Monday, July 20, 2015

returning from africa and grieving the death of our dog

it seemed a cruel joke: while in africa, working with widows and orphans, my dog dies.

i know. like, come. on. already. 
how does that stuff even happen?

but it does. 

it's exactly how life -- and death -- happen. 

and when we put it inside the box of our own limited thinking, it doesn't quite compute. 
in fact, i can tell you, first hand, it feels downright wrong. because my own mind just doesn't allow for stuff like that. if i was in charge, it would go down differently.

it isn't fair.
it isn't right.
it isn't how it should be. 

it's the same thing we hear time and time again --- why does bad stuff happen to good people?

and i could take that phrase and that way of thinking and i could chew on it and chew on it and chew on it ... and i could get myself all twisted up in the injustice and the misery and the bitterness ... and i'd be no better off.

because, the truth is, it's not about injustice or fair or right or wrong. it's about how it works.

it's the messed up stuff that we can't always understand -- at least not easily. 

life is messy and broken, and, as most of us have found out, somedays, even brutal.
like that plane ride home from africa ---
i should have been basking in the glow of a week well spent.
i should have been madly typing away on my laptop for sixteen glorious, uninterrupted hours --as i had planned.
i should have been sipping a glass of red wine, eating airplane cheese and chatting lightly with fellow passengers ...
but instead i had my head buried in an "air" bag and was doing my best to curb my nausea and contain my throw up.

life doesn't always go exactly as planned.

so often when i desire beautiful, i find myself faced with broken.

not that i needed another reminder, but even right now as i type,  i'm laughing at the glasses which i have had to attach to my head with a rubber band because they are broken and won't stay put without it. (my family is slightly horrified).

glasses are no big deal.
throwing up on a plane is no big deal. (well ... sort of). 
really, deep inside, i know even my beloved dog dying isn't the end of the world. 

but there is plenty that IS a big deal. plenty that is an incredibly big deal.
in this past year alone, i've had several friends bury their children. yes, several. i didn't write that by mistake.
and just recently, our mother's both diagnosed with cancer ... and losing rick's mom, marilyn, so suddenly. oh, it is just too much.

but little deal or big deal. small issue or massive heartbreak.

we live in a broken world.

we lose loved ones.

we have troubles.

we go to africa and our dog dies tragically. 

friend, i want you to know, i understand the urge we all have at times to shake our fist and cry out in our pain and, even, in our anger.

and it's all hard to reconcile ----
coming back from a 3rd world country and grieving my dog, doesn't make sense. over the past couple of days i have felt the craziness of how those two things pair up. they simply don't. i just spent 9 days in a place where it is completely common for children to lose their parents or their own lives.

fair? no, not fair.
fair doesn't even come into play here.

the babies i saw sitting on street corners without anyone looking after them?
the whites of their eyes yellow and their bellies bulging from hunger?

not fair.

when i went through cancer a few years back, i can't tell you the comments i received from people believing i "didn't deserve this." but, in a crazy, hard to explain way, walking that journey convinced me more than ever, it wasn't about what we do or don't deserve. 

what i became convinced of instead, was that though we live in a broken world with problems and pain, we can absolutely still have great, incredible, unbelievable HOPE.

i saw that again last week in africa.
AFRICA showed me how those who know such pain and suffering can also know such JOY. 

God didn't tell us that when we started to follow Him it would all be smooth sailing ... no, in fact, He said the exact opposite:
"I have told you these things,  so that in me you may have PEACE. in this world you will have TROUBLE. but TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world." ~ john 16:33

we WILL have trouble.
plan on it.

