The two dogs that take up residence in my cozy, little apartment are a precious joy in my life. I am often weary from the days work, whether it be the 8-5 schedule at work during the holidays or wondering how I am going to make it to the end of the day balancing schoolwork on top of everything else. The hectic schedule can quickly take over, and I know myself well enough to know that I need simple reminders here and there of joy and the necessity of quiet rest. Even when I forget it's there, I receive that reminder everyday when I walk in the front door. I'm greeted by a large collie who makes it her responsibility to keep the couch warm and pay attention to the latest Fox News headlines. I then go into my room, open the door of a tiny kennel compared to Nali's, and I'm instantaneously welcomed home by a little bundle of energy just bursting to get all up in my business and knock me over (as if a 20-pound puppy can do such a thing). During those times, even if it is just for a brief moment, I sit on the floor of my bedroom and exhale.
I will forever be able to look back and see when I received both dogs as very significant times in my life. Nali came into the picture just months into my relationship with my boyfriend, during a time when I was first learning how to truly enjoy, rest, breathe, and love. She brought me greater joy than I could have expected, and just days into having her I couldn't imagine life without her. In the past three years, I have developed a unique relationship with her. We've been through several moves together and she is the most sensitive dog I have ever known. I could look at her and see how the Lord has changed my heart over these years, stripping away comfortable walls of selfishness and fear.
~~~~~~~~~~Maia is still somewhat new to the scene as I received her a few short months ago, and yet I am beginning to feel like she has always been in the picture. She did rub Nali the wrong way during those first few weeks, and I was beginning to wonder what had happened to my sweet, all-loving dog. Maia came at a much different time, yet the significance of the weeks leading to purchasing her is no less great. This past year has had more highs and lows than I can remember as I was faced with very weighty, sobering medical concerns. My own medical issues were followed by my older brother having cancer mere weeks after my own news. I ended the spring semester of school exhausted and in seemingly desperate need of rest. The Lord was ever-present, leading me through that unexpected valley, and as the summer months came, He was gracious in giving me such rest. Along with the rest came the idea for something new and fresh--enter Maia into the picture. She came to me already having braved the flight from the breeder in Missouri, and literally hit the ground running from day one with me trying to keep up. Ever since, she has brought such laughter and fun to my apartment, all the while giving Nali some sisterly attention (and notice I said sisterly, as friendly would indicate that Nali is ready to be her best buddy all the time...).
~~~~~~~~~~I love these girls more than I could have imagined, and there is only One who has imparted such care. The care and nurturing instinct I have for them did not come naturally. I didn't even fully realize it until getting Nali three years ago, but I really had no clue as to what it looked or felt like to care for another. Not only was I learning what love looked like on a daily basis, very practically in word and deed, but I was given this new puppy who was, from that point forward, my sole responsibility. Before I prolong this any further, I must admit that my boyfriend is much more eloquent than I am, and does so in a way that is concise and penetrates straight to the heart. With that said, in closing, I will leave you with a snippet he wrote over a year ago on his former blog. What he says is so incredibly articulate, warms my heart, and reminds me of the overwhelming joy I find in those little things too easily missed in everyday life. Not only am I reminded of the joy I have been given, but I am reminded of the gracious, merciful Giver of such wonderful gifts--
"As a Seminary student, it's easy to get enraveled in the hard 'issues' and doctrinal concepts and forget the sweet and simple measures of grace we are afforded more than occasionally. Dark and uncertain days are certain to come, and we're promised no end to that reality this side of eternity. Where shall we find joy? In Christ, of course! But what do we mean when we say that. One could say much when asked, but for me it's in the small blessings and in the everyday grace we are afforded that the Christian may find the earmarks of the careful and loving leading of the only One who can satisfy our thirsting souls with living water....She brings me joy because she's not the end of the process. It's Who that silly dog makes me turn to and see, thank, and know. If not for that, Nali would be nothing more than yet another distraction (albeit a cute one) in an increasingly crowded life. She would entertain for certain, but not bring joy. Why? Because Joy isn't hers to give. And it's not anyone or anything else's to give either."