Author of: The Notes They Played - a lyrical collection of short stories & The Impossible - a what-if story of the triumph over fear

Sunday, November 3, 2019

MAXimilian Efemini 3/7/18 - 10/29/19

We lost our beloved puppy MAXimilian nearly a week ago.

He was such a sweet, sweet boy. He was smart and patient with the kiddos. He had abundant energy. He cuddled with us all, but loved me best. He was a pleaser, so perpetually obedient that I often joked, "he's my favorite child."

One minute he was here, being taken for granted by us all. And the next, he was dead in the street. Hit by a car. Lifeless on impact.

Because Hubby was only almost home, I had to pick up his limp, still warm body from the road. I had to wrap him in the blanket he came home to us in. The one that had the scent of his mother on it.

Yet, almost immediately, I thanked God. The thankfulness confounds me a little. Yet, there was so much to be thankful for, even in our devastating grief.

I thanked Him that my children did not see the actual impact. That his precious thirteen-pound body remained intact. That he died instantly. That he looked like he was peacefully sleeping in the road. The only thing betraying that illusion; the tiny pool of blood at the corner of his mouth. We were all home and able to cry together and each hold him in our arms one last time. We buried him together as a unit, each of us shoveling a scoop of dirt or two over him, in the hole that Hubby and my eldest dug. We mourned together - crying and hugging and speechless. For all of that, I thanked The Almighty.

Two of my children blamed themselves. Still blame themselves. They have taken it the hardest. They left the door open to go play outside and he followed them. They saw him in the road first. They "should have done something."

This is what I told them:
There was nothing to be done. God gives us all a number of days on the earth. No human hand can stop God's perfect plan. His timing is perfect. We had all grown comfortable in the fact that Max no longer ran away. And, we were all guilty of leaving that particular door open when it should have been always shut. Any of us could have left it open that day. It just happened to have been them.

I told them in the human mind, life is short. Way too short. Our loved ones are sometimes taken way before we feel it's time. Before we've said I love you, again. Before we've done one last wonderful thing for them. After we've said or done something horrible to them that didn't seem very horrible when we assumed they'd live forever. When they are gone, it seems like the most horrible thing we've ever done in our lives.

Privately, I thanked God for this too - the chance that my children had to see dead up close and personal. Painfully. Regretfully. Heartbreakingly. For the chance to see just how fleeting life is. I remember when my beloved Aunt Helen, sick in the hospital after her first major stroke, heard that her husband had lost his battle with cancer. Her first words were, "Gone with the wind." Such is life.

And, much the same way that I was able to observe my aunt, my kids got to see me mourn Max; to sob for him and hold gently a dead body. They saw my husband, who is often stoic, cry like a baby in front of them, caressing the remains of a dog that often annoyed him, who he mostly ignored. Emotions, they learned, are complex. And, then he shared with them, again, the tragedy of his life - when eighteen years ago he left for work and the brother he lived with seemed perfectly healthy. A few hours later he got a call that that very same brother, at twenty-six, was gone.

My kids, at fourteen, and twelve, and nine and seven got to experience all of that. I pray that they will now be more conscious of the things they say to others. That they will cherish the moments and be less annoyed with the ordinarily annoying ways of others. They will be more aware of the mortality of us all and the importance of loving everyone, every second they get to do so.

I thank God. I do. Even in my grief. My own sadness confuses me. Of course I cared for Max, and I truly I enjoyed him. I did not know the extent of my love for him, that it would be so difficult to fathom his mortality. That I would take a nap on the couch and think I felt his weight and warmth at my feet, even though he'd died the day before. He was a little over a year and a half. It's numbing, really, to remember that he is gone each time I consider him. My stomach still clenches when I pass the spot on the road in front of the house where he was found, where I had to pick him up. My heart aches for our sweet, sweet puppy, who loved us all, and who we all loved.

Still, I am so grateful.

