Jackson Five Friday: Setting a Destination

Hey Friends,

First of all, I hope you’ve had a wonderful summer.  I’ve had some fun adventures, from Dallas, Texas to Trenton, New Jersey and many places in between.  I’ve been to many a swim meet, breathed in some salty air and spent a ton of time just hanging out with my family.  We started doing college visits and I also spent six days laying face down after having surgery to re-attach my retina.  I never stay home for six solid days, and I never lay on my stomach.  But by God’s grace, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Being socially unplugged since Mother’s Day has helped me be wholly present, but I always miss blogging!  I often compose posts in my head because I love telling stories.  We are made for stories.  Folding our story into God’s gives context and meaning to everything.  The more we let the story — the truth — of Jesus inform and direct and our lives, the more we become who He created us to be.

Of course if you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all — it’s a decade old this month — you know that I have an unbelievable propensity for embarrassing myself.  This summer was no different.

Dub and I did part of our college loop by train in and out of DC.  Any time I ride the train I always marvel how easy it is.  You can arrive to the station just minutes before the train pulls out and you still have time to grab coffee.  Coffee took on even greater importance that morning since we were hopping on the 4:30a train.  We returned the same day, rolling back in at around 7:30p.  Our plan was to have dinner with my niece, Caitlin, her husband and baby, who live near Capitol Hill.  She ordered take-out Thai and Dub and I picked it up.  From the restaurant we ordered an Uber.   I didn’t bother to dig for reading glasses but had Dub confirm that I had entered the address correctly.  For any non-Washingtonians, the District is divided into quadrants, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, and Northwest.  The address specifies which quadrant.  For example, 123 Jackson Ave SE would be in an entirely different area than 123 Jackson Ave NW. I insisted that Dub confirm I’d entered the NE, designation.

When we climbed into the Uber, our driver indicated that he was deaf.  I was in the front seat and Dub in the back.  It took about three blocks for me to realize that we were heading in the wrong direction.  Oh dear.  It would’ve been a good time to know sign language.  Through mostly pointing, we indicated to the driver that this was not right.  He pulled over and whipped out a sign.  He was prepared for me.  The sign said “You must correct the address on the app.”

“Make sure it says NE!” I said as I handed Dub my phone.  A few seconds later we were off again, and inching closer to where we needed to be.  But then after a few minutes, we again abruptly turned Northwest.  “What on earth,” I thought.  Then I realized we were near a park I recognized.  I motioned to our dear, patient driver that we’d just get out there.  I was almost 100% certain that I knew the sign for thank you, but in my sleep deprived, exhausted state-of-mind I feared that the wave from the chin could also be some kind vulgarity.  Stupidly, I just repeatedly said “thank you” and hopped out.

We stumbled through the park, made a few more turns and praised God when we eyed Caitlin’s place.

Over dinner, I recounted our Uber adventure.  The look on Caitlin’s face was priceless.  She was utterly dumbfounded.

“It’s SE, not NE!”  she said.

With more sleep I’m confident I’d know that the United States Capitol is not North.  It’s kind of unreal that I could make such a mistake.  Repeatedly.  How we got anywhere near where we needed to be is miraculous.  God’s grace alone.

What kind of a moron gives a deaf Uber driver an address that does not even exist?

But it got me thinking about the importance of setting destinations.  What is yours?  Where are you headed in life?

While I am game for adventure, and love seeing new places, the ultimate aim of my life is the Kingdom of God.  Jesus speaks so clearly on this:  Seek first His Kingdom and everything else falls into place.  My fumbling Uber trip testifies that you may even arrive exactly where you need to be when you insist on a nonexistent destination.  That’s how much God loves you.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (Matthew 6)

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Summer Hiatus

Hey Friends,

First of all, Happy Mother’s Day.  I hope you lavish the moms in your life this weekend with love and appreciation.  I have not been with Will and the boys the last two Mother’s Days.  I was thankfully with my own mother, but I am looking forward to Sunday, relaxing in my very favorite spot with my four handsome men.

