Thursday, May 30, 2019

back to china

china. the birth country of our youngest and the place where 9 years ago, on an incredibly hot summer day, bella first entered our arms. in fact, this blog was started with her adoption and that trip. china certainly has a special place in my heart.

and it is time to go back. 

in the past year God has been nudging me along and i have felt His encouragement to return to china and serve; to give a little back to this country which gave us our daughter.

and so here we are in my week of departure. this sunday evening (june 2- 15) i will travel with a small “go journey” team to an undisclosed area of eastern china. we will be serving in an orphanage, but on a special floor designated for medically fragile children—mostly babies.  our team, providing round the clock care for two weeks, will allow the regular nurses and nannies opportunity to travel back to their own homes and families. crazy thing, this special care floor is connected to a christian ministry even though it is in a government operated orphanage—almost impossible to imagine in china. so the details of where we are and what we are doing need to be kept a bit quiet and vague.

i’ll be honest, i am overwhelmed. my gifting has never been in things medical. when we adopted bella with her heart issues, i was certain i couldn’t do what God was asking. it was too big, too much, too medically challenging for this woman who struggles so to locate a bandaid. yet, we know God often leads us to places outside of our comfort. and like with bella’s adoption, i’m so glad He does.

He leads again in this adventure, and i am reminded more than ever, that as unequipped as i might feel, He will equip. as weak as i seem, He will strengthen. and as anxious as i am, He will calm.

though clearly feeling challenged about the task before us, more than anything, i'm humbled by the chance to go. my prayer is that even in a small way, i might be the hands and feet of Jesus to these precious children. i'm also eager to give a break to these amazing christian nurses and nannies serving, day after day, in this hard place.
"and Jesus said, "let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." ~ matthew 19:14

this isn't going to be a feel-good-fun-and-games kind of trip. the babies we will be caring for will have a variety of special needs and sad stories. we know there is hope, but we also know going in, we will have to look very hard to find it. and we will have to dig very deep in our trusting the Lord for it. knowing my own daughter's story of abandonment, leaves me breathless already.

it's clear, i need some prayer, friends. y'all know this return to bella's birth country is going to be messy for me. i'm certain to become all weepy the moment our plane touches down on chinese soil. that part will be hard, but i know the situation we are going into will be even harder. honestly, i don't know how my heart won't break into a million little pieces while i'm there. this week our team met together to be prayed over by some of our church's prayer warriors. it was beautiful, sweet and encouraging, but even just hearing one man pray out loud for these fragile babies in china left me completely undone. i'm taking my typhoid and malaria pills, but i assure you, i'm taking my tissues and waterproof mascara too. 

the prayers this week were precious ... and i want to ask if you'd be willing to join in as well. would you pray for me and for my team in these next couple of weeks?

1. safety as we travel to and navigate in a place so far and so foreign.
2. stamina and good health as we care for these children.
3. peace and strength while we hold these fragile babies which will break our hearts.
4. protection for our families while we are away from them for these weeks.
5. extra encouragement in this land which can feel so void of the love of Jesus.

though i'll be using a vpn for communication, because of the sensitive relationship, i won’t be able to share pictures or write posts about what we are actually doing. i will try to relay something “safe” each day on social media or my blog.  i can't be sure how all that will work, but i'll try. it might look a little bit like i'm a tourist. =) whatever i post won’t tell the story of what is happening on that floor with these fragile babies, but it might serve as a reminder to keep us in your prayers. 

i am so grateful.

but He said to me, "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." therefore i will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

with much love and gratitude, jody

Saturday, May 25, 2019

and just like that

i think i’m going to dub may the “and-just-like-that” month. i cannot even count how many times in the past few weeks i’ve read that particular phrase on instagram or facebook.

every graduation. every milestone. every event. everywhere i turn on social media i see someone posting a precious picture of a child with that phrase attached. 

and just like that he’s a high schooler.
and just like that she’s a senior.
and just like that our baby has graduated.
and just like that our boy is moving away.
and just like that our little girl is married.

