Sunday, June 29, 2014

a few lessons learned in moving

three moves in three years. it sounds insane.
{it is}.

and it was only a week ago that we said our final farewell to minnesota --
to the beautiful place and to the beautiful people.

we traveled a thousand miles this week.
it seems more.
much more.

and just-like-that -- we are back in georgia.
or, well, sort of “just-like-that” ...
because, be assured, there’s a little more to it.

this morning, i sit in our southern house overtaken by cardboard boxes and confusion, impatient with the disorder and disarray. wishing wildly for that magical moving-wand which puts everything in its place and cleans up the chaos.

you’d think a woman who has moved her family three times in three years might have an extra shortcut or two tucked away in her arsenal.
maybe a few shortcuts, but no magical moving-wand.
plain and simple, my friends, it takes a little organization, a hefty dose of perseverance and a whole lot of elbow grease.

like most challenges in life, the only way to dig out, is to dig in.

maybe you’ve moved before and you know the drill ...
the days when you can’t believe order will ever be achieved under this new roof.
the days so piled high with belongings and stuff you wonder where in the world it all came from.
the days when you fall exhausted into your sheet-less bed with a bare brushing of the teeth.
the days when you kinda want to meet your new neighbors but secretly hope to goodness they don't come calling while the house (and YOU) look "this way."

yeah, that.

yeah, those kind of days.

our second morning here, rick and i opened 11 kitchen boxes before 7 am in search of some sugar for our coffee. 11 boxes and no sugar. so we just had to give thanks for the coffee.

it’s been almost six days and though we are starting to see some progress, we still don’t have television, internet or a working washing machine and dryer … and, at this point, it's a toss up on which service is more important. the laundry room stinks to high heaven and the kids have gobbled up our data plan like a plate full of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. with three teenagers in the house, i can tell you, both laundry and internet are necessities.

but on the bright side, we have located our coffee, our tooth brushes, the dog leashes and our underwear.

oh, and yes, the sugar. the sugar has also been found. thank heaven for the sugar.

seriously, what more do we need?

there's no way around it, moving shakes things up a bit. not just in the house, but also in the woman. at least in this woman.  i’ll admit, i’m a gal who likes to sort of think she’s in control; a girl who likes to think she has a handle on it all (okay on at least a handle on a little).
but what i’ve learned in moving is: i don’t.

moving has a way of stripping you clean. there's something in the process which reveals a lot. and i’m not just talking about what we find when we move the sofa or pull up the rugs (though that’s disturbing enough to warrant it’s own level of horror). no, i’m talking about when we are stripped away of our false sense of control. when we are faced only with the option of surrender. there's something kind of crazy and confusing and humbling (oh, my goodness when a crew of people descend on your home, pack up your stuff, fit it on a truck and carry it off … a person quickly realizes that though she can say things like, "oh, be careful with that, please" or "oh, please put that here..." she is really at the mercy of many hands in a move. and though, as we experienced with the truck fire of 2012, that sometimes doesn’t end so well … i, ultimately (and somewhat painfully) think it’s a worthwhile lesson to learn.

lesson #1: we are not in control.

and yet the moving isn’t really about the moving. and it’s not at all about the stuff. as much as i like to decorate and organize it’s not about hanging pictures or assigning a cupboard to the pots and pans, it’s not even about finding everyone’s underwear.

it’s about people.

for us, it’s always about people.

the people we have to leave and the people we get to come back to.

because the exhaustion of physical moving doesn’t compare to the emotion of physical leaving and returning.

i feel it. my kids feel it.

the goodbyes a week ago were rough. brutal in some ways. heart-breaking. we have grown to love so many special friends up north.

and the hellos this week have been sweet. beautiful in lots of ways. heart-warming. we have always loved so many special friends, here, down south.

but either way – coming or going – the emotions are running sky high because we’re people and we love people and we are loved by people.

lesson #2: there are awesome people – forever friends – both in the north and the south! (i know for those of you who don't venture above or below the mason dixon line much, this might be hard to believe ...  but it's true)!

and guess what? we need these friends.