I started writing this blog in August of 2008.  In ten years I’ve posted over 600 times.  It’s one of my very favorite things to do.  You know how beavers just have to gnaw through stuff otherwise their ever-growing teeth would just get too long?  That’s how I feel about writing.  It is a compulsion that keeps me in order.  If I didn’t write, I’d hardly know what I even think — writing is how I process life.  But one of the coolest things about writing a blog for ten years is the treasure of memories.  Since I write to an audience, instead of in a journal format, I tell stories that assume the reader knows nothing, or next to nothing, about my life.   I could not have foreseen the tremendous blessing this is for me personally.  It means that with a couple clicks I can read stories that I have zero recollection of — hilarious tidbits of my own ineptitude, hysterical stories about the boys, and spiritual insights I am always prone to forget.  I can read how God has provided for me and loved me through good times and bad.  So here’s some advice: choose a format you feel comfortable with and keep a record of your life.  Lists are good, but storytelling is better.  Your future self will thank you.

Every summer I take a hiatus from social media, but this summer I feel particularly called to be more present in the moment and I want to devote more time to some longer writing projects.  If you do not already follow this blog, I would invite you to do so.  It is just a matter of clicking the follow button on the bottom of the screen.  I will post here with links to new material when it’s available, but other than that if you need me, call me.  Shoot me a text.  Knock on my door.  Have a fabulous summer and thank you for reading.  I am honored and humbled to know that some of you have been reading this blog for a decade!

Here’s a wonderful Psalm about remembering all that God has done.  I hope you’ll meditate on it this summer.  Maybe you’ll even use it as a writing prompt.  How has God crowned you with love and compassion?  How has He redeemed you from various pits?  How have your transgressions been forgiven as far as the east is from the west?

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

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

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.  Psalm 103 (NIV)

With Love,

image1-2

Jackson Five Friday: How I Know I’m Getting Old

Hey Friends,

I am getting old.  I know this not merely because I am not blind, but because of some other tell-tale observations.  No, I don’t suddenly find pop music abhorrent — I love it as much or more than ever.  With the widespread influence of Earth Wind and Fire touching everything from Bruno Mars to Pharrell Williams, blaring the radio in the minivan has never been so fun.  And truly my knees have sounded ninety for a very long time.  But more than wrinkles, cataracts (literally), aging joints, or going to bed by 9:30 most nights, a trusty indicator of getting old is one’s list of pet peeves.  Truly, young Kristie hardly had any pet peeves.  But the list has grown.  I’m halfway to full crank.

I’m irked by all of the following: (1) people walking slowly in front of me; (2) failure to use a turn signal, which in Tennessee is honestly an epidemic; (3) Mommy-bloggerisms like “Full Stop.” and “So much THIS.” (4) people who post a picture of “Other person and I.”  In my old age this drives me bananas.  Would you ever ever say, “This is a picture of I?”  No, no you wouldn’t!  The grammar is the same no matter how many people.  I am the grumpy grammar mom who corrects via text.  “Hey, can you pick Jack and I up at 3:30?”  I respond every dang time with “Jack and me.”  It’s like people think using “I” sounds more sophisticated or something.  I’d much rather stick with the informal but closer to grammatically correct “Can you pick me and Jack up?”  Cut it out with the over I-ing already!  It’s like a contagion I want to stomp out but can’t get ahead of.

But my biggest pet peeve is sitting at a restaurant and having servers take items I’m not yet done with.  I know I could stand to lose quite a bit of weight, but yes I do in fact want to finish my salad.  And I do want that last balsamic glazed brussel sprout.  I cannot even tell you how much I love eating every last piece of margarita drenched ice.  I want to lick every morsel of salt off the rim and crunch the limey goodness of every single cube.  I don’t know if it’s a local thing, or a generational thing or what, but I have watched servers, without asking, unapologetically whisk away all these things and more.  The problem is I’m a huge fan of the movie Fletch and that leaves me totally defenseless in the face of this culinary injustice.

If I say something akin to “I’m not finished with that” I have this scene flash before my eyes.

