I brushed their teeth with cortisone cream…I am their dad.

I am a dad. Even though that has been true for over 11 years now, it is still hard for me to believe. It is hard to believe that I have been entrusted with caring for and raising 3 precious little people.

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On my 45th birthday with Emily, James, and Andy

 

In many ways I still feel like an irresponsible 20 year old (not that all 20 year olds are irresponsible, but I was) who is still fumbling his way through life. But, now I have a wife of 16 years, an 11 yr old, 8 yr old, and 3 yr old child along for the fumbling.

I have done all kinds of fumbling.

There was that time I fumbled my way through having Emily and James brush their teeth when they were very young. I had just finished bathing them and put the toothpaste on the toothbrush. I told them, “brush your teeth!” As they began, they immediately complained about the taste of the toothpaste. In a tone that was a little too harsh, I said, “It’s just a new flavor! Brush!” They kept complaining. So I grabbed the toothpaste only to notice it wasn’t toothpaste but cortisone cream. Oops. At least, their teeth didn’t itch anymore….

There was also a couple of days ago while fumbling through the potty training my 3 yr old that I grabbed the wrong wipes. Who knew there was difference between flushable baby wipes and bleach disinfectant wipes? Well, I know now and so does Andy.

I have made much bigger fumbles than these for sure! These just make me laugh.

I am a dad.

There are a lot of thing about being a dad that makes me nervous and they all fit under the heading of,

“I wonder how badly I am messing up my children.”

That sounds so negative! But, I am assuming that since I am an imperfect person that my imperfections will be fumbled down to my kids in some way.

I know I could be a much worse dad, but I also know that I am a far from perfect dad. I wonder, when my kids are grown, what they will look back on and say (good and bad) “I learned that from my dad.”

When they get married one day, what good or bad baggage will they carry from me into their understanding of marriage?

When they have kids of their own, what good or bad baggage will they carry from me into their lives as parents?

What will they think about God because of me?

Who knows? But, I know I am the dad that will affect all of those things and many more.

Here are a few things I hope for that I hope are the right things to hope for.
1) That they will see their dad as someone who loves God and walks deeply with Him.
2) That they will see what it looks like to live by faith.
3) That they will see what it looks like to admit you’re wrong and ask for forgiveness.
4) That they will know that their dad is a place of security and peace.
5) That they know they can safely ask their dad anything about anything.
6) That they know that their dad cherishes their mom more than anyone else on the planet.
7) That they will see the joy in life.
8) That they know, even when they are in trouble, that I am never against them.
9) That they know I believe in them.
10)That they know I am genuinely interested in them as people.

I pray that all of those things aren’t just things they see but things that are increasingly true about me, the dad.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture about parenting is Hebrews 11:23,

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”

It may seem like an odd passage but I love what it implies. It shows that Moses’ dad and mom had great faith as parents. They believed so much in the possibility of God for their son that they were willing to do anything, even risk their own lives for sake of Moses’ future. I want that kind of faith in God and belief for my kids.

I am a dad. And, I want to be that kind of dad.

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Spiritually Leading My Wife and Guitar Solos Have Nothing in Common

For some reason, Shelley has stuck it out with me in the CRAZY life that I have lived. She has displayed an immeasurable amount of grace to me as I have tried to learn how lead our family.

I didn’t come into our relationship as the most spiritually sharp man.

Just over a year before we met I was living in Georgia and playing guitar in a small-time rock band. Without going into all that this means, Jesus was not high on my priority list. I was more worried about playing a great guitar solo than anything. I really loved the guys I played with. We had some great times. A couple of them were in my wedding.

Late in the spring of 1996 life changed in an almost dramatic way that is hard to explain. It was fast. I literally went from playing a gig in Athens, Ga. one night to knowing I would be moving into ministry the next. It was crazy! It was confusing.

3 months later I was living in Little Rock, AR (Another dramatic story) serving on the staff of a campus ministry and going to seminary part-time. It was still crazy!

All of that is important because it shows the reality that I was a still a “spiritual baby” when I met Shelley.

Fast forward about year and in walks Shelley Greenwood. “In walks Shelley”, not in a figurative way but in a literal way. She walked into the room and we met. I happened to be playing bass that evening in my church’s band. She noticed the bass player! Again, life changed in a dramatic way.

Going into our relationship, I have memories of how important it was for me to do this right. I didn’t have the best dating track record and I had no desire to waste my time or Shelley’s. I was genuinely nervous.

