Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Until Alzheimer's Do We Part.

Forgive me. I don't usually make such strong and harsh statements about a particular person, at least on my blog. And I certainly don't call out someone for their grave mistakes from a public platform such as this. But this morning, I could not keep my mouth shut any longer.

Pat Robertson has long since been a "voice" for Christianity in the media, both religious and secular. I have also long since hated that he is a representative for Christianity because of his completely erroneous views on Hurricane Katrina being the wrath of God toward homosexuals, September 11th being God's hatred toward America's wayward heart, and worldwide catastrophes such as tsunamis and earthquakes being the world reaping God's judgement and anger.

But seriously, more than how all of the above angers me to my core, his latest idiocy blows my mind. This "man of God," this representative of the Gospel, has publicly stated on his TV show 700 Club, that it's okay to divorce your spouse, should she/he develop Alzheimer's disease and degenerate mentally and physically.

I am not making this up. You can read it by going to this link, if you can stomach it.

Bascially, someone writes into the show, asking what she should tell a friend who is currently dating another woman because "his wife as he knows her is gone" from Alzheimer's. Pat's authoritative response?

"That is a terribly hard thing," Robertson said. "I hate Alzheimer's. It is one of the most awful things because here is a loved one—this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years. And suddenly that person is gone. They're gone. They are gone. So, what he says basically is correct. But I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her."

Pat goes on later to say that the person would be following "'til death do we part" because Alzheimer's is a "kind of death."

(By now, you may be wondering how this ties into Old School Parenting. I'm getting there. Bear with me, please.)

As I write this blog today, I can physically feel a reaction to this man's blatant disregard for life's most sacred union. I actually think my heart is beating a little faster than it was a few minutes ago. Perhaps this is a glimpse of how Jesus felt in the temple that day-- a fury that rose from inside Him because His Father's house was being tarnished by scoundrels and thieves. The anger this stupidity makes me feel stirs my heart for one main reason-

He is tearing away at the very thing Jesus gave His life to save-- families.

Pat Robertson, unfortunately, is in a position of authority in this world. He is recognized by young and old, around the planet as an "official" in Christianity. You may be one of the ones who doesn't recognize him, but the point is, his accessibility on television and Internet (sadly) qualifies him as a presence deserving attention and as a voice of expertise on the Word of God.

We live in a world that is clearly in moral decline. Words like "purity," "virtue," and "integrity" are words that very obviously hold little place in the modern family. Research shows that only 46% of CHRISTIAN adults believe there is a clear, absolute truth. SERIOUSLY? Less than HALF of us???? Ohhhh, wait! This divorce and Alzheimer's thing would fall into this category, because as the Reverend Robertson puts it, "Alzheimer's is a KIND of death." The heart beating, lungs working, stomach growling doesn't pass as living. The mental decline of our faculties qualifies as death. Someone notify all morgues around the world, please.

Sadly, Mr. Robertson is a reflection of a fickle Christianity that has permeated the world with its loose boundaries and guidelines. Thoughts like these are teaching our children that marriage is only in effect when it's convenient to be so. You married a well-bodied, fully functional man... and it's okay to divorce him if he's ever paralyzed or disabled because he can't contribute to your union anymore. Why don't we just shoot the elderly while we're at it?

Parents, please hear my heart. Few things are left that are sacred in this world anymore. Marriage is slowly on the out. Aborting a life is as common as birthing one, depending on the mood the mom is in that day. Promises are made, and rarely kept unless there's a contract with a lawyer enforcing it. It's time for the body of Christ to rise and say ENOUGH. And how do we do that?

By letting our yes mean yes, and our no mean no. When you make a promise to your spouse or your child, keep it at all costs. Children mimic what they see. If they see you being genuine and trustworthy, they won't be able to avoid being the same way.

Treat marriage as the gift it is. For better or for worse means day to day! The exciting, the mundane, the routine, the highs and lows... being committed to each other. But also being committed to build each other up with our words and our actions. Your spouse is your life partner. Meaning, from the altar to your last breath.

