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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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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Purchasing Power

I like to shop. I like pretty things. I like to shop for pretty things. I wear the things and decorate my home with them and give the pretty things away as gifts. And I’m not alone. According to Experian, the typical U.S. household today “shells out $12,800 annually on discretionary expenditures.” We spend more money annually on things we don’t even need than the majority of people earn in a year. Statista research shows “69 percent of the world’s population have a net worth of under $10,000 – they account for a mere 3 percent of global wealth. Meanwhile, 23 percent fall into the $10,000-$100,000 bracket and they control 14 percent of worldwide wealth.” What that means is that “in order to be counted among the wealthiest half of the world’s citizens, a person requires a net worth of $3,650.” You only need to earn $10 a day to be considered rich. And more than a billion people actually live on less than $1 a day.

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Hear my heart, I do not think money is bad. I do not think spending is bad. Remember the pretty things? But I believe there is a responsibility we have to be good stewards of our resources.

We are one global economy and with our spending power, North Americans can make a vast and lasting impact around the world. It’s about the power of partial solutions. A line I stole from the documentary “Living on One Dollar“, which I highly encourage everyone to watch. It’s only an hour and it will do dramatic things to your perspective. It shows you that small incremental changes can have a profound effect.

So let me ask. Where do you buy your pretty things? Target is an acceptable response. 🙂 But what about making a small change with some of your spending power and adding these, as well? These goods are fair trade, handmade; they’re empowering women and bringing entire families out of poverty.

3 Cords: 3 Cords is a social enterprise founded in September 2010 to train, employ, and empower Haitian men and women.  The mission is to provide opportunities for physically handicapped  women and men, and to show them that they are both beautiful and valuable.  Products include hair cords, purses and bags and accessories.

Funky Fish Designs: Paper bead jewelry made in Uganda by the Women of Destiny. Funky Fish supports orphans, those that are HIV positive and uses profits to support adoptive families, as well. It’s not just jewelry, it’s a ministry.

Haiti’s Jewels: Another social enterprise in Haiti, they partner with Haitian artist to design, produce and sell beautiful jewelry using materials like recycled aluminum, hand-cut goat leather, natural Haitian sees, stones, coconut husk and recycled glass. As Haitians develop professional artisan skills the buy land, provide food and shelter and an education for their children, pay medical bills, start their own businesses, make positive change in their communities and support their local economy.

Karama: Karama believes in dignity for everyone and believes that much of that dignity comes through creative, purposeful work. So its mission is to provide a market for high quality handcrafted African products and to build relationships with African artisans and businesses. They partner with small local African businesses and assist them in financing, designing and marketing their products in the US, things such as apparel, handbags, jewelry, home accessories and more.

Noonday Collection: Noonday Collection’s mission is to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable. It partners with artisans in the developing world, empowering them to grow sustainable businesses and creating  dignified jobs at living wages. Noonday also donates a portion of sales from adoption trunk shows to place orphans in forever families. Check out their jewelry and accessories.

Raven + Lily: Raven + Lily currently helps employ marginalized women in India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cambodia, Pakistan, Guatemala, and the USA at fair trade wages to give them access to a safe job, sustainable income, health care, education, and a real chance to to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. Products include jewelry, gifts, accessories and apparel.

Slum Love Sweater Company: These sweaters are made in Nairobi, Kenya, by people living in one of the world’s largest slums called Kibera. The employees are treated with respect, paid fair wages and given the resources and opportunities they need to provide for themselves and their families.

The Root Collective: The Root Collective partners with small-scale artisan businesses in marginalized communities to promote change through dignified jobs. The artisans, most living in slum communities in Guatemala, own their own businesses and set their own pricing. You’ll find jewelry, accessories and shoes.

Toms: Speaking of shoes, Toms’ One for One program started with footwear and has now expanded to eyewear, apparel and accessories. This is one of the companies that started the trend and has now given away more than 35 millions pairs of shoes to those in need.

ViBella: ViBella is a jewelry company committed to much more than just jewelry. More importantly, they’re committed to providing employment, education, and opportunity to artisans in Haiti, Mexico, and right here in the United States.

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Just a couple of the beautiful women I met at ViBella in Simonette, Haiti.  
 

We all benefit from a flourishing global economy so let’s do our part to make a good and lasting impact.

This is not an exhaustive list, just a few makers of goods I have enjoyed. If you have a company or organization you’d like me to add, find me on Twitter at @kellichuff.

