Thursday, January 5, 2017

What a way to bring in the new year...

If you had bet me at 10:30 pm on December 31, 2016 that at the stroke of midnight I would be ringing in the new year with two handsome young men and a policewoman, while I lay on my driveway in a big bear hug…well, I would have lost that bet for sure.

Now that I have your attention, let’s start at the beginning. I’ve never been big on celebrating New Year’s Eve. It is one of those evenings that never meets expectations, big crowds, loud music, fireworks and merriment. One night a year when everyone goes out, has forced great fun and at the stroke of midnight you find yourself wrapped in the arms of someone you love, gazing up at them and singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Gag. 

Truth be told, this is usually one of those nights when all the restaurants are too crowded, service is slow, parties are disappointing and all you really want to do is go home and be in bed by 10:00 pm. Be honest and tell me I’m right.

This year, I did spend the evening with a group of good friends. We ate, watched football, played a few games and because none of us are spring chickens, we were content to call it a night by 10:30.

I had thought I might spend the night at a friend's home so I wouldn’t have to drive home, but thought better of it and instead Ubered home. (Can Uber now be considered a verb?) Sitting in the back seat on the drive home, I began to feel a blanket of sadness drape itself around me. The night was clear, early fireworks  were lighting up the night sky and the sound of pops and booms filled the air and a bit of self-pity caused me to sink lower into the seat cushion of the little Uber car. It was New Year’s Eve, it was 10:30 pm and I was on my way home, alone. Whaa whaa. I will never be a fan of New Year’s Eve.

Opening my front door, Lucy was strangely absent. My faithful dog is always there to greet me, tail wagging, covering me with her wet kisses and begging me to scratch her belly. I walked to the backyard calling for her, no Lucy. Fireworks exploded, I turned the corner of my driveway and there she was, sitting by the back gate. Calling Lucy, she didn’t move, she didn’t even turn around. Walking up to her, I knew my Houdini dog had tried to escape the boundaries of my backyard. My mind instantly recalled past July 4th evenings and remembered Lucy’s fear of fireworks and her need to run.  Bending down to reassure her all was well, I realized Lucy had wedged the top half of her body between the 4 inch slats of my wrought iron gate. She was stuck like Winnie the Pooh in a honey jar and my 35 pound dog was not budging through that narrow opening. 

I began to panic as I tried to think of ways to release my beloved dog without further injury. I grabbed a hammer and crowbar out of the garage. I don’t know what good I thought they would do, but I pulled that bar with all my might. I got down on the ground, pushing with my feet and pulling with all my strength, nothing shifted. Lucy’s breathing was labored and she was shaking. Had she been like this all night or just since the fireworks began? I’ll never know, but I was beside myself. What if I had spent the night out? What if I had driven home and opened my automated back gate without seeing Lucy? Oh, poor girl!

It was now about 11:30 and I knew Brooke and Jared had an early night out with the kids. I was certain they were asleep, but I had no other option. After many rings, a sleepy Jared shuffled down the block to help me. He tried to pry the iron slats apart and fearing he might have a hernia, I finally stopped him. Then it dawned on me…the fire department!

I called 911 and sent Jared back to bed. I crouched on the pavement in the dark, holding Lucy’s sweet head until the nicest “little” policewoman came to my rescue. Shining her flashlight on Lucy, I saw that she was covered in blood. There was blood all around her, the driveway, the gate and the side of my house…oh sweet Lucy. “Little” Ms. Officer knew there was nothing she could do, so she called the fire department.

Are you seeing where this story is going? Picture this. It’s now about 11:50pm. It’s New Year’s Eve, I am in the dark, lying on the pavement, in my New Year's Eve attire, holding my large, furry, bloody dog’s head in my arms. I’m covered in blood and whispering, “ It’s okay, you’re going to be okay,” Up walked the most adorable young firemen (what they say about firemen is really true). They were strong, muscular and young enough to be my sons. They quickly assessed the situation and took no time in cutting the spindle of iron, prying my silly dog free.

Worried about all the blood, we brought Lucy inside, found the wound was just a small cut and all breathed a sigh of relief. My clock began chiming midnight as these sweet young (did I already say adorable) men, and the “little” policewoman all hugged one another. Thanking them profusely and wishing everyone a happy and safe new year, I closed the door and went to sit by my wounded little beast.

As I sat on the floor comforting Lucy, I understood I wasn’t so different from my old, furry, lovable and often times, rather dumb dog. How many times have I been fearful and anxious, surrounded by the unfamiliar pops and booms that come with life? Much like Lucy, I have felt isolated, alone and scared. All I have wanted to do is run, trying to escape the safety of what I know best, what I love dearly but, choosing my own escape route, I have found myself stuck, calling for the help that was always present.

Reassuring Lucy that she wasn’t alone, she was safe, she was loved, I held her in my arms and tried to convey to her that even though I might be out of sight, I am never far away. It was then I heard that still soft voice whispering this same promise to me. “Janet, you are not alone, you are never alone, I am here for you. You are safe, you are loved and I will protect you, even to the ends of the earth.”

When will I learn that I never need to fear or try to escape life’s tough and scary times? When will I fully grasp that I have a merciful God who is full of grace and though, out of sight, is always ready to comfort and care for me? 

It has taken the last four days for Lucy to fully heal. The first couple of days she didn’t move or eat. I’m sure she was sore and traumatized, but she’s one tough cookie and she seems back to normal today, tail wagging and wanting her belly scratched.

Life is full of lessons and of blessings and I was handed both this new year. I am blessed to believe in a God who whispers his promises to me when I am still enough to listen, to understand that He is always here to protect and guide me to safety and He loves me far more than I could ever imagine.

Oh, and a side note, who ever decided "Auld Lang Syne" was a good New Year’s Eve song?  “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind…” Malarkey, hokum, hogwash!

To each of you, dear friends, I have never and will never forget the roles you played in my life. I am thankful for my old acquaintances, for without you, my life would not be the same.

My prayer to each of you, is that you too may be able to hear the voice of a loving God whose steadfast promise is the same for you as it is for me. 

For what it’s worth,

Matthew 28:20 “remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”