Search your heart on issues of morality and absolute truth. Do you know what you believe? Really know? Do you think certain sins are appropriate some times and not in other times? Are you wavering on issues of right and wrong? Is your moral compass broken? Can you even find it? Jesus came to bring us back to God, and as a result, ALL your sins were dealt with at the cross. But that forgiveness does not pardon us from a responsibility to live a life of integrity, both in the light, and in the shadows.

I look at my husband and think of Pat Robertson's words-- and I cringe. How can I look at this man- this man whom I pledged my life, my love, my body, and my faithfulness to for the rest of our lives-- and say to him, "It's all intact unless you lose your ability to love me back." How can I look at the man who has given his blood, sweat, and energy to providing a nice house for me and his children to live in... who has sacrificed his best years to make sure all of my years are my best ones... who has loved me through years of infertility and emotional pain, sat at my bedside while I was in the hospital from my own stupidity... all of this- and tell him, "You're not good enough anymore"?

I hope you feel the anger. Because if you feel it, you'll be stirred to action. To be the best you can be, right where you are.

And that's all the change in the world.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Amazing Kids.


Before you have kids, you know everything. You judge other people's parenting styles and say profound things like, "When I have kids..." Or, "I will NEVER do that." And my favorite is, "Know what I would do? I would..."

Then, a 7lb9oz bundle of humanity enters your life and it hits you like a ton of bricks.

I don't know anything.

So, time moves on. You muddle through the mundane and fly through the fun times, and before you know it, you've got a kid walking across the stage, receiving her diploma from high school. And you hope against all hope you did it right.

I want my children to be amazing. Not just "good kids," and not just "great kids." I want their lives to be NOTHING short of amazing. Now, hear me out, all you "I want everyone to be fair" people. I'm not saying every person isn't amazing. The fact that you are one of two million sperm that met one teeny tiny egg is miraculous alone. The fact that the Creator of the universe numbered the hairs on your head and calls you by His own special name for you is both breathtaking and humbling at the same time. So, yes, we are all "amazing" in His eyes and in our own ways.

But what I'm talking about is raising children who are amazing- which by definition means "To overwhelm with wonder, to bewilder."

I don't know if you've noticed, but there's alot of bewildering behavior from children these days. But like I've said 72,488 times, we have a parent problem, not a child problem in this country. Parents are leaving the school systems, churches, Internet, television, and older siblings to raise their children, all for the sake of the almighty dollar. And as a result, we've got a group of kids who cannot carry on a meaningful conversation with another human being, have no moral compass by which to guide their lives, and are drifting aimlessly the closer they get to adulthood.

This is not amazing. This is sad. This is tragic.

So how then? How do we raise children who overwhelm the world with wonder because of the content of their character? How do we produce children who bewilder others with their style, their grace, their hearts?

1- Spend time parenting them on purpose. Fixing dinner, carpooling all over town, and bedtime routines are non-negotiable parts of most of our lives. However, we can parent on purpose through these moments. As you cook, employ little hands to help you mix it up, and sneak in a life lesson about patience. As you drive to yet another sporting event, find something out the window to talk about that exemplifies the magnificence of the God we serve. When you make a mistake, point it out to your children, and tell them what you did to correct it. Be vigilant about seizing the small moments because the big moments are rare and before you know what happened, life moved on in those small moments and you were on your smartphone.

2- Mandate manners. Manners are SUPER important in this world, believe it or not. I taught children for fifteen years at our church. Know the kids I naturally feel more generous to, more favorable to? The ones who say thank you for a piece of candy. The ones who call me "Miss Jill" instead of "Jill." We make Abi answer with "Yes, ma'ams," and "No sirs" when she is answering us. We make her say, "Yes?" instead of "What?" when we call on her. Know the looks and words of affirmation she gets from the cashier at Publix when she responds with "Yes, ma'am" or asks the man bagging our groceries how his day is on her own initiative? Fact is, where manners are, favor follows. And furthermore, what's wrong with teaching children to respect adults? Lord knows this is a dying virtue. I'm bringing it back. Period.

