Joy comes from unexpected places. Joy is almost always unplanned. When we hurry, scurry, stress and micromanage, things never turn out to match the “fantasy” in our heads. The relationship, event, or experience that we have high expectations for, always seems to let us down.
We cannot make joy come into our lives; it just happens. The beautiful sunset surprises us. The baby smiles for the first time and grabs our finger. An old friend comes back into our lives in a surprising way. We receive an amazing gift we did not ask for or even know that we wanted, until it was in our hands. Joy came into our home this Christmas. It was as much unanticipated, as it was beautiful.
We had two dogs for the entirety of my children’s childhood; Henry and Bella. Henry is a tiny, five-pound white Miniature Schnauzer. Bella was a chubby Boston terrier. Back in June, Bella developed cancer. We spent money, we didn’t have, to try and prolong her life through surgery. We had the tumors removed.
Two short months later, the tumors were back. Not only were they back, but the cancer was more aggressive than before. We watched helplessly as our sweet dog deteriorated. Large tumors grew out of her belly and thighs. Bella slowed and moved with obvious discomfort. The talks began: “When should we put her down? Is it time to put her out of her pain?”
Our family selfishly held on to Bella. Henry knew something was wrong and he became very protective over her. One morning I checked on the dogs in their bed in the kitchen. One of Bella’s tumors had burst and Henry refused to leave her side. The tiny white dog was red with Bella’s blood. We took Bella immediately to the vet and had her put to sleep.
Our family was devastated. Henry was somber. There was a huge hole in all of our hearts. Bella was gone and there was nothing we could do to make it better. It was going to take some time.
Now we come to this December. We started searching out puppy ads on-line. My husband and I discussed getting another small dog like Bella (small dogs were all we had ever owned). However, I was tempted by dogs of all sizes. There were so many different breeds to choose from: Aussiedoodles, Boxers, Bostons, Labs and Pugs. There were lovely red Vizsla puppies, but the cost for a purebred puppy was out of our league. We sent out a few emails, offering half of what they were asking and no one took our offer.
One morning, my daughter and I found a little Boston for sale in a price range that we could meet. The owners were contacted and plans made to go see the little pup. We jumped in the car and set-out with anticipation, towards our goal. A text arrived on my daughter’s phone, “You don’t need to come. The puppy has been sold.”
Our hopes were dashed once again… Defeated, I took my daughter out to breakfast to regroup and discuss what to do next. We sat in the corner booth and prayed together about our future dog. “Lord, we ask that you take control. You know what we need. Please lay your hand on this situation. If you want us to have another dog, we know you will find a way.”
Just then, my daughter received a text that a Vizsla owner was willing to take our low price offer. Without thinking to call my husband, we sped to the owner’s house and bought our dog. She was the runt of the litter; quiet, and sweet with soft red fur. Her floppy ears framed a wrinkly, puppy face.
By the time we got home, I realized my mistake. In the frenzy of the moment, I had neglected to check with my husband! What would he think of a medium size breed? Would he be upset? Would he want me to take her back? My heart sunk at the thought… I couldn’t let down the kids. I reacted on emotion and now it might turn out badly.
With a knot in my stomach, I called my husband at work. “Joe? Are you in a good mood? Why am I asking? Well… We got a dog, today. No. It’s not the Boston we talked about. No. It is not a lap dog. Well, you will have to see for yourself when you get home… OK. We can talk later.”
The door opened at a quarter to seven that night. Little Maggie (Yes, we named her) was sleeping on my son’s chest. Joe walked in and froze in the doorway. The children and I held our collective breath. What will Daddy say?
This is where the unexpected joy comes in! This is where a potentially terrible situation turns blissful. Sometimes, we are given the gift of joy when we are not ready for it. It bowls us over with warmth and peace and hope. It engraves itself indelibly into our hearts for the remainder of our lives; a golden, Norman Rockwell moment.
His face lit up like a Christmas tree. My big ol husband got down on his stomach and crawled across the floor to our son and the sleeping puppy. He nuzzled his nose into the food swollen belly of the tiny dog. He kissed her muzzle. Maggie roused and nibbled his nose. She wrapped her paws on either side of his head.
My son, my husband and my new puppy cuddled together for a long time. The Christmas tree sparkled. The fire glowed. Joe’s eyes squeezed tight with emotion. My daughters and I remained quiet and still. We refused to disturb the magic of the moment.
In my spirit, I thanked God for taking control and finding us this cuddly red dog. I quickly realized that my husband had always wanted a puppy like this growing up. He never got one. On this enchanted night, Joe had his childhood dream fulfilled. I don’t believe that, until he saw Maggie, he even realized that it was still a wish in his heart. Maggie has brought a new hope and light into our house this Christmas. By joining our family, she brought us a gift, not only to the kids and me, but especially to Joe.
Our Savior came into this world in a way that no one could have foreseen and brought us a precious gift. He was born lowly and humbly in a manager, surrounded by animals. He had no money and his parents were just normal people. Aren’t Kings supposed to enter the world with fanfare, in jewel bedecked chambers? Who would expect the Savior of mankind to make his entrance so quietly? Jesus brought and continues to bring unexpected joy into our lives. He is yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is inside, outside and everywhere.
You might be waiting for your baby this Christmas season. Whenever he/she comes, God only knows. He is going to give you the gift of joy when you are least prepared. The call is going to come and you will have no opportunity to plan it out. Jesus’ hand on our lives is a joyful surprise. Just like our Christmas puppy, joy comes unexpectedly. It might come before Christmas. It might happen later. Just know that the Lord’s hand has never left you.
“Oh come let us sing unto the Lord:
Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.”
by A. Olsen