the lesson i learned about loving my neighbor

i had never been so terrified in my whole life.

last fall, brinkley was attacked by a german shepherd while we were running together. we had run along that same street almost everyday for years.  at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, it’s a miracle he lived that day. after being chased back & forth through busy saturday afternoon traffic he ran all the way home. his pads on his paws were completely shredded off. he had sprained muscles. there were multiple bites on his neck and back. a kind person picked me up as i ran back and forth through the street screaming for someone to help me…for someone to save my dog who i could no longer see.  as we pulled up to my home, feeling completely sure my dog had been hit by a car, there sat my sweet brinkley in our front yard. sweaty and bloody but alive.

later that day i went to the home where i thought the german shepherd lived. the home owner apologized and told me her dog only meant to play. i tearfully explained how i thought i’d see my dog killed that day. i explained how their “play time” had cost us $125 and would probably cost more by the time we were done.  she very kindly offered to pay when she could. she told me she was sorry that her children had let him out and it was an accident. i wasn’t mean or ugly. i don’t think i was rude but was kind that day? was i forgiving?….

i went back a couple times but no one was ever home. each time i drove by there i replayed in mind over & over again the fear i had that day mixed with a grateful heart that all was ok.

weeks went by. a couple months went by.  one day i was running and i felt the Lord tell me i needed to let it go. i needed to get over my frustration about what appeared to me as pet negligence. it was as if i felt she owed me for what happened and for what almost happened. He reminded me she really owed me nothing. i had a wrong attitude in my heart.  i too had been forgiven of much much more. and i too needed to forgive. i needed to erase the mental debt i was carrying around in my heart.

i ran by her home and she was very nice to me that day. we talked about being single moms. she told me about her daughter who has a chronic illness and receives occasional treatment at a hospital where i once worked. she asked me how i survived being widowed. i told her the truth…the Lord sustained me and i knew i was never alone. she told me she wanted to have faith “like that”. i was humbled….i told her she that i was sorry and that i no longer wanted her to pay me for brinkley’s vet bill. she told me she was a woman of her word and that one day she’d pay me back. i again insisted that there was no debt….she owed me nothing. and in my heart i felt the burden lift. that awful selfish weight that we choose to carry when we feel someone owes us for something. oddly enough, that debt many times unquantifiable, hardens our hearts and makes us ugly. inside and out.

i wrote a post about it several months ago and placed it in my drafts for another day. it stayed there for quite a while.

meanwhile , almost a year later, i’ve never run with brinkley down that road again. it was our path for years. which explains how he found his way home that day, despite running back and forth through traffic.  he & i were both gripped with fear each time we did run…for weeks. i could tell he was always jumpy when we ran.  he’s fine now. he doesn’t flinch every time there’s a noise. but me? i think about that day every time i set out for a jog-every time.

last week i cleared it from my drafts.  it was titled $125 just so i’d recognize it in my draft list.  i realized i long since forgotten about the story and definitely about the dollar amount. i realized that forgiveness had made it as if it never happened.

sunday at church a beautiful dark haired woman with a gracious smile came up to me & said hello….she said, “you don’t remember me do you?”.  embarrassingly i said i didn’t.  she said “i’m rachel”…still i couldn’t place her face.  she then said, “i’m the lady with the dog. i saw you this morning & i have something for you. i’m in a good place now & i promised to be good for my word”.  she placed some folded cash in my hand.  i hugged her for a long time.  she then told me she had been visiting our church for a few weeks. i hugged her again & told her, again, that she owed me nothing.  she just smiled & said she had always intended to make things right.

i tearfully walked to my seat beside dan. it was worship time and we were singing one of my favorite songs by matt redman.  i tried to swallow the big lump in my throat as i tried to hold in the tears.  she probably has no idea what a powerful lesson i learned that day, about forgiveness and letting go.  it was as if the Lord was telling me, “paige…i had it covered all along.  i just wanted to see how you were gonna choose to handle things.  if you were going to hold someone, even if only in your heart, accountable for a mistake or if you were going to let my grace be sufficient for you….and let it go.”

i could hardly wait to get in the car and explain to dan and caroline what had transpired. how almost a year after the scenario i was taught a valuable lesson. how only a few days ago, while i had forgiven rachel months ago, i had erased it completely from my drafts…and from my heart.  i reached in the pocket of my purse and unfolded what turned out to be six twenty dollar bills.

i am called to love my neighbor.  to forgive. to extend grace. to be kind.   it’s so easy to love from a distance. to love through a sweet email sent on my own time, to love someone who loves me well, to love someone ‘far away’.

i want to be authentic. i want who i am on this blog to be who i am at target.  i want who i am on a saturday afternoon after spending the day with my sweet injured golden at the vet to be the same person i am on sunday morning as i lift my hands to worship a loving god.

sometimes i wonder if people with whom i come in contact are “real” or if they’re angels unaware.i do believe people come in to our lives for the sole purpose of teaching us. there was a lesson that began for me in november of 2011 and the final chapter of that lesson was a rainy sunday, the last day of september, 2012. i may be a slow learner but i am grateful that i learned to love my neighbor through a neighbor that loved me…



October 3, 2012 - 11:14 am

Kelly Collins - What an awesome story of an awesome God. Heading for the Kleenex box. Can you hardly stand knowing that the God of heaven and earth showed His hand so powerfully in your life. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Love.

