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The Age of Adaline

Exactly one year ago today and at about this exact moment, 1:42pm, I was hanging a picture in our Living Room when it happened.  Life as we knew it thrown upside down…  Baxter was gone…  R~ had witnessed the entire thing play out in front of her 9 year old eyes…  I’d go on, but I’ve already captured that story once before and to be honest… its just too painful.

So for today… Happier thoughts…  The following is a republishing of a Facebook note from early last summer.

B-waxy…  I miss you bud!…


It’s been just over 4 LONG, GRUELING, & PAINFUL months since Baxter died. If we’re new friends or if we’re old friends & you just happened to have no internet access in the month of February, I wrote a lot about Baxter back then. You can catch up by starting with Part 1 and continuing on from there if you like.  It’s raw & its uncensored & it didn’t quite go the way I thought it would when I started writing, but… such is life… Raw, uncensored, & rarely going the way you thought it would. Nonetheless, I recovered some pieces of me in the process & I quickened my resolve to fight for my family’s hearts in the wake of tragedy.

So how’s that working out you ask? Well, I doubt they’ll be making a Disney movie about it… We have all dealt with the loss of Baxter in our own ways. But I think common for all of us is that everything has just felt magnified… Every emotion… Every reaction… Every social interaction… Every high… Every low… Just way too intense… Much weightier than it should be… And that’s made it hard on those around us I think. People tend to like easy… People tend to like uncomplicated… And we have all been anything but easy & uncomplicated lately.

Part of me wants to apologize for that… for all of us… But then I realize that no apology is necessary. What is necessary is recognition & gratitude… Recognition for those that don’t shy away from the uneasy or the complicated. And we are eternally grateful for them in this moment of darkness we’ve had to endure. You folks that encouraged & kept checking in & persevered through walls of insecurity… You’re the heroes here and I can’t thank you enough!


They were born on April 1st, 2016… April Fools’ Day… I started my current job back on an April Fools’ Day a few years back… Since God made man in his own image, I don’t feel bad at all that I tend to have a very dry & somewhat off sense of humor. Clearly he does…

They were born a litter of four… Clove, Cedar, Cashmere, & Cressida… All girls… Did I mention that sense of humor yet? Anyway… here’s all the cuteness…

addie-littermates
R~ nearly came out of her skin when she found out they were finally born. She’d been counting down since the day she found out Belle & Dickens were… um… expecting… Sidebar: That whole birds & bees discussion became unavoidable as a result… But I digress…

After they were born, it became all about pictures… And once we had the initial pictures, she wanted to see their faces after their eyes were open. And after that… the Name Game started. Literally from mid-April until the day we picked her up, every other conversation with R~ was about the name. She researched & googled & polled complete strangers.. And LISTS… She made lists… Many lists of potential names… And the final week before we were to pick her up, you’d have thought she was a momma bird in the nesting phase… She took inventory of everything we had saved from Baxter, but some things wouldn’t do for a girl… So we had to go shopping… multiple times, before we got everything on the list… Finally though, the day came!..

We didn’t have the first pick of the litter with Baxter. The litter back then was down to just two boys. And Baxter chose us, so it wasn’t all that difficult. But now we had four to choose from & they were all perfect in their own way. We thought we had it sort of figured out based on the pictures, but that pretty much went out the window once we got there.

So we played… & we played… & we played with them for about an hour… and we weren’t making much progress. They’d just been to the vet the prior week for their initial shots and they found out one of them had an umbilical hernia. It was really hard to tell which one because they moved so fast & looked so similar, but I was convinced that was NOT THE ONE we wanted.

I could imagine this scenario where that puppy could develop a complication & ultimately wouldn’t make it. We had a family friend with a similar story about a kitten that didn’t survive and I WOULD NOT expose my family to that… Nope… Not on my guard…
Of course, then I realized that the one we were finally zeroing in on was, you guessed it, the one with the umbilical hernia. Somewhere deep inside, that little voice spoke up… “This dog needs healing…” Well okay, yeah… That’s sort of obvious… “Your family needs healing…” BUSTED… I was completely undone…


There would be no inside jokes with the naming of this one… Named Adaline, because of the movie that my wife fell in love with this breed of dog… Middle name Harper, because we rock like that at creating names that flow well… A by-product of having a run-on First & Middle name myself…

And she is a much different dog from Baxter. Smarter because she is female… at least that’s what my family tells me… So house breaking has been a breeze… Hardly an accident to even count. But she’s also smart enough to figure out that if she whines in her crate long enough at night, we’ll eventually cave & take her out… That sleeping through the night thing is still a work in progress. But regardless of the differences, she’s all ours…


EPILOGUE

R~ & I had a chance to do some hiking & rock climbing over Memorial Day Weekend. She LOVED it!… Like she’d found some piece of herself out there or something… That type of LOVED it!…

BUT IT WAS ALMOST ERASED BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED… Catawba Falls is a neat attraction that draws lots of people from nearby Asheville. And many bring their dogs & make a day out of it. In fact, we had multiple conversations about how Addie would not have liked this hike. Too strenuous for a little puppy & we’d have had to carry her the whole way.

