Wiener Dogs and Traffic Jams

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It’s over 100 degrees outside but feels much hotter sitting in rush hour traffic.  I’m busy rapping along with Macklemore and tapping the steering wheel when I see something in the road ahead that stops me mid-verse.

It’s a dachshund.

A black and tan wiener dog is running down the middle of Highway 75 straight toward me.  He’s wagging his little black tail and smiling, oblivious to the dangers around him.  Cars slow or swerve around the little guy, creating a parting of cars where he rushes down the highway.

As he gets closer I realize not only is there a wiener dog running down the highway, there is a wiener dog owner running down the highway.

Far behind the little dog is a gray-haired maerda-estremera-581452-unsplashn in jeans and boots chasing after him.  The man is already sweating from the heat, swearing and yelling, “Peanut!” over and over.

Peanut ignores him and keeps running.

Other people get out of their cars in attempts to grab Peanut but he is too smart for that.  He simply dodges, then ducks his tiny little body under the nearest car and keeps running.

It takes several minutes of chasing and some helpful commuters but finally sweaty owner and panting wiener dog are reunited.  Peanut is safe.

*   *   *

I’ve been thinking about Peanut ever since, and how much I relate to him.

Too many times I rush headfirst through life, ignoring the calls of my creator as he tries to pull me from the chaos of my world. I feel him at my heels and hear him shouting, “Justin!” and instead of allowing him to reach out and pick me up, I dodge. I run. I fall. I fail.

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But God is diligent.  His love never falters or fails.  He never stops chasing me.  He doesn’t tire from calling me, get exasperated with or give me over to my own stupidity.  Even when I run into oncoming traffic, he is close behind calling my name.

But Just like Peanut, I don’t realize how much better life would be if I stopped running.

Hopefully, I learn to stop running before an unwitting commuter, busy rapping along with Macklemore and tapping the steering wheel, runs me over.

Your beauty and love chase after me
  every day of my life.
  – Psalms 23:6

In the Storm

I haven’t posted in a while.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to, it’s simply a matter of time.  I’m in my final few months at Iowa State University, finishing an Undergraduate Degree in Biology. I’ve busied myself with classes, prepping for and taking the GRE and applying to Graduate programs.

The path has been long and sometimes I lose sight, not only of where I’m going but of how I got to this point.   The past few months have been especially difficult, filled with uncertainty of the future, but I was reminded yesterday of the beginning of this journey. I decided to read through the CarePage entries I wrote during Emerson’s stay in the hospital.  As I read through them, one stood out.  It was written five days before we made a gut-wrenching decision to remove Emerson from life support.  It reminded me to trust God, even when the path seems uncertain.

August 24th, 2013

“The wise man in the storm prays God not for safety from danger but for deliverance from fear.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The early morning light hasn’t yet reached the dark woods. I can hear my dad’s boots crunching in the fallen leaves ahead of me and my brother fidgeting with his bow behind me. Occasionally my dad will turn and whisper directions to us, “Watch out for this low branch” or “be careful, the path is steep here” otherwise we walk in silence. Somehow in the pitch black morning, my dad knows where he is going. It doesn’t make us any less afraid of thback-light-conifers-dark-164018e darkness. It doesn’t keep us from jumping at every owl that hoots or every pair of raccoon eyes we spot near the path. We are both afraid, at 10 and 12 years old though we would never admit it. We are afraid, but still, we follow deeper into the woods. We trust somehow Dad can see into the darkness. We trust that he knows the path so well he doesn’t need sunlight illuminating it. We trust him, and despite our fears, we walk through the pitch black woods.

Emerson is doing better today, not much change which is a good thing. With all of the problems, he has had it’s amazing how tough and resilient he is. Most of us wouldn’t do so well considering he is now fighting a bacterial infection, a viral infection, meningitis, and pneumonia in addition to Chronic Lung Disease.

