Tuesday, January 29, 2013

minnows and tutus

my last post was about boys and ice fishing.  power augers and adventure.

but this post is dedicated to little girls and dancing.  tutus and twirling.  

i love that life gives me both.  the boys.  the girls.  grand, messy adventures and soft glimpses of beauty.

i love that God, in His wisdom and grace and goodness,  has stretched me wide between oohing and awing over the the aerator my son hooked up in his bucket of minnows yesterday (bate)...and oohing and awing over the leap and spin of my little lass in her new tutu today. (compliments of grandma)!

i have to admit, sometimes i feel overwhelmed in this stretching:  boys who handle fish and girls who twirl in tutus.  (okay, truth be told, i have girls who handle fish too)...but seriously?  the gender gap feels gargantuan sometimes.  and the age thing can be a stretch as well.  the discussions in our home right now range from kindergarten to college.  whew!  one moment we are planning prospective college visits with emily and the next moment we are praying about sending bella to kindergarten next year.  and then there's everything in between.  

yes, the gap is great. 

but...it's all good.  it's all grace.  it's definitely God's design.  and i have to remember, if He is allowing this stretching then He's also designed me to stretch.  

so, back to that little ballerina. i snapped these one morning last week while she was just hanging around the house.  everyone else gone to school. i love these quiet moments when the house empties and the tiny girl enters her sweet world of pretend. i hang back.  watch. listen. and sometimes grab the camera.  this was one of those days.

* * *
tyler's minnows.  and the aerator.  in my kitchen.  i oohed.  i awed. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

thick and thin ice

there was a time when i worried about leaving him alone in his high chair.  a time when i had to buckle him into his car seat.  a time when i had to help him with his math facts and tuck in his covers. there was a time when i worried about him climbing too high in the oak tree or swimming too far in the deep end or staying up too late at a friend's house.

there was a time.

when we become mothers we are given not only children, but we're also given this extra dose of worry.  it kind of goes with the territory.  and though i would never consider myself to be an extreme worrier, i am not immune. no mother is.  it's just part of the deal.  we worry.  whether it is wondering if he is getting enough green vegetables in his diet or stressing over if he's studying enough for his final exams...as his mom, i am kind of along for the ride.

but there's this fine line...this delicate balance.  sometimes as parents, we are sort of skating on thin ice with our kids.  we know they need a little wiggle room...a dose of adventure and a good taste of independence...but we also know too much can send them crashing right through the thin ice of life.  we have to know our kids and know what they can handle and that, my friends, takes a lot of work and even more energy.  i want my boys (and my girls, for that matter) to have my support and encouragement along the way.  i want them to know i am there to cheer them on from the sidelines or even run with them in the game, but i am also still the one who has to sometimes put on the breaks or tighten the reins.

this mothering thing isn't always easy.  (can i get an a-men?)

since moving to minnesota last summer, we have had a 14,528 acre lake right in our backyard.  it is breathtaking to see...amazing to look at...inspiring to consider...but it is also a bit of a pain in the backside of this mother.  it, at the very least, provides some potentially dangerous issues we need to deal with.

tyler's a smart boy, but he has this incredible zest for the outdoors and big adventure.  his favorite show: man vs. wild.  what can i say, my boy is wired for this stuff.  i can remember him as a small kid whittling sticks in our woods...making forts and weapons and shelter.  i've watched him dig up grubs and catch crawfish in the creek.  the boy loves to fish and explore and i'm sure, at some level (though he'd never admit it) he loves to pretend.  he's a lot like his mama. (except i'm not all that much into digging up grubs).

and living on this lake has been no different.  we traded in our wooded acres and trails back in georgia for this massive lake minnetonka.  ("minne" means water and "tonka" means big).  i'm pretty sure there hasn't been a day since moving, that i haven't watched him meander down to the "big water" out back.  sometimes i find him standing before the great window at the rear of the house just watching the lake.  standing and staring.  i understand that, i stand and stare quite a bit, too.

the summer was filled with kayaking and jet skiing and late night fishing.  i, of course, worried about him being out on the water.  i didn't want him down there alone.  i wanted his kayak to stay within sight. i insisted on life jackets and certain obvious (at least to me) precautions.  when he balked or argued i calmly explained, "sorry, it's part of my job."

oh, no...this mothering thing isn't always easy.   (another a-men, please.)

