Senior Year Reflection

Some days I wish I had a telepathic thought converter that would take the thoughts that I have and transfer them to a document. It would definitely make writing my blogs so much easier. It seems like I have all these thoughts and experiences that fly through my mind’s eye in a day, and I don’t want to forget any of the details of what I think or remember.

As I move through the seasons of the year, it triggers these memories of the life I have lived and the emotions that flood my being are something too much to communicate or even try to express in any way, so most time they are just held in. Until the right moment presents itself to release them. For me, that is most times when I’m alone, or with my amazing wife, Chrissy.  I think perhaps I do this because it’s a safe environment for me to be me.

One thing I am discovering is that the more I do write, the more I’m letting some of the inner me out. The hard part is that even those who know me are perhaps are seeing a different side to me that most may have never known or seen. This is actually a bit intimidating and at the same time, freeing.

So, what’s with all the self-reflection and such? Over the last few months, Chrissy and I have been through some difficult times…the kind of things that cause everyone who goes through them to question everything, and that is okay. It’s actually has made us think and talk about things that we normally don’t discuss, and that has been good. In the mist of all this, life just keeps going on. It hits me now that we have plans that we have made and committed to rapidly approaching.

For example, a trip we have planned with our entire family is coming up soon. This may not seem to be a big deal, but somehow, we have grown our family to a total of 12 people and I’m sure there will be future additions to that number. Still, that’s a lot of people, especially to go on a trip with! This trip is one of those special trips that Chrissy and I really wanted to have happen. See, this year we have a high school senior in our home. Now, yes, we have had this before- 3 times before to be exact.

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The first child graduating was difficult and thinking about all that goes with your first born moving on to the next phase of their lives with all the unknown things and hopes and dreams you have for them and that they have for themselves. Then they move out, get married and all of a sudden, you’re a grandparent. Whew, looking back that was pretty quick, and before we knew it, we had 2 more graduates, another grandbaby, and another wedding, followed by 2 more grandkids. Talk about a blur. That brings me to the moment of reflection over the final of the four. The baby of the family.

Then it starts to creep in. This will be that last time you will be doing this senior thing. Not only that, but what you have done for the last 27 years is going to change a bit, because all the kids are soon going to be out on their own. Oh, sure they may linger in the nest for a bit longer, and that is all cool. No rush on our part.

What I think is the hardest part is remembering what you have done or not done and not being able to change that at all. If you stay in that place too long, you can start to second guess all you have done and whether or not it was the best for them.

A friend has a jar of marbles on his desk representing the number of weekends he has left before his first-born graduates. This was pretty cool to watch his countdown, but unconsciously I was having my own countdown without the marbles. I lost all mine after kid 2 or 3. (I feel a bit like the Lost Boy “Tootles” from Peter Pan, he lost his marbles too.) I believe that I almost have not wanted to think about this season of life coming, but here it is.

I want to say that I am so very proud of all my kids, what they are doing, and who they are becoming. I’m so impressed with the people they have become and are going to be. People full of God’s love and kindness, people who have courage as well as integrity. One of the best things has been to see how they take care of each other and hold each other accountable to the level of what it really means to be a “Hunter.”

For you Si-guy, my daredevil, the world’s most okay-est barista. I can only start to say how proud I am of you and all that you have accomplished. I am very excited to see where you go and what you do in the coming years. As I have always told you kids, whatever you want to do you can accomplish, just be sure to lay your plans out before the Lord and let Him have the final say on your endeavors. Follow him and walk in His ways. Always keep Him the most important thing in your life.

Stay humble and teachable. Be observant, always seeing what others do and don’t do. This will help you make wise choices. Be bold and passionate about what you believe in, especially when others try to steal your joy and passion about what you believe to be right. Let their words and intentions build you up in a positive way, not letting them destroy or devour you. Those who try to bully or humiliate you are only trying to bring you down to their level because they have a desire be like you in some way, but since they are struggling to make it where to where you are, they try to pull you down to where they are. Be merciful to them, show them love and grace in their ignorance. Still, beware not to fall into the same pit with those you secretly look up to also.

Gather friends to walk with you on this adventure; choose friends that you can trust, ones that will edify you and that are strong in your weak areas, so that they can join you in obtaining your goals. This makes the achievement of the goal you set so much sweeter because you have others surrounding you who genuinely care about you and what you’re working to achieve.

When you outgrow others, don’t be bitter, but be full of compassion and understanding. Stay gentle with an open mind. Keep good boundaries and hold firm to them; good boundaries can protect you from strife and heartache. Breathe deep, experience life and all the beauty that God has place in it for you. Be kind to others and most times they will be kind to you. Always remember where you’re from, and that you are a Hunter, and more importantly, you are a child of the King of Kings.

Always remember:

 

God loves you more than anyone.

Love him more than anything or anyone and love those around you as yourself.

Always be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Do everything that you do for the glory of God.

Your Mom and Dad are proud of you and love you more than anyone ever could!

 

I believe, if you have more than one child, the last is always the one you reflect on the most. You also hope you did all you could to help them be the person God showed you that they could become. Being parent is hard, but it can be the best thing you ever do. Then you become Popz and Abi, and it gets indescribably better!

 

Don’t Be Anxious! Yeah, Right!