BUT ... BUT ... BUT ... "take heart! I have OVERCOME the world."

i know some can't fathom a loving God who allows His people to suffer. i understand why that is hard. i really, really, really do.
but (just consider) WHAT IF our suffering is the VERY THING which actually DRAW US to the one who can SAVE US.
it shines a whole new light on that pain, does it not?

no, it DOES NOT TAKE IT AWAY. pain is pain is pain.
but it gives it purpose. 

maybe you think it easier to just believe "stuff happens" and no one or no-thing is in control.
i'm sorry, but for me, that option is much more frightening.  
stuff happens? no meaning? no purpose? no nothing? it just happens? and then what ...

i prefer to believe that there's a God with a plan much bigger than me who knows all, cares for all and, yes, even controls all things. doesn't mean i'm going to easily understand what is happening, but it does mean i have something much more eternal to hang my hat on. more importantly, to live my life for. 

oh, gosh ... i know. i'm not saying it's easy.
my eyes have been red and swollen and my heart broken over minne's death. i mean it, i could not even have guessed at how hard this would hit me. i came home from church yesterday and when she wasn't there to greet me at the door, i went into my bedroom, laid down on the floor, and wept and wept and wept.

she was my larger than life shadow. my small horse in the kitchen. my long-walk buddy. my girl. 

i'm sad. i'm sad for all of us. we are all grieving. i think of each one of my kids who had a special connection with her. she slept in tyler's room ... many days after school ty would come home, load her into the back of his truck and take her to the trails or river.  that brought them both joy. i hate to know that is gone for him ... for her.

it's going to take some time. next month, rick and i will have been married 25 years. i just realized that except for the first year, we've never not had a dog in our home. for us, it is as natural as breathing air.

tonight, standing at the sink, i had some leftover chicken casserole on a plate and for a quick second i looked for her bowl. it will be these kind of moments.

i know these things pale in comparison to what others have endured. while in zambia, my friend, april, and i would see someone's suffering or circumstances and we'd say to each other, "gosh, we have no problems. we just have no problems." a week spent in africa makes one very aware that, for the most part, our problems are small, our frustrations are petty, and our issues are very often a luxury.

i don't know how to come back from africa with all that i experienced and put the loss of my dog in a neat and tidy package. i'm not sure i can do that. so i'm going to just put it in that big category called "messy and broken." i don't understand it, but i know that my God has encouraged me even in my mess and even in my troubles to "take heart!"

i will always remember that christmas morning ---our chocolate colored newfie pup in her big, red bow --- carried into the room.  connor, 9 at the time, burst into tears because, "he couldn't believe she was real."

she was a gift.

minnetonka "minne" ... our big girl. you were loved big and you will be missed big.


Michele Bragg said...

Yes. Thank you for sharing your precious heart. Always loving you through the messy and hard, the joyous and the celebration. It's all good for us. Because God is good, all the time. Love you friend. <3 Shel

John G. said...

Jody - Your mind must be spinning. You've been through a lot this past week. Prayers for you and your family. Minnie was a member of your family and will be greatly missed. Loved all the photos. Hugs, Caroline

John G. said...

Jody - Your mind must be spinning. You've been through a lot this past week. Prayers for you and your family. Minnie was a member of your family and will be greatly missed. Loved all the photos. Hugs, Caroline

Rebecca said...

I'm so very sorry for all of you in this loss. Wrenching.

It's tempting for me--and all of us (and it's a good, important, informative thing)--to decide that, in light of the suffering and needs in the developing world, our *problems* don't matter. But a beauty of our God is His compassion. I don't think he looks at our heartaches in comparison with those of others and tells us to suck it up. He is the Father, and He loves, and He grieves with you all in this loss, as He does with all who know loss. Peace to all of you.

Amy Johnson said...

My heart breaks for you and your family. i pray peace for all of you as you mourn the loss of your sweet, beautiful Minne.

snekcip said...

I can vividly remember the post when Minnetonka became a part of your family and how that crimson red bow just went perfect against that chocolate ball of fur. The face on your daughter was just priceless!! Our furbabies are just a perfect blend in our families that something just not seem right when they are missing. Blessings to your family on the loss of your beloved dog and continued blessings to the African families you brought not only into our homes through your blog post but into the heart of many.

Simply LKJ said...

Jody, so sorry for your loss. Our furry friends become a member of the family, always loyal and with so much love to give. This is a beautiful post and reminder of God's love for us all. Praying for you sweet friend.