Jackson Five Friday: Facing Hard Things

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Hey Friends,

It’s been a tough week for millions of Texans and I’m not sure any of us can get our heads around the magnitude of the destruction.  And some families are mourning not just the loss of things, but loss of life.  I know the heartache is just unbearable.  These poor people think back to their life before Harvey, which was just last week, but then have to somehow grapple with their new reality.

I talked to my mom today and told her about a sweet and unexpected story that I heard just this morning.  A mom from my older sons’ school told me that she had shared the post of my mother’s poem with her own widowed mother, and how it spoke to her. Sorrow knits hearts together.  It’s an odd sort of club.

Sadly, my mom is a star member of the club.  In February 1999, she lost her sister to cancer, and then, in November, her husband to a sudden and massive heart attack.  In January 2002, my mom’s brother took his own life after struggling with depression.  In July of 2002, her son was killed in a small plane crash.  In March of 2004, her father died of cancer.  So yes, I’m familiar with grief as well.  In five short years I lost my aunt, my dad, my uncle, my brother and my grandfather.  But truly, my mom was at the center of it all, and amazingly, she trusted God and His plan every step of the way.  It wasn’t a life she would ever choose, obviously, but she held onto her faith with the tightest grip she could.

When we were chatting this morning, she told me that her advice for the hurting is always the same: (1) Look to the future; and (2) Count your blessings.

Certainly, as Christians, we do not mourn like those without hope, but have the promise of a great reunion.  John 14: 2 says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

My mom said that when she has felt discouraged, that she focuses on spending eternity with Jesus and the loved ones she has lost.  She looks anxiously ahead to what awaits, but she also looks back on her life and counts up all her blessings.  My mom has an uncanny ability to recite hymns.  She doesn’t even need the tune.  She can just effortlessly say the words.

I wonder how many times in her life she has turned to these words by Johnson Oatman?

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Praying tonight for my incredible mom, giving thanks for the salt and light she’s given to this world.  Praying too for all of those engulfed by grief.  Praise God that this life isn’t all there is.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Ask It Forward


Hey Friends,

On Wednesday I went to a dinner party with ladies from my church.  I was late, embarrassingly late.  Plus, I am fighting off my first case of poison ivy.  My failure to properly empathize is now apparent.  Golly, it’s really quite unpleasant.  I was pulling weeds with gloves so my hands are fine, but evidently I like to touch my face a lot while weeding.  It’s all around my lips and it hurts to eat and to laugh, not that the frequency of nor enthusiasm for either has diminished.

But I am so grateful that I was craving fellowship enough to overlook my own appearance and tardiness – it was a delicious and delightful evening.  It did my soul so much good.  Sweet stories were told, connections were made, and there were many laughs.

But the best laugh of the night was one I’ve replayed over and over in my mind.

The hostess told a story about Anna Blair, the daughter of one of the guests, Beth.  Anna Blair is now a senior in high school, but when she was in third grade she attended a gathering at the beautiful home of the hostess.  The children were having a fabulous time zip lining across a creek on the property.  But then sweet Anna Blair got stung by a yellow jacket and came running up to the house crying hysterically.

When the hostess tried to console her, Anna Blair looked up, right in the midst of sobbing, and asked, “How’s y’all’s family doing?”

I could picture the scene perfectly and this little one’s unusual response.  How darling!

But the story got even better when Beth explained that she required her three young children to ask at least one question any time they interacted with adults.  In the grocery store, at the park, anywhere they came into contact with an adult, they couldn’t just sit there passively.  Beth taught them to take the initiative to ask at least one question.  Is that the most brilliant parenting tip you’ve ever heard?

Anna Blair was rightfully devastated to have her zip-lining fun cut short by a painful sting, but that didn’t stop her from trying to do as her wise mama taught her.  She bravely sniffed and took the focus off herself: “How’s y’all’s family doing?”

Of course, it’s not merely about being a good conversationalist, Anna Blair and her siblings were implicitly taught the truth of Scripture.  Philippians 2:3-4 says, ”Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

May we emulate this precious little girl by taking the focus off ourselves – even in the midst of pain – and instead willfully and thoughtfully engage those around us.  May we teach our children to pay attention, to look others in the eye, and to ask questions.  May we be willing, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to set aside our own interests and put others first.  What a world-changing concept!