9 months later we were engaged and it hit me that I was now going to be spiritually responsible for a family. I was intimidated, clueless, nervous, selfish, and spiritually immature (I would have never admitted that last one back then but it was true).

Leading a family and playing a guitar solo don’t have much in common. I knew guitar solos, not spiritually leading a family. I could probably come up with a cool artsy way to make a comparison but it would be a huge stretch. It was time to learn spiritual leadership.

I believe the Bible is clear that the man is called to set the pace of the home. The Apostle Paul even compares the husband’s responsibility to the sacrifice Christ made on the cross when he wrote in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy…”

Give up my life so that Shelley could be more like Christ. Piece of cake, right? I didn’t know what that meant at all. I had to try something but what I wanted didn’t exist.

I wanted a formula that went something like this:

If I can get Shelley to do “A” + “B” then I will = “a good spiritual leader” and our marriage will be like a gloriously played guitar solo. Marriage isn’t like guitar solos or math which is a good thing. I am terrible at math.

My first attempt at the guitar solo of spiritually leading my wife (see, the guitar solo analogy isn’t working, but thought I would try) looked something like this:
“Shelley, you need to do this …..”
“Shelley, you should read this….”
“Shelley, have you…..”

I was buying her devotional books, Christian cd’s, T-shirts….all the things you need, so I thought. Not that those are bad but I was missing it.

I was treating her like student in a classroom, not like a wife on a life-long journey. I didn’t mean harm but I wasn’t helping her move towards Christ at all.

Shelley did not like it and I was frustrated.

I realized that I needed to back off. I wasn’t giving up but I needed to stop forcing the guitar solo (still trying).

In walks the grace of God. Somehow by God’s grace I stumbled into something that is probably obvious to most.

The most loving and leading thing I can do is give her a spiritual example that she would want to follow.

If I will do that one thing, then everything else seems to fall into place.

• If I am committed to walking with God daily in the Word and prayer, it encourages Shelley to do the same.
• If I choose to act selflessly towards her and our children, it encourages her to do the same.
• If I am open about what God is teaching me, then she is encouraged to be open about what God is teaching her.
• If I take steps of faith, it encourages her to take steps of faith.
• If I am the first to admit a wrong and ask for forgiveness, then she is more open to admit wrongs and ask forgiveness.

Now, there are times when I need to be graciously direct with statements like, “you need to…” but they are few a far between. Hopefully they come from a place of love where I have shown her the way before commanding the way.

The bottom line is that for me to spiritually lead Shelley, I need to pursue to follow Jesus with all that I am. That one thing will set the stage for everything.

God, through Shelley, has taught me more than I could imagine about leading my family and I know I am still a beginner guitar student in the school of leading her. I am thankful she has stuck it out with me.

“The Time Between the Time” or “Last Night We Talked About Owning a Motorhome”

Shelley and I met in August of 1997 and started dating a month later. We were engaged the following June and then married in December 1998. Or to put it another way, we didn’t really know each other when we got married.

But, I can honestly say that Shelley is my best friend. We have way too many goofy nicknames for each other. There is no one I would rather go on an adventure with. There is no one I like to laugh with more. There is no one I trust more. There is no one I enjoy talking with more.

We can sit and do absolutely nothing together and enjoy every minute of it.

Shelley is my best friend. Or, in the lingo of the day we are BFF’s…

I believe our friendship is a gift of God. I was not near wise enough when we got married to know how to nurture and preserve our amazing friendship. But, looking back I see a few things that God has graciously led us to that are vital.

One of those is how we treat our time together.

Friendship, even in marriage, is built on trust and intimacy and those come through time together. They come through taking the time to focus as much as possible on the life and interests of the other person.

We are extremely protective of our time together.

Like most people, our lives are crazy busy and are getting busier by the year. But, somehow early in our marriage we stumbled into being very conscious and intentional about carving out time for just the two of us.

That may seem like a no brainer but with the craziness of life with 3 kids, it would much easier to let a lot of life pass by without the two of us getting time for us (See I Made Shelley Cry at Cheesecake Factory).

One way we that we became intentional about our time was almost an accident in the beginning. When our daughter Emily was born, Shelley worked hard to get her on a schedule. This meant that when it was time for bed, it was time for bed. Shelley has been that way with all three of our kids.

Because of that we are almost guaranteed a couple of hours every night between when the kids go to bed and when we go to bed. We LOVE those two hours. They are gold to us.

