Category Archives: Life lessons

It takes a village

I haven’t see my kids since Friday. I won’t make you do math – that’s six days. I dropped them off at my in-laws and didn’t look back. I haven’t talked to them. I haven’t texted, face-timed, emailed or written a letter. I pick them up today and I imagine my son having grown another inch (it’s entirely possible, people) and my baby girl now writing in cursive (or something). Something will have changed in them that I have not been a part of. And that’s ok. We survived this week apart, we all did. In fact, we flourished. The kids built forts and jumped off high dives (just because I didn’t hear from them does not mean I didn’t get in-law updates!). I cleaned out closets, hung out with dear friends and got in three dates with my husband. I truly believe the kids need to learn to function without us (within reason) and just as importantly, we need to make sure we can function without them. Now, it’s not like we’re dropping them off in the wilderness with a flashlight and a can of tuna. They’re at my in-laws where they are lavished with love and spoiled rotten. And they need that, too. They need to know  there are many, many people for them. That Team Huff is bigger than just the four of us. And we’re so blessed because we have family nearby that can support us like this. My parents are just three towns over and the in-laws are just a couple hours away. Y’all, Chad and I started sneaking in weekends away when the kids were infants. As they’ve gotten older the number of days have been able to increase. And it’s such a gift. For all of us! I can talk about the kids needing their grandparents, but y’all, the grandparents soak. it. up. And we get to practice empty-nesting. Because college is just a few short years away. And I want to send out well-loved, confident, independent children into this world.

For those of you living far from family, I get this is a challenge. But I encourage you to engage your community around you, find good friends that can give you and your kids the chance to have independent experiences. Heck, work out a trade and return the favor! And all my single people, one of the greatest gifts you can give your married with kids friends is time. Offer to watch the kiddos for an evening or a weekend and don’t take no for an answer. I think someone once said that it takes a village.

Now excuse me while I stare at the clock, counting down the minutes until I see my beauties again. I think they still look like this.

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Serve

Over the years Chad and I have served in various ways. Served. It’s such a strong and vague word. We’ve served one another. It’s why we say vows because you don’t always feel like it. We’ve taken care of each other when we’re sick, and cooked and cleaned and ran errands and moved and loved and just served each other. You know what it’s like. We’ve served our family and friends. We’ve babysat others’ kids and are listed emergency contacts. We’ve set up care calendars and taken chocolate – or beer – to friends after break ups and lay offs. We’ve sat in hospital rooms. We’ve cried and laughed and served others. We’ve served non-profits with our time, energy and efforts. We’re parents so that’s a lifetime of servitude. We’ve served our church. We each have gifts and abilities and we’ve been generous in sharing those and supporting one another in those endeavors. But you know what? We haven’t ever served our church together. We’ve served together. We’ve worked at events together. But it wasn’t until this year we committed to serving at our church together. We stand at the main doors to our auditorium and we pass out programs. We say hi. We smile. We answer questions when we can. It takes very little time and effort, but it’s important. We look over at one another, our eyes meet, and we know we’re in this together.

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We’re loving it! And what’s crazy, is that we get so many comments from folks noticing our togetherness. Is it so rare? I hope not. But again, it’s taken us 13 years to figure it out. So here’s my encouragement to you. Find something you and the main person in your life can do in service together. That’s it. But if my word’s not good enough for you, check out this message series on the impact serving can have, not on those you’re serving, but on yourself.

You Are Here: Do Something by John Burke

You Are Here: Say Yes by Kenny Conley

You Are Here: Make A Difference by Kenny Conley

When you want to say yes

I said no to something this week I really wanted to say yes to. Worse than that, it’s something I initially thought I could do then had to bow out. I hate that. I hate disappointing people. Ever been there?

If I’m not careful, I can start to believe my identity rests in what others think of me. I’m a people pleaser. And that’s ok. I like being nice. It’s how I’m made. But I need to remember that this quality comes from God and that my identity comes from him, as well. So as much as I regret disappointing a friend, she’d even agree that not following a prompting from the father would be an even greater disappointment.

That prompting is to breathe. To rest and wait. To let him pick the opportunity. That’s my word this year. Opportunity. And I’m a doer. So I just started saying yes to everything. That was my response. But if I’m not saying yes to the right things then I’m still in disobedience.

My verse I’m meditating on this year is 2 Corinthians 13:11.

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I think it’s the maturity part he’s working on right now. And I’m trying to be joyful about it. It’s not always easy.

Anyone else need to do the hard thing? Take a deep breath and say no to something?

I encourage you. We’re in this together.

Fear & Flying

My daughter loves to swing. Like, loves it. Doesn’t care about baby dolls or bicycles. She just wants to swing. Look at that joy!

