Jackson Five Friday: Being Known and “Stop saying ‘Thank You'”

Today I had parent-teacher conferences, and my biggest takeaway from this semi-annual event is always the same: I am filled with gratitude that my sons are known.  They are far from perfect.  There is tons of room for growth, not just because that’s a truism of life.  I mean they have lots of room for growth.  But seriously the fact that I sit down with teachers who know my sons is so comforting.  We can talk at such a heart level about them because we are talking about a person everyone at the table knows and cares about.  No school will ever be perfect.  No teacher will ever be perfect.  No parent will ever be perfect.  Lord knows no student will ever be perfect.  But we should acknowledge and be grateful whenever longings are answered.  I believe God wrote on our hearts the longing to be known and how great that I get to see this longing fulfilled for my boys in our school community.

After conferences this morning, my boys expected me to have some fun day planned.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve combined a bunch of jobs on The Love Boat and set sail.  Yes, I am cruise director, bartender (well, more short-order cook) and doc rolled into one.  I need to throw myself (this amalgam of Julie McCoy, Isaac Washington, and Dr. Adam Bricker) a retirement party and let by boys take over these roles.  They can do these things, and Mama needs a job.  But while we’re still pretending the Love Boat is our endless life, I pretty much eat it up.  When they are home I love being able to give them my full attention.  I find it fun and fulfilling and altogether too good to be true.  Today, I grabbed a couple friends for the older two boys and took them all to Popeyes for lunch.  You would’ve thought I had killed the fatted calf with my own hands.  Nate was the ringleader of the thank yous.  They would not end.

Finally, when just he and I were getting refills, he started in again, “Thank you so much, Mom.  This is so great, Mom.”

But he’d said that like ten times already.  So I said, “Nate, I want you to stop saying thank you.”  The woman beside us looked at me like I had six heads.

I don’t know what gets into him.  It’s not like I never do nice things for him.  I truly don’t know why he feels like he needs to say thank you fifteen times. And he hasn’t stopped.  The boys have played football, basketball and capture the flag all afternoon with Nate taking regular pitstops to thank me for such a fun day.

Perhaps I need to show him the verse from 1 John 3:18:

 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Nate, my dear child, be thankful not with words or speech but with actions and truth.  Show me your love sweet boy, but for heaven’s sake stop saying thank you incessantly.

So today’s post is admittedly a bit hodge podge, but may we be thankful when the longings of our heart are met.  Can you give thanks right now for those who know you, really truly know you?  Take comfort too in the fact that the Person who knows you best and and loves you most is your Loving Creator.  And may we learn to show our love and gratitude with actions and in truth.  May our words never sound like they are hollow or on repeat.  Instead, may we be loving and true in all we do.

Jackson Five Friday: “I’m Raising It”

As a mother, especially a young mama, it’s a truism that any venture into the bathroom will elicit immediate needs by your children.  It’s ridiculous.  And predictable.  Thousands of mamas everywhere have made this observation.  But a recent example of this phenomenon still has me smiling over it’s unapologetic boldness.

A few days ago, I was upstairs in my bathroom when I heard Sam, my seven-year-old, yelling from downstairs, “MOM!!  MOM!!”

And there was such a persistence in his tone that I answered, yelling back, “Yeah?!?”

“Mom!  Do you know where any money is?  I’m raising it.”

I couldn’t help being amused by the boldness of his request.  No explanation whatsoever, just a suspicious employment of terminology he’s obviously heard before.  Money — he’s “raising it.”  No justification or elaboration needed.

I answered from the bathroom with one loud word: “No!”   I never heard about his “fundraising” again.

The thing is I wish I was more shameless sometimes about the things I want to say or do.  I can write about the things I believe (please check out my new advent devotional by clicking here).  But face-to-face I’m much more reserved.  In fact, recently I had a conversation that I walked away from with a sinking heart.  Why didn’t I seize the opportunity to say more?  Why didn’t I unapologetically say what I really think?  Why did I let the fear of what this person would think of me muzzle my view on the matter?

But I have two takeaways from that encounter.  One is to pray to be more bold.  Peter says that we should always be ready to give an answer: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV).   May the Lord help me to do just that, and to do it with gentleness and respect.

