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Welcome!

Here we go! After years of saying, “I should start a blog,” I’m finally doing it! So, why People, Puppies, and Parables? It’s simple.

People: For years, my motto has been, “It’s all about relationships.” That’s really what life comes down to, the relationships we have. I will share what I have learned from the people in my life. And I’m sure there will be plenty of cute stories about my grandchildren. I can’t help it. Grandparenting is one of the great joys of my life!

Puppies: Having spent 16 years working in Puppy Development at The Seeing Eye, Inc., I have so many stories to share (and cute pictures, too). To respect other’s privacy, I will only refer to my puppies by their number, not their name. (We are on #22, so there are lots of stories!) I understand what I think is a cute story may damage the relationship between blind person and their guide, so I will keep their identities anonymous. But I will share plenty of adorable puppy pictures–seen one Lab, you’ve seen them all.

Parables: Defined as “a simple story to illustrate a spiritual lesson,” I see parables in the everyday stuff of life. Too often we miss the spiritual lessons right in front of us. It might be the people I come across from day to day or the puppies doing what they do or observations from nature or the hilarious situations I often find myself a part of. I hope to open our eyes to seeing God in the everyday.

 

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Family Day = The Best Day

This past Saturday was Family Day at The Seeing Eye, Inc. As a puppy raiser and a former employee, Family Day has always been my favorite day. As an employee, the work to put the day together: the programs, signage, logistics, etc., is done. You can relax and visit with the families (and have free ice cream). As a puppy raiser, you get to be on campus at The Seeing Eye, Inc. You can tour the campus, attend educational workshops, watch dog demos, meet instructors, eat ice cream, and maybe even get a glimpse of your recently returned puppy.

I had an interesting vantage point this year at a dog demo. I was standing across the obstacle course from the family who raised the dog being used in the demo. Simultaneously, I could watch the dog working the course, showing what he had learned to keep his person safe, while also watching the family who raised him. The dog, a female German Shepherd, was completely focused on her instructor. The love they shared was undeniable. Bursting with pride, the puppy raiser watched the demo with tears running down her face, hand clenched to her chest, recording every minute of the milestone event. I was that person at Family Day 1998. The first puppy we raised was being used in the dog demo. I knew what this woman was feeling. I could almost feel the lump that was surely filling her throat. She will leave Family Day with a new perspective on puppy raising. If she hasn’t already requested a new puppy, I’m sure she did first thing Monday morning.

But the best part to me, both as an employee and a volunteer, is listening to the graduate speakers. This year was no different. The speakers were not just technically excellent speakers, but they were inspirational as well. Everyone listening to their stories had to leave inspired–maybe even willing to raise puppies as long as possible. We heard graduates talk about the difference their dog has made in their lives. One woman said her identity changed. She went from “the blind lady” to “the lady with the dog.” It seems counterintuitive, but getting a Seeing Eye Dog removed her handicap, as far as the public was concerned. Another speaker shared how he is able to travel independently, not just around his home in New York City, but around the world, including Brazil and Paris. He often said, “It’s all because of the dog.”

As a puppy raiser, sometimes you wonder if this rambunctious, silly puppy will really be any good to anyone. As an employee, I was very aware that often the most challenging puppy to raise turns out to be the best Seeing Eye dog. They channel all that energy into their work, and end up guiding a blind person through the streets of a foreign city, having never been there before, flawlessly, with great confidence. It is a transition that never gets old. Every year, Family Day retells the story of why we do what we do. I know from experience that as puppy raisers left The Seeing Eye on Saturday and arrived back home, they had a new appreciation for the puppy in their care (even if it piddled a little or chewed something). “It’s okay, you’ll do great things…someday.”

Our own #22 is currently in training at The Seeing Eye, Inc. We didn’t see him in the kennel, but a friend did. She reported that he was sitting atop the plastic jungle gym. Of course, he was. I didn’t take any pictures on Saturday, so I stole this one from a puppy raiser friend. She had the same experience I already described, watching this former puppy at a demo. I hope the lump in her throat disappeared before the ice cream truck arrived.

