You have made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
Because of many complications and surgeries after my tiny, premature baby boy was born, I could never get pregnant again. But, that’s okay. My son provided me with four grandkids, and two of those four have provided me with eight great-grandkids. AWESOME!
A few weeks after our beloved Rascal passed, Buck and I visited our local animal shelter. I really didn’t want another dog, but Buck did. And I was willing to do just about anything to ease the pain of losing our beautiful Australian Shepard. Buck and Rascal were inseparable, and he couldn’t get over losing him. So, since it was his birthday . . . Well, there you go.
There were so many dogs to choose from, but none of them appealed to either of us except the little brown dog in a big gloomy cage, laying on a skimpy, raggedy blanket. But I couldn’t wrap my heart around the idea of adopting a hound mix. It’s true, I didn’t want another long-haired dog, but a hound? However, when I discovered she was a greyhound mix, I liked the idea a little better. So, I stood glued to her cage while Buck went to the front desk and filled out the adoption papers.
Her name was Claire, but we changed it to Bella Rae; it suits her quirky personality better. And quirky is an understatement.
Bella does everything on her terms and is extremely persistent at getting what she wants. She’ll shake her head and snort, and bark and howl and will not stop until she gets what she wants, or we tell her to go lay down.
And there is nothing graceful or lady-like about Bella. Nope! She’s a brute. She stomps on our feet. She jumps all over our guests. She knocks down children and nearly licks the skin off their faces. When I put her in her crate, they let her back out again. Drives me nuts! And when she wants to lay down, she pitches a hissy fit until she’s covered from head to tail.
Bella and I butt heads. She thinks she’s the queen of the castle, but that day will never come. And since I’m the one sitting on the throne, she loves Buck the best and even sleeps with him, hogging more than half the bed.
Bella has a built-in alarm system, prompting her to awaken Buck when he stops breathing or has one of his recurring nightmares due to sleep apnea and PTSD. Although she is not service dog trained, she senses when something is out of wack and tries to fix it.
One day, during a family gathering at our house, Bella barked and kept pushing our granddaughter away from the baby carrier. At first, we were all alarmed because we’d never seen this side of Bella before. Then, we realized she was protecting our great-grand baby from her own mother!
When we first brought Bella home from the shelter, she was so skinny that she actually looked like a greyhound. Now that she’s lost her girlish figure, we can’t figure out what mix-breed she is. One thing for sure, she is definitely a hound mix, just like the label on her cage read at the animal shelter.
Then there’s Pepper. What a sight she was when we first saw her. She was abandoned with fifteen other dogs and starving to death. Nearly every bone was protruding beneath her delicate skin. My heart screamed, take her home! But I didn’t want two dogs. Never had two dogs at one time, and didn’t want two dogs at one time. Bella was more than enough dog for me.
So, we drove home without her. She had her mom and her two brothers, a few cats, and a bunch of other dogs to hang with. She’ll be fine, I reassured my heart. Besides, the neighbors are kinda, sorta looking after them.
The next day, I called animal control to find out that they were already working on it. I told the man I was talking to about the little black female and how I didn’t think she would survive the week. He assured me that she was fine and if I wanted her, to go get her.
She was so happy to see me again that I wished I had rescued her the day before. I could have saved her from one more night of misery. Buck was all for it, so I have no one to blame but myself. But, we’re here now, and she’ll never go hungry again or spend another night out in the freezing cold.
It was love at first sight when the two dogs met; just like I thought it would be. Bella acted as if Pepper was a live toy for her to play with, pawing and chasing her around the house. But, Pepper had the upper hand, or should I say upper paw, on Bella because she was tiny and used to having to defend herself against bigger dogs. So, when she had enough of Bella’s rough-necking, she’d run under the sofa in the living room, stick out her leg, and swat at Bella when she ran by.
Weighing in at only eight pounds, and other than a slight case of mange on both ears, the vet gave her a clean bill of health. However, she continued eating bugs in the yard for months after we captured her. It’s a shame what careless, irresponsible people put their animals through.
