Friday, March 30, 2012

brown eggs and in charge

we were just making eggs, the littlest one and me. that's it -- scrambled eggs.  i had let her crack one over the blue ceramic bowl.  but it didn't go entirely well and i was in a bit of a hurry to whip up these eggs before my lacrosse playing son had to run out the door for an evening practice.

"no bella, just one.  let mommy do the rest.  you can watch."  
bella promptly brushed aside my hand and my answer, cutting me off with, "okay, okay, okay.  wait, i have an idea, mom.  w'ere both in charge!"
i stopped in mid-crack.  did she really just tell me "we're both in charge." and without waiting for my response, bella had another egg in her hand poised and precarious over that blue ceramic.
"whoa...wait one minute little miss," i explained, carefully taking the egg from her tiny hand.  "we're not both in charge. not at all.  not one bit.  mommy is in charge here." 
scooping her off the battered kitchen stool, i sat us both on the floor.  the great egg rush suspended for the moment.  little miss and i had some things to discuss.  a few things to get straight.  a couple of things to clear up.

the eggs would wait.

later that night, i was laying in bed, thinking about her little assertion over those brown eggs.  "i have an idea -- we're both in charge!"  and of course i laughed.  and of course i thought her both brilliant and beautiful and a little bit bad.   but what really struck me is how often i live my life just like this.  poised with fragile egg over  blue bowl and impishly telling my Father, "we're both in charge."

does He ever get tired of my ideas?  ever get tired of my strong assertions and immature demands for control? i truly must wear Him out with how, day after day, i try to step up alongside Him and take charge, take control.

"trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him
and he will make your paths straight."   ~ proverbs 3:5 - 6

so i have memorized that verse countless times -- as a child, a teen, as an adult.  over and over again, i have committed those words to my memory...attempted to write them on my heart, even desperately scribbled them out on a 3x5 card and taped it to my dashboard or refrigerator door.  i certainly desire to live that way, but find it hard.  just below this well known verse though, is one more line.  a line which, in my estimation, really needs to be included when memorizing this passage.

verse 7 :   "do not be wise in your own eyes..."  

ah! that's it for me.  my eyes.  i see the situation and i want my way.  i think i am ready to hold alone that delicate egg, but that's the perspective of my own eyes.  i often forget how inept and unable and downright small i am in the midst of it all. i forget how limited my vision.  i am blinded by my way, my wants, my will.  and so, i too, on occasion have to be scooped up and set down a bit.   like bella, i need to be set straight on the matter of who exactly is  running this show.

so bella and i talked on that dirty kitchen floor one evening this past week.  she was quick to come around with her little southern "yes m'am."  "yes m'am mommy, i know."  "yes m'am mommy, you are in charge...and daddy and my teacher and tyler too."  (not sure why she threw in tyler, but, sure...okay...that works for the most part).

she's easy.  even with her four year old strong will, she's nothing like her rebellious and broken mama.  me?  sometimes i think i am a lost cause.  hopeless and hard-headed.  trying to trust in myself...attempting to lean on my own understanding ...acknowledging him not...oh so wise in my own eyes... and, ultimately, making a big old mess of that pretty brown egg.

fragile and foolish.  broken and sometimes slightly beaten.

but He scoops me up and  He sets me down... He looks me in my not so wise eyes and quietly takes what i cannot hold, whispering the words, "trust me." 
 again. and again. and again. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

standing in the gap

"i'm standing in the gap with you."  those were the words of my friend missy.  she may not remember, but she wrote those very words to me last year when i was going through cancer.  and now, just today,  she again sent that same message to me as a few of us are trying to help another family deal with newly diagnosed cancer.  but this time for a child.  yes, a child, a ten year old girl named bailey.  a sweet 4th grader just diagnosed with bone cancer.  they went to the doctor's last week to address what they thought might be a sport's injury and came away with cancer. cancer. 

