Monthly Archives: February 2014

The First 14th…

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As many of you saw from Aaron’s blog, we went on a kid-free vacation to celebrate Valentine’s Day, my birthday and a very belated 10-year wedding anniversary. It was a short but restful and wonderful experience. It was the first 14th that was more sweet than bitter, the first one when no tears were shed. Maybe that was because I prepared myself ahead of time and shed those tears on the 12th as I wrote my last blog post. But maybe is was because we are moving on and enjoying life more and more.

It’s hard to say that. It’s so, so hard to come to terms with the fact that life moves on, that life is good without our princess, that the 14th doesn’t mean tears. At the same time, though, it’s so freeing to say it. It’s a burden that is lifting as each month goes by and God continues to love us lavishly. Let me tell my version of the week celebrating…me!

It all started Tuesday night at a “newbie” fellowship group. The ladies who are serving their first (or second) term get together with a seasoned missionary to read and discuss Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson. (It’s the book I referenced in my last post.) This a great time of fellowship and sharing how God is working in our lives and what He is teaching us in the midst of this new life. The host provided delicious scones for me and another missionary who celebrated her birthday on the 13th of February.

Then, at our ladies Bible study/prayer time we celebrated again. This time it was Wednesday afternoon, and I shared the celebration with yet another missionary who has a February birthday. The hostess made my favorite birthday cake: red velvet! My mentor blessed me with a gift. All the ladies enjoyed sweet fellowship and laughter.

Then, that night at home, we had guests for dinner, so I made myself a chocolate cake with mint icing. There was no singing, but the boys gave me the gifts they purchased for me. I kind of miss their typical CVS gifts. One year I received a “Your a nice boy” card from Jacob, and I always received lots of candy and interesting girly things. This year, they went to a local duka and picked out really nice gifts.

Love this boy more and more every day!

Love this boy more and more every day!

Love my sweet boy. :)

Love my sweet boy. 🙂

Can't help but love this kid!

Can’t help but love this kid!

Thursday morning was busy with packing and finishing up school with Noah. When it was time to teach my math students at 9:00, they were a little too eager for their test. As soon as I opened the MK school room door, I knew why. They had decorated the room with balloons and streamers. On one desk, they set a place for me to sit with cake (red velvet and peanut butter icing!), ice cream and Kool-Aid. They sang to me and blew noise makers, and they gave me chocolate and cards. I have the best students in the world!!

We left for Ngerende at 11 a.m. and arrived there in time for a late lunch. The attention and service we received there was amazing. After lunch, we went on a game drive.

God always keeps His promises...and almost always provides gorgeous sunsets on the mara.

God always keeps His promises…and almost always provides gorgeous sunsets on the mara.

Friday, my actual birthday, was very relaxing. We went on the morning game drive, enjoyed the pool, were pampered with massages and (of course) ate really great food! My students sent more cards and a gift with Aaron so that I had something to open on my birthday. One of my students made wooden candlesticks! (BEST students ever!!)

It's quite chilly in the mornings on the mara!

It’s quite chilly in the mornings on the mara!

These two brothers hunt together.

These two brothers hunt together.

This male lion is a bit tired.

This male lion is a bit tired.

Saturday morning started with our last game drive of the vacation. All three of our drives focused on finding two things: a male lion and a leopard. We quickly found a young male lion, which was awesome! However, the elusive leopard could not be found. People found him the day before we arrived, and friends of ours saw him after we left. For whatever reason, the leopard eluded us the entire time. We did find this amazing pride of lions! This was perhaps the coolest thing we’ve seen on a game drive!

This pride of lions was amazing to watch.

This pride of lions was amazing to watch.

After the game drive, we were served a huge breakfast…and then, a personalized cake! A group of Masai men and women and the Ngerende staff sang to us, one of them gave a speech (a true Kenyan celebration), and we cut and ate the cake. What a way to be set home, huh?

The ceremonial cutting of the cake with the chef.

The ceremonial cutting of the cake with the chef.

On our drive home, I was wondering why God provided so many lions but not one leopard. (I realize that seeing a leopard isn’t a life changing event, but I really wanted – and even prayed – to see a leopard!) God spoke to me. He is so tender and so much in the details of our lives! He told me that He welcomes us to pray about everything, but He requires that we trust HIM with the answer. On some issues, He answers quickly and more abundantly than we expect. In this instance, I asked for only one male lion. Instead, He gave us two young but maturing male lions and an entire pride of female and young male lions. On other issues, however, He is silent or He says ‘no’ or He says ‘wait.’ I’m not sure what our answer was on the leopard issue. I’m guessing we’ll eventually see one here since we live two hours from the mara! But God used this opportunity to remind me to trust in His answer and timing in other, bigger issues. Aaron and I have been praying and trusting God for some pretty big things. Sometimes, as we wait, we get discouraged and/or question God’s promises. Did He really speak those things to us? Maybe we misinterpreted Him. 

