Wednesday, August 22, 2012

hands open

she and i sat in the car.  me clutching the steering wheel.  she clutching her hands in the passenger seat.  both of us in tears. i hadn't seen her cry like this since the rare temper tantrums of toddlerhood.  she's not a crier, this girl.  but today, sitting in the parking lot of the local garden shop, my 16 year old daughter sat sobbing.  "i can't do this mama, i just can't do this. you are asking too much. why are you and daddy making us do this? why? why? why?"  that's what she screamed at me.  that scene took place about a month ago.  we were still in atlanta.  just days before leaving for minnesota.

and really, what could i say?  i sat there wracking my brain trying to do my mother-best:  trying to come up with the perfect combination of words, trying to sooth the thrashing emotions of my teen girl,  trying to battle my own similar feelings.  i laid my head on the steering wheel and quietly prayed. desperately prayed. i had nothing.  sometimes we just have nothing.  we sat in our separate seats for a bit, not saying anything at all.  strangely enough, a mom and her son from our church, pulled up and parked alongside us in their minivan.  i kind of made eye contact, but turned away fast.  the moment was too raw and i wasn't able or willing to share it with anyone.  i needed a sign on my window,  like those "baby on board" signs.  except this one needed to read:  "danger --volatile teen and fragile mother." and that's how we sat. volatile and fragile in our front seats and in our sadness.

"emmy, i don't have any easy answers.  i don't know how to tell you to get through this.  i don't know what it's going to be like in a week, a month, six months...i just don't.  i know you are 16 and leaving everything behind...and i can't even wrap my mind around what that must feel like right now."  she continued to cry.  i continued to pray. we sat a little longer. my words only inadequate. my mothering feeling so futile. finally, i climbed from the car and headed into the garden center.  "i'll be right back." i knew she had no desire to accompany me down the colorful aisles of annuals and perennials.  i closed the door quietly, watching her body slump against the passenger window.

i was at the store attempting to purchase glazed pots for some friends.  i wanted to give the ladies who were hosting our going away party something special. i had decided on choosing different beautiful pots and filling them with ivy from my yard, wanting to give them something they could take home and plant in their own backyards --a little piece of the mcnatts or something like that. at this point, with only a few days left before leaving georgia, i wasn't really sure what i was doing.  this errand happened in the midst of movers at our home and suitcases in our backseat and piles of loose ends to wrap up.  we were all over the place.  of course emily and i sat crying in the car, we were a wreck.  all of us emotionally wiped out.  we had had friends stopping every day that week to give hugs and say goodbyes.   blurry-eyed in my shopping, i was tempted to go curl up on the garden bench in the far corner of the store and drift away to the soothing sounds of the water features nearby.  couldn't i pull a rip van winkle and sleep my way through these next few days of yuck?

the gal at the checkout was cheerfully attempting to sign me up for the garden club card. "no thank you," i said.  "oh, but you can save this much money if you sign up now...." "no thank you," i said again.  "it will only take a few minutes, mam," she rattled on, "all you have to do is..."   i cut her off abruptly and said with all the restraint i could muster,  "i don't want the club card, we are moving to minnesota in 2 days. it snows there." i had this sudden urge to pull her out from behind the counter and drag her to my car, pointing at emily, "do you see my daughter?  see. look. look. look at her.  this is what i'm dealing with.  i don't care about the lousy garden club savings card (which wouldn't work in minnesota anyway)....the garden club card won't fix this."  instead, i gathered my arms full of planters and soil and headed (without, you'll be glad to know, the cheerful clerk in tow) for my suv.  my arms were full.  i was anxious to get home and dig up pieces of my yard and arrange it in these beautiful pots.  and that's when it hit me.  i had something to do.  it was in this doing, that the pain of leaving lessened -- at least a little. and i knew this message was whispered in my ear for me and for my daughter and for right now.

