Jackson Five Friday: Advent Traditions

Hey Friends,

What are your favorite Advent traditions?  I’m always on the lookout for new ways to celebrate this beautiful season.  We’ve always enjoyed decorating our house, opening an Advent calendar, and listening to classical Christmas music.  But we’ve also started, in more recent years, to light Advent candles and now Dub and Nate read the Advent devotional that I wrote a few years ago.  When we lived in Virginia we were privileged to have two incredible events at the boys’ school — a night of Lessons and Carols and a mini concert from the President’s Own Marine Band (one of the members also had children who attended the school).  I also love opening Christmas cards and hearing how old friends are doing.  But no matter how much we anticipate the birth of our Savior, and try to appreciate the greatest gift ever given, it never seems like it’s enough.  I want to savor the lights and the beauty and the peace, but always feel like I fall short.

I think that sense that it’s never enough is inevitable.  I can’t, in my fallen state, ever truly appreciate the magnitude of Christ’s birth.  My purpose and destiny are wholly dependent on Him, but my efforts to fully recognize this in my day-to-day, moment-to-moment life are pitifully inadequate.  Still, I believe acknowledging my indebtedness includes fully embracing the gifts of this life, and they are infinite.  Two gifts that I take for granted somewhat less than others are my gift for writing and my appreciation of humor.  I learn so much from the process of writing.  I feel happier and more fulfilled having written.  Much like Eric Liddell’s famous quote from The Chariots of Fire, when I write, I feel God’s pleasure.  And the same is true when I laugh.

For Thanksgiving dinner this year, it was just the five of us, for the first time ever.  I was a little worried about how that would feel.  Dub asked, “Have I ever had a single Thanksgiving without Caitlin (my niece, his cousin)?”  If he has, it was once, more than a decade ago.  We ordered a turkey dinner from a lovely — beyond lovely — Italian market in North Palm Beach.  Then I made a few of our favorite sides.  It turned out to be a delicious, festive, happy Thanksgiving.   And so easy!  I couldn’t help smugly thinking to myself, “Nailed it!”  But, there was one misstep.  The dinner came with a quart — a quart — of cranberry sauce!  It could’ve fed 50 instead of five.  We cracked up about it.  On that Friday, I was reading on the bed and Will came rushing in, poker faced, with the leftover cranberry sauce in hand.

“C’mon, Girl,” he said, shoving a massive spoonful toward me.  “We gotta finish it!”

Yes, we are an easily amused pair!  And that may not seem like an obvious way to celebrate Christmas, but enjoying God’s gifts — using them and relishing each one — is a perfect way to embrace the season.

After all, “All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.” (James 1:17 NET).  May we praise God for the lights, for generous giving, for every perfect gift, and for the fact that there’s never even a hint of change!

With Love,






Jackson Five Friday: Brotherly Love

Hey Friends,

We went to the beach for Thanksgiving, which we have not done since Dub was a newborn.  And I must say, it was spectacular.  We are far more likely to spend the next sixteen straight Thanksgivings at the beach than we are to wait another sixteen years before going back.

We have a longstanding tradition of running the Turkey Trot as a family.   But this year, despite the lovely temps and scenery, Sam could not race.  He dropped a metal grate from a flood drain on his toes on the Sunday before, so he was on injured reserve.  But the rest of us continued on with the tradition, and even entered our race numbers into the raffle giveaways.  In a surprising twist, Dub actually won two tickets to a Marlins spring training game which includes throwing out the first pitch.  Being the sweet, doting big brother that he is, Dub is thrilled to be able to give this fun honor to Sam.  Watching your children love each other well — and by God’s grace I have seen a lot of this lately — is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Jesus talked about the importance of not harboring anger against a brother or a sister.  He said a person who does this will be subject to judgment: “Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”  Matthew 5:22.   Raca is a term of disdain.  It would be like telling someone they are worthless or a good-for-nothing.  After a particularly peaceful week together I am so full of gratitude.  Do my guys usually argue about sports without ceasing?  Almost.  And the competitive spirit gets into nearly every facet of life. But last week I was struck by the genuine interest they have for one another, for their mutual love and concern, for the way they crack each other up.  If you have little people who bicker and argue over toys so much that you cry uncle and buy two of everything, I want to encourage you.  I’ve been there.  We have two of every train in the Thomas series, and it was a small price for my own sanity.  But now I seen signs of deep appreciation for each other, and it’s a heartwarming development.

I’m praying today that these brothers will love each other well all their days.  And may we all be more faithful in consistently praying for ALL the relationships which surround us.

Love to you,