This Beautiful Inheritance

Monday, August 31, 2015

Keeping The Most Important Thing The Most Important Thing {#AWBU Recap}

This weekend I traveled to Hot Springs for the fifth annual Arkansas Women Bloggers conference. We stayed at the beautiful Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa and enjoyed the cool history, architecture and ambience the downtown area had to offer. I roomed with my gal pal Amanda Farris and built more real-life connections with people I mostly "knew" online. But of course, we were also there to learn -- to learn our craft, new skills, and ways to take our blogs to the next level.



I sat through multiple workshops and listened as wise old pros poured out wealths of knowledge. I picked up several ideas and set some goals for the future. However, there was one revelation for me that overwhelmed the rest.

This is not the most important thing.

I sat in one session where people were popping off names of their favorite apps, enabling technology to run their lives from sun-up to sundown. They named apps that would wake them up, time their runs, count their calories, plan their meals, publish their blog posts, remind them to drink water, help them meditate, forbid too much social media, save articles for later, edit their photos, watermark their photos, keep their schedules, calm them down, put them to sleep, then wake them up and keep the wheel spinning. I glanced over at Amanda with narrowed eyes and said, "I just want to raise my kids and write a quick blog post at night."

She knowingly nodded and we whispered in agreement we'd never devote the time to our blogs some others could.


On my drive home yesterday I reflected on the keynote talk from the weekend, given by Rhea Lana Liner, CEO of Rhea Lana's national children's consignment sales. This lady inspired me and immediately earned by respect and admiration. She talked about building her company from nothing but a vision and a sense of determination. In 1997, she was a mom with three young children living in Conway, AR and an idea formed in her heart. She desired to add value to women's lives by offering them affordable children's clothing that still looked cute, as well as a way to make money themselves. She hosted her first sale with three racks of clothes in her living room, and today, there are Rhea Lana's consignment events in more than 70 locations nationwide.

She has a remarkable success story, but a couple of things stood out to me about her talk. She explained that the first seven years of her business were a labor of love. Her profits were not huge during that time. They increased slowly and steadily, and she fueled her labor by passion, not greed. These were the years, of course, when her children were young. She pointed out that success in her business could have come much sooner, but she would not sacrifice her family on the altar of success.

The following eleven years, her business skyrocketed. She franchised her company and it has grown substantially every year since. She calls her story the "7/11 Rule." For seven years she worked hard, put her family first, and patiently endured, and for the last eleven years she has reaped the harvest of what she sowed.

I have now been blogging for more than five years. Though it's read and loved by many, it's "small" by anyone's standards. It could be much more than it is and much more widely read if I elevated it to a higher priority and devoted more hours to making it "big." But although I love my little corner of the web and all the opportunities it's given me, it is not my top priority. I have children who are small and need more time and attention than my Google analytics or properly placed words for good SEO. (If that makes no sense to you, don't worry about it. Just keep readin'.) But who knows -- if I keep working hard, putting my family first, and being patient, perhaps one day I'll achieve the success of which I believe I'm capable.


During that session when everyone was popping off names of things that overwhelmed me more than helped, I thought about what my mission was. Why do I blog anyway?

I blog to encourage my people.

Of course there's more to it sometimes, but that's basically it. I blog to encourage and equip and empathize with women who know me and women in my town and neighboring communities who search for meaning in their "ordinary" lives. We all feed kids and work on our marriages and go to church and look for purpose and need others to encourage us along the way. I love the opportunities (and paychecks) blogging has given me, but more than that, I love when people come up to me at church or Dollar General and say how much a post I wrote encouraged them. I love when people message me on Facebook and ask what the best devotional is for their kids or where that camp was where we took our family. It is a privilege to use the little talent I have to bring God some glory, and that is why I blog.

