Sunday, February 26, 2012

a hotdish and a lot of what ifs...

did you know in minnesota a "hotdish" is exactly THAT? -- a casserole, a meal, a warm edible concoction which might include some shredded veggies or meat, but most definitely will call for at least one (probably two) cans of cream of mushroom soup.

a hotdish is midwestern comfort food at its finest. a hotdish has nothing to do with a snazzy woman dressed to the nines, strutting her stuff.  no,  in minnesota, it is what it is. plain and simple. for real. straightforward and practical and, i'm absolutely certain, incredibly filling. 

and after experiencing several days of their "mild" winter while we visited this week, it is clear how important a hotdish will become once we make the move north.

so we went to minnesota last week.  all seven of us.  and the adventure began.

i think it was when we pulled up to the big red barn and the children jumped from the car running in every direction across snow crusted fields that i knew this would be possible. i knew we would be destined for something different than what we had back in atlanta. i had barely put the rental suv into park when the doors opened and the children spilled out to the country cold air.

and i was right behind them.  

chasing them. laughing with them.

"can you believe it? isn't this awesome?  look at that barn? what do you think? don't you just love it? is that thing called a silo? can i get a horse? a pig?  mom, take a look at this..." we were all running and yelling at once.  

as the seven of us dashed around the property in our laughter and loud enthusiasm,  our kind realtor, after watching us for a minute (and quietly shaking his head) turned his attention to locating the lock box on the front door of the tiny farmhouse -- oh the house.  yes, the house. we were here to tour a home, but none of us could get past what lay outside and around the house:  8.5 acres. a large red barn and a scattering of other odd buildings.  

my mind raced ahead: a chicken coop i thought. and horses. maybe a cow or two. fresh milk. some more cats. they'd be barn cats, yes, barn cats. and, of course,  another golden retriever friend for our beloved cooper. 

sunflowers and giant cabbage and rows of green beans. corn in the field just behind.   oh, how my head began to spin.  our realtor, michael, leaned over the porch rail -- the wraparound porch rail, that is -- "the front door's open...come on in everyone..." he stood watching our frenzy and i could see a tiny hint of confusion.  

he had been showing us homes all day, and had yet to see anything close to this side of the mcnatt family. we had quietly and calmly toured serious colonials and traditional executive style homes,  removing our shoes and being careful not to touch trinkets or treasures.  we kept our hands to ourselves and our behavior in line. quiet voices in quiet neighborhoods. sedate and serious homes perfectly staged for the family relocating.

and then we came to this farm.  

what must michael have thought when he saw this southern family all wild and darting across the frozen land...caring little that the boys were wearing sperry topsiders and the girls barely dressed warm enough for minnesota fall, let alone winter.  bella came across a yellow tabby (a barn cat!) in the driveway and she was sold on the place as her new friend purred under the stroke of her warm hand.

finally we managed to drag ourselves indoors and take a look at the farmhouse.  rambling. even a little ramshackle in places. oddly positioned rooms, sloping hardwoods and a tin ceiling.  nothing like the grand floor plans of the homes we had been seeing earlier in the day.  no spacious foyer or gourmet heated tile floors or winding staircases...not nearly enough bathrooms for a family our size. bedroom space incredibly small and living space even smaller and in need of some incredible creativity.  but still...

but still...

that school tour was waiting and we finally managed to pull away from the house.  as i steered my car off the property i caught sight of the tire swing hanging from the front yard's massive oak.  that tire swing swaying in the february breeze felt like a little piece of home to me.  we have one in our atlanta backyard and i love to see it up against the green of summer woods with a barefoot child or two dangling casually from it.  

and i thought to myself, this would be a "what if" kind of house. what if we did something different. what if we stepped out of the norm? what if we waded into something unusual, something interesting, even something a little odd?  wouldn't this be the perfect time for it?  

i mean families think about it all the time, don't they?  

admit do too.  because we know life is only lived once and there's an awful lot to do. i've always felt that way.  so many countries to see and books to read and people to meet and food to try and children to hug and things to paint.  so much living to do.  do we want to spend all of it doing the same old same old. i don't know, maybe some of us do.  i realize there's something kind of convenient about staying in our comfort zone. 

but still...

isn't life really about bringing God glory? i mean that's it.  that's everything.  we spend our days thinking it is about us, but really it's about Him and it's His story.   and everything i know about God tells me He has big plans for us. all of us. He has stories to tell in our lives. big stories -- for all of us.  we forget that so quickly when we get caught up in the details of our day.  i sure do. 

