Sunday, October 29, 2017

Adjustments, vacations, and clashing swords

As I've mentioned previously on my blog, I've felt like God has said that the year 2017 would be, for me, a year of 1) rest and 2) common sense and that 3) I would be bored, in a good way. I've definitely seen that theme unfolding for me throughout the year. Since rest has been a difficult thing for me to achieve in the past (I used to be a workaholic), I found myself getting almost impatient with the "rest" part of God's equation for 2017. But I found Him gently but firmly insisting that 2017 was a one-shot deal; I wouldn't get any do-overs. He explained that 2017 needs to happen if 2018 is going to happen -- not in a "duh, chronological order" kind of way but in a "certain events must occur this year in order for next year to unfold correctly" kind of way.

For me, 2017 kind of felt like a vacation. At my previous job, things were very slow at my desk. When I talked to my boss about it, she kind of scoffed at me and told me to take an early lunch. So, I did. One time when I tried to help my coworker with her workload, she kind of got a talking-to from our boss, and I could tell that it had upset the equilibrium in the office mechanics, so I just enjoyed my free time like my boss had instructed me to do. (I ended up catching up on many hours of sermons on YouTube.) I was definitely bored, in a good way. From time to time, work would suddenly pour in and I would get really stressed out trying to get it all done, so I think it all balanced out in the end.

At home, one thing that God put on my heart was that He wanted me to have a five-minute iPhone quiet time every evening. As in, that's all He really wanted for my daily quiet time. So, I've been turning on some worship music on my phone and reading usually a Psalm or a Proverb or wherever God leads me, and it usually lasts about five minutes. He and I usually continue talking afterwards (while I'm getting ready for bed) like an old married couple, and we like it that way. Many times, I linger on my couch with my phone still on while I try to pour out my heart a little bit more or while I have some questions that need answering. God patiently listens, I usually cry, and He gently nudges me that it's time for bed. Lately He's continued talking to me either after I go to bed or in the mornings when I'm trying to wake up. It's really cool. And it's quite restful.

When you're on vacation, you usually end up either doing or trying things that you haven't done or tried before -- or that you maybe won't have a chance to do or try again. I think my two months of unemployment provided ample opportunity for that. I discovered the local public library, I sold a few items on eBay (which I don't have the supplies or the time to do while I'm working full-time), I found myself in a dire financial situation where I tried to trust God only for money (He came through, and I'd like to continue trusting Him that way for the rest of my life), and I discovered British comedy clips on YouTube (specifically my new favorite: The Catherine Tate Show).

Earlier this year, I went to a class at church where one of the pastors was a guest speaker. He shared something that he and his team heard God speak to them for 2017. From what I can remember, he said that 2017 would be the year of the clashing sword. Ideologies would clash this year, and we would need to let that happen. But there would also be opportunities opening up this year. We the church would need to pray for revival to happen in the process. I think this word was pretty accurate. News headlines this year screamed clashing swords: politics, Civil War monuments, etc.

And I think I experienced the clashing sword on my job as well. I felt like I should have had more work on my plate, but my boss disagreed; I felt like my boss should have managed me more directly, but she ended up managing me remotely on Facebook instead. I became unhappy at work this year (way back in March, I believe). When I prayed about looking for another job, God reminded me that 2017 is a year of common sense; if you don't like your job, it's common sense to look for another one. And He kept impressing on my heart that the way that I would leave my job needed to happen naturally. Long after the stuff hit the fan (because it was ultimately a Facebook post that forced me to leave), God told me, "I know what you're like on Facebook, so I used that." OK, then. Clash, clash.

Recently, He basically told me that 2017 would be a year of adjustments -- and that He didn't tell me sooner because I wouldn't have liked it. Heh, heh. He's right.

I've made all kinds of adjustments this year -- big and small. Due to a couple of circumstances, my finances kind of took a hit this past spring and never really caught up. So, I gradually relearned to live on a little bit less money, and I think that was preparation for the unemployment season that I was hit with a couple of months ago. I'm currently still quite broke, but I'm not hungry, and God has shown me ways that I can creatively stretch my dollar. (These are skills that I was forced to learn years ago, but it's been cool getting a refresher course.)

While I was unemployed this year and praying for a job, I felt like God told me that I would need to tighten up my work ethic at my next job. After about a week of working at my new temp job, I understand what He means. It's a quota-based job where I'm required to review a certain number of documents per day. Historically, quotas and I haven't gotten along. But I know myself, I know what to expect, and I know how to speed myself up. (It involves checking Facebook less frequently throughout the day, saving any chitchat for lunchtime/breaks, and listening to music on my phone's playlists that I had already put together to help me stay in the zone while I'm working.)

