Jackson Five Friday: “I Think I Love You”

Sam has a magnetic personality. He has such an expressive little face, such big dancing eyes, and his mannerisms are unique and irresistibly charming. He’s easy to adore. Well, except when he’s being a little beast, which he’s also pretty good at.

But yesterday he had a darling interaction with his teacher.

As the kindergarten class was lining up to go to P.E., Sam told his teacher, “I need to tell you something.”

She stooped down to eye level, which of course requires less stooping than with most, and asked, “What is it, Sam?”

“Oh,” he said, “I think I love you.”

And since it is the case that his teacher is also irresistibly charming and adorable, she told him, “Oh, Sam, I think I love you too.”

I am so grateful for this school, for this teacher, for this child! But the story doesn’t just depict a priceless treasure of a five-year-old moment, it points to one of the ways we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).

I love you. I love you. I love you. It’s a potent little statement with the power to change someone’s day, someone’s whole outlook, someone’s whole life.

Who needs to hear that you love them today?

This I Know Wednesday: He has a Plan

One of the most depressing things I do on a regular basis is house hunt. If you want to understand why this is a major downer, and you do not reside in the DC area, feel free to look up what $800K will get you here. Suffice it to say that it ain’t Barbie’s dream house.

After the five of us drove around most of Sunday afternoon, I was once again feeling like we will never, ever, ever (invoke Taylor Swift) find a house. Like ever.

After we got home I was in the kitchen when my husband came over and grabbed my shoulders.

“Listen,” he said, “don’t get down. The Lord has a plan.”

Can I tell you how much it means to me to have my husband remind me of this? Not because I don’t know it. I know it. But oftentimes we need to hear the truth we know.

This morning I am praising God for the truth in Jeremiah:

“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” (29:11).

Telling a Great Story Tuesday: A New Blog Series

Some of my best inspirations have occurred on the treadmill, and there’s no coincidence about that. Researchers have proven that clarity of thought is enhanced by raising our heart rates. A high school outside Chicago has even implemented a “zero” hour where kids come in to run before their first class and test scores have gone through the roof (see Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey). I think it’s pretty cool that exercise is good for our brains.

Anyway this past Sunday I was on the treadmill and I had an idea. This is an idea that I’m “psyched out of my mind about,” to quote Miles Finch from the brilliant movie, Elf. The idea is to post about writing — to blog about telling a great story. You may not consider yourself to be a writer, but we all have stories to tell. God is doing something in each of our lives and being able to articulate that story is important.

Over the years I’ve logged a lot of time writing, I’ve read many books on writing, and I’ve attended writer’s conferences. But I’ve never really written about writing. It’s not that I fancy myself some expert. I’m definitely not. But I am excited to share what I know. So please check back on Tuesdays for some posts about writing. Next week, I’ll share about showing instead of telling. The next week I will post about the worst grammatical error in the world, which happens to be irritatingly commonplace. The next week I’ll post about the power of verbs and how this is often overlooked. See! I told you I was psyched out of my mind about it.

Until then, thanks for stopping by and may we heed the words of Peter each and every day: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Marriage Monday: Perfection v. Progress

Some people are naturally sweeter and kinder than others. You may be someone with an almost angelic spirit. I am not such a person and neither is my husband. But no matter who you are, no matter how sweet you started out, no matter how close to Jesus you’ve grown, perfection is not attainable in this life. Does that mean that we shouldn’t worry about working to be more Christ-like, more reflective of His Spirit? Should we just raise our little white flags and surrender to sin? Of course not! Dallas Willard wrote that “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.” The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship.

Instead of giving up as if it’s a lost cause, we need to be faithful to implement the tools that the Bible has laid out. Living by the Spirit is a moment-by-moment decision to be yielded to His will for our lives. Richard Foster wrote the seminal work on spiritual disciplines and he says that, “The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us ” (Celebration of Discipline).

The measure of our lives and also our marriages is not perfection but progress. Dr. William Backus says that progress “is to be a prime characteristic of our lives” (What Your Counselor Never Told You).

So this Marriage Monday I’m praying about the areas where I need to make progress, may I be faithful in effort and yielded in spirit. May my husband hold me accountable — not for perfection but for progress, and may I do the same for him.

Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Oh that this may ring true in my own life!

Jackson Five Friday: My Baby Ain’t No Baby

My son Will, who turned eleven last month, is a responsible guy. He takes pride in keeping track of his things. He is orderly and when he gets home from school, he does his homework right away not because I ask him to, but because he likes to “knock it out.” He also has a pretty jam-packed sports schedule. So when he asked for a cell phone for his birthday, I caved. It’s useful with sports, he’s responsible, and the incremental cost is minimal. We just added him to our existing plan.

But seeing how the phone is used is more fun than I expected. He loves to text Gramma. One day we were out grocery shopping, just little Will and me. He was texting with Gramma and pushing the cart, then he told me Gramma was out grocery shopping too. Funny that his one little phone was wreaking havoc in two grocery aisles more than 500 miles apart.

Then on Wednesday, he texted his twenty-six-old cousin, Caitlin.