i waited for winter to come and kind of breathed a sigh of relief when everything turned cold and frozen.  surely now he was safe.    the open water was gone and in it's place a gigantic, 2 feet thick glacier had arrived.  except that ice has it's own issues as well.  what was i thinking?  he wasn't safe.  not safe at all.  if that basic knowledge isn't enough there's this huge flashing sign just outside of our neighborhood which says, "sheriff's advisory -- ice is never safe." i drive by it at least 5 times a day.  i have to be honest, i'm getting a bit annoyed with it.  "stop reminding me!" i want to yell. "i know the ice isn't safe...i know my kids aren't really safe. ever. anywhere. i get it already!"

this might not surprise you, but my 15 year old son isn't thinking about safe.

the gas powered auger from the carlins
which shaves a hole through the ice.
i think, if he's not careful,
he could end up shaving all the
 way to china with it!
no, tyler isn't thinking about safety, but he is thinking about all the ice has to offer.  he had two items at the top of his christmas list this year:  an ice auger and an ice fishing rod.  some friends offered to let him borrow their ice house/tent and some of their gear, as well. (a shout out to the carlin family -- thank you!)  all he's missing is the 6 pack of beer and an unshaven face. NO! NO! NO!  ice house, ice fishing rod, auger, space heater ... and all of a sudden my southern raised boy has transformed into a minnesota man.  (he would really hate that i just wrote that -- we'll see if he reads my blog).

today the temperatures were as low as negative 14 degrees with a windchill at minus 35.  but after a half day of school, guess where i found tyler this afternoon.  yep, you guessed it, out on the ice.  and he literally spent the rest of the day out there. after a couple of hours, i decided it was time to check on him (and take a few pictures).  so with a thermos of hot chocolate (my excuse) in one hand and my camera in the other, i headed down to the 14, 583 acre glacier.  in case you were wondering what a camera toting, hot chocolate bringing mother wears in negative 14 degree weather when visiting her son in his ice house, i made sure to have sarah snap a picture.  nice, huh?
can you say e s -  k i -  m o !

so, here's what i found when i got down there...

that would be his breath, he may be ice fishing, 
but he hasn't taken up smoking cigarettes. =) 

there's even a seat in the pop up tent!

his spear! what every boy needs.

kind of freaky to see the ice...but if you look, you can see it is about 2 feet thick.

the hole continues to freeze over (because it's THAT cold) so he uses this ladle to remove the icy layer.

things like space heaters really do help!

before seeing "the hole" i was worried that he could fall in. i assure you, not possible.

"see ya later, mom." and back in he goes.

these characters are right next door...we've decided they don't have jobs.  they (and their truck) are ALWAYS out on the ice. we think they sleep there.

i got to the top of the hill,  looked back out...and thought to myself, 
"there once was day when i wouldn't leave him alone in his high chair..."

so that's it folks.  just another tiny slice of our minnesota life.  and maybe a reminder or two, that we, moms and dads, are often walking a little bit on thin ice ourselves.  it is not always easy to get good footing or to find that perfect balance while watching our kids grow up.  it's a grand adventure for sure -- one i wouldn't trade for anything.  this parenting thing keeps us humbled and, if we're following the lead of Jesus, it keeps us on our knees.   whether strapped into their high chairs or let loose on the ice, these precious kiddos belong first to God...and we have to trust Him, both, in their safety and in their adventures.

solid ground or solid ice...this parenting thing isn't ever easy.
and all together now, the people say...  A-MEN!

* p.s.    tyler sent this picture to his sister...he caught 9 fish that day.
and like any good fisherman, he'd want to make sure i included that fact in this story! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

10, 000 reasons

 the laundry was strewn colorfully across the white down comforter of my bed --  piles of it.  it seemed there were 10,000 items in this mountain of folding. and i was standing in front of at least 100 grey t-shirts (i have boys) when i heard her:  little miss began singing in the bathtub just a few feet away and her tiny voice echoed into my laundry loaded bedroom.  it mixed with the grey t-shirts and mis-matched socks and the countless pair of yoga pants (teenage daughter).

she sang and i listened.

my cell phone just happened to be siting on the nightstand.  

and though i rarely remember to use the video option,  i quickly pushed record:

(click on video)

"bless the Lord, o my soul
o my soul
worship His holy name
sing like never before
o my soul
i'll worship your holy name..."

i know her words aren't exactly crystal clear.  but her message is.  and i just had to share it with you this morning.  maybe, today, you are in need of a little soul-blessing. if so, this is the perfect message for you.

it was for me.

it always is for me.

the name of this song is 10,000 reasons (matt redman).  10,000 reasons to bless the Lord. oh surely, yes! it's true, we all have so many reasons to offer blessing.  but let's face it, there are days when we aren't in the mood to list 10 reasons, let alone 10,000.  unfortunately, we all have days like that.  times when we feel flat and frustrated.  dead and defeated. burnt out and burdened.  

