child of God.  I live in the knowledge that I share in the Resurrection with my Lord and Savior.
What does Easter mean for you?  How do your spiritual practices change to celebrate the Resurrection?