and though--i'm kinda happy to report--the mcnatt family is taking a year off from any one graduating or getting married, i get it.

i absolutely get why that phrase works so perfectly. i get how it feels like they just started kindergarten and now they are heading off to college. i get how crazy fast these years have flown.

i get what it feels like to realize they’ve passed us up in height and math skills. i get what it feels like to notice their sudden wearing of make up or heels or--thankfully--deodorant.

i get how we can't even keep up.

i’m right there with you.

but even though it feels like that in may of their senior year. we all know “and just like that” doesn’t even come close to accurately summing up all the long days and longer hours added up in the years between. 

it doesn't account for the late nights of homework or the last minute projects or the millions of lunches or the early morning moods or the irrational tears at bedtime. it doesn't account for the thousands of hours logged at lessons, practices, matches and productions.  it doesn’t account for the math problems or the clothing-choice problems or the friend problems. it just doesn’t. 

no way. no how. 

there's nothing “just like that” about raising children. gosh no. GOSH NO. as a mother who has watched her share of graduations (and one wedding), i can tell you it's not a snap-of-the-fingers or even a blink-of-an-eye kind of thing. the truth is, very little (like nothing) happens in parenting "just like that." 

and so to those of you teary-eyed-lump-throated parents ardently watching a child walk across her graduation stage or down the wedding aisle this month … or even to those of you hanging up the kindergarten backpack for the summer … i applaud you in this final weekend of may. they've made it. you've made it.

i know how it feels. but i also know what it took. parenting is hard, hard, HARD stuff. it keeps us humble and on our knees … and somedays on the very edge. and whether, as parents, you are just starting out or beginning to wrap it up, remember it is the stuff of the days in between which matter most. 
the certificates and the degrees, the honors and the awards, the milestones and the major events … they all count, yes. but it is the long days and longer hours in between which count the true cost.

count them, dear ones. count them well. 

i know it's more fun to post the pictures and think of how our children have grown and changed, but i want to encourage you to look at yourself as well. okay, full permission to skim over the wrinkles and flabby arms--but look at how you've grown and changed. i know you're tired (and older), but are you stronger? deeper? more trusting? has your perspective changed? i bet it has. don't be afraid to embrace what all these years have also given you. i know it's not a piece of paper to frame and hang on a wall, but be assured, it deserves acknowledgment and great applause. my guess is that most of you--because it's kind of a parent thing--most of you have not stopped to think about yourself in all of these milestones. and, here's the deal: it's okay to do so. it's okay to be a little bit proud of yourself. in fact, it's healthy. go pour yourself a glass of champagne, friends!

because ... and just like that mothers and fathers, you've raised up a child in the way he or she should go. you did it. enjoy it. 
and whether emotional, elated or just flat out exhausted, don't forget to throw your own cap in the air! well done.

“start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” - proverbs 22:6

“you shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. you shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” - deuteronomy 11:18-20

Friday, April 19, 2019

when bad weeks end with good friday

it was april 19th, eight years ago, when i got the phone call confirming my doctor’s suspicions: cancer. 

i’m sorry she said.

holy week and cancer. how could it be?

i was at my friend’s house planting flowers on her deck. she had just come home that day from her own double mastectomy surgery. 

surely lightening doesn’t strike in the same place twice. in a strange way, that’s sort of what i was counting on. friends and in the same bible study, breast cancer couldn’t [wouldn’t] touch both of us in this same season, right?

i was wrong.

my hands deep in dirt. 
my heart in my throat.
and my fear was all around me when i saw the doctor’s number appear on my phone screen.

yes. cancer. i’m sorry. 

stumbling up to her bedroom, i put my head in her lap and we wept together. 

that was my april 19th. diagnosis day.

it’s been 8 years since that phone call.

those unpleasant words resulted in my own double mastectomy and a lifetime supply of tamoxifen, but what i want to tell you about most on this good friday morning all these years later is how much more it brought. you’re not ever going to hear me say cancer was a blessing, but there were blessings in it.

easter weekend followed a few days after my news. i had grown up in church and always loved easter. always thought i understood it pretty well. always got the whole good friday grief and sunday rejoicing thing. the cross, the stone, the empty grave. i got it. i did.