Throughout this year, one thing that I felt like God was telling me about my life was that the "land" needed to rest. For instance, I'm a songwriter. I didn't write any new songs this year because I felt like He kept telling me, "Nothing new in the field." So, I didn't plant any new songs. I didn't really start any new projects in my "field." Nothing that was really new happened to me this year: I became suddenly unemployed (which I've lived through before), I lost my cat (which I've experienced before), I got a temp job (which I've done many times before), and I volunteered at church (which I think I've been doing for most of my life). Nothing new, and no complaints.

 
MeepMeep and I have both been making adjustments this year. She moved into a home that was ready to receive a female cat, but I've tweaked a few things here and there to adjust to her habits (since her personality and preferences are different than Choochie's were). As you can see in this photo, I moved an old folded-up comforter (that Macho and Choochie used to sleep on) to a corner of my living room because I noticed that MeepMeep likes to sleep there. I covered the comforter with some old sweatshirts that already had MeepMeep's scent on them, and now she likes to sleep there either during the day while I'm gone or late at night while I'm getting ready for bed. (Or maybe she just likes to guard my CDs and VHS tapes.)

I'm also happy to report that she stopped rolling around in her litterbox. I think she stopped several days after her arrival -- possibly after she realized that she had plenty of carpet to roll around on instead. (Thank heavens. Her coat is much softer and better when it doesn't feel like or smell like Fresh Step.)

 
I've taken a great deal of delight in watching MeepMeep respond to her environment in ways that Choochie did not (even thought I thought she would). For instance, after I moved here, I bought an ottoman for my feet that I assumed that Choochie would adopt as her napping spot. She never did, but MeepMeep has. I've seen her using it as a scratching post more often than as a bed, and I've walked into the room to see that it's been overturned (with an embarrassed look on MeepMeep's face). But it's still a very fun thing to see.

 
Aww. And she's finally adopted Choochie's old napping spot on the couch.

"Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses." (Psalm 25:12)

I have a feeling that I'm going to be pretty busy in 2018. One thing that I've noticed after experiencing rest is that I'm ready to hit the ground running as soon as I'm done resting. Sunday is usually a productive day for me at home because after a Saturday of doing nothing on purpose, I'm ready to get going.

I'm currently working full-time, but I'm also trying to line up some freelance work on the side. I'm currently volunteering at church, but I'm also open to volunteering some more. Just being open and exploring my options -- nothing is set in stone right now.

Here's what I know for sure: No matter what I end up doing, no matter how I spend my time, no matter how busy I get, I'm committed to resting one day a week. This is one of the Ten Commandments, yes, but it's something that frankly we Christians aren't always good at doing. At least, if you grew up in a Baptist church, you might not be good at resting because Baptist churches usually keep you pretty busy during your Sabbath. (During the latter half of 2009, I was exhausted and burned out from working two jobs -- so exhausted that all I really did for New Year's Eve was blog about how tired I was.)

So, 2017 has been a year of adjustments for me. I remember after I got new glasses this year, and they didn't fit right, God told me, "There's no shame in getting an adjustment." My glasses fit just fine now (after the adjustment). God also showed me recently that when you make an adjustment, that change will usually last for the long haul.

I think I'll be very content to live my life the way I've been living it for the long haul.

The other evening, during my iPhone quiet time, I was marching around my living room and noticed a couple of major adjustments that God had made in my life. I lost my job in Southlake, but God provided me with another job in Southlake. I lost my cat, but God provided me with another cat. So, my life is different in many ways... but it's also the same in many ways. God restored some things. So, I stopped marching around my living room and prostrated myself in tears while I thanked Him.


Of course, 2017 isn't over yet. I just thought I'd jot down my thoughts about this very unique year while I had the chance. After all, I won't get a do-over.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Unemployment completion and reflection

On Tuesday, God willing, I'm going to start a temp job that's located about a block away from my previous job! If it works out to be a more permanent solution, this could perhaps turn out to be a vindication/confirmation type of situation.

"Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." (Psalm 50:14-15)

What a crazy season this has been! I've been unemployed at various times in my life, and for various amounts of times, but I gotta say... this time was the most frightening and the most awesome simultaneously. (Some moments were downright terrifying and took a while to recover from.) I came into this season with no savings, no job prospects, no relatives who offered me money, and no unemployment checks. I had a tiny bit of extra money available, but that ended up being used for car repairs and immediate bills. All I had to lean on was God. And He was enough.