R~ spent most of the hike leading me by 10-15 feet… so much in her happy place. About 20 minutes into the hike, we approached a blind corner in the trail. And next thing I know, two fairly large dogs are bounding around the corner, chasing each other off leash. In a FLASH, R~ was behind me & shaking like a leaf. The dogs ran right by us like we didn’t even exist. Their owners appearing around the corner in the next instance. Just two dogs having a romp… nothing more…

R~ was frozen for a few moments, no doubt re-living the entire experience from the day Baxter died. For a moment there, I wasn’t sure but what our day wasn’t over at that point. But we talked about it for a good bit the rest of the way up the trail. Still reminding her… “Its not your fault”. She shook off the cloud over her much faster than I expected and was back in pure delight by the time the rock climbing started.

In truth, part of me wishes that four months + constant affirmation + new puppy = healed R~. But shortcuts in healing rarely work to the advantage of the wounded. So we persevere and continue the fight because that’s what we do for the ones we love.

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Baxter’s Story Part 7 – Beauty From Ashes

The following is the final post in Baxter’s Story…  If you’ve been following the story, you know that these were initially presented as a series of Facebook Notes back in January & February of this year.  If you haven’t been following and want to catch up, here’s a link to Part 1


I’ve held off writing this final entry for Baxter’s Story, probably because I was so hoping to be able to put a nice pretty bow on this story. We Christians like to do that sort of thing… put Happy Bows on sad stories. I think its because we don’t like to embrace suffering as part of the Christian experience. Way back in 2010, we took a small group of college kids to Passion 2010 in Atlanta and in one of the breakout sessions, Francis Chan forever changed my perspective on this… He started with the book of Matthew in the New Testament, quoting scripture from each book of the New Testament on Holy Suffering… He made it all the way to 1Timothy before he admitted that there was in fact a book of the New Testament with no mention of suffering. And then he goes on to quote NINE instances in 2Timothy that referenced Holy Suffering. Its all there… just google Suffering and New Testament if you’d like to see for yourself.

Yet somehow, it doesn’t get a lot of play from most pulpits… or in your typical Sunday School or small group… You can find a handful of books on it in your local Christian bookstore, but they’re largely overshadowed by much shinier, happier books like Your Best Life Now… I believe it is this lack of transparency in the Christian experience that turns off so many that choose not to believe. Western Christianity sells the shiny & happy BIGTIME… diminishes the much harder topics… and the end result is a perceived experience that does NOT match at all with the trials we face daily on this side of Eden. People either can’t buy into it at face value or they give it a try for awhile & when the results don’t line up with the promised prosperity, they move on… We’d reach far more people for Christ if we were just honest about things… The truth is… SALVATION IS HERE!… But it must also be “worked out with fear & trembling” (Philippians 2:12)… And it is not always shiny & happy… It is in fact, quite messy and humbling…


SIX DAYS after “R” witnessed Baxter’s brutal death at the hands of two pit bulls, the above picture was captured by my brother-in-law… R & his pit bull Bo… That picture gets me through A LOT these days… Its a LOUD reminder of what God is capable of… You see God built the universe in 6 days… And he healed some deep wounds in R’s heart in that same amount of time… #BeautyFromAshes

That is not to say that things for R are perfect. She waffles between periods of being her vibrant self, followed by periods of deep sadness. She passes the location where his crate used to be… SADNESS… We walk by the pet food aisle in the grocery store… SADNESS… She still won’t sleep in her room alone… BUT… She is not terrified by the images from that day… She is not afraid of dogs or animals in general… She is still R and for that, I am grateful..

There have been SO MANY acts of kindness that have come out of this tragedy. Flowers… Cards… Gifts… Some for all of us… Some just for R… So sweet… and SO NECESSARY!… Every one has been precious…

Likewise, the breeders have been so awesome… Even though they have more expensive bloodlines than the one Baxter came from, they’ve guaranteed us first pick of whatever litters they have this Spring…

Response to these stories I’ve written has also been overwhelming… My hope in sharing all of this has been to move people… get you to consider the things that have happened in your own lives and re-consider them in a new light. Some of you responded publicly… Some of you have responded privately… Some of you haven’t responded at all, but I know you’re reading… 😉 I won’t go into any details here, but it is so good to know that it has connected with so many…


REGRETS… For my wife’s birthday, I put together a picture book of Baxter. I scoured every electronic device in the house for pictures that we’d forgotten about. R’s ipod was a treasure trove. My wife’s ipad as well… I even got pictures from some dear friends that saw Baxter in the park the weekend before. It was excruciating & it was necessary… so many happy memories.