i found this out a long time ago, but i continue to be reminded of it with each new experience. when we moved to the north, i kind of half-hoped i'd have the chance to play the role of hermit. you know, the romantic recluse, holed up in her home out on the lake. i pictured myself curled up fireside writing, reading and feeding my naturally introverted spirit. i saw it as a hiatus from my reputation as an over-involved woman. i had made up my mind to limit my connections and to put the breaks on my busy-ness.

but then, hermit or not, people showed up.

friends came into my life, one by one. people that i desired to know better. people that i couldn't resist wanting to know better. people who i needed. yes, needed. here's a picture of just a few of the warm girlfriends God blessed me with in our two years in cold minnesota. these are some of the girls who came alongside me ... me the woman who thought she didn't need anyone's "coming along."
how thankful i am for them!

that was in the north and coming back to the south, i've found the same thing: this community has the same kind of love. it's the hands and feet love of Christ. after driving a thousand miles we arrived to find my (old) friends had stocked our refrigerator and pantry. it was amazing! my dear friend, karen, has done a couple of loads of laundry for me this week. she's also helped me (when i was still up in minnesota) with some interior design choices: measurements, light fixtures and cabinetry. this week we've had friends drop off dinners and pickup children. these are the very same friends who have been coming alongside us for the past 15 years. friends who were with us through babies and adoption and cancer. that kind of love is priceless.

north or south, what would i do without my friends?

lesson #3: we need other people.

friendship is good. it’s all good. even the sadness of saying good-bye. we’ve done it now two times. two years ago in georgia and now in minnesota. was it worth it?
yes. yes. yes. yes. YES! YES!

it was a risk.
i know people questioned us. “how can you pick up a family of seven and move a thousand miles away?”
don’t you know how hard this is for kids, for teenagers, for you?”

yep, people questioned it when we made that first big move.
heck, WE questioned it!

but it was so worth the risk. my emily summed it up beautifully last week in her instagram post:

this is the same girl who stood at the delta counter two years ago sobbing that she’d “never find friends like the ones she had in georgia.”
and now she (and all of us) shed tears to leave what we found in minnesota.

worth all this coming and going? worth all these tears?
 to quote a few northern people i know, “you betcha!”

lesson #4:  it’s good to take a little bit of a risk. even if it involves some heartbreak, headache and tears.

my wise friend, diana, texted me that we need to find “joy in the tears.” is that possible? yes. because, as a.a. milne said, "how lucky am i to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." 

our final night in minnesota, di captured our girls in this photo. her own beautiful form of photographic torture. what a picture! right? people who don’t even know us can look at this and want to cry!

it’s precious and it’s a precious reminder of God’s provision. because, honestly, that’s the other big lesson we’ve learned: God provides. always.

this little friendship between bella and emme is a perfect reminder of how God takes care of us whether we are moving or staying.

i mean it might be a little strange if i lined up all my kids with all their special friends, stuffed bears and balloons … so this photo is just going to have to represent the same thing for all of us.
(if you are big into being fair then just go ahead imagine the rest of my kiddos and their buddies lined up on the shoreline with the sunset and these props)!

but seriously, lesson #5: God provides. 

when we moved to minnesota two years ago, i had this crazy kind of prayer on my heart. well, let’s be honest, i had a lot of crazy kind of prayers on my heart. for that matter, i had a lot of just plain crazy. but one of the things i kept talking to God about was (and this might sound weird) a chinese friend for bella. not that i only ever want chinese friends for bella … not at all … but i wanted at least one. one. you see, for some strange reason, i had this vision that everyone “up north” was blond-haired, blue-eyed and named olsen. and though there are a lot of them and that’s cool, something in me desired a friend for bella who might share her story a little. sound strange? maybe it is. i don’t know, but God just laid that on my heart.  i mean it people, He LAID it on my heart. like i couldn’t escape that prayer request. and so i just kept praying it.

emme and bella's first play date
and then y’all know the story. first day of school at chapel hill and BAM! there she was, “little emme.” little emme AND her mama … right there waiting for us. like God could have just wrapped them up in a big red ribbon and said, “see jody. see, I provide. I heard you and I always provide.”

me and my pal, diana.
and we got not only a good buddy for bella, but i got a good buddy in her mom, too! crazy, right?

and isn’t this really just like God – to provide immeasurably more than we can ask or think up or imagine?