I still respect and admire the women who devote countless hours perfecting and promoting their blogs. There are some true experts and professionals in our Arkansas Women Bloggers tribe, and I'm thankful I have them to learn from. I did pick out and take away a few things from the conference I hope to grow in and implement soon. But my purpose in doing so will always be to better encourage you, the readers, however few of you there may be. :)


*****************
FYI, one new thing I'm trying is Periscope. Follow me please, @kelciehuff! If you're not already on Periscope, it's free to download in the app store on your iPhone and easy to use.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mom Lunch at McDonald's

The FTC requires me to tell you that I am a brand ambassador for McDonald's of Central Arkansas. But mainly, I talk about McDonald's because I (and my kids) love the place.

As you know, I am in full swing as a "school mom." I am still adjusting to the extra freedom and time that comes with the territory, but as I admitted, I'm not hating it. Ha :) Last Tuesday while my oldest was at school and my youngest at Mother's Day Out, I ran over to grab lunch with my friend, Amanda Farris. Y'all should know her by now. We've done two blog series together -- "It's Okay If..." and "Be The Mom" -- but our real life friendship is even better than our one online.


Amanda is homeschooling her kids so we needed a lunch spot where the kids could play and we could chat. Of course we chose McDonald's. (And no, she didn't skip school on Tuesday. They got it all done in the morning and still had time to meet for lunch!)


Aren't her kiddos cute? :) Not a lot of McDonalds still have PlayPlaces so we strategically chose one that did, and it was perfect. The PlayPlace here was huge, clean, and included an eating area so us moms could chat freely and still be in arm's reach of her kids. It even had a bathroom inside the PlayPlace so you didn't have to traipse across the whole restaurant to take your kid to go potty. It worked out really well.

And in case you are wondering what we ate... (no Happy Meals for us)


Artisan grilled chicken sandwich, water, and an Oreo frappe. Yum! Yes, Amanda and I got the same thing. :) I had been wanting to try the Oreo frappe all summer so I finally decided to treat myself. It was so delicious. We couldn't have gotten anything yummier in a coffee shop. Amanda's daughter took one drink of hers, wrinkled her nose at the slight coffee taste, and went back to playing. So there 'ya go, Moms. Get a frappe instead of a McFlurry and you won't have to share!


Amanda and I sipped our frappes and talked about balancing blogs and kids and hobbies and husbands. We asked questions and encouraged each other. It's so nice to have a friend in the same season of life whom you can bounce off thoughts and ideas. (Stay tuned... we're sure to have another blog series come around soon...) This weekend, she and I will be rooming together at the Arkansas Women Bloggers Conference in Hot Springs. I can't wait to learn more and grow friendships and get inspired. I'll tell you all about it when we get back.

Have you had any "Mom Lunches" since the kids have been in school?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Our First Week As A School Family

Eden has had a wonderful first week of Kindergarten. Every day when I pick her up, she gets in the Tahoe smiling ear to ear and obviously proud of herself for being such a big girl. This is such a change for our family. Eden didn't go to preschool and neither of my kids have ever gone anywhere full-time, so this feels like a total lifestyle change for us all.

So far, I'll be honest, I'm liking it. I like having to set my alarm (never thought I'd say that) and put on clothes and get my day started early. I also like the structure and routine that having a school kid requires. There's no messing around any more. I have to think ahead and have groceries on hand and start cooking early and have a real meal for my school girl each night. Her tummy doesn't handle breakfast well in the mornings so I have to fill her up good at night. I also like being forced into early bedtimes. Our family has NEVER had bedtimes and have always let the kids stay up until we went to bed. But getting them in bed earlier allows for some adult quiet time at night which is nice (and has been missed for the last five years!).


On Monday, I did something I have wanted to do for years. I joined a gym. I basically have not worked out since I became a mother of two and for a long time, I had promised myself I would start when I got one in school. I kept my word. This has been really enjoyable as well. In the mornings after Selah and I drop off her sissy, we go to the gym where I get on a treadmill and she watches cartoons. It's usually just us in there (thank you, small town) and it is such a nice way to get the day started. I've also discovered that the treadmill is the *perfect* place to spend time with God. Unconventional, maybe, but I love it. I can read a devotional while I walk and pray while I (briefly) run and it prepares my heart for the day while distracting me from how tired I actually am!