One thing that became obvious as I pulled it all together though… I didn’t have one single picture of me & Baxter anywhere. That makes me so immensely sad on so many levels. I despise having my picture taken with a passion that’s probably way beyond healthy. And in this case, it cost me… leaving me with nothing but memories now. There’s a lesson in all that and I’m not sure I’m really ready for it. But there it is…


And on that sad note… The Enemy continues to be loud & active… So many of our closest friends are being attacked in ways I can’t explain. Just know that it is exactly what I said in Part 2… He is relentless in his pursuit to take us out. We either confront that head-on or he wins…

This latest round has impacted my oldest “A” the most… She lost it last night in a way I haven’t seen before. Probably the culmination of Baxter & everything else that is going on. Thank God it finally all came out…


This weekend, our family is starting a study of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters… If you aren’t familiar with Lewis’ works, please check them out. His ability to wrap the realities of the Christian struggle into works of fiction are both spot on in their accuracy and yet completely disarming because they are NOT overtly churchy. I specifically picked this book because it dives deeply into the spiritual warfare happening all around us.
You see, I’ve come to realize that while scripture does promise us beauty from ashes… Our reality is this… IT MUST BE FOUGHT FOR…

Baxter’s Story ~ My Story (Part 4)

From a January 30th, 2016 Facebook Note…  See Parts 1, 2, & 3 for the backstory…


Its funny what you remember from your childhood. Take this picture above… I have always hated that picture… It might be because of that haircut… which I didn’t get to change until high school. Or it might be because it reminds me of how much hair I used to have. Or maybe its because this picture MUST have been given out with free Tide samples at JC’s Grocery, because every friend, relative, & acquaintance from my hometown seems to have landed a copy of it somehow. I have worked DILIGENTLY to keep this picture off of Facebook. It was easy in the early years of FB, but increasingly harder as more & more relatives, friends, and elementary school teachers migrated onto this platform.

I also remember that the house I grew up in was approximately 25 yards from the edge of Highway 158 when I was a wee lad. Then the state decided to put in a turn lane and 25 yards turned into 10 yards somewhere around the late Elementary School years.

conway-house

I remember that distance really well because it made pets EXTREMELY problematic.  You see, we did not do indoor pets in my house. That was just a thing… Pets, unless they swam in a bowl or a tank, were for outdoors. And really… fish are more decoration than pet. So, I cannot really remember how many dogs we attempted to have growing up, probably because each experience ended up the same way… with that dog dead in the middle of Highway 158. We had better luck with cats… Not with all of them mind you, but enough to be statistically significant.

But I do have one very vivid memory of the last dog we had while I was growing up. He was a mixed breed (see my last post), but if I had to name it… I’d say he was a Yellow LabraBeagle… I don’t remember his name. In fact, I don’t remember the names of most of my pets growing up. That’s not a small detail btw… But anyway, this memory is etched permanently in my brain…

It was the summer of ‘79… I say that because I’m pretty sure I was younger than 10 and I was definitely wearing shorts… and I really like that Bryan Adams song… In truth, it could’ve been ‘80 or ‘81… (my sister later confirmed it was 1980)

I do not remember what I was doing at the time. I was outside my house, playing I think… and my dog was nowhere around. I heard an extremely loud YELP and my big ears pinpointed it to my left and at least two neighbor’s yards away… And it was definitely my dog… I took off in a full sprint and arrived in one of our neighbor’s yards… My dog was under the rear wheel of a mammoth car I did not recognize. He was alive, but he was not moving. A lady I did not recognize started apologizing… At least, I think she was apologizing… But I’m pretty sure she was also the voice actor for that school teacher in all the Charlie Brown cartoons.

They say that wounded animals can act in unpredictable ways and frequently bite people that are trying to help them. I did not know this at the time and it totally would not have mattered. I was moving to pick up the dog out of complete reflex… He did not bite me though. I scooped him up in my arms and ran for home. I remember that one of his hind legs was drooping very badly (it was broken)… And I distinctly remember his blood running down my right leg as I ran…


Let’s pause here & acknowledge something… My dad came from a completely different era than most of my readers can imagine. He was a man’s man that grew up on a farm in central NC… And when animals got hurt on a farm in the mid-20th century, they did not take them to fancy hospitals to be patched up while you sipped complimentary lattes… There was no money for that sort of thing… That animal usually got put down, depending on the nature & severity of the injury.

