Fearfully Following – A Devotional

Dog Walker Devotions – A little Background:

Here’s a little background for those of you that haven’t read any of my Dog Walker Devotions entries yet (there’s a longer introduction on my website, www.chelseanettleton.com). I started a dog walking service back in 2016, and through my time walking dogs and taking care of people’s pets, God started teaching me things about Him, others, life, etc. Instead of keeping those things to myself I wanted to share them, so I wrote a devotional.

There are 30 entries in this first edition of the devotional book, with hopefully a second edition to come later. Because of everything going on right now, I decided to release a few of the entries separately before the book itself is done, specifically ones that are centered around anxiety, fear, worry, and the like. I feel pretty helpless in a lot of ways with this pandemic, but this is one way I felt like I could bring some hope and comfort to people. I hope this devotional entry that spotlights Yap, one of the sweet pups I used to walk, will bless you and lift up your spirits.

My sweet buddy Yap!

Fearfully Following

Have you ever met a dog that just by looking at them you know they’re a gentle soul? For me, that would be my boy Yap (short for Lagniappe). He is a brown and white hound mix, with rich chocolate colored eyes, and a gentle temperament. Though he has an incredibly wonderful owner now, Yap experienced a rough first year of his life. Because of that he developed some significant trust issues and was afraid of pretty much everything. As I’m sure you can imagine, this made it very difficult to take him out for a walk.

I could see in his eyes that he knew I had no intention of harming him, but he definitely did not trust me in the beginning. If he could talk I’m pretty sure he would have said, “Hooman, I wantz to truzts yooz, I rely duz, but am skerd n don kno howz.” After going over for a meet and greet and walking him with his owner, I prepared to begin walking him on my own the following week.

Because I knew Yap’s background I made sure to be extra patient with him when taking him out for his walks. For the first week we didn’t make it past his driveway before he dug his heels in, letting me know in no uncertain terms that he would go no further. So, we went back to his house and played out in his backyard instead. By the end of the second week he let me take him as far as the end of his cul-de-sac, but the heels dug in and we’d turn around.

Finally, by the third week we made it out of the cul-de-sac a few feet. I thought surely we were finally on our way to walk around the neighborhood. But then the heels dug in once again. I wish I were an artist, because I would draw a cartoon of this moment: Cartoon me begging and pleading with Yap to move, while cartoon Yap just stares at me. Cartoon me starts pulling on the leash with all my might and cartoon Yap doesn’t budge an inch.

Over the next few weeks, slowly – and I mean painfully slowly – we made it further and further away from his house. One day we made it a few houses down from his cul-de-sac before he wanted us to turn around; then a half a block; then a whole block. After what felt like months, we finally made it all the way around his neighborhood for his full walk. I was so happy that I did a little happy dance when we got back – Yap looked at me like I had a screw loose, but I didn’t care because I was so delighted he finally trusted me enough to follow me.

As I was taking him inside I heard God gently speak to my heart, “don’t you hate how Yap doesn’t trust where you’re leading him, even though it’s the very best thing for him?” I scrunched up my face in realization that I am quite often a “Yap” when it comes to following (or I should say “trying” to follow) God. Most of the time I just don’t trust Him. Even though where He leads me is by far and away the very best thing for me 100% of the time! But, just as Yap slowly began to trust me, I am slowly learning to trust my Heavenly Father. And I’m so grateful he is patient with me as I grow in my faith, trusting Him more and more each day.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, how many times am I like Yap? Not trusting where You’re leading me? Please forgive me for this and thank You that You are eternally patient with me. Help me each day to trust You more than I did the day before. I want to go where You lead me, even if I’m fearful in the going.

Journaling: Do you struggle to trust God? If so, why? What areas or aspects of your life are more difficult to entrust to God? Why do you think that is? What might a personal prayer look like for you if you prayed about your lack of trust in Him, and asked him help to trust Him more? Write out that prayer now.  What might your prayers look like/how might they change if you did trust Him fully? Write out a potential prayer from that angle, so you can see it. Pray that He would help you to grow from praying that initial prayer, to praying the one fully trusting Him.