The other thing that I did do in the moment — in the course of this conversation that I wish I would’ve been more bold in — was ask a good question.  Ravi Zacharias says that a useful apologetic tool is to question the questioner.  When you find yourself in a situation where you don’t agree with someone, can you take a step back and ask a question about what they are saying?  About the underlying beliefs of the assertion?  Do you listen carefully to their answers?  I hope I did at least that.

Heavenly Father, thank you for opportunities to share my faith.  Help me to be bold and gentle and loving and respectful.  Help me to ask good questions and to be a good listener.  Thank you, Lord, for loving me no matter what.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  




Jackson Five Friday: An Intergenerational Thanksgiving

I consider it a great blessing to be very invested in the life of my niece, Caitlin.  Not only have I loved her with an insatiable love since the moment she was born, she has brought me great joy in unexpected ways. She moved to Arlington, Virginia after college and even teaches at my sons’ school.  I get to interact with her on a regular basis even though she is a twenty-something with her own life.

This Thanksgiving all our family plans fell through.  It was going be the five of us, plus Caitlin.  This was just fine, but I’m kind of a more-the-merrier person, so I told Caitlin to round up some friends.  Surely, since she seemingly knows half the twenty-somethings in DC, she could identify some stragglers.  She came through too, one lovely young lady I already knew and three more — two guys and a girl — I didn’t. It was a family of five plus five singles, and we were thankful.

It’s nice to be around people who are not your natural peers.  I am invariably blessed by being with women much older than me, and women much younger than me.  Being around younger guys is not a frequent occurrence, but I enjoyed it immensely —  except for the fact that one guy in his mid-twenties consistently addressed me with “yes, ma’am,” which I know was intended to show respect but instead made me feel ninety.

We filled our plates and were ready to eat.  Sam proposed a toast — he was drinking Orange Fanta.

He raised his glass and said: “To,” and paused for effect, “…to Fanta!”

We clinked our glasses.  We gave thanks.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as simple and blissful as ours!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Jackson Five Friday: “Helllloooo Laaadiees”

The other day I got another report from a fellow mom that my son, Sam (7), has been at it again.  Evidently the other day when a group of middle school girls passed him in the hallway at school he said, “Helllooo Laadies!”  I don’t know where he got this, but he’s been using it off and on for years.  Since it gets him a consistent laugh, I don’t see him putting it to rest anytime soon.  Plus it has the added pleasure for Sam of embarrassing his brothers half to death.

This kid is such an enigma because in some ways he’s quite immature.  It’s almost as if he oscillates between acting like an oblivious and easily angered four-year-old and then an engaging comedian with a highly developed persona and impeccable timing a la Jimmy Fallon.  If you catch him in the right mood, he can make anything funny.  Anything.  The other day I asked him if he had homework.

“Do I have homework?” he repeated with a sly little smile.  “Uhh, yes, I do!”  I wish I had video evidence because it would prove to you that somehow –with creative expression and atypical delivery — Sam made this bland little exchange hilarious.  It’s a serious gift.

I’ve always told my older boys that God gives us different gifts (Romans 12), and that our job is to use them for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10).

I don’t know what Sam using his gifts for the glory of God is going to look like.  I really don’t.  All I know is that I will love every second of it.

May we all acknowledge and develop our gifts and faithfully use them to glorify God.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Jackson Five Friday: Early and Often

It is November and “early and often” may be the voting mantra of greater New Orleans, but I’m actually referring to sled buying.  Because if you wait for the snow to come, the sleds will be gone.  I learned that the hard way last year.

I was feeling like a sledding rock star one snowy afternoon last winter.  I had packed a large thermos of hot chocolate, disposable cups with lids and was sufficiently wrapped up to scale Everest.  I even had enough hot chocolate to share with school friends we happened into slope side.  I was on winter’s cloud nine.

It was then that I challenged my sons in a race.

“Oh I can beat you,” I said.  “You just wait and see.”

As we counted “one, two, three…GO,” I was full of confidence.

We ran to the edge of the downslope and dove onto our $5 plastic disk sleds (which, by the way are the best — L.L Bean should be forced to pull the $40 versions they are selling this year with the flannel insert — shame, shame, shame).

