Jackson Five Friday: Love is Not a Victim

Hey Friends,

I hope you are having a wonderful day celebrating the ones you love. My husband slept in this morning, which is a rarity for him. I woke up fully rested just before 8, and when I opened my eyes, his gorgeous baby blues were staring right at me. This is how Valentines should begin.

But I’ve been thinking about what makes our relationship work. Our first date was February 21, 1991. And we’ve had twenty-nine years of cracking each other up, of bouncing big ideas off each other, laughing till our faces have hurt. We’ve had more than eighteen years of parenting. It is the hardest, most rewarding part of life together. But if you are with someone for almost three full decades guess what else you have a lot of? Opportunities to forgive. Was it Ruth Bell Graham who said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers?”

Because that is TRUTH. Sure, we are better individuals than we were in 1991. We are more serious about our faith and a whole lot wiser, but that doesn’t mean that 2020 hasn’t already had its own hiccups. There have been things said even in the last six weeks that are regrettable. We are fallen people and we don’t get through a day without sinning. No one on earth can attest to Will’s faults like I can. Likewise, no one is as familiar with the damage of my acid tongue the way Will is, and that is just one of my many shortcomings. But at the end of the day, love is always a choice worth making.

Love is patient. Love is kind. It forgives. It is not the victim.

Okay, that’s a paraphrase, but it’s true nonetheless. You know what the victim does not do? The victim does not laugh. Laughing has saved our marriage, and that’s not an overstatement. I mean, it has saved us in the short-term — in the midst of a tense situation. And it has saved us in the long-term — meaning the daily laughs bind us together in a supernatural way. I don’t need to explain it. I just know laughing together for all these years has knit us tight.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope it is full of laughs with all your special people.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I hope you’ll love others well this weekend, even when it’s more of a choice than a feeling.

Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Highs and Lows

Hey Friends,

Last week I wrote about how nice it was to be affirmed and loved on my birthday, which was Wednesday. Alas, the tide can quickly change.

On Friday I went to an event at the boys’ school which included an insane dunk contest and a luncheon featuring an inspiring talk by Gary Brackett. Brackett was sporting his Super Bowl ring that he won with the Indianapolis Colts. The moms I was hanging with said, “Let’s go meet him.”

I ended up being able to tell him how much I appreciated his faith through his many tragic losses. He lost his dad, his mom and his brother in a three year span. In our brief conversation we marveled that anyone could live through something like that without the Lord.

But then things turned south when a picture was snapped. The picture, and I can’t bring myself to share it, is me, then my tiny mom friend, then Gary, then my other friend, who is somewhat tall. I am wearing boots in the picture and it is in portrait mode angle.

Later that afternoon I showed the picture to Nate. Nate is usually sweet and thoughtful. He is a wonderful writer and has penned some of the best cards ever written. But when I showed him the picture he was aghast.

“Mo–om!!” he declared, “You look huge!”

Now I don’t know how many times you’ve taken a picture with an NFL player and yet you’ve been the one declared “huge,” but it was a first for me. A hilarious first. For days every time I thought of it, I’d crack up all over again.

But seriously if our identity rests in the opinions of others, we are inherently unstable. I don’t want to be blown about by ebbs and flows, I want to root my identity in who Jesus says that I am.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am a child of God, the daughter of the one true King. My worth is not determined by what others think. It’s not even determined by what I do or say. Instead, my identity is not affected by achievements or failures, but is firmly established as a co-heir with Christ. Life is full of highs and lows, but a right view of our relationship with God means our true identity is unchanging. There is such freedom found in living into this truth.

I hope you know that freedom, and have a fabulous weekend savoring your identity as a child of God!

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. In fairness to Nate he immediately said, “I don’t mean wide, Mom, I just mean tall.” But still…

P.S.S. An excellent song that aptly describes the truth I’m driving at is this.