A few years ago I told Shelley, “It is almost like time stops during these couple of hours. The day is over and tomorrow isn’t here yet. It is like the time between time.” As silly as it is, that name stuck, The Time Between the Time.

The Time Between the Time has become sacred to us. It is time when we daily nurture our friendship.

What we do during the Time Between the Time has no set pattern except for the part where I am digging through the cabinets looking for a snack.

Some nights we just sit in silence and relax. Some nights we talk about serious stuff. There was one stretch a few years ago when as soon as the kids were in bed we would play Wii golf and eat an ice-cream bar. But, while playing, we would check in on each other’s lives. We would talk about our day, our kids, decisions we were making or anything that need to be worked through with each other. I also dominated her at Wii golf….

I think about so many different big conversations that happened in the Time Between the Time.

Just over a year ago, while watching Clemson get destroyed by FSU, we began talking about the possibility of moving overseas (We moved to Fort Smith, AR instead…). One night a couple of years ago, Shelley talked me off the ledge of going back to school to get a doctorate. A year before that we spent many evenings working through the process of our adoption. The list goes on. There are also times when we need to wait until the Time Between the Time to talk through things we aren’t seeing eye-to eye on. I also think about all the nights where we just sat in silence with one another, enjoying the peace of the end of the day.

Some evenings we enjoy that time so much that I will jokingly say. “Let’s order some pizzas and just stay up all night.” At one time Shelley actually bought a few frozen pizzas and had them in the freezer just in case.

Now, we look forward to the time every day. If we are having a particularly draining day we will simply say over the phone “TBT. TBT”. (That’s initials for Time Between the Time, if you didn’t catch that.) I know it’s goofy but it is little way of saying, “We have our time coming.”

We know that it will get tougher as our kids get older, but we have the time now and we will protect it.

Every marriage and family is different. I certainly don’t think that every couple needs to do exactly what we do. But I do believe that we all need to find a way to nurture our friendship. As hard as it is to imagine, there will come a day when all of our kids are gone and it will just be the two of us. When that day comes I want to know that I have done everything to make sure she is still my BFF.

By the way, last night during the TBT, we talked about how fun it would be to own a motorhome….

I Bought Our First House so Shelley Could Get a Dog

Marriage sets the stage for great stories that bring about great laughter. I love when Shelley and I laugh together about the silly day-to-day things. But even more fun are the stories that make it “ok” for us to laugh at each other. If you can’t take being laughed at from time to time, you probably shouldn’t get married.

I have given Shelley plenty of ammo for laughter and it started early in our marriage.

From the very beginning of our relationship Shelley wanted a dog. A big dog. One she could hug and snuggle. She wanted one so much that when we were out on dates we would go the bookstore and just look at dog books. She would smile and laugh and “pet” the dogs in the books. We, and I will include myself here, were set on getting two labs. One yellow and one black whom we would name Pete and Otis. Otis has never happened.

During the first 2 years of our marriage we lived in apartments so we didn’t have a dog. Then, in the fall of 2001 we decided it was time to get serious about acquiring man’s best friend so we bought a house. We bought a house so Shelley could get her dog.

Enter, Sleepy Pete Hunt, the Yellow Lab. We brought him home at 8 weeks old. Shelley had her dog.

Pete’s first day home. 8 weeks old and 8lbs.

During his first year he gained 90 lbs. Now Shelley had her big dog.

Pete at 1 yr old getting his hugs.

What we didn’t see coming was a move from Little Rock to Boston. We would be living in an apartment in the city. I was certain we would never find a place that would take us and our 98lb. dog, Pete. I mean, Shelley’s dog.

So, I convinced Shelley that we needed to find a new home for Pete and I had the perfect place in mind. I called my brother in Atlanta, explained the situation, and he didn’t hesitate to say yes. My plan was coming together nicely. Pete would have a new home with another dog, two kids, my sister in-law to love on him (she is an extreme dog lover) and we would still get to see Pete a couple of times a year. In the words of Hannibal Smith from The A team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

One thing that I greatly underestimated was how attached I had become to “Shelley’s dog.” As we said goodbye to Pete to drive home, I cried. Not just a few tears but the real thing. Then off and on for 10 hours on the drive home, I cried.

Surely I will be fine in a day or so…..not so much.

I hated not having “Shelley’s dog” around. I missed Pete.

So what does it look like for a 33 year old man to miss his dog? I mean his wife’s dog….