Wednesday I went up to the school to eat lunch with my girl. I enjoyed getting to see her in her new environment, cracking up with her new friends, walking in a single file line, and just being a big kid. They told me she got really upset when I left, so I'm thinking I may not try that again for a while but I look forward to when I can!


Of course, there are adjustments still to be made and things yet to figure out about this "school family" thing. I don't have nearly as much time with my big girl as I'm used to so I have to make the most of the time we do have. Thankfully, she is gracious when we play 20 1,000 questions every afternoon. I'm determined to find out every detail of her day and she does her best to fill me in. I have also started -- at night when I tuck her in -- asking her her "highlight" and "low light" of the day. This has been so enlightening and opened up some great conversations. Her little heart is so pure and tender, and I love getting to discover it piece by piece, question by question, and answer by answer. These are sweet times and I feel blessed to mother her through them.

How has your kids' week at school been?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Why We're Sending Our Daughter to Public School

I remember this time last year (and the year before that) as I watched mama after mama post pictures of her babies walking into that gigantic school. They were decked out in new clothes and big smiles and all I could do was sit glued to my computer and THANK GOD it wasn't us. "I just don't know if I can ever do it!" I remember commenting on one mama's picture. But a year has passed and in just three days, I will do it. I will send my baby off to school.

My five-year-old girl will be attending the exact same public elementary school where I attended for grades K-6. She will walk the same halls, eat in the same "cafetorium," and listen to the same voice read her books in the library. While there's comfort and nostalgia for me in all of this, there is still an understanding that in 20+ years, times have changed, children have changed, and the education system has changed. Those are some of the reasons I have been admittedly dreading this day for a long time. There's a lot to be nervous about.

For the last five years, I have controlled virtually everything in Eden's life. I've monitored and chosen what TV shows she's watched, what books she's read, what people she's been around, what meals she's eaten, and on and on and on. Monday, I will lose some of that control.

If you spend much time in the Blogosphere, you know that everyone has an opinion about the "best" way to school your children, especially if you are a "good Christian mama." I'm going to be real honest with you in this post and tell you the reasons we have chosen to send our daughter to public school. I'm not going to "over-spiritualize" anything, and I'm not going to insinuate that our way is the best way (at least I hope not).


First of all, Eden is going to public school because it's convenient. (I told you I was going to be honest.) We have no private schools in our area, and even if we did, we wouldn't be able to afford them. And the thought of being tied down for the next six or 12 years in order to homeschool her and her sister is overwhelming to say the least. If I'm ever even going to think about adding anymore kiddos to our family I'm going to have to get a couple in school to also stay sane ;).Yes, I would homeschool if we felt it was absolutely by far the best option. But we don't -- at least not yet.

I have told several people recently that we're not "married" to anything. And I like that. Our daughter is going to go to Kindergarten in public school, and I'm hopeful she'll continue there in each grade until she graduates. But if, along the way for any reason, we feel it's not what's best for her, we'll pull her out. We'll make adjustments to home school or change schools and that will be that.

But for now, we're reading our handbook and sealing envelopes with lunch money and praying for the best. And there are a few more reasons why. We want to impact our community. It just makes sense that if you want to make an impact on your community, you have to be involved in it. And although there are other ways to do so, I believe the most practical, natural way to do so (especially in a small town) is by raising up kids in the schools. I've already warned my child's teacher, I'm going to be there a lot. I plan to send snacks for the class, help organize class parties, read to the class, send box tops, and often eat lunch with my daughter. They may get sick of me, but I'm sorry, I'm going to be involved.

