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.

Jackson Five Friday: Being All There

Jim Elliot, the famous missionary murdered in Ecuador, said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” It is simple advice, but it wields life-changing power.

My oldest son isn’t loving middle school. When I expressed surprise and disappointment over his revelation, he said with incredulity, “Did you like 7th grade?”

“Well, no,” I answered, “But I didn’t go to your school.”

His curriculum is like nothing I ever encountered in middle school – it’s humanities-oriented, full of rich, timeless stories, and beautiful writing.  But he is yet twelve, thirteen later this month. And he likes the predictability of algebra, but isn’t yet enraptured by the power of story.

I didn’t have much in the way of guidance for him. I didn’t say, “well, buck up, buddy, it only gets harder.”  I didn’t offer any specific ideas at all.
Instead, I counseled, “you know what’s a really great thing to learn: wherever you are, be all there.”

I explained how this could apply to school: don’t wish you were somewhere else or doing something else.  Engage in an intentional and all-in way, no matter what you are studying. Be present in the moment and you might be surprised how much you actually like it.  I told him this not because I’ve mastered it.  Lord knows I have not, but I do find reward in it, even with school, even with healthcare corporate compliance studies.

The wisdom of Elliot is universal, no matter your life stage. If you are in the midst of mothering wee ones – be all there.  Be willing to let dishes sit, and laundry and dust pile up.  Keep your expectations low.  Consider it a wonderfully productive day if you snuggled with your baby, and an outrageous victory if you also showered.   Because it’s gone before you know it, and worrying about accomplishing items on a list distracts from being all there.

If you are stuck in traffic with your older kids, turn the radio off and talk, or turn the radio up and sing, but be where you are. Don’t stress about what’s next, or how you might be late.

Have you ever stopped to think about what keeps you from being all there?  Is it worry?  Is it longing for something else?  Is it technology?  For me, my phone is the chief enemy of “thereness.”  It beeps and dings at inopportune moments.  And yet I need it — just today, school called when Nate had a headache and I was out running errands.  Still, I can be better about using it wisely, about making sure it doesn’t have the power to ruin my thereness.

In the end,  Elliot’s wisdom is just a corollary of the Psalmist’s, who wrote, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (90:12).

Ahh, yes, may we Jacksons be present in the moment, all there.  May we have hearts of wisdom, numbering our days aright.

Annie Dillard wrote that how we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.  From present moments, to days, to lives.  Be.  All.  There.

Jackson Five Friday: Accidental FaceTime

Have you ever accidentally FaceTimed someone?  I find this both humiliating and hilarious.  One time I FaceTimed a sort-of-new friend who had told me she would be on an important conference call that afternoon.  Unfortunately she wasn’t yet aware of my persistent buffoonery enough to conclude it was unintended.  She texted me in the midst of her call that she’d be happy to chat after she wrapped up.  I’ve FaceTimed people I hardly know but somehow have contact information for.  And I’ve debated sending a follow up text — “oops sorry, never have intended to FaceTime anyone on earth except my husband or out-of-town family member.”  But I’ve opted for just letting it lie.  How it happens I have no clue.

Anyway I was thinking about how there is Someone who never accidentally calls — FaceTime of otherwise — and Who always picks up.  God is always willing to hear from us.  In fact, He is always waiting to hear from us.  No one on earth prays enough — certainly not me, but boy is it a blessing when I take the time to do it, and even more so if it is in a systematic way in addition to all the off-the-cuff prayers I pray all day.

This morning I prayed with some fellow moms over our children, and we used this book.  Can I give you an important piece of advice:  Give yourself the gift of hearing someone else pray over your child.  It will encourage your heart way down deep.

As Paul writes in Philippians 4: 6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

May the peace which Paul so aptly describes be mine and yours today, tomorrow and forever.

A 50th Birthday

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Fifty years ago today — September 16, 1964 — a baby boy was born. This baby was the third child of loving parents. The dad an engineer, fighter pilot, and athlete of 32. The mom a gorgeous young mama, who was not only incredibly fun but wise beyond her 22 years. They had three babies in just over four years. Oh they were done. Craig was it. The Huber Family was complete.