Well, when I would get home from work I would walk in the back yard and stare at the spot where Pete used to lay. I wouldn’t touch it because I wanted his imprint in the ground to be preserved. I carried around a picture of Pete and would set it up on my computer at work. Then at night I would cry while talking about how I missed the sound of his feet shuffling on the hardwood floors. Then I would cry myself to sleep. I know what you are thinking, “are you a girl?” “It’s just a dog”. I know. I was saying the same things to myself.

At first Shelley was sympathetic. She cried too and don’t ever let her tell you otherwise! But by the third night of all of this she was done. As I was crying that night, she says, “I am sorry you’re having a hard time, but I’m going to sleep.” She was not laughing.

I was now officially all alone in my misery. Just me and my picture of Pete.

On Wednesday, my full proof plan to give “Shelley’s dog” away took a new turn. I decided to go back and get him. So, I called my brother and sheepishly asked, “Are your kids so attached to Pete that it is too late for me to come and get him back?” That’s right. Not only did I give my wife’s dog away, I was now about to take him out of the life of a 2 year old and 5 year old child.

Now, one week after we had driven 10 hours to Atlanta to give Pete away I was now driving my sick, pregnant wife back to Atlanta to bring “her dog” home. When we arrived at my brother’s house I was so glad to see “Shelley’s dog.” And he was glad to see us. I have never before nor since seen a 100lb lab jump so high do a complete 360! My sister-in-law, well, we didn’t talk much that weekend.

I took Pete home and we ended up having no trouble finding an apartment in Boston.

It didn’t take much time after all of this that Shelley began laughing. She had every right. What could I do?

Fast forward to today and Pete is still hanging around. He doesn’t jump so high any more. He smells bad. He barks a lot (He is actually barking right now). He basically adds no value to the world….I am glad he is Shelley’s dog.

Sleepy Pete today.

Not much time goes by without this story making its way into conversation. Shelley laughs at me, other people laugh at me, and I try to take it like a man who acted like a girl with his wife’s dog. I completely accept the fact that I earned the right to be laughed at by my wife.

Enjoy the laughter that your marriage creates.

Oh, today is Pete’s birthday. Happy 13th Pete. Thanks for the laugh.

Happy Birthday Pete.

My Biggest Fan, Even When I Wanted to Quit and Buy a Hotdog Cart

As much as I hate to admit it, I am not the perfect husband, dad, or leader of my family. I get tired and selfish. I can be grumpy. I get distracted. I can and have failed. The beautiful thing is that Shelley has never stopped believing in me and being my biggest fan.   (see 16 Things for 16 Years)

I know she has gotten frustrated and mad but I also know she is on my side. I have never questioned that.

Several years ago I got really tired and weak. During that time I was offered an opportunity in ministry that seemed like a great thing. It was more money, closer to family, in a growing church and honestly seemed like it would be easier than what I was doing. Like I said, I was tired and weak and you could add on to that, foolish.

Now I could write about how poorly I handled the decision making process but that is for another day. The bottom line was that I made a bad decision and moved my family across the country when we should have stayed where we were.

As a result, I hurt a lot of people, I was miserable, and my family paid the price.

To be fair, not everything in my life was bad after we moved. There were good moments with some amazing people who will be friends for life. I believe those friends were part of God’s grace that helped sustain me.

When I was in thick of confusion and frustration, I had lost confidence in my ability to know what was right for our family’s future. I knew we needed a change and a big part of me just wanted to quit ministry. I joked a lot back then about throwing in the towel and buying a hotdog cart. Desperate times.

There were a few people in my life who knew that I was not doing well but it was Shelley who knew the real struggle in my soul. I spent a solid two years of having no idea how to lead my family. I was not good.

Shelley had to live with a depressed, insecure, and confused husband. I know it was tough on her. But, it was her constant love during that time that carried me through and helped us discover what God wanted.

God does work all things together for the good of those that love him (Romans 8:28), and in this situation He used Shelley to help me find what was good.

This was a hard journey for me as a man but I learned some amazing lessons from how Shelley loved me.

1) As a man, it is more than “ok” to be weak and lean on the strength of your wife.
It is actually not only “ok” to be weak but it is right. I don’t ever have to put on a front that I can handle moments like this on my own. If I do that, things will only get worse. Husband and wife are meant to be “one” and oneness can be beautifully expressed when one of us is going through a rough stretch.

2) Marriage should be a place where grace is always found.
It would have been easy for Shelley to hold a grudge. She could have rightfully told me to get my act together. After all, I let our family down and she was feeling the brunt of it. But, I remember time and time again during that stretch when Shelley would encourage me, be a place of rest for me, talk sense into me, and listen to me. She NEVER complained to me about me. She was a wife of grace and as a result we grew closer.

