VA to TN, Part 2

 Happy Friday, Friends

Last Black Friday, the movers arrived even earlier than expected.  My nephew, Dane, was sound asleep on the couch.  I joked with the packers when I walked them around that Dane should not be packed, but predictably they worked like fiends and did pack every pair of shoes that Sam owned before I knew what happened.  I had to unpack a box to find a pair so he could go hiking with our neighbors — what a gift that was that they came and extracted him from the chaos.  It always feels odd to watch everything you own get boxed in a matter of hours.  We slept in our own beds that night and then they loaded the truck Saturday morning.  The gravity of the decision hits hard when you watch an 18-wheeler pull away from your curb.  We put the few remaining items (they won’t pack everything — cleaning stuff and alcohol for example) in our cars.  Nate was already at my friend Brandi’s house, Sam was with our neighbors and little Will was oddly playing in a basketball tournament. 

Before we said our final farewell, Will and I prayed over that house — thanking God for the treasure of memories we made there.  Then we got in our cars and drove off, utterly exhausted.  I went by and met up with Dub at his coach’s house.  It was such a sweet goodbye ending with, “Now, Will, I want to see footage of your first dunk!”  That night we all stayed at Brandi’s — she has a basement quite similar to that one we didn’t get.  In other words, it’s dreamy.

Before dawn Will and I got in our cars, without the boys and headed for Tennessee.  It was pouring down rain, and I was full of dread.  I felt like I was going to hydroplane to my death before we ever got out of Fairfax County.  So much water on the road!  I knew I was in for another looonngg day.  But soon it stopped raining, and before too long we thought we were halfway.  We stopped at  Cracker Barrel and I sat there with my eyes closed almost the whole time.  It must have been a mystery to onlookers –I used to be able to drive like a banshee, now my eyes get tired quickly.  I needed to rest them while I could.

We got back in our cars optimistic about the second half of the journey.  But it wasn’t the second half at all.  Instead of it being another 4.5 hours, it was more like another 7.5.  It was brutal.  But by God’s grace, my eyes were just fine.  Despite the traffic and more rain, we made it in time to meet our realtor at our new house where we were doing the pre-closing walk-through.  We were supposed to meet her there at five and pushed it back to seven, but it was good to see it even if it was pitch dark. Part of me knew Will would love the house (he’d seen lots and lots of pictures), but part of me was scared there’d be something that would prompt a “Oh, this wasn’t how I pictured it…at all.”  Thankfully, Will loved everything about it and there were no surprises.

We spent the night in a hotel and Will went off to his first day of work the next day.  The boys had stayed behind to put in one more week of school and close out the trimester.  We closed on our house that same day, but since we didn’t have any of our stuff, I went to Costco and bought some new stuff — a little food, some poinsettias.  I unloaded what we had crammed into the minivan, and sat on the hearth.  I already loved this house.  It was empty but sparkling clean.  Will and I went out late that evening.  Dinner was divine, but we were like zombies, emotionally and physically spent.

We slept at the hotel again and Will went off to work the next morning and I went back to our house and waited for the movers.  It had been raining for days, and the ground was completely saturated.  The forecast only called for more rain, so we agreed that we’d need to go ahead and have them unload in the downpour.  The tractor-trailer could not come up the mountain so they used a “shuttle” and unloaded it all in shifts.  By the end of the day, despite good efforts to lay down paper and plastic and moving pads, the house was full of mud, and everything we owned was damp at best.  It felt a little overwhelming.  When Will came up the mountain that night, he decided he’d just stay at the hotel until I came back with the boys.  Who could blame him?  The house was a disaster zone, and I was flying back to DC the next morning.

By God’s grace, the one thing I decided to do was make up our bed.  I opened more than a few boxes to find our sheets, but it felt good to sit on our bed a few minutes and just relax.  We got an email about Sam’s less than stellar behavior at school that day, and maybe we should have reacted differently, but in the grand scheme of things, it struck us as hilarious.  The first time we sat on our bed in our new house, in our new state, we laughed our butts off till we were practically sick.  Sometimes in stressful situations a good, hard laugh does you unexpected good.  My mom called to see how things were going and I could barely talk to her, because I could not manage to stop laughing.  When we headed back to the hotel that night, we stopped at the front desk to add a few nights for Will.  But they were booked solid.  It was only God’s grace that I’d made up our bed because Will needed it after all.

