Celebrating Our Stories – My Maturity Manifesto

She is clothed with grace and dignity, and she can laugh at the days to come.
(Sue’s paraphrase of Proverbs 31:25)

     I was thinking about the aging process the other day when Ron sent me photos he’d taken of herons while kayaking on Fernan Lake, east of Coeur d’Alene. I love herons. While I’m not ready to make that commitment, they may be my favorite bird.

     These three heron photos reminded me of my vision for aging well. A ‘Maturity Manifesto,’ I call it. I decided on the words several years ago while planning a 50th birthday party for a special friend.

I will grow old with grace, dignity and a sense of humor.

     You may or may not YET be able to relate to my commitment.

     Wherever you are in your aging journey, I hope you’ll enjoy these ‘Grace,’ ‘Dignity’ and ‘Humor’ herons. It’s never too soon to consider characteristics you’d like to define you as you travel into maturity.

I love and appreciate each of you. Even though we may have never met in person, you’re often in my prayers…

Sue Reeve

Celebrating Our Stories – Chapters Filled with Puppy Love

Seems as if I’m always mentioning some organizational project I’m tackling. Today’s post is something I found recently while organizing old file folders containing writings from the past. It brought back warm memories of a special part of my family’s story that was filled with ‘puppy’ love.

     I read one time that a Shi-Tzu chooses her family. That’s precisely what happened the day my husband, Ron, our then 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, and I drove 50 miles to check out a litter of puppies advertised in the local newspaper.

     The minute we walked into the room, the four-pound puff of wiggly silver fur, bounded over to greet us. Her sister, already promised to another family, gazed disinterestedly from across the room.

     It was love at first sight. After a few short minutes of cuddling, we turned over a check and headed home with the newest member of our family.

     We gave our new pedigreed pup a highfalutin, three-syllable name, but from the first day, we affectionately called her Muffie.

     In typical baby fashion, Muffie seemed to sleep all day and cry all night. Within a short time, our resolve to do otherwise dissolved, and for the next several years, Muffie slept contentedly on Sarah’s bed.

     Our house was only three months old when we brought the new puppy home. She quickly initiated the new carpet with little wet puddles, left scratch marks on several door bottoms and sharp teeth bites on more than one piece of furniture.

     We were convinced bad habits were broken when she entered doggie adolescence, barking rebelliously and reverting to even more naughty behaviors. Thank goodness, a wise friend counseled us to hang in there, assuring us by age two, Muffie would be an exemplary pet.

     Eventually, Muffie had our entire family trained. She defined our roles. “Daddy” played rough. “Mommy” was the soft touch on whose lap she jumped, cuddling closely, when she didn’t want to “go potty” on a chilly eve. Each day she waited for big sister, Sarah, who always greeted her eagerly when she arrived home from school.

     Muffie refused to eat popcorn without butter and salt. She preferred her carrots peeled. She waited patiently, eager to lick the dab of leftover ice cream. She jumped in excited circles, running to the front door whenever “Mommy” put on her sneakers.

     Muffie had an endearing little face, a beautiful shiny coat of black, grey and white hair and long fluffy tail. She returned from regular trips to the doggie salon with bows in her ears and coordinating bandana. She loved any opportunity to pose for a photo. Sarah’s high school graduation pictures were lovely, but the one the photographer chose for display was Sarah in her blue letter jacket with an adorable Muffie, decked out in matching accessories.

C:\Users\Sue\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Outlook\3DNL71HD\img063 (2).jpg

     One day Sarah left for college. When she returned home mid-term, Muffie decided it was too much work to climb stairs to Sarah’s bedroom, opting instead to sleep on the family room sofa. Eventually, jumping onto the sofa required too much effort. Instead she snuggled on her sheepskin blanket atop a giant pillow.

     We still called her “puppy,” but in reality, Muffie was an old lady. Before long, she either no longer heard the doorbell or it took too much effort to bark and run around wildly when it rang. Her eyesight dimmed. Cataracts, we were told. She developed a nasty endocrine disease. As it ravaged her 20-pound body, Muffie lost muscle, and her backbone protruded, resembling a ridge of mountain peaks. She began losing hair, and her once beautiful bushy tail resembled that of a rat.

     Our kind vet explained Muffie’s days were short. Although the decision was excruciating, our family agreed it was time to tell our beloved ‘puppy’ good-bye. Even though scripture does not indicate animals, like humans, possess an eternal soul, that didn’t keep me from praying for Muffie. I reminded God that He sees each little homely brown sparrow, so surely, He was aware of Muffie’s plight. I asked God to let her go quietly and painlessly. Although the process of saying our final goodbyes was heart-wrenching and tear filled, I believe God heard and answered my prayer.

