If I haven’t made it clear by now, I love boots. All kinds of ‘em. Tall. Short. Slouchy. Laced. Zipped. And especially, Cowgirl.
I also love animals. Cats, dogs, donkeys, cows, horses, chickens, guineas, geese…they all have a home on our family farm.
So it’s probably no surprise my 7-year-old daughter also has a love for animals and boots. But have you any idea what would happen if our two loves collided?
Meet Zoey. See her in the background, looking like the cat that ate the canary?
Upon returning home from church one Wednesday night last Fall, we were met at the door by our two dogs, Tanner, my 12 year old golden retriever, and Zoey, who I also call Newman. (If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you get this.)
Tanner and Zoey are part of the family. Our home is as much theirs as it is ours. Whenever we leave, they play in the yard. However, that night we were in a bit of a rush and they were inadvertently left inside.
We had been gone roughly 3.5 hours, which apparently was just enough time for a boot massacre. I found the remains on Zoey’s bed.
Of all the things That Dog has destroyed, this time she purposely chose my daughter’s beloved cowgirl boot. Why do I say “purposely chose”? Because all of our boots stay tucked away in the boot bench in the entry way of our home.
Abbie’s boots were neatly put away right beside her brother’s, dad’s and mom’s boots. There were a total of eight boots Zoey could’ve picked from.
Apparently she likes pink.
Zoey ate the entire backside of that boot. She ATE it, y’all. There were no shredded leather pieces, no mess to clean. All that remained of her snack was a backless boot.
My daughter was in tears but I—I.Was.Furious! I yelled, beat That Dog’s rear with what remained of the boot, and threw her outside for the night. I seriously haven’t been that angry in I can’t remember how long. My blood was beyond boiling.
I know it’s just a boot. It’s a material possession that can be replaced. Sure it’s inconvenient but is it really worth getting this worked up over, you may ask?
Beyond the fact that our tight budget would’t allow me to run out and replace these boots, is the ever-so-lovely backstory of how Zoey came to be part of the Prestridge Family. Go back with me…
It was the summer of 2013. Our son had just turned 1 and was finally learning to walk, while I was finally beginning to recover from a year’s worth of sleep deprivation. My husband had taken a job an hour away from home, working roughly 60-70 hours a week, which left me to man the fort alone.
Bluntly, I was tired. (I think I’ve typed those words before…?) Between caring for our kids, running our household, serving at the church and All The Other Things I’m Committed To Do, I needed some slack. So when Stevie-P mentioned late one night that he wanted a puppy, it took me exactly zero seconds to firmly say Uhhh—No.
At first, I thought he was joking. Our furry family of 4 had downsized to 2 over the past year and a half and frankly, that was good for me. We were now a one-cat, one-dog family and I liked it. It was manageable for me considering all the other mouths and hineys I had to care for.
We were also fostering a dog at the time and I was literally working every day to find her a good home. Could I BE any busier?
But the next day when my husband broached the subject again, I realized this was no joke. In fact, this was to be A Very Big Deal.
First, this potential canine addition to our family was part Mastiff. If you don’t know what a Mastiff is, think back to the movie “The Sandlot.” Remember “The Beast”? He was a Mastiff. At full size, these dogs can weigh anywhere from 160 to 230 pounds. And their height? Let’s just say my almost 5 feet could be slightly rivaled.
Second, it would be a big addition to my daily routine. Have you ever had a puppy? Seriously, they are great practice for a baby. Middle of the night potty issues. Whining at all hours. Everything goes into their mouths… If you’re thinking of getting pregnant, get a puppy first.
Third, this was a big deal to me emotionally. Did my husband just not GET ALLLLLLL that I did in a day? Did he honestly think I wanted something else to be responsible for? Hadn’t he seen my plants? To me, this wasn’t about a dog, it was about him understanding and appreciating all the hard work I was doing.
Sure, he claimed he would “help” and “take care of her,” BUT HE WAS GONE FROM SUN UP TO AFTER SUNDOWN EVERY DAY. I would most definitely be The One teaching this dog to do her business outside and cleaning up her failed business attempts inside.
I had three points, people. I had solid reasons for not getting this dog. Why was this even a conversation?
I thought the issue was dead in the water…until my husband walked through the door two nights later with said Puppy in hand.
Remember the anger I described earlier about the boot? This anger trumped that.
Sure, she was adorable. Floppy ears that I’m a sucker for. Puppy breath that I love. Huge polka-dot bow around her neck because polka are just my favorite kind of dots. (He obviously knew what he was doing.)
But I was speechless. No, really. I seriously didn’t speak a single word for over an hour I think, and that is a feat for me. I could not believe my dear lamb of a husband would make such a big decision without my agreeing, or even worse, in spite of my disagreeing.
I wish I could tell y’all I was over it by the next morning, but I SO wasn’t. We had multiple, lengthy, heated *conversations* about this until I was sure he understood how I felt. And then we’d go at it again.
Yeah, I know, this was about a dog, but my hurt was coming from a much deeper place. For the first time in our marriage I felt betrayed and manipulated; misunderstood and underappreciated.
This wasn’t about what he did; it was about what it did to me.
