Jackson Five Friday: A Really Great Day

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Happy Friday, Friends!  It’s a chilly but beautiful day here in Northern Virginia where almost all the trees have leaves and vivid colors are everywhere you look.

Do you ever have a day just chock-full blessings?  I’m sure you do.  Some days pass without much to report, while other days can be pretty amazing.  Yesterday I had the amazing type.

First, I chaperoned a field trip to the Kennedy Center where the National Symphony Orchestra gave a performance for kids.  I thought I had been to something similar before with maybe a handful or so of the musicians alternating between playing and talking.  But yesterday was very different.  It was the full orchestra!  As in 100 musicians playing together!  Music, like anything else that is beautiful or true, reflects the majesty not of human achievement (which is of course impressive) but the infinite mind of the Creator Himself.  We heard Beethoven and Mozart and Mahler and Holst and Strauss.  The NSO meant to demonstrate the extremes in music, but for me, listening to it all felt more like worship.  Beautiful music glorifies God whether or not the performers acknowledge Him.

The second major blessing of the day was that a tree in my neighbor’s yard was cut down.  This huge and beautiful tree had been hit by lightening repeatedly.  There was growing concern about it falling, and if it fell, it looked like it would land directly on on our house, right above Nate’s bed.  Many times over the last few years I’ve made Nate sleep elsewhere in the house.  If I woke up to winds in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I moved him.  It may sound kind of silly, but I’m incredibly grateful that tree is no more.  There is a time for everything and it was time for that tree to come down.

Finally, last night my husband and I went to the annual fundraiser for the C.S. Lewis Institute where Ravi Zacharias was the keynote speaker.  I’ve heard him speak a number of times and Will and I met him a few years ago.  That meeting was memorable for us not just because we got to meet Ravi, but because the circumstances made it highly unusual.  We have given modest amounts to his ministry for years, and had dinner with a colleague of Ravi’s before the event.  When we got to the church where Ravi was speaking we were a few minutes late, but this colleague marched us right up to the front row.  We ended up sitting directly next to Ravi.  We were looking at each other like, “Should we tell them we aren’t the Bill and Melinda Gates of Christian Apologetics they must think we are?”  Last night when we talked to Ravi, Will told him about this funny encounter.  A friend kindly snapped the above picture just as we were sharing a laugh with Ravi over it.

Then his remarks at the banquet were predictably insightful and inspiring.  Not unlike the orchestra I heard that morning, an intellect like Ravi’s glorifies God.

One of my favorite devotional writers — the one I read most often — is Chris Tiegreen.  He said, “God’s glory is the point of all creation.  It should be the point of our prayers as well.”

Even as I give thanks for a particularly wonderful day and recognize along with the Psalmist that the whole earth is filled with His glory (Psalm 72:19), I am convicted that my prayers are often downright self-seeking.  I need to change that. Today and the days ahead may the point of my prayers be God’s glory.  What a paradigm shift — from me and my little worries, to Him and His glory.

Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.( Psalm 72:19-19)

I hope you have a wonderful weekend beholding God’s glory and making it the point of your prayers.

Fondly,

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Jackson Five Friday: Love Thy Neighbor

Friends,

Last week I wrote that I would divulge an embarrassing, convicting story about my lack of neighborliness.  It was Memorial Day Weekend 2013 so we, of course, found ourselves at our beloved pool.  Will and I were relaxing on lounge chairs which faced the diving well.  A set of twin boys arrived that were older teens — totally adorable and fit.  These boys started doing their stunts off the high dive and I looked at them perplexed.

“Where do we know those guys from,” I asked Will.

He gave them a once over.  “I don’t know,” he said.  “Here, I guess.”

“No,” I answered.  “We know them from somewhere.”

Will was unconvinced.  “You’ve just seen them here before,” he said.

But I was sure I it wasn’t just the pool.

Imagine my surprise when I saw one of them a few days later hauling in the trash can NEXT DOOR.  I recognized these twins because they are literally our next door neighbors.

Yes, the words of Jesus can sting like the dickens: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  I can hardly love them without knowing them, can I?

Ah, but God is good.  He gave me a tiny little way to love my neighbor this week.  He faithfully orchestrates my life in such meaningful and undeniable ways.

Trash day was Wednesday and the ten-year-old, hockey-loving girl that lives diagonally across the street had left her lovely full-sized net near the trash can, just by happenstance.  A woman driving by thought it was a dirty rotten shame that this perfectly good net was being discarded.  I was sitting at my computer when I saw her tying the net to the roof of her car.  Obviously I had to stop her.

The sweet woman was grateful to learn the net was not being thrown away, and I helped her lift it off her car.  I think she was terribly embarrassed, but I was as gentle as I could be and assured her that I understood completely.  My little neighbor, that I know and love and would recognize anywhere, was beyond thankful when I told her about it.

Baby steps, right.  Baby steps.

Hoping and praying for more opportunities to love my neighbors in meaningful ways.  We truly have the sweetest street — busyness is the lone hurdle.  But now that spring has so vividly sprung and we are all spending more time outside, I hope to be a better, more engaging neighbor.

How do you fulfill Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor?

