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TITLE: From Pepper to Peanut
By Loretta Leonard

Overview: As Christians we often expect God to answer our prayers in a specific way. A small boy has a simple request but the immediate answer is "No". After a period of waiting the young boy's wish for a dog as a family pet is granted. Learning to wait is not always easy but this short story shows the way that God answers prayer.
ďMrs. Holloway, this is Jack Hill. I'm sorry to bother you this morning but I wanted to see if you know where Steven is. I believe I see him outside near my home."

"Steven is outside but I am confident that he is still in the back yard. I only came in for a few minutes to get a drink. He was playing on the swing set when I came in. Let me check to see if e he is outside," responded Mrs. Holloway.

"Oops, I can't see him anywhere. Where did you see him?"

Mr. Hill recalled exactly when he noticed the lad near his home. It had only been a few minutes but while sitting on the back patio having his coffee, his careful eye caught the image of a young lad walking past his home. The boy appeared to be about five years old or at least old enough to be used to spending time outside. He was wearing a striped shirt with navy shorts and was moving slowly down the sidewalk headed towards the intersection of Spruce and Linden. It looked like one of Mrs. Holloway's children.

Mr. Hill described the scene unfolding before his eyes to Mrs. Holloway. The young lad had looked towards Mr. Hill's home once and had a rather sad look on his face. The red metal wagon followed behind making a slight noise on the concrete surface beneath the wheels. A few paces to the right a black and white Dalmatian about 6 months old kept step with the boyís determined pace. The dalmatian's height towered over the lad and although he was not on a leash he definitely seemed to belong to him. I wasn't sure until then that I made a connection between him and your family of boys. I was pretty sure that you had no idea that he was trekking down the sidewalk along a busy highway where he could be hit by passing cars. Even worse, he could easily kidnapped. That's when I knew I had to call you.

"Thanks so much Mr. Hill. It seems like no matter how hard I try to keep up with four active boys they are always one step ahead of me. I'll go out now and rescue him. Thanks again."

A very pregnant Mrs. Holloway exited through the front door and looked towards the street. Yes, there was Steven walking along the side of the road. With a fast-paced walk it only took a few minutes for her to rescue her wayward son. Steven was returned to the safety of his own home.

Curious about how the whole scene unfolded Mrs. Holloway asked Steven what had caused him to try to run away from home, Steven recounted his side of the story. "When the black and white spotted dog came into my yard I thought he would be a great pet. I really wanted to keep him but when I asked you if I could you said no. I had so much fun playing catch with him and he was always at my side. I even had a great name for him. Pepper. I just wanted a dog, that's all."

Mom silently contemplated what Steven said. For a young boy it certainly seemed logical that he could keep a dog that had wandered into the back yard. Steven had his own bicycle and his share of toys for playing in the yard. I guess I probably did ruin his plans but he doesn't understand the work involved in keeping up with a pet. With two cats living inside there was plenty to juggle especially with one more on the way. Yes, Steven had logically thought through the problem and felt he had the perfect answer. I just didnít think it was fair to put him outside on a chain all day.

Saying "No" is not the easiest thing for any mother to tell her child. I always want to do what is right but I can't always say "Yes". Being a mother is not a popularity contest. There are times when I have to wait for answers to things that I think I need only to find out that God's way is always best.

So, for Steven the desire to have a pet would ot come immediately. Our family moved from Kansas to Louisiana and as the boys began to grow up the time to have a pet seemed to fit in better with the growing needs of our family.

It wasnít until my husband Terry stopped at a friendís home that he noticed the new litter of puppies. The mother dog was about ten pounds and all the dogs were tri-colored. Black, white and brown colors blended over the body. Locating the one pup that resembled the mother, my husband picked up the tail wagging bundle and headed home.

Peanut was part terrier with a friendly personality. He was frisky and immediately became the center of attention. The years of waiting were over and the much awaited pet dog was a reality. That relationship would continue for several years.

