Monday, August 31, 2015

Raising Boys to Date Girls in an #AshleyMadison World

I have two.
One in high school and one in kindergarten.

Ever since my high schooler was a kindergartner, we've had literally hundreds of conversations about girls. More specifically, girlfriends. Alex and I had our first serious talk about girlfriends when he was four years old. He has always liked girls. He never thought they had cooties and he was never embarrassed to play with them at recess.

When Alex was younger, one of my biggest pet peeves was hearing grown adults ask him, "do you have a girlfriend?" Most people think it's cute when little boys say they have a girlfriend. Or five girlfriends. But it has always irritated me.

I never let him answer that question. I always answered for him and my answer was always the same… "Alex isn't allowed to have a girlfriend. Relationships are very, very serious and his goal right now is to learn to be friends with girls and to learn to show them respect. But, one day." Even though I was saying it to the adult, I was saying it for the benefit of Alex. I wanted him to hear me say repeatedly that relationships were super important and the way we treat girls mattered.

You see, I am not at all against Alex having a girlfriend. But I am against leaving really important decisions like relationships between boys and girls for Alex to figure out by himself. I am against allowing him to ever think that having more than one girlfriend at a time is cute. I am against allowing him to feel like his identity is somehow wrapped up in if he has a girlfriend or not.

In our home, we have very open conversations. We always have. And after working with teenagers for the last 20+ years, I am shocked at how few parents talk to their kids about relationships, dating, purity, sex and marriage. Middle schoolers who still have to be reminded to use soap in the shower are often left to navigate boy/girl relationships with very little guidance from their parents. Does that seem weird to anyone but me?

Photo: Getty Images

I don't think there's a magic dating age.
I think it's different for every young person.

For Alex, we've told him that there are a couple of things we are watching for...

#1  We want to see him to actively pursuing a relationship with Jesus before he actively pursues the heart of a young lady. God made him for a specific purpose and if he is not careful, he will start worrying more about what his girlfriend wants/needs for him to be and forget all about who God is molding him to be.

#2  We want him to understand that for this season, his goal is to learn to be a protector of girls' hearts. He is to stand up for girls, not allow other boys to talk rude or inappropriate to them or around them, make sure he is being thoughtful of girls' emotions, and learn how to be good friends with a girl he likes.

When Alex decides he is ready to turn a friendship into a relationship, he can only do that after meeting with the young lady's Dad and/or Mom. *I realize right about now you are thanking God we are not your parents. Ha!* Our goal is not to be mean, I promise. Our goal is for Alex to use his brain and not act on his emotions. God has placed people in authority over this young girl's life and it is not a hormonal 16 year old boy. It is person, or people, who will stand before God one day and answer for they way they raised her. Alex needs to have a conversation with those people. He needs to look them in the eyes, tell them his intentions and commit to partnering with them to protect their daughter. If she is not the one he will end up marrying, she should be better off having Alex in her life for that season.

I'm not raising a 16 year old boy.
I am raising a man who will one day be the spiritual leader of his family.

A future husband.

A future daddy.
A world-changer.

My goal is not to teach Alex how to date, my goal is that Alex has a clear picture of what marriage is suppose to be. Dating is important because marriage is hard…and it's forever.

As I look back over the last 16 years, I am amazed at how God has protected Alex's heart and mind because we were willing to speak truth and bring to light all the hard topics. Satan is not going to wait until you are ready and feel comfortable talking about sex. In fact, he wants to fool you into thinking that keeping your kids in the dark will protect them. Well, he is a liar! Having many, many age-appropriate conversations that speak truth without shame protect your children on a deep, Spiritual level. It is time!

Their school is talking about it.

Their friends are talking about it.
The world is talking about it.
And the Bible has a lot to say about it.

It's time for every Jesus-loving family to understand the importance of talking to their children about sex and healthy sexuality. To talk about purity and dating.

Even if you didn't do it right.

Even if you messed up.

The truth of God's word gives life and hope. God has a way of redeeming our past and our mistakes and turning it into something beautiful. You can trust Him!   

"I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never live in darkness.
They will have the light that gives life."
{John 8:12}

Don't know where to start? The book, The Talks, is an amazing resource written by our dear friends, Barrett and Jenifer Johnson, and is a must have for every home. Also, Navigating a Hyper-Sexualized Culture and The Talk(s) are just two of many blog posts on their website that will encourage, equip, and challenge your most important relationships.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


When Miles came home from Ethiopia, I noticed that people let their gaze linger a little longer than normal. At first, it was hard to get used to, but I quickly discovered that our obvious differences was an open invitation to talk about Jesus.

You see, more often than not, curiosity wins.
People have to ask.

I've been asked questions like…
"Is he yours?"
"Is he adopted?"
"How much did he cost?"
"Where is he from?"
"Why did you adopt from Ethiopia?"
"Aren't there a lot of children in the U.S. that need to be adopted?"
"Are you his REAL mom?"
"Did you birth him?"

When people ask questions, they often ask right in front of Miles. So from the moment we got home, my hearts desire was to learn to answer questions in a way that makes Miles feel confident in his place in our family. I have grown to love that Miles gets to hear his story from my perspective over and over again.

Unfortunately, I don't always get it right.

Photo by Ruth Eileen Photography
After being home about two months, Miles and I were picking up a few things from our local home improvement store. We were in line to check-out and the friendly lady working was talking to me about Miles. She was going on and on about how beautiful he was and how she probably shouldn't say beautiful because he's a boy but he was so pretty and she just loved his lips and his eyes, wow, such pretty eyes they are!

I just smiled because, well, I happened to agree with everything she was saying.

Then, at the end of her run on sentence, she asked,
"Does he have his Daddy's eyes?"

The question caught me off guard.
It was so matter of fact.
It was the first time someone assumed he was my biological son.

I looked up at her and without even thinking, and said,
"Oh, um, I don't know who the father is."

*nervous smile*

The look on her face.
It was sort of a mix between shock and confusion.
My reply was not the "help Miles feel confident and secure while telling the world about Jesus" answer I was going for.

So, in an effort to make the poor lady feel better and, at the same time, try to make myself sound a little less slutty than I inadvertently did, I quickly blurted out, "I don't know who his mother is either!"

*awkward silence*

Well crap! Now I sound like a kidnapper.

"He's adopted! I never got to meet his birth parents! He's adopted!"

Not many people have the amazing ability make a sweet, Southern Baptist preacher's wife sound like a slutty kidnapper in a matter of seconds.
That, my friends, takes real talent.

Next time, Jackie.
You'll get 'em next time.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


We checked no.
Did I ever tell you that?

When Keith and I sat down to fill out our adoption application, we came to a section that forced us to pause. We were being asked if we would be willing to accept a child with medical issues, developmental problems, or various special needs. We did what every Jesus-loving person would do, we skipped that section and went on. We didn't even want to talk about it right then.

To mark no felt wrong and carried some level of guilt.
To mark yes required more faith than we could muster up.

Special needs was not something we sought out.
We knew it was something we could not handle.
So, after much prayer and discussion, we checked no.

Turns out, we were right.
The last five and a half years have been way more than we could handle.

A couple of years ago, I heard Beth Moore (Author, Bible Study teacher and Jesus-girl) speak about a girl in the Bible named Miriam. I clung to every word because I had been camping with Miriam's little brother, Moses, for about a year and God was using this family to completely wreck my life in the most beautiful way.

Remember when I told you Moses ruined my 40th birthdayMoses lived as a prince, ran and hid as a shepherd and went back to Egypt to live out his purpose. Let's follow 80+ year old Moses to Egypt so I can catch you up on the rest of the story and introduce you to his sister, Mariam.

Then God said to Moses, "I am the Lord… Now, I have heard their painful cries. I know that they are slaves in Egypt. And I remember my agreement. So, tell the Israelites that I say to them, 'I am the Lord. I will save you. You will no longer be slaves of the Egyptians. I will use my great power to make you free, and I will bring terrible punishment to the Egyptians. You will be my people and I will be your God. I am the Lord your God, and you will know that I made you free from Egypt…'"
{Exodus 6:2,5-7}

I wish I could tell you that the Israelites believed Moses and praised God, but they didn't. They were tired, broken and felt forgotten. But God, true to his word, unleashed his plan to communicate His power, His rescue and His glory. And a scared, terrified Pharaoh sent word to the Israelites in the middle of the the night to GO! With a great sense of urgency, they grabbed what they could carry and headed out on foot. They left as quickly as they could before Pharaoh changed his mind.

No time to think.
No time to prepare.

As we fast forward, we see the Israelites leave Egypt, end up at the Red Sea and complain that this journey was too hard. They watched as God used Moses to part the Red Sea to provide a way to safety and they saw Pharaoh's army drown trying to follow.

God saved them… they were free!
They worshiped the Lord by singing praises to Him and dancing.

"Then Mariam… took a tambourine in her hand,
and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing."
{Exodus 15:20}

Where in the world did Mariam and the other women get tambourines?
When you are fleeing for your life, why do you grab, of all things, a tambourine?

The words Beth Moore spoke almost two years ago still ring in my head today…
"When faith takes a journey, it packs a tambourine."

When Mariam fled Egypt,
she grabbed her stuff and threw in her tambourine.
She believed, trusted, and had faith that there would be something to celebrate.
And when that time came, she wanted to be ready.

Every step she took, every time she sat her bag down,
she could hear the zils on her tambourine jingle… the sound of faith.

Miles had a big appointment in March.
An assessment.  A re-evaluation.
A basic repeat of this day.

I went into it full of hope and anticipation.
He has worked so hard the last couple of years and we see progress.
I was just certain that we would get a good report.

As Keith got Miles all buckled in the van, I loaded up everything Miles would need to survive the long day he had ahead. That's when I realized that I forgot something. I jumped out of the van, ran back into the house and frantically dug through my closet. I knew it had to be there and I knew I had to have it to survive this appointment. As I tossed clothes and shoes around, I heard it… my tambourine.

I jumped in the van, tambourine in hand, and stuck it in my bag.
Keith looked at the tambourine, looked at me, and smiled.
After 19+ years of marriage, he's learned to not even ask.

I believed, trusted, and had faith that there would be something to celebrate.
And when that time came, I wanted to be ready.

Every step I took, every time I sat my bag down,
I could hear the zils on my tambourine jingle… the sound of faith.

After a long day of testing, the psychologist appeared in the waiting room and motioned for us to come to her office. As she went over all the results, I silently sat there. I was shocked. Miles' assessment and re-evaluation results scored lower than before. I looked over at my sweet boy and felt so sad. I hated that all of his hard work didn't show up on paper, but more than that, I felt like I failed. I took it personal. Caring for Miles is all I do and on paper, he's worse than before.

I understand why the Israelites complained and grumbled. It's easy to feel defeated on the faith journey. When God doesn't show up the way I think He will, or should, it's incredibly disappointing. I carried that stupid tambourine around in my bag for 8 hours and I left without a reason to celebrate.

No dancing, just mourning.
No singing, just crying.

"It takes faith to trust God will come through,
even when you are trapped between the sea and your enemies."
{Beth Moore}

The next morning, still deeply sad and broken-hearted, I grabbed my Bible and the Lord spoke the most beautiful verse over me.

"To all who mourn in Israel he will give:
beauty for ashes;
joy instead of mourning;
praise instead of heaviness.
For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory."
{Isaiah 61:3}

I looked up each word in the original text and was reminded just how much God loves me. He doesn't expect me to hide my humanness. In fact, he was offering to mourn and grieve with me. God spoke that verse to my heart as if to say, "Jackie, if you will allow me, I can wrap or envelope the deep places in your hurting heart with beauty, joy, praise, and victory so that sadness, depression, heaviness will not set in as you work through your grief and disappointment."

He is so patient with me and is such good God.

He doesn't just want me to pack up my tambourine when big things come my way, He wants me to keep it close. He wants me to hear the sound of faith with every step I take. He wants me to celebrate every victory, no matter how small. He wants me to celebrate every time I walk through hard and land on my feet. He wants me to keep my eyes and heart fixed on Him, not my circumstances.

The journey toward faith is hard. It changes you. It doesn't happen over night and it doesn't happen by accident. Faith happens when you choose to take your eyes off of your circumstance and you take a step toward Jesus. And you wake up the next morning and you choose to take another step toward Jesus. And step by intentional step, you change… even if/when your circumstances do not.

Keith and I are not on the journey we signed up for, but we are on the journey that God purposed. When God tossed us on this unexpected path of raising a child with special needs, we were not prepared. But God has a way of turning disappointment into delight, sadness into joy, frustrations into blessings, anger into love, pride into humility, pain into peace and fear into faith.

I am so thankful that God ignored our no.
He knew the me Miles would make me to be.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


This guy.
My man.

Minister is not what he does, it's who he is.
Minister is not a job or occupation, it's a calling.
Minister is not a noun, it's a verb.

I have known this guy since I was 6 years old and have been with him for over 25 years. He loves and forgives like nothing I've ever seen.

Watching Keith live out love and forgiveness with his dad is the reason I gave my life to Jesus. I had never seen that kind of love lived out before. Keith loved his dad without condition and without strings. He just loved.

If you are struggling to see the goodness and forgiveness of God,
I invite you to lean in.

If you are struggling to see God as loving,
I invite you to come close.

Pure Jesus love pours out of my guy in the most beautiful way.

When there is reason to hate, he loves.
When there is reason to resent, he forgives.
Where you think you'll find bitterness, you see freedom.

The way Keith lives and loves is not Keith at all.
It's Jesus!

Tuesday, I watched Keith lovingly and gently tell his grandfather that his son was dying. We just received news that morning that Keith's dad was dying and being referred to hospice and I sat quietly and watched a grandson and grandfather talk about losing the man who unities them.

Two men.
Both named Keith.
One losing a son and the other losing a father.

Today is not the day to share Keith's life story.
Like most of ours, it's messy.

Keith's dad has hours/days left on this side of eternity. He penned a note for his children and grandchildren last year for this exact moment. When I read his heart poured out on a page, one word comes to mind… REGRET.

There are things that he wishes he'd have done different.
There are decisions he wishes he could change.
But I love you and I am sorry are they words he wants to say.

One of the many things I have learned from doing life with Keith Harmon is when you love people with Jesus love, you live a life without regrets.

I can't help but think of all the people out there who need to be encouraged to continue to freely give love those who continue to hurt you. To live out forgiveness toward those who continue to disappoint you.

That's where freedom reigns.
That's where the fruit of the Spirit grows.
That's where your heart is transformed.
That's where Jesus shines.
"God has chosen you and made you His holy people. He loves you. So your life should be like this: Show mercy to others. Be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Don't be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them. Forgive them because the Lord forgave you. Together with these things, the most important part of your new life is to love each other. Love is what holds everything together in perfect unity. Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking. It is for peace that you were chosen to be together in one body. And always be thankful."

{Colossians 3:12-15}

Saturday, May 2, 2015


We started a conversation called BE THE CHURCH a couple of years ago and God is still writing that message on my heart.  I don't choose where I attend church, God does.  And as I submit my heart [will, desires] to the Lord, He plants me in a specific church [tribe, community] for a specific purpose.

"God has meticulously put this body together;
He placed each part in the exact place to perform the exact function He wanted."
{1 Corinthians 12:18}

As I have been trying to internalize the idea that, my view of my church is often a reflection of what is going on in my own heart, God has been speaking a new word, a new conversation to my heart...

…come expectant.

There is a story in the Bible of a woman.  I don't know her name and know very little of her story, but I think about her everyday.  The woman lived on the western side of the Sea of Galilee and struggled for over twelve years with an ongoing medical issue.  TWELVE YEARS.  She tried to get help many times, but each time she left worse than before and eventually found herself completely broke.

To complicate things even further, her issue was a protracted [extensive, lengthily, lingering] menstrual problem that kept her ritually unclean and unable to fully participate in Jewish life throughout its duration.

After twelve long years, I imagine she was broke, miserable, hopeless, lonely, isolated, and desperate.

Then one day, she hears about a man who casts out demons, heals the sick, makes the lame to walk, and makes the blind to see.  I wonder if she immediately knew she was going to find Jesus or if she was scared to even get her hopes up?  I wonder if she would have believed had she not been so desperate?

When Jesus and the disciples returned to the Galilean side of the sea, they were welcomed by a large crowd of people.  As they walked through the narrow streets, people were everywhere.  They pressed in on Him.  The crowds were smothering.

No one noticed the woman following, keeping her distance.  For her to be there was risky.  She was suppose to yell "unclean" if anyone got near her so not to defile them.  But she couldn't help herself.  She showed up expectant and was determined to touch his robe.

She acted on what she heard about Jesus, what she believed about Jesus.
And when He walked by, she reached out and touched the hem of his garment.

"And immediately the flow of blood dried up,
and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease."
{Mark 5:29}

Then all of the sudden, Jesus stopped…

"Who touched my garment?'"
{Mark 5:30b}

The disciples basically start reminding Jesus that He is surrounded by a crowd of people, all who are pressing in on them.  All touching Him, yet all denying that it was them.

But Jesus insists…

"Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me."
{Luke 8:46}

Jesus' desire to know who touched Him was stronger and more persistent than the woman's desire to touch Jesus.  Jesus wants to encounter the woman!  He wanted to meet the woman whose faith resulted in a miracle!

And this is where my head spins.

There were people all around Jesus.  Leaning on Him.  Touching Him.  There is no way in a crowd that large that the woman was the only one who needed a fresh touch from Jesus.  And yet, power didn't leave Him when the crowd pressed in.  They were in the presence of Jesus but they did not have a single encounter with Him.

And God keeps reminding me…I get to choose.
I can be the crowd or I can be the woman.
But it all starts with me.

Do I come expectant?

How many of us go to church every Sunday, but we don't go expectant?
We stand and sit in the crowd, in the presence of Jesus, and leave without ever encountering Him.  We press in, we raise our hands, but don't actually expect to leave changed, to leave different.  Some have even decided it's not worth the trouble so we just stay home and watch church online.  

No matter where God has planted me, I am to come expectant every Sunday.
If Jesus is going to show up and encounter someone, I want it to be me!

I am choosing to come expectant.

Not expectant of the music being what I want.
Not expectant of the pastor preaching the way I like.
Not expectant of the church bending to my wants and desires.

When I come to church expecting anything but a touch and encounter with Jesus,
I leave just as broken, desperate, and jacked up as when I walked in the door.

So I am choosing, choosing to come expectant that Jesus is present and wants to speak a fresh Word into my heart and breath life into my soul.