i climbed back into the car.  "em, i still don't know how we are going to do this.  i don't have a really good game plan, honey, but i just had this thought while i was checking out and i wanted to tell you one thing i do know."  she eyed me suspiciously.  she knew well enough where this was going.  my kids get nervous when they know i have something to say. i took a deep breath and began, "we have to serve our way through it. that's what we have to do.  we have to take our eyes off ourselves and our own sadness and see a place to serve someone else." she sat, with her red rimmed eyes, watching me.   i explained to her that's the only thing i knew to work. and it's true.  i thought back to some of our more recent struggles we'd had...that's what really helped me cope with some of the hard stuff...doing something for someone else.  it sounds kind of elementary...sounds kind of sunday school-ish, right?  but it works.  when you are feeling low and left behind, when you are feeling sad and sullen, useless and used, broken and battered...serve someone else.  if we keep our eyes on our own pain, we stay there. we camp out. we dig deeper into the black pit of our despair or discouragement.  we just do.  it's our human nature.  but if we can push through it for small moments at a time, busy our hands and open our eyes to the need of another, we somehow start the healing process in our own hearts.  i don't really understand it.  i don't.  it doesn't exactly make sense to me, but i know it works and i know it's what Jesus would do. i'm not saying it's natural for our sinful selves.  and i'm sure some of you are reading this and thinking me unsympathetic and highly unrealistic with my girl.  but it was all i had.  all i knew.  all i could give her at that moment in that garden store parking lot.

gathering pots and soil and plans in my arms, triggered these thoughts.  but, of course, it is easier for me.  as a mother of five, i always have something to do, someone to serve, somewhere to invest.  that kind of goes with the territory.  but it's not just about being busy or involved.  it's truly about doing something for someone else.  it's about seeing someone else's pain and struggle and being willing to shift the focus of our eyes.  it's about taking our hands off of our own problems and putting them around someone else's need.  i'm sure emily worried for a brief moment that when i backed the car out of the garden shop i might head straight for a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, but we went home.  we went home and unloaded those pots and that soil and i dug up the ivy from my yard and arranged it all.  i thought of the friends to whom i would be giving these pots.  i thought of the women who had invested all these years in me and who were planning a party in our honor.  i thought of these friendships as i dug out the roots and arranged the variegated plants in pretty pottery.  these women and me, we shared the history of serving each other.  warm dinners brought...children exchanged...laundry folded...library books dropped off.  in this group there were women who have fed my kids, watched my babies, driven me to appointments, taught me to knit, vacuumed my home, helped me design, journeyed with us through bella's adoption, vacationed with our family, prayed with us, brought flowers, changed my bandages.  two of them had even helped me sneak into a closed off dressing room in wal-mart to change an uncomfortable sports bra at midnight last summer after my surgery.  (long--and very, very funny--story).  these are women with serving hands, serving hearts.

in that last week before the move, i went to dinner with these women and few other close friends for a final, intimate goodbye. these treasured friends and i shared a wonderful evening together.  at this dinner, the girls gave me a bronzed cast of open hands.  how perfect.  no explanation was needed when i opened up my gift.  my friend, karen, said, "you know what it means."  and i did.  open hands.  hands willing to serve, hands willing to receive, hands willing to give, hands willing to let go.  not fists clenching, but hands wide.  it was a wonderful symbol of what our family needed to do as we left atlanta.   it was also a wonderful symbol of what my friendship with these ladies was all about.  and it is a perfect representation of who we, as believers, are because of our God.  wide and un-clutching.  receiving what He has given and open handed in giving it back to others.  one friend thought it looked liked the perfect bowl for m and m's  -- and that works too!  i have this bronze cast on a shelf in our great room right now. i look at it each day and am reminded of my beautiful friends and their beautiful encouragement.  we are here to serve.  we are here to be open.  we are here to receive.  and we are here to give back.  it doesn't make every part of everything easy.  we still sometimes sit in our rooms with hands clenched and bodies curled up.  we will sometimes sit in the front seat of our cars and cry.  there's still no easy answer for me to give emily or any friend going through something painful, but the reminder of these open hands keeps us aware of what God wants to do with us when we are willing.

last sunday marked our third week in minnesota and our family threw a party.  we hosted tyler's freshman class and their parents in our home for a back to school BBQ.  kind of funny, huh?  i'm not sure that is exactly the idea of serving which God whispered into my ear that day in the garden shop...but it sort of is.  we went outside of ourselves and outside of our comfort level and we opened up our home to about 100 strangers. it was a beautiful evening getting to know these new families. and most importantly, guess whose idea it was to host this party?  emily's. 