I have to give credit to one of my favorite bloggers, Flower Patch Farmgirl, for really revolutionizing my thinking about public school. All three of her kiddos go to a public school marked for high poverty and low test scores. But it is part of what God has called her family to. A couple years ago, God called them to pack up their dream farm house in the country and move to where the people were. They did it. And now every day they put on their shoes, get their hands dirty, and live life with people others wouldn't call "safe." Some might even call it "irresponsible." But they're leading people to Jesus by meeting them where they are.

"Suddenly, the very thought of homeschooling no longer made sense to us. I still liked it in the sense that I loathed reading logs and tabulating minutes and signing forms and remembering (or forgetting) that Wednesday was show-and-tell. But it no longer made sense that we would be called into the heart of the world around us but keep our kids at home. The life we had lived up to that point started pinching our toes. We'd grown weary of a Christian culture that kept to itself and feared the lost. We wanted the heck out. We wanted out because God had called us out, and if He called two of us, He called all five of us. There was no minimum height requirement for his purpose."
-- Shannan Martin, Flower Patch Farmgirl
 
Now, like I said, I'm not going to pretend to be as spiritual as Shannan. Girl's got it going on. But over the last couple of years, she has gotten me thinking about getting out of our "Christian Bubble." And I've asked myself, how will I teach my kids to tell others about Jesus if they never encounter anyone who doesn't know Him? How will I teach them to rely on the Lord when they're lonely or face persecution if I'm always there to provide the comfort? Also, I get a little nervous when I envision what our schools would be like if all Christians chose not to attend. There'd be no salt or light at all.
 
But here's what it boils down to: this is what's best for our family, right now, at this season in our life. It's difficult, and it's a huge change, but it makes sense. I COMPLETELY understand why people homeschool or private school and the option's always on the table for me to one day do the same. I understand the desire to protect our children and not throw them into something they're not ready for -- that's the reason we opted out of preschool and the reason Eden won't be riding the bus. And the reason I prayed hard about what class she would get in. But every single one of these things is my and my husband's prerogative. And you have the right to yours based on your unique family situation and convictions. And as I've said before, I don't judge you.
 
To prove it, I'm teaming up again today with my friend Amanda Farris, who is posting about why she's choosing to homeschool. She is a dear friend of mine, and we both completely understand and support one another. We thought it would be neat to show our readers two sides of this school-choice coin because everyone benefits from greater understanding. Moms, let's root one another on no matter how different our parenting choices, and let's permeate the Blogosphere with a spirit of love and Christ-like unity. Now go read Amanda's post and give her some comment love. :)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pre-Kindergarten Mommy/Daughter Date

Last week I took Eden on a special "Mommy/Daughter" date with just me and her. I can't remember when, if ever this has happened before. Her sister is very "attached" to me (as she likes to call it), and I don't get enough one-on-one time with my big girl. So this was a special thing and especially needed since she is starting Kindergarten in one week!


First, we went to a cute little café called "Two Sisters" that makes homemade chips, homemade cupcakes, and everything else us females love. It was delicious.


While we were there, I gave Eden a gift. It was a new, "big girl" Bible with her name on the front. At first, she told me that she already had a Bible, but I explained to her that she didn't have one like this. This "Adventure Bible" is designed for ages 6-10 and it includes pictures and devotions and kid-friendly answers to life's tough questions. I explained to Eden that once she starts school, she will learn to read! And she will now have a "big girl" Bible that she can read on her own. She was pretty proud of it.


I tried getting into some deep-ish conversation... explaining to Eden that when she's at school, there might be times when she feels upset or lonely or afraid, and in those times there is something she can always do. "Call you?!?" she asked. I smiled and explained to her that that probably wouldn't be an option, but she can ALWAYS talk to God. He will be with her all day every day. I also tried to remind her that there will be some kids in school who do not love or live for Jesus but that she can share Jesus' love with them. She smiled and nodded in agreement, but then wanted to know my favorite "My Little Pony." (Five-year-olds can only handle deep conversation for so long. ;) )

We then went to the mall, where we got Eden's first ever pedicure (and my first in a really long time). She picked out green with sparkles and I picked yellow, and I loved watching her smile and giggle as she got tickled and pampered.

