Every year for the past four or five years, Mark and I have asked ourselves the same question. At least once a year, we spend a few hours deep in conversation, do a lot of research, and even interview friends who’ve already made the decision we’re considering. And every year for the past four or five years, we’ve come to the same conclusion:

Nope, we are not ready for a dog.

The kids would love to have one… but will they care for it?

There was a baby in diapers. Did we really need more poop to deal with?

When we travel to visit family in South Africa… what about the dog??

Four kids. The oldest is only 8… Nine… Ten… It seemed like a no-brainer:

Nope, we are not ready for a dog.

But this year, everything seemed different. No one is in diapers. Our eldest is eleven and can definitely handle responsibility. For the next year or so, we will not be traveling overseas or even traveling much inside the U.S. 

So when a kid in a hospital bed who’s just woken up from a coma asks for a dog, and his brother says that’s the ONLY ONLY ONLY thing he wants for Christmas… and you can’t blame diapers or travel or irresponsibility?

You get a dog.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

{Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, Charles Wesley, 1744}

Last week our family welcomed a tiny little golden retriever fur ball into the mix. And if you know our story, or even have the faintest hint of Blake’s story from September onward, you might be able to guess what we named her. 

Got it yet?


“Halle” for short. 

That word we’ve said over and over again so many times in the past few months? It means “God be praised.” And we have so many reasons to say “God, be praised.” We love the thought that we are declaring that praise again and again, just calling a dog to come inside.

One observation I’ve pondered this week is how the “Long Expected Jesus” we sing to is often so unexpected in the ways He chooses to move.

Who thought the Savior of the World would be born in a stable to an unwed mother? Who expected the story of our rescue to quietly begin in a quiet manger… with a birth marked so significantly exactly because it would have at first seemed so… insignificant. So insignificant no one had room for it. Who had an interest in the uncomfortable story?

And yet, Jesus didn’t become more expected or predictable with time. He spoke a word to heal this man, but made a mudpie to heal that one. While everyone waited for Him to take a throne and rule, He knelt to wash feet, He led when He served.

God be praised! He is unlike anyone the world has ever known!

If we’re willing to slow down and to look, I think we will find Him this Christmas not so much in the familiar trappings of the places we’ve looked before. I think we’ll find Him most in the unexpected places. He is working and He is moving… and He makes all things new.

As we’ve begun this new journey with this newest little family member, God be praised — He has shown up in unexpected ways to teach me unexpected things.

It is just like Jesus, isn’t it? That you are certain you are giving a gift, and instead discover you’re receiving one, too.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I shared that post about learning to do the next thing? I experienced a fresh little measure of “overwhelm” after bringing Hallelujah home. Getting up in the night (so reminiscent of the early days with each of our kids) had me a little tired and a little worried, not knowing how long of a journey we’d signed up for. (Meaning, when would I not need to take the puppy out to potty every two hours.)

Things quickly calmed down (fortunately!) but in those first few days, I realized the best place to exercise the principle of “Do the Next Thing” is really when you have so many things to do you feel discouraged or overwhelmed. The beauty of concentrating on doing the next thing reminded me that I did not have to worry about what I would do if this was still a struggle on my plate in six weeks. I only needed to trust God for the grace to get up right then, throw on that coat and those rain boots, and take the dog out right then. When the next time came, I could trust God for the grace for that, too.

Choosing hard paths so often births unexpected fruit. We knew this wouldn’t be easy, but we’ve watched our eldest quickly rise to accept responsibility. At the end of a long, hard road this year, somehow adding a complicated new family member is bringing about joy and gratitude and mutual affection and … dare I say it, maybe even a little bit more peace?

That really is just like Jesus — He gives gifts that come in very unexpected packages. He became a gift in a way no one expected, in a place where no one was looking, at a time when other things seemed to be on everyone’s mind.

And yet He is the gift everyone needs, and He is the gift that comes looking for us, and He is the gift that comes right on time.

So God be praised, we aren’t stopping anytime soon… He is worthy, and He is good, and we will keep on Raising a Hallelujah!


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Update on Blake

We are so blessed that so many folks are continuing to ask how Blake is doing with so much love and care and concern. We’re so delighted to report that he is doing incredibly well. He seems more and more like his ‘old self’ all the time, and yet there continue to be these deeper thoughts and deeper questions that come to the surface at least a few times each and every day.

Blake continues to giggle lots and often. He seems to just want to laugh so much — and when he does it seems like he’s laughing from head to toe. He continues to love going to therapy so much. His short term memory is still a struggle (but shows more signs of improvement) and so he often asks “Is tomorrow a therapy day?” and is always delighted when the answer is “Yes!”

It is a joy to see him outside running around with his siblings or laughing with the puppy. He thanks us for Halle on a daily basis and his eyebrows scrunch up in the sweetest way — to the point that he almost looks like he’s in pain — he just finds her so overwhelmingly adorable. 

We are not sure there has been an improvement in Blake’s eyesight, but we are seeing him adapting well. He still gets started a good bit, but he is also learning to turn to look more carefully, and he is bumping into things less than before.

We’d be grateful if you would continue to join us in praying 1) for the complete disappearance of Blake’s AVM, 2) for the complete healing of Blake’s eyesight and 3) for the total restoration of Blake’s short term memory. It is such a joy to look at our walking, talking miracle every day, friends. We continue to feel so grateful for all you who prayed and prayed and prayed and raised Hallelujahs for Blake. We love telling him how much he was prayed for and reflecting on the goodness of the God who heard and answered those prayers! God be praised — Hallelujah!!!