In terms of financial/practical help and gifts, here's what I received during the two months that I was unemployed (as well as the three weeks beforehand, as well as in the very near future), if I remember everything correctly:

3 gift cards (Target, Jason's Deli, iTunes)
3 dozen cans of Coca-Cola
5 free meals, either treated from friends or mostly provided via event leftovers
1 pantry's worth of food items from a friend who changed her diet
$357 in cash
a zillion prayers
an assortment of free beauty products
1 month of electricity and cellular service (paid with financial assistance received from my church)
1 month of rent (paid with a cash gift from a friend)
1 month of rent and water (paid as a surprise from an anonymous friend)
1 month of rent (to be paid for December with financial assistance received from my church)

I'm overwhelmed. I'm humbled. I'm thankful. I'm in awe. I'm blown away. I don't deserve any of this, but I sure do appreciate how God has provided for me, and I sure do appreciate how He moved His people to help me.

There have been times in my life when I've needed money and gotten it -- but with a guilt trip attached (from the people who loaned/gave me funds, not from God). This time around, as the funds trickled in when I needed them, God said that He wanted to show me what it was like to experience generosity without the guilt trip.

"I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." (Psalm 34:4-6)

Seriously. I cried out to God and begged Him to help me, and He assured me that He would take care of it. I've never experienced anything like this before. Yes, I've been the recipient of someone randomly or anonymously giving me $100 here and there (which is what the people in my church like to do), but this felt like much more than that. In fact, I remember crying on my couch one day and talking to God about those past seasons when people would randomly give me money, and I think I mentioned that it would be nice if that would happen again. So, it happened again, AND THEN SOME.

One time when I was crying out to God because I didn't know how I was going to pay my rent, He replied in plain terms that I could understand, "How would it glorify Me if you were to die in the gutter?" I know, right? It wouldn't. So, He took care of it. AND THEN SOME. When He says He's going to provide "exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think," He isn't kidding.

I think it would be awesome if ALL of His Bride (not just a few of my friends) would reflect more of His heart.

At one point, I made some phone calls to local agencies and other ministries who offer financial assistance to people for rent and utilities. I felt treated like cattle. I called about two weeks before October rent was due and received mostly voicemail greetings. One greeting instructed me to call back on October 3rd so that I could receive $25. Another greeting instructed me to speak slowly and also explained that my call might take up to four weeks to be returned. One lady returned my call several days later and left a voicemail; she explained that she would only be available to speak to me for 20 more minutes and that she wouldn't be available again until a week later. One lady returned my call right away but instructed me to write down some phone numbers along with her personalized shorthand. Um, thank you, but I'm not 4 years old. If you tell me the name of an organization, I'll be able to spell it out myself. Moo.

Sheesh. I'm glad God was available immediately to help me. (Not to mention: Being humbled is one thing, but being humiliated is another.)

God had instructed me to take this season one day at a time, and He would usually give me a specific word to follow for a particular day. One time, He told me very clearly, "Where you live is more important than where you work." He confirmed that multiple times, including providing me a way to pay three months' worth of rent.

One thing that I felt like He spoke to my heart was that I would only be unemployed for two months. When I start my temp job on Tuesday the 24th, that will be exactly two months after the last day that I worked at my previous job, so I think that confirms what I heard.

I'm currently behind on several creditor bills, but if there's one thing I've learned during this past season, it's that God will provide. (I already knew that, but I got to learn that on a deeper level.) I mean, three months' worth of frickin' rent is a heck of a lot of provision. God has brought me this far, and I know that if I hold on to Him, He'll continue to take me wherever He wants me to be.

 
And, of course, this season was about more than just money and provision. I said goodbye to one cat and hello to another. My heart has been ripped out and healing simultaneously. MeepMeep and I have been getting to know each other, and I don't think it's an accident that this very important process has been occurring while I've been unemployed. I look forward to establishing a regular routine for her once I start working. (Because I've been currently keeping her awake during the day when she should be napping.)

Also during this crazy season, I've spent some time getting acquainted with the area in which I live. (I moved here 10 months ago but spent most of my time in the area where I work and go to church.) It's a suburb that has a reputation for being quite boring, and I like it that way. There isn't much to do around here because there are mainly just residential neighborhoods as far as the eye can see. So, I feel safe here. MeepMeep and I are very happy here, and we intend to settle here for the long haul.

This season has been an adventure indeed. The job interviews were quite a hoot. Explaining to potential employers why I left my previous job got some interesting responses if I went into too much detail. One lady scoffed at the name of my previous employer and asked if they were affiliated with any other company, I'm guessing because she hadn't heard of them, or perhaps she was researching and couldn't find more information about them. (Most marketing companies proudly tell people who their clients are, and they're happy to share case studies of how they specifically helped their clients, but whatevs.) Other potential employers metaphorically cried on my shoulder about how other job candidates treated them either during or before interviews. I have made a mental note to not use job candidates for my own personal therapy (if I ever interview job candidates in the future, that is).