Key Verse: Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a hope and a future.”

Further Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 29:13; Psalm 139:13; Proverbs 3:5-6

Keep an eye out for the full devotional book, coming soon! Follow my blog to keep updated.

Don’t Fear the Storms

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Rumble – Oh what a loyal and darling pup!

If you’ve never lived in, or visited, Virginia Beach, let me tell you, the weather is crazy unpredictable sometimes! It’ll be raining one minute and blazing hot the next; 32 degrees on one winter day and the next it is pushing 70.

One spring day I had picked up my buddy, Rumble, to take with me on walks for the day. It was warm and the sun was gracing us with its presence. It looked to be a very pleasant day ahead, full of fluffy friends and fresh air. And sure enough it was; at least into the early afternoon. Rumble enjoyed his time with each of the pups I took out, an obvious happy and worn out boy as evidenced by the long tongue hanging out of his mouth.

On this day I had time for a little pit stop at my house, so I brought Rumble with me. On the way to my house, clouds began to roll in and thunder rumbled in the distance. We barely made it into the house before the clouds burst open. Now, I absolutely love thunderstorms, (so long as I can observe them from the safety and warmth of the indoors), but poor Rumble is terrified of them. Rumble paced the floor and jumped every time the thunder cracked.

I sat down on the floor and leaned up against the couch, riding out the storm. I tried to get Rumble to come lay down by me, doing my best to encourage him that all was well and nothing was wrong. But, of course, you can’t reason with a dog. So I just had to let him pace. My heart hurt that there was nothing I could do to comfort or calm him.

I sat on the floor in the living room, watching him pace, and I was suddenly struck [pun absolutely intended] by the realization that I am quite often a pacing Rumble when it comes to the storms of life. Even though my heavenly father comforts me and tells me all is and will be well, I continue to pace, and panic, and fear the storms of life instead of trusting in the One who calms the storms.

When I experience what seems like an overwhelming financial situation, my first reaction has been to fear. When something happens to someone I love, my first reaction has been to fear. When I’m facing an issue with my health, my first reaction has been to fear. But I don’t want to be like a dog afraid of a storm, pacing and panicked because of thunder that’s so noisy it threatens to drown out my Father’s Voice.

I’m learning to refuse to let the noise of those storms drown out the Voice that tells me He has me in His arms and will never let me go. The Voice that tells me I am His, and that will never change. The Voice that tells me he controls the winds and the waves and knows when storms are happening in my life. Instead, I am fighting and praying that I would do as it says so beautifully and simply in Psalm 56, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

Prayer: Heavenly father, why is it so easy to fear the storm instead of trust in you? Please keep working on and in me so that my fear lessens and my faith in you increases. I want to come rest at your feet, even when it feels like everything around me is going absolutely crazy. Forgive me for not trusting you and for not looking to you for my source of peace. Thank you for that forgiveness, and for dying on the cross so that I can receive that forgiveness.

Journaling: What about you? Do you tremble and panic anytime you feel a “storm” approaching? Why do you think that is? Try this: Journal a story where you are in the safety of a shelter, but a storm is approaching. In your story, journal yourself remaining still and quiet and calm, focusing on the Lord, and reading the verses from this devotional while the storm rages around you. Now keep this “story” in mind the next time a storm of life approaches and read through it, pray, meditate on the verses, and ask your Heavenly Father to calm your heart and mind.

Key Verse: Psalm 56:3-4, 11

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere humans do to me?

 Further Scripture Reading: Romans 8:38-39; Matthew 14:22-31

Dog Walker Devotions; Faith, Hope, and Puppy Dog Tales

Introduction

My fluffy friend Spike! Love this happy pup!

My name is Chelsea and I’m a dog walker. You might be wondering how I came to this unique profession, right? Well, wonder no longer.

I love dogs. Big, small, fat, thin, goofy, sleek – you get the picture. I’ve always wondered if I should pursue a career involving dogs. Around 2015 my job as a medical transcriber slowly decreased in volume and, as a contract worker, that meant fewer paychecks. In August of 2015 I graduated with my Master of Fine Arts degree in Cinema/Television, focusing on screenwriting. By 2016, my paychecks were steadily decreasing and student loan payments were looming in my very near future. I had to do something to bring in more income.

