Bad Dogs and Amazing Grace

Have you ever seen that movie Marley and Me?

It’s about this couple who adopts this yellow lab puppy.  The puppy is so adorable in all its soft, puppy fur and sweet brown eyes…and it grows up being what the author of the original book (based on a true story) called “the world’s worst dog.”

Turns out I can relate.

We took Charlie into our home when Ryan moved in last October.  Before that Charlie lived with Ryan’s parents, who took him in after he had bounced around a couple other homes.  We decided we would give Charlie his forever home, and were excited to give Cooper (our angel dog) a sibling.  What we knew of him was that he was a little dense, but incredibly sweet, and got along with Cooper great.

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What we have learned about Charlie since is that he insists on barking incessantly at squirrels, innocent passersby, our mailman, any delivery person, falling leaves, any sudden movements made by Ryan or myself, and I swear, should I think too loudly, he will resound his booming bark.  We have learned that we need to precariously monitor his water intake or else he will create small lakes on our floors.  He has intense bowel issues and needs to eat very specific (and expensive) dog food.  This will take away a touch of the smell, but the farts remain.  He is never allowed a bone or a treat or anything other than that food.  Try to give him scraps in my line of sight, I dare you.

_DSC0472<—I swear this is his farting face

Charlie is a nightmare on walks.  If he sees another dog he will growl so vehemently that he also begins breathing fire like a murderous dragon as he pulls me like a rag doll across the sidewalk.

He also has terrible allergies and licks his paw through the fur to his skin, causing massive sores.

So last night, Ryan and I thought it would be a brilliant idea if we took the dogs to a beautiful off-leash dog beach on Lake Michigan for a relaxing picnic and family time.

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From car to beach there’s a short hike on which they require dogs to be leashed, and before we even approached the beach we passed four dogs, and Charlie maintained his erratic supremacy for each.

As Cooper ran the beach freely with new sweet doggie friends, Charlie remained on the leash, but not without attempting to remove my shoulder from its socket and causing leash burns all over my hands.

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The relaxing evening I had planned was replaced with one of anxiety.  I constantly prayed that he would not latch his jaws around another dog’s neck.  I prayed for no blood.  I growled through my own clenched teeth, “I cannot stand him!”

At one point he freaked so intensely that in my retaliation I allowed my emotions to become physical and I smacked him…hard…several times.  “Feel better?” Ryan asked.

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I felt terrible, and guilty, and still so angry.

We went home and went to bed, me wallowing in the sadness of my bad dog ownership.  Until around 3am when I awoke to Charlie peeing in my closet.

The Devil knows how to ruin me.

Ry and I cleaning up a huge puddle of urine at 3am is not a pretty sight.  It was a lot of swearing and partial nudity, followed by apologies and jail time (for Charlie).

Did I mention that Charlie’s original name was, indeed, Marley?  After the “world’s worst dog”?  Fitting.

In all of Charlie’s ridiculousness, in his frustrating antics and infuriating behaviors and habits, I can still say that I love this dog.

I am consistently reminded of God’s grace with our goofy dog, because even when I want to throw in the towel with him, I often think about what would have become of me if God acted in the same way.  What if the One Who Saves would see my behavior time and time again and shake His head and give up on me?  What if He thought I’ll never get through to her, I’m done!  I’m taking her to the pound!

If there was no such thing as grace, I would be totally screwed, because let’s be real, I’ve peed in the good Lord’s closet many times.

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With Charlie, I’m reminded of the importance of forgiveness, not only with him, but with others in life and with myself.  If I’m incapable of moving on past his barking and his farts and his doggie dominance, how will I forgive those who hurt me, dominate me, or use words to bring me down?  How will I be able to see past my own giant flaws and be able to feel the warmth of God’s forgiveness?

I believe we would all be lost without grace…without forgiveness, and I hope Charlie is around for a long time to keep giving me those reminders.

To the cute blonde sunbathing quietly on my back deck, our little Charles Vader,

Cheers.