I also did a lot of soul-searching. If you've followed my blog for the past several years, you know that I'm called to be a worship pastor. I'm discovering that many people either don't remember that, don't get that, or even counsel me to do something instead of that. Of course, I appreciate the counsel, and I understand that my calling probably won't result in a steady paycheck until much later down the road. And I promise you that I get why you would discourage somebody from being overly excited about something that God might not want them to do. (And I totally understand that while you're reading this, my heartfelt words could easily go in one ear and out the other.) But here's the bottom line: I know who I am, and God knows who I am.

And I'm pretty sure He's been testing me to see whether or not I'm still willing to do or become whatever it takes to live in my promised land someday. No matter how long it would take.

About two months ago, during my exit interview at my previous job, the CEO of the company asked me what I wanted to do in terms of an occupation (because I was about to leave my editing job). I replied that I wanted to continue working in the Christian sector. He scoffed at me. Well, sir, I may no longer be employed in the Christian sector, but I'll still be around.

I believe God wants to keep me around here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you SO much to everyone who has prayed for me, offered a kind word, or gone out of your way to try to help me during this time. I couldn't have made it without you!


And, as always, if it weren't for God, I'd be toast. He's my Father who takes impeccably good care of me.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

#metoo

Currently, there's a hashtag trending on social media that basically means this: If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted, post #metoo to raise awareness of the issue. If you've followed my blog over the past few years, you know about my past. I haven't been raped physically or sexually per se; but if a man forcing his lips onto mine against my will qualifies as rape, I've been raped. And I'm also pretty sure that what I've gone through would qualify as sexual harassment. So, if this is a subject that you're not comfortable reading about, please feel free to skip this post, and I look forward to seeing you again in the following post.

Without further ado, #metoo. Normally on my blog, I don't use anyone's real names. However, in this case, I don't believe the men who raped/harassed me deserve the honor of my concealing their names, so I'll use their real ones here. My intention isn't to commit libel or slander but to tell my story and, in doing so, to give other people permission to tell theirs.

In the latter part of my high-school years, a church usher named Hermano Aranda befriended me. One day in the Sunday School room, he grabbed my chin, pulled my mouth to his, and kissed me. Eww. He was married with grandchildren. I had no intention of getting involved with a married man. I wasn't even attracted to him. But I guess either I was a total wuss at the time, or I didn't understand exactly what was happening... so I didn't know that I could say no.

Hermano Aranda would continue to steal kisses when nobody was looking. One time between church services, he sat next to me, put his arm around me, and said, "I wish you was my girlfriend." In the church sanctuary. In front of everybody. I found out that he had been treating my best friend the same way. I told my mother about it, and she told me to not tell my dad about it because "he has a big mouth." My dad was the pastor of the church. (I had a boyfriend who knew what was happening, but he didn't do anything to stop it, either.)

Right before I graduated from high school, Hermano Aranda died rather suddenly of a heart attack. In retrospect, I like to think that God finally put His foot down and did something to stop his behavior.

Unfortunately, I was not free.

When I was at home from college, I believe during the summer between my sophomore and junior years, a church usher named Hermano Pules befriended me. One day in the Sunday School room, he grabbed my chin, pulled my mouth to his, and kissed me. Sound familiar? Different church building, different man, same scenario. Again, eww! This guy was married with grandchildren, and here I was again unintentionally being an accomplice to adultery. Hermano Pules was a bit more aggressive than the previous guy and told me to not tell anybody.

I told my mother about it, and I'm kind of sure that my father knew about it as well, but neither of them did anything to stop it. Even though Hermano Pules' behavior was spreading to other girls. As time went on, I found out that my sister was one of his victims. One day, I even saw him shaking my mother's hand, and she quickly whipped it back away from him... and I wonder how far he tried to go with her as well.

I don't remember exactly how I escaped Hermano Pules other than I graduated from college and got involved in a different church in a different city. Or perhaps he and his family just started attending a different church instead.

"They have set fire to Your sanctuary; they have defiled the dwelling place of Your name to the ground." (Psalm 74:7)

At any rate, years later, I wrestled with whether or not God really wanted me to leave my parents (because He had told me to do so back in 1998). When I was thinking and praying through it, God brought these situations with Hermanos Aranda and Pules to the forefront of my mind.

In my current church, they teach us that God isn't angry with us because God's wrath was satisfied when Jesus died on the cross. And that's true. But I'm telling you, when I prayed about the whole leaving-my-family thing and God started talking to me about getting raped in a church building... oh, He was VERY angry about the entire thing. If nothing else, He wanted me to leave my parents so that everyone whom they were discipling would know that allowing your flock to be raped while under your care -- and you knowing about it and doing nothing about it -- was NOT OK.

Especially if the victims happen to be your daughters.

