Misty, our Shepherd/Husky, unexpectedly joined my family in 1996. She was three weeks old when tragedy struck her. Misty’s mother’s owners were backing down the driveway and accidentally hit her, and she did not survive. Three-week-old Misty was alone and needed a family. My first husband brought her home one evening, unannounced, and undoubtedly unplanned.
She was timid but playful and happy the minute she joined us. At three weeks old, however, she was not at a point in her life where she was ready to venture out alone. She needed a Mother. I immediately signed up for that position. In the days and weeks that followed, Misty had to be touching me at all times. She would sit on my feet as I was standing at the sink washing dishes, she would lean against my leg as I was talking on the phone, she would be at my feet or on my lap in the evenings watching TV.
Misty doubled and tripled in size rapidly and had a typical German Shepherd bark, which made her a great protector in the house. My son, David, Misty, and I learned many Obedience Training skills as we practiced simple commands and leash training. At the end of each Obedience class, the other dogs would run free and bark and jump and have fun playing. Misty, in all of her Shepherdess and big bark, hid behind my knees. She was such a softy.
Playful, fun, happy, and obedient are all adjectives that described our little girl in a doggy body (a phrase coined by our youngest daughter, Mandy). She, however, had a small streak of playful resistance that would occur occasionally. When she was outside and went beyond her boundaries, I would call her back. She would turn around and look at me, laugh, and turn and run. Misty was just like me.
As a youngster, I can think of many instances where I would turn and run and have a little battle of wills with my Mother, Grace. She would point her finger at me, and that’s all she needed to ‘not’ say. I would laugh and run, just like Misty.
I have a very vivid memory of one Sunday morning in church. My Mother and I were to be communion stewards. Our church held communion as a group. Congregants would come forward and stand at the communion rail on either side of the long altar, kneel when directed by the pastor, and take the bread and cup when directed. As a 13-year-old girl would understand it, the communion stewards’ responsibility was to take the very long table cloth covering the communion elements off the rail and fold them. When Mom would direct me to fold to the left during our solemn offering to do this, I went right. When she instructed me with her eyes to fold right, I would go left. I began to giggle as we were most definitely in a battle of wills in front of the church. She pointed her finger at me. The Point of Grace, in front of the church, left me feeling a little ashamed. That was the last time I was a communion steward with my Mother, but my winsome manner that Sunday was a private giggle between us for many decades. I understood that it was probably not the time or place for my playfulness.
Even into adulthood, she would occasionally point her finger at me, and I would laugh and often go the other way. She knew that I respected her ultimately, but we both had a little spark of mischievousness in us; I suspect it was in my DNA. A little rowdy streak remains in me to add a little fun to almost all situations playfully. As Misty would laugh and turn and run and look to see if I was chasing her, I tend to be a little mischievous and winsome most of the time.
I believe God has a sense of humor, as He created us in his image. John had a picture of ‘Laughing Jesus’ in his office at our Church in Connecticut. I loved the idea of Jesus laughing, reminding us that it’s sometimes best not to take things too seriously. It’s okay to laugh, be a little winsome, and that helps to lighten the load. Laughing is good for the soul; and at times, it can be as sacred as praying.
I can only imagine Jesus and the disciples walking on the dirt roads together. I’m sure they were just a bunch of guys, laughing and kicking it up from time to time—practical jokes, laughing, as guys will do.
A sentence from Charles Swindoll’s book ‘Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life’ has never left me. “Pathetic indeed is the stern, somber Christian who has developed the look of an old basset hound through long hours of practice in restraining humor and squelching laughs.” While we are respectful in the fundamentals of Christianity and everyday living, I believe a little bit of frivolity and delight is an outpouring of our deep joy that escapes our hearts.
As I was growing up, my Dad’s side of the family had fourteen deaths in ten years. Each one was a tragic loss in and of itself. They included uncles, aunts, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Visits to the funeral home were frequent in my early years, and they were sad and tearful losses. In the midst of one of those visits, my large extended family sat in a room at the dark, scary funeral home. The stereotyped undertaker was tall, skinny, and had a spooky long face that caused the hair on my arms to stand on edge just being there. My Mom said, ‘I have a headache,’ and the scary undertaker in his deep, slow and eerie voice said, ‘Come with me, Grace. I have a room with plenty of coffins where you can lay down for a while.’ With a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face, Mom gave him ‘The Point of Grace’ and said she’d take him up on the offer. Suddenly, the whole room broke up, everybody was laughing, and the atmosphere felt a little lighter. The day was somehow easier to get through in the midst of loss and sadness.
The lesson I learned from my Mom that day was that we could find something funny in almost all situations. We carry a weight that burdens us down with seriousness sometimes that is very heavy to sustain.
In this time of Coronavirus for going on a year, fear, uneasiness, and weariness have played a significant role in our lives. We’ve grown tired of wearing masks, of not seeing our family and friends, and there are way too many empty chairs around our table this Christmas Season. Children are suffering by not being with their friends, and school in person. There is an over-abundant catalog of reasons to be heavy-hearted.
My prayer for all of us is to ask God to meet us at His point of Grace, where we are heavy-hearted and help to infuse some of that good Christmas joy, hope, peace, and love in abundant measures. Let us try to look beyond today’s darkness and focus on the many positives yet to come. So far in our lives, God has batted over a thousand in things that He’s gotten us through. This, too, will be counted as one of them, and ‘this too shall pass’.
Let us infect others with some of Misty’s frivolity, spread our resounding deep-rooted joy to help others who are carrying heavier loads than we are this year. Just for a little while, may we shine our light a little brighter to spread the real reason for the season around. May some days be merry and bright, and smiles are brought to our faces as we have memories of the wonder in a child’s eye, the noise, and confusion of many people around our table in years’ past, and enjoy those everyday miracles and bounty for which we are thankful.
Be blessed to be a blessing to others,