Will was sitting there with their mutual Gramma and wondering if they might see Caitlin before Thanksgiving Day, so he texted her: “What are you doing tonight?”

Caitlin didn’t know it was her little cousin, and Thanksgiving Eve tends to be a big night out for singles. It was reasonable to assume the texter was no mere child.

She texted back, “I’m sorry, who is this?”

Will answered: “Dub.”

Such a funny exchange! Will probably can’t appreciate how comical it is, but one day he will. And I’m sorry to say that day will be here before we know it. Actually I’m sure that stage will have its own joys and challenges, but may I cherish every last moment of innocence.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” Psalm 118:1

This I Know Wednesday: Gratitude is Essential


Intentional gratitude obviously predated Ann Voskamp and her powerful book, One Thousand Gifts (which by the way I highly recommend despite the fact that Voskamp is clearly not a disciple of Strunk and White and keeping it concise —  somehow the book is nevertheless fabulous). Anyway, years before Voskamp’s book I heard someone somewhere say that it is a good discipline for children to keep lists of those things for which they are thankful.  In the fall of 2007, I instituted this with my boys. I bought them notebooks and at bedtime I helped them write out three things from that day for which they were especially thankful. I had a semi-respectable run. Many nights from that fall have entries.  Some nights they wrote some of the words, or the date themselves, but most of it was pure dictation.

Then we moved and I dropped the ball. Amazingly however, little Will has intermittently picked up the ball and written in this journal. All. On. His. Own. I worry this could sound like I’m bragging, but believe me, I’m not. Because I know for a fact that I didn’t give him his sweet little heart, God did. I do think we are responsible, as parents, for shepherding and encouraging, but the idea that I could make him thankful is absurd. (Note: For the sake of fairness, Nate says he’s also written in his journal once in a while over the years, but we cannot find said journal. Shockingly enough).


One entry is like the thankfulness prayer for boys everywhere: Will wrote that he was thankful for sports, for things that go, and for cars!  In one he is praying that knee hockey will arrive.  In many of his own entries, Will has a little box to check off when he prays “for people who do not have this stuff.”  What a priceless little journal!

Obviously tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the day Lincoln declared a national holiday, and its aim is gratitude.  But may we not wait until the fourth Thursday in November to count our blessings.  Instead, may we daily acknowledge the gifts that God has given us.  I could do much better on this front.  How about you?

The Bible says, “Give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV emphasis mine).

Giving thanks is doing God’s will.  I hope your day tomorrow is fabulous and that we can spur one another on to grateful hearts every day of the year.

Marriage Monday: Move A Lot

Yes, I know it’s Tuesday but yesterday was Middleburg Monday for me and I never had a chance to sit down and write. Do you ever just feel like you want to throw in the towel and move to the country? I mean the stock market may have posted a significant gain yesterday, but I’m thinking I may soon regret not pursuing chickens, goats and guns as a portfolio. And since I have a friend who recently moved to the country I decided to just drive out there and see, could we live there? Could the Jackson Five be a commuting, acreage-owing family? And let me tell you Middleburg has ambiance and charm galore! My friend’s fabulous new home is surrounded by rolling hills, mountain views and horse farm after horse farm. Plus, Middleburg has an adorable downtown to boot. It’s only 35 miles West — which sounds close enough, but this is DC and getting there in an hour is a feat.

I’m not convinced it’s for us, although I never say never. As you may know, Will and I have lived a nomadic life for the past five years. We moved back from Florida between Christmas and New Years in 2007. We have not resided in a “permanent” residence yet because we only sold our house in Florida this August. But the search that has existed at some level for all of these five years, is really on now. We want this move to be our last.

But that brings me to my point – people say moving is one of the most stressful things we encounter in life, and in a sense it is. I’m not going to say I love everything about it. I don’t. But there’s something undeniably bonding about it. It’s a shared life experience that can be sort of fun. We’ve lived in six different locations in Northern Virginia, in New Orleans, and in Viera, Florida. That’s a lot of moving. But that’s also a lot of memories and laughs. Many of the classic lines in our family occurred during moves. They represent some of our most cherished memories, the kind of laughs we will pass down to our children’s children.

So I don’t know if you have a move on the horizon. I don’t know if you can relate about previous moves, but life is so often about perspective. As couples we are sure to face processes and situations that are seemingly insurmountable, messy and draining, but may we face these together, for the long haul, and may we be willing to laugh in the midst of chaos.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” 1 Cor. 13:7 (NIV).

Praying this verse today for my marriage and for yours.

Jackson Five Friday: “I Have Zero Issues”

When the edges of Hurricane Sandy passed through our area we spent two solid days together as a family — as in every minute, just the five of us. We were expecting power outages, so we filled our freezer with Ziplock bags of water; I made coffee and put it in the fridge. We had a turkey roast for dinner and I kept thinking the power would go out before it was fully cooked. During dinner, the power flickered and the wind picked up, but we were completely spared. Instead we watched the horrific destruction that could’ve been.

Spending that much time inside isn’t necessarily conducive to peace in my family. Ordinarily my sons are not rambunctious boys — but maybe that’s because they swim like crazy, play baseball and basketball, and in every spare moment, throw the football in the front yard. For these guys, cabin fever sets in after about twenty minutes. So there were quite a few “issues” over the course of those two days.