I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the effects of having two older siblings dote on a baby. It does something to that baby — it infuses them with more personality than the rest of us. Craig soaked up all that love and all that attention, and in return he kept everyone in stitches. Family members near and far talk about how he was ALWAYS funny, always smiling.

I guess they don’t know that he did turn mean one day: the day I was born. His anger wasn’t directed at me — evidently he was only mad at my mom. After all, he’d settled into his role as the baby for a comfortable seven and a half years. He was pretty ticked at my mom for the unintentioned recasting, but there wasn’t any animosity directed at me. And he very quickly gave up on being mad at her too. She isn’t someone you could possibly stay mad at. Plus, the words grudge and Craig are antonyms.

Growing up, Craig was small for his age and I’ve been exceedingly tall all my life — we never looked nor acted seven years apart. He sucked his thumb so long I can remember hanging out on the couch and watching TV with him, marveling that it must be the best thing ever, because otherwise why would he do that? He was the funniest, sweetest, kindest person. My first thirty years were lived with the assurance that although he knew my faults he loved me anyway. No matter what.

We talk about Uncle Craig a lot in our home, and you know who brings him up the most? My husband. He tells our boys all kinds of stories about how incredibly funny Craig was, how much he loved Craig. That means so much to me. I think if I just told the boys about Craig, they’d think, “yeah, Mom sure did like her brother, Craig.” But if Dad tells them, the stories have more weight. What a gift that my husband knew and loved my brother.

And boy, did we have some laughs! Even now more than twelve years after Craig died in a small plane crash, I often know just what he’d say. I can be somewhere and see something all by myself, and know the line that Craig would use. I’ll smirk to myself as I imagine him saying it, sometimes I’ll break out laughing just as if he were there. I miss him terribly but I am grateful to have shared so many inside jokes with him that just because he’s on the other side of eternity doesn’t mean our laughs have ended.

When I think about Craig, on this his 50th birthday, I am grateful for so much. I am grateful for the family I have left — my mom, my sister, my brother, Jeff. I am grateful for all the memories. I am grateful that Will and Craig were best buds and tried to spend as much time as they could with each other. I am grateful that Craig knew I was downright nuts about him. But most of all, I’m grateful that this life isn’t all there is. The hurts and sorrows and disappointments — which Craig knew in a profound way even though many only saw his humorous side — are not just left hanging. Life isn’t just trampled and forgotten like fallen leaves. Each life is part of a larger picture, one without end.

Do you know what Paul said in Corinthians? He said that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human mind has conceived what God has prepared for us who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9). I hope you have the assurance of knowing you were no cosmic accident — you were made uniquely and in the very image of God, and He has a plan for you to live out on this earth. When this life ends, He wants YOU to spend eternity with Him. What He has prepared for YOU is beyond what you or anyone can even conceive of. But He is holy and you are not (I trust you know that). His Son, Jesus, died on the cross for YOUR sins. That unholiness of yours leaves a crimson stain, and separates you from God. Ah, but Jesus paid for it, all of it. He washed it white as snow. Christ’s righteousness is credited to you, if you make Him your Lord and Savior. Your sins are covered. All. Of. Them. You only need to accept the free gift He is offering you. Praying this morning that YOU will. I pray that you know the deep purpose and meaning that Our Loving Creator has for you in this life, and that you have the hope of eternity with the Person who knows and loves you best. Plus, I’d sure love to introduce you to Craig — you’ll love him.

Waiting on the Pope

A few weeks ago I ran into a friend in Target who I never see and of course I looked ridiculous.  I know, it’s kind of implied.  That’s what a trip Target entails, right?  But for some reason my appearance didn’t work its I-look-too-absurd-to-carry-on-a-regular conversation power, and I not only didn’t retreat in embarrassed and awkward horror, I ended up having a lovely chat with this delightful woman.

For some unknown reason I ended up telling her two Pope stories, and it wasn’t until we were standing there just a few feet from the checkout line that I realized I have two pope stories.

