Tracing Rhythms of Grace… with Cow-Cat!

So, we now have a regular visitor, here in Germany; (No, no one has beat you to it yet, though the reservations have mounted to unmanageable figures!). My husband has fondly named her…get this…’Cow-cat’! She is a rather large cat who has established a path along and around the patio of our house, through the carport, across the street, and traversing at least three blocks of our neighborhood over to the farmland that borders us. (We know because we actually saw her mousing in the field as we came back from our walk one afternoon!)  

The name is apt because of her unique (to us) coloration and has nothing to do with her habit of pausing dramatically, yoga style, and staring at me, from whatever position she finds herself, as the motion sensor picks her up and spotlights her through the glass panes of the kitchen door. She is mostly white all over but with black patterns across her back, saddling over to her sides and tummy in places, ‘Chick-Fil-A-cow-like’. 

The sight of ‘Cow-cat’ going by my bedroom window one morning as I drank in one more sunrise, sparked all kinds of thoughts. One that my Mother-in -love’s side of the family will appreciate, is her favorite Louisianan, Creole joke. It’s about a Cajun neighbor who, tired of searching one evening for his cow that was in the habit of getting lost on the way home from the pastures, tells a fellow neighbor going by,  

“You see my cow, you push ‘im ‘ome eh?! He sometime white, he sometime black!” 

That’s cow-cat, ‘sometimes white, sometimes black!’. However, there is nothing fluctuating about this animal. She is quite predictable, steady, reliable …faithful (at least to her daily round).  

Strangely, I found myself envying a cat that morning and wondering about her motivation, as I shuffled across the bedroom floor to the bathroom, breathing reluctant prayers for grace to complete the job of unpacking boxes and trying to establish a new routine, in a new world and season of life. I was soon to learn however that there really is only one thing in this world to learn, no matter where you find yourself in whatever season. And it is tuning to and following the one Voice in the midst of all the others. ‘Cow-cat’ looked like she had a home to which she returned each evening; but something in her, responding to a call of the wild, lured her out into the open field each new day, a call she seemed to have to answer. A call for which she was willing to pay the price of the journey, along the same path, everyday. 

I had started off resolutely the week after our household goods arrived, with Ann Voskamp’s “25 For Sanity Manifesto”  in hand, along with an empty scheduling grid. Number 1. “Word in; work out; work plan”. By gums, I was gonna whip myself, this house and our life into shape by sundown. Well, the ‘gums’ did not work and I felt disoriented and caught spinning my wheels for that entire week. As I later found out, our bodies were beginning to react to the different climate factors of Germany: barometric pressure, humidity level, temperature fluctuations as Fall sets in, the effect of local foods on our bodies’ micro-biomes etcetera. 

Telling a new friend from the US Civilian/Military community about a minor nosebleed and severe migraine I had experienced on the weekend, she affirmed, 

“Oh yes! When we arrived 4 years ago, our, then, first grader had nose-bleeds that made it look like a crime scene!” (Don’t you just love the colorful language?).  

Her frank, informed pragmatism, and the counsel of another friend, to take the unpacking and sorting slowly, reminded me of the major lesson of “COVID-19”—Slow down. Ann Voskamp’s manifesto number 6, said it well— “Slow down. Life is not an emergency. It is a gift.” I thought of the calm unhurried pace of ‘Cow-cat’. 

Having yearned for solitude and quiet for most of my years as wife, homeschooling Mom and Care-giver, I was surprised to also find that too much silence can be quite enervating, sapping of motivation and energy, especially with regard to the daily grind of house-work! Manifesto number 4. “Your work is art. It needs a soundtrack!” — Interwebs to the rescue! I found my music. I played my music! And not only did I get the work done but I also gleaned major nuggets from recorded Youtube messages, austerely  or hilariously presented—by the late translator, missionary and widow of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth Elliot: “When you feel overwhelmed by the list/plan, just “Do the next thing” and, “Your suffering is not for nothing”; or from the very alive and seriously funny, Michael Jr., Christian humorist: “As you work the list/plan, ‘Listen for God between the gaps’, remembering that “obedience is better than sacrifice”. How often do we Martha’s offer sacrifice when the Master wants our ears and hearts first, so we can really follow Him and not our own best ‘sacrificial’ tendencies? As ‘Cow-cat’ paused by my kitchen one evening I wondered if I caught her listening between the gaps, there seemed to be a query, an expectancy, “Did the previous occupants offer her treats of tasty scraps, for a chance to stroke her beautiful coat?”. She paused to check, willing, but soon went on her way. 

So here we are at the end of week 4 and manifesto number 10, a call to routine, fills me with hope instead of the usual despair— “No Songs without Rhythm”; every ‘Life-Song’ needs a rhythm, but that need not be a draconian driving whip. Gracefully systemizing mindless tasks by linking them to a certain day or activity forms not just a rut of routine but a groove of grace. ‘Cat-cow’ has definitely found her groove; though I was startled one day, as I saw ‘her’ round the corner by the kitchen porch. ‘Her’ black patches did not look so black, in fact they looked sort of dusty; ‘her’ fur was not lying down tidily, but was somewhat fluffed up, causing her to look larger than her usual soft and saggy-in-the-tummy-middle-aged-cat self. For a moment I wondered, “What happened to you?!”  

She looked like she just got up that morning and decided, bad-fur day and all, “I’ll just let myself go today”.  

“Well”, I thought, “I guess she can do that”, as I recalled my own week of disorientation, when I spent entire mornings at the dining table, in my bathrobe, bed slippers and head scarf, yet was amazingly met by the glorious sunshine and the Living Word: the Faithful One, the ultimately unflappable, immutable, steady and unwavering Father and Friend indeed, sat with me and fed me nonetheless. 

As it turned out, it was another cat, a male, likely one of her bairn that I mistook for ‘Cow-cat’ that day. I don’t know if I imagined that glint of feline, Sphinx-like pride in her eye, as she calmly sauntered by the next time, on schedule, perfect black patches on beautiful white fur — “Humph!” I can see her back in her lair, writing an article for ‘The Daily Kitty Chronicles’ that evening: “Human Foiled by Feline Faithfulness”.  

“Fun and Joke aside!”, as we say in Jamaica, I feel grace rhythms beginning to rise. I am not ‘taking’ any mountains or cities yet, but am glad to be on the road by ‘Cow-cat’, learning to be one who “rules her spirit” to His great glory! —Proverbs 16:32a 

“He makes my feet skip upon the mountains; 

  He caused my soul to be set free; 

  He makes my heart to rise above the clouds 

  And His praises to be upon my lips!” 

It’s always a good journey with Him, so remember to ‘Look up! It helps you to Walk Good!’ 

Author: Denise S. Armstrong

e teacher. She gratefully enjoys a thirty-years-strong marriage, which has joyfully produced three offspring. Jamaican by birth, Denise's work reflects her family’s cross-cultural journey. She is a blogger in poetry, short-form essays, ethnic sketches and musicals. Her work has also appeared in The Caribbean Writer--a literary publication of the University of the Virgin Islands, on SA Radio Cape Pulpit’s – ‘Voices of Change’, as well as on Jamaican television. She considers herself privileged to be a contributor to one of today’s most exciting online communities of Christian artists—The Cultivating Project. At present, she resides in Europe.

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