Jackson Five Friday: Brotherly Love, Or Not

Sometimes my sons can make fun out of anything.  And I mean anything, view evidence above.  It’s incredibly satisfying as a mother to see that brotherly love manifest itself in contagious laughter.  After all, sharing a good laugh binds us together in a profound way, even if it is over some enormously silly rendition of Jimmy Crack Corn.

Not all moments can be so loving, but I do wish I could find a way to avoid the kind of unloving encounter that happened yesterday.  My phone hardly ever rings, but I got two calls before 9:15 a.m. and they were both about the same unloving matter.

“At drop off, Sam punched Nate and gave him a bloody nose.”

Honestly, I just wasn’t expecting to have to ask the embarrassing follow-up to the fraternal blood that was spilled:   “Oh dear.  Well,  is there blood in your minivan?”

Sure Nate can sneeze and get a bloody nose, and sure Nate did accidentally step on Sam’s foot climbing out of the minivan at drop-off, nevertheless it sounds as though Sam jacked Nate square in the nose, essentially unprovoked.

And I wasn’t there.  And there was a voluminous amount (by God’s abundant grace none in my carpool buddy’s minivan).  And Sam didn’t act too sorry either.

It’s an interesting psychology: Nate, the familiar middle child, often willing to take it, to laugh it off, to roll with it, and not retaliate.  Sam, the baby, who gets not just a second chance but thousands of them.

Personality and family dynamic differences mandate different parenting styles…to a degree.  But one thing that will NEVER engender brotherly love is favoritism.  Lord in Heaven, help me to love these boys well as individuals, each with my whole heart, in a way that leaves them confident and assured that their mama is for them.  NO MATTER WHAT.  Help me to point them to YOU and to love them not “with words or speech but with actions and in truth” just like the Bible commands (1 John 3:18 NIV).

LORD, please, may the Jacksons, even Sam, be known by their love for one another and not their propensity for boxing.

Jackson Five Friday: Confessions

I think I manage, somehow, to come across as a pretty normal person, regularly and effectively camouflaging my neuroses.  I say this because when I reveal to friends my true nature they invariably act surprised.  The truth is, I am an overprotective weirdo of the highest order.

My boys have never stayed a single night away from home without at least one parent.  That’s right, no sleepovers, no camps, no staying with relatives.  Seriously.  As in NEVER.  And I’m not kidding.  And my oldest will be twelve next month.  They’ve stayed at home when we’ve been away, but only for one or two nights and some member of our family has been with them here at home.

But this week my son, Will, went on a camping trip with school.  They slept in tents where there are bears.  BEARS!  For two nights.

I wanted him to go.  I wanted him to have a fabulous time, but honestly I woke up about four times the first night, thinking of him and praying for him and thinking, golly gee, the college send-off is going to kill me.

The good news is that he in fact did have a fabulous time, and I in fact survived.

The pitiful part is that I doubt the success of this trip has cured my stubborn fingers which continually wrap themselves around my family like some kind of matronly anaconda.  Like I can protect them!  Like I can ensure anyone takes another breath!  It’s so dumb.  It’s so faithless.  Rationally, I know that.  I know that God is Sovereign and that He loves me.  He loves my husband and my sons even more than I do, unfathomable as that is.  But still, loss and suffering could be part of His plan.  This fallen world of ours is full of hurting people, and I’ve lived through my own set of tragedies.  I know I am not immune.  And yet I also know that even in the heartache there is purpose, that God can be and often is glorified through what others would view as hopeless ashes, utter destruction.  I know that.  In the depths of my soul, I know that.

Nevertheless, I rejoice tonight to have my sweet boy home, to look with fresh eyes on his melt-your-heart smile, to know he’ll sleep in the very next room where there may be spiders lurking about, but no bears.

May God forgive me for letting fears diminish joys and for my hopelessly sticky and controlling fingers.

1 John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being faithful and just and forgiving!

The End of the Journey

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It’s almost like a dream but it sure looks as if the Jacksonian nomadic journey has ended. In a stunning turn of events — a la Bob Parr — we bought the house we were renting. We closed on August 20th, and have been making it more our home with each passing day. I have to admit it’s something of a relief. I’ve actually never lived any place that I’d thought I’d stay. When we were first married we lived in New Orleans but there was essentially no chance of us staying there because Will was finishing up medical school, and was already committed to doing his residency with the Army. We lived in three locations in Northern Virginia during Will’s residency and fellowship, but even though we owned two of them, our mindset was still transient. Why on earth live in the DC area (where the cost of living and traffic are absurd), when we could live anywhere? So when Will’s commitment to the Army was fulfilled in 2006 we moved to Florida.

Will went to work for a great guy, at a wonderful health system, and we made some very dear friends. Our boys went to an incredible preschool, and played competitive sports at a level that simply does not exist in Northern Virginia for the same age groups. We also bought a beautiful house. But, we were only there for a short time before an opportunity for Will back in Northern Virginia became available and was hard to pass up. We ended up staying a total of eighteen months in Florida, although we owned that house for about 75 months!

Back here we’ve had three more addresses — moving had become a way of life! But we are hanging up the nomadic tendencies, and putting pictures on the wall — not where there happens to be a nail, but where we want them. We’ve unpacked every last book, some of which are pictured above, and yes I have a C.S. Lewis-only shelf!  The color schemes are mine. The sunrise view from the deck is mine, as are the squeaks and the weeds. We have no plans to go anywhere, and boy does it feel good.

Of course, the nomad does possess one advantage over the stable homeowner, and that is it’s easier to hold stuff loosely. The flip-side is the classic have-not problem, and that is that the have-notter may foolishly believe that having is the path to happiness, and of course, no matter what the thing is, happiness is NEVER the result (sex, money, stuff never made a single person happy).

So my circuitous domestic journey has ended. May I use my new house for God’s glory, may it be a place of peace and joy, of comfort and laughter. May I now devote the hours I use to burn house-hunting wisely. May I hold our house loosely, may I always remember that no thing on this earth could ever satisfy my soul.

Instead, may I always turn my eyes upon Jesus, confident that “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”