Wednesday, August 23, 2023

This Song Is About You (And Me)



You’re so vain

I bet you think this song is about you. 

Don’t you? Don’t you?  ~ Carly Simon


My family made fun of me when I hung this mirror in my coop. Yes, shame on them, they did. I tried to convince my scoffers that chickens really do love to look at themselves. Even roosters! Like handsome Basil here. He stares and stares. It’s quite funny. Perhaps a tad weird.


But it’s good for us to take a long, hard look at ourselves every now and again. Actually, every day. Funny enough, as flawed humans we tend to not see very clearly our own flaws. The lens blurs a bit when we look at our own stuff. It is just so much easier (and possibly more fun) to see the issues of others.

“Why do you look at the speck of DUST in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the LOG in your own?” Matthew 7:3

Speck versus log. You get the idea. 

Why is it so easy to see the mistakes and missteps of our brothers—and sisters and parents and children and friends and neighbors—and, yet, quickly gloss over our own? I am so guilty of this.

We can effortlessly justify and minimize and explain away our own choices all day every day, but then, oh that speck of dust in someone else’s eye, man, that gets us! That gets under our skin. That gets us all hot and bothered. That gets us up on our high horse. How dare they?

Honestly, I think this is one of the devil’s favorite tactics. He loves to distract us from
working on ourselves. If he gets us focused on someone else’s mess, he knows we won’t have much time to address that pretty messy person in the mirror.  

He doesn’t want us to focus on fixing ourselves. He wants us to keep minimizing and justifying and explaining so we go on living complacent and comfortable in our own stench. Our sin. He does this to keep us from God’s goodness and His best for us.

But God has more for us. Better for us. His best. 

“I ask that the eyes of your (my) heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance …” ~ Ephesians 1:18

Another version says,

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so you can understand the confident hope He has given.” 

Eyes flooded with light! I love that. 

Of course the evil one wants to keep us in the dark. To keep us afraid. To keep us from looking at ourselves. To keep us from Truth. The very last thing he wants us to know is that beautiful confident hope and the riches of our glorious inheritance we have in Jesus. 

Sometimes, we just don’t want to see. Or hear. Or feel. Or "go there." We choose, instead, to numb and dull and deflect. We harden our hearts and we hide in our dark.

Matthew 13:15 might make it most clear —

“For this people’s heart has become calloused; 

they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. 

Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, 

understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’

Don’t be afraid of that mirror. Don’t be a chicken. Or maybe, DO be a chicken — like Basil. Take a good look. Take an honest look. 

Ask Jesus to flood your eyes with His light.  

That is where truth and beauty become clear. 

That is where hope and healing become ours. 




Thursday, August 10, 2023

Dirty Jobs: Car Rides, Kids and Colonoscopies



these dirty boys clean up pretty well!
Last week, beach bound, Rick and I used a free Audible credit and listened to Mike Rowe read his book, The Way I Heard It.
 

The deep timber of his gravely voice immediately took me back to the days of raising young kids. His Dirty Jobs show was a weekly classic in the McNatt home. I can still see my boys and husband sprawled out on the sofas in rapt attention to whatever dirty job Mike Rowe was piping into our family room that week. Hanging on his every gross word, like a train wreck from which they couldn’t look away, I marveled at their focus. The more grotesque, the more rapt.


I’m pretty sure they never missed an episode. If memory serves me correctly, we owned the DVD set of all 532 episodes. Okay, I just fact checked —179 episodes. I’m sure we watched them all. More than once. 


I mean is there anything better than a couple of boys and their dad being grossed out together while stuffing faces with popcorn and chips and soda? That was how we rolled back then. After a few days at the beach with my family, I’m happy to report, it’s still how we kind of roll. 


Being grossed out together is real family bonding. 


So as Rick and I traveled alone listening to this iconic voice, I’m sure he had to be thinking the same thing as me: this man, Mike Rowe, and his filthy offerings, were woven right into the fabric of our many years of early parenting. I will never not hear the deep bass of Mike’s voice and not think of my boys. Even if the topic was something absolutely awful, there’s something really wonderful about that memory of them all together sprawled out in our family room. 


