I'm visiting my sister's family in Colorado, a small town outside Castle Rock, halfway between Denver (site of the Democratic Convention) and Colorado Springs (Ground Zero for Dobson and Evangelicalism: the Politics). Nancy's house is decidedly Republican. They are the good kind who are pro-life, anti-big government. They believe in home schooling, organic gardening, taking care of the weak and feeble (my mom) and T1 high speed Internet.
There's nothing like little kids to make you feel like you have a fan base. I haven't been back here since Thanksgiving 2006, and we only got a couple days time. Larry is back in LA and will arrive on Christmas Eve.
We had good reason to believe my mother might not make it to Christmas 2009. She got severely ill a few weeks ago, and it looked like it was time to put her in a convalescent home: something none of us wanted to happen. After a few colon hydrotherapy sessions (try explaining to a weak, 85 year old woman with vascular dementia why she has a hose up her rear. Not fun). But Mom is OK. As OK as an 85-year old woman with vascular dementia could be.
I came early to help out, play babysitter while Nancy's family went out and did the kinds of things they haven't been able to do, having to watch mom 24/7. They went down to the Springs for Phill's office party. Last Friday the children participated in a reader's theater of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. They rehearsed all day and then Mom and I joined them. They failed to mention that all three performances were outdoors. In 10 ˚F. Mom stayed in the coffee house. The kids were great. Matthew is 15 and is a debate master. Right now he's working on his Apologetics debate speech. He's reading Matthew Henry and Martin Luther.
Emily is 12 and is a born actress. She can do most any accent imaginable and has great comedic timing. She and Lizzie, 6, share a small room that is decorated in 6 year old pink. Emily and I are launching a stealth campaign to convince Lizzie that pale aqua and chocolate brown are super cool colors for little girls. We scored a coup a few nights ago: Emily was doing a pastel drawing with the same colors and Lizzie copied her. When Lizzie gave her drawing to me, I gushed on how pretty it was. I suggested she hang it up on her wall. ... and maybe her whole room would look good like that. I looked over at Emily and said, "planting and payoff."
Jonathan turns nine years old two days after Christmas. He played "Max," the Grinch's dog. Jonathan nearly stole the show with his hilarious experessions.
Lizzie, the 6-year-old girl who loves pink, played Cindy Lu Who in the Grinch. She confessed taht she was nervous her first performance, but she got mor comfortable with the audience in the second and third showings. She is bold and daring, Nancy says. She isn't afraid to give hugs or ask serious questions. "Uncle Jim?" She asked my brother pointedly on his last visit .. "Do you like celery?" She knows Larry hates celery. She's just trying to find out the family diversity. She is the perfect antidote to self-absorption and self pity. She asks so many questions, she gets me out of my own head. She is so quick to give, to hug, to love.
I understand how God can love us each individually, and how we can each be his favorite. They're all such great kids.
And they were homeschooled, given strict discipline, lots of love, and a heavy dose of Republican politics.
Phill and I got into a discussion on the way to the Grinch performance. Phill said Obama had the worst voting record ever on abortion, refusing to allow any rights for the unborn. Phill said Obama refused to let any language be added to the partial birth abortion ban ... nothing added so that the ban could be lifted if the mother's life is at stake. Larry said the opposite: that Obama voted against the Partial birth abortion ban because he wanted that clause in there. I don't know which is true. I tried to explain to Phill that Obama comes from an African American constituency where there is runaway teenage pregnancy and poverty; and it's important to understand the lives of people who aren't like us. Not to throw out right to life issues, but at least to have understanding. Phill piped in, "yeah, African Americans have a 50% abortion rate. They are committing genocide on themselves."
I am pro-life, but I also want to put myself in the shoes of others. I'm more akin to thinking, let's reduce the number of abortions. But I also think that should come with putting some restrictions on them, like banning the partial birth abortion which is barbaric and unconscionable, and also making contraception available. But then I have to try to understand people like Phill, too. Rod Dreher said in so many words, "if you were an Abolitionist speaking to a slave owner, you wouldn't say: 'we believe Africans are fully human and have rights like everybody else ... but we want to understand you and your slavery mindset."
But then my tempearance toward Phill grew thin when he brought up gay rights. Forget gay marriage, Phill doesn't even want to give gays domestic partner benefits because a, it's a huge burden on small businesses to grant health benefits and b, he doesn't want to support what he calls an 'immoral lifestyle.' Which made me wonder why we passed the Wall Street bailout.
I wish I could have replied with: "can you refuse to give medical insurance to nonchristians? To muslims, to atheists? And anyone else whose beliefs you disagree with?" But really the point is more like: how can you best demonstrate God's love and grace, who loved us when we were uninterested in him? What if God calls you to love and support someone regardless if they change or not?
Then Sunday came and we heard that sermon, and afterward Phill said he tended to be legalistic. I wanted to shout AMEN then as well. But then, I look down at legalistic people, and I'm being a pharisee myself. So all I can say is, "God have mercy on me, a sinner."
I think about these big-ticket issues, maybe too much. Maybe I worry too much about what people think of me. But anyway it's on my radar. I'm so glad they are no longer in that neo-Amish group, that the kids get to watch DVDs and YouTube with restrictions.
My mom is physically better but she is senile. I forgot what it was like when she was still aware and articulate. Even after she had a stroke we were able to have conversations. Now she struggles to articulate herself when she is aware; and other times she spouts out things and none of us know what she really means. And other times she's NOT clear. She's like a child. When she's up and around it's easy to get frustrated with her childish behavior. But when I go to sleep I feel the weight of that loss.
Anyway that is life in Colorado. It's way different here. I love how beautiful it is. Most of all, I love my sister and her husband and kids. And I love my mom. And I'm aware this may be THE very last Christmas she is with us.
PS: My brother-in law Phill wrote to clarify some of the things he said. I wanted to add his thoughts below:
African Americans do not have a 50% abortion rate overall, but the abortion rate is much higher for African Americans (over 40% for sure) and it is 50% or higher in some communities (e.g. New York City, Detroit). http://bound4life.com/statisticsPhill's beliefs are motivated by his faith; we may not share the exact same opinion on politics or these social issues, but I don't share the exact same opinions as my husband, either. What I appreciated about Phill is, he didn't attack, argue or criticized; he just shared his beliefs in a respectful way. My comment about their former church being 'neo-Amish' kind of stung him as well. But I explained myself. It's a long story, suffice to say I'm glad they're out of that church and so are they. And I really shouldn't have called them neo-Amish.
I'm not trying to "bash" Obama, but his record on abortion to me is horrible. He told the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in 2007 that his 1st act as President would be to pass the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). This act would invalidate almost every restriction on abortion including the partial-birth abortion ban.
Regarding his record in the Illinois State legislature read this article:
I don't like the (article's) focus on "Obama lied," but ... Obama voted against pretty much anything that restricted abortions at all, both in Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate. ... in his 4 yrs. in the U.S. Senate he voted against abortion restrictions every single time. I pray that as President he may re-think his position on these issues and become an advocate for defenseless children. Presidents sometimes change once they are in office.
Finally, I am NOT opposed to offering medical benefits to same sex couples - I am against REQUIRING businesses to offer same sex benefits to its employees. ... If a church, business, small or large, decides that it wants to extend the same medical benefits to homosexual couples as married couples, then that's their right - I'm in favor of business owners having the right to make these decisions, not the bureaucrats in Denver or Washington.
Besides, the Amish are pro-peace. What's wrong with that? ;)