Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Turns Out Old Dogs CAN Learn New Tricks

It may seem from the title that I've got dogs on the brain a lot these days, especially after having written This Post and This Other Post.   Trust me, it's just a metaphor.

Really, it's not the Old Dog that's important so much as the New Trick.

Are ya ready to read it?  Are ya sure?  Okay.  Here is the new trick:

This 41 year old stay-at-home mom, farmer's wife, writer/filmmaker/speaker/kayaker, is going to be a drummer.

No, no, no, there's nothing wrong with your eyesight. You read it correctly.  I said I'm going to be a drummer.  Yes, like real drums.

Yeah, yeah, okay, fine.  You can stop laughing now.

No, seriously.  You can stop laughing.

Well, okay, just because you can't stop laughing doesn't make it any less true.  [sticks her tongue out in your general direction]

 Christmas 2009 saw us buying Lego Rock Band for Matthew.  We got him the game itself, a guitar and a set of drums.  We knew he'd love it and he did.  What we didn't know was that I would love it even more.

After Clinton got it all set up, Matt picked up the guitar and I sat down at the drums.  Before we even began to play the first song I knew it felt like home.  I fell in love.  There really isn't any other way to describe it.

I've always had a really good sense of rhythm.  I think having danced helps, also.  In both dance and drumming your arms and legs are doing different things at the same time.  I think both activities use the same part of my brain, the one that does its own thing when I let my conscious mind take a back seat and just feel.  I'm not saying all dancers can play the drums, but it seems to be working for me.

Somehow, sitting there, I just knew that I could do this.  I knew it like I knew my own name.  I can still completely recall that feeling.  That conviction has never faded.  

I thought and prayed and waited and listened.  The biggest problem was convincing Clinton that I needed drums, specifically electronic drums.  You know, the kind that you plug in to an amplifier.  That you use with headphones so that you don't wake up the kids when they're sleeping because that's the only time you get a minute to sit down anyway.   

Those kind of drums are not cheap.  He made me swear on my mother's life that I would not ask for another Christmas, birthday or anniversary present for the next eight to ten years.  (Okay, not really.  I did offer, though.  Sorry Mom.)

Thirteen months after my Christmas Lego Rock Band Revelation my drums finally arrived.  I sat down with the DVD Clinton got me and learned a few grooves and fills.  I've been banging around ever since, playing along with songs on my iPod.  On March 31 I will start lessons.

I.  Am going.  To.  ROCK!  Whoo-hoo!  [commence happy dancing]  I'm so excited I can barely stand myself.  I am fulfilling a life-long dream I only discovered 15 months ago. 

So that's the basic story of how a middle-aged momma is not so quietly transforming into a cool rocker chick.

Okay, okay.  I admit it.  Now I'm laughing, too.  Sheesh, I couldn't even WRITE that last line with a straight face. 

It's completely unlikely, isn't it?  Unexpected?  Darned near inconceivable?  I've heard of a dealing with a mid-life crisis before, but discovering a mid-life passion?  Really?

And that's what's got me just a little bit bugged about the whole thing.

Why now? 

Why am I only just now discovering this enormous side of myself?  I mean, I'm 41 for crying out loud.  Wouldn't it have been much better to discover this 30 years ago (oh, that makes me feel old)?   I might have been REALLY good instead of just potentially kinda good.  [cue Marlon Brando] "I could've been a contender."

What could my life have been like had I grown up playing the drums?

I think I have an idea.  Knowing myself as I do, I think I would have focused on the drums to the exclusion of everything else. "I'm good at this, I love it, why try anything else?"  I wouldn't be writing or speaking or making films. I wouldn't be open to other aspects of myself, other ways to be used of God in my little corner of the world.  I'd be a more linear person, to my detriment.

Worse, I think I would have focused on myself to the exclusion of my family. I'd be resentful of farming season and the time commitment involved because it would cut into my practice time.  I'd resent living in a small town where there are very few opportunities or venues to play.

I think I'd be much more selfish than I am already.

So maybe God does know something about timing.  And about me.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.  Proverbs 25:2

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When The Dog Bites (or vomits, or chews your computer cable)

Back in October I shared with you about my friend, John, and the sweet dog he rescued, Jesse.   Should you so desire, you can refresh your memory here .  

I thought you might like an update.

If not, well, that's too bad.  You're going to get one anyway.  

According to John, "[Jesse] is about 178.9 degrees opposite of how he was when I first picked him up. We've been on several hikes, and he does wonderfully well.  Doesn't even need a leash....but that's because he wants to be near me all of the time. But he will run ahead, or run circles around me, and come back from time to time to check on me. He's an excellent hiking partner.  He's gotten to a point where he recognizes my family members and wags when he sees them. Such an awesome growth and blooming I've seen in him...and me (because of him!)."

