A DAY WITH GOD AND A DOG
Last week my teenage children brought a puppy beagle home. The event caused quite a ruckus in our home, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. But before we dig into all the details, let me first fill you in on the history of dogs in my life.
As a young child living in an abusive alcoholic environment, I had a puppy that neighborhood boys stoned to death because they thought it was a rat in the bushes. This memory has always been vividly painted in my mind. I must have vowed to never love a dog again because after that, I hated dogs. Mainly, I was terrified by them. I now know I was terrified of being hurt: loving and then losing, so I stayed tough and angry. Fear has a way of doing that to us, creating such a false barrier of protection that we become imprisoned ourselves.
From the age of 7-12, I lived on and off with my grandparents, and there was an evil dog named Thore that lived down the road. He was a pitch black Husky with ice-blue eyes, and as soon as he saw me coming by on my bike, he tore through that unfenced front yard on a mission to eat my leg for lunch. I had to venture passed him every day because his house was on my way to school. His house was also on my way to the creek and to the park too; there was no avoiding this dog. I became determined, quick and resentful towards dogs and towards life.
And around that same age, I went running one day, and I was hotly pursued by two huge white Poodle dogs (not the little ones; the ones that are the size of small ponies). In my opinion, they were more like full-grown panthers! They were lean and mean as they came after me. As I ran quicker, something changed in me. It was if I was “done” with dogs harassing me. I turned and started chasing them. I had a large stick in my hand, and I was going to kill them if I had to. I started screaming like a warrior, and as soon as they saw me turn from being their prey to being their predator, they turned and ran back home, yelping like 3-week old puppies needing their mommy’s milk. I felt more powerful after that, less fearful.
But about the time I turned 13, I saw my older brother get chased and attacked by a Doberman Pincher. The image is vivid as I remember the event. It was terrifying. My older brother was my best-friend, my protector, and my comforter as a child; I couldn’t survive without him. I felt that I was being attacked as I watched him fight off the dog and protect his neck from its jaws.
As a wife and a mom, my family has always had a dog. My husband grew up with dogs, so it seemed natural to get a puppy when our kids were young. We had a beagle named Lucy for about 8 years. When we lost our home several years ago, we moved Lucy with us to a rental. The landlords allowed us to keep Lucy because she was a member of the family and she was potty-trained; however, no other dogs were allowed. The first day we moved into our rental home, Lucy was hit and killed by a car.
Suddenly, the event of losing our home and moving into an old rental was grimmer than my heart could bear. I was devastated by my family’s loss - from the house to our family dog. A friend brought over fortune cookies to snack on as we moved. My fortune that night read, “He who knows he has enough is rich.” I cried as I ate my cookie later by myself. I kept the fortune as a reminder of how true that statement really is.
Our family has felt a huge void due to not having a family dog for the past four years. Summer and fall are void of throwing a tennis ball in the front yard for Lucy to fetch, and during the cool fall and winter months, a small warm furry body sitting peacefully next to us is missing. Her absence has made the absence of our home more difficult at times.
When our children walked in with this little Beagle puppy, an unexpected surge of emotion welled up within me. I felt the intensity of years from my childhood and losses as an adult. I felt scared and I felt hopeful when I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Restoration, Renewal” as the puppy crossed the threshold of my front-door. Somehow I knew the threshold of the physical front-door of this current house of brick and mortar represented the threshold of my heart. I felt an unraveling take place, but I had no words as I looked at the little puppy, my heart welling up with love for it, which surprised me and scared me.
My husband told the kids that we could not keep the dog as the landlords would not allow it. They pleaded to be able to keep it, but my husband stood firm. It wasn’t his choice; he would have loved to have a dog, but not in this house. “We have to have our own home, Kids,” he said. “We need a home with a backyard so it can have a good life. Besides, it’s against the lease.”
The kids begged him. In the back of my mind, I was hoping that Brian would call the landlords and ask them if they would make an exception, but I said nothing. I didn’t want to go against my husband, and truly, I wanted whatever Brian wanted. Deep down, I knew we all wanted a home of our own and a puppy to christen the celebratory event of restoration and renewal as we moved into our future home one day. But right now just wasn’t the right time. The puppy seemed to bring a deep sadness over everyone in the home because of the loss within us that was rekindled by his precious eyes.
