Jackson Five Friday: Advent Traditions

Hey Friends,

What are your favorite Advent traditions?  I’m always on the lookout for new ways to celebrate this beautiful season.  We’ve always enjoyed decorating our house, opening an Advent calendar, and listening to classical Christmas music.  But we’ve also started, in more recent years, to light Advent candles and now Dub and Nate read the Advent devotional that I wrote a few years ago.  When we lived in Virginia we were privileged to have two incredible events at the boys’ school — a night of Lessons and Carols and a mini concert from the President’s Own Marine Band (one of the members also had children who attended the school).  I also love opening Christmas cards and hearing how old friends are doing.  But no matter how much we anticipate the birth of our Savior, and try to appreciate the greatest gift ever given, it never seems like it’s enough.  I want to savor the lights and the beauty and the peace, but always feel like I fall short.

I think that sense that it’s never enough is inevitable.  I can’t, in my fallen state, ever truly appreciate the magnitude of Christ’s birth.  My purpose and destiny are wholly dependent on Him, but my efforts to fully recognize this in my day-to-day, moment-to-moment life are pitifully inadequate.  Still, I believe acknowledging my indebtedness includes fully embracing the gifts of this life, and they are infinite.  Two gifts that I take for granted somewhat less than others are my gift for writing and my appreciation of humor.  I learn so much from the process of writing.  I feel happier and more fulfilled having written.  Much like Eric Liddell’s famous quote from The Chariots of Fire, when I write, I feel God’s pleasure.  And the same is true when I laugh.

For Thanksgiving dinner this year, it was just the five of us, for the first time ever.  I was a little worried about how that would feel.  Dub asked, “Have I ever had a single Thanksgiving without Caitlin (my niece, his cousin)?”  If he has, it was once, more than a decade ago.  We ordered a turkey dinner from a lovely — beyond lovely — Italian market in North Palm Beach.  Then I made a few of our favorite sides.  It turned out to be a delicious, festive, happy Thanksgiving.   And so easy!  I couldn’t help smugly thinking to myself, “Nailed it!”  But, there was one misstep.  The dinner came with a quart — a quart — of cranberry sauce!  It could’ve fed 50 instead of five.  We cracked up about it.  On that Friday, I was reading on the bed and Will came rushing in, poker faced, with the leftover cranberry sauce in hand.

“C’mon, Girl,” he said, shoving a massive spoonful toward me.  “We gotta finish it!”

Yes, we are an easily amused pair!  And that may not seem like an obvious way to celebrate Christmas, but enjoying God’s gifts — using them and relishing each one — is a perfect way to embrace the season.

After all, “All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.” (James 1:17 NET).  May we praise God for the lights, for generous giving, for every perfect gift, and for the fact that there’s never even a hint of change!

With Love,

Kristie

 

 

 

 

Jackson Five Friday: Brotherly Love


Hey Friends,

We went to the beach for Thanksgiving, which we have not done since Dub was a newborn.  And I must say, it was spectacular.  We are far more likely to spend the next sixteen straight Thanksgivings at the beach than we are to wait another sixteen years before going back.

We have a longstanding tradition of running the Turkey Trot as a family.   But this year, despite the lovely temps and scenery, Sam could not race.  He dropped a metal grate from a flood drain on his toes on the Sunday before, so he was on injured reserve.  But the rest of us continued on with the tradition, and even entered our race numbers into the raffle giveaways.  In a surprising twist, Dub actually won two tickets to a Marlins spring training game which includes throwing out the first pitch.  Being the sweet, doting big brother that he is, Dub is thrilled to be able to give this fun honor to Sam.  Watching your children love each other well — and by God’s grace I have seen a lot of this lately — is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Jesus talked about the importance of not harboring anger against a brother or a sister.  He said a person who does this will be subject to judgment: “Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”  Matthew 5:22.   Raca is a term of disdain.  It would be like telling someone they are worthless or a good-for-nothing.  After a particularly peaceful week together I am so full of gratitude.  Do my guys usually argue about sports without ceasing?  Almost.  And the competitive spirit gets into nearly every facet of life. But last week I was struck by the genuine interest they have for one another, for their mutual love and concern, for the way they crack each other up.  If you have little people who bicker and argue over toys so much that you cry uncle and buy two of everything, I want to encourage you.  I’ve been there.  We have two of every train in the Thomas series, and it was a small price for my own sanity.  But now I seen signs of deep appreciation for each other, and it’s a heartwarming development.

I’m praying today that these brothers will love each other well all their days.  And may we all be more faithful in consistently praying for ALL the relationships which surround us.