In my desire to assuage my childrens' anguish, we've prayed unceasingly for comfort. I told them that God has a plan for us all and that His plan is perfect, although often impossible for us to understand. Then my flesh jumped in and I said one of the stupid things that humans often say when death strikes, I told them that we don't know if maybe God was trying to protect us from something that could have happened if Max had stayed alive; maybe he had some illness that would have caused us to watch him waste away and suffer for many months. This way, I told them, was instant and far less painful. Of course, it's ridiculous. I cannot even pretend to understand the ways of God or make sense of His plan.

But, my eldest made a much wiser application. He asked me if I'd noticed that Maxie was lighter after he died than he had been when we was alive. Yes, I nodded slowly. Yes, I remember he was. Although, at the time I hadn't paid attention. Yes, he was significantly lighter. It's proof, he said, that we do all have a spirit. And, Max's was gone. Our spirits have weight. They are tangible even if invisible.

One more thing I'm thankful for - confirmation. Here is this young man that I am trying to mold into a man that believes in and submits to and loves Jesus. And, in the moment of his greatest sorrow he to Jesus. He settled in proof of Him.

I love Jesus and thank Him for life, however fleeting, and the lessons that we learn from children.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 - Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. - Romans 8:28

Do We REALLY Know This?
I do know this. I do...But often I get so caught up in fleshly principle. I find myself saying, "I know, God, I know but he/she/they..." I fill in the blank with the ways that others have fallen short and need my guidance. I play God. I pretend that I know what's best for myself and for others. I fall back into my habit of fixing. 

He is the Miracle Maker!
But, when I truly surrender, miracles happen. I calm down. I speak love into someone else, even when they are making it hard to love them. I let go of my pride. I make an effort toward being like Him. 

Life Application I have been so frustrated with the process of getting my first novel published. Like so many people, I find comfort in the familiar. This process is remarkably different from my first publication experience. I have not, for the majority of this time, put my trust in Him. Instead, I have focused on all the ways that this probably won't work out. There have been many bumps along the road that have caused me to question my decision to put my book in the hands of this particular publishing company. 

Don't Judge a Publishing Company By It's CoverWhen the first book cover was submitted to me for my review and approval, it became painfully obvious that the persons responsible for the selection hadn't read my book. And, since the cover was passed on to me by my publication assistant, it became obvious that she had not read it either. What a bitter pill for me to swallow - that the people involved with the finishing touches meant to dress my book for the world hadn't even bothered to read it. Talk about hurt pride! 

I sent an email letting my assistant know that the cover would not work, and why, and waited for another cover. All while I waited, I worried and grumbled. I told myself that I would not be so patient next time. If the next cover was not appropriate, I would call her and give her a piece of mind.

When the next cover came, just as inappropriate as the first, I picked up the phone immediately. At some point between the dialing of the number and the voice on the other end of the line, I allowed His patience and peace to prevail. I asked important questions, but I listened more than I talked. My voice was measured, sweet even. And, not that disingenuous, condescending tone that I can be so masterful at. After the conversation was over, I sat stunned for a moment, wondering how I'd gone into the conversation with self-righteous anger and come out with a plan to help in the designing of my book cover. I know nothing about book cover design! 

I went into my photo gallery to find an old picture of my grandparents. If nothing else, I could at least show them the time period in which my characters lived. My book is very loosely based on their life, after all. In the process of searching for that old photo, I came across a picture and heard a voice say "This is your cover!" I nearly shouted for joy. 

First of all, I had no recollection of ever having seen that picture. I remembered that one of my cousins once did extensive research on our family history and sent out a few legal documents he found, and some pictures from newspapers and such. But I had no memory of THAT picture. It was like I was seeing it for the very first time. And, there is only on explanation for it - GOD.

I could have gone with my flesh; insisted that they were in the wrong, insisted that they find me a cover appropriate for my book, insisting that I'd done my job by writing and that they needed to do theirs. I could have shouted and demanded and threatened. I am capable of that kind of prideful behavior.

I believe I would have missed an opportunity to have the God-chosen cover for my book. I believe that when we submit to His example of peace and patience, we fend off the enemy, who seeks to destroy everything. 

I am here to be His reflection. I know that when I aim for that, amazing things happen.  I pray that I will try, continually, to keep my focus on loving Him and serve His purpose, instead of mine.