If you’re anything like me, you love taking dark spaces in your life and seeing God light them up with joy where there was darkness, clarity where there was confusion and peace where there was chaos. Redemption! We all instinctively know this world is messed up and we all instinctively know wrong things should be made right. That little guy above, for me, represents a wrong thing made right. What does this have to do with Red State Ramblings? Many people are seeking redemption through a big move. But, redemption rarely happens the way we plan. We think “God will redeem that dark time where I had to wear masks at the grocery store and see all of my kids’ sporting events get cancelled by giving me acreage and a Southern mansion.” And sometimes He grants those desires… but the redeeming part often comes through vastly different means than we could ever expect. Mine came with an Amish buggy!
My Newfie story began one Valentine’s Day in my teen years. My mom and I went out and bought a puppy for the family, a half Newfoundland/Lab mix. We named him Moe and he was precious. Always joyful, always wanting to be helpful, just an honest to goodness sweet creation. I loved his big facial features, his way too big paws for his tiny body, how he could swim for hours and never get tired, and most of all, his completely kind and loyal disposition.
When our family broke up after my parents’ divorce, Moe and Dolly (our Australian Shepherd), were taken to the pound. I can remember my dad describing their legs locking when he dropped them off. I had no warning they would be leaving. One day they were just gone.
Sometimes we don’t realize how a certain loss has really affected us until we get a little bit older and wiser. But instead of focusing on the loss and wanting to extrapolate every last drop of victimhood from it, it is SO MUCH MORE fun, healthier and beneficial to the world to consider… How can I take this ugliness and turn it into beauty? We’re made in the image of God who takes broken things and heals. And while we can never heal like He can or “fix” ourselves or others, we can make a conscious choice to obey Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The couple who sees the horrific news story about an abused child and chooses to adopt, rather than refusing to see the terror or focusing entirely on it to the point of despair, is overcoming evil with good.
The family who mourns over the state of our country and then goes for a picnic, is overcoming evil with good.
In both the seeing of the evil and the active choice to overcome the evil, God uses our biggest losses as our greatest gains.
It was always a desire of mine to one day own a Newfoundland again, like my Moe, but living in tiny houses on tiny lots in California was not conducive to that dream. That’s why, when my husband and I agreed we wanted a big dog for our Tennessee home, I immediately said, “I want a Newfie!!”
I found what I thought would be the perfect redemption story. (How many times have I jumped the gun thinking I know God’s plan? My friends can confirm… It happens a lot.) But seriously this one was good. There was a little Newfie/Lab mix only an hour away from our home here in Tennessee. She was named Winter and my Mom had a brilliant idea to rename her Spring. (Isn’t that so sweet! Redemption!) Well, God apparently had another plan. (I don’t know why I’m continually surprised by that in my life. You’d think I would have learned by now.) Instead of a sweet little hour drive to turn my Winter into Spring, He sent us on a 16 hour round trip to Ohio…to an Amish farm. This is what I was driving behind on the way there. http://redstateramblings.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/IMG_2895-2.mov
I guess I didn’t realize that some Amish people are texters these days. I thought for sure the man I had been messaging was just your average Joe living in Ohio on a farm. Boy was I wrong.
When we arrived at the address the man gave me, I was smack dab in the middle of a gravel road that branched off of many other gravel roads with horse and buggies darting this way and that, filled with bonnet clad women and tractors with their men. I looked to my right and my left and all I saw were sheep. I thought, “That’s it. We’re going to be murdered out here. Someone pulled a prank on us and I’m an idiot.” I called up the meanie I thought had tricked me into driving across three states to get our precious Louise and was so surprised when he pleasantly explained I was in the right spot and to just keep heading a little further up to the farm on the right.
When we pulled up, there was no denying it, we were about to have our very first interaction with the Amish! I looked at my cheetah print tennis shoes, spotted my son’s bright orange sweater and thought, “Welp there’s nothing mild and plain about us today. I hope they don’t turn us away!” Step by step we approached the home, walked up a flight of stairs (without one speck of dirt on them by the way) and reached a porch that looked as though it had never been walked on. A couple of ladies opened the door, bonnets and dresses galore. We followed the older woman to a dog pen with the most beautiful Newfoundland (Louis’ dad). (His mama is a German Shepherd/Husky mix.) She slid her hands into a little crate area where the puppies were and brought out Louise who, at just 12 weeks old, looked like he was half the woman’s size. As I shared my gratitude with the woman and explained that I had grown up with a Newfie in California and loved the breed, she remarked, “But, I thought only Ohio has Newfoundlands?” Apparently there are many beautiful lessons to learn from the Amish, like working really hard, sticking with your family and breeding Newfoundlands!
Tennessee Has Tsunamis. Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You!
My sweet husband tried to warn me the night before that a storm was coming in and I should probably consider not picking up our little Louise until another day, but I, being the overly zealous gal I usually am, assured him I would be fine. I was fine, until about 14 hours of driving when, no exaggeration, it felt like a tsunami fell on our car. I can’t remember a time being that scared. I had no idea what I should do. I couldn’t see the lanes. I couldn’t see the exits. I couldn’t see the “ponding” (yep that’s what they call it here) building up all over the road. All I knew was that I was surrounded by semi trucks I could no longer see and the responsibility of bringing our 12 year old son and our Newfie home safely. This not knowing what I should do and thinking of forever being remembered as the girl who moved to Tennessee only to refuse to heed her husband’s warning about a storm and die because she had to get a puppy THAT DAY, lasted about 20 minutes. It was the most terrifying moment I think of my entire life. My wrists are still aching as I type this because I was gripping the wheel that tightly. I was so terrified I didn’t notice that our sweet new pup, probably also terrified, had diarrhead literally all over the backseat of our car. It smelled like death. (I’m not sure why dogs like to diarrhea in my car but it seems to be a pattern. You can check out my first diarrhea dog story over here: http://redstateramblings.com/new-neighbors-and-a-diarrhea-dog/. It was a doozy.)
As we finally approached our street and I realized I had just seen our lives flash before our eyes, I thought about God’s redemption in my life and how it never comes in ways I expect. How often I think I’ll have a simple, tidy story all beautifully wrapped with a bow, and yet so often, God’s mercy hits in the middle of diarrhea storms and strange new lands.
While I may not have literally turned a little Newfie named Winter into Spring, I have a much better story than one I could ever create; one of God’s protection in Tennessee Tsunamis, His goodness to me in horse and buggies and His absolutely over the top gift of our precious Louis. No matter where you are, no matter the Winter you’ve had, one day, in His time, I assure you God will turn it all into Spring.
And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28