Jackson Five Friday: An Extravagant Gift

Happy Friday, Friends!

Hope you are finding many ways to give thanks this November.  I appreciate how many friends are intentional and specific all month long about giving thanks. Certainly, we can never count our blessings enough.

One thing I’m incredibly thankful for is the community I’ve been a part of for the last eight years.  Almost four years ago, a group of moms threw me an incredibly lovely and incredibly loving 40th bash.  They said the sweetest, most affirming things and we had many, many laughs.  Then last Friday, a similar group threw another party as a send off.  They prayed for me.  They told stories about me.  They spoke blessings over me and shared what I’ve meant to them.  But unlike my birthday, which was largely about me, this send off was just as much about my guys.  This group shared stories about my whole family — there were tidbits about my husband Will, my son Will, about Nate, and of course, not surprisingly many about Sam.  Sam somehow generates a disproportionate share of our stories.  Oh how we laughed.  It meant the world to me.  It was like receiving an extravagant gift.  Friends that know and love you and your family are worth more than rubies and gold and myrrh.  It is priceless to be known and loved like that.

And honestly, I fear I will never have that again.  Having small children together is like a petri dish for friendship.  The bonds are easy and strong and life-giving, that little germ of relationship just takes off and flourishes.  New friends will not know my children in the same way.  They will not know how this one struggled with that or this one has always needed time alone, or a million little nuances my friends from last Friday night know so well.

But I heard something recently that I want to live by:  A Puritan man sat down to a meager meal of bread and water and joyously looked at the bread and water and said, “All this!?!  And Jesus too?”  No matter what situation I find myself in, whether it be an abundance of food, an abundance of friends, a lack of food or a lack of friends, no matter what, I want to survey the gifts given me and say, “All this?!?  And Jesus too?”  I want to stay incredulous that Jesus is my greatest and most important gift, all others are lovely bonus gifts.

What’s amazing is that when I tried to research where this Puritan tale originated, I googled “All this and Jesus too?” and what came up was the painting above.  This painting hung in my grandparents home since before I was born.  My grandfather, who thought whatever he had was the best, wherever he lived was the best, walked by this painting every single day.  Did he ever think, “All this and Jesus too?”  I don’t know.  But I know he lived it.

These words from Paul are so perfect for this mindset and for our hurting, seemingly out-of-control world:

 Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Thessalonians 5: 13-18

Have a wonderful week with your families, living each day saying “All this?  And Jesus too!?!”

With Love,




Jackson Five Friday: Never Tell God What You Cannot Do


It’s a beautiful, unseasonably warm day here in the suburbs of DC just like it was sixteen years ago.  I remember that day because it was the worst day of my life.

I had such a lovely time driving around running errands to prepare for the arrival of my parents that night.  But just before I left for the airport my brother called to tell me about my dad.  He’d had a massive heart attack on the flight.  I would not be picking him up from the airport ever again.  My parents’ quick but frequent trips to see Will and me came to a screeching halt, and honestly I expected my mom to instantly become old and frail and joyless.

But none of those things proved to be true, none of my fears were realized.  I would never have thought my mom, who was so utterly crushed, could continue to be a woman of faith and encouragement to all those around her.  With my dim human understanding, I thought the best friend by her side, the man who she’d been married to and adored since she was a mere child of seventeen, was the cornerstone, that she’d crumble without him.  But she didn’t.

No, for the last sixteen years, through all the heartaches and losses, she has been the same old Mom.  I remember friends in high school saying, “I really like your mom.”  I’d be thinking, “Well, no kidding, everybody likes my mom.  What’s not to like?”  There’s something about her that just makes you feel comfortable.  I tend to be pretty engaging and thankfully make friends easily, but this is not from my mom.  She makes friends easily too, but we accomplish this by entirely different means.  I tend to be very outgoing and might even pepper people with questions — something my mom would never do.  She just has a chill, inviting spirit about her.  People tell her things, but not because she asks.

I am so proud of her — what an amazing mom and gramma she’s been for all of us, what an amazing example of trusting God through dark, heart wrenching days.  She’s consistently modeled a heart of gratitude for the many blessings in her life.  She’s the antithesis of a “Why me?” person.  Instead she’s personified that God’s grace is sufficient.

So, friends, I hope I can trust God like my mom, even when darker days inevitably come.  I hope I can face each day knowing that God has a plan, and that just as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [the thorn in his side] away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'”

I hope you believe that God’s grace is sufficient too.  May we never tell God what we cannot do.

With Love,


Like Gramma Too? 

Hello Again Friends,

I called both my grammas “Gramma,” and added their last name only when it would be confusing not to. But I only had one Papa because my dad’s dad died the year before I was born. Gramma Cummins, Papa’s wife, was one classy lady but she was also F-U-N. One crazy thing she did, and again this is in sharp contrast to her highly dignified charm, was get the notion to bite the dickens out of you. Yes, bite.

She’d say, “Look at you, looking so cute, I could just take a bite right outta you!”  And she’d proceed to just clamp down on the lobe of your ear.

