Jackson Five Friday: Hazel and Grace

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week.  Mine did not start out that great, but grace upon grace is the story of my life, so things have gotten better.

Before I tell you what happened, you should know about Hazel.  Hazel was the class pet for Sam’s first grade class.  Like all the children in the class, Sam loved Hazel and was ecstatic to sign up to bring her home for a weekend.  The anticipation of this special weekend was an event in itself.

“Is it this Friday I get to bring Hazel home?”

“No, Sweet Boy, a couple more weeks.”

But the weekend eventually came and we brought Hazel the guinea pig home from school.  I cannot tell you how disruptive this was to my personal shalom.  I was worried sick that we would lose or somehow kill Hazel.  Monday morning could not come quickly enough and I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders to deliver the class pet safely back to school.

I am now wishing that my Hazel anxiety would’ve kicked in last week.  It would have been good for me to remember how inept I am, how my concern over Hazel’s well being was in no way irrational.  When animals depend on me for life, then yes it is appropriate for anxiety levels to surge.  Tragically, they did not.  I was asked to see after animals, and somehow Hazel didn’t even come to mind.  Instead, I said, “Sure.”  It’s right there in my text: an unequivocal commitment to look after animals.  But did I remember to close the hatch on the chicken coop?  No.  No, I did not.  Instead, I sat on my front porch, watched the storm roll in, and did not think a single second about letting the cat in or making sure the chickens were safe.

I woke up the next morning and remembered, but it was too late.  I walked over and let the kitty in, and then strolled nonchalantly over to the coop.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  I felt sick and embarrassed and ashamed and like the complete loser that I am.  The coop was in a state of disrepair and the chickens were no more.

How would you like to send the text to the owners?  Uhh, I know you haven’t been gone twenty-four hours, but I’ve already managed to get your chickens murdered.

Last week I posted about Sam’s sweet humble spirit, his sober assessment of himself.  In contrast, I’m wondering if I have utterly humiliating experiences like Tuesday morning because I am prone to think of myself too highly?  Romans 12:3 plainly says, “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.”  Do I need to be knocked down every whipstitch?  Or as Sam often quotes from Mrs. Doubtfire, “Do I need a few light slams every now and then?”  I know for sure that embarrassing episodes occur in my life more than yours, and it doesn’t matter who you are.  Am I just a slow learner?

But there’s another spiritual truth at work here too.  In Luke 7:47,  referring to a sinful woman, Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

The demise of the chickens was met with incredible grace.  I loved these neighbors of mine before, but when you are forgiven much, you love much.  And I madly love these dear, grace-filled neighbors of mine.

I hope you too know both sides of this equation.  I hope you’ve had occasion to forgive something big, and that your heart has grown because you’ve been forgiven.  It’s not a hashtag.  It’s not a motto.  It’s not an empty declaration that love trumps hate.  It’s actually forgiving someone who wrongs you.  It’s actually owning that you suck, and then loving your forgiver.

May we all love and forgive with reckless abandon this weekend and always, and may we know that each and every breath is grace upon grace.

With Love,

Kristie

 

 

 

Jackson Five Friday: Be Vulnerable

Friends,

Today was our first day of summer and we had nothing special planned.  The boys slept in (well, technically Dub went to swim practice early but then napped).  I watched an episode of Leave It to Beaver with Sam.  Nate and Sam played basketball at the park, while Dub and I ran a few errands.  It was a very ordinary day, and no one complained, which as far as I’m concerned is a victory.  Sometimes the transition from scheduled life to freedom can be bumpy.

Then tonight we went to dinner with a friend of Will’s.  Louis has Will’s same job, except in Australia.  Louis is very engaging and a gifted storyteller, and I had a delightful time learning lots of fun tidbits.  We brought him up the mountain to show him around a little bit, and introduced him to the boys.

Louis had a great basketball story for Sam, and Sam used his best manners listening attentively and laughing at just the right moments.

But when Will left to take Louis back to his hotel, Sam came over to me with a look of concern on his face.

“You know, Mom,” he said, “He was very interesting, and I liked talking to him.  But when he was telling me the story I felt like I don’t know what to say other than ‘yeah’ and I’m afraid that if I just say ‘yeah, yeah’ that it’ll sound like I’m not interested, when really I’m very interested.”

