Jackson Five Friday: Celebration

Hi Friends,

I heard a thought-provoking lecture on suffering yesterday at BSF.  The speaker explained how she has endured suffering and learned through experience that the Bible’s stance regarding suffering is true: God will not let us be crushed.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed,but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).

My BSF leader then followed up her affirmation of this biblical truth with the following statement:  “Therefore, I choose not to fear.”  I think this is one of the most profound statements I’ve heard in a long time.  Because we often live in fear of what could happen, and shudder when we hear about the suffering of others.  We rightly observe that there is so much pain in this world, and maybe it’s natural that all of it scares us senseless.  We act almost as if it’s our duty to be worried: only an irresponsible, uncaring person would fail to worry, right?  It may be popular, it may be natural, but it’s not biblical.  What an interesting juxtaposition to witness this petite woman make such a brave statement: “I choose not to fear.”

Today I’ve been analyzing how this principle has played out in my own experience.  Have the people in my life who’ve endured tremendous pain been crushed?  My mom hasn’t.  As you may know, she endured an unbelievable season of grief where she lost her sister, her husband, her brother, and her son in a three-and-a-half-year span, and only her sister was physically ill where we knew death was imminent.

But she was not crushed — she most assuredly was closer to despair than perplexed.  But she did not give up.  She did not abandon her faith.  She was not destroyed.

I’m sure you must be wondering why on earth I titled this post “Celebration.”  It’s not a mistake.  We have dear friends from Virginia here this weekend — one is little Will’s best friend since kindergarten and the other is one of Nate’s very best buds.  We have been counting down the days till their arrival.  We love these boys, and what a great reason to celebrate!  I sat down this morning thinking I would write about how important it is to build celebrations into our lives.  I decided to pull Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline from the shelf and read the chapter on celebration.  But what I read surprised me.  Foster wrote, “The spirit of celebration will not be in us until we have learned to be ‘careful for nothing.’  And we will never have a carefree indifference to things until we trust God.”

Is it possible to truly celebrate and be anxious at the same time?  Of course not.

Which brought me right back to yesterday.  Can I really celebrate the gift of having my boys’ friends here without adopting this beautiful, intentional stance?  I choose not to fear.

In fact, I want to choose not to fear each and every day, despite how many terrible things could happen.  I want to take all my burdens and cares to Jesus — to lay them at His feet and to trust that He is working it all out.  And when the occasion comes to celebrate, I want to celebrate with my whole heart.

Have a wonderful weekend.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Sharp Sticks

Happy Friday, Friends!

It is a gorgeous day here in Tennessee and I am thrilled to report that Sam went to school three days in a row without crying and/or vomiting.  I’m really hoping and praying he’s turned a corner.  It is honestly such a sweet little school, with such lovely people, but I can’t argue with Sam, they do work hard.  He has not had the benefit of a ramp up, but I think he’s getting with the program regardless.

My dad often used the line, “Well, it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.”  This applied to almost every circumstance.  And certainly working really hard in third grade is not so terrible  — it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye, that’s for sure.

Plus, the promise of the Bible is that God will use all things for those who love Him for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).  It is not at all hard for me to believe that the challenges of making a huge transition like this are growing all my boys in important ways.  The secular wisdom of “you’ll be better for it” may sound empty and trite, but for those who love God, it’s an actual promise.  God takes our ugliest moments and weaves them into something beautiful.  He takes our best moments and weaves those in too.  Nothing is wasted.

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When we moved into our new house on Lookout Mountain, this wreath was on the front door.  It is a lot like one I used to have (might still have, somewhere), except much prettier.  It is a wreath formed with sharp sticks and adorned with little berry-like pieces.  In my book, Sharp Sticks: Essays of Embarrassment and Reflections on Redemption (2010), I wrote about my old wreath.

And life is not unlike that wreath — we all experience heartaches and disappointments, embarrassing situations and regrettable moments.  I’ve shared some of my own sharp sticks on these pages, but the wonderful news is that God never wastes anything….Every mountaintop experience and every visit to the valley will be used by God.

