Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Following the Master

What walking my dog has taught me about my faith walk with God

In July, I told you about the new addition to our family: a Lhasa Apso puppy who we named Pixel. In the short time since then, Pixel has woven his way into our lives and hearts even more. He’s also gotten easier to deal with in being house trained. He still has a lot to learn, but we’re making progress.

While I have a lot to teach Pixel from sit to stay to no biting, I also continue to learn lessons from him. So many lessons.

Excited to go with the Master

On Monday, I was feeling tired as I went to get Pixel out of his crate to take him for his morning walk. It was a bit of a hectic morning. My husband and daughter were both sick. I got my son to school, stopped by the store for medicine for my sick people and then hurried home to get my daughter settled in, walk the dog and get started on my work that had a noon deadline.

Basically, I was feeling harried and tired. I opened Pixel’s crate door, got his walking harness and leash on him and noticed that he was excited. I had to make a detour to get my sunglasses instead of going straight to the front door as usual. He trotted happily along with me.

I realized that Pixel didn’t know where we were going. He knew who he was going with. And he was just excited to be going somewhere with me. He trusted me that I wouldn’t lead him astray. He followed me willingly and happily. Anywhere I said we needed to go, he would go along.

In that moment, I felt a prick in my heart. I thought of the times I need to trust and follow God no matter what and how sometimes I get distracted or unsure. Sometimes I grumble and complain. I don’t always go happily with an adoring look at the One who created me. I need to be more like Pixel.

Trusting the Master through scary times

But, here’s the thing. Pixel also isn’t perfect. While on Monday’s walk, he didn’t have any issues, on the Friday before, he sat down in the road and refused to walk because there was a trailer parked on the side of the road. It was different, and it was scary to him. And even being on the leash with me, he still wasn’t able to move forward out of fear.

Oh my how I relate to that! I get scared sometimes. I get overwhelmed. I get anxious. When the future looks unclear or the path unsure, I put on the brakes and sit in fear.

I imagine, though, that God does just what I did with Pixel. I coaxed him for a moment. I saw that wasn’t enough, so I picked him up and carried him past the trailer. He walked on with confidence. And when we passed the same trailer on the way home, he gave it a wide berth, but he walked on past because he knew that it was safe. I had shown him that I would take care of him on our path.

So many times I know that God has carried me through a difficult time. Sometimes He is able to coax me forward. Other times, I know He has to carry me. Each time I learn anew how faithful He is and how strong I can be with Him. I learn that my Master always knows where we are going and how to keep me safe when I am unsure, when I am happily trotting along or when I am somewhere in the middle.

Striving to do better

While I want to always be like Pixel in his excitement to trust and follow his master anywhere, I know that I still need to work on it. Fortunately my Master is a patient one. I have seen God’s trustworthiness so many times throughout the years. We have a history that I can remember and lean on when I am unsure. I have His Word that I can turn to for guidance. He is the Master, and I need only trust and follow Him.

(Do you love dogs? If so, check out my puppy’s Facebook page that’s just for fun: Pixel the Pup.)

Misery really does love company

Hard times are best weathered when they are shared

My daughter recently got her braces off. She was most excited to be able to chew gum again. In fact, not being able to chew gum was the one thing she dwelled on when she was going to get her braces put on. She felt mopey that for 12 to 18 months she wouldn’t be able to have gum.

So, I told her that I would join her in not chewing gum. At the time I had a temporary crown and knew I couldn’t have it either. I also knew I’d get my permanent crown and be chewing gum eligible before she would, but I promised her I would wait for her.

And so the day she got her braces off, my husband had her favorite gum ready and we both enjoyed a piece together.

While temporarily not being able to have chewing gum isn’t the worst thing in the world (even for a kid), having someone dwell with you in hard times is priceless.

When I think back to hard times in my own life, I have most appreciated friends or loved ones who were there with me in the misery. Knowing someone is beside you in the depths can make them easier to go through — even just temporarily.

Sometimes what we need most is for someone to come alongside us in our misery and just sit with us, even for a short time. We need reminders that we aren’t alone.

The reverse needs to be true as well. I think about my friends and hard times they’ve been through. Maybe what they need is us to come sit with them. Maybe they need us to sit with a sick loved one so they can have a break. Maybe they need us to bring them a meal so they can regroup. Maybe they need us to send them an uplifting card. Hurting people need solidarity. I know they need our prayers, because even when we can’t be with them, God definitely can.