Now I did not know any of that at the time I arrived in my yard. All I did know was my dog was hurt badly and needed help. I’m standing there with this dog in my arms, his leg broken, his blood all over me, pleading without words… PLEASE DO SOMETHING!!!

And my dad did what a REAL man’s man does… He came through for me & we took that dog to the local vet. Doc Brown patched him up & he wore a little makeshift cast on that leg for awhile. He healed up pretty good… just a minor limp to show for it… And then one day not too far removed from that day in the summer of ‘79… ’80, he must’ve gotten interested in some vehicle that was going down Highway 158 and…


Now flash forward about 35 years to Sunday and I’m standing there holding Baxter’s body in almost exactly the same way as I did the other dog in 1980. He’s wrapped in a towel that was completely soaked in his blood. My coat that I’m wearing is now also covered in his blood. I am not running like before… Instead, I’m watching R run… Down the hill towards home… Completely hysterical… Tears streaming… But she is not running home to get help like I did… Doc Brown was a VERY gifted Vet, but there was nothing he could’ve done to help Baxter that day.

I watched R run down that hill… I turn to the right & see my wife talking with the other family… She is BARELY holding it together… And I think… “DEAR GOD… HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO COME THROUGH IN THIS?”… There is no voice from Heaven that responds. Something else does happen though, but its for another entry… Maybe tomorrow’s…

Come through?… You cannot be serious… Its all I can do to not stand in the street & cry like a toddler. I can see R made it into the house… And I can see my wife is winding down whatever conversation is happening off to the right… And I’m still standing there, holding Baxter… My only thought at this point is, “I can’t let either one of them see him like this.” So I walk slowly down that hill… Its still pretty icy… Somewhere in between, I realize I’ve got to bury him and it cannot wait… I carry him around to the back yard and set him down… I’m returning to the garage to get the shovel and see that my wife has made it back now… That’s good… R won’t be alone…

She says, “We need to take pictures…” My heart stops… I know she’s right, we don’t know how this thing will play out… And that means I have to take the pictures…


>>>STOP… I’ve left most of the details of the other family ambiguous intentionally up until this point because there’s a whole other entry I need to make there. That’s unfortunately left a lot of gaps in the story for people to fill in on their own and I need to clear this up for the moment. That other family is CRUSHED!… They not only had to see the whole thing play out in front of them on their front lawn… They also had to make the decision to put those two dogs down. They have made this thing as right as they can for now, I promise… and my heart breaks for theirs as much as it breaks for my own family’s.


Pictures… right… I have to take pictures… So there I am, unwrapping Baxter in the snow to take pictures. I want to throw up now… Not because of what I’m seeing in front of me, but because the weight of it ALL is starting to settle in… I turn Baxter one direction & then the other… And it is HELL!… There are so many wounds that I cannot tell where the killing blow landed. There is a very large hole in his jugular though, so I’m guessing that was it. Based on what R later tells us, we believe this was the first blow, so at least he didn’t suffer long… Finally… all the pictures are done…

Now, where to bury him?… Well, live in a typical subdivision, so the options are a bit limited, but I settle on a spot just behind our yard through the woods a little bit. The ground was hard and covered in ice & snow. It took awhile to dig that hole, probably because I had to stop frequently to wipe snot & tears off of my face. I laid him as carefully as I could in the hole, paused and spoke words of truth over him. I’ve buried lots of animals over the years… never felt compelled to do that before. I covered him up gently and took a step back.

I need to make a cross or something to mark his grave. I’ve NEVER done that before… I find some old pallet wood I had left over from some wine racks my wife asked me to make for Christmas the year before. I cut a short piece from a longer piece, then nail them together in the shape of a cross. I wrote Baxter across it with one of those fat Sharpie’s I found in the garage. And then I take it back to his grave & drive it into the ground.

My wife shows up about this time… I tell her its done and then she points out the bloody towel laying in the snow. I hear R coming… I manage to fold that towel faster than any other laundry in my life and somehow, manage to find a section of it without much blood on it to leave folded out. R is almost there & I decide to take no chances so I toss the towel behind a tree where she can’t see it. Now we’re all there, standing around Baxter’s grave… We had an informal burial ceremony right then & there. It was mostly blubbering & crying… Later on, we added a wreath that had been made from the clippings of a Christmas tree. It had hung on our front door through the Christmas season. We picked it up the same day we got our tree. Baxter had gone with us that day to pick out out the tree… He had an awesome day & was the superstar/VIP of that very busy tree farm… It had been a perfect day…


A tragic thing happens to most of us as we grow up… We tend to lose little pieces of ourselves along the way to adulthood. Sometimes its in large chunks… And sometimes its 1,000 paper cuts… Sometimes the pieces are taken from us… And sometimes we willingly give them away… But worst of all is that many times… we don’t even know that it has happened.