Love to you,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Stop and Taste the Pecans 

Friends,

Are you a stop and smell the roses kind of person?  Or are you more likely to rush from place to place?  For me, it depends. I want to be a nonhurried person, but more often than not I’m trying to pack too much in. I get super convicted about it, because I know the hurried path obscures hidden blessings predictably found on the more flexible and leisurely route. I try to justify myself, thinking I’ll just get A to Z done real quick and then I’ll slow down.  But by the time I get to Z, items A to Y have filled right back up.  I know you know just what I mean. Busyness is an American epidemic. Worth derived by checking things off is rampant, like some kind of joy-robbing plague.

Well, my mom was somehow plague-resistant. And I promise, I won’t always blog about my mom. But I do need to share this illustration.  Years ago — in the early nineties — my mom and I drove from Florida to Michigan, just the two of us.  We headed out in my silver Ford Tempo sometime in the morning. Our plan was to take turns and drive straight through. I drove the first leg, and the second and the third. We stopped repeatedly for breakfast, for lunch, for salty warm roasted pecans. I don’t remember what we ate other than those pecans. They were divine. We’ve talked about those pecans probably a hundred times since then. We never could find any that compared.

Finally as it got dark I was ready to take a break from driving.  My mom pulled onto the Interstate, as I pulled the lever on my seat, leaning back, ready to close my eyes for a bit. But then I looked over and she had her nose about an inch from the windshield.

“Mom!”  I said, alarmed. “Can you even see?”

She made sort of an “aww, shucks” cluck with her mouth, and then, calmly admitted, “Not really.”

It was hysterical! Needless to say, I drove the rest of the way and soon thereafter my mom got glasses. But oh we had a ball!  And my biggest takeaway was that you should always, always, always stop and taste the pecans.  I figure with the biggest travel days of the year approaching, it’s a good reminder.  More than anyone, I need this verse tattooed  on my arm.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭90:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Happy Thanksgiving to all and I hope you find the tastiest, saltiest pecans life has to offer.
With Love,

image1-2

Jackson Five Friday: Joy to the Full

Happy Friday, Friends! 

Hope you’ve had a lovely week.  I woke up today and hopped in the car and drove 507 miles due South.  I went from 19 degrees in Plymouth, Michigan to 55 degreees here in Knoxville, Tennessee. And this isn’t just a pit stop.  In a bit I get to see Dub swim at University of Tennessee and that will likely add at least another 25 degrees!  But I embrace sticky natatoriums not just because I love this child, I take great delight in watching him swim. 

Of course, I must say that my many delights in my sons have, in a profound way, been impacted by the passing of my mother.  I think it was C.S. Lewis who said a thing isn’t fully enjoyed until it is remembered. Well, for 16 years minus one month part of motherhood for me has been daily relaying joyful tidbits.  I “remembered” with my mom, who was overjoyed to hear about all of it. 

Last month when Dub got his license the driving test was literally around the block. Sam and I waited while he went out with the instructor. We blinked and he was back, smiling his magical smile at us. We cracked up. It seemed utterly absurd. That was it? Really? 

If this world wasn’t fallen, part of delighting in that moment would be telling my mom about it.  In fact, after I watch Dub’s race tonight and then get back in the car and beeline it for the rest of my family and my own bed, I’d normally spend a good chunk of the trip on the phone with my mom.  But this world is fallen. And my mom is gone. 

I don’t believe in placating the hurt with platitudes about how she knows. Instead, I believe in embracing the hurt. She’s gone. I can never call her and tell her another story.  But it gives me a longing for Jesus’ return, for the completion of the ultimate story. It tightens my needy little fist on the promises of Scripture. It makes me even less likely to let go for a single second. And guess what?  That’s right where I’m supposed to be. Trusting. Hanging on to His Truth for all I’m worth. Am I suggesting grief is a blessing?  Yes.  Yes, I am. 

For the follower of Christ something astounding is true: everything works for good. Everything.  Even grief. 

I hope you too can find comfort in these words:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie 

Jackson Five Friday: Tell Your Stories, Again and Again

Friends,

I pulled up my blog just a few minutes ago to compose my weekly post.  I’m in bed, as are two other members of my tribe.  Yes, we are a wild, wild bunch.  Of course, Nate our social chairman, is at a Western-themed middle school dance.  It’s pretty tempting to post the picture I snapped but I promised I would not.  But theme party or otherwise, Nate typically does a fair amount of our socializing — it’s kind of a representative system we have going.  And it works.  I think we are a family of outgoing introverts with Nate often the most able and willing to engage the world.

