On the day that Jackie brought him home from the dog pound, Pepper was in his terrible twos, an age he never grew out of! He was a black and white Cocker Spaniel. From the beginning, he disliked dog training and, from most people, he would not even tolerate a gentle push on the behind to help him remember the meaning of “SIT!”. He led a pampered dog’s life, and was allowed free run of most of the house, even when we were away. The idea was that his barking would be a deterrent to thieves knocking on the door to see if it was a good time to break in and deprive us of our possessions.
He did okay for a while, but when we were gone for more than a few hours, we found out that he was not completely house broken. He was always hungry and roamed the house scouting for food. Often, we found him on the table looking for left overs. He stole food off the counters. He sorted trash cans looking for scraps, but never put the paper back in them once he was finished. He, also, cleaned the cat litter every time he could sneak into the box without getting caught. Maybe he thought he was helping, thinking that what he didn’t eat, Haley would have to empty to the outside garbage! Then, he started to stink, and soap and water and vet visits did little to obliterate the smell.
Alas, he was vanquished, forever, to the back yard. I disowned him a long time before that. Jackie had a much bigger and kinder heart than I did, and Pepper would bask in her gentle touch and soft voice and follow her like a little brother every time she entered the back yard. She readily forgave his many sins! The years took their toll on his health. Deafness and poor eyesight plagued him. However, I was convinced that he would live to be 100 just to spite me.
Hurricane Irma gave Pepper a brief respite from his exile, as it stormed up the Florida peninsula the first part of September. I was reluctant, but not heartless, and as the winds began to bear down on us, Pepper got to come back into the house. First off, Jackie gave him a bath. She brought his dog crate inside so that we could control his roaming search for food and trouble. He was locked in his cage!
We hid in our tiny bathroom for a short time during a tornado warning in the middle of the hurricane.- us, our 3 cats, Pepper and our parrot!
The power was out. We sat in the hot, still air, the darkness kept at bay by oil lamps scattered around the house, We waited, not sure for what: The storm to end, the roof to blow off, the trees to smash our house, or all of the above! We didn’t know what would happen. I don’t think Pepper knew, either, but he didn’t like being locked in his cage. As the wind blew, he howled! The hurricane made sleep difficult, Pepper made it impossible! At last Jackie said she would bring him into our room so he could be close to her. Pepper and I traded rooms. I had doubts that the move would shut him up, but as soon as he was in the presence of the one who loved him, the howling stopped.
I wished I could say the same for the wind. Outside, the onslaught continued. My heart was howling with a hurricane of insecurity that spawned tornadoes of worry and doubt. I feared, not so much for our lives, but for our house, and our possessions. Had not we prayed that God would spare us? Why didn’t He send it somewhere else? The TV news had built Irma into a most fearsome threat. She would cover all of Florida, ripping trees out of the ground, dismantling houses, and killing people who did not evacuate or run to a shelter! Should we have run? I didn’t know! We didn’t live in an evacuation zone. I worried about our big beautiful Live Oak trees. Would Irma tear them limb from limb and club our roof with the huge branches? I had visions of Irma pouring buckets of water though the massive hole she had made in our roof, ruining 13 years of custom remodel and handmade furniture. I was concerned about all my toys in the garage, my cabinet saw and other tools I use. What if water ruined all of them?
In those dark hours, I reminded myself that God was the God of the storm! God loved me! The storm wouldn’t change that. He gave me Salvation though what Jesus did for me on the cross. The storm could not take that away! God forgave my sins. The hurricane could not blow them back on me! He promised a better home in Heaven, one that Irma would never be able to reach! As the storm approached, I remembered all the times I had exhorted myself not to hang on to things too tightly. Things could be replaced. Houses could be rebuilt. Trees could be replanted (though I would never live long enough to see them become giants!).
I wished that I could say that I found it easy to focus on God. I prayed and directed my thoughts on Him, but the great gusts of wind that circled our house easily pulled my thoughts back to temporal things. In the wee hours of the morning, I drifted off to sleep. When I awoke, it was morning!
We were alive! We still had a roof over our heads! A stiff wind still blew, but I went outside to survey the damage. Our Live Oaks still stood, though most of their leaves and small branches littered our yard beneath them. I put the ladder up and climbed to the roof. It appeared that all shingles were intact. In the afternoon, we cleaned up the yard. It took three of us about five hours to pile all the debris across the street where the city would pick it up. We had so much to praise God for, including the cool breeze that blew the whole time we were raking our yard.
We were without power for almost eight days. That was worse than the hurricane! A friend loaned us a generator and we were able to keep our freezers running, and power a fan or two to cool us at night. There was nothing like absence to make us appreciate something more!
Pepper is back outside. He still stinks! However, when I see him I think that I should be more like him. In the storm he was able to rest in the presence of the one who loved him. That is what God desires for me; rest in the presence of the One who loves me no matter what life blows my way. If I’m trusting God for the big things in life, why shouldn’t I trust Him in the small things, like hurricanes!
Thank you for praying for us as we know so many, especially down south, did not fare so well. Also, thank you for your sacrificial giving that allows us to continue our ministry! Please pray that we would learn to trust God more as He allows us to go through the storms of life.
Till He Returns,
Phil and Jackie