Jackson Five Friday: Surrendered in Asheville

Hey Friends,

Although I’ve driven through Asheville, North Carolina many times, I’ve really only been there three times. The first time I was about five and we were visiting the Biltmore Estate. I have a favorite picture from that trip of my brother Craig and me walking on a little stone wall in one of the gardens.

My second trip to Asheville was fifteen years ago this month. I was pregnant with Sam and Dub turned five on that trip. We were there for a Bible conference and it ended up being one of the most impactful weekends of my life. The speaker focused on Romans 12 and emphasized that the opening verse describes being wholly surrendered to God, presenting our whole selves as a living sacrifice. He elaborated that the verb tense is ongoing. We know that. We continuously need to re-surrender. But he said the verb has another connotation: it can mean to fully surrender at a point in time.

I was a mom of two precious little boys, excited about having a third. I loved them madly. I loved my husband madly. But I was a pretty big worrier. We had a pool in the backyard at the time. I can’t tell you how much I worried about that even though we had door alarms and a security gate enclosing the pool. I worried about my husband driving between the three hospitals he covered in the middle of the night. Some part of me refused to surrender them to God’s control. Maybe over the course of my life, I reasoned, you know gradually.

But that weekend I was convicted that I needed to surrender everything to God, to trust Him with everything I cherished. I am not saying that I don’t have to re-surrender pretty much daily, but that moment on 10/22/2006 of intentionally acknowledging that my life was completely His gave me a sense of peace.

Recently, I stayed in Asheville for the third time. As I looked at the beautiful surroundings, I was reminded of the peace of not fighting the gentle loving hands of the Master Potter for the last fifteen years. His plan is good, pleasing and perfect, and even when it’s hard I want to trust Him fully. I want to be yielded, willing clay in His hands.

Do you know the peace of living surrendered? I hope so.

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:20-22

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday; The Paradox of “All Done!” and Ever Doing

Hey Friends,

I absolutely love to travel and see new places. I love the airport. I love trying new food. I love meeting people with different experiences than me. I am just totally jazzed by it. That explains, in part, why I flew to Germany by myself with a three-year-old and a one-year-old. But, I’m not gonna lie it was A LOT.

And it’s not like I couldn’t envision how hard it might be. I’d already taken many trips with small children. In fact, when we were a family of three I’d never been to California. Will was speaking at a conference in San Diego. I don’t turn that kind of thing down, so we tagged along. Baby Dub was thirteen months old and had been all-out running for three months. The trip out was mostly uneventful, and since the return flight is significantly shorter, I was super optimistic.

But Dub decided he wanted down, hated the confinement and essentially screamed his head off for the last two hours of the nonstop to Washington Dulles. It was embarrassing and exhausting. Hilariously though as soon as the wheels touched the runway he yelled out in a loud but calm voice: “ALL DONE!!” and stopped crying. He didn’t make another peep as we taxied to the gate, and he waited patiently for the 30 plus rows ahead of us to deplane.

Predictably “all done” has taken on a life of its own in the Jackson household, yet as joyful as those words were for my giant and miserable toddler, they don’t compare to the gravity of the expression uttered by my Savior on the cross. He said, “It is finished.” But a toddler translation could easily be: “All done.”

And like I mentioned in last week’s blog, as Christians we are not required to do one single thing to secure our salvation. Jesus did it all. Any works we might attempt are like filthy rags by comparison. The work is finished. We can’t earn anything. We can’t prove we are good people. It’s ALL DONE!!

However, I appreciate the clarification from one of my pastors a few years back: God is opposed to earning, not effort. In fact, effort coupled with the Holy Spirit is important. First off, obedience born out of love is the natural outgrowth of realizing it is truly all done. Secondly, all of history testifies that human flourishing is highly correlated with living subject to biblical wisdom.

Are you living subject to God’s Holy Word? Or are you attempting to carve your own path? I’m praying that we can have eyes to see that His Way is the freest and most joy-filled, even if that seems impossible.

Just look at The Ten Commandments. Obedience does not result in less freedom, or a restricted, joyless life. Instead obedience is the path to greater freedom. I think we’ve lost sight of how godly restrictions result in more liberty. It’s the paradox that it is all done — there is nothing left for us to do, and yet the more surrendered we are to God’s way, the freer we are.