With Love,

Kristie

 

Jackson Five Friday: Standing

Hey Friends,

I had a friend start law school this week.  In fact, he is a student at my alma mater George Mason.  Soon he will learn the legal definition of “standing” if he doesn’t know it already, which he probably does because he’s a pretty smart guy.  But anyway the general concept is this:  in order to bring a lawsuit, you need to be the one aggrieved. There’s no vicarious suing.  Even when class action suits are brought, you have to round up the real people who were harmed.

I’ve been thinking this week about standing more generally.  I don’t have standing to weigh in on race relations because I’ve not been aggrieved.  On the other hand, Will and I have given to organizations that specifically aim to address the imbalance of privilege.  I’d be curious to know how many of the vast number of opinions I’ve read and heard over the last week have been coupled with investment of time or money.  Talk may be better than silence, but talk is still cheap.  Do something.  Here are two organizations Will and I believe are making a difference: Hope for the Inner City and By the Hand.  Chattanooga and Chicago may not be areas that you want to invest in.  Find something local.  Spend some time researching and find out who is doing the best work. 1 John 3:18 says: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  Praying that I will more fully live out this important truth and that all followers of Christ will love with actions and in truth.

But there’s another aspect of standing and this is the best news ever.  Guess who has standing to go before the One True King?  I do.  I am a sinner.  I can’t go more than a few minutes without messing up.  But the Creator of the Universe loves me with an unquenchable love.  I did not earn this standing.  I have neither been aggrieved, nor have I given to His work and therefore secured such right.  No, Jesus paid the price for all my sins and invites me into His presence.  The terrible thing is that sometimes He stands at the door and knocks and I fail to answer.  Praying tonight that I will answer, that the United States will answer, that the world will answer, and that YOU will answer.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Honeycomb Spheres

Happy Friday, Friends!

For the twelvth summer since 2004, my family spent a week at Maranatha – a modest yet delightful Bible camp that sits directly on Lake Michigan.  You can see from the two pictures above that this is an incredibly beautiful spot.  The weather is so perfect that half the time you can relax on the beach without breaking a sweat, other days a quick dip in the cold lake is required.  But even more restorative than lounging on this peaceful beach, is sitting under godly teaching all week.  There are no televisions in the rooms and cell coverage is spotty.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

There were two main themes that emerged from our week.  The first was the Lordship and diety of Christ, maybe I’ll flesh that out next week, because the teaching was spectacular and it’s a been a long-time favorite topic of mine anyway.  But the second theme was about influence.  Bill Crowder, one of the two speakers, devoted a morning to it, but it was also prominent from the very first night.

Each week kicks off on a Saturday night with a concert.  Our week was Andrew Peterson.  If I knew that when I made our reservation in August of 2016, I had forgotten.  Will walked over for the start of the concert, but I had stayed a little while longer with my mom so I was still driving across the state.  When I was maybe thirty minutes away, Will texted me from the concert, “This guy wrote your What the Promise is For song.”  I couldn’t get there fast enough.

The song from 2010 which Will was referencing is called Dancing in the Minefields and commemorates Peterson’s fifteen years of marriage.  The refrain “that’s what the promise is for” is talking about when marriage is hard: that’s what the promise is for.  I love that song.  I played it for Will on our 20th anniversary even though I thought he’d probably say something like, “Yeah, it’s ok.”  And that’s exactly what he did.  Of course, hearing it live gave him a fuller appreciation.  He’s now a fan of the Peterson and the song.

When I finally made it to the concert, it was already half over.  But by God’s abundant grace, I was there for the most important part.  Andrew Peterson’s Doxology closes each night of services at Maranatha, and has for probably the last eight or so years.  The words are from Romans 11, but the music was written by Peterson and only recorded as a bootleg version.  Years ago I tried to find a copy.  I loved singing it at Maranatha, but I wasn’t satisfied with only singing it one or two weeks a yeaer.  It wasn’t on iTunes, Peterson’s website or anywhere else.  Of course, I hadn’t tried tracking the song down in a few years so I couldn’t have predicted the story Peterson was about to tell.

Before singing the song, Peterson explained that when he had given a concert at Maranatha in 2012, he had one of the most moving experiences he’s ever had as a performer.  He said he’d written Doxology ten years before and had almost forgotten about it.  It never made it onto an album, so very few people had ever heard it.  One person who had heard it was the worship leader at Maranatha, a talented muscian named Charlie.   Charlie was the one who had started the tradition of closing each night of services with the beautiful, little-known modern hymn.

