Almost two decades ago, God spoke to me. Not in a voice I could hear out loud, but by a distinct impression in my head. It was January in Texas, but it seemed more like Michigan. With two boys under the age of three, I was ready for bed long before I could get there. When I finally made it to bed that night, I just wanted to hibernate. I was already sound asleep when I heard the words in my head, “Go get Keyna and bring her inside. She is going to freeze to death.” Keyna was our aging, three-legged Doberman. She was a good dog, and God knew how much we loved her. She had grown old and grey with us. I remember years before, God had sent a stranger to my door to warn me about someone throwing poisoned meat to the dogs in our neighborhood. That night, I had brought Keyna inside, and in the morning, I saw the meat in our yard. My heart had been filled with gratitude and praise for my sweet Savior’s intervention!
But on that winter night in my sleep, I had no idea God was talking to me. “She has a doghouse,” I thought to myself, “and anyway, she’s old and that’s not a bad way to die.” I didn’t move. I never opened my eyes. I don’t even know that I woke up. Not until the next morning did I realize God had spoken to me, and I realized it because Keyna had fallen outside her doghouse and was dead. I cannot adequately describe my feelings that morning--guilt, shame, discouragement, grief. I would have given anything to go back and obey. But I couldn’t.
The story doesn’t end there though. Several years later our third child was born. Again I was extremely tired. The children were all in bed and asleep. I had finally gotten into bed and felt warm and comfortable. Once I was completely relaxed and starting to fall into the sleep I had longed for all day, there came the thought, “Go check the boy’s covers. Make sure they are warm.” I had put them in warm sleeper pajamas. “They’ll be fine.” Distinctly, the thought came, “Remember Keyna.” This time, I immediately got out of bed. I went downstairs to their room and saw our four-year-old sound asleep with his comforter in a heap at the bottom of the bed; he definitely would have been cold. With a smile I pulled his comforter up and tucked him in. “It was so sweet that God wanted to keep him warm…” I started to leave the room. But there was a firm, “Both boys.” I climbed up into our six-year-old’s bunk bed, and found, beside our curious boy, a tape player I didn’t even know he had taken apart. The wires were loose and exposed. I immediately checked, and found it plugged in also.
Obviously, I needed to teach the children some things about safety. But there were lessons for me too- about learning to listen to the voice of God. He promises to lead and guide us, but we have to learn to recognize His voice. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me… It’s not easy to recognize His voice; so often it seems like any other thought- one of our own ideas.
So many times in life, the lessons God has for us are like layers of an onion. My sweet, kind, merciful, Heavenly Father’s love was like the papery, protective covering. He loved me enough to speak to me- His weak, tired, definitely imperfect child. He wanted me to know that I could trust Him with my safety and of the safety of those I love. He wanted to fill my heart with a desire to always, immediately, recognize His voice, to know His voice, and follow Him; and to fill my heart with gratitude and praise. He does make all things work together for good when we love Him. And I cannot thank Him enough for using my own failures to bless me!