I drove myself to the airport Wednesday morning to fly back for my boys.  Other than the questionable behavior at school for Sam, the boys had fared very well with Brandi.  Her crew and mine have always gotten along swimmingly and they had partied like a fraternity all week.  The next couple of days were a whirlwind.  I met friends for coffee and breakfast and lunch.  It was one goodbye after another.  I told Caitlin goodbye at school on Friday, which felt like the weirdest thing ever, but we were heading to  a bonfire sendoff that night and flying out at the crack of dawn the next morning.  The bonfire was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given, and ended with some of the sweetest, most tender moments of my life.  I was prayed over and hugged and felt so very loved.  One little girl from Nate’s class headed out with her family and then came back to hug me goodbye.  I can hardly think of that moment with dry eyes.

When we climbed in our car to leave, Sam had melted down completely, hiding his face in my coat and refusing to say farewell.  We drove off, the four of us, all aware of how incredibly strange it all was, all aware that this marked the end as fully engaged members of this tight and loving community.

I still had the weird sick feeling in my stomach when we were racing down the runway at dawn.  In fact, as we walked to my car in the airport parking lot the pit was still there.  The drive up the mountain seemed three times as long. We pulled into the driveway and walked up the steps to the front door to reunite with Will and begin a new life.  I opened the door and not unlike Belle’s Beast, I thought, I hope you like it here.

Have there been hard moments this last year?  Yes, quite a few. But mostly we’ve all adjusted beautifully and fallen hard for Lookout. Just yesterday, when we were listing ways we are thankful, Dub said he was thankful to live on the Mountain, and his sincerity meant the world to me.  Sometimes when I’m out walking I’ll look down at the golf course community in the distance and I’m always met with a new wave of gratitude to not live there.  I miss my friends, I miss good ethnic food, but I know we are just where we are supposed to be. 

J.I. Packer wrote, “Christian faith means hearing, noting, and doing what God says.”  Uprooting has given us lots of opportunities to live out our faith — hearing, noting and doing.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

May we continue to draw near to God in faith — hearing, noting and doing what He says. 

Praying the same for all of you. 

With Love,

Kristie 

VA to TN, Part One


Hey Friends,

I’m sharing some reflections on our move that took place this time last year, in part, for my own preservation of them.  I haven’t recorded some things that I really want to remember.  And of course the common thread through all of this is that God is good.

Who? What? And Why on Earth???

These questions can be lumped together and it’s pretty simple.  My husband, Will, had a fantastic job in Northern Virginia.  He worked for a health system that loved him (his going away party was the most over-the-top parting in history — there were many, many tears, extravagant gifts and even a poem written and read in his honor).  They were beyond good to him.  But as many new opportunities as they gave him, Will really wanted more responsibility.  The problem was his amazing boss, whom we both love, wasn’t going anywhere.  When a bigger role opened up here in Chattanooga, it was tempting.  In some ways it was hard to leave such a fantastic organization where Will was so valued — needless to say we prayed about it a LOT.  Ultimately, when we decided Will would accept the job, we both felt good about it, but that it no way meant we were anxiety-free.  We were embarking on a new adventure but also leaving a very good life.

How It All Unfolded

We put our house in Falls Church on the market in September, and Will agreed to have his first official day here on November 30th.  All five of us had come on a recruiting trip in August and it had rained every minute we were here.  In October, our big boys were accepted to the private school we had quickly applied to, and this was a tremendous blessing.  That piece was settled.  They could start in January.  All five of us made another trip here in October, and were able to begin appreciating just how lovely the area is.  We looked at every conceivable neighborhood, but then we visited our church and that sealed the deal.  Will insisted that we live on Lookout Mountain.  Our realtor showed us many houses on Lookout, but none of them felt just right.  When I got back to Falls Church, I spent yet more time online looking at houses (God only knows the hours I’ve spent looking at houses online).  I came across the one we now live in.  Our realtor hadn’t showed us this one.  It looked perfect, even the paint colors, with the exception of one pink bedroom, were precisely my taste.  I flew back to Tennessee by myself, and made an offer.  Neither my husband nor my sons had stepped foot in it.

It’s not the most fun thing to buy a house for five and be the only one that’s actually seen it.  My sons hated the pictures of it — they had seen more palatial houses on our trips here.  In fact, the four of us had picked out a beauty on a golf course that had the best basement I’ve probably ever seen.  But Will nixed that.  It wasn’t on Lookout.  On our October trip we went by that place one last time to try to convince him.  It was empty so we peered in the windows.  We walked around to the back to the incredible walkout basement and were greeted by a dead bat.  This did not help our cause; no it did not.