but, i want to let you in on a little secret:  that's exactly the time when we most need to sit down with some paper and pencil and begin our listing.  a few years ago, i journeyed through ann voskamp's book, one thousand gifts.  it challenged me to keep a journal and write down the "gifts" i found each day -- the gifts along the way. both, the extraordinary and the very, very ordinary.

children loud and giggly in our backyard
spring sun, hot on my hair
writing with a good ink pen
fresh lemons in blue bowl
new ivy growing lime green on red brick
books stacked bedside...so much to read
friendly daffodils laughing in small groups roadside
a sleeping dog
clean countertops (indeed, quite rare)
my girls stirring chocolate chips into cookie dough...
                                                                                   ~ (an excerpt from april 2011)

that was easy in the springtime of atlanta two years ago.  harder when i was diagnosed a month later with cancer.  but i continued to trudge through the exercise of listing. there were some days when it felt laborious and pointless.  days when i had to dig a little bit deeper to find something to add to my list.  but it was one of the things which helped me through that tough time.  there is something so wonderful...so powerful...so healing when you can continue to count blessings in the midst of something miserable.  i suppose that is why, two years later, and i am still writing and still talking about it.

when we are going through the deserts or discouraging places of life, that is exactly the time when we need to begin recording our reasons and listing our gifts.  as i challenged you a couple of years ago, i'll do so again today: physically write them out.  it is one thing to just "think about them" in the mushy places of our minds...another thing, entirely, to scratch them out with ink and paper...to record them.  to come back to them. sometimes the greater blessing is in the returning.

that was two years ago.  but i am still recording.  it has become somewhat of a habit.  and i have to tell you, minnesota has taken my list to another level of gratitude.  today as i write this post, the windchill is -30.  (yes, you read that correctly).  and though it's unbelievably cold, i am finding it easy to write down the blessings:

the crackle and heat from our fireplace.
the invention of smart wool socks.
a puppy at my feet.
oatmeal simmering on stovetop.
a day off from school and children still sleeping in their beds.
no place to go.
hot coffee in my favorite blue glazed mug.
a teenage son to fetch firewood  (when he wakes up).
a well insulated home.
the winter sunrise over an utterly silent lake.
a breakfast bagel in front of the fire...

oh, and here's another one for the list...
...an ice house out on the lake...which no one will ever expect me to step foot in! just look at how horribly cold and desolate that looks...brrr....
now that's something worthy of gratitude! 

here's the rest of the song...you can also hear it on my blog playlist -- IF it is working (sometimes not) and IF your computer volume is turned on.
10,000 reasons 
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Jesus, I'll worship Your holy name
Lord, I'll worship Your holy name

Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
Jesus, I'll worship Your holy name
I'll worship Your holy name.

 "Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
 Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
 Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."
~ Psalm 103

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

conversation hearts

it had been a quiet ride home from morning carpool.  music played in the background of my thoughts and the littlest one sat unusually silent in the backseat of my yukon.  we were almost to our final turn when she, out of the blue, asked,

"mama, is Jesus in ivy joy's heart?"

oh, what a question for a mama with only one cup of coffee in her.  we had talked quite a bit last night about ivy's heart. the girls were making cards to send to her hospital room and in the middle of stickers and markers, bella wanted to know more about ivy's heart.  is it getting better?  why did she have to have surgery? why is she sick?  what does her heart look like? bella was especially fascinated when i explained how they had used some pig tissue in ivy's heart.  bella has a little bit of a cow's pericardium in her own heart.  we joked about how she and ivy would be really good at their "moos" and "oinks"... she laughed, thinking that was so, so funny.  i suppose in many ways it is absolutely not funny, but we have to take what God gives us and go with it sometimes. and this was one of those times.

but this morning her question came from no where.
a quiet car and we were almost home.
but she asked again.

"mama, is Jesus in ivy joy's heart?"

it reminded me of our conversation back in november, when we were on the way to bella's appointment at the mayo clinic.  again in the car, bella and i were talking about her heart and what the doctors were going to do at this appointment.

"why do they have to look at my heart, mama?"
"they want to see how it's working, sweetie," i explained.
"but, what will they see in there?" she continued to press.
"they will see your heart beating and humming and doing just what it should be doing."
bella sat quietly for a second and i watched her in my rearview mirror, the wheels clearly and rapidly turning.
"mama!" she exclaimed, with a giggle,"they might see Jesus in my heart!" 

oh, how that made me want to laugh and cry and sing for joy all at once. what a comment!  what a beautiful, beautiful comment! words only possible from the lips of a child.

