Seeing the World Right-Side-Up {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 12}

We rolled up to the farm and flung the doors open. The firstborn knew what to do with the  fields in sight. He galloped. He jumped. He turned himself upside down then right side up, somersaulting himself on repeat over unkempt grass and dirt. Like Erika at The Life Artist wrote in her answered prayer story last week, “…you may just need to stand on your head to see the world right-side-up.”

The property was a wild place and in the distance I saw our wild dog trotting around with his new hunting buddies. We had dreamed six years for this wide-open space for him, this wide-eyed wonder for us. We had prayed, begged even, so desperate for relief.

This had been our reality…. Our son couldn’t sing a nursery rhyme without sending the hound into a tailspin, dog claws ice skating across hardwoods, him whimpering all the way. At meals, we had to harness the dog to a spot far from the kids’ plates to keep him from snatching food and gobbling up little fingers along with it. When we set his own food bowl in front of him, he scratched at it and drooled over it and every once in a while gathered the courage to lunge in for a nibble. Some nights he’d get himself so worked up that he wouldn’t eat at all, leaving his stomach gurgling in hunger and anxiety all night long. Hello insomnia.

Then, there was his voice. The bark and bay that were meant to call a hunter from miles away to find a treed raccoon, that voice was corralled into the echoing walls of our home and our small backyard. As for the sweet lady behind us who dared rest her arm on the fence for neighborly conversation, our hooligan hound thought it best to sink his teeth in, sending her off with a puncture wound. From there on out, we muzzled him every time we let him out of the house.

His anxiety and depression were contagious. Even while I worked hard to rehabilitate our hound, I cried many days wondering how my sanity could outlast his lifespan, how our home could ever be a happy one when all our efforts and the meds and the expensive training with a world-renowned therapist at Purdue’s Animal Behavior Center hadn’t done the miracle.

It all came down to the day he bit our son. I wept hard when I made the appointment with the vet. We had scoured the country for a rescue. No after no after no. No one could chance taking a biter. One animal lover, my friend’s husband, continued to search when I had given up. But the date was set. There was no other way out.

At church that Easter morning, a grown woman shared a strange story from her teenage years, how her cat had gone silent for two weeks, not a single meow. In her worry, she had the guts to ask God, whom she didn’t know so well at the time, to step into her little world and give it a try. If He’d help the cat to find its voice again, she’d promise to read her Bible every day. Within minutes, the cat came in to run its head under her hand, purring and full-out meowing.

I held back my sniffles for a bit, but not my prayers. If God cared enough to step in for the silent cat and this curious girl, I felt I could ask Him again for better ending for Hoover.

That night as I bawled my eyes out to extended family, my friend and her husband were chatting about our situation in a town two hours away. “If only there were more time,” my friend’s husband sighed, “Even two weeks more. I’m sure we could find some solution.” My friend calmly said back to him, “If God can save Hoover in a matter of two weeks, God can save him overnight.”

When I got back home that night, I opened my email to a consolation note from another faraway friend who’s dealt with her share of wild animals, and her share of hardship (and answered prayer!). She reminded me that I had to be willing to do what was safe and healthy for my family and that I’d tried everything, even beyond reason, to save Hoover. But had I thought about the possibility of finding a hunter to take him in and train to be what he was meant to be. Good idea, but I didn’t know any hunters. Or did I?

It hit me then, the memory of the black book with the gold hound dog stamped on the front. I picked it up and started flipping pages. Right inside the cover, hidden all these months, was the hunter’s number. And there was this light peeking into the tomb Easter night. Next morning, the door opened in full. One phone call and our life was made new.

A few months later, on our summer night at the farm, we rolled in the grass with puppies and kids. We nuzzled (not muzzled!) our dog and reveled at his new hunting adventures. He’d been adopted into hound royalty by the grandson of the man who started the very breed in the 1930s. And he was happy. We are still wide-eyed in wonder.

I can’t really do the story justice here in a blog post. The details are too many and too significant, all the things God choreographed to write this story for us. Someday, I may tell it in long-form, maybe hardbound, our little version of Marley & Me meets One Thousand Gifts…working title Happy Unleashed: The true story of a hooligan hound, a frazzled mom and the redeeming love of their Creator.

On the other side of answered prayer in all this wide-open space, with all this wide-eyed wonder at seeing the world right-side-up…I could just about do a somersault.

{What wild answers to prayer could you be lassoing into story? Take a few minutes to make an outline of your narrative including: 1. The hardship, 2. The audacious prayer, 3. The people and circumstances God used to lead to the answer, 4. The answer itself, 5. What life felt like afterward. Share here if you feel comfortable.}

This is Day 12 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change and The Hollie Rogue’s Tell Your Story link-up.

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Gone with the Woods: Clearing the Way for Blessing

We balanced ourselves as we skied down the slippery steps and headed toward the tree line. My hound tugged against the leather leash and pulled me like he was a snow dog making tracks out in the wild. It was as close as we could get to such a thing– our three-acre view of unkempt trees. The sight of the snow cradled on all the branches had lured me out of the house to hike the woods with my dog and my boy.

