Tuesday, December 29, 2009


we spent this morning tangling ourselves in yet another piece of sticky red tape.  there is nothing quite like the central immigration office in downtown atlanta at 9am.   if you've ever been to the DMV, then you know of what i write.

at the door, we were greeted by a security officer and told to leave all phones, purses, bags and any items of a personal nature in the car.  thus began the de-personalization of my person.  i stood in a line with roping to each side and nothing but arrows to direct my feet.  it was a clear assurance that everyone move in the same direction and  a warning that no one dare step out of line.  this experience was very much about moving forward. mechanically.  methodically.  uneventfully.  rick joked with me about cavity searches.  after 5 minutes of standing in line, i wasn't thinking he was all that funny.  standing there, i concluded there must be a special paint strip for wall color choices in governmental agencies. in my entire 5000 sample sherwin williams color wheel, there is nothing that comes close to this dismal selection. i am quite sure that if i explored the back workroom i would most certainly uncover a paint can entitled "sterile." but remember, i have arrows on the floor and roping to my side - there were to be no backroom expeditions for me this day. 

after filling out the correct paperwork and signing on the appropriate lines, we were shuffled - via more arrows - into a waiting area, i.e, a holding pen.  every sign was large and white with bold, black lettering.  clear. precise. direct.  my aesthetic wiring is motivated by clean lines and simple spaces, but this was ridiculous.  i've seen operating rooms with more personality.   so there we sat: all colors, ethnicities, languages and purposes blended blandly together.  people waited in these dreary, plastic seats for reasons from international adoption to green card status.  all of us lumped, impersonally and unexceptionally, together.  the morning's goal seemed almost to strip away all distinctive features from its visitors. to pare us down to nothing but a number.  i was number 24.  

places like this make me nervous.  not really nervous about what might happen to me.  but nervous about what i might do.  i suppose it has something to do with my struggle in rule following.  there was this gigantic sign stating no smoking or cell phone usage.  considering we weren't able to bring in our phones or our cigarettes, i was curious about the sign's necessity.  extra emphasis, i suppose.  just in case.  anyway, there is just enough rebelliousness in my character, that when i am treated as number 24 and told to sit quietly and nondescriptly, i have this strange sensation and thinly veiled intrigue in the "what if."  what if i chose to walk up to the counter when they called number 21...using my forbidden phone ...boldly flaunting a cigarette.  thankfully, i don't smoke, and thankfully, i had my husband there to keep me in line with the number and phone thing.

finally, a screen flashed number 24.  it was my turn to head back into the cubicle with the shuffling, mumbling woman in charge. she didn't smile.  she barely responded to my "good morning."  she never once looked into my eyes.  but i followed her obediently to the correct desk.  after confirming my information on the monitor, she, in perfect monotone, directed me to the scanning machine.  within seconds my fingerprints flashed in front of me.  my fingerprints.  mine.  no one else in this entire dull place could claim these prints.  no one in the city of atlanta.  no one in the world.  they are mine.  the irony struck me:  here we were in this most non-personal, most anti-individual experience, capturing the very thing that defines us and separates us from each other. someone else owns my same jeans, my same jacket...someone else has a dirty blond ponytail and wears silver hoop earrings just like mine.  someone else brushed their teeth this morning with colgate and washed their hair with pantene.  there are lots of jody's out there...and probably even another jody mcnatt or two.  but no one, not one other human, has my fingerprint.  i can stand here in this greyest of grey rooms and know that i was created uniquely.

"i praise you because i am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, i know that full well.    
my frame was not hidden from you when i was made in the secret place. 
 when i was woven together in the depth of the earth,
 your eyes saw my unformed body."  ~ psalm 139: 14-16.

           "for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb."  ~psalm 139:13

before zuzu was knit together in her mother's womb her ten tiny fingerprints were delicately drawn....her story was thoughtfully written.  God carried close to His heart the blueprint of this child.  she was designed fearfully and wonderfully.  perfectly.  even with her imperfect heart, even with her transposed arteries and narrow valves, she was known by her Creator. He knit her. He knit even her inmost being. her fingerprint.  

if our God can give us the unique stamp of our fingerprint, the unique compostion of our DNA, the unique chemistry of our personality, can we deny that He, indeed, has a specific plan and design for our lives.  can we atempt to question or ignore that He has a unique purpose already etched into our future? this tiny toddler is as far from me as the east is from the west, and yet she is known completely by the same God that completely knows me.  

