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Category Archives: Shih Tzu Shenanigans

Run Like Holly

Run Like Holly

I had just finished reminding my children to be careful with my cousin’s beagle Holly. She has some spinal issues that give her pain once in a while. We’re used to being rough and tumble with our ornery Shih Tzus, but around Holly, we aim for being more delicate.

Imagine my surprise when, outside, Holly suddenly took off in a beagle dash across the side yard, giving chase like there’s no tomorrow.

I got the distinct feeling she was giving us her best, showing us what she could do, impressing us.

How does a fragile dog suddenly pick herself up and run like a strong, youthful puppy?

Motivation. Who is she running for?

Where does she get the sudden strength when she’s otherwise a bit weak?

That’s an interesting question, isn’t it?

How about you? Who are you running for?

What motivates you to be your very best?

Like Holly, I’ve been a bit Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Removing Unwanted Layers

Removing Unwanted LayersIn light of the recent “National Dog Day,” I was reflecting on my newly shorn Shih Tzu Samson. Like his namesake in the Bible (Judges 13-16), he is strong and very hairy.

(If you’re not a dog fan, hang in there…I’m going somewhere with this—and as a sidenote, how can you not be a dog fan? Wink.)

My daughter and I spent an hour and a half one day out in a doggie-gated area of our backyard taking the clippers to our resident fuzzball. It was mother-daughter bonding time: many laughs over our mild-mannered but fed-up Samson. He was mostly patient as we practiced our haircutting skills, trimmed a little more beard here and there, gave him a manly tail shape, and assessed where we missed and he still looked a bit shaggy.

But under all that hair was a robust dog, strong and youthful, playful and now much cooler. Our home isn’t air-conditioned, so I could almost see Samson breathe a huge sigh of relief, pant a little less, and feel a bit more spry with the weight of his “wool” off. He looked like a lamb, fresh from the shearing.

Oh, Samson, Buddy! We forgot how unencumbered you are without the heavy weight of your hair! How free! How cool! How lovely!

I thought about myself and others carrying around burdens. Maybe you are too. I considered what we look like—even feel like—when we take a few layers off, when we start stripping off the layers of worry and care.

Granted, we cannot always do that. We all have responsibilities and commitments, right? We can’t simply “drop hair” like Samson and now run about footloose and fancy free in the yard.

Or can we? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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My Master’s Feet

My Master's FeetThe other morning I thought I’d start work early so I could spend most of my
day with the kids, who are now on summer vacation.

As I sat down on my IKEA chair, my Shih Tzu Delilah jumped up to sit at my feet on the ottoman. Her barrel-chested brother Samson, a few pounds heavier and a bit more awkward, couldn’t leap up to join her, so he pawed my arm and whined for several minutes until I heaved him up. This time he didn’t want her company. He wanted to be close to me.

He immediately resituated so he could lick my bare feet and then laid his soft, teddy-bear head against them.

I believe this was Samson’s way of snuggling in, receiving reassurance, tapping into my “master love.”

Oh, Samson, Buddy, what a parallel I draw here. Thank you for being my morning muse.

[Samson’s sister likes to lick laptops. Yeah, dogs are weird.]

How much I am like Samson! When I wake and know my Master is with me, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Licking Laptops—and Other Things in Our Way

Licking Laptops—Nothing quite says “laptop” like the local coffeehouse. It’s one of my favorite places to flip that puppy open and work on social media marketing, read articles about the publishing industry, check out a new profile on LinkedIn, or pin that recipe. I’ll admit, when I’m “taxi parent,” I flip it open more frequently at the karate dojo, in the car outside the dance studio, or at the occupational therapist’s office waiting on my son.

But I was at home one day when I started settling into a good writing groove in my favorite-and-very-old IKEA chair, feet propped up on the ottoman. Suddenly, I heard some slurpy noises. As I peered around the screen of my laptop, it turns out that the Almighty Glowing Apple was getting a good lick on the other side of my creative mind flow.

