Wednesday, January 3, 2018

30 before 30

Photo by Kaitlin Scott Photography

I turned 29 today, on January 3rd. In one year I will turn 30...which seems slightly unbelievable. Last year on my birthday I quipped that I "have accomplished more than I thought I would, and less than I had hoped".  There is very little about my life that I have any right to complain about. I have worked hard and been blessed. And still I am not satisfied to stay as I am. 

Every year I feel myself pushing forward, pulsing with a renewal of focus and purpose, even if I don't know which direction I'm headed. I have moved to a different state every year for the past 4. In 2012 I moved from Illinois to North Carolina, in 2014 I moved to South Carolina, in 2015 I moved to Kansas briefly, then back to Charleston, then back to North Carolina. In 2016 I moved permanently (as permanently as the Army allows) to Kansas, and in 2017 we moved to Missouri. This summer 2018 we will move yet again, and we don't know where that will be yet. Frankly, I'm tired of defining my life by the constant moving. Its redundant. I want to focus my life instead by the experiences that enrich my time, and spirit in which they are done. 

My word for 2018 is Whole. The things in this list are meant to help me in the pursuit of wholeness. Some of them will challenge me, some will excite me, some will be very hard to pull off while others are meant to soothe and inspire me. If I can do these things, even half of them in the next year, I expect I will feel much more Whole. And that will be a triumph.

So here are 30 things I want to do by the time I turn 30:

    1. Take a girls trip
    2. Start my YouTube channel "This Full Life with Kelly"
    3. Read a new book each month (nonfiction)
    4. Attend one workshop for counselors/therapists
    5. Get my LPC license
    6. Run a 5K
    7. Practice piano and voice regularly
    8. Get better at yoga, look into certification
    Yoga has healed my body is many ways!
    9. Read the Bible in a year (again)
    10. Visit more museums, art galleries, national parks, monuments
    11. Sponsor a child or missionary
    12. Adopt a charity/non-profit for the year
    13. Take a trip to another country
    14. See a Broadway show (maybe Hamilton?)
    15. Do a 3rd wedding anniversary trip
    16. Expand Horwood Homes LLC (investment real estate)
    17. Start a flower garden/grow my garden
    18. Share Jesus with a stranger
    19. Start a collection from my travels
    20. Pay off all student loans
    21. Attend a music festival
    22. Fast something for 1 day each week (food, electronics, negativity etc)
    23. Learn how to use my DSLR camera
    24. Go camping or skiing or some other outdoor adventure
    25. Master macaroons
    26. Attend more random events for culture (auction, shows, sporting events)
    27. Plan a family vacation
    28. Invite someone to church
    29. Start journaling again
    30. Take horseback riding lessons regularly

    Owning horses and riding was a dream that I hope comes true again someday!
    Girls trip fun from 2017 with my college basketball team!

    Monday, December 18, 2017

    Revisiting my Bucket List from 5 years ago!

    I'm working on my "30 before 30" list. I turn 29 in a few weeks, meaning I've only got about 55 more weeks of living out my 20's. I'll share my "30 before 30" list closer to my birthday, but I thought I'd take this time to reflect on a Bucket List post I made in 2012.

    Let's see what I've checked off that list in the past 5 years:

    Love it!   (via Words of Wisdom / Good idea… AND so begins the 30 before 30 Project!!)
    1. Own a horse I was blessed to have 2! Hoping to own one again someday
    2. Visit my homeland: Ireland
    3. Play a different board game every day for a month
    4. Wear my mom's wedding dress (in some form) and my grandma's wedding band at my wedding  This was pretty cool to check off. I DID wear a dress that was combined with my mom's wedding gown, and my wedding band was my grandmother's wedding band.
    5. Show one of my dogs in an AKC competition
    6. Have an herb garden  And I have kept most of them alive!
    7. Learn how to cook with fresh herbs  Totally love doing this with herbs from my own garden!
    8. Take a hot air balloon ride
    9. Go scuba diving
    10. Ride horseback in the ocean   Did this on my honeymoon, bareback in St. Lucia! #thedream
    11. Search for buried treasure
    12. See the sunrise and the sunset on the same day
    13. Be debt free for the rest of my life
    14. Speak to students about Truth  I've had the opportunity to talk to students and athletes
    15. Come out with my own music album
    16. Swim with dolphins  Another epic memory from my honeymoon! Swam WITH dolphins on an Island near St. Maarten's
    17. Hold a lion cub
    18. Ride an elephant
    19. Rescue a greyhound
    20. Do all the crafts on my DIY craft board on pinterest
    21. Learn to think before I speak  Still a work in progress, but becoming a therapist helped with this a lot
    22. Be in a movie  I've been in a few commercials, so I'll count that!
    23. Start an orphanage somehwere its needed, and run it
    24. Adopt a few kids
    25. Make my own wedding veil  Made from my mom's wedding veil! (I didn't make it myself...but I made a veil for my bridal photos)
    26. Have a 50th wedding anniversary
    27. Take a gondola ride in Italy along the canals
    28. Go to the Ellen DeGeneres show
    29. Visit England and wear a fancy hat somewhere it would be appropriate
    30. Enter a ballroom dance competition
    31. Run a 10K  The Chicago 10k! Well, almost...I was registered, and got the date wrong, so I did it with a friend the day ourselves haha. Still got the t-shirt!
    32. Grow flowers
    33. Help my Dad buy a boat
    34. Own a condo where all my family can vacation together  Vacation rental in Hendersonville, NC!
    35. See all my kids graduate and get married
    36. Visit my cousins in Africa and help them do missions where my Dad grew up
    37. Live in Europe
    38. Have a library room in my house
    39. Write and have a book published
    40. Have lunch with Francine Rivers
    41. Grow my hair out to my lower ribs
    42. Be in Times Square for New Years
    43. Go on a Disney Cruise
    44. Speak Spanish fluently
    45. Share Jesus with a stranger
    46. Learn to decorate cakes professionally
    47. Eat all natural foods and cook from scratch Proud to do this regularly now!
    48. Own a car younger than me  A huge personal accomplishment for me.
    49. Be on a TV show like Wipeout, Survivor, or the Amazing Race
    50. Feel confident in a bikini  Praise God for healthy body image!
    51. Learn to play the guitar
    52. Live on a self-sufficient farm with goats and chickens and horses
    53. Throw an epic themed party (maybe a reunion, or a reception)
    54. Travel travel travel: Greece, Italy, Spain, Tailand, Africa, Norway, Ireland, Hungary, Hawaii
    55. Raise my kids along with my brother and sister-in-law

    Some of these items aren't priorities for me currently. But still some exciting ideas I think I'd be proud to check off my list one day. 15 out of 55. Not too bad.  And they were some pretty big ones!

    What have you checked off your bucket list lately?

    Thursday, December 7, 2017

    Traditions amidst Transience: How Christmas reminds me of who I am

    I really love Christmas. Not for the presents, and certainly not for the sudden cold weather, but for the tradition. It’s like a yearly opportunity to come back to the essentials in the midst of the chaos of the year. And in my transient life, this season feels like a lifeline for my soul to cling to when everything is different every single year. In my family, Christmas means Jesus and music and family time and parties. Pretty much 4 of my favorite things.

    Honestly, for me, Christmas is a reminder of who I am. No matter how crazy the year is, Christmas brings me back to the basics of myself. I’ve listened to the same core Christmas albums since I was in middle school. So every year at this time that music not only resonates because of its familiarity, but because of the continuity that it represents. For better or worse, I’ve listened to Avalon, Point of Grace, Amy Grant and Transiberian Orchestra’s Christmas albums every year for almost 2 decades (I added in Michael Buble and Pentatonix Christmas albums to the core group on “shuffle” over the past decade). They really are all awesome albums. 

    Just as much as this time of year reminds me of what hasn’t changed over the years, I’m very acutely aware of just how much has. 

    Since I was 18 years old, I’ve lived in 13 different homes, in 5 different states, not including college. I’m 28 now, almost 29. So much has changed in a decade that I honestly could barely recognize my life, apart from those Christmas albums. I haven’t even worked the same job for more than a year; every year I go to a different office Christmas party. It’s why this time of year always leaves me a little  (read: a lot) homesick for all the places I called home, and all the experiences that would have become traditions if I’d been in the same place long enough. 

