It had been raining all evening and our daughter, Hannah, had just sat down to relax and watch a little TV when her eyes were drawn to the window by another pair of eyes staring back at her from out on our deck. Nose pressed to the window, the stray dog begged her with his eyes to come rescue him. At first glance, this story may lead one to believe that this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between our family and this down on his luck mutt...
...I beg of you to read further... :)
While initially I had been drawn in by this dog and the way he would wait all day (sometimes by the front door facing the road) in expectation of our return, I soon began having to intricately plot both our plan of escape from our home and our hopefully, unnoticed return. In fact, it became such an ordeal to leave or return that I soon began leaving for the day in the early morning and finding things to do that would keep me away from the house until I absolutely had to be home in the evening.
We learned very quickly that this dog did NOT like to be left. While trying to get in the car to leave that evening, he came bounding around the side of the house, running full force and dodging past me to leap into the car claiming my seat before I could even get a foot in the door.
(in reality, this was NOT as endearing as it looks!)
After finally coaxing him out and everyone else squeezing in through barely opened doors, he began to circle our car so that I couldn't even back down our driveway. When he would pass between the front of our car and the garage, his larger than life shadow was cast on the garage door by the beams of the headlights making us feel like we were in a tense scene from a movie in which a family is held helplessly captive by some monstrosity of a beast as he circles, just waiting for the moment when human flesh will emerge. We finally were able to escape that evening by shutting him in our garage while we safely backed down the driveway. Our morning plan of escape began with us whispering and tiptoeing around the house as we got ready for the day in the hopes of not waking the sleeping beast out on our deck. I was having to add an average of 10-15 minutes to our schedule in order to still leave for school on time with the intricate planning of our escape. While the kids finished getting ready, I would sneak out to the car with their backpacks and anything else we'd need for the day and then back the car all the way down to the end of the driveway. This usually woke the dog as the sound of our garage door opening was like an alarm to him. I would race back into the house before the dog could come running around the side and throw open the door to the refrigerator in search of anything I could distract the dog with long enough for the kids to get into the car and for us to leave the driveway. On one particular occasion it was the homemade chicken noodle soup from our neighbor...this mangy beast was eating as well as we were! I would take whatever food I could find and stand at the door to the deck poised and ready while the kids assumed their positions at the door to the garage. Simultaneously, we would open our respective doors. I would toss out the food to the waiting beast and race back through the kitchen to join the kids in an all out sprint to the idling car. Most mornings we would make it before the savory treat had been consumed, allowing us to not have to repeat the whole scenario with something else found in the fridge. Upon our return, I would need to hold the dog off by swinging grocery bags or other such weapons and by angling my body in such a way across the doorway to allow for the safe passage of the kids while still keeping the dog out as he jumped and clawed all over me, desperate for a way in. It makes me shake my head to think of the daily entertainment we were providing for our neighbors had they been looking out their curtains. :) While we were at home the dog would circle the house, checking all the doors and windows he could reach, trying to find us. It seemed that any window or door we passed would have his nose pressed up against it. This became particularly unsettling at night when the last thing you'd expect to see while looking out the window would be another pair of eyes staring back at you. I mean, not that you'd expect that during the day either, ha! Just that something about the darkness makes one feel more skittish about such things. One can see why, after a few days of this, I began to find every reason not to go home.
(keeping an ever watchful eye on us as we prepared for our escape)
While the memory of our stalker dog will most assuredly provide lots of laughter (and relief that he has moved on) as our family reflects on it for years to come, it has also caused me to think about the broader idea of home and what at times can keep us from it...that perfect niche carved out in life just for us by the Creator who knows us best. The place waiting for us if we'll only trust God's plan enough to sometimes follow blindly where He leads, based solely on His promise to prosper and not to harm us.
"'For I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11
To me, home is not necessarily always a physical place where we eat our meals and lay our head each night. The idea of home goes beyond the brick or stone of a foundation to the roots we put down in a community, the time invested in a circle of friends and the things that surround us in the everyday that become familiar to us, give us a sense of continuity and security.
Before moving to our current home in Virginia, I was certain that God's plan for our family could not include pulling up the roots we had already spent years tending. It was this misled certainty that threw me into a tailspin each time my husband brought up the idea of a change. I recently looked back through my journals to the year that Matt first began to raise the idea of moving to Virginia. As I read through the cries of my heart toward God back then, I can easily see now how He was beginning to faithfully prepare me for expanding my idea of home and security...