For instance… I willingly gave us musical training when I was in the 6th grade… Because I thought playing piano was for sissies… Then I bought my first electric guitar when I was 19 & fell in love… Now I wonder what my musicianship would look like if I hadn’t given up on it… Or would I have found my love of guitar sooner?…

I also gave up Singing in public when I was about 5 or 6 years old… Must’ve been something traumatic, right?… No, not really… I just couldn’t stand how uncomfortable it made me. So I told myself, I couldn’t really sing all that well. Even worse… I convinced myself I sang quite badly… Trying to sing out of the Methodist Hymnal helped reinforce that too… Those hymns are theoretically written in keys to fit the “average person”. But I was constantly having to switch octaves mid-song because it either went too high or too low. Pretty soon I just mouthed the words like the older men did. I bought that lie that I couldn’t sing for about 30 years. God eventually pulled it out of me kicking & screaming. Now I LOVE to harmonize and I’ve got a good ear for it. I lead songs at church every so often and I love that too. But every time, that fear & discomfort are still loud & present. I just choose to feel the fear & do it anyway… God takes care of the rest…

And then there’s writing… I NEVER EVEN GAVE WRITING A CHANCE!… I figured out pretty quickly that I could absolutely crush it in Math & Science and that was enough to get me by. We humans tend to glam onto things that work for us and Math & Science were my B-’s… So Writing never stood a chance… Who knows how that could’ve turned out differently?… Maybe that’ll be my retirement plan…

Gave up on Jesus too!… For about 12 years or so… I couldn’t reconcile the faith I grew up with to the world I lived in. How could God allow ____fill in the blank___? At the time, I didn’t truly understand that Evil I talked about a few days ago. Didn’t get that spiritual warfare was happening all around me. I was literally Neo in The Matrix before he took the red pill… (pause to give credit to John Eldredge on that analogy)… I found my way back eventually, but it was touch & go for awhile there.

Back to Baxter… I realize now that at some point in my childhood, I gave up on pets too. Now, we continued to have pets after that Yellow LabraBeagle died. And we’ve had plenty of pets over our married years too. And I loved them all to some degree… but always at a distance… Always with something held back… I realize now that at some level, I was expecting that they’d inevitably end up in the middle of Highway 158.

But Baxter was having none of that… Without even knowing it, I did try to hold back at first. But it didn’t last long. He wouldn’t allow it. Eventually, I loved him deeply and I held nothing back. And I didn’t realize that either until he was gone.

God had a design in mind for each of us. And we usually manage to screw that up… giving away what isn’t taken from us… Or life does it for us in chunks & papercuts… But “the Glory of God is man fully alive!” ~ St. Irenaeus.  So we must fight to get those chunks back… We must work out our salvation with fear & trembling. ~ Philippians 2:12… We must commit to being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory ~ 2Corinthians 3:18…

Baxter reminded me of this in the most beautiful & tragic way possible. And that’s really when I realized what I had to do for R. For while this would forever be a defining moment for her… I refuse to allow it to be a RE-defining moment for her. God defined her perfectly and I will fight like hell to help her hold onto that as long as I have breath in my lungs. That is how I come through…

So dear reader… What chunks have you lost, or had taken away over the years? What papercuts became so relentless, that you just gave in & bled out? What have you willingly given up & now regret? Jesus can heal all of these wounds if you invite him to. And even if you don’t, he’ll keep pursuing you… Its what he does… Beauty from Ashes…


Continue on to Part 5 here

Baxter’s Story (A Reprise) – Part 3

From a January 29th, 2016 Facebook Note…  See Parts 1 & 2 for the backstory…



He was born on August 29th, 2015 along with three brothers… Bill, Brock, & Buzz… & one sister, Bailey. He was the runt of the litter… And they called him Bertie, not Baxter… Its okay that they didn’t know, but he was always Baxter. His Dad was Dickens and he came from a bloodline of Grand Champions. His Mom was Belle… also AKC registered. They were a perfect family.

By mid-October, Bill & Brock & Bailey had all been adopted. Just Buzz & Baxter now, holding the fort down. And that’s when we showed up… October 25th, 2015. We went to visit the pair and it was not long at all before we knew, Baxter was ours. Or were we his?… Its hard to tell the difference.

I remember so much about that day that changed us… changed me, forever. For starters, I dated the check wrong… 10/24, but it was definitely Sunday, not Saturday. We went to get him after church that day. We had no leash… no collar… and no harness…  As it turns out, its really hard to manage a puppy at an active Interstate rest stop with no leash, no collar, & no harness… We played zone defense as we coerced him to get his business done instead of roaming & trying to play with all the other dogs.

