Friday, January 19, 2018

Choose Joy

This past week I read devotions from a couple different books.  Interestingly, they both had the message of being joyful. Instantly, I could feel a nudging in my spirit.

Heading back to school this past Tuesday marked a full and busy schedule once again.  Both kids are already involved in their sports and practices.  The first volleyball game is tomorrow.  Craig is constantly busy with work.  When one holiday ends, the next one immediately begins in the retail business.  And I have already started to fill our house with music in different languages and genres. 

With this busyness, comes the emotions, the tiredness, the feeling of needing to take a breath.  The busyness also comes with dread, complaints, and grudges.

But God doesn't want us to live a life full of dread.  He doesn't want us to be tired all the time.  He wants us to live a happy life, a life fulfilled, and take time to rest in Him and his comfort. God wants us to find joy in all that we do, even the littlest things.



It's so easy to take for granted the daily routines and responsibilities.  It's easy to go through a day full of complaints instead of thanks.  But by doing so, we rob ourselves of the joy that we can experience in these mundane tasks. 

Not everyday will be great and trials and tribulations will still come our way.  Even people can take away our happiness.  But in those moments, we have to make the conscious effort to find that joy.  And joy is contagious. 

So as God was speaking to me this week, and as part of living a life fulfilled, I made a conscious effort to be joyful.  I was happy to meet new people, I was excited to learn new things about music that I did not know even existed, and I was very thankful for the home routine of practices, cooking dinner, and finding those moments of quality time with the family. 

I can complain and dread it all or I can embrace it and be joyful.

I choose joy.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A Life Fulfilled

The past year came and went in the blink of an eye.  Here we are already celebrating another new year.  New goals to reach, new plans to make, new resolutions to hopefully keep and not break.  On this first day of the new year, it seems the possibilities are endless.

Every year I pray for a specific word from God to guide our family throughout the next 365 days.  This year was no different, but this year seemed to take just a little longer to hear that word.  I remember so well when God revealed it to me and my confusion that came immediately after.

This year, in 2018, we are to live a life fulfilled.  As I was given this revelation and prayed about it some more, God began to clarify it.  After all, it was a statement He had given me rather than just a simple, understandable word. 

God wants us to live a life fulfilled, every single day.

We are to live a life to the FULLest.  We are to live a life FILLED with love, kindness, and positivity.  Live in the moment and be present.  Really take in and enjoy those special times with our family whether it's at school events, sports activities, or quiet moments at home. Craig and I need to grow and deepen our relationship even more.  We have been a couple for over 2 decades, but there is always more to learn about and from each other.  We need to put in the effort for friendships. Take time to nurture them and let them grow.  Sometimes our friendship circles will be small but they can be very special.  We need to be thankful for the gifts God has given us and use them in a pleasing way to Him.  We need to refine them and continually work at our craft.  We need to acknowledge we are all different and unique in those gifts and could never compare to someone else.

This will be a challenge because after all, we are human.  There will be some really rough days, some sad days, some days we wish would end quickly so we can awake to a fresh start again.  However, we need to start each day knowing God is giving us that day to make good choices.  We need to be thankful for all the blessings, big or small, that come our way.  When we face those trials, we need to acknowledge God is with us through every moment and perhaps even trying to reveal something amazing to us. 

Most importantly, we are to live a life fulfilled in His Word, His Love, His Peace.  God really wants us to grow closer to Him and connect with Him in all new ways.  Try new Bible studies, dig deeper during devotions, and take to heart the words that we read. 

I cannot quite put into words everything He has spoken to me for this next year.  There is so much and I am so excited.

God is giving us this life and wants us to enjoy it.  He wants us to be content.  He wants our lives to be fulfilled.




Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Year of Growth: The Cycle Continues

As we look back on 2017, we see all the amazing growth we've experienced, the pruning that was tough to endure, and the blooms that turned out beautiful.  God has indeed led our family through an interesting journey this past year.

Craig experienced professional growth in a huge way.  He got to experience things he never thought would come so soon in his career.  He has learned a lot, taught a lot, and is excited about the future ahead.  I am so proud of all he has accomplished. 

The kids and I have been through so much with our education, especially these past few months.  We've all had to adjust to new teaching styles and really get our heads in the books (or music, in my case).  But we have made it so far and are excelling in our subjects.

Sports has taken over our household now that BOTH kids are involved in something.  Keeping an organized calendar is crucial for the many practices and games each week.  We have watched them both practice incredibly hard at their sport and their skills have significantly improved.  We are very excited about the Spring season.

Finally, our Spiritual growth has been phenomenal.  God has definitely taken us down a path we did not see coming.  Craig and I love seeing the kids so excited about church, retelling the lessons and verses, and taking to heart what they have learned.  Every week at church, I feel God is showing me something different in a whole new way.  God brought our family to a new church and we have very much enjoyed it and love being able to just sit in His presence.