but i believe it's possible that God wants to steer us down pathways to grand adventure, only we are so often afraid and hesitate. 

it feels so much more comfortable to stay where we are -- safer. familiar. known.  i understand that. this past month i've been wrestling mightily with those feelings as the idea of moving our family of seven 1000 miles across the country becomes more and more a reality.

just a few years back, we thought God was calling us to be missionaries in thailand. we were surprised by this leading but decided to spend 3 weeks in bangkok and chiang mai trying to make sense of this possibility.  each one of us, even the kids, felt God was telling us to expand our borders, our boundaries, our bravery.  we couldn't shake the sense that He wanted something more from our family.  it was making us all crazy. we talked and prayed about it together and we thought we should go... and almost did.  but then God clearly continued to tweak the plan and steered us in the direction of a special needs adoption instead.  

we were right about the international piece,  but just had it a little wrong initially.  it wasn't about taking six of us the other side of the world, it was about bringing one home from the other side of the world and making seven.  life works like that sometimes. i am finding, God works like that.  and we know without a doubt, it was exactly what He had in mind for our family.  there isn't a day that goes by where i don't look at bella and think of God's grand plan.  and perhaps there will be another time for thailand. who knows. 

and now again, He is asking something from us.  something way outside our comfort zone...way outside our nice and neat little niche. He isn't exactly asking us to go to the other side of the world just yet, but it is minnesota, and after spending a few days there, my kids would tell you it felt a little like another country -- perhaps another planet! especially when emily got a text from a friend saying it was 74 degrees in atlanta on thursday while we were making mad dashes to the car in hopes of not freezing our fingers off.  

regardless, we are going.  we are going to something new and different.  maybe something a little bit foreign and maybe we're a little bit fearful.  no doubt.  if i feel that way at 43, i am sure my kids do as well.  but we know God is going with us and He will use all this new and unknown stuff to stretch us.  to pull us into something possibly hard, but something which can possibly bring Him glory.  and isn't that it?  isn't that why we're here?  

i mean i know we spend an awful lot of time making life nice.  making life comfortable and cozy.  heck, i couldn't be more guilty. but still... what if?  what if that isn't God's goal for me, for my family?  what if He designed us for greater risk, for greater good? i have this hunch. i look at my kids and the spark in their eyes and i know, He has.  i see it in their youth and i want to recapture it in my age. but it scares me.  i can't deny the way my stomach begins to flip flop at the the thought of it all.  i want to hold what i have in tight fists and hunker down in this hole.  because i know it.  and i like it.  and it's mine. or is it?

view of lake minnetonka from the house!
i don't know if we'll end up buying the farm.  it's in the running.  we also came home with a few other options. one of my favorites is a lake house we could rent for a year.  a house which we could never afford to purchase, but could consider renting. this ridiculously large house on lake minnetonka would allow us to "vacation" for awhile and see where we really want to be and, what's more, it might give us the chance to host guests --  so come! 

initially when rick brought up the idea of renting i was completely against it.  we've owned our own home for the past 19 years...why in the world would we rent?  it seemed to go against my grain.  i argued with him that i'd need walls to paint and flowers to plant.  i knew i would need projects to keep me busy and connected to our new life. (i.e.,the farm) but then we saw this crazy romantic 1920s house on the water and i pretty much fell in love.  yes, twist my arm, but i think i could sit on that little yellow sun porch every day and look out over the water and write.  and that would be different too. who knows.  

what i do know, wherever we end up, i think it will be in something different.  though life is wonderful here in atlanta, i am not sure i want to replicate it this next year.  there's just this little voice in me saying, "do something different...go ahead and try."  we might not though.  i know when i write and share my thoughts here, there are some who will hold me to them.  keep me accountable.  and maybe that's good.  i am not saying we'll end up living in a tepee or tree house.  i am pretty certain we won't be in an igloo or yurt next year...but i do know we'll be doing something away from our comfort zone and our prayer will be to bring our God glory wherever we are. 

we'll try something new. we'll stretch ourselves wide. we'll figure it out. and maybe, just maybe, we'll eat a hotdish in our farmhouse or lake house or ordinary house and we'll give thanks for the God of this family ... of this house.

