Jackson Five Friday: Tennessee Love

Hi Friends,

Hope you’ve had a great week.  Today I’ve decided to take two big steps:   (1) I unsubscribed from the Little League text feed in Falls Church, Virginia, because I just don’t need to know what fields are open 525 miles away.  There was a time when this feed provided vital information, but that time is no more; and (2) I just changed my Facebook profile to reflect where I actually live, and it’s got me thinking.  Tomorrow will mark the five month mark to getting the keys to our new home.  It’s not a bad time to evaluate how things are going.  Here are ten things I love about living in Tennessee.

  1. It’s spectacularly beautiful.
  2. I have a a new appreciation for clouds and their shadows.
  3. I love that I can see where I live from many miles away.  It builds a funny anticipation about being home.  Sometimes when the boys have events north of here on I-75, our mountain becomes visible when we are still twenty-five minutes away.  It’s really odd, but there’s like a deep exhale when I see it, “Ahhh, home!”
  4. The viability of the daytime date.  Life with three athletic boys is busy, weekday evenings are especially tough.  If it is at all possible, parents of kids who do a lot outside of school, should utilize the daytime date.  Every single time my husband and I have met for lunch we’ve had a great time.  It’s short, sweet and a shot in the arm.  The thing is it is so easy here.  We live fifteen minutes from downtown Chattanooga, which has a surprising number of great restaurants.  My husband works downtown.  Parking is never an issue.  Traffic is never an issue.  It is a no brainer.
  5. From my experience, Tennessee is just not an uptight place.  Yesterday, to celebrate the end of the baseball season for school, Nate’s coach threw the guys in a little bus and drove across town to the locals’ favorite ice cream shop.  There were no permission slips, no signing kids out. When they got back they swam in the school “lake” and had a blast.  But more than the lack of formalities like permission slips for every little thing, there’s just a vibe that’s chill.
  6. The people are welcoming and kind.  When I tell people that I am new to the area, I often here the same refrain, “Well, welcome to Chattanooga!”
  7. Strangers are incredibly friendly, and I mean like strangers at the drive-thru.  My oldest son has been playing two high-intensity sports all spring, and that means he’s eaten more fast food than he should.  I have yet to encounter someone who wasn’t exceptionally kind in our many fast food stops.  And who doesn’t want to be greeted with a smile and “How are you doing today, darlin?”  There’s also a little coffee truck I frequent where a nose-ring might be a requirement for employment, but even though these girls are quite unlike other fast food employees in some respects, they are also universally kind and engaging.  Looking people in the eye, and engaging in an authentic way is a southern thing.  They start them young too.  I know that it’s a generalization, but honestly when a culture stresses people skills — using good manners and being adept at conversation, it pays off.
  8. I live in a little town, on a mountain, with zero stop lights, but we have a gas station, a little market, a post office, a few restaurants, and the cutest park you’ve ever seen.  Even though some days I go up and down the mountain three or even four times, I just adore the days I can reside wholly here.  Who knew never seeing a traffic light could be so relaxing?
  9. We can walk to church and school.  I drive Sammy to school every day because he and I do not want to make the mostly vertical trek at the crack of dawn, but he could practically roll down the hill home to me.  And there is something to be said for bringing in your circle.  The people we go to church with and the people Sam goes to school with are mostly neighbors within a pretty small vicinity, and that’s a gift I’ve not ever had before.  I’ve teased the older boys about only making friends who live on  our mountain.  The paradox of bringing in my own circle while also blogging is not lost on me, by the way.  I think that paradox fits me perfectly well.  I love living in a small community and in the age of social media.
  10.  Will has named our home Kristhaven because it is something like living in a retreat center, the setting is so quiet and peaceful.  It is neither the biggest nor the priciest home we’ve ever lived in — in fact, we were quite intentional about not getting a huge house.  And our favorite room is something like a library, but we call it the sanctuary.  I ordered a deep-seated, down-filled loveseat for this room, and it is the most ideal place to have a devotional time I could ever dream of.  I adore this room, and will have a hard time ever parting with it.

So I think things are going pretty well.  The boys are moving in the right direction.  But just because I don’t write about all the challenges of making this kind of move, I would hate to give anyone the impression that it’s been easy.  I don’t know how making a change like this could ever be easy, especially when you were perfectly happy where you were.  I’d give a lot of money to meet one of my girlfriends for lunch today — I desperately miss hanging out with people I’ve known and loved for a long time.  But thankfully I have the gift from my grandfather of loving wherever I am.  Eight years ago I wrote a piece for the Washington Post about how great it is to raise kids in DC with all of the opportunities for sports and culture.  I believed every word.  That’s where we were and I decided to love everything it had to offer.  That’s been my mindset wherever I’ve lived, and yes, having that mindset in New Orleans did indeed result in significant weight gain!