I’m not going lie, in our travels this past week, it was nice being able to listen to an Audible uninterrupted. That’s what we get these days with older children—The ability to hear. The oldest kids traveled from their own states and the other three drove together in a separate car.  But as lovely as uninterrupted listening and quiet driving can be, it will always feel strange to be vacation bound without a backseat full of a bunch of hooting and hollering hooligans.


Talk about dirty jobs. Those were the days. Cleaning out our backseat after a long family trip was most certainly an adventure into the world of gross. There was always some kind of something sticky or smooshed or crumbled or crushed. Always something borderline horrifying to pull out from behind us. I easily conjure up the image of my young mothering self staring at an odd item unearthed from between the seats and wondering who and what and, mostly, why in heaven’s name?


Dirty Jobs wasn't just a show, but was also such a big part of raising kids. Sometimes we talk about some of the gross things from those years. We actually laughed about a few even this past week at the beach. Classic stories. Stories which were terrible to live through, but hilarious to remember.  Like the time the youngest brother leaned over the side of his bunk bed and threw up into the mouth of the oldest brother reclining innocently below. Perfect aim, perhaps, but no one forgets the moment when they receive another’s vomit— beloved brother or not. 


I could go on and on with stories. You need only come sit at one of our family gatherings and I promise you won’t be disappointed. We truly could have our own Family Dirty Jobs show--at least 179 episodes.


Because that’s how most families roll. 


Because that’s how most of life rolls. 


It’s a dirty business this living, is it not? I know we don’t like to talk about the dirt. Pictures have a way of hiding it. I’m guilty of that trick. Angles are everything. But most of us with a few decades under our belts know that there’s no such thing as squeaky clean and picture-perfect living. 


Speaking of a dirty job, this week I had a colonoscopy. I know that’s not something most people share publicly, but, it fits this blog topic, so, I’m sharing. Besides, please use this as your friendly reminder to cross that off your list. The night before my procedure I was explaining the process to Bella who, horrified, exclaimed, “But mom, WHO does that??? WHO wants to do THAT job?” 


The next morning as I entered the OR and was getting all “set up” by the team, I shared my daughter’s comments with them. We all had a good laugh over her teenage disbelief. My gastroenterologist raised her hand and laughing, said, “Me! I do that job!” I wished, for Bella, I had taken a selfie with Dr. Julia who looked more like a movie star in front of the camera as opposed to, well, you know …


I know it’s unpleasant. And perhaps not polite dinner table conversation, but it’s something necessary and pretty important. I’m happy to report that procedure went well and at first glance all looks good. Grateful after these past couple of years of not so favorable results. 


But Dirty Jobs, it’s how life is lived. I’ve kind of enjoyed watching my children grow up and have to learn how to do the not so pleasant. I don’t think it’s so bad for us, on occasion, to get dirty. Not just recline on our sofas and marvel at others getting dirty, but to dig in and do it ourselves.


We don’t live pristine lives. And the sooner we realize how messy living is, the sooner we can mature and move on. 


You want a cuddly, cute puppy? 

You’ll have to take care of all things potty training.

  

You want your shower to drain quickly?

You’ll have to learn how to snake out the gobs of gross hair. 

(Or call your dad).


You want to leave your lunchbox contents in your backpack all summer?

You’ll have to deal with that little lovely come back-to-school time.


You (Jody) want to have chickens in a pretty chicken coop?

You'll need to scoop chicken #$%@ every single day of your life!


We have learned a little this year about hard jobs .. rough places … unpleasant things. This dirty cancer diagnosis has, in some ways, taken from us our much preferred rose-colored glasses. We don’t spend too much time dwelling on the ugly, but instead, do what needs to be done and we move on. Have the test or procedure, take the medicine and the side effects, do the next hard thing. And then humble ourselves before the Lord and ask His mercy and strength in all of it. 


But of course, like you, we sometimes wonder:

Why can’t life be easier? More lovely? Better? CLEANER?