"yes bella! Jesus is in your heart...though, honey, i'm not sure if the doctors will actually see Him, but He is absolutely there."
"they will see Him, mama." she said shaking her head with complete confidence. "they will see Him."

and i had to quietly agree.  how could they not?

                                                    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

and then this morning, another car conversation about hearts.

after talking a little bit more about ivy and her heart, bella continued to press further in her questions.  (i am sure by this point, you are wishing you were sitting in my passenger seat, watching me attempt to navigate the minnesota roads and the little miss inquistive's questions -- and again, with minimal coffee in me).

"mom, does everyone have Jesus in their heart?"
i paused for a moment, thinking: she is only four, where do these questions come from?
"well, no bella.  not everyone has Jesus in their heart."
"REALLY???" bella gasped in great disbelief and complete childhood shock.
"but why, mama?  why don't people have Jesus in their hearts?"
and then one more time, "why wouldn't people want Jesus in their hearts?"

diana took this picture last september.
it perfectly captures that "look" of bella's!
i wish you could have seen her face.  i sat at the stoplight watching her reaction to my answer. she has this way of opening up her eyes super wide -- it is the perfect picture of incredulity.  and that was the look she gave me.  "why mama?  why don't people have Jesus in their hearts?"  it was as if i had told her that blue and pink polka dotted elephants were coming to our house for dinner tonight.

it was the first time she had ever heard such a thing...

and, so today, i leave you with bella's little girl question.  why don't people have Jesus in their heart?

we know this.

but when was the last time we were startled to the point of wide-eyed wonder and total disbelief?

as usual, i love how God uses little ones to make us think about big things...

and, "yes, bella.  Jesus is definitely in ivy joy's heart.  He is written all over this precious girl."  as her own mama said below (check comments) "Of course Ivy has Jesus in her heart, He is and always will be the owner of her heart, her first love, the only one who will never break her heart!"  a-men.

"do you hear what these children are saying?" 
they asked him. "yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, 
"'from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"
~matthew 21:16

Saturday, January 12, 2013

ivy's in surgery and God's in control

ivy joy is in surgery right now in boston.  they waited all day yesterday thinking surgery might happen, but it wasn't to be until this morning.  right now.  please check out mary's blog for an update...and continue to pray.  big things have to happen for this tiny girl today.

i don't know about you, but that's more than i have on my plate this morning.  i am not waking up to the worry and concern of my child going into a delicate heart surgery for the umpteenth time.  i mean i have my saturday stuff, don't get me wrong:  the grocery store, getting connor to his basketball game,  some nasty ice on the roads (the january "thaw" just froze-over last night). that kind of stuff.  we might have to intervene in a sibling wrestling match or address a sassy response.  the puppy might chew a shoe or the child might drop her milk. i'm sure someone will leave their dishes in the family room or track snow across my kitchen.  you know, the usual.  but there aren't any plans to sit in a waiting room today.  not on this day.

but even in our boring, same old same old, we don't really know what our day will bring, do we?  none of us can know it.  there's something wonderful about that...but there's always something a little bit worrisome about it, too.

i've shared before my favorite devotional, Jesus Calling, by sarah young.  thought today's passage really hit home.  whether you're mary in boston or lori in memphis.  whether you're emma or karen or john or jean...this passage is for you.  right where you are...at the beginning of an unknown, unknow-able day stretched out before you.  there's no way to know what this day will bring...but you can know the one who brings it. directs it. orchestrates it. owns it.  stay in His presence.  my prayer for mary and my prayer for all of us.

"Let me prepare you for the day that stretches out before you.  I know exactly what this day will contain, whereas you have only vague ideas about it.  You would like to see a map, showing all the twists and turns of your journey.  You’d feel more prepared if you could some how visualize what was on the road ahead.  However, there is a better way to be prepared for whatever you will encounter today.  

Spend quality time with Me.  I will not show you what is on the road ahead, but I will thoroughly equip you for the journey.  My living presence is your companion each step of the way.  Stay in continual communication with Me, whispering My name whenever you need to redirect your thoughts.  Thus; you can walk through this day with your focus on Me.  