But there is a spiritual principle in all of this, and that’s that we can decide to be happy.  We can choose to be content.  You may think some grass is greener.  But when you get there, there are problems you didn’t expect.  I heard Eugene Cho talk about this earlier this year.  He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “You think that grass is greener.  And you know what?  It probably is!  But that should serve as a reminder to you to water the grass you are standing on.”  Invest and love on and embrace where you are, and who you are with.  You will never regret pouring yourself out.

Paul is, of course, the poster child for contentment.  Here is what he said:

 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:11b-13

I have so so much to be grateful for, but I hope that no matter the circumstance, I’ll be like Paul, content and confident that I can do anything through Christ.

Have a fabulous weekend, and do make plans to visit Tennessee!




Jackson Five Friday: Inexcusable Indifference

Hey Friends,

I’ve written often here about Sam and what a lover boy he is.  Even though he is now nine years old, if we walk anywhere together, he grabs my hand.  I’ve never once mentioned it to him because I’m terrified that it will stop.  I love having that soft, warm hand in mine.  He also, even in his giant state, likes to sit on me.  Just yesterday he was doing some reading for school and insisted on sitting on my lap instead of beside me on the couch.  I have no power to say no, because I know these days are fleeting.  But honestly he just loves me, and it is such a gift.  He can also be a complete little beast. I’ve written about that here too — he can turn on you in a nasty way (here’s an example).  I’ve been thinking about him this week, and how he’s hot or cold (although thankfully mostly hot).  The worst thing in the world would be for him to be indifferent.  Can you imagine living with someone, loving someone, and having them be indifferent toward you?

I’ve been thinking about this because last week I went to a Kay Arthur women’s conference here in Chattanooga.  An old neighbor of mine from Virginia now lives in Nashville and she told me about the conference and asked if I wanted to go.  I had seen Kay Arthur at a McLean Bible women’s conference about seven years ago and was so inspired by her.  Not only did she love Jesus and speak truth, she was funny and energetic and attractive in her seventies.  Well guess what?  She’s going strong at 82!  I mean in a jaw-dropping way.  You’d almost have to see her to believe it, she looks so amazing and is funnier than ever.

She was teaching from Revelation 3 about the church at Laodicea.  The text is a familiar one — it is where Jesus says that the believers there were neither hot nor cold.  So you know what He said He would do with these lukewarm believers, right?  He said he’d spit them out.  But right when Kay came to this passage she began to have a terrible coughing fit.  She was gagging to the point of throwing up, right there on the stage.  It went on and on.  I had a wave of panic wash over me like I was about to witness something terrible.  And then without hesitation she said, in her casual speaking voice, “That’s what Jesus said He will do to those that are lukewarm.”  She was acting the whole thing out!  Most people seemed to understand that, but I found the performance way, way too convincing!  I was tremendously relieved to not witness her death, and a little embarrassed that had I been more focused on the passage, instead of admiring her style and poise, I may have recognized it as theatre.

But either way, I’ll certainly never forget it.  The one thing you do not want to be in this life is lukewarm.  And you know what?  Sometimes I am.  Just like a glass of water sitting on the counter, we trend towards lukewarmness in our faith.  We’ve got to be vigilant, and keep putting the kettle back on the burner.  Even adding ice would be better than stagnating and becoming lukewarm.

The Bible commentary by Matthew Henry says that if Christianity is worth anything it is worth everything, and that “an indifference is inexcusable.”  Praying today that I will never be indifferent, that I’ll be faithful to continue to seek God, to stand for Him no matter the cost, that I’ll not let my faith grow warm.

All I need to do to remind myself of how grievous it would be to be lukewarm toward Christ, is to think of Sam, or anyone else I love, and consider what indifference toward me would feel like.   And I’m human.  I haven’t loved perfectly.  I haven’t given my life.  I haven’t paid for another’s sins.  How much worse then to be lukewarm toward Christ!  May it never be.

Fire up that kettle this weekend and always!

With Love,




Jackson Five Friday: My Beef with Billy Joel

Hey Friends,

I was driving around this week, logging my usual insane milage (over 15K since I got my new minivan last July 31st), listening to the radio when Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” came on.  I love that song, definitely his best in my opinion.  But when he belts out that he doesn’t want clever conversation, I always think the same thing: “Well, I do.  I do want want clever conversation day in and day out for the rest of my days.”  And so far, so good.