"look and watch--and be utterly amazed. for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."  ~ habakkuk 1:5

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

never a dull moment

i'm seriously considering changing the title of my blog.  even the sparrow just isn't cutting it lately.  too sweet.  too serene. as my friend, kelly, just texted me tonight, "too sedate" for this season of life. i am thinking more along the lines of  never a dull moment or the adventures of the swiss family mcnatts. i'm pretty sure one flew over the cuckoo's nest could work too.

today in the flurry of packing and preparing to leave for our minnesota mission(impossible), we found ourselves in the middle of yet another atlanta adventure. rick had flown out early this morning and the children were all home for a day off from school.   walking in with an armload of groceries, i promptly began shooing the youngest three kids out of the house and into the backyard sunshine.  "no tv today kiddos," i harped while herding them out the door.  "go play in the woods...the yard...the great outdoors."  (i wanted to add something smart [albeit, somewhat passive aggressive] like, "take advantage of it while you can!"  -- but i managed to refrain.)

i had just opened the dryer door grabbing fistfuls of clean laundry when my 11 year old began screaming from the yard -- like real screaming.  us moms know the difference between the pretend play and the preteen drama and the real live something is terribly wrong piercing cry of true alarm.  and something was, indeed, terribly wrong.  connor and sarah had been climbing trees in the yard and connor fell out....less than 10 feet, but on the way down his leg snagged a broken limb and it tore into his skin leaving a deep gash and a 5 inch laceration on the inside of his knee.  i can only tell you i have never before seen anything like it.  it was massive, wide open, with raw flesh hanging. we thought we were seeing bone. needless to say, it was well beyond what my mama kisses and box of bandaids could handle.  i didn't hesitate dialing 911.

my oldest daughter had already left to take tyler to a friend's house and was on her way to target when she got the call from sarah, "emily, you have to come home right now, mom needs you...connor fell and his leg is ripped open...and an ambulance is coming..."  just what every mother doesn't want -- her brand new driver racing home in a state of total panic.  but that's exactly what happened.  and what's more, as em pulled into our neighborhood, the ambulance and fire truck came blazing by her with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  my newly driving daughter floored her car and followed right behind the speeding emergency vehicles.  by the time she arrived home there was a police car out front, an ambulance in the driveway and a giant hook and ladder truck hovering. what a scene for her to come home to.

but back to connor.  the poor boy was white as a ghost and shaking all over, he and i both decided it was just better to not look at the wound but to hug each other tightly as he perched on the countertop.  the paramedics closed the gash and then recommended they transport the two of us to scottish rite -- our children's hospital.  i always marvel in the presence of those who are medically skilled. (i am unequivocally, not). when i saw this injury, i couldn't imagine anything short of surgery.  the doctors told connor it looked more like a shark attack.  they encouraged him to stick with that story...he might get some good mileage out of a tale like that.  connor couldn't help but smile, for you know, little boys aren't entirely distraught over their stitches and scars.  connor kept telling the doctors, "but it was only a small tree." he wanted them to know he is capable of much grander foliage.  

an ambulance ride, a trip to the ER and 14 stitches later and we are home tonight.  a little worse for the wear maybe, but relatively speaking, all in one piece.  we walked through the door and found signs of celebration set up in our kitchen.  the other children had gone out and bought their brother a bunch of balloons, some candy and a few toys from the dollar store.  connor hobbled into the house and took in the scene.  his smile told me it was nice to know how much he is loved.  since coming home, he's had three adoring sisters attending to his every need and a brother willing to carry him anywhere and willing to play anything.  i don't like one bit what happened today, but i have to tell you, tonight i am especially touched by the display of love demonstrated by my kids for one another.

all night long, i have passed the balloons attached now to connor's bed.  one of them says welcome home.  i read it earlier tonight and stopped with a load of laundry in my arms thinking, "but wait a minute, we haven't even left yet."  tomorrow is our trip to minnesota, and yet this balloon reads, welcome home.  and i kind of welled up with tears, because it occurred to me at the end of this emotional day, this house isn't really our home.  our home is the people in it.  our home is the big brother and three sisters loving outlandishly on their little brother is the mom and the dad and the dog and the whole entire wild mess of marriage and parenting and constant prayer...and as long as we are all together, we are home.  accidents and injuries and insanity and everything.  all of us together under one roof.  any roof.  any state.  any weather.