bailey's mom, tiffany, and i did bible study together for a few years.  bailey and her brother attend the same school as our children.  we see this family of six at our church every sunday and are also connected with them in our community of adoption.  they adopted their fourth child from ethiopia and are waiting for a fifth child -- a little girl from china.  the connections are many.  and now this...this cancer.  oh how my heart breaks tonight to pound out these words to those of you who read.  but i desperately do so to ask for your prayers. would you take some time and pray for bailey? i am certain our heavenly Father hears. He is listening to the begging and pleading words of many.  just as my friend, missy, wrote to me earlier that she is standing in the gap, i am asking those of you willing to intercede on behalf of bailey -- pray now.  stand with us in this gap filled with fear and grief and utter bewilderment.

tiffany and i have traded some emails back and forth since this awful news.  we've decided there is no comparison.  i'd much rather take on cancer myself than know one of my children has been diagnosed...and she responded, but the fear of leaving children motherless is almost as bad.  who knows.  there is absolutely no comparing.  it is all hard.  hard. awful. gut-wrenching, bone-breaking, heart-shattering hard.  and unfortunately, our community here in atlanta and at our church seems to know these scenarios well lately.  so many of us are walking around shaking our heads and asking, "what in the world is going on?"

just last friday, friends spent the day fasting and praying for another loved one, laura.  a mother of two boys, who after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2009, has been battling once again.  a year ago the cancer came back -- violent and with a vengeance.  it has moved through her body and is now in her central nervous system.  laura and her family are faced with the hard decisions of treatment or quality of life.  there seem to be few good medical options for her raging cancer.  she has two boys and a husband who love her.  why Lord?

and then there's our friend tom.  tom has been battling cancer for 15 years.  this man seriously defies all medical logic.  considering how sick he's been and how far gone the cancer is, he shouldn't still be here battling....but he is.  God has continued, time after time, to spare his life.  tom has had so many different types of treatment and so many surgeries, he and his wife, amy, say they've lost count.  tom's daughter is in high school and his son, nate, will graduate 8th grade with our son this may.  

another family we are close to has also been blindsided by cancer this month.  headaches and slight cognitive issues turned into a brain tumor and surgery.  surgery showed malignant cancer in the brain -- stage four.  greg is the father of david and anna.  he and his wife, jennifer, were thinking about the idea of adoption a few months ago, not brain cancer.  oh we weep with the heartache and heaviness of it all.  it seems too much.

i first saw the grand canyon at age 14. that trip created a lot of memories as my parents, siblings, and i traveled by van from ohio to arizona one winter break.  add to that my grandparents came along for the adventure.  and because our van did not have enough seats, my dad strapped down aluminum lawn chairs for grandma and grandpa. my three siblings and i were left to roll around the back of our gray van from ohio to arizona.  all 8 of us traveling out west, day after day.  (i read a lot of nancy drew that trip).  and though i don't remember everything about the vacation, i do vividly remember standing before the grand canyon (finally!) and staring out over it breathless.  when you are 14 and cool, not a lot takes your breath away, but the grand canyon hit me hard.  i wasn't prepared for how massive it was.  it seemed we'd landed on another planet.  this vastness couldn't possibly be part of the same united states which held my elementary school and softball field and favorite ice cream store.  it was completely foreign -- belonging elsewhere, not before my small and somewhat sheltered eyes.  if you've ever seen it, you know of what i write.  it is almost too much, too great, too grand.

"I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall 
and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land..." ~ ezekiel 22:30 

and so my friend writes a note, pledging to stand in this gap -- this incredibly large canyon of pain.  and i think to myself, but the gap is so great.  it is so vast. so big. so beyond me.  i look at that gap and feel myself lost in its enormity.  but that is exactly what God asks of those who follow Him.  He asks us to stand in the gap for each other.  He asks us to be the bridge in times of trouble.  simon and garfunkel may have written about the bridge over troubled waters, but it wasn't their idea first,  it's actually biblical. it is what we are supposed to be doing for each other in times of need.  more so, it is what Christ does for us.  when He died on the cross, He laid down His life.  He bridged the gap. in fact, He closed the canyon.  He stood with us and for us and because of us.

