By Teresa Rogers, South Carolina

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen these days. I make my own food and care for a house full of aging animals—dogs, a one-eyed cat, and a cranky parrot. Yet, the Holy Spirit delivers experiences to open me to life when daily challenges close my heart.

Sometimes I carry canned attitudes that run in the back of my mind: Oh, poor me, or Oh, no, what will happen if . . . ? When I forget I have a choice, I act from this mixed goulash of unwanted feelings and thoughts. It is as if they are cooked up without skill and awareness, and they’re not too tasty. I chew on this stew until love gets through and wakes me up to the freedom and joy of who I really am—Soul, creator of my own attitudes. My dog Tonka is often the vehicle for a divine wake-up call.

I love all animals, but Tonka is special. He’s a big, goofy German shepherd and a gentle giant. He’s old and stinky and sheds a lot. I love him dearly. His hips hurt, so he has to take medicine on a full stomach. Mealtimes for the critters go like this: First, feed and water the parrot, because if Apple doesn’t get her food first, her shrieks will painfully remind me to return to the proper order of service. Then, fill the cat dish and feed the dog. After dinner, it’s time for Tonka’s pills. Finally, treats for everyone.

The pill-taking routine is always a struggle. Initially, I tried all kinds of tricks, such as hiding the pills in foods like butter, sausage, or cheese. But Tonka was never fooled. He’d wiggle his head back and forth and work his tongue around until the pills popped out and the food was swallowed. Eventually, not having the time nor creativity to explore further methods, I took to opening his jaws and pushing the pills down. I worry this might irritate his throat, yet the job needs to be done.

As soon as he’s done eating, Tonka winds and weaves around the house to escape. I follow and hold the pills in ready position between my fingers until I catch him. Even though Tonka remains patient with me, I feel so sorry for what I must do to keep him healthy. It’s so stressful!

One session was particularly difficult. My fingers were wet after trying multiple times to give him the pills. Still, he looked at me with those liquid eyes of love. I felt our bond of divine love and trust expand. My heart opened. I gave him a big hug and a rub. And down went the pills.

A few feedings later, I noticed Tonka voluntarily coming to me for his pills. That’s when I realized he was really coming for the hugs. Now he no longer wanders off to escape after meals. He stays for the love. When I give him his pills, it’s a love fest instead of a chore and (almost) a pleasure for us both.

For me, divine love is the secret ingredient in life’s recipe for daily living. As honey sweetens the pot or soothes the throat, a dash of divine love can harmonize and balance the rough patches in the stew of living. When I forget, I’m reminded by Tonka, one of my greatest teachers. God loves me, and I share this love with an open heart.

When love flows, all life responds with quiet miracles, and I feel happy. Order prevails in the kitchen. And the dog takes his pills.

—Photos by Teresa Rogers