The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 gives us a pretty good theological understanding of what sin did when it entered the picture. How it muddied the beautiful garden. How it corrupted the perfect.  How it shattered the pristine.  After Adam and Eve’s sin there’s a lot in those next verses about DIRT —The serpent crawling on his belly in the dust and grit, the man working the ground, the woman in pains of labor. None of it pleasant. And all of it true to the suffering in our lives today. Very real and very filthy stuff.


But, then, Jesus. 


Jesus who came, and carrying our gross sin on His shoulders, agreed to the hardest, most dirty job ever — dying on the cross in our place, for our sin. For us. You. Me.


A dirty, grotesque death, but necessary to bring our only hope for salvation. Our only hope to be fully restored to that which each one of us craves — Holiness. Wholeness, Redemption and Glory.


So, yes, in the meantime, we live pretty dirty lives. Whether it be our job or our chore or our difficulty or our diagnosis. We are pretty much most days groveling in some kind of dirt. 


But, oh how wonderful that, on occasion, we get to be alone with the audible voice of our Father in heaven and the car ride grows quiet and we get to hear His deep voice reminding us that, dirty as this life is, there is so much more to our story … because of the cleansing blood of His Perfect Son, Jesus.


And, that is exactly the way I hear it. I hope you do too.


“Behold, I am making all things NEW.” Revelation 21:5


“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” Psalm 40:1-3


(a few photos from our beach trip last week. because there really is beauty even in the dirty)! =)













Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Bringing Cake

 


It’s his birthday, but he’s at the beach with his college buddies this week. I offered to show up with a cake. He was clear, “No, mom. Don’t come to the beach with a cake. Absolutely not.”


“I repeat: Mother. Do. Not. Bring. A. Cake.” 

I honored his wishes, but he doesn’t understand. 

He can’t understand that for all those years I was the one to bring the birthday cake and the ice cream and the balloons. For all those years I made the birthday magic happen.

Even though he is our 4th born. 

I mean, truly, by the time he joined the family, there were birthday celebrations where I thought … can’t we just include the older siblings and wrangle up a few stray neighborhood children and call it a party?

But no. We celebrated. Always. 

We made it as special as we could for as many years as he would allow. There was a pirate party, a trampoline park party, an out-to-the-movies themed party. Of course there was a race car party … or two. 

I think back to all of those parties multiplied by all of our kids and I feel like I could almost have put “party planning” on my resume. There were years where it felt like I just went from one birthday party to another. I’m so grateful I had the time to do it all.

Maybe some of the touches were more for me than they were for the birthday boy or girl. I mean does a 3 year old really care if her balloons are pale pink or hot fuschia? Did she really appreciate the fairy wings that required me to hunt down in at least a dozen dollar stores? 

No, probably not. 

But as this 4th born turns 20 today, I’m pretty sure even though he doesn’t want me to come anywhere near him with celebratory confections, he knows his mom did her best to bring the birthdays. 

He knows I loved doing it because I love him. 

At some point we stop planning things for our kids. Twenty seems a good age. I write that, but I kind of laugh, because if you know Connor, you know he’s been pretty independent for quite some time. It didn’t take a 20th birthday for this kid. 

Maybe it’s a 4th child thing. Maybe that’s why he’s been doing his own laundry since middle school. Maybe that’s why he can make a dinner reservation or a doctor’s appointment (or rent a beach house☺️) and not bat an eye. He grew up knowing his mom was always there, but also always a little busy planning other things—kids’ parties—too. He had to share me. Every day. He had to figure out how to take care of some of the stuff on his own. Sometimes that makes me a little bit sad and sometimes it makes me think maybe that was the best gift I could have given him. 

No, I won’t show up at the beach tonight with a cake and candles for Connor, but I will give thanks to the Lord for allowing me the chance to be his mom and celebrate him always.πŸŽ‚

Happy birthday, Connor!



Friday, March 3, 2023

Beech Trees

Beech trees. Anyone else a little gaga over them this time of year?

They are the pale copper or light caramel colored trees you might notice scattered in the midst of early March’s muted grays and browns. 

Before spring’s drama fully unfolds is the best time to appreciate them. Especially deeper in the woods. There’s not much else to see out there in winter’s drab dress—at least not to our eyes. 