 "but you shall open your hand to him and lend him 
sufficient for his need, whatever it may be."  ~ deuteronomy 15:8

em made and hung this sign for her brother and his new classmates

some of the kids from ty's new class at southwest christian high school -- even cooper got into the picture!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

what sad moments make you do

"there's our house, mama!" as if surprised, bella shouts this out from her car seat. we were ready to pull into the driveway and it was, indeeda surprise for me to hear this come from her mouth. it was the first time she had called it "ours."  just a few days ago, while walking across the yard, she looked up at me and said, "i want to go our old house." well, there you go. what's a mother supposed to do with that news from her four year old? she had been the one exuberantly happy and joyfully dancing around the new place. i wasn't prepared for this comment to be uttered by her lips...maybe another child's, but not bella's.  i was at a complete loss and so we just kept walking and i did my best to change the subject.

we are in the middle of our third week of minnesota living.  we are at that place where things are beginning to look familiar, where things are beginning to seem sort of normal.  i even ran into a mom i recognized, at the grocery store yesterday.  that was a strange, unexpected moment.  i guess that's going to begin to happen now.  we are going to begin to recognize people.  we are going to find a favorite new restaurant. we are going to begin saying hi to the same guy or gal working at the coffee shop or the cleaners or the pharmacy.  it's going to happen. connections are inevitable.

we are going to develop a new life here in this new state...but, i am still certain,  it's not going to happen overnight.  in fact, i don't even want it to.  i have figured that out about myself this week.  i am in no rush.  people are kind and welcoming and warm as can be...but there's just this room needed around the extension of our affections.  i fear that could come across as standoff-ish...but anyone who knows me, knows that i am anything but.  it's just that we need some kind of space to transfer life. it is the craziest thing ever, this shifting. as if we are caught between two worlds. though that sounds rather sci-fi, it is actually the hard reality.  we continue to think (all the time) about what's going on "back home."  emily told me earlier this week that whenever she thinks about what time it is here in minnesota, she always translates it into atlanta time.  (we are an hour behind).  i know exactly what she means, i've caught myself doing the same thing.

on monday, the schools we attended in atlanta, resumed class for the new year.  monday morning all of our friends woke up and put on their uniforms (or not uniforms) and off they went.  we saw the morning pictures on facebook.  we saw the smiles and energetic poses and new backpacks.  we saw the new beginnings and, i have to admit, some of us mcnatts felt kind of left behind. i knew this would happen.  i tried to prepare for it.  that morning, i found emily in the kitchen eating her bowl of cereal before volleyball practice and scrolling through the back-to-school pictures all of her friends were posting.  a part of me wanted to grab that phone from her hands and run fast for the lake.  "just don't look," i wanted to tell her.  but, deep inside, i knew even this looking was a part of the process.  she had to look.  she had to pass through even this lonely part of the leaving.

that same morning, i put tyler on a bus headed for wisconsin.  yes, wisconsin. (you have no idea how strange that is to actually type. i haven't even been to wisconsin). his soccer team was taking off for a few days on a retreat.  he texted his dad last night and said they were shooting shotguns at this retreat place (i'm not really sure what shotguns have to do with soccer, but, oh well...).  there's a part of me just wondering how my boy ended up in wisconsin shooting guns when all of his friends are sitting at home tonight working out algebra problems after dinner.  life is like that.  we move on.  life moves on. things change.

