Jason – 7

28 03 2015


Dearest Jason,

You bring joy and laughter to our home every single day with the sparkle in your eye, your silliness, and your constant singing, even while eating.  You amaze us with your love for God and your faith in Him.

This past year, you:  lost your first tooth, finally played on the Big Piano at FAO Schwartz, became a really good reader, still want to be a paleontologist, are still obsessed with Legos and Minecraft, fell in love with brussel sprouts (at least for a day), were spoiled by your Maga and Papa (not so much by Mommy and Daddy), still like to snuggle with Mommy, and had a peanut butter and banana sandwich every day for lunch.

To my Lego-building, Minecraft-obsessing, come play with me begging, midnight snuggling, read to me asking, peanut butter and banana sandwich eating, dream telling, Subway Surfer mastering, crazy (and sometimes inappropriate) dancing, smiling, giggling, loving, hugging, skipping, running, kind-hearted littlest boy . . . our prayer for you is this . . .

That you continue to love God first, others second, and yourself third; that you always enjoy learning and reading and writing and discovering new and cool things about the world around us; that you always love music and art and expressing yourself creatively; that you never stop exploring and wondering and that your imagination soars; that you will be a friend to all; that you will marry a girl who loves you well and who you love well; that you will overcome trials and temptations victoriously; that you will always know how loved and adored and how precious you are to God and to those around you.

Mommy and Daddy


On Turning 6

28 03 2014


Jason (kindergarten photo)

To my favorite littlest boy,

I don’t know where to begin with you. There are times when I look at you and see myself–your stubbornness, your headstrong nature and your fierce loyalty, your creative imagination and love of reading and learning. Then there are times when I look at you and wonder how you are my child, especially with such astute observations such as, “My poop smells like ham.”

However I look at you, I see the sparkle in your eyes and goofy smile on your face, and you bring me such joy and peace (except when you are fighting with your brother.)

I am awed by your unwavering faith in God, knowing that He is good and loves you always. For one so young, that, too, brings me such joy and peace.

So what do I remember from your fifth year of life?
•You learned to read, and you love it!
•You sing All. The. Time. Seriously. Your favorite time to sing or hum is during meals. Of course, this makes a meal last for a couple of hours with you, but I love that you love music.
•You are quite the negotiator, especially when it comes to getting snacks, treats, and desserts.
•Every rock is a precious stone, and every stick is a light saber, sword, or gun.
•”Will you sing and pray and rub my back?” Every. Night.
•You can’t imagine a day when you don’t want me to snuggle with you at bedtime. I assure that day will come, but I’m selfishly glad that day is not here yet.

To my Lego lover, Star Wars padawan, pancake maniac, booty dancer, giggly joke teller, excited reader, burgeoning erudite, midnight snuggler, and master compromiser, I pray that you will always love God with a steadfast faith. I pray you will always love reading and learning and exploring. I pray you will always be allowed to let your imagination soar and your creativity run wild. I pray you will always want to sing. Always.

I love you with every fiber of my being.

Osdalia & Alberto

2 04 2013
Osdalia & Alberto

Osdalia & Alberto

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
-Nehemiah 8:10

I’ve read this scripture and sung it in numerous songs hundreds of, always thinking, well . . . that’s nice. I might have smiled at the sound of it, and then promptly continued reading or singing without giving it much more thought.

Osdalia and Alberto changed that. Until I met them, I didn’t know what those eight, sacred words really meant . . . “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

On March 3, 2013, their small home in Progreso, Texas was burglarized. The thief stole everything except an Xbox system belonging to Osdalia’s 14-year-old son, Jason. To cover his tracks, the thief burned their home to the ground. People gathered in her small community and stood around and watched, no one offering help or support. Most silently thinking, “Better her home than mine.” One church provided a dumpster for clean up, but no one from the church actually helped to clean up.

reconstructing their house in Progreso, Texas

reconstructing their house in Progreso, Texas

reconstructing their house in Progreso, Texas

reconstructing their house in Progreso, Texas

charred remnants from their house

charred remnants from their house

At the time of the fire, Alberto, Osdalia’s second husband and not yet a legal US citizen, was still living and working in Mexico. Upon hearing the news that the meager 480 sq. ft. home (smaller than the size of my classroom) which took him seven years to build was destroyed, he smuggled himself across the Mexican-American border in a trip that took eight hours of walking and running and dropping to the ground and hiding whenever he heard a car. This “trip” cost a hefty fee of $600 paid to the Mexican drug cartel.