Though not evergreen, they hold their leaves throughout winter. When every other hardwood has long ago bid hers goodbye, beech leaves remain. 

The reason: MARCESCENCE!

“Deciduous trees that hold onto their leaves through the winter are described as marcescent (mahr-CESS-ent).”

They bring beauty and interest in a place where everything else feels kind of bare and blah. Lifeless and limp. 

There’s a line of them arranged across a ridge in our woods. Like they were planted with purpose. If you happen to live in Johns Creek, my favorite place to view them is along Abbotts Bridge Road. Stunning.πŸ‚

I know their beauty has a biological explanation, but I can’t help but see them as stronger than the other more average deciduous trees. 

They hang on. 

They hold out. 

They have hope.

They hint at beauty.

It seems when harsh winters or unwanted hardships come it might just be easier to let go and let our leaves drop ... to join the rest of the trees in the forest. But perhaps these beech trees can remind us of the strength + beauty which comes with resiliency.

The same Creator of these exceptional trees created you and me. Maybe we can’t do it on our own, but perhaps He has placed within us a similar quality as these trees. 

Not marcescence, but dependence … on Him. On His strength. 

In the deepest woods.

In the depths of winter. 

Dependence on the One who not only reminds us of the next season of life, but who is Life. 

πŸ‚”But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” πŸ‚ ~ Psalm 1

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Spring [Reclaiming February]

Spring. How early it visits in the South. Might be my very favorite thing about living here.🌱

People like to declare, “The change, it seemed to happen overnight!”

But I kind of disagree. 

It really does not happen “overnight.”

There’s work involved. 

Most people just don’t know how to watch for it. 

Early spring requires a careful looking. 

A stopping. 

A noticing of the small and almost imperceptible.

Maybe the loudest pops of fuschia and bright yellows do explode seemingly while we sleep, but first, they must begin with the tiniest buds of pale green. 

Almost invisible—unless willing to pay close attention. 

We won’t notice them in our rushing. 

And though I love the bold drama of a tree in bloom, I love even more those baby buds so hard to see. 

BECAUSE—

That is actually where hope is truly found.

It’s easy to believe warm weather is fast approaching when staring into the face of sunny daffodils or hot pink saucer magnolias. 

That’s not hope, that’s hard evidence. 


AND — 

Faith isn’t seeing and then believing, it’s believing before seeing. 

Or it isn’t really faith. 

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  ~ Hebrews 11:1

I know we all long for the surety of full bloom. We gaze at those frothy flowers, and, with confidence, proclaim it a beautiful tree and more to come. 

BUT —

Is it possible that Jesus wants us first to trust Him? 

To trust Him for what He’s doing? 

For what He’s bringing? 

For what He has promised?

I’ll admit, this is hard for me. I like the evidence. I like proof, clarity, results!


But this year God has held me in a place requiring me to stop and look more closely. 

To stop and look and have faith. 

The evidence of His love has been a bit harder to see. I’ve had to look more intently for those little buds of blessing—for those tiny gifts of grace. 

Yes, it has been challenging, but it has also been faith building. 

If your trees aren’t yet dressed in bright colors, I encourage you to stop for a minute and look more closely. 

Have faith. Have hope.

See His love.🌸

#reclaimingfebruary #HisLove #new🌱



Monday, February 20, 2023

Monday Mornings [Reclaiming February]


Monday mornings. Sometimes they hit hard. But in Reclaiming February, I am reviewing how I think about this somewhat dreaded day. 

Instead of seeing the weekend over, I want to see the opportunity for another week begun. Another week of possibility. 

And mostly, a fresh start. 

No matter the disaster or disappointment of last week, this week is brand new. 

A blank canvas of do-overs. 

A clean slate of start agains.

And, gosh, I need them!

From the cycle of the seasons to the months of the calendar to the hours in our days, God abundantly gives the gift of New Mercy. Over and over. As messy humans, He knew we would desperately need it. 

He knew we would physically crave the close of day with the setting sun.

He knew we would eagerly welcome the start of another.

He designed us that way. 