Here is the first: my son, Dub, will enter seventh grade this coming September.  We adore his current school, but wanted to make sure that we fully understood our options before we committed for another year.  As part of our research, Dub “shadowed” at our local public school and at two other private schools, one of which is Catholic.

In the course of his shadow day at the Catholic school, Will attended his first mass.  Did we prepare him for this experience that was sure to be wholly unlike anything he’d ever seen before?  Nah!  We just let him navigate his whole day without an ounce of guidance.

When I picked him up he told me about his day.

“We went to math class, we had P.E., then we went in this one building.  I don’t know what it was, but the Pope was there.  He was like doing all this stuff, burning stuff, saying I don’t know what.  I have no idea what was going on.  And the guy I was with asked me if I was Catholic.  I didn’t know if I was supposed to lie or what so I said, ‘No actually, I’m Protestant.’  And he told me to cross my arms over my chest, but it was too late because the Pope was about to hand me my… whatever.  Then at the last second he pulled back.  It was so weird.”

Miraculously I managed not to laugh outwardly (inwardly I was downright hysterical) or interrupt or correct in anyway.  I so badly wanted the story repeated to Dad entirely untouched, and it was.  Of course Dub now knows that the leader of mass was a priest and not THE pope.

But maybe the second pope story informs the first.  Last year Will’s baseball coach said they would take a knee and have a player-led prayer before the start of each game.  I was stunned when I heard about this, not because I wasn’t all for it.  I just was surprised, to say the least.  Leading prayer, unlike attending mass, is right up Will’s alley.  He’s totally comfortable with it because he’s been doing it at home, school and church his whole life.  That first game when the coach asked for a volunteer, Will offered to pray.  Although other players prayed too over the course of the season, Dub was evidently kind of the go-to.  And his teammates dubbed him “The Pope.”

By the end of the season, the team would gather and take a knee.  The coach would say, “Who’s going to lead the prayer?”  The players would start chanting “Pope!  Pope!  Pope!”  They won the regular season championship and the playoff championship in 2013, and “The Pope” continues to often lead team prayers this year even though it’s a different coach.

Tonight my lil Pope is spending the night on an island in the Chesapeake Bay as part of a school trip.  He gets home tomorrow afternoon just an hour or two before his baseball game.  He’ll have new stories to tell, and new prayers he’s prayed.  I’m pretty sure, based on the updates I’ve gotten from school, he’s rejoicing over new experiences.  And I hope he is giving thanks for it all.

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

I love this verse, and it often comes to mind, but truly I will rejoice all the more when my Pope comes home.

“A Dumb Decision”

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My son, Sam (7), has been fixated on and off, mostly at night, about what he calls my “dumb decision” for the last couple weeks.  What was this error in judgment?  Taking him to California in February.  The four of us tagged along on a business trip with Daddy and had a fabulous time.  We spent two nights in Napa Valley and two nights in San Francisco.  We got to hang out and bum around and do lots of new things like walk on the Golden Gate Bridge (pictured above), see 1000 year old trees, and eat sourdough bread that’s been baked just the same since 1849.  We explored the city mostly on foot and the boys brought along a basketball, shooting hoops at Joe DiMaggio park when they were tired of sightseeing.  The weather was warm and sunny in the afternoons and it was lovely, beyond lovely.  At least I thought it was, until Sam decided that going at all was a “dumb decision” because we also visited Alcatraz.

Yes, my darling was scarred by “the rock,” like really scarred.  And the sad part is he didn’t say much about it at all when we were there.  He’s a slow processor and often brings things up weeks, months, even years, after the fact.  It’s really odd — I don’t ever remember his brothers doing anything like that.  So, until ten days or so ago I would’ve thought all was well.  But then he started saying before bed that he was scared he might have a dream about Alcatraz.  He started asking questions about it revealing how much the whole thing impacted him, how much he’d been turning all of it over in his little mind.

“So, they were only allowed to go to the library if they were good?”  Yes, Sam that’s right.