Despite Will’s insistence, the boys did not embrace the idea of living on a mountain.  Nate gets car sick, or used to — I think the mountain mostly cures that.  None of them could get over losing that basement and instead getting no basement.  To add salt to the wound they all looked at the exterior picture and said with disgust, “This looks just like our house in Falls Church!”  They were not happy, not happy about leaving the life they knew and loved, not happy about living on a mountain, and definitely not happy to be moving to a house that was not one of the McMansions the realtor showed us (they also knew that we were paying more to live on the mountain and getting less; it’s hard not to have them learn such things with stacks brochures at their fingertips).  But I told them it would be great, and mostly I believed that.

By God’s abundant grace, we sold our house after just a couple of weeks, and closed on it in the middle of November.  We were able to rent back through November 28th.  Last year, Thanksgiving was on November 26th — Will’s birthday.  He is more than slightly obsessive about Thanksgiving.  It is his favorite day of the year, even more so those years when it’s also his birthday.  The movers were coming to pack on the morning of the 27th.  Did that change anything about Will’s favorite day of the year, which was also his 44th birthday?  Of course not!  We ran the Arlington Turkey Trot, had mimosas while we watched the Macy’s parade, played a very competitive game of football in the backyard, and had a full Thanksgiving dinner.  We even watched Elf, just like always, although the birthday boy was in bed by then.  

We were blessed to have my sister (Laurie), my niece (Caitlin), my nephew (Dane), and Caitlin’s friends, Britt and Cam (now her husband).  Before the ten of us sat down to dinner, Will made a speech.

“Remember in Rocky III when Rocky was getting ready for the rematch with Clubber Lang?” Will began.  “Apollo Creed is his trainer but Rocky is dragging during their workout. Finally, Creed was like ‘What’s wrong with you?”  And Rocky says, ‘I don’t have it today.  We’ll get em tomorrow.  I’ll be ready tomorrow.’  What was the next line?  What does Apollo say?”

I had no idea what Apollo said.  I imagine eight others at the table that day had no idea what Apollo said.  More than likely, you don’t know either.  But Dane knew!

“There is no tomorrow,” Dane answered in his quiet, understated way. 

“That’s right!” Will laughed, then shouted, “There is no tomorrow!”

That, Will explained, was how we needed to approach this Thanksgiving.  NO LEFTOVERS.  The movers are coming in 15 hours.  There is no tomorrow!  It was hilarious.  I know my man has used many a sports analogy to motivate performance.  He is a great leader, but not many people have occasion to give such an important motivational speech at Thanksgiving.  

 But as the following passage so poetically describes there really is a time for everything — even a time to uproot, even a time to motivate dinner guests!

 “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, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 What really strikes me as I get older is not that there is a time for this and a time for that, but that those “times” often all mesh together.  I’ve experienced joy and peace in the midst of sorrow. I’ve laughed some of my best laughs in the middle of stressful circumstances. The aim is to be present in the moment, to realize that I am just a mist here for a little while, and that God has a plan. My job is to be thankful in every moment. 

May I do just that not just at Thanksgiving but every day of the year!

Love to you and yours!

Kristie 

Jackson Five Friday: My New Best Friend


Happy Friday, Friends!

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week.  It has been another beauty here in Tennessee and that’s bad.  We desperately need rain, not just because the drought is hurting agriculture but because we have all sorts of forest fires that are overwhelming firefighters and causing terrible air quality.  Outdoor sports activities have been cancelled all week and visibility is limited, especially in the valley.  I never knew I would be able to distinguish between low-lying fog and smoke so easily, but after a few days you can totally tell the difference.  And when you step outside it is hard to believe that the fire is not in your own backyard.  Prayers for rain would be appreciated.  Here are a few pictures I’ve taken this November of the magnificent colors we are soaking in.

From my front porch this morning!

This is a view of the sun setting over Lookout Mountain — except you can’t see the mountain at all because of all the smoke

A clear day from Point Park

Another clear day from Point Park with smoke in the valley

It is hard to believe that we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of our move.  I plan to write a few posts about how that all went down because it was an interesting period of my life, and God was so faithful.  I try hard not to have specific or high expectations, but there is a part of me that thought (hoped) that one year in I’d feel more settled, or connected or…something.  If you read my blog regularly, you know I love living here.  I think it’s an incredible place to live — there are so many great things about it.  I cannot imagine Will and Nate at any other school — it is so perfect for them.  We love our church. My husband’s job is fantastic.  I cannot get over how beautiful the area is.  Our house is awesome.  There are so many great ways to spend time outside, and the climate is just right (all four seasons but a pretty abbreviated winter).  I do a women’s Bible study at our church, and I adore those women, some of whom look like babies having babies, and I got to hold one baby girl this week for almost the whole class.  But one thing I do not have is a best friend.  And as generally happy as I am, there is a voice of discontent whispering in my ear, “Who’s your best friend, Kristie?  Why can’t you make a super close friend?  It’s been a year, you loser.  What’s wrong with you?”
The candid observations of my boys are not helpful either. Early on Will noted that “no one needs a friend.” Then just the other day Sam dryly stated, “You know, Mom, the thing about living here is that I don’t have any old friends.”