It is always good to remind ourselves that God loves us, and that His guidance is always motivated by Love. Plus, His level of thinking is just a little beyond ours.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Do you believe His thoughts are higher than yours? I hope so. I hope my life illustrates I believe it too.

Have a fabulous weekend resting in the fact that it’s “all done,” while also knowing that every moment of every day is an opportunity to express your gratitude for the finished work of Jesus.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Spur and Seat Belts

Hey Friends,

Some of you have read this blog for more than thirteen years. I am so grateful for you. What a privilege to know you’d be interested in what I might have to say after all these years. A million thank yous. It means so much. Last week I decided to try and print the whole blog — it’s quite the file. Fortunately I found a website that produces blogs almost like a yearbook. They do all the formatting and grunt work. On Wednesday the four volume edition, almost 1000 pages, arrived. How it arrived so quickly I do not understand! I’m pretty sure the company is in England. But I am thrilled with it. It represents years and years of memories, and years of years of lessons God has lovingly and gently taught me. I hope one day my grandkids will flip through it and laugh about stories of their dads. My prayer is that somehow it’ll Spur them to know Jesus even after I’m gone.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about something kind of random this week: Why do people wear seat belts? Why do you? My dad was a mechanical engineer who worked mostly for Ford Motor Company. His specialty was safety. He had many inventions and patents. He actually designed an alternative restraint to the air bag, which as you may know, in rare cases, can cause injuries as it protects. As his daughter — a person who aims to be logical and data-based — I do not wear a seatbelt because it’s the law. If I thought it was perfunctory nonsense, I’d just pay the fine. But it’s not perfunctory nonsense. The data is clear: seatbelts save lives.

I don’t think any of the ubiquitous analogies to seatbelts actually work. The historical data regarding masks is consistent, as is how coronaviruses become endemic and benign. Yet somehow dramatic departures from what we once knew are both hysterical and emphatic. I saw a clip of Dr. Fauci from 2019. He chuckled dismissively about mask use. In fact, “experts” used to agree that using a piece of cloth to stop an airborne virus would be patently absurd. So what happened? We 1980’s aerosol canned it. Using canned hairspray was vital to obtain the rooster hair that was the must-have style of the decade. But someone somewhere — maybe the Fauci of environmental science — said those cans were destroying the ozone layer. Suddenly, using a can of hairspray meant you were a terrible person.

The pandemic has proven to be a breeding ground for new cans of hairspray. A good person does x, y and z. A bad person doesn’t. A good person must shame and blame those who don’t do x, y and z and they must shame and blame daily, even hourly. A really good person never ceases the shaming and the blaming. It has become a religion with many devotees. I get it. People want to feel like a good person, and the religion just happens to require incessantly identifying and condemning the bad. But the sad thing about this religion is it never has produced one iota of joy.

Paradoxically, what does lead to joy is admitting you are a bad person deserving of hell. That’s me. Fortunately, I’m not getting what I deserve because of Jesus. He loves me so much that He paid the price for all my sins. Unlike every other religion, Christianity doesn’t require you to do anything, much less condemn others. Christians can live with peace and joy knowing that what needs doing was done on a cross 2000 years ago. Any good thing I might manage in this life is not aimed at earning anything, but merely exhibiting love and gratitude for my Savior.

This morning I am praying that the shamers and blamers on all sides would stop trying to feel “good.” It’s a futile endeavor. I am praying instead that they’ll see the best thing is to feel loved. And they are so very loved. Jesus loves each and every one of us. The proponents of mandates and those who oppose them are all fully known and fully loved. I hope it brings you joy to rest in that. I hope it fills your heart with enough love to then turn around and love whoever you are tempted to blame and shame.

As Paul wrote may Christ so “dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians‬ ‭3:17-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Have a fabulous weekend trusting that He loves you so much it surpasses knowledge.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Moving the Jetta

Hey Friends,

We were scheduled to go to our minor league baseball team’s last home game on Sunday afternoon. We’d invited friends and ordered food, but the rains were torrential. Sadly, no Lookouts for us in 2021. Instead, I headed for the airport. I had booked the last flight of the night to Florida, but with the Lookouts cancellation I went standby in hopes of getting in before midnight. The first leg of the flight was uneventful, but then the connecting flights were full and I got to spend the bulk of the afternoon and evening in the Atlanta airport. It still felt like winning the lottery when my name got called at the gate for a flight arriving at 10:50p instead of 12:10a.