But just as I was about to start typing, Sam came and climbed up next to me.  We ended up reading back from years ago.  I’m in my tenth year of writing on Spur so we can almost always find a little story we don’t remember.  We read this cute one and this one too, but then after he tired of the exercise and returned to shooting hoops in the kitchen, I read the following.  I still agree with every word.  It was called “Seize Every Toilet” and was from April 2013.

This sounds like it’s going to be a post about incontinence, but I assure you it’s not.  That day may be a-coming, but thankfully it has not yet arrived.

Anyway, yesterday Sam and I did drop-off for baseball.  The pre-game for this league is almost as long as the game, so we had lots of time to go home.  I left the field and cut through a residential neighborhood.  Out on the sidewalk was the tell-tale sign that someone was renovating: right there, next to the curb, was a fully intact toilet.

I smirked as we passed by, “Sam, did you see that toilet?”

“No,” he answered, whipping his curious little head around.

Well, that was never going to do.  At the next intersection, I turned the car around and drove past the toilet again.  Then I turned around again to head back in the right direction and pulled right up to the toilet and stopped.

I steadied my expression to stone serious, and turned around.  “Do you need to go?” I asked  Sam.

“No,” he smiled, perplexed and amused.

“Well, you need to at least try,” I said.

“You’re kidding,” Sam said, eyes dancing.

“No, Sam.  You need to try,” I said.

As he gestured to get out of the van, I died off laughing.  Sam was cracking up too.

“I knew you were kidding,” he said.  And of course he did know.  It’s not the first time he’s been teased after all.

But a couple things about this fun and brief little exchange are truly important.  First of all, we must tease our kids.  It’s vital to be able to laugh at yourself.  We all know adults who can’t, and they are painful to be around.

Secondly, the Don’t Carpe Diem thing led to instant fame for one blogger — and so many friends of mine identify with that, but I think it’s all wrong.  Not only do I think we should seize every day and every moment, I think we should seize every roadside toilet.  I am so glad I turned around.  We are all busy.  I don’t know anyone who keeps up with laundry or commitments completely — although pretty much everyone I know does a better job than I do.  But how tragic if we have the mindset that we need only cherish those special moments.  Because every breath is a gift (Acts 17:25), and living in the moment doesn’t mean that we live in denial.  Some moments are ugly.  I’ve had my share.  Like that time in Heathrow when I was traveling internationally without Will and was changing one-year-old Nate’s horrendously disgusting diaper and three-year-old Dub decided he’d just venture right out of the restroom into the British throng.  But so what?  Does that mean I didn’t have a trillion things to be thankful for even in that moment?  Besides, a taste of ugly makes us acknowledge and appreciate the beautiful all the more.

May I give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) , and may I seize every moment.

I hope you’ll tell your stories again and again, and remind yourself too of the truth you already know.

Love to YOU,

image1-2

Jackson Five Friday: Overlooking Harvey

Friends,

So the heavy topic of Hollywood Harvey et al is not my usual “Fun Friday” vibe, but I do want to weigh in on a couple of aspects.

First, as an American and as an attorney, I am horrified by any breakdown of the rule of law.  When rapists go free, it’s not just a lack of justice served to a particular woman, it’s an unraveling of society.  That’s not an overstatement.  Personally, I would be all for rapists serving lifelong sentences and also being publicly flogged on a weekly basis.  The argument would be made that it would be cruel and unusual, but I believe, and I’m serious about this, that it would be just and deterring.  No one is beyond redemption.  Our God is the God of second chances.  Harvey could give his life to Christ and serve him the rest of his days.  I believe that.  100%.  But I still want him doing that from a jail cell.  And I still want the likes of him flogged, weekly, till the day they die.  Praise God there is eternal justice, see Golgotha.  But civilized society must be committed to enforcing laws, and sadly ours really isn’t.

How wicked must the culture in Hollywood be that causes so many to overlook such evil?  And yet it’s not just Hollywood, it’s many workplaces, many campuses, many sectors of society.  It’s worth pondering how in the world we got here.  I bet deep down we all know many of the answers.

But I’m going to switch gears on you completely.  One problem in our world is overlooking too much.  Another problem, and on the surface it seems totally illogical, is the inability to overlook anything.  The outrage over the microaggression is rampant. Firestorms over minor slights, and silence in the face of rape.  Odd, isn’t it?  Or maybe it actually makes sense when you recognize the self-righteous needs of a condemning culture.  The American Pharisee thrives on distinguishing themselves from lesser humans, saying,  “I would never do that.”  Expressing outrage over every little offense gives purpose and identity to many.  Surely you’ve seen evidence of this in your life.  If not, spend 8 seconds on social media.