This was one of those seasons when I knew that Shelley would be my biggest fan even in my worst moments.

What a beautiful thing to learn.

I guess the hotdog cart will wait.

I Made Shelley Cry at Cheesecake Factory and it Changed Our Marriage

We have never had a bad year. That is the truth. There have been moments that were hard or stressful but there has never been a time when we have fought a lot. She gets the credit for that. I have given her plenty of reasons for us to have bad years!

There was one time when I made Shelley cry at Cheesecake Factory in downtown Boston. We had been married 5 years and Emily, our first born, was about 4 months old. About 8 months earlier we had moved from Little Rock, AR. to Boston, MA. to start a church. Life was crazy and fast. Everything was different.

So, we were out on a date one night at Cheesecake Factory and I asked Shelley, “How are you doing”? I wasn’t necessarily trying to start a deep conversation but almost instantly she began to weep right into her cashew chicken. Uh Oh.

The conversation that took place at the moment changed our marriage forever.

As we talked, I realized that through the stress of life, though everything was basically ok, I had done a poor job of really knowing what was going on in Shelley’s heart. I wasn’t loving here well. I was pretty much clueless.

One would think that I would have the sense enough to know that the move, pregnancy, being a mom for the first time, starting a church in our house, and living 1000 miles away from the nearest family would have a HUGE effect on Shelley’s heart. You would think that I would have a clue that I would need to pay better attention to her. That says a lot about me!

That moment taught me a huge lesson about being a husband. As life changes we change. As we change we need to learn to love differently. We should never believe that we are done learning to love our spouse.

It was time for me to learn how to be a better husband by learning to listen better to her life. So we started having an intentional conversation every month that has been amazing for our marriage. At first it was hard but over time has grown into sweet moments of intimacy for us.

To make it work we had to come up with rules for the talk. We wanted it to be a healthy conversation and not an argument. Here are the rules we set.

1) Each of us got a turn to talk.
2) We had to be honest (of course) and specific.
3) We had to listen and NOT defend ourselves if we heard something we didn’t like.
4) We had to commit to doing better and helping each other along the way.

Then we would ask each other questions like these.

1) Is there anything that you need from me that you are not receiving?
2) Am I doing or saying anything to you that you do not like?
3) Am I giving you the attention you need?
4) Is there anything going on with you that I need to know about so that I can love you better?

At first these conversations could be a little scary but over time they became amazing times of encouragement and love. Now, we don’t have to schedule those conversations. They just happen along the way of life.

Even though that moment in Cheesecake Factory was hard, I am extremely thankful that it happened. That changed our marriage more than any other conversation we have ever had.

These conversations have shown me over and over what a loving wife I have. She listens. She encourages. She speaks truth. She loves me well even when I am clueless.

16 Things for 16 Years

16 Things I Have Loved About Being Married to Shelley for 16 years

The life I have is so much greater than the one I have earned. There is no greater proof for that than the wife I have. Today is mine and Shelley’s 16th wedding anniversary and the years have flown by! I pray I will never take her for granted.

There are many more things I could write but for the sake of being clever I will keep it at 16.

I can’t think of a much better way to start this personal blog than writing a little about the most amazing person on the planet, Shelley Greenwood Hunt. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

So here are 16 things, in no certain order, that I have loved about being married to Shelley.
1) She has been my biggest fan, even in my worst seasons.
2) She laughs with me and at me if necessary….
3) We have the complete freedom to speak both the fun and not so fun truth to each other.
4) I love to look at her! She is beautiful. It probably gets on her nerves at times….
5) We are best friends. That is not cliche thing either. We really are!
6) She is always a place of rest and encouragement for me.
7) We are still learning about each other.
8) For some reason, she has stuck it out with me in the CRAZY life that we have lived.
9) I have never questioned whether or not she respects and believes in me.
10) She has been an amazing mom to our children.
11) She has treated me with selfless love.
12) We can sit and do absolutely nothing together and enjoy every minute of it.
13) She has put up with my mess…the literal mess I leave around the house.
14) She has never asked or expected me to not be me.
15) She always pursues to be the kind of wife that would make God happy.
16) We have never had a “bad” year…honestly.

What a great 16 years! I told my two older kids today that I pray they will one day be blessed to have the kind of spouse that I have in their mom. I love you Shelley!

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