Of course six years ago, I was using mountaintop and valley experiences as metaphors.  Who knew I’d have daily literal mountaintop and valley experiences?!?!?  Well, God did.  Maybe He sort of smiled when I wrote that, “You just wait, Beloved, you just wait.”

How wonderful to know that God is working it all out, using all of my experiences to draw me closer to Him.  And what peace as a mother to know the same is true for Will, Nate and Sam.

As always, thanks for reading!

Love,

Kristie

 

Jackson Five Friday: Holy

Hey Friends,

Today is my birthday and it started out in such a sweet way.  My man woke me up by whispering “Happy Birthday” in my ear.  He read the Bible to me, and prayed over me, we went to the gym together and drank our green smoothies when we got home.  I mean, that’s a pretty perfect start — so what if the card he gave me was actually my Valentine’s Day card (he’d already written them both out and sealed them so there was a 50/50 chance).

But by eight a.m. my day was heading due south.  Sam broke down sobbing (a first) about not wanting to go to school.  He was devastated, saying it was too hard and no fun and “Mom, I’m begging you, begging you so hard, please let me stay home today.  I’ll do hard work.  I’ll work as hard as I can.  Please, Mom!”

This after yesterday having a neck issue at his basketball game and only playing the first few minutes.  For those of you who know him, you’ve probably heard how he pretty much threw up every Wednesday for a season (probably a year) because he had to wear a tie to school that day.  I think part of it is psychological because eating ice seems to cure it, but anyway the kid cannot stand for his neck to be touched by clothing, and the anticipation of having something touch his neck used to set him off.  Sadly, yesterday he was wearing two shirts, both crew-necked but evidently too crew-necked.  Anyway, Sam and I walked home after the game, and he seemed better.  Then on our trip down the mountain to get da brudders the panic about his neck–which makes him gag–returned.  I had to pull over so he could unbuckle and tear his shirt off.  He broke into an unprompted, heartbroken little prayer, “Please God, Please. please don’t let this last long!”

To be honest my thought process went something like this, “C’mon, God!  Really!  How could you NOT answer that prayer!?!?”

I imagine you can relate, but that is not the posture we are to have.  You know why?  Because God is holy.  Holy.  He’s perfect.  I am not.  I am so very flawed.  I love Sam and his brothers with a crazed passion.  I’m obsessed with them.  I want what’s best for them and I’m dedicated to doing whatever I can to make sure they have it.  But I know for a fact that I’d never choose one hard thing for any of them, not one.  And even though I am very flawed, I am not so stupid that it escapes me that never facing hard things would be bad for them, very bad.  Hard things allow us to grow, grow as people of compassion and character, and ideally closer to God.

So after I spent the first forty-five minutes of the school day with Sam, I left him there, heartsick but trusting that he’s in good hands.

At home I’ve had this song on repeat.  On my knees I told God I know He is Holy.  Holy. I hope you will be blessed by this song as well, that you also know that somehow all that matters is that He is holy.

The prophet Isaiah was changed by an encounter with God’s holiness.  This is what he wrote:

I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

May I be similarly changed by reminding myself that “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty,” and despite life’s challenges, “the whole earth is full of His glory.”

With Love,

Kristie

Father Knows Best

Friends,

It’s a foggy morning here in Tennessee and my boys are still sleeping.  Sam’s school is closed today for road conditions, and the big boys’ school starts two hours late.  But birds are chirping cheerfully outside, which always makes me feel like Spring is just around the corner — a wonderful thought.  I’ve never been to Tennessee in the Spring and I am looking forward to taking it all in.

This morning I’ve been thinking about what a gift it is to be a parent.  My life is enriched in millions of ways by my boys; they are a treasure and a delight and yet in other ways very challenging.  The parent-child dynamic can give us tremendous insight into our relationship with God.  If you have more than one child, then you understand that your love isn’t a finite pie that’s divided up among your children.  No, we have enormous capacity to love each child with unquenchable adoration and concern.  How much more then can our omniscient, omnipresent God love each one of us?