On March 16, I met Osdalia, Alberto, and Jason. I was chaperoning a group of 15 students on a mission trip organized by Mission Discovery to Harlingen, Texas, to help this family rebuild their home. Little did I realize how this family would change my life in our five days together.

Alberto is one the hardest working men I’ve ever encountered. I like to think that I have a strong work ethic. I work hard and I don’t settle for second best. Alberto, put me to shame. Our group of 18 worked tirelessly for about five hours each day with him before heading back to the mission camp that was our temporary home. Alberto and Jason would continue to work until sundown, another five hours, and would accomplish almost as much as we had during the day.

When we first arrived at their home, Alberto had half the external framing and siding completed , a job we thought we were to tackle. By the time we left less than a week later, we helped Alberto expand their home to around 640 sq. ft. and finish 100% of the framing, siding, and roof—including shingles. We also painted their house as well as a neighbor’s home, and with some extra funds we raised, a small group of girls and I went shopping and were able to leave Osdalia and Alberto with some basic home goods like pots and pans, towels, bed sheets, kitchen and dining ware, school supplies, and an air mattress. Osdalia had been sleeping at her neighbor’s, but Alberto and Jason were sleeping in their van behind their house in order to protect the lumber and building materials from being stolen.

Of all the items we purchased for them, the 5×7 group photo we had framed, was Osdalia’s first prized possession. She held it tight to her chest, breaking the embrace periodically to look at it, and then embracing it again. This reminder of the people who came to help her family is what she clung to.

shopping for Osdalia and Alberto

shopping for Osdalia and Alberto



group photo

group photo

FRA Mission Trip group

FRA Mission Trip group

In the short spurts of time I got to spend with Osdalia and Alberto, I came to witness “the joy of the Lord is your strength” in human form as I’ve never witnessed before. I listened in as Osdalia shared with some of us about the fire and how it changed her family. Most people I know, including myself, would be vacillating between anger and grief, bitterness and self-pity. I know I would very easily succumb to the whole “why me?” mentality.

Osdalia radiated Joy. Peace. Strength. Hope.

She explained to me: before the fire, she and Alberto had been struggling in their marriage. This was Osdalia’s second marriage, and her two children were from her first marriage—Jason and a 17-year-old daughter Ashley. Jason and Ashley had also been estranged from one another in recent months and the fire separated the two siblings even more. Osdalia had not seen her daughter in about three weeks.

Despite the drama between her children, Osdalia and Alberto had grown closer since the fire, Osdalia shared. Their marriage was stronger than it had ever been. At the start of the week, Alberto still struggled with anger at the man who did this—turns out it was a neighbor just a few houses down from them on their street—but Osdalia had forgiven this man 100 times over. She said, “If this is what it takes to turn my family around, he can burn my house down next week, and the week after, and the week after that. He can burn my house down 100 times if this will help our relationships to get better.”

Listening to Osdalia share this, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she meant it. Every word. Her conviction in this Truth was unmovable. She. Meant. It.

In another conversation the next day, Osdalia continued, “I have forgiven this man. I have to. I forgive him over and over. I can’t be angry. God is here. He brought you to help us—strangers from Tennessee. We have hope. I tell Alberto, we have hope. God will provide. And He has.”

All of this coming from a woman who was wearing the same clothes she had been wearing for the past three days because everything else she owned was consumed by fire.

Every encounter with Osdalia over the next few days was much the same. She never stopped smiling. She always greeted each member in our group with a hug and a kiss and made sure to say good bye in similar fashion. (Hellos and goodbyes took a while.) She always asked how she could serve us. She even offered the shirt off her back and the shoes off her feet on several occasions, even though she didn’t have another shirt or pair of shoes to change into. She surprised us with Burger King for lunch one day and sodas and ice cream another.

