Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Riding a Dog to Heaven

Okay.  Here's the deal.  We are keeping my friend's dog (which was actually our dog that we pawned off on her a few years ago).  We are on Day 5, and I'm not sure how many more days are left.  She went out of state for her Dad's funeral, and wasn't sure when she would return. 

But, before I elaborate on how her dog is going to take (at least) me to Heaven's gates, I need to explain the basis for how these things work, in case you didn't know, or need a refresher.

My son is making his First Communion this year, so yesterday, I spoke to the kiddos and their parents on this very subject, as they prepare to make their first Confession.

If you're not Catholic, this is our belief in a nutshell: 

1.  Jesus redeemed us from our sins by His death on the Cross.  (We are Christians, after all).   
2.  When we are sorry for our sins, He forgives us and heals us in the Sacrament of Penance (Also called Reconciliation or Confession).
3.  Out of gratitude and love for God, we make an effort to make up for our sins, or to do "penance".  Christ redeemed us, but gives us the gift of participating with him in our redemption, and that of others.  If we have "broken" things, or people, or relationships, they still need mending, even after we have been forgiven for "breaking" them in the first place. 

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are at least eight ways to do penance.  They are:

1.  Prayer
2.  Works of charity
3.  Service to neighbor
4.  Offering
5.  Acts of self-denial
6.  Acceptance of our cross
7.  Sacrifice
8.  Works of mercy

So, basically anything (by our intention) can be penance, or means to repair our relationship with God and others.  And not only repair it, but improve it beyond what is was before we messed it up.  We do this over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.  And, as long as we keep trying, through the mercy of God, and Jesus' death on the cross, we hope for Heaven.  We do our little (necessary only because God knows we need it) part, to cooperate with the big and very necessary part of Christ redeeming us.  He is the one thing necessary.

Back to the dog...The potential spiritual gift this dog is to us this week is incomprehensible.  She is 8 penances wrapped in one!  8 in 1.  With Christmas around the corner, I can't even imagine what you'd have to pay for the equivalent in the material world.  Who could put a price on a
Bo-Flex/Swiffer/Flobie/Noiseless Insect Repellant/Clap-on Lamp/Ab Roller/iBot/Boze Sound Wave machine?! 

Let me describe life with Piper, so you can better appreciate what an 8-in-1 penance "Super Buy" looks like:

*She is BIG.  Well over 100 pounds.  Considerably more than any of my kids.  Maybe more than me.  She could flatten my 4-year-old, if he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And it would be terrible to look like a pancake to a dog who loves to eat. 

*She stinks.  Think wet dog, dirt, and pee.  In all fairness, my friend gave her a bath less than a week ago, but it has worn off

*She is a LOVER.  L.O.V.E.R.  Love...Lover...Love-est.  Scratch lover.  She is a LOVE-EST.  She wants to be in constant contact.  Her butt to your kneecap is FINE with her.  She is not at all picky about where or how.  If you are walking and accidentally look at her, she'll throw herself down in your projected path and roll over, waiting for any effort you can part with. 

*She talks.  Growls, really, but in a friendly, I-love-you, pay-attention-to-me, way.  Only, if you don't engage her, she gets louder and more insistent, and pretty soon, she is plain rude.  Especially when I'm making dinner.  And I end up thinking, "You're not my boss!", and then I start feeling a little nutty that I have self-talk about a dog not being my boss.

*She's a little incontinent.  Every time she takes a little step, a little pee comes out.  I wonder if my friend even notices this, because she only comes in at night at her house, and then she sleeps in one contained room at the end of the house.  However, it is cold and rainy, and as much as I want to, I can't leave her outside the whole time!  Unfortunately, one of the reasons we bought and love our house is that it is so open.  No unoccupied, uncarpeted rooms with a door, here.  Wait a minute!  I just realized she could stay in the bathroom!  Ha!  Oh, the irony.  At any rate, my husband and I are mopping up more pee than when we were potty training our two-year-olds.

*She seems to think the trash can is a store where she can afford everything and has a tab, so she just helps herself.  A cloth napkin, a pencil, some foil, and the bones from a chicken breast were a few of her selections today.  The trash can is sleeping on the kitchen counter tonight.  Hopefully, she's not feeling that ambitious. 

*The final thing is that we've been adopted by a cat in the last month or so.  You know how it goes, you can't get your hands on it at first, and then it's sleeping in your bed.  On your face.  Well, this kitty is much loved and adored around here, and you probably guessed it...Piper isn't big on cats.  She corners and chases them.  There's only been one showdown so far, but there's plenty of tension at play while kitty sharpens her ninja and spy skills. 

So, when I say I am riding a dog to Heaven.  I mean, Piper.  And this is how Piper is "getting me to Heaven", as my penance:

1.  I pray.  I pray to God that my friend comes back SOON.  I pray that I don't do anything I'll regret.  I pray that I don't end up in the "loony bin".  I pray that my children will still speak to me when they see that I can stoop even lower than they ever thought possible before.