tonight, baby girl sleeps cuddled up close beside me and that superstar 11 year old sister, save-the-day-sarah, is sleeping just below on my bedroom floor.  she had been crying in her room earlier when i walked by...still rattled about what she witnessed today with her brother.  she said she just couldn't get the picture of that wound and connor's frightened face out of her mind.  i know how she feels.  moments like these make us mamas want to gather close our kids -- to hold on tight -- to clasp them hard and not look at the wound but to look only at each other and only at our God.  for that is what we do.  because, without a doubt, life will provide plenty of situations to remind us there is never a dull moment, we are always just a step away from the cuckoo's nest and we are absolutely well tangled in the adventures of a family, swiss or otherwise.

and we can be sure, even the sparrow has found a home,indeed...
atlanta or minnesota or mars...
we have a home.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

more minnesota

if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that i tend to use an awful lot of words to say just about anything.  my own dad even told me so recently: "geesh jod, it takes you a long time to get to the point!"  and he's right. i am well aware of my excessive use of the language. in addition, there is a bit of irony wrapped up in all of this extreme verbosity.  once upon a time, when i was a bona fide high school english teacher up in ohio, one of the my favorite comments on students' papers was, "be concise!"  i know a few of them read this blog and are probably itching to slash those very same words across the top of their former teacher's webpage.  oh how they might love to scribble those violent red letters..."be concise jody mcnatt!"  (and let's not even mention the lack of capitalization)!

some of you don't mind that i write of the feelings and emotion behind our daily journey...journeys...journeying. but i know there are a few of you who skim.  some of you who are looking only for the details.  the bottom line. the nitty gritty.  forget all this philosophizing and processing just want to know what's going on.  and that's okay.  i really am fine with that, i even had a friend tell me at a party she doesn't read much of what i write, but she really likes my music playlist!  i loved that.  it made me laugh out loud.  so many of you have also been asking how you can pray for us.  and so that is what this blog post is about...the bottom line and the begging of your prayers.  there! i said it.

tomorrow rick flies to minnesota to begin his new position with united healthcare.  tomorrow begins a brand new journey for our family.  for the next several months rick will spend his week in minneapolis and will commute back and forth on the weekends.  oh, i don't even have to tell you, but this is big.  though rick has had major seasons of travel over these many years of child-raising, we are a family which works best when both parents are all hands on deck.  we found ourselves outnumbered after two can imagine what five feels like.  though i have to say, emily's newly acquired license and vehicle are perfectly timed and an incredible blessing for the entire family...i, the primary bus and taxi driver, am especially grateful.  just today i remarked to my friend, meritt,  how having a daughter who drives has changed my life.  i am not exaggerating one bit on that account. it is huge.  anyway, tomorrow marks a big step...a big change for the seven mcnatts.  we will need plenty of prayer as we navigate these next several months finishing up the school year and selling the  house and planning ahead for a new life up north.  all of it makes me want to crawl under my covers and pretend someone else is in charge. but i can't and i won't...however, i am sure there will be days i will want to.  i know you guys understand.

the mcnatts house hunting
rick leaves tomorrow and then tuesday the kids and i will fly up to the arctic circle...i mean minnesota...and meet him.  we'll spend the week driving a foreign minivan around a foreign minneapolis attempting to navigate our way through some school shopping and house hunting. sound fun?  i have just finished printing off google maps for most of the minneapolis area and charting our course from place to place.  on tuesday it will be just me and the kids making our way around the great north...i'm feeling, at the moment, a bit kindred to jack london, lewis and clark as i think about gloves and hats and four-wheel drive.  mind you, yesterday, i caught sight of some of my children running barefoot in our atlanta backyard -- while rick was cutting the grass.  yes, cutting the grass in february.  tonight's dinner conversation revolved around what kind of coats we all owned.  coats? do we even have coats?  of course emily sees a shopping opportunity in all of this. i had to give her credit for her creativity last week when she  calmly explained to her dad what a terrible financial move this was going to be considering the high cost of winter clothing.  her argument: there is more material needed...therefore it is more expensive to clothe a family of seven in a cold weather climate.  seemed logical to me.  i, too, am all for shopping excursions.