My abiding presence is the best road map available!"  ~ Jesus Calling

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, 
and I will give you rest.”~Exodus 33:14

Thursday, January 10, 2013

one little lamb

it's raining in minnesota tonight.  that's so odd.  how can a january day in minnesota be warm enough for rain? but it is.  and i sit and listen to the soft rat a tat tat of raindrops hitting windows.  i hear it  along the chimney brick -- a bare whisper joining the cacophonous sounds of busy children around our house.  couch time and cartoons down the hallway for a tired ballerina...puppy barking playful in the kitchen...music from my almost-teen daughter's bedroom.  the pantry door opens. closes. opens again.  and this is our thursday afternoon.  and i only want to bundle it all up in my arms and hold it tight.  i want to push pause. i want to sit in the sound of raindrops... and feel the mix of my tears.

i've just come from hugging my friend diana in the parking lot.  she has been in contact with mary today.  we all know ivy isn't doing well. they made it to boston last night, they've made it through so much already.  but there's more.  we all know that, too. much more. please go on to mary's blog (click here) to read her latest update.  only a couple of hours or so ago, she wrote.  her words are amazing.  inspiring. incredibly beautiful...and raw. so raw.

i have been pondering all week why ivy's story has hit so close to home.  yes, my sweet friend, diana, is wrapped up in this as one of mary's very dearest friends...but there's more.  perhaps it's that mary is walking the story that we were warned of three years ago when trying to decide on bella's file in the summer of 2009.  i'll never forget the cardiologist who reviewed bella's information for us.  we talked long distance on a sunny, hot july day in georgia and she told me, "jody, i cannot recommend you pursue this little girl...her condition is too serious. there's too much risk.  you have no idea. there's a likely chance you'll bring her home, only to lose her.  you could potentially have surgery after surgery with this child.  you have other, healthy children...think of how this could effect them. think of your other children, jody.  do you really want to put your family through this?"  i assure you, she did not relay these words in a cold, collected, sterile manner.  no, this professional...this medically astute doctor...this woman's words were tearful. emotional. full of great empathy. but still, at the end of the day, she recommended we decline bella's file.

i am so glad we didn't do what the doctor ordered that day. (understatement of the year).

somehow, even against the advice of medical professionals, we went on to follow our heart... to listen to God's voice.  not because we were that strong, but perhaps, more so,  because we were that naive...we were that medically in the dark...and perhaps a tad bit stubborn. i, specifically, never like to be told "no."  i am not sure how it all happened, but, we pursued bella...and you know the rest of the story.

but there was a time when we were very concerned our first year with bella might look like what the sammon's family has gone through with ivy this year.  it woke me up at night throughout that time of waiting.   i had people question us.  wonder about us.  we had friends go to great lengths to raise money because we were all certain her medical bills would be staggering. and, if you were reading along back then, you might remember me saying this:  "i am not the most medically equipped mother, i am a woman who struggles with bandaids and tylenol."  i didn't have the skill set needed for a serious heart baby --  heck, i don't have the skill set needed for a scraped knee! i assure you.  but God let us know in the way He let's us know...that it didn't matter.  I will equip those whom I call.  that is what we heard over and over again.  we didn't have to be perfect parents or professional-anythings...we just had to be willing.

i write this tonight so burdened, because i am sure that is what mary would want you to know as well.  read her blog.  that is exactly what she says.  YES this has been HARD.  incredibly hard...incredibly tiring...incredibly challenging.  but she wouldn't change it.  YES she wants to change what is going on tonight with ivy...but she wouldn't change saying YES to ivy. not ever.  this amazing mama has fought -- and is fighting -- a brilliant battle for her tiny girl.  no, it hasn't been easy, but it's been good.  that's where we go wrong in our thinking...that easy must = good.  if there's one message i have wanted to hammer hard into my blog writing over these years, it is this:  don't believe the world's lie that for something to be good it must also be easy. convenient.  comfortable. safe. sensible.

"the struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings. it makes us patient, sensitive, and Godlike. it teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."  ~ helen keller

i won't pretend to compare what we've been through with what the sammons family is going through.  but we know this a little.  we've shared those lessons here in this blog...and we know, without a doubt, there will be more lessons to learn. (sigh).

but here's the deal, when we can come to that place of acceptance, it changes everything about how we live. that's what i want for my family...for my children.  we didn't pursue bella for the drama, but for the difference we'd make in her life and the difference she'd make in our lives. we did it out of obedience to what God's word says.  there is no gray area here. "pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." (james 1:27).  we are called to do something.  SOMETHING.  there just weren't enough reasons to say no. a medical diagnosis wasn't enough. a lack of finances or time or bedrooms...those aren't reasons enough. those of you who have adopted special needs children, you understand.  sure, we got the extra blessing of bella surprising us all and being in better health than we could have even hoped.  the incredible surgery performed on her in china was bold and brilliant. it was life saving and life sustaining.   oh, how i thank my heavenly father every single day for what He orchestrated in her heart in 2009.  three years later, and it still takes my breath away to consider His mercy on my girl.

what mary sammons and her family have done for ivy is exactly what Jesus has done for us.  they went for one child. just one. one little girl who had nothing to bring,  nothing obvious to offer.  but they loved her completely and unconditionally.   just as Jesus considers us, just as He loves us -- completely and unconditionally. we come to Him as empty handed orphans, but He wants us so much, He is willing to leave the ninety-nine and go after His one lost sheep. that is the picture of adoption.  that is the picture of our adoption in Christ. not abandoned, but pursued. wanted. chosen. even chased.