October 3, 2012 - 12:24 pm

Lemonade Makin' Mama - Wow Paige. That is a very powerful post and message. I always tell you how wonderful I think you are… and I sure do… but I really admire and respect you above all that. I’ve always thought you were a wonderful example for the kind of mom, blogger, photographer I long to be… but reading this, it’s more than that. I admire your heart for Jesus. I admire your desire to follow what He has for you, and I respect you deeply for wanting to be authentic. I strive for the same thing and I’m so glad I’m on this path alongside someone like you. You are very precious to me miss Paige.

And I’m so happy Brinkley was spared and is alright now. Bless his sweet little doggy heart.

love you girl!

October 3, 2012 - 12:38 pm

courtney - whoah whoah whoah. seriously amazing. this is amazing and i’m so glad you posted and shared every detail. so many of us need to see how God works in the good, bad, the ugly, the real and the beautiful. you are faithful and i love ya tons.

October 3, 2012 - 12:49 pm

Susan - Sweet friend, this is one of the most powerful posts that I have ever read. Sharing your heart with us is such a huge leap of faith that many Christians are very hesitant in doing. Your authentic walk with Him is so encouraging. You are the real deal! Thank you! Love you much!

October 3, 2012 - 12:53 pm

Stefanie - ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same… Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return…’ Luke 6:32-35

This was part of my devotional this morning and when I read it I thought, ‘wow. what perfect timing’ since this is something I struggle with. Now to read your beautiful post–thank you.

October 3, 2012 - 12:55 pm

chrissi - So many tears as I read this post. Tears of understanding, faith, joy and love. You have hit all the bases and taught me so much. Hugs to Brinkley.

October 3, 2012 - 1:18 pm

Liz McNeil - Hello tears! So awesome Paige. Forgiveness is needed in life and you kindly reminded me and I’m sure others of that. Thank you!

October 3, 2012 - 1:23 pm

Renee - Thank you for sharing that. It is a beautiful testimony to the way He loves us.

October 3, 2012 - 1:46 pm

Diane - Oh my goodness, my sweet friend! The tears are flowing, and I thank you for this wonderful story. I do have several grudges in my heart and I should learn to let them go I know, but it is so hard. A marriage to a horrible person for way to many years that took away so much of who I am. The loss of my son and anger at people who took him away from me. I am trying, I know it will take time, but with this story I will work much harder at it. And, mostly I too believe that people are brought into our lives for a reason, and you my friend are one who has come into my life. You have given me so much through your words, pictures and love. We don’t live by each other, we had absolutely no reason to meet other than fate and God knowing we needed each other. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

October 3, 2012 - 2:48 pm

LLH Designs - I love your heart, Paige. I’ve heard it said that unforgiveness is a prison of your own making. So true. I’ve wrestled with it…thinking I’ve forgiven someone, but really I’ve just avoided it. So thankful that God loves us enough to bring things back to our attention. Love the way you story ended. Thanks for sharing, sweet friend!

October 3, 2012 - 2:50 pm

Alecia - wow, wow, WOW! What a beautiful reminder of God’s grace & forgiveness. It’s so easy to get caught up in how others have hurt or offended us & how much they “owe” us when we do it EVERY single day to God. Thank you for being humble enough to share that story…it’s something I needed to hear for sure!

October 3, 2012 - 3:40 pm

DNese - Amazing story and read just at the right time in my life. Your posts always seem to come at the right time for me. Like another reader said above, “I don’t know you, but I came across you for a purpose.”
Keep doing amazing things my friend. You change the world of many with each passing day.

October 3, 2012 - 4:33 pm

bethanie - wow. just wow. I remember that story from last year, I remember feeling your fright…just goes to show we never know who, what or when the Lord is going to show us He’s in control. all the time.

October 3, 2012 - 4:44 pm

Roxanne - That may have been the best post ever.. I love following you and your blog. That made me sit back and really think… I mean wow. What am awesome God we serve.
I am so glad that you were ok and that gorgeous boy of yours too.

October 3, 2012 - 5:44 pm

kim - Okay you made me cry again!!!! I know you don’t like to waste a good mascara. ha. This is one of my favorite posts of yours. You should write a book. You have a beautiful way of writing and portraying your beautiful soul.

October 3, 2012 - 7:00 pm

Colleen - I have goosebumps from reading your post. So often I find I don’t truly forgive– when I do, my heart feels so joyful and light. Thank you for sharing your story as a reminder.