We do have a Friend Who is always with us. I have felt closest to God at some of the very lowest moments of my life. And at other moments when He has felt far away, I find that I’m the one moving away from Him. He doesn’t move away from me. God remains present through every single moment and brings light into all parts of the darkness.

Who do you need to encourage today? Who do you need to pray for? Who do you need to join in not chewing gum? What do you need to do to remember God’s presence in your own struggles?

Misery really does love company in that when we are miserable, we feel better to know that we aren’t totally alone. Recognizing those times make the sweet times all that much better when we can celebrate with joy a hard season coming to an end!

Finding beauty through scars

God is faithful even when life hurts

Last April we moved into our new house with a wood-burning fireplace in the living room. By the time we were settled enough to use it, it was too warm to think of building a fire. However, over these last few weeks that has changed. This past weekend we had incredibly frigid weather and my husband built a fire for us three days in a row. We loved the heat and warmth and coziness of it.

Today I was walking through the living room and noticed that the fireplace is no longer clean. Until recently, the brick inside the fireplace looked pretty much the same as the brick around the fireplace. It wasn’t marred. It was clean. Now, though, it has black soot in spots and has ashes in the bottom. It’s lost its pristine state. I didn’t notice those blemishes so much when it was burning bright with fire and warmth. I was too busy enjoying it.

Now I see them. I could say the fireplace is no longer as beautiful as it once was. But the fireplace got those marks from fulfilling its purpose, and is there anything more beautiful than that? After all, we didn’t plan for a wood-burning fireplace for it to just be an unused showpiece. We looked forward to the extra warmth it would bring our family on cold winter days and evenings. It couldn’t provide any of those things without getting dirty and scarred.

We are so much the same way! In a few months, I’m hitting a milestone birthday and turning 40. I haven’t lived through 40 years of life without scars and blemishes. Some of them you can see like the scar on my knee from a cut I had as a child. I’ve got freckles on my skin from being out in the sun. My abdomen has scars from numerous surgeries. I’ve also gotten unseen scars through the years. I hesitate to open myself up to new people, because I have scars reminding me of the pain the happens when trust is betrayed. I’ve got the scars left from losing loved ones to death, even when I know they are in a better place. And I have scars of fear for how my health is going to be each and every day.

I’m not pristine by any stretch of the imagination. But I don’t want to be scarred and blemished just for the sake of being scarred and blemished. Just like I didn’t throw dirt into my fireplace to make it dirty for no reason, so I don’t want to do that in life. I want my scars and blemishes to be used for my God-given purpose in life. I want to use them to honor Him. Those scars from my surgeries are times I can praise God that He brought me through safely and helped me recover each and every time in spite of the challenges that came my way as a result. They are reminders of His faithfulness and because I have them, I can better minister to those facing surgery or health issues. I can pray for them in more personal ways.

And those emotional scars of being betrayed by someone I thought was a friend serve to remind me that I have a Friend who will never betray me. Those scars of losing loved ones remind me how very precious life is. I still struggle with grief because my most recent loss was only three months ago. These last few years have been a season of loss for my family and those scars ache. But I remember lives lived fully. I remember God’s faithfulness, strength and peace even when my heart has been broken into pieces. Those scars allow me to minister to those dealing with loss more empathetically.

I want to live my life scarred and blemished but still praising God. He didn’t create me to sit on a shelf and not get messy. He could have made life without pain, but then how would we ever really know we needed Him? We appreciate the light so much more once we have been in the darkness. I want to be used up. Am I excited and wanting more hurt and hard times? Not especially. However, I know they will come. Life works that way. It is filled with highs and lows. But my scars remind me that no matter the high or the low, God is good and He is ever faithful. He holds me close and has scars of His own to prove how much He loves me.

I want to be burned up like my fireplace. I want to serve my purpose. I don’t want to be so afraid of getting dirty and scarred that I stop trying. I don’t want to let emotional scars keep me from making new friends. I don’t want to let physical scars keep me from trying new activities. I want to remember the lessons I’ve learned, share them as much as I can and know that through it all — every bump, bruise and cut — God is always faithful. He sees the beauty in my brokenness and in my scars.

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