All of this coming from a lady who had NOTHING—no material possessions, anyway.

What Osdalia did have was something quite extraordinary that most people do not have. True peace. True joy. True hope. True forgiveness. Even now as I write this, I find there are no words to do justice to just how exceptional and uncommon is Osdalia’s happiness.

the cross

the cross

Our final gift to Osdalia and Alberto was a wood cross made from scrap pieces of the burned frame of their original home. Nailed together and then painted, the cross displayed the legacy verse chosen by the 2013 senior class, “We love because He first loved us” from 1 John 4:19. The two seniors on the trip presented this to them along with two Bibles and explained the scripture. Osdalia embraced it, too. Only when she turned it over and saw the burned wood on the back—knowing then that it came from their former home—did she break down. The dinner table, with 26 of us, became still and silent. Osdalia buried her head in the cross and wept quietly. Alberto held her tight.

Osdalia and the cross

Osdalia and the cross

Time seemed to stop as the significance of this little cross took hold of all of us. What began as a seed of hatred and bitterness from a neighbor eventually lead to the horrendous crime against Osdalia and her family. What a neighbor meant for destruction, God used to bring forth goodness and life. Relationships were restored. Hope, peace, and joy found a welcome home in the hearts of Osdalia and Alberto.

Back to Alberto for a moment. In the few days we were with him, I witnessed his smile grow wider. I saw him let go of anger and embrace peace. I observed this transformation and was privileged to be there when he shared with our group he had dedicated his life to following Christ.

As for Jason and Ashley, they still have a ways to go in redeeming their relationship, but they actually stood close enough to one another—just Alberto between the two of them—for a family photo while they were praying. After this prayer, Ashley commented that was the first time she had prayed with her eyes closed, meaning she prayed and she meant what she had prayed.

praying together

praying together

This family left a deep imprint on my heart and on my attitude. I witnessed eternity being changed with Alberto’s public declaration to follow Christ, and I saw “the joy of the Lord is your strength” move from the printed pages of scripture to living, breathing entities . . . named Osdalia and Alberto.

The joy of the Lord is OUR strength. This is God’s promise to us. We just need to claim it.

The Big 5

28 03 2013

5th Birthday Present

5th Birthday Present

Dearest Jason,

I can’t believe you’re five today! I believe times passes quicker the older I get. A day in your life can last for 50 hours; in mine, it lasts for only 10.

I love experiencing life through your eyes. Your wonder of rocks and sticks that has led to the growing “rock garden” in my classroom. Your favorite pocket in your winter jacket where you stash your favorite sticks which may really turn out to be light sabers in disguise. Your sadness and tears at having to part with the twelve pounds of rocks your extended care teacher bagged up for you to take home. I smile at it all.

You can make me smile and laugh like no other. Ever since you first tried out, “Mommy, can I have a sucker since you’re so nice and lovely?” you had me.

My favorite memories from this year are many.
•Wanting to be “bathtized” just you could get your own piece of communion bread.
•Your first yearbook picture followed by a retake that lasted for 10 minutes and required multiple bribes and ended with a long line of frustrated students behind you.
•Learning how to draw and write.
•Your numerous and memorable drawings on my classroom whiteboard, my favorite being “Mommy on Fire Flying Up to Heaven.”
•Starting school at FRA and being so upset many days when I came to pick you up because you were having so much fun.
•Your declining fascination with Tomas the Train and growing obsession with Legos and Star Wars.
•Your ability to out-eat me on pancakes any day.
•Your “forever hugs.”
•Teaching the rest of us prayers to “The Addams Family” and “Superman” theme songs. (Thank you, Ms. Karen!)