"then Jesus told them this parable: “suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? and when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘rejoice with me; i have found my lost sheep.' i tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."  ~ luke 15

he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home...
he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home...
he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home...


when we began our adoption of bella, we heard from several people who said things like, "but there are millions of orphans..."  um.. yeah? as if that was reason to not adopt. the crisis is so huge, that we do nothing? just because there are over 150 million orphaned children in this world, we are to do nothing? really?  is that what we truly believe?  NO!  you do what you can.  you listen to what God places on your heart...and you follow THAT, not what the bank account tells you isn't possible or what the doctors tell you isn't a good risk...

i love the words of mother teresa, "if you can't feed a hundred people, than feed just one." that's it.  just one. one. one.  okay, well, maybe two or three or ten...but we start with one.

ivy joy is so sick.  we don't know what her future holds.  none of us have that answer right now.  but we all are absolutely certain that ivy joy has felt the love and the embrace of a tender mother and father's arms. and no matter what, that is worth every bit of this journey, no matter how hard the struggle.

we don't love our children because they are a good investment or because we deem them a good risk...we love them because that's what we are called to do.  love them.  one by one by one by one.

one little lamb at a time.

"he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home..."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

joy in the morning -- God CAN do this.

it is morning, and i watch the sky wake in streaks of color.  purple. pink. orange. all casting golden kisses onto the stark white of the minnesota snow.  frozen lake shimmers in the blanket of sun rising.  and i am amazed.  God, you do this.  every morning you bring something beautiful.  always different.  from coast to coast, and across the globe you wake the world with something wonderful.  and you do this. you choose to do this beautiful, breathtaking, glorious thing.

God, you can paint the sky with your brushstrokes of beauty, and we are asking you, right now, to dissolve the clot in the heart of sweet ivy joy.  you know her.  you know her well. you knit her together in the womb.  you knit her into the sammons family only a year ago.  she's been brought before your throne by the praying saints of so many.  people across this continent are praying feverishly this week for the life of ivy.  there are even some praying who have only just learned to pray because of this very thing you are working in a tiny girl brought home from china.

you paint the sky in a rainbow of morning gold.  Lord, Lord, Lord, would you bind up the broken heart of ivy. would you bring healing.  mercy.  peace.  your will.

she is so sick.  back in icu - a blood clot and a failing valve. her newly operated-on heart is not doing what needs to be done.  you know that. but the news has been devastating this week for the sammons family in phoenix.  if this clot does not dissolve they are faced with flying back to boston. they are faced with perhaps opening up ivy once again. they are faced with no good options.

and i just cannot imagine...  

and just yesterday,  i found out that yet another friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  that's my third friend this year. this mother and wife had to tell her family in the weeks before christmas that she had cancer.

and i can imagine...

i will never forget those painful moments of telling. and my heart breaks for the fear and bewilderment of these friends and their loved ones.  the pain of telling, perhaps greater than any physical pain.

heart issues and breast cancer.  both so close to home.  both are conditions which still continue to wake me in the middle of night.  i worry about bella.  i know she's doing well, but i'm her mom and i worry.  the breast cancer thing too.  it's there.  my prognosis is so good, but every time i walk into the oncologist's office, i am reminded that after a cancer diagnosis, it is always a part of your life.  even after a bilateral mastectomy, there's always something to watch...monitor...manage.  new science. new medicine.  something else to test for.  a pill to take daily. a troublesome thought camped out in the back of my brain -- removed, but not fully eradicated from the fabric of my human fear.

and in this past year, a friend calls and tells me she has been diagnosed.  another friend writes. she too, diagnosed. and even one more tells me of her breast cancer standing in the supermarket.  and i think, really?  how can there be so many in my circle of connection?

two weeks before christmas, within 24 hours of each other, i had one friend go in for a needle biopsy, another friend, on that same day, undergo a bilateral mastectomy, and a third friend, back in atlanta, lose her three year battle with cancer and go home to Jesus.  i started a post about that two weeks before christmas, but couldn't find the words.  still can't.