Knowing I love dogs, a friend of mine mentioned a dog-sitting site where I could sign up to be a freelance dog walker and house-sitter. I found work fairly quickly and realized I really enjoyed the work, even if it meant getting dog slobber and mud all over me most days of the week.

Not only did I love working with the dogs, but it filled a void that had been left in my heart after my German Shepherd, Benaiah, passed away two years before. It truly was the perfect fit for me, and I couldn’t believe that I was now making extra income by playing with and taking care of other people’s pups (and cats from time to time).

I worked for the dog-sitting site for a few months before realizing the entrepreneurial aspect was begging to be a part of this new venture. I was thankful for my start with the dog-sitting site, but quickly realized I wanted to run my own business. So, in January of 2017, I ventured out on my own and started my own dog walking and house sitting service called Pet Life Lovers.

 I was worried about getting clients since I wasn’t affiliated with an already established company. However, once I got the word out to friends in the area, as well as some of the other small business owners I knew, my clientele began to grow. After the first few months of running the business, my husband Dan and I realized we needed to change our word-of-mouth marketing tack.

Personal branding, a professional website, and a catchier name were all in order. With the help of our dear friends Jared, Kim, and Christen, See Spot Walk was born. In addition to helping us come up with the new business name, we hired Jared to develop our website and shoot marketing photos for us. Christen was hired to help us with our branding. It was so exciting to see it all come together.

Over that first year the business grew steadily, so much so that by December I was able to stop transcribing all together and solely focus on my dog walking business. I even had so much work I needed a few extra people to come on board and help me with the increased work load.

I have most certainly learned a lot along the way, and grown in so many ways. But my favorite thing that came out of starting the business is the book that you are now holding in your hands (or reading on your screen, or listening to). I never would have guessed something like this devotional would have come out of starting a dog walking service, but that’s the amazing thing about God.

He can use anything and anyone to tell of who He is and show people His heart for them. I am truly humbled and honored that he gave me the insights and creativity to put this together.

How to Read This Devotional

The entries are not in chronological order, so feel free to jump around as you please, or read them in succession – whatever fits your style. I created 30 sessions with the thought that some people might enjoy reading one per day; but I know there are also people who prefer reading at their own pace and this is structured with them in mind as well.

I find if I take a devotional entry and read it a few times over the course of a week, I am able to absorb more of the meaning and find deeper substance by the end of the week. But, again, do whatever works best for you!

Each entry starts with a story which speaks to the theme. The story is followed by a prayer, journal prompts, a key verse, and additional verses to look up that relate to the specific message.

I can’t tell you how honored and blessed I am that you are reading this devotional. I truly hope  it blesses you, brings you joy, and helps you draw closer to our amazing God and creator of the adorable pups that inspired these entries.

Don’t Fear the Storms

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Rumble – Oh what a loyal and darling pup!

If you’ve never lived in, or visited, Virginia Beach, let me tell you, the weather is crazy unpredictable sometimes! It’ll be raining one minute and blazing hot the next; 32 degrees on one winter day and the next it is pushing 70.

One spring day I had picked up my buddy, Rumble, to take with me on walks for the day. It was warm and the sun was gracing us with its presence. It looked to be a very pleasant day ahead, full of fluffy friends and fresh air. And sure enough it was; at least into the early afternoon. Rumble enjoyed his time with each of the pups I took out, an obvious happy and worn out boy as evidenced by the long tongue hanging out of his mouth.

On this day I had time for a little pit stop at my house, so I brought Rumble with me. On the way to my house, clouds began to roll in and thunder rumbled in the distance. We barely made it into the house before the clouds burst open. Now, I absolutely love thunderstorms, (so long as I can observe them from the safety and warmth of the indoors), but poor Rumble is terrified of them. Rumble paced the floor and jumped every time the thunder cracked.

I sat down on the floor and leaned up against the couch, riding out the storm. I tried to get Rumble to come lay down by me, doing my best to encourage him that all was well and nothing was wrong. But, of course, you can’t reason with a dog. So I just had to let him pace. My heart hurt that there was nothing I could do to comfort or calm him.

