Friday, November 10, 2006

"Weekly Word" for Nov. 10, 2006

Weekly Word - November 10, 2006

Every good thing bestowed - and every perfect gift is from above,
Coming down from the Father . . .
(James 1: 17)

I felt her, before I saw her. She was softly calling to me, and I slowly turned my head toward her. As I put my hand out, she softly rubbed her head against it. Somehow, she seemed to know that I wasn’t feeling very well. As the medicine did it’s job, and my eyes started to close again - I felt her soft body lay down next to me. Although she was a cat, she was so much more to me. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but think about other times - other gifts of love that had come into my life . . .

Truly, truly, I say to you, if you shall ask the Father for anything, He will give it to you in My name. (John 16: 23)

I don’t know how we did it, but somehow - we convinced our mother to let us keep the little kitten we had found. It was a first, since my mother and father didn’t seem to like animals all that much. But we were just little kids, my brothers and me, and we loved the idea of having a kitten. She was grey and white, and had lots and lots of fur. I knew my brothers wanted her too, but she ended up being mine. I guess cats are like that, they are the ones who make the decision. And she decided she was all mine.

I named her “Nomad” - as she had come to us all covered in dirt, seeming to have been wandering the streets - just looking for a home. And so “Nomad” seemed to fit. I must have been around 8 or so, that age when you are not quite old enough to be called responsible, but not too young to care - or to love. I had been moved into my own little room a few years earlier, as the boys were in their own room together. I had the room where the door jam didn’t quite work, and “anyone” could sneak into my room. Every night, I waited - afraid of the dark - afraid of everything. That is, until Nomad came into my life. She wasn’t supposed to be allowed in our bedrooms, but she found her way in, every night. There she would be, sleeping on my bed - keeping watch over me. Even when the door was finally fixed, and I could make the doorknob finally work - she figured it out. Somehow, she would stretch her body up as far as she could, putting both front paws around the knob - and turning. And every morning, she was there with me.

She was my friend, the one I could tell everything too - and trust that no one else would know my secrets. She heard it all. She heard my heartbreak and sobs, and kept close when I felt my life was about to shatter. She heard all about my engagement, and the boy I was going to marry. And then, the night came - the one just before my wedding. She was about 10 at the time, and I was sitting there in my little room - wondering what the future would be like. My new husband didn’t want me to bring her. And so I had to leave her behind. And so I sat there just holding her, telling her how much I loved her and would miss her. And then she slept with me - one last night . . .

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold . . .
(Psalm 84: 11)

It was about 6 weeks after our marriage, that a friend brought us a gift. They handed us a basket, and as I looked inside, two little heads popped up. I laughed as I looked at the two kittens inside. “Mister” and “Misses” were the names I immediately thought of. They had large black “M’s” on their foreheads, with black and grey tiger stripes on their bodies. Misses was much smaller, and her fur was much more grey. But they quickly made themselves at home in our little apartment.

When the phone rang the next day, and I heard my mother’s voice on the other end, my plan was to tell her all about the new kittens. And then I heard her words. Tears started to pour down my face, as she told me that Nomad was dead. As I sat on the bed, grieving, the two kittens jumped at my legs and body. Hanging up the phone, I grabbed them both, holding on tight as they squirmed to get away. My cat had died, and I hadn’t been there with her. Maybe she had known I didn’t need her any more. Or maybe she had just gotten too old. But for whatever reason, the one who had made my nights seem so much safer for all those years - was now gone . . .

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven -
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1 & 2)

“Mister” and “Misses” became the first of a number of family cats that we had over the next 20 or so years. They lived with us in Massachusetts, and moved south to Connecticut with us in 1986. When we found out that Mike had asthma, we moved the two cats out of the house and into the garage. It was hard to do that, and the kids just didn’t understand why the cats couldn’t play in the house with them. I still remember that cold winter day, when Mike yelled from the garage. I ran as fast as I could, pulling the door open - never expecting what I saw. There he stood, with Mister in his arms, and tears pouring down his cheeks. I could see Mister’s chest moving ever so slightly, and I knew that he was dieing. As we took him into the atrium, we laid him down on some towels. “He’s dieing!” Mike kept saying - and I knew it was the truth.

When you love an animal as if it is a member of the family, you find that you will try to do anything - to keep them alive. And that’s what we did. We tried to help him breath. We did CPR on our cat. But he just looked up at us, with eyes that seemed to be drifting away from us. He seemed to try to cry once, and then - - - he was gone.