After the rest stop, we had to go to Pet Smart for a leash, a collar, & a harness… And of course Sonic, because we were within 5 miles of one and its the law… Also… Baxter HATED riding in the car… whined the whole way home. Fortunately, that wore off before the road trip to Orlando. He whined just a bit that first night when we all went to bed, but hardly ever after that. After that, he had our routine down… Or we had his routine down… Again… its really hard to tell.

And then there’s that monkey… His first chew toy… He loved that thing… Chewed the ever-living snot out of it… One day we came home and found my oldest daught “A” in the dining room (she home schools) with Baxter… & it looked like it had snowed. Apparently the monkey’s head had LOTS of stuffing… Lots & LOTS of stuffing… Key word there is “had”… R sleeps with whats left of that monkey now… It helps… But he did have other chew toys he loved too… a fox… a weasel… ipod cords… laptop cords… table legs… Good times!…

We officially registered him with the Continental Kennel Club with the name Elkay Baxter <last name omitted>. The first name was my pick entirely… You see, where I grew up, pure breed dogs were something that occasionally appeared on ESPN when there was a lull in programming. In my young world… Dogs came into your family in one of three ways… 1) Someone dropped them off near your house and they followed the smell of food, 2) A close friend or family member had a female dog with a litter of pups & you were obliged to “help them out” by taking away one of the mouths to feed, or 3) A hunting dog with no tags gets lost and… follows the smell of food. Notice that in none of those three scenarios is an exchange of money required.

And then there’s Baxter… We paid…. Well lets just say there was a fee for him… If you really want to know, google King Charles Spaniel breeders and you’ll get an idea. So I felt the need to mock the situation because my humor is dark & twisty like that…  So I gave him the first name Elkay… Actually, I gave him initials… L.K. … which stood for Left Kidney… Because that’s about what he cost… L.K. became Elkay…

Ironically, I would TOTALLY give my Left Kidney to take what happened Sunday away. And its a GOOD KIDNEY people… My love of good beer has seen to that…

Did he just say that?… Yes, I just said that… Loves Beer, Loves Jesus… That’s a bumper sticker that will sell people!… But I digress…

I wanted this post to be happier & lighter today because yesterday’s note was not and I have a feeling tomorrow’s post won’t be either. So take a deep breath with me and soak in the happy times with Baxter.

Today, he would have been 5 months old exactly…


Continue on to Part 4 here

Baxter’s Story (A Reprise) ~ Part 2

Dear Readers… In case you missed yesterday’s disclosure, the is a re-posting of a series of Facebook Notes I wrote earlier this year in the wake of personal tragedy.  It is dark… And it is real…  Written four days after “the event” while sitting on gym bleachers during R’s basketball practice, sobbing as quietly as possible… As I read it back now, its a SOBERING REMINDER that this fight for each other in this world must never end…



In the movie A Time to Kill, Matthew McConaughey played the role of lawyer, Jacob Tyler Brigance. Ladies, I’ll pause there & give you a moment… Ok, that’s enough… At the end of the movie, he gave as his Closing Argument, one of the most disruptively brutal, yet beautiful monologues ever captured on film. Its easily one of the best movies of the 90’s and if you haven’t seen it, you should. Ashley Judd alone… … … … but I digress…

WARNING: If you have a weak stomach… If you have delicate sensitivities… If you are easily offended… If you cannot handle the unfiltered truth… PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE… Skip down to “end Jake Brigance”… Because before this thing can get better, it necessarily has to get worse… We process this whole thing or risk glossing over it as inconsequential… And it IS NOT inconsequential…

[channeling Jake Brigance…]


I’d like you to clear you mind for a moment and imagine if you would, that your best friend in the whole world is of the canine variety. And that even though you’ve only known him for 3 months, he is like the air you breathe… you just cannot believe that living without him is possible. Now imagine that you’ve had one of the best weekends ever. School was cancelled… You played all day… no seriously… ALL DAY LONG in the snow… sledding & snowball fights & just everything any kid could love about winter. And towards the end of that amazing 3-day weekend (& counting), you decide you want to share that world with your best bud before it all melts away. He’s so excited to see you, just like always, and eager to get on that leash & out the door with you. He trusts you completely and without question. The two of you, in a winter wonderland is just PERFECT. Close your eyes for a moment & really try to picture it… No seriously… Stop reading this, close your eyes, & picture it…

Now imagine that faster than you can blink, that friend is being attacked right in front of you. The leash is jerked out of your hand as he is drug one way and then the other. You are completely FROZEN in terror… unable to speak… unable to scream… Time is completely standing still… Images flash in front of your eyes that you somehow CANNOT command to close… His head completely inside of the mouth of one of his attackers… And the blood… so much blood… You hear him whimper, was it really just the once? And then all you can hear is the sound of his attackers, still biting & tearing at him viciously…

Now imagine that there are other people there trying to intervene… They are struggling to free him from his attackers… Everyone is yelling… Everyone is screaming… The barking… The growling… The sounds swirling in this cacophony of absolute terror… And finally… its over… The attackers have been subdued by the others… removed from the scene… And there you are… still frozen…

Can you see him?… His broken… bloody body lying there on the ground in front of you… Can you see him?… His completely lifeless 7lb body… No longer breathing… No sounds at all… His eyes are still wide open with terror permanently etched on them…
Now close your eyes again… Can you see him? Your friend… Your BEST FRIEND!… Is he still in one piece?… You’re not even sure… CAN YOU SEE HIM?