Pepper is the sweetest dog ever. Her long, slender body and floppy ears suggested to the vet that she is a Dachshund Labrador mix. Where Bella is highly excitable, Pepper is calm and patient. However, she is full of energy and jumps sky-high when she gets excited, and still, after three years, she’s a chewer. The other day, I was looking for my other shoe and there it was in the middle of Buck’s bed, soaking wet. I found it before she chewed it to death.
Thank goodness, Pepper doesn’t jump on the kitchen counters and table anymore. But, she and Bella will drag a loaf of bread off the counter and devour it in a matter of minutes before I go in the kitchen and discover the empty, shredded bag on the floor.
Bella and Pepper are our fur babies. They fill each day with love and slobbery kisses. They make us laugh. They make us happy. They fill the void and sadness we felt when we lost Rascal. I’m thankful for our two dogs.
Bella and Pepper; especially Bella, doesn’t like having their picture taken. Bella has such a beautiful face with big, soulful eyes that are difficult to capture. But, here’s a few that we had to sneak and snap quickly.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
I overheard mom telling my dad that the doctor they were taking me to said my spirit is broken. I was seven. He also said I had too much religion. The doctor was a shrink.
A shrink! My parents actually believed that their seven-year-old needed to see a shrink!
It’s true, I was overly sensitive and emotional with a so-called learning disability and social disorder. And yes, I pitched a conniption fit every time mom washed my hair and combed out the tangles every morning. And compared to my calmer, less spirited siblings, I was like a wild Mustang.
But a broken spirit? What did that even mean?
As a kid, it meant nothing to me. I was just a kid doing what kids do: being a kid.
However, when I got older and more aware of the dysfunctional world in which I lived, I realized that yes, I was broken.
A broken spirit is fearful and discouraged and depressed and blames all the world’s ales on themselves. A broken spirit second-guesses every choice they make and feels guilty for being true to themselves. A broken spirit is a dead soul walking down a treacherous, dark and, lonely path.
A broken spirit sends you crying to the altar Sunday after Sunday, praying for forgiveness from the wretchedness you feel inside. I was seventeen that Sunday morning when my mother stood up apologizing for me, saying she didn’t know what was wrong with me, and reassuring the congregation that I was a good girl.
That Sunday, the altar of prayer and hope, and forgiveness became a place of judgment, shame, and condemnation. Where were the loving arms, the tender voice, the words of understanding and encouragement? Where was God?
Although I never went back to the altar, I never stopped searching for the truth about who I am and why I feel the way I do.
And in my endless search, I discovered that I am a free spirit, that I see things in black and white, and that living the truth is better than living a lie. And when I pulled against the reigns, the people in my world didn’t like it, especially my mother. And more than anything, I wanted to please my mother.
To make a very long and painful story short, my mother manipulated and controlled my entire life; even after I got married. She played me like a game of cards and cheated to win at any cost. And it cost me, my soul. My friends saw it long before I did and even warned me of the damage my mother was causing. But, she was my mother and would never do anything to hurt me.
But she did. Again and again, using every dirty, emotional trick up her sleeve to keep me feeling guilty and confused and angry until that anger became an uncontrollable rage. Finally, when I saw the destruction it was causing my marriage and my child, I said enough! I walked away and slammed the door shut on my mother for six long years. I went into counseling for two years, read Christian Living books, and began healing and living my life for myself.
Only when I felt emotionally strong enough did I pursue a relationship with my mother, who never understood me, never saw what she did to me, only what I did to her, and continued trying to manipulate and control me. But, I was stronger and wiser, and more determined than ever to take back my life.
No one has the right to live and control someone else’s life. Isn’t it hard enough to live and control their own? It angers me when I see moms and dad’s pushing their dreams and aspirations on their kids. Let them live their own lives, dream their own dreams. You raised them right, now give them the right to make the right choices and be there for them if they screw up. No, you won’t always like the choices they make, but you can always be there no matter what. The biggest part of loving your kids is letting them go. Let them spread their wings and fly, and keep loving them from the sidelines. If you don’t, you won’t be in their lives the way you want to be. You may not be in their lives at all.