I hadn’t even noticed my Shih Tzu Delilah by my feet showing her puppy affection for my MacBook Pro. She has a way of claiming space on the ottoman like a stealth fighter pilot. (Meanwhile, her brother Samson was on his bed, as usual, sending peaceful snores into the air to a rhythm that sounds so much like “Billy Jean” that I keep looking for the trademark white glove. Pretty sure I saw him slide backward with each snuffle, though.)

My dogs would lick every inch of our arms, faces, feet, etc., if we let them. There are several different reasons why dogs lick. I think my dogs primarily show affection that way.

But, why, oh why, did my 12-pound Shih Tzu lick my laptop?

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When We Humans Find Ourselves Barking at Everything

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My otherwise laid-back, lazy, happy-go-lucky Shih Tzu Samson couldn’t care less about much most days. The world goes on around him, and he sometimes gets up to engage, but he’s often very content just to lay in his warm bed and give us a toothy grin or a quick glance of acknowledgment. Unlike his high-strung sister Delilah, he is easy to be around, low-maintenance, easy-going.

Except when he perceives something different outside as a threat. 

Usually this is a trash tote at the end of my neighbor’s driveway or a lawn mower my husband left out in the yard for a time. Sometimes it’s a squirrel, turkey, or deer, but most of the time it’s an inanimate object casting a shadow that isn’t usually there and therefore is a threat.

Samson can sit at our window-paneled door for 20 minutes solidly barking away at said “threat.” I often wonder if he finds it confusing that the trash can and/or lawn mower don’t therefore scurry immediately off—or at all.

And when I watch him going crazy for a while, spending all of whatever little energy he has being fierce protector against a mythical enemy, I see myself.

I see all of us.

How often do we, in times of stress, bat at everything in sight in front of us, viewing everything as a perceived threat?

How often do we live in attack mode, ready to pounce? This subject is touched on in “What Scaring Turkeys and Catastrophic Thinking Have in Common,” but looking at it from a slightly different angle: Whom are we screaming at, coming against, jumping on, cutting off, and defending ourselves against, when really, that person is just a lawn mower—coming to, of all things, mow the lawn?

I think so often we do this to those closest to us, with whom we are most comfortable, because we know they’re here to stay, and we need to attack something, after all, and they’re a ready, available, easy target. But I also think we run around in times of stress seeing everyone and everything as the enemy, against us, ready to snatch our time, money, or resources. Dumb as it sounds, it could be the driver in front of us some days whose mission, we’re convinced, is to keep us from getting to that appointment on time. (Yeah, because we know perfect strangers wake up every day plotting to make our lives difficult.)

Or maybe it’s the child coming into the room for math homework help when we finally sat down to pay a bill that’s overdue. Or maybe we just took our first few sips of coffee that afternoon? Maybe we were about to “get our peace on,” and they came into the only time of quiet we have had all day.

Could it be the phone call coming in from a friend who might need help? Do we see that as a drain, a struggle, a time suck, a distraction, keeping us from something else? Something we are frantically trying to cross off our to-do list?

What about the well-meaning neighbor kid coming to the door to sell popcorn for a cause? Is it his fault dinner is burning, our phone is ringing, the toilet is clogged, and the husband is home late?

How about the husband who just walked in the door and straight into Mama Rage without warning because an injustice in the kids’ world needed to be set right, and he’s the first adult she encountered since her anger started smoldering?

Not always, but often, our short, sharp, barky replies in response to anything that moves—or even things that don’t but we think they should!—are the result of us being way…too…busy and overplanned. And when we realize for a fleeting second that we are not God and can’t possibly accomplish all we set out to do that day, we notice we actually have no margins. Life quickly becomes ugly, frantic, stressful, and impossible, really. Nothing feels doable. Even the next crisis needs to take a number. We simply have no room for anything extra to squeeze in and need our attention.

Everything unplanned is “in the way”—and therefore barked at.

We are edgy, grumpy, short-of-temper, and really of no use to anyone.

Maybe that is never you. Or maybe you are around someone who is stuck in this rut and can’t see the light leading him/her out.

