Jackson Five Friday: Who Do You Love?

Hey Friends,

If you are a parent, you are going to make mistakes. Certainties in life are death, taxes, and getting things terribly wrong as a parent. But I do take solace in the victories. I’m not getting it all wrong, after all. There is at least one thing I am confident we’ve gotten right.

When my son Nate was two and a half he had his adenoids removed. We decided to have this minor, outpatient surgery because Nate would get a mild cold and then could not get rid of it without antibiotics.

But the morning of the surgery was oddly frightening. He was in a season of daily pretending that he was Robin Hood from the 1973 Disney classic movie. To be like Robin Hood he needed to have a bow at all times. A stick and string could serve as his bow, or just a stick. In a pinch, anything could be a bow, even — as proven on the morning of the surgery — a tongue depressor.

I can picture that darling, precocious boy sitting in my lap with his tongue depressor bow, not at all aware of what was coming. They put him in a little gown and began to give him sleep inducing drugs. The scary part was that for no apparent reason he just kept telling me how much he loved me.

“I love you so much!” He kept saying over and over again. Then, as the drugs started to take effect, the words just got slower, “I…. love…. you….. sooooo…… much.” My heart pounded as they rolled him back, terrified that this was goodbye.

Finally, the surgeon came to the waiting room to tell us everything had gone well. A few minutes later we got to see Nate in post-op. They had just taken the tube out of his throat and he was clearly in pain.

When he saw me, he started yelling “Kiss it! Kiss it!” He opened his mouth as wide as he could, and used his chubby little finger to point to his throat. That sweet baby believed my kisses could fix anything!

The experience cured him of the notion that kisses could heal, but thankfully it did not impact how much he tells me he loves me. And that’s my one foolproof parenting tip: Make sure your home is one where people tell each other “I love you.”

We are called to love another, and although we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, we certainly cannot love our neighbors if we don’t even love the people we live with.

Here’s a thought-provoking quote in a book I read a long time ago but was just flipping through this morning:

Jesus never once told us to love humanity. If preachers tell you that he did, they are serving up their own recipe instead of Jesus’. The only Jesus we know, the Jesus of the Gospels, told us to love as he did; that is, to touch and to serve the specific individuals we meet. (Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You)

That’s part of the problem with society right now. Too much emphasis on loving humanity, not enough on loving the specific individuals we meet. And whatever your views on social media (I still need to watch The Social Dilemma) loving people we meet needs to mostly, if not exclusively, mean people we meet in the flesh.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭NIV‬‬.

May we all prove our discipleship this weekend and always!

Love,

Kristie

P.S. The picture above is Nate at 2.

P.S.S. If the title of this post made you sing the George Thorogood song Who Do You Love? that is appropriate because Thorogood was all three Jackson boys’ first concert.

Jackson Five Friday: An Anxious Farewell and Calm Repose

Hey Friends,

I have been writing this devotional blog since the summer of 2008. I named it Spur based on Hebrews 10:24 and aimed for it to always be a message to encourage others (and myself) to greater love and good deeds. I still love the name, and as Paul David Tripp writes in his introduction to New Morning Mercies, “There is no reality, principle, observation, truth, command, encouragement, exhortation, or rebuke in this devotional that I do not desperately need myself.” I agree. Every Friday I am always preaching to myself because I desperately need it.

Another aim of this blog is to capture everyday stories I might otherwise forget. I do not think anyone is in danger of forgetting 2020, but I do want to document some nuances. Plus, it feels like a good time to go back and revisit how it all came down.

Six months ago today was my sons’ first day of virtual school. If you remember, the world fell apart the week before. On Thursday, March 12, we learned that school would move online. The boys went to school like normal on that Friday, but a portion of that day was spent learning how to use zoom. Their school planned and executed better than any I’ve heard of — in fact, a lot better than any I’ve heard of. They left for the weekend knowing to take all their belongings, and were advised to be ready for a normal school day to start Wednesday, March 18th online. In short, they missed only two days of instruction.