Justice at TSE

 

22nd Goodbye

 

 

Yardley goodbye

It’s that time again. Another puppy, #22, is ready to return to The Seeing Eye, Inc., for his formal training. The next leg of his journey begins tomorrow when he leaves our home and arrives on the campus of the best guide dog school in the world. Will he have what it takes to be a Seeing Eye dog? I think so, but we’ll see. Sometimes things come up in training that we didn’t see in puppyhood. The stress of working is not for every dog, but I think #22 is up to the task.

He made his farewell tour today, visiting some of his favorite people at the chiropractor’s office and Physical Therapy. Should he fail, there is a long line of people who want him. I suspect he would never make it off the Morristown campus of The Seeing Eye, Inc. An employee would probably snatch him up before he officially gets to the Adoption Department. He’s too cute and too nice a dog to be passed up. Of course, that is only if we don’t take him back. And, of course, all of this speculation is only if he doesn’t go out as a guide. I will be surprised if he doesn’t make it.

Yardley & Jinx#22’s leaving will have the biggest impact on #23. He doesn’t understand that his world is about to change dramatically. Tomorrow he will be alone. His best friend will no longer be here to play with, chew on, wrestle with, and come up with schemes to drive me crazy. Although, I have confidence that #23 can hold his own in the “driving me crazy” realm.

 

My wish for #22 is that he fulfill his destiny to become the eyes for a blind person. I’m sure he will love working and making new friends everywhere he goes. We’ve done all we can to prepare him, now it’s time for specialized training, and then finding just the right match for him. It will need to be someone with a sense of humor. Goodbye, Goofball.

 

A Slight Change

Good morning, followers. For those of you who follow this blog, I’d like to suggest a slight change. I am using my website, lisajradcliff.com, more often for blog posts than this one. (There’s a new one that just went up about 10 minutes ago.) I still post some blogs here, but if you would like to see all of my posts, it would be better to follow me at my website. There is a spot on the front page where you can click to follow me, and just like this one, anything I post will appear in your email. This blog is linked on my website, too, so you won’t miss anything, and really get a two for one. Thanks for following – have a blessed day!

It’s Time to say Goodbye

It’s cold and rainy today which mirrors my mood. It has become evident that this week is likely the last we will share with our Golden boy Akers. He is #16 of our Seeing Eye puppies and named in honor of Philadelphia Eagles kicker, David Akers. Like his namesake, Akers was full of personality, always on the lookout for fun, and full of mischief.

Although you would have to go back three generations to find a Golden Retriever in his lineage, he is the most Golden-like Lab we have raised. Starting as a puppy with fluffy, golden fur, the Mohawk on his snout gave him a comical look. It was a harbinger of things to come. He never overtly misbehaved. But his covert ops are legendary. We never did figure out how he got Nate’s brand new glasses from his headboard while on the bed tiedown, but he did and destroyed them. He chewed holes in my hardwood floors – while being supervised. Every time I would look his direction because something didn’t sound right, he would look up at me innocently with a bone between his front paws. Later when he would move, there would be a hole in the floor.

Akers loves kids. As a Seeing Eye puppy, his favorite thing to do was a school talk, which always ended with him encircled by kids petting and playing with him. He dressed up as a lion for Halloween and would stand at the door, looking out the side windows all night waiting for kids to come. And he loves our grandkids, always excitedly wagging when they come. But his absolute favorite activity is swimming, actually I think he prefers jumping in more than swimming. I don’t know what I look like when I swim, but Akers always thought that I needed rescuing and would jump in after me. He wanted to continually get out and jump in again, so we taught him to use the ladder to keep the liner from getting ripped. Nothing made him happier than being at our camp in Maine. He could spend his whole day jumping in the lake, rescuing swimmers, no matter how far from our dock they were, and eating nature–anything he could grab as he ran past. It was heaven for him.

We said goodbye to Akers once before when he returned to The Seeing Eye for his formal training. (For those who say they couldn’t raise a puppy to give to someone else, this goodbye is infinitely more difficult. They really aren’t comparable.) He made us proud when he went to work in New York City. Even as a guide, he was still a clown. His instructor told me that he had to visit NYC to do a check on Aker’s work. He was not taking his blind person to the right house after work. She lived in a row home in Brooklyn. He would go up the wrong walk, but when the instructor watched him, he realized Akers was doing it on purpose to be funny. His tail would start wagging as he started up the wrong walk, and he’d get very excited at the door as his person figured out it wasn’t her house. Then he would immediately turn around and take her to the right door. He knew which house was theirs; he was just messing with her because it was fun. That was Akers. Unfortunately for him, he had to take early retirement due to the failing health of his blind person. But that was our gain. We were able to welcome him back to our family.