"He will redeem their life from oppression and violence; and precious shall be their blood in His sight." (Psalm 72:14)

Why do victims of abuse and harassment allow themselves to be victims? Perhaps a psychologist or social worker could answer that question better than I can. All I've really been able to figure out is that 1) if you grow up in an abusive environment, abuse is normal to you, even if you don't realize it 2) sometimes people fail to teach us that it's OK to say NO 3) some of us don't realize that we're worth it. One thing I know for sure is that abusers and harassers don't have any right to our bodies, period.

Even if machismo is a cultural thing.

So, thank you for reading. If you've experienced something similar to what happened to me -- or worse than what happened to me -- I'm terribly sorry, and I hope that you've found some healing. If you've allowed something like this to happen to anyone who has been in your care, I know you didn't do it on purpose -- but for goodness' sake, grow a pair, confront the guilty party, and say NO. Get the local authorities involved if you need to. Just know that it's in your power to protect your people.

At least, it should be. There's no reason to keep unrepentant scumbags in your church. And the victims are going to need to lean on you during their healing process, so make some room in your heart for that.

That is my two cents on the matter. Again, reader, if you've followed my blog in the past, you know that God has used these experiences to turn me into a fierce warrior who doesn't take crap from abusers.

At least some good has come out of all that.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

MeepMeep

Earlier this week, I got a new cat! Isn't she cute? Since I don't really use anyone's real names on my blog, I'll refer to her by her nickname. I'll start by explaining how she got it.

After I brought her home and she let me start petting her, I thought about PepĂ© Le Pew's feline lady friend -- the black-and-white one who goes, "Le meow, le purr." So, my brain was going in a Looney Tunes direction. Then I heard her meow. It's more of a high-pitched squeak than a meow -- a "beep beep" or a "meep meep," kind of like the roadrunner. Then after she really started getting comfortable around me, I noticed that she moves at lightning speed, and she even has a white racing-stripe-esque spot on her side that's shaped kind of like the Dart bus logo.

So, as far as nicknames go, "LeMeow" and "Looney" didn't really stick in my mind, but "MeepMeep" did. Especially after she started responding to it. Sometimes when I say, "MeepMeep," she darts over to where I am and expects me to pet her. I shall endeavor to meet that expectation as long as we both shall live.

I'd like to tell you a little bit about her.

From what I've been told, MeepMeep is about three years old and lived at my vet's office for about 11 months. The office manager found her at an apartment complex with a kitten. So, MeepMeep has given birth at least once, and she was a feral cat.

But I think living at a vet's office for nearly a year has helped tame her. Her kitten was adopted right away, so I think she spent pretty much all of her time in a large cage by herself, accompanied by a group of rotating medical professionals who were taking care of her. (Which I think explains why she's especially comfortable around my files and paperwork.) The staff kept trying to find a good home for her, but MeepMeep didn't have any real takers.

I met her during Choochie's last two vet visits. In fact, MeepMeep and Choochie met each other (the day that the latter was put down) because MeepMeep lived in the lobby. I reached through the cage bars, pet the cute black-and-white cat, and assured her that Choochie wasn't moving in (because she was on MeepMeep's turf, and female cats are especially territorial). That evening (the evening that Choochie died), I almost took MeepMeep home with me, but I'm glad I didn't, because I was an emotional wreck, of course.

I still get emotional sometimes when I see pictures of Choochie, so I'm pretty sure I'm still grieving her loss. Which makes it even better to have a cat again; it was weird to be a catless cat lady for a week.

But I had a lot to think about during that time. I've actually been thinking and praying about getting another cat for a couple of years.

Back when Macho was sick, I felt like God told me that I needed to choose my own cat. (Every pet that I've ever owned has been either given to me or chosen for me.) After he died, I wanted to keep Choochie only; and I'm glad I did, because I got to focus on her at the end of her life and also because she didn't seem to mind being the only cat around.

Towards the end of Choochie's life, I caught myself visiting PetSmart just to browse. I thought about getting a second cat, but I decided against it because Choochie might not have had the energy to play with a younger cat. I also felt like God said that I only need one cat. (My bank account agrees.) I also felt like He said, "You need a Southlake cat."

Guess where MeepMeep lived for the past 11 months? Southlake.

Practically speaking, I'm still unemployed. I can't afford a pet adoption fee or any neutering/spaying surgical fees. I've also wanted to have a cat WITH claws. (I wouldn't want a declawed cat because declawed cats tend to bite.) In addition, I thought it would be a good idea to have an older girl cat because (as Choochie showed me) they tend to be calmer and don't demand as much attention as kittens do. I love kittens, of course, but at this point in my life, I have some responsibilities on my plate that already demand as much attention as a kitten does.

