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The Process of a Pearl
By Angela Posey-Arnold
Deep, deep down in the dark blue ocean somewhere between America and Africa a lone oyster lays on the ocean floor quietly minding his own business. He wakes up early, eats a little plankton then rides along with the rhythm of the tide. His journey in life consist of periods of calm restful seas rudely interrupted by the occasional tsunami.
In the ebb and flow of a restful sort of day the poor little oyster is totally blindsided by an unexpected irritating grain of sand. Like a blackberry seed under his little dentures this irritant sand grain lodges and begins to cause the little fellow great pain and suffering. With no toothpicks available he does all he can to stop the pain.
Unable to rid himself of the foreign object his tiny body begins to produce and ooze a glaze type substance. God has been good in His engineering of the oyster by giving him this ability. Day after salty day the oyster squirts this substance around the grain of sand coating the objectionable invader and comforting the pain.
One day he realizes the pain is gone and in the place of the grain of sand is a beautiful shiny white pearl. A pearl of great price, born from his suffering and pain. A magnificent jewel, a blessing arises from his pressing and pain.
“……….Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5 NKJV). Joy comes in the morning. What a wonderful promise to hold on to, for us as we too travel on our journey travelling along with the rhythm of the tide of grace. During periods of storms and the ebb and flow of life we can find pearls of blessing on the other side of suffering, sadness, loss, heart break and pain.
In His awesome love and grace God blesses many of His beloved with the love-ability of animals. In caring for His creation we find that love is not just a feeling it is an ability. Some have it, some do not. I have it. I always have and I hope I always do.
The Bible says man’s spirit goes on for eternity and animals return to dust. But God also says that man cannot possibly comprehend the wonderful things God has in store for us in eternity.
Dogs, cats, birds, horses, all kinds of animals are blessings and companions to God’s children who have been given this gift. God created animals for us and through their love and devotion we can gain a priceless delight, unconditional love.
Dogs especially have proven to me to be a special source of joy. They do not possess the image of God like we do but they have their own created image. Maybe they were created with left over angel creation parts, just a theory.
Dogs have an extraordinary character so unlike humans. They do not judge or hold a grudge. They never talk about you behind your back, they don’t gossip, meddle, or betray. They don’t steal from you unless you hold your pizza too low or they find a way to get to the Thanksgiving turkey. Even then, it isn’t anything personal, just about food. A dog will not lie or persecute you. This explains why I like dogs better than some people. Responding in kind to kindness, gentleness, praise and attention they are like a personal secret service alerting us to intruders and protecting us from harm.
Dog’s first priority is to please their best friend and master. In the manner of dogs unconditional love prevails. I will never be able to understand those who abuse or neglect these treasured creations. God cherished them enough to create them and save their kind on the ark. Little bit of a clue there that we should value them as well.
Putting forth the effort to adopt one of these little ones, through housebreaking and baths, nail clipping and chew toys we build a relationship like no other. Each one is distinct and designed to bring us joy.
One such example of God’s handiwork blessed our home for the last fourteen years. A Saturday afternoon flea market adventure became an adoption as my heart led me straight to the puppy section. My husband and I had recently lost our beloved Bailey, a blonde adventurous Shar Pei. I wasn’t sure my heart was ready for a new puppy until I walked into the puppy section of the flea market. There staring right at my heart the cutest little black pug face looked at me and begged to go home with us. He won our hearts with one little yap and we adopted him that day. Bama’s Black Onyx, an eight week old rare black Chinese Pug, captured us.
His character drew us in, made us laugh and love him we did. He quickly became my shadow and put on a show for everyone he came in contact with. His favorite skit being a spinning show that made everyone laugh.
As a tiny puppy barely three pounds I took him to work with me at the long term care facility where I was Director of Nursing. Carrying him in a basket to and from work and he stayed mostly in my office but was a star attraction in activities. As he grew I left him at home, he liked home better anyway.
In 2001 I was forced to retire my practice as an RN Director of Nursing after a tragic accident. Through rehabilitation and painful long recovery Onyx didn’t miss anything. At my side he stayed day and night. My constant companion he always made me laugh. When I was sad, he comforted me just by being there and being himself. That little Pug face with eyes that almost could talk.
2008 brought illness to Onyx and he began slowly to show his age. He developed a gray mask on his face marking his age. At thirteen years old he suffered from medical problems and slowed down significantly. No matter his condition he wanted to be by me. He just wanted to be where I was. When I slept, he slept. When I went out side, he wanted to go outside. Pugs have a tendency to have respiratory problems because of their short airways, he was no exception.
Onyx loved to go on walks with me but over the last few years I would end up carrying him home. He could really be a heavy load, so I purchased a stroller from the local thrift store. He loved it.
When we went camping I took the stroller along and he would proudly ride in it as I pushed him around the camp ground. We all laughed at the expressions on people’s faces when they thought they were about to see a baby and Onyx’s little pug face popped up from inside the stroller.
Truly a writer’s dog he slept patiently under my desk on a pillow while I endlessly wrote two books and numerous other projects. He was a good listener anytime I needed to read my writing out loud, never critical only listening.
The last month of his life he was diagnosed with a heart murmur and congestive heart failure. I knew he was really sick and even nursing him the best I knew how he progressively got worse. Medication helped for two weeks as we tried to prepare ourselves for life without him. I never reached the point of preparation.