    If I still lived in Wheaton, I would go to the Christmas Concert in Edman Chapel, and go caroling with friends. If I still lived in Charleston, I’d go to the Christmas Lights festival at the James Island park and enjoy the festivities with friends. If I still lived in Asheville, I’d go to the Grove Park Inn and see the Gingerbread houses, and listen to the live music in front of massive fireplaces, and attend/sing in a Christmas Eve candlelight service. If I still lived in Manhattan (KS), I would enjoy the Little Apple Tree Lighting, and singing carols on Sunday mornings. I live in Missouri this year, and I’m having a Cookie Exchange party. And next year, we will live somewhere different. So far the only tradition that’s been consistent over the past few years is enjoying the Hallmark Christmas movies (no shame). 

    But while it looks different every year, the act of celebrating Jesus with others is at the heart of the season, and that is a tradition in and of itself.  

    It’s important to recognize change and understand just how much it affects you. I’m a fan of change, usually. But relatively little in my life is consistent year to year, besides my dogs, my family, my Christmas music, and Jesus. So that’s what I come back to every year to keep me grounded. Every year Cora gets a Christmas stocking with treats; I get assigned a name to buy a gift for our Moss family Christmas (and someone gets my name); my parents always say “don’t get me anything this year”; and I spend more time with Jesus, and the Transiberian orchestra. 

    I guess those are pretty good traditions after all.

    What are yours? How do you celebrate?

    This is my very first full size Christmas tree in my own home (its artificial, but when you are never at home for Christmas, it seems a waste to have a real one).

    Friday, November 10, 2017

    My Sea, a poem from a different time of life

    While cleaning out some files on my laptop I came across some old poems I wrote a few years ago when I lived in my beloved Charleston, SC. Its funny to think about my life then....and what a difference 3 years makes.

    When I wrote this I was a different woman; focused on simply paying my bills another month in a city I couldn't afford to live in at the time, hoping for someone to ask me to dinner at Magnolias or Cypress, and counting down until my next day off so I could go to the beach. My circumstances couldn't be more opposite now, but the heart of that woman is not much changed. I have no idea if there is any sense in the arrangement or format of this poem. I can't even remember writing it. But it makes me happy reading it now, and I hope it makes you happy too.

    My Sea

    I swear the ocean has healing properties
    In the swells
    in the sand
    It’s like our psyches are programmed to receive
    Earth, salt, wind
    I can feel it swaying my body
    I’m only waist deep but I am weightless
    Undulating and soothed by the currents that hold me
    I am fragile against the enormity
    And somehow
    that is comforting
    The world seems limitless when I’m flowing in the surf
    And yet I feel I can conquer it
    I see my immortality
    And I am inspired to live
    To breathe
    To swim against the tide

    Alas, I am no daughter of Poseidon

    Photo by: Kaitlin Scott Photography at Edisto, Botany Bay, SC

    Sunday, May 15, 2016

    My Yellow Ribbon

    It's been three seasons since he left late on that October night with the bright yellow duck tape on his ruck sack and other bags. The extra strips he left in the car, and I taped them to the dashboard in the shape of a deployment ribbon. The old song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" is about a soldier who came home after years at war. He had asked his love to tie out a yellow ribbon if she still wanted him when he returned. When he drove by upon his return to check the entire oak tree was covered in a hundred yellow ribbons.
    So I've still got that yellow duck tape on my dash board, wrinkled and ghetto. I'll let him take it off himself when he gets home.

    Three seasons have passed though. Fall was underway when he left. Its funny though that the weather in Kansas was pretty nice until the day after he left, and then the temperature seemed to drop thirty degrees. But that may have just been me. Winter was long. I tried to escape it but did not quite manage. Spring has also felt long, but gentler. It would have been hard if he had left in spring. My body responds to the hope and life that seems to bubble up out of the earth through apple blossoms and new grass and baby calves. And now poised at the start of summer I feel so ready for heat. Purifying heat. Unavoidable heat. It feels like its been an eternity. But again, that's probably just me.