in a weird way, i think it's been a good lesson for us all.  we don't want to be left behind.  we don't want to be forgotten in the place we knew so well.  but little by little, we will lose touch.  we will have to work harder to hold on to the relationships and people we love.  we'll have to be intentional about keeping the connection vibrant and current.  i have beens so thankful over these past three weeks to get a quick text or email or phone call from a friend back home.  just a little bitty message has meant so much.  even bella got a video from her friends, mary henley and maggie, this week.  it made us laugh and laugh and laugh,  just to hear their cute little voices saying hello to bella and telling her how much they miss her.

my social butterfly, sarah, has been busy making new connections.  she's gone to a couple of days of volleyball and already has names and numbers and more hangout plans than a sorority girl.  she's just like that.  last night she came in from her tryouts and said she had a whole new group of girlfriends.  maybe that's easier when you're 12.  i don't know.  it made her dad and me smile though, because for her, it's going so well.  as she danced around the kitchen in her knee pads and spandex spouting out details a mile a minute, i finally interrupted her and said, "sarah elizabeth, you're the poster child for moving!"  she has been doing so well and we can't help but be proud of her determination to "make it work."  but i noticed last week when she was organizing her room and bathroom she had set up a plaque her best friend, weslieanne, had made for her -- right in the middle of her bathroom dressing table.  it is something weslieanne made for sarah's birthday, back in march, knowing she'd be losing her best friend to minnesota in a matter of months.  sarah has gotten here and has made some new friends, but i know she is still terribly missing her best buddies back in atlanta.  we're thrilled she's doing well, but don't be mistaken, that by no means suggests she doesn't long for her dear friends from georgia.  she, too, has seen a few pictures of groups of them together doing something fun...something she would be right in the middle of if we were there...those have been some sad moments.

you'll have to imagine that roaring fire...
but those sad moments make you stop and appreciate. that's what they do.  and maybe that's why i am writing this morning to tell you all this.  life moves on. it is quick and temporary and, even at times, kind of transient.  and we have to stop and appreciate where we are and what we have.  i know, i have to do better at this.   the pace of life as a mother of five often leaves little time for stopping.  i never stop.  in fact, i hardly stop at stop signs.  i mean, i do, but i don't like to.  and while i am there, i always fight the urge to answer a text or clean out my purse. i want to keep on keeping on.  there's always some place to go and something to get and someone to see and blah, blah, blah. (and it goes without saying, i am typically running about 5 minutes behind).   but i want to be better about that thing called stopping.  i have great hopes this new life up here in minnesota will help me with this goal.  if i can't figure out how to do it now, then perhaps when the snow comes, i might be forced to stop.  when we get snowed in to this lake house, perhaps then, i will have not other choice, but to stop.  we will light a fire in the fireplace and i will gather the children and we will make soup and bread and read stories and ...oh, oh, oh.... doesn't it all sound so delightful?  don't you want to come on over right now and hunker down with us all?  i just laughed out loud because, no, we are not there yet.  right now i have to put down my laptop and pick up my keys and head out to drop off one and pick up another and then maybe shop for some school supplies or dinner items! right now we have places to go, people to meet, things to do.   no deep snow. no roaring fires. no books or soup or bread.  not now at least. but maybe soon.  i tell myself.  maybe soon.

it is all very strange when life goes on without you.  very strange, indeed. but in a wierd way, i am sure it must be good.  it's good to know this is how it goes.  it gives perspective.  we are only here for a bit, right?  and we have to make it count.  this morning emily attended a funeral.  one of the girls on her volleyball team unexpectedly lost her dad saturday morning.  this father of four died of a heart attack on his 28th wedding anniversary.  we didn't really know this family -- keep in mind we've been in minnesota less than 3 weeks. but i did sit one saturday with him and his wife at a volleyball tournament.  he seemed to be a man who loved his life, his family and his God well.  even just in the hour i spent chatting with him between volleyball points, this man's passion and character were evident.  as i hear emily in her room getting ready for the funeral, i can't help but think, again, about the time we are given.  God gives us a specific slice of time in a place... with some people... and even on this earth.  how much are we going to appreciate it?  how often are we going to stop and take care of it?

i don't have any plans to forget my dear ones back in atlanta. and i know God will provide new friends here in the north.  i do want to use this time to appreciate both of them more.  but this won't happen unless i am diligent to work at it.  the pace of busy life often pushes hard against this desires of diligence.  most of you reading, aren't way up here in the northlands of minnesota with me, but wherever you are, do you require a little bit of stopping today in the midst of your busy-ness?   is there something God has intended for you to hold closer, see better, enjoy deeper this morning?  wherever we live, whatever we do, consider the gifts God has given.  count the blessings He has bestowed.  see the grace He has showered.  breath the beauty He has brought.

oh, and by all means,  don't forget to stop at those stop signs.

"seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually."  ~ 1 chronicles 16:11

Thursday, August 9, 2012

whatever it takes

i don't really have anything insightful to say this morning, but did feel the need to tell you all we're okay.  i mean the last couple of posts have sounded a tad desperate around the edges, right?  teenage girls weeping in airports, truck fires and traveling husbands  - oh my!  i reread a couple of my recent entries last night and started to have a brand new pity party for myself all over again.  except this.  except that we really are going to be okay.  we really are passing through it, moving past it.  we really are finding silver linings and glimmers of hope (and more importantly the closest grocery store)!  we really are.

we really are waking up today in a house mostly rid of boxes and mostly in place for these next many months.  we really are hosting a friend today for sarah and expecting tyler's replacement kayak to arrive this afternoon.  emily has plans to eat lunch with a group of girls and connor and i have plans to kayak together around the shoreline.  it doesn't make all the leaving better -- but it helps.  it helps that emily has hung out with a new friend from her volleyball team twice this week and it helps that the kids want to swim nonstop in the lake. it helps that bella lives all day long in her bathing suit and connor has caught a few fish.  it helps that the dishes are put away in the cupboards and i know where to look for the potato peeler and the windex.  it helps that the overweight golden retriever has been shaved and is no longer covered in burs or smelling like stinky lake water.  it helps.

last night rick came home from work and found me floating on a raft in the water.  he said it was the high point of his week...maybe even his month. he was tickled to find me relaxing with the kids instead of grimy and sweaty from a day of unpacking, painting and weeding.  keep in mind, the day before he came home to discover me pressure washing the eaves of the house.  doesn't everyone want to have clean eaves to their home?

we are all ready to be done with this transition -- at least physically done.  we know the mental and emotional transitioning takes more time though.  it is a different animal altogether.  it is nothing for me to organize the pantry or paint the boys' bathroom...but i have no control over the sadness deep inside my teenage daughter's eyes.  i have no control over my own longing for my best group of girlfriends to sit with me at water's edge with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. no doubt, i am busy with all of my domestic and motherly duties, carting kids to soccer practices and purchasing light bulbs and hampers and paper towels,  but i am sad too.  yesterday the littlest ones were playing "neighbors"... bella was pretending to be our old neighbor "miss paige" and connor was (told to pretend) to be "ryan", miss paige's son.  we dearly loved our neighbors on buttercup trace.  clearly, even the littlest girl misses them.  the idea of the children playing "neighbors" of course made me a little teary-eyed, but i have to tell you, i was really impressed with bella's coping strategy.  sometimes playing pretend helps. it just does.

this house feels a little like playing pretend for me.  we don't really belong here.  we are only renting this place.  i am reminded when i look out at the magnificent view -- it is priceless.  my husband reminds me often as he watches me paint or weed.  but i am a strange woman.  i cannot live in this rental without desiring to make it more like home, to make it beautiful.  the cheetah print wallpaper and cheetah print shower curtain in the boys bathroom just had to go! it wasn't negotiable.  the people who own this home, told us to "feel free to do whatever we wanted..."  i'm pretty sure they weren't talking about taking down walls or renovating bathrooms... i realize there are limits.  but still.

