An Empty Pillow

Fostering animals can be a heavy lift, and it can certainly be a challenge in unexpected ways. However, I want to highlight the joy and importance of fostering! I am currently fostering three female guinea pigs, and as I navigate their fear and uncertainty, I am reminded of the first dog I ever fostered a few years ago. Below is a post I wrote during my first night after she left. Spoiler alert: she ended up getting adopted by a very sweet couple who love her dearly!

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Tonight I have an Tonight I have an empty pillow. I bought this big pink pillow one day and it has been a comfort to me for many years. In college, I propped it on my bed for late night study sessions. In grad school, I rested it across my lap as I typed up papers. Years later, this pillow was now used as a comfort for a dog I was fostering.

This dog has really bad separation anxiety. Her family unfortunately had to bring her to the shelter and this senior dog was so confused and overwhelmed. She cried for hours and desperately searched for people who would give her attention.

There is something about this dog that I immediately connected to. It is terrifying being in a new environment and not knowing why the ground has been pulled out beneath you. As someone who had separation anxiety as a kid, I felt a bond to this dog in a way I can’t describe. This is the dog I knew in my heart that I had to help. I brought her home for several nights in hopes of easing her mind and offering her some peaceful quiet.

She bonded to me and quickly fell in love with my pink pillow. As she began to feel more safe over a few days, this pillow offered her comfort for her anxious body. To wake up in the morning with a fluffy face laying across this bright pink pillow is something too special for words.

This sweet soul was so gentle and loving. She would take walks but turn around to make sure I was still on the other end of the leash. She waited outside my tub when I showered just to confirm that I wasn’t disappearing behind the curtain. It was exhausting and draining to be followed around and in a constant state of worry, but it was so gratifying to know that this dog was really shining in a home environment.

Tonight I have an empty pillow. This little sweetie is going to a foster home that will care for her long term until she is ready to be adopted. I shed some tears knowing that she must be scared tonight, but I take comfort in knowing she has a great life ahead of her.

If you ever have the chance to foster, I urge you to do so. It’s an eye opening experience and we are always in need of foster homes that will help our animals become ready for adoption. There are so many animals that thrive once they are in a home environment. Even just fostering for a few days provides us with more information about what kind of home would be a good fit for this animal.

Tonight I have an empty pillow, but my heart is so full of gratitude and love. If you are interested in fostering, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you have room in your heart and home for a temporary furry family member, consider helping an animal in their temporary home. You will be comforting and nurturing an animal before you allow them to find their forever home. You may be left with an empty pillow, but I promise you will be forever changed.

Beyond the Sunrise

People say they find God in unexpected places, experiencing his presence in ways they haven’t in their day to day life. It may be a new church they weren’t planning to attend and it really connects to their heart, or meeting a person who embodies the kindness and compassion you can model your own life after. It’s that feeling of knowing God is with us and we are not alone in this big world.

I’ve had some trouble with this concept, as I am a creature of habit and I am a fan of my routines. I like my calendars and schedules, and I like following them even more. Finding God in unexpected places would mean I would have to actually go to unexpected places. If I didn’t plan for it, I’m probably not too keen on it or excited for it. Other people can jump at new opportunities with enthusiasm and eagerness. I prefer to keep my anxiety at bay with structure and predictability.

This is one of the reasons I haven’t been a huge fan of traveling. Trying to pack for the unexpected while also bringing your necessities would always throw me for a loop. You don’t know how much traffic there will be on the way to the airport, how long the lines will be once you get there, and if the flight will even be on time. For someone who has spent years trying to manage their anxiety, there are too many variables that could throw off my plans and send my heart for the races.

I’ve made a conscious effort to ground myself in my faith this past year. I challenged myself to know God personally and made a thoughtful decision to prioritize my faith. I was deeply committed to experiencing God’s presence in a way I hadn’t felt before, I just wasn’t sure what that looked like. I wanted to write more and share my faith through my words, but I couldn’t get a grasp on what I wanted to say.

I felt God so many times during my travels this past weekend. I saw Him in the kind Uber driver who was chatting about how he likes mornings because people are nicer and not in such a hurry. As I reflected on his words while walking to my gate, trying to consciously be both nice to people and not in such a hurry, I saw this gorgeous sunrise. I felt His peacefulness seep into my soul and ooze out into the fibers of my being.