Through it all, we trust. God is faithful to keep the promises He made. We, as humble and obedient children, must do our part while we wait for those promises to come true. Rest assured, if you have been praying for something for a long time, God is hearing you. Maybe you, or the other people involved, just aren’t quite ready for the answer. Maybe the timing isn’t right. God sees the BIG picture. Trust Him with everything.

2 Samuel 7:18-29 records Davids prayer to God. I find great wisdom, humility and courage is his words.

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, SovereignLord, is for a mere human!

20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

25 “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight.

27 “Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for emotional healing and continual comfort.

2. Please pray with us as we attempt to discern God’s direction for our lives. There are so many decisions in front of us, and we are questioning some things. Pray that God will give us clear discernment in these matters and that we’ll rest in His perfect plan and timing…even the timing of telling us His plan!

3. Please pray for us as we anticipate March 14, surely the hardest 14th of the year. Since this post took a week to write due to internet issues, my emotions are different than during my birthday weekend. I’m already feeling the weight of grief descend as we get closer and closer to the one-year anniversary of Hannah’s death.

4. Please pray for the Tenwek community. It seems like God has some BIG plans for the hospital and the surrounding community. Pray for us, the Tenwek family, through all these decisions. May we have a unity that can only come from God. We are, indeed, all different parts of the body of Christ! (Romans 12:4-5)

11 months

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This “11 Months” post is a day late because we were celebrating my birthday away from Tenwek, kids and internet…A blog post about that will come soon. 🙂 I wrote this post before we left, so I hope the verb tense doesn’t confuse anyone too much.

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

February 14 marks both a blessed event and a horrible milestone. It is my birthday and Valentine’s Day. It is also the day that marks 11 months since Hannah passed from this life to her eternal home in heaven.

While we are celebrating with a couple’s weekend at a luxurious resort at the Masai Mara, our hearts cry out once again. It’s agony to think that we have walked this earth 11 months without hearing her sweet voice, seeing her mischievous grin and feeling the warmth of her hugs.

How can Isaiah 55:9 be true??

How can God’s ways really be better than mine? I mean, my plan was to be a happy, humble, servant-minded missionary momma of 4 beautiful kids when I turned 33. I’d rather be celebrating with all my heart this Valentine’s Day/birthday! My plan would be to be rejoicing with Aaron about how awesome our first year as missionaries was, reminiscing of the last year of our lives, missing our 4 kiddos as we see God’s beautiful creation, and giving God all the glory. Instead, our reality is that the 14th of every month is filled with sorrow and pain as we remember our daughter and realize how much we’re moved on since the previous 14th.

Even the fact that she died on the 14th is questionable. My birthday AND our wedding anniversary are on fourteenths of months. Why couldn’t God have chosen a different date? Why did He allow this to happen in our first year – our first months! – of our missionary career? Does He really have our best interests in mind? Are His ways really higher than our ways?

It doesn’t always seem like it, huh? All human reason points to my way being the better, happier, more enjoyable plan. And that’s where our human minds fall short.

Here is the Truth: it’s not about better, happier or enjoyable. It’s about God, and how His Name can be taken all over the world and be glorified. It’s not about me; it’s all about HIM.

I’m reading the book Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson. In the second chapter, she is addressing jealousy but these sentences apply to many areas in life. “God has a desire for us here, but remember, so does the devil.” Wow! She goes on, “Someone once said that both God and the devil have a plan for our lives. And we are the ones who cast the deciding vote.” (p45) Wow! That’s some meat to chew on!

I’m not one to take another person’s writing to be Truth without testing them against Scripture, but this immediately spoke to me. It reminded me of Job and the way Satan asked permission to sift Job like wheat. I’m certain that Satan thought Job would curse God, but I know God’s plan was for Job to be found faithful, for Job to bring even more honor and glory to God in his suffering than he did in his wealth. (For more specifics, read the book of Job in the Bible.)

While I have not lost nearly as much as Job, I do feel a connection. I can see Satan going before God the Father and asking for permission to test us. I’m sure Satan envisioned Hannah’s sudden death and our subsequent return to the States. He surely wanted to end our mission career before it ever got started. He probably planned for us to be bitter, to curse God, to refuse to trust or glorify or serve God ever again.

However, I see God sitting on His heavenly throne with a grin as He grants Satan’s request, for He can see His better plan for our lives. He can see how one little girl’s death could cause countless people to see Him in a whole new light. He could see how we would not denounce Him. Instead, we would cling to Him even more. We would resolve to praise and glorify and honor our Heavenly Father all the more in our grief. We would determine to tell anyone who would listen why we have hope and joy and in Whom our hope and joy are placed. We would choose, time and again, God’s plan because His plan is indeed better.

