Seeing Signs | Sarah Wyland

Seeing Signs: Turtles & James

Griff (my puppy) is a “human trash can.” I know he’s not human – he’s a dog – but at just shy of six months old, he has already had two emergency vet visits for eating things he shouldn’t. Namely, blanket tassels. The first time, he spent a few hours and a lot of dollars at the vet, came home, and pooped it out the offending tassel less than thirty minutes after walking through the door. If only he had done that sooner. 

Last week, he ate several more tassels – unofficial count is six – and made himself quite sick. I have no idea how he managed to eat so many – he was snuggled up by me while I was using the blanket – but he did and off we went to the ER vet once more. 

The vet scared me. 

She said things like “could have an obstruction” and “we want to keep him overnight” and “may need surgery in the morning.” But nothing was certain – she said “I really can’t tell” – and I asked if I could bring him home, see how he did. She warned against it, but I leaned into my gut instinct which said go get him. 

As I got ready to leave the house, I debated with myself. Was I making the right choice? Should I leave him in an unfamiliar place overnight where the pros could watch over him? Or should I bring the tiny guy home and keep an eye on him? Rush him back to the ER if things changed? I finally closed my eyes, said a prayer, and asked Jesus for a sign: “Please send me a turtle before I pick up Griff if I’m doing the right thing.” I chose a turtle because they remind me of my Grandma Myrtle. She has a collection of turtles and has been dubbed “Myrtle the Turtle” with affection. And so, turtles are a special sign for me.

Off to the ER vet I went with a fleeting thought of “wouldn’t it be cool if there was a turtle in the vet’s waiting room?” 

A few minutes later, creeping along the 405, I let a car merge from an on ramp.

There was a turtle sticker on their rearview window. 

I laughed. I cried. I thanked God for affirming me. 

But He wasn’t done yet. 

Most vets, including the ER vet, are still doing the whole come to the car to get your pet thing due to COVID. When I arrived, I called to let them know I was there to pick up Griff. They told me to come on in. They weren’t allowing anyone in earlier, but I didn’t ask questions, just got out of my car to get my dog. 

I chatted with the sweetest older lady at the counter while my payment (of a lot of dollars) processed, then mulled around the lobby to wait for Griff. They had a rather eclectic Halloween display comprised of whatever the staff could drum up to bring in. There was no rhyme or reason to it, just a jumble of skeletons, pumpkins, flashing lights, even a pop up fortune teller. 

Someone had made a Finding Nemo panorama featuring a pumpkin with candy corn glued all over it to make it look like a piece of coral. A plastic Nemo was stuck to one side. And on the other? 

Crush, the sea turtle. 


That’s right. 

A turtle in the vet’s waiting room. 

Jesus came through loud and clear with not one but two turtles. 

And then Griff came through the door, all wagging tail and excitement to see me. He tried to eat an unknown substance on the floor while I was given his discharge instructions (and another warning that I should be leaving him there from the vet tech) and off we went. 

After a stressful night and a few tassel-filled poops, Griff was fine. 

Just like those turtles promised. 

I’ve always believed God speaks to us. I’ve heard his voice very clearly in the past. He’s also used signs, license plates, song lyrics, and even lines in books to speak to me. I’ve been on a bit of a spiritual journey lately (more on that soon) and recently began reading my Bible again after several months of it sitting dormant on my nightstand. And while the turtles were a big nod from God, it has nothing on what came a few days later.

I’ve been in a bit of an odd place lately. I love Los Angeles. I love my MFA program and writing. I have a good job, love teaching barre. There’s a lot of good in my life. But I’ve felt a deep longing for connection – for love and community in particular. I was in a particularly low part of said funk last weekend and so I did what I do when I’m in those valleys: I took out my journal and got really honest right before I went to bed. 

I even started the journal entry off with an “angsty entry ahead” warning. 

I laid my heart out. I wrote the entry like a prayer. Penning my prayers tends to be the best way for me to really speak to God and that night, everything lined up. I asked big questions, shared deep hurts and desires. I let my heart be raw and poured everything out onto those pages. 

I felt a strong urge to read my Bible when I finished my journal entry. I have the She Reads Truth Bible that I cannot recommend enough. I finished my first one in December and ordered a new one in April that I had only just started to read a few nights earlier. Whenever I read the Bible, I like to start with the gospels. I’m reading Matthew right now and the She Reads Truth Bibles have great reading guides at the beginning of each book that give the day’s verses as well as supporting verses. 

So I read my verses of Matthew 5 (the commandments) and then moved on to the supporting verses. One of them was James 4:1-2. 

James 4:2 stopped me in my tracks: 

“You do not have because you do not ask.” 

Jesus called me out. 

I haven’t been praying for the things that have been heavy on my heart lately. I haven’t been asking God to bring me love, community. I’ve been praying for things like family, friends, health, and my dogs’ health, but not a husband or a community. God humbled me with those nine words. 

God wanted me to pray. Really pray. I’ve had a complicated prayer life, dealt with a lot of guilt around praying for anything that didn’t feel “major.” Praying for a husband and for a community like the ones I’ve known in Tennessee and Charlottesville felt petty when there were so many “bigger” things to pray for, like the health of loved ones or you know, world peace. 

And so I’ve been praying. I’ve been taking a few minutes in the morning to read my devotional and pray with intention. I’m learning it’s okay to ask God for things – even turtles – and God is constantly reminding me that He is listening. 

If you find yourself searching for answers, try your version of praying. It could be prayer in the traditional sense or writing it out in your journal or even just sitting in a quiet meditation. But pray. Ask. 

And be opening to hearing. Seeing. Receiving. 

It might be instant or it might take some time. But God (or whoever/whatever you believe in) will send you your own turtles in a vet’s waiting room. 

Or a Bible verse that stops you in your tracks.

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