 

So I can hardly ever bring myself to say a thing because I’m terrified of coming across like Mr. Underhill.  So I just watch half full plates and glasses fly off the table speechless and peeved, and since I waited tables for years in college I always tip well.  I couldn’t not.  But for those of you in the restaurant business, please for heaven’s sake, start training servers to stop the aggressive pre-bussing and unless the plate is licked clean, don’t make any assumptions.

So how about you?  Do you find your list of pet peeves growing with age too?  And if so, what are they?

But by God’s grace I’ve learned to cling to  this proverb:

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

It is astounding how widely applicable this proverb is.  It is to my glory to overlook an offense — pet peeves are actually just an opportunity to practice.  The more I can implement overlooking little offenses the better prepared I am to overlook big ones.  It’s like lifting weights — I am building my offense-overlooking muscles.  At this rate, by the time I’m fifty, I’m gonna be buff.

Have a blessed weekend overlooking offenses big and small. It is to your glory after all. And while you’re at it have a couple of steak sandwiches on the Underhills!

Love to YOU,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Flower People

Hey Friends,

This is the walkway to our front driveway. It’s pretty absurd the number of pictures I’ve taken of this tree, and yet I can’t seem to quit. The picture above is from this morning and looks different than all the others because the dapples of light are so vivid on the fallen petals. The lawn guy had just arrived and was surely about to blow the petals away. I couldn’t resist taking just one more.

The glory of this tree feels so short-lived. It is short-lived. But the Bible says, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:24-25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How many lessons can be drawn just from that little verse? Just from a pile of fallen flowers? Many.

For one thing, our days are withering away. Time management is a struggle that returns with a vengeance if I let my guard down. I can never pray too often with the Psalmist, “Teach me to number my days aright that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” (90:12).

Second, since life is short there’s no time for bitterness. Jesus was clear that we need to forgive others again and again. It’s particularly hard when people you love are treated unfairly, but we don’t have to be the ones wronged to be the ones called to extend grace. Over and over and over again.

Third, the passage reminds us that the Word of God endures forever. My daily life does not reflect this truth. If it did, I’d be spending a lot more time marinating in Scripture. Maybe I’d even be satisfied with fewer pictures of my lovely tree.

Hope you have a fabulous weekend appreciating God’s glory displayed in the flowers and trees around you. And may they too remind you of eternal truths.

Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: PSA

Hey Friends,

I have a public service announcement for you, well actually a couple. First, if you are a woman and have felt sluggish, get your dang blood drawn. I am the world’s worst about going to the doctor. I’d rather go to the dentist every day of the year than see a doctor, and I don’t like the dentist either. But a combination of my husband insisting that screening is good, and continued weird stuff with my vision, and feeling awful whenever I work out, I finally had blood drawn. There were three iron levels that were measured, two were slightly low, and the third was very low. Take iron they said. I was filled with dread, sure that it would make me nauseous. So I waited a few days. Stupid girl! Taking the iron has me feeling roughly six million times better. Suddenly I feel like working out isn’t a near death experience. I joined OrangeTheory in January and I’ve literally texted Will upon completion of every class with two words: “I lived.” It truly felt like a necessary, even unlikely declaration. A couple doses of iron and I have felt nothing like that. Good Lord, why did I wait?

My second PSA is once again championing the benefit of the quick trip. I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve had a friend or acquaintance say, “You are going all that way for two days?” Or I’ve shared my intended itinerary and heard in response, “Ugh, that sounds brutal!” So it’s definitely not for everyone. But I traveled like a crazed fiend when I had just Baby Dub. When Dub was nine months old, my brother, Craig, was killed in a plane crash. You can imagine how grateful I was that I’d spent tons of time with Craig in Florida at the expense of a good routine for Dub. When I had two babies I flew to Europe by myself — my husband was there for two months with the Army. With three boys, our adventures have spanned coast to coast, but their new passports arrived yesterday and I love thinking about how we might use them.

Even solo trips can be a huge blessing. This week I had a business reason to be in Florida. The business itself required my physical presence but took almost no time at all. So I parked myself at the beach with a book and soaked up the salty air, contemplating life, praying for friends and realizing that there should be nothing guilty about this pleasure. So don’t underestimate the restoration of even the shortest trip, even a single day on a beautiful beach can work wonders.

A final public service announcement is this: please tease your kids. Yesterday, as I relaxed on the beach, I listened to a podcast on parenting, which was mostly great. But the speaker did caution against teasing in your home. As the youngest of four children I should be awarded an honorary Ph.D. on teasing. I know how it may fail to “invite dialogue and safety” as the podcast cautioned, but I also know that learning to laugh at yourself is a profoundly wonderful thing. My husband and I tease each other a LOT. I wouldn’t have wanted to marry someone who would never make fun of me. And I certainly would never be attracted in the least if he wasn’t willing to laugh at himself. Undeniably humor can be mean and destructive, but besides praying together or learning how a person came to know Jesus, laughing together has to be the stickiest relational glue on the planet. Is it really good advice to say your home should be free of teasing? I think that’s nuts and I will continue to tease away, pal.

So do what you want with these PSAs, but the truth of Scripture is that there’s a time for everything. I don’t think you can argue with the wisdom of Solomon.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-2, NIV‬‬

I’ll add that there’s a time for blood draws, a time for quick trips, and a time for teasing. But, friend, I hope you know that it’s always time to bask in the truth that God loves you no matter what.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: The Devil is in the Ideals

Hey Friends,

I don’t know where the phrase “the devil is in the details” came from but as distracting as details can be, the real devil is in the ideals. The persistent perception that others have attained or are living out an ideal is not only wrongheaded, it’s a joy-robbing scheme of Satan. No one has it together. I certainly don’t, and despite moving around and making wonderful friends in various places, I’ve never met a single person who has it all together. Not one. The few who project having figured it all out bear the exhausting burden of trying to keep up appearances.

Yet I often get the impression that many believe in a perfect wife, husband, child, house, marriage, or even life. As if perfection exists, here, on this earth!?! And it’s not like this misconception is just a benign delusion, just a laughable little lie. No, in reality it’s terribly destructive because if people believe perfection exists, they want it. Perfection becomes the expectation, and that’s a foolproof recipe for a miserable life.

Where are you looking for perfection? Where are your expectations most divergent from reality? There is nothing to be gained from holding ourselves or those around us to an unattainable standard.

I think the real issue is one of pride. Maybe we don’t want to grow old or admit we are flawed. Maybe we derive identity through keeping an immaculate home, or staying in great physical shape. Maybe our worth is wrapped up in a career or in being the superstar parent. Or maybe we extend grace to ourselves but burden the people around us with expectations. But freedom is knowing that we can’t earn God’s love, nor can we lose it. And our calling is to love the people in our lives just like God loves us.

If you know Jesus as Lord and Savior then your identity should be wrapped up in being a child of the One True King. As His child, you have His Spirit. And so do I. May our lives and how we love be evidence of this truth.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Blah Remedies

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a great week. I’ve been feeling a little aimless. I had that weird week in Orlando for Dub’s swim meet and close on its heels–just three and a half days later–Dub and Nate kicked off Spring Break. Then Sam’s break only overlapped theirs for Good Friday and Easter Monday. So I’ve been mostly home for weeks, with a couple quick trips to Atlanta, and it’s felt like an absurdly unproductive stretch. I don’t do well with unscheduled life, especially if the weather is uninspiring. In the absence of adventure, sunshine and routine are my good friends.

Of course, there are remedies for blah days, but it can take resolve to put them to work. Exercise helps. Counting blessings helps. Preparing a yummy meal helps. Cleaning the kitchen until it’s spotless, then lighting a candle helps. Even making your bed can be the first step in the right direction. But reminding myself of God’s promises helps the most, and the Psalms are like a poetic anthology of promises. You can hardly help but be encouraged.

Today I read this one:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭130:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Every word speaks to me, but what an incredible illustration of waiting on the Lord — to be more anticipatory than a watchman for the morning. Yes! May my soul always thirst for God like that!

With Love,

Kristie