As soon as he walked through the door, he knew that something was not right. The house was quiet, too quiet. He called out her name as he looked around and moved through the house. No answer. Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, he listened for a moment, before continuing up the steps and down the hall to the bedroom. Opening the door slowly, he heard the sound of quick short breaths mixed with whimpers. It was the sound of someone hyperventilating. As he walked through the door, he saw on the bed, in a fetal position, his beautiful bride. Her hands clenched over her face, crying uncontrollably. His heart dropped, and he thought, “This is a serious one.” He felt so unequipped to handle this. He went to her asking, “What’s wrong?” She leaned into him, rocking her body back and forth, shaking her head. She sucked in a big breath. Through a quivering exhale, she whispered, “I, I, I, don’t know.”  He asked, “Are you okay?” She shook her head no. He could tell she was trying to get herself under control, but something was paralyzing her, locking her in what seemed to be a state of fear. As he wrapped his arm around her, he lovingly whispered to her, “You’re safe, you’re okay. Slow down your breathing. Breath with me.” He loudly drew slow, long breaths, trying to get her to match his breathing. He silently prayed, “God, please help her. Give her peace, give her your mercy. Cover her with your love.” After what seemed like hours, she slowly calmed down and fell asleep from exhaustion, in his arms. He watched as her body slowly relaxed and released whatever it was that had captured her.

This was not the first time this happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. Each time seemed to get worse. Each time it seemed like it started with a small thought that just got stuck. Most times it was a “what if” or an “I wonder” thought that was a little negative. Like, “I wonder if they like me? I seem invisible to everyone, no one really cares about me.” Most times, they were lies whispered to herself that grew into screams. All he knew was that they needed some help. Who could he trust though?

This is what it’s like for someone who has a loved one who suffers from anxiety and depression. This is a mild example of a panic attack. The unfortunate part is that, even in a mild attack, the stakes are life and death. For some with no intervention, they can’t take the overwhelming darkness that covers them, and it seems the only way out is death.

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Unfortunately, those who battle this are often tormented when they try to make a heroic comeback because they are only met with opposition. I know that seems ridiculous, but it’s true. Because of the darkness that has been shadowing them, the light is so very hard to see. So, they start with questions like, “Who really likes me, or let alone the big question, is there anyone out there who loves me?” Each step on the road to recovery is difficult; it’s often like having a noose around your neck, constantly pulling you back. They fearfully think, “If I stop even for a moment, I will be pulled backwards and drug back down into the pit.” The thoughts race in their head.

It’s almost like they are stuck in a puddle of quicksand. One false move, and they will be sucked down, but if they don’t reach out for a saving branch, they certainly will die. So, isolation comes into play, keeping everyone at a distance is of utmost importance. This insures that no one can get close enough to hurt them– or love them. The loneliness is better in their eyes than sharing that they need something or someone. Besides, there is the fear that others will think bad of them or think they are crazy. When anxiety covers you like this, you need to seek out professional help, a physiatrist and a counselor is a good start.

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I am not a counselor or any authority on this in the sense of an educational degree. All I have is life experience, and this is what I have come to know and understand through loving someone who faces these issues each day of her life. I’m writing this to give you a glimpse of what it’s like for someone who faces these challenges, as well as how and why we need to help.

Part of the reason for the isolation is that when others find out that you have anxiety or depression some think oh, just get some drugs and move on, or get some counseling.

I have heard people say that it’s not like they have a broken bone or a chronic disease or something, that could actually kill them. The thing is, that’s not true. Anxiety and depression can kill, and they have. It is just like a physical disease or an internal injury. You really can’t see the disease itself, but you can see the symptoms of it.

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Most times when this disease first comes out or when we first notice it, we can easily mistake it as the person being moody or aloof, or even stuck-up. They may even seem shy. All of these things are attributes that could be part of a normal person’s life. So, how do you know?

You need to take time establish a relationship, if you really want to care and try to make a difference for them.

My bet is that you may know someone who is very close to the person, like a partner, spouse, or best friend. Ask them if the person in question is okay or do they need anything? Do this authentically with genuine concern, and they may let you know the truth…if they feel they can trust you, and you won’t hurt them.

Those closest to these people tend to guard them and try to protect them as much as possible. They know that it doesn’t take much to drive them deep into the darkness, even when they are in recovery.

Taking some meds and talking to a counselor may be a great start but unfortunately, it’s not so easy to fix this.

If the anxiety has been severe enough for long enough, they may need to have their self-esteem re-built; they will need to be loved both closely and from a distance at times. They will need help finding out that they are of worth and have purpose. They will need to be shown that their life counts, and that they can make a difference in this world. This takes people who care deeply about the individual.

Yes, some of the drugs and genetic tests we have today can assist, but nothing replaces human relationships. Boy, can they be hard.

As I have stated, being a friend or a partner of someone who suffers with this can be challenging, but let me also say this, it can be very fun and rewarding. In my experience, these people love deeply, they are both passionate and compassionate. They also can be a blast to be around when they are in a safe place or having a good day. Please understand they are not special projects, don’t try to treat them like that because they will see right through you. These people need people in their lives who are not going to try to fix them and then walk on to the next project. They need friends who are in this walk for life, and that is often rare and hard to find.

So, beware, they may try to reject you before you even scratch the surface. This is their litmus paper test to see if you are really serious. Yes, it may seem harsh at first, but you just have to remember they are in a survival mode most of the time.

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These hurting people are no different than anyone else; they have dreams and goals. They have amazing talents and gifts waiting to be uncovered. If given the opportunities and outlets to use those gifts and talents, they will rise to the challenge, and even blow away your expectations.

For this to happen though, it requires that they trust the provider of these opportunities. You don’t have to have a deep relationship, though a close relationship may inadvertently develop because you prove you can be trusted. But, you always have to remember that there is the risk that they may have a bad day or a relapse. And there is always the possibility that because you are associated with this person, well, you yourself may look bad.

All I can say to that is, who cares?

