I Love My Dog: for a Passionately Pet-Loving Principal

Behold, the late, great Cherry Bhutan Caldwell (only her vet knew her full name), along with my Sweet Prince. She passed away 4 years ago last week. I loved her *almost* enough to write a song about it. Almost.

Behold, the late, great Cherry Bhutan Caldwell (only her vet knew her full name), along with my Sweet Prince. She passed away 4 years ago last week. I loved her *almost* enough to write a song about it. Almost.

One of the best and worst parts about being in youth ministry is watching the teens you love and have poured your life into graduate high school and move on. It’s such a bittersweet feeling, being so proud as they step into the next phase of their lives yet mourning them leaving your care and journeying their own path into adulthood.

In order to keep my pregnant emotions in check, lately I’ve been just shutting down that whole “feeling” mess and trying to laugh as much as possible. Yeah, it will all hit me like a train eventually, but I’m going to be a wreck for a while anyway, so I may as well put it off while I can, right? So yesterday while I sat among some of my favorite people and watched some of my other favorite people play in the band and walk across that stage, I was goofing off and making sarcastic comments to anyone who could hear me. Hey, we sat towards the back and away from other people, okay?

Sunday afternoon I witnessed a high school principal present one of the strangest graduation speeches I’ve ever heard. What he lacked in inspiration he made up for in overuse of the word “experience” (I actually counted 4 times in a single sentence at one point)… although I don’t think that’s really a fair trade. From the vagueness and tone of the life lessons he was attempting to impart to this graduating class, it seems this guy had a tough year personally, so I don’t want to be too hard on him. I simply appreciate his assistance in my quest to laugh through the coming weeks of overwhelming emotion.

The point where my equally giggly husband lost it was when Mr. Principal started talking about his pets. Apparently this man has rescued several animals from dumpsters and other tragic circumstances, all of which is quite noble and certainly rewarding for canine and human alike. However, the quantity of time he spent discussing his pet-owner relationships, coupled with the sudden passion and conviction with which he delivered this portion of his otherwise monotonous speech, had to make you laugh. It was, much to our enjoyment, a hot topic of conversation at the graduation party we attended, as well as many more today, I’m sure.

So here’s to you, Mr. Animal-Loving High School Administrator! You have filled my day with laughter and given the class of 2015 something to talk about for years to come. I don’t remember a single thing about my high school graduation ceremony, so I think we could all use a little more of people like you to keep things interesting. And just so you always know you are not alone in your devotion to the pets that would “die for [you] if it came to that” and “with one look can melt away all my problems and struggles of the day” (both quotes from Mr. Principal’s speech), I dedicate this video to you. In a strangely ironic twist of fate, the iconic Cat Stevens has written a timeless song about his love for dogs, and today, Mr. Principal, this one is for you!

Come on, y’all; share the love. Tell me about your favorite pet that you love more than humans!


He Provides

he provides

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life — whether you will have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Matthew 6:25-33

I don’t know why I ever worry.

The last year+ of my life has seen more than its share of sorrow. Losses of pregnancies, losses of opportunities, losses of dreams, and losses of hope. I have been tempted to give up on God, but I know I can never do that. I’m too far into this, and I know the truth too well to walk away. But that doesn’t mean I’m always happy about it.

Down here in my pit of despair, I have always known God could rescue me, that he could right the wrongs and heal my hurt, but I honestly stopped thinking he would. At least I stopped expecting it. I had been let down so many times. I was resigned to continuing this trudge through every.single.day, working my way out of the mire on my own. Not that God couldn’t save the day, I just figured I’ve been here long enough, I must not be suited for the miraculous.

These are all things I know in my head to be false, but gosh, it’s hard to overcome those feelings deep inside your heart. In fact, these feelings are so consuming that seeing the way out might just take… a miracle.

This week we needed a miracle. My husband and I have been emotionally drained, and Wednesday was the pinnacle of our stress. Wednesday also included a meeting that added an enormous financial strain to our plates, and a tearful phone call caused us both to feel like the situation was hopeless.