standing in the gap means bringing pans of lasagna and bags of groceries. it means picking up the younger siblings and dropping off the dry cleaning.  it means cutting the lawn and carpooling the kids.  it means holding hands and giving hugs and, at times,  weeping in each other's arms.  it means praying.  praying. praying. it means going before the Father and interceding on behalf of someone unable.  i can tell you from experience, there are times in our lives when we are absolutely unable.  when cancer first gripped our family less than year ago, i was paralyzed -- almost unable to go before God on my own.  for a time i was speechless, thoughtless, frozen, numb.  i couldn't hardly line up my words to resemble anything close to a prayer.  and that was when i felt the prayers of so many going out on my behalf.  a chorus of words i couldn't recite -- not from my own lips but from those around me interceding for me. begging God's mercy on behalf of me, my husband, my children.

not one of us knows when we will need others to stand in the gap.  i was always the one eager to stand there for someone else...never thought i'd be the recipient.  never really considered i'd someday be the one in need.  we never think it will be us. i know that is what tiffany and her family are going through right now in these first weeks of diagnosis -- wondering when they will wake from this nightmare. and so i am writing tonight to share a little piece of her family's new story and ask for those of you who feel compelled, to pray for little bailey's healing.  the gap is great...but our God is much greater.

one last thing i feel compelled to share tonight...
all of these friends and families i've mentioned above, well, they share something more than the horrible "c" word.  each one of them has continuously and consistently pointed to Christ. in all of this pain and grief and horror, they have faithfully continued to glorify God and trust His sovereignty.  i wish you could read the words of their caring bridges and blogs and posts. each story is different, but they share the same thread of knowing God is in control, He is on their side, and He has not failed nor forsaken them -- not even in this thing called cancer.   

so friends, might you consider praying for bailey and laura and greg and tom tonight?  would you stand in the gap?

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Monday, March 19, 2012

the SOLD sign

okay, i have to admit, i am feeling a little silly now.  after posting that piece last week about selling the house, the realtor's last minute call and the imagined mad dash for the door...i am feeling a bit sheepish this morning.  the house sold this weekend.  yep, sold.  no realtor, no mad dash, no dirty laundry loaded, no smelly onions cooking, and no sign.

all that worry for nothing, right?  and isn't that so often the case. for heaven's sake, i sat down and pounded out that last post, "living cleanly," certain it would be my life for the next few months.  houses don't sell these days. at least they don't usually sell in a matter of days.  we posted some pictures on facebook and low and behold!  the first two families to come visit both presented offers two days later...with a third offer right behind!  sunday afternoon we accepted one and are now working through the details.  both were incredible offers, both were incredible families.

"but we never got a sign," connor said to me this morning.  you know the one he is talking about -- that big real estate sign someone comes and pounds into the ground of the front yard which makes the neighbors whisper and wonder.  "what is going on with the mcnatts? where are they going?  and why?" that one.  that sign.  somehow i guess to a nine year old boy this whole thing didn't seem completely legit without an official looking piece of wood out front.  and, of course i wonder, where will we plaster our big SOLD announcement? (thus my picture above). 

but sometimes we just don't get signs.  we all like them.  i sure like them.  i like to know i am headed in the right direction.  i like to know i am on the correct path and following the correct plan.  but that's not always the case.  since friends and neighbors have found out about our quick house sale, i am hearing comments like, "it's a sign!" one friend said, "clearly God is showing you this is the right move!"  okay, honestly i'd really like to believe that.  i'd really like to jump up and down and say "yes! see! it's a sign! now we we're sure, without a doubt, we are supposed to move to minnesota!"  except that it is still hard and there are still doubts and i am still feeling awfully fragile about the whole crazy thing.  so was it a sign?  is it a sign? does a sign in my yard or in my life make all that much difference? certainly gives me something to ponder.

if you are anything like me, than you probably also, on occasion, wrestle with the will of God.  i really do want to know what God wants from me -- from us -- from the mcnatt family.  i not only want to know it, but i want to be sure.  i want to be able to touch and taste it  -- to feel it deep in my bones and strong in my gut.  there probably isn't one of us who hasn't wished at some point for a direct memo from God on some thing.  but i have found in my forty-odd years, there are a lot of things i've done, decisions i've made, places i've gone, and projects i have attempted which didn't come with a crystal clear course.  they didn't come with a bold blueprint or an audible voice.  there have been times when it felt like i was just putting my toe in the water and watching the ripples.  times when it was just going on a hunch...and more times than not, on a wing and a prayer.  it isn't like we don't pray about it -- oh baby -- we pray.  we pray and we pray.  i know God hears these prayers and i know  sometimes He chooses to give us a clear sign and make it obvious and sometimes He just whispers quietly in our ears, "trust me. i've got this."