“Why were those guys on the beds like that?  Were they dead?”  Oh, Sam those guys were trying to escape and they wanted the guards to think they were still in the bed.  They weren’t real people, just stuffed clothes like.

“Remember where the grenade went off?  Why wasn’t it a bigger mark?”  I do remember that and I don’t know.

“So they couldn’t go outside except in that one spot?”  That’s right, Sam.  But Sam it’s been closed a long time.  It hasn’t been a prison since before Mommy and Daddy were born.

A faint smirk, a small sign of hope washed across his face.

“Really?  Before you and Daddy were born?  Well, it was still a dumb decision to go there.”

Telling Sam to just get over it doesn’t seem to be an option.  Does delegitimizing others’ fears ever really work?  Whatever the fear is it doesn’t need to make sense to us to sympathize.  We can try to reason and listen and encourage, but some fears don’t die just because they are irrational.

In fact, I had a morbid fear as a child of a scene from a movie.  If someone enacted this scene today I still wouldn’t like it.  And it didn’t matter how many times I was told that this fear –and my crazed reaction — was silly, my fear remained.

You know what finally helped me?  Believing in my heart that God is with me, that He has a plan for my life.  That I am not ultimately in control.

I am praying this morning that little Sam will have a robust, comforting faith, even at a young age.  That he will cling to the promise from Isaiah 41:13 which says, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

What are you afraid of?  Surely there is something.  My fears are much different than they were as a child, but I’m certainly far from immune.  I too need to cling to the promise that the Lord my God is with me.  That He takes hold of my right hand, saying lovingly, tenderly, patiently, “Do not fear: I will help you.”

May I stop trying to steer the false reins of my life, and instead offer my hand to Him willingly each and every day.

 

 

Two Kinds of…

Sometimes I think I have only two kinds of days: (1) Days where I sing “Jesus, Jesus, please come today.” or (2) Days where I feel that I am the very inspiration for the funky, pick-me-up style of Pharrell Williams.  Do you know what I mean?  I am either seeing the goodness in every little thing, or I am longing for my Savior with the abject thirst of the most barren desert.  And this pendulum from grateful to needy isn’t really daily at all, it’s minute by minute.  The truth is I have two kinds of moments.  And I guess I could worry that divulging this sounds rather bipolar, but I actually believe it’s the human condition.  In Psalms poems of thanksgiving and praise are right there next to desperate pleas for deliverance.  So I figure I’m in good company.

In fact, I think alcohol and sex and drugs and zombie-like consumption of “entertainment” mask the heart’s longing for more, for fulfillment, for Jesus.  When we experience Him in the here and now — His love, His purpose, His story, we feel hopeful.  But we live in a fallen world and sometimes the pressure of all that’s not-yet-redeemed is crushing.  We can taste the kingdom of God, but it’s not yet our whole reality.

So maybe it’s totally natural to have your heart burst with joy over your child’s smile and cuddly nature, but to then feel utterly discouraged when they then lie to you over an ice cream sandwich (Hypothetically, of course.  But please don’t mention this “hypothetical” to my middle son).

Maybe it’s totally natural to be awestruck at the beauty of sunlight shimmering on snow, but to then get on the Internet and be heartbroken by all that’s wrong with the world.

Maybe it’s totally natural to feel loved and affirmed and connected with friends, and then have one awkward interaction and feel insufferably dorky.

Maybe it’s totally natural to laugh with your family to the point of utter hysterics, and then be physically restraining brothers who have it out for each other just moments later.

Yes, there is tension in this life full of blessings and joy and pain and sorrow.  But we need not try to numb the emotions, deny them nor avoid them.  No, we should bring them before God just like the writers of the Psalms.

When I am discouraged I can pray, among others, Psalm 5:1-3.

O Lord, hear me as I pray;
pay attention to my groaning.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,
for I pray to no one but you.
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.
Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

When I am so “happy” I could inspire new Pharrell Williams tunes, I can happily sing, among others, Psalm 103:1-5.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

No matter where you are at emotionally there’s an app for that, and the app is called The Psalms. May I be faithful to read them, and may you too know the blessing of reading the ancient words that somehow express your very own heart.