Our New Adventure….the story of us continues

Don’t feel like you’re the only one who’s not heard, not many have. Only a few selected, who were more on a need to know basis, and those we needed to tell before the news broke, were in the know of what I am about to tell you.

After four years of renting and three years of searching and praying, God opened the door for us to purchase a new home. However, the new home is not in our beloved Hendersonville. It is in Landrum, SC.

Why in the world would we move from Terry’s hometown and my home of 26 years and the place where we raised four children?

First reason, God said “Go”. That’s the primary reason and good enough.

Second reason, the homes and land in our beloved Hendersonville have escalated to an incredibly ridiculous rate. The homes that would be affordable for us would require an additional $50-80k to remodel, which would extend us way beyond our price limit. And with Terry hoping to retire in 3 years, we have to be smart about our choices.

For the past decade or so, we have talked and discussed the option of moving to SC Considering mostly the Greer/Travelers Rest area, mainly because the proximity to Highway 25.

In the past year and half, we made offers on two houses in Greer. I got cold and clammy feet and we backed out of both deals, much to Terry’s disappointment and dismay. I deflated him and his eager optimism. I just knew neither option was right for us. I couldn’t fit a square peg into a round hole.

We’ve always known about Landrum. Heck, I basically grew up here. Lived in Columbus, NC, approximately 8 miles away from Landrum. One of my dearest of friends, Ashley, lives in Landrum and has since she was born. It just wasn’