    People have been incredibly kind, loving and understanding towards me these last 8 months. And so so generous. I truly have incredible friends, and especially family (new and old!). I have so much to be grateful for in this season. I've received trips and vacations, part time work that fits my crazy schedule, opportunities to do things I love, letters and cards, the weekly family update letter from Aaron's precious grammie, and lots of grace.

    Grace, wow. I thought I was a pretty gracious person, until I got married and he deployed. I have needed so much grace. Bucketfuls of grace. Sometimes I felt like a wounded, feral animal lashing out at those trying to help me heal, so blind to my own pain I didn't even see they were trying to help. It was mostly my family, my husband, who had to deal with that. The ultimate grace-givers.

    I have learned a lot. Learned that I'm not as strong, as tough, or as independent as I thought I was. Or maybe I still am all those things but I don't relish them anymore. I don't hang them up like an award I'm proud of. I may get back to being that way, but right now I just want to be needy and dependent. Not a good trait for a new wife whose husband works 18 hour days every single day halfway across the world.

    But I learned grace for myself. I'm not good at it yet. But I am also learning grace for others, especially him. Its a slow process, made more difficult by the situation. I think I'm moving in the right direction though.

    I stopped pinning angsty quotes about deployment on my pinterest boards and have instead put my focus on decorating and organizational ideas for our first home (rental). I have (almost) stopped mourning over what was lost and past, and instead started hoping for the future. I can even joke about my uncharacteristic hermit-like behavior of this season, along with how hard its all been.

    Its been hard. Really hard. Harder than I ever imagined. And for a lot of different, unexpected reasons. And I learned that while I may have gotten pretty good at giving God the glory in some areas or challenges of my life, there's quite a few more that I'm a complete disgrace in.

    But grace, oh sweet the sound.

    I know I don't have much to complain about when I personally know people who are broken-hearted over being single, or battling a debilitating disease, or facing a cancer diagnosis, or reeling after a loss. I know I'm not in a season like that. I know I'm still technically only 9 months out from my own perfect wedding day. I know I have been gifted more than I will ever deserve. And I know other women in my same situation who seem to have really enjoyed the deployment season. And I'm happy for that, truly.

    Thank God that hard things come to an end. They have to, because He promised they would. I trust Him, I do, even if I don't always act like it.

    So this present season as the spring blossoms turn to summer promises, I'm breathing lighter. I'm laughing a little more easily. I'm even starting to sing again. And it feels good. Really good.

    He's still not home. Won't be for a little longer. But that's ok. I'm ok. We're going to be ok.
    And that yellow ribbon reminds me to keep going. And for goodness' sake to stop being so melodramatic! (Yeah.....right...)

    I'll leave you with this little gem. Phil Keaggy played this at Wheaton College chapel at the end of my freshman year in college. I remember I cried when I heard the line "its been a long cold lonely winter" because my freshman year was probably my hardest of my life until that point. But the hope in this song was tangible and life-giving. So it has been in this season as well. This is the exact clip! You can hear us all cheer when he plays that line. So good!

    P.S. I don't write any of this out of a need for pity or because I need to be validated. I am sharing my experiences, and hopefully in a month or two I'll write again about the joys of homecoming and how maybe this all wasn't as bad as I thought ;)

    Its the hard stuff that makes all the good stuff that much sweeter though. I have learned that.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2015

    Post-Wedding + Pre-Deployment

    I married him on a warm August afternoon with the sun and big gorgeous clouds overhead and the people we adore all around us. It was beautiful and hot and I didn't even get to talk to everyone that came. I felt so incomparably happy, as if I was living a surreal fairy tale, but it was real and it was my life! So many incredible people made it happen and we are humbled and blessed by the whole event.

    He whisked me away to the southern Caribbean for a blissful tropical cruise with horses and dolphins and islands. Then we moved into our first home in Manhattan Kansas. The little apple. And we lived happily by the grace of God for two whole months. We immediately found a great little church that we love and made some wonderful new friends.