When Peterson performed Doxology at Maranatha in 2012, having nearly forgotten the song existed, he was joined by 600 voices that knew the song like the back of their hands.  Is that the coolest thing?  You can imagine how emotionally gripping that must have been for Peterson!  It also prompted him to officially record the song, so you can now find it on iTunes as Romans 11 (Doxology)!

But here’s the point: only God knows the impact your words and actions are having.  Every single person has a sphere of influence, big or small, and we should take seriously that we are bringing people closer to Christ or pushing them away every minute of every day.  Sometimes you will see the fruit of your endeavors a la Peterson, but most of the time you won’t.  Still, this world needs the love of Christ and disciples who consistently point others to Him.

Bill Crowder told a tear-jerker of a story about when he fell off a thirty-foot high bridge as a young, man.  He inexplicably survived and while he was in traction, a woman he did not know told him, “God has a plan for your life.”  Kind, encouraging words from a total stranger can change the course of history, and for Crowder they did just that. 

Proverbs says, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”  (16:24 ESV).  Praying this morning that my sphere of influence will be like a honeycomb, full or gracious words that both provide sweetness and faithfully point to Christ.

With Love,

Kristie  

 

Jackson Five Friday: Generational Poetry Slam

Hi Friends,

Last week the boys and I were in the middle of spending a few days with my mom.  Nate had just gotten over strep throat, and so I made the boys keep their distance from Gramma who cannot be exposed to extra germs in her compromised state.  But my sweet mom could hardly stand it.  She instituted handshakes with them just so she could feel their soft warm skin.  This didn’t strike me as the best idea from a germ perspective, yet I knew their sweet, loving touch was meaningful to her.

The new handshake ritual with Sam is two handed, lasts more than just a few seconds, and involves vigorous shaking and much laughter.  When they wrapped up one round of handshaking I said, “Sam, why don’t you recite a poem for Gramma.”  In fourth grade, Sam memorized a poem each month and his ability to recite them, even months later, is pretty impressive.  He started with Shel Silverstein’s, Sick, but quickly got distracted.

Then my mom said, “You know, right after Daddy died,” referring to my dad who passed away in November of 1999, “I wrote a poem.”

“You did?” I said, surprised that this was the first I was hearing of it.  “Well, where is it?”

“It’s in my head,” she said.  And then without reservation, with the four of us sitting in stunned silence, she recited all of the following poem:

Enough Love for a Lifetime

By Judith M. Huber

When first you said you loved me and vowed that you’d be true

You promised me a lifetime of love, if I’d only follow you

So I placed my hand in yours and trusted that you’d be

Everything you promised and you’ve surely given me

Enough love for a lifetime, enough to see me through

Enough love for a lifetime, that’s why I followed you

You gave me precious babies I could cuddle and adore

And days so filled with happiness, I couldn’t ask for more

Our lives were filled with laughter, adventures bright and new

And through it all I’m thankful, I chose to follow you

Then one day God called you home, and I was left on earth alone

How could I be without you? The one that I adore

I followed in your footsteps for 40 years and more

I felt the awful sadness was more than I could bear

Then I remembered what you promised, your love, it still was there

Enough love for a lifetime

Enough to see me through

Enough love for a lifetime

Till I can follow you.

 

It helps to know that my mom was seventeen when she married my dad, who was twenty-six.  They were next door neighbors in Plymouth, Michigan but when they married, my dad was a busy engineer and fighter pilot living in Syracuse, New York.  She bravely followed him, child as she was, what probably felt like halfway around the world.  Four kids and forty years of love and adventure was the result.

A little while later, it was just me and my mom.  “I wrote a poem too, just a couple weeks ago,” I said.

“Well, let’s hear it,” she said.

I grabbed my computer and read her my poem inspired by this sunrise in Juno Beach, Florida on July 8, 2017.

Accidental Glory

by Kristie E. Jackson

Gleaming beams of pink color the water

Accidental Glory?

