Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Joy comes in

This blog was inspired by my dog Bruno. Due to his extreme passion for hunting cats, Bruno has to live as a yard dog and is not allowed inside.  We made a dog house for him, okay we did not make it we tipped over an old water tank, cleaned it and put in a blanket. At first Bruno did not love his dog house, it was too far way from his people (us) so often he would choose to stay on the porch (even in the rain) in the hopes that his people would make their way out of the backdoor. We had however a very long rainy season and started to feel sorry for this foolish but loyal dog, so we moved his house to just off the porch. With his new vantage point he can see when his people come to the door and Bruno comes running! He finally takes shelter in the rain and I do belive he quite likes his shelter. I have included a picture of this house to show you how primitive it is, even just today when I took the picture there were grass clippings stuck to the inside walls of the house due to the humidity and a freshly cut lawn. It is not pretty, in fact it really ought to be called a shack, not a house.

I went outside last night to say hi, Bruno was not there.  He usually greets me at the door and then does a little dance with some awesome vocalizations, but this time, Bruno was no where to be seen.  I looked out into the dark and saw his curled up figure in his shack, I wondered why he was not coming to me. In the shadow I could see his little stump of a tail trying to wag, but nothing else. He has spotted me but still did not come running. It was then I decided to go to him, I made my way off and around the porch and to the opening of Bruno's shack. Grasping the tree in the doorway I crouched down and looked in. Bruno was lying comfortably but it was obvious he did not have the energy to get up. Bruno sufferers from arthritis  in his deformed hind legs. He was like this when we got him as a foster, and though he is  much healthier he is still feeling the effects of years of neglect and abuse in his first 7 years or so of life.

leaning in for a hug
 I was not shocked at his lack of energy, there was proof all around the gardens that he had been digging for lizards  all day, an activity I can imagine quickly catches up with his aged body. Seeing he needed some love and affection, I humbled myself, crouched even further, contorted my body and made my way next to Bruno. His stubby tailed wagged harder, yet he did not move. I reached over to stroke his back and he uttered a sigh of contentment. Soon after Bruno decided to move over so he could be even closer to me, it was a lovely moment during a the star filled evening. It was actually quite joyful.

Bruno is so happy to have a visitor

Here are two pictures we reenacted for the camera this morning as it was too dark for photos last night as it would have ruined the moment

As we we were just sitting there, I took a big breath and started to look around. I was sitting on a dirty blanket, leaning against a grassy, dirty wall and petting a dog that was still filthy from digging in the garden.  The more I thought about it, the more it was quite disgusting, but just then Bruno lifted his head and licked my hand. It was his way to say thank you and to show his appreciation for my visit to his domain. Any disgusting thought was vanquished and my heart filled with love and affection for this misshapen dirty dog whose only care in the world was to be shown love.

What struck me last night was this, If I were Bruno sore, dirty and in a shack I probably would not have desired any visitors, instead I would have shunned any offers and avoided any contact. I might have been ashamed that I did not have it all together, or that my house was out of order or too small, I would have been embarrassed at my appearance and I would have missed out on the joy that offered to come to me.

We do that with God. So often we think we need to have it all together to approach him, so often we avoid inviting him in because we are embarrassed with our current conditions. We think, when I get my family in order then I can talk to God, when I figure out my depression then I can talk to God, or when I know I can do more things for Him then I can talk to God. But that is not the case. God comes to u, He comes to sit with us dirt and all. Not only does he come to us, He humbles himself, gets dirty  and comes to see us in our current condition. no strings attached, joy comes to us.

I am so grateful for Bruno's example last night of just being himself. He reminded me that God is always with me, not just when I have it together. God  is particularly present  when I am particularly out of sorts. God brings me Joy when I need it the most, in the midst of life's messes.

thanks Bruno for showing me how to accept the Joy that is offered even when life is not perfect.

shine on my friends

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Swagga!! Do you have it?