though i prefer solid wooden signs and easy to read roadmaps, i know that faith isn't about always knowing or always seeing.  it isn't about the tangible or the touchable.  i mean, God is pretty clear about His purposeful ambiguity, ironically, He tells us plain as day:  "now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  ~ hebrews 11:1.  i'll be the first to admit, i don't always like that.  i don't like that there are some gray areas in my my life.  i'd much prefer it to be all spelled out and laid out, so that i can, accordingly, plan it out.  but somehow i am pretty sure God knows this and even this is a part of His plan and design for me.

so we didn't get that sign.  but we did get the blessing of a house quickly sold.  and we'll take that.  this mother of five will accept that gift with grateful and thankful hands.  and though i am not sure if we can call it a "sign" or not, i do know God was in control of even the details of this past week. even the simple selling of our home is part of His story --  a God story and for His glory -- and on that, i am 100% SOLD.

"so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." ~ 2 corinithians 4:18

"we live by faith, not by sight."  ~ 2 corinthians 5:7

Thursday, March 15, 2012

living cleanly

"who can  ascend the mountain of the Lord? who can stand in His holy place? 
 the one who has clean hands and a pure heart..."  ~ psalm 24:3-4

i ran into my friend, lisa, this morning in the parking lot of whole foods.  i ran into lisa, her laundry and her large dog -- all of them sitting in her white suv on a rainy tuesday morning while a realtor was showing her home.  they had just listed the house this past weekend and today was their first appointment. we chatted for a few minutes about both of our upcoming moves before i loaded my groceries into the back of my own suv and headed home.

that's going to be me,  i said out loud to my empty car.  

in the next few weeks that will be me, with the dog wrangled and the dirty laundry loaded and the last minute basket of random ugly items collected.  i, too, will be forced to find a place to park my overloaded vehicle when the time comes to quickly vacate my home for an hour or so.  when a sign goes up in the front yard, inevitably, the hysteria level in the home goes up as well.  

and because life works in messy ways, that call from a realtor will occur right about the time when the children are all home and the dinner is all out and the chaos level is all consuming:

"hi there, mrs. mcnatt, we'd like to show your home today. would that be possible?"
 with the phone clutched against my ear, my eyes will take in the scene.  the onions cooking on the stovetop and my children with crumpled homework and their afternoon snack sprawled across every surface of my kitchen...
and i will answer, "of course..."
"good. thank you mrs. mcnatt,  we are already on our way.  actually, mrs.mcnatt, to be honest, we are in your neighborhood already!  but please, take your time."
and the panic will move through me as i turn off the onions and begin shoving dinner preparations back into the refrigerator. 
the youngest one will toddle into the room with a trail of blue popsicle dripping behind her and i will begin to reconsider. 
 "well..." i'll start to say.
"oh mrs. mcnatt," and ms. realtor sensing my hesitation, will cut me off quickly, "you see, my client is only in town for another hour and they really must see your home now...yes, mrs. mcnatt, right now.  mrs. mcnatt, these people are ready to buy."
and in my best dramatic form, i'll mouth silently and motion violently to the children to clean up their stuff.    
"yes... well, okay...we'll be ready." and i begin my full out sprint around the house.
"oh good, thank you for being so flexible mrs. mcnatt.  we've just pulled into your driveway."

and with the click of the phone disconnecting i will begin barking orders at my unsuspecting children.  "everyone listen to mama: go make your beds, flush your toilets, someone pick up these crayons, light some candles, turn on the lamps, hide your legos, fluff your pillows, grab the dog, vacuum the back stairs...who spilled this orange juice? why are there catepillars in the guest room sink? and what is this goo on the dining room door? kids! quick! hurry! everyone! now! fast! go!" 

