Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Preston's Birthday Letter

Dear Preston,

Well, it's official! You are now a teenager!!!  What will it be like to have two teenagers in the house now?!

You definitely have a personality that is all your own.  You don't try to fit into anyone else's mold, but your own.  To you, life is all about having fun, trying to make others laugh, and constantly cracking jokes or making witty comments. 

You love when the family is together, going on trips, enjoying meals, or just relaxing at home and watching a movie.  You tend to be a homebody.  You try to emulate your dad and you love to be close to me.  As much as you like to tease your sister, I know you enjoy being with her as well.

You are adventurous and willing to try new things.  If it looks thrilling, but fun, you are in. 

You are athletic and love to be outdoors.  You enjoy workouts and running, no matter how tough.  You have tried all different sports and you definitely know where your heart lies.


Baseball is life!  You play it, watch it, talk about it...the list goes on and on.  You grew up on the baseball fields and you know how to play every position.  You look forward to the next game and practice and especially love being around your teammates.

We have watched you grow so much this past year: emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.  You are turning into a young man that is bittersweet to comprehend.  But we know your future is bright and you always make us proud.

We love you tremendously!

Happy Birthday, Presto!!!!

Mom, Dad, and Kaitlyn

Friday, May 24, 2019

Actions Speak Loud, Words Do Too

Often times we hear the phrase "words speak loud, actions speak louder."  It's true, you should back up your words with the simultaneous action.  However, sometimes words need to follow the action that happens first.

Mental health is a serious and rising issue.  Although there are many, many factors to the cause of this, words can be a culprit.

Parents will provide for their children, meet all their needs, but still fail to say "I love you" or "I'm proud of you."  Couples will get into a disagreement and then resolve the issue, but still fail to say "I'm sorry."  We're quick to criticize others and tell them everything they are doing wrong, but fail to acknowledge and verbally say what they are doing right.

Words have power.  Words have substance.   Words can heal.

We have a strict vocabulary in our house.  There are lots of things we do not say simply because they are not nice and there is no reason for them to be said.  There are millions of words to use in place of something that sounds inappropriate.  I always ask the kids "is it positive, encouraging, or uplifiting?"

It's easy to fail with our words.  It's easy to be frustrated or angered and something unkind comes out of our mouths or we show it in our body language.  We're all human and imperfect.  So, we have to be even more conscious of our actions and our words.  I learned years ago when I started teaching about the "sandwich method." Say something positive, then a constructive criticism, and then something positive again.  It definitely works.

I am an observer (as most therapists are) and I can tell when someone is insincere in their words or actions.  I have heard kinds words, but not seen it followed with kind actions. I have observed someone's demeanor change when they are put down and told how terrible they are.  I have also observed someone's demeanor change when they are encouraged or uplifted.  I have worked with children that have been abused, not just physically, but also verbally.  If that's all they ever hear, will that cycle be broken when they have their own kids?

Use positive words.  Follow up with positive actions.  Use positive actions.  Follow up with positive words. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Inspirational Quotes, Inspirational Lives

If you look on my Instagram feed, you will see it is full of quotes. Inspirational quotes.  The quotes stand out to me and provide meaning for my life.  Or sometimes I use the quotes if I feel someone is placed on my heart.  Words are a great outlet for me.  It is how I best express myself whether it's through blogging, song lyrics, or finding a quote (or even writing my own) that perfectly describes how I am feeling.

But life is more than quotes. Being an inspiration is more than what people read on your social media pages.

It is also how you live your life.

I can post all day about positive attitude, positive vibe, positive life, but if I'm not actually living those words, I am not being inspiring.  I am just being artificial.

Life is hard.  It's full of heartache, sadness, anger, tough choices.  But it can also be really beautiful. Life can be full of joy, love, excitement, and surprise endings.  It's all about your approach to life when it gets hard.  It's how you look at those challenges in the face and are willing to take them head-on with the mindset that it's already been conquered.

It is then you realize life is not that bad.  You can see the glass half full over and over again.

It is then you realize others may be watching and seeing how you handle those situations.  You are being inspiring. 

You are an inspiration and not just a quote.

Friday, January 25, 2019

In Remembrance...

When I tried to think of a word or phrase to describe my father-in-law, 'gentle giant' kept coming to mind.  And that description is so perfect.  He was a big man, in height as well as build, but his heart was even bigger. 

I got to know Wes Kelley in my teens, first as our church missionary along with his wife, then as my boyfriend's father, and finally, as my beloved father-in-law.  He would always tell me stories about Craig's younger years.  He would talk about Craig and his younger brother spending time with the Kelley's, flying back and forth between Texas and New Mexico in the Cessna plane he owned and piloted himself, before finalizing the adoption of the two boys.  He would often tell the same stories over and over.  A very specific story was when the boys first came to live with them and they wouldn't go outside.  They had five acres of land to explore, but stayed indoors, perhaps for a sense of security.  But since Wes owned his own successful construction company, WesCo, he had a truck full of dirt delivered to their house and had it dumped in a portion of the yard (remember, they had 5 acres).  After that, full of childlike wonderment, the boys could no longer be kept from going outdoors.  Many adventures were had with toy trucks and imaginations on that big dirt pile.

As I heard that same story countless times over the years, I realized it's not because he forgot he already told me the story.  It's because that story left a long lasting impression on him.  It was a story forever etched in his heart about the growing bond between him and two little boys that would learn to call him Dad. 

Wes was known for his work ethic.  He would get up early to get the job done.  Sure, he would stop at a local diner for coffee with his friends (and he had a myriad of them), socializing and catching up on the happenings of their small city of Carlsbad.  Then, it would be a full day of construction, managing a crew, dealing with any obstacles, and providing quality work.  It was a characteristic that Craig always remembered and used as a plumb line for his own life.

When our paths finally crossed, Wes and Wanda had already been called to the mission field.  They obeyed the Lord in giving up their own company and the comfort it provided to continue construction for the sake of the Gospel by building churches, orphanages, and Bible schools.  So, when I finally realized that my new boyfriend's parents were actually the missionaries that attended and were supported by our church, I was dumbfounded.  Awestruck is probably a better term.  I had such great admiration for them and all the work they were doing.  They were truly living examples of how a person can live their life in faith and stand strong amidst any adversity that comes their way. 

Until the Lord makes you kneel.

We were all part of a wonderful Assemblies of God church in El Paso, Harvest Christian Center, and the Spirit was always so alive. So very real.  I can clearly remember one service when the Spirit completely took over the service.  There was shouting, crying, praising in the name of the Lord.  And there was Wes.  Always one to acknowledge God's presence and its power, he was against the wall, weeping, and unable to stand.  With Bible in one hand and the other holding onto the wall, he was praying in a language only God could understand. And so I got to personally witness this gentle giant of a man become humbled and brought to his knees by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I remember another time that happened after the birth of our first child.  A friend of ours was teasing us and asking "where's the parenting manual for this?"  Laughing, Wes held up his Bible (which was never far from him) and said, "it's right here."  He understood how important it was to raise children to love the Lord, which he successfully did.  He was delighted to know Craig and I believed the same and always asked us about our church and sermons and Sunday School lessons that were being taught.  When I was a VBS director for close to a decade, I know Wes and Wanda were praying continuously for little lives to be touched (as well as my sanity!).

Touching lives, impacting families, and reaching the lost is the legacy he has left behind.  I am always so floored and amazed by the many testimonies that are all because Wes and Wanda Kelley lived in obedience.  He once told me a story of one of their missions trips. A man that was completely deaf was instantly healed during a revival service.  I can only imagine the many, many miracles they had seen and were part of. 

Wes loved talking about the Lord, Heaven, and all that Jesus did for us.  He never stopped being a witness.  Even in his last few days, one of his nurses saw a plaque hanging on the wall, recognizing him for his missions work in Mexico.  She thought it was such a wonderful thing and was also awed by the life her patient lived. 

Watching a loved one with Alzheimer's is devastating.  Their words can't seem to be found and everything becomes strange and confusing.  There was a beautiful moment that occurred in October as he sat beside the bed of his gravely ill wife.  Wes was not completely aware of what was going on but knew we were in a hospital and that his wife of 60 years was sick.  He didn't say much but sat there and would occasionally ask her if she was ok.  Then the music therapist came in for a session.  She softly strummed her guitar and sang several hymns.  Wes sang every. single. word.  I had never heard him sing before.  In recent months, he had not been talking as much either.  But to see him sing those hymns that were so familiar to him from his younger days, and continue to praise the Lord, because he never ever forgot his identity in Christ, was the most magnificent and fascinating thing I had ever seen.  He used that time to talk to the music therapist about the Lord and how important it was to know Him.  He may have forgotten how to do many things, but he had not forgotten how to be a witness.  The tears just flowed from me as I sat there in stunned silence.

Wes absolutely loved his family.  He loved his grandkids and great-grandkids.  He had some special moments with Preston in the last few months.  He taught us all so much about how to live and serve.  He taught us how to work hard and be generous with the blessings we were given. I watched Craig as he watched his father in his last few days. I could see the love and utmost admiration that was there. I know that is the type of dad that Craig wants to be.

So my tears that I shed are not sad tears because Wes is gone.  I am very thankful his caged mind has now been set free.  I am happy to know he has been reunited with the love of his life.  I am elated that he now gets to forever be in the presence of his Heavenly Father that he so faithfully served.  But rather, my tears are those of being heartbroken for Craig and his family for losing both parents within three months of each other.  We have truly entered into a season of grief that has no time frame.

Even though people will no longer have the chance to meet Wes Kelley and allow him to leave an imprint in their lives, his legacy goes on.  All he has done by serving the Lord will never be forgotten and will impact future generations.  And despite the awards and accolades he may have received, he always gave the glory to God.

"Well done, good and faithful servant."-Matthew 25:23

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