i began this blog on july 9th, 2009 with my first entry titled, "when you least expect it." God surprised us that week with the stirrings of adoption. He brought to us the beautiful face of a chinese girl with a terribly sick heart. He set us on a journey. a journey which has brought bella to our home and a journey which has, we hope, brought glory to our God. we least expected it. in that first weekend of surprise He woke me one morning with the verse psalm 84:3, "even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young---a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God." it became our adoption verse. our masthead. our mantra. our banner. we set out on a course and this verse became our battle cry.
and now, not quite two years later, we are once again, in a place of least expecting. we had no idea, but there was more in store for us. more to that chapter in psalms. more to this story - God's story. there are other verses which follow just a few lines down: "blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. as they pass through the valley of baca, they make it a place of springs;...they go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion."
so unbelievably unexpecting. we couldn't be more surprised with the news of my diagnosis this past week. breast cancer. each one of my children have uttered what rick and i both feel, "we can't believe it is you. we can't believe this has happened to us." i am not sure why we are so surprised. maybe it is because i've never been a worrier. i've never once considered the possibility. i've never once wasted a moment of concern over it for myself. maybe i am just such a ridiculous pollyanna i, somehow, even living in a dark and diseased world, assumed i was immune. i don't really know. i've never thought myself invincible or untouchable. not at all. but i am just not created for tremendous anxiety. i have been accused over and over again as a rose-colored-glasses kind of girl. yep. can't deny that. ironically, just days before the diagnosis, my own daughter, emily, said to me, "mom, you take everything so lightly." hmmm....perhaps. her words stopped me though. made me think. i had no choice but to reply, "honey, i care. i do have concerns and worries. i am a mother. but i am also a believer in the verse, "don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. each day has enough trouble of its own." (matthew 6:34). i guess that has something to do with five kids. we always have so much on our daily plate i can't go too far out. i am, in fact, tremendously challenged when it comes to planning anything past this weekend. summer camps? oh, will someone else please just go ahead and schedule my children. dentist appointments? really? you want to know what we are doing six months from now? i am not sure what i am cooking for dinner tonight! i have stood frozen in front of the receptionist time and time again. she, poised with pencil, ready to write me into a book with committing lines...me, holding my iphone calendar, pretending i am a capable and highly organized mother. she, knowing we barely made it in for this appointment and will probably have to call and reschedule anything we even attempt to pencil in. me, absolutely certain we will be rescheduling! oh good grief!
so, let's talk about that pilgrimage through the valley of baca. we know that a pilgrimage is often a spiritual journey - traveling to a place for renewal or something better. that pretty much sums up all of us, right? we are all traveling somewhere. even though we don't always want to admit it or acknowledge it - we are very much en route. i've always liked the phrase, "the joy is in the journey." definitely rethinking that one though. not sure if this journey is entirely about joy. i'll let you know. anyway, the valley of baca. that's the big one. when i scroll down to the notes in my study bible i find out that baca means "weeping." valley of weeping. oh my. yes, that is where we have been this week. absolutely the valley of weeping. and what really stinks is, i am pretty sure we have only just arrived. i kind of have this hunch we will be camping here for awhile. i can tell you already, i don't like it. i mean it is nice to get meals...have people send you notes and bring flowers...but still. not all that great. when all this happened earlier in the week meals immediately started coming. so my whitty 8 year old boy - my funny boy connor - he piped up, "well, it looks like the mcnatts are back on the dinner circuit!" can i tell you it was the first time i laughed since hearing my news. i needed that laugh. badly. oh friends, we are in the valley of weeping. wild weeping. all of us look terrible: eyes puffy. noses running. shoulders sagging. it is not pretty. i, as a protective mother, am compelled to keep things kind. we are going on. steadily. trying. even pretending. we went to a praise concert last night. it was wonderful. i am so glad we pretended our way right into our seats. God met us there. this morning sarah elizabeth wanted waffle house for breakfast. i felt like staying in my pajamas...in bed...for the day. the whole day. but we went, all of us. and we ate runny eggs and greasy hash browns and we pretended mightily and it was good. God met us even there in that not-so-fancy diner. i mean we just have to do this, don't we? there are six sets of eyes staring at me every morning. i have to put on my lipstick and my running shoes and dig out my car keys. this is life. the funny thing...it is good. it is. even now. even when we are camping in this awful, ugly valley of baca. even when i can feel the fear creeping up outside my window and over our rooftop...it is still good. because here is the next line: "they make it a place of springs...." springs. pools. refreshment. cooling. depth. deep. thirst quenching. beauty. we have to make it. i mean ultimately God will make it. i know that. but in the mean time, we have to turn this wild weeping valley into something good. and we can. part of it seems pretense. and part of it seems a fraud...but when our family pulls together and we find something to laugh about. we really can laugh. do you know how amazing it is to really, truly laugh....even with the awful label of cancer posted at our front door? that, my friends, is laughter. that, my friends, is a place of springs. it cools us. our hot eyes. our shaking hands. our dry mouths. it is refreshment to know joy in the midst of ache. true joy. real joy.
the final part of that verse says we will go "from strength to strength." i am not quite sure what that means. i guess it is day to day. from one moment of strength to another. like stepping stones. one blessing to another blessing. i kind of think it means we can't get too far ahead (that's good, because i never am). i kind of think it means manna. daily bread. just what we need in the moment. we can't store it up. just one bite at a time. one strength at a time. one filling at a time. it seems weak. it seems nothing. but as soon as one runs out another will run in. i don't know....but i am going with that. again, i will let you know. right now, i can't say. i still shake in my boots. i still don't know how in the world we are going to do this. i still wonder where in the world God is going. but then i remember. God is the God of Zion. He is the God of Deliverance. He is the God of the Valley and the Springs and the Mountain Top. He spoke them all into being and He holds them all in His hand. and even though i don't know anything about how we will pass through them.... i know. I KNOW He walks ahead.
so we were unexpecting. we didn't expect the blessing...we didn't expect the hard. we accepted the blessing. can we accept the hard? we must. i won't compare myself to job, not for one minute, except that i like what he writes..."shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (job 2:10). let me change my mind, i don't like it. i really don't. but i believe it. "to God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his." (12:13). His. His. not mine. but i am His. His. His. and though i cannot easily accept cancer. i can accept this.