The first step is recognizing we have our bat out and are taking a good, solid swing at everyone in sight. (That might feel good in the moment, but we leave scars and dents all over the place that we later have to deal with. They don’t usually repair on their own, as I’m finding out.)

The second step is breathing deeply, being still, taking a moment to regather our thoughts. Pretzel breathing has become one of my new, closest friends. We need to clear our heads and allow for some self-reflection. Taking a few steps back can help us to see at whom and what we are slamming and to decide if that is truly warranted (it rarely is).

Third, for my family, we believe we need to ask God to cleanse our hearts:

Psalm 139:23-24, David speaking ESV
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 51:9-12, David speaking, ESV
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

and bring us fresh peace: 

Psalm 29:11, David speaking, ESV
May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! 

Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah speaking, ESV
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

John 14:27, Jesus speaking, ESV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Philippians 4:4-7, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. For us, these verses give us hope that we can stop barking. They offer a fresh start after repenting and then getting our peace on.

We’re not really in control, and barking and swinging are mere attempts to try to grab some control, order, and structure back. What we really need is to be still, examine ourselves, ask God to examine us, and let His peace wash over us to refresh us for the next thing coming our way.

Spoiler Alert: The “next thing” might not be in order on our list. It might very well be an interruption. Either way, we need His peace to keep us from sitting at the door ready to attack anything walking or standing by.

I’d rather live employing defense when I need it and not remain tense and rigid in a constant posture of offense. What about you?

Referring to this book again, because it’s pretty awesome:
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem 
by Kevin DeYoung
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/

 
 

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“Good Thing” Hoarders and Longing for the Orange Pig: Thoughts About Exclusion and Inclusion

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This title is obnoxiously long. I realize that. It’s really wordy, unclear, and very jumbled. I thought about defining it in fewer words and decided to leave it. It says exactly what I want to say. Here’s why…

My dogs are obsessed with rubber squeak toys. I could put five different ones on the ground, but they go after the same one: the orange pig. And it never fails that my petite Shih Tzu Delilah claims it first and fiercely guards it, snapping at Samson if he comes anywhere near. He is 1 1/2 times her size, also a Shih Tzu (from the same litter…can you say co-dependent?), hefty and solid, but he is more passive and happy-go-lucky. She burns her calories being high-strung while he patiently waits until he has the good fortune of her taking a paw off the toy. She will go so far as to hide it in our shoes. She doesn’t always have to have it. But she definitely doesn’t want him to.

Hmmmm.

Often I see her lying there, paws guarded on top of the toy, while Samson lays in front of her, patiently waiting. He has longing in his eyes, and perhaps a bit of calculation. But he measures his moments. He is content to hang there a while until she lets down her guard or gets her possessive behavior better under control.

I love Samson for this—not so much the coveting, but the patience. He is a gentle dog, willing to take second to her more demanding nature. And while sometimes we find ourselves cheering him on to be more assertive, his quiet spirit draws me in.

So I ask myself, as I watch them, how many of us are Delilah? We hoard something we want to keep to ourselves, and we don’t want to share. I see this a lot in various contexts. Not in my particular church fellowship, but just in general, I see people not want to share the fellowship or youth group they are going to so they can keep that to themselves. Or, they want to keep their ministry small and exclusive so that they can stay intimate. I get this on some level, and in a support group or even private prayer setting, that is very healthy and appropriate, but in most other settings, my feeling is: Hope, love, grace, and peace are to be shared. Jesus is to be shared.

Or, taking it out of the church sector for a minute, they want to invite this friend to join the soccer team but not let this other one know about it. I’m not talking about keeping a birthday party limited to 10 close friends. We do have some limits we have to set. We also can’t include everyone in everything. It’s more about hoarding what is good and not wanting to share. It’s more about being inclusive in our lives, rather than exclusive.

There are other people out there, like Samson, longing for the orange pig. They are looking at us, patiently, knowing we have something good, and they want to know about it. If we have peace, why shouldn’t we share it? Or a good event/activity to go to? Why rule someone out just because we want to keep it to ourselves?