Realizing this, he sincerely apologized—multiple times—and I forgave him, multiple times. I knew he hadn’t meant to hurt me so deeply. He did his best to make things right, even offering to give the dog back. Of course, I said no. The dog was an innocent bystander in this whole debacle and besides that, our daughter loved her. Life went on.
Though my Head knew this was a minor infraction on the grand scale of betrayal, my Heart was infuriated every time I looked at That Stinkin’ Dog. She was a constant reminder of my husband’s fault; Forgive and Forget was not an option. Every mess she made or issue she created didn’t make me mad at her, it made me mad at Steve all over again.
“Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, The Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” ~ Colossians 3:13
As my husband’s choice stared me in the face, I struggled to understand my feelings and control my temper. I honestly thought unforgiveness was the root of my problem. I studied forgiveness, read God’s words on the subject and consciously chose forgiveness every time I felt anger rising up.
Yet, I remained hostile and distant with my emotions. I had become The “B” Word–Bitter.
bit•ter•ness—(noun) anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment.
Yep. That was me.
I’ve never been one to use that word much and really had never given it much thought, but this little conundrum allowed me to sample a taste.
How do I describe it? Bitterness occurs when someone else’s bad decision messes with my good life. When, through no fault of my own, some injustice is thrust upon me and, in my innocence, I am forced to bear it.
I began withholding my affection and attention, NOT doing usual, helpful things for him. It started small, like not making his lunch for work or scratching his back when he asked. But before long, I was scoffing at his leadership and questioning his intelligence decision-making; disregarding his needs and flat-out ignoring his wants.
With all he had added to my plate, I felt totally justified. Make life harder for me, will you? Well, it’s gonna affect you, too, Jack…
Our friendship began to unravel. We bickered and argued Every Single Day about whatever stupid topic d’jour.
I cried and it got me nowhere. I yelled and it got me a shouting match. I sulked to no avail. We were disconnected from each and we were both miserable.
For the first time in our 14+ years of marriage, I would go to bed angry or aloof, something we promised we’d never do. It just didn’t matter to me that he was upset, and vice versa.
Girls, with all the words I have I still cannot tell you how much this incident hurt our relationship. (Click here to read even more gory details.)
It’s so easy to get sideways with your man when you feel he’s making a bad decision or when it seems he’s just not hearing you; to justify your anger and lack of respect.
He’s not loving me “as Christ loves the church,” so why should I do anything for him?
Because we are called to.
“…Live and act in a way worthy of those who have been chosen for such wonderful blessings as these. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another.” ~ Ephesians 4:1-3
Return to Exhibit A: The Boot. Clearly, I haven’t gotten this verse down yet.
I’m still learning to intentionally count my blessings and not my headaches. Like Zoey choosing the pink boot, I must purposely choose to “live and act in a way worthy”; to be humble and gentle and patient because of my love. It doesn’t come natural.
“Banish bitterness, rage and anger, shouting and slander, and any and all malicious thoughts—these are poison.” ~Ephesians 4:31 (VOICE)
I know the taste of this “poison”. One look at that half-eaten boot and all those emotions came flooding back; the urge to shout at my husband about HIS dog and blame him for this misfortune was on the tip of my tongue.
Lord, help me.
Once again I’ve shared way more information about my private sins than I’d care to, but I know I’m not alone. After living this out and hearing the stories of other women, it seems lack of forgiveness is not the “boot” of our problem.
As believers, we understand we have been forgiven much so we, too, must forgive. We make huge strides to forgive, but inevitably the harsh taste lingers in our souls.
“I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” ~ Job 10:1 (NIV)
Though we can belt out the song, we sincerely struggle to “Let It Go.” It’s so much easier to choose The Victim role and become dissatisfied with life, living out our days resenting what That Man or That Dog has done to us.
Rather than see the situation as an opportunity for even greater love, we view it as a chance to prove a point, to say I Told You So and live a melancholy life.
How about you? Is there some injustice you need to let go of?
For me, it was about a dog. Maybe it’s more for you, like when your husband isn’t wise with money, uses his time for things you think foolish or chooses to do the opposite of what you suggest. Those are very real, daily incidents every couple must learn to overcome.
Maybe, like me, you’re eyeball to eyeball with the consequence of someone else’s bad decision and Forgive and Forget is not an option.
Maybe the hurt you’ve endured makes my whole situation laughable. I know a deeper pain exists.
“A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him.” ~ Proverbs 17:25
Bitterness seems to be a natural response for us girls, especially when hurt by a loved one. But as F.B. Meyer said, “As we pour out our bitterness God pours in His peace.”
“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives our transgressions? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us, You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” ~Micah 7:18-19
The only One who truly has this Forgiveness-Without-Bitterness thing down is God. It is only by His power at work in us that we’re able to choose a better way.
We can stomp around in our boots of bitterness, or we can replace them with a more graceful footing: Magnanimity.
mag•nan•i•mous—(adjective) generous in forgiving an insult or injury; free from petty, resentfulness or vindictiveness.
I’ll take Magnanimity, size 6, please.
P.S. Since dealing with my bitterness, God truly has poured out His peace in our relationship. It is by no means perfect, but God has slowly restored us to an even closer bond. If you’re struggling with a relationship, hang in there. Fight for it. If you ask Him, the Holy Spirit will join you and strengthen you. Take it to Him in prayer. He won’t disappoint.