Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Canine Tug of War

It’s been raining for five of the last seven days, and the dogs have cabin fever. Ever since Willow’s muddy bath-time fiasco, I only let them outside for potty breaks.

On the lefrt, Willow, the Labrador. On the right, Buddy, the Shih Tzu.

So, they’ve resorted to playing outdoor games inside the house. Nothing is funnier than watching this Mutt-and-Jeff duo in a tug of war.

Guess which one usually wins? Yep, that’s right. Willow.

However, Buddy doesn’t back down so easily. He puts up a good fight in one of two ways. The more comical sight is of the little guy slightly airborne and floppy like a ragdoll, biting down on his end of the rope and holding on for dear life.

The more dignified contest is of Buddy yanking the rope while trotting alongside Willow, three steps for her every one step. Now imagine an ox and a piglet yoked together, lopsided of course. You get the picture.

I tried to snap an action photo of their tugging war, but once they saw me, they came running with toys.

Their eyes say it all. “Play with us!”

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

His Discerning Presence

My gaze sweeps across the hazy mountains in the distance. I've been told that mountain range is on the other side of the state line in New Hampshire. I’m here in this peaceful setting as a new workweek begins for everyone else but me.

The view this morning from my sister's deck in Mount Vernon, Maine
My sister returned to her job this morning after recuperating from a recent surgery. One of my nieces walked down the long driveway to catch the school bus. The other one is asleep upstairs, a migraine keeping her home.

Today is the first opportunity I’ve had to rest in the Lord’s presence since arriving here a week ago from Dallas. I didn’t want to exchange that concrete jungle for this quiet countryside, yet the tranquility here has quickly consumed my soul.

Relaxing in the crisp morning air, I wonder what my next step is.

Humming birds fluttering nearby remind me of a story I wrote a few months ago while hunting for a job in Dallas. In my angst to find work back then, I encountered some feathered friends that turned out to be a sign from above. An assurance that God had my back. That He had a plan for my future.

Little did I know that several months later, I’d be looking at this same vista that captivated me during my last two visits here. To this place called Maine. A place that holds my immediate future.

I wonder if I’m to write to my heart’s content for the time being. Or if I’m to take everything I learned during my job search this past year to find employment in nearby Augusta. Or maybe I’m to start a jobseekers network in the area. Perhaps I’m to use my life experiences to encourage others in some sort of ministry. Or could it be that I’m to help young, aspiring writers just as my mentor in Texas helped me?

With all these unanswered questions, the one thing I do know is that I’m here for a specific purpose. A purpose not yet apparent.

Although at the moment I’m concerned about employment, a biblical verse calms me from just going after any old job. Matthew 11:29 says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me… and you will find rest for your souls.” That's the kind of rest I need in order to discern the path I am to take.

Lord, show me what I'm supposed to do. Lead me down the road that is Your will and not mine. Open the doors I am to walk through and shut the ones not meant for me.

“… See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it…” Revelation 3:8

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Muddy Labrador

Wouldn’t you say that bathing an 80-pound Labrador is an appropriate way to assimilate back into family life? Did I mention there are two other dogs, a guinea pig, and a hamster living under this same roof?

Willow all cleaned up

I'm positive that living with my sister and her twin daughters will never be boring.

My cross-country move to my sister’s home ended this past Saturday when I arrived here in Maine. My friend Paige labeled our driving trip “two girls and a truck.” Thankfully, it was an uneventful drive with no mishaps. However, I would learn in no time flat that life in this house is full of, uh-hem, adventurous mishaps.

On Sunday, we unloaded the truck, and then for the next couple days, Paige and I went sightseeing. She flew back to her hometown yesterday.

Today is officially my first full day of trying to find a sense of normalcy here in Mount Vernon. Willow, the Labrador, decided to show me her own definition of normal. As I sorted through moving boxes in the storage shed, she found a doggie caper nearby.

After an hour of lifting those heavy boxes, the last thing I wanted to encounter was a brown-eyed canine covered in brown muck. But that’s our Willow, always finding an adventure somewhere. A muddy puddle is the ultimate adventure… at least from a dog’s point of view.

Yep, living here in this Mount Vernon home will never be boring.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Heart’s Forgotten Desire

A Life Lesson Learned in a Miata Convertible.

People always take notice of my Mazda Miata. What they don’t know is the story behind how I came to own this white sports car.

You see, I’d always viewed a convertible as a wealthy man’s indulgence. However, within three months my point of view would change forever.

My baby! I just sold her today. We had a good run while it lasted.