Of course there are lots of ways our relationship with our kids can reflect our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Yesterday school was cancelled and Nate wanted to go to open gym to shoot hoops.  Before we left I walked him over to the French doors that lead to our patio.  I showed him the ice accumulating on the glass-topped table.  I told him many times on the short drive there to be very, very cautious.  I pulled up to the curb, reiterated again to be careful, and I then watched my sweet and usually obedient little twelve year old, briskly walk on the ice-covered sidewalk, then inexplicably “jog” toward the building.  Sure enough, he slipped, legs flying high into the air, and down he crashed directly on his tailbone.

I jumped out of the car, walked carefully on the grass toward Nate, wondering why on earth he just plain ignored by many pleas.  But I bet God often feels a lot like I did in that moment.  My Child, He says, I told you not to do that.  Don’t you see?  I’m not trying to keep you from good things.  I’m trying to protect you from harm.  Don’t you trust me?  Don’t you believe I know what’s best? 

Part of being a child is making and then learning from mistakes, but part of growing up is also recognizing that trusting and obeying a parent is an important aspect of expressing love.

Jesus said,  “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:23-24).  He’s not exactly being vague.  It’s pretty much a smack down.  If you love God, you will obey Him.  Where in your life does that truth leave a mark?  I think if we are honest, we all have areas where it just plain stings.

In my prayer journal there’s a piece by Elisabeth Elliot which talks about doing what God says.  She imagines a conversation with the  Lord and hearing these words, “Do [what I say] when you understand it; do it when you don’t understand it.  Take what I give you; be willing to not have what I do not give you.  The very relinquishment of this thing that you so urgently desire is a true demonstration of the sincerity of your lifelong prayer: Thy will be done.”

This surrender of what I do not have is apt for me right now.  Because I thought I had this whole transition thing pretty well planned out.  I’d jump with both feet into community.  I’d go to Bible study and have lunch dates and get involved at school.  Instead I’ve been home, from my perspective way too much.  I was home for a month with the big boys.  Then Sam was sick last week (no Bible study or social time for me), and this week he’s had one abbreviated day of school.  I love being with him — he’s the world’s best cuddler and he is such an interesting little conversationalist.  The other day he asked me if you committed a crime but weren’t caught for years and years and years, could you still go to jail.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never had occasion to explain the concept of statute of limitations and when they apply to my older boys, but that’s Sam — a deep, slow processor.  Everyday he asks nuanced questions that reveal just how much he’s been thinking about something.

But still, I’d like to get into a routine, to feel connected in our new place.  It is a challenge for me to trust that being home this much is what’s best for me.  It doesn’t feel like what’s best for me.  But part of loving and obeying God is trusting Him, trusting that this little season, while not like I envisioned it, is what’s best for me.

So I leave you with two questions: (1) Where are you failing to express your love for God in obedience? and (2) Where are you failing to trust God by refusing to relinquish what you do not have?

Because I can promise you, given the limitations and frailty of our fallen little minds, Our Father does know best.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Early Let Us

Friends,

It’s Friday but I’ve almost lost track of days this week since Sam has been home sick since Tuesday.  The doctor said sinus infection but yowza it’s kicked his behind.  Maybe it’s a sinus infection plus a virus of some kind?  It’s a bummer because we were just getting into the swing of things.  On Wednesday I took him with me to pick the boys up from school, and we also grabbed another boy that lives on the mountain.  Although at the time, I was thinking a sinus infection wouldn’t be contagious, I still had Sam sit in front with me so he didn’t breathe on anyone else.  And I cannot convey how thankful I am for this unusual decision, because half way up the mountain Sam demonstrated, rather graphically, that it may not be just a sinus infection.  Either that, or it was rapid onset car sickness.