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She’ll swing for as long as you’ll let her. And as high as she possibly can. Holy moly.

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And it terrifies me. I watch her go up, up, up, higher and higher, and an Oscar-caliber disaster film plays in my head. She loses her grip, tumbles backwards, and breaks her neck. That is, if she even survives. I imagine ambulances and lots of blood. I’m telling you, it’s scary stuff.

It takes all of my willpower to not tell her to slow down, stay lower. I avert my eyes each time I’m about to say “be careful”. I can’t even watch. I am filled with fear.

She’s not. She’s free and having fun. She’s not unaware. We’ve talked about safety and she understands the risk, but she doesn’t let it hold her back. How beautiful is that. She’s embraced the adventure. And that’s who I want her to be. I want her to take risks and chase dreams, be smart and use her brains to accomplish big things. Like touching the top of a tree. Like serving in a foreign land. Like being a good friend. But I also want her safe and protected and whole. She’s my child. There’s such tension there. Being a parent isn’t for sissies.

But I have to remember she’s God’s child more. If I’m going to witness her bloom into her amazing potential, then I need to trust in his mighty protection.

“He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my rescuer. He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.” ‭Psalms‬ ‭144‬:‭2‬ NLT

She won’t be the amazing woman she can be if I’m always telling her to play it safe. So for her sake, and mine, I have to get over my fear and let her fly.

If you want to fly high, my baby girl has a tip for you.

“Close your eyes!”

Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump.

First things first

Raise your hand if you love your smartphone. ME! ME! ME! I even wrote an ode to my phone once. Because it’s more than just a phone, right? In addition to using it as my camera, calculator, TV screen, internet searcher, grocery list keeper, calendar, and more, it’s also my alarm. So it is literally the first thing I reach for in the morning.  And it would be so easy to get sucked into email, Instagram, Facebook, Yahoo News Digest (you should download that if you don’t have it) , etc., first thing. To keep from going down that rabbit hole I’ve made a deal with myself. I’m not allowed to open any other app until I open the bible app. This is an unbreakable vow. So that is what I do first.

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The bible app has a verse of the day and that’s where I’ll begin. I do more, I study more, I read more, but first thing it’s that verse of the day. And oh, I can’t tell you how many times it’s spoken right to my heart. Like this morning.

It’s been a rough week with work stuff, family stuff, stuff stuff.  So I woke up dreading the day. Just feeling tired and worn and grumpy. But my alarm doesn’t know that so it goes off just like it’s any other day. Stupid alarm. I drag myself out of bed, just wishing I could crawl right back in. I know you’ve been there. But, responsibilities. More stuff. So I’m up and I have that deal with myself. I open the app and I read…

“Don’t copy the behavior and the customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NLT

And that gets me to thinking about my ladies. I lead a life group (small group, bible study, home group, whatever you want to call it) and right now we’re telling each other our stories. We’re laying it all out and getting raw and real. And it’s beautiful. I’m so grateful for the trust we have in each other to be confidently vulnerable. I see the unique way God has transformed their lives. They are his and wonderful and perfect. And so with a single verse, my thoughts went from dark and morose to grateful, honoring and joyful. And my whole perspective was changed. “Let God transform  you… by changing the way you think.” Thank you, Jesus. Thank you bible app. I love technology.

If you don’t have the bible app, get it now. It’s free! And it’s even better than Yahoo News.

Unmet Expectations

This is the step-by-step process my brain engages when an experience falls short of my expectations.

  1. Expectation
  2. Expectation not met
  3. Disappointment
  4. Deep breath
  5. Reminder to self that things don’t always go my way
  6. Forced perspective to be open to new possibilities
  7. Attitude adjustment
  8. Move on
I can have this silent conversation with myself in about 7.3 seconds. Except when it comes to my kids. With them I tend to get to step #3 and then chart a new course that involves loud voices and hurt feelings. Is there anyone in your life where you find it hard to adjust when things don’t go as planned? Why is that? Why are our expectations often so unrealistic of some? With my children, I think it’s because I know them so well and know what they are capable of accomplishing. When I feel they’re not living up to their potential, my instinct is to coach and instruct, not love and encourage. And this is can be damaging. To their self esteem, to their abilities and to our relationship.

I’m so very grateful God is a much better parent than I will ever be. How often could he use his loud voice with us? How often do we deserve a time out? But instead of disappointment God offers sacrifice.

My friend Kenny Green spoke on Palm Sunday about expectations. And it did not disappoint. As we prepare this week to celebrate Easter, I encourage you to spend some heart time listening and learning.

Palm Sunday: What Did You Expect? from Gateway Church on Vimeo.

And here is a related reading plan I hope you will enjoy!