IF:Gathering

I don’t remember how I first heard about IF:Gathering. It was early 2014 and it may have been a friend. It was likely social media. But however it was, I found myself sitting, alone, in front of my computer watching the live stream. Anybody with me? The teaching was on point, the worship moving and the women were simply stunning. Their beauty radiated from within. From God. And still, when buzz started around the 2015 registration, I didn’t make plans to attend. I maybe had a passing “I’ll catch some of that online again if I have time” but it wasn’t real. And then I got an email from Deb.

“Registration for IF is about to open, you wanna go?”

And that’s all it took. Interest and an invitation from a friend and there we were: IF.

I’m so, so very grateful.

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Side note: girls, if you think of a friend, tell them. If you want to do something with a friend, ask them. It means the world.

What is IF? I keep getting that question. It’s really a question itself. IF we believe…? So there’s no one answer. I’m still processing all I experienced but the thoughts that come to mind are:

A gathering place
Honest teaching
A conversation
Worship
Women
Empowerment
Belief
Revival
Ethics
Unity
Inspirational
Too big
Too much
Not enough
A taste of God

Many of my take-aways can be found on Twitter. What can I say? I like to live tweet events. So check it out, but here are some of my favorites:

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So what now? What do we do with this? It’ll be different for each of us, but my prevailing thought is TAKE THIS TO MY PEOPLE. I’m on staff at a church and I want every. single. woman. at Gateway to experience God in this way. So I don’t think I’ll be at IF:Gathering next year. Instead, find me hosting an IF:Local for 2000 of my favorite church ladies.

In the meantime, let’s dig into God’s word. Let’s breathe it in. Live in it. IF was a weekend. A great weekend. But if it’s just that then we dishonor the women who taught us and the God that gave them the words. Let’s take this back to our homes and neighborhoods and churches and grocery stores and schools. Let’s be women of action.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…
{Hebrews 10:22-24}

Hello again

This weekend I attended the IF: Gathering. It’s a beautiful movement that I will talk more about in the coming days, but first, I feel like I should tell everyone where I’ve been the past eight months. I honestly hadn’t realized it had been that long since my last post! For the love, what have I been doing? Well, IF helped me see that it’s time to put keystroke to WordPress once again. I have a voice and there are things I’d like to say. So let’s take it back to June of 2014, when I told you about my experience in Haiti.

One of the things I learned from my Haitian brothers and sisters was how to live completely in the moment and appreciate every. little. thing. I came back with a desire to be fully present in this life God gifted me and I didn’t know how to do that and also observe the moment at the same time. Observation is kind of important to writing and apparently I’m a very bad multi-tasker. So to answer the question what have I been doing? Well, that.

I’ve been living.

  • I started a women’s group where nine strangers are now starting to do life together.
  • I substituted at my kids’ school – and that will take a whole other blog, and maybe counseling , to fully digest.
  • I stepped into a volunteer role at my church where I’m able to use my ability to communicate and connect with others and share the values of our church – and also explain why we do things the way we do. Sometimes it’s takes a lot of explaining, in the best way.
  • I’ve stood in front of thousands and shared my story of meeting our sponsor child so in turn others picked up that call and lives are being changed.
  • I began serving at the food pantry.
  • I date my husband.
  • I have the neighbors over.
  • I’m planning a family trip to Haiti because everyone should find a place not like their own and go there.
  • I’ve walked with friends in the midst of devastation and despair and I’ve seen them come out on the other side.
  • I bought a foosball table.

I’VE LIVED. And now I want to tell you about it. Not because what I’m doing, have done or will do is anything. IT’S NOT. I am nothing. BUT GOD IS. And let’s glorify him together. Let’s live in his presence and then talk about it. Let’s share the good and the ridiculous and the sad and the beautiful and the real. It’s time. It’s time I learn how to multi-task. Thank you IF for shaking me awake. For reminding me there are seasons for everything and my Spring is here. I don’t know where God will lead me, or you, but I’m excited to find out.

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For anyone stopping by here today hoping to check out my professional credentials, you’re probably confused. #sorrynotsorry

This blog started out as a place for me to file my thoughts on culture, employee engagement, leadership and general human resource practices. And those things are still  here. But it’s so much more now and I hope you’ll stick around.

Haiti happy

Y’all, I went to Haiti and back. To all of you who supported me, prayed for me, followed along with me and encouraged me, I thank you. This was a big time moment for me and I couldn’t – and shouldn’t – have done it without you. God created us to live in community and I needed my tribe! 

And now my tribe is just a little bigger. I’ve made friends and shared experiences and seen God move. 

I’m what we call “Haiti happy.”

These people, these people who see death and devastation and desperation every day, are happy. It’s a joy that comes from the Lord, and woah, did I learn from them.

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From Kensley who lost his daughter less than a year ago but still leads youth ministry and shows the love of Christ to children all through Simonette. Kids flock to him because of his loving kindness and silly goodness. It’s beautiful.