We studied the animal footprints and tried to guess what had hopped or galloped through before we  walked the path. “I’m making Elliot tracks,” my little boy told me, stomping his feet into the deep snow. Hoover jumped up and over every fallen trunk along our path, diving in and out of the powdery surf like a dolphin in deep waters, pure glee. He was made for this, except for the leash in my hand.

I forced out the breath that I’d been holding. It billowed into a small cloud and veiled my view. It’s all a vapor. I paraphrased the verse and kicked at a rotted log. That beauty around me would soon vanish to the tune of a Komatsu PC300 excavator shaking our sacred ground and ripping out comfortable trees by their roots.

“These trees won’t be here next winter,” I said trying to break the news to Elliot without letting my sadness leak through, “We have to enjoy them while we have them.”

My husband and I had dreamed of buying a bit of that land and fencing it off for our crazy hound and our boy to run around on. A boy needs a place to ramble and we thought if our dog could run like he was meant to, then just maybe our home could be more serene. No more dog paws ice skating across hardwoods at the sound of our little boy’s outbursts. No neurotic scratching at the bowl and drooling for food when it was right there in front of him. No more yelping at the top of his lungs for half an hour if we dared take the bark collar off. That land next to us would be the answer to all of our problems, we  dreamed. But then the sign had gone up: a public hearing to discuss land use, our beloved three-acre view in question.

By next fall, the working men surrounded us with their loud voices and loud machines and it felt like they were clawing at my gut when they cut on those trees. I walked out to the backyard to let the guys know to Beware of Dog. We hadn’t yet put up the signs. I muzzled the beast every time I sent him out into the yard, but in case the contraption came loose I wanted them to be on guard. I could just picture them doing the same as our neighbor Frieda, dangling their arms over the fence and getting chomped.

“Aww. We won’t give him any trouble,” one of the workers said. They knew a thing or two about hunting dogs. “That guy over there’s got some Bluetick pups in the truck,” they said, filling me in on the little cousins to my Treeing Walker.

The next day, somebody rang the doorbell. I gritted my teeth. The bell sent Hoover into a frenzy like it made a Pavlovian dog’s stomach growl. I stepped out into the entry and closed the glass door behind me before opening our front door to see who to thank for setting my dog off. Standing there, a soft-spoken working man in a baseball cap held out a book to me. A gold-filament silhouette of a hound dog sparkled on the black-as-a-tomb fabric cover while my own dog circled and clawed and yelled out through the sealed entry. Pages were dotted with the words of another man who had, once upon a time, started something new, perfecting the chase, the persistence, the bay and bark. While I was worried about losing the woods next door, God was using that very plot of land to prepare a place for a redemption story, bringing to my welcome mat the grandson of the man who started Hoover’s breed in the 1930s.

After another winter and spring and another bite (this time with Elliot as the victim) and what seemed like a thousand people saying “No”, “Sorry” and “It’s time to give up”, I cracked the black book open, desperate. I peered inside the front flap, grabbed the phone and pressed in each of the handwritten numbers. I waited for that soft-spoken voice to answer and then I howled out my story, tears flowing. The next day, he showed up in front of our house with a dog crate on his truck. The working man was a God-send, making things work for us, bringing a wayward hound back to the roots of the both of them, back to the very property where his grandfather cultivated the breed, where Hoover, the hooligan hound, could become who he was made to be: White River Hoover, the hunting dog.

There is a house blocking my view now. It’s been planted where the trees once stood. But my stomach doesn’t sink at the sight. It’s not that I don’t miss the woods, but what happened there has given me a new view, a view of the Spirit sprinkling serendipity into my difficulty, of Him acting behind the scenes to work all things together for good. Soil churned and upturned next door was the substance God used for bringing peace and balance to my home.

The land had to be cleared for it to happen, for my path to cross with the houndsman’s, for Hoover and all of his anxiety to be gone with the woods. I shouldn’t have been surprised even if I was amazed. It had happened before, this emptying out to make room for the new. I had to let go of flimsy dreams as I filled a cardboard box with mementos to get rid of: a hand-cut crystal vase, a container of apology letters, and a framed picture of a mountain drenched in the deluge that almost sent me careening down slippery rocks. It is hard for a writer-type to let go, to toss out the evidence, to permanently delete the details of a study in love and human behavior. But I knew I had to make room for the new, for the man who would someday be my husband to woo me without all those artifacts on display. He did so, and I can’t believe I didn’t clear the land sooner. Later, we’d learn the same lesson together, that when friendships crumble without explanation and all attempts at salvage wind up back in the junk pile, the Spirit helps us to let go and wait for what He has dreamed up for us. We turn our palms down and release our burdens, and then raise our hands up again, ready to receive, knowing that He withholds no good thing. We can trust Him to redeem the void, to use the empty places.

I’m still awestruck about all that God did in my 2011. What about you? What has been cleared from your life to make room for the new?

James 4:14
Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster, p. 31
Psalm 84:11

Creative Christmas Gallery

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Our homespun artwork on this year’s Christmas card was inspired by two artists: Charles Schulz and George Louis Wiley. The season just wouldn’t be the same without Schulz’s famous holiday favorite, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. And Christmas for the Wiley … Continue reading