This is when the real question needs to be asked, what is at stake here? To be blunt, it is life or death. That’s not fair, some may say. But t’s true that the one opportunity that you offer may just be a lifeline. It may be the one thing that keeps them from totally giving into the darkness.

Honestly, people who face life with this illness believe they don’t even have a chance because others think they are crazy, or they are just too unworthy of having a chance to share themselves with the world. I believe that those who don’t open a door for these people are the crazy ones. What is a life worth?

So, what can you do? That is the question that should be asked.

First you should know that having anxiety is difficult, and there are times that they can’t communicate effectively to others exactly what they are feeling or going through. So, sometimes, they just need someone to be there for them without judgement. No words– just your presence and the knowledge that you accept them, just the way they are, where they are. Then sometimes it maybe the opposite– just a few words of encouragement and lots of space with open, accepting arms. The key is always to meet them where they’re at and love them the way they need loved in that moment.

Yes, this can be hard, and sometimes you can be hurt (which can be very hard), but it’s never in my experience intentional. Lashing out is sometimes the only way they can get the feelings out that have been trapped and captivating their thoughts.  Sometimes you need to just put your feeling on the back burner to help someone out of a difficult situation. If you’re a Christian, we have a great example of how to sacrifice for someone you care about or even for people you don’t know.

I can’t help but think about all the times Jesus loved people where they were, and because of His love, compassion, and sacrifice their lives and our lives have been changed. The adulteress, the woman at the well, Zacchaeus the Tax Collector, and the list goes on.

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Jesus met people where they were, and he loved them up to where they needed to be. He never worried about what others thought, only what His Father in Heaven was thinking. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy.

I’ve heard it said, “We’re reaching out, but they need to reach out too.” When you’re paralyzed with fear, you can’t push yourself up to grasp an outstretched hand.

There was the time that four friends carried their friend to Jesus. When they were faced with opposition of not being able to get directly to the Lord, they tore the roof off a house and lowered their friend down to place their friend at the feet of Jesus for healing. They didn’t meet him half-way– he was paralyzed! They carried him to Jesus. Sometimes we need to carry our friend to the feet of Jesus.

There are also the times when we need to get dirty and do more than reach out.

We need to get some spit and dirt on us. I recall Jesus spitting into the dirt and rubbing it onto the blind man’s eyes, so he could see again. Jesus did more than reach out; He got dirty. He didn’t dismissively say to those who came to Him, “Oh, I‘ll pray for you.” He took time and ministered to them.

This is part of being more like Jesus. Honestly, I have watched people who suffer actually minister to others hurting in amazing ways that no one else could. It’s because they know what it’s like to hurt or be an outcast, and they can empathize with them.

This can apply to so many things in life I know, but who has God placed in your path to help carry to Jesus or get dirty with in the process of healing? Who are you crying with? Who are you loving and encouraging, near or far?

Has God placed someone in your path that you just stepped over or worse kicked them to the side, because you have been too busy going where you want to go rather than looking where God is leading you? The Bible says that God directs the steps of man. So, look where you’re going. We ask for God to use us, but we miss the opportunities that are right in front of us all the time.

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I have also heard that this is a person’s spiritual issue, and you are accurate. But it’s not just their spiritual issue, it’s yours too.

We are to love one another and encourage one another; sometimes people go to these dark places because we didn’t love like we should have. I know that statement will not be popular, but it’s true. If we took the time to genuinely care, some people may not feel so invisible.

People with mental health issues sometimes need more of the people who claim to have the Light surrounding them. Darkness is the absence of light. How do we make the darkness go away? By bringing in the light. The Bible says we are the light of the world. The light we have comes from the Holy Spirit. If we obey Him, we will be sharing his light with others. He will be working through us. So yes, it is a spiritual issue– ours and theirs. It’s not just their issue, it’s ours too. We need to do something about it.

How can we help? Love them unconditionally the way God loves you. Take a moment to smile and see them, don’t let them be invisible. Be genuine and compassionate.

Provide opportunities for them to come into your light. This takes time, you have to be in this for the long haul. This is not about you; it’s about loving someone else the way we should love one another.

I hope this is an encouraging post that helps some to have hope and to others, perhaps this will challenge them to see who God has placed in their path.

If you suffer from anxiety or depression or any other non-visible illness, please know you are loved and cared about. I know this is not easy, but with the right environment and people surrounding you, things can get better. We shouldn’t have to walk this road alone.

Shrimpie!

 

They called me a shrimp! That was all I could manage to mutter through the tears and snot running down my face. My mom asked, “Who honey?” With a quivering voice, I said, “All the big kids out there!” I had been playing outside my house on the sidewalk, when I got in the way of some older kids, and they told me to “Move it, Shrimp,” and that just didn’t sit well with this short 5-year old. So, there was a bit of a tussle, and well, I got the brunt of it all.

This is the earliest memory I have of being pushed around or bullied. I was always a bit smaller than the other kids it seemed, but I never let that stop me from trying to join in or be a part of what was going on.

My mom always said that I was special, and no matter what I did, I needed to do my best at it. So, I did. But here’s a bit of something I learned. Even if you are special, and you try your best at things, it doesn’t always mean that you will win, or that you will be the best at things. It also doesn’t guarantee that people will like you.

It was second grade, and my family just moved into the house my dad grew up in. It was older in the sense that it didn’t have the comforts of modern day homes. I was told that my Granddad Hunter built the house with his own hands, but he forgot the water and sewer. Well, he didn’t really forget. they just were not things that he felt to be necessary. There was an outhouse and a well, and that was all they really needed. They had electricity and a telephone. What more did you need?