I can’t even tell you how endearing I found Sam’s vulnerable little admission.  I can so relate to what he was describing, and I just adore him for being willing to share this inner struggle.  Some of the most meaningful conversations I have in life stem from Sam’s consistent candor.  His vulnerability makes me love him even more, which doesn’t even seem possible.

It doesn’t matter your age (you probably are not ten like Sam), vulnerability is always endearing.  Can you point to where admission of your own insecurities has helped strengthen your relationships?   I hope so.

Romans 12:3 says, “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.”

May I be Sam-like in thinking of myself with sober-judgment, and please God don’t ever let him outgrow his willingness to candidly reveal insecurities.

Happy Friday and be vulnerable with someone this weekend!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Hospice

Hi Friends,

How does the word hospice make you feel?  I think it sets off a mild anxiety attack in many of us, and for others it triggers full on panic and utter despair.  But I don’t think it should.  The word really represents a paradigm shift — from actively treating the underlying disease state to focusing instead on the comfort of the patient.  It does not really indicate anything at all about how long the patient may or may not live.  Sometimes when the focus is taken off treatment, patients rally and do much, much better.

My mom was hospitalized on May 10 with very severe COPD.  The hospital administered IV steroids and put her on a machine to ease her breathing, but she kept getting worse.  The respiratory therapist kept adjusting the machine to higher and higher settings, but she did not improve, and she just wanted to be home.  I spent two nights with her at the hospital, where she was poked and weighed and examined almost continuously.  She’d just drift off to sleep and it would be time to check her blood pressure again.  There were alarms and wires and disruptions galore — despite best intentions and practices, hospitals are not always a peaceful hub of healing.  When I called to make sure her machine at home could match the settings in the hospital, I was dumbfounded to learn that the machine she’d been sitting on in the hospital was inferior to what she had at home.  We could not get her home fast enough!

We left the hospital on Tuesday afternoon, with a few prescriptions and hospice care lined up.  My mom and I sang together on the twenty-minute ride, and I knew getting her out of the hospital was the right thing.  I fully expected her to rally at home.  I really did. But she has exceeded all expectations.  She is doing so so much better!

My mom is a medical marvel.  I’ve been telling her she should offer to be the subject of research because she has muscles that refuse to atrophy.  Her inability to breathe easily means she just doesn’t do much.  She lives a very sedentary life.  Yet if you watch her walk to the bathroom she is steady and strong.  In the hospital she was trying to sit up and accidentally moved into that Pilates move, teaser.  Both her arms and legs were straight up in a V formation.  Do you know what kind of abs she must have to do that?  And I’d be pretty comfortable wagering she could still — at seventy-five — do a push-up.  Sadly, I did not get even a hint of this God-given strength.  Unlike my mom, I am weak and arthritic.  The atrophy-resistant muscles are not part of my DNA.  I can only hope the trait skips a generation and maybe my boys are blessed with it.

My mom is also a spiritual marvel.  She has the best attitude in the world.  She is full of gratitude and fully trusts that God is in control.   I’m amazed how she holds in tension the will to get better and submission to God’s plan, even if His plan is that she won’t live much longer.  Maybe it sounds cold to write about this so frankly, but I hope not.  Despite society’s idiotic avoidance of reality, we are all going to die.  My mom has modeled so much wisdom, faith and grace for me my whole life.  Is it any wonder then that she would be setting a high bar in this season too?

Yesterday the hospice nurse visited my mom and she told her that she has a patient that she’s had for THREE YEARS!  She told my mom, “Maybe you will beat that.”  The trajectory of my mom’s post-hospital recovery has been amazing and I am praying it continues.  But I am also grateful for every day I get to talk to her or see her.   None of us is guaranteed another breath anyway.  Today could be my last.  It could be yours.  I hope you know where you are going when you die.  Making Jesus your Lord and Savior is the most important thing you can do, no matter how long you live.

In the words of Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

With love and gratitude for all your prayers,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Sunrise Sisters

 

 

Hi Friends,

When I was a little girl, less than 10, I wrote a story about a princess who fell madly in love with the boy who took care of her royal horse.  I don’t remember any of their names, but I remember feeling oddly attached to the characters.  When I quit my job to stay home with my beloved Baby Dub, I wrote another story — a full length novel, about a woman who knew great love and overcame incredible heartache.  The premise of the novel was that love is a risk worth taking.  I shopped it around to a few agents and publishers, but nothing became of it.  Then I met an agent who told me, “Listen, you’ve learned so much from writing a whole novel.  Treat it as your learning lab.  Put it on the shelf and move on.”  That was the most liberating advice I’d ever been given.

