Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer 2011: The Great Cousin Visit (Chapter Three)

After three summers...he finally made it!  Austin's cousin, my nephew, Ryan's brother's son, Shawn, 17, came to spend ten days at our house.  Now, I say "at our house" lightly, because one thing we hardly ever did during his almost dozen nights, was stay home.  It was a blast.  I love him as much, if not more, as I did when he was 2 and sported the same giant smile and the same infectious giggle.  I am grateful for the visit of this "Great" cousin for Austin, for Chloe, for Brian, and for me.  It. was. a. blast.
The Thinker

Ready for a fun-filled day!

If only...

See the Engineer waving behind them? Cool...

4D Pirates Show

Aye Matey!

Making a wax hippo...colors of a German flag.  That's Shawn.  Random...

Disney Schmisney!
This is why he didn't get a haircut BEFORE his trip! ;o)

Cool Cousins
Even Shawn couldn't say no to the swings! 
Busch Gardens Williamsburg - June 27, 2011

"No, Chloe.  You may not play any games." Ha! says Shawn!

Norfolk Naval Ship

17th Street Surf Shop - Virginia Beach, June 2011

Kohr's Ice Cream - "Jimmies" in Virginia!!!

Ahhh! He looks so much like his mom here...

Beach Quarters Rooftop Pool and Lounge

"Let's rent one of those four person bikes!"  NO where near as fun as it sounded....

Water Country, USA - June 28, 2011

Finally....we exhausted him. :O)
Shawn, it was awesome having you here and I am thankful for the reminder of how grateful I am for you in our lives...

Please come back. SOON.  We have some winter adventures, too... OR we can just stay home in our pajamas this time.  ;o)

Love ya!

xo Aunt Kelley xo

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Church

Last Sunday, a friend attended his local church and was disheartened at the main points of the message. The service leader provided a sermon that was full of what NOT to do and how to SCORN those who have made or continue to make "poor" choices.  My friend listed the points and his disdain for the negativity, which made my blood begin to boil.  But the comments that followed were what moved me past anger, to utter sadness.  The comments were also filled with contempt, but the overall thought was, "And THAT is why I do not go to church anymore."

Now, what religion it was or where it was does not really matter.  I have regularly attended Baptist, Methodist, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Pentecostal, and Non-Denominational churches and not one of their Bibles ever taught avoidance and/or hatred.

Jesus, himself, did just the opposite.  He loved in spite of one's past and protected those who were different.  That is what church is supposed to be!  How did our society miss this?  How did the gap between how Jesus "did" church and how we currently do it become so grand in size?  As I read the words of my acquaintance and of those I do not even know, I came to understand that this fact, truly, saddens me.

Church should be grace, and not judgment.  Church should be acceptance, and not prejudices.  Church should be support, and not shirking.  Church should be a place of laughter, fun, and fulfilment, not a place of dread, pain, or requirement.  Church, simply put, should be love; not a place to gather to review our abominations of others.

Well, at least that is what I learned that church is...and that is what the bible says church is....so, hence my assumptions about how, we, as the church are supposed to act.  I have a church like that.  In fact, its belief in church being a community is so strong, that it actually has the word "community" in its name. 

I am so blessed.  My children are so blessed.  For, this is a place filled with laughter, support, missions, entertainment, worship, ministry, guidance, and oh..so..much...love.  Do not misunderstand me...it is not a place where all reality is hidden and everything is smiles and parties.  Although fun and humor often prevail, that is not real life, not authenticity. And church is always a place to be authentic.  Being authentic, means telling the truth, not allowing wrongdoings, and sometimes, unfortunately, stepping on toes.  But when this is done through the church, through community, it should be done, not through anger or hatred, but through grace and love.

THAT is the difference that makes a church, a place where one WANTS TO BE at and a church, a place where one dreads. 

You do not ban someone from your church because they are considering an abortion.  You guide them, you support them, you TELL them, but you love them all the same.  You do not look on with disgust at the person who had an affair or clings to alcoholism. You offer advice possibly, but you always love them through it; irregardless.  This is what my church did for me...and does for others.  The poor choices of my past were not what defined me, the creation of who I am in Him, did.  My church, the way God Himself intended church to be, loves and supports your community, all of your community, 100%.   Real church remembers that tough love is still, indeed, love.

My concluding thought on this topic is that until I read those words of those strangers, who had felt judgment, I had forgotten that not everyone knows the utter peace that flows through a person when they know the love of Jesus through a community-filled church.  I guess I do not understand why one would continue to go to a place where they are not valued, challenged, and loved.  Clearly, I, also, forgot how people do not know how precious and amazing they are in the eyes of my Jesus.  