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From Analiese who is elderly and paralyzed with no remaining family and relies on the service of her village for every need, asked us to pray for her to have a stronger relationship with God.

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From Joesph who began as a translator for mobile medical units who is now in nursing school, himself. He opened his still earthquake-damaged home to us and it turned into a party!

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His brother, Jacques, is sponsored in school by a friend traveling with me and their connection is precious.

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From Mamay, my family’s sponsored child, who’s sweet shyness won my heart ten times over, who I had to teach how to hug. Jesus met me in that moment.

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From these women, who left their families and jobs and lives to serve in a foreign land. They amaze me.

And Wilkens and Jhonny and Mike and Courtney and Franell and Jack and Chedly and Leonida and Kayla and so many more who have stories and joy and loss and love they shared with me this week. 

My prayer is that as I get back into the rhythm of my life, that I retain this understanding the people of Haiti tend to have – that regardless of circumstance, all things are good and the glory be to God. Which was surprising since Haiti is the “voodoo capital of the world.” But God is doing a great work across the nation and most all I interacted with depended on the creator in ways we in North America don’t.

I realized that when I’m able to strip away the distractions of life, it’s so easy to see the tangible work of God. It’s powerful stuff. Not that the way I live is wrong – believe me, there’s NOTHING wrong with air conditioning and a warm shower after a week without either! It’s just that those things and all of the other things we can get caught up in – work and school and baseball tournaments and sick kids and troubled marriages and broken relationships and grocery shopping and promotions and birthday parties and the list goes on – can’t be where I place my identity. My identity is in Christ and my hope is in Him alone. Knowing and seeing are two different things and I saw it in the villagers in Simonette.

Haiti doesn’t need me, I need Haiti. I need to see how big God is. How loving God is. How mighty God is. Even in the midst of poverty and desperation, God is with us and we are commissioned to be good stewards of our resources, whatever they may be.  

Because poverty is not only about money. In fact, poverty is more often about shame, despair and inferiority. We are all impoverished in some way. And we can help heal the hurting wherever we are. So let’s be Haitian where we live. Let’s invite our neighbors to dinner, serve the refugees in our city, volunteer at our churches, offer to babysit for free, sponsor a child’s school and nutrition. Be like Jesus. Love, mourn, celebrate, and live in community. 

“Peace be with you, as the father sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21

So go!

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Love is a choice

We have Aqua Notes in our shower. Maybe a little TMI but stick with me. It was a fun little Christmas gift for my husband since he’s a creative  director and often has ideas in inconvenient places. Pat me on the back for being so thoughtful. And it’s a gift which he has used for that purpose exactly zero times. Because our kids have filled it up with I Love You notes.  Which is adorable. But this isn’t about that, so stick with me.

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Sure, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to know my kids are moved to express their love for me, their father and sibling in writing. But it’s never brought me to tears. Until this morning.

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Let me translate: “I love you. If I had to pick a family I would say yes to you.”

What moves me is his choice. He doesn’t feel like love, he is choosing love.

Sure, love may start with a feeling and express itself as an emotion, but it needs to move to intentional action if it’s going to last. Because if I were to only be loved by those that feel like loving me, I’d be alone.  I mess up. I mean really. Y’all, I have to apologize after homework nearly every night – just one example among many. And he still chooses to love me! My husband still loves me even when I hurt him. Jesus still loves me even when I sin against him. Think about that. That ultimate choice of love. Beaten, bloody, humiliated and dying on the cross, I highly doubt Jesus felt love for me. But he chose to love me anyway. And in doing so gave the greatest gift of love of all time. My salvation.

And now my calling is to love others. To choose others, even when I don’t feel like it. To show it with action and to express it with words. Like on an Aqua Note. From the heart of a child. Love is a choice. Who are you choosing to love?

Imagination

Imagination. Creative thought. Artistry. Things I’m not particularly skilled in. But like that other thing, I know it when I see it.

Exhibit A.

My kids decide they want to have a backyard movie night to go along with our patio picnic. Knowing we don’t have a projector I didn’t think the idea would go that far, but they did. All it took was some paper, tape, a marker, their dad and a little imagination. From concept to execution, not a minute and a half went by. Before I even knew what was happening we were sitting down to Despicable Me 2. Really. This is the power of imagination.

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They even had movie snacks as they talked through the scene.

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Here’s a close up , which my husband sketched from memory in about .05 seconds.

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For those with creative challenges like me, here’s the movie reference.

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All in all, a great dinner-and-a-movie kind of night. And for me, a great lesson in the value of imagination. Use it, don’t lose it.