it will be like a five alarm fire...all hands on deck...all of us running.  scrambling.  screeching.  stuffing things into drawers and pushing possessions underneath beds.  wiping down sinks and walls and windows and whatever... all at full speed.  we will pile into the car and try to count heads hoping everyone made it into the backseat somewhat unscathed... and then i will remember the onions still stovetop.  back into the house i will head, and then back once more to the car with our chaos and our confusion, and, of course, our pan of cooked onions.

how can we do it any differently? i suppose we could move out.  some families do that.  i am pretty certain a realtor or two might recommend it at some point.  but, for now, we are here.  and though our family is not altogether conducive to "showings", we must continue to be here.  as a family of seven, we must continue to live.  

a couple of days ago, i sat the children down and explained we'd have to live cleaner now.  "i can't whip this house into shape everyday at the last minute, you are going to have to be better about picking up your things, putting items back where they belong, making your beds, cleaning your bathrooms, that kind of thing..."  i rambled on and on, taking note of their glazed eyes and wary expressions.  they hesitantly nodded heads and agreed they could do this...and they can.  but, as their mother, i know that living cleanly isn't always easy.  no, let me change that, it is almost never easy.  especially when you are 9 and prone more to tracking things in then to picking things up.  no, this will not be a simple task.  our children are required to do chores and help around the house regardless of selling.  this has always been expected of them.  they clear their plates and load their dishes.  even the littlest ones know how to wipe down a sink or put away their laundry.  but... still...we are a busy, big family and we can't help but make a mess wherever we go.   we need help.  we need to be reminded.  we need to be encouraged. and we absolutely need be held accountable.  all of us.

and isn't it so like our walk with Christ.  in psalms, david asks "who can stand in His holy place?"  he wants to know who is worthy to be in the presence of God...who is able to ascend the mountain of the Lord?  and the answer is "he who has clean hands and a pure heart."  and don't we read that and sigh? don't we read it and wonder: how in the world can we do it?  how can we have clean hands and a pure heart?  we are sinners and sinful and constantly seduced by the ways of this world.  every one of us.  no exceptions.  no one can live perfectly pure and constantly clean.  just the thought makes me tremble. it just can't be done.  instead we will get that last minute phone call and find ourselves frantically racing around trying to clean up our act,  trying to pull it together, trying to stuff our sinful ways underneath something -- and it won't work.  it can't work.  because like those cooked onions on my stovetop, we smell.  sorry, but we do.  all of us.  there is no amount of scrubbing and scouring which can make much of a difference. 

i mean maybe it would be like moving out of our home.  perhaps if we completely removed ourselves from the world.  perhaps a monastery or a mountaintop or at least a deserted island.  maybe then it would be better.  easier.  cleaner.  maybe.  but, for the most part, we're here and we have to keep on living and there's no easy way around the mess.  at least not in my house and certainly not in my life.

and though sometimes the dirt and filth of this world and its ways makes me crazy, we are not without hope. God provided a plan through His Son. "cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."  i love the simple sunday school song..."Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow."  

and what's more.  we don't have to be kind of clean for this to happen.  God isn't looking for "good candidates." He doesn't judge us on our ability to organize linen closets or on our talent for de-cluttering kids' rooms. He meets us right where we are.  maybe even in the mud...the mire...the mess of our living space.

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth..." ~ psalm 40:2

so we do what we can, knowing, we can only do so much.  our hands are not always clean, but they are open and willing to be washed.  and this is how we live while sculpting a life or selling a house or seeking the Lord --  hands open and willing to be washed.  living cleanly, only because of Him.

"come near to God and he will come near to you. 
wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts..."  ~ james 4:8

(p.s. come see my house this week -- it's clean!) 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

burning bushes

i know bella is 4 and i am 40 something, but regardless of that extra zero, we have a lot in common.  though she's not even been with us a full two years, it is already obvious she is a mcnatt through and through.  i can see myself in her more each day.  the way she tilts her head to the side, the roll of her eyes,  how she tosses her hair, and then there's her absolute love of everything silly. i know she is watching me and all the rest of the family too -- and copying.  imitating. learning.  transforming into the person God has designed her to be.  more each day.  one of her favorite games to play is "running errands."  she'll grab her backpack, her keys and maybe even her princess phone and hop in her her pink and purple little tikes car.  i've even watched her apply pretend lipstick while chatting on phone with one hand and steering with the other.  i can't imagine where she gets this stuff! 

