Ellie and Other Creatures of Habit

I related to a small black poodle last week.

God decided to use her to give me a little picture of how to function and find good rhythms in the middle of hurt.

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Ellie, named after the main character of Miss Nancy’s children’s book

Ellie is my neighbor’s dog, and while my neighbor, Miss Nancy, was teaching the past few weeks at a nearby college, she asked me to stop by the apartment a few times a day and take Ellie out for a walk. Giving me instructions, Miss Nancy directed me on how to care of Ellie, keep her in this room, walking her here or there, and know where the Kraft cheese singles were to use for a treat.

Dog-care instructions (even if they’re coming from my family about our own dog), always sound a little over-the-top to me, even if they’re not. But knowing Miss Nancy and her genuine love for dogs, I decided to take the duty seriously, especially knowing Ellie is a rescue and hasn’t been treated well in the past.

(No, I don’t relate because she was an abused dog.)

Ellie stays on the bed in Miss Nancy’s room. That’s her safe place. I come in, she’s on the bed; I leave, she’s on the bed. I call her to go outside, and…she won’t leave the bed. I step up to the bed and let Ellie smell my hand (it isn’t like she hasn’t seen me before, I just haven’t taken care of her before). Her black eyes look up at me sweetly but suspiciously. “You’re not mom. How can I trust you?”

No matter how much I petted her and coaxed her to come off the bed in order to put on her leash and take her to the patio and out into the yard, Ellie refused to leave. Her innocent eyes watched me. “Why are you asking so much of me?” Her expression seemed to say.

(No, I don’t relate because I don’t like leaving bed…Though who doesn’t hate leaving bed, ammirite? #relatable!!!)

I was impatient and hungry this afternoon and much of me thought, This dog is being ridiculous. The irony however, was I had nowhere else I actually needed to be. I didn’t need to get her out as fast as possible and back in without any accidents on the carpet. The important thing wasn’t just getting her to do her business in the right place in a speedy time–it was getting the little poodle to trust me.

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Ellie on the bed

I ended up sitting with her, petting her, pausing to think about my own life lately, and then entering into prayer about it.

God likes to take things in my everyday life–especially things that remind me of my childhood–to get my attention on what He’s saying. No surprise that Ellie, a dog that looks exactly like my favorite childhood stuffed animal (Rudolph the female, black poodle) made me stop, smile, and reflect (as nostalgia makes one do).

God said to me as we paused (or pawsed…heh) and I prayed:

This is how I take care of you.

I should be getting out the door to do what I need to do; what’s healthy for me. I should be getting out of my place of security. I should be trusting He won’t hurt me. I should be believing my God hasn’t left me alone.

I should slow down more often so God and I can actually walk together.

Luckily, I never really walk fast enough to outrun Him.

He always turns out ahead of me.

Waiting to meet me.

How did He manage to meet me?  I think to myself. I thought He’d give up by now.

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lyrics from Psalm 13 by Alisa Turner, art by me, one fine evening

Recently reading the book, Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren, this is my takeaway: there are many odd little places that can become worshipful to God. Everything can be done to the glory of God, from singing songs, to plunging toilets, to walking dogs. Tish emphasizes how much our habits form us and what we believe. And thus, God decided to take my time with Ellie and make it a time to slow down and pray through every circumstance and heartache that’s been buzzing through my mind. Caring about another living creature allowed the small worshipful habit of praying for others to form. It allowed purposefully placing them ultimately into higher, better care. It gave me place to practice, in total grace, fervent prayer instead of constant worrying.

She and I are fallible humans, but there’s still a sweet analogy here: Miss Nancy loves that dog far better than I could, nourishing her, keeping her, and of course, walking her.

Ellie, despite her irrational fear of me, caused me to pause more and reflect on another creature’s needs. She offered distraction from my own hurts for a bit, but more importantly, reminded me how my own Caretaker is gentle and patient with me.

Gentle and patient, gentle and patient…

Eventually, I picked up the little poodle from the bed in my arms, and gently carried her outside. A week or two of walking has come to an end, and now Ellie wags her tail to see me enter the apartment. She doesn’t watch me as vigilantly while we walk but instead inspects the world around her, at my side, without worrying if I’ll leave or hurt her. When we come back inside, I end up staying a little longer to watch TV with Ellie on the couch and pet her. She won’t run if I approach or peep fearfully at me from distant doorways or around corners.

I don’t relate to Ellie as if God has me on some kind of leash like a dog. His love is much more beautiful and graciously free than that.

I relate because God has gentleness and patience for me, much like the kind Ellie needs from people. At the same time, He has an authoritative care for me; like Nancy cares for Ellie and encourages her to obey even if she’s hesitant, God encourages me to do what will bring us closer.

Lord, help me slow down so we can have a relationship instead of this weird, non-united thing where I’m trying to get everything I want or think I need, or I’m too afraid to leave what’s made me feel secure.

Help me hear my name when it’s called. Help me respond well to it, without any fear.

Calm me when I’m a black poodle and need to rest near You during thunderstorms. I jump at the sounds, and I run in circles as if it’ll help shield me from noise. All it is is a noise and even if lightning strikes or I’m soaked, You’re beyond it.

I can’t outrun some pain, God, but I also can’t outrun You.

Thanks for Ellie and Nancy.

Thank You for taking me for walks, whatever kind they be.

Extra Encouragement:

  • Psalm 91:7-13 (Thanks Sarah M. for reminding me of this passage again. This Psalm keeps popping in my path)
  • “Doing Things God’s Way” by Lysa TerKeurst (a P31 devotion that really convicted me the other night)
  • The sermon “God Rules the Heart of Every Man…” by John Piper (Really good reminder of God’s ultimate authority)
  • This amazing message, “Defining the Relationship” by Jackie Hill Perry from The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference (but encouraging to anyone, I think!). Such a great, true perspective for a passage in Deuteronomy.
  • ♪ “Psalm 13” by Alisa Turner (This is beautifuuuuuul. You have NO IDEA how long I’ve wanted someone to make a song from my favorite psalm. I can’t stop replaying this.)

Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it’s not right. Pray through things fervently. I mean it. Things are not out of His hands.

Take a walk, frens.



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