Sunday, January 12, 2014

An unexpected love story

I loved Puff. She was a good dog.
When I was about three years old Puff entered my life. I don't know if I begged to get a dog or if the idea came from my parents. What I do remember is driving home from the run down, country home that Puff came from. My Mom found a classified ad that listed puppies for sale. They seemed to suit what we were searching for in a family pet. Puff was an American Spitz, a small white fluff ball that would never grow much beyond twenty pounds. As a puppy she was the most adorable ball of fur you have ever seen - stuffed animal sized and all white, with a tiny little face and deep brown eyes. She was an easy sell.
As we drove home from the breeder (a term I use loosely) we threw around different name ideas for our new family member. I do believe "Snow Ball" was a contender for a brief time. But in the end I landed on the name "Puff" and it stuck.
Puff became a staple of our home. She would lay out in the front yard underneath our big tree. She loved to chase teenage boys down the street - she wasn't viscous, she just knew trouble when she saw it. Puff wasn't demanding. When we would leave the house she never appeared phased or dejected. She was content and free, much freer then many pet dogs. She was rarely ever on a leash. Although we had a fence that encompassed the backyard, Puff cleverly maneuvered escape routes. She liked the front yard better. From her perch under the tree she could watch the cars go by and keep an eye on those pesky teenagers. She was our white fluff ball protector. Small, not exactly mighty, but well intentioned none the less.
As a small child, I remember Puff sleeping on the floor by my bed. I suspect this was another act of protection. Somehow, Puff knew I was young and vulnerable. It was her role to look out for me. And she did her job with diligence for sixteen years.
When I was eighteen, after years of mysterious health problems and miraculous healings, Puff went to dog heaven. The day she passed from this earth hit me harder then I had anticipated. There was an emptiness in the house after she left. Sometimes I would imagine that I heard her bark, only to remember that she wasn't her with us anymore. The bark was just my imagination. At other times I would do a double take, thinking I saw her laying in the living room or under the tree in the front yard. She was such an integral part of my childhood, and life up until that point, that I had a hard time adjusting to life without her.
This void wasn't one I had expected. I had loved Puff but never considered myself a dog person. She was the perfect pet for my growing up years. I was always thankful for her steady presence. But in my mind if I ever had another dog it would be many years down the road, maybe when I had my own kids. That was the "right" time to have a dog - when you have a family. At least, that's what I believed.
And then I saw a Schnoodle.
Years later, I came across pictures of a Schnoodle and fell in love with their sweet faces. To top it all off, everyone on the internet raved about their personalities. The deal was sealed when I was on vacation and saw a living, breathing, prancing Schnoodle with his owner on the beach. After talking to the man I was completely sold. I wanted a Schnoodle.
Enter Pippy, and, in turn, this blog. I came home from vacation and within a month was in the car, driving out to another breeder to buy another dog. This time I was the one behind the wheel. This turn of events took me by surprise as much as it did the rest of my family. The girl who never "ooheed" and "awwed" over dogs was dead set on bringing one into her life. I wasn't a dog person but I would soon be a Schnoodle person. More specifically, a Pippy person.
The decision to bring Pippy into my life happened suddenly and in some ways, unexpectedly. I can't explain it, but I knew God was in my decision. The night before I was set to pick her up I began to have doubts. What was I getting myself into? House breaking, restrictions on how often I could travel, vet appointments, flea treatments... the list became overwhelming. Doubts started to rise in my mind. So I prayed. I asked God to either give me peace or somehow slam the door shut - and fast. The next morning at 11:30 I was set to sign on the dotted line and hand over the money. I needed God's direction in a hurry.
His guidance didn't come in an audible voice but it did come. When I awoke the next morning I had a peace that was missing the day before. My doubts had been replaced by anticipation. Of course you know what happened, I drove out and got Pippy.
All you have to do is look back in the archives of this blog to see that the road with Pippy hasn't always been smooth. I have been downright angry with her. I have stormed out on her when she wouldn't listen. At times I cried, regretting the decision to ever get her in the first place. Looking back now I am ashamed at the shortness of my temper and the shortsightedness of the plan God was working out for Pippy and I.
Now I can look back on the last few years with Pippy and see the divine working of God throughout our story. It has been unexpected. But it has been a story of love. Through raising Pippy and sharing my life with her I have grown to love her not because she is cute and not because she is always the perfect companion. She isn't. Sometimes she doesn't listen and at other times she won't come when I call her. She has gotten attached to my Mom when I wanted her to be attached to me. I've felt rejected.
And yet, in all of these experiences, God has grown our love story. No matter how many times I lost my temper, Pippy forgave me. No matter how many times Pippy didn't listen or wouldn't come when called, I still gave her my attention and affection. God has used Pippy to teach me what it is to give love. He's taught me that in the most unexpected of ways He can write a love story.
His story of love isn't dependent on "feelings" or "emotion." His love is bigger than that. It doesn't rely on those wavering conditions. His love is permanent and steady. The journey with Pippy has taught me how this is truly the best love story. This love isn't found in us. It is found in Jesus Christ. Our ability to love isn't dependent on our own stamina and power. It is dependent on His limitless love that knows no boundaries and has no stipulations. 
I never expected God to write a love story in my life using a little dog. A man, sure, I could picture that. A Hallmark Channel worthy story of a fairy tale romance? Sure, I could imagine God doing that. But a little dog who came into my life peeing on the floor and running down the street, refusing to acknowledge her name? That is a love story I hadn't anticipated.
Beloved, this is how God works. He doesn't write the story we expect. He writes one that is infinitely better. He surprises us and shocks us. Each page that lies ahead in the story He writes is a mystery to us. We might think we know what they will contain, but God wants to amaze us. He doesn't want us to know how it all ends. He wants it to be a glorious surprise. 
Your love story might not have come yet. Hold on, just wait for it. It is being written. Get ready because it might not come the way you expect. So expect the unexpected. Anticipate what you cannot even comprehend. God is writing you a love story and who knows, it might even come in the form a dog.

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