 
 


After our pedicures, we walked around and shopped at the five-year-old's request! I kept asking if she was ready to go and she was all, "Let's just go to one more store!" I think I have a bona fide shopper on my hands, and she did not get that from her mama.


After the mall, we went to Target and munched on popcorn and picked up a few school supplies for my SCHOOL girl. Still can't believe I'm saying that. I am so excited for her in this new journey but will definitely miss having her home every day. This Friday on the blog, I'm going to be talking about sending my girl off to public school. I hope you'll come back to read it. And if you haven't already, take your school kids out for some one-on-one mommy time before school starts! It will be well worth the maneuvering it takes to make it happen.

***FYI, the winner of my "Be The Mom" giveaway is Karen Weido! Congrats Karen. You will receive "Be The Mom" by Tracey Eyster. Please email me for more information.***

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What I Learned About Life From The Swallows On My Porch

I had fought them all spring – the swallows that insisted on building nests on my porch. They’d get their nest started and I’d poke it down with a stick. They would start again – never deterred. Mirrors, plastic bugs, rubber snakes: nothing stopped them. I literally watched out my window as one of the birds pecked at my carefully placed hand mirror (intended to scare him away), knocked it down flat, and proceeded to build his nest right on top of it. I resigned and relented to let nature run its course.

I waited patiently for the eggs I knew they’d soon lay in that nest, and my family and I watched as one day, in late spring, baby birds popped their heads above the rim. They’re here, I thought. As soon as they all fly the coop, I can finally knock down this nest once and for all. I was anxious to stop the accumulating bird poop and to take back ownership of my porch without Mommy and Daddy Swallow darting for my head every time I stepped outside.


We waited for weeks and watched until one day, it appeared all the baby birds had grown out of the nest and left to explore the world. But what was this? Mommy and Daddy bird were still hanging around! I thought for sure this nest was just for egg laying, but these two birds seemed a little too comfortable and had decided to stay. My frustration grew. I gave it a few more weeks and finally decided I had had enough. These birds had found a permanent home and weren’t going anywhere unless they were forced out. So one hot summer day, I went out to sweep my porch, scraped the bird poop, and made the decision to go for it. I had given them long enough but this was my porch and I wanted it back. I picked up my broom, turned it 180 degrees, and began jamming the end of it into the nest atop my wooden post. After a few quick jabs most of the nest had fallen to the ground and I looked toward my feet to examine the damage.

My heart stopped.

My hand covered my mouth, and the rest of me froze.
There on my porch were five of the tiniest, featherless baby birds I had ever seen. They were no bigger than my pinky finger, and they struggled to move as they lay in the wreckage of what had been their home.

“There were babies in it!” I heard the words slip out of my mouth, then I glanced up to make sure no one else was in earshot. I had no idea there was a second set of babies growing in this nest by which I was so annoyed.

What do I do now? The babies laid there, strewn out on my porch, barely moving and severely underdeveloped. They obviously had no chance of survival. I had ripped them from their home, their safe haven, the place where they were fed and nurtured. I felt the hard broom in my hand and, not knowing what else to do, mournfully swept the babies off onto the ground. I prayed silently, “God forgive me. I didn’t know...”
I walked inside the house, still numb, and watched through the window as Mommy and Daddy bird flew back and forth in a panic. I had thoughtlessly and selfishly destroyed life, and I couldn’t help but think of the more than one million human babies destroyed in a similar fashion each year…

They’re tiny. They’re underdeveloped. They couldn’t survive outside the womb. But like those birds struggling on my porch, they’re very much alive. But we ignore the facts and we call it “Pro-choice” because it sounds positive and liberating.
I’ll tell you – there was nothing positive or liberating about the dying birds I saw that day. And there was nothing liberating about choosing to sweep them off my porch (which I had every right to do! It was my porch!). Instead it felt like I’d been punched in the gut and was contradicting every moral code I was born with – we are human beings. We create life. We don’t destroy it.