3- Teach them to go the extra mile. Kids have an innate pattern to do what's expected of them. So, it's up to us to expect their best, to draw the best out of them. Hear what I'm saying... not MORE than they can give. We need to demand WHAT they can give. While Abi is doing her homework, and I can see she's writing sloppily or giving 50% of her best, I literally tell her that I'll throw her homework away and she can start over if she can't give her very best. Sound extreme? Perhaps. But I know the boost she gets when she has done her best and can look at a sheet of paper done neatly and properly, versus one she gave little effort to. Until a child understands the pay-off of doing something right, we have to set them up for the pay-off. They won't do it on their own. But eventually, they'll become addicted to the success.

4- Quit with the handouts. My love language is gifts. So, I have to fight the urge to shower Abi with toys, clothes, and whatever else I can get my hands on. It's just innate to me to show her my love through cute things, fuzzy things, and fun things. But I have to reign it in. Giving her whatever her heart desires may be fun and all, but it's not real life. If she sets her heart on something and wants it badly, me rushing out to make it happen is only perpetuating the entitlement mentality that her generation suffers from. Now, does this mean that everything she gets, she has to work for? No. I'm all about gifts. But with BALANCE. She receives an allowance. Not for chores (though she can earn more money for difficult jobs). It's based on her age, ($1 per year), her attitude (her attitude stinks, she loses dollars), and her general level of responsibility. Then, when she sees that $40 toy, she knows she has about 6 weeks of allowance to save in order to get it. May sound sad, but that's real life, people. I ain't raisin' kids to think they can snap their fingers or pull out a credit card and make things happen.

5- Put God in the center on purpose. Those of us who are "Christians" may think that church is the main obligation we have to our children's spiritual health. Quite the contrary, my dearie. Church is an added tool to their health... it is not the main source. The Bible tells us that they should learn first about God "from their mother's knee." God created Adam, Eve, and the kids that followed. The church didn't come for many years later. This is the model He wanted us to follow! Talk about God's faithfulness as you deposit your paycheck. When a child's crying because of a skinned knee, pray first, THEN Band-Aid. Talk to God outloud when you're looking for a parking spot, then thank Him outloud when you find one. Remind your children of things God has done in your family that proves His might. These stories will die when we do if we don't keep them alive.

6- Create a motto for your child's life and speak it over them daily. Every single day, I speak these words to Abi (sometimes twice a day)- "Thank you, Jesus, that Abi is smart, safe, healthy, kind, and obedient. In Jesus' name, Amen." She says it with me. And lately, I've noticed her attaching it to her bedtime prayer on her own. I want MY voice, telling her what HIS voice says about her to be the loudest voice she hears. Because, in all actuality, there will be days she feels less than amazing. My prayer is that these words I've spoken over her for so long will resonate louder than the voices around her or the voices in her adolescent head.

Raising kids is tough. Raising amazing kids is even tougher. But, you know what? Growing old and gray and realizing that those overwhelmingly wonderful and bewildering kids are a product of our parenting (and the grace of a merciful God) will be worth it all. Guaranteed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Boy.

Ah, pregnancy. So many things I love about it. And I'm not being sarcastic. I love it that while it took two of us to create this new life, I am the only one who can bake the baby. I love it that I have a constant little tiny companion with me, 24/7, for nine whole months. I love it that tiny tappings I've felt a couple of times will soon turn into flops, rolls, and quick turns that will wake me up at all hours of the night. I love it that Abi talks to my tummy everyday and last night, Rod lay his head on my tummy and spoke to his...


This means there's a living, squirming being of testosterone floating around in my womb as I write this, already scheming plans to rule the world with his cousin, Legend. This means my heart is about to be ripped out and wrapped around a tiny finger, the way Rod's was seven and a half years ago. This means... more than I can get my head to process, for sure.

