Sunnie, a yellow lab puppy, bounced into our lives in the summer of 2003. She was a tiny bundle of fur the day Chris, my husband, and I picked her up and she slept in my shoe on our forty minute ride home. I finally had her. The dog I always wanted. Yes! Sunnie and I were destined to be friends forever.
Our “friends forever” status was immediately challenged by one factor I never considered: her personality. Her alpha personality. Sunnie’s “in control” ways made me instantly lose the control I thought I had. If I told her “Come”, she would run the other way. If I told her, “Lay down”, she’d lay nearly flat but not all the way, daring me with a twinkle in her eye. When I attempted to walk her, she’d drag me around the block, my arms fully extended, heaving to keep up. I had no authority over this wild girl. Yes, indeed, our feisty personalities clashed.
In addition to her tenacious spirit, Sunnie chewed everything: shoes, kleenex, rocks, sheetrock. Her favorite item to chew was paper. Oh, how she loved Christmas morning with a myriad of wrapping paper to choose from. The dealbreaker was the day I came home and found my annual Christmas journal thoroughly read and chewed by Sunnie. Strewn across the floor. I cried and cried. I gave up. She became Chris’ dog.
Chris and Sunnie spent many hours together. I remember many a day during football season, Sunnie by Chris’ side as he pet her continually. Chris was able to calm Sunnie with his gentle manner. Her boisterous behavior was further settled when children entered our life. In 2006, we had our first son, Josh. She let Josh crawl on her and hug her. By 2008, when Luke was born, Sunnie’s alpha spirit was changing to a mother hen spirit. Luke pulled her ears and she licked him. He pulled at her fur and she gazed at him nonchalantly.
Sunnie crept into our bed one night and never left. Most nights, by 4am, she had jumped on our bed, our own personal nightly foot warmer. Each morning, she would dutifully wake with Chris, her routine to see him off to work. Upon his leaving, she would jump back into bed with me, laying along my side, loving me through the covers.
Over time, Sunnie and I healed our rocky start. She went from the dog I always wanted to the dog who made life chaos to the dog I needed and learned from. She aged gracefully and kindly, slowing down and mellowing in her later years. As always comes with older age, Sunnie’s health began to slowly fail last year. We made the hard decision to put her down a year ago June. Ending a friend’s life is something one never thinks they will have to do, yet with a pet, this is often the outcome. Pets become a part of family memories, bringing joy and giving unconditional love no human can mimic.
The day was long and hard when we put her down. Chris, Josh and I shed tears. Luke, age 5 at the time, simply said goodbye to her and continued on with silly 5-year old ways, forever lightening up the space. Evening came and we decided a movie was in order. Drowning out the day’s heartache with a good story seemed all we could handle.
We were engrossed in the movie and rain began. It escalated fast. The rain became sheets of water whipping in the wind. Grief descended as tears fell from the sky. Through the hard rain, I heard a distinct sound. Barking. Convinced I was hearing noises, I ignored the thought. But, when I heard it again and looked at Chris, I knew he, too, heard the sound. I couldn’t imagine any dog outside in this torrential rain. But, then, I heard more barking.
I looked out our front window. No dog. I opened our front door to get a wider view. No dog. The sound puzzled me. I peered out our back door. Still no dog. When I went to open our front door for the second time, through the frosted glass, there, I saw it. The distinct arm of a tree frog in the hanging basket on my front door. Fourteen years in North Carolina and I had never seen a tree frog out and about. Where in the world had he come from? Chris crept outside to save the tree frog from our door basket. But, by then, our new friend had found his way out. I opened the door, and, there, on the front porch was the brightest green tree frog I’d ever seen. Our family of four stood in awe.
Now, in no way do I think Sunnie reincarnated as a frog. However, there was something mysterious and holy about this moment. From the crying sky to the barking frog, these natural elements of God overwhelmed. When I closed the door, I had comfort. Christ was watching over our family. No doubt. Yes, this was a God encounter.
Mysterious events occur and we can’t explain them. They arrive as a sign, a symbol, a moment, a feeling, a warmth, a chill, a flutter. Do we dare call this mystery God? Do we dare call these holy happenings or do we stick with the more comfortable terms “coincidence” and “by chance”? The mystery of God is holy and unknowing in the same breath. It’s a puzzle no man can solve and provokes us to ask, “How can this be?”. This is the whole point! We are not meant to know, rather to welcome the unknowing. To engage. To question. And, to hold tight to one greater than ourselves who loved us enough to sacrifice His life for us.
Christ is wooing us this very day. Wooing us with a mystery larger than ourselves. When we begin to recognize God’s existence and wonder wrapped together in our daily lives, a holy adventure awaits. An adventure that invites doubt, curiosity and possibility from ourselves and others. The mystery of God shifts us – changing us in some way. The shift may be minute or gigantic, but it doesn’t leave us stagnant. It moves us along towards knowing Christ. And, when we believe the love of Christ is for us, we begin to see slivers of Him… even in a dog, a frog and some rain.
“And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” – Luke 1:30-34
When have you experienced a mysterious happening in your life? Reflect on how you responded to the mystery. Consider sharing with a friend.
With a Child:
Tell me about something that is difficult for you to understand.
The Mystery of Starlings: