What Missy Means to Me

I wrote the following post one year ago, on February 11, 2022, when we thought our beloved dog Missy was nearing death. In God’s kindness to answer our pleading, He brought her out of that near-death experience and gave us another full year with her — one in which we made a big move across country, and she was with us as we settled and as I work remotely. Now, in His perfect timing, Missy was laid to rest this week with great peace while we saw God’s hand in every detail. I had not published this a year ago because she lived. But I return to it today, and it’s all as true now as it was then.

Missy is our pandemic dog. It wasn’t planned by us that way; it’s just how it worked out.

I’ve written here about the way in which she came to us. It was November 2019, when my son got her. It was March 2020 after Covid sent college students back home that she arrived in our home and never left. My son’s college was not able to resume in-person classes in Fall 2020, so they both remained with us while he finished his last semester. My daughter took a semester off in Spring 2021, so she also spent a 9 month stretch of time at home unexpectedly. Together, as a family during Covid, this little dog united us, brought us joy, and served as a focal point. We surely enjoyed Missy collectively, but she also meant something to us individually.

For me, I am the one who spent the most time in the house during Covid, working from home. The kids came and went, be it college or work, and were in and out. My husband worked from home the first year, but had various job transitions and writing projects that brought change and new challenges, and he traveled off and on during Covid to get away from the feeling of being shut in the house! My life remained most unchanged, sitting alone in the den on the sofa with my laptop open, working throughout the day, with Missy snuggled in close beside me. If I didn’t have the computer on my lap, she would be there. In the quietness of the house, it was Missy and me.

I had dogs growing up. Every time we lost one, the grief was great. I had vowed never to have another one. It wouldn’t be worth it to feel that pain of losing them. And yet, Missy was basically placed into our hearts and home, and we all loved her. She became part of the family. I liked to say we used to have a house where a dog could live, but over time, it became like a dog house where people could live! We had adapted so much to her and whatever she faced as she aged.

Yes, the pain is great, but the love is greater. I would do it again in a heartbeat because the love she brought, the comfort and joy, the unity of our family around this little dog. It was unequaled.

I think grief over a dog is a shadow grief of larger griefs over loved ones in life. It gives us a small taste of what that will be like to lose someone. And death is perhaps the greatest reminder this earth is not what it should be. We weren’t meant to die. And yet it’s an inescapable part of life. We’ve never seen that more clearly these last two years with Covid. Death, in one way or another, comes for all of us. But not without hope for those in Christ.

It’s just as the Bible tells us. There is sin, pain, and suffering in this world. We both experience this and contribute to it! But we have a Savior who identifies with our suffering and weakness, who humbly served us and gave his very life for us, to reconcile us to Himself. He is in the process of making all things new, whereby one day, there will be no more pain and suffering. So we feel the pain and remember it is not the end of our story. Through it, God is ushering in new things. I’m so thankful to be part of His story and the grand unfolding of life with the hope of eternal life ahead. Death is but an entry way back to life for those who are in Christ.

Now animals are different. They are not made in the image of God like humans. But they are a very significant and important part of His creation. Who knows what the new heavens and new earth will be like one day? I like to hope our beloved pets might be there. Maybe that is sentimental, but there are enough hints in Scripture to let us know it’s possible, and either way, it will be good! (See Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven and his chapters about “Animals.” You’ll be surprised that there’s a lot more in Scripture about them than we might know.)

Though it seemed Missy arrived unexpectedly on the scene of our lives, I know there was nothing accidental about it. She was brought to us by God, on purpose and with purpose, and meant something special and different to each one in our family, while we collectively were blessed. She was a gift from God during a season of need, given out of love by a good God who can fully be trusted. Missy was planned in His heart for us, and we rejoice over every moment spent with her.

Count Your Blessings

Last Sunday, we visited a country church up the road from our new home. There were probably 20-30 people in attendance. They sang the old hymn Count Your Blessings: “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.” What a great reminder as we approached Thanksgiving this past week to stop and count my blessings.

We have much to be thankful for, having just settled in a new community. After being rooted for 20 years in Chicagoland, and planning to be so for many more, my husband received a call out of the blue in April to see if he would have interest in applying for a theology professor opening. That had been his career for 16 years, but the last four years had been in publishing with one year in Christian education/administration. By early June, he had the job offer, and by early August, we had moved!

Suddenly, life as we had known it was over, and a life with new opportunities was waiting in a new season and place. We saw God’s hand in every step along the way, in every detail, so that made it easy to move forward with confidence, even when some days were difficult. It was hard to leave behind family, but my mom is joining us here next week. We love being back in the Appalachian mountains, having enjoyed the Smokies during our college years and the Blue Ridge during PhD years.