the other thing which is making me just about crazy is that the property is unbelievable.  there's a rose garden and flower gardens and gorgeous stuff everywhere -- but it has been a bit neglected. the owners live out of state and just cannot possibly keep up with it all.  as beautiful as the home and grounds are the weeds are a mile high. we have gone through 2 extra large containers of round up and we've only been here 9 days. the window boxes were filled with fake flowers -- perhaps perfect for a rental, but not really my cup of tea.  the first night we were here, emily and i had a hilarious time removing the fake flowers from indoors and outdoors.  by the time we had finished we had filled 3 large black garbage bags! (now stored in the basement).  seriously, we ripped out the flowers before we had even gone to the market for groceries. but it was worth it.  it was the first time we had belly laughed since leaving atlanta. 

tyler has taken ownership of the dock and shore area. he barely comes up for food.  seriously, the boy is smitten.  he goes to soccer each morning and then afterwards races down to the water and i don't see him again until dinner time.  he has "realigned" the jet ski lift (we don't have a jet ski) and he has "adjusted" the boat lift (we don't have a boat either).  he has sprayed weeds and cleaned out the lake and even sanded rough patches on the dock.   it is his way of coping. i know this, he is my son. 

i've been nonstop in the house and yard -- like i mentioned earlier, pressure washing the eaves and the patio and the gazebo.  i've planted flowers and pulled weeds.  it is all part of my strategy too.  some would call it putting down roots or nesting or whatever...i am not sure what it is exactly, but it helps.   maybe you don't understand.  maybe you wouldn't rent a home and pull its weeds.  i must seem a strange kind of bird to you if that's the case. maybe it's my way of playing pretend -- just like bella.  you might appreciate rick's comment last week when he found me underneath some hydrangea bushes, "whatever helps you honey, whatever it takes."  
the storm coming across lake minnetonka

and i guess that's it.  whatever it takes.  i know it takes more than making things pretty, it takes trusting in Jesus.  i am working on that too --  trusting His hand when i cannot see His plan.  that's what we are doing, little by little, each day.  there are lots and lots of nice things about minnesota and this new life here, but i sure wish we could have gone through it without so much heartbreak.  as i sit here and type this morning, there is sudden rain on the water.  it came out of nowhere.  in fact, just minutes before, a water skier flew by.  that skier must be out there on lake minnetonka, caught in the rain right now.  that happens sometimes.  we get caught in the rain.  caught in the sudden storm.  we need it.  we even want it. but nonetheless, we have to figure out how to deal with it. and we do whatever it takes.  we do the little things which help. and we trust God for the big things. and we pray and follow the boat.  we hold on tight through storm and we get through it.  little by little. bit by bit. 

"and let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all..." ~ galatians 6:9-10

hydrangeas hillside -- being choked out by weeds

proud of my pressure washed patio

midway point -- first had to pull a zillion weeds! 
much better!
cooper might actually get in shape running this hill between house and lake

Sunday, August 5, 2012

refined by fire or TURN BACK NOW!

i had a funny feeling about this truck from the very beginning. 
when it first pulled up to 815 buttercup i was skeptical. 
it seemed to stretch a mile down the street. the children and i stood at the front door with mouths open. eyes wide.  
the truck had come. moving week had arrived.  
"it's huge, mom!" connor exclaimed.  
and it was.  
huge and here and right out front.  
how many families were they planning to move to minneapolis anyway? i thought to myself. but i knew the truth: that truck was all for us. only us. one family.  just the mcnatts and our 22 years of accumulated stuff.

day by day, i watched them pack us up and then load us out. and all of a sudden that truck didn't seem quite so large. i watched as the men maneuvered items in and out, trying to get the best and tightest fit to our boxes and belongings. it was only 95 degrees outside as these men went up and down our sloped driveway with thing after thing after thing. and the truck continued to shrink, hour by hour by hour.

what does it say about you and your stuff if movers can't fit all your belongings on the back of a semi-truck?  
that thought began to shamefully cross my mind as i watched their tricky loading dance. because all of a sudden i was beginning to doubt this truck and its enormity. at one point when i peeked in, it looked kind of full...or at least close to full. but there was still quite a bit left in the house. the movers kept pushing back the departure time (and day). it was taking them longer than originally thought.  

while they began to apologize for the delay, i felt the need to apologize for the amount of stuff we had. box after box after box. the truck seemed to sag. the men seemed to sag. the days were so hot. the items were so many.

