Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Taylor's Words ...

As I was listening to my Taylor Swift CD on the way to work today (yes, I love Taylor Swift. If you've been reading my blog, you should know that by now!!), she sang the following lines (and for Taylor Swift purists out there, yes, I'm skipping around on the lyrics here a bit): "...who you are is not what you did ... I hope you remember today is never too late to be brand new ... who you are is not where you've been." Uhm, yeah ... I LOVE that song. Maybe because I've lived a life with regrets? What Taylor (I have all of her CDs so I feel like I know her and we're on a first name basis) didn't continue on with in her song is WHY today is never too late to be brand new, WHY who you are is not what you did, WHY who you are is not where you've been.

Lamentations 3 spells it out for us: "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every moring; great is Your faithfulness." The chapter goes on to talk about the youthful indiscretions, the wrong choices, the suffering of consequences, and God's salvation. In the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!"

I am NOT where I've been ... I am NOT what I've done ... because of what God in Christ has done for me. Every day IS a new day and a fresh beginning because of His love and faithfulness. Something to be grateful for ...

Monday, November 29, 2010

T-R-A-D-I-T-I-O-N!!!

Over the years, we've had all kinds of fun Christmas traditions:

* going to see Christmas lights and then drinking hot chocolate topped with marshmallows. When the kids were really little, they'd wear their pajamas and house shoes and got to all pile up in the front seat with us as we drove through the neighborhoods.

* going to the mall for a picture with Santa Claus. We'd dress in red or green, wear our "Happy Birthday, Jesus" buttons and go! There's a picture of each child crying on Santa's lap (I love those pictures. Am I a horrible mom?) and then pictures of them as they got older and we added more children. Santa ran out of lap!

* baking and decorating Christmas cookies. I remember having all purplish black cookies because the kids mixed up all of the icing. Not pretty cookies, but they were good! Over the years, we've had Oklahoma State cookies, Santa falling off the roof cookies, and other cookies that I refuse to discuss. Remember, I had three boys living here.

* making Christmas bon bons ... and Christmas cake. Our Christmas cake is a tradition that goes back to my grandmother. I grew up eating it as a little girl, and my kids have all learned to love it and look forward to it, too. The cake takes over an hour to mix, over an hour to bake ... but it's so worth it! We referred to this cake as Jesus' birthday cake. He was wonderful to share it with us!

* buying an ornament that represented a milestone for each child or that represented something they were involved in/interested in that year. These are the ones that I unwrap each year and get a little misty-eyed -- baby's first Christmas (from 1981!) ... a cowboy hat when our youngest son wore his cowboy hat everywhere, even to bed ... a santa playing baseball that represented when our middle son played his first season of t-ball ... a baby angel for our sweet little girl who followed after three rowdy older brothers. This is a tradition that we've continued. When our oldest son married his sweet wife, we bought a bride and groom ornament for our tree. When our precious granddaughter was born, we bought a grandbaby ornament. We're adding another grandbaby ornament this year!

* putting fake names on the presents so no one knew which presents were theirs. Each year, there would be a "theme" to the names. One year, every one was a candy bar (Twix, Snickers, etc.) ... another year, the kids were all members of The Gang (Scooby Doo, Shaggy) ... we've had the Seven Dwarves ... the Three Stooges (plus Shep) ... Mexican Food (Taco, Chalupa) ... Classic Toys (Checkers, Lincoln Logs). Each year, our grown kids will give suggestions on the aliases we need to use this time around.

* stockings. We began this the year Wes and I were first married in 1980. We still hang those two stockings ... and we've added seven more more since then as each of our kids were born, as two sweet girls joined our family through marriage and/or engagement, and as God blessed us with grandchildren. This year, we'll  hang up another one for our second grandbaby who was born in August. But the stockings aren't just for decoration. These things are overflowing and filled to the top on Christmas Eve!! I've tried to let this particular tradition fade in to oblivion, but each of our kids have thrown a huge fit. They've declared they'd rather get one less present and continue to get their traditional stockings.

* Advent calendars or Advent wreaths. We'd read a Scripture passage each day that would lead up to the Christmas story, light candles, and have a family devotion/celebration. We'd end up singing Christmas carols as we'd take the children to their rooms and tuck them in for the night.

* eating chocolate doughnuts and drinking orange juice Christmas morning before we open presents. This has happened as early as 4:00 am (not by Wes's and my choice!) and as late as 8:30 am. Not a fancy breakfast, but one that our family looks forward to each year. Christmas brunch always follows around 10:30 at my parents' house ... so the doughnuts tide us over until then.