They are right, on both these fronts.  Yet I had an old friend remind me of an important truth just this week: things change and they change even if your geography stays the same. The era of raising little kids alongside sweet friends is what I think I’m missing the most. But if we’d stayed in Virginia I’d still have a son in high school, my life would be very different than it was when all three of my boys attended the same tiny school. That era would be over no matter what.  I needed reminding of that this week.

In addition, to the timely wisdom of my friend, I’ve heard another voice whispering in my ear, and it’s not one of discontent, it’s One of truth. “Kristie, my love. I’m your best friend. I’m with you always, even to the end of the age. I will never leave you or forsake you. Nothing can ever separate you from my love. I am beside you every step, Beloved.  Rest in that peace. Let Me carry all your burdens.”

I’m sure one day I’ll have closer friends here in Tennessee but I hope I never take my true best friend for granted, the author and perfecter of my faith: Jesus Christ.

I hope you too cherish your best-ever friend, whether you know loneliness down in your bones, or your cup runneth over with loving friends, the fact is the same no matter the circumstance:  No one can ever know you or love you like Jesus does.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends, please know that Jesus loves you and so do I!

Kristie

 

Jackson Five Friday: My Favorite Veteran


Happy Friday, Friends!

I’ve thought about the events of this week a lot, as I am sure you have.  I really don’t have anything worthwhile to add other than this:  pray for unity, pray for peace, pray for humility, pray for wisdom, not just for our leaders but for all Americans.

Much like last week, where I told an embarrassing story to illustrate our dire need to assess ourselves soberly (click here if you missed it), I really just want to share something sweet and relatively light-hearted.  Because frankly I think we all need it.

When I married my husband he was a medical student at Tulane University in New Orleans.  The Army paid for his school which meant that upon graduation he did his residency, fellowship and years of service as an attending physician at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.  He was a critical care physician, taking care of many servicemen and women coming straight from theatre.  I can hardly fathom the pressure of trying to do well by these patients, many of whom just wanted to know when they could rejoin their units.  Will marveled at the bravery of these young men and women, who oftentimes could never return to the job they loved after sustaining life-changing injuries.  I know I was proud of my husband then, but I have to say I feel like I wasn’t proud enough.

One time, in the late 1990’s, I was away for a few days visiting family and when I returned Will, predictably, was still at work.  I walked into our apartment in Arlington, Virginia and standing on the counter was “Little Will.”  My thoughtful man had found an 8 x 10 or maybe even larger, full-body picture of himself in his Army dress uniform and had cut it out like a paper doll, taped an index card to the back and stood him up on the counter.  The accompanying note said, “Sorry I couldn’t be here to welcome you home, Baby, but Little Will is here.”

It made me smile.  Man, I loved my Army doctor.  I hung Little Will on the refrigerator door and kept him for years.  Sadly, in our many moves, I think we lost Little Will.  Thankfully the image of that sweet, handsome man is engraved in my mind, and I still get to wake up next to him every day.

I’ll leave you with two questions and two verses to ponder: (1) What sweet little memory can you rejoice over with gratitude today? and (2) How can you bless someone with a small act of kindness this weekend?

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Colossians 3:12

Love to you and Happy Veteran’s Day,

Kristie

 

Jackson Five Friday: My Clown Bike


Hey Friends,

Hope you are having a great Friday!  Fall in Tennessee is spectacular.  See the pretty leaves surrounding my clown bike above?  Perhaps the bench gives you some idea of how tall this bike is, but it may not.  It is gargantuan, like something out of a circus.

How did I come to own this clown bike?  Well, it’s kind of a funny story.

In the summer of 1999 I was a summer associate at a law firm with offices a block from the White House.  It was the Seattle-based firm named in part for a famous partner — the father of Bill Gates.  Summer associates are treated roughly like royalty.  The wining and dining just hardly stops.  One day I was in New York with senior partners watching them argue an appellate case and eating at Seinfeld’s favorite deli, the next I was in New Hampshire reviewing documents and savoring fried lobster in a hole-in-the-wall place I’m still hoping to get back to.  We went to dinners and shows, and to partners’ houses for parties.  The firm’s summer associates from every office were also treated to a few days in Seattle.  We met with different practice areas and learned about the culture of the firm, but mostly we just socialized and ate incredible food.  But then there was an odd excursion: a cycling tour of wineries near Yakima.  Have you been to Yakima?  It may surprise you to know it’s a desert.  I had never pictured a hotter-than-heck, nothing-but-sunshine desert so near Seattle, but it exists.  Oh my does it.