Brian’s heart was touched the next morning as he saw me petting “Roscoe” and talking to him. He bent down and took a picture with his phone. “I’ll try to find the little guy a home today. He sure is cute though. I guess I could call the landlords and ask,” Brian said. Brian got his coffee, and he and my high school daughter, Faith, went out the front door for a busy day of work and school. On his way to work, Brian called me tell me he did call and ask the landlords. They told him they’d call him back later with an answer. Then, he called me on his teacher-planning break to see if the landlords called me with an answer. “No word yet,” I replied.
“Yeah, it’s really not a good idea in this house anyway; it’s not our house, and it doesn’t have a backyard for him,” Brian answered. “I think we should just give him back. When we have our own home to take care of with a backyard, it will be a better life for a dog anyway.”
I hung up with Brian and got busy. I had a busy day of writing and babysitting the puppy until he could be returned to his original owner later that afternoon. After I got my son, Jacob, on the bus, me and Roscoe turned to go inside. More strongly than an actual person in front of me, I sensed the Holy Spirit pull up a chair within the kitchen table of my heart. I As I reentered my house that day, I got a cup of coffee, and I knew I had an appointment with God and a dog.
As I cared for the puppy, God brought images to my mind as He very graciously ministered to me. The odd thing was that He was bringing images to my mind that were previously associated with my post-traumatic stress syndrome. For example, as the puppy and I walked up the driveway, Roscoe became curious about some bushes and he ran into them. I bent down and reached in to get Roscoe out, and the image of my little puppy getting stoned to death, very vividly came to my mind. Feeling very helpless to all my emotion, tears welled up in my eyes. The pain was intense, but immediately God showed me that today the puppy represented me, and my hand represented God’s hand of protection in my life. Then, I saw an image of violence from my childhood. It was a horrifying image from my past, but as soon as it came, God showed me that He protected me and rescued me from harm, and He led me to salvation. I was forever His, regardless of what happened to me on as a child. Once I rescued Roscoe out of the bushes, I sat on the front steps of the house with Roscoe on my lap. I felt breathless by the loving message of God’s grace I had just received.
Then, God said, “Kristina, Roscoe represents you today. Just as Roscoe sits on your lap, so too do you sit in My lap. You are mine, and I care for you.” I felt like a peaceful prisoner to a war I no longer needed to fight. I felt surrendered, warm, and rested as I sat on the step with my dog for the day and with my God for eternity.
Roscoe and I went into the house to get him some food and water. God reminded me that He is my provider as I poured Roscoe some puppy food. As I got Roscoe water, God said, “I am your Living Water.” Every move I took, everything I did, and for everything Roscoe did, God had something to say to my heart. I walked down the hall to the back bedroom to work on a book God had recently assigned to me, and Roscoe galloped behind me, running into my legs when I stopped. “You have learned to not run ahead of Me,” God said as Roscoe peered his head through my ankles.
Roscoe sat at my feet as I typed. I would look down at him and he would look up at me and wag his tail. “Delight yourself in Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart,” God said. I typed with a smile on my face, never feeling more close to God than I did in this moment. I recognized that in the past, I have felt very close to God in my heartbreaks and sadness, but I had never felt this close to God in happiness and contentment. I wondered why I was happy. This little puppy was causing intense heartache to my family as a reminder of our loss. My husband and children left for their days saddened, and here I sat with this dog and with God, despite our circumstances, despite the leased house, despite the struggles, more content than I have ever been in my life.
“When you trust me in nothing, I can trust you with everything,”God said. I remembered that He said something similar to me a few years prior when we lost the house: “You must trust me in nothing in order to trust me with everything.” Many times, over the last past several years of heartache and loss, I said, “Am I at nothing yet? Because it sure feels like it, Lord.” He never answered me, but I guessed that I hadn’t reached “nothing” yet. This morning, however, I realized that I was trusting God in my “nothing,” and He had truly become my everything. I understood what God had been saying to me for years, “You must trust me in nothing in order to trust Me with everything.” My thoughts were whirling within me. There was such a depth to the message He was providing. God helped me clarify as He spoke:
“Because you have trusted me in nothing, I will give you everything.”