We have welcomed new family members through births and weddings.  We have been able to travel to 5 different states and see God's beautiful handiwork.  We have enjoyed new friendships and cherish the ones that have been so special throughout the years.  We have grown in so many ways.  Overall, 2017 has been a good year for our family. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Kaitlyn's Birthday Letter

Dear Kaitlyn,

Well, the years keep passing quickly and  you keep growing up.  We've seen you mature in so many ways and you understand the new responsibilities that come with it.  You are becoming very wise.

We love watching you come into your own.  You are unique, you don't follow the crowd, and you stick to your beliefs.  We have always told you to be your own person and you truly are.

Your faith is very strong and you have a great understanding of the Word and what God commands of us.  You demonstrate kindness, love, and acceptance to everyone around you.

You are extremely creative, crafty, and you enjoy trying your hand at new mediums.  Your work always astounds us and you love making gifts for others.  You have a bright future ahead.

Your newfound passion for volleyball is a joy to watch.  You know what challenges you and you accept them.  Then you conquer them.  Keep striving to be the best.

We pray that you continue to stay true to your beliefs.  We pray that others always experience your kindness when they are around you.  We pray that you keep learning new things and excelling at the old.

We love you and cannot wait to see what this next year has in store for you.

Love Always,
Mom, Dad, and Preston

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Year of Growth: Spreading Our Blessings

A dandelion spreads it seeds through a method called wind dispersal.  The seeds can be carried long distances by the wind, floating along until the wind dies down.  Those seeds have a new place to grow, creating new life, spreading more seeds, and repeating the process over and over again.  A dandelion does not simply stay in one solitary place forever, but shows its beauty in far off places.

As we have prayed and asked God to help us grow this year, He is teaching us the same method as the dandelion.  We are spreading our blessings to new places, reaching new people, hoping the process is repeated by others.


Christmas is fast approaching and we always ask ourselves the inevitable question...What do we get our kids for Christmas?  What electronic do they need?  What game station would be cool to have?  And the answer is...

Nothing.

We have been extremely blessed this year.  As I look back at the many things God has done for our family, I am always overwhelmed. God is good.  He has heavily laid on my heart the opportunity to bless others.  Give back in ways we haven't before.  Show kindness to others even when the world seems cruel. 


I told our kids awhile back when we have little, we still give a lot. When we are feeling down, we still provide encouragement.  Ironically, when God placed this on my heart, it was at a time I felt we didn't have enough.  But God was to quick to show me that we have more than enough.  He has blessed us abundantly.  And that it's time to bless others.

This Christmas will be different for us.  Our Christmas will be smaller so we can be a bigger blessing to others. Sure, our kids will still receive gifts but it won't be extravagant and of course, we will definitely remember the true reason for the season.  Throughout the month of December, our family will be doing random acts of kindness.   We came up with a list of 25 random acts of kindness and wrote them down.  We may possibly do more, but no less, and doing at least one random act per day.  Perhaps it's blessing the mailman with a special treat or providing a meal for another family.  Perhaps it's leaving notes of encouragement in public places or giving a donation to a local shelter.  There is so much kindness to share.

After we wrote our list, we prayed over it as a family, asking God to use us to bless others.  Our calendar is ready to go so we can keep a journal of all that has been done.  We may take some photos of our random acts in hopes of inspiring others.  But the main goal is to not do random acts of kindness for the applause of man, but rather in obedience to God.

 
We are eager to get started on December 1.  Craig and I love that our kids are just as eager and understand the world is bigger than them.  We need to spread our kindness to others, not just at Christmas, but all the time.  Perhaps our random acts of kindness will continue past the holidays.  If you feel so inspired, please join us and do random acts of kindness with your family.
 
 

 

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Year of Growth: Continued Blooms

Hello all,
It's been quite awhile since I've updated.  Our lives have been hectic and very fast-paced these past few months.  As I sit here on a cool Autumn day with an afternoon cup of coffee, I decided to play catch up on our lives (albeit in letter form).

Preston just finished his first season with a new baseball team.  It's a team he has been wanting to be part of for awhile.  The coach used to be Preston's batting/pitching coach, but is now so much more.  Preston has the greatest respect for him and only wants to improve as a player and person. Sixth grade has been a little rough, adjusting to more responsibilities and tougher academic standards.  However, we feel like we've finally got him into the groove of things and he is doing well.  He joined Running Club, Basketball Club, Movie Club, Four-Square Club, and Bible Club. He is a social butterfly!!!

Kaitlyn is in her last year of middle school!!!!  It's so hard to believe! But she is doing extremely well in all of her Pre-AP classes.  She is taking Algebra as well so she can earn high school credit.  She is extremely independent and studious when it comes to her classes.  We are always amazed at her finished projects and how creative she can be with them.  She is in AVID and NJHS which is already preparing her for college (yikes!).  She's also part of an afterschool theater troupe, Bible study, and is completing a stint as house manager for the school play.  She is almost done with her second season of volleyball and they currently have a winning record.  She has worked hard on her overhand serve and is now known as the power hitter on the team.  She has done amazing!

Craig is heading into his new store's first holiday season.  It's been a lot of work to get a brand new store to the standards that he holds.  His bosses are pleased with all he has done and his associates appreciate the way he runs the store.  He has professional goals he has set and is eager to reach each one.  It's been very special seeing the store transform from bare bones (literally) to a flourishing business.  We are so proud of all Craig has done.  Craig has still managed to find time to support all of us, attend our events and games, and be our biggest encourager through our tough days.

I am in still in school studying music therapy and it honestly feels like I'm never going to be done.  It's hard, it is emotional, and I want to give up all of the time.  But, I know I must stay the course.  Honestly, I feel like I'm just an average musician.  I'm not the greatest singer, pianist, or guitarist, which is totally okay with me.  However, I think my compassion and willingness to always listen will help me be a great therapist.  I have met so many wonderful people at my school and everyone is very supportive and encouraging of each other.  Despite my school schedule and long practice hours, I somehow manage to be the main chauffeur, cook, and calendar keeper (we all have cleaning duties).  Everyone's still alive!!!

Our calendar stays full, but our hearts are fuller.  We are so thankful for the life we are blessed with and that we get to experience everything together.  We have some amazing things coming up next year and we look forward to all God has in store for us.  We have prayed for God to bring us revelations and opportunities and He never fails. 

We hope all is well in your hearts and homes.  May God bring peace and comfort to you and your families as well.  Until next time...

Sincerely,
The Kelley's

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Vacation 2017

Another vacation has come and gone and we enjoyed our much needed getaway.  Our trip started with a visit to our 12the state, Kentucky, and ended on the beautiful beach of Gulf Shores, Alabama. 

Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave is the world's longest known cave system.  We chose a short guided tour, but will definitely consider a longer tour next time.  The parts of the cave that we saw only touched on all there is to explore underground.

 



Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace and Boyhood Home
We always love to visit historical sites.  I discovered a piece of history was not too far from Louisville so we made a quick stop to check it out.  The actual home is encased in a building similar looking to the Lincoln Memorial.  It is a very tiny house.  We had to drive down the road a few miles and there stood Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home.  It is just a small as the other house.








Kentucky Derby Museum
We were excited to take a quick guided tour of Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.  Again we learned to take a longer tour next time.  There was so much we wanted to see!!!  After taking the tour and seeing a 20 minute video, Craig and I quickly decided seeing the Kentucky Derby live was going on our Bucket List.  Since Kroger hand sews the rose garland given to the winner, I wonder if we could get some discounted tickets?  Hmmm....

 


 


 


The Ark Encounter
Yes, that Ark.  Well, it's not the exact same Ark from the days of Noah, but it's an exact replica.  It was built according to the same dimensions listed in the Bible.  Some creative license was taken for the inside of the boat, but it was really cool to get a general idea of what it may have actually looked like.

There were 3 levels inside the boat, full of information and exhibits.  Any possible question you could have about the Ark was addressed and answered.  There were lots of comparison between what scientists believe and what creationists believe.  One of our favorite things at the end was the depiction of real life scenarios and the struggles people currently have.  Then at the end, the Salvation message is explained and there are pamphlets on the Salvation prayer.  It was a great ending to the museum.


 

 
 

 
 
 
 

Louisville Slugger Museum
So the whole reason we wanted to visit Louisville specifically was to come to this museum.  Every baseball loving boy needs to visit this place.  We took the factory tour and loved all the insights into making the famous wooden bats.  The tour ended with everyone receiving a mini bat. Of course, we couldn't leave there without Preston getting his own custom bat (orange) with his name and number embossed on it.









A new city visit would not be complete without checking out some local restaurants.  And if there is a Hard Rock Café nearby, we are stopping there.

Troll Pub Under the Bridge


Hard Rock Café Louisville



After a few days in Kentucky, it was time to head south to our very favorite spot, Gulf Shores, Alabama.  We rented a condo in our favorite place and just took in the sights and sounds of the ocean every chance we got.  My parents and brother even stopped by for a couple nights. 

The jellyfish were very prominent this year and Craig and Preston got plenty of stings.  Thankfully, the stings weren't too bad and didn't really hurt them.  We also noticed lots of dead fish would wash up on the shore every morning.  One gigantic dead fish was found also.  However, I read an article that there is currently a dead zone in the gulf causing lots of marine life to die.  We also had lots of rain this time which we never experienced before.  It was a different trip to the beach this year, but still wonderful.  Kaitlyn enjoyed collecting shells and playing volleyball, Preston and Craig enjoyed the water and building sand castles, and I enjoyed some reading and staying in the shade.







 

 
 



I'm always so sad to leave such a beautiful place and can't wait to go back again.  Overall, it was a fabulous vacation and we were very happy to get away for a little bit.  Now time to plan next year's trips!