Finally coming home at 11:00 Wednesday night, ready to crash in bed and try to forget this day just happened, my husband noticed something stuck under the door.


This envelope had been stuck under the locked front door from the outside. The only words were “He Provides,” in a handwriting we don’t recognize. Inside was a blank card… and a thick stack of hundreds.

For the last year, I have felt like I was walking this road alone. Sure, God is in control, but I didn’t feel like he really cared about my needs. I felt alone and abandoned, and I was just along for the ride. On my way home in a separate car, before my husband told me about the card, a song came on the radio that I have heard before, but this time it felt like the Holy Spirit jumped out of those speakers and into my heart. He was speaking directly to me:

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did you leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, you are faithful

-Matt Redman, “Never Once”

When my husband told me about the card, I knew those words were from the Lord. He HAS been with me all this time. He has “carried [me] in his constant grace,” as the song says, even when I couldn’t see it. This week we received a financial miracle that may not solve all our problems, but it assures me not only that he can provide, but he will.

I don’t tell you this story to brag about our situation; no, I have done nothing to deserve or earn this grace. I share this to give glory to God for a miracle that only he is capable of doing. (No one else knew how much we needed!) And I want you to know he sees you too. Even when you feel completely alone, he is there. You are loved and valued in his eyes. And he will make a way for you, just like he has for me.

Just trust him.

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:19

Wilderness, Depression, & Stars in the Night*


The purpose exceeds the pain.”

Beth Moore

We are a culture that abhors pain. We are always looking for a quick and easy way out, whether it’s avoiding the gym or popping pills or distracting ourselves with who-knows-what to escape that gnawing feeling of something being wrong.

Even church people are guilty. Christians often get blindsided by difficulties we face in life, and rather than seeking the purpose of our trials, we pray and petition God for a way out. Pain is uncomfortable, and that just doesn’t fit with our Americanized vision for serving the Creator of the Universe.

In fact, our aversion to pain has often caused American church culture to glorify certain workings of the Lord over others, or – worse – superficially write off painful circumstances without searching for the beauty of God’s plan in that moment. It’s great for when you’re on the mountain top, but it will leave you empty when you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

The truth is, God is there in that terrible doctor’s report, that tragedy, that lonely road. He’s there, and he is moving and working and doing his miracle-thang that he does… He’s just not standing front and center like in those great moments of healing and deliverance.

Think of it this way: if miracles are stars, healing might be the sun. It’s like HERE I AM! LOOK AT ME!!! and you have to put on your sunglasses because woah, that feels bright! Maybe, just maybe, the pain and hurt we experience is still a star, but it’s more distant. You might not even notice it unless you’re really looking for it. Heck, you might just need a telescope to know it exists, but there it is, 30 million miles away, and what’s it doing out there? Shining brighter than the sun.

The thing about those distant stars is that even when you’re looking for them, you can only see them under certain conditions. If you’re sitting at a park on a warm spring day, watching everyone around you run and play and bask in the sunlight, you might feel alone and isolated, wondering why everyone else can enjoy the day while you are still drowning in your circumstances, your depression, your pain. That doesn’t diminish the others’ joy on this beautiful afternoon, but it can make you feel pretty crummy. I have heard depression described as drowning, only everyone around you is breathing. You don’t want anyone else to drown either; you just want to come up for air.

Believe me, I’ve been there. (I am there?) We have to remember, though, that our painful miracles can’t be seen in the daylight. It doesn’t mean they’re not present, they’re just not visible because of our perspective. To see, recognize, and appreciate the beauty of a distant star, you have to get into the darkness. There, in the cold, lonely night, you can look up and see not only your star, but billions of others that you never would have noticed without that bitter dark.

Here’s to all of us who are sitting outside at night, telescopes in hand, waiting for the clouds to part…

*Thanks, Jefferson Bethke, for this incredible video that my husband showed me yesterday while we talked about this. Thanks for saying this so much better than I can. And sorry I used your title. I hope it’s not copyrighted…