Monday, April 29, 2013

our temporary home (s)

i'm sitting outside in the gazebo tonight typing this,  listening to the rain and breathing in the sudden spring. miraculously the lake below me is beginning to thaw and the grass around is beginning to green. of course i should be attending to something indoors: cleaning, organizing, packing! because as spring prepares to make its grand (not to mention, tardy) entrance, the mcnatt family prepares to leave. tomorrow we will move away from this home... away from this water.  our long vacation here on lake minnetonka has come to an end.  we knew from the beginning it would only be our temporary home.  though it feels enormous to be packing up, picking up and moving again, we know it was the right decision to be here even for such a short time.  something about living on water in these past 9 months has been helpful. healing. soothing. something.  when we left atlanta last summer,  i can't say we were exactly excited to come to minnesota, but we were excited to live on a big lake.  even for a short time, it was worth it.  i know we were fortunate.  i wasn't watching my friendless kids sitting inside on the couch staring at the walls or the television or me.  they may not have had many friends in that first month of our move, but they had each other and they had the water and that really helped.  what kid doesn't get excited about launching their kayak out into the lake on a perfect august day?

and what mother doesn't take great pleasure in the watching?

of course, lake life began to turn into real life again.  with the start of school and the start of sports and the start of schedules, the lake had to take a bit of a back seat.  but even in our busy-ness, we couldn't exactly ignore it.  it was there all the time right outside the giant back windows of this home.  the way this 100 year old home was designed you can't hardly walk from one side to the other without looking at the lake.  that's been pure delight.  i've loved pushing the vacuum or making a bed and glancing out the window to water.  i've loved watching the kids curled up on couches with homework or books or the ipad, and the water some kind of surreal backdrop behind them.  chores are chores and homework is homework, but it is more lovely to do these menial parts of life near water.  i assure you.

and just how many sunrises can one woman photograph anyway?

if you looked through my computer photo files you'd probably find it shocking.  you'd think we had been here more like 10 years from the number of pictures i've taken. these morning sunrises may be the thing i'll miss the most. perhaps i'll share some favorite pictures/moments at the end of this post.  there have been so many amazing memories in our short 9 months here.

this house has been a transition point for all of us. each of us in our own way.  it's been the place where i have sat wondering and worried if we could really make this all work.  it's been the place where i have held teary-eyed children in my arms, sad for the missing of their old friends.  it has been the place where we've welcomed new friends into our lives.  i'll never forget the night emily's new friends came over for the first time and they all dressed up in silly outfits out of our famous dress up box.  there was something so healing about that.  or the warm night when they sat out in this gazebo as one friend played the guitar and they all sang outrageously goofy songs at the top of their lungs. we could hear them from the house. i wandered upstairs to sarah's room and found her laying on her bed, window open, listening to the teens below. "i hope i can someday have friends like that, mama." she said to me.

speaking of new friends... this might be my favorite new friend photo ever!  bella and her "little emme."  this picture was taken on their first play date last september in our front yard.  emme's mom, diana, (also a favorite new friend of mine) captured the spontaneous giggle between new pals.  they are truly two peas in a pod!

we've hosted parties:  birthday, chinese new year, volleyball and back to school parties.  yes, i'd say it seems we've been here a little longer than just 9 months.  but i've kind of learned something about this family:  we tend to pack a lot into each day.  we do a lot of living quickly.  i guess that comes with a family our size.  sometimes i get to the end of evening hours and i think back over our day and i'm amazed at how much life had been squished into the 15 hours awake.  so 9 months, yes, they have gone by fast.
great room turned ballet studio!
we are moving this week about 25 minutes closer to life (schools, church, shopping, work) to a town called eden prairie.  we are trading the minnesota lake for the minnesota prairie.  minnesota is known for them both, don't ya know!  it's a lovely area.  we won't be living on a prairie exactly, more like on a golf course.  i'm pretty sure that looks a little different.  thankfully this new house does have some land and a decent size creek.   it is in a golf community and has a pool and tennis courts within walking distance.  bella is already signed up for swim lessons and sarah wants to play tennis (so does her mama!) the boys will learn to play golf.  i realize these are normal things -- things we did back in atlanta.  things other families do.  the romantic lake life is being traded for a more ordinary existence.  but, we are an ordinary family and this is just the way it goes.  we can't always wake up to a breathtaking sunrise across water.  not forever. perhaps again, but not right now.