Later that afternoon, in the midst of very clever conversation with my funny man, I told him about my beef with Billy Joel.  And he agreed with me completely.  Interesting, even clever conversation, is such a pick-me-up.  I think it’s practically a staple of marriage.  Will and I are constantly sharing tidbits of what we’ve read, interactions we’ve had, or highlights from our day.  It means so much to me that he is a great storyteller, and fortunately he is highly entertained by me and my antics.  Neil Postman’s hypothesis that we are amusing ourselves to death has not been proven total and final quite yet, although I’m sure television and the internet have done their fair share of dimming out wits.  Still, reading and thinking and talking hold large roles in our lives.

Being clever is one thing, but the true gift is wisdom.  It’s the difference between words that may give you a lighthearted laugh, and words that build you up and give you direction.  The Bible warns, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

May I never conform to the pattern of this world.  May I be transformed more and more into the likeness of my Savior.  May my mind be renewed.  May I know and do God’s will.  And may I be ever grateful for the sprinkling of clever conversation too.

Have a fabulous weekend!



Jackson Five Friday: The Still Small Voice

Hey Friends,

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted.  We’ve been running a million miles an hour with many good things.  We had out-of-town guests (my much beloved niece, Caitlin, and her fiancé along with dear friends from Virginia), we made a quick, and sadly, sickly trip to South Carolina to spend Easter with Will’s family.  Despite my husband and Nate succumbing like dominos to the dreaded stomach bug while we were there, Little Will, Sam and I had a delightful time!  We had to cancel plans to go see my mom, because we could not risk exposing her to the bug, and on the heels of Sammy succumbing in a decidedly last-but-not-least fashion, we spent four days at the beach above.  Four healthy, sun-filled, sea-smelling, breeze-blowing days as a family felt like a tremendous gift, especially after all being sick.  I was bursting with gratitude for each moment.

And now we are back to reality with three boys playing baseball, Will playing AAU basketball and swim team starting in mid-April (the boys are doing a tune-up type of clinic offered here for summer swimmers, which is awesome).  But life is busy.  I know you know just what I’m talking about.  This last stretch of school is a killer.   Routines are harder and harder.  We sat down to dinner one night this week as a family at 8pm, which is absurd, but I so do not want to give up sitting around the table if it is at all feasible.

In the midst of this season, how do you manage to slow down enough to listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit?  Honestly for me, sometimes I need to just sit.  I need to resist the competing voice that tells me I’m being lazy, that I have so much to do.  I process life best when I write about it, so I need to indulge myself, even if at the end of the day the house looks just like it did yesterday, even if my to-do list just keeps growing.  I’ve been living this life more than four decades.  I know what fills me up.  I know what wears me out.  I know what makes me feel closest to God.  I know how my time is multiplied when my priorities include a time for quiet reflection, study, prayer, and investment in biblical community.   But sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the truth, and by sometimes, I mean all the time.

The prince of this world is a liar, and he is relentless.  If you try to follow Christ and live for Him, the Liar prowls around trying to deceive you day and night.  For instance, he tells me that I suck.  That’s literally what I hear:  “You suck.  You suck as a mom.  You suck as a friend.  You suck as a wife.  You suck as a housekeeper.  You suck at everything.”  And by saying these things, he does what he always does: he uses a nugget of truth with a whole lot of deception.  Because honestly, I do suck.  On my own, I’m unanchored and bent for destruction.  And whether you admit it or not, so are you.  I realize that’s a little harsh, but it’s the truth.  And admittedly some are far more skilled at masking this than I am.  They parade around like they’ve got it together, but that’s a facade.  The Bible is abundantly clear: Apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15;5).  Fortunately, we are not left to our own devices the way the Liar would have us believe.  No, we have unlimited and unfiltered access to the Loving Creator of the Universe, and with Him all things are possible (Luke 1:37).  Amazingly, by beholding Him we become like Him, day by day being transformed, getting better and better at reflecting His light.

Giving ear to the the lies leads to discouragement and destruction.  Clinging to the truth gives you life, hope, purpose and perspective.  The truth is you are loved right where you are.  You are forgiven.  Jesus paid the price for every transgression you’ve ever committed and ever will commit.  This is the truth.  May we listen well, in every season, to the still small voice that whispers over and over and over again: “I love you.  You cannot earn my love.  You cannot lose my love.  I love you.  I love you.  I love you.  No matter what.”  If we listen well and obey His promptings, the truth always drowns out the lies.

Love to all,