I used to have the kind of radio in my car that you could pause and rewind. It’s such a great feature. But anyway we were on a late night road trip about a year ago, and this song came on. We were probably twenty-five minutes from our destination, and my husband decided he loved the song so much that he’d just keep rewinding it until we arrived. Nate was the only one awake to endure the seemingly endless loop. Somehow that feels a little bit like poetic justice about now.

These are the lyrics to Hillsong Worship’s Who You Say I Am:

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
Free at last, He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
I am who You say I am
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
Oh, I am who You say I am
Yes, I am who You say I am
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

Jackson Five Friday: “Dear Beeb, Again?”

Hi Friends,

On Tuesday night I was in Scottsboro, Alabama for a basketball game. Since that community had tragically lost eight of its members in a horrific dock fire the day before, a moment of silence was observed. It was a stark reminder that life is fragile and short.

The next morning I drove Sam to school and en route we got a FaceTime call from my niece Caitlin. Since it was my birthday, her two year old son, Brooks, wanted to sing to me. I decided a few months back that Brooks, my grandnephew, should call me “Beeb” a childhood nickname of mine. My brother Jeff’s texts invariably start with “BEEB!” and my brother Craig called me “Beeb” or “The Beeb” almost exclusively. Perhaps the “the” was partially inspired by “Leave it to Beaver.” I’m not sure. But sometimes he’d come home and say, “Where’s the Beeb?” One time I was in a store with my mom — I was probably about nine years old — and some of Craig’s friends, around sixteen, were behind us in line.

“Are you the Beeb?” one of them asked. When you have a nickname that uncommon, you become the one and only.

So to Brooks, Will and I are “Goo Goo and the Beeb.” I’ll have to explain “Goo Goo” in another post. It is its own story. Anyway, back to sweet Brooks. He sang to me, finishing his pitch perfect rendition of the birthday song, with “Dear Bee-eeb, May Jesus bless you!” But what was really awesome was as soon as he finished he asked, “Dear Beeb, again?”

Caitlin would say, “Oh, you want to sing it again?”

And he’d start at the top.

Shouldn’t every birthday start with a two year old singing over you at least five or six times? But honestly my day just got better from there. I got the sweetest cards and texts, words you just pour over again and again to soak up the affirming kindness. One text I later read to Will. It said, “Both you and [other person] bless me by encouraging me to take Jesus more seriously while taking myself less seriously.” Is there a higher compliment? I don’t think so. In fact, I’m almost worried that I’m about to drop dead. This is clearly the pinnacle. It has to be downhill from here.

But here’s the thing: let’s not wait for untimely deaths or birthdays to tell others we love them. Let’s be committed to living it out day-to-day — affirming those around us, praying for them, and encouraging them.

The verse that first inspired this blog twelve years ago is this:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,”. ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How will you spur someone on this weekend? This world needs more of your love and good deeds, and mine too.

With Love,

The Beeb

Jackson Five Friday: Hold On Tight

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. We are currently experiencing the odd duo of dense fog and a January spring — I’ve already seen multiple forsythia blooming. Yes, winter is short here in Tennessee. Thank God!

I was recently in the Atlanta airport where I get a steady stream of writing prompts. The old joke is that if you live in the South, you have to connect through Atlanta on your way anywhere, including to heaven or to hell. Pretty much. But thankfully it’s a great place to people watch, or in this case, to get clobbered by a rogue suitcase.

I got off my 5:45am flight from Chattanooga and grabbed the nearest coffee, which happened to be Seattle’s Best. It was too hot to drink and filled to the rim. The degree to which this felt calamitous illustrates my caffeine dependence. I sulked with my blazing hot coffee to the escalator. Atlanta’s terminals are connected by the “plane train” and I needed to skip over a few terminals to my next flight. I had a bag slung on my right shoulder and the coffee in my left hand. I grabbed the escalator railing and began the descent down to the train.