You know how you see all the videos of unruly passengers and irate people these days? Yeah, not my experience. At all. I met the most lovely people on Sunday. I think it was God’s gift because I was actually dealing by phone with some pretty high-stress stuff. Somehow I met one nice person after another. I so resent how masks destroy human connection, but I guess my dad’s tired eyes (that’s all that shows above the mask) are pretty friendly. My new friends Heather, Darlene and Ian evidently thought so.

Why was I traveling this time? Oddly, to move our Jetta. I’ve mentioned before that we have a little two-bedroom condo in Florida. Nate’s first car was a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta, which he bashed about seven months into driving. When he turned seventeen we got him a new-to-him car, kind of fixed the Jetta and took it to Florida. I am the shortest person in my family by two-plus inches. It looks like a circus for us to use this car, which pitifully doesn’t even have its emblem in front, but I somehow love it. I hope it gives others joy to witness the Jacksons exiting our clown car. Since the parking lot of our condo building was being resurfaced, I needed to be there to move the Jetta. I mean, yes, I could’ve had someone move it. We have lots of friends and family that could’ve helped, but I don’t make it a habit of turning down opportunities to visit Florida.

Plus, I not only met lovely people en route, I got to hold my cousin’s gorgeous five-day-old baby, and renew my mind by listening to waves crash against the shore. I walked along the beach and swam laps. I finished two books. I saw the sunrise. I had lots of time to be quiet and to reflect. I don’t know how long it would take for me to get sick of just me and Jesus, but evidently more than two days. Are you refreshed by social engagements or solitude? I enjoy both, but the older I get the more I realize how introverted I actually am. My morning coffee with the above view feeds my soul. I find it easier to pray for those who wish me harm in a setting like that. I find it easier to be optimistic about our world.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer 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.”

Are you conforming to the pattern of this world? How can you ensure you are renewing your mind? God not only transforms us, but enables to know His good, pleasing and PERFECT will.

Hope some mind renewal is on your agenda this weekend.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Rumors of Death

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week, and have some fun things planned for the weekend. Since I do not watch a single show, I am usually pretty removed from celebrity gossip. But this week I somehow just kept bumping into news from Hollywood with names I actually know. Some of it was kind of disturbing, some of it funny, and some heartbreaking. In the wake of Norm MacDonald’s death, I saw numerous recommendations for his book, Based on a True Story. I can barely resist anything described as it is — both hilarious and profound. I downloaded the audiobook last night. I was a little afraid to listen to it in bed, because nothing leads you more decidedly in the opposite direction from imminent slumber as a hearty laugh. But I didn’t laugh. I listened and then I slept.

I didn’t get very far, but the beginning is a lot more profound than amusing. This doesn’t necessarily surprise me. Funny people are observant. Observant people aren’t always the most joyful. After all, if you really stop to examine the world around you, you are going to find lots of disappointing, discouraging and painful realities. Yet people who stay on the surface are never really funny. There’s a tension in it.

MacDonald admits he’s misquoting Mark Twain to say, “It turns out the rumor of my death is only slightly exaggerated.” It’s a great line, because it illustrates the tension which is often an integral part of humor. In a sense, the rumor of anyone’s death is only slightly exaggerated. It’s sobering, but I hope it makes you want to live whatever is left to the fullest — loving, forgiving, cherishing, and laughing. Our absurd world acts like there is only one way to die, but even if Covid-19 was never a thing, you’d still be one day closer to death today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.

It’s a further tragedy that we have so many humorless and shallow would-be influencers. The finger-pointing, uptight schoolmarm has become a caricature, but has also proliferated. These grating voices, which don’t even bother to ask even the most obvious questions, are ubiquitous. Carl Jung said, “Thinking is difficult, therefore let the herd pronounce judgment.” Does that not describe our culture? But I am trying to resolve to pray for these people. I would be just as joyless as they are if I let bitterness take hold in my heart, so I pray that they would have wisdom about their own self-righteous, pharisaical religiosity, and that their utter lack of charm would become apparent when they look in the mirror. I pray that God would give them some big laugh to melt their cold, hard hearts. Most of all I pray that they’d meet Jesus, and that Jesus would set them free.

