Yesterday on my Facebook Reader page (www.facebook.com/MarloSchalesky), I asked people to share a gift they've enjoyed from God in the past few days. It was so fun, and rich, reading through the responses and seeing all the different ways God is blessing and giving gifts in our lives. (And I was able to share about how Bryan's been able to testify in Sacramento this week before a couple of Senate committees about a bill that will, if passed, stop huge waste in spending for some of the school districts across the state -- anyone who knows anything about the troubles with California's budget knows how important something like this is!)
Anyway, as I read through the many diverse blessings and gifts God is giving people, I was reminded how God also gives us unexpected gifts -- and sometimes gifts in ugly packages (which was a major theme in Shades of Morning, my latest book). I then remembered the first time God brought that lesson home to me, many years now, when Bryan and I got our first dogs, and I found God's gift to me in an ugly little puppy named Cisco.
Here's how it happened:
"Hey, you guys want a puppy?" our friends, Steve and Angela, asked one day after church. "They'll be born in about a month."
"Nah. I got enough work to do," I said.
Steve smiled. "They're boxers."
"Boxers? Really?" My husband and I spun around. We loved boxers. But, they were hard to come by, and expensive at that, so we'd never gotten one.
"Yeah, purebreds." Steve's grin broadened. "So, what do you say?"
"I've changed my mind. We definitely want one!" The words tumbled from my mouth.
In a month, right on schedule, seven little boxer puppies were born. With hearts filled with longing, Bryan and I leaned over the litter and eyed each one. Which would we choose? Six were just adorable, with their little black faces and pushed in noses. The seventh, on the other hand, was not. An ugly pinkish-white splotch spread over his entire face, making him look more like a rat than a dog.
"Yuck. What happened to that one?" I said, pointing at the white-faced pup.
Angela sighed. "We might end up having to keep that one. I can't imagine anyone picking him."
I shrugged and studied the cute puppies.
Bryan stepped next to me. "Which one do you like the best?"
"What about that one?" I pointed to a pup with a thin white stripe up his face.
Bryan picked up the puppy and handed him to me. "This is the one I like, too."
Steve smiled. "Hey, why don't you guys take two?"
"Could we?" Bryan turned to me. "Is there another one you like?"
"Well, let me hold me a different one and I'll see."
Bryan headed toward the puppy pen.
"Any one but that ugly little white faced one!" I added as Bryan reached into the pen. Then, one by one I held the other five pups, but none seemed "just right."
Finally, five weeks rolled around. Like new parents, we gazed down at the wiggling mass of puppies. There they all were, six little black faced cuties, and one . . . wait a minute! There was the white faced pup, and he was the cutest of the bunch.
We brought all the little boxers out to play on the mat, and the white-faced one played with Bryan and I, licked our faces, and wagged his little nubby tail. I couldn't resist. We claimed our second pup.
In the years to come, Cisco became a special blessing to me. He snuggled with me when I was sad, comforted me through years of infertility, romped with me when I was happy, and sat curled at my feet when I watched television. Often, Bryan lwould look at us, shake his head, and say, "He's definitely your dog."
And to think that I once said, "Any puppy but that ugly little white faced one."
Cisco made me wonder how many gifts from God I turned my back on because they seemed a little ugly at first, or weren't what I had in mind. Maybe it was that lunch with someone who sort of bugged me, or the Bible study I just didn't have time for, or the neighborhood get-together that I felt too tired to attend.
So, even now when he's gone (Cisco died a few years ago - he just got old), Cisco is a reminder to me to look beyond my initial reactions to see what God may have for me. I try not to say "yuck!" too quickly, but instead remember that the ugly, white-faced puppies in my life may really be special gifts from God, sent just for me.