Category Archives: Parenting

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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Happy Birthday, Mamay!

Today is Mamay’s birthday. This adorable boy is nine years old and I’m so proud of who he is.

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He lives in a small village in Haiti where life expectancy is 49 years, annual income averages $400 (making it the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere), literacy rate hovers at 45% and unemployment is stagnant at 40%.

But this boy wakes up with purpose each day as he puts on his school uniform, sits in a classroom, is fed a meal, and learns. He is learning. He is receiving an education that will help pull him and his family out of the despair of impoverishment.

Jared Bernstein is an economist and senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and he says “economists may disagree a lot on policy, but we all agree on the ‘education premium’ — the earnings boost associated with more education.”

Education is a key to eradicating poverty. And we have the privilege of sending this precious child to school through sponsorship at Mission of Hope.
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One of my most holy moments was when I met Mamay for the first time.
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Sweet, shy, funny, creative Mamay. We were both a bit overwhelmed by the experience, but Jesus met us there and helped form a bond that stretches over an ocean. Every letter we get from him has a picture.
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(Note to self, send more drawing supplies!)

He’s quite the artist! Just like my husband, which is special. See, he’s become a part of our family.

We’re taking the kids to serve at Mission of Hope in October so that they and my husband will also have the awesome opportunity to get a Mamay hug, maybe kick the soccer ball around, sit in his classroom and just be with him for a bit. He’s a special kid.

If you want to make a difference in another special kid’s life, consider sponsorship. Pray about it. Please. And see what starts to happen.

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.

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!

Words matter

Words have power. Words can build us up or tear us down. Words move us and inspire us. Words can hurt us but also heal us. Words educate us. And mislead us. With words, we can tell someone what they mean to us. I love words. Words matter.

“Articulate” is one of my favorite words. I appreciate the strong consonant sounds. I also use it a lot in conversation with my nine year old, as in, asking him to do it.

I love that my seven year old still says “lemolade”. I hope she never figures it out.

Words have an emotional connection.

Do you remember the first time someone said “I love you”? Just words, but oh, so much more.

I do not think there are bad words. Some parents may disagree, but please listen to my words on this. I think there are age appropriate words. I think there are words that more intelligently make a point. I think there are words that build us up and those are the important ones. I teach my children to choose their words carefully. To think of the point they want to make and take advantage of our vast vocabulary to best make it. I explain what words are and why they are used. Just recently we had a drive-to-school conversation about how a DAM creates a water reservoir but DAMN is a word that condemns or denounces something or someone. All because of Bruno Mars. I hear the afore mentioned seven year old singing along to Uptown Funk (because who doesn’t?) and thought it best she and her brother understand why singing “I’m too hot, hot damn” at school probably wasn’t the best choice for the day. By explaining why, instead of just saying don’t do it, I was respecting the word and them. Neither have said it since. But one day they might. One day “damn” might be the best word to use in a situation. I want them to know all the words so that they can choose wisely. I trust them. Trust is another great word.

My point is this, use words to teach your children how to use words. Take advantage of Bruno Mars moments. Because words matter.

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