My husband had put a cot in his car in the beginning of March. If his hospital system had an outbreak of Covid-19, he planned to just sleep in his office. He also had never formally applied for privileges, because although he is board certified in internal medicine and critical care, his job is 100% administrative. He ended up getting hospital privileges because he’d be better at intubating than most, and we just didn’t know if there’d be a need for all hands on deck.

When we found out about virtual school, Will and I talked about the boys and I going to the beach. We have a small, two-bedroom condo in South Florida. I read a study about how sunlight made a dramatic difference in the recovery of WWI flu patients, and decided we should probably go (as an aside, vitamin D does seem to be important in protecting against the virus). If we weren’t there to bring germs home to, Will would not have to sleep in his office. If things got crazy, he could even have other doctors or providers stay at our house.

The decision to quarantine in Florida instead of at home inexplicably felt like one of the weightiest of my life. I felt like I might never see my husband again. I couldn’t keep myself from picturing him deathly sick and alone. I mean, I would’ve come back, but what if it wasn’t in time? The projections on the death toll were terrifying and he’d be in the hospital every day. I almost can’t describe how conflicted I felt about it all.

We stayed through the weekend, celebrated Sam’s 13th birthday on March 16th, and the four of us drove to Florida the next morning. We sailed through Atlanta like it was uninhabited, but soon my one eyeball was twice it’s normal size and I had to be done with my portion of the driving. Somehow for me, stress centers on my eyes. The gargantuan stye made me look almost as pitiful and stressed as I felt leaving Will that morning.

Of course once we arrived with our car full of school books, computers, a printer, toilet paper, Sam’s trumpet and non-perishable food, I felt better. The ocean breeze and swaying palms are invariably calming. Will worked crazy long hours, but we FaceTimed with him every night. Sam’s birthday balloons were still in the kitchen, and Will would show us how the giant 1 and 3 were drooping and dimpling as the days passed. My funny man said things like, “Sam, hopefully you’ll get to come home before you turn 31.” But that’s about how it felt. Time slowed to a tortoise pace. The great unknowns felt almost crushing and those balloons representing 31 instead of 13 didn’t feel as far-fetched as it should.

One morning I was trying to zoom in to Bible study. I was sitting in the parking lot, while Sam was in the car for band class. I didn’t think my mostly elderly neighbors would much appreciate him playing the trumpet in the condo, and so he hustled down to the car for band class.

The car was turned on so that Sam could have some A/C, and I sat down on one of those yellow parking block things, a few empty spaces away. I logged into zoom, and I could see my girlfriends, but I could not hear them. Perplexed I tried to figure out if they were all muted, or what. I kept gesturing that I could not hear. Finally, I realized that my phone was linked to the car, the audio of my zoom call was in there with Sam. I’d already witnessed the profound, unparalleled embarrassment of revealing you have a mother during zoom school. I had made the grave mistake of walking behind Nate’s chair and he nearly died. Now poor Sam and his entire band class were hearing my Bible study in stereo! It still cracks me up to think about.

But with all the anxiety of telling Will goodbye on March 17th, and all the logistics of doing school at the beach for three weeks, I can look back and remember the sweet memories we made. Sam and I rode bikes during “lunch” every day and I sat on our balcony and watched the sunset every night, sometimes with all three boys. We were only there a few days before the county closed the beach, but the police stopped patrolling at 5pm. Right after 5, I’d watch a group of old people rush out into the water to soak in the healing, salty waves. I read a lot of coronavirus articles, spent too much time on social media and prayed. But mostly I just sat around and thought. There was so much to ponder, and so much time to do it.

This week I was reading through Psalm 13. The structure of it is a little bit like my whole beach quarantine experience. It starts with a frantic feeling and ends with trusting calm. What do you think comes in the middle? Any ideas? Did you guess prayer? Yes, prayer comes in the middle.

Here is the full text of the Psalm:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. Psalms‬ ‭13:1-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Are you in a season of “How long?” Or a season full of anxiety and indecision? Can you force yourself to stop and pray, asking the Lord to look upon you and answer? I don’t think we make our way back to a place of trusting and rejoicing without praying and reminding ourselves of how good the Lord has been in the past. Sometimes the peak on the other side of the valley is even higher having seen with clarity the pit.

Over two hundred years ago a biblical commentator wrote this about Psalm 13:

This song, as it were, casts up constantly lessening waves, until it becomes still as the sea when smooth as a mirror, and the only motion discernible at last is that of the joyous ripple of calm repose. (Frank Delitzsch)
Friends, I hope your weekend is a joyous ripple of calm repose!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: No Solutions

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a great week. It is a beautiful morning here in Tennessee just like it was in D.C. on 9/11/01. I was eight months pregnant and Will was finishing up being on call at Shock Trauma in Baltimore. I was dragging that morning and planned to go into work —a block from the White House —a little late. But Will called and told me to turn on the TV. Not long after he called again to tell me he was heading to Walter Reed. Since he was active duty he needed to report ASAP. I remember saying, “Can’t you tell them you’ve been up all night?” He was mildly amused that I would think such a fact mattered to the Army. He did not get to come home until late that night so I went alone to our small group to pray for our country. What surreal days those were!

And yet these days too. I continue to be enormously grateful that all my boys are in school and playing sports. I realize that they are insanely blessed in comparison to many other teenagers, but I have an uneasy feeling about how long it will last. Inexplicably, the inane obsession with “cases” does not seem to be waning. How is it possible that keeping track of kids with headaches or no symptoms at all is worthwhile? How can one get panicked over positive tests when the ultra sensitive tests even pick up old virus? The vital data is hospitalizations, which by God’s grace are now increasingly rare. It’s a virus, acting like a virus. The idea that it’s novel and completely unknown is overblown to the nth degree. The vulnerable need to be the focus, not healthy college kids. The lack of logic is one of the most surreal aspects of the whole thing. As is ever the case: Make sure you know Jesus, because you are never promised another breath, and proceed with life.

Truly the whole charade has been a painful, costly and deadly illustration of Thomas Sowell’s important insight:

There are no solutions, there are only trade-offs; and you try to get the best trade-off you can get, that’s all you can hope for.

The lockdown policies had predictable and injurious trade-offs, but were wholly ignored. Instead of trying for the best, we have been far closer to achieving the worst. Policies have killed way more kids than the virus, and I am hopeful that the American people will hold their local lockdown champions accountable.

Leaders everywhere should have Sowell’s words on their desks: “There are NO solutions, there are ONLY trade-offs.” My husband does not have this in his office, but I know when someone comes to him with a problem or complaint he is faithful to ask, “What do you propose?” Complaining is easy. Efforts to solve problems invariably create other problems — and yet this reality is implicitly denied when you let yourself get narrowly focused on any one problem. Wisdom requires we are always mindful of the alternatives.

But you know what the greatest news is? There is one universal problem that has no trade-offs. There is one problem that you can zero in on without any negative consequences. There is one problem that has an ideal Solution. The solution is a Person. The problem is we are not right with God. The solution is Jesus.

Jesus paid the price for all our sins so that we can live eternally with Him, and He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us in this life. The solution is on the table. Have you accepted it? I hope so. I know I couldn’t live a peaceful moment without Him.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. As always, these views are my solely my own and do not reflect those of anyone I may know in healthcare.

Jackson Five Friday: Nigh to Those

Hey Friends,

I have heard some heartbreaking things this week. The kinds of things where you have a hard time thinking of much else, even when it doesn’t involve you or yours. We can get so caught up in politics or our particular concerns, that we almost forget that life can be crushingly painful in ways that will never be on cable news or trend on Twitter. This lack of concern for the broken-hearted is itself heartbreaking.

The Psalms are a great resource for bringing our brokenness to Jesus. If you haven’t found the words for your feelings in the Psalms — the expression for your pain — I would recommend reading through some the next time you feel distressed. In fact, 2020 is pretty much the perfect year for all of us to immerse ourselves in the Psalms.

Thankfully, Psalm 34:18 promises that God is near to the broken-hearted. Or as the King James says, “Nigh unto …”

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psalms‬ ‭34:18‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Who do you know who is hurting right now? Can you stop and pray for this person, that they’ll know that the Lord is nigh?

With Love,

Kristie