While today, as I’m sitting here with my tear-stained self, it appears that God’s plans aren’t that good and that mine are better, that isn’t reality. God can see the entire picture of the world. He sees me, and so much more. He can see how ultimately, eternally His ways are better. It might not always feel like it, but it is so…And when I get to heaven, I’ll have the privilege of seeing just how higher His plans are!

Come LORD Jesus! Come!

Here’s the end of Isaiah 55:

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that is yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so in my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the tress of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”

See…He promises that everything that happens to us will be purposeful…And that it will all bring Him glory, honor and praise! We serve an amazing God!!

Praise and Prayer Requests:

  1. Praise God! My dad is cancer free!! (Thank you all for your ongoing prayers on his behalf! We are praying and believing that he will remain cancer free!)
  2. Praise God for great friends that watch our kids and for this amazing little getaway! It was much needed!
  3. Praise God for He is Creator and Sustainer! When you get to live in such a beautiful place like Kenya, you really appreciate God’s creation in a whole new way. He not only created this beauty but He also sustains it!
  4. Praise God for the way He comforts us. It is bittersweet to see how much we have healed over the past 11 months. God is our source of comfort and strength and our ever-present help. Please pray for us as we anticipate March 14.
  5. Pray for God to provide just what we need as a community. There are so many exciting things planned for Tenwek. Pray that God would direct our hearts so that we do only what He wants us to do. Pray that we would humbly surrender our agendas to God’s bigger, better plan.

I’ll end with a picture from our birthday getaway…More will follow!

It's quite chilly in the mornings on the mara!

It’s quite chilly in the mornings on the mara!

What a difference!

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Well, it’s official. We’ve been living in Kenya for a year! Happy Anniversary to us! 🙂

Like I promised in my last post, I want to show you how our apartment has become our home. It took some time to make this happen. At first, I didn’t care what it looked like. I had the “I’m sacrificing for Jesus” attitude. Then, Hannah’s death and the resulting grief overshadowed any desire to make changes to our apartment. But now, a year since we arrived and almost 11 months since Hannah’s homegoing, I found myself ready to make some changes. I was prepared to invest in some decor and minor renovations. It was time to make this little apartment feel like a Kelley home!

First, let’s look at the living room. My dad painted over the stenciling this summer, and Aaron hung the African art. Recently, we changed the curtains and moved the cabinet from the kitchen to the living room. It’s nice to use the cabinet as a bench when we have guests.

Before

Before

After...Notice all the Christmas cards!

After…Notice all the Christmas cards!

After

After

Speaking of the kitchen, we recently made a big change there. It’s hard to see from these photos since they’re taken from different angles. The part that changed is by the door. We removed some poorly installed shelves and replaced them with a built-in cabinet and two nicely constructed shelves. I am so very happy with this little project. It looks like it’s supposed to be there…unlike the bench we moved into the living room!

Before...Look at the water filter on the right.

Before…Look at the water filter on the right.

After

After

The dining room is looking a little better thanks to the curtains, a new light cover and some more African decor.

Before

Before

After

After

Perhaps the biggest change, though, occurred in the bedrooms. We decided to move the boys into Hannah’s room so that a triple bunk bed could fit. I put their dresser into the closet, and their little bedroom actually has some floor space!

Before

Before

After

After

After

After

This big change turned the boys’ room into our spare bedroom. While it isn’t Hannah’s room, it still houses many of our favorite things that remind us of her. Each bed has a woven blanket with pictures of her, her Violet dog lives on the one bed, and many pictures are displayed throughout the room. Although it was hard to give up Hannah’s room, we thought it was a healthy transition and an appropriate time to do it.

Before

Before

After

After

So, there you have it. Our little missionary house is officially our home. We do love living here, and we can’t thank you enough for being a part of our mission.

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for the rain. Our typical short rain season was drier than usual, so we are thankful for the short rains we have gotten this past month.

2. Praise God for sustaining us during our first year as missionaries. Oftentimes, the first year is the hardest. There are so many adjustments to be made. Of course, our first year was particularly hard. We are thankful that God was with us each step of the way, and we trust that He will continue to guide and direct our remaining days of this term.

3. Praise God for work permits, alien cards, etc. that allow us to be here legally. Another family, the Mitchells, are not so fortunate. Kenya has decided to crack down on visa extensions, and therefore the Mitchells (all 6 of them!) must leave East Africa. Please pray for them as they travel next week. Pray that their time away will be rejuvenating (rather than stressful) and that they will be allowed back into Kenya.

4. Praise God that my dad is feeling good. He’s even planning to go snowmobiling this weekend! Please pray for him on Friday. He has an appointment with his physician. We are hopeful for good news. Please join us in praying that my dad is cancer-free!

5. Please pray for my helper, Olivia. She needs to have a root canal, but her blood pressure is too high for the dentist to do the procedure. Please pray that the medication will bring her blood pressure down to an acceptable level and that she won’t get another infection in her mouth.

Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:5