About half way down, I heard a loud, almost zipping sound behind me. A woman began yelling, “Watch OUT!!” Her suitcase was hurtling towards me, and I needed to do a quick analysis. Could I turn around and leap over the suitcase when it reached me? With the hot coffee and ninety-year-old knees? Clearly not. I decided that I wouldn’t even turn around. I didn’t need to see it to know it was coming. I just grabbed the railing as firmly as I could and braced myself for impact, hoping that maybe the suitcase would zoom past me on the left. No such luck.

It felt like Mike Tyson punched me in the left calf, but I did not go down, and I did not spill a drop of coffee. If I had been deaf, I may not have been holding on to the railing at all, and I certainly wouldn’t have been holding on with all my might, ready for impact. A loose grip and I probably would’ve tumbled down the escalator, burning myself with Seattle’s Best for added pleasure. I am so, so grateful I have ears to hear.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus asked his disciples: “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” 8:17b-18. Jesus also tells us that in this world we will have trouble. Do you have ears to hear? Do you have a firm grip on the railing that stabilizes, knowing that trouble is hurtling down behind you?

Most importantly, what is the railing you cling to? I hope it’s the Word of God, the community of believers, and the indwelling Spirit. We are not supposed to live like our rudderless culture, being blown about aimlessly. Instead, these beautiful words from Isaiah describe the purposeful life of the believer.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah‬ ‭30:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Heavenly Father, help me to listen, to discern, to trust and to obey, knowing the way and walking in it. And help me to cling to You every step of the way. Amen.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure I have somehow lost control of a suitcase on an escalator before. That experience undoubtedly helped in identifying the sound. Fortunately, my rogue suitcase happened on an empty escalator.

P.S.S. I did have the mental clarity to hold on tight and to brace for impact, but that did not prevent me from screaming like an absolute lunatic. Sam would have been so, so proud. He just loves it when I do things like that!

P.S.S.S. Here is the bruise.

Jackson Five Friday: My Inner Legalist

Hey Friends,

I hope your Friday kicked off as spectacularly as mine. I’m so glad I was up to see the sunrise today, because as much as I love to stay in bed as long as possible, it would’ve been sad to miss the beauty above.

I’ve been thinking about how I’m legalistic about certain things. I think it’s because I have zero self-discipline. If I decide I’m going to run a mile every day on the treadmill, skipping a single day blows my entire plan. If I decide to limit carbs and eat one morsel of a piece of toast, all hell breaks loose, and it’s a day of carb-binging. Some people, like my husband, have inherent self-discipline and don’t need an inner legalist. But I recognize that my inner legalist is a God-given blessing.

On Sunday, January 5th, we drove home from vacation. It’s ten brutal hours in the car with five giant Jacksons crammed into a mid-size SUV. I drove a minivan for sixteen long years, and am thrilled to have that era behind me, except for road trips where nothing on earth compares to its spacious comfort. Anyway, I want to never drive home on a Sunday again. I detest missing church. My fragile little legalist ego feels totally defeated by it. If you cannot relate, it’s probably because you have self-discipline, while I am ever on the verge of being derailed.

C.S. Lewis said:

“…once [you] have accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily praying and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe…It must be fed…if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?”

Drifting away is a terrifying thought because I know myself. I know I could. I don’t forget to eat food. I am in no danger of accidentally starving to death. But I recognize my inclination to drift away from the God I love. I will never outgrow the need for daily reminders to consume His Word, to seek a community of believers, to gather with the body of Christ to worship. I need all of it more than physical food, but am perpetually inclined to try nourishing my soul with God’s creations instead of God Himself. It’s like the definition of spiritual insanity, but somehow I know I am not the only kook.

Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Yes, whether you have an inner legalist or not, delighting over and meditating on the law of the Lord is the answer. How are you doing on this? Are you delighting and meditating? Where is your life planted? Are you yielding fruit or withering?