I began to tear up and Roscoe became restless and stood up. He began winning because he needed something.
“I know what you need before you even ask,”God said. Me, my tender heart, and Roscoe headed for the front door. Roscoe bravely went down the threshold step, but the next step was too large. It was even a large step for a human foot, so I picked him up and carried him down the steps. His little paws hung in mid-air with the palm of my hand securely around his chest. I gradually put him on the ground and he wandered off into the grass.
God said, “Kristina, Remember that time at boot camp when you were balancing on a log seven feet high? You almost fell, but you cried out to me, and very firmly you felt My hand on your ribcage, stabilizing you.”
“Yes, Lord. I remember,” I said. “Feeling Your hand on me almost scared me so bad I would have fallen merely from the shock of Your hand had You not been holding me secure,” I replied.
God’s Spirit nodded to my spirit as He said, “Just like you are doing for Roscoe right now, I often lift you up. As I carry you into the unknown, your faith-feet hang out in mid-air just like Roscoe’s paws just did. You have grown accustomed to the ambiguity of My plans, and you have trusted Me in deafness and blindness. I am rewarding your obedience. Your faith has been credited to you as righteousness.”
Roscoe and I came back in the house, but instead of working on the book, I needed to shower. I got his dog-bed from the kitchen and his food and water. I carried it into the bathroom so he could rest and sleep while I showered. Roscoe wanted no part of the bathroom. He ran back into the office and sat under my chair. He whimpered at me, beckoning me to return to my previous work of typing so he could sit in his previous spot. I laughed as I said, “Roscoe, little guy, you are such a creature of habit aren’t you? Mommy has to go shower, so you need to come with me. C’mon, it’ll be okay. I’ve got your bed and your food and everything in the bathroom.” He ran in a circle as if to let me know he knew I was talking to him, but he ran right back to the chair as if to say, “Whatever you are saying, I want to sit in my same spot!”
God laughed and said, “Kristina, who does he remind you of?”
“Me, Lord, how many times have I done that to you throughout my life?” I asked
“Too many to count, Daughter,”God chuckled as He ruffled the feathers of my heart with His warm, amazing palm.
Roscoe refused to willingly go into the bathroom. I had to pick him up and gently put him in the place I had prepared for him. I got in the shower and he let me know he was not pleased. He whimpered and wined because he didn’t like his new spot and he couldn’t see me. Every few seconds, I had to peek out from behind the shower door so he knew I was there. He would stop whimpering and rest his head on the edge of the soft-doggy bed in the direction of the shower. We got Lucy’s old doggy-bed out for him. I must have peered out eight times during my seven minute shower. You would have thought I was in there for a life-time based on Roscoe’s heightened emotional state.
God began to speak again, “And who does he remind you of now?” God asked. It was as if God was lovingly poking fun at me, letting me know I had been the same way many times.
“Kristina, just as you have confirmed your presence for Roscoe, so too have I confirmed My presence to you countless times throughout your life,”God replied.
“Yes, Dad, you have. You have continually announced Yourself to me. Thank you."
“When you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me – everywhere,” God said.
“It’s true, Father, You are everywhere and You are in all things. Nothing exists that didn’t come through You,” I answered.
Later, I was making a salad and listening to worship music in the kitchen. God began speaking again.
“Kristina, many people have sinned more than you, and yet they have more material possessions. What do you make of that?”God asked.
“Well, Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Master’s table,” I replied quicker than I could think about my answer.
Immediately, I recognized the Scripture I used. I was sure the Holy Spirit caused me to answer with that Scripture because I had never understood what that Scripture meant. It was the Scripture I have asked God to explain to me for at least 10 years! Many times, I would be simply washing my hair asking God, “What does that mean and why did Jesus not answer and then answer her that way?” I read the Scripture for ten years and never understood it.