To my mid-night smuggler, banana thief, pancake maniac, sweet talker, light saber wielding Padawan, stick collector, rock treasurer . . . I pray you will be stubborn for goodness and righteousness. I pray you will always remember to seek God when you feel scared or sad, lost or alone. I pray you will be known as a friend to all, kind and generous, gracious and compassionate. I pray you will always be ready to forgive and equally ready to apologize. I pray you will be as your name: a healer; a healer of hearts and souls.

I love you to the sky and back, but God loves you even more. Never forget that, little one.


“Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise His holy name.”
-Psalm 103:1

"Mommy on Fire Flying Up to Heaven"

“Mommy on Fire Flying Up to Heaven”

This Is Why You’re Not Getting a Christmas Card From Us This Year (or maybe ever again)

6 12 2012

No More Christmas Cards explains how we came to our decision to NOT send Christmas cards this year.

So, the winner of what would have been our Christmas money was Safe Haven Family Shelter, by almost a 3-1 vote.  I was introduced to Safe Haven almost two years ago, and since then, both Caleb and Jason have joined me on various occasions to help provide dinner for the residents.

Besides the money issue, the other reason you are not getting a Christmas card from us is because this is it!  SURPRISE dear readers!  We’re going all-digital this year.

Many of you keep up with us via Facebook anyway, so you already know our year in review.  For those who don’t, here you go:

The Huddleston 2012 Year in Review

Matthew continues to teach physics and launch high altitude balloons at Trevecca Nazarene University.  He loves his job, and even took on the challenge of hosting a national high altitude balloon conference at TNU in June.

He finished his first (and possibly, probably, hopefully last) full marathon in April.  His goal was an ambitious 4:00, but he made it around 4:25.  This is incredibly impressive considering he only “trained” once each week . . . most of the time.

He has also completed several mud runs, the latest rage in running races around the country.  Now that he’s in a new age bracket, he will probably start placing and winning some nice prizes.

On a heavier note, Matthew’s dad, Mark, was diagnosed with colon cancer in October.  He had surgery just a few days after.  The doctors thought they got all of the cancer, but subsequent tests showed a spot on a lymph node.  He is currently undergoing chemo therapy once every two weeks for six months.  His doctors remain very optimistic, but we’d still appreciate your prayers for complete healing and for strength and endurance for Mark and Martha during this time.

Kelly (me) continues to teach technology and journalism/graphic design at Franklin Road Academy.  I also love my job.  I did NOT do a ½ (or full) marathon this year, and I feel great!  Triathlons are my new thing (My First Triathlon).  Having successfully finished three of them, I can no longer qualify for placings in the Beginner category.  However, being really a really weak swimmer, mediocre bicyclist, and slow runner, I wouldn’t qualify for placings in any category anyway.  Maybe when I’m 80 and still doing triathlons will I win something.

Gourmet cupcakes are my newest indulgence so if you are ever looking for a gift . . .  (I also love chocolate and a good extra sharp cheddar cheese.)  However, I really need to be eating more fruit and vegetables, so a membership in some sort of fruit-of-the-month club would be a better gift.

Matthew and Kelly’s (our) international trip this year took us to Nicaragua in July.  We met another one of the kids we sponsor through Compassion International.  Always an eye-opening, life-changing event, you can read about it here:  Open My Eyes.  You can also read about the amazing amount of fun hell we had as we hiked a volcano on Ometepe Island.

Next year’s trip is another once-in-a-lifetime trip:  india!  For three weeks we will traverse a good chunk of the country in June.  The first 10 days or so will be spent in Chennai and traveling up the Indian Ocean coast of south eastern India, mainly to visit two more kids they sponsor through Compassion International (link) as well as spend some time with a friend who pastors a church in a small village there.  During the second half of the trip, we will get to play tourist:  visit the Taj Mahal, ride elephants and camels in the dessert, visit Agra, Jaipur, New Delhi, and take a boat tour along the Ganges River in Varanasi, the heart of the Hindu culture.  Expect great blog posts to come from this adventure.

Other big news for 2012 included placing membership in a new church, Priest Lake Christian Fellowship.  Our former home church group, the Gathering, fizzled out as families found new churches around the Nashville area, so we started looking, too.  Being less than a mile from our home was a great benefit, but the people were the main draw.  We have never been to a more humble church where the Holy Spirit is so alive and thriving among its members.  It’s inspiring and challenging and moving each week.