so that's it.  those are some of the things we'd ask you to pray for our family as we navigate these next months.  go ahead and pick any one of those requests and we'd be grateful.  though it is hard wrapping our minds around all of this, we are leaving this week with some sense of adventure...a little bit of excitement.  it is always fun to see something new.  heck, connor is just so pumped up about the plane ride, he doesn't care what happens after that.  and bella came up from the basement earlier this afternoon wearing a bright yellow leotard with gold sparkles and carrying a small box full of her possessions.  she explained this was her "ninne-soda" outfit and she had packed her "stuff." so there's a little energy in the air as we prepare tonight for this week ahead.  i think what is clear to me is that the going isn't all that hard...but it is the leaving.  when we fly away from atlanta on tuesday, we'll be just fine...because next weekend, we'll be back.  but the real leaving in a few months...well, i can't really think about that right now.   this is nothing against minnesota...actually everybody we've met from the area has been fabulous.  and after our quick visit there in december, rick and i both dubbed it a beautiful city...and we think a nice place to live.  did you know they are one of the top ten cleanest cities in america? in addition, minneapolis, despite the cold weather, is the number one bike riding city in the country. and in honor of my shopping-crazed teenager, "the mall of america is the size of 78 football fields -- 9.5 million square feet."  i am pretty sure we'll manage to find some cold weather clothing there!

for those of you who like it,  the bottom line is this: God goes before us.  He goes before us in this busy week and He'll go before us come summer when it is time to truly leave.  i have no doubt He is already weaving things together and orchestrating the ordeal on our behalf.  just this week i heard about two moms who were both attending a valentine's day party in their children's classroom.  one mom was telling the other mom about a family of five she knew moving to minneapolis from atlanta, georgia.  the other mom said, "is this, by any chance, the mcnatt family?"  now that's good stuff!  these two moms both happened to know about us coming and yet didn't know the other gal also had a connection to us.  i keep telling people "we don't know a soul up there"...but maybe we do.  and surely we will.  and to be absolutely concise:  God knows.  and that is enough.
"the Lord your God is going ahead of you. and He will fight for you..."
                                                                                 ~ deuteronomy 1:30

Thursday, February 16, 2012

the little and big things

sometimes it's the small things.  over this past year i've clearly been in need of some pretty big stuff -- some pretty big physical healing, emotional healing...let's face it, mental healing.  you don't hear the diagnosis "cancer" and bounce back quickly.  no... that set the stage for a road.  a long road of hurt and then even a longer road of healing.  but in all of that big diagnosis and big hurt and big need...i found so often it was the little things which helped the most.

this month, though, we aren't dealing with cancer.  we aren't dealing with disease...but with some disappointment.  some sadness. perhaps even some depression.  with the decision to leave our home and our friends and our church and our school...all these things come into play.  i'd like to tell you that i am 100% on board and ready to go.  but i'm not.  i am doing better this week. better each week actually -- and i am working through it.  but it is still what it is. and the bottom line is, it is hard.  maybe you've been in my place before.  walked in my shoes.  i've heard from so many of you who have told me so.  who have confirmed my suspicions that i am honestly not the very first woman ever to have to pick up and pack up and load up and leave.  

i had the same thing happen after the cancer.  story after story after story shared.   the outpouring of your own struggles and sacrifices and sad things came crashing at me.  sometimes it was a little overwhelming, but mostly it was helpful and part of the healing.  healing to hear that others have walked hard roads...others have battled this same ugliness at all different levels.  i printed out almost every response.  every letter.  every note. email. inbox.  i have them all in an album underneath my bed.  my beautiful friend, karen, put together a book for me where each of my girlfriends took a page and wrote me something of blessing and encouragement.  this book is teeming with the words and handwriting of my lovely, loving friends.  some included a swatch of ribbon or a dried flower or a beautiful picture.  some wrote scripture and some wrote prayers.  karen brought me this book just days before my surgery. for weeks, i couldn't pull it out and read through it without crying over the sweet pages of its friendship.  that book is a treasure.  big thing or little thing, i'm not exactly sure, but absolutely a huge piece of my healing.

now with this move i am beginning to notice how, again, little stuff helps.  the funniest thing made a difference last week.  connor came home from school and pulled a spelling test out of his wild and unruly 3rd grade backpack.  he wasn't half in the door before he began to tell me about what had happened.  his teacher, mrs. pinkston, had put a minnesota vikings sticker at the top of his paper.  and that was it.  that sticker.  that little itty bitty circle of a sticker helped me.  something about it...something about her deliberately choosing that sticker for him, encouraged me.  mind you, i am not even remotely a fan of the minnesota vikings or of any vikings, for that matter.  it is the craziest thing, isn't it? mrs. pinkston is like this though.  she is a woman who listens to the whispers of God in the big things and in even the very small things -- like stickers.