Along with moving to a new neighborhood came the challenge of a new school. I’m really not sure why I had to change schools, because my old school, Jackson Elementary, was less than 3 miles from our new house. The school I had to switch to was close to 10 miles away, and I had to take a bus. Round Hills Elementary was the new school. Up to this point, I had loved school and all my teachers.

My teacher at this new school was Mrs. Metzer, she was old, it seemed to me. Of course, everyone seemed older then.

I remember the first day like it was yesterday. I found my class and my desk. My desk had a name tag on it with the name “William Hunter” on it. Yuck! No one called me that. I have always, and I mean ALWAYS, been called Butch by everyone. I knew my real name, but I was Butch!

Side Note: How I got the name Butch was that my parents couldn’t agree on what to call me. (I’m just glad it wasn’t Barney, after my mom’s dad.) Until they decided on a name for me, they called me Butch. My dad said, “We can’t call him that; it’s a dog’s name!” But my mom persisted in calling me Butch. Eventually I did become William, but Butch just stuck from that day on.

So, on that first day of second grade, the teacher called everyone’s name out. When she got to me, she called out, “Billy, Billy Hunter,” and I didn’t say anything. I just looked around the room. Who in the world was this Billy Hunter I thought to myself.

Then I wondered if he was related to me? After all, we both had the same last name. She continued calling out everyone’s name. When she was finished, Mrs. Metzger asked, “Did I miss anyone?”I raised my hand. She asked, “What is your name? I said, “Butch Hunter.” She said, “Do you mean Billy Hunter?” I politely said, “No Ma’am, Butch Hunter.” Then she started to get upset. She sternly looked at me and said, “Is your name William Hunter?” I sheepishly said, “Yes, but everybody calls me Butch.” She glared at me as if I cussed at her. She walked around her big wooden desk, and standing in front of the class she said to me, “You will not be called Butch in this class. You need to know and use your real name. You will be called William or Billy!”

She might as well have come over and stripped me down to my skivvies and made me stand in front of everyone. I hung my head and said, “Yes ma’am.” I was totally humiliated and embarrassed. That was the one of the hardest years of my young life. Whether she meant to or not, she made me the target of the class. I was not only the new kid, but now I was the dumb kid too.

I still listened to my mother and did my best and told myself I was special. I tried hard to be accepted, but I just never seemed to break through.

My parents worked hard to provide for me what I needed and wanted. When It came to somethings, I just didn’t have a choice in the matter. Like clothes. I remember looking though the Sears and Roebuck catalog along with the JC Penny’s catalog to pick out my school cloths. They weren’t very stylish, and I had a limited say in the matter. What I got came in the mail, and that was that.

Not all my pants fit quite right, and I had to wear a belt to keep them up. They were husky’s!

One day, I forgot to wear my belt and the top of the waistband of my whitey tities was sticking out. So, one of the popular boys decided to make fun of me. He called me Diaper Man, and he rallied all my classmates to join in calling me Diaper Man. Every time he saw me he would call me this and find something additional to make fun of.

If Diaper Man wasn’t bad enough, I had started having a hard time in class and was falling behind. So, it was suggested to my parents that I should have my eyes checked. Sure enough, I had to have glasses. I hated those things, but even more I despised going to school to hear Mike and Mark call me four-eyes every day.

Like I said, this was a hard year, but after the year passed, I moved into another grade. Unfortunately, so did the bullies. 3rd grade was a bit better. Mrs Lewhaski was my teacher, and she was nice. This was the year that I was given a bit of extra help, because I was slower than the other kids in learning to read and doing multiplication.

My parents thought that it would be good for me to join Cub Scouts as it would give me different ways to interact with other boys. My mom signed up to be a den mother. I was in Den 2. She strived to be the best den mother ever. She even came up with an original Den Yell for us too:

Den 2 Den 2, we stick like glue, we do our best for the gold and blue! We are the best! Den 2 Den 2!

We really did do some of the neatest stuff, from wood working to arts and crafts. Unfortunately, for me when I signed up, so did my nemesis, and we were put in the same den. Ugh!

All the dens met at the leaders’ homes, so our den met at my house. By this time, we had running water and a fully functioning bathroom, but my parents we still fixing the house up as they could.

So, then I became known as the kid who lived in the shack. Not good at all. As the years went by, someone thought it would be a good idea for me to spend more time with my bullies, so I was made to go to their houses and spend time with them. It really didn’t change things at school. If anything, it made things worse. Recess, I would get invited to play football, but always seemed get hit hard or tackled to the ground until I was hurt in some way. When I told teachers, they passed it off that I was not tough.

Finally, something happened and I had to change schools again. I was back at my school– good old Jackson.

This was the year I was tested, and they figured out that I had dyslexia. As a 11-year old, I was told that I would not amount to much. Perhaps, I could become a truck driver, and if I was lucky I might graduate high school. I got held back that year.

From that point on, no matter what, I had a deep drive in me to prove them wrong. I am not a very competitive person by nature, but I will do my best and strive to be the best I can at whatever I do. I never wanted to leave anyone behind or let anyone go through the things I had gone though. So, I avoided the limelight and helped other misfits steer clear of the bullies.

By this time, I was pretty good at spotting them. At an early age, I started to understand a few things about myself.  I learned that I have a big heart and I care deeply for people. I’m a bit shy, until I feel like I can let my guard down. I always give multiple chances to those who hurt me. I forgive and overlook the shortcomings of those around me. I’m very patient and can be a good listener, as well as a good negotiator. I look for the best in people and always try to be positive and encouraging. I never reject anyone–ever! Simply because I had been rejected so much growing up, why would I want to put anyone through that?