i am not just seeing the imitation, but i hear it as well.  lately, she has been using the expression "kinda."  she'll say to me, "that music is kinda loud...i'm kinda hungry...cooper is kinda fluffy...i am kinda tired."   i'll ask her if she likes her broccoli or cheesey potatoes or pork chop and she answers, "i kinda like it mommy."  i've kinda wondered where in the world this word came from and then recently i overheard myself talking.  yep.  that word is more than kinda mine and i wasn't even aware until i heard it coming out of her. funny (and scary) how our kids can sometimes act as our mirror. 

so the other night at bedtime we were reading through her little bible storybook.  one story after another and she was taking it all in, listening intently until we came to the burning bush.  "mama, why is that bush on fire?" she asked.  i answered without thinking, "oh, that's the burning bush bella and that's really God in the bush."  i realized immediately i had gone a little too far, a little too fast.  "what?" she asked, her quiet face rapidly waking. "but why is God in the bush? and why is He burning?" she sat up in her bed, sleepy girl all furrowed brow and  wrinkled nose now. "why mom, why? why is God in a bush?"  on and on the questions came.  i tried to explain, best i could, but realized pretty quickly, i didn't have all that great of an answer.  how do you explain God's holiness to a 4 year old? i tried to move on to the next story, but for bella, the walls of jericho tumbling down just didn't hold the same intrigue as the burning bush.  even the next morning she came teetering down the stairs with her "lovey" and that small bible book dragging behind her.  "mama, why is God burning in a bush?" it was the first thing out of her mouth.  she was not willing to give up on this conversation.  she just didn't understand.

and she couldn't.  and sometimes i can't either.  sometimes things happen in my life where i feel exactly like bella with the burning bush and her little storybook.  "why God, why? what does it mean?  why did this happen?  why are showing yourself in this way?"  i stumble around clutching my questions and wanting my answers.  over and over i ask.  does my heavenly Father ever grow tired of my continual-need-to-know?  it is easy to be patient with bella.  she's four and she's pretty darn cute.  but me?  i should know better, right?  except that i don't. and except that i am never satisfied with the pat or easy answer.  i have always had this great need to understand things.  this great need to know.  except the older i get, i am finding, the less i really do know.

this blog has gotten me into some trouble too.  i have written of things over the past couple years which aren't always easy to understand or accept.   i've wrestled with a lot of it...and i know many of you have as well. i have a folder full of emails and messages from readers wanting to know how i can believe what i believe,  wanting to know if i really trust in God's plan as much as i say i do, wanting to know if i really believe God is in control of everything...all things...even the ugly bits of life --  even the cancer.  i've had people tell me i'm "in denial" ...that i can't "possibly believe God is behind this." i've had people write me, wanting to know how i might be able to see something like cancer or bella's heart condition as a blessing...oh this is hard stuff.  these questions  are all burning bushes and they blaze inside of me all the time.  i am always wrestling with the heat of my weak faith and the burn of my insufficient trust.

and don't think for a minute, the answers have been easy or the acceptance has been eager.  bella may trail her little book around the house and ask in her sweet voice, "why mommy, why?"  but my questioning has at times been much uglier, more violent, borderline belligerent.  last spring, shortly after the cancer diagnosis, there was a night when i went out began to rain...and something about the pain in my side (out of shape), the tumor in my breast and the pelting rain on my face made me well up in anger.  i ran and cried hard for a while.  (not easy to do, mind you).  finally i stopped and when i did the flood gates flew open and the sobbing began -- big, ugly wretched kind of sobs.  there i was just around the bend on buttercup trace and crying like a wild woman, calling out to Jesus and asking my Father, "why, oh why?"  why me?  why my children?  why us? why now? why are you revealing yourself in this way lord? Lord, i'm drowning in my fear ...Lord, save us!" i mean it, i let loose. anyone walking by me would have been certain i had no faith, no trust, no belief, no Lord.  they, at the very least, would have been certain i had no sanity.