 But, now that I recall that not everyone is that lucky,  I will begin to pray harder and to serve more, so that every last person is given the opportunity.

The opportunity to love Jesus in a real, true, authentic church and to feel His love through it all.

Trust me, it is a chance that no one wants to miss out on.

And to all of those that have felt the ripping pain of judgment from "Christians" who claim to define love.... I apologize for the hurt and I beg of you to give 'church' another shot.  Just look for the ones who, undeniably, love like Jesus did...and still does.

Disclaimer: I must thank Powhatan Community Church, especially the leadership of Brian Hughes, Beth Stoddard, and of course, Sammy Frame.  Their passion for the church, the community church, is inspiring.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer 2011: Chapter Two

Milliseconds after the two hundred and some drop down Apollo's Chariot
After attempting for the past two summers, my nephew, Shawn was finally able to make the trek from Cuddy, Pennsylvania to visit us in Virginia.  He has been here before; but, that was when he was 7 years old.  So, we wanted to show him some of the greatest reasons to live in this adventurous state.  What better way than to head east towards Williamsburg, Norfolk, and ultimately, Virginia Beach.

It was a LOT to do in three days; most definitely a 'whirlwind' trip.  But, nonetheless, to us, another opportunity to vacation.

This one was incredibly special because I was able to spend a lot of quality time with Robyn, some thing I have not been able to do much since The Great Mexico Debacle. 

Family=Sunshine=Shopping=Eating=GIANT HAPPY HEART! 

It was another wonderful vacay a.k.a. mini-trip a.k.a. long distance adventure. 

I am ridiculously grateful for every memory.

All Aboaaaaarrrrrrd!

Terrific Tea Cup Tuesday
Escape from Pompeii: Wheeeeeee!

I have no idea how I captured this AMAZING shot.  But glad I did! ;o)

 Kelley's Kool Kids

 Yes, we have no bananas...
 Norfolk Naval Base

Hollyann and Austin..and Oscar The Grouch, of course..
The Gang's All Here
The BEST part!


Beautiful Bikers
Beach Quarters Rooftop Pool


Water County, USA - Wave Pool

Underwater Shot!
Sissy and BroBro on Hubba Hubba Highway

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer 2011: Chapter One

I have a passion; well, many passions, but this one particular obsession is my favorite.  It allows me to escape, to create memories with friends and family, and to capture time...in photographs.  Those who know me already know that I am speaking of V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N.

I love it.  I love it all.  The searching, the planning, the ultimate deal, the packing, the shopping FOR packing, the itinerary..I SAID THE INTINERARY...the traveling, the arrival, the hundreds of pictures, the adventures, the food, the laughter, the ultimate escape from life... just ALL of it!

I even love when I come home.  The clothes are unpacked, the laundry is done, the suitcase is back under the bed, and then I can sit and play with my photographs from "the trip".  Blogging, creating photo collages, posting them on Facebook, making and sending picture cards from Shutterfly are all part of the travel experience...for me, at least.  And every time I walk out of my door on a trip and each time I return, I am equally thankful for the chance to go.

Well, this summer I have the unique opportunity to travel a half dozen times.  Due to my still returning health, we have decided that I am not going to teach Summer School in July, but rather rest and rejuvenate.  I do this in no better way, than to travel.

Last week, I went on my first trip of the summer.  My husband and children stayed home and I traveled with a teenage girl from our church, Morgan, and we went to see an incredible family that recently moved to Delaware.  While there, the teenage girls and I slipped away for a night to The Boardwalk Plaza Hotel in Rehoboth Beach.  We felt like royalty.  It was amazing.  We laughed.  We shopped.  We ate.  We beached.  We hot tubbed. We saw my family.  We shared.  And of course, we snapped photos...166 to be exact.

In the spirit of loving my blog almost as much as I love vacations, I thought it fitting that I capture each of my trips with words and photos as the summer progresses. 

For, I may not be heading out to Hawaii or on a 3 week trek across Europe any time soon....but I am just as grateful for each time I get to say, "I'm going on vacation." and then I do just that.

Samara and Morgan

Boardwalk Plaza Hotel...It was amazing!

Bahama Mama


Boardwalk Bound

Yep. We're tourists...

Rehoboth Beach

Who doesn't like a Paratrooper spin!

Jax: Sons of Anarchy (We wish...)

Precious Sisters: Samara and Finley

A Woman I Adore: Sandy Moore

Sandy, Finley, and Chuck Moore

View from the bridge as we head home to Virginia