Remember, this is the dog who would only come out from under the bed to eat.  The dog who had to be picked up and carried outside because of fear.  Whose playful side was only just beginning to emerge due to John's patience, love, and perseverance.  Who was just learning to trust John's daughter, Maddy. 

Yep.  Five months later I still get a smile on my face thinking about it.

Of course, there are also The Less Fun Moments.  The scratches on John's hands.  The scratches on John's floors.  The messes from toys that don't quite agree with Jesse's delicate digestive system.  The money on trips to the vet when Jesse is sick.  A trip to the store to replace the computer cable Jesse chewed to bits.  The mess when the remains of the cable... you get the picture.

But more than the clean up and tubes of triple antibiotic ointment are the scratches to John's heart.  There have been many times John felt, "Why did I get this dog?  I can't take care of an animal.  It's too much!"  Jesse would finally begin to get his bearings and appear to be progressing only to relapse .  John would work and work with Jesse and suddenly wham, back to square one.  The catastrophes that come at the very worst times.  Late nights, early mornings, worry and fear and pain.  How many times can a person hope and pray and try and try again and...

Oh.  Sorry.  We're discussing John and Jesse, aren't we.

Or are we?  

I know I've had my share of relationships where it got to the point that I simply could not handle one more crisis, one more phone call.  The heavenward pleas of  "Dear God I have tried EVERYTHING I know to do and NOTHING is working" are very familiar.  You can't make any sense of what is happening.  You don't want to care anymore.  The pain is simply too much to bear.  But no matter how hard you try or how you wish you could, you just cannot shut off your heart.       

The rescue dog you've given your heart and soul, mind and strength to, runs away from you, refusing to come home.  They throw your freely-offered, deeply-felt love back in your face and stomp away, blaming and vindictive.  They literally bite the hand that has loved and fed and cared for them.  

And you are left with wounds, gaping and festering and sore.  

It can be horrendously painful to love people.  

It is horrendously painful to love people.

Sometimes it would be easier to not care.  Easier to close up and close off, to shut out and shut down.  Plug up the wellspring of life that is your heart and by sheer force will it to dry up so that you never have to hurt like that again.

Wounded people do this all the time. 

But, once our hearts dry up and close down, we lose connection with every thing around us. 

Not just every one.  Every thing

Dulling our hearts dulls all of our senses as well.  To a certain degree, all food ends up tasting like oatmeal.  One scent becomes indistinguishable from another.  Red and yellow and turquoise all become shades of gray. 

When we lose our hearts, we lose our humanity.

When we lose our humanity, we lose our ability to see people.  Fellow human beings.  Someone's child.  God's child. 

Dulled eyes from closed hearts don't see other people AS people.  What was a person becomes an illusion, something we want them to be and not who they really are. We define them, see them as "just" this or "nothing but" that.  "Oh, he's just a drunk."  "She'll never be anything but a failure." 

Worse than an illusion, which at least validates their existence as some form of human, they become a means to an end.  A person becomes "nothing but" a possession.  Genocide.  Human trafficking.  Slavery.  Gang violence.  All of these and more stem from a disconnection, a shutting down, a loss of heart and humanity.  

When we lose touch with our hearts, we lose touch with the very essence of who we are, who we were created to be, and who others were created to be.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Are you getting this with me?

ABOVE ALL ELSE, guard your heart.

Above all else, GUARD your heart.

Above all else, guard YOUR heart.

Above all else, guard your HEART.


It is the wellspring of LIFE.

We lose our very lives when we lose our hearts.  We must protect our hearts, not from loving too much, but from loving too little.  

John could have very easily, many times over, decided he'd had enough with Jesse.  He could have given up and given Jesse away.  But John sees Jesse.  In spite of Jesse's wounds, in spite of John's wounds, love looks past and sees what only love can see.  


The old expression, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is true.  Value is also bestowed from the beholder to the beloved.   

Jesse is valuable to John not necessarily because Jesse is so great, or so smart, or so funny.  Jesse is valuable to John because John loves him.  

You are valuable, my rescue dog friend.  You are seen.  You are loved.  Not because you are so inherently lovable, but because The One Who Created You declares you to be so.  

Remember Who Loves You.  When you do, you'll remember He also loves rescue dogs.  And He will give you the strength and love you need so that you can truly see and value and love them.

When we dig deep and ask and try and love yet again, we help to break the cycle.

We love because He first loved us.  I  John 4:19