exhausted and soaked, i finally got up from my curb and headed home.  and as i walked in the direction of our house, the rain never stopped -- no let up at all.  in fact, it grew worse.  but somehow, a tiny piece of calm began to open up on the inside of me.  a stillness.  i didn't see a light or feel the touch of a hand...i didn't hear a voice or receive some kind of supernatural sign...but a little sliver of peace began to grow within.  and i knew it was really okay for me to have had this breakdown/meltdown/sit down with God.  He was there.  He was listening.  He wasn't, necessarily, going to provide the easy to understand answer at that moment, but i felt assured He, nonetheless, held the answers, even if i couldn't hold them.  i felt sure He wasn't wasting this. He wasn't wasting my pain or fear or future.  i felt sure He would use even this very ugly cancer. 

my storm is so much calmer now. at least for the moment, the wind has ceased its violent blowing...but it seems everywhere i look i see dark weather brewing in someone's life. so many thunderclouds close by.  in the past couple of weeks i have heard news of one of my former students dying in a house fire, a hurting teen start shooting in a school close to my ohio hometown, news of two suicides,  news of a friend with stage four brain cancer,  another friend with cancer rapidly spreading, a teen girl who is cutting, a teen boy who is rebelling, a father who is leaving, a woman who is wandering, a family facing financial ruin...oh, the list goes on.  and some days it feels almost too heavy to hear...too much to bear.  and the questioning woman in me rises up again, even this past sunday morning while sitting in church of all places, and i want to ask, "why God, why?" 

and what i know is this.  we, like bella, won't always understand.  we can't always understand.  i am pretty sure God is okay with us wrestling and questioning though.  i think when we seek His answers we are somehow seeking Him, seeking His face.  and that is what He wants more than anything.  that is theology -- the study of God. knowing God.  knowing God better.  this verse puts the scale in perspective:

"who has gone up to heaven and come down?
 who had gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands?
 who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak?
 who has established all the ends of the earth?
 what is his name, and the name of his son?
 tell me if you know!"    
~ proverbs 30:4

God.  that's who.  God and only God.

there is so much in life we won't and can't understand.  we can make ourselves crazy believing we are supposed to make sense of it all.  we can even end up standing in a rainstorm and shouting wildly at God.  but when i read that passage above, i am reminded of how limited i am. the world wants to tell us we can have the answers -- even tries to tell us that we deserve them.   but then i read that and am reminded how very big my God is and how small am i.   my God who  is big and has big plans.  my God who is sovereign and has preplanned every step of my life.  some of you don't like that.  you don't like that God chose for this (fill in the blank) to happen.  but, i have to ask you,  is believing in chance or luck or coincidence or circumstance or even the devil better?  i don't know about you, but it doesn't make me feel better to believe something "just happened"... even when it is hard and ugly i'd still prefer to know i have a God in total control.   doesn't mean i won't run in the rain and cry out -- doesn't mean i won't question and wonder and ask why. i probably will. but little by little, i'll come closer to God.  maybe not closer to always understanding Him or the storms in life, but to knowing Him better because of them.

"oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 
how unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  
for who can know the LORD's thoughts? who knows enough to give him advice?"  
~ romans 11: 33-34

"trust in the Lord with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding." ~ proverbs 3:5 - 6

Friday, March 2, 2012

chipped dishes and broken things

we were texting like teenagers.  i had to laugh sitting in the grocery store parking lot while reading my college friend's electronic words.  wendy was out purchasing new cereal bowls for her family of six. perhaps not truly a teenage type of conversation, but it was time.  the milk was beginning to run through the cracks in the ceramic.  20 some years of marriage and four children later, and wendy has cracked bowls.  i thought of what was sitting on shelves in my own kitchen cupboards. chipped bowls and plates and mugs.   the plain white pattern i had registered for 20 some years ago, myself, was pretty much gone.  maybe a rarely used serving piece or two left from those early days of marriage, but most of it broken or given away. it happens slowly.  but even the newer stuff has marks on it --  tell tale signs of things well used. time and children (and even husbands) will do that to dishes. those are the imprints of busy households.  households with growing children and rushing parents.  households with stacks of dirty saucers teetering in even dirtier sinks.  households which cram too much and too many into an already overloaded dishwasher because it is never not overloaded. and it always runs.  always.  one of the most often asked questions in our house is, "are the dishes clean in the dishwasher?" it seems i am the sole person who can ever provide that answer.