So, after Choochie died and I started seriously thinking about adopting another cat, I kept all this in mind. I visited a couple of PetSmart stores just to be sure, but I had a feeling that I would end up with MeepMeep... because I bonded with her, and I couldn't get her out of my mind. And I would be getting a free cat. (She's already spayed, and she's caught up on her shots.) As I prayed about it, I basically felt like God said, "You need her, and she needs you."

So, taking inventory...
Older girl cat. Check.
Cat with claws. Check.
Southlake cat. Check.
Affordable cat. Check.
Cat who already knows me and who I've already fallen in love with. Check.

I chose MeepMeep, and I'm glad I did!

This past Monday morning, first thing, I picked her up from the vet's office. The staff came into the lobby and said their tearful goodbyes. They had become very attached to her and, although they were happy that she found a good home, they were sad to see her go. I think that says a lot about them and about my MeepMeep.

As soon as we arrived home and I let her out of the pet carrier, she followed what I guess was a scent trail that Choochie had left behind and slithered under my dresser. Shortly afterwards, she moved under my bed and adopted that as her new home. Very gradually, I began to coax her out of there with food and affection. Over the past couple of days, she's felt comfortable enough to explore the rest of the apartment, but I think the spot under my bed is still her home base.

Her personality is a lot like Macho's was: introverted and clingy. She has all the makings of a lap cat, and today she was finally comfortable enough around me to lounge on my lap (which is where she was in the photo that's at the beginning of this post).

The only strange thing about her (which I also noticed at the vet's office) is that she likes to roll around in her litterbox... I guess for fun... even though she does her business in there... and it makes her smell like FreshStep. I did some research online, and some cat owners said that their kittens did that for a while and then grew out of it. Or maybe when she was a feral cat, she liked to roll around in the dirt. Whatever the reason... um... kitty... no. Gross.

At any rate, I believe this is the beginning of a beauuuuutiful friendship. My adorable new cat has a ferocious purr, a Mama who loves her, and her entire life ahead of her.

Think about it. I adopted a cat with a past... who likes to roll around in her own filth. That's some blogging material right there.

While I was wrapping up the first draft of this post, I called to her ("MeepMeep"), she responded by jumping up on the couch while purring, and she rubbed her cheek on my laptop and on my thigh before she rested her little head on me.


Yep. She's all mine.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

In memoriam, in reflection

Wow. When God said Choochie would go suddenly, He wasn't kidding. I had been instructed to take her back to the vet if she didn't poop within 48 hours; so since she went about 96 hours without pooping, I took her back to the vet. I explained that if she couldn't be helped, I would consider having her put to sleep. The doctor said Choochie didn't look good and that if she were her cat, she would euthanize her. So, early Monday evening, about three days after her kidney-disease diagnosis, my Choochie was put to sleep. She was 17 years old and weighed only 3.08 pounds.

This post is dedicated to her memory.


This is my favorite photo of Choochie and Macho together. (Choochie is the sassy kitten on the left.) I think I took it around February 2001, shortly after she had gotten spayed. Macho was still my roommate's cat and happened to be hanging out in my room when I took the picture.

Through the years, one thing that God put on my heart about my feisty little cat was this: He designed Choochie just for me. Everything about her -- her friendliness, her adorableness, her petiteness, her sweetness, her endearing tendency to trill instead of meow, the fact that she was mixed-Siamese (a breed known for its longevity) -- was designed with me in mind.

I think God made sure that I ended up with her. A friend of mine knew that I wanted a cat, found out that a friend of hers wanted to get rid of her kitten, and told me about it. She said that her friend was trying to find a home for a sweet, white, mixed-Siamese kitten who had been scratching their three-year-old daughter because they couldn't afford to get the kitten declawed. This was back in 2000 when I was battling depression, so when I met Choochie, I wasn't all that impressed. I put her in a borrowed pet carrier (which later became mine), placed her in the back seat of my car, and drove her home. At one point, she fussed while I was driving, so I reached back, poked my fingers through the pet carrier, and pet her. When it was safe to look back, I noticed that she had closed her eyes and was purring while I was petting under her chin.

That was when I fell in love with her. (And I guess you could say that I rescued her from being declawed.)

About a month and a half later, I went on a mission trip to Boston for a week. My roommate informed me that Choochie pooped in the corner of the living room (under a TV cabinet) in my absence, which I'm assuming was in protest of my absence. When I returned from my trip in the wee hours of the morning, I remember sitting on the edge of my bed with Choochie perched and purring on my thigh.

Almost a week after that, I had an emotional breakdown and drove out of town to escape everything. While I was away, I remember eating dinner at a Pizza Hut and looking out the window. A cat who looked like Choochie was hanging around a Dumpster, and I suddenly wanted to go back home. Almost immediately after I did, I attempted suicide, and I included Choochie in my suicide note. (I mentioned that my roommate could have her.) Fortunately, my suicide attempt didn't work, so I kept my kitten.