it's been temporary.  and the next one might be temporary too.  and that part is kind of hard for me.  i am a nester.  when i move into a home, i move in.  i set it up like i'm staying forever.  painting the walls, putting down roots, making it my own.  i wasted no time on this lake rental and i'll waste no time on this next home.  it's what i do, because it's kind of who i am. i know i shouldn't define myself by my home.  but, even knowing that, i still can't help myself.  this whole idea of renting was initially very hard for me, in fact, i was completely against it.  we've owned our homes for over 20 years, why would we rent?  emily and i joke that we are like traveling gypsies...rick doesn't think our joking is all that funny, but he does think renting right now is kind of smart. and he's probably right.  he's smart that way.  but i, personally, kind of like the whole gypsy thing.  we looked and looked at many homes to buy this year, but just didn't find anything we felt at peace about purchasing.  couldn't quite make ourselves pull the trigger. all i can say is it keeps things interesting.

and it won't surprise you to know, i've wrestled a bit with this idea of a temporary home. i'm a mother who wants to create memories for her family.  i want that same tire swing in the same backyard.  i want to record the yearly inches of my children with pencil marks on the pantry door.  i want to watch them grow out of their beds and their bikes and their britches all in the same place.  i want emily to return home from college in a couple years to the room of her childhood.  call it all silly romanticism, but that's how i'm wired. i want everything to connect and make sense and another new home doesn't feel part of that picturesque plan.  there's something to be said for returning to what we know.  there's something to be said for staying in a place we know.  i can spin the thrill of another new adventure all the day long, but still...there's some comfort in everything remaining the same.  i mean, at least we know where to find the batteries, the band aids and some duct tape!

so this temporary home thing...well, it's kind of been a tender spot for me.  only, i can feel God at work in the midst of this mess.  once again, He has revealed a few things.  the irritation of the great home question has scratched away at the facade a bit and found deep inside a heart that wants to hold on to things too tightly.  a woman who wants to store up her treasure here on earth.  a gal who doesn't want to lose her comforts or her control (or her children, for that matter).  moving makes us a bit messy and a lot crazy...but it also makes us shift, clean, consider, think.   i've moved enough in these years to know how to quickly get the pictures hung up on the walls and the pots settled safely into the cupboards, but i've never been able to quickly get through the emotions of what moving does to my insides.

the entire time we've been at this lake house, there's been this little nest tucked into the gutter on the front porch.  it's an absolutely beautiful nest, but it hasn't seemed to have had any action during our time in this home.  when we first moved in last august, i noticed it right away.  and one morning when i was feeling not very tethered to my new life in this new state, this nest seemed to remind me of my job.  as mother and wife of our family, i have the unique privilege of helping them nest.  helping my children and husband connect and feel comfortable no matter what the home or where the home or who the owner of the home.  God actually owns it all anyway.  can i get an a-men?  everything, even the things we hold tightly and call our own, are His.  even if we've paid off the entire mortgage or paid a years rent in advance, it still belongs to Him.   and no matter if our child leaves for college from the same home she was brought to as a newborn, and no matter if we sit on the same porch as grandma did and her grandma did,  it's still temporary.  these bodies are our temporary bodies and these homes are our temporary homes.  and hard as that is for me to completely get...i know it to be true. and, what's more, i know it is important for me to live like that is true.
“o Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting i am!
 behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!  psalm 39:4-5