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MOMENTS

One of the goals I made for the blog this year was to write a post every week – to keep the creative juices flowing, fingers typing, mind working.  Clearly, this is a difficult one for me.  Recently I’ve felt that I just don’t have enough going on or happening in my life to form a post that’s worthy of reading.  My readers want adventure and pictures and excitement, and my days are surrounded by my nieces and nephews, reading easy books, racing last minute to work, and returning home late at night, exhausted and wide awake.  I come to the morning where I told myself I will absolutely blog today and think nothing has happened worth writing about.  I walk away from my computer.  Maybe next week.

I always want to entertain you, make you laugh, make you think, maybe inspire you,  but then I put pressure on having these momentous occasions to refer to, ones that teach lessons or are cause for laughing so hard you get the hiccups.

But it’s time to admit it – my life right now, is simple.

It’s beautifully and perfectly simple – full of the most monumentally simple things.

I’ve had the travel bug for a bit now, tugging at me to set everything aside and GO. Go somewhere, anywhere.

I want to see all the places I’ve never been.  I want to breathe that air and swim in that culture and explore everything that makes others lives what mine is now.  What do other’s lives look like when it’s “simple”?

I have friends that are spending the summer travelling through Europe.  Others who are planning weeks later this summer for epic road trips and adventures in South America.  I see on Instagram and Facebook pictures of moments that are life-changing, soul-bursting, heart-wrenching.  It makes me want to leave even more.

It also makes me think of all these beautiful, small moments in my life now with less gratitude.  How often do we compare our lives with those we see online?

I don’t want to do that.  I want to see these pictures and find inspiration and encouragement, yes, but not a means to belittle my own life.

So today I’m thinking of the small moments the past few weeks, because they’ve added heaps of joy to my life.

Like last night, when I sat around the table with my parents, three of my sisters, and my boyfriend, with candles lit and wine open and kids’ happy shouts coming from the basement.  Phones were set aside as we sat and talked late into the evening.

Or the other day, when my three-year-old nephew jumped on my lap and asked me to look out the window with him.  He pointed out trees and puddles and flowers and then we laid our heads on the back of the couch looking at each other.  He was looking not into my eyes but all over my face and I asked him, “What are you looking at, D?”  I was certain his stare was aimed at a zit of blemish, an imperfection I should be more aware of.

“Your face,” he responded, “it’s so pretty.”

He popped his head up, ready to jump off the couch before he paused and said, “Or do you like awesome better?” and then leapt away with a squeal before I could answer.

I think of this moment at work the other day, while I set up the restaurant.

My boss and I had gotten into a couple small arguments recently that made me sad and frustrated, and I was declining into a period of desperation to leave.  That day, I was setting up in the dining room whem my boss pulled out a chair and asked, “Hannah, are you okay?  I’ve been noticing lately that maybe you aren’t as happy here as you used to be, and I want to make sure that we do our job to keep you happy.”

I scrambled for words – I could have said a million of them, and responded, “I have my ups and downs, but I’m happy.”

He paused, maybe also searching through millions of his own words before saying, “I think you carry a lot of the spirit in this place, Hannah.  I truly think that.”

It was a compliment my restaurant-weary soul needed, and least expected from him.  My eyes immediately filled with tears (I’m a crier, he knows this and I also know that it makes him intensely uncomfortable).  I said a thank-you and warned him I could cry, to which he responded by nearly jumping out of his seat and moving on.  It was a strangely perfect way for the two of us to make amends.

I think of my sister and her three kids who are staying with us for the summer as they do each year, visiting from Alabama, so there’s always a mob of kids (her and my other sisters’ kids) running around.  It’s a fun, loud, creative, hilarious mob of loving cousins, and I see magic when they’re pretending, when the big kids tend to the little ones, encouraging their imaginations .

So yes, I want adventures and travel stories and big, momentous occasions that drastically shape me, but I never want to overlook the small ones.  These perfectly simple moments of kindness, innocence, beauty.  These moments you can’t catch and post online.  The conversations that aren’t texts, the things you only get to keep in your memory.  I want my eyes to be wide open and away from a screen for each of them.

To all of the little things,

Cheers!