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


Sharon Murawski said...

Jody, I'm Beth LaHaise's Aunt Sharon and I love reading your blog. Take the leap and buy the farm. In 1986 we bought 23 acres in Medina, Ohio and built one from scratch. Best decision ever.
Our children have wonderful memories of their years on "Buttercup farm". Our daughter had a pet goat that became the High School mascot. His name was "goatey" because none of us could think of a name. Our Son who was Connor's age came home on the bus the last day of school with 12 laying chickens that the teacher offered him and we had a dozen eggs every day. No need to adopt a cat, they just find their way to red barns. The kids were in the loft with baby kittens, lots of hay rides and hay fights. We had four horses and we bred one of the Mares. The kids witnessed the birth of a little filly we named "Star" and saw her stand for the first time on her wobbly long legs. We had an herb garden and a large enough vegetable garden to share with friends, woods to explore, wild flowers to pick, a two acre pond to swim in and ice skate on in the winter and a fire pit for those wonderful starry nights. Sorry I didnt mean to go on so but all the wonderful memories came flooding back when I saw the barn. Your kids will have memories for a lifetime. Best of luck with your move. Sharon Murawski

Aus said...

Wow - ya know - moving to a place like Minn will be an adventure no matter where you live!

And it really doesn't matter if its the rental at the lake or the farm...

because it will be like no place you've ever lived!

So - no suggestion on which to choose - but simply a suggestion that you choose something drastically different than the 4 bedroom 3 1/2 bath traditional 2 story!

hugs - and while I "get" your angst / trepidation - I also get the excitement and joy - and I'm happy for you guys!!

hugs - aus and co.

jodymcnatt said...

sharon ~ i loved reading your comment. i loved how your words were flooded with good memories and idyllic images. i could almost see it all pouring right out of your yesterdays. thank you for sharing all of that. without a doubt, there is something special about farm life... waiting on the Lord and HIs direction.
and aus ~ as always, thank you for your comment too! i so agree...wherever we land, it will be different. the center of His will, that's what we really want. blessings. j