at one point, i thought i might be faced with the task of sitting on my front lawn and deciding between items. "this goes...that can stay...  take this...leave that...eenie meenie miney mo."  can you imagine? talk about a yard sale! free stuff! i know we are a family of seven, but heaven help us, where did we get all of these belongings? i'm sure the men trekking up and down my driveway had similar thoughts -- perhaps ones not quite so kind. i did my southern best to smile and offer iced tea -- trying to cheer them on from the sidelines. at one point, i even suggested they go take a dip in the swimming pool down the street from our house. 

they looked at me like i was crazy and kept loading brown boxes.

i am typically a rose-colored glasses kind of gal. "it will work out," usually seems to be my motto. but waking saturday morning, i began to have some serious doubts. it wasn’t working out. how were they going to get this done? it felt like we had been moving for forever. it was our last day in georgia. we had a plane to catch sunday and a going away party to attend saturday night. the house was still full of stuff and i had to clean it from top to bottom. earlier in the week,  in a moment of insanity, i had cancelled the cleaning crew, with emotional thoughts of wanting to handle it myself. i had had visions of me and my mop doing the cleaning thing one last time. i am sentimental like that. i actually wanted to be the one to give it a final once over --  a final good scrubbing and  a little bit of loving. 

however, as saturday afternoon came and there were still boxes and big men and stuff all over the lovely vision of a leisurely last cleaning began to crumble.  i desperately began to push stuff out of the way, trying to clean underneath. i found myself vacuuming around boxes and sweeping around big men. for a brief moment i considered asking them to remove their shoes when they came in and out...but that might have been a worse idea than a jump in the swimming pool. i refrained from asking and instead kept cleaning.

long story short...i had to leave for our party. the men were still loading.  around 7:45 that evening i drove back to the house for one last look, crossing my fingers and whispering prayers. the men had just closed the door to the truck. they were ready to leave for minnesota. but as i stood there staring at that truck, i had to wonder.  things were strapped to the front and the back of that semi. kayaks and mattresses and yard tools and untold things wrapped in moving blankets.  

no way! seriously, they were going to drive 20 hours northwest like that? i glanced around, hoping the neighbors weren't watching. 
the beverly hillbillies leaving atlanta -- yee-haw!  
i laughed when i saw they had even strapped on my old (completely, completely disgusting) broom (which i had every intention of throwing away before leaving).  it was like a flag...a banner...proclaiming our journey northward!  
“watch out come the mcnatts!” 

that should have been the end, but you know it wasn't. monday night after i arrived at the new house in minnesota, my husband called me. after escorting us to minnesota, he had to fly on to chicago  -- (timely, i know).  

"honey, are you somewhere you can talk? can you sit down for just
a minute? i have something to tell you." 
{that's never a good intro to a long distance conversation, is it?}

 "umm...yeah, what's up?" i asked.
"sweetheart, the good news is most of our stuff seems to be fine," he continued.  
my heart began to sink and my stomach to turn.  
"the bad news -- you aren't going to believe this -- but the moving truck caught on fire."

it was a good thing i really was sitting down. he didn't have a lot of details and that was okay, i wasn't sure really what to ask or what to say. he knew for certain everything on the outside of the truck had burned up. a couple of mattresses and box springs and other items. the worst thing we were certain of was tyler's new kayak.  he had just gotten it for his 8th grade graduation. the boy couldn't be more excited about moving to a lake and having his fishing kayak with him. he had spent the entire summer decking it out with gadgets and getting it ready for lake minnetonka. "they kayak is gone. melted from the fire. insurance will cover everything, don't worry."  

i hung up the phone kind of dazed. really Lord?  really, a fire? what's going on here God?  after texting my friend, meritt, about the fire, her response on the meaning of it all was perfect:  "i am trying to decide between refined by fire or TURN BACK NOW!"  

so, what does all this mean? the moving truck didn't quite fit our family. the moving week wasn't quite enough for our family either.