* playing our Christmas music beginning the day after Thanksgiving until December 25th -- every day, loud, and often!

* using our Christmas plates, placemats, and cups

* reading different Christmas books as a family, but always reading the Christmas story out of the Gospel of Luke

* placing candles all over the house and burning them every night. We rarely have our lights on in December and live by candlelight.

* family pictures. We'll always take a "good" one. You know, the type that you'll put on a Christmas card to send to people. And then we take a "real" one -- one that is goofy and shows what the Allens are really like.


* watching Christmas movies. Although this one is an area of great disagreement in our family. We all agree that "Miracle on 34th Street", "It's A Wonderful Life", and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are all Christmas classics. Those are just a few. There are LOTS of wonderful Christmas movies. But the men in my family insist that "Die Hard" (because there's a Christmas tree in it) should be put on that list, too. Uhm, no. They'll never convince me otherwise.


What wonderful memories we've been able to store up over the years through our Christmas traditions. It's my hope and prayer that our children will take these ideas, maybe add to them or tweak them a bit, and carry them on in their own homes with their children to build their own memories.  I've seen that the traditions have helped us slow down enough to enjoy the simpler moments ... have helped us focus on family ... have helped us experience Christ in the celebration of His birth. It's a wonderful time of year!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

God Speaks Through Cashiers

You want to know what I hate? Probably not, but unfortunately, I'm going to tell you anyway. I absolutely HATE when I feel like what I'm doing is the right thing, but it winds up being the absolutely last thing I should be doing. It is a miserable feeling to look back and see all of the "wrong" when you were blindly going your way. You'd think that at my age (which is still relatively young ... if you're a tree or a fine wine), I'd recognize that kind of stuff by now. But just this week, I was reminded vividly of how far I still have to go.

And, of course, that just devastated me. Honestly, my intentions were good. I was trying to do the right thing. But, it was all in my power. There's the give-away -- MY power. I had been experiencing a struggle and was trying to work through it on my own, doing what I felt was best. I had prayed about it, but obviously hadn't released it to the Father and was still working as mightily as I could to "fix" it.  God was faithful to bring me up short and remind me that what I "feel" and "think" aren't necessarily what is right and true ... and yes, I hate that. I hate the fact that I continue to mess up over and over and over and over (you get the idea, right?).

It was a routine trip to Wal-Mart. As I was standing in the grocery store line, watching the bill add up for the 5 people living in this house, I guess my face was like an open book. The cashier, who is one of my favorites there and I always try to get in her line, was chatting as she was ringing up the groceries. Suddenly, she stopped and said, "Is everything okay? You seem like something is wrong." Well, I certainly wasn't going to go in to all of life's drama with the cashier at Wal-Mart, so I very politely lied (yes, I lied) and said, "No, everything's fine. I'm just preoccupied and busy, I guess." So, I made it a point to chat her up a little bit more, like I usually do, just to prove my point that I was, in fact, "fine". As I was leaving, however, she said to me, "I just want you to know that God is in control ... and He loves you very much." I stammered a thank you to her, and then hurried out of the store as quickly as I could so she couldn't see me dissolve in tears. I very definitely appreciated her kind word ... but even more, I appreciated the fact that God used her to encourage me as He continues to teach me a hard life's lesson.

The cashier may never know how she ministered to me this morning (I just might tell her one of these days if I could manage to do it without crying!). But I felt like she was literally God's mouthpiece to me -- to encourage me to hang in there, to remind me of His love despite my failings, and to assure me of His sovereign power and control. Even in the middle of a difficult circumstance, God took the time to reach out to me, all through a sweet lady working at Wal-Mart ... and THAT I love!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gross, Icky, "Don't-Mention-in-Public" Things

There are just some things that shouldn't be discussed in public. Since a blog is a public forum, I'm not going to tell you those specific things, but I imagine you can think of a few yourself. Actually, that would be a hilarious blog ... but it would be in extremely poor taste, and since I'm such a high-class person, I'll stay away from all of that. One of the parts of being a mother, however, is participating in these types of "don't-mention-in-public" things. It's not that we're voluntarily participating -- it's because there's no one else who will and we're stuck with the clean-up or prevention. And since these are "mother jobs", we're going to be discussing them today. Please keep in mind, these ARE things that have been performed in the "line-of-duty" as a mother and it's not just a gratuitous way of being able to speak of icky things.