Caleb is in fourth grade at Franklin Road Academy and continues to love school and excel in his academics.  To brag on this child for a moment, he has yet to receive a B in any term grade since he started PK.  He’s got his Daddy’s brains and aptitude for math and building things.  Caleb continues to love all things Star Wars, but his Pokemon obsession (thank goodness!) has come to an end.  If you know of anyone interested in buying a 700+ card Pokemon collection, please let us know.

Caleb’s newest obsession is legos.  The kid lives and breathes legos, which we are fine with.  He actually builds some really cool things, like a working flashlight—complete with an on/off lever and working bulb.

Caleb is also learning to play the recorder and trumpet, and we (as in Kelly) are trying desperately (and futilely) to get him to sing “This Song is Just Six Words Long” by Weird Al Yankovic in the Fourth Grade Variety Show in January.  Weird Al is another recent obsession of Caleb’s, and being the cool parents we are, for his birthday we bought him tickets to see Weird Al in concert in April when he comes to Nashville.

Caleb is a Webelo scout this year, and is a popcorn selling machine!  He sold over $1500 to win first place again in his cub scout pack.  He won an archery set, 8% of his total sales in cash, a $50 Walmart gift card, an LED head lamp, a patch, Predators’ tickets, and a trophy.  (Don’t get me started on winning trophies for something like selling popcorn.  Let’s just say, I’m not a fan of the practice.)

Caleb’s most exciting adventure this year, though, was his ER trip that led to a hospital stay for a couple of days at the end of August for pneumonia.  Despite this bump in the road, we are still tremendously blessed.  His asthma and allergies have plagued him something fierce this fall, much worse than normal.  We have an appointment with an asthma/allergy specialist next week so we are praying for something to help manage this better.

Jason started preK at FRA this year, and is loving it.  Being the second child, we did not work with him on things like the alphabet, drawing, writing, or reading much (hardly at all) before he started school.  Thankfully, the kid has a mind like a sponge and is taking off in the writing and reading department.  He also loves to draw.

Jason, too, is obsessed with Star Wars and legos.  At three he could recite entire scenes from Star Wars.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed by this.  Did I mention he was three at the time?  The kid can build lego creations with the best of them . . . well, maybe not a working flashlight yet, but he can build really cool spaceships, race cars, jails, mouse traps, and monsters.

Jason and Caleb took their first official swimming lessons this summer.  Lesson 1 involved Jason crying and screaming for the full 45 minute session.  He had snot running out of both nostrils to his belly button when I picked him up.  He only cried for about 15 minutes of lesson 2, and by lesson 3 he was actually excited to go.  Now, of course, the kid is terrified to put his head in the water, which reminds Kelly of herself as a child forced to take swimming lessons.

Packer, our dog, continues to love to eat anything that falls on the floor including baby spit-up (true story) as well as grass to later make herself throw-up said baby spit-up.  She loves to sleep during the day and wake us up around 4:00 a.m. to pee and play.

Finley Bubbles the VIII, our beta fish, didn’t last the year.  At this time, we are uncertain if we will buy Finley Bubbles the IX.

Hopes and prayers for 2013:

  • Good health for everyone
  • A safe and amazing trip to India
  • Jobs we love
  • Caleb and Jason would continue to grow and mature in their faith, following Christ
  • Matthew and Kelly possibly beginning a new Marriage Builders home church group
  • Kelly hopes to begin working on her MBA at Trevecca in the fall

As we reflect back and look forward, may we always remember WHY we celebrate.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:14

Love and prayers to all,
the Huddleston Family

PS.  If any of you find yourselves in Nashville and need a place to stay, we’ve got plenty of room and love house guests.

Why My Kids (Might) Think I’m a Bad Parent

2 11 2012

My last post was on Things That Make Me a Bad Parent (Part II.)  I decided to approach this from the lens of what my children might think.  I don’t even have to ask them . . . I just know.