Lord Jesus, help me to do better. I want to be that sturdy, strong and fruitful tree. I know how to, but apart from your grace I cannot follow through. Help me, Lord, every day to seek first your kingdom. Amen.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: It’s Mental

Hey Friends,

Hope you are well. My guys started back to school on Tuesday, and I’ve already been to two basketball games, one of which was in Knoxville, and I leave for a swim meet in just a few minutes. It makes the eight days we spent away — just the five of us –all the sweeter. The daily agenda was simple: eat good food, hit the beach and play cards. I snapped the picture above on our last night of vacation and I think we look almost as chilled out as we felt. But we’re back to reality, where the daily agenda tends to be a little more complicated!

One of the things my husband often tells our swimmer is that this or that race is mental. He was not a competitive swimmer but ran track and cross country, and therefore is much more qualified than I am to encourage on the “it’s mental” aspect of racing. But I do believe it. In fact, mindset is vital in all of life.

“There is nothing that so paralyzes effort as discouragement, and nothing that more continually and successfully invites defeat,” wrote Hannah Whitall Smith, who died in 1911.

Don’t you just love that sentence? I feel like it would not be written today. We might say, “Discouragement paralyzes effort. In fact, nothing in the world continually and successfully invites defeat like discouragement.” The ideas are the same, but there’s less punch and pizazz.

Either way, the truth is compelling. Where do you feel like discouragement is hampering your effort? Where is discouragement inviting defeat in your life?

The world is full of pain and uncertainty, and in one sense it’s natural for us to be discouraged. But in another sense, if we are living lives surrendered to Jesus and if we, as His followers, believe what we say we believe, it is unnatural for us to be discouraged. Ponder these words of Jesus:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Do you find yourself taking heart more or being discouraged more? It’s mental, isn’t it? The next time I feel discouraged, and I bet it’ll be mere hours from now, I’m going to remind myself, that Jesus told me to take heart. He didn’t say, you might just want to take heart, or you could take heart. It’s actually stated as a command. We could even think of it as a commandment: You shall take heart.

So, whatever you are discouraged about right now, take heart and remember that Jesus has overcome the world.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: 20 Questions for 2020

Hey Friends,

I hope your brand new year is off to a wonderful start. I’ve been thinking about how important it is to ask good questions, and to listen to the answers. Information has become more accessible in the last decade and yet the net effect is more ignorance. Raising deep thinkers is one of my primary goals as a parent, and yet I also recognize my own propensity for sometimes retreating to the shallows. I have patterns in my life that are not only joy-robbing but impede contemplation. So, here are 20 questions I aim to pose to myself and others in 2020?

    What explanation is there for the complexity of life on earth?
    Why is forgiveness such a powerful force to behold? Why are stories of forgiveness big news every single year?
    Why are those big stories of forgiveness invariably tied to Christians?
    Why do secular statistics consistently show that living a godly life is the path to a fulfilled life?
    Why did Jesus tell us to “consider the lilies” as a remedy for worry? And why don’t I do this more often?
    What does it mean to surrender your life to God? If guidance in the Bible is clear, then how can a person be surrendered apart from obeying?
    What does it mean to live into the truth that apart from Christ I can do nothing?
    How do the heavens declare the glory of God?
    What is it in the human heart that leads to striving?
    Can you name a single person whose striving has led to fulfillment? What does it mean when Tom Brady, whose striving has reaped such obvious dividends, still says there’s got to be more?
    Do you believe money can buy happiness?
    How do you explain suffering?
    Why do so many have a Charlie-Brown-kicking-the-football-expectation that government is the solution?
    Why do people hold on to grievances when they know it is self-sabotage?
    Where did you come from and where are you going when you die?
    Where did our concept of infinity come from?
    . What is the best feeling in the world? What is the worst?
    What does it mean to be a person of character?
    What is the purpose of your life?
    In 2030 what will you wish you did more of?

Praying today that we won’t be a society that evaluates what’s truly important at a Twitter level. Praying too that you know the truth of this verse, which reminds us that the answer to all our deepest questions is the same.

“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