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.

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Jackson Five Friday: Never. Stop. Skipping.

If you know much about my son, Sam, you know he’s a skipper. And no, I’m not talking about commanding a vessel. I mean he is a person that skips. Constantly.

Yesterday I chaperoned a field trip to a Colonial Farm — we experienced all things 1771, making candles and pounding corn into meal with the genuine tools of that long-ago day. When Sam would fall behind the group he would nonchalantly skip along the gravel path pictured above to catch up. I love watching him. He has no awareness that this is anything out of the ordinary.

Spring is crazy busy for me because all three of my boys play baseball. I run from one game to the next and spend a significant amount of time just planning how I can get three people to three different venues all at once. One day I was at Sam’s game feeling harried and hurried. He was decked out in catcher’s gear to play behind the plate in the bottom of the inning. It was then he came to me with an urgent need to use the bathroom.

I probably made some remark like, “Really?!?”

Anyway I took him, gear and all, to a somewhat nearby but hopefully discreet bush. When he was done I said, “Now hustle back to the dugout!”

You know what he did? He joyfully skipped back to the dugout, catcher’s gear and all. The video image of that, recorded only in mind’s eye, will always be treasured.

Because skipping is like a physical manifestation of joy and contentment. Have you ever seen an angry skipper? A depressed skipper? An anxious skipper? I haven’t either.

Skipping is an affirmative rejection of the need for approval. There’s an element of it that says, “I really don’t care what you think.” For Sam it’s even more than that. He doesn’t appear to recognize someone even could think something of it.

My prayer for him is that he never stops skipping. That he never loses this joyful abandon, this comfort in his own skin, that even if he skips less physically that the heart attitude skipping manifests will stay with him always.

Heavenly Father, may Sam seek the approval of You alone; may he never be conformed to the pattern of this world. Instead may he be transformed by the renewing of his mind. Then he will be able to test and approve Your will — Your good, pleasing and perfect will. (Colossians 3:23, Romans 12:2). In Jesus’ name, amen.

Jackson Five Friday: Raising Responsible Kids

This week my oldest son, Will, turned thirteen, and one of my friends made the comment that he’s such a responsible kid. That made me laugh.

He’s so responsible that when he was three he got tired of us arriving somewhere to buy something or eat something only to discover that I’d forgotten my wallet…AGAIN. Or my cell phone.

This enterprising toddler problem solved. He began consistently asking while we were still in the garage, “Do you have your wallet? Do you have your cell phone?”

By the time he was six he insisted on pushing the cart at Costco. “I can do it, Mom. I like to help,” he’d say.

A few months ago we had Will babysit Sam. Unfortunately even though we were just picking up carry-out and running a few quick errands, Sam had a coughing fit and threw up right after we left.

When Will called I hit accept with an “oh brother” mindset. But I should’ve known better.

“Mom,” he said, “Sam’s fine and there’s no need to come home but I wanted to let you know that he threw up.”

Then tonight he came with me to take Nate to swim practice. I dropped them off and had to park a good distance away because of a football game going on at the same high school.

After I finally found a spot and was walking toward the pool my phone rang.

“Hey, Mom,” he said, “you alright?”

Yeah, he’s responsible alright. Unbelievably responsible and I’m pretty sure I have zero to do with it. It’s his nature and it’s by God’s grace for sure. I’ve done only two things that might have helped a teensy tiny bit: honor and praise his initiative to take responsibility.

I always feel compelled when I write so glowingly about my children to affirm that they are human and therefore imperfect and fully capable of disrespect and ingratitude and every vice.  But it is still true that, most of the time, this young man of mine wants to take good care of me.

Even though Peter infamously denied even knowing Jesus three times, after the resurrection Jesus and Peter had a redemptive conversation one morning on the beach.  I’d recommend reading the whole thing here.

But one time when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”

Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

Being responsible means lots of things — from remembering homework to taking initiative to clean up around the house.  But one thing we may not often think about is how taking care of others is also a wonderful manifestation of being responsible and expressing our love.

I am so grateful that my son has this character trait, that he so reliably loves his mama in this way.

Lord Jesus, help me to encourage this “taking care of sheep” sweetness in my son.  Thank you for giving him a kind and concerned heart.  Help me to guide Him with wisdom and love and to never take him for granted.  In Jesus Name, Amen. 

Jackson Five Friday: Every Family Needs a Nate

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Yesterday I took my son, Nate, to a physical therapist.  If you know Nate, you know he’s a super athlete, except for the fact that the poor kid can barely run, which is kind of important for sports.  His legs are so tight that running looks strained and painful, although the sweet kid never complains.  Anyway, hopefully he’ll outgrow it (although growing bones exceeding the rate of growing muscles is likely the root problem).  In the meantime I thought it was worth seeing someone about.

I picked him up from school and it was just the two of us to the appointment and back — a rare treat.  Nate is one of the world’s greatest conversationalists.  He asks thoughtful questions and loves hearing about my childhood.  I had him laughing so hysterically that I’m sure his stomach hurt by the time I dropped him back at school.  To say that Nate is a good audience is like saying guacamole is good — doesn’t even hint at the profundity of it.

Yes, every family needs a Nate to encourage the telling of stories, to eat them up with abandon.  Man, that kid is a delight.

Except that Nate’s also one of the most frustrating individuals I’ve ever met.  Every family needs a Nate to learn patience.  Getting him out the door for anything is only slighter better than a sharp stick in the eye.  He forgets what he needs to do next, constantly.  He’s been playing double headers every Sunday this fall.  Despite repeated reminders every week, something — like packing a snack — seems to somehow go undone, so there he is at a five or six hour event with nary a morsel to eat, and some weeks not even a water bottle.

When something funny happens to me, Nate is my very favorite person to tell.  His laugh is to die for.  What a joy to share my joys with this boy.  I thank God for him.  But I also thank God for him because he reminds me of how much I need God’s grace, how horribly impatient I can be, how irksome I can find things that I myself am prone to.

Do you have someone in your life that is a living, walking paradox?  Who reflects back at you your own paradoxical ways?  I think we all do, because all of us have Nate’s dual nature.  We are created in the very image of God.  But we are fallen.

Proverbs says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (19:11). 

Lord, thank you for giving Nate so many gifts and for an incredible personality.  Help me overlook his offenses.  Give me wisdom and patience as I mother these boys.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.