But what does the Bible say?  It says: “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”(Proverbs 19:11).  I’m praying today that I’ll have good sense, be slow to anger, consistently overlooking little offenses.  But I’m praying too for justice, praying that the rule of law will make a tremendous comeback in this nation.  Will you too pray with me on both of these?  Grace and Justice.  Remember they met –and were utterly complete — only on the Cross.

Love to You,

Kristie

 

Jackson Five Friday: Two Rules

IMG_9572

Friends,

The picture above is one I snapped this morning from the passenger seat while my son did a practice run drive to school.  In a stunning and inexplicable turn of events he turns 16 on Sunday.  When you have a child who looked five when he was two and has towered over me for years, you’d think maybe I’d have seen this day coming.  But it feels like yesterday that I couldn’t bring myself to correct him when he called all animals “doggy.”  It was just so funny when he pointed to the bird in the sky, the fish in tank, and the squirrel scrambling up a tree — all were “Doggy!”  Doggies everywhere has given me more than a decade of laughs.  That beautiful boy is now a 6’5″ inch man with the same exact face and same sweet spirit, and can legally drive next week.

I did eventually, begrudgingly, teach him a few proper animal names, and I’ve tried to teach him some other useful stuff along the way.  But the very most important thing I could ever, ever teach him is that Jesus is the answer.  Nothing could ever be in the same universe of importance, obviously.  But, I do think it is of great value to learn to laugh at yourself too.

Rule #1  Jesus is the Answer

It doesn’t matter what problem you point to in this world, Jesus has and is the answer.  Facing something hard? Read the Gospels.  Be humbled by what Jesus did for you and embrace the forgiveness Jesus offers.  The one who has been forgiven, loves.  The one who loves, obeys.  It’s really that simple.  No one is beyond redemption!  No problem could ever be as big as He is.  Trust Him.  Listen to Him.  Do what He says.  Jesus is always the answer.

Rule #2  Never Lose Your Sense of Humor

My mom embodied this truth so well.  She made very funny observations and enjoyed funny stories even just hours before she died.  So I am confident that she’d think it was highly amusing that I fell in her grave.  Yes, unbelievably that is a true statement.

This is how it happened.  We had a lovely visitation at the funeral home on Sunday night.  Then Monday was the funeral, and the service was perfect.  Then we went to the cemetery and had a very brief ceremony, followed by a child and grandchild-only final few moments next to my mom.  We chose not to be there for the actual internment.  Understandably, Sam (10), had quite a few questions, having never been to a funeral.  He asked, “Now, where will she be buried?”

The grave itself was just steps away.  It had been dug and covered with plywood-type panels of wood.  I took Sam’s hand and led him closer.  I pointed to my brother Craig’s grave, “See, that is where Uncle Craig is buried.  And here,” I said, using my best flight attendant aisle-way motion, “is where my dad is buried.”

Before I could finish my explanation, about my mom being buried between them, the ground beneath my feet began to give way.  I promise I wasn’t even that close to the edge!  I mean, truly, I was at least a foot away from the plywood.  But down I went!  Before I knew it the whole right side of my body was in the grave.  I do not know if angels had me on a harness and yanked me up, or if adrenaline kicked in and I was momentarily Wonder Woman, or what.  But in 0.18 seconds I got myself — seemingly unassisted — out of that grave.

People rushed over to help brush the dirt off and make sure I was alright.  I’m the least flexible person in the world.  I don’t know how I managed to do it totally unscathed.  It seems like at the very least I would’ve dislocated something.  But amazingly, by God’s grace, I was fine.

A little later, my cousin, Stephen, made two perfect observations: (1) Craig may have never stopped laughing had he witnessed it; and (2) It’s unreal that I did not lose my right shoe (which was a black, three-inch high, patent-leather pump).  The amount of dirt I poured out of it was stunning.  And what would I have done had it come off?  I guess leave it, but I’m glad I didn’t have to explain why I only had one shoe.  God glued it to my foot even with a pound or more of dirt inside it.

Of course, I’ve cracked up many times reliving this moment already.  Have you ever heard of anything like it in your entire life?  It’s really pretty hilarious!

Praise God that Solomon was right, there really is a time for everything under the sun.  Praise Him too that the time to to laugh and the time to mourn can be surprisingly close together.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

  Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

With Love,

Kristie