Perhaps the Good Thing Hoarders (we all do this from time to time) are afraid if we share it, there are fewer pieces of the pie for us. Maybe we think the people we bring along will look for all of their answers and peace in us. At the root of it, that seems a bit arrogant to me when we do that. It’s assuming we are always fully responsible for or the answer to someone else seeking something. Maybe they want to come along and connect with others beside ourselves. But why should we ever keep them from something good? Why do we think we get to decide who should be invited? These are questions I ask myself every time I personally hesitate to include someone in something and also during the times when I feel excluded.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are in a larger group setting and make indirect, private jokes or references to a different group they are a part of—but others in the room are not invited. Referencing shared moments publicly about that awesome moms’ group we are a part of may not be appropriate if we aren’t open to others joining us. Or, even better, let’s reference it and then invite!

If we have the orange pig (my silly example), and we have a chance to take a paw off it and invite someone to enjoy it also, why do we hold on so tightly, like my puppy Delilah? There are so many Samsons out there looking at us and wanting some access to the peace that we have, or the happy event that we’re going to. I believe we are so wrong when we rule out inviting them or do not open ourselves up to letting them join.

For those of us who trust in Christ, the orange pig analogy in this case is the truth and peace of Christ. I think sometimes we love it so much we don’t want to share it because we want it all to ourselves. But God is enough for the whole world. We need to take a paw off (not both) so people can see what’s under it: the amazing Good News that we have in our lives. If we shut people out of our ministry, small group, event, youth group, you name it, we are selfish Delilah holding on to what isn’t really meant to be just ours.

I encourage people both in their everyday lives of activities (non-faith-based), and for those who love Christ, in their faith-based activities, to open it up. Take a paw off. Love bigger. Open the doors wider. Hearts hurt around us all of the time wanting to be included, accepted, loved, trusted. Not everyone will jump in with the same level of commitment, but it’s not up to us to decide that.

Let’s not hoard the good things in our lives. There are some unhealthy people to keep boundaries with, yes, but excluding folks just because we want both paws on is a grievous error. We only have these good things because the Father gave them to us. I don’t care if it’s a soccer team or a Girl Scout club or a ministry. People hurt when we keep both paws on.

Where can we invite, welcome, incude, or accept a “Samson” who wants access to the good things we ourselves enjoy but isn’t going to force his/her way in?

James 1:17, James, brother of Jesus, speaking

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

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Photo credit: B. Brown, The Crate Escape

 

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Eating the Mail: The Daily Intake of Negative

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I know to quickly investigate whenever I hear a certain sound in my family room: a mad shuffling of padded feet and hyped-up puppy energy that exceeds moderate enthusiasm about food being poured or a toy being fought over. My 11 month old Shih Tzus, Samson and Delilah, have a unique way of expressing their angst or frustration after a morning in their crates when I have to leave the house.

They eat the mail.

You may ask why I am dumb enough to leave it where they can get to it. That’s a legitimate question. Really, I would ask it too.

But to answer it, I first have to paint a little picture that so many people who have children or work with kids will understand.

You walk into the house for the first time in hours, carrying bags of groceries, laptop bag, mail in your mouth, sunglasses maybe on your head or hanging from your collar, having just fought your way through the madness of three poorly timed traffic lights at your town’s main intersection after parking-driving on highways at 5:30 PM in your very densely populated part of the country. And as soon as you walk in, you hear this from the other room from the kid working on a project with no supervision whatsoever since you were just in traffic, remember?: “Mom! So glad you’re home! The glue gun is stuck to the couch, for some reason, and I think there may be a black mark where it was sitting.”

Okay, so that’s not the exact scenario. I am taking some creative license to protect the (not-so-) innocent, but it was close enough.

What do you do in that moment? You drop the mail currently in your teeth. With any luck, you drop it on the end table and not the floor, but you’re only human…

So back to me, and not the hypothetical you…After dealing with hot glue gun fun, I heard the crinkle and jittery excitement of two dogs getting away with something, completely delighted with themselves—until I walked in. Then, Samson did the guilty shake-wag, demure Delilah pranced cockily past me but away from the paper, and he dove in one last time to get another mouthful of the energy bill, the medical insurance’s twelfth notice about seeking annual information that hasn’t changed, and the political mail of people I don’t know and don’t care to read their slander-marketing (in most cases, not all).