things were bigger and harder and longer than anyone had estimated. but life is kind of like that sometimes, isn't it? and often we really don't know it, until we are smack dab in the middle of something crazy like this. 

well, the next morning i had a brand new team of movers at my minnesota front door.  "mrs. mcnatt, we have your items and are ready to move you in."  i peeked around the six men standing on the front steps of this strange house. all i could see was a tiny u-haul in the driveway.  "uh, where's the truck?" i asked hesitantly, wondering if what was in that little u-haul was all that had made it -- talk about shrinking!   
the head guy was quick to answer, "oh, don’t worry mrs. mcnatt ..."
(i began to giggle, worry? me worry? why in the world would i worry?) 
"we had to park it at the front of your neighborhood in order not to block the road...we'll just shuttle the things from the big truck to the house, if that's okay with you." 
the company had sent the regional director to supervise the move from this point forward.  apologies were issued and assurances given: "we are going to do everything in our power possible to make sure this move goes smoothly from this point forward."  another giggle almost escaped. this had been one of the craziest things i had ever been through. starting with the first team of packers failing to show last tuesday when they were supposed to and ending with a truck fire en route. 

i thought to myself, "smoothly from this point forward" sounded good to me!

before showing them around, i had to ask, "well, is our stuff okay?"  the head guy spoke up again (clearly the other men had been instructed to do nothing more than smile and nod). "yes mam, we do believe most everything inside the truck is fine. today we are going to unload your items marked here for the house. tomorrow we are going to inventory everything marked for storage and we will carefully assess if there is any smoke or water damage at that time." 

as nice and polite as this man was, his answer sounded a bit rehearsed. but i am pretty sure he had driven to my house doing just that -- rehearsing. what man really wants to tell a woman who has just moved her family 1000 miles that her stuff was on fire or damaged from smoke and water? clearly, this guy drew the short straw back at the relocation company's home office.

i opened the front door wider, "well, come on in guys, yes, let's give this another try."  and i went to look for some sweet tea...


i found out later, it was this team of men who had gone to recover our items after the fire in georgia. the tractor had ignited and burned, so this new crew of men took their truck to the scene of the fire and hitched it up to the trailer full of our stuff...and then drove to minnesota. can you imagine that scene roadside? in a strange way they had rescued us and we didn't even know it.  

on that truck was a whole lot of stuff which could be replaced...but also on that truck was a whole lot of stuff which was significant to us: important papers and picture albums and various treasures. i hadn't held anything back. when moving a family our size across the country, it's not like we could load up our cars with the most dear things. we only loaded a couple of suitcases with our essentials, grabbed the children and barely dragged ourselves onto a plane bound for minnesota.  
everything else, absolutely everything else,  was on that truck. 

yes, this whole thing was kind of crazy and i am still trying to decide what it all really means. without doubt my friend, meritt, had the best response when she said, "i'm not sure if God is telling you to be refined by fire or TURN BACK NOW!" 
but yesterday morning, i woke early and sat with my devotions and my coffee and i looked out at the lake we now live on. i was amazed at the beauty before me. even in the midst of this chaotic week, God allowed me a moment of pure loveliness. how could i complain about even a truck fire with this view waiting me each morning?  breathtaking and full of blessings.

and it's not just the beauty of the lake view.  no, it is also the beauty we see in our friends. the beauty of our old friends checking up on us all week -- messages and phone calls. so many loved ones praying for us back home -- letting us know we are missed.

and there has also been beauty with new friends... one sweet friend, heidi, called and offered to pick up a box spring for us. she and her son loaded it onto their minivan and delivered it to our house so emily could have her bed and finish putting together her new room. that meant so much for my 16 year old. heidi also provided a bike for sarah to use (her bike also a victim of the fire). this week some friends, jerry and peggy,  brought lunch and dinner in the same day and invited bella for an afternoon of swimming. another family, the robertsons, took the kids on a boat ride and then out for some ice cream one evening. those moments in these past few days have been blessings as well.  
yes, without a doubt, it has been a very long week. but, once again, i realized we had our true treasures and we had little to complain about.