Mister was about 14 years old, when he died. Mikey had known him all of his life. To this day, I remember the moment when Mister taught him not to pull his hair or tail. Mike was about 18 months old, walking - but still in a crib. He was playing in his room, and Mister had gone in there to visit with him. Mike had chased him under the crib, and was trying to grab at him. Mister took his paw, and gently hit him on the hand. He didn’t have his claws out, just a gentle hit that seemed to surprise us all. As I watched, Mikey stepped back from the cat, and then just looked at me. I told him that Mister didn’t like having his hair or tail pulled, and Mikey seemed to understand that. He went over and put his hand on Mister’s back, and rubbed him very gently. That day, they became friends.

So when Mister died that day in Mike’s arms, I knew that he had lost his friend. A friend he had known - his entire life.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 4)

Over the years, there always seemed to be cats in our lives. After both Mister and Misses died, Jenny and Mike found a litter of kittens that had been abandoned. They wanted to keep them, and we agreed they could keep two of them. Mike picked a small grey and white kitten, that he named Smokey. And Jenny picked “Buttercup”. Buttercup was an orange and white kitten, that seemed to absolutely adore Jenny. She had named the kitten, before we took them to the vet. So when the vet checked Buttercup out - he found that her kitten was actually a boy. He turned to Jenny, asking her if she wanted to change the kittens name. She just stared at the vet and shook her head. “Nope!” “His name is Buttercup!”

Buttercup and Jenny could be found playing outside, just about every afternoon. She dressed him up like one of her dolls, carrying him around like her baby. She talked to him, and played with him - as if he were her very best friend. And then summertime came, and it was time for her to go to camp.

We drove Jenny and Mike up to a bible camp in upstate New York. As I kissed her and said goodbye that Saturday morning, Jenny looked at me with such a serious look. “You take good care of Buttercup” she said. And I promised her I would. But when we got home the next day, Buttercup was gone.

I spent the next week, walking through woods and around all the neighboring streets, looking for Buttercup. Each day, my heart sank deeper and deeper, as I couldn’t find him. As the week-end came, and we drove up to the camp, I wondered how I would tell her that he had disappeared.

A time to search, and a time to give up as lost . . .

Jenny never forgave me for losing her very best friend. She was absolutely sure that he had gone away to find her, when she had left to go to camp!

And Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts . . . (Romans 5:5)

We had many cats come and go in our house, after Buttercup. Jenny just seemed to have a way with animals. She loved them - and they loved her. She was always bringing home some stray that she would find abandoned in the woods. It was the same with Mike. Both children seemed to have learned about love, from loving animals.

It must have been when Mike was about 14, when he found “Baby”. He had joined the track team, and so he spent most of his afternoons practicing, by running around the roads near our house. On this one day, he had been running near the local dump. As he ran, he thought he saw something standing in the road. It looked like a small kitten, and seemed quite wobbly as he got closer. As he got near it, it didn’t run away - but just stood there looking at him. He didn’t even think twice, as he scooped it up, and ran all the way back home with it.

He had put it on his bed, and when I looked at it - it seemed very, very small. I told him we needed to bring it to the vet, and I made an appointment for the next day. The little kitten stayed on Mike’s bed that entire night, eating only when Mike put it down on the floor next to the food. It seemed so small and fragile, that I wondered if it was going to live.

The next day, as we watched the vet check over the kitten, we realized that there was something very wrong. The vet kept listening, and probing, and checking the poor little thing. And then he turned to us with a worried look. “This isn’t a kitten“, he told us. She only weighed 18 ounces - just over a pound - and she wasn’t a kitten? She had been abandoned, and he told us that she was very close to dieing. “One more day” he said “and she would have died!”

Mike nursed Baby back to health. She was sick, and malnourished, but seemed to love being with Mike. She slept in his room, even though I fought against it. I was afraid for Mike’s own health, but he was adamant about Baby staying with him. She had lost the ability to cry, and so she would squeak a little, when she wanted to talk. She had a determination in her - that seemed to have come from fighting to live. She wasn’t afraid of the other cats in the house, and soon was jumping on them whenever she wanted to! She played hard, and she fought for what she wanted. And every night, she slept with Mike. She loved him - and he loved her.

And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love - I am nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:2)

As I started to wake up again, I realized that “Bear” was right against my legs. I turned to look at her, and felt the pain shoot through my shoulders. I must have made a noise, because before I knew it, she was standing next to my face. I smiled at her, realizing what a gift she has been over the years. And then I drifted off to sleep again - remembering back to how she had become “my” cat . . .