Now imagine you’re not you… Because if you’re reading this, you’re an adult or almost an adult… And the adult in you can’t see him at all in this situation… Imagine you are the 9 YEAR OLD YOU and this has just played out in front of you… Close your eyes again… CAN YOU SEE HIM?

[End Jake Brigance]


Jake Brigance used a similar approach in his Closing Argument to try & produce an emotional response from the jury. His case was full of holes, so he did the only thing he could think of… He told the jury the raw & unfiltered truth, because it was all he had. So you may be asking, “The movie reference is great, but just what in the hell were you trying to do by telling that morbid story?”

Well, for starters… That is the end of Baxter’s story. He no longer has the opportunity to tell his story. And he meant too much to us… endured too much… to not have his story told.

This is also R’s story… Thank God it is not over!… I cannot praise God enough for sparing her any physical harm in this event. Literally that VERY SAME DAY, a 7yr old boy in a nearby community lost his life in a dog attack. Thank you Jesus for your protection of her! But nonetheless, R cannot adequately tell her story either… Too much trauma for a 9yr old to process completely. If you’re wondering, all of the fragments she has been able to recall are in the account above. For your sake, I won’t say which are which.

Maybe I used that approach because we live in such a desensitized world these days that it would be all too easy to gloss over this… “It’s tragic… It’s hard… It’s unfair… Now walk it off… And what’s for dinner?” Baxter deserves better than that. R deserves better than that. This is NOT a little thing… So maybe I wanted to put the reader into the story as much as I could so they could feel the actual gravity of this situation.

Or maybe I’m just like Jake Brigance… full of holes (feels that way)… left with nothing but the raw & unfiltered truth. And here it is…

EVIL IS REAL… I am not saying these dogs are evil… I am not saying that their owners are evil… (They aren’t) But this thing that happened was PURE EVIL… And the Father of Evil is SATAN… And he is alive & roaming like a lion, looking for someone to devour [1Peter 5:8].

I just freaked a bunch of you out… That’s okay by me… Maybe you’ve never known a Faith in your lifetime & this concept makes you uncomfortable. Maybe you’ve been exposed to church, but this Satan thing, you’re just not ready for it. Maybe you’re even a true believer and your church just happens to downplay the spiritual warfare that exists all around us… I’ve attended churches like that myself.

So maybe you feel that I’m overblowing this Satan/prowling thing… I can say unequivocally, that he [Satan] probably likes it that way. You’re much easier to take out when you can’t even acknowledge that any danger exists.

Back to this story though… I just want to state loudly & clearly… I SEE YOU SATAN!… I see what you’re doing here… And I swear by Christ’s authority, IT WILL NOT PASS…
Just lost a few more people probably, but it doesn’t matter. R is my priority here… Satan is trying to take her out… Hell, Satan is trying to take all of our kids out!… Satan is trying to take all of US out!… It’s what he does!… Sometimes in big ways & sometimes in small ways, but his assault is relentless.

In this case, Satan is trying to take my bright, shiny, animal loving, life loving R & wound her deeply. He’s hoping she’ll blame herself (and she has tried). Hoping her love of animals will diminish, which could alter the course of her entire life (among many things, she’s talked about being a Veterinarian someday)… He’s hoping her radiance will become dimmer… that she’ll be less likely to love so easily… That she would become at least significantly tarnished or at best, deeply scarred by this event. He’s hoping that she becomes a fraction of the woman God designed her to be.

He can hope all he wants because IT WILL NOT PASS!…

We do not deal with this by playing prevent defense here… We rebuke Satan’s attack with an all out offensive of Love. Love of R… Love of Baxter… Praying for the other family and the tragedy they also experienced… And we confront the self-blaming head on… I feel like I have been playing Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting for four days straight because I’ve said to her “It’s not your fault…” so many times. Today, before I could say it to her, she said to me… “Its not my fault…” [pauses for verklempt moment]…

And we talk about it… If you know R at all, you know we talk about it ALOT … There is no under the rug sweeping going on here… There is no downplaying what she saw… Whatever she remembers… whatever images give her nightmares… We confront it head on… We focus on images of the good times we had with Baxter. And we pray for healing for all of us.

