In 2008, I was sent to my first work conference out of the state. I was excited to travel and had never been to St. Louis. I visited my parents the weekend before and dropped off my dog since the trip would be a week long. This little Jack Russell terrier, named D.O.G. (pronounced dee-o-gee) is very spiritually special to me. I had been walking her the day I was met and invited to church. The great guy who invited me happened to be on a prayer walk that day in our apartment complex and he caught up to me while I was chatting with a neighbor about our dogs. Not long after, I began to study the bible and became a Christian. That all happened in 1998 and I have always known God used my dog, if even in just a small way, to help me come to know him.
|my little one|
Anyway, D.O.G. was in great hands with my parents. She was not a young pup by this time. I think she was around 14yrs old and like many older dogs she had starting having hip problems. The night before I left, I noticed she was having more trouble getting around so I decided to take her to the vet when I got back from my trip. My travel to Missouri went smoothly and when I arrived, I called mom and dad to let them know I made it safely. Mom said D.O.G. wasn't acting normal and that she'd take her to a local vet the next day just to be safe.
That following morning I sat in the first session of the conference and it was a blast! The conference was taking place in a hotel which happened to be connected to an old railway station so it was much like a local mall. During the breaks I was able to shop for family gifts. While in the second class session, mom called so I got up and left the session to see how my favorite 'mutt' was doing. Unfortunately, she was doing very poorly. She wasn't able to walk and was panting heavily. The vet got on the phone and explained that my little one had a tumor on her spine that was pressing so hard she could no longer walk. I asked if they could operate but was told that would be a bad idea because of the location and the age of my dog. When I heard the words, "She's suffering terribly so I would recommend you have her put to sleep," my heart broke.
I couldn't stand the thought of her suffering so I talked to mom and dad again to get their advice. They agreed with the vet and said they would stay with her. So I prayed and said okay. Animal lovers know the heaviness of this decision. I had never had to make it before this moment. I was sad I couldn't be there with her. I was sad that it would be four more days until I was scheduled to get home. I was sad for a lot of things, silly regrets, you name it and I missed her already...yet somewhere in my heart I believed God set things up this way well ahead of time...maybe even before the trip was originally scheduled.
I couldn't make myself go back into the session again. Instead I just walked around the mall looking at all the merchandise. The only other thing I remember during that brief time was one conversation I had with a friend. He asked me, "Well, so what are you doing?" "I don't know...just walking around," I said, "what do you do when your dog is dying?"
After I got home, I rested. Dad had already buried D.O.G. and planted a tree for her so there was no reason to rush to their home hours away. I sat in my papasan chair looking out the window and prayed to God. The house was SO quiet without her. It just felt empty. As I poured out my heart to Him, a red cardinal flew by and landed right outside my window. The Lord knew what that would mean to me! Then...whoosh... another showed up. Whoa, then a couple of more! I think five red cardinals plopped themselves down right outside my little window to peck the ground. I felt that God, my loving God, was reminding me that he loves me, hears me, and was there for me.
I started to write in my journal praising God for his sovereignty. And then something even more amazing happened. Something that builds my faith each time I remember the moment. As I wrote, I remembered where the conference had been....I had been in St. Louis, Missouri. That whole week, over and over again, I had seen red cardinals. They were on towels, shirts, hats, glasses..almost everything! That is, after all, the mascot of their baseball team. All of a sudden, my eyes where opened to all the little moments that God had been trying to comfort me and saying, "I am here. I love you."
During this time, Lamentations 3:19-24 became a scripture that comforts my heart. It reads,"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” "
And that's what seeing a red cardinal means to me...it's just one of God's many reminders of how compassionate he is and a reminder that he loves me and his love never fails. I recall these compassions and I have hope when I'm downcast. What a powerful line that 'because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed!' We all know how consuming sadness can be.
Yet God is greater! He is so loving and he is always trying to communicate with you. Are your eyes open? Are you listening? He's probably not even communicating in the same way with you that he does with me...so don't take my little story and expect...cardinals...but instead be watchful, be attentive because God's compassions for you never fail.