When I dropped the boy off, I apologized for Sam’s upchucking and said, “Oh, and tell your parents, ‘Happy Anniversary.'”  Yes, we are making fantastic first impressions!

But physical ailments aside, we are still wading in some pretty deep emotional waters.  I think the boys will be just fine, eventually, but if you could pray for them I’d appreciate it.  The boys have mostly positive attitudes, but it’s not easy.  The transition has been less challenging than expected in a few ways, and harder, much harder, in others.  Of course, I’d love it if the boys would recognize that their identities are in Christ, not their position on sports teams or at school.  But they are just kids, kids who derive a lot of pleasure from sports and hanging with friends.

In church on Sunday we sang “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us,” which was actually performed at our wedding by my cousins.  It is such a beautiful old hymn, and has the following refrain, “Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Early let us turn to thee.  Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Early let us turn to thee.”

I know God has a plan for us.  Jeremiah 29:11-14a says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

May I trust the truth of these verses, and my family trust it as well.  May we bless the name of our Lord, and may we live out that sweet old song, by turning to Him EARLY in all our momentary troubles.

With Love,

Kristie

 

A New Year: Counting My Blessings

Happy New Year, Friends!

Today, January 6th, is the first day since November 20th, that I’ve sent all three of my boys to school from my own house.  They had a week off for Thanksgiving, and stayed a week at a friend’s house in Northern Virginia (and I was there too part of the time), and then little Will and Nate had more than a month off in the transition of changing schools.  It was not unlike having a summer vacation, well minus the friends, the warm weather, the activities and the long hours of daylight.  Thankfully we got to spend eight glorious days in Florida, because the lack of structure and community could probably bum anyone out, much less a moody teen and preteen.  But we did it.  Today is like the Jackson New Year!  Everybody is at school, and sweet Sammy even starts basketball today!  I would probably pop open a bottle of prosecco if I wasn’t doing the Whole30 (yes, maybe not the ideal time to give up alcohol and so many fun foods, but what is the ideal time?  And it will likely be the Whole25 since we started on the 4th and my birthday is at the end of the month).  Anyway, what better way to start the year than to specifically count up some of your blessings.  Because I’m sure you know that once you start you can’t really stop (you will never run out of blessings to count), and it does the soul so much good!

  1.  We lived through the exit of our mountain on Christmas Day despite record breaking rainfall.  Scary stuff.
  2. Although Will and Nate’s new school is 15-20 minutes away, my neighbor who teaches there and has a son right between my older two guys, offered to drive them.  I may have been more emphatic in responding to this gentleman’s generous offer than to Will’s marriage proposal.
  3. Even though Will just started a new job, he had the wisdom to tell his employer, “Hey, it’s our 20th anniversary and I’m going to need to take a week off, three and a half weeks in.”  Those may not have been his exact words, but you get the idea.  How fantastic of them to have graciously said, “Why, of course.”
  4. We have so many priceless memories made in our last few weeks in Virginia  These are two of the many sweet pictures I have and treasure from various sendoffs.  It sure is a wonderful feeling to be loved.

    Plus, the last week there the boys essentially had a 6 night/7 day long frat party.  We don’t do sleepovers so the treat of staying with friends who have two boys roughly Will and Nate’s ages was incredible.  So much football, basketball, and laughter.  So little sleep.