     Sleep that night was restless, but as morning hours closed in, I had a dream. Muffie was in heaven. She was young and frisky. Her hair was thick and shiny, her tail full and fluffy. She walked about on streets of gold without a leash. Although she sniffed as she always had on our walks, I noticed, in heaven she didn’t stop to pee on every shrub.

     A heavenly tenant with a long, white beard who seemed quite important, gathered Muffie up and nuzzled his nose in her soft silky hair. It was a lovely dream—comforting and reassuring—I believe a gift from the “God of all comfort” Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 1:3. Ron and Sarah also received comfort from my dream. Sarah wondered, since he had been an animal lover, perhaps Noah was the heavenly tenant who’d cuddled Muffie! Her speculation made us chuckle.

     I shared my dream with a pet-loving friend who responded, “Someone once said to me that if heaven is everything good, then beloved pets will join us.” I’m not going to engage in any theological speculation about animals and heaven, but I do know that God’s creation, including our little dog, Muffie, is good.

     For 13 years a little Shi-Tzu’s antics and abundant affection enriched our lives. She taught each member in our family how to love better. Experiencing love opens our hearts up to special joys but also leaves them vulnerable to heartbreaking pain.

     But, wouldn’t our life stories be rather flat and beige if we didn’t allow love an entrance?

Blessings on you and any special pet that brings you joy…

Sue Reeve

Celebrating Our Stories – Choices Make a Difference

      In my last post, I discussed choices, using two people’s horrific experiences to showcase the power of our ability to choose. Today’s post is my personal experience about making a series of choices over a span of several years. I never cease to be amazed by the way God makes connections.

     I’ve been part of a local church since I was two-years old. Although I realize no fellowship is perfect, I love my family of faith. Many of my deepest and dearest relationships have been developed in that setting.

     If you have been or currently are involved in a church, you realize people attending come with a variety of passions, preferences and personalities—the perfect ingredients for conflict.

     Several years ago, music in Evangelical churches changed significantly. Many new Christ-followers were musically gifted but had never been part of a traditional setting where hymns were the musical choices in Sunday services.

     I remember well those days of change and passion-filled protests concerning music. I disliked the disagreements and one day determined I would NEVER complain about music in church.

     My resolve to NEVER complain was tested a few months ago when we attended church in another location. I loved the friendly, multi-generational and multi-ethnic congregation. But, oh my, the music was so loud that even my husband, an old rock-and-roller, told me afterward that when the decibel level of the music causes his shirt to vibrate, that’s too loud for him!

     I became aware of my critical thoughts about not only the loudness but because the worship band kept repeating the refrain from a Hillsong tune, “I Am Who You Say I Am,” which didn’t seem to make sense.

     While I wrestled with critical thoughts about the music vs. my commitment about complaining, I believe it was the Spirit who reminded me of 2 Corinthians 10:5: “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

     While I was trying to do just that, it seemed the Spirit also spoke into my spirit as the band once again interjected the song that seemed not to fit, “You are who I say you are?” I had no clue what the loud-music tug-of-war and spiritual encounters meant until the next morning when my husband and I traveled over a heavily trafficked two-lane mountain pass highway.

     I dislike two-lane roads because of a near-fatal car accident when I was 23 years old that happened on a two-lane highway. My face was smashed into a steel dashboard causing extensive head and facial injuries. I don’t remember the actual accident, but every time I travel on a two-lane highway, I feel deep inner tension and know my subconscious remembers.

     I also dislike heights. With the combination of two-lane highway and mountain heights, I felt the familiar fear building big time. Then I heard again the voice from yesterday. This time the voice’s message spoke into my spirit these words:

“You are strong and courageous!”

     2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Since that trip, I’ve traveled over other mountain passes and on two-lane highways. Each time, I’ve experienced the truth of this scripture.

     Recalling these unusual incidents, I’m reminded our choices make a difference. The choice I made many years ago to avoid complaining; the choice to listen to that gentle voice of the Spirit; the choice to corral my irritable—even justifiable—thoughts. Combined, these choices led to the blessing of at least a level of freedom from trauma that’s been buried in my subconscious for a very long time.

     I’m not yet ready for a drive up the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park, but if I do muster the nerve to do so, I know one thing: My prayer of affirmation on both the way up and way down will be:

Thank you, God, for telling me that who you say I am is Strong and Courageous!

Blessings as you consider your choices…

Sue Reeve