Our spirits seek it out. Our bodies lie down and rise up in the same predictable pattern. How beautiful and intentional is our Creator-God. 

How can we not see His fingerprints on all of it?

He is a God of rhythm and flow. 

A God of plan and purpose. 

A God of order and organization.

Psalm 30: 5 reminds us, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Amen? Amen! 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 

But, dear ones, don’t miss the main thing—All of this creative order only points to His very heart for us. He has written everywhere in nature, the story of something new. The story of a fresh start. The story of Redemption. 

“Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7 

Talk about a clean slate!🀍

No matter what came before, there is always, ALWAYS His gift of NEW.

“Behold, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:5

That means Mondays. 

That means me. 

And you. 

New.

Amen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

5 Smooth Stones [Reclaiming February~Day 7]

Not surprising, but I’ve always loved words. As a little girl I kept a list of words I wanted to remember. I collected them like other kids collected comic books or baseball cards. The bigger, the better. I found them fascinating. I’d circle them in books I was reading and work out the pronunciations before google was even a thing. I guess the English teacher gig was always meant to be.

Last year, I began to wrestle with some pretty big words. Only this time, I didn’t want to write them down. I didn’t want them on any of my lists. Incurable. Terminal. Metastatic. Let's not even consider all the medical jargon I've been juggling. Yikes. 

Big words. 

Massive meanings. 

Giant sized implications.  

Metastatic cancer is a massive giant. An ugly ogre. 

David, in the Psalms, depicts God as a giant slayer. But well before David wrote one word he was just a young shepherd boy. The antithesis of anything large. An average, ordinary shepherd taking care of his sheep until he faced his own giant—Goliath. You probably know the story. 

David, with his sling and his 5 stones standing before the massive Goliath in his 9 feet and his bad boy bronze and his invincible iron. 

Everyone else was afraid. Even King Saul and his army had forgotten who God was. Forgotten what God does. Forgotten His power and His mighty plan. Forgotten what it means to have Him on our side. 

But not David.

After tending his sheep, David was sent to the battle to only bring lunch for his big brothers. Nothing more. Just lunch. He didn’t bring armor or weapons or a finely tuned strategic plan. He brought bread and cheese. But when he heard there was a loud mouth, cocky, SOB, ogre taunting the Israelite army he volunteered to go fight him. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t hurry back to his sheep. He didn’t make excuses. He volunteered.

He was the sheep guy. 

The lunch bringer.

The youngest brother. 

The weak one.

But, regardless of all these things he was or wasn’t, he knew God on his side. And that’s all that mattered when that small stone struck the forehead of that big giant and brought him crashing to the earth.

I loved that story as a little girl, but I NEED that story as woman now. I didn’t want these giant words in my life, but I really do want the giant kind of faith David displayed.

I bring absolutely nothing to this battle. But, the young shepherd boy reminds me, I don’t need to bring anything to this battle. God is on my side. And His word encourages me.

After defeating Goliath, David went on to write the Psalms filled with images of God as our great defender, warrior and protector. In the massive problems and the biggest battles, He is with us and He fights for us. Our own weapons matter little. 

Do you need to be reminded of what God can do? I encourage you to begin with the Psalms. These are the words I now write down, spell out, memorize and cling to. These are the words which—if I was a tattoo girl—I’d tattoo across my skin. Who knows, I still might.

These are the words which matter most. 

“I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies.” Psalm 44:6-7

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”  Psalm 28:7

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Happy Birthday [Reclaiming February~Day 5]


Happy birthday to our birthday twins and book ends, Emily and Bella! 

Truly, this day alone easily reclaims all of February and then some. God brilliantly displays his love in the gift of our Em and Bell. 

This feels like the right time to tell you a piece of their sister-story: When we were first given Bella’s file we were praying through and trying to process God’s call into adoption. It was a huge decision, as Rick once said, “we looked more in need of a nanny than a 5th child!”

One evening, during that time, Emily marched into the room and with hands on her hips exclaimed to Rick and me, “I don’t know what there is to decide. This little girl needs a home, a family and parents … and we’ve got that and can give it to her. We have plenty to share with her so I don’t really know what there is to even think about.” And with a huff, she turned on her heel and marched back out of the room. (I wish y’all could have heard the mixture of conviction and exasperation in her)!