and it is just one more lesson about the need to live with a heart set on eternity. it is so easy and natural to want to make everything about the present.  i love to live in the moment. i am queen of immediate gratification, ruler of the right now.  we live in a culture that tells us we can have everything from french fries to french manicures in five minutes or less.  we also live in a world that wants to measure us by what we have and what we own.  as a woman who likes her things (and her french fries, for that matter) i battle it every day.  don't think i don't.  and don't think i don't know what God is doing in my life...even right the midst of these boxes...again. scratching. scratching. scratching away at what i think matters. and revealing the treasure that really does matter.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."  ~ ecclesiastes 3:11
though our homes are temporary, there's no denying, they are also extremely important.  and of course we want to make them special.  yes they are only boxes, but they are boxes which hold the treasure of our memories and our moments, our love and our laughter.  and we should take great pride in making them places which reflect beauty. God's beauty.  it's perfectly fine to be creative and concerned with our dwelling places.  as long as it doesn't define you, or become an idol, it is actually good stewardship.  i love how Jesus even refers to heaven as a house.  "my Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would i have told you that i am going there to prepare a place for you?" (john 14:2).  isn't that cool?  God gets how we would feel about our home being a place of peace, a place of refuge, and, most importantly, a place where we belong.  temporarily or eternally, we are all made to have homes.

even the sparrow.  though we chose that verse for our bella's adoption three years ago, it has been woven into the fabric of our family...into our adventures...into our dreams...and even into our homes.

"even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young-- a place near your altar,
 O Lord Almighty, my King and my God." 
~ psalm 84:3

a place near your altar... that's where i want to live, temporarily and eternally, near the altar of God.

i'm sure most of you have you heard carrie underwood's song, temporary home? if not, i  encourage you to find it and listen.  i think she sums it all up pretty well.

This is my temporary home, it's not where I belong
Windows and rooms that I'm passing through
This was just a stop on the way to where I'm going
I'm not afraid because I know
This was my temporary home
~ Temporary Home : Carrie Underwood

i'm so thankful that i have a camera and that i used it!  we'll be gone from this place by tomorrow evening, but we'll have some pretty amazing memories captured.  here are a few of our favorite things.  the things we loved about living in this old house near water...and a few of the things we'll surely miss.
the absolute blue of water.

the sound of a speedboat going by.

cooper standing watch on the dock until the kids return.

little one and her big dog playing happily along the shoreline.

after dinner fishing.

emily catching a fish and then making her little brother remove it from the line. teamwork?

wild boys being wild.

capturing a quiet moment.

morning coffee in the gazebo.

well, coffee anywhere, actually...

the amazing lawn down by the lake.

looking out the kitchen window and watching kids play in this front courtyard. lots of soccer games here.

the way hydrangea literally framed the entire house.  heavenly!

morning sun filling the house with light.

 sailboats on the bay.

gardening in this gorgeous yard.

 the leaves turning golden.


 fall color.

 harvest moon over minnetonka.

 christmas in this grand, old house.

christmas lights. is there anything better?

the deer always out our window.

the thrill of our first big snow! kids jumped out of the car and literally ran up the street.

the absolutely unbelievable amount of snow in minnesota!

a quiet lake covered in white.

the beauty of snow.

bringing home our new puppy!  minnetonka!

 sled riding down the big hill out back.  bella style.

tyler style.


how minnesota teens spend their friday nights.

sharing this new adventure with old friends.

everyone hanging out by the fire.

 exploring out on the ice. (i told them to spread out in case it cracked).

ice skating!

 ice fishing!

ice houses!

winter moon over minnetonka.

bella's ballerina birthday.

a chinese new year party!

watching the water finally begin to thaw.

the boys out kayaking as soon as a little water is clear. maximizing their time.

our last day on the lake. ice is on it's way out! a truly beautiful spring day.

minnetonka ("minne") on minnetonka.  final walk down to the lake.

finally, i'd like to dedicate these pictures to the owners of this stonebridge home, shirley and jim.   they live in california, and don't get to return all that often.  shirley tells me they have been following my blog this year and especially enjoy the pictures i post of this lovely home.   thank you, shirley and jim,  for a wonderful, wonderful 9 months!