There’s something about airports that I’ve grown to love. Maybe I’ve seen “Love Actually” too many times, or maybe I’m a sucker for a good make-believe story. People are eager for their much needed breaks, ready to go somewhere that has happiness stamped on the map. There are couples who are patiently awaiting trips to see family and kids who are thrilled for their vacations. I can’t help but feel their excitement bubbling over in anticipation of getting on a plane and taking off to somewhere new.

For some reason, I get a lot of inspiration at airports. More recently, I’ve felt God there too. When I am in the air and all I see out the window of the plane are clouds, I feel closer to God. It’s like being removed from the world below and looking at the life I think I’m living down there. Am I being kind like the Uber driver mentioned about morning people? Am I pursuing happiness or waiting until I am on vacation to do so? What will it take for me to trust God with my life the way I trust this airplane suspended across the sky?

My purpose in sharing this story is to have you to consider where you feel God’s presence. It could be in the comfort by your cozy fireplace at home or in the sweet serenity of a quiet table at Starbucks. I’ve found that when I am doing what I love, writing and connecting to others through my words, I feel God the most. It makes me wonder how many of us would see His light beam a little brighter when our souls are aligned with what we love.

Whether your feet are on the ground or miles high in the sky, I hope you find inspiration in the the places you go and the people you meet. I hope you give yourself the opportunity to do what makes you happy and to feel God’s love in all that you do. And lastly, I hope you have the courage to dream as big as the sky and to follow those dreams just beyond the sunrise.

Gifts from the Heart

It was a week filled with more toys than I had ever seen in my life. Working at a children’s hospital, I was in awe of generosity from the community. So many people came through our doors and I wanted to be a gracious host to them all, but the sheer magnitude of people bringing toys was overwhelming. There were former patients’ families, school clubs, church groups, and other community members that rallied together to bring cheer to the kids who would be spending the holidays in a hospital. It was heartwarming to know that people continued to come year after year to give back.

In the midst of a chaotic day, I found myself going through the motions. My shoulders were sore from lifting boxes and my legs were tired from carrying donations. I hadn’t had a chance to have lunch yet so I was desperately waiting for a good time to break. Then an older gentleman walked into our office and wanted to make a donation. He pulled out a box and, trying to make conversation, I asked what was in the box. He beamed with pride and said it was a stamp collection. I instantly stopped in my tracks.

We’ve had incredible donations of the latest trending toy, the “it” doll, and some of the coolest gadgets a kid could have. But, it was the stamp collection that blew me away. This man was humble and kind, giving us something he treasured and hoped would bring joy to the kids. It reminded me of the stamps my dad had collected, and when I was a kid, we would spread out the stamps on the maroon carpet of my grandparents’ living room and sort the stamps by dates and themes.

The donor had no idea how moved I was by his gesture, but I carried his message with me. The holidays can bring out the frustration of trying to please everyone and the stress of spending too much money on gifts. This man centered my spirit and reminded me that this season is about giving what you have, whether it’s special time spent together, a meaningful gift, or a piece of your heart. It doesn’t have to be the top toy of the year to reach the smile of a child. It doesn’t have to be the best new technology to touch the heart of a friend. It’s about sharing your joy with others.

I was recently listening to a podcast by Caroline Hobby as she interviewed Hannah Mooney, former Miss Arkansas and the wife of country music star Shay, of the duo Dan and Shay. Hannah was talking about how she was in beauty pageants and she was required to perform a talent for the judges in 90 seconds. She then said something that I loved; she said that some people have talents that can’t be performed. Hannah went on to explain that you might be a sweetheart, and that’s a wonderful thing that you can’t show on stage. I appreciated this message because giving of our gifts does not mean it has to be wrapped in a bow.

As December wraps up and I start reflecting on the past year, I think about how we are called to give of ourselves, not always tangible things, but really give our heart and soul to this beautiful life we have been given. For one man, it was giving of something that brought him joy, a feeling he hoped to pass on to others. Knowing that other people would smile because of what he offered was a gift itself. For Hannah, it was giving the message that talent doesn’t need to be confined to a box you don’t fit in. You can be a kind person, and that alone is a gift to this world.

You have gifts that only you can offer. You are unique and special, and your talents are needed in this world, whatever they may be. May you shine your light bright today, and always.