Peanut was the ideal pet for a houseful of young growing boys. Chasing balls and games of catch was one of the favorite activities the boys used to keep Peanut amused. He was taken for long walks on a leash and was always there waiting for everyone to come home. He became our protector and defender. Anytime someone new came around, he would bark to alert them of his presence. I remember one time when we were selling our home that Peanut showed his capability to keep out anyone not in the family. The phone call to set up an appointment was scheduled for 3:30 pm. With school dismissal at 3:00 pm I felt that I had enough time to pick up the boys, get home and put Peanut in the car, and leave while the house was being shown. What I didn't know was that the home buyer came early before I had time to pick up Peanut. The realtor put the key in the door and Peanut put up such a fuss that no one could get inside. There was no compromising; Peanut would not let the potential buyers into the home. They eventually had to leave. When the realtor called us later he laughed because he didnít think that anything that small could be so persistent.

We moved a lot during the next few years but Peanut always came along. We moved from Louisiana to Tennessee to Virginia to Arkansas and he was always sitting in the back seat watching the scenery and waiting to see where we were going next. He made the trip to Pennsylvania to relax in the cabin we owned. No matter where we went, Peanut came along.

Peanut could help cheer up my attitude by just being able to listen. He was always there to help me forget any problems that I may have had while teaching at school or just when I was around home. When the boys had friends over Peanut would bark at first then he would eventually join in the fun. Whether it was playing in the snow, swimming in the pool, or just playing catch he loved being around our family.

Before long the boys had grown up and were ready for college. They seldom came home except for holiday weekends. Peanut missed them and as soon as any one of the boys came in the door, Peanut would anxiously meet them at the door, wag his tail and greet them with a nice moist kiss. (Okay, maybe they didnít like the tongue all over the face, but it was his way of letting them know that he remembered and missed them.)

With "empty nest" Peanut became a close companion. He knew how to get my attention and had a special place on the couch where he would sleep peacefully while I worked around the home. He loved walking on a leash and most of my exercise was complete with Peanut at my side.

As dogs age, there are a variety of health problems that can result as a matter of aging. Peanut had always been healthy but during his last two years Peanut developed kidney problems. I did my best to make him feel comfortable. He had taken care of us for many years so it only seemed logical that I should return the favor during his "senior" years. Peanut struggled to regain his health but the long battle had only one obvious ending. The body was tired and Peanut had already lived a long life. Peanut passed away in 2004 at the age of eighteen.

Years have passed and the story about Pepper and the runaway have remained in our family. The memories of Peanut are just as vivid in our minds. When it came to keeping Pepper, my answer to Steven was ďNoĒ. I had my own reasons yet his young mind had a different logic. He didnít understand why I wouldnít agree with him. Two different people saw things as a solution to the problem but only one person could make the decision and have the final answer. Steven had long given up on having a dog and probably had forgotten his childhood wish for a pet. Yet while he busy getting used to a new school and meeting friends his dream became a reality.

This has a wonderful application to living as a Christian in today's world. Just when you think the request has been long forgotten, the answer comes in an unusual and unexpected way. I often ask God for things that are really not as necessary as I think they are. When I was a young Christian I would normally ask for material needs that I thought would make things easier for our family. Godís answer often came as a ďNoĒ or thereís a pause that makes me wonder if God even heard me. There are times when God answers my prayers right way but I donít always get what I want. My plans and dreams may seem right in my own eyes, but Godís plan is greater than mine and Heís the one giving direction to my life.

Many times I have given up hope or decided that God didn't hear me when God comes through at the last minute just to prove to me that he still cares. I may not always understand his reasoning but as I grow in His word and follow Him I learn to trust Him more and more.

The more I let him have control of my life the more I can see the wisdom of His answers to my prayers. He is always at my side and wants what is best for me. My challenge is to keep my focus on God and wait for his answer. Itís the timing that makes all the difference. Can I continue to let Him guide me through life? What surprises does He have in store for me? Certainly the wait will be worth His perfect will.
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