bella's adoption has been a continual reminder of the planner, designer, creator, knitter God. recently i heard the statistic that out of all adoptions which begin, only 2% ever reach completion.  is this not staggering?  after journeying this far, we understand that number. obstacles and anxieties seem to travel this same road.  i can see why defeat and surrender are commonplace.  there are items on the list which prove daunting and the list is long.  and yet, we belong to a God who knows not only the length of our list, but who knows the very curves of our fingerprint.  He has it perfectly imprinted in His memory.  and what's best,  He doesn't require a scanner or a photo or sterile colored room to identify us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a princess on the other side of the world

this morning i woke with sweet thoughts.  tonight we will attend a party for a daughter we have not yet met.  several friends were hosting an event this evening in honor of our soon to be child.   this little girl's face was not only on the invitation, but is also on the party favors.  a great, big, wonderful party is being thrown tonight for an orphan.  a party is being thrown tonight for a little girl on the other side of the world.  a party is being thrown this evening for a child who most likely has never had anything given or done or thrown in her honor. 

she doesn't even know.  she can't know.  our friends will gather and her story will be told.  her name will be mentioned countless times and people will leave this gathering and they will take with them a small part of her.  her picture may end up on the busy doors of their refrigerators or stuck between the precious pages of their bibles.  this little girl on the other side of the world will be talked about, gazed upon, prayed over.  this little girl who doesn't have slightest idea about any of this.

i emailed these thoughts to my friend, kelly, party planner extraodinaire and hostess with the most-ess.  and i asked her, "is this not something like the heavenly party Jesus is planning for us?"  we are told He is preparing a feast, He is readying the mansion with many rooms, He is even paving the celestial streets with gold.  He is waiting to welcome us home.  and yet, there are some who do not even know.   some who could never imagine that they have been invited to a banquet in their honor.  some who have never heard that they are heirs to a king. some who can't imagine themselves worthy of a feast, let alone streets of gold.  some who couldn't believe it possible.  

and yet, our God has royal invitations on which those very names have been carefully written. and it has nothing to do with what we have done or can do. He has issued invitations simply because He loves us.  we are like those children sitting in orphanages around the world with nothing to bring to the banquet. for nothing is required.  but it will, indeed, be a grand event.

"In my Father's house are many rooms... I am going there to 
prepare a place for you.  And if I go
 and prepare a place for you,I will come back 
and take you to be with me..." ~ John 14:2

"He has taken me to the banquet hall,
and His banner over me is love."  ~ Song of Solomon 2:4

in the six months we have been pursuing bella grace xue, we probably have spoken the word adoption as often as the common words milk, paper, goodnight, apple...it is just a part of our daily vocabulary. we talk and think about it a lot.  as a follower of Christ, i can't help but draw the connection to my own adoption in and through Him.  in romans it says, "we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." 

Christ rescued me out of despair, brokenness and hopelessness.  He chose me. He chose me and He made me His daughter.  the daughter of a  King.  like any little girl, i always wanted to be a princess.  not just one of those delicate-natured, pedestal-sitting, pretty princesses, but a strong, regal and purposeful princess.  a princess kind of like mia thermopolis  in the princess diaries. i have thoroughly admired and even adored mia since first seeing the movie.  she is a meat and potatoes kind of princess - my kind of girl.  heiress, yes, but so much more going on behind all those cute princessy clothes.  psalm 45 says,

"Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear:...the King 
is enthralled with your beauty...All glorious is the princess within her chamber."   

it doesn't get any more fairytalish than that, does it?  my King, my heavenly Father is enthralled with my beauty?  wow. tell me more.  i love how this passage even addresses the all important issue of clothes.  are we women not completely thankful that our Father, the King, get's that?  He understands full well, we girls want to know what in the world we will be wearing come banquet time.  "her gown is interwoven with gold. in embroidered garments she is led to the king."  though i am most comfortable in my jeans and cowboy boots, i think i could get excited about a dress like that. afterall, i am a daughter of the King.