Shortly after moving to Florida, my PT Cruiser’s warranty expired. I knew I didn’t want to shell out the full cost of unexpected repairs, so I prayed for divine help in finding another car.

A vehicle with good gas mileage was important to me. After researching cars on the internet, I set my sights on a Volkswagen Jetta, and then test drove one. I also wanted to check out a Hyundai because of its gas mileage. However, I knew from the Jetta excursion that the best way to avoid vulture-like salesmen was to window shop after the dealerships closed.

Upon pulling into a Hyundai dealership late one evening, a flirty red Miata caught my eye. Bewildered as to why a Mazda was on a Hyundai car lot, I soon realized they sold both brands. I compared the sticker prices and features on several different makes and models, but sensed a Miata was the car for me.

The next night I had a few hours to test drive cars before a meeting. A salesman listened to my specifications and took me to test drive a Hyundai as well as a Miata. Then he led me to a Mazda RX-8. As I drove that sports car, he highlighted its features with more gusto than those of the Hyundai or the Miata. The two main things he emphasized were its rotary engine and power. I listened to his sales pitch, then left for my meeting.

After arriving at work the following morning, I told my coworker about the test drives. Her husband wanted to sell his RX-8, so arrangements were made to check out his car later that evening. As her spouse navigated me through the streets of our town, he gave his opinion on the pros and cons of the RX-8. The two features he touted were the same ones the salesman highlighted—the rotary engine and power.

Now totally confused, I decided to call my brother-in-law who is an engineer and knows all about rotary engines. The Miata’s gas mileage perked my interest even though he kept emphasizing the power of the RX-8. Upon hearing a third guy underscore this power attribute, I knew the RX-8 was a man’s car.

However, I was still uncertain as to which car to buy. Both test drives in a RX-8 left me with reservations about buying the Miata. The conversation with my brother-in-law didn’t bolster my confidence either. My confusion boiled down to doubt. Was I discerning correctly what was placed on my heart about buying a Miata? Or was I supposed to pay attention to the opinions of three men?

That night I got on my knees and asked for a sign about which vehicle to buy. I climbed into bed, and then picked up a magazine from my nightstand. As I thumbed through the pages, an excerpt for a mystery novel caught my eye. Within ten minutes I read about a woman who had just been followed by another car while driving her Mazda Miata.

Wow! Awestruck! Speechless!

Those three words described my reaction to how quickly that prayer was answered. I turned off the light to go to sleep, giddy about the car I would eventually buy.

I arrived at the dealership the next morning and informed the salesman the Miata was the one for me. He questioned my choice. I told him how three different men used the word power as a reason to buy the RX-8.

“As a woman I don’t care about power,” I said. “I just want the cute little Miata.”

I left the dealership that sunny day seated behind the wheel of my brand new Mazda Miata convertible.

Jaws drop whenever I relay how fast I was given a sign. Those same people think the tale is over until I say, “But that’s not the end of the story.”

Three months later in April 2007, I made a trip to visit my aunt on the west coast of Florida. An hour into the drive I stopped and opened my convertible top. Once back on the road, I loaded a CD in the CD player. Immediately, I remembered an event from five years earlier in the summer of 2002.

That summer, my two teenagers and I took a driving trip to visit my cousin in Eugene, Oregon. After our stay was over, we drove south along the Oregon coast. Craggy rock formations jutting out of the Pacific Ocean took my breath away. The majestic giants of the Redwood National Forest had a gentle, calming effect. After seeing these and other sites, we headed toward the California wine country.

Passing through Napa Valley, I said to my sleepy teenagers, “Wake up! You’re missing the most beautiful country in the world. Look at all these vineyards and rolling hills.”

However, my attempts failed at keeping them awake, so I enjoyed the breathtaking drive by myself as I listened to a CD.

Spellbound by the panoramic view, I said out loud, “God, it sure would be nice to listen to this music while driving a convertible.”

That statement was quickly forgotten. I never thought about that short, one-way conversation again. That is, not until five years later while driving my Miata on the opposite side of the United States and listening to that same CD.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

God does keep His promises found in the Bible. He gave me a desire of my heart—a convertible—all because I was blown away by the music and landscape He created.

During that drive across Florida all those years later, I learned why it’s imperative to heed divine nudges. If I had bought the RX-8, I wouldn't have had a convertible as a way for the Lord to grant a desire of my heart. And I would have missed fresh insight about judging someone else’s motives.

I finally understood that a person’s actions can be divinely inspired... just like mine.