I sat on the floor in the living room, watching him pace, and I was suddenly struck [pun absolutely intended] by the realization that I am quite often a pacing Rumble when it comes to the storms of life. Even though my heavenly father comforts me and tells me all is and will be well, I continue to pace, and panic, and fear the storms of life instead of trusting in the One who calms the storms.

When I experience what seems like an overwhelming financial situation, my first reaction has been to fear. When something happens to someone I love, my first reaction has been to fear. When I’m facing an issue with my health, my first reaction has been to fear. But I don’t want to be like a dog afraid of a storm, pacing and panicked because of thunder that’s so noisy it threatens to drown out my Father’s Voice.

I’m learning to refuse to let the noise of those storms drown out the Voice that tells me He has me in His arms and will never let me go. The Voice that tells me I am His, and that will never change. The Voice that tells me he controls the winds and the waves and knows when storms are happening in my life. Instead, I am fighting and praying that I would do as it says so beautifully and simply in Psalm 56, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

Prayer: Heavenly father, why is it so easy to fear the storm instead of trust in you? Please keep working on and in me so that my fear lessens and my faith in you increases. I want to come rest at your feet, even when it feels like everything around me is going absolutely crazy. Forgive me for not trusting you and for not looking to you for my source of peace. Thank you for that forgiveness, and for dying on the cross so that I can receive that forgiveness.

Journaling: What about you? Do you tremble and panic anytime you feel a “storm” approaching? Why do you think that is? Try this: Journal a story where you are in the safety of a shelter, but a storm is approaching. In your story, journal yourself remaining still and quiet and calm, focusing on the Lord, and reading the verses from this devotional while the storm rages around you. Now keep this “story” in mind the next time a storm of life approaches and read through it, pray, meditate on the verses, and ask your Heavenly Father to calm your heart and mind.

Key Verse: Psalm 56:3-4, 11

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere humans do to me?

 Further Scripture Reading: Romans 8:38-39; Matthew 14:22-31

Can’t stop, won’t stop

Do you know how hard it is to write a song? Ha, trick question because, at least for me, it has a crazy wide range of answers. I wrote one this morning that I’m really pleased with, but it came out of the blue and took me about 10 minutes to write it. And yet, the other day I finished a song that I started nearly eight years ago!

Sometimes it starts with a melody and sometimes it starts with the lyrics. One thing I do know is I can never duplicate the process. I can only let the song tell me what it wants of me. Okay, that might sound a little overly mystical. But in all reality that’s kind of what it feels like.

The hardest part for me is to let that song speak to me, but then have the followthrough to give it it’s full voice. In other words, it’s up to me to take the inspiration when I get it and then put in the work to bring it to fruition. But there’s definitely no rhyme (pun intended!) or reason to it, at least not for me.

I think that’s one of the things I love about songwriting. There’s no set pattern or recipe. It could take minutes, hours, days, months, etc. to finish a song. Or I may never finish it. Or I might “finish” it but constantly wonder if it is actually complete. It can be frustrating and exciting and awe inspiring.

One thing I know for sure is I am constantly drawn to it, like a waves to the shore. I’ve been writing songs since I was 15 years old. And I have never once tired of it or wanted to stop. In fact, even the moments I have wanted to “quit” on songwriting, it wouldn’t quit on me! I’ve “walked away” from it, saying “I’m done with you,” only to find lyrics popping up in my head days, if not hours or even minutes, later. I can’t quit it, no matter what I try. And I’m really glad that it won’t quit me.

Current Project – “Two Weeks Unnoticed”

Guys, I’ve been crazy-busy lately with my newest feature screenplay, Two Weeks Unnoticed!  The logline is:

A young architect, in a job she does not like, seeks fulfillment in work and in love. In two weeks she must overcome a faked resignation and the world’s biggest jerk to find what she desires.

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The script is in development by a Virginia-based production company, AR Media.  To follow along with our production process, you can visit our website and like our Facebook page.  I’m so excited to share it with you!  Stay tuned!