* My child had an extremely clogged nose and I was helping to "remove the clogs". I had a kleenix in hand, had plugged up one nostil of my child, and was giving instructions on how to blow a nose - a nostril at a time. Since this particular child was young, we hadn't necessarily done the blowing before (I hate to admit it, but I used to tell my children: "Sniff really big. I don't have a kleenix". As I was preparing to cover the stuffed up little nose, my child decided to go ahead and blow ... and covered my face (and sunglasses) with the nose clog materials before the kleenx was in place. I can still remember the horrified feeling as the rest of my family, who all were fortunate enough to witness the famous unclogging episode, collapsed in hysterial laughter.

* My middle son loved to ride in the front seat of the car. Since I also loved to ride in the front seat while his father was driving, the answer was always "no" to his question of trading places. We were driving through the winding roads of the Ozarks in Missouri when the boy said he was car sick. Okay, he was 5 years old. He had never been car sick, and honestly, I don't even know where he heard the term. I told him we'd be there in a bit and he needed to just rest. Yes, I figured he was just trying to get in to the front seat and thought he could use the excuse of being sick. It wasn't until he vomited on the back of my head that I realized the little guy actually knew what he was talking about.

* I was lying on my back, holding my precious baby boy up over my head. He was cooing and babbling to me, grinning that sweet toothless little smile that I loved ... and then he without warning spit up -- right in to my open and talking mouth. I learned then and there to NOT hold up a newly fed baby over my face.

I could go on, but truthfully, I'm starting to gross myself out walking down Memory Lane, so I'm going to stop while I'm ahead. But the fact is that as a mom, I've had to put up with some disgusting things. All moms do. It just goes along with the job description. Though I laugh about it now, it was something that was pretty icky at the time.

I love my children. I really do. But there comes a time when I had to quit "cleaning up after them" and let them experience the consequences of their own actions. It was soooooo much easier to clean up the icky, unspeakable things of childhood than to sit back and watch as they were older. After all, I was DOING something, and for me ... well, it was sure better than just sitting and waiting. God, being the Perfect Parent, is a great example of what I needed to do. In my own life, God sometimes rescued ... and sometimes sat and watched as I had to dig myself out. And He's taught me to do the same thing with my children. Let me tell you, everything in THIS momma wants to ALWAYS run in and rescue, to ALWAYS clear a path to make it easier, to ALWAYS do what will make my child happy. God has taught me that those things are NOT what my child always needs. So, I've sat and watched children make wrong mistakes ... cried and prayed as an adult/child took the dangerous path ... and longed for the clean-up days of long ago.

Regardless of the mess, God is there with my child wherever s/he may take Him. Despite the ickiness, God never leaves. Sometimes God rescues ... and sometimes He watches us experience the consequences. But in every single situation, God IS THERE with my child -- something I'm incable of doing. My job as teacher and "cleaner-upper" is basically over ... and God's never is. Throughout the rest of their lives, God will be with them -- celebrating the victories, teaching through the defeats, cleaning up and preparing them for the future. And I can rest, knowing that He is in control and our kids are in very capable hands.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kid Talk

This is a picture of our four children (20 years ago!) Aren't they adorable? Weren't they the cutest things? We had a lot of fun with them while they were growing up. For years, I kept a journal of different things our kids said, or how they pronounced certain words. Educators would have told me I was wrong, but there were just some things they mispronounced that I thought were so darn cute, I didn't correct them. I'm not going to embarrass any of my children (I'll save that for another post) and tell you who said what. We're just going to savor the moment of their thinking  and their mispronounciations ...

* Kiddo was sitting in the back seat of our car on a hot summer day. "Mom! Turn on the air 'tioner! I'm defecating back here!"

* Child's weeping reaction to singing "Away In A Manger" (in particular: the part where we sing "...no room for a bed") "Jesus could have had my bed!"

* Our little one asked why Jesus had to die to pay for our sins. He wanted to know why Jesus couldn't just write a check.

* One of our children wanted to know why the Easter Dummy didn't come to our house.

* Another child would tell us he needed a Kleenix to wipe the "snore" from his nose.

* One of our kids would complain of "nitches" in his bottom, but he'd want you to scratch it because he didn't want his "pingers" to get "tinky".

* One child wore a "baby soup" (bathing suit) ... all of them said "horkie" (horsie) ... another would "scare" (stare) at things s/he wasn't supposed to be "scaring" at ... another used "tulip paper" to wipe after using the restroom ... and when one was sick, he had the "kazoo" while his brother had the "flute".