The older I get, I wonder more and more why people jump so quickly to judge. I find myself many times bowing out of situations or yielding my agenda while trying to take the high road. Sometimes because I’m quiet, or don’t know what to say to people, I’m told they think that I’m conceited, or I think I’m better than others. This is not the case at all. It’s just that I don’t feel comfortable with you yet.

I actually long to be friends with many people, but because I’m not as outgoing or open, I get pushed to the side. So, yes, it is hard to make friends at times, but if you give me a chance you will have a blast with me.

I have also found that sometimes some people’s lives are just too hard for some to handle. Some people’s baggage weighs too much for others to slow down and walk with them through life. Then you have others who reject you because they can’t handle you, but to make themselves feel better, they buy into a lie that you pushed them away. I have always had a hard time setting up boundaries in relationships, though I have come to understand that if boundaries are not set, everyone can get hurt, and before you know it, no one understands why they were hurt.

This is a small slice of who I was, who I am, and who I’m becoming.

My hope is that every day is new and God’s Grace is sufficient to get me through. Ephesians 2:10 For we are his work, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance · that we should do them.

 

Happy Meal Christmas

It’s the hard times when I’m feeling alone and discouraged that I find myself going back to the past, when you have no doubt that God brought you through a hard time. This helps me feel safe, secure and it even helps me refocus, it even boosts my faith that God is bigger than anything I will ever face.
One of those memories I cherish is when Chrissy and I started out on this journey of serving God full-time.
Side Note: I know now that we had no clue as to the price we would pay for this calling that we had chosen to answer. This isn’t a bad thing, we just didn’t have any idea what our life was going to be like.
To start this new adventure, we asked God to help us pay off all our bills. With one tax rebate check, He made this happen to the dollar. We proceeded to pack up all of our belongings from our mobile home into a small moving truck.  We loaded our two young children and one Dalmatian puppy into the car. With one last look at our small, safe world, we left our family, friends, and any support systems we had grown up with.
We traveled 9 hours away to the most southern part of West Virginia to one of what they call the Twin Cities, Bluefield, WV. It was nestled in a valley of the Appalachian Mountains. Just across the state line in Virginia was another city called Bluefield, VA. Thus the twin cities nickname.
We moved here to go to Bible collage because, if you wanted to be successful in ministry, this is just what you do. As I had mentioned, we really had no clue what we were doing. I just believed that God was telling me to come follow Him and lead his people. So, since this college was the only one we knew about at the time, we signed up there.
Side Note: At this time, we didn’t have access to the Internet or even a computers, which would have helped us research this better. As it was, we went off of the word of a school recruiter, and trusted that God would provide the rest.
And that is how I became a student enrolled in Bible college. Unbeknownst to us, this college was one of the most conservative, legalistic schools on the east coast for the Church of Christ/Christian Churches. The very contemporary church that we were coming from was a Christian church. So, we figured this should be good. We didn’t know how wrong we could be. We didn’t even understand the difference between contemporary and traditional church styles. We assumed they were all like our great church.
Back in the 90’s, I only wore a button-up shirt and tie with dress pants at three places. One was when I worked as a professional photographer for a large corporation, and it was required. Two was a wedding and thirdly a funeral, where it was expected.  I tell you this because this is what I called “dressing up”. When I had gone to Penn State, I could wear whatever I rolled out of bed in. Not that I did, but I could have. Believe me, no one in the photo dark room cared what I looked like.
Not so with this place. Every day, in every class, I was expected to be wearing dress clothes. That is how conservative this college is. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we didn’t fit well, and many of the promises made to us to help us decide to come by the recruiter were unfulfilled. But that would not stop me I had a call from God, and I was sure of it.
One thing I failed to mention is that Chrissy was pregnant with our Jonah. So, on moving here we needed some support to help us get acclimated and get settled. Unfortunately, none of that happened. I was told that I could work at the school and that there were plenty of youth ministry positions at local churches that embraced the students of the school. Well, I did work for the school but they applied all of that money to my tuition for school. There were no loans or grants not even scholarships, because as we discovered, this school was not accredited. You paid as you went, and they made sure they received their payments.
We did have a few people and our home church who believed in what we were doing and us. The gifts that came in helped us put gas in the car and some food on the table.
After a few months of classes and trying to fit in, with still no real steady income, Christmas was coming and along with it, the time for Chrissy to give birth. Things were pretty discouraging, but I had faith that God would see us through.
Side note: Remember the puppy we took with us? Well, on arriving we were told no dogs. You need to find it a home. This puppy was a birthday gift for Ben, he loved the movie 101 Dalmatians. So we found a temporary home for her with one of the off campus students. We though it was a good home. To make a long story short, within weeks of her going to her new home she was hit by a car and broke her leg. The vet helped us fix her up. He told her that she was fine. A few weeks later, in spite of her vet’s bill of good health, we got a voicemail message from the other student saying, “Your dog is dead and I buried her in the yard.” Click. Wow! Not a good day.
So, at this point, I almost had it but I decide that I would do whatever I could to bring a few bucks in, and hopefully this would help us and make things better.
I also thought that whatever I made a little would go to taking the kids out for some fun. So we went to McDonalds  a few times and bought the kids Happy meals. It was late November, and 101 Dalmatians was the surprise toys in the Happy Meals. So, I had the brilliant idea that we would secretly remove the toys and keep them for Christmas gift for the kids.  
The closer we got to Christmas, our Happy Meal toy stash was growing. We hoped that somehow we would be able to buy a few real gifts for the kids, but it didn’t look good.
The grandparents were going to send some things; we knew that, but it’s just not the same as providing for your family. So, we prayed that God would provide. This is when we received a card in our mail on the same day we also received a discouraging anonymous piece of hate mail in the box too. (That is another story.)
In that card was a note saying, “I wish I could do what you are doing.  Merry Christmas!” with a cash gift enclosed. It wasn’t much but enough for Chrissy and I to get the kids a few gifts. And we still wrapped the happy meal toys and gave them to the kids.
After 20 years our grandkids play with these little toys and the Christmas ones are on display every Christmas as a reminder to us of God’s faithfulness. His Will, will always be done. Even if those around you are coming against you, and things look hopeless, if you place your trust in Jesus and stay faithful to what His Word says and what He has called you to, He will see you through.
It was a skinny Christmas, but it bound our family together and made us stronger. It actually taught our kids and us how to love and put others before ourselves. Look for opportunities to encourage anyone you can and let people know authentically that you appreciate them without expecting anything in return, even if you don’t understand why God has laid them on your heart. If you watch, God will show up and beautiful things will happen.