  5. I am overwhelmed with pride and gratitude over how little Will fared yesterday at school.  He never wanted to move.  He doesn’t exactly love meeting new people.  Without getting into the details, I saw him in couple of situations yesterday where I knew he wanted to jump right out of his skin, but he played it cool as a cucumber.  We all have to do things we do not want to do.  Seeing my son trying his best when he’d love to just go back to his sweet, tiny little school where he’s been known and loved since kindergarten is something I will never forget.
  6. On a lighter note, I am so grateful that for more than 8 years my boys were in a school that did not require any — and I mean any — school supplies.  Whatever they needed was provided as part of their tuition.  I don’t know if Tennessee just goes ludicrously over-the-top for school supplies, or if this is the norm, but MY WORD.  I had no idea how to be grateful in the moment, but I am now.
  7. Plans for visits from the boys’ friends from Virginia are in the works.  So so grateful we are not being forgotten quite yet
  8. Nate Jackson can be enormously frustrating (his schedule for school sits here beside me on my desk, and I’m 100% certain he needs it), but he is also the easiest person in the world.  I’m about as worried about him as I am of waking up one day and realizing I’m too thin.  Honestly he is so inherently fine that I’m not even sure Nate knows the how it feels to be awkward or intimidated.  He is a simple-pleasured child (over the moon that the Redskins are in the playoffs) with the most contagious laugh ever.  So grateful for him.  May he never change.
  9. I am grateful for a small, friendly community.  We’ve been welcomed with open arms from lovely people.  We’ve been to a cocktail party, a casual pizza dinner at one family’s home, and a huge white elephant party (which really is a fantastic way to get to know people — a white elephant gift is practically like taking a personality test it says so much).  We adore our new church, and our neighbors too.
  10. I’m grateful for lots of time to write.  The move is behind us, and now the boys are in school.  I’m not working anytime soon, and I’m going to power through organizing in the next week or so.  That will, theoretically, leave me gobs of time to write.  I have started a little devotional project — 30 Days of Praying for Your Spouse (catchy title, I know), and may tackle some fiction for the first time in a decade.  Time is a gift — may I use it wisely.

Like anyone, I have so much to be thankful for.  And I am thankful.  But I would still appreciate your prayers over the whole adjustment which despite some tremendous blessings, is just plain not an overnight deal, not even for someone as easy as Nate.

With Love,

Kristie

Twenty Thoughts on Twenty Years

Greetings Friends,

Twenty years ago today,  I married Will Jackson.  I was crazy for him, and I think he was rather fond of me too.  But that didn’t ensure a fairytale marriage.  No, Sirree!  We’ve had some hideous moments.  I could tell you some stories.  Terrible things have been said.  Awful things have been done.  If you think you’ve married the perfect person, I’ve got a bit of bad news for you: they ain’t.  And you aren’t either.  If I may be so bold, I’d love to share with you twenty thoughts on twenty years of marriage.