  1. We won’t buy Caleb an iPhone for his 10th birthday.  Everyone in his class has an iPhone.  Do you hear me?  Everyone!   And they all have iPhones—no Androids in his tech savvy 4th grade class.
  2. They have to eat what we are eating for dinner, and they do not get dessert unless they eat it all.  Gasp!  They do not get mac and cheese or hot dogs on nights when we’re having a casserole or salmon loaf or brussel sprouts or soup or ___________.  They only get those things when I am too lazy to cook in which case I let Caleb choose a wise dinner, but then he has to prepare it for himself and his brother.
  3. We enforce bed times.
  4. Caleb has to do his and his brother’s laundry each week.  He hates it.  I love it.
  5. Jason has to clean up his lego messes or I will take them all away the following day.  Many tears are shed over this.
  6. Caleb has to practice his trumpet or recorder 10 minutes a day.  When he complains, I offer for him to pay me back the $40 for the used trumpet we bought from a neighbor because he just had to have it.  This usually ends in sulking, stomping to his bedroom, and then the sweet sounds of trumpet noise.
  7. They only get $1.00/tooth from the Tooth Fairy.
  8. I will not “just run back home” to get their forgotten homework or lunch bags.  I believe they need to learn the consequences of not being prepared, and I’d rather they learn it young than later in life when the consequences are more severe.  (I don’t make them starve at school, though.  I’ll provide them with my apple and a granola bar I always have on hand.)
  9. If they are fighting in the car, I will take away whatever it is they are fighting about—Lego magazines, the iPad, toys, whatever.  I don’t care who did what to whom, neither gets to play.  I don’t need to be distracted like that when I’m driving.
  10. If they ask their Daddy a question and don’t get the response they want, they will come ask me.  My response is usually, “What did Daddy say?  Well, that’s what it’s going to be.”

For my readers who are parents, I would love to know what’s on your list.

Things That Make Me a Bad Parent (Part II)

26 10 2012

A year ago, I posted Things That Make Me a Bad Parent.  After a discussion with some of my students today, I realized I needed to update my list.

  1. I laughed out loud when I saw Jason’s first yearbook photo.  It was taken seconds before a full-blown meltdown.  His face was contorted, his eyes red and puffy, his hair disheveled.  I still laugh whenever I look at it.
  2. I will save the photo from item #1 for his senior yearbook ad in 14 years.  I may also use a photo taken last year of an epic sneeze that ended with snot from both nostrils hanging down to his belly button.
  3. I often tell Jason I can’t read him a bedtime story because my throat hurts.  This is usually a lie.  I just don’t like reading out loud.  I will, however, sing to him and pray with him before bed.  Daddy gets story time.
  4. If Caleb complains about a meal, his punishment for the next day is to consume nothing but bread and water.  Yes, we really have done this.  Yes, it’s quite effective.  However, if we have Publix bakery bread or any of Matthew’s homemade bread products in the house, it’s really not a punishment.
  5. My kids can quote any Star Wars movie.  The entire script.  They will kick your butt at Star Wars trivia.  Did I mention Jason is only four?  Yes, he’s seen all six Star Wars movies at least 500 times each.
  6. Jason knows most of the lyrics to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog.  Hilarious, but not really age-appropriate.  Thankfully, they don’t get most of the grown-up jokes.
  7. I cuss in front of my kids.  Darn it!
  8. I throw away 99% of their art projects from church and school.
  9. New iPad?  Kids . . . what kids?
  10. I will undoubtedly eat at least half of their Halloween candy but claim that I gave it to the school counselor for the candy jar in her office.

I still do plenty of things right.  Jason brings me rocks from the playground on a regular basis, and I now have “Mommy’s Rock Garden” on the ledge of the whiteboard in my room.  I play light sabers and legos.  We collect leaves and poke at bugs together.  Jason and I still snuggle at nap time, and I encourage Caleb to practice his recorder in the van on the way to school—30 minutes of “Hot Cross Buns” anyone?  We pray a lot, we laugh a lot, we hug a lot, we love a lot.