We were able to cradle him a little today. Not pick him up out of his bed but at least put a hand on his head and belly. We stood there watching his chest move in and out to the whir of the ventilator amazed at the life God created and placed in our care. We are doing our best to trust God through this, but sometimes its hard to trust. When the path is dark and the woods are frightening it’s easy to lose faith. I have to remind myself to trust God knows the path, he is the one who laid it in place after all. And every once in a while, if I walk quietly, I will hear him whisper, “be careful, the path is steep here”.

Proverbs 3:5
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track

Voice Activated

It’s a warm spring day.  Sunlight filters through the tinted glass windows of my truck onto my face as I stare through the windshield, navigating a sea of traffic.  In the seat behind me, my four-year-old is immersed in the world outside the truck. He sits and silently watches the scenery fly by.  His characteristical porcelain cheeks are now rosy from the warm rays and his bright blue eyes flit back and forth alonadorable-animal-canine-134392g with the changing landscape. It’s a rare quiet moment in the bustle of our daily life.  Suddenly the quiet is broken by a command from my son, “Langston’s window, go down please!”  As he finishes the line, the window begins to lower, warm air rushes in and he smiles.

I’m about six years old.  It’s a dark night in central Louisiana. My Dad has spent the last hour warning me and my little brother about the armies of alligators waiting in the darkness to eat us if we venture outside of our home.  Once we are fully convinced there is no way we will ever go outside at night again, my Dad decides Mom needs her purse out of the car, parked in the driveway.  Of course, we immediately object.   “Trust me,” he says trying not to smile, “you’ll be fine, just cluck like a chicken and the alligators will be confused and leave you alone.”

Trust is an amazing thing.  On a whim a few weeks ago I decided to convince my son the windows in our truck are voice activated.  My Dad convinced his sons that clucking like a chicken will keep you safe from alligators that stalk Louisiana suburbs. Children have no life experience to jade them. They haven’t been lied to, deceived, hurt or betrayed enough to corrupt their young hearts.  Sometimes I wish I was more like that.  I wish I could trust enough to believe even the most ridiculous things just because someone I love said them.   I wish I could trust there is a father in heaven who loves me and only wants the best for me, even though my 33-year-old heart has been corrupted.

Trust is beautiful, and so off I go into the darkness. Clucking the entire way.

 

If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,

I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you.

Point out the road I must travel;

I’m all ears, all eyes before you

Psalms 143:7-9

Glass Beach

In 1906 an Earthquake destroyed many of the buildings in Mendocino County in Northern California.  One of those hardest hit was Fort Bragg, Ca.  When the townspeople began rebuilding they chose to dump the enormous piles of rubble onto the beach.  For the next sixty years, the beaches around Fort Bragg remained a dumping ground. The beach became an ugly wasteland of trash and debris.  Bags of trash, old appliances even entire cars were tossed onto the beach.  The beach was now no more than a foul-smelling dumpster. Finally, in the late 60’s, the dump site was moved away from the beach and cleanup projects began.  Metal, concrete, and plastics were hauled away to a new dump site, anything that could be moved away was moved.

Once everything else was hauled away, all that remained was 60 years worth of broken glass.  Coke bottles, car windshields and every other stray piece of glass tossed onto the beach had been left behind.  Surprisingly though, after years of being tossed by the waves and storms of the ocean, the glass had been reshaped.  Instead of large shards of sharp glass that would no doubt frighten off the most adventurous beach-goer, what remained of the glass was small, round and smooth.  This beach, once foul and ugly with refuse, now beautifully glistens with smooth, colorful glasglass-beachs.

Sometimes life is ugly.  Sometimes it downright stinks.  I know because I have been there. I comforted a wife for nearly ten years who could not have a child.  Then after the miracle of two children, I was once again tossed onto the rocky shoreline.  I stood at the bed of my one-month-old son and told a doctor it was okay to take him off of life support.  Life is difficult.  It can beat you down and leave you feeling like nothing more than broken glass and refuse in the sand.

What we don’t know is we are being reshaped.  Every wave that crashes squarely on my shoulder, every storm that rocks my idyllic shoreline are actually the hands of a craftsmen doing what only he can do.  Turning my ugly mess of a life into something beautiful.

Sometimes life is beautiful, even when it stinks.