“now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us. to Him be the glory!” ~ ephesians 3:21

and that’s another lesson we learned up north: not does He just provide, but He provides in abundance. He didn’t just provide for bella and me, He provided abundantly for each of us. i could tell you more stories than just these ... because each one of my children is leaving minnesota with the blessing of dear friends.

lesson #6: God provides abundantly!

lesson #7: God hears our prayers – even the strange ones!

God is in charge of the destination and God is in charge of the details. He can go before us, come behind us and take care of everything all around us. we move (for some of us a lot). He never moves. He never shifts or changes. He is constant. and He is constantly with us.

lesson #8: God moves mightily, but He never changes.

and as i drove away from minnesota just a week ago, i found myself a little overwhelmed with the thought of what was ahead. the truck. the boxes. the stuff. the mess. but more than that … i found myself overwhelmed with the lessons i have really learned in moving three times in three years.

stuff is stuff.
people are important.
God always provides.
God is with us – whether we travel 1 mile or 1000.

and drinking your coffee without sugar (once in a while) is okay.

AND ... having a great friend who also happens to be a great photographer is an added blessing. these photos below also came from our last night in minnesota when diana whisked away our two littles while i was doing the final big pack and clean. i will miss diana's amazing photographs, but she knows, as much as i love her pictures, i will miss her 1000 times more.

so, i wrote this saturday morning ... and now, i'm posting on sunday evening. i should probably tell you the good news: after a visit from a tenacious (and super nice) plumber, we have a working washer and dryer today! still no tv or internet ... BUT. we. are. getting. there!

Friday, June 13, 2014

this leaving minnesota

it wasn't supposed to be this hard.
this leaving minnesota.

and yet, as the time draws closer,  the lump in our throats grows bigger, the emotions run higher, and the sadness of soon good-bye grows deeper.

after two years in this lovely state, it is time to say farewell.
by the end of next week, our house will be packed up and we will be heading back to georgia.

some of you are well aware. some of you had no idea.

i haven't said a whole lot about it publicly, but that's been our game plan for a while now. it's one of those things which isn't 100% easy to explain. we had the option to go back to atlanta and that's what we chose. there's no job change or anything like that ... just the chance to go back to what feels most like home. back to the place we spent almost 15 years. with emily heading off to college and sarah beginning high school, this seemed to be the best year to make this big transition.

except minnesota has woven itself into us in ways we weren't expecting. and, now, in these final days before departure, we feel a little tangled up in all that we love here: the people, the friends, the schools, the church, the lakes, the beauty, the summer ... 

but, mostly, the people.

God has been so good in providing an amazing community for us in these two years. so very good. it seems almost impossible we've become so attached to so many ... so quickly ... so deeply. it's what the body of Christ does though. north or south, east or west, when you serve the same God the connections are strong and deep and sure.

our family is living proof of this provision.

it will be hard to leave these new found friends in this new found land. very hard.
many of them have become family.  they love us. we love them. 

bittersweet. i can think of no other more perfect word for this parting.

when we made this big move to minnesota two years ago, i never imagined what God had in store for us. i was riddled with doubts about what we were doing. i spent that summer of 2012 certain we had missed God's will and we were possibly even making a mistake. somedays those doubts bordered on that frightening line of despair. i know my posts back then were filled with adventure and my very best bravery ... but deep inside this mother's heart, i was scared out of my mind: what if it was all wrong. what if this time we had really messed up. what if we had missed the signs. what if. what if. what if ...

and though it didn't happen overnight, God, slowly and surely and perfectly, revealed the beauty of His plan for our family in minnesota.

despite the negative degree days in winter, we were supposed to be here. 
despite the pain of good-byes and the hassle of moving homes, we were supposed to be here. 
despite all the things we had to acclimate to, transition through, and readjust ourselves within, we were supposed to be here.
despite all the challenges and upheavals and boxes to unpack, we were right where God wanted us.

the blessing of these two years in this too-cold-land are too many to count.

i can honestly say, our lives are richer, fuller, better for the time we spent "up north."

lake-living, intense cold, beautiful snow, ice-fishing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, smart wool and good gear, photography, boating, jet-skiing, cabin-life, wild lilacs, walleye, new accents, dark green grass, winding trails, sunsets and sunrises on water, wildflowers roadside, bonfires and bike rides, hot dishes and bars and snow at christmas (and easter) ...
heck, emily even got to be part of a state championship volleyball team!