The Faith of the Canaanite Woman
15:21-28 pp—Mk 7:24-30
Mt 15:21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
Mt 15:22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
Mt 15:23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
Mt 15:24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Mt 15:25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
Mt 15:26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
Mt 15:27 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Mt 15:28 Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
As soon as I looked up the Scripture, I received a decade awaited dose of revelation. God showed me that Jesus was testing the Canaanite woman’s faith when He asked her his question. The lost sheep of Israel represented God’s chosen: the Israelites. And the fact that it is not right to take the children’s bread (which is representative of Jesus, the bread of life meant for the Israelites) and toss it to their dogs (Gentiles such as myself).
The woman’s answer showed that if dogs eat the crumbs of children’s bread how much more worthy is she, as an asking daughter desiring to be adopted into the Master’s family, worthy of receiving what Jesus has for her! His answer to her confirmed His level of pleasure with her.
Mt 15:28 Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Immediately, I understood that God was testing my understanding of His love. He was asking me if I am worthy of receiving His blessings. He wanted to know if I thought there was anything in me that thought “I” alone was worthy. I know that I am not worthy of receiving anything from God apart from Jesus. I actually deserve Hell, but Jesus died so that I would not get what I deserve. He died as a full payment for my sins. I spent a large portion of my life thinking, “I deserved” a better life because of my abusive childhood or because of my son’s disabilities of deafness and diagnosis of blindness. Over many years, however, I learned that I, alone, am not worthy, but God wants me to understand the worth of Jesus and His power in me! It is God’s power – the resurrection of Jesus Christ within me – and Him alone – that affords me any righteousness.
After losing all material possessions, and having “nothing” materially, I have learned that my identity and my worth cannot be found in what I own, but in Who owns me. I have also learned that we can work harder than we’ve ever worked and still lose it all because of huge medical bills. And that successful business men, for example, are only successful because the work actually came their way. Yes, they worked hard, but it is God who provides the work for them to manage with excellence and become rich. The rich man, alone, did not do it all. God must be acknowledged in the process of all we do. I also remembered King Nebuchadnezzar as I told God the importance of being humble and not thinking too much ourselves, regardless of positions, wealth, and power:
The Dream Is Fulfilled
Da 4:28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar.
Da 4:29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon,
Da 4:30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
Da 4:31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you.
Da 4:32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
Da 4:33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
Da 4:34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
Da 4:35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
Da 4:36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before.
Da 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
God reminded me of the importance of managing the good as well as I managed the bad because both can be equally disabling. I knew that He expected me to manage material blessings as well as I had managed my spiritual crises of faith over the years: my despair, by entrusting it all to Him and acknowledge His sovereign power in all things. He alone has the power to give and to take away. I am not to place my hard-work as an idol before God. I am not to place a tangible home before God. God is to come first in my life. I cannot afford any idol.
“You passed the test, Kristina. It is finished. Your blessings have arrived. You have trusted Me in nothing. I can now trust with you with everything; You will receive all the blessings I have for you.”
The dog was returned to its original owner that night. My family was sad. My husband was upset, I know, because he was unable in his own power to give his kids a home and a puppy. The home and the puppy represented so much more to my husband than I could ever put into words, and I won’t try to give my husband words. This is why I have shared my experience and my words. I am praying very intently that God give Brian his heart’s desires: the one’s he knows about and especially the ones he does not know about – those amazing secret places of Brian’s heart where intimate desires for things of God exist. I am praying that God give those treasures stored in secret places to Brian. I am praying to be blessed through my husband because I know that to be blessed through my husband is the best blessing I can receive because it will lead to greater level of respect for Brian within our home and with our children, a deep appreciation, a validation of his worth as a man, a provider, a husband, and a father.
I remain humble from my day with God and a dog.
PS, I wrote this several years ago. Since this time, God has provided a home through Brian as well as a dog… there may be sorrow for a night or a season, but joy always comes in the morning of God’s will.
Kristina Seymour loves to encourage and equip women through the Word and through community. She is the author of The Warrior Mom Handbook, The Warrior Mom Leadership Manual, and The Warrior Wife Handbook; they are available at Amazon.com. Kristina's Bible studies are for women who desire to live by faith in the midst of their everyday lives. She has learned that women can't survive on caffeine and animal crackers alone; women in the Word and in community are united and able to stand firm. To learn more about Kristina, please visit her website, https://kristinaseymour.com/. God loves to share His story of love and grace through us all, and Kristina believes that everyone has a story to tell.