Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shelter Dogs, Oprhans, and the F Words

Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.

I listen to my responses when people talk about family.  I feel my guts churn, my mind race, and my heart whip into confusion.

I've been invited into a family three significant times in my life--marriage being one of them, and in many ways a different animal than the other two instances.  It's alarming to note just how utterly clueless I am about how families work. How neurotic I am.  How deeply I have been wounded.

Every interaction with these families is something entirely new for me, but informed by experiences that are many years old.

Consequently, I never have any clue as to whether I can rightly expect repetitions of the actions, words, etc that are part of what appears to be the general family discourse. I don't know what to do when something pleasing is not repeated consistently. I don't know whether something unfamiliar is bad or dangerous.

I panic easily.

I am always poised to run, and in a dilemma of how to respond to each new experience. When it becomes obvious that I don't understand how families act, I go from zero to shame in a nano-second.

Please don't ask me something like, "Isn't that how you did it in your family?"  No.  If it were we wouldn't be having this conversation.  "But surely..." No. When I say no, I mean no.  Believe it.

I may be hyper-vigilant about something that's no big deal to anyone else.  Or I may be slow to accept an invitation for fear of some surprise consequence. I don't know my rights, or what to reasonably expect. Being invited into a family sets off waves of hope and fear at the same time.

The thing is, I seldom believe what is being told to me as truth, and when I do believe it, I need detailed examples, clear expectations, sane boundaries, and a lot of consistent experience...patience.

Shelter dogs must feel this way when they go to a new home with a "Forever Family."

Forever is the other F word.  It is frequently spoken in connection with family.  Like: This puppy now has a Forever Family.  Shelter dogs have to navigate three related but alien concepts all at once: Family, Forever, and Forever Family. Heaven forbid another F word should be added: Foster! Or what about forgotten???

Imagine the confusion, the turmoil, the fear...the roller coaster of hope, hopelessness, and ambivalence!  Good Lord!

Now imagine the whole scope of the F words through the eyes of an orphan.  A widow. An alcoholic. A battered wife. A homeless man. An addict.  And so it goes.  Have mercy!

I am grateful and sorry that I understand the tangled web of F words.  I think of these two scriptures to focus on hope for all the shelter dogs and orphans, among which I count myself...

Psalm 68:6 - God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity

2 Corinthians 1:4 - He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

I think more people need to visit the shelters.  Truly reaching out and ministering to the broken and the disregarded comes from walking and living among them...understanding the difference between choosing to be in the shelter and being there because you don't know how to be (or can't be)  anywhere else.

That is the beginning of understanding the magnitude of Psalm 91He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High...

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