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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.

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.