I have one child, a son, and a pastor of twenty years. His dad and I have seen his highs and his lows. We’ve listened to his heart cries. We’ve watched him make choices that didn’t make sense to us. When he decided to travel halfway around the globe to fulfill his passion, his dangerous mission to save the world, we never stood in his way. His wife and kids never stood in his way. We watch him from the sidelines hoping and praying he comes back home safely. We love him. We trust him. We encourage him. We never try to live his life for him. He is a free spirit. His wings are big and strong, and he will continue to fly as high as he can until he can’t fly anymore.
And my heart couldn’t be more proud and happier for the man he has become.
Our kid’s hearts are in our hands. Love them. Teach them. Encourage them. Never, ever crush them, for if you do, they will flounder through life with broken wings that may never learn to fly.
Family is everything to me. But, the family I grew up in was just a tad screwed up. Okay, a lot.
My dad was a man of fewer than a few words. He rarely got involved in my life and preferred to be left alone. Completely. Don’t talk, don’t cause a ruckus, just sit and be quiet. In another room, or better yet, in another house.
My mom was stuck in the twilight zone of her abusive childhood and jerked me in there with her. She yelled a lot, picked her fingers till they bled, and consumed me with her fears and anxieties and worries and sorrow and pain. I was not the perpetrator of her abuse, yet I felt responsible and powerless to fix it. So I sacrificed my stubborn will on the altar of compliance to calm the raging beast within her. But, the inner, strong-willed child refused to die. Thus began a never-ending battle of the wills, a constant fight against her power and control over every corner of my life.
Two of my brothers escaped the madness through substance abuse, the youngest of which spent the majority of his life either in prison or homeless and living on the streets. He traded his wife and kids for the thrills and chills of crime. When his kids grew up, they walked down the same wayward path.
My older brother, whom I never met, suffered severe brain damage caused by encephalitis and was institutionalized when he was three. And my oldest brother drifted here and there, searching for his special place in this world. He was the oldest son of my mother’s first marriage. When my mom married my dad, he didn’t want a snotty-nosed five-year-old, so they left him crying under his grandmother’s bed and moved to another state nine-hundred miles away. Till the day he died, he was searching for love in all the wrong places.
My sister ran away from home when she was fifteen, got pregnant, then got married at the ripe old age of sixteen. When her husband died at the age of forty-one, she found solace in the bottle. After finally admitting she had a serious problem, she went to rehab, joined AA, and turned her life around. Sadly, she died of breast cancer at the age of fifty-seven.
I didn’t do drugs or alcohol. I was picky about whom I dated and was squeaky clean when I got married. I was nineteen. Still wet behind the ears. Naive as a kitten. I believed in God. Went to church, and tried to live a good, clean Christian life in spite of my short-lived, abusive marriage. In spite of being a single mom at the age of twenty-one and barely making ends meet. In spite of sickness and hospital stays. Even in spite of my X-husband’s constant slurs and put-downs and his lack of parenting skills and child support.
I was sugar and spice, and everything nice, a pillar of strength and unshakable faith, as happy as a circus clown. That’s what I pretended to be on the outside because that’s what everyone wanted me to be and heaven forbid I be anything less. And no one cared what I really felt anyway, so it was easier to live a lie than to let people see the ugly, naked truth.
And the ugly, naked truth is, on the inside, I was an erupting volcano of hurt and anger and boiling rage. A prisoner, bound in chains and living among the tombs of fear and hopelessness, striking out against God and the world and my parents and my siblings and everyone who should have been there for me but never were. On the inside, I was a river of knowledge of how I was supposed to live, but as dry as a desert about how to do it.
