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Lessons on Parenting, Compliments of the Dog

May I introduce you to Toby.

He has something to say to us, but let me first tell you how I got to the place of learning from him.

Toby is our beloved dog who drives me absolutely nuts, tires me out, and irritates me to some degree nearly every single day.  But I love him desperately. Of course, he is a part of our family, thanks to me. I wasn’t suppose to be looking for another dog until after the holidays so that we’d have time to grieve the loss of our beloved former pooch and make a wise decision about what to do next. But as usual, I didn’t stick to our plan. Instead, I let my emotions lead, determined that we better start looking now, especially since my littlest daughter and I wanted a certain type of dog — a golden retriever.

Trouble began the night I decided to show my sister the pitiful collection of adoptable dogs on an online website. To our shock, there was Captain Pickles, a beautiful golden retriever up for adoption from a local rescue shelter. His name was awful, but the description was perfect — a one year old energetic golden waiting for a forever family. Sign us up! However, as I’m prone to do when reading coupons, I tend to miss the fine print. Like energetic.

Three days later, Captain Pickles was adopted into our family and became known as Toby. I later found out Toby means “God is good.” Umm. Yes, God is good, but I sometimes have trouble seeing His goodness manifested in our pooch.

Toby is a rambunctious dog who gets riled up by any bit of lovin’. If I sit on the floor, he backs into my lap like a tractor trailer driven by a 14 year old. If I head to the door to take him on a walk, he spins like the tea cup ride at Disney, knocking over anyone near by. Our walks are more like a tug of war event — he pulls, I pull back. He pulls, I stand and hold my ground.  Anytime I get on the phone for an important call, he starts barking at the squirrels, cats, and students walking by the house.

Needless to say, Toby is not the dog I dreamed about and often leaves me wondering, “Why did I do this to myself?”  It’s like I have a toddler all over again! Toby needs daily attention and constant training. I have to be focused on anticipating his issues and looking for ways to set him up for success  — just like in parenting.

It is amazing how many times I end up frustrated with Toby, only to hear the Lord whispering to me,

“Lisa, he needs your time now in order for him to become the dog you’ve always wanted.  It’s like the children. You know how to do this, but are you still in the game?  Are you pouring into training the twins? Just because they are easy doesn’t mean they don’t need the training you devoted to the big girls. And just because your girls are growing big, doesn’t mean you’re done investing in their heart development.

You need to stay on your game! You need to be intentional, even when you’re tired, even when you’re walking through the same lesson with them for the 100th time, even when you’d rather be doing something else.

Toby isn’t going to become the dog I want him to be if I don’t put in the time with him. He won’t outgrow his early years and suddenly have fabulous habits.

The same is even more true for my children.

I see the fruit now from the time we invested in their early years with my girls. But I can’t sit back now that we’re out of toddler days. They still need to learn how to process what they are experiencing in this world with a biblical worldview. They need time to talk, without being judged. They need to be heard, but also learn how to listen better. They need to be challenged to serve others in a world that is self-serving. They need to discover how to draw close to the Lord for themselves.

My littles aren’t so little anymore either. They are ready for the next level of character development, like learning how to serve from their gifts and talents. Discovering how a half-truth is still a lie. Working through issues of pride and jealousy, without falling into the trap of hiding their sin and falling prey to condemnation.

There is much training to be done in the life of my yet-to-be grown up children. 

For a woman like me, who would much rather start then finish a race, the real mothering challenge may very well be in the days to come. Maybe that’s why God orchestrated Toby to be a part of our lives. I need to keep my training skills sharp, and Toby certainly requires that of me each and every day.

What is God teaching you today . . . and maybe even through your furry friend?

Abiding in Him, Lessons and All,

Elisa |


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