I found this post I wrote 6 years ago about loving and leaving, filled with worry but also trust in God that the future would work itself out. Looking back on those years, I see how we struggled in mighty ways, how we relied on our faith and the prayers of our community relentlessly. The following is that story, from November 9, 2010.
Several years ago, Chef and I went to visit a home that advertised a Border Collie mix in the paper. We already had one who was hyper and we thought, wrongly, that getting another would give her someone to play with and burn some energy. As we circled the area downtown, I became skeptical, it was getting rougher by the block. What were we getting into? When we found the house and approached the door, we were startled to see a mangy, dirty mutt tied up out front, eating rocks and barking frantically. We tried to talk to the owner but she had no care or concern about the dog, couldn’t tell us much beyond the fact it was 10 months old and had been in 5 homes already. This woman never got off of her phone. Her small, dirty-faced, raggedy-clothed children wandered aimlessly through the duplex, unattended. It wasn’t the dog we wanted but we knew we couldn’t leave it there either. Without even a second glance from the owner, we untied her and put her in our car. She shivered and shook, looked at us with distrustful eyes the entire ride home. Chef dropped us off and went to work, probably feeling a bit relieved to have an escape from what was clearly a mess. I just kept looking at this dog and at our other, oh so beautiful full-blooded one and thought, “Well, I can give you a home I guess but I just don’t really love you…I don’t even like you. Your coat is ugly, it is so dirty and you are smelly.”
I set to work. I bathed her and fed her and let her sleep. We let her create a safe place just for her so the other dog didn’t bother her. She began to fill out and we discovered that her hair shone, really sparkled. I have never seen that on a real animal but it does. She flourished in this safe place, knowing her food was steady, her bed was secure. She clung to me, followed me everywhere, I was proud to show her off. One day we realized we loved her as much as the other dog, that all the nurturing back to health was falling in love time.
Our story with Mama is much the same. It just isn’t over yet. We took her in for a night and she stayed for 10 months. She came with a just backpack, as she left it took 2 trucks and 2 cars to remove all of her belongings. She came to us emaciated, broken down, scared and depressed. We love her and when you love your children, you have to say no as often or more than you ever get to say yes. I look forward to the day of saying yes, you can come back, we love you.
I have been blessed to love many pets but there will never be another like that one we rescued. I miss her still, my shadow, my sweet snuggler. I have two new beasts that I adore but my heart still belongs to that girl who needed so much nurturing to come into who she was and then gave back all that she had. Our friends and family have watched me invest the same amount of nurturing into Mama. They question the wisdom of getting involved again, many times I do as well. There are days when I am sure that I hate this child, I am so full of resentment, anger, frustration that I pray to never have to see her again. God ignores those prayers. He brought her into my life as surely as he brought my favorite pet. People aren’t so easily convinced that we have their best interests in mind, people don’t trust just because you give food and shelter. People just aren’t always lovable. I know this because I am so often not. Yet despite any efforts to protect my heart, I love this girl. The nurturing time long ago was falling in love time.
This young woman needs a mother, I long for my daughter. Neither of us are the one we would choose. We are each who God has provided. This week I am helping her plan a quick courthouse wedding, I am making food for the after party. Twenty excited phone calls a day asking about details, several lamenting the lack of interest from her mother, I can’t help but be reminded of Stella’s wedding that I was not included in. I am careful to ensure Mama’s mom has her rightful place, mine is very much behind the scenes. I know the hurt that comes from snap decisions about forever memories. Still, God just keeps throwing this young woman and me together, the seeds were planted almost 7 years ago. I look at how she has grown into a woman who truly sacrifices for her child, who tries so very hard to be the best mom. I see her doing it, all the hard stuff, telling him no as much or more than she tells my Plum yes. I see that she is maintaining her own home, feeding her child, attending parent-teacher conferences and acting as a real advocate for her son.
I don’t mean to compare Mama to a canine in any pejorative sense. I love dogs. And damnit, I love her. I let my actions tell her, I keep showing up with food and support, giving her a safe place for her emotions. I am trusting that God only asks that I love who He brings, He will handle the transformation into something beautiful. After all, I know He is still working on me. I am forever grateful for those who set aside frustration and anger and let me come back, time and again, as I grow into my own beautiful coat, shining with the love of Christ.