How different would the world be if we took Jesus at His Word:  “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b)

Perhaps Norm MacDonald himself understood this in part when he said: “At times, the joy that life attacks me with is unbearable and leads to gasping hysterical laughter. I find myself completely out of control and wonder how could life surprise me again and again and again, so completely. How could a man be a cynic? It is a sin.”

I hope you have a gasping, hysterical laugh this weekend that leads you to the same wonder. I hope you live your life and live it to the full.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Hokies, Bread and Circuses

Hey Friends,

I sometimes oscillate between a desperate sense of “Come Lord Jesus” and a sunny optimism that we must be on the brink of revival. One thing is clear: the old Roman adage “Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt” seems to be the guiding principle of our national leaders. In fact, the clown show just will not end. Instead they up the ante every dang day. It’s embarrassing, but it’s also deadly. Plus, it’s not clear how we reject the bread and circuses when so many of us have amused ourselves to death (as was predicted by Neil Postman). The depth of thought, the ability to examine unintended consequences, to reason through any analysis, to weigh risks and benefits are all severely diminished. The level of innumeracy is stunning. The arguments people make with statistics are often patently absurd and yet go completely unchallenged. There’s little recognition that every health stat needs to be defined over a period of time. Ignoring the time period leads to such foolish conclusions.

Come. Lord. Jesus.

Ahh, but then you get a shot in the arm in the most unexpected place: Blacksburg, Virginia. I hope you have enjoyed watching Enter Sandman as much as I have. If not, here is the link. But those Hokies do know how to bring the hype. I made my family watch the clip the other day and asked them if it made them think of anything else.

Does it make you think of something else?

C.S. Lewis wrote about how the joys of earth are foretastes of heaven. Enter Sandman is unified joy. It’s the tiniest taste of what it will be like to worship our Savior. We will be utterly united and full of unimaginable joy to praise Him. When we see something that gives us chills, that makes us almost inexplicably happy, maybe we should always ask, how does this point to eternal joy?

When Jesus does not come, He’s waiting for more to come to Him, for more to answer His persistent knocking. So, selfishly I want heaven’s version of Enter Sandman. I want it today. But God’s heart is for us to be here as His ambassadors inviting more and more to the never ending joy of His eternal kingdom.

I am guilty of being terribly frustrated by the world. But God loves the whole world. The parable of the lost sheep from Matthew 18 concludes with “And if he finds [the lost sheep], truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

May our will be like His, that not one should perish.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Beware the Frozen Cheese

Hey Friends,

Late on Christmas Eve 2020, which was a Thursday, I went to the ER. Since Will could not go in with me (we spent Christmas vacation in Florida), I edited a blog post I’d written that week and hit publish while I waited to see the doctor. The post was about neck pain from writing out Christmas cards, but I knew then the real cause of the pain.

A few days before that Will and I were out Christmas shopping. I had weird sensitivity on my left arm and shoulder. I told Will about it and that when I went for a long walk the day before I felt awful afterwards, like sick even. “You don’t think I could have shingles, do you?”

“No,” he answered confidently.

“Maybe it’s just from writing out Christmas cards,” I said.

“Definitely,” he said. “I’ll massage it later. You’ll be fine.”

Will worked on my neck, and I thought maybe it was better. Since the ice maker was broken and there was a block of cheese in the freezer, I also “iced” it with the cheese.

Have you ever gotten a rash on your neck from icing with a frozen block of cheese? No? Just me? Yeah, well, not even me really, but that’s what we thought. A Christmas Card injury compounded by frozen cheese. We have a lot of degrees between us — Will is a board certified MD — but somehow, in the moment, this made sense. It’s pretty funny now.

Anyway, we went to church on Christmas Eve and I was miserable. My neck was killing me. The pains in my head felt almost like electric shocks. I always watch It’s a Wonderful Life with my boys on Christmas Eve (Will is not enough of a night owl to stay up and watch). But I told them I couldn’t do it. All three of them came and told me goodnight in bed, and if felt disproportionately devastating. I mean it’s just a little tradition, but I was so dang sad about it.

I tried to sleep but eventually I grabbed my phone and did a few google searches. You know what can cause shooting pains in your head? That’s right: shingles.

I woke Will up and told him, “This has got to be shingles.”

He took me in the bathroom and turned the light on. He looked at my “cheese rash” and saw that it was going down my arm.

“You have shingles,” he said.

Hence the ER trip where I got antiviral and heavy pain meds which allowed me to sleep and wake up Christmas morning much improved.