As I said this was a hard time, but looking back brings joy and hope to me as I hope it stirs up in your soul the same.

Shorts on the Ground

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Over the past few weeks I have been feeling a bit nostalgic, so like any dad who feels like reliving the past, I went out to my garage. Now, why would I go to the garage you may ask. Great question! I went to the garage because, if you know me for any period of time, you will know that, no matter where I live, I have a magic garage.
Side Note: I have a reputation for keeping things. I’m not a hoarder, but I could be. My garage holds some of the most amazing treasures. I had a friend that used to say “Whatever you need just ask Butch to see if he has it in his garage.” Yes, sometimes I did have things that people needed or we needed for ministry. I didn’t get the title of Kid Ministry MacGyver for nothing. That, my friends is another story itself, for another time.
So, I went to my garage and found a box of old video tapes that held our family history. Looking though these tapes made me realize that we could have had a video on America’s Funniest Videos every week for an entire year. It also jogged my memory of our first video camera and the time we took it on vacation.
Our oldest son, Ben, was just turning two. This would have been our first real family vacation. So, Chrissy and I decided to go back to the place where we spent our honeymoon, Assateague Island, in Maryland, close to Ocean City. Since we enjoyed the area so much, we wanted to go back to the place where we created some very special memories camping on the beach.
Side Note: Honeymooning on the beach sounds super romantic, and we thought so too, when we planned it. Let’s just say, sand plus newlyweds in a small pup tent on a beach teeming with wild horses while a hurricane heads inland creates a situation that could test even the strongest of marriages. I almost forgot about the pesky state bird, otherwise known as the mosquito
Back to the vacation. We made plans to vist Assateague Island for a day while camping on the mainland at a nice wooded campground in Ocean City, that sprayed for mosquitoes.
Packing for our big day at the beach, I kept in mind that this was our two-year-old son’s first time to the ocean. All the things that my mom had warned me about ran through my head. “Watch out for the undertow, when you were a baby you got rolled so bad that you had sand for days coming out of you.” And Chrissy’s Nanny, “Don’t forget to put a lot of sun screen on.” With all these voices in my head, I could hardly hear myself think. The biggest thing in my mind was making sure we had the cameras, the regular one and the video camera too.
On this special day, I thought to myself (louder than all the other voices), “I want my boy to have a great time at the beach. He needs a boogie board! Yeah, he’ll love a boogie board!” I really don’t know why I thought that. Still, we stopped on the way to the beach at a small store to buy the cheapest styrofoam boogie board I could find because things were tight on this vacation. Once I had boogie board loaded in the car, we were set to go. Whoo-hoo off to the beach! On the way into the beach area, we saw the wild horses, this was a plus. They just roam anywhere and everywhere they please; it’s very cool! We even have a picture of one sticking its head in our car window!
Finally, at the beach, we grabbed all our stuff and headed down to the water to pick our spot for the day. It was great, the sun was shining, temperature was perfect with a nice cool breeze blowing. As the wind blew off the waves, it picked up salt that you could taste from the mist of the crashing waves, it was a gorgeous July day. The best part was that the beach was not very crowded.
We did all the things you would imagine parents doing with their child at the seashore for the first time. Ben loved playing in the lapping waves of the ocean. Chrissy took pictures and occasionally, we would use the camcorder to capture some priceless moments for our little family.
After a while, I took the boogie board down to the water for Ben to ride. I placed him on it, sitting down. I don’t know what I expected to happen, but here’s what did happen. A wave came in and knocked him right off. Epic dad fail on this one, I thought. So, I marched my sand-covered, squalling son up to his mother, so she could comfort him. After all, I had just let him get tossed around by the ocean tide.
So then, me being me, I decided to show my son that boogie boards could be fun. I said, “Ben, watch Daddy do it!” I grabbed the boogie board, and ran down to the water. I waded out into deeper water and waited for just the right wave to roll in. I looked out to see if Ben is watching, and I saw Chrissy getting the camcorder ready.
And then it was now or never; the water sucked back and I knew it was going to be a big one. I readied the board and jumped as high as my short legs would take me and landed on the crest of the wave! I remember thinking, “This is awesome! I’m riding a wave! Yes!”
I jumped off the board just before the wave crashed down onto the sandy beach. I ran up to Chrissy and Ben, out of breath, and exclaimed “I did it!  Did you see that! I was great! Yeah baby!”
Chrissy said, “Sorry, I didn’t get it you’ll have to go do it again.” I now believe she secretly knew what would happen next and just wanted to egg me on to make sure it happened. I was, oh, too willing. I was like a dog playing fetch with his favorite ball. You know right before the dog’s master tosses the ball, he’s so excited to get the ball. Yup, that was me.
So Chrissy readied the camera, ben sat playing at her feet. I galloped down to the edge of the ocean with the boogie board over my head like I was some champion surfer ready to rip some gnarly swells. I made my way through the crashing waves out quite a bit further than before. I positioned myself, and waited for the perfect wave.
I could see Chrissy recording as I waited for my dream wave. I waved to her with a thumb up. I was ready for this epic moment. Just then the water powerfully pulled quickly past my legs sucking my feet into the sand. I looked over my shoulder this was a huge wave! It was quickly rolling towards me, building momentum. Higher and higher it went.
I bent at my knees and with all I had jumped into the air at just the right moment to be caught on the top of the wave. Cowabunga dude! I was riding on top of this wave! The rush of water around me was exhilarating, the adrenaline was pumping though my body. It was like the rush you get when riding a smooth roller coaster, but a 100 times better. The wave was accelerating, and with every foot it got closer to its crashing destination.
Then, just before I could jump off the boogie board, the wave took me by surprise curling under me only to drop me, fast and hard head-first onto the shore. I hit the sand with an audible crunch. I was involuntarily rolling through the water, gasping for air. I could feel my heart pounding. I clawed at the shifting sand to get my balance and pull myself up out of the water. I shook off the water from my head and wiped the salt from my eyes. I could feel sand in places you never want to feel sand.
What seemed like an eternity only took seconds. I crawled to my knees. Still being pummeled by aftershock waves. The tide rolled out enough for me to get to my feet and somewhat get my bearings.
I desperately looked for my wife on the beach. I thought to myself well, that was definitely spectacular! Though blurry eyes, I saw Chrissy laughing hysterically all the while frantically tring to get the camera lined up with where I was now standing. I waved to her laughing all the while trying to get some forward motion going.
There are those times in life when things happen, and you know you just came through something that could have had disastrous results, only to realize the worst had not hit yet.
That is when I felt it. The cool breeze and water lapping bare skin in a place, well, a place that should have been covered. I looked down and terror struck me to the core only to realize that my swim trunks were gone. I quickly threw myself down into the shallow water. Fumbling around like a fish out of water. I was flopping around as I tried to grab my shorts that had luckily got hung up on one of my feet.
I quickly maneuvered my other leg into my swim shorts and pulled them up, filling them with even more sand in the process. I embarrassingly looked around to see who else had caught an eye full of me in all my God-given glory. To my surprise, I didn’t see anyone running in horror or pointing and laughing, well, no one  except Chrissy.
Side Note: Thinking back to this experience, all I can think of is the You Tube song, “Pants on the ground, Pants on the ground, look’n like a fool with your pants on the ground!” That was me. I was a naked fool!
My attention then turned to retrieving my white Styrofoam boogie board. After paying good money for it, I wasn’t going to lose this thing. Right at that moment, I felt something smack me in the back of my legs. I turned to see what it was– it was a piece of Styrofoam. I bent over and grabbed it for a closer examination. It looked like a piece of someone’s boogie board, I wondered who broke their boogie board.  As I look down the beach, I saw 2 more white pieces being pushed up on the beach and it sadly occurred to me that it was my boogie board.
I gathered my wits, picked up what was left of my pride, and retrieved the rest of what was left of the board. I than sheepishly slogged up to Chrissy and Ben. Chrissy was reviewing her newly captured footage of my major wipeout. She looked up at me, snickering all the while and said “This is going to get us 10,000 dollars!” Then she disappointedly said, “Oh no! I missed you losing your shorts! I guess I just couldn’t find you in the camera. Darn, that would have been awesome,” she said. We both laughed, and I sat down to nurse my wounds.
Not only did I lose my shorts, demolish a boogie board and hurt some of my pride, I also had bright red welts across my chest and under my chin where the board had hit me when it exploded under the impact of the wave. I was a washed-up man.