Thanksgiving yesterday was different. My husband flew back to Chicagoland to help my mom get packed up as the movers will come Monday. He celebrated Thanksgiving with our family there, which was our tradition for many years. My daughter and I stayed behind so we would not be in the middle of the move, but we missed being with family. I decided I would not try to cook a full Thanksgiving meal for just the two of us. After I couldn’t find an open reservation locally, I ordered Cracker Barrel! It was acceptable and tasty, but not quite the same. Still, it will be a Thanksgiving to remember!

This Thanksgiving, as I count my blessings, I give thanks for my family, both near and far.

I’m thankful for our new home and our wonderful neighbors!

I am also thankful for Bible Study Fellowship and the new friends I have made there. Knowing we wouldn’t be settled on a church home immediately, I signed up online for BSF near my house. What a gift to study the Word with a group of women locally, many of whom are also newer to the area. We get together for walks and meals, and I’m glad to have new friendships.

I’m also thankful for the couple that was recommended to us to help with some painting in our basement. They are a wealth of knowledge and have been invaluable to us in a few home projects.

I’m thankful for the university where my husband teaches, for the students and faculty we are getting to know, and for the beautiful landscape surrounding us.

I’m thankful for my work, being able to continue it remotely, and for the routine and consistency it has provided.

I’m thankful for an affordable, non-stop United flight from a nearby airport that gets us easily to Chicago when we travel back.

I’m thankful for a day set aside to be thankful! Living in Virginia, I’m learning more about history again. We came upon a reenactment of a pastor from the late 1700s who shared from the Thanksgiving Proclamation given by George Washington on October 3, 1789. It says in part:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be…

From the Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1789 – read in full here.

It was interesting to hear how Thanksgiving Day was established and what its purpose was.

Beyond that, it reminded me as I count my blessings that there is a Giver of all these good gifts, a source of all the blessings we enjoy. I am not simply thankful in the general sense of a positive attitude or gratefulness, but my thanks is directed to the One who meets our needs and provides so graciously, abundantly, and faithfully. He first and foremost has given me salvation through Christ, an eternal hope, and purpose in the present here and now as we await His return.

With that in mind, I look forward to Sunday as we begin Advent and turn our focus to Jesus’ birth. He has come and will come again. He is the Giver and Sustainer of life, who carries us through all life’s hills and valleys, joys and griefs, to bring us safely to Himself. Thanks be to God today and always.

“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”

Psalm 9:1-2

A Father’s Day Reflection

The first email I read this morning was from a godly, prayerful man at church. He had sent a mass email, asking “What is the best advice your father ever gave you?” My first response was to think he might feel bad if I wrote him back and said my father died when I was 10 weeks old and I never got any advice!

But I reflected a little longer. When my dad died, God met every need that my mother (who became a widow at 25 years old), my sister (who had just turned 3), and I had. We never lacked. God was faithful to us.

And the gift that I had because of this was that I always had a strong sense and understanding of God being my heavenly Father. My mother made sure we understood what the Bible said about widows and the fatherless, how He cares for them. And we experienced that. I never had to try to understand God through the lens of an earthly father. I knew God cared for me and loved me and was faithful and would take care of me. I felt a strong and direct connection to God.

So that’s what I replied to my friend’s email:

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A Good Friday / Easter Poem

Father, thank you for sending your Son
to “save a wretch like me.”
Lord Jesus, thank you for giving your life on Calvary.
And Spirit, thank you for filling me.

What wondrous love is this?”
You felt the betrayer’s kiss.
Our sinless Savior—despised, rejected, a man of sorrows,
carrying our sin upon your shoulders.

On the cross, you bled and died,
yet three days later you would rise,
defeating death and giving new life.

You’ve shown us what abundant life is like.
A life of surrender, obedience, and faith in Christ
leading to great joy and blessing,
everlasting life and peace.

This is what true love looks like, you upon that tree.
But will we deny and reject you, too?
Will we doubt and question you?
Or bow our knees and worship you,
with all the praise that you are due?

Soften our hearts, wash us clean,
give us faith to believe, for you are our saving King.
I rejoice and thank you and proclaim your praise,
may this be my song all of my days.

Sovereign God

I wrote this 12 years ago and refer back to it every four years!

  • I’m thankful for a Sovereign God who is seated on the throne in the heavens and whose kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19).
  • I’m thankful to know that He alone raises up and brings down leaders and rulers (Daniel 2:21).
  • I’m thankful that He alone is great and worthy of all praise (Psalm 145:3), worthy as the Lamb who was slain to receive all power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise (Rev. 5:12).
  • I’m thankful that He sets my feet on the Rock (Psalm 40:2) and keeps me secure.
  • In Him, I have complete confidence and hope, and I have no cause for fear.
  • He is my Rock, fortress, deliverer, strength, salvation, and shield (2 Samuel 22; Psalm 18).
  • He will not forsake those who trust in Him (Psalm 9:10).
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