Yet we do. Every twenty seconds actually. Those who have been there will likely tell you they didn’t feel liberated when their babies were ripped from their wombs and thrown into trash cans. They’ll tell you they will live with those scars forever, and for them, I have compassion.  The people I struggle to sympathize with are those who have never been there themselves but boast of feminism and “reproductive rights” and rally and protest and vote for candidates who will keep these options open.

With them, compassion comes less easily.
Yes, there are situations that are hard. And yes, there are babies who, if born, are going to come into awful situations. But that’s when we work and rally and sacrifice for life-giving options like counseling and adoption and pregnancy resource centers. We don’t support babies being jabbed with the end of a broom and swept off the porch! (or much, much worse actually)

I know how I felt when I saw those soft, innocent birdies struggling at my feet. I can’t imagine how moms must feel who’ve given their children the same fate. May they never go through that grief and sorrow because someone looked them in the eye and told them they had a “woman’s right” to do so.
 
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (emphasis mine)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Buy 1 Kellogg's Product = Get 1 FREE Book!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #Back2SchoolReady #CollectiveBias

It is officially less than two weeks until I'm a School Mom! It seems almost impossible that somehow I have blinked and gone from a baby toting, diaper changing, toddler corralling mom to one who must be disciplined about bedtimes, morning routines, lunch packing and homework. This will be a big transition for our family, yet I am excited about this new season and all the adventures it will bring for my big girl.


She is excited about her new Tinkerbell backpack and lunchbox! I don't intend on letting her take her lunch to school every day, but I know sometimes it will be inevitable as she is a fairly picky eater. So I was excited to recently find out that Kellogg's has a program going on where you get one FREE Scholastic book for every qualifying product you buy!

And there are so many breakfast and lunch packing products to choose from: cereals like Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Raisin Bran, Raisin Bran Crunch, Corn Flakes, Corn Pops, Rice Krispies and Krave, as well as Eggo Waffles, Pop-Tarts, Special K Protein shakes and bars, Nutri-Grain bars, Select Cheez-Its, Select Keebler Cookies, Rice Krispies Treats and Pringles. Buy any ONE of these products and get a FREE book, perfect for gearing up little minds for a year of learning.

We recently picked up a box of Raisin Bran Crunch and a box of blueberry Nutri-Grain bars at Walmart. You can find both of these products in the cereal aisle.


Make sure your Kellogg's product has the "FREE BOOK" label as pictured. Then redeeming them for books is easy.

1.) Visit KelloggsFamilyRewards.com and click "Join Now" to set up an account. (This takes just a couple of minutes.)

2.) Once you've set up an account, click "Enter Code Now" and enter the 16-digit reward code found inside your product packages. However, they are phasing out these in-product codes, so your product may or may not have one. You can also upload a picture of your receipt or text a picture of your receipt if you make your purchase online through Sept. 11. Go to KFR.com/FreeBook for all the details. You must redeem your code for a free Scholastic book within 14 days of product purchase.

3.) Pack your school lunches and wait patiently for your free books (also delivered free of charge)!


As I said, you can also buy Kellogg's products online at Walmart.com and do this whole thing right now, right where you're sitting. (Buy a product online and have it shipped to your house; get the receipt in your email; upload the receipt to KFR.com/FreeBook and pick out your book.)

There are 80 titles of books (and E-books!) available ranging from beginning readers to teens. And did I mention you can also donate books? We ordered one (Peppa Pig) book for our home and one (Lalaloopsy) book to be sent to Eden's new school. The book will be mailed to the school with a note saying it was donated by our family. How cool!

I know you're going to be stocking up your pantry soon for the back to school season, so this program is a win all around. Buy products you would anyway, and stock up your personal and school libraries with free books. Each person can redeem up to 30 books!

Go look around the site now at all the books available. I'd love to hear your favorite. And tell me what else you're doing to get #Back2SchoolReady!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...