And move on I did.  I started writing nonfiction — stories from my own life.  I wrote about how God was faithful in my own heartaches and losses, and I wrote lighthearted pieces about raising a family.  In 2008, I started this blog, Spur, and have loved crafting every single word.  It has been mostly for my own benefit, and if a few of my words have encouraged someone, well then, that’s icing on the cake.  Writing is an outlet for me.  Carving out an  hour to write is an indulgence.  I’d rather write than eat ice cream, or get a massage, or go shopping, or almost anything.  It is the pinnacle of me-time.

Then just about six weeks ago I was watching the sunrise over the Atlantic in a spot that has been special to me for many years.  The concept for a story flooded my mind.  It was based on a place, on friendship, on beholding the sunrise.  Next Friday, Sunrise Sisters, will be available on Amazon as an eBook.  The kindle app is free and easy to download for pretty much any device.   It would mean the world to me if you’d buy and read this novella.  It is the first in a series of three, and I pray that it will be a fun read with some substantive take-aways.

Your prayers for the success of Sunrise Sisters would be greatly appreciated.

With Love,

Kristie

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

Jackson Five Friday: Folding the Dang Pain

Hi Friends,

Does your phone try to autocorrect with absurd substitutions?  Mine constantly thinks I want to say, “Yo,” instead of “You” and “Your.”  Why is that?  I mean I know for a fact my phone listens to me.   On Tuesday night I told Nate, “If you help me get those bricks for the garden, I’ll take you to Sonic.”  The next time I opened Instagram there was an ad for Sonic.  I’ve never before seen an ad for Sonic on my phone in any format.  So I know it listens to me, but I don’t go around the house saying, “YO! Adrian!”  Well, not that much anyway.  So why the “Yo?”  It also has started to think that I prefer to communicate exclusively in emoticons.  As if when I type the word “cash,” what I really want is to insert a little bag of money.  How do I make it stop!?!?!

But my most memorable autocorrect happened just last week.  For nearly a decade, Will has made the same request when he leaves the house each day.  He kisses me goodbye, prays for me, and then demands more than requests: “Frequent Updates!!”  He loves for me to text him updates throughout the day.  And I am very good at sending him highlights of happenings with the boys.  I will also text him pics from walks I’m on, or how I’m praying for a certain meeting or presentation or something.  But sometimes, there’s just not much of interest to text.  If I’m incommunicado for too long, I’ll get a prompting from him, sometimes in all caps, but almost always with exclamation points: “UPDATE!!!!”

Even though it is very sweet that Will loves to text with me, once in a while it can rub me the wrong way.  Sometimes I feel like responding, “Dude, if there was anything of import going on, anything of the slightest value from an entertainment perspective, anything that would lift your spirits or be in ANY way worth your time, I would text you.”  I mean sometimes I’m just unloading groceries or vacuuming up the baseball mud that somehow travels to every square inch of the house, it’s just not text-worthy.

Here’s the exchange from last Monday.  I didn’t misspell laundry, by the way.  The stupid phone really thought I meant pain instead.

So if anyone out there knows the algorithm that creates such inane results, I’d love to be enlightened on how to avoid “YO.”

But here’s the thing.  Do you have any idea how much mileage we’ve already gotten out of “Fold the Dang Pain?”  Eleven days out and it’s deeply entrenched in our lexicon, and we cannot say it without laughing.

I’m not great at much.  I’m not a great athlete or artist or gardener, but I am pretty fantastic at three things: (1) Doing incredibly embarrassing things; (2) Learning the geography of new places (I can pretty much start giving directions on day 2); and (3) Extracting every bit of fun from seemingly insignificant experiences like “Folding the dang pain.”

You may be wondering how this has anything at all to do with the vision of this blog, which is to spur one another on to greater love and good deeds.  But there’s actually an underlying principle here that’s vital: Remember.

It is easy for me to remember funny things that happen and relive them ad nauseam.  It is less natural, but more important to continually remember and remind myself of even the most basic truths of God’s Word.  A few months back I printed out a two-page list of verses that remind me of who I am.  I have the list tucked in my Bible, and reading through it is an invariably fruitful endeavor.

How do you systematically remind yourself of who and whose you are?