this most remarkable woman has blessed my 8 year old in his 3rd grade year more than i can explain.  every year that we've had a 3rd grader at pcs i wanted this sparkly kind of lady to be their teacher.  but this was the very first time we "got her."  and i knew God was saving her just for my tender son, connor.  he hasn't been all that sure he actually liked this school thing...honestly, my boy would prefer to stay home in his filthy blue jeans and play in the woods.  he'd choose his bike or atv over mathematics any old day, counting miles per hour...not minutes until the bell rings.  and then on top of his anti-school attitude, his little world got rocked when i got cancer...and it was at that time, this summer, that we found out connor would spend 3rd grade with mrs. pinkston.  i remember being propped up in bed not too long after the surgery and just giving thanks for that very thing. small thing? big thing?  it was a huge thing for me.  it gave me such confidence to know if there was a teacher to encourage my connor, it would be without a doubt, phyllis pinkston.

and now this week my son comes home and can't wait to show me his sticker and somehow it just reminds me that it will be okay.  that it will and can be good.  i am pretty certain mrs. pinkston didn't pray over which sticker to put on connor's spelling test this week. she didn't need to go seek counsel from the church elders on the matter...  she just did what seemed natural.  perhaps she had to scrounge around or even shop for that exact sticker...i don't know.  maybe it was on a sheet tucked away in a drawer from 5 years ago...maybe mrs. pinkston is secretly a big fan of the minnesota vikings....but she found it and she placed it on his paper and she added a smile to his face and a little bit of encouragement to this mama's heart.  and i can't even explain exactly why...but it's true and it's there and it helped.  and i'm saving that spelling test.

and if you ever hear a little whisper in your ear or a little prompting in your heart to do something small for it.  would you just do it? don't shove it away and think it unimportant and too trivial.  maybe it is something big like this album my friend karen poured herself into....maybe it is just attaching a minnesota vikings sticker to a 3rd grader's spelling test.  doesn't much matter...but it matters much to the person receiving the gift...receiving the gesture.  big or little.. listen to the whisper of God's matters.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

a princess heart

three daughters.  some days that feels like a lot.  three girls. make up and hair bows and ballet flats everywhere.  three girls ranging from awfully small to rather tall...and all ours.  and just this past weekend 2 of them with birthdays.  i wish you could hear bella tell you herself, she is four and she is bigger and she is proud.  there must be a notable difference between 3 and 4 least in bella's mind it is vast.  and the oldest, emily, 16 now.  a sweet sixteen surprise party and a driver's license all in the same week.  what are we to do? how did all this happen? i look at her --look up to her these days -- and am left feeling a little wild.  wild-eyed and amazed.  amazed at the young woman she is becoming.  has become.  she'll hate that i wrote that, but that's okay, because this mother is absolutely, undeniably and irretrievably amazed.  it was, i swear, only yesterday when she was starting kindergarten, learning to ride a bike, snuggling on my lap, blowing bubbles, sounding out her words and scraping up her knees. she, all big brown eyes and a thick mop of dark hair and small.  so small. where has that smallness gone? 

it is hard not to feel the weight of mothering three females.  i count it a privilege, a gift, a treasure, a tremendous ride. i wouldn't trade this title or task for anything---they know that,  you probably know that too.  but oh my, there are days.  oh yes, there are days.  if you are parent to a girl, you know exactly of what i write.  you know the battle for their beautiful know the tremor of their tears and the passion in the possibilities.  you know the high heights and the low lows.  oh, you know the frightening sweetness of it all.

we celebrated this past weekend with a princess party for bella.  bella's ball.  one prince and several princesses were in attendance twirling with a small girl turning four.  it was complete with pink carpet, tiaras and some dancing.  a royal celebration to be sure.  and right in the middle of it all, right in the middle of the chaos and cake and crafts, i remembered a post i had written years ago....a post about bella before she was ours, before we had even met her.  december 22, 2009 " a princess on the other side of the world" (millions of words ago in this blog) was the christmas after we had begun her adoption.  we were only a few months into the journey and several close friends threw a party in bella's honor.  it was one of the loveliest things i have ever attended and it was all for her, a girl on the other side of the world, with absolutely no idea she was the honored guest of that evening.  the party provided a chance for rick and i to tell her story and to celebrate what God was weaving together in our family.  i was so overwhelmed with the beauty and hope of that night i came home and wrote about the princess on the other side of the world.  the one we hadn't yet met.   the one for whom we would someday throw a ball.  and we did.  just this past weekend, in fact.  life happens like that.  one day a dream and the next day a checklist of details and decisions. i can hardly keep up.