Purpose

I’m a work in progress. I get that. I know that. I wrote a whole post on that. But I’m also a task-oriented, high-capacity achiever that isn’t too familiar with the virtue of patience. I like roller coasters and planning the next big thing. If I sit still too long I get twitchy. So after a career that’s spanned broadcast journalism, corporate communications, PR, advertising and human relations, I currently find myself in a ministry season. Woah. Slow your roll. That’s right, folks, I work at a church. The people are wonderful and I get to live out a passionate mission of helping people find Christ. And yet, I still wonder what my purpose is in life. Did I mention I also turn 40 this year? I’ve spent months telling everyone who asks that it’s not a big deal, it’s just a number, that I like birthdays, but I find myself searching for purpose everywhere in all the places. So perhaps I doth protest too much? Whatever the reason, new job, new stage of life, I’ve spent those same months turning to God asking if I’m fulling my purpose in life.

Purpose is a curious thing because it means so many different things to so many different people. Each of our purposes are unique and purpose can be fluid. What I’m called to today may not be what I’m called to tomorrow. But being who I am, it’s the today that I’m seeking answers.

Stick with me. Reflection is good. I’m not very good at it because it takes uninterrupted time and I’m like – squirrel! But our church gives each staff member time for reflection and solitude. In fact, it’s mandatory. I’m on solitude today and I’m so glad I’m forced to do this because as I’m reading through a bible plan on joy, in 3 John 1:4 I hear “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”

Talk about purpose. Thank you, Jesus. Being a mother is intentional. It’s rewarding and full of joy. It’s hard but it’s God’s work. It’s purposeful.

I may not have patience, but God does. Because these things I know. This is not a new discovery, but a gentle reminder. I’m a mom and that’s holy. I’m not only a mom. That is not the whole of my story. I’m also a wife and daughter and sister and friend and leader and co-worker and volunteer and wanna-be writer. But I’m also a mom. And there is purpose in that.

Just yesterday I asked the kids to pray for me as I would be telling that life story to our staff group. Out of the mouths of babes.

Taylor: Lord, help my mom not be nervous when she tells her story today.
Trey: And God, help it make sense and help her explain Jesus good. Amen.

AMEN. These are good kids. They are God’s kids. And Lord, please help me not screw them up.

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Parenting is hard

Parenting is full of love, joy, hilarity and happiness. It’s also hard. This morning was hard. There were words said and tempers on exhibit. But do you know what gets me through when my kids go from this…

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To this…?

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“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” ‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NLT

My kids, in their flaws and insecurities and disobedience, are works of God. They are his masterpiece and he created them perfectly in his image. They do not always behave like him, but you know what? Neither do I. This parenting thing is hard. This parenting thing takes grace. For my kids. For me. Especially for me. Because I do not always do the “good things he planned for me long ago” either. I make mistakes and I have to ask for forgiveness. So how do we keep getting out of bed every morning to do this thing? This seemingly impossible thing? Here are a few ideas I constantly remind myself to practice:

Love ’em.
When I ask my kids if they know why I love them so much they say “because I’m yours.” Drop the mic. That’s all it takes. They’re mine and I love them. Nothing they can do will stop me from loving them. We’ve already established I’m not at all like Jesus, but I kinda get the whole unconditional love thing. We sinned against him, we betrayed him, we murdered him, and he still loved us. That’s how I feel about my kids. They can’t earn my love because they already have it.

Discipline ’em.
But just because I love my kids does not mean I excuse poor behavior. I set expectations and boundaries. The scripture’s clear on this, as well. We like to focus on Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” But keep reading to Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Or what about in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This behavior thing isn’t just on them. We have a responsibility to train our children well. And that is not exclusive of love. It’s in love. Give yourself some credit. You can do both. Which leads me to my third reminder.

Be a model for ’em.
If I want my child to be kind, I need to show kindness. If I want my child to be compassionate, I should be compassionate. If I want my child to forgive, I need to also forgive. If I want my child to play soccer, I need to get in the backyard and play soccer with him. You get the idea. Our behavior influences our children’s behavior. Which is scary because I don’t always want my kids acting like me! But I’d be naive to think they weren’t watching. So let’s do our best to give them something good to see. And when we lose it, and we will, let’s take responsibility for it and talk about it with our kids. Modeling how to repair a relationship is just as important as having a good relationship. I say “I’m sorry” as much as “I love you”.

Pray for ’em.
And to be able to do all of these things, I have to pray. I need strength to get through the day. I need wisdom on how to parent. I seek this through prayer. I need it for myself. I need it for my kids. They need to hear this from me and know they can take all of their burdens to their creator. I need to remember to take all of my burdens to my creator (and not take it out on my kids – you know what I’m talking about 🙂 )

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Parenting is everything and nothing like I thought it would be. Jessica Thompson with Give Them Grace once said something along the lines of “the salvation of your children does not depend on your parenting skills” and thank God for that, right?!  We can do all we can, the best we can, but our child is still their own person with their own experiences and will make their own decisions. And we will not always approve of these decisions. We absolutely won’t. And that’s hard. Parenting is hard. Our kids will go their own way and we’ll have to let them. And pray for them. And love them. And hope for the best.