someday, there will come a morning when i will wake with another sweet thought. someday, i will attend a party for my daughter.  a little girl who i will have met.  a little girl who will be on this side of the world and who will be in attendance at the party thrown in her honor. i will plan her party with great joy. i will prepare her a feast and i will clean the many rooms of my (not-so-mansion-like) home.  i might even attempt to pave my driveway in gold... for it will surely be the party of a princess. someday.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

grey things

it hung there, dangling by mere thread.  well, not exactly a thread, maybe a root.  i don't know for  sure, i am not a dentist, i am a mother.  i am the mother of a six year old who has a tooth so loose it literally flaps in the breeze of his voice.  it is so loose it is now (officially) grey. it is so loose that the picker/fiddler/tweeker in me feels somewhat shaky in its presence.  
for weeks now, i have been determined to extract this unsightly item from his mouth.  i have staged a pillow fight (seriously, that worked with our oldest years ago).  i have attempted to bribe him with outlandish and extravagant gifts.  i have even snuck into his room late at night with furtive plans to remove it while he innocently slept unaware.  nothing has worked.  all efforts have been in vain.  all attempts completely thrawted.  so, we head into this week of christmas festivities with an unsightly, grey, flapping tooth.
thankfully, the christmas card photo was taken prior to the loosening and greying of this front bicuspid.   
my son and his tooth hold on for dear life.  this tooth is not only disturbing to look at -especially for his sisters at the dinner table- but is causing other issues as well.  eating has taken on a whole new level of complexity.  there have been several meals where connor has requested to eat off the special item menu -mind you, we don't have a special item menu in my kitchen.  it is a distraction to all of us. countless times this week i have found connor perched on the sink in front of the mirror intently studying it from every angle.  in his little boy way, he finds it downright fascinating. clearly a badge of honor. he proudly shares daily updates on the gymnastic abilities of this prized possession. recently, while in conversation with connor, i caught my own self feeling slightly mesmerized by its pendulum-like swing.
makes me wonder what kind of grey, flapping teeth are attached to my own life.  what is that thing that hangs on by one tenacious root?  what is that thing which distracts me, detours me, even hypnotizes me?  what is that thing desperately in need of extraction, but which i won't release?  you know what i am talking about.  we all have them.  they are the unattractive and unecessary items to which we continue to cling, believing them to have some kind of value.  we study them.  we work around them.  we baby them. we hold tightly to them, because we are simply afraid that it could hurt too much to let go.  i have grey teeth in my life that i didn't even realize were present.   
walking through this adoption has uncovered more grey teeth than i care to admit. i know that God is patiently waiting for me, ready to remove them.  i know that if i let go, it might hurt for a minute, but there would surely come great relief. i know this, but i continue to hold  a protective hand over my mouth and say, "not yet."  when i asked connor why he wouldn't let me just yank that tooth out of his mouth, his answer was simply, "i don't trust you."  (something to do with an unfortunate nail trimming incident a few weeks earlier).  this boy is nothing if not honest.  perhaps it would help if i chose a verb other than "yank", but the bottom line, he knows there will be a moment of hurt.  a moment of pain.  he is willing to give up fresh, crunchy apples and sweet, corn on the cobb, in order to prevent that moment.  he is willing to suffer inconvenience while eating and endure ridicule from siblings, with the hope of postponing that moment.  what good things am i giving up while holding on to the grey things? it makes me wonder.

in psalm 30, david writes that God, " removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy."  He removed. He didn't just cover up or gloss over or sweep under.  He removed. the old had to come off (or out) for the new to come on (in).  it is that simple, but it isn't always easy.  sackcloth. ashes. grey teeth.  somedays we just need to be reminded that God has joyful and strong and healthy gifts waiting to replace the grey items in our lives. 

now, off to find that pair of pliers...

...note:  i wrote this piece yesterday.  guess what connor proudly placed in my hand this afternoon?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


after reading the blog post below, my friend, priscilla, directed me to this song.  i had never before heard it. such an uncanny thing considering connor's suggestion last week about our "hanging a stocking for zuzu."  oh, how we love God orchestration of these little surprises...these little gifts which are given, unexpectedly, and yet, encourage so deeply. we can't help but connect to this song, minus "the wonderland of white" and the "angels in the snow."  it reminds us that there are plenty of others out there waiting to bring home children. there is nothing exceptional about our waiting.  we are certainly not alone in our adoption.  i can't figure out exactly how to include the link to the song...but, it is on itunes if you are interested in locating it.