And I do not fight this battle alone… I’ve been progressively reaching out to the guys in my “unit” to pray over this thing. Collectively, we will beat back the gates of Hell here, because there simply is no other option. Thank God I have brothers who have my back, because I can’t do this alone.

R will be impacted by what happened Sunday, we ALL will be impacted by what happened Sunday. But by God’s Grace, she will remain her shiny, happy self and there will be Beauty from these Ashes…


So dear reader… My prayers for you are this… 1) If this story has surfaced anything from your childhood that was traumatic… big or small… Something not fully dealt with… more like glossed over… I’m begging you to go deeper with it. Why do you feel that way? What could/should have happened? Find a friend & talk it out… 2) Really give some thought to Does Evil Exist? And if so, where does it come from? Or more importantly, what should we do about it? Where should we turn for help? Whatever you do, don’t just ignore it… 3) Your kids, if you have them… when you have them… BE PRESENT and guard their hearts closely!… Do not be afraid to fight for them & do not try to do it alone!…

“To those who have sorrow in Zion I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, and a spirit of praise instead of a spirit without hope. Then they will be called oaks that are right with God, planted by the Lord, that He may be honored.” ~ Isaiah 63:3


Continue on to the next part here

Baxter’s Story (A Reprise) – Part 1

One year ago today, my family brought home a sweet new puppy & we named him Baxter.  We were not yet “dog people” at that point and we had no idea of what lay ahead. What you will read in this & subsequent posts, was originally presented as a series of Facebook Notes as I struggled to make sense of the tragedy that would unfold for us.  I didn’t know then that the words I spilled out would have any impact beyond my own catharsis.  But the reverberations were loud & ultimately led us here… to The Bible, The Spirit, & Diet Mountain Dew Blog…

So grab some tissues  & get ready to get yer Feels on…


 


When personal tragedy comes your way, its hard to know what to share via Social Media and what not to share. On the one hand, why burden the ‘internets’ with such a thing? On the other hand, there are some things that can be learned from the tragedy of others, so why not share. The longer this has lingered with me, the more I’m inclined to take the latter approach. “Beauty from Ashes” as my best friend said the other day…

And that’s really the crux of the situation right there. Romans 8:28 says… “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  TBH… its really hard right now to imagine the “good” in this for me & my family. But I’m hopeful that if I throw this thing out there, God will use it for someone else’s “good”. As he’s stirred this in me, I’ve realized I’ve got quite a few things to say about it all… Not really at the “I need to start a blog” level, but definitely more than a 144 character Tweet. And though the temptation exists to hate & rage on this thing… I’m committed to saying what I need to say in love.

And so… I’ll start Baxter’s story at the end…


January 24th, 2016 was not a typical Sunday, but we had no idea how atypical it would be when it started. Because typically, we’re pretty predictable on Sundays. If we’re in town, most Sunday’s we’re going to be at church until 12:30-1:00, then we go out for Mexican for lunch, because its in the bible somewhere. We’d usually meander homeward about 2:00-2:30 and that frequently meant nap time because if I was serving on team that Sunday, I would have been up since 6:30’ish in the morning. But there was no church that day… Cancelled due to the snow & ice & more snow that fell Friday & Saturday.

My youngest daughter, “R” (age 9 at the time) made a new friend during the snow days that weekend… She does that alot that fearless child o’ mine. She just goes at life with reckless abandon… offering her friendship to anyone that’s in her orbit. What you do with it is up to you… she’s just going to keep on being R regardless. My wife & I met the new friend for the first time on Saturday. Very nice kid… well mannered… polite… had his own light saber with him… They sledded & played hard in the weather all day Saturday & got started again early on Sunday. They knew it was going to get warmer on Sunday and wanted to get all they could out of that hill before everything started to melt.

But it did melt… and so they moved on to other adventures. Over lunch, they watched a Star Wars prequel because Star Wars… (obviously)… And then it happened… They had an idea to take Baxter and one of the kid’s small dogs for a walk around the neighborhood. Seemed harmless enough. Before we knew it Baxter was on the leash & they were out the door. I remember that I was hanging a picture in the living room. They hadn’t been gone but maybe 10 minutes when R busted through the front door wailing…

They had walked Baxter to “the kid’s” house and R stayed with him on the front lawn while the kid went in to get one of their family’s small dogs. In trying to exit the front door, the family’s two pit bulls blew right by the kid and…

Let me stop there & say that this will not become a referendum on pit bulls… My brother-in-law owns a very sweet one that R adores. There’s much more to this story on the dogs… R… Me… but for now just this…

Baxter died at approximately 1:58pm… January 24th, 2016…


Continue on to Part 2 here

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