there's been so much. so, so much.

and so i can hear some of you asking: then why are you leaving? and though it's a good question and one we have been wrestling with for months and months, i am not going to attempt to spell it all out in this blog post. i can't. there are deep things which sway us in both directions and we had to make a decision. and i can only assure you, it wasn't an easy decision to make. we've waffled. we've felt pulled in both places. we basically wanted both. {of course we did}.  i've admitted before, i'm a girl who likes her cake and wants to eat it, too!

in my mind, i'd like to mix all the best things of the north and the south. a lovely combining of all these wonderful friends in both places ... summer in minnestoa, winter in georgia, churches, schools, etc... just this incredible mixture of everything most amazing.

it doesn't work that way though -- at least not on this side of heaven.

sometimes we have to choose. and when we choose one, we grieve the other. that's the place i'm at right now. excited about reuniting with our life in georgia, grieving what we leave behind in minnesota.

is it the right choice? again, i am not 100% certain. we've done our best to discern God's will, to measure the cost, to make the plan. neither rick nor i have received a direct message in this decision. there was no clear email or bold text from God in these past months. we've sorted it out, wrestled it out, plotted it out and prayed it out. {a lot}.
you know what i'm talking about. sometimes God remains quiet. don't get me wrong, God isn't ever confused or in a state of chaos, but sometimes He's quiet.

two years ago, when we made this move to minnesota, i wrote a post using helen keller's words, "life is either a daring adventure or nothing." } and after these two years, i believe this more than ever before. there is no regret in our decision to spend two years up north. none. not even when we were on our 39th day of negative degree cold. not even next week when we can't find our underwear or extension cords or coffee pot. no regret. not even in the fact that this will be our third move in three years. no regret. our family leaves this beautiful place better for our time spent here ... better and more certain of God's goodness and provision.

last week we were leaving a grad party when we came across the bumper sticker "no risk. no story." rick pointed it out to us as we walked to our car ... cool. we believe that. we believe that in our family ... we believe that in our faith.

one of the strong "pulls"back south is to put down roots again. i long for a swing set to be assembled in the backyard for bella, for pencil marks on the wall measuring inches and years, for an address that everyone knows. adventure and risk can be awesome, but i long for things familiar and frayed with everyday routine. of course i do, i'm a mother.  but let's be honest, even those normal things can feel a little risky. even the returning right back to where we came from has it's measure of risk and "what ifs." though we are excited about settling into the home we purchased back in johns creek and weaving ourselves back into our same old church and school community, we know there are a lot of unknowns even there. things change. people change. we've changed.

but, what we have learned in these last few years, is this: even with crazy, crazy change, God stays the same.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." ~ hebrews 13:8

and even though when the goodbyes come next week, it will be harder than any of us ever thought possible, i know that our connections in Christ will continue to run deep and strong and sure. we might not be doing everyday life with these dear ones up north, but there is no distance in God's family.

all week i've had this crazy song from the musical "wicked" running through my head. "for good."
elphaba and glinda's lyrics don't perfectly fit our situation, but there are a few lines which certainly do. "because i knew you ... i have been changed for good."

minnesota, there's no doubt, because we knew you, we have been changed for good.

with those lyrics running through my head, i was prompted to put together a few pictures of our time here. easier said than done. i've tried to capture the highlights, the experiences, the beauty, the people, but even two years are hard to put in a neat little package. not to mention, it was a little bit of self-torture going through the photos and great memories of these last two years. a couple of times i had to close my computer screen and walk away from the project. it doesn't capture everything. two years doesn't allow the chance to get photographed with every dear friend ... but it's something and it will be a sweet thing for our family. and for that i'm glad. plus, it has been a nice escape from all the boxes and packing details!
if you're interested, i'm including the link. and who knows, maybe the state of minnesota will pay me for some good travel publicity!