    But all good things must come to an end. Or as in our case, a hiatus at the very least. My soldier's nine month deployment to Kuwait became real once we received his Orders. We rented a storage unit and started packing up the things I'd just finished completing our home with. I stopped buying groceries and starting making weird composite dishes of whatever food was in the fridge.

    And last week was the hardest yet, for a few reasons, but we survived. I decided mascara was futile and went without. There were some hard, dark nights where I questioned a lot of things, including things unrelated to this army life. But I learned grace and forgiveness in my marriage, and I'm continuing to learn how to exhibit both.

    I'm living the final few days of semi-normal life with my brand new husband. They bumped up his leave-day, so he leaves earlier than we had planned. And I plan on leaving the day after him, so all the packing/moving/storing will be done. Those wonderful new friends we made are helping to make that all happen.

    I am learning a lot about this military life. I'm very proud of my strong and capable Lieutenant. He works very hard and represents the best of what America has to offer. But that doesn't make this whole process much easier. Quite frankly I expect to cry a lot at random times.

    Many of you have asked how to pray for us. I cannot express to you how powerful your prayers have been in the recent weeks. Thank you.

    Things to pray for:
    - Emotional stamina these next 6 days
    - Aaron's safe passage to his base in Kuwait. For quick layovers and arrival.
    - Kelly's safe journey back to South Carolina
    - That all 247 days apart will only enhance their love and unity
    - For Aaron to find good, godly community at his base in Kuwait
    - For Aaron's purpose at his base to keep him and his soldiers busy
    - That this would be a special time of individual growth and spiritual maturity in both Kelly and Aaron's lives
    - That Kelly would be productive in her Master's program and various pursuits while staying with her parents in NC
    - For Kelly to be able to find them a good home in Kansas next summer to move into before Aaron gets back
    - Safety: physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. 

    If any of you would like to send Aaron a care package, or contribute to my regular care packages for him, please let me know! I know every little thing from home means so much to them.
    Aaron is missing our first holidays as husband and wife:Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and my birthday. Any chance to make the roughly 7,000 miles between us feel less!

    And because I like to drown my sorrows in humor...

    Wedding photos by Julia Laible Photography

    Friday, January 30, 2015

    Go live it up!


    Out of the night that covers me,
          Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
          For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
          I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
          My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
          Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
          Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
          How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate,
          I am the captain of my soul.

    I'm pretty obsessed with this poem. It's always been a favorite. I love the cadence, I love the imagery. I love the power of it. This poem inspires me, and I hear Braveheart music playing in my heart whenever I read it. Now I don't necessarily agree with everything in the poem, but its a call. 
    It is the horn of Rohan calling the Rohirrin (me) out of complacency and mediocrity into adventure and passion. This scene gets me every time:

    Sometimes we all need a little inspiration pick-me-up. After a long work week, when the heart is weary and worn, we need this. This moment of decision. The decision to live FULLY right now. I've already talked about how I live in a fantasy world, but this is simply letting in some of the characteristics of the fairy tale into the true story. It's so worth it!

    Fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith! (paraphrased from 2 Tim 4:7) 

    This life is beautiful and tragic and awe-inspiring. You don't have to go to the movies all the time to be reminded of glory- you can choose to live it out every day! As a Christian I am called to this, and as humans we get to experience this stunning world in ways no other living thing can. It's your life! Go LIVE IT!

    So go out an conquer this weekend! Do all your chores, or do none! Get ahead on your homework, or procrastinate! (actually don't do that). Go outside and breathe and be alone, or spend the weekend with real, living, thinking human beings! Get off your computer and go talk to a face! Put down the remote and pick up a book! Call your family and email a friend! Worship God besides Sunday morning! Watch the Superbowl, or just enjoy the food, commercials and national anthem like me! Don't spend any money, or decide to blow a little bit of extra cash! Don't STRESS!

     THAT is how we live out an epic, inspired life. Relationships, experiences, Truth. Go get drunk on that this weekend. And your Monday will be like a new opportunity instead of a hangover. 

    And you can take THAT to the bank!

    (...but only if it's SunTrust...since I'm a banker there now....and only if you let me open your account..)