Rick and I stared at each other. A bit stunned. This wasn’t her normal 13 year old behavior. I was pretty sure I’d never before heard her advocate so selflessly. But her little speech impacted us and (obviously) moved us toward the right (best ever) decision.

But there’s more. That same night, unable to sleep, I went back down to our office and opened up Bella’s file again. As I was combing through it more closely, for the first time, I noticed her birthdate. I could hardly believe it —February 5th! The very same as this oldest daughter who had just that evening advocated for a tiny girl on the other side of the world. 

I was blown away. Tears and laughter mixed together that night. God really does give the most beautiful, unbelievable reminders of His love and sovereignty. 

There is absolutely no accident or coincidence in our two girls sharing a birthday. God reclaimed a tiny girl in China, He reclaimed a 13 year old girl’s heart in America and He reclaimed February 5th long, long, long ago. Glory to Him. 

Em and Bells, I love the story your sweet sisterhood tells the world. 

You are so loved. 

Happy birthday!

#ReclaimingFebruary #sisters #GodsLove






Saturday, February 4, 2023

Rooftop Friends [Reclaiming February ~ Day 4]

Last year diagnosis day ran right into our daughters’ birthdays. I had a party planned February 4th for our youngest.

How does a woman wake up on her first full day of living with bad news and carry on with a birthday party

She doesn’t.  

She can’t.

I couldn’t. 

But, like they say in show business, the birthday party (show) must go on! I mean I had a really good excuse to hide under the covers and skip it altogether. No one would have argued.

But I knew, even on that very first day when I was raw and reeling, that the show really did have to go on. I was going to have to figure it out—one shaky step at a time. One birthday party at a time. One plain old regular day at a time.

The amazing part of this party though wasn’t anything I did. It was what my friends did. A group of girlfriends swooped in and handled the entire thing for me. I showed up, but they showed their deep love for me and God’s love for me by handling every part of the party. 

That’s what exceptional friends do. They carry you when you can’t walk. Like the friends who carried the paralyzed man and lowered him through the roof to Jesus for healing. These girls (and so many others) have been carrying me this past year. 

Meals, messages, carpools and cards. They have driven me to my infusions and appointments. They have read books and articles and done research. They have helped me make decisions regarding my home. They have sent gifts and flowers and food. They have prayed for me through the hours of the night. They have fasted for me. They have read God’s Word to me. They have sent scripture, played music, grocery shopped, and analyzed nutrition. I could go on and on. It’s been unbelievable. I can’t imagine walking this road without them. 


That paralyzed man on his mat, I identified with him this year. He and I don’t just have an illness in common, we also both have faithful friends. My friends carried my mat to Jesus. Even when it wasn’t clear how to get me there. Because like his friends, “They looked for a way to take the man into the house where Jesus was.” Women do that really well. They “look for a way.” When there doesn’t seem to be a way, they keep looking. They look harder. They get creative. They become determined. These men couldn’t get their friend in through the door, so they made a hole in the roof and lowered him to Jesus. There was no way that paralyzed man was going to get himself up on that roof, so his friends got him there. 

Sometimes friends get you through the roof top. Sometimes they get you through the rough stuff. 

And what does Jesus say about this man’s friends?

“When Jesus saw THEIR faith, He said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” … “I say to you, get up. Take your bed and go to your home.” At once the sick man got up in front of them. He took his bed and went to his home thanking God.” (Mark 2). 

I am sure this no-longer-paralyzed man thanked God for his healing all the way home, but I am just as certain he thanked God for his friends. 

This year—tonight, in fact—we are having a little party at our house for Bella. I am Reclaiming February today grateful to be able to throw a little party for our youngest, but not for one minute forgetting those friends who carried me through this day last year. 

This morning I had a sweet mom call and ask if I needed her help with the party. 

My answer, “Thank you, but not tonight. This year, we’ve got it!