It took him about eight months to get the hang of retirement. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t going everywhere with us, why no one was putting a harness on him, why he wasn’t needed. But his work didn’t really stop – he helped train seven more Seeing Eye puppies. He became my shadow and sometimes I wasn’t sure if he was trying to kill me or play when he’d lie down behind me, and I would end up on the floor next to him. He is still smiling and giving a wag of his tail when I greet him, but he is starting to look uncomfortable. So it is time, but this is going to be a hard goodbye.

At the Crossroads of Answered Prayer

Lord, am I really an author if the only people who have bought my book are friends and family? I don’t think it counts until someone I don’t know, who has no connection to me, my friends, or my family, buys the book because they heard about it or saw it or were googling the topic. Once those people start buying it, then I’m an author. That was the conversation I was having with God as I pulled into the parking lot of our special place for dinner.

It’s like a lot of special dinner spots in our area: an old, stone inn, heaped in history, at the crossroads of two backroads that once were main roads. Having turned into a fine dining establishment, we go there for special celebrations. Thursday night I was meeting Doug there. We were celebrating the release of my book on Amazon before he went off to the high school jazz band competition and I went to my critique group.

Dinner was as delicious as always. Yes, I probably did fill up too much on my salad—it’s their house champagne vinaigrette dressing that I can’t resist. But that’s OK. Now Doug will have a few meals of veal parmesan while I’m away next week. We were enjoying the meal and the live music while chatting about the book. We were saying how we can’t know exactly how God will use it, but He does seem to be getting it to unexpected people already.

Just then our waitress came with the check. Doug said to her, “thanks for helping us celebrate.” She asked what we were celebrating. He replied, “My wife’s first book was just released on Amazon today.”

Turning to me, she asked, “That’s great. What’s it called?”

“It’s called, ‘Hidden with Christ.’”

“It’s called what?”

Thinking she had no idea what I was talking about, I said, “Hidden with Christ, as in Jesus.”

“I thought that’s what you said. I can’t believe it. God brought you here just for me tonight. Before my shift started, I was praying that he would send someone here tonight who could encourage me. I said to him, ‘I just want to hide in you’.”

We talked a little more, and she wrote down the name of the book and my name. She promised to look it up on Amazon when her shift ended. That’s often how God works, bringing together two people who have asked for something and answering their prayers through each other. It’s cool. It’s encouraging. It’s a reminder that we don’t live our lives in a vacuum but in community, each of us affecting another.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

Oh no, not spit up again.

With just a few minutes to spare, I was proud of myself for getting ready on time. I grabbed the sweater that went great with my outfit. The sweater was necessary. It was much too cold to wear just the short-sleeved shirt that perfectly matched one of the blues in the sweater. But as I put one arm through and swung it around my back, I caught a whiff of something. It triggered something in my brain. It wasn’t a recent memory, but a flashback, a 30-year-old memory. I know that smell. It’s the aroma of baby spit up. It must be on my sweater. Oh no, now what? I don’t have time to pick out another outfit.

Don’t panic. I have a lot of blue in my wardrobe. There has to be something I can grab. I’m gonna be late. The shirt with the tiny dot…no, too much denim in one outfit. The flannel…no, I’ve worn that a lot lately. A jacket maybe: too dressy, too summery, too office-y. Tick Tock. Wait, that heather blue cardigan with the long front. Where did I put it?

In my mind I am a 20-something-year-old mom again, rushing around on a Tuesday morning, trying to get to Bible study on time and find something to wear that doesn’t reek of spit up. But the reality is, I’m Mom-mom, the spit-up is compliments of my grandson, and I need to get myself to his house in exactly 25 minutes, so his mom can get to work on time. Out the door I fly, arriving at his house exactly when I’m supposed to be there, which is five minutes after I should be there. I get my instructions and schedule from my daughter-in-law, kiss my granddaughter goodbye, and they are gone. I sit down with Sam, and there’s that smell again.