It was 1996, and things were not going well in my marriage. I had been in therapy for a few years, and felt as if I was getting personally stronger and healthier. But my marriage - well, that was only getting worse. Each night, I would try to avoid my husband by going to bed early. As I did, my heart seemed to break as I wondered how we were going to get through this. He was always angry, and the anger was getting worse. As I would lay down, “Tiger” would lay down next to me on my husband’s pillow. At the time, we had about 7 cats that we owned. But Tiger seemed to be my protector. Each night, when my husband would come up to bed - Tiger would growl at him and try to stay right where he was. But a cat is no match for a grown man.

As spring turned to summer, I had put plans in place to finally leave my husband. I didn’t want to, but I felt I needed to. Jenny and I had just rescued another litter of kittens - and that last week-end was spent finding good homes for them. As the last one went, I remember thinking how glad I was to have “one less thing to worry about” as the day to leave was fast approaching.

When that last night came, I could feel all the emotions welling up inside of me. I had again gone to bed early, not wanting to get into a fight with my husband. As I lay there that night, I thought back over the months leading up to this night. I had hoped and prayed - believing that “something” would happen to change my plans. But instead, I had come home the week before to find my husband dragging and kicking our daughter. That moment, changed everything. It was then, that I knew that I had to leave - that things needed to change! So, as I turned to look at Tiger laying there next to me, I couldn’t keep the tears from falling. Truthfully, I still loved my husband - but I couldn’t stay living there anymore. As I petted his head, Tiger closed his eyes and purred. He had no idea that our lives were about change - forever . . .

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love - I am nothing.

It must have been about 4 months later, after Jenny and I had moved into our own little house, that my husband offered to give us one of the cats. At the time, I thought about Tiger, as well as all the other cats in the old house. I missed them all. But then, I remembered “Bear”. She had been born just the year before, in Jenny’s closet. Her mother had been another stray we had taken in - and Bear just didn’t seem to want to come out. Three kittens had already been born, and one had already died. Her mother was so tired, and crying to me as she labored. As she pushed one more time, I pulled - and out came Bear.

She got her name, because of how she looked. Her ears drooped, and she was smaller than all the other kittens. She looked just like a little teddy bear. And so Jenny named her “Bear”. But Bear was always afraid, she was the last to get to the food, and hid from all the other cats. She seemed to get in the way of just about everyone, and I had watched as my husband had gotten angry at her and thrown her down the stairs. So when he offered me one of the cats, without thinking - I said I would take Bear. It seemed that she needed us, as much as we would grow to need her . . .

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; - and is not arrogant, . . .
(it) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails; . . .
(1 Corinthians 13: 4, 7 & 8)

That day, was over 10 years ago. So much has changed since then. Bear is now older, but she still runs away when strangers come into the house. She still has quite a few fears. But she has also learned to trust, and to love - not only me - but Ted as well.

As I start to wake up, I smell something so good that it brings me fully awake. Not only was Bear watching over me that day I got out of the hospital - but so was Ted. As Ted walks into the room, with the soup he made for me, he stops to say hello to Bear. She and he have formed their own special attachment. She meows at him, and then gets up to leave. It’s as if she knows she isn’t needed, now that he has come to take care of me . . .

The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, ‘Give thanks to the lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting’;
(Jeremiah 33:11)

Through the years, I have realized that there have been many gifts of love - that didn’t seem to come from people. They were gifts of friendship that came from animals that I loved. I don’t know how or why it happened, but it seemed that when those people who were supposed to love me and take care of me - weren‘t able to - God made sure that I still had “love” in my life! Because of those gifts of love - I never gave up hope! And for that, I will always be thankful.

And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love - abides in God, and God abides in him.
(1 John: 4: 16)

We are coming to the time in this country we call “Thanksgiving”. It is a time to be thankful for the gifts that God has given to us, in our lives. It is a time to look at the gifts of love - that made a difference throughout our lives. For me, I am so thankful for my family - for my husband, my children, and my grandchildren. But I guess I am also thankful for the gifts of love and friendship that came my way - when I least expected it. Those were the gifts of unconditional love.

As you get ready for your own “Thanksgiving”, it is my hope and prayer that you too will see the handprints of God in your life. I hope that you will see the gifts of love, that have made a difference in your entire life. Those are the gifts, that change your life - forever . . .

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15: 13)

God bless you and keep you, and may your life be filled with wonderful blessings - not only for today - but every day! Until we meet back here again . . .

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers