Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Year of Kindness

A new year brings new beginnings, new goals, and new resolutions.  Although we can begin all of these things at any given time, it is always the norm to wait for the first day of the year.  Everyone is always so eager to make a fresh start on January 1st.

For 2019, it is the Year of Kindness for the Kelley family.  I'd like to think we are kind all the time, but this year, we want to exhibit it even more.  We want others to feel welcome in our home, come over for a hot meal or cup of coffee.  We want to be available if someone just needs to talk.  Our home is open, our hearts are open.

We want to do more random acts of kindness.  A year ago, we spent a month doing random acts of kindness and it was wonderful.  We loved seeing the kids get excited and were so eager to participate and bring a smile to people's faces.  Some we knew and some we didn't.

We have a big year coming up with lots of milestones to be reached and celebrations to be had.  We want to extend our joys and happiness to others.  We don't like to see others left out and everyone deserves some happiness.  And in this world where kindness seems to be waning and almost disappearing at times, we want to revive it. 

We can do our part by extending kindness to others on a daily basis.  We encourage others to be kinder also.  It doesn't have to cost money.  A smile, a hug, a compliment, a word of encouragement...all of these things can go a long ways.

As we make our way through this next year, trudging through any obstacles that we may have to overcome, don't lose that spirit of kindness.  When our days are tough, someone else's day may be tougher.  When someone is celebrating, let's celebrate with them. Simply, let's be kind.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: A Life Fulfilled

2018.  So much to say about 4 numbers that consists of 365 days.  It was a tough year for everyone I know.  It was emotional, it was full of sidetracked plans, and it seemed never ending. But the end is finally here and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief for making it through.

2018 was the Year of A Life Fulfilled for our family.  And indeed it truly was.  Kaitlyn enjoyed her first church retreat over a weekend.  We went to Georgia over Spring Break and took in the beauty of that state.  Craig celebrated his 1 year anniversary at his store and received many awards for excelling.  I passed my vocal barrier exam at school.  Preston and his team won a tournament in June and the following week won the championship for their division in Omaha, Nebraska.  We took two wonderful trips during the summer time and especially enjoyed our downtime at Gulf Shores.  Kaitlyn and Preston started at different schools, experiencing the newness of middle and high school.  I started my first semester of practicum.  Preston joined the Cross Country team at his school.  Craig and I went to see Bruno Mars in concert for the first time...an experience we will never forget.  And the four of us ended our classes and work with excellent grades and sales.  It was a wonderful year, full of so many memories and new experiences.

However, it wasn't always good and it wasn't always easy.  We had so many big financial expenses occur.  School was most definitely a big struggle for us at times.  Kaitlyn injured her shoulder which took her out of volleyball for good.  Craig has had some big challenges at work and has put in lots of long hours.  And we had to say goodbye to a very important part of the family, Craig's mom.  When things were hard and challenging, we faced it head on.  We prayed fervently each time for God to get us through everything and provide for our every need.  He always did.

School.  I think it's hard for Craig to have 3 of us in school at the same time.  He has to manage our tears, our frustrations, our deadlines, and our mood swings. Ha!  Because we know the kids can excel in school, we expect a lot from them.  We really push them to better themselves as students and to become involved in school.  For the first time, Preston is experiencing pre-AP classes and Kaitlyn has AP classes.  When we keep pushing them and encouraging them to really focus on their schoolwork and give it their all, they do extremely well.  We've seen Preston excel in classes he's always struggled with and he is really enjoying being a percussionist in the Symphonic band.  We've seen Kaitlyn struggle through the beginnings of high school and finally settled in.  She is taking pre-AP art and her skills are at a whole new level now.  She has joined clubs at school and does lots of volunteer work. She has her mind set on the future and we are so excited for her.  They both ended the six weeks with straight A's.

As for me, the fall semester was hard, extremely hard.  I was finally able to take classes focused on the field of music therapy and not just music fundamentals.  My music in therapy class was focused on hospice care, palliative care, and dementia care.  My very first practicum was working with a group of dementia clients.  But as I was learning all about this, I was experiencing it first hand in my personal life.  It was as if everything I was reading about was coming true with my own family members.  I cannot tell you how many times I had to fight back tears in class because it was all so very real and personal.  I was given lots of grace from my professors and offered extensions on assignments, if needed.  I was determined to stay focused and ended the semester with a 4.0.  Only 3 semesters of coursework is left!!!

Work.  Craig has done such an amazing job with the store he has been given.  It is always amazing to remember the store before it had anything on the shelves, before it even had shelves, to see the successful, thriving store that it is.  He takes such pride in his work and it shows.  But because of that, he works constantly to try to make it look better, try to do better, and make sure business runs smoothly.  Although he is the store manager, he still has a lot expected of him from his bosses.  Craig always meets those expectations no matter how long of a day it might take.  He comes home completely exhausted, but really does try to make the most of his time with the family.

Relationships.  We kind of retreated into ourselves this past year.  We didn't extend many social invitations and likewise, not many were extended to us.  We've really come to realize what relationships are important to us.  We've seen the continual support and unconditional love from certain people and know that God has kept them in our lives for a reason.  And we've seen some relationships fade away.   That's okay.  God knows who we need around us.  The four of us have become even closer because of it. 

It's hard to pinpoint which event was our favorite because so many wonderful things happened.  On rough days, I look around our beautiful home and see all that God has provided for us and that He continues to provide.  The highs of the year certainly outweigh the lows of the year.  I am thankful for all of it, good and bad.  God is always good, God always provides, and we definitely live a life fulfilled.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Kaitlyn's Birthday Letter

Dear Kaitlyn, 

Wow! Where has time gone? Fifteen years old on the 15th of December. Truly a special day.

We have watched you grow and learn so much over this past year. You have been challenged and it's been tough, but you handled it very well. 

You have found a renewed passion for art. Your talent always amazes us. We cannot wait to see your future projects.

You have found your circle of friends. It may be small and you may be eager to expand it, but you definitely know the type of friendships you want to have. High school brings out a different side of people but you know how to filter the good from the bad. We cannot wait to see these relationships bloom.

You are understanding the new responsibilities that come with age. You are cooking, baking, cleaning, learning to drive...so many new things that is preparing you for the future.  It may be scary going down this new road, but we cannot wait to see where it leads.

Most importantly, you still love God.  You still keep His Word in your heart and follow His teachings. You have great mentors that are helping you grow and mature as a child of your Heavenly Father.  It's beautiful to watch and we cannot wait to see all the Lord has planned for you.

You tolerate your little brother, you laugh the hardest at my mom jokes while I'm trying to be relevant, and you love teasing your dad. We all love you so much, we love watching you grow into an even more amazing and beautiful person each day, and we are so thankful God gave us to you. You are our first miracle baby.

Love you KK,
Mom, Dad & Preston 


Friday, November 9, 2018

In a Time of Grief

It's taken me time to write this post.  I could barely take the funeral program out of my car until just a few days ago.  Her picture with her smiling so lovingly at me every time I glanced at it. So much has happened in just a month. It's been very tough, life is still full of grief, but God is still in control. 

Grief is such a unique process.  It is different in every circumstance, for every person.  Although I have lost loved ones before, the grief this time is so hard to experience, hard to control, and I cannot wait for it to end.  If it ever will.

To watch a love one fade away...to be so vibrant one day and then see the life leaving them the next...is incredibly tough.  It's heart-wrenching, it is hurtful, but it is also so very beautiful.  I am thankful we all got to be together in the last few days of my mother-in-law's life.  I am very thankful she knew she was surrounded by what was most important to her.

Her family.

We all had our time to say good-bye even though it was still much too soon.  Our kids even chose to spend time with her on her last day, which I hope they will remember fondly.  That time was incredibly special and rare.  As I said my final good-bye I could only manage to whisper two words in her ear.

Thank you.

Thank you for being a constant encourager and supporter.  Thank you for being meek yet very strong.  Thank you for your strong leadership in the walls of the church, on the mission field, and for the family. Thank you for your nurturing ways.  Showing others what it is like to be compassionate, kind, and care for others in all situations.  Thank you for being the most amazing granna and mother-in-law.  You never meddled or overstepped boundaries. You let us be a family of 4, but glowed with pride whenever we saw you. 

Thank you for your big heart and being a willing servant of God.  Because of this, you allowed two little boys into your home that already had three children and called them your own.  You raised them as if they were your own flesh and blood and did not treat them as if they were not.  Without your obedience, our family would not be what it is.  Thank you for raising all five children in God's Word and to be strong and unique individuals.  Their commitment to their parents, to each other, and the understanding that unity is utmost important is remarkable to watch.

Although they were only two words, there was so much said.  And I pray she received my message.

As we grieve the loss of one beautiful soul, we find ourselves grieving a life that is no longer the same.  My father-in-law will live out the rest of his life, hopefully many years still, fighting against the terrible disease of Alzheimer's.  But knowing we can spend this time with him, learning so much about his younger years, is a huge blessing. 

And so we grieve.  And we pray.  And we understand that God is still good and in control of situations.  And we have some peace knowing she is pain free, worry-free, and simply free...in the presence of the One she so faithfully served.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Road to Omaha

Baseball is life.  At least for this family.  And when we heard we were taking a baseball trip to Omaha, Nebraska with our team, we made a family vacation out of it.

We headed to South Dakota first to check out some presidents.  We booked the Mount Rushmore tour with our own tour guide and saw some pretty amazing things.  It's definitely the best way to sight see.  Plus, the weather was in the cool 60's and felt so nice!!!

We stopped at Crazy Horse Memorial.  It's been under construction for over 20 years and Craig and I probably won't see the completion in our lifetime.  But it still looks pretty cool. 


 The white sculpture is how the finished product should look.
Our guide took us on a very scenic route through Custer State Park.  We saw lots of wild elk and a couple of buffalo.  We were told the rest of the buffalo were on higher ground in the park due to the recent rains.  It was still so beautiful!!!!

The rains started and the fog was drifting in and out.  We weren't sure how much of Mount Rushmore we would be able to see.  Thankfully, just as we were getting to the monument, the rains stopped.  However, it made the former Presidents look like they were crying (perhaps they were?).

A flag for each state was represented along this walkway.

Our tour included a free lunch at the cafĂ© and we enjoyed taking in the sights.  It was a pretty cool experience.

For dinner, we took in a local chuck wagon show, Fort Hays.  It was also the location of some of the scenes from the movie "Dances with Wolves."  Some movie memorabilia was housed on site.  We had such a great time.  They played music from all decades after we finished a delicious meal.  There was even an Elvis sighting!

We had a great time in South Dakota and it is such a beautiful state.  I wish we had time to check out more tourist attractions, but we had to head off to Omaha to start the baseball festivities.

We took in two college world series games.  Preston had a blast watching the games and hanging out with his teammates.  Even when it was raining, he did not want to leave.


Sadly, our first day of games got rained out.  So, our family took the opportunity to go across the river to Iowa and do some sight seeing.  We visited the Union Pacific Railroad Museum and learned all about the history of this railroad company.  Then, we toured a historic home and loved it!!  I always think the woodwork in these old houses are so beautiful. 


We ate dinner at Quaker Steak and Lube.  It looks like an old gas station with replicas of cars inside.  The food was pretty good.

The next day (after going 1-1 in our games), we went to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge and stood in 2 states at a time.  Then we headed to a local burger joint that was A-MAY-ZING!!!!

We really traveled to the Midwest for a baseball tournament.  There was a bonfire where the boys traded pins, met players from across the country and participated in a skills challenge. After going 1-1 on that Friday, we won our game on Saturday and then won 3 games in a row on Sunday!  We won the championship for our division.  Such an amazing feat!!!!  The last 3 teams were all from Texas and were seeded higher than us.  It also got pretty warm, but our team pushed through.  Every single player did such a fantastic job.  We went home with pretty full hearts.

We made one more stop in Oklahoma on our way home.  I am a huge fan of Pioneer Woman and was dying to stop at her restaurant and store.  Craig was kind enough to make the detour so I can see it.  There were also public tours of her Lodge, which is where she films her TV show.  I loved it so much!!!

It was a very busy week, we drove many, many miles, visited 4 more states, and made so many new memories.