A stupefying story

Denying truth makes it no less true

But living lies makes you less you

The heavens declare it day after day

In your heart you know

Signs woven high and low

Denying truth makes it no less true

But living lies makes you less you

The knock at the door may go unanswered

Ears may numb to the persistent sound

Still, Love never ceases to abound

Denying truth makes it no less true

But living lies makes you less you

Standing before Him, the aim of the proud

Fierce is the fight and rejecting aloud

Yet, bent is every knee in the crowd

Denying truth makes it no less true

But living lies makes you less you

 

I don’t know if you are likely to have a three-generation-spanning poetry slam anytime soon, but I hope you are vulnerable with others you love.  After all, Romans 12:6 says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.”

Are you using your gifts for God’s glory?  Do you live your life knowing that the ultimate goal is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever?  I hope so.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Live Like on Hospice

Friends,

Every summer I take a month off of social media.  I used to do August, but now that I live in a place where school is in full swing by mid-August, July is a better fit for staying out of the loop. And so tonight I will delete Facebook and Instagram from my phone and not check them again until August.  It is amazing how this practice has been a blessing to me.  I feel more present in many ways.  Still, I miss the connection I have with friends, I miss seeing all the fun pictures, I miss blogging, and I miss the security of knowing if something happens to someone I connect with mostly through social media, I’ll know.

Last summer I did not learn of a tragedy until much later.  A beautiful former babysitter of mine, Jessica, died on July 6, 2016.  I felt so sick to hear about it after so much time had passed.  But even though she babysat for us many times, Jessica and I weren’t close enough where anybody would’ve reached out to tell me.  I don’t know if the cause of death was confirmed or not, but it was sudden and details appeared consistent with an accidental overdose, the frequency of which is absolutely terrifying.  I knew her life wasn’t staying course in a way that seemed typical or particularly healthy,  Even five years ago, I saw a few signs that gave me pause and my husband insisted that I tell her that if she ever needed anything to please come to us (he’s the master of crucial conversations — I sheepishly avoid).  And I am grateful that I at least told her, “Listen, if you need anything, you can call me,” but I wish I could’ve done something tangible.  I wish someone could’ve reached her.  It’s an epidemic in our society that I feel like isn’t talked about nearly enough.

It’s interesting how a death, any death, or even the thought of death, can be so grounding; it immediately realigns our priorities.  My mom came home from the hospital on hospice in May and has done remarkably well since then.  She has had many visitors, in addition to her faithful regulars.  I think people must hear the words “hospice” and “Judy” in the same sentence and think that they need to hightail it over there and spend some time with my fun, sweet, faith-filled mom.

On Wednesday I was sitting by the pool catching up with a friend and she asked about my mom.  I told her how well she’s been doing, and how lovely it’s been to have so many friends and relatives come spend time with her.

This friend is an incredibly sweet southern mama and with her angelic, deliberate accent she said, “You know, we should all live like we’re on hospice.”

She’s right.  We do not know our day nor hour.  We should also live like the people we love are on hospice.  It puts so much into perspective.  This life is not all there is.  It is fleeting.  We should make the most of every minute.  Not by living like hedonists, but by loving and forgiving with reckless abandon.

 

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.  

Psalm 103: 13-18

Have a wonderful July living according to these beautiful verses.  And if you need me, please email, text or call me.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. This is really random, but I’m hoping to return to work in some capacity this fall, so if you know of a position for which I might be a good fit, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Jackson Five Friday: New Favorite 

Hope you’ve had a good week. I topped mine off with a roadtrip in torrential rain. I listened to the most random playlist imaginable, Sam watched two movies, and four hours later we were safely reunited with the rest of our family. 

One of the songs that popped up is one for which my emotional ties run deep.  The song is New Favorite by Alison Krauss. It’s a sad ballad about a woman realizing her man has a new favorite. Both the rhythm and the lyrics are heartbreaking. But the application to my own life is a little unusual. My husband use to sing it to me back in 2003, suggesting that our new baby boy, Nate, was my new favorite.  As if I was choosing Nate over Dub.  Will thoroughly enjoyed teasing me about my new favorite.

Listening to it today took me right back. I remember worrying that sweet Dub, who had every ounce of my attention for 21 months, would feel somehow less important.  But I don’t think he did. Instead we loved our Baby Nate together, delighting  over him side by side. 

But it’s nice to be somebody’s favorite, isn’t it?  Does your spouse know they’re your favorite?  Do you make sure they know it day after day? 

And most importantly do you know that you have a favorite kind of relationship with God?  He made only one of you. He made you for a purpose. And He delights over you. 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

‭‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Have a fabulous weekend knowing you are rejoiced over. 

Love,

Kristie