Friday, February 3, 2023

Dependence Day [Reclaiming February~Day 3 ]


I love anniversaries. Weddings. Homecomings. Happenings. Historical events. You name it, any milestone or notable achievement, and I’m there to celebrate. Will probably throw a party or at least decorate something nearby. Y’all know me.


Most of the time they invite something wonderful and worth remembering.

However, anniversaries can also, unfortunately, invoke pain, panic, and some PTSD.


Today marks one year since learning my stage 4 diagnosis. One year. It’s hard to wrap my brain around that. Four seasons. Twelve months. 365 days of waking up each morning knowing I have this ugly business of incurable cancer mysteriously floating around in me.


Is this one year mark an achievement? Can we really call it that? I suppose it is at least notable. Or worrisome. Depending on how we want to look at time marked and measured. Regardless, I don’t look too closely. I stay in the day best I can. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time. The future, simply too much for me to consider most days. 


We don’t understand that until someone tells us it isn’t guaranteed. I mean the future is not guaranteed for any of us. There. You’ve been told. But that doesn’t fully compute until we have been stamped with something serious. I promise you I would very much have claimed no assurance of my days prior to this diagnosis, but I also promise you I didn’t quite get what that meant one year and one day ago. Of course I knew it in my head, but it is an entirely different matter when you feel the very ungluing of it in your gut. 


It is with different ears these days that I listen to the way we talk: 

“Someday I’m going to travel to Spain and watch the bulls run. 

Someday I’m going to organize all those old photos into albums.

Someday I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail or canoe the Boundary Waters or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or take a cruise on the Reine River or write a book or organize my Tupperware or be early to carpool or whatever!


We think we will always have it. This someday. 


Elusive and ethereal as it is, we put it in our pocket. We feel quite secure it will stay safely there if we do all the right things and take all the right steps. On occasion, we peek in and we pat it knowingly. Confidently. Expectantly. We might say “God willing,” but we wink at it anyway. 

This time. This treasure. This someday.


And I don’t want to change that thinking for you one bit. It is a beautiful, comfortable, luxurious kind of thing. But it changed for me a year ago and I am still learning to process. Kate Bowler said it best in her book “Everything Happens for a Reason,” when she wrote, “the future was like a language I couldn’t speak anymore.”


I’ve had a few people ask me what’s been the biggest thing this year. And, without a doubt, that is at least part of my answer — how I speak about the future.


And maybe even that is a luxury. I know some people are diagnosed and thrown immediately into the brutal pain of the right now: Hard treatments and surgeries and side effects. And where I’ve had all of those things this year, they haven’t altered my life too dramatically. Yes, I’ve had to give up some things, but not everything. Not all of it. I’m still me. I’m still living life. I am. 


Yes, the physical has changed a bit, but it’s truly the mental which has been the biggest contender. There’s a battle within which—at least right now—wages more violent than the physical. And there aren’t enough mind numbing distractions to come close to combating it. Not enough Netflix series or trips to Target or suspense-filled novels or house improvement projects. There simply aren’t enough things. There’s no pretending. No spinning. No denying. No disillusionment. There’s no instagram filter which can make it look even one bit more lovely.


So at the end of my day I’m left with the task of wading through it. Wrestling with it. Wondering about it. And, yes, sometimes, weeping over it. And the only way I can do any of that is walking with Jesus in it. It’s the only way. Again, I thought I understood what that meant one year ago. I didn’t. And I probably don’t understand today what I will in one more year, God willing. 


The only way to do this hard thing is walking with Jesus. There is nothing. NOTHING. Which you or I can bring to this level of worry and what-if. I’m not saying my walk looks super shiny these days. Somedays it’s pretty messy. I’m limping. I’m crawling. He’s carrying me. Somedays I sound like I’m hanging out with a big bunch of hooligans and heathens, certainly not the Most High. I’m irritable and anxious and on edge. I’m snippy and testy and tired and, I’m sure if you ask my family, tiresome.


But, crazy thing is, that’s when I know He’s calling me to come walk closer with him. To lean harder on Him. He doesn’t leave me sitting here in my mess. He doesn’t turn away. He doesn’t tell me to go get myself cleaned up and then come back to Him when I’m a better version of myself. He is there. He is right here washing my dirty face, wiping my tears, wrapping His arms around me and reminding me He’s in this battle with me. The physical. The mental. The spiritual. All of it. He’s with me. 