9/17/03~God, I beg of You to grant me what you want to give me. There are so many things I want...both material and immaterial...but underneath my emotions, my anger, my selfishness and my mistrust I want what you really want to give me. I have to admit I'm afraid to even pray this because at the moment I'm feeling as if I will need to give up my house and many other things that I hold probably too tightly. Remind me, God, of your love and desire for what's best for me. Prove Yourself to me, so that my trust in You will grow...Let Your truth rearrange my priorities and change the way I think. Give me a heart filled with Your desires. Bless me for letting go, make Your will my prayer. Change my heart to not hold tightly to the things of this world...
9/22/03~God, I guess the one thing I desire above most is to feel settled, secure and to have a "permanent" home. It's possible my doubts about what You desire to bless me with have limited your goodness. Maybe my ideas of a home and security aren't exactly what Your ideas are. Align my heart with Yours in this area and help me to find that "settled-ness" that my heart longs for. Make a "home" for me that You desire...
10/25/03~God, You know the fear that may be holding me back. I fear the feeling of being unsettled and of leaving friends. Help me to realize that my fears are based on faulty beliefs. Don't let my fears keep me from Your best for me. God, if that means Lynchburg...ack!...so be it, but please change my heart in that area if it is Your will for us to go. Remind me each day that You are my security. Don't let me base my conclusions on simply how I feel. Give me the answers to Your true will for our lives as a family and then give me the strength to move forward in Your will. Release the power that my fear of insecurity and "unsettled-ness" has over me. Even now I'm resisting what may quite possibly be Your perfect will for me out of this particular fear. Take it from me...
11/21/03~God, You know my fears of leaving "comfort zones", most of those fears come into play when my security of home, friends and surroundings are threatening to change...help me to grow to a place where I will welcome discomfort as a chance to grow...
12/17/03~I was reminded this morning in Your word about how all Your plans for me are good and that they give me a hope and a future. I must not completely trust that since I am far from willing to jump headlong into something new, especially when it involves packing up and going somewhere else...especially when I feel so strongly about where you've put us now and the blessing of friendship we have here. God, I still hate the idea of Lynchburg and I don't know if it's my stubborn unfaithfulness or if it's really not meant to be, but my mind has not budged in the past months. Don't allow me to let this cause anymore strife between Matt and I. Help us both to see and hear You clearly. Please give us both a clear answer or let it lie peacefully until Your perfect timing.
That was over 8 years ago. In order to make what is already a lengthy story just a little longer :)...the short version is that from that period of time, God did indeed answer my prayer for a break in the strife caused between Matt and I over the differing opinions in our views for the future. Years would go by in which I knew Matt was still thinking of what "could be" in Lynchburg, Virginia but was patiently waiting for God to speak just as clearly to me. I have to admit I tried my stubborn best to keep my hands clamped tightly over my ears for quite some time in the hopes that I could quite possibly keep from hearing something I didn't want to hear. But God ever so gently and lovingly removed my fingers one by one and began to teach me that He could in fact be trusted...He did in fact want what was best for me...and He did in fact know me better than I knew myself.
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18
"We declare God's wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began...What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived - the things God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Corinthians 2:7,9
Now in the home we've found in Virginia, I look at all the ways God has blessed us here and shake my head at how I could have missed this home...I tried so hard to keep from coming here because of my fear of the unknown. I created a false security around me built on current circumstances that blinded me to the unseen blessings waiting for me here. I can't help but also think of home in the eternal sense. While I love where we are today, I want to be wary of keeping my eyes only on the temporal. It is my misguided faith placed in the temporary that makes me desperately cling to people or places in the hopes of finding security. I went out on a limb over 8 years ago and decided to give God the opportunity to prove Himself faithful in this area. While Matt and I can both attest to the fact that the living out of those years wasn't always smooth and comfortable in the moment, I can easily see as I flip through pages and pages of hand-written memories that God was always at work in the unseen and provided blessings in countless ways that I had never imagined with my limited vision of the future.
"And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them." Hebrews 11:15-16
What keeps you from home? Fear...? Pride...? Doubt...? Whether it's a physical place here on earth that would bring unspeakable joy and healing if we'd just surrender to the journey no matter how far, or our eternal home waiting for us in heaven...what is there to lose by surrendering to the One who sees beyond all we can see and goes before us to prepare a place with us in mind?
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." John 14:1-4
"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:16-21