Unfortunately, as a consequence of my actions, my roommate wanted me to move out for a little while, and a retired couple who opened up their home to me wouldn't let me bring my kitten due to allergies. So, while I lived in my temporary housing situation, Choochie stayed at my roommate's house, and I would drive 30 minutes (one way) nearly every day just to see her. The photo I shared several paragraphs ago was taken shortly after I moved back in.

Several months later, I moved out again because my roommate was preparing to move overseas as a missionary, so her parents began the process of selling the house. When Choochie and I moved into an apartment, Macho came with us because my roommate didn't want to pay to have him shipped to her overseas. A few months after that, my roommate returned and informed me that Macho was my cat now, and the rest is history. (Macho was my cat for about 14 years; Choochie was my cat for about 17 years.)

So, Choochie and I had a very meaningful history together. And she was excellent at teaching me lessons without even trying. God taught me a lot about how He feels about me through her, and I've blogged about that a lot through the years.

When she was spayed, I borrowed money for the procedure, and I took her to a discount pet clinic that didn't give her one of those cone-of-shame collars but instructed me to keep her inside her pet carrier instead. While she was healing, I remember placing her pet carrier onto a table, scooting it close to my bed, and hearing her purr in the dark. (In other words, I can enjoy being close to God during a trial.)

When the three of us moved from Central Texas to West Texas, I placed both my cats inside the same pet carrier on the front seat of my car. During the six-hour drive (or so), we ended up highway-traveling late at night. Macho would groan-meow from time to time, but Choochie was purring in the dark. (In other words, if God takes me somewhere and I can't see where we're going, I can enjoy the ride because He's with me and He's taking care of me.)

Sometimes when I would ask God if I needed to do or be anything different than what I was (I would ask this because I was being insecure), He would remind me about Choochie. When she would groom herself, eat, drink water, etc., would it be ridiculous of her to ask me if she was doing it right? Yes, of course it would. She was being a cat. She was being herself. (In other words, I need to be myself. I need to be ME.)

Choochie was an excellent little companion. It was normal for her to perch her furry little self next to my cereal bowl and purr while I was eating. (Most of the time, she wouldn't try to sample my breakfast.) One time several years ago, when I was hit with very deep emotional pain late at night, I unplugged and let myself cry like I had never, ever cried before. It was nearly 2 a.m. on a Saturday night, I was lying in bed, and Choochie wildly wiped her cheek on the palm of my hand in an effort to comfort me. And recently (as you may have read in this previous post), she developed the routine of snuggling on my pillow at night. The day before she was euthanized, she was well enough to snuggle on my pillow that morning one last time.

 
I took this picture of her several months ago. She didn't really change much throughout her life. She's always been tiny and adorable.

Earlier this year, I caught her trying to poop in the living room, which wasn't a normal activity for her (at least, not since I had been in Boston 17 years ago). Then gradually, I noticed that her business would end up missing the litterbox. I also noticed that she started peeing differently in the litterbox and wouldn't cover up her messes. I did some research online and learned that sometimes elderly cats become constipated and act the way she had been acting.

After I received her kidney-disease diagnosis the other day, everything made sense. The day that she was euthanized, the vet explained that the constipation was just a symptom of Choochie's kidneys shutting down and her body not being able to process water correctly.

Macho's death was kind of a dramatic, romantic one that helped me prepare a little bit for what to expect with Choochie, even though she was -- in contrast -- her usual feisty self to the very end. It was almost comical. Right before I decided to take her to the vet one last time, she was purring in her usual motorcycle-lawnmower way, and she severely protested me transporting her in her pet carrier. Right before the euthanasia drugs were administered, I had a hard time getting her to calm down. She kept pacing and squirming. But the veterinary staff gave us a lot of time alone. I talked to her like I always would before bedtime, and she finally settled down when the doctor came into the room.

Since I knew that Choochie would die suddenly, it had become my habit to always check her little belly to make sure she was still breathing while she was napping. So, it was really something to be able to check her little belly one last time after she had been put to sleep and notice that she had stopped breathing. The vet turned Choochie's body around so that I could see her face. Um, her tongue was sticking out, and one of her eyes was still open, so...

 
Yep, she kinda looked like an emoji. I'm not sure whether I should laugh or cry. Maybe I should do both.

Now, for the first time in years, I live in a home without cats. It's the little things that are currently weird for me. Coming home to an empty apartment, not having to feed anybody at a certain time, not having to clean a litterbox, not having to warn anybody when I'm about to turn on a light or do anything noisy like turn on the garbage disposal, not worrying about tripping over any water bowls -- those are all strange things for me right now.