i could purchase us some plastic dishes -- that would be practical and prudent.  we've used plastic for short seasons with small children.  but i am always eager to bag it up and cart it off to goodwill.  call me crazy, but i love the feel of real dishes.  pottery.  ceramic.  even chipped china seems better than perfect plastic.  am i alone in this strange need for the real deal?  maybe. my mother was here from ohio just this past week.  my mother and her china teapot.  yes, that's right, she travels with her own china teapot.  her tea "tastes better that way," she tells me.  seriously, i kind of teased her about it this week, but i suppose i might very well someday travel with a china teapot of my own!

as i have been thinking about readying our house for the real estate market, i can't help but start making this little mental inventory of our stuff.  our walls and floors and things.  i am noticing irregularities which i hadn't bothered with before.  we have a lot of chipped corners, smudgy fingerprints and dented floors.  a couple of nights ago, i dropped an earring near our family room couch and while i was down on all fours hunting for it, i came eyeball to eyeball with the hardwood floor underneath the end table.  dents everywhere.  little nicks and black marks all over the place.  how many times had that table and lamp come crashing down on this particular place? countless.  the battle wounds and scars clearly tell the story of reckless boys running or wrestling.  the lamp on the table has a nice chunk out of it as well.  "and this is our life," i thought to myself with found earring in hand.  these little cracks and dents are the words of our story.  part of me wondered how would i fix them and part of me wondered how will i leave them.

we have a back door which won't shut perfectly tight.  it is kind off kilter from too many kids coming in and out too many times.  just a few weeks ago our oldest two were chasing each other in their utter teenage silliness and emily slammed the door to escape her brother, tyler.  that was it.  that slam was the final nail in that back door's coffin, it hasn't set straight since.  perhaps a nuisance, but also a memory of two teens laughing uncontrollably in my kitchen while i sliced mushrooms and did my best to yell over the din of their sibling fun, "settle down you two!"  and the kitchen floor surrounding that door is no better.  i am not sure what the life expectancy of hardwood floors is, but ours has definitely seen better days.  and i do my best to forget it is not even that old.  the wood was sanded and stained and refinished only 5 years ago, how can it possibly look like this? how can it look so original,  so rustic, so pioneer?  life.  that's how.  life has been lived in this kitchen.  how many thousands of times has our family walked this wood many hundreds of guests have gathered here?  and of course we wouldn't change this.  i love pretty hardwood floors as much as the next gal, but these floors were made for walking and visiting and spilling and dancing and yes, even denting.  they are nicked and scuffed and most of the time dirty, but they are evidence of life lived fully.  they, too, are the paragraphs and pages of our story.

i could go on and on.  room by room.  the list of flaws would be a mile long...(perhaps i should hope any potential buyers are not reading this post).   oh well, if that is the case, what i will tell you is you are getting a home which has been well used, but well loved.  as much as i enjoy the special touches of decorating and design, i have never attempted to create a museum, but a haven.  never a showroom, but a sanctuary.  i have always wanted my house to be a place in which my children and husband might find a sliver of peace. a safe place to return.  a warm place to enter.  a wonderful place to belong.  dirty woodwork and smudged windows perhaps, but love, the truest stain of our family.  

yes, i could go on and on, but you know exactly what i'm talking about.  chances are, you have chipped dishes and broken things in your home too.  that is part of life.  heck, if you really think about it, some of us are kind of broken and chipped ourselves.  i know this past year has brought its share of scars and marks on the mcnatts.  when you desire to be the real deal, that happens.  nothing stays perfect and pristine when well used.  but do we want to stay up on protected shelves, high and out of reach? i don't think so. 

cracked and broken and bent and scuffed...but loved.  our cereal bowls and saucers... our floors and doors and walls and woodwork...all of it touched by love.  all of us, not absolutely perfect, but loved absolutely.
the old white pitcher on the constantly toppled end table has been glued
back together countless times - a piece of the handle now officially missing.

"do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal... for where your treasure is, there also will be your heart." 
 ~ matthew 6:19 & 21

my favorite bowls ever ~  an anthropologie find. 
wendy's new cereal bowls.