So today’s anniversary doesn’t just mark my diagnosis, but, much more importantly, it marks the day I began drawing closer to Jesus and pressing harder into Him. It marks the day I learned more deeply about my dependence on Him. I’m never going to be able to stray to far from the fact that February 3rd is my diagnosis anniversary, but because I am determined to Reclaim February, I’m declaring this day my Dependence Day Anniversary. 


“I depend on God alone; I put my hope in Him. He alone protects and sees me; His is my defender, and I shall never be defeated. My salvation and honor depend on God; He is my strong protector; He is my shelter. Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell Him all your troubles, for He is our refuge.” Psalm 62: 5-8






Thursday, February 2, 2023

Holding Me [Reclaiming February~Day2]

 

God shows His love for me pretty much every day through this guy. This husband of mine who in this past challenging year has been the physical arms holding me. 

Holding on to me. 
Somedays, holding me up.

When I’ve felt things spinning out of control, and even when I’ve acted out of control (and I have) he’s been there holding the line.
Holding me back from the edge. 
Holding me tight in the storm. 
Holding my hand in the sadness. 
And, maybe most importantly, holding me accountable to God’s Truth. 

When the doctor called to say those first awful words last February, Rick’s arms were the first arms to embrace me.

We aren’t a perfect couple. (We argued last night before bedπŸ™„). Seriously, people. This year has tested our marriage in ways unimaginable. In ways too many to count.

But when God joined our hands together 33 years ago, God knew this bitter dance ahead and He knew Rick would hold on tight to me and love me as Christ loves. What more can I possibly say? 

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and HOLD FAST to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Ephesians 5




Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Reclaiming February

 

Happy February, friends. I’ll confess, I was a little hesitant to turn the calendar page this morning. Just the month’s name holds a good bit of PTSD. A year ago, February went drastically off the rails at our house.

It was February 3rd when I received the MBC diagnosis. Normally I love this month. It holds the birthdays of both our oldest AND our youngest (February 5th). It holds Valentines Day and sweet declarations of love. It holds the slightest beginnings of spring (at least here in the south it does). But last year I could barely hold it together as our world rocked with news of cancer’s return and spread. For me, February felt shot to pieces. Cupid and his arsenal of little arrows mocked me. The entire 28 days were a blur as I began digging out from my diagnosis and forming a medical plan, a battle plan and a brand new not-so-quite-so-shiny plan.
So on this first day of February 2023 I’m taking back the month. I’m reclaiming that which felt obliterated and overwhelming. In this “month of love,” my original idea was to share each day “something I love,” but as I was thinking through my plan this morning it occurred to me that’s not really it at all.
Reclaiming this month has little to do with what I love, and everything to do with how God shows His love to me. How even in this first year of an incurable disease, He has, again and again, demonstrated His great, unconditional and incredible love for me. Some of you might roll your eyes and even argue—A cancer diagnosis doesn’t exactly sound like anyone’s version of a love letter. Nope, it sure doesn’t. But stick with me this month and I will hope to offer you real examples of what love looks like even in some pretty unlovely circumstances.
And so today, it feels only right to begin my February Reclamation with Jesus and what He demonstrated for me on the cross. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
I didn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. But He came and He chose to bear my sin and become the ultimate sacrifice. He did it for me. For you too. Nothing says true love like someone laying down their life for another. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13.♥️
Today, while working in the woods I thought I’d try to find something that resembled a cross for today’s photo. And can I just tell you it was crazy—everywhere I looked I was finding crosses. My favorite is the two roots with one growing over the other. 1st photo.
I am not sure I have it in me to post every day. I’m not sure YOU have it in YOU to read my post every day!πŸ™ˆLol. So some days you might see my stuff pop up, but I’m taking the pressure off the every day posting.
This isn’t just about me though. I’d love you to also stop and think about how God has shown his love for you. Go ahead and begin listing the examples. I bet, like all my crosses in the woods, you’ll be suprised.
Sometimes we just have to look.