Probably one of the best things, although I really shouldn't put it down, was when one of our sons was teaching his younger brother, our 3-year-old, a Bible verse. They were working on I John 5:17 -- "all wrong doing is sin." The older brother was trying to explain to the younger brother what sin was, and he said, "Sin is when you say a bad word." Recently, they had heard the s-word while they had been at a house of a neighbor boy and had been instructed that it was not a word that we should say.  So, the older brother told the younger brother, "Sin would be saying the s-word." Ahhh! That was a good explanation, right? The younger brother very definitely understood that. Later in the evening, the boys were very excited to share what they had learned. The older brother instructed the younger boy to tell us his Bible verse ... and this is what he proudly said: "I John 5:17 -- All wrong doing is s@#%."

I am extremely proud to tell you that all of my children (who are now in their 20's) no longer need Kleenixes to wipe the snore from their noses ... they don't scare at people anymore ... they don't wear baby soups (that I know of) ... and they don't swear while reciting Bible verses. Sigh. I certainly miss those days.

The good news? I have a granddaughter who loves to watch "woovies" (movies). She asked after hearing talk of a storm: "This sounds serious. Is there a tomato coming?" And, she told me that she loves to ride "alligators" (elevators). The fun and blessings continue!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mangling Songs is my Specialty

Yes, it's true. I love listening to country music. I love the red-dirt country (which basically originated in Oklahoma, by the way), thanks to my middle son who got his whole family hooked on Cross Canadian Ragweed, Stoney Larue, or the Zac Brown Band (BEFORE they were famous). I love Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift ... love Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw ... love Darius Rucker (formerly known as Hootie from Hootie and the Blow Fish) and Miranda Lambert. Yup, I pretty much love it all.

I have a major problem though. I find myself singing along to the songs and then adding my own twist, or changing the words around. This has been a secret, because it's really ridiculous how I mangle these songs ... but it's usually for my own enjoyment and entertainment as I drive in the car alone. But, now I'm sharing that with you. I'll share the song ... and then show you how I change it to fit me. If you're a country music fan, you'll maybe see the humor in it. If you're not, this blog will be really strange ...

   The song says: "If I die young...", Diana sings: "If I die young ... ooops! Too late!"

   The song says: "God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy." Diana sings: "God is great, beer is gross, and it makes me hazy."
  
   The song says: "Jesus take the wheel...", Diana sings: "Jesus, take the wheel ... and then give it back really quick because I have a good idea where we need to go."

   The song says: "I had a barbecue stain on my white t-shirt, you were killing me in that mini skirt." Diana sings it: "I had a barbecue stain on my white t-shirt, I never learned to eat right, what can it hurt?"

Okay, I never said that my mangled versions of the songs were particularly impressive or brilliant.

Country songs aren't the only ones that I'll destroy. Remember the Christmas song that goes: "...beautiful sight, we're happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland." Diana usually sings it this way: "...beautiful sight, we're happy tonight, walking in our woolen underwear." Yup, I can't think of a reason off the top of my head why I always sing about underwear in this song, but I do. There's other songs that I've managed to put in phrases about dirty or holey underwear, but I'm sure you've heard enough mangled lyrics for the day.

The sad part is that I'm the only person who thinks it's funny. And now you know my secret and think I'm extremely strange, just like my family does. But I sure crack myself up as I'm driving along making up goofy words to popular country songs (all songs are considered fair game for me, however). Who knows? Maybe someday I'll be famous (like Weird Al Yankovic) and you can say you knew me "when." Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Prayers for My Children

For my precious children and grandchildren, I pray ...

that you're never too comfortable. With comfort comes the feeling of being fine just where we are and not needing anything else.

that you might recognize the lies of the world and realize that you were created for much more than this.

that you'll never be truly content unless you're walking with the Lord.

that no matter what you've done or where you've been, you'll be able to forgive yourself as Jesus forgives you ... and that you'll see yourself as He sees you -- precious, worthy, and absolutely His.

that God's incredible gift of grace will be abundantly clear to you as you rock your sleeping babies ... or as you wake each morning, knowing that every day is a new beginning.

that you'll always recognize your need for Christ. Being needy isn't a bad thing. When we recognize our need and walk with Him, then we become stronger and are more able to withstand more of what the world throws at us.

that you won't neglect to see the danger signs that are placed before you. And then, once you see those signs, you'll do the right thing ... and run!

