Yesterday I watched my nine year old son chase a ball of white fluff around our coffee table. Autumn light streamed through the picture window and his antics cast shifting silhouettes against the sunbathed wall. The fluff ball yipped and wriggled, and my son danced and laughed. This boy and this dog are both miracles. Watching them play softens the walls guarding my heart and reminds me of God’s spectacular provision through years of crisis.
When he was three, my son fell out a second story window and sustained a traumatic brain injury. He emerged miraculously intact after six days in intensive care, but was later diagnosed with ADHD and a mood disorder. The first few years were challenging and I had to work through some post-traumatic stress, but it could have been much worse. Still, the ‘what ifs’ seized me every time I heard a thud. Thankfully, he’s doing great now and I can finally listen to him run upstairs without holding my breath.
His accident wasn’t the only crisis I had to navigate. Shortly after my son was born, my ex-husband suffered a nervous breakdown that our marriage never recovered from. We went through eight years of turmoil before I finally gave up and agreed to a divorce. There were biblical grounds and I can’t say I’ve completely healed, but I’m getting there.
The only way I handled each crisis was by faith. When I look back, I can see the many ways God provided. One of my favorite provisions brings me to a story about the white fluff ball.
My ex-husband had a habit of springing pets on me without asking. He adopted a black kitten from a shelter that I only tolerate because my daughter loves her. I grew up with cats and love them, but this one has a mean streak. He also brought home two guinea pigs that didn’t last long. They were cute and my kids named them Mario and Luigi, but guinea pigs live in, and eat, hay. I’m allergic to hay. They were re-homed after I broke out in hives and had a panic attack triggered by high cortisol levels. The puppy came next.
We discussed the possibility of getting a dog, but our life was chaotic at the time and I wasn’t up for the training. I was coming around, but was hoping to wait another year. My ex-husband wasn’t good at waiting. While I was away, visiting family with the kids, he purchased a Maltese puppy from a local pet store. I nearly died laughing when he did the big reveal. I never pictured him, or me, as a small dog owner. We had only researched midsize breeds.
In hindsight, I have to give both God and my ex-husband a lot of credit. Maltese dogs are hypoallergenic and they don’t shed or smell. They also tend to bond to one person. Since my ex-husband was gone a lot and my kids were in school, that person ended up being me.
The fluff ball, Buster, has been my saving grace. He was an enormous comfort to me through my divorce, a true therapy dog. I didn’t plan for him, but I’m pretty sure God did.
When my brother lost his wife to suicide in July, I seriously contemplated bringing Buster with me on the plane when I flew to be with him. I wanted to curl him in my brother’s lap and offer him something warm, cuddly, and beautiful. God had other ideas. My brother had booked a surf retreat in Nicaragua long before tragedy hit. The trip was two weeks after his wife’s funeral and though he hesitated at first, he ended up going. The best kind of therapy for a surfer is salt water therapy and he was with two solid guys who were there for him while he grieved. I still think he needs a dog, but the surf trip was a good start.
This morning I read that Lutheran Church Charities has a team of comfort dogs they are sending to Oregon to help students and faculty of Umpqua Community College. Dogs were previously deployed to help students and families after Sandy Hook. The comfort these creatures can offer is amazing.
Provision isn’t always a dog or a trip. Sometimes it’s something small, like an unexpected call from a loved one, an opportunity to pursue something new, or a random compliment. Sometimes it’s the way the light streams through your window or the way the spider web on your rose bush catches rain drops. I’ve been through some trenches in the past few years, but looking back, I see God’s grace in the imaginative ways he padded those trenches. Faith has taught me to seek what it is beautiful in the midst of what is painful. It almost always offers a way forward.