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

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Jackson Five Friday: Contentment

FullSizeRender-9Friends,

Look at this picture of contentment captured in 2007.  The contentment of the sleeping babe is obvious, but it is the peace of the mama that most interests me.  I am that mama, and I can tell you that having a newborn for the third time was a season of life in which I’ve never been more content.  Part of it may have been that we lived in Florida, where the living is easy.  Another factor could be that my husband, because of his new job and lack of hellacious commute, was much more present in our day-to-day life than he had been with our older two sons.  But more than outward reasons, I was just in my groove.  Mothering was coming more and more naturally.  I didn’t feel an ounce of pressure to be anything outside of wife and mother.  I was thirty-five.  I knew who I was and what my purpose in life entailed.  I could sit like this with Sam on my shoulder for hours and watch the older boys play and not feel like I needed to be reading or writing or using my gifts.  I was exhausted at the end of the day and didn’t worry about not making a contribution to the world outside my own little family.

I realize there are millions of mamas who do not feel this way about mothering little ones.  They find it monotonous and full of drudgery.  I had the older two close enough together to know long days whereby a good and brief summation would be: I changed diapers.  Every season has hard moments.  But of all the stages of my life — and I’ve led a mostly charmed life — the thing I have felt I did the best was mother.

I have told my husband that as I transition out of mothering little ones (my youngest is eight), and prepare to go back to work on a part-time basis (yes, good gracious this job thing is taking it’s sweet time to get going), I am mourning the end of the era where I feel like I shined the most.

The thing is you may not relate to that at all, but what I know you can relate to is that a strong sense of purpose breeds contentment.  The picture above illustrates purpose just as much as it does contentment, and purpose may never be that simple again.  Certainly no snapshot could so aptly encapsulate my life now.  And I’m not alone in that.  Forty-something women aren’t always the most purpose-driven.  Mothering is still vital — our kids need us just as much in all kinds of respects, even if we don’t wipe their bottoms.  Yet we have time to devote to other things.  Using this time wisely seems to be an ongoing struggle for many of us.  The transition seems to be one of stops and starts.  I want to be prayerful and wise and discerning as I navigate this phase.  I want to be grateful, of course, because I know that giving thanks is a chronically overlooked key to joy.

But I am also praying for a stronger sense of purpose.  What am I called to do in this next season?  How can I achieve that glorious feeling that I had above: this, THIS, is what I am meant to do!

As I wait on clarity of purpose for how I should spend the little bit of spare time I have, I’ll cling to these truths:

  1. My ultimate purpose is to glorify God and love Him forever.
  2. I am called to love my neighbor as myself (and boy am I doing a poor job of this, perhaps next Friday I’ll tell you a funny but horrific tale of what a terrible neighbor I am).
  3. The story of my life is the same day after day, year after year, through every season: it is all grace upon grace.

John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace,” so I hope you recognize “grace upon grace” as your story too.  I hope you know the contentment of living out your macro purpose – glorifying God, and your micro purpose as well.  In short, I hope your life downright reeks of contentment.

Have a fabulous weekend!

With Love,

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Post-Vacation Blues

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My Friends,

I am a wretched ingrate. I have so much to be thankful for and yet I find myself more than a little sad that vacation is over.  The traffic. The hustle. The lack of gently swaying palms. The absence of my funny and uplifting man by my side all day and night. These are all unwelcome realities. I know it’s downright absurd to feel this way. People are hungry and persecuted and forgotten all over the world. That’s why I said I’m an ingrate. I am.

But what is the root of such doldrums? I know a perpetual vacation wouldn’t do me any good.  Sloth is a sure path to misery.  But I’m wondering if stuff is the thief of joy.  Maybe part of what makes vacation great — aside from reading my Bible every morning and then watching the sun gently arch its way out of the Atlantic, aside from the therapeutic sound of the waves crashing into the sand interspersed with the laughter of my sons — maybe part of what makes vacation great is the lack of stuff.

We do not have a particularly large house. We do not have trinkets or collectibles or even tons of pictures. I love a counter or table or floor with nothing on it, yet most surfaces in my home are overtaken by paper, or shoes, or clothes.  My entryway is a perpetual disaster.  Shoes in the Jackson home are surely part rabbit or something.  How they proliferate I do not know.  I have boys and I swear we hardly ever shop, and they wear uniforms to school.  Yet somehow the mounds of laundry look like the domestic version of the Swiss Alps.  And I know after thirteen plus years of motherhood these mountains will not be overcome.  I’m beginning to think they are part rabbit too.

So here’s my plan for the rest of the week: minimize!  I’m going to keep only what we love.  If we like it, it’s sayonara.  The thievery of stuff, the weight of things, the consumption of time over the maintenance of items that we merely like — these are former problems in the Jackson house.  It’s a brand new day, Baby!

Of course, I cannot help but point out that the wisdom of the world —  that is often presented as brand new insight — can invariably be found in the Bible.   “Essentialism” is a movement and a pretty good book which talks about more than just the accumulation of things.  You can find simplicity blogs and books everywhere you look, but Jesus warned us two thousand years ago to be on guard against greed.  “Life,” he said, “does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  When the post-vacation blues hit maybe it’s the perfect time to ask if the abundant life God intended for you is diminished by your possessions.

Hold me accountable people.  All you need to do is open my front door.

Fondly,

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