Everything I Need
By Elisa Morgan
In the last few weeks, I’ve spent a ridiculous number of hours scrolling through the internet. You can ask my phone. I’ve been looking for a dog to replace Coach, our precious one we recently had to put down. Well, not really to replace him but to fill part of the hole in my life that he used to occupy. Not the gaping hole in my heart. That’s unfillable. Rather, the jagged hole torn in my days and nights and mornings and afternoons and evenings.
Evan and I had begun to recognize that Coach was suffering from a kind of trauma we’d never seen in him. When Colorado’s winds blew HARD, he paced for hours in our bedroom and then tucked himself under the low-hanging clothes in our closet, his head held in an imaginary hammock of safety. In the car, he panted and shook and wedged himself to the floor behind Evan’s seat as he drove. And when an innocent biker whizzed by him on the street, he lunged and snapped as if the bicycle was Godzilla itself. We had him evaluated and indeed, the diagnosis was that his sweet brain had turned a corner into a land of fear and trauma from which he could not emerge.
After saying goodbye to Coach, I began to wonder about adding another member to our diminished family. After all, for decades we’d been Evan and me with Darla and Wilson and then Evan and me with Wilson and Coach and then Evan and me with just Coach. Surely not just Evan and me?
I slept with Coach’s Christmas gift of a doggie Lambchops toy. (Okay, I washed it first.) I mentally pictured him atop his now-empty bed. I pushed chicken scraps about on my plate to save for him and then threw them out.
And I scrolled and scrolled, following link after link through rescue after rescue, looking for a some-doggie to become our new family member.
One night I awoke and sensed God nudging me … Elisa, could you invite me to occupy that hole in your heart? What if you let your longing for Coach lead you to let me in closer? Like a spiritual fast where a lack of food or water can increase our hunger and thirst for the Divine, I let my eagerness for a canine companion direct my desire to God. I prayed. I welcomed in more of God. Somewhat satiated, I drifted back to sleep and awoke with a redirected heart.
But in the days that followed, my fingers resumed their restless pursuit across the keyboard and once again, I lost myself for hours. One shelter wouldn’t adopt to out of state parents – and we were not at home in Colorado. Another only offered large dogs when we’d been clear that the next dog for us needed to be smaller to accommodate our age. Silence from a number of adoption applications I’d completed. I met dead end after dead end.
How much time have I invested in trying to control what I can’t control? To massage back to life what is already dead and gone? To grab the steering wheel and force a turn in the direction I want to go when the car in which I’m riding is clearly on another road entirely?
One night, as I looked across the bed at my pretty-much-always patient husband, a thought clicked into place. I needed to let this go. My searching was wearing him out. The man I’d stood beside through the last horrific fall of bladder cancer. The man who was healing into a new life. The man who patiently reviewed each of my “finds” and willingly agreed to a senior dog, a puppy, an email of inquiry, a drive to visit. All to make me happy.
I realized that my search was stealing something from us. The moment. The recognition of healing. The awareness that God will provide in season. The embrace of the joy that we were both alive and living life together. The reality that when I’m grieving over the unavoidable holes in my heart that tear open over what has been lost, there is always more of God.
Likely, there will be a time for another dog. But in that moment, I knew that I had everything I really needed – right beside me there in the bed.
PS: I actually did let it go: the crazed search and obsessive scrolling. Honestly. And then this past week I received a call from a shelter I’d applied to weeks ago. Was I still interested? Evan and I talked and decided to drive west a few hours west where we met and fell in love with Mia, a nine-year-old Jack Russell. We are now getting to know each other and becoming a family. Another layer of the lesson learned: I have everything I need. Still. With and without a dog. But I have to admit, I like “with” better than “without.”
Elisa Morgan's latest book is You Are Not Alone. She is the cohost of the podcast, God Hears Her. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her other books include When We Pray Like Jesus, The Beauty of Broken, Hello, Beauty Full, and She Did What She Could. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.