Wilted

My dear reader,

Greetings from sunny Circle City! Also known as Naptown/I-town/Indy. The Crossroads of America and Racing Capital of the World (if you’re into fast cars/big crowds/loud noise).

I’m writing to you from the region of the U.S. formerly known as the hot, humid Heartland. AKA the steamy/sticky/stifling Great Lakes states. Other aliases include:

The muggy, miserable Midwest;

The sweltering central region;

The sauna states.

Speaking of air, we’ve been running it 24/7 ’round here and don’t turn on the oven. Ever. (Fortunately, we have plenty of peanut butter and Lucky Charms. No one’s going hungry.)

But we are pretty sweaty. And flushed. And a little lightheaded.

Thankfully, we’ve had a four-day reprieve recently. It’s currently a balmy 77F. Never mind the air quality. (Currently a killer combo of pollen/humidity/manure stench.)

It doesn’t help that the heat index for the better part of July has fluctuated between St. Elmo’s Fire and Dante’s Inferno. I don’t know much about global warming and ozone layers and heatwaves, but I think I’ve got a fairly good idea of how it feels near the surface of the sun. Pretty sure we had a National Weather Service warning last week:

47% chance of spontaneous combustion.

My flowers (and my people) are wilting.

We’ve reached that point in the summer where my planters beg to be re-potted with asters or chrysanthemums or those crazy cabbage-looking plants (the unapologetic attention-grabbers in every autumnal arrangement.) Frankly, my Wave Petunias are no longer waving. Their limbs have gone limp. No more friendly “hello” on my front porch. Just a weary, withered sigh. Nearly all my flowers have shriveled and dropped… all but one. The lone sweltering summer survivor.

See?

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Most of its leaves are sad and droopy. They’ve lost all their lush-and-lovely. My poor petunias’ leaves are just barely… hanging… on.

Take a look.

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Those pitiful leaves got me thinking, though…

Have you ever looked carefully at the veins of a single leaf? Ever examine those delicate, web-like patterns and consider all the scientific processes and natural wonders that transpire within? I’ll be honest. I remember very little from the botany unit in my biology class. But here’s what I do remember: something kind of crazy and cool happens when a plant or tree is supplied with all the right stuff: soil, sunlight, water. The roots soak up water and minerals from the soil and carry them up the base and through the branches and into the leaves. And inside those leaves, a pretty magical process called photosynthesis takes place. The plant/shrub/tree gets energy, fuel to live and grow and produce flowers or fruit.  Oh, and it gives a little something back, too. Oxygen.

Bonus.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.  ~ Psalm 1:1-3

I think there’s a supernatural process that happens when we open God’s word and read it. When we receive it and genuinely believe it. When we ponder it and pray it. When we dig in, soak up, mull over. It energizes us. It becomes our life-fuel. It powers and propels us. And protects us too. When we’re nourished by it, we don’t wither or wilt or shrivel up or dry out. We live and grow and bloom and bear fruit. We prosper.

Lush and lovely.

And then another crazy cool thing happens. We start to really dig it. Delight in it. Crave it. Cherish it. We make discoveries and mine gems. We get comfort, gain strength, glean wisdom, find healing and help and hope. And then, invariably, we get distracted or discouraged or busy or (let’s be honest) bored. We get complacent or overconfident or a little too comfortable, and we stop digging in, soaking up, mulling over. We get undernourished. And we start to wilt.

Just like my petunias.

But here’s the good news: Withering leaves perk up pretty quickly when they get a good soaking.

So, drink up…perk up… and prosper. In every season and all kinds of weather. Always.

Forever a flower child,

Wendy

P.S. To all my fellow flower-children feeling wilted or withered by heated circumstances or a season of drought, keep trusting the Master Gardener. He’ll take good care of you. Promise.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.  ~ Jeremiah 17:7-8

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A Rescue Like Me

My dear reader,

One year ago, my daughter’s long-held wish came true.

For nearly half her life, Chloe had been begging, pleading, and praying for a dog. Her pleas were passionate. And persistent.

And she just… kept… pressing.

Over time, I began to crack. Usually I’m the tough nut. But when it comes to living, breathing, warm-blooded creatures (both great and small), I’m a marshmallow. A sweet, gooey, mushy mess. All day long. And twice on Sunday, thanks to Jesus. (And Pastor Curt.)

Steve, however, was adamant. No dog. Our first dog, Roxy, was neurotic, epileptic, an incessant barker, beggar, and licker. Steve has not yet fully recovered.

In the sixth grade, Chloe wrote a four-page persuasive essay detailing all the emotional, physical, and mental health benefits of pet ownership including (but not limited to):

  • Companionship
  • Physical activity
  • Sense of security
  • Social-emotional development
  • Therapeutic support
  • Stress relief
  • Longevity

With a flourish, she presented her paper (grading rubric attached) to her dad. Her well-researched, compelling essay had earned an A+ (and heartfelt sympathy) from Mrs. Dalton.

But Steve was unmoved.

Despite this apparent setback, Chloe was undeterred. She penned a long letter to her dad and me informing us that depriving a young person of a pet is practically child abuse. (She may or may not have forwarded a copy of the letter to DCFS.)

