Five days ago, we did one of the hardest things we ever had to do—we had to say good-bye to Grace, our 15-year-old border collie. “Grace, you lived up to your name and you were the best gift we ever had delivered to our doorstep. One special day we will be together again.”
Until then, here is Grace’s special story, taken from our book, “Loving God, Loving Myself.”
I (Denise) was prompted recently by a close friend to write the story of Grace. It is not the story of God’s grace, but of the little black-and-white bundle of a border collie that showed up on our doorstep twelve years ago.
Jerry and I were not looking for an addition to our family of “just the two of us.” Losing our Sheltie the previous year had torn our hearts out. After my miscarriage in 1990, Lassie had brought life into our home. Losing her as suddenly as we lost our baby twelve years prior rocked our world. While Jerry had been unable to grieve the loss of our child at the time, the loss of Lassie removed all hindrances for him to grieve. Describing this time in our lives, Jerry says, “We hit the wall.” We stopped doing life and ministry and took a break from our counseling practice. We were already tired and burned out, and Lassie’s death was the final straw.
So we were not so ready to receive a “gift package” in a crate. We were just returning home from a weekend of personal ministry in West Virginia, and it had been a good trip. We pulled into our driveway at dusk, and I could see something in the driveway. I pointed it out to Jerry, and as we got closer, I said, “Oh my gosh, it’s a crate and there is a puppy in it!” As I got out of the car, I also saw a bag of dog food, a sack of toys, and a letter:
I am a miracle dog in need of someone to love who will love me in return. I am a border collie who is almost five months old. I was born on a farm to two working border collies. They worked hard herding but were very happy. They had a stall of their very own in the barn, and they were really excited that me and my brothers and sister were coming soon. Their owner was a nice lady who was very old and who got very sick. No one knew how sick she was for a long time, so my mommy and daddy didn’t eat for two whole weeks.
My daddy got really hungry and sick, and he died before we were born. My mommy was sick too, but she knew she had to stay around to have us four puppies. When we were born, only me and my little brother were alive, and he was very sick too. Finally, someone came and found us, but it ended up being too late for my brother. He died in a hospital. Mommy was really mad that no one came sooner and didn’t want anyone to touch her. She growled and bit a lot, and then she had to go away too. That made me sad, but now she is with Daddy and the other puppies, so she is happy! I am the only member of my family left, but I know that is no accident! For some reason, God had other plans for me.
Thanks for finding a place in your heart for me. I will be your life-long companion, and I thank God for allowing me to live and for giving you to me. He is such an awesome God!
Jerry and I were actually quite upset. Who would just drop a dog on someone’s doorstep with all the fixings included? What if we did not want or weren’t ready for another responsibility? We had just started traveling more for ministry and on mission outreaches outside the country, and this would definitely complicate things.
The poor little puppy was so scared, she just found a corner of a rug downstairs and laid down. I told her, “You can stay in my house, but you are not getting into my heart.” But the next morning when we came downstairs, do you know where I found her? Right in my heart.
We knew immediately that her name was Grace because . . .
In West Virginia, driving through the countryside, Jerry asked God to let him see some deer, and he counted fifteen that day.
We arrived home on September 15.
Our flight number was 555.
In biblical numerology, five is the number of grace. So, grace, grace, grace three times. And then a surprise gift on our doorstep. All in the same day.
We called everyone we knew to find out who did it. No one admitted anything. We didn’t have a clue.
No doubt you’ve heard the question, “What’s in a name?” Grace had no difficulty owning hers. Our veterinarian was deeply moved when he met Grace and heard her story; he even made a copy of the letter she came with. Several of the clients we see in our home ask for her specifically; she gives them a sense of safety and protection. Grace is sensitive to their tears and will come close to them when she senses they are hurting.
One client, sitting cross-legged on the floor as he shared some of his painful past, broke down crying. Grace was instantly there with him, face to face, to comfort him. She was just what he needed. Amazed at her sensitivity toward him, the man felt in that moment that she represented the Father’s love and affection toward him. Grace actually received an evaluation from him and got—what else?—five out of five.
Last fall, eleven years after Grace showed up at our home and in our hearts, we received a call from a good friend whom we had not seen in a long time. We could not figure out why she was so upset. She said the Lord had convicted her to finally be honest with us: she was the one who had left Grace in our driveway. Would we forgive her?
That had to be the easiest forgiveness we have ever extended to anyone!
You know, it is nice to know that final part of the story, but it really doesn’t change anything. . . .
Grace has always been a too-good-to-be-true gift in our lives. We did nothing to earn it. We walk with Grace and thank God for Grace. There is nothing quite like Grace. God made a home for Grace in our hearts. Thank you, Father, for the ongoing miracle of Grace in our lives.
(And by the way, God, thank you too for our border collie, Grace.)
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COUNSELING MINISTRY: If you or anyone you know is in need of finding a safe place for emotional and/or spiritual healing and restoration, please contact us at The Father's Heart Intensive Christian Counseling Ministry. Check out our web site at fathersheart.com or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are located in the North Georgia Mountains in a retreat-like setting and counsel individuals or couples for periods of two to five-days in length.