It never truly hurt, but as a child I’d laugh and eventually as her jaws tightened cry out, “Oww!”

Gramma’s response was always the same.  She’d cackle her big, maybe even unladylike, laugh and then say, “Well, see, I just couldn’t help it.”

Good gracious writing about her makes me miss her terribly.

But maybe I’m a little like her too. I don’t bite. At least not yet. But I do remember a time she told me, “You know, Kristie, I truly enjoy my own company.”  Her words have stayed vivid because they are so different, not “I like to be by myself” or “sometimes I need some alone time.”  No, it was stated as a positive “I enjoy my own company.”

I’ve just spent two nights and three days largely by myself. And you know what?  I enjoyed my own company just like Gramma. It’s not something I’ve done any of for a long time. And it’s not a real longing or anything like that. But I’m nevertheless glad to know that I’m like Virginia Cummins in at least one respect: I enjoy my own company.

And maybe part of it is that I know I am NEVER truly alone.  In Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I hope you find comfort in this gift too. That you’ve not rejected the saving grace of Jesus Christ because you actually can do that. But wouldn’t that be tragic?  Horrifyingly stubborn, stiff-necked and proud?  I pray no one that ever reads this would make that mistake.

On a much lighter note though do you think Gramma Cummins can bite my ear in heaven?  I do.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: Just Like My Papa?

Hi Friends,

I’m beginning to think I might be like my Papa.  He was glass half full to a fault, wherever he lived that was the best place on earth.  A condo in Plymouth, Michigan on an idyllic little pond: the best.  A rolling farm in rural Southeast Michigan which was possibly a little too close to a maximum security prison: the best.  A modest two-bedroom apartment in Deland, Florida?  Yep, the best.  At one time my grandparents had a condo in Delray Beach, Florida.  Papa’s brother did too, in fact it was in the same complex.  A story has been told that at the precise same time my Papa reported that the weather was top notch beautiful, his brother claimed it was a complete downpour.  Perhaps it was a little extreme but Papa’s optimism served him well.

The truth is living in Tennessee has never been a particular aim of mine.  I love the beach, and since Tennessee doesn’t have one I’ve never dreamed about making the Volunteer state my home.  But evidently I’ve got some serious Papa in me, because I’m starting to think Papa-like thoughts.  Tennessee is incredibly, incredibly beautiful, and I’m beginning to appreciate why magazines would point to Chattanooga as a top place to live.

And I don’t know how Papa felt when he left one “best place” for another, but I don’t love the DC area one iota less just because I’m falling for Chattanooga.  I’ve had three or four (maybe more) people tell me that I seem so “happy” about moving.  There’s something about that that feels wrong.  Happy?  I’ve lived in Northern Virginia nearly half my life.  It’s all my children really know.  Happy about leaving?  No.  As a lover of precise language happy just doesn’t work.  But I am leaving.  So the Papa in me is desperately seeking the best about Tennessee and the Papa in me has found a pot of gold.

But whether Papaness comes naturally or not life is largely about choosing contentment.  Paul said he learned to be content with a little or a lot.  The man was stoned to death, but didn’t die.  He was shipwrecked, imprisoned, and beaten with rods.  But what did he say to do in all these circumstances?  Give thanks.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Paul’s experience is like a sobering bucket of ice cold water.  Yes, I will give thanks for the six weeks I have left in DC!  And yes, I will give thanks for the mountaintop football field picture above.  How could I not?

What will you give thanks for this weekend?

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: Number Sense, a Googol Things?

Happy Friday Friends,

Do you feel like you have good number sense?  When someone talks about the U.S. debt being trillions of dollars, do you feel like you have a good concept of just how big a trillion is?  Or even a million — do you know how long it would take for a million seconds to pass?  How about a billion? How about a trillion?

I’ll give you a second to think that through.  The answers may surprise you.  It takes 11.5 days for a million seconds to pass, 31.7 years for a billion seconds to pass, and 31,7000 years for a trillion seconds to pass.  Or what about if you stacked dollar bills?  How tall is a million dollar stack if you use all ones?  It’s 358 feet tall, a billion is 67.8 miles high, and a trillion dollar stack is 67,866 miles high.  A trillion dollar stack could wrap around the equator almost three times.  That means that the U.S. debt (estimated at 18 trillion) could be stacked to the moon and back more than twice.  It’s a crazy big number.

How many grains of sand are there in the world?  How many stars?  These are huge, huge, huge numbers.  But nothing is a googol (and yes that’s the correct spelling despite the little start-up that may or may not have meant to misspell the number with 100 zeros).  My insistence on this truth drives my sons bananas.  They say, “Mom, there has to be a googol grains of sand, or a googol stars, or something.”  But there’s not.  Scientists’ best estimates suggest that the number of atoms in the universe is about 20 zeros shy of a googol.  Is that mind boggling?

We have this number, this concept that is now part of our daily life, but nothing in the whole universe is represented by it.  Nothing.