and this morning as i watch the sun rise over a frozen lake, even golden,  it seems too much.

clots and chronic heart conditions and cancer...

i know everything is for your glory, Lord, and i believe that. but i don't get this.  it was just christmas, and now these sweet friends are faced with these heavy, hard places.  yesterday, i spent hours putting away our holiday things and sweeping pine needles from every corner of our home. i found myself frustrated with the need to sweep needles.  how ashamed i am at the small things which cause me to grumble and complain. Lord, sweep this pettiness from my life. Father, forget the pine needles, but sweep this pain and suffering from the lives of these precious people.  today, i continue to sweep and i pray, knowing you hear, Lord Jesus.  you hear and you hold it all...the heavy and the hard.  the broken and the burden.

we ask for your mercy and full healing.  we ask for your comfort and compassion.  "he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (psalm 147:3).  you can do this, Jehovah Rapha -- the God who heals. you can do this.  you are a God who paints the sky --  glorious and good.  we cannot understand how you choose to display your holiness, but it is good.  it is always good.  i read the blog of ivy's mom (mary) and am amazed at how she continues to staunchly trust in your plan and your perfect will. could i be so constant?  could i be so sure?  she is on her knees in crippling fear for her baby girl's life, and, yet, she continues to give you glory and praise.  

oh, that we might be like that in our faith.  that we might have the faith of mustard seed moving mountains.  that we might be able to hold the hem of God's garment when those mountains shake and fall crashing into a dark sea. and, dear ones, that is where God's glory is truly revealed. the sunrise captivates us and catches our morning eye, but God's glory is demonstrated in the lives of those who, though suffering, surrender. fully.

while i am typing out this troubled post, my friend, diana, who is in constant contact with mary, sent me this text from mary:

"we need a miracle in the cath lab at 11am.  not for a cath, but for a fluoroscopy.  if the leaflet in the valve is still stuck, there is nothing else they can do here. God can do this!"

oh friends, please continue to pray -- in the words of ivy's mamma, mary, "God can do this!"

 here is mary's blog address, if you'd like to connect directly and follow the updates on ivy joy:  http://sammonsfamily7.blogspot.com/

"weeping may tarry for the night,  
but joy comes with the morning."  ~ psalm 30:5

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 -- our year in photographs

since it's still the first week of january, i'm allowing myself to sneak in one more new year's post.  i had planned this post to coincide with the actual new year's holiday...but like with most things in my world, i'm running a little late.  i guess that only makes this more authentic, right? (you can go ahead and agree now).

so, even though the timing isn't perfect, i'm going forward with my idea anyway.  i've always wanted to do a photo based "year in review."  last year, something came up and it didn't quite get off the ground.  and this year the first few days of 2013 have also started sneaking quickly away. but something really crazy has happened:  i am alone this weekend.  well, sort of alone.  i'm on my way to meet rick in california for the weekend (he's been there all week for business). it's a three hour plane ride and because we live in the awesome 21st century i can fly 30,000 miles up in the sky and still get internet.  incredible!  i am flying from snowy minnesota to sunny southern california.  go ahead and laugh out loud.  i know y'all are really happy for me.  packing was kind of hard though.  i have to tell you, i have grown very attached to my snow boots, leggings and fur.  in a very short time, it has become like a second skin.  but heading to a place which is currently 70 degrees and sunny, means i had to part with the layered look and the intense winter wear.  i'm not going to lie, it was a little traumatic last night figuring it all out.  after all these months in the frozen tundra, i am not exactly prepared to show any skin.  not even an ankle! gasp. but back to my story....i had a couple of hours while flying, just enough time to write a short post and come up with my "year in review."

"twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop."  ~ ansel adams 

as a big fan of ansel adams, i would have to agree.  i am pretty sure though, he wasn't talking about a mother of five who is enamored with her kids and trigger happy with her camera.  i am not sure how significant anyone else would find my pictures, but they mean a lot to me and, without a doubt,  i have way more than twelve of them! still, my vision was along these lines -- to choose one photo from each month.  a total of 12 photos which might best capture our busy year.  now, that sounded so neat and tidy and perfect in theory, but the fact is, with a family our size, there just is no easy way to highlight only one of the kids in a specific month.  clearly we spill over at all sides...i was determined to make this work, until i got to february and realized both emily and bella share that birthday month -- they actually share the very same day!  so february needed to include at least two photos...march was pretty much the same -- sarah and connor both being march babies.  the one photo thing just wasn't happening.  so... i took the pressure off, threw my plan out the window and gave myself some wiggle room. let's all keep in mind i take about 10,000 photos a year. or something like that.  considering that number, i think i did a pretty good job keeping it simple.  i hope you enjoy.  and, once again, happy new year! 