that you'll hear God's voice at all times -- especially in those times when He's the last One you want to be hearing from.

that you'll be sweetly broken by the depth of Jesus' love for you ... and that it will overflow from you to those around you.

that you'll recognize the blessings you've been given by family members who have walked with the Lord and prayed for you all of your life ... and that you'll do the same for your children and grandchildren.

that you might feel the security of knowing that God loves you, He has a plan for your life, and He is in absolute control. He's never caught off guard and always cares what's going on where you're concerned. Even when things seem bleak and you feel alone, may you rest in His presence, sure that He is Who He says He is.

that you'll always be confident of my love for you ... but even more than that, that you'll be certain of God's  love for you.

I love you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Big Honkin' Pill of Discomfort

Life is full of things that make me uncomfortable. I can go down a list:
1) The house is too cold
2) Too many dogs in the bed and I can't find a spot
3) Being around someone that I don't like or that is really different from me
4) The chair is too hard ... or too soft
5) Aging
6) Walking by a homeless person asking for money
7) Taking a huge pill
8) My jeans are too tight
9) The audio to the movie is too loud

I have decided that my entire life is dedicated to my comfort. I love to be comfortable. I have also seen that God is NOT dedicated to my comfort ... and He honestly doesn't care if I'm comfortable or not. He loves me. He wants the best for me. But my comfort is not the highest point on His list (if it even makes His list or not!).

Just recently, I was complaining to God about a situation. To me, what I was describing to Him was something that He definitely should change -- not because of my comfort level, but because it was "right"!! He needed to intervene and make it "right". Apparently His perfect will wasn't being done in this situation, and He needed to step in and change things (according to my infinite wisdom and superiority). I spent time in prayer ... I spent time in His Word ... and then felt totally empty and alone because there didn't seem to be an answer for me. It was like God was silent, and it hurt.

As I was sitting there sniffling and feeling sorry for myself, I picked up Crazy Love, by Frances Chan. I've skimmed through the book before, but that had been about it. So, I began thumbing through it again ... and then God spoke.
Life is comfortable when you separate yourself from people who are different from you.
That epitomizes what my life was like: characterized by comfort.
But God doesn't call us to be comfortable.
He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations
where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.
What? Repeat that, please? God doesn't call ME to be comfortable?! In fact, He's asking me to step out in faith and trust Him ... and in this situation, that's what He's doing.  I realized that God orchestrates the day-by-day circumstances of my life. There's never a situation too big that He can't control. But, once again, He calls me to lean on Him, to trust in Him, to place my hand in His ... and keep continuing despite my comfort. In this particular situation, I've learned that God is looking for my perseverence, and He's teaching me through each step of it. While I call out to Him to deliver me so that I can be "comfortable", He's intent on my learning a lesson regardless of my comfort level. He also assures me that other people that might be involved in this situation are not my concern -- He loves them and deals with them and He's got it under control. In other words, God doesn't need me to worry and fret and complain!!

I'd love to say that this is a lesson I've loved to "re-learn" (because I've definitely learned it before), but that wouldn't be true. It's one of those bittersweet lessons -- like a big honkin' pill that hurts on the way down, but you know it's what you need. Today, I'm thankful that God "re-teaches" me ... that He's more concerned with the end result than with my comfort. My role in this uncomfortable area is to persevere and trust in the God Who is sovereign. And God assures me that He'll be with me each step of the way as we walk through this together ...
"Be content with what you have; for God Himself has said, "I will never, never
let go of your hand; I will never never forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5a (Weymouth New Testament)




Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Doggy World

We have three dogs in our house. Our furniture and clothes are covered in dog hair (although HOW the furniture is covered, I don't know because the dogs aren't allowed on the furniture. I think they wait until we're not home and then they wallow all over the couches. Just a thought.). We have three different food bowls on the floor that each dog shares with the other dog. Pommer, the youngest and definitely the one that is the most roly-poly, grazes out of ALL of the bowls all day long. When I'm home cleaning, cooking, doing whatever, I have three dogs that follow me in to each room that I go in to and they lay there until I get the job done or until I move in to another room. Cooking can be a definite chore when there are three dogs lying on the kitchen floor ... and getting up from the couch or easy chair always requires a quick glance at the floor to see if there's a dog underfoot. We are literally a house full of dogs and people.

