Jackson Five Friday: All Out of Grace

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week. I had a good but busy week. I saw a doctor who does not specialize in eyes– that’s twice this year –which for me is really something. He shot my knee up with some steroids. Once again I’m kicking myself for waiting. It’s been less than 48 hours and now the shot up knee is already appreciably better than the other. Don’t wait people.

I had another unusual moment with my husband who is over six-foot-three.

“Hey,” I said. “Can you do me a favor? Can you reach my other boot on top of that shelf?”

He looked at me stunned, like I had five heads. And then he smiled his sexy smile and we laughed.

Truly, it seems terribly unlikely but we are pretty sure that in almost twenty-three years of marriage, that was the very first time I’ve ever asked him to reach something. You might think the extra four inches would’ve come into play at some other point, but evidently not.

A third out-of-the-ordinary moment occurred on my way into traffic court. I was walking in with Dub.

By way of background, he turned seventeen on October 22. He had exactly one year of accident-free driving, and then on his birthday, he got to sleep in. His day started with a free period and he didn’t have morning practice. As I hugged him goodbye I suggested he swing by the coffee truck and get a treat. It was his birthday after all. But a few minutes later he called, wisely assuring me first that no one was hurt, but that he’d been rear-ended. When I made it to the scene, I realized that although he had been hit from behind, rear-ended conjured up something slightly different. Therefore, our trip to traffic court.

On our way in we witnessed an odd exchange. A police officer was telling a woman that the judge had dropped all of the charges and that she was free to go. I could not fathom why this news was not delivered by the judge himself, in the courtroom. But it seemed official enough. The woman was elated.

Dub and I climbed on the elevator.

“Well, Dub,” I said. “There’s two ways of looking at that. Either today the judge is in a mood to extend grace; or the judge just gave all the grace to that woman.”

I love to tease, as a child of Judy Huber it’s kind of a given.

But it got me thinking, aren’t you so grateful that God — the one true and perfect judge — never runs out of grace. He’s never reached his quota for the day. No matter how awful you’ve been, no matter how much you may have disappointed others, there is nothing you can do that will make God give up on you. Jesus is always standing at the door of your heart knocking.

Psalm 103 says He redeems our lives from the pit, and crowns us with love and compassion (verse 4). It’s not like walking into traffic court, anxiously waiting to see what will happen. No, if you answer the knocking, then you get crowned with love and compassion. There’s no mystery in it all. The only unknown is why the door is so often unanswered.

Praying today that I’ll always always answer and that you will too!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: ThanksLiving

Hey Friends,

It’s been a while.  Two Fridays ago I couldn’t post because I was driving over 500 miles.  The last time I did that was back in July.  And that ended badly, as in emergency surgery for a detached retina.  Now, I can hardly help but worry that I’ll repeat that whole experience.  I envision myself like Gary the Snail in SpongeBob.  His valiant effort in the big race resulted in an exploding eye, and while I’m driving I can almost hear SpongeBob egging me on, “Go Gary!  Go Gary!”  Anyway, I know some of you prayed about that trip and I am happy to report that I arrived safely with two eyeballs fully in tact!  And Will was with me on the way back, so I didn’t drive a single mile.

Then last Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, I was able to park myself at the beach with a good book.  In fact, this book is now required reading for my boys over Christmas break.  It’s a quick, easy read but truly profound on many levels.

One day over our extended Thanksgiving break — by the way, I think the increasingly common full week for Thanksgiving is the most brilliant innovation of the 21st Century — I did manage to write a post on my phone while two of my boys played miniature golf.  But then, while I was reading through the finished product one last time, I somehow managed to delete every word.  Anyhoo, it’s a treat to sit in front of a real computer and share a few thoughts.

On Monday, I hit Costco to stock up and saw a church sign that said something like, “We’ve had Thanksgiving, now time to start ThanksLiving.”  I am sort of hoping the word mashup thing is about to wrap up.  You know, it was kind of cute, for a while maybe.  But hasn’t it run its course?  I mean some may be here to stay: jeggings, chillax, and crapiversary come to mind.  But I’ve reached the point where if any kind of promotion uses one– and they’re ubiquitous in advertising — I make a solemn and silent vow not to buy.  I laugh easily, but I’m ready for some real creativity again.