At one point, Will and Nate were upstairs getting at each other. Will was raising his voice and his temper was obviously flaring.

Daddy Will yelled up something like, “If you have one more issue, I will come up there.”

Sammy was lying on the couch. He didn’t seem to be paying much attention. But evidently he was because he said, with a casual matter-of-factness, “I have zero issues.”

And sometimes Sam is indeed a roll-with-it, zero issues kind of guy. But the truth is none of us can claim we have zero issues. We all got em. The sooner we admit that we’ve got issues, the better off we are.

Nothing is so unattractive as a person who is unwilling to admit that they too have fallen short. May Sam not be this person. May I not be this person. May we acknowledge, just as Paul wrote in Romans 3:23-24:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Justified freely by grace. So much better than the zero issue facade.

This I Know Wednesday: Laughter is Relational Glue

I have a friend who is a lot like me. We both grew up in Michigan. We both have husbands born in the Northeast and who, despite growing up mostly in Florida, clung fiercely to their Northeastern sports franchise loyalties. She has two sports-obsessed sons roughly Will and Nate’s ages (along with two lovely daughters and a baby on the way). Our fourth grade boys have been in the same class since kindergarten, as have our fifth graders, although her fifth grader is a girl and is little Will’s frequent dance partner at school events. This friend loves to read and to chaperone field trips. She and I are less than a year apart. We both avoid the dentist but insist on laughing gas when we do go. We both had a love affair with guacamole and all things avocado until it abruptly ended with the late, inexplicable and cruel onset of an allergy to avocado. She loves Jesus and serves on the board of a private Christian school. I love Jesus and have served on the board of a private Christian school. We belong to the same Bible study and have an untold number of mutual friends. We have similar political views. We belong to the same book club, the same health club, and we both have an insatiable appetite for fad diets. And we both love Cedar Point. Pretty uncanny, huh?

But none of these commonalities glue us together as securely as the simple fact that we crack each other up. Do you have a friend who appreciates your stories as much as you appreciate theirs? Can you sit with this person and alternate between the storyteller and delighted listener in an effortless rhythm. I hope so because it’s utterly therapeutic.

Giving thanks today for the fact that laughter is great relational glue. After all you’ve got to be glued together for the Proverb to apply: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (27:6). We all need friends who can speak the truth in love — how wonderful that God designed it so that the path to deep friendship is so often paved with laughter.

Marriage Monday: “All Men Are Pigs”

A few months ago we had a single mother over for dinner. In the course of conversation, after all the children were excused from the table and were playing downstairs, she made the sweeping statement, “All men are pigs.” Then she laughed a bit and said to me, “Well, except for your husband, of course.”

I’ve been pondering this statement for months. We’ve all heard this assertion at various times, but have we ever taken the time to really pull it apart? Why would someone make such a sweeping claim? In her case, the statement was prompted by the brewing scandal of a mutual acquaintance. The hypocrisy of this acquaintance invoked a sort of vehemence that was then generalized to all men. But is that fair? I don’t think it is. In fact, I think it’s patently unfair. Because it has nothing to do with being a man. It has to do with being human.

For example, we may now look at David Petraeus with disgust. I mean honestly how dumb do you have to be? But on the other hand, a person who is honest about themselves should know that they are not above it. In my own speech and thought I avoid, “I could never…” Instead, I set boundaries. Guess what? If Petraeus was never alone with a woman other than his wife, he wouldn’t be in this mess. Observing strict boundaries is the answer. David Petraeus, Bill Clinton and the diapered astronaut — along with literally millions of others — illustrate the folly of ignoring boundaries. We may look at the irrationality of their ultimate behaviors (the director of the CIA sent emails for heaven’s sake), but that’s not really fair. Because people in these scenarios get crazy — it’s like the judgment part of their brain ceases to exist. Donning a diaper is not rational, neither is saying you are hiking the Appalachian Trail when you are actually in Argentina. Yet we shouldn’t lie to ourselves and say, “Oh, I could never be that stupid.” Because the truth is we could. Let’s not find out what kind of absurd choices we’d make if our judgment valves got flipped, may we observe boundaries instead.

So on this Marriage Monday I’m praying that my husband and I will guard our marriage by observing boundaries. May we acknowledge that the heart is deceitful above all things and be quick to flee temptation. (Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 6:13).

But in closing there’s a deeper spiritual issue that is presented by the statement “all men are pigs.” It represents a worldview that is fundamentally flawed, because the underlying assumption of the woman who makes this claim is that she is not a pig. The statement wouldn’t mean a thing if all women and all men are pigs, right? But that’s the truth. We are all sinners. We are all hypocrites. We all fall short. We all need a Savior. You can go around blaming everyone and everything, but the darkness is in your own heart. God sent His Son to shine light there. To give you peace in this life and eternity with Him. But Jesus is gentle. He never forces anyone to do anything. He will not make you look at the dark corner of your heart. No one can make you do that. But it is the first step to peace in this life. I hope and pray YOU know that.