I had an incredible opportunity to attend a women of faith event this weekend  with a group of some of the best women that God has ever made. I have so much to blog about and promise to continue my joy blog series in the near future but due to popular demand from the ladies surrounding me this past weekend here is my blog about our favorite teaching, swagga. The word  came from the amazing group Mary Mary (pictured below)  and stayed in our hearts  during the rest of the weekend.

 Swagga, what a strange word, most of us do not know what it is. It is derived from the word swag, which to most, including me, still requires some definition. Is it something you find in your home?  There is an architectural element that is called a swag but that is not what I learned about this weekend.   Is swag what celebrities get when they present for award shows?  S.w.a.g, also know as "stuff we all get",  are promotional items like diamond encrusted cell phones for Oscar presenters or free pens for signing up for a new credit card, that is Swag not swagga. Perhaps swagga is some different kind of language? Perhaps, but let me explain. Swag, according to the urban dictionary is: The way in which you carry yourself. Swag is made up of your overall confidence, style and demeanor. So yes, I guess that swagga is a type of language as it sends a message to others announcing what you know and believe about who you are.

Ever been alone in a crowded room and some one yells your name in recognition? That feeling, the  instant you feel included or appreciated, is swagga. Ever been in a restaurant and get noticed or talked to by the highly esteemed owner who treated you like a long lost friend? Remember the smile, the walk, the way you held your head high after that..that is a type of swagga. You were recognized out loud by someone of high esteem, that felt great. So how does this translate to a Christian women's conference? Are we not supposed to be all meek and mild? As Christian women we are to be a lot of things but being shy about who we are, no way. We are supposed to have swagga.

You can have swagga anytime anywhere. All you have to do is be proud of your status as daughter of the King, and you can show some swag. It is easy to show swag when you feel like you look good or have done something awesome, but that is not what I am talking about. The swagga in reference from this weekend  is the swag that comes from knowing you belong, knowing you have a place in this world and knowing who is your daddy! The world can so quickly strip away the swag we make ourselves, through criticism, unkind words or indifference. We can dive from head held high to nose on the ground hunched over posture in seconds when our homemade swagga fails. But the swagga that comes from knowing who we are in God cannot be taken. 

This weekend, we were reminded that we are known and loved by the very one who created us. The  people who cherish their relationship with God above all else have a swagga, the way the carry themselves is unexplained without God. Peace in the midst of a family turmoil? That is swagga, Joy in the midst of tears, Swagga! And you know that it is only swagga from knowing God that keeps people in their ability to face the unknown. People will notice and should notice a difference.  There is not audible voice causing others to turn their heads towards you, but others do recognize a difference when  joy and peace shines clearly in your life no matter what the circumstances.

I remember way back in high school, Jason, one of my guy friends asked me, Allie why are you always so happy? I believe he was not noticing my happiness but my joy. I did not correct him, I was kinda shy around boys, even those who were my friends but I knew the answer. I was exhibiting swagga from my relatively new faith in the Lord. To this day I still wish I was bold enough to say Jason, what you are seeing is God shining through me, thanks for noticing!

Time has flown by, but I still remember that day clearly. The world and time has done some damage on my swagga, I have let it get muddled with the temporary swagga from the world. I know my God given swagga can still shine brightly for it never loses light, but I am afraid that as the years have gone by  I have not let my swag out in public all that often. This women of faith conference challenged me to live boldly with the swagga confidence that can only come from the Lord. 

Isaiah 43:4 tells us what God thinks about His children:  
"you are precious and honored in my sight, I love you." 

Can it get any better than that, really can it? I think not. Everyone no matter who they are longs for acceptance and love, God generously gives this to all His children and in abundance. So hold your head high and walk with swagga 'cause you are loved and you are His!

Want to get swagga? true swag that cannot be tainted or taken by the world? Well just contemplate how if feels to hear God say, "hey..that 's my girl. I made her to make a difference, now taken notice!" Then walk with intention, head held high, knowing you have a place in this world. 

shine on and live with swagga!