Biking between wineries in a desert never struck me as a brilliant idea, but I wasn’t in charge.  I was just trying to go along to get along, and at the end of the summer get an offer for a real job.  So we were issued our bikes and we headed out.  Surprisingly, we weren’t given bottles of water, nor did we have coolers of water following us around, or even communal cantenes.  In fact, I don’t remember having any water, or any beverage other than wine, and I didn’t have much of that because it wasn’t exactly thirst-quenching.   After a couple wineries, I do remember being in the middle of the pack of the cyclists and starting to feel exhausted.  It was extremely hot and extremely dry.  I didn’t know how the associates ahead of me just kept pulling away.  Man, they were fit!  Even the ones that didn’t look fit.  It was kind of embarrassing.  But then I remembered that there was a whole group behind me.  Ah, it felt good to know there were quite a few worse off than me.  I biked on, relishing not being last.

I biked and biked and biked.  “Good Lord,” I thought, “How much farther is this next one?”

The company that ran this “excursion” had a rescue van, and the van had the audacity to pull up next to me.

“How’s it going?” the employee in the passenger seat asked, smiling with her head out the window.

“Uh, well,”  I stammered, breathless.  “It’s going.”

“Well, you don’t have to finish.  No shame in getting a ride.  We can grab your bike and you can hop in.”

“I’m good,” I lied, wondering why on earth they were asking me, someone smack in the middle of the pack.

They didn’t like my no, and kept at it, trying to convince me to get in the van.

I could not be deterred.  I biked on.

I don’t know how much further I rode, but when the van came around again, the next winery was still not visible.

“Don’t you want to be with your group?” they suggested this time.

“Well, sure, but there’s a whole group behind me.”

Stone silence and then after a moment, a cheerful “Nope, you’re it!”

“There was a whole group behind me,” I said, confident I had not imagined it.

“Well, there was,” the van people admitted.  “But they turned off to a different winery a while back.”

I had been naively bringing up the rear for God only knows how long.  Obviously my bike and my sorry butt ended up in van, and rather quickly too.  Even at this point, I don’t think I was given a sip of water.  And truly my embarrassment outweighed my thirst anyway.

I had a miserable time at that last winery and count the bus ride back to Seattle as two of the worst hours of my life.  I gave praise to God as I stepped off that bus that I had not hurled a single time en route.  It was miraculous!  With my head in a vise and every sound and movement causing a new wave of nausea, throwing up seemed inevitable.  God was so good to spare me that encore of embarrassment.

It was a humiliating experience to be sure, but seventeen years later I’m glad I didn’t just keel over and die.  People do die of dehydration and I sort of wonder how close I was to not making it out of that desert alive.

You may be wondering how on earth this wretched desert experience could have anything to do with the clown bike.  But it was actually the birth of the clown bike, its direct cause.  I felt so defeated by the whole thing that I came home to Arlington, Virginia with resolve:  I will never again be rescued on a bike excursion, I thought, possibly still suffering the effects of dehydration.  My solution was to buy a bike, which seemed simple enough.  The problem was I had a salesman talk me into buying a bike tall enough for my long legs to fully extended while pedaling.  He claimed this was important.  It may be.  I really don’t know.  I do know that if you have legs as disproportionately long as mine are, and you buy a bike that will allow your legs to fully extend while riding, you too will own a clown bike.

There are so many spiritual principles at work in this story, I could write a whole “Lessons from the Clown Bike” series.  In fact, I may do that.  But last night as I prayed about it, a primary lesson emerged, one that is always on point and timely. 

Romans 12:3 says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

‭‭The picture of the stubborn, dehydrated girl suffering in the desert is a picture of someone thinking of themselves more highly than they ought.  My judgment of myself was “middle of the pack” — a sober assessment not only would’ve drained my pride earlier, it would’ve allowed me to accept, maybe even seek help. 

This is exactly how life plays out every single day.  A little voice in my head tells me I don’t need help, I don’t need rescue.    I’m doing better than them. This is NOT the still small voice of God!

The still small voice of God is more likely to say, “Sober up, Beloved, in this area, you need help. But I am here and I love you.”

May I realize today how needy I am, how loved I am, how my God is not at all impressed when I stubbornly stay on the bike. 

Praying for sober self-assessments for all, near and far, even all the way to The White House. 

Love to YOU,

Kristie