Sunday, March 6, 2011

Miracles Do Happen . . . Even for a Cat

WARNING: This Devo may contain TMI with regard to a cat's, um, bathroom behavior.

Last Friday, I greeted our family cat in the basement while he was in his litter box. I, kindly, averted my eyes and went about my business (laundry). Then, after several minutes, I realized that my cat was still hanging out in his litter box. Being that I've known this cat for the latter five years of his life (and the near entirety of my married life), I knew this was a bad sign.

Thus, a day of total chaos began. I called the vet. I made an appointment. I struggled to shove that stinking cat into the cat taxi. I got cat hair in my lip gloss. I drug my kids with me to the vet. We waited. The kids went nuts. The vet said, "If your cat doesn't urinate by 5 p.m., he needs to come in for a surgery. This surgery would save his life, and it is very expensive. It could potentially run you over $1,000, so . . . just know that."

I paid the vet bill for that office visit (which was already a chunk of change). I took the kids and the cat back home, and I spent the afternoon praying (well, among other duties of mine throughout the course of a regular weekday afternoon) for my cat to pee.

At 4 p.m., the vet called and asked if the cat had done the deed, and I was heartbroken to say that he hadn't. The vet then basically said I needed to act fast and get in there, or he could (and most likely would) die.

I asked God what I should do. I knew it was ridiculous to consider spending $1,000 on an 8-year-old cat, but, I went there in my thoughts. I don't even like the stupid cat most of the time, but I felt like I should do everything I could to help him (my husband and kids adore him, and oddly enough, there is actually place in my heart for him). I was a mess. I cried. I felt incredibly helpless.

Then, I remembered this little gem that friend Micah Leigh recently repeated during an email correspondence:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6-7)
Once I remembered that passage, it was as if an autopilot switch came on. I slowed down. I continued with my day as if I would normally. I kept an eye on the cat, and I continued to pray, of course. In fact, I got my 3-year-old daughter in on the action. Together, we said a prayer for the cat. "Dear God, Please let our kitty pee. Amen."

Then, I made the difficult phone call to the vet to let them know we would not be coming in for the surgery. My husband and I knew quite well (and expected it, realistically) that we could be putting our cat to sleep on Monday, but we kept praying that maybe he would just get better. We cried (well, it may have just been me, but I know Willis at least wanted to). I was beginning to accept that he was going to be gone soon, and I was also prepping myself for his bleak few days ahead.

In the morning, we were up early (always—our son is an alarm clock), and we were preparing to head to my parents' house for a long-planned visit. Just before we left, Willis ran up from the basement and told me to come look: the cat had peed! It wasn't much. It didn't necessarily mean at the time that the cat was going to be okay, but we at least knew there was hope (and reinforcing that, perhaps, not doing the surgery and dumping a load of cash was truly the right decision).

This afternoon, I checked the cat's box again to find that he's finally urinating more. As embarrassing as it is to actually acknowledge the fact that I shouted, "Thank God!" while staring into a cat litter box in my basement, it is still a real miracle. He's going to be okay!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Confessions of a Major "Risk" Taker

When it comes to sharing my faith... well, I don't really do it. I consider my faith a pretty private matter (which is why I'm usually a lurker and not a contributor on this blog). Evangelism isn't my gift. I don't really talk about Jesus - not due to any shame, but more because I worry that, if I bring it up, I won't be knowledgeable enough to take it anywhere - especially in my workplace, where I get the impression I'm in the minority when it comes to my beliefs.

When I was in college, I crossed paths with a girl who was seeking Jesus. She had a lot of questions. She wanted to talk, but I didn't really know what to say. She wanted to go to church, and I took her with me a couple of times, but I didn't follow up. As far as I know, the moment passed and her interest fizzled. She left school, we lost touch, and I don't know the rest of her story. That lost opportunity haunts me.

Earlier this week, I got an email from the women's ministry leader at our church here in Illinois, inviting me to a "mini-retreat." I haven't been involved in the women's ministry here at this church, but I'd heard good things about this particular program, so I considered going. On a whim, I considered asking the girl who sits next to me at work (for our purposes, we'll call her "B").

"B" is about my age. She's sweet tempered, considerate, kind, loyal - everything you'd want a friend to be. I don't know much about her life outside of work, but I haven't heard her talk about church or any other issues of faith, except to express a little curiosity about mine. I don't know if she grew up in the church. I don't know for sure whether she goes somewhere now. All I know is that, somewhere along the way, I got the impression she was a seeker - someone seeking to learn more about Jesus, whether she knows that's what she's doing or not.

I've thought about inviting "B" to things before. I belong to a small group, and I've thought about asking her to come to cookouts, a Super Bowl party, things like that. I haven't done it. My excuse: I don't want to be responsible for doing something that might "turn her off" to a life of Christian faith. Better to not be an ambassador at all than to be a BAD one. I didn't know enough. I wasn't worthy of mediating a meeting between her and Jesus.

But, on that particular day, with that particular email, I clicked "Forward." I typed one sentence: "I got this invitation and I thought of you; interested?"

There. I'd done it. I'd broken the ice. She would say no, and then I could invite her to something else later. The second time it wouldn't seem so weird. And then, maybe, five-six-seven invitations down the road, maybe she'd say yes. That's the process for something like this, right?


She said yes.
She said, "That sounds awesome. I'd love to go."
She said, "I've never done anything like this before."


I spent the next couple of days second guessing myself. What if I invited her to the wrong thing? What if this program wasn't what she was expecting? What if she goes to this, decides it's not for her, and then stops "seeking"... that is, assuming she was ever seeking in the first place?

I arrived at the church 20 minutes before the program started, just to make sure I got there before she did. She got there 10 minutes early, ready to go and not sure what to expect. I didn't know what to expect either.

The program started, and it was NOT seeker level. It was honestly kind of heavy. There was a lot of, "I feel the Holy Spirit has put this on my heart..." and "I feel God has been telling me..." There were a lot of scripture references being thrown around. I started sweating. I wondered if "B" was getting freaked out. I wondered if she was uncomfortable, if she regretted coming.

Then, toward the end of the retreat, we had a half an hour of quiet time - lights off, soft music, prayer, laying on mats - rest. As part of this quiet time, the leaders of the retreat went around the room and prayed with each woman individually. I wanted to run over to "B" and tell her, "You don't have to do this if you don't want to!!" But I didn't.

When quiet time was over, the leader of the retreat apologized profusely - our retreat was supposed to be two hours, but she'd lost track of time and gone WAY over. I knew "B" had somewhere else she was supposed to be, so again, I felt that sinking feeling that EVERYTHING had gone wrong.

"B" sat up, looked at me, and said, "Seriously! We've been here THREE hours? That went SO fast!"

She was smiling. She asked me to sign her up for the next installment in two weeks, and then she bolted out the door to go to her next appointment.

And then I laughed. I was exhausted from worrying, and the truth is:
It NEVER had anything to do with me.