~ 2  0  1  2 ~ 

j a n u a r y

sarah was escorted by her handsome daddy to the annual perimeter school father~daughter dance. truly, there is nothing sweeter than this evening.

f e b r u a r y

emily turned sweet 16.  her birthday was especially sweet as she shared 
her surprise party with her best friend, carlee.  
and i suppose getting surprised with a car was pretty sweet too!

princess bella turned 4.  her birthday was a royal celebration especially because her two new friends, mary henley and maggie sims, were home from china, just in time to attend!

m a r c h
connor also had a birthday (does there seem to be a theme here???)
 our fourth born boy turned 9 on march 7th.  i think it is the perfect age to be a boy.

two weeks later his sister, sarah, turned 12 -- 
  i just love my girl's smile!

a p r i l
in april, we made our annual spring break trek to watersound, florida with about 100 friends and families.  each year we all take over the gulf of mexico with kids and parents of every age.  it is an unbelievable highlight of my kids' year. 
this is one of my favorite photos from our week.  

easter in atlanta -- it couldn't be a more beautiful time of year in the south!

m a y

emily was invited to attend the jchs prom with gray mitchell.  
we spent the entire month getting her ready...quite the event!

bella had her first ballet recital. 
 honestly, i am not sure i'll ever recover from all that cuteness.

after 8 years at perimeter school, tyler graduated from 8th grade.  i had the privilege of delivering the commencement address to 85 eighth graders and their families.  it was such a sweet evening. i love this picture of us fussing over our teenage son.  classic.

j u n e

sarah and tyler attended a week of christian wildnerness camp (camp highland) in the north georgia mountains.  unbelievable week for both of them!

rick's sister, jen, and her kids came all the way from salt lake city to spend a week with us in atlanta.  8 kids and total chaos.  
this second picture is from our "cousin games"
...a day of  good, old backyard cousin competition.  

also in june, we met up with my entire family in kelleys island, ohio to celebrate my mom and dad's 50th wedding anniversary.  we traveled from new york, georgia, oregon and ohio to come together.  worth every mile of it!

j u l y
the truck arrived, the house was packed and the front door closed for a final time.  july came and the mcnatt family left atlanta. it was one of the hardest things we've ever done as a family.   atlanta, we will never forget you.  

a u g u s t

august brought some new views.  minnesota has welcomed us well.  
and i'm pretty sure we'll never grow tired of looking out at this lake.
in august, rick and i celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. seems impossible to have that many years behind us. weren't we just 19? we have so much to celebrate.  i am so thankful for the amazing husband and father God has provided.

s e p t e m b e r
first day of school!  
emily 11th.  tyler 9th.  sarah 7th.  connor 4th and bella preschool.

o c t o b e r
we loved watching tyler out on the soccer field again.  
he had taken a break to play lacrosse, but joined the team at southwest christian high school this fall and had a terrific season.

rick's mom and dad came for a visit -- making sure to come before the snow hit!  
we had a wonderful few days with them and did our best to show them the finer things minnesota has to offer.  they liked seeing minnesota, but what they really loved was hanging out with their grandkids!

n o v e m b e r
emily's varisty volleyball team won their sectional championship and headed to the state tournament where they took second place. an amazing experience for all!

d e c e m b e r

december...wow, what can i say!
it brought our first huge, minnesota style snowfall, a new puppy, a beautiful christmas and a crew of our best friends from atlanta. it felt like the month of continual celebration.

thanks for coming along for the wild ride of 2012.  i can't wait to see what's around the corner of 2013.  maybe a quiet, boring, uneventful year?  no adoption...no cancer...no big move.  as i look out the airplane window, i am reminded of another flight out of minneapolis  a year ago.  on that trip back to georgia, we had been only visiting.  i had no idea we'd end up actually moving.  was that truly only a year ago?  that puts the whole year thing in perspective.  i wrote about that trip in a post called snowflakes and flying. (http://eventhesparrow843.blogspot.com/2011/12/snowflakes-and-flying.html) but that's the way it goes.  and that's why it's important to look back and remember, we didn't know.  we didn't know where or how or when God would move us.  but He did.  and it's just plain good to think about, no matter how much we want to believe we're in control, God is the writer of our stories.  i am glad He has given me a passion to record through writing and photography the odd, funny, awesome moments along the way.  but, without a doubt, HE is the author and finisher of our faith. (hebrews 12:2). to HIM be the glory for the great things HE has done in 2012.