  1. First and foremost, be forgiving.  If you can’t bury the transgressions of your spouse as far as the east is from the west just as the Psalmist describes, you’re doomed.  When old hurts try and rear their ugly heads, throw them back into the sea.  Ask God to help you with this, because it’s vital but not easy.
  2. Encourage one another’s gifts.  My man often gives me credit for being his “buttress,” for building him up.  I think this is a terribly important job of every spouse — make sure they know you believe in them.
  3. Pray together.  Some years we’ve done this a lot, in the early years it was exceedingly rare and even felt awkward.  But consistently praying together forms a very special bond, and there’s really no excuse for not carving out time to do it.
  4. Pray for your spouse.  Pray they’ll flee temptation.  Pray they’ll listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for their career and for their God-given ministry.
  5. Make sure you have shared experiences on which to build your friendship.  Family vacations are an awesome way to do this, but it also needs to happen in day-to-day life.  Will and I often go to the gym together or go for walks.  In Falls Church we had a standing Saturday morning walk that we topped off with a visit to the Farmer’s Market.
  6. Always make a point of sharing meals together.  Will has a demanding job, and our boys are involved in numerous sports.  Evening meals are hard, but we try to make sitting down at the table together happen as often as possible.
  7. Give your spouse freedom from expectations.  An example:  If I want perfume for Christmas, I either tell Will, or do as I did this year (given how busy we’ve both been) and I buy it.  “Oh look what you got me for Christmas,” may not sound romantic to you, but it totally works for me because I’ve learned that expectations are a lot like minefields and therefore need to be avoided.  Another example: Will is the kind of person that does not misplace things.  I find freedom in Will not expecting me to be like him.  I’m sure he’d like it if I stopped losing my phone and keys multiple times a day, but I think as the years go by he realizes more and more that it is not helpful to expect me to be like him.
  8. Celebrate how you complement each other.  I’m sure you are not married to someone just like you, and that your differences are to your mutual advantage.  Will and I are very different.  He is disciplined.  He is driven.  He needs a regular dose of easy breezy.  I need and thrive on his contagious goal-setting.  I’m a better woman because of him, and he’s a better man because of me.  Marriage can and should be sanctifying.  You should be changing for the better because of your spouse, and if Christ is the center of the marriage you should becoming more and more like your Savior every day.
  9. Share music.  Music is a gift from the Lord.  If you doubt this, please refer to how often the Bible not only suggests it but requires it.  “Sing a new song,” commands the Psalmist in 33:3.  We are to praise our Creator through music, but who isn’t moved in general by a great song?  On Monday November 30th, Will and I closed on our new house in Tennessee.  Our boys were staying with a saintly friend back in Northern Virginia.  We had driven separate cars the day before and a deluge of rain plus Thanksgiving weekend traffic, meant it took a solid twelve hours.  This on the heels of moving made for a pretty exhausting trip.  Sweet Will started his new job early that Monday morning and worked until late in the evening, only dashing out to attend the closing on our house.  We went to dinner that night because as previously mentioned our boys were in another state, and we felt like we should.  But we sat there loving the yummy food and discussing his big day and our new house and news from the boys, but feeling a little dazed and confused too.  Change like that feels BIG, even when it feels right.  But we happened to hear a song in the restaurant neither of us had ever heard called Myth by Beach House.  It has become an anthem of sorts for this era — it even has the words, “Help me to make it.  Help me to make it.” Music bonds, so enjoy new and old songs together.
  10. Share work at home, but don’t even try to make it “fair.”  Conversations about what each person brings to the table have never proven fruitful in my experience.  If one person starts to list all the things they’ve done, do not give into the temptation to start listing your contributions.  Just make contributions and lots of them and don’t keep track.
  11. Have sex.  This seems absurdly, patently obvious to me, but I’ve met women who withhold from their husbands and not stemming from abuse, but as a tool to control.  I think that’s about THE dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life, and I’ve heard a lot of dumb things.  Truly though if sex is more of a duty than a gift, do something about it.  Go to counseling.  Pray about it.  Don’t miss out on the blessing it was designed to be.
  12. Make each other laugh.  This comes easily for us. Will and I find each other hilarious, which is a tremendous gift, but if you don’t crack your spouse up already, try to.  Laughter is a soothing relational balm.
  13. Learn to just be together.  Reading quietly side by side should be easy.  Do not put pressure on each other to be actively engaged at all times.
  14. For heaven’s sake, turn off the television.  Actually this is just not my struggle, so I’m in no position to judge.  If I lived alone I wouldn’t own one, and yet I genuinely enjoy watching sports and documentaries.  But my gosh people, be reasonable.  Statistics on “screen time” are tragic.  How do marriages survive with that much time logged at the screen?
  15. And put down the device while you are at it.  The iPhone is an incredible convenience — I can hardly fathom living without, but we need to be mindful of not letting it take over.  Learn to ignore it, turn it off, let it die.  Whatever it takes!
  16. Be gentle with each other.  You will need to speak the truth in love to each other, but learn how to do it with gentleness and respect.
  17. Praise and encourage one another, especially as parents.
  18. Build traditions.  We have birthday traditions, Christmas traditions, and vacation traditions.  These all build our identity as a couple and as a family.
  19. Retell and relive your best memories.  It’s such a simple pleasure to story tell, make sure you make time to do it.
  20. Always remember that your spouse can never ultimately make you happy.  Your purpose and calling should be in Christ Jesus.  Your spouse will have a tremendous burden lifted off their shoulders, if your happiness is not their job.  And with that freedom I bet they’ll love you better than ever.
Today I thank God for twenty years with my funny, sexy, smart, hard-working man, and I pray for many more.
With Love,
Kristie