And I definitely miss my little girl cat. Since she was with me for 17 years, I can still remember her vividly. I can still feel her little paws on my fingertips. I can still feel and hear her purring. I can still hear her scratching around in the litterbox. I can still smell her bundle of mixed-Siamese fur.

She was the best girl cat that a girl could ask for. She will always have a special place in my heart.

 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dying cat, take 2

In my previous post, I mentioned that my cat Choochie is more than likely on the last leg of her journey but is doing just fine. Unfortunately, today I received word from the vet that Choochie is in the final stages of kidney disease.

Yesterday, Choochie wasn't her usual self. She was struggling with her constipation and also vomiting white foam. In addition, she kept meowing at me (which is rare for her) and kept trying to jump up on the bathroom and kitchen counters so that she could drink directly from the faucets (which I haven't allowed her to do for about 14 years, due to an ear infection that was likely caused by water). So, thinking that perhaps she was dehydrated, I positioned her onto the bathroom sink myself and ran the water for her (trying to not let any water trickle into her ears). This happened repeatedly yesterday. And she didn't eat anything. So, I took her to the vet.

It turned out that she was very dehydrated. Also, the heart murmur that she was diagnosed with about 10 years ago (and which hasn't shown up during any exams in the past several years) was detected once again. The vet took an X-ray and confirmed that her entire intestinal system was backed up, and an enema was performed. They also rehydrated her. We were sent home with an assortment of medicines, and I was warned that Choochie could, uh, continue to leak throughout the evening.

I didn't see any leaks, but I couldn't get her to eat, either. As soon as we got home, Choochie hid under my dresser (her usual napping spot during the day), and I didn't see her come back out until this morning.

Today, the vet's office called with her blood test results and said that she probably only has a few months to live. They gave a couple of options of treatment, including regular rehydrations and new medications that we could try. But they indicated that the focus would eventually need to shift to making her comfortable (e.g., painkillers) and then reevaluating her quality of life (e.g., putting her to sleep).

I knew this would happen someday. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised that it's happening now while I'm unemployed and am able to devote so much time to taking care of my little roommate. One thing I know for certain during this season is that my instructions are to take life one day at a time, and I intend to do that with my cat as well.

So far, it's happened the way God said it would happen. He had told me that Choochie would die suddenly. I just hope it involves as little pain as possible.

So today, I spiked her drinking water with a laxative and fed her prescription canned food directly from my hand. My apartment smells like canned cat food and death.

And it's beautiful.

When it's Choochie's time to go, her passing will mark the end of a very long season for me. Macho and Choochie were the dream team of pets. And they were all mine. They knew me when I was 24 and embarrassingly wet behind the ears, all the way through my 30s, and into the beginning of my 40s. They've seen sides of me that no one else has ever seen. They've known me in ways that no human has ever known me -- because they've lived with me during some of the most challenging, stretching, aching times of my entire life. I think I've probably grieved the deaths of my cats harder than the loss of any human family member.

Because my pets are my family.

So, when it's Choochie's time to go, I'm going to grieve her passing. I've already been grieving it pretty much all day. (I don't know how I would have been able to make it through today if I'd had to go to work.)

But for now, Choochie is still alive -- all 3.8 pounds of her -- and I'm still keeping a close eye on her. Whatever she wants, she's got it, within reason -- even if she wants to drink nasty hard water straight from the tap.

"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25)

Changing the subject ever so slightly, I've started to feel lately what this Bible verse really means. If I'm worried about how I'm going to pay my bills, I need to take a step back and get some perspective. Technically, as I type this, I'm not overdue on any of my bills; why am I freaking out? Technically, if you compare life versus food, the fact that God has been keeping me alive is much weightier than whether or not He is able to provide food -- which He is. (My satisfied tummy can vouch for that.) Technically, if you compare the human body versus clothing, the fact that God has sustained my body for the past 41 years is much weightier than whether or not He is able to provide clothing -- which He has. (My fully stocked closet can vouch for that.)

So, I'm good to go.

With that said, if I'm going through all this trouble to sustain the life of one tiny little cat -- who isn't my creation, who isn't made in my image, and whose life span is only a quarter of my own, if that -- how much more trouble would the God of the universe go through to sustain MY life and take care of ME? God created me in His own image, designed and destined me for a specific purpose, and adopted me eternally. If I'm in trouble, He's going to rush in and help me through it. If I'm in pain, He'll do everything He can to comfort me and help me endure it. If I'm in need, He's going to open His hand and feed me from it directly.

 
So, for now, and while I can, I'm going to make Choochie's last days the best that they can be. I don't want to miss any critical moments with her. I want to help ease her pain. I want to sing to her. I want to enjoy every last second of her.


Because she's mine.