Monday, June 9, 2014

from celebration to orientation

last sunday we were celebrating her high school graduation.
this sunday we are on a plane heading to her college orientation.

yep, that about sums up this thing called parenting. this thing called kids. this thing called in-the-blink-of-an-eye.

our theme music: the final countdown.

and, of course, i feel my heels dig in and my back stiffen up. i want to brace myself in this progression of next things. but i know, more than bracing myself, i must embrace her and the moment and the beautiful mystery of watching a child move on ...

we are learning to linger even when time doesn’t allow.
we are learning to pause when everything else pushes ahead.
we are desperate to hold that which hurries away.

all week i’ve wanted to post a few pictures of emily’s party. and so tonight, as the sun sets and the plane flies south, i am taking this suspended sliver of time and sharing last week’s celebration. maybe a final hurrah to the high school things she sheds.
for tomorrow morning will come. and the progression of time will continue. and we will all move on and into the next thing. but tonight, this plane, it allows me to pause.

to breathe ... to dwell ... to linger just a tiny bit longer on last week. 

the next things will come.
tomorrow always does.

   ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

the party. it was a lot of work -- no doubt about that -- but worth every crazy minute. pure pleasure for this mama to plan food and photos and decorations and details. 

i’ve thrown a ga-zillion birthday parties for my kids over the years, but this was my first graduation party --- and it felt special. different. we don’t have to do anything to warrant a birthday – they just come. but this graduation thing, it’s different … there’s a long road which leads to this place. a road which has had its share of hard work and hard days and hard bumps. and so to be at this place where we can cut a cake and order balloons and turn up the music --- well, that’s pretty cool. i know you parents of recent grads know. i feel the nod of your heads. you know -- that’s a place worth celebrating well. that's a place well earned.

emily, we are so proud of you!

friends and family ... you're the best! thank you for stopping by and celebrating with us! i want you to know that night as emily was going through cards and replaying moments from her party she was downright overwhelmed with the love. like it about took her breath away. not what she got, but what she's been given. the people who love her, support her, celebrate her. she felt the immense humbling of that --- a beautiful thing. thank you for that gift, dear ones. thank you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

caps and gowns and diplomas, oh my!

last week -- it was like drinking from a garden hose.
three daughters.
three graduations.
and three thousand moments to capture, things to do and events to attend.

all of it. good.
just plain old goodness.
all of it.

within a seven day stretch we joyfully watched bella graduate from kindergarten, sarah graduate from 8th grade, and emily graduate from high school. on the off days -- that is, when we weren't attending a graduation ceremony -- we had a blessing dinner, a baccalaureate, grad parties and even a ballet recital. did i mention both sets of grandparents were in town for the week, as well? (hooray)!

we capped it off with emily's grad party sunday afternoon. (yes, my head was pretty much swimming by the weekend). speaking of swimming, i woke sunday morning to an alert on the phone: FLASH FOOD WARNING. not exactly what the graduate's mother wanted to hear on the day she was planning an outdoor grad party at her home for about 180 people.

needless to say, my slumber ended promptly at 4am with that unkind weather alert.

all weekend it had rained. you've heard the phrase "torrential downpour." yep, that kind of rain. thankfully (and i do mean THANKFULLY) an hour before emily's party the rain came to a halt. though thunderstorms continued to surround our area, we had a slice of clear skies for exactly the three hours of her open house. not a single rain drop. (i will attribute that to a whole lot of desperate prayer).
kind of crazy, huh?

crazy, but good.

all of it. good.

so good ... and so fast ... and so much to take in --- like that water from the garden hose (or the showers from heaven)!

i wanted to linger over every single moment. savor it. taste it. take it all in. 

and, truly, i did my very best. but i'm sure i missed a drop or two of something. because how does one live in these kinds of big moments when they come back to back to back. no room to breath in between ... just throw on another dress and some lipstick, grab the camera and some kleenex and out the door we go! it was a running in high heels kind of week for sure!

and though i might be able to write paragraphs and pages about each experience, i'm going to rely on pictures in this post to share our week. i'm so thankful that we were able to capture some great photos of these great moments and i'll let these images below relay our joy. 
(many, many thanks to my dear diana rouse as she was close by for most of these events and avidly snapping photos).


i love this -- not a great picture, but it captures bella's excitement! she's waving to us - her family!  (oh melt my heart).




emily and her friend, luke, gave the parent tribute at baccalaureate 
proud of these girls and their hard work!

so cool to capture all of us! (thanks diana)!

p.s daughters: your dad and i would appreciate it greatly if, when the day comes, you'd schedule your weddings a little further apart!

p.p.s daughters: we are proud of you and we love you!