What has been your greatest parenting challenge? What has been your greatest parenting joy? Hit me up on Twitter and we’ll chat!

Identity

{Dear God, thank you so much for this kid. Thank you for who she is and who you created her to be. Lord, thank you for gifting us with this precious child. Help us have the wisdom to parent her well, to direct her toward the path you have prepared for her. Lord, I pray these strong characteristics you have instilled in her are used for good. I pray, Father, that she only look to you for validation. That she always know her identity is found in you alone.}

Some version of this is prayed over my children every night. They hear this cry every day of their little lives. If they remember nothing else from me – brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, deodorant is not optional, the Spurs are the greatest basketball team, pizza is better than chicken soup when sick – they’ll know this. That their identity is in Christ.

That’s it. That’s the ballgame. If your kids walk away from you with that in their back pocket? Winning.

Of course we’re proud of our kids when they reign supreme in the spelling bee or when they make the game-winning shot or when you see them serving in their community. Or sit still for five minutes! Not pick their nose! And you should be. Be their biggest fan! Be your own biggest fan! Celebrate that promotion. Make that engagement Facebook official. Take the new car out for a spin. But do not believe those things make you who you are. They’re things. They’re events. You’re a person. Your child is a person. God created each of us in his image and with specific and marvelous characteristics. And this is so important to remember. Because jobs can go away and tests are forgotten and flunked and relationships fall apart. But you don’t have to fall apart with it. Your identity is bigger than those things! Your identity is in Christ. Nothing is bigger than that.

Y’all, there’s such freedom in this. I am so glad I’m not the sum of my actions. Aren’t you? I’m not the sum of my sins. I mess up. And God’s grace covers me because I am his. So say that prayer right now. For your kid. For yourself. Your identity is in Christ.
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Living word

I feel God. I’ve experienced God. I live my life for God. But do I hear from God? I love this quotation from Justin Peters:

If you want to hear from God, read your bible.
If you want to hear him audibly,
read it out loud.

So I do. I study and I learn. But I don’t always view the bible as God’s voice.  It can be academic or routine at times. I know it’s life-giving, but I can be dense. So that’s why I love it when God is so unbelievably obvious that even I, in my busy, distracted life, can’t miss it.

Let me tell you a story.

Trey went to his first sleep away camp this winter with our church. He’s grown up in church, understands faith and has accepted Jesus as his savior. Big time moment for us, the best moment a parent can have, but that’s a different story. This story is about him being in third grade, old enough now to attend camp, but still only having the Jesus Storybook as a bible. A great bible, but not a big boy, going-away-to-camp-for-the-first-time bible. So we get him one. He picked out a backpack bible. It’s great, it has a camo cover. He loves it. He loves that Jesus’s words are in red. He loves how thin the pages are. He loves that it’s his. He wrote his name in it. I imagine him holding onto this bible the whole of his life.

But on the first day of getting this bible, he didn’t know what to do with it. So I start to teach him about the bible and its books and authors, explain the table of contents and how to look up scripture. Now let’s be real here. When I say “teach” I mean I’m talking to him about the bible, cooking dinner and helping his sister with homework all at the same time. I don’t want to inflate the moment. It was not a “holy” moment. It was a life moment. And that’s when it happens. He asks me to test him. Give him a scripture to look up. In the busy of that moment, I simply string a name and two numbers together without any conscious thought of what I might be sending him to, or even if that verse existed! I said ahhhhh, Matthew 3:17.

It takes him a minute or two but he finds it. It does exist and do you know what it says? I obviously didn’t, but God did, because I hear my precious boy read out loud:

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Y’all. Time stopped. It got quiet. My husband and I look at each other. My daughter puts her pencil down. I think I burn dinner. I hug my boy. In his first bible, in the very first verse he reads, he hears that he is God’s son and he is pleasing. Boom. God speaks. We hear him.

Sure, the verse in context is referring to God’s only Son, Jesus, and the heavens opening up after he emerges from his baptism. But God’s word is living and in that moment he spoke directly to my son. My kid who has been reading through all of Matthew since. My kid who knows, without a doubt, his identity is in Christ and Christ alone. Because he is loved and God is well pleased.

I cried that night. I’m crying now. Because I needed that reminder just as much as my boy. We all need that reminder. So I hope you’ll remember this. And that it will inspire you to open yourself up to all the ways God is speaking to you. His word is alive. And he is well pleased… with you.

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