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.  Ephesians 1:7-8

Have a fabulous weekend!

Love,

Kristie

 

 

 

Jackson Five Friday: The Tension of Life

Friends,

I hope you are well.  In a roundabout way and a few days after Ash Wednesday, I decided to give up my Jackson Five posts for Lent.  My family did a better job this year, than we ever have in the past, of observing Easter.  Everyone gave up something for Lent, we attended some beautiful Holy Week services at church, and we watched The Passion as a family (until it was entirely too much for Sam and at that point we let him play mid-week NBA 2K instead, which is usually forebidden).   I posted here on my blog 36 different readings or devotionals, falling four short of my goal.  But mostly the whole season felt slower and more reflective than usual.  We have a long way to go, but I feel like this year we moved in the right direction for preparing our hearts to celebrate Jesus’ victory over death.

That said, I look forward to my Friday indulgence and have missed posting.  Oftentimes I would think, “Oooh, I’ll have to blog about that,” then I’d remind myself that I’d given it up.  But I’m back.  And I wish, probably like you, that every week would just be one fun little story after another.  But we live in a fallen world.  And every single day horrible things happen.

This week has been full of sorrow for many in our community because a boy named Jackson from Dub and Nate’s school disappeared in the Grand Canyon last Saturday.  The intense search from the first days has been scaled back and it will be a miracle if they find him.  But it seems all of Chattanooga is praying for this family, for the safe return of Jackson and his step-grandmother who is also missing.  Various area schools have worn all blue to show solidarity in praying for Jackson.  Opposing sports teams have prayed together after the game, begging God to bless this hurting mama with a tremendous miracle, an earthly reunion with her beautiful, beloved young son.  This tragic situation makes me feel sick to think about and reminds me of another beautiful, beloved young boy who was swept away in a flash flood a few years back in Northern Virginia.  Sometimes the sorrows of this world are unrelenting.

And yet at the very same time, families are celebrating the births of new babies.  Couples continue getting married.  Life marches on, and in some ways it feels wrong.  I remember after my dad died feeling totally distraught in line at the post office.  I almost wanted to yell out to everyone there, “Why are we all just marching on like nothing has happened?  Don’t you realize that this whole world has changed?”

Every day life is full of tension, and yet the Bible tells us just how to resolve it.  Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”  

 We may find ourselves oscillating between rejoicing and mourning as we go through the day. While it can feel emotionally draining, it’s always great to know we are aligned with the Word of God. 

So, my friends, do not tire in doing good: Rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. 

With Love,

Kristie 

Happy Easter!

Friends,

I hope this morning you can “Stand in triumph, stand in triumph, [and] worship Christ, the Risen King!”  Although we have lived in Tennessee for sixteen months now, last year we were visiting family, so this is our first Easter on the mountain.  It has been the sweetest celebration of Christ’s victory over death.   From Palm Sunday, to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and a sunrise service at Point Park this morning  — every service has been a beautiful time of reflection.

Even weeks ago, a sermon made me think about Christ’s sacrifice in a new way.  One of our pastors, Brian Salter, was teaching from Exodus 12, which is The Passover.  The Passover, of course, happened on the heels of nine other plagues in Egypt.  Everyone had witnessed how God would announce what the plague would be, the plague would occur just as God said, and Pharoah would still deny Moses’ request to “Let my people go.”

The final plague would be the death of all firstborns.  I imagine there was little doubt as to whether this plague would actually occur.  You can read the Scriptures beginning in Exodus 7 and see what everyone in Egypt would have witnessed through the first nine plagues.  Then comes this final plague: the death of the firstborn.  To avoid this terrible fate you would need to take a lamb into your home for 4-5 days, and then kill it, drain its blood and use it to mark the frame of your door.  Only if the blood was there, would your house be passed over.

Pastor Salter drew our attention to the emotions of waking up that next day.  Can you stop for a minute and consider it?  Can you imagine waking up that morning and being able to hug your firstborn?  You’d be overcome with gratitude.  The covering of the blood had saved your beloved child.

I can picture myself sobbing and embracing my sweet Dub, and knowing that he lived only because the sweet perfect lamb had died.

That is not just the story of Passover.  It is the truth of Easter.

Worthy is the lamb that was slain for you and for me.

John 3:16-21

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Hope you have a fabulous day celebrating your Risen King!

With Love,

Kristie