Of course, even “Thanksliving,” silly as it is, does communicate an important truth.  Living life with an attitude of gratitude, no matter how platitudinal it sounds, is indeed the answer. Counting your blessings on the fourth Thursday in November is certainly nice, but we should be doing it all day every day.

Psalm 9:1 says, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”  How are you doing with this?  Are you constantly recounting all of your blessings?  One thing I aim to do, and sometimes succeed at, is to sing the Doxology before I get out of bed, even if it’s just in my head.  Today I didn’t remember until Nate and Sam were leaving for school.  And I don’t care if they think I’m crazy — I’m happy for them to start their day with a loud and lyrical reminder of the truth about from Whom ALL blessings flow.

Praying that I’ll give thanks with my whole heart this weekend and always, and praying the same for you.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. My Advent devotional is available on Amazon.  Just click here.

Jackson Five Friday: “That’s My Number One Fantasy”

Hey Friends,

Have you seen that Snickers commercial where the guy, Don, is zoning out at his fantasy football draft?

He stares blankly, longingly, and says, “No job.  No family.  Just walk away.  That’s my number one fantasy.”

Then his friend reminds him, “Number one fantasy draft, Don.”  It’s kind of terrible and kind of hilarious, and I have no idea if it sells Snickers.  Anyway, I shared a variation of it with Will today.

I told him, “It’s cold.  It’s rainy.  Just nap away.  That’s my number one fantasy.”  Seriously, the picture above is from last Saturday.  So perfect!  But it has turned foggy, wet and cold and honestly I feel like I could nap for a week.  Are humans really not supposed to hibernate? Not ever?

I don’t think it’s just the weather either — it’s the world.  Sometimes the beat down of everything going on in the world is overwhelming.  I don’t think we were designed to carry so many burdens.  I don’t think we can do it.  Sometimes we need to turn off social media and the news and focus on the people we live in community with.  That means praying for the people in my life instead of napping, it means doing something tangible for someone instead of flooding my mind with the worries of the world.  We can pray and we can give, and we should.  But we need to know that, for most of us, meaning comes from investing in the little world we physically touch.

C.S Lewis wrote of this struggle in a personal letter, saying, “We are not kings, we are not senators.  Let us beware lest, while we torture ourselves in vain about the fate of Europe, we neglect either Verona or Oxford.”

Do you tend to torture yourself about the fate of the US?  Or even the world?  Does it make you want to crawl in bed for a week, whether it’s rainy and cold or not?  Is it all in vain, while you neglect where God has placed you to live?

Surely it’s an effective tactic of Satan to discourage us about the state of greater society, when we have true power to change the neighborhood we live in.

Thankfully, I fought off the urge to nap and happened on that quote from Lewis.  And what’s even more awesome is that God has a plan.  He is on the throne.  He is a God of justice and love.

So this weekend, go out and reflect the Light of Jesus in your corner of the world.  You are there, in that very corner, for this reason.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Foals and Cubs

Hey Friends,

Hope you are well. Last week got away from me and I didn’t have a chance to post. Friday combined the first swim meet of the high school season for Dub, followed by sending Sam off on his first middle school retreat. Then Saturday was consumed entirely by a college visit. Anyway I’ve been thinking about baby animals — cubs and foals specifically.

Did you know that a panda cub weighs about three ounces at birth? Isn’t that incredible? In other words, it is so so so tiny that it is about 1/900th of what it will weigh as an adult.

Recently the ever-interesting and always random Sam said, “I don’t even know if pandas are real.”

“Of course they’re real,” I answered. “Don’t you remember the pandas at the National Zoo?”

He did not. I proceeded to tell him how minuscule pandas are at birth. I’m an unlikely source for animal facts — even simple ones — but a panda cub’s birth weight is so surprising that it’s hard to forget.

My husband once told me about working out with Nate for the first time. He described Nate lifting the barbell like a newborn foal taking its first steps. God knew I needed a funny man who would entertain me with apt but uncommon descriptions. I could immediately picture Nate wobbling the barbell around, fiercely determined and strong, yet not immediately the pinnacle of grace. But truly, is it not stunning that a newborn horse gets up and walks within an hour or two of being born?