So why do we have the number at all?  It’s catchy.  It may even be fun to write out and look at, but I think Solomon’s explanation is best:

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

Eternity is in our hearts.  We insist that there’s a googol something, there’s just got to be.  And we are right.  Not in this universe but in the next.  There we will have a googol days to enjoy and glorify God.  In fact, we have forever!

Have a great weekend!

With Love,


Comfortable or Happy?


Hello Again Friends!

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged two days in a row, but then again it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten up at 3:45am, yanked my boys out of bed, left the house at 4:30 with it in order enough to be “shown,” if necessary, only to arrive at the airport for our 6am flight to find out it is now scheduled for 10:30am. “Crew rest” they say.

But I do believe things happen for a reason, as terribly inconvenient as this feels, as dog tired as I am for such an unnecessary cause.   I’m pretty sure in this case it was because we were supposed to meet Amun, our taxi driver.

Amun arrived quite early which always makes me a nervous wreck, because the boys call out, “Mom! The cab is here!” And with fifteen minutes to go I have approximately 3,000 little things left to do. Of course I’d be a nervous wreck if they weren’t right on time too, so it’s kind of a no win. Ideally drivers would locate the address and then drive around the block and park, zooming up only at the precise time they were requested.

But I think I did almost everything I intended to do and we climbed in the cab with a sigh of relief.

Amun was a young man from Cameroon, speaking almost perfect English even though he’d only been in the U.S. three years. He told us that they start to learn their second language in primary school (age 3). He said 80% choose French as their second language and 20% English.

In chatting with him, it was clear that he wasn’t 100% sure that living in the U.S. lived up to its hype. He was a little reserved at first, probably not wanting to offend us, but then he explained: “This is the thing,” he said. “If you want to be comfortable, you live in the U.S. But if you want to be happy, you live in Cameroon.”

He told us now he feels like it’s a hard thing to sacrifice the comfortable life he lives in the U.S. to go back to Cameroon, but feels like by staying here he is sacrificing happiness. What a choice, huh?

But assuming Amun is right, why would people be happier in Cameroon? Is it because they have less stuff? Is it because people aren’t obsessed with working and acquiring? Is it because people are more relationally oriented? Probably all of those things to one degree or another.

Sitting here in the airport I’ve been looking at Bible verses with the word happy. The Phillips translation of the Bible uses the word happy more than any of my go-to versions. Here is a sampling:

Luke 6:20 says, “Then Jesus looked steadily at his disciples and said, ‘How happy are you who own nothing, for the kingdom of God is yours!’”

John 20:29 says “’Is it because you have seen me that you believe?’ Jesus said to him. ‘Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!’”

In Matthew 11:6 Jesus says, “happy is the man who never loses faith in me.”

Romans 5:1-2 Paul writes: “Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.”

I am praying this morning that as I meet up with my husband later today and we look for a new home, that we can prove Amun wrong – that we can lead comfortable and happy lives here in the U.S. I think we can if we make our lives not about comfort, not about things, but about loving each other and seeking first His Kingdom. And even if things go sour somehow, we can “stand in the happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.”


Only 90 minutes from boarding now!



Jackson Five Friday: New Things

IMG_5082Happy Friday Friends,

Don’t you just love new things?  The smell of a new car, the new recipe that turns out amazing, the new black dress that fits just right, the new earrings (not that I know much about that — I have a pair I’ve worn almost every day for about six years).  But we love new things, don’t we?

I honestly love new experiences too, even just ordinary new things.  Yesterday I had occasion to move a rather large van from point A to point B in DC.  The van was full of middle schoolers’ sleeping bags and they were walking the city and meeting up with the van at the National Cathedral pictured above.  To accomplish this I parked at the National Cathedral and then needed to make my way to China Town to pick up the van.  I had intended to go by foot but got held up at work longer than expected (the meeting that was somehow marked cancelled on my calendar was not!).  Realizing I didn’t have time to walk there I thought maybe I’d just grab a cab, but as I walked out to the main road, I came upon a bus stop.  “Gee,” I thought.  “I could just take the bus.”  And I realized I had never before taken the Metro Bus.  I’ve taken a bus from the Falls Church Metro to a parking lot in Reston many times, but in all these years of living here I’d never ridden on an actual Metro Bus.

The bus was full of kids, young kids.  I read the sign that said that students ride free during the mornings and afternoons, and felt silly to just be learning that.  I watched one boy about eleven reach up and pull the stop request cord somewhat tentatively.  When he got off the bus, he turned to the driver and said, “Thank you, Sir.”  It was a sweet little moment, and I don’t even know why other than it was new.  Unlike these city smart kids I didn’t know where in the world the bus was going, I just got off near a Metro and took the train the rest of the way.

But what is it about us that craves new things?  I love how C.S. Lewis writes about this concept in The Last Battle:

But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Yes, the Pevensies were about to embark on a whole lot of newness, and eventually we are too.  Revelation 21:5 says, “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Our longing for newness and eternity is written on our hearts by the Author of the Universe.  One day He will make all things new!  No wonder we love that new car smell!

Have a fabulous weekend and may you especially relish new things!