October 3, 2012 - 8:28 pm

Lori H - I have some tears running down my cheeks as I read your testimony..that’s what it is. You are the coolest. I told Tara I was a little jealous that she actually got to meet you (at her Noonday party). Of course, I would be thrilled to meet Tara too. Blogs make you feel like you know someone well. And I am proud to “know” you, Paige. You are so good at giving God the glory.

October 3, 2012 - 11:38 pm

Tiffini - i am struggling to find the words..
grateful for a God who can teach us through anyone and anything.
that nothing is to hard for Him..nothing.
thank you for using Paige’s story to speak to me Father…just a little more light to add to the light this morning
and Paige?…I’m a slow learner too
but oh His love for us just as we are and will be…never ever changes
thank you for being so vulnerable to share .. this is all of us
love you friend:)

October 3, 2012 - 11:57 pm

jen furry - thank you for sharing your lesson with us, i two have learned to love others through your story when it seems impossible. sweet, sweet story of how our God is so good!

October 4, 2012 - 1:36 am

Nothing going on but the rent or the mortgage or whatever - Big Mama - […] The Lesson I Learned About Loving My Neighbor by Paige […]

October 4, 2012 - 7:37 am

Donna - Powerful! A word I needed to be reminded of today.

October 4, 2012 - 9:55 am

Keely - Here from Melanie’s blog…what a beautiful post. And something I definitely needed to hear. Thank you. I tend to hang on to the wrongdoings I suffer. I like to lug my baggage around. Consider me a new follower.

October 4, 2012 - 10:19 am

Teresa - I, too, am here from Melanie’s blog. What a powerful testimony. One I so desperately needed to hear this very moment. Struggeling with unforgiveness and you so beautifully brought this one home. Thank you

October 4, 2012 - 11:44 am

Terri Ashmead - What a wonderful message, and a beautiful message. Thank You!

October 4, 2012 - 11:47 am

Terri Ashmead - I had tears in my eyes from this post…what I meant to say is what a wonderful post and a beautiful message!!

October 4, 2012 - 11:55 am

Rachel R Adams - Paige – one of your best posts, ever. authentic, real, and what a testament to who our God is… this is a post that is a treasure.

October 4, 2012 - 12:45 pm

Tiffany - So appreciate you sharing your heart so honestly — we all learn from each other – sharing it all is brave – you encourage me!

Blessings to you!

October 4, 2012 - 2:38 pm

Ginny - This post spoke volumes to me today. I am dealing with some things that I need to let go & let God and forgive. Thank you for posting this. Bless that sweet Brinkley and You!

October 4, 2012 - 10:59 pm

tb - Paige, I remember reading last year about your horrific incident… my heart hurt for you and for Brinkley… it was so heartwrenching to imagine the fear you two were going through and pain and trauma Brinkley endured… how frightening. I am glad Rachel made due on her word… I think there will be something soon where you will feel the need to “pay it forward” -You have such insight… I am so happy Brinkley is recovered.

October 5, 2012 - 9:13 am

melissa - All I can say is…WOW!

October 5, 2012 - 8:53 pm

tara - oh my goodness…I haven’t checked blogs in a few days…somehow i missed this one from you.

i’ve joined CBS this year…community bible study….and we started the year in Philippians. i’ve read that book so many times, but i’m telling you, the Lord is dissecting me with it.

…let our gentleness be evident to all.
Jesus was such a perfect example of service and love and kindness and a million more things….so many times, i read the word, i get inspired by the word…but i feel like he is calling me to a whole new level of DOING the word.

the kids and i stopped at sonic a few weeks back, and the people taking our order were SLLLLOOOOOOWWWW. I had to wait for a crazy amount of time. needless to say, i was irritated. they would have never known by my tone that i had just come from bible study. (yuck)

when the guy came out with the kids’ food, he apologized for the long wait and then asked me how he could pray for me. i was so ashamed of myself. i hadn’t been ugly or rude…just impatient, which can really come off just the same.

I apologized for my attitude and told him he could pray patience and gentleness for me. 🙂

when I drove off, seth kind of laughed and said, “wow. looks like God really wanted to teach you something.”

out of the mouths of babes.

October 7, 2012 - 9:45 pm

Catherine Snelgrove - Loved this post. So powerful, Paige. Thank you.

October 10, 2012 - 1:12 pm

Lindsey - Wow….powerful post. Thanks for sharing and now I need some tissues!!

October 11, 2012 - 2:59 pm

Kim from 3 peanuts - Crying on this one too girl. What a beautiful story, Paige. Your transparency and authenticity and love for the Lord shine through in every single post. But this one, this one is really special because we have all had something like this happen in one way or another. And what we all need is that grace.

October 18, 2012 - 7:15 pm

Melissa - Oh Paige .. such a beautiful, touching story. I remember well your run and Brinkley’s attack. God’s lessons during our trials and tribulations never cease to amaze me!