But the problem was, my sled — the sled I borrowed from a four-year-old — shattered on impact.

I mean shattered.  I was mortified.  How does one even recover in such a moment?

To make matters worse, a rather large mama (as in substantially larger than me, and I ain’t petite) tried to console me.

“You know,” she said, “I bet a lot of sleds have shattered like that today because it’s sooo cold.”

I didn’t know her, but I sure wanted to believe her logic.

Either way, I was determined to replace this little guy’s sled.  However, there is NO buying sleds in the midst of the snowiest winter in history.  That’s why when I saw sleds in October, I stocked up.  I’m telling you, early and often is the way to go with sleds.

And this week I finally had the opportunity to pay back the sled.  I delivered it during carpool and the family seemed rather perplexed by the whole thing, and even tried to give it back.  But I insisted on paying my sled debt.

I can’t tell you how good that felt.  Paying debts is always freeing.  Do you have any odd debts you need to pay?  I bet you’ll feel freer if you just go ahead and pay up.

Paul writes in Romans, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (13:8).

Ahh, may I pay up in sleds, but most of all in love.  Happy Friday to ALL and may we LOVE one another well this week!

Jackson Five Friday: Viagra

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  With all the sports that are watched in our house, I’m pretty sure we could all recite the possible side effects of treating erectile dysfunction.  Some mention of or question about Viagra or its competitors was truly a matter of time.  But it sure didn’t come up the way I thought it might.  I could’ve seen one my boys saying, “What the heck is erectile dsyfunction anyway?”

But it happened in a much different way.

As a mom, the requests never stop.  Can you help me with this?  Can you make me this?  Can you?  Can you?  Can you?  Sam’s most frequent request is: “Will you make me some chocolate milk?”  And even though he can do it himself, I often make it for him, and charge him a fee: between one and ten kisses.  The other day I was hanging out on the couch with Nate and Sam.  Sam asked for chocolate milk, and I agreed to go get it for a single kiss — quite a bargain really.  But when he reached over to pay up, he raised his eyebrows a few times and then let his eyes drift almost shut before his puckered lips planted the kiss.  I thought it was nothing out of the ordinary.  After all, Sam is a card if there ever was one.

But Nate gasped, horrified.  “Mom!” he exclaimed, “Do you know what he’s doing?  He’s acting out the Viagra ad!”

How I kept my composure I really don’t know.  As is often the case, I wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and laugh myself half to death.

Nate is the most innocent eleven-year-old you can imagine.  His casual and indirect reference to the commercial was downright shocking.  Just in the last few weeks — now bear in mind he’s eleven and in sixth grade — he asked me if I thought Santa was a Christian.  With a straight face he asked me that.  I answered, bewildered, and wondering just how long I’ll have to keep up this charade: “Yes, I do, Nate.  I do think Santa is a Christian.”

It’s amazing what our children are exposed to though.  I think we can do our best to limit what influences they have in their lives, but just as important is keeping the dialogue going.  This week we watched an episode of A Football Life.  These are one-hour documentaries on the NFL Network, some of which are incredible.  My two favorites have been about Pat Summerall (amazing story of grace and redemption, you’ll not be able to watch without crying) and Matt Millen (he gives new meaning to the words “thick skinned”).  Anyway this week was about a current player who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.  My sweet husband woke up the next day and said we need to talk through it more with the boys, which we did around the dinner table that night.  Through a series of questions the boys were able to see that even though mental illness is real, sometimes psychiatrists, like the one in the show, appear to have no recognition of the existence of sin.  We read through Galatians 5:22-23: 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

We talked about how self-control is a fruit of the Spirit regardless of whether you face mental illness.  Untangling the implicit messages of our culture and the truth of God’s Word is time consuming.

You cannot live on a deserted island.  You cannot raise your family in isolation, tempting as that may sometimes sound.  The Christ-follower is meant to live in community.  We are meant to be salt and light for the world.  May we do this by engaging the culture and by always pointing our little sheep back to the Bible.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me so many great laughs as I try to shepherd the hearts of my sons.  Help me to love them unconditionally.  Help me to always point them to Your Word.  May it be the lamp unto our path each and every day.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.