Merry Christmas ~ Third Day

There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for her momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
There the forgotten are
But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine
It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I'm warmed by the fire's glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white,
Make angels in the snow
But half a world away you try your best to fight the tears
And hope that heaven's angels come to carry you here
It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas
Christmas is a time to celebrate the holy child
And we celebrate his perfect gift of love
He came to earth to give his life
And prepare a place for us
So we could have a home with him above
It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I'll hold you in my arms
And I'll tell you from my heart, and I'll you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

a stocking hung with great care...

my little guy is quickly earning the title, "mr. christmas" in our home. he is All About It. i, however, was attempting this year to pace myself. last Christmas our house was on the neighborhood holiday home tour (not nearly as glamorous as that sounds, mind you). by this point last december, i had pretty much anything standing still covered with greenery and bedecked with a bow. this year i had plans to take it easy. plans to keep it simple. i had plans to embrace the meaning and not the must-do list. i had plans. "yeah, right, jody," 

some of you laugh. i admit to having a slight issue with that whole taking it easy thing. apparently, last year's decorating deluge had quite the effect on my youngest. now, i am not going so far as to say i see him making a career choice here.  but, from the moment we arrived home from thanksgiving-at-grandma's-house he has been leading The Great Christmas Cause. connor has continued to bring boxes from the basement storage room commanding me to "use this, mom." he has pulled out an assortment of holiday hoop-a-la and is happily attempting to arrange garland and gold ribbon. (he did play in a basketball game this morning for those of you that might be concerned about his new hobby). right off the bat, he dubbed himself Chief Checker of the Light Strings. he does it extremely well, i must add: the perfect job for a 6 year old. 

one day after school last week while upstairs folding laundry, the walls began to vibrate with sounds from "the polar express." he had figured out how to put the cd in the sound system and had it blaring at a level loud enough to be appreciated even in the north pole. he walked into my room and announced that he was hoping the music would help me "get into the spirit of things." hmmm....i thought, so much for simple. he is also the same child who, while walking through home depot this week, begged me to invest in a sizable, blow up snowman for our front yard. it is not that i am inherently opposed to snowmen. but i do cringe slightly at the idea of a manufactured snowman in my georgia-green-grass-front yard. there is just something about this that feels slightly invalid - just not quite bona fide Christmas. for that matter, the fact that there IS green grass in our front yard come Christmas morning is not quite bona fide for this northern born and raised girl. i apologize, friend, if you have a plastic snowman adorning your own yard. i intend no snobbish criticism whatsoever. it is simply a matter of preference. i am sure there will come a day with my children at the height of their apathetic teenage years, when i will regret not having given in to this heart's desire of my young boy. i might even blame their apathy on my own refusal to succumb to the gigantic plastic snowman. i might even put one in our yard by the time the last kid heads off to college. but for now, i am determined to remain unwavering in my resistance of this persistent and most passionate request.

"mom, we really need to get baby zuzu a stocking this Christmas, so that she'll have it for next year." yep, that was the phrase. that was the suggestion that did me in. he had no idea in that moment how close i came to rushing right out the door to get that Christmas stocking for baby zuzu AND that plastic snowman for connor. he had no idea. oh, the words of a child. the eyes of a child. the heart of a child, who with such a simple consideration for a sibling he hasn't yet met could encourage his mom. there is such blessing to hear my family speak of bella grace xue as if she is already a part of us. 

as beautiful and wonder-filled as Christmas is, it is also a season that can bring great sadness when things aren't in place. i don't know about you, but i happen to believe that for most of us there is usually something slightly out of place. most of us have come to understand that our tables will often have someone missing at the holiday meal. most of us have family members who will receive their Christmas gifts, not from our own hands, but from those of the mailman. most of us have lost someone or live somewhere which prevents the large gathering of those most dear. as our own family stays scattered across 6 states, i understand this well. this Christmas we add to the distance equation another country, another continent. we are growing closer to her, but won't, in fact, have her with us this Christmas. after raising four toddlers i know the joy we miss this year. i know what it looks like to see the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a an almost two year old. i long to see the twinkle of our tree lights in her dark eyes and i can just imagine the sweet stickiness of her hand clutching a peppermint stick. i know this. i know, also, that because i believe in a God of Perfect Timing, it is somehow alright. if this child is to be ours, we will someday hear the pitter patter of her feet running to wake us on Christmas morning.

and so we think of next year: the anticipation makes my heart beat a rump-a-tump-tum. there is just nothing like expecting a child. i can remember with each pregnancy my great excitement for the baby i carried. those are the precious thoughts so sacred to mothers. those are our dreams...hopes... wishes. those are the things which begin to weave the child into our arms. adoption is so similar. though we've seen the curve of her nose and know the color of her eyes, we still carry dreams and hopes and wishes for her already. even when, especially when, there is an empty place at our table.

today, there are seven stockings hung by our chimney with great care. baby zuzu's stocking hangs in the middle with three on each side. her stocking has a place in the midst of us. she has a place already in our home. she is already in our hearts.

as for that snowman...well, he remains securely in the display case at our neighborhood home depot...at least for now.