So, you know what, Samson and Delilah? Go ahead: Eat the mail! Nothing in there really feels like a loss to me. If the bright, photo-quality flyer from the local fitness company appeals to you, chew away. Do I look like I’m ever headed there, third latte of the day in hand, elliptical machine used as a coat rack?

But really, there is a lesson in this silly tale, besides the fact my unruly Shih Tzus could use some training classes.

We eat the mail every day.

We take in the negative reports from nonstop news feeds. We suck in gossip. We assume the worst without fact-finding first. We take what the media feeds us and swallow it whole because we get so much information at once, we don’t have time to sort it, like partly chewed morsels of sludge. Not that it’s not important to inform ourselves. But we honestly feed on a lot of negative every day. You can’t check out of a pharmacy without the latest celebrity mishap, fifth marriage, 15th botox treatment, recent infidelity.

If we aren’t careful about what we take in, it can make us pretty skeptical, nervous, disillusioned, and even bitter. We can start to believe that no marriages work, everyone cheats, all politicians lie, suicide and pills are the only answer, hope doesn’t exist.

It’s a luxury for us to sit at the table, or desk, and feast on this stuff. If we lived in a war-torn country, we’d have plenty of reality to more than match the nonstop ticker going across the screen of a world news channel. How do we stay in touch with events around us without getting sucked under into complete hopelessness?

The world we live in now tells us within 30 seconds of news going on around the world with live streams of current events. I’m not sure we were meant to know all of this at once. It’s almost like building the Tower of Babel again and seeing out all around us, giving us a sense of all that’s going on but we’re really not in control of it (but often think that we are).

Technology is an awesome thing, and certainly we’ve made advances in being more prepared and informed. It is extremely helpful to know a current crisis in the Middle East where we can send aid, pray, promote causes, rally volunteers. That’s the hope to spread into the dark. But the intake can be too much at times. It needs balance.

When the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, I had several friends engulfed in unrelated personal circumstances or depression, and reading the updates on that was just too overwhelming. I encouraged them to get a quick dose of news, only if they felt they had to, and stay off the news feeds. It’s not about making us comfortable and not having to think about awful events going on around us. It’s more about not letting darkness move into our heads and start hanging up pictures.

My husband can watch it and stress on the level of world political events, while I sit and tremor that there is always another murder victim, human trafficking story, Christian martyr, scary virus, genocide, school shooting.

But for every act of evil, good still rallies. People rise up to fight against it.

What do you think? How do you find balance?

For me, I have to look up. This world just doesn’t make sense to me without looking up and understanding it in the context of man wanting to be God so long ago in the Garden of Eden. We are still trying to be God and take control, and it has erupted all over in the form of violence, war, and atrocious acts of abuse and enslavement, because, unlike God, we are not all good. We do not handle power well. We don’t have the big picture. So, I watch moderate amounts of the news. I’m not afraid to discuss current events. But I also measure each piece against my faith that God is at the helm and “has the knowledge of the Holy One,” and that I lack all-seeing understanding and wisdom, no matter how much this modern culture, with its endless live streams, thinks that we can see all things from the top of our imagined tower.

Proverbs 30:1-16

The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh—an inspired utterance.
This man’s utterance to Ithiel:

“I am weary, God,
but I can prevail.
Surely I am only a brute, not a man;
I do not have human understanding.
I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
Surely you know!

“Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

“Do not slander a servant to their master,
or they will curse you, and you will pay for it.

“There are those who curse their fathers
and do not bless their mothers;
those who are pure in their own eyes
and yet are not cleansed of their filth;
those whose eyes are ever so haughty,
whose glances are so disdainful;
those whose teeth are swords
and whose jaws are set with knives
to devour the poor from the earth
and the needy from among mankind.

“The leech has two daughters.
‘Give! Give!’ they cry.

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’

 

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