Then one day, I snapped, and I fell to my knees before God. That’s when I saw Him clearly for the first time; when I felt His love and mercy and forgiveness as He washed my sinful heart clean. He changed my wayward direction and put me on the heavenly path leading to my eternal home in heaven, where I will be completely free at last.
When you allow God into your life, He blesses and restores it. He makes it better than you can ever imagine. Although my immediate family relationships never improved, and all but one sibling is dead, God has blessed me through my second marriage and his family. And He continues blessing me through my son and his beautiful, growing family. We have each other’s backs. We love and encourage one another. We allow each other the freedom to be our crazy selves without judgment and ridicule. We don’t bicker and fight. We laugh and have fun. We talk and we listen. We are the family I always wanted growing up. The family I needed to help me grow strong and healthy and to be what God created me to be.
Family is important to God, too. That’s why Satan works so hard to rip it to shreds, beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden. Weaken the family and we weaken the world. Stir up anger and resentment in the family, and we stir up anger and resentment in the world. Someone has to stop the insanity, the deadly sinful disease, from spreading from generation to generation. Someone has to stand up and say, “Enough!”
The majority of the world has never had a healthy family life. But we can all create one by loving our kids and doing everything within our power to make them feel loved and protected and safe from a world gone mad. We can teach them to spread their wings and fly. We can encourage their dreams rather than crushing them in our hands. We can teach them about God the right way, rather than the twisted way we once perceived Him.
I loved my family. As messed up as it was, it wasn’t all bad. My parents were good people, they just didn’t know how to be good parents. They didn’t know how to teach their brood to fly, so they broke their wings instead. Hopefully, though, as we get older we can forgive and move on with our lives. None of us are perfect parents. We just have to keep moving past our own junk and be the best parents and grandparents and great-grandparents we can be.
I’m in this parenting thing for the long haul, learning and growing as I go.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
I used to think that God only loved me when I was good, that He only answered my prayers when I followed all the rules, that His standards were so lofty and steep that I couldn’t do anything but fail.
Then I think of a stupid sheep, always looking for greener pastures, always timid and afraid, always wandering away from the flock and getting injured or cast down and getting their fleece infected with parasites. I think of how they graze on inferior pastures that eventually cause sickness and death. Yet, the good shephard drops everything to find it.
That’s what God does for me and for you. He hunts us down, he binds up our wounds, He picks us up in His arms and carries us back home. No condemnation, no being grounded for a month, no shunning till we can straighten up and do better. None of that garbage that we receive from others when we screw up.
I am a stupid sheep. I wander and stray. I get lost. I get wounded. I get cast down. I don’t have sense enough to take care of myself. If the Good Shepard didn’t love me, He wouldn’t waste His time on me. He wouldn’t dry my tears. He wouldn’t cover my filthy nakedness with His mercy and grace. If He didn’t love me He’d let me die and rot in my sins.
Lucas is one of our six great-grandchildren. In spite of his rough start in life and being diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, he is our sunshine on a rainy day. And to prove the doctors wrong concerning his learning disabilities, he can talk, write his name, draw and name shapes, recite the ABC’s, and mesmerize an audience strumming his play guitar and singing “You Are My Sunshine”. He is truly a God-send to our growing family and teaches us to look on the bright side of life.
COVID-19 has done a number on hearts around the globe. It’s made them fearful and angry, frustrated and confused. They’re impatient. Restless. Bored and lonely and just want everything to get back to normal again. At least that’s what my heart has been feeling these days. So, to help keep my mind off the bad and the ugly I created some happy hearts that I hope will brighten your day.
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My first grade teacher taught her pupils the alphabet using big flash cards with pictures. And for some odd reason, the letter S with a picture of a snake on it was my favorite one and the only one that still sticks out in my mind. So, in my case, a picture is truly worth a thousand words. If you like pictures more than words, then you will like my word art creations.
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Using Paint Shop Pro 2019, I turn ordinary photos into works of art. I also create picture tubes, bookmarks, Facebook Covers, cards, tags, and more. I don't sell my art, therefore, all my creations are free for your own personal use.