Why is there so much diversity? Why are pandas born so small? Why are horses born so able? Why so many variations of birds, flowers and human faces? Scientists do not seem to have the answer. In fact, more and more scientists –highly respected scientists, mind you — believe life must have been planted here by aliens. It seems their research and lab findings offer no better explanation. But I just don’t have enough faith for that! Do you?

It’s interesting that life seeded here by aliens is proposed when the Bible gives us a far more logical explanation:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

You and I have been created through Him and for Him. The tiny pandas, the wonky walking foal, the lilies, the sparrows, the oceans, the stars — every last atom — through Him and for Him.

And I love these words from Job:

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

‭‭Job‬ ‭12:7-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Have a fantastic weekend knowing and celebrating that not aliens but the hand of the Lord has done this!

Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: The Anger Epidemic

Hey Friends,

Is it just me or is the world just getting angrier and angrier with each passing day? I’ve been thinking about this. Where does the anger come from? Is it from unmet expectations? Is it focusing too much on how we’ve been aggrieved? Is anger contagious, like it’s just being passed around again and again like a bad cold? Or is it we somehow have come to believe that people are superhuman — that they won’t let us down?

Surely there are many factors, but I think there are some basic truths that should help us fend off the nastiness.

Here are two:

  1. We are ALL sinners. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” When you angrily look down on someone, giving them grace is not really an option. But “a person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11).
  2. This life isn’t all there is. Justice and mercy met on the cross. The assurance of the Christian is that justice will be done. Have you been wronged? Take heart, Jesus has overcome the world, and eternal justice awaits. Of course we should be instruments of His grace and peace, and we should seek justice in this world. Justice for all should be continuously sought. However, if you are determined to be angry unless perfect justice is attained, then you are going to live a bitter existence.

Ann Voskamp said, “Anger is the lid that suffocates joy.” I want to rid my life of all such lids, don’t you? I want to live with a heart of gratitude, joyfully celebrating small victories, and trusting wholly that God has it all figured out. I need to be clay in His hands, willing always to play my part but never suckered into thinking I could ever figure it all out.

So Happy Friday friends! Praise God that the weight of straightening out the world does not rest on your shoulders or mine. May we be malleable in God’s infinitely wise hands and confident that He will guide us to just the right role in His redemptive plan.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Endless Wonders

Hey Friends,

When was the last time you were nearly undone by the beauty of creation? Do you know right where you were? Can you pull the image up in your mind’s eye? Maybe you even have a picture that falls far short of doing justice to the moment. Do you remember how you felt? Perhaps you felt humble, but not alone, awestruck but not anxious. Because something about beholding glory makes me feel fully alive and wholly content.

One night this summer I was with my family in Northern Michigan. We had dinner and watched the sunset, which is where I snapped the picture above. But then, since we had heard that there would be a vivid meteor shower, we laid on those lounge chairs on the edge of Lake Michigan, chatting until the sky turned dark. The boys were jumping between stargazing and teasing each other, but Will and I both had our eyes glued to the sky when a humongous meteor streaked by.

“Oh my gosh!! Did you see that!” we both yelled out.

I had never in my entire life seen anything even close to it. It was unreal. And all three of our sons had missed it!

A few months ago I read this devotional by one of my favorite writers. In it the author makes the point that when Jesus said “consider the lilies” as part of His instruction on not worrying, it’s not merely a comparison. Jesus is not just saying, “Listen, the flowers don’t worry, you don’t need to either.” Instead Jesus is saying, literally, consider the lilies, this is what you need to do; taking time to truly appreciate the lilies, this will help you.

But maybe it’s even more universal. Maybe taking time to consider whatever the wonder of the moment is will be a blessing. I looked up the origin of the word “consider.” Evidently, “consider” comes from the Latin “contemplate” and a literal translation is “to observe the stars.” When my family was hanging together on the shore of Lake Michigan staring up at the stars, contemplating the wonder of a meteor shower, especially that one unreal streak, the least descriptive word for my state-of-mind would be worried. Do you think that’s a coincidence? I don’t.

G.K. Chesterton said, “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.” Combine that with Jesus’ message in Matthew 6:28-34 and it’s abundantly clear what we need to do.

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

We need to behold the wonder of creation, stop fretting and live in the moment.

Praying that you and I will both do exactly that this weekend!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Laughs Needed?

Friends,

Hope you are well and not too terribly discouraged about the rapid dissolution of civil society.  Of course you will be if your identity is found in politics or victimhood or success, or anything at all apart from Christ.  If this life is all there is then surely the weight of its undoing is heavy indeed.  But as for me, I find comfort in knowing that this is NOT all there is, that my Savior loves me and has a plan for me, and I do not need to flail about fretting over every little thing.  In fact, for the last eight or so months, a verse that has been on repeat in my mind is this: “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8).  I need to remind myself daily to embrace the peace of Christ and observe just how often fretting leads to evil.  Surely I’ve read Psalm 37 before but it has taken a tough 2018 for it to sink in.

One hard thing this year, that I blame squarely on the stress of the other hard things, was having a detached retina this summer.  It is alarming to have your field of vision begin to close, almost like a shade is slowly being pulled over your eye.  But more than the surgery, more than the vision loss, the thing that really freaked me out was being told that I had to lie face-down for six days.  I would be able to get up and use the bathroom, but I would need to keep my head down.  No upright position for six days.  The doctor stressed that re-detachment was not uncommon and that keeping my head down was imperative. Stunned, I asked if being comatose for those six days was an option, but it wasn’t.  In retrospect, it doesn’t sound so horrible.  But on the front end I felt like I just could NOT do it.

You are probably wondering if I’m ever going to get to anything funny.  Surely a detached retina is far from being inherently hilarious.  Lying face down for 144 hours doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs either.  Ah, but you doubt the goodness of my God.

He gave me something hysterical to delight over.  I cannot tell you how much of that face-down time I spent laughing.  The thought of it still brings a smile to my face.

So here’s how it all began.  Sweet friends delivered and set up their massage table while I was still in surgery.  When I got home I was able to lie face down and breathe comfortably through the u-shaped head rest.  My eye was covered with a plastic shield and tape, but every few hours we had to untape it to put drops in.  The taping and untaping tore up the thin skin under my eye in no time.  A bloody, inflamed eyeball with two sets of visible stitches topped off with a translucent bubble proved to be a really great look! Then the pitiful skin around my eye began to look ninety and angry. Poor Sammy would lay down on the floor to look up and talk to me through the hole in the massage table. But he was horrified by how I looked. I tried scooting my face over so he could only see my good eye. But even my good eye puffed up from being in that position so long.

Within the first twenty-four hours I noticed a little crack on the pleather of the massage table.  Dub had been there when it was set up, so I asked him, horrified, “Dub was this crack there before?”

“I don’t think so,” he said.

Then a little while later I woke up and peeled my face off the table.  Some of the table came with me!  Right then a friend delivered some soup and I tried to brush off the black debris imbedded in my sticky, irritated skin, but there was too much.  I had to accept the delivery with the speckling of pleather still there.

Pretty soon there were many cracks and the black dust like substance from the table was getting everywhere.  I even worried it would get in my eye. I’d shake out the sheet I was lying on, but a little while later it would be riddled with table soot again.

By Day 3 the previously pristine table was utterly destroyed!

How incredibly embarrassing!  I laid there laughing a bit to myself, but then with nothing but time on my hands, I started texting pics to family.

Then I started envisioning letting the thoughtful, unsuspecting owners pick up the table with no explanation whatsoever. “Thanks so much,” I’d say. Their faces filled with shock and awe.

It looks as if I turned cat-like and used it as a scratching post. The idea that simply lying on the table could wreak such destruction seems impossible.

I mean, look at it! Is it not hilarious?

The thing is this is not at all uncommon. Even in hard moments, if you have an eternal perspective, there are often some humorous nuggets. Mr. Rogers is often quoted as saying, when scary things happen, “Look for the helpers.” It’s great advice. Relatedly, when you’re in the midst of something hard, be on the lookout for the hilarious elements. My life has been a testament to the truth that some of life’s very best laughs are in the midst of the darkest hours.

Last week marked the one year anniversary of my mom’s passing. Even in her last couple days, my mom and I shared numerous soul-sustaining laughs.

Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything — a time to laugh, as well as a time to cry — don’t doubt that the two can overlap. I can tell you that laughing while prostrate makes the hours pass much more quickly than Netflix or solitaire!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1,4 NIV‬‬

Praying for some good laughs and maybe even some dancing for YOU this weekend!

Love,

Kristie