On June 5th, 2009 Onyx’s condition worsened. We called the vet and he said he could not see him for two hours. I knew he would not make it two more hours with the heavy labored breathing. All I knew to do was to sit in our favorite chair, wrap him in his favorite blanket and hold him. I kept him warm and close to me and waited. He was so still but laboring to take each breath. He looked at me and then he slowly turned his head to look behind us. He seemed to be straining to see something or someone behind the chair. For ten minutes he looked at me, and then looked at the same place behind us. An angel must have been there.
I rocked and talked to him as he laid his weary head on my shoulder, took his last labored breath and left. I felt his body empty of himself. I felt myself lose a bit of my heart that went with him. Onyx left our home at 5:30 pm and our hearts filled with sadness.
My husband, Bear, picked out a special place under the singing Cedar tree next to the graves of other pets long gone before. As I waited for Bear to prepare the grave I laid Onyx on an old fur lined coat he loved to sleep on. I wrapped his lifeless body in the coat, covered his sweet pug face and cried. No comfort for me as my heart broke.
Through his own tears Bear buried him. The next day we crafted a marker out of a piece of marble and a wooden cross. He carefully placed it to mark where part of our home and heart now laid to rest. As the next few days passed I found little comfort in the loss. “If only I knew he went to heaven, it would be so much easier.” I told my husband. If only I could know that I would see him again.
I searched the Bible for answers. Nowhere does it say dogs do not go to heaven, but nowhere does it promise that they do. Many friends said things like they believe all dogs go to heaven. Well, that is nice to believe that but I have to prove my beliefs by what I believe in, the Word of God. I have concluded that there is no way for us to truly know. God does not tell us. I choose to hope that God has huge surprises waiting for us in heaven and I hope my Onyx is one of them.
In searching the Scriptures and with the counsel of dear women of faith I found comfort. My writer’s group is more than just a plain ole writers group. We are sisters in Christ, encouraging and helping one another on this journey. One of my fellow writers explained that animals have souls they just are not made in the image of God like man is.
A few Scriptures give me hope and comfort as God’s Word always does.
That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. (Romans 8:18-25 The Message)
Also in the Book of Isaiah:
The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid.
Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them.
Cow and bear will graze the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together,
and the lion eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens, the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent. Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain.
The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide. (Isaiah 11:6-9 The Message)
These Scriptures give us so much hope. Not only that animals will be part of God’s creation for eternity but that eternity will be so awesome we can’t even really get our minds wrapped around it. Like the song writer penned, “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Still in this life’s journey blessings abound. Pearls spring from pain and suffering. Just like the oyster when pain interrupts our life we do what we know to do to rid ourselves of the pain. I know prayer is a covering, a coating of the pain.
Rainbows continue to come after the storm. A week after Onyx died our hearts still tender from the breaking, we carried on. Knowing it is healing to help someone else in need, my husband and I made arrangements to help a couple who attends church where we go to worship. They were in need of a carpenter and we were in need of something to take our minds off our loss.
On our way to help them we took the back roads down the mountain. The road is desolate, narrow and winding at one point even fording a creek. The view from the top of the mountain is lovely seeing the Tennessee River in the distance below. Unfortunately some people use the desolate area to dump unwanted animals and other things they consider to be garbage.
Quietly taking in the view suddenly we saw a small white dog running almost frantically toward us. If it could have talked I think it would have been screaming, “help me!”
Bear stopped the truck and I opened my door. When I did the dog jumped in the truck got over beneath Bear’s feet and appeared frozen and terrified. We looked around for a home it could have belonged to and there were no houses within miles and miles. This little white dog, maybe weighing eight pounds, found us, ran to us and jumped into the safety of our vehicle.
She had no collar, she was so thin her ribs were showing, and well infused with horrible fleas and bites all over. She sat trembling possibly hoping we would not make her get out. It never entered our minds.
I picked her up and she held on to my neck for dear life. Her dark brown eyes begged to stay with us. There was no way we were leaving this poor helpless animal to the mercy of coyotes or worse. We brought her home, fed her, gave her a good bath, treated her flea bites and basically stared at her in amazement. We brushed her silky white hair and thanked God. How could she have been anything but a gift from Him?
To be sure we looked in the newspaper and local area stores for any posters for a lost dog. She is so beautiful we could not imagine why anyone would not want her, or allow her to be where she was in the shape she was in. No one posted her missing; we thanked God for that too.
I named her Pearl.
As I sit here at my desk writing this she is asleep on the pillow previously occupied by precious Onyx. He will always have a special place in my heart. He taught us a great deal about unconditional love and loyalty.
A Pearl arose from the sadness and pain of loss. A delight? A blessing? Oh yes, A jewel, a pearl. Joy on the other side of pain. A rainbow beyond the storm of loss.
Thank You Heavenly Father for letting us care for Onyx for so many years. Thank You for sending Pearl to ease our pain. You are so incredible. Your grace astounds me every time. I am so graced and blessed by Your Word and Your love where I can always find comfort and guidance. I love You and we will take really good care of Pearl. I hope Onyx is waiting. In Jesus Holy precious name, Amen.
©Angela Posey-Arnold 2009
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