The morning of Christmas Eve I woke up early as always. I built up the fire, fed the horses and dogs only to find our old Lab Jenny unable to get out of bed. Jenny has been with us through thick and thin for fourteen years which is a long time for a Lab to stay healthy and vibrant. I could go on and on about what a dear friend she has been and about the comfort she has brought to Nancy and I through so many transitions. She was the empty nest syndrome dog and she moved with us five times during her life as we bought, fixed up and sold homes and other properties in order to afford this final move to Timber Butte. She even lived with us in the old travel trailer while our home was being finished. She was a special dog that occupied a special place in all of our hearts. Nancy held her head as she died that morning and together we thanked God for the years of joy she had brought our family. We wrapped her in a quilt in preparation for the difficult job of digging a grave under a foot of snow which was accomplished with the help of our son Brook on Christmas day.
I walked out on the front porch for a breath of fresh air just in time to see a herd of twenty elk passing by the barn. A bull and his harem of cows were taking their calf’s up into the safety of Timber Butte. God used that moment to remind us how rich life really is. I was reminded of King Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastics 3 where he spoke of God’s sustainable plan for life. It says:
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Nancy and I left Jenny wrapped in her quilt and headed for town to share dinner with our parents followed by a Christmas Eve communion service at church. All in all it was a day that tasted both blessing and pain. It somehow prepared our hearts for a deeper understanding of the reality of Christmas. That night we celebrated the blessing of Christ’s plan and provision for mankind knowing that in the end he would suffer great pain for our sake. His plan wasn’t to sustain us in this temporal passing life, but sustain us eternally. It was a sustainability established in love, a love that makes life both wonderful yet at times extremely painful. It is the nature of love and it’s what gives life richness. Christmas this year reminded me not to waste a singe day of the gift He has given.