but that year, with cancer stamped hard on me, easter felt different. our family stood worshipping in the verizon amphitheater for the passion good friday service and it’s probably the closest i’ve ever felt the heartbeat of Jesus. eight years later, i can’t quite remember the band performing or the exact songs we were singing, but, being broken wide open that week, i felt the alive presence of Jesus stronger than ever before.
though our week had been bad—devastating, in fact—friday was good. so good.

the cross of Jesus is always powerful, nothing can add to it or subtract from it. but our connection to the cross becomes different when we are in those suffering places of fear or pain or brokenness.

we cling.
we cry out.
and the cross truly becomes everything.

"for our sake, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." ~ 2 corinthians 5:21

it’s been 8 years. i am healthy, cancer free and grateful. later today, everyone will start arriving home for this easter weekend. we will all be together and i can’t wait. life isn’t perfect. we aren’t without our struggles, but, gosh, it’s pretty normal and, for this moment, kind of nice.

but here’s the thing to which i keep coming back—

why does it take such suffering and struggle for us to identify more fully with our Savior’s sacrifice? why must we be so broken before we are able to break free from the numbing quality of our somewhat normal lives?

i’m walking alongside a couple of different friends right now who are in long-long suffering places. but even with their uncertain and unclear futures, they have such clarity in their faith. they are clinging. they are crying out. the cross is their everything. it’s not just a temporary high or a desperate grasping at straws—it’s Jesus. it’s the Living Hope they have in a Living Lord. Jesus. 

i know none of us would trade places with those in deep pain, but isn’t having a deep and real hope what we all want? what the world wants? what we long for?

we all like normal and kind-of-nice lives. of course we do. i do. i get it. and i kind of would like this season to continue. no surprises. no diagnoses. no disasters. but, here’s the deal:  i don’t want nice and normal to mean numb. my cancer path changed me and i’m glad it did. and though i don’t ever want to hear that word again, i do want it to continue to change me. i want to continue being desperate for Jesus. i type that and i almost delete. because i know what i’m asking. 

i want good friday and the cross and easter sunday and the empty grave to mean everything to me and to those i love.

i don’t particularly like the painful, long-suffering places of this life. i wish there was another way. i wish someone could figure out how to bottle up a brutal diagnosis or a devastating day and we could get the result without having to walk the fiery path of suffering. but it doesn’t work that way.

and i don’t fully understand. and i probably won’t this side of heaven.

but i am fully thankful that my Savior continues to lovingly draw me closer to Him. 

He came and He died that i might live. this life, as much as i like it and want to hold on to it, it really isn’t everything. regardless of how much we are able to wring from it, it has only so much to offer. it’s the cross to which i must cling. the cross. the cross.

and 8 years after a cancer diagnosis, it is good friday again and i give God all the glory for another easter season of celebration.

When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain, I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride
See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose, so rich a crown
Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross
All who gather here by grace, draw near and bless Your name
Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all
Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live.
                   - The Wonderful Cross ~ Chris Tomlin

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Wedding

The Wedding.
when we hear this phrase it tends to bring to mind one of the big and famous soirees we hear about in world news. something royal and well-appointed. a much awaited event. something which holds us captive to our screens, our news feeds and our little girl dreams.

i mean, who isn't enthralled with all that pageantry and princess stuff?

but not if it's your daughter getting married. i assure you, the renowned royal weddings are easily replaced.

enthralled or not, none of that comes close to the feeling a parent has watching her own daughter walk down the aisle.

we aren't anywhere in the ballpark of royalty, but that doesn't mean our girl didn't look exactly like a princess on that unbelievable day. and as mother-of-the bride, it was definitely the closest i'd ever felt to something like a queen.

what an absolutely amazing thing to witness the wedding of one's own child.

especially when she and her guy both love Jesus. i can't imagine anything better. it's what we long for ... hope for ... pray for.