Sometimes we are reluctant to see what is right in front of us. Our ability to manufacture alternative explanations and rationalize can be amusing, but it can also be eternity-altering. Romans 1:20 says God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Every day of our lives we wake up to the heavens declaring the glory of God, and the sky proclaiming His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1). But we can harden our hearts, and provide alternative explanations. We can rationalize away every species and the glorious diversity we encounter everyday, but if we do that we just get dumber and dumber. If you doubt this to be true, maybe do a quick check of the headlines.

Where in your life are you choosing to believe it’s just a harmless little frozen cheese rash? The first step in getting better is to admit, “Yeah, that is not a cheese rash.” Or yeah, this universe did not just happen. Or holding onto bitterness is rotting my soul or I do need to pray for those who wish me harm. Or that website is turning me into an animal. Or my envy is eating the joy from my life. Or my desire to please others is debilitating. Or my greed is causing me to rationalize being dishonest. I don’t what it is. But I bet we all have something that should be plain as day. May we ask the Lord to give us eyes to see and the Spirit-led will to act.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. The random picture above of half roof, half utter glory I just snapped from our “bonus room.” It’s where the boys have foosball and video games. This week I’ve been painting up there and envisioning what it could be. I’ve also been decluttering. I’m not the best house painter, nor declutter-er. But these are satisfying endeavors, lots of time to contemplate things and tangible, gratifying results.

Jackson Five Friday: “That’s Pretty Good”

Hey Friends,

Last week I mentioned that Will and I can get a lot of mileage out of tiny tidbits. For example, a phrase that we work into conversation once or twice a year stems from subtitles at a gym we belonged to in Virginia. It was a typical morning with all the televisions on but mostly ignored by the gym patrons. Some were on ESPN, CNN, and MSNBC. One channel was turned to FOX and what caught Will’s eye was that the subtitle feature just kept saying “That’s pretty good.” It didn’t matter if the topic was a raging wildfire or the price of gas, the subtitle just again repeated, “That’s pretty good.”

I feel like this subtitle glitch kind of paints the picture of my week. “That’s pretty good” has aptly and sincerely applied. I got some pretty good news. The weather has been perfect. I got some de-cluttering done and fixed a window that hasn’t closed properly for years. One afternoon I read a book by the pool, alone. I got to see some old friends from Virginia I’ve been meaning to see since they moved to Alabama last year. We got to catch up and hang out on their boat. I mean, “that’s pretty good,” right?

But on the other hand, our world is unraveling in heartwrenching ways and it almost feels like we’re watching leaders try and say “That’s pretty good.” The truth is it’s awful. The spinning of it all is callous and anything but empathetic. The tension of all of it feels especially tight, and in a sense it is. We can watch live feeds of death, destruction and despair from every corner of earth. We can even watch the moons of Jupiter pass the big red spot in high definition (how I ended up watching that this week I do not know, but it’s pretty amazing). Our capacity to know and to view is almost limitless, but our capacity to process and to do is not. The Bible is clear about our calling to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn” but the smartphone access leaves us all exhausted by the overload. Yesterday was the day I spent boating with friends. I did not know about the tragedy in Kabul until later. On January 6th I went on a jet ski tour with Nate and Sam in the Florida Keys. I missed both events in real time because I was making memories with people I love. Are you getting time away from your phone and constant updates? If your capacity to mourn with those who mourn feels stretched, maybe it’s time to tighten your circle and unplug.

Jesus offered an unusual method for addressing anxiety. Here’s his recommendation: “Consider the lilies, 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, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” Luke 12:27-28.

So whether you are in a place where “That’s pretty good” is truly descriptive or is more akin to calloused spinning, we can all benefit from stopping to consider the lilies. When did you last examine the plants and trees that flourish around you? This glory is a reminder that God’s loving attention to the temporary doesn’t compare to the attention He pays to you and to me.

Even in C.S. Lewis’s day, which we might not suspect would feel so overloaded, he wrote, “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”

Are you starving for solitude, silence, private, mediation or true friendship? Praying, by God’s abundant grace, you find all of these things in the days ahead.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Ugh

Hey Friends,

I hope you are well. I wrote last week about I had the best summer of my entire life. Well, summer is over. And I’ve had a week of frustrations and disappointments to kick off this next season. Thankfully all my boys are well. I am trusting they will have an excellent school year — that is certainly my prayer. And Will and I had the kind of laugh fest on Wednesday night that results in a sore face. Mostly it was over the most hilarious voicemail I’ve ever received. We played it over and over again. Nate and Sam thought it was funny too, but their interest waned by the fifth or sixth playing. Not us, I don’t even know how many times we listened to it and died laughing all over again. I think our shared ability to get serious mileage out small tidbits is a theme in our marriage, and a saving grace.