We've always had a dog in the house, and we swore we'd never have more than one dog at a time. So, we had Snooker, a little rat terrior that lived with us for 17 years (until we had to put him down about a year ago). When he hit 14, we figured he'd only be around for a year or so, so we "allowed" our daughter to adopt a Pomeranian/Pug mix puppy that was named Pommer. We brought Pommer into our house and Snooker was NOT a happy camper. We thought Snooker would "train" Pommer and that Pommer would learn from him. Yeah, right. THAT didn't happen. The only thing Pommer learned from Snooker was to NOT come when you called him and how to gorge himself and become fat.

Then, our youngest son decided he needed a dog while he was at college and when he came home on weekends, he brought Stoney with him. Stoney is a beautiful German Shepherd/Blue Heeler that was rescued from the pound. The only problem with Stoney?! He is BIG ... and hyper ... and needy. He wants to be a 40-pound lap dog. He loves to drink out of the toilet and has gotten to the place where he'll stand at the bathtub and whine so we'll turn the water on for him to drink. Gotta have that "fresh", not doggy-bowl water, ya know!

Not long after that, our son also brought home Gracie, a Schnauzer mix, whose owner didn't want her anymore and he was going to take her out and shoot her. Our son was horrified by that, rescued her, and brought her here for us to "find an owner for her" -- uhm, that was about 3 years ago. We named her Gracie because she was "saved by grace" and instantly fell in love with her because of her gentle spirit. Gracie has become the mama dog of the bunch; she'll groom Pommer and chastise Stoney. It's a crazy house!

All three of the dogs like to sleep with my husband and me. Pommer was little enough that we didn't mind when he first got here. He'd sleep curled up next to my legs, and my husband never knew he was there (until Pommer started getting up at 4:30 in the morning to go outside and get a doggy treat! I would just ignore him or get after him, while Wes would actually get up and get that goofy dog what he wanted!). Since Pommer didn't disturb Wes's slumber, he was allowed to sleep with us. Gracie, who was an outside dog when we first got her, has never particularly been interested in sleeping in the bed (thank goodness!). She sleeps in a upholstered chair in our room or on the cool tile in the bathroom. But yes, she's in here with us. Then, there's Stoney ... the big dog ... the dog that is literally the size of a man (okay, a small man, but still a man!) when he stretches out. Stoney LOVES to be in the bed. Stoney wants to be in the bed, lying on the pillow, under the blankets next to me and he'd really prefer for Wes to sleep on the floor. Yes, Wes isn't particularly fond of that scenario. Wes usually (okay, always!) wins, and Stoney either tries to sleep pressed up to me somehow, or he'll sleep on the upholstered bench at the end of our bed (if Wes totally kicks him out).

The dogs also love to greet people at the door. Gracie has this high-pitched bark that is piercing. She'll bark and then run off and hide. She is scared of strangers ... well, actually, she's pretty much scared of everyone except for immediate family. Little, fat Pommer will bark and get so excited that he can barely breathe. He'll wheeze and jump around and then exhaust himself (we really need to get some weight off of that dog). Stoney has this deep, extremely scary bark. He'll turn in circles until he gets dizzy and frantically try to kiss anyone who comes in the door. People are usually traumatized before we can even get them out of the entry way in to the living room.

None of our dogs like to take a bath, although they ALL love to be brushed and will let you brush them forever. They don't like to share chew toys, so we don't get them anymore, but they do share their food. Pommer likes to punish people by pooping in their room (for years, we blamed it on poor old Snooker, thinking he had "lost it", but Pommer just pooped by the chair Snooker slept in. We finally caught him and broke him of the habit pretty quickly). Stoney has horrible, loud, stinky gas ... Gracie's tummy gurgles ... Pommer likes to nip at your toes when you walk by (fun game!). And every single one of those silly dogs are just sooooo grateful to be loved and in a home with people.

I know a lot of people don't like dogs. They think they're obnoxious and smelly ... and those people would be right! But, we can learn so much from our pets. Dogs love unconditionally. They accept their lot in life. They're loyal. They protect the weaker ones. And they need us -- their owners and masters. I had to think -- do I love unconditionally? Do I accept what I've been given without complaint? Am I loyal to those I serve? Do I protect and care for those who are weaker and need help? Do I act with God like my dogs act with me? Seriously! When it's time for God and I to meet, do I act like my entire day has been made just by being in His presence?

Yes, I still have lots to learn from these furry little friends of mine. They ARE just dogs, but for some reason, God has placed these dogs in our house for the time being. They're the "furrier" part of our family, and we can learn from them just as they (occasionally) learn from us.