we had a wonderful photographer and plenty of paparazzi, but i do wish, however, someone else had been there to cover the event and put words to it all. even afterwards--surprising as it might be--i've felt a little bit speechless.

so, yes, this post is a wee bit overdue. i couldn't agree more. i've had a few friends ask "when are you going to write about emily's wedding?" i've stepped around that question best i could. i've attempted weak answers. but those of you mamas that have already walked in my mother-of-the-bride shoes. well ... you know.  you understand.

we celebrated the wedding of emily and austin last summer--july 28th--and here it is the following march--eight months and a new calendar year-- and i have yet to share pictures or a post on this blog.

heck, i helped emily plan her wedding in (way) less time than it has taken me to string together my words about her wedding. due to some tricky scheduling with austin's officer training and flight school, we had about eighty-some days to pull it all off. 80 days sounds like a long time when you are 6 years old and waiting for christmas morning, but when it comes to wedding plans, not so much. the details might have had to come together fast, but the memory will be one i cherish forever.

i suppose i can try to blame the whirlwind wedding itself for why it has taken me this long to write a simple blog post (clearly, i'm still recovering) ...

or ...

MAYBE it's because watching your first born (or any born, i suppose) walk down the aisle just isn't simple.

MAYBE it's because our amazing photographer (christina pugh) took well over a thousand pictures and i don't know how to choose just a few. i love them all. christina's talent is truly unreal and she was a dream to work with.

MAYBE it's because the talented floral designer, martha mcintosh, created so much beauty with the bouquets and table arrangements that every time i try to decide on which pictures to include i find myself overwhelmed with her stunning work.

MAYBE it's because i have a million things to say about the wedding weekend, but can't quite find exactly the right words. i'm not entirely sure they exist.

MAYBE it's because watching your little girl grow up and get married is like no other event you've ever had to capture in a picture or contain to a post. it just pounds away at your heart in an unbelievably precious way.

it's just too big.
too beautiful.
too wonderful.
too everything.

i guess that's it.

i guess that's the reason it's march 25th and i'm only now able share with y'all a little bit of emily and austin's day.

perhaps at some point i will update this post with some profound thoughts about watching a daughter say "i do," but in the meantime, i'm going to go ahead and just share with y'all a few (or fifty) of my favorite photos. and in a very non-blogger way, limit my words.

they say photos are worth a thousand words anyway. let's go with that.

emily and austin, even 8 months later, we couldn't be more excited for you two as you begin your life together. what a celebration it was. what a love you've been given. what a future you have. we have been blessed to walk with you and, though with  new roles in place, we are so grateful for the chance to continue.

we love you both so much.

"therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 
and they shall become one."  ~ genesis 2:24

that bouquet! @martha mcintosh

these bridesmaids are my daughter's girls, so therefore, they are my girls. i love them all. i'm so thankful for the sweet friends in emily's life who stood with her on her wedding day: maclaine, annika, caroline, kaitlyn (austin's sister), mattie and clayton. and of course her two sisters, bella and sarah.

a big shout out to emily's new mother-in-law, lynne! what a gem she is.
i couldn't be more thankful for this woman and how she loves emily as her own daughter. 
perimeter church.
so special for emily to get married where she's grown up going to church and school.
i am truly thankful for our fantastic wedding coordinators, jan and suzanne,
who made sure everything went smoothly.

recently a friend asked what was the best part of throwing a wedding. after the joy of the actual event,  it was the people---the friends and the family who came to help us celebrate. i mean we spent a lot of time and effort deliberating over the colors and the flowers and the food, but it was seeing the people in the church and at the reception which truly took this mother-of-the-bride's breath away. with my extended family scattered across the country, this event brought us all together and it truly was sort of the cherry on top of all the wedding joy. this picture above of my sons escorting me to my seat captures the emotion i felt when i walked into the church and saw all of those faces we love so dearly.

the atlanta athletic club orchestrated a reception which captured emily and austin's (though mostly emily's - haha) vision completely! coordinators lisa, kelsey and julia were an unbelievable team. they made everything about the planning feel easy and fun. we can't say enough about these exceptional ladies and how great it was to work with them.