It seems like I can be mostly optimistic that the tide is going to turn on the direction of world, but then other times that naive optimism leaves me vulnerable to appalling realities. This week I feel like I’m in some kind of mental boxing match and I can’t get my paws up to protect myself. Plus, lots of dreary weather. That never helps.

But I’ve been thinking about how the Bible never asks us to pretend. The Psalmist pours out sorrows and doubts and desperate pleas with the most raw emotion. There’s no pretending.

When Paul discusses the meat eaters and the veggies-only people in Romans 14, he doesn’t say “Meat eaters, when you are with the vegetarians, pretend you are a vegetarian too.” No, we can accommodate others by forgoing things. Don’t eat steak in front of a vegetarian who’s offended by it. But there’s no need to lie and say you never eat steak. The Bible never recommends pretending; in fact, it condemns it. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

Sometimes I tell my sons to look at the world through different lenses or questions. God is a God of order, I tell them – Where do you see disorder? God has not given us a spirit of fear – Where do you see fear manifested in our world? God is a God of truth – Where do you see the world asking you to pretend something is true? Sadly, these lenses clarify a great deal about our world today. So much disorder. So much fear. So much pretending. It wears me out.

You are probably worn out too. Praise God that His mercies are new every morning.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Best Summer Ever?

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had an excellent summer.

I have visited both Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. I saw the buffalo roam, fed wild donkeys, and watched prairie dogs pop like whack-a-moles. I checked off Nebraska as a new state, and walked over to Iowa — first new state I’ve entered on foot. I rode an electric bike, which felt particularly refreshing since the heat was oppressive and the terrain unexpectedly hilly. I hosted friends from Michigan I’ve known for more than 35 years. I learned to play pickleball and became somewhat obsessed with the mineral water, Topo Chico — something about using a bottle opener on a glass bottle. I visited Austin, Texas and attended a legislative session. My hotel room in Austin had a record player and the lobby an impressive selection of vinyl to borrow from. In Fort Worth I had creamy jalapeño and cilantro soup — game changer. I stayed a couple nights on beautiful Kiawah Island, South Carolina. I sat under the shade of a Shabumi instead of an umbrella. I went deep sea fishing. I snorkeled Alligator Reef in the Keys.

I made ceviche with freshly caught mahi. I dropped my son off for college without shedding a single tear. I got to play with my darling grandniece — we scooped play ice cream for a solid half hour. I pondered that I’ve never met a little boy who would find it entertaining to methodically build a triple scoop and exclaim, “Nice” over and over. I had the queso of Tex-Mex dreams in both Texas and oddly, Kentucky.

This might seem like a random stream of consciousness. But the truth is everything on this list I did for the very first time. Summer 2021 was chock full of brand new experiences. But that’s not at all what made my summer great. The great thing was the people. It’s always the people.

I got to see friends and family that I dearly love, but I also got to spend the sweetest one-on-one time with my guys. It was particularly awesome to make some really fun memories with Nate. As the middle child, he is the one I’ve had all to myself the very least. He and I had some big Texas fun in July, but we also did a couple day trips for college tours. God was so good to give us some hilarious experiences because there’s no one I’d rather laugh with.

Even if you stayed close to home all summer, and didn’t have any out-of-town guests, I hope you’ve had lots of opportunities to love on your people — to enjoy the simplicity of stories told over dinner, or laughs shared amidst games like Scattegories.

C.S. Lewis said, “It is when we are doing things together that friendship springs up — painting, sailing ships, praying, philosophizing, fighting shoulder to shoulder. Friends look in the same direction.”

This cherished season of building many side-by-side memories is coming to a screeching halt. Next week all the boys will be back in school. In some ways, it’s totally time. We are ready. But I still think it’s good to look back and give thanks for all the ways these relationships were bolstered this summer.

After all only two things last forever: people (as Lewis said you’ve never met a mere mortal) and God’s Word.

May knowing this help us rightly order our lives.

“The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie