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.