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Happy Early Thanksgiving!

Margaret and I will be leaving in the morning for Kentucky to spend Thanksgiving with my family. Wow! I never dreamed I’d be writing that one. (If you’ve followed my family journey at www.gregoryjoel.com you know why I say that…) Momma told me last night that she hoped Margaret won’t be overwhelmed by the crowd descending on Momma’s house for the holiday (I have a BIG family – never thought I’d say that one either!). Rest assured Momma – Margaret’s ready! I can’t even begin to put into words the joy I’m feeling.

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks getting Opal’s Farm ready for Thanksgiving and my vacation – and I mean “vacation” – haven’t said that one in ten years…). I’ll be unplugging from phones and computers for the next nine days. Stacey Harwood, our Volunteer Coordinator, will be handling everything at the farm. She may be in desperate need of volunteers if we get a freeze warning next week. We have a ton of tomatoes on the vine that we’ll need to pick quickly. Stacey can be reached at opalsvolunteers@gmail.com. Also, please remember that #GivingTuesday, a day of global giving, coming up after the holiday!

We’ll also be taking a break from Cowtown Farmers Market for the next two Saturdays. We’ll be back in force throughout the remainder of the holiday season so come get your fresh, local produce for Christmas!

I won’t be able to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving next week, so I’ll say it today. I hope our friends and family have a great Thanksgiving. I hope this holiday season brings joy and gratitude for the blessings we have received. Sometimes those blessings are disguised by the obstacles that we find along the way. The pandemic and the losses that have accompanied it have been brutal, but like Opal’s Farm, we’re getting past those to find the joy and peace that come from God’s awesome creation.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Love each other a little better and be thankful. Take care!

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Connection, Dogs, Emotional Health, Family, Gifts, Grief, Love, Pets, Rescue Animals, Thoughts From the Porch, Writing

Remembering Maggie

“I want to be the man my dog thinks I am” – Anonymous

I’m not sure how much more I can take. My “Coyotahoula”, Maggie, laid by my side as she breathed her last this morning. She wasn’t feeling well this weekend. She didn’t even come when the microwave beeper went off Saturday, so I knew she was under the weather. She spent Sunday evening curled up next to me at my desk. I thought I’d best take her to the veterinarian on Monday, but she couldn’t wait. She came by my side as I drank my morning coffee and never left. I knew. I laid down on the floor next to her and loved on her as she slowly passed on.

I’ve spent most of the day sad and exhausted. I buried her in the garden near her favorite spot. It probably violates some city code but quite frankly, I don’t care. This is where she belongs. If you’re not a dog person this probably doesn’t seem like a big deal – hey, it’s just a dog – but if you are you know the deep sense of loss that comes with losing your best friend.

We have two other dogs, Jameson (the Opal’s Farm dog!) and Sadie. They know Maggie’s gone. Sadie didn’t even bark at the lawn mower as I rolled it to the front yard. Maggie wasn’t there to bark with her. Some say we anthropomorphize our dogs. Animals are somehow absent human feelings. I’ve watched them all day and seen their sadness and grief and it’s as real as mine. I’m sure that there’s a reason “dog” is “God” spelled backwards.

Maggie keeping an eye on things…

All our dogs are rescues. Maggie was not even weaned when the previous owners took her mother and siblings to the shelter. We managed to rescue Maggie from the pound. Maggie was half coyote and half Catahoula. Her fate was in doubt at the shelter as a hybrid canine. We bottle fed her until she could do solid food. In fact, that’s how she got her name. She would suck on the bottle like Maggie on The Simpsons – the rest is history.

One month old!

Maggie made it quite clear that she was my dog. She was always quite the “daddy’s girl” and intensely jealous of the other two receiving any of my attention without first loving on her. She could sense a peanut jar opening from three rooms away and knew the I would always save a bite for her.

I could go on and on about Maggie. Pet parents know what I mean. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have as many, if not more, pictures of Maggie than I do my grandkids. Maggie, Jameson, and Sadie became our kids. Dogs are family and spoiled family members at that!

Maggie’s passing brought up all the loss of the last year-and-a-half, especially when it comes to my son Jeremy. He used to tease me all the time about how he was going to steal Maggie. He constantly tried to get me to let him have her. I’m not surprised. Maggie and Jeremy had a lot in common.

In fact, Maggie was my “Jeremy”. She had the same streak of wildness and freedom that Jeremy had ever since he was a baby. She was often too smart for her own good just as he was. She was independent, stubborn, and as sweet as he was. I think she made his passing a bit more tolerable. She always reminded me of him. I’d like to think they’re running around together today…

Today I lost my dog. It’s another reminder of the continual losses since this pandemic began – even when COVID isn’t responsible. I’ve lost my son, my best friend, and other folks that I miss daily. I guess Maggie brought it all to a head. Grief is a bitch…

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“It is impossible to know in the moment, how a small act of goodness will reverberate through time. The notion is empowering and it is frightening—because it means that we’re all capable of changing the world, and responsible for finding those opportunities to protect, feed, grow, and guide love.” – Bishop Michael Curry

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“We are afraid of religion because it interprets rather than just observes. Religion does not confirm that there are hungry people in the world; it interprets the hungry to be our brethren whom we allow to starve.” – Dorothee Sölle, translated by David L. Scheidt, The Inward Road and the Way Back

Christianity, Creation, Emotional Health, Faith, Family, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Meditation, Peace, Prayer, Relationships, Revival, Simplicity, Social Justice, Thoughts From the Porch

Pondering

I like to ponder. That’s how the idea for “Thoughts From the Porch” came about. I have a daily routine in which pondering plays a big role. I have my coffee on the porch most mornings. I even sat out there during the famous Texas ice storm of 2021. It was warmer out there than it was my house with no power. It may be the first time I’ve left my insulated overalls on all day since I moved back to Texas…

I enjoy the quiet time, the birds singing, watching the dawn break over my neighbor’s roof, and pondering.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ponder as:

                “Transitive verb

                1: to weigh in the mind: APPRAISE

                // pondered their chance of success

                2: to think about: to reflect on

                // pondered the events of the day

                Intransitive verb

                To think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply”

Sometimes I ponder the squirrels running about our front yard, nervously watching for our cat as they hide their nuts for the coming winter. Other times I ponder how much I wish I had my pellet rifle for the one that keeps finding new ways into my attic…

Pondering and meditation are similar, but different – to me at least. Religion and recovery stress the value of meditation, but quite frankly, I suck at it. Meditation seems like too much work. Pondering flows more naturally. One of my favorite verses is found in the Gospel of Luke. He has recounted the birth of Jesus and says in 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered about them in her heart” (emphasis mine).

I get it. Hold what I treasure close. Pondering is a natural consequence. It just is…

Sometimes I ponder the important things in life – my wife, my family, my faith. Other times it’s often the inane. Both are beautiful. Both are necessary.

I am thankful for my friends who allow me to ponder and write about those things here. I don’t always stop to tell you how much I appreciate you all. It’s not that I have anything terribly important to say. It’s that you allow me to share what is – “quietly, soberly, and deeply” – even when it may only make sense to me. You provide me the space to toss into the world my thoughts and do so without judgement. Sometimes I just need to see things in black and white, but mostly I need to hear myself say them. Thank you for that opportunity.

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