Steve – still – did not budge.

I, on the other hand, had warmed to the idea. Not only that, but I’d been frequenting Petfinder.com searching adorable (housebroken) dogs. And sweet-faced (vaccinated) puppies. Preferably small/medium-sized. And non-shedding. Within 50 miles.

To cover my tail/trail, I cleared my browsing history daily… and didn’t breathe a word to my kid. Or my man.

As time went on, Chloe adapted her tactics. In addition to impassioned written pleas and strategically-placed paperbacks (Shiloh, Sounder, My Dog Skip… you get the idea), Chloe continued her ongoing verbal appeal. She entreated her dad early and often. And then one day, she gave Steve her very best pitch:

Dogs are excellent mood boosters. And crumb cleaner-uppers. And stranger-danger detectors.

The girl had a point.

I became her ally in the Canine-for-Chloe Campaign. And I pulled out all the stops:

I slyly reminded her of the therapy dogs that visited when she was hospitalized with double pneumonia one Christmas. Those daily doggie snuggles from a little Lhasa Apso named Halle Berry and Charlie, a lovable Labradoodle, were the highlight of her stay in the PICU. Well, that and our New Year’s Eve party in her room, which featured a screening of “Cars 2” and a coloring contest. And cupcakes. Just a little sugar buzz to accompany the IV drip.

(My highlight was her discharge.)

During that terrifying, death-defying week, I witnessed again the astonishing restorative properties of two simple things:

Prayer.

And puppy love.

Chloe fell hard for those animal therapist/canine convalescent caregiver/furry friends. And as a result, the pursuit of her own true (tail-wagging) love became her singular focus and fixation. She became obsessed with all things pooch-related.

You might say she was like a dog with a bone.

(Sorry. That was uncalled for. Bad metaphor. Just… no.)

She hounded us incessantly.

(Oops. I did it again. Apologies to you and Britney Spears.)

It wasn’t long before my Petfinder search filters yielded a nearly perfect match.  Eight- to ten-week-old puppies, medium-size, non-shedding, currently being fostered by Tails of Hope Rescue. Chloe locked eyes with a brown-eyed boy named Simba (one of 9 puppies in the “Lion King litter.” Obvs.) It was love at first sight.

Even Steve – the last and lone holdout – couldn’t resist. How could he?  Look at this face.

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And next thing we knew, we were driving to Cincinnati (119 miles, but who’s counting?) for a puppy meet-and-greet. Less than three hours later, we had officially adopted our lab/terrier/beagle/who knows what else (read: mix/mutt/mongrel) puppy, purchased $327 worth of pet supplies, and decided that his rescue-given name (which we had originally planned to change to Dash) fit him perfectly.

In less than 180 minutes, little Simba had already become our prince.

Puppies have a way of doing that, I guess. And our boy was no exception. He wiggled and wagged his way into our hearts… and before he finished his first bag of grain-free, protein-plus puppy chow, we were completely smitten. His unconditional love, endless affection, and unwavering devotion made the bad days bearable and the good days even better. And his protective instincts and sensitivity made us feel safer and more at ease. It didn’t matter that he doubled his “estimated” full-grown size. And shed like crazy. (What can I say? Love is blind. And covered in dog hair.)

Not long after we adopted Simba, I started noticing the bumper stickers of fellow doggie devotees:

Wag more. Bark less.

You had me at WOOF.

My dog is smarter than your honor student.

The more people I meet, the more I like my dog. 

It was ME. I let the dogs out.

(My personal favorite.)

Then one day, I saw a cute paw-print bumper sticker that read:

Who rescued who?

Grammatical error notwithstanding, it made me smile. Because it was true.

We had rescued Simba from a wire crate where he had no freedom and a precarious future. We “sprung” him from a steel trap… and spared him a (likely) lethal injection. But within a few short weeks, our sweet, playful pup had all but returned the favor. Simba rescued us from all kinds of things (sadness, stress, strain and duress). In all kinds of ways. (Fetch, sit, snuggle, lick… wag, wag, wag.)

Why? Who knows. Maybe it’s just animal instinct. Or maybe it’s bone-a-fide 😉 gratitude. Or perhaps, a little of both.

Who hasn’t been captivated by a gripping account of a daring search-and-rescue? True stories of gutsy rescuers and grateful survivors glue us to our screens and give us hope. They make our hearts pound and our spirits soar.

And they make us realize… that we all need to be rescued somehow.

From danger or sickness or strife or fear. From loneliness, uneasiness, or emptiness. From adversity.  And sometimes… from others.

Or ourselves.

It wasn’t until we adopted our puppy that I realized the glaring truth about my own life.

I’m a rescue too.

Once upon a time, I was beholden, bound, doomed. And in dire need of a Rescuer.

So I greet you with the great words: grace and peace! We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we’re in by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God’s plan is that we all experience that rescue. Glory to God forever! Oh, yes! (Galatians 1:4, The Message)

Oh, yes… indeed. I am more grateful than ever to the One who rescued me.

And overjoyed that my girl finally got her wish.

Grace and peace and puppy love,

Wendy

P.S. I don’t know if all dogs go to heaven. But I sure hope ours does. (Yours too.)