2.  Act of charity.  I knew keeping Piper would be hard.  We already have a very good, very sweet, very stinky, very hairy dog.  I said "yes" anyway, for love of my friend, who has experienced more tragedy in the last month than hopefully, any of us will in our lifetime. 

3.  Service to Neighbor.  Yep.

4.  Offering my actions.  I should be offering every time I pet her, and every time I have to wash my hands right afterward, for those who can't get to the sink on their own, for my friend, or for all of the people who work as hard as Piper does to be loved, without ever being noticed.  I'll do better in the offering department.  Right now, I offer this blog for all of those intentions, and for you.

5.  Act of self-denial.  She's still alive and she's still in my house.  That's two.

6.  Acceptance of our cross.  In this case, I'm working on it.  This post has been the perfect therapy.  I mean, tool.

7.  Sacrifice.  Check.

8.  Work of mercy.  See number two.

Dear God, Father and Creator of all that is good and all that makes us good, Thank you for Piper.  Thank you for my friend who took her off of our hands years ago.  Thank you for the way she has bonded our family in so many ways, particularly in appreciation of the dog we already have.  Thank you for Your Mercy, Your greatest attribute.  Thank you for Confession, and all priests who make it possible. 

Father, please "expiate all the sins I have committed this day and during all my life.  Purify the good I have done poorly this day and during all my life.  Supply for the good I ought to have done, and that I have neglected this day and all my life."

Thank you for opportunities to reflect on the ways you allow us to participate in Your Saving Work.  You know we need to show You how much we love You.  Thank you for giving us things we can do to prove our love.  Lord, please be with my friend, and all who are suffering the loss of those who were, and are, dearest to them.  Console them as only You can, and help us to follow Your inspirations when it's our turn.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary.  He had to work in Austin, so I drove to meet him.  We spent 24 kid-free hours just being.  We ate, drove around his old stomping grounds, walked around what used to be Lake Travis, ate some more, and enjoyed the pauses in between.  We had grand visions of staying up late, listening to live music, and walking around downtown, but happily pursued Plan B of retiring early after filling our bellies at The County Line.  As we grow old together, we're learning that we're happiest when we don't have anywhere to be.

Our time together was much-needed and overdue.  We've been like two ships passing in the night for longer than anyone would recommend.  No surprise, really with work, little boys, and all of the other things that overtake our calendar.  But, the marriage fleet needs to dock once in a while, to remember why we're working together in the first place, dust off the vision, and re-energize about future voyages.

I think I could live off of this past 24-hours for another couple of weeks (but, please don't tell my husband).  If you've read the Five Love Languages, I'm a "quality timer", so my love tank is Full.  Ahhhhhhh.

On our way back home, I was thinking about love and marriage, and what that looks like when we get to Heaven.  Today's Gospel (Lk 20:27-38) says "those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  They can no longer die, for they are like angels: and they are the children of God because they are ones who will rise."

I don't really like the way this sounds, because it seems like marriage only has temporary value.  Temporary value is well and good, but it seems like it falls dramatically short of what God intended and like we dreamed the idea up for ourselves.  A lifetime of monogamy and child-rearing?  Really?  This afternoon, I sat down with my head full of questions and uncertainty about reality and what's important in it.  I tried to journal, but only wrote one sentence and picked up The Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin, instead.  On page 57 it reads:

The union with and love of God that begin in this life and grow as the spiritual journey progresses will be gloriously manifested and perfected in heaven.  But so also will the union and love that we have had with one another in this life be gloriously manifested and perfected in heaven.  The Father tells Catherine (of Siena) that the particular relationships we had on earth, insofar as they were in the Lord, will actually increase in depth of intimacy and love in heaven.  Friendships and marriages that were lived in and with Jesus will be "saved" and indeed prove to be a love that is truly "forever".  The time for biological procreation will have come to an end-our bodies now transformed in glory, made ready for an eternity of celebration-but, the love, in Christ, that was built up in true Christian relationships will last forever.  We will not only know and recognize one another in heaven, but know and love each other even more!

That's better. 

So, we're not still "married" in heaven, but the love is still there.  Our spouses and children don't suddenly become strangers.  Thank goodness!  Can you imagine?!  We love them even more, and everyone else besides.  Love is great here, but it is not perfect.  It is perfected in heaven.  It is no wonder I can't understand it.  It is beyond me.  But, that's why I'm here.  And that's probably why you're here, too.  We're here to practice loving.  Because practice makes perfect.

Dear Heavenly Father,  Thank you for my husband of 11 years and for the first day of our 12th year of marriage.  Thank you for time away to remember why we got married in the first place.  Thank you for the blessings of our children and the protection you offer a wife and mother, by the very nature of her life.  Please bless all who are married.  Purify and perfect our love.  Give us the grace to put ourselves second, so that we may imitate Your Son, who asked "What is the most I can do to prove My love?"  Thank You for All.  I Love You.  Amen.