So many things about having a girl I love. I mean-- I LOVE having a daughter. There's a connection a mom has to her daughter that surpasses words. It's living my childhood again through her every day. It's the awareness of how she will "need" me in ways a boy doesn't need his mom-- when she has cramps, when she doesn't understand boys, when she is looking for the perfect dress but can't describe it and I just know what she's saying... It's just, well... nothing short of special.

My world, up to this point, has consisted of Barbies, princesses, Hello Kitty, all things pink, purple and teal, lipgloss, fingernail polish, poofy skirts, days of the week monkey underwear, Squinkies, My Little Pony, and little littles (Abi's word for anything tiny).

So, what do I do with My son? I know. I'll figure it out. I know. Boys love their mamas. I know. Boys are easier than girls in a million ways.

All I know is that I love this little boy. As much as his sister, yet so totally different. So, in keeping true with my pattern, I need to tell my little wooly booger a few things today. Bear with me, please. :-)

Dear Walker,

It's Mom. Your incubator and your whole world right now. I'm the one who feeds you yummy things like Honey Nut Chex cereal and Mike and Ike candy. I also give you the bananas you demand, and take snuggly naps with you as my day allows it.

There's alot of things I need you to know, little man. But we have a lifetime to figure it all out. Right off the bat, I need you to know that I've never raised a boy before. Up to now, I've lived in girl world. I have a sister, a younger girl cousin who's like a little sister, and I am raising YOUR sister. So, I'm just a wave in the sea of estrogen. I'm girl through and through.

I hate reptiles and amphibians. They are not cute and you won't have them as pets in our house. Outside, sure. Garage, pushing it. In your room and it's off with your head. I will pretend to like movies like: Cars, Pirates of the Caribbean, GI Joe, Transformers, and Marvel comic movies. (KEYWORD: PRETEND). I do not care at all about baseball, soccer, or basketball. But for you, I'll become a professional fan. Oh, and I know we touched on the reptile/amphibian issue, but let me be clear. Snakes are evil, gross, and I treat all of them as poisonous, even if they are "grass snakes," "corn snakes," or "black snakes." And if you try to sneak one in the house and I find it, I will chop its head off with no hesitation, even if it's your lifelong pet.

I think, all that said, you and I will get along just fine. I will kiss every boo-boo you ever have. Football season? I'm your girl. I'll make sure you and your entire entourage have more food than you can possibly eat on one game day. In fact, your friends will think food is the language spoken in our home. There'll always be lots of it and good stuff at that.

I will show you how to take care of yourself and not be a total wimp your whole life. That will include things like: cleaning up your mess, putting your gross laundry where it belongs, operating the washer and dryer, clearing off the table, and making your own sandwich when you're hungry. Oh, and this will happen before the age of 10. Much before.

I'm not going to like your girlfriends very much, I'll just tell you that. But I'll play nice because one day, one of those very lucky girls will be your wife and the mother of my grandchildren. In the meantime, I have alot to teach you about girls. But mainly, I have alot to show you about how to attract the RIGHT girl. If you just look for HER, the others won't get in the way so much. And your sister will help with that, too. She's in love with you pretty bad. She'll be your first love. I know it's gross, but trust me. She'll be the prettiest girl you've ever seen for many years. Well, the second prettiest. ;-)

I don't need much from you. Moms are just like that. We give alot and don't ask for much in return. But here's a few things I do ask. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Treat girls with respect, all the time. Rely on your daddy's wisdom because he has more than you'll ever comprehend. Call me and I will always come get you. Kiss me your whole life through. Hold your Gia's hand when you walk with her,even if you're 25. Once you become an adult, don't tell me everything you and Legend did together. Come home every Christmas.

Oh, and one more thing-- Heaven? Just be there.

I love you, Walker Windham. Save this letter. You'll appreciate it one day.