Life has always been an adventure with the Hunter Clan– even at the very beginning!

Each week for my ministry, I write a short devotional thought that hopefully will encourage and inspire those who have made a choice to work with kids. We call the time when we share this VIP (Vision, Information, Prayer).

These devotions are a part of casting vision to our leaders. I want to do everything I can to help them remember that they are making a difference for the kingdom of God and spreading the love of Jesus effectively. All the while challenging them to stretch in their own walk with Christ.

April 5, 2015
Happy Resurrection Morning!
This past weekend I had the privilege to hold one of God’s greatest gifts, a newborn baby. As I looked down on this precious bundle of joy, I became overwhelmed with how much of a huge responsibility I have, no we have, in sharing the gospel message with all that we come into contact with, especially children.
When you think that God has given us the opportunity to share the story of how much He loves each and everyone of His children, it can be an enormous feeling of responsibility.
After thinking about that consider this, we are accountable to God for each child’s safety that we are entrusted with.
That can be scary.
These are just two reasons why we must have training sessions like the ones we offer or require. We are responsible for the well being of these children.
Here is a quick scripture just to show how serious Jesus took teaching children and caring for children.
Luke 17:1-2
Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.
That’s pretty serious.
In light of what God wants His children to hear and understand, these consequences should be taken seriously. We not only are responsible for their safety and well being, we are also responsible for communicating to them the good news of the resurrection of Jesus. That friends, can make a difference for eternity!
Once you become a follower of Christ it’s our responsibility to do this whether it’s children or adults.  Jesus commanded us to do this Mathew 28:19-20

Thank you for doing all you can, to keep our children safe!

Each week for my ministry, I write a short devotional thought that hopefully will encourage and inspire those who have made a choice to work with kids. We call the time when we share this VIP (Vision, Information, Prayer).

These devotions are a part of casting vision to our leaders. I want to do everything I can to help them remember that they are making a difference for the kingdom of God and spreading the love of Jesus effectively. All the while challenging them to stretch in their own walk with Christ.

 March 29, 2015
This week I had a great reminder of why I do Children’s Ministry.
I was going through the halls as our mid-week service “SPLASH” was finishing up. All but a few kids were still around with their leaders. Then I heard one of our leaders call out to me, “Pastor Butch! I have someone here who wants to tell you something.”
As I leaned over to look this little girl in the eyes, she said to me, “I want to be baptized.”
I was so excited for her. I said “that’s great!”
All though this is great, the best part was when I asked, “Why do you want to do that?”
She peered straight into my eyes and said, “Because I want to obey God and do all He wants me to”.
Wow! In that moment my heart did jumped and melted all at once.
Here we have a glimpse of why we do all that we do. These are the moments we hang on to, especially when you’re asking yourself, why am I doing this?
You may say Pastorb, I don’t have that opportunity, I work in the nursery. The kids I work with are not able to communicate these choices to us as well as they do when their older.
Here is what I say to you, when older kids make these choices and tell us, I want you to understand that you have had a part in their decision to follow Jesus. You have changed their diapers, wiped their tears, you are the ones who have loved on them and rocked them to sleep. You have had a big hand is showing the love of Jesus to them.
This all happens because of our faithfulness to do what God has asked us to do.
I want to say to all of you, Thank you for making a difference!
Whoever wants to save their life must lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
Matthew 16:25 
“God did not call us to be successful, but to be faithful.”
Mother Teresa

Each week for my ministry, I write a short devotional thought that hopefully will encourage and inspire those who have made a choice to work with kids. We call the time when we share this VIP (Vision, Information, Prayer).

These devotions are a part of casting vision to our leaders. I want to do everything I can to help them remember that they are making a difference for the kingdom of God and spreading the love of Jesus effectively. All the while challenging them to stretch in their own walk with Christ.

March 22, 2015
(He) Made Himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant. Philippians 2:7
This verse was part of my quiet time this week and as I took time to think about it, I wondered what is the nature of a servant? What does that look like?
Now a servant is not necessary a slave, in todays terms. But you can become a slave, when you let some thing or someone become your master. That is where knowing who you serve is so very important.
In scripture we see a very clear picture of what it looks like to be a servant. Jesus did this so eloquently through out his life, here on earth and when He was with the Father, before He made the divine decision to come to earth to be our Savior.
He gave us a life to strive for. His life was a beautiful painted picture of what a servant looked like. As we grow into being a disciple of Christ, we are faced with some challenges. Who would have thought putting others before yourself and loving one another would be such a difficult task?
If this is not a challenge for you perhaps you need to draw in closer to the life of Jesus.
Our children need to see Christ like servants and feel loved. We have no clue where they come from before they reach our doors or what they have experienced on the trip to church. We need to remember this; today the love you give, maybe the only love they get to experience.
Thank you for what you do!

 “Our Lord lived a life… to give the standard for our lives.”  Oswald Chambers

Each week for my ministry, I write a short devotional thought that hopefully will encourage and inspire those who have made a choice to work with kids. We call the time when we share this VIP (Vision, Information, Prayer).

These devotions are a part of casting vision to our leaders. I want to do everything I can to help them remember that they are making a difference for the kingdom of God and spreading the love of Jesus effectively. All the while challenging them to stretch in their own walk with Christ.

 March 15, 2015
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
Have you ever wondered about this verse? I have what does it mean to have your paths made straight? The more I thought about this I started to think about all the choices I have had to make over the course of my life.
Some were great and some were well… unwise choices. Thinking about the unwise choices if I would have had more wisdom in my life, more guidance, perhaps I could have made the wise choice. Therefor my paths would have been made straight.
Looking at this verse, if I want to make wise choices I need to go to the one who holds everything, God.
This starts by acknowledging Him in everything. Sometimes what that means is yielding my will for His will. Stepping aside and letting God mold me into the person, He sees me becoming.
This is hard. Especially with all the things of the world asking for my attention and luring me away from living a life that honors Him.
Friends, this is what we’re teaching through the love we share with the kids, week in and week out. When we have the chance to display or communicate how to make choices that honor God, it will be second nature to us, if we have yielded our will to God on a daily basis. The kids will catch this. I heard it said more is caught than taught and that is true.

Hudson Taylor said this: “God always gives His very best to those who leave the choice with Him.”

Each week for my ministry, I write a short devotional thought that hopefully will encourage and inspire those who have made a choice to work with kids. We call the time when we share this VIP (Vision, Information, Prayer).

These devotions are a part of casting vision to our leaders. I want to do everything I can to help them remember that they are making a difference for the kingdom of God and spreading the love of Jesus effectively. All the while challenging them to stretch in their own walk with Christ.

March 8, 2015
“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark you don’t throw your ticket away and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” 
~Corrie ten Boom~
As I sat and chewed on this a bit I started to get it. Many times we do jump off the train. We don’t fully trust. We like to say we do or think we do, but if we’re honest, we don’t.
Perhaps we don’t throw our ticket away but we sure do run up and tell the engineer how to drive or do his job according to the way we want it to be done.
See when were in dark times or low times, this is when we need to rest. Resting in the fact that God (the Engineer) is in control and He wants us to come out on the other side stronger and ready to give testimony to His grace and love. 
So what’s this have to do with what I’m doing here with these kids? Think about the amazing things they will be able to do for God, if they learn to do this early in life. The kids are learning how to do this from you, today by you showing up, being present, and sharing God’s love. Because of you doing this our kids have a chance of learning this.

You are making a difference!