I haven’t missed that smell. It’s funny that all baby spit up smells the same. Many of you are smelling it right now – either in person or in your memory. I play with Sam for about an hour, then it’s back to mom mode. Pack up the diaper bag, bottle, spit-up diaper, car seat, and my stuff. Drag it all to the car, and off we go. Drag it all into the church and settle down for the next hour and a half, hoping Sam doesn’t need too much attention so I can stay in the room and hear the teaching.

He does great. Sleeps through the first hour. Eats, plays, smiles at the ladies, and then spits up all over my heather blue cardigan, avoiding the area covered by the spit-up diaper with the precision of a trained marksman. I’ll try to remember to throw this one right into the wash when I get home tonight.

This seemed easier 30 years ago. It didn’t hurt my back as much to haul all their gear. I don’t remember grunting and groaning quite so much then. But just like those days came and went in a flash, so will these. They may require a few more chiropractor appointments, but they will be gone too soon nonetheless.

I know that for many young moms I have described their life, every day, not just once or twice a week, but all day, every day. And for them, these days can drag on, especially when you just get one child to be fairly independent and another one comes along, and so on. You may have forgotten what it’s like to simply get dressed without sniffing your clothes and head out the door with just a purse on your shoulder. Between family devotions, memory verses, and bedtime bible stories, you have no time for personal growth. What does God think of your lack of time for him?

I’m going to tell you what I wish someone had told me when I was in that stage of life. You are doing exactly what he designed you to do. That is the definition of glorifying God – doing the thing he designed you to do. The heavens declare the glory of God, not by doing anything outside of what they were designed to do, just by doing what he created them to do. As you go through different stages of life, you may discover new things he has for you to do. But right now, as a mom of young children, all the energy you expend in caring for them is what he has called you to do, so when you do that, you are glorifying him. So, wipe up that spit up, change that diaper, play a few more minutes of peek-a-boo all to the glory of God.

And, ladies, it is OK to pray very short, heartfelt prayers, like: “Father, help.” It’s also a good season of life to develop an attitude of continuous prayer – something I’ll be teaching about tomorrow at Ladies Bible Study. That’s just a coincidence, I’m sure.

What a weekend!

First, a box of books appeared on my front porch. Not just any books, but my book, the book I’ve been writing forever. It seems like forever. I started and stopped writing it over several years. But finally, March of last year seemed to be the right time to get serious and write full-time. And on Friday night there it was: completed, published, in my hand. It’s so pretty.

DSC03183                  DSC03190

And, as if that wasn’t enough, my Eagles won the Super Bowl. It’s been two days, and it still hasn’t completely sunk in. But I ordered the shirt, so it must be real. Yes, they are my Eagles. They have given me more anguish, late nights, and heart palpitations than my book, but it has all been worth it!

But back to the book. Three years ago, when I was challenged to get the story into book form, I was told the hardest part will be the opening sentence. It’s in those first few words that you have to hook your reader. They have to want to know more, just from a few words. But like a lot of things in my life, the hard part was the easy part for me. I do a lot of things backwards. For years I had known how I would start my book, if I ever wrote one. So here are the opening lines of my book:

 “You misunderstood him. He’s just overly friendly. He’s like that with everyone.” Those words from my mother solidified my deepest fear: he was right. Other adults knew he was sexually abusing me, and they didn’t care. He had been telling me that for close to a decade, since the first time at the community pool when he held me against him.

Are you hooked? Do you want to know more? I hope so. It’s just a snippet, but I promise I’ll show you more over the next few weeks. If you haven’t visited my book page at Amazon, please do. I checked it today and am happy to report that the paperback version is now available for pre-order as well as the kindle version. Here is the link:  https://www.amazon.com/author/lisajradcliff

You can also buy it at my website, https://lisajradcliff.com. Just click on My Books and scroll down to the Buy Now button. Click it, and you will be connected to my BookShop page, where you can read a 10-page excerpt and/or buy the book in either ebook or paperback. I believe it ships immediately, so you could be among the first to have your very own copy. (Almost as exciting as winning the Super Bowl, I’m sure.)

Most of all, please join me in praying that God will use it to help others heal. That is the point in writing it. Believe me, there was a time I asked God to give me a different story to tell, but this is one he gave me. So I trust him to use it, proving once again that God can use anyone, even the least among us, to accomplish his purposes.