something else struck me this weekend in the midst of all this girl celebration.  in the midst of all this princess-y stuff i started thinking about how we desire to raise our girls as daughters of the King.  i tell my girls, each one, emily, sarah and bella:  you are a princess...a daughter of the Living King.   i want them to believe that... to embrace it.  but in this skewed and screwed up world, this is not always an easy message to teach.   as a mother, i battle the "it's all about me" attitude and the "take care of number one"  talk coming from every direction.  that is not what i want my daughters to embrace.   not just because it is ugly and worldly, but because it is not the real princess way.  in fact, it is exactly opposite of a true princess.

a real princess is regal and righteous and respected, but the goal is not self-focused, as it sometimes seems.  instead a true princess is surrender-focused...servant-focused.  oh, what a battle we fight! everything of this world seems to shout messages of entitlement and self-centered living.  i am not sure i was fully prepared for the bombardment and battle around raising girls.  it makes a mother want to scoop up her females and head for high land...or for some pure and simple country living.  i've even been tempted by deserted islands and remote, non-english speaking villages. however,  those aren't options at this point,  but staying on my knees is.  staying on my knees and staying in His Word, that is where i find the weapons and words necessary to fight for my girls' hearts.  when the whole world demands, "me first!"  Jesus is quietly and clearly speaking of a different way: "the last shall be first, and the first shall be last."  ~ matthew 20:16  could that message be more opposite to the words of the world? though Jesus came as King and Ruler, He modeled perfectly the Servant-King.  "for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  ~ mark 10:4.

Jesus came with every right to a crown and a palace and some jewels, but had none of it. demanded none of it.  needed none of it.  it is easy for us girls to get misguided about the things we think which give us our worth.  (boys and men, you are by no means exempt, i just happen to be speaking to the females here).  our true worth, however, comes not from our possessions, but from our position. it comes from being sons and daughters of the Living King.  psalm 45 explains,  "listen, o daughter, consider and give ear:...the King is enthralled with your beauty...all glorious is the princess within her chamber."  God is enthralled with us.  we don't have to fight for our rights or demand our desires.  He, as Ruler and King and Sovereign Father, has given us our worth and deemed us all glorious...and He, by His example, has shown us the glorious way of real royalty...the one who surrenders...the one who chooses to serve.  the one with a princess heart.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

a daring adventure and something

"life is either a daring adventure or nothing." ~ helen keller.  
when i was quite young, i carefully copied those brave words into my journal.  i copied the words and embraced the idea with a whole lot of youthful exuberance -- a whole lot of enthusiasm for the road ahead.  yes! that's it.  that's exactly it!  that's exactly how i wanted to live my life...i was approximately 17.

today, right at this very moment, right now at the middle-age of 43,  i am having second thoughts.  since those glorious teen years, decades ago,  i have somehow acquired a husband, five children and a sense of responsibility.  and though life is often quite adventurous in a household like mine, i, as mother, feel somewhat more sedate in this particular season.  the five children -- even the tall girl --well, they look to me.  they look up to me.  depend on me.  they depend on me for normalcy and  some semblance (relatively speaking) of peace.  they depend on me to smooth furrowed brows and iron out wrinkled days. they depend on me for bedtime talks and lunchbox notes and hands held crossing busy streets.  they depend on me for more than fresh laundry and warm meals...they depend on me for consistency. for routine.  for something familiar. for what is known.

i suppose over these past 16 years of parenting they have sometimes looked to me for adventure -- at least a little --picnics in the park and play dates and museums and movies.  we've climbed to waterfalls and we've ridden horses.  we've explored the woods and pulled slimy things from creek beds. we've white water rafted, scaled trees and gone fishing.  i once rode an elephant with my oldest son in thailand -- that was truly an adventure -- especially when the thai guide jumped off the massive beast to capture a picture for us and the elephant decided to peer precariously over cliff's edge -- let me tell you, there was enough adventure packed into that moment for a lifetime! possibly our biggest coup de gras adventure might have been braving multiple small children at restaurants with silver, china and white cloths on the table. ha!

but their daddy has always been the true bringer of adventure.  he is the trip taker, the plan maker and the special day organizer. he is the one with the surprise in his pocket or the destination in his mind.  i am the mother who smooths and irons and soothes and calms. i am the woman who tidies the kitchen and lights candles and butters toast and sweeps the crumbs so that there is a sense of peace in our not always so peaceful home.  not a glorious position in your mind?  perhaps not.  but i have to tell you, i wouldn't trade it for the most exciting and glory-full jobs in the world. it might not always be thrilling...but, make no mistake, it is most definitely breathtaking.

peace. in a home of seven, peace is not always easily found.  there is usually someone hunting for a lost item or someone hurting from a reckless word or someone crying or laughing or pouting or pounding or pestering.  because that is our life.  large and out loud. it might, very well, be your life too.  and what are we to do, but jump in and jump high and kneel low each day.  kneel low in the knowing we aren't equipped, but we are encouraged.  we aren't always ready, but we are most always willing. there's a piece of art which graces our kitchen.  it sits just above my messy kitchen desk:

when life is particularly loud and unbelievably loose, i read those words. sometimes right out loud in the midst of the breakfast chaos i recite them.  i have stopped just short of striking a yoga pose on my kitchen floor and chanting.  can you imagine?  i'm sure my kids would pay me little attention and only step over my strangely serene body in search of their mini-wheats or bagel.

but back to that grand adventure.  as i wrote earlier, i have always had a taste for it, but i am going to let you in on a little secret: it is just a little bit fragile at the moment.  i am sure this is due to the fact that our family is, like that elephant in thailand, teetering on the precipice of another major life change...another grand event...another daring adventure.  if you haven't heard by now, we are moving all seven of us across the country.  trading atlanta for minneapolis. georgia for minnesota.  warmth for cold.  green grass for snow.  we are trading all things familiar for all things foreign.  seems almost impossible as i type that.  i still feel a bit as if we are talking about an extended vacation, not a total relocation. i still feel like we are talking about someone else's family, surely not the mcnatts.  but that is the plan.  rick was offered a great opportunity with unitedhealth group and after much deliberation and prayer and angst and tears and flat out wrestling...we have decided to go.

this move may very well have a touch of adventure and the taste of excitment, but it won't happen without great loss and some sacrifice.  are those words too dramatic?  maybe.  it's not like we are the ingalls family heading west in a covered wagon with only our dog and a shotgun for protection.  it's not like we are a missionary family heading to a land far and foreign. (well,  on second thought...)  we are only going to the midwest.  and we truly don't want to make it more than it is. but it is something.  and with five children ages 4 - 16 it cannot help but be something big.  it will have its bumps.  there will be more things to smooth, sooth, straighten.   more tangles to unravel.  more wrinkles to iron.  certainly more to do as we set up schools and doctors and friends and bedrooms and routines and life -- again.

we came to georgia 13 years ago.  we didn't plan to stay this long.  but it has become home and the people have become family.  we have raised our babies here.  it is all they know.  and they are known. and there is something strong and solid and deep in that being known.  there is hardly a place we go in our area where we don't run into someone we know.  someone who knows us.  someone who knows our story.  someone who even knows our struggles.   what will it be like to live anonymously in a brand new city?  i simply cannot imagine.   

our school and our church are so tangled in our lives it will take nothing short of a tearing to remove ourselves from the embrace of these people.  these people we love.  these people who have loved us so well.  especially after the past year and half we've had...  you know what i am writing here.  these friends, this community rallied around us in the adoption of bella in the most incredible way.  they cheered us all the way to china and back.  when we were frustrated or fearful, they held our hands and wrote us notes and gave us hugs. they continue to love her as their own.  she runs through the halls of our church and school and hugs one friend after another.  okay, enough on that ...hard to write through the tears.  and then only 9 months later came the cancer and another opportunity to be buoyed by the amazing love of these same friends.  we were so in need...and our needs were so well met.  it is not without fear and sadness that i think of leaving this support.  this love. oh...there is so much more i could write... perhaps more on that later.

i have wrestled mightily with God on this new direction.  believe me...i have asked the question:  Lord, what are you doing with us?  you stretched our family wide when we took steps of faith toward a little girl far stretched our family wide when you took away my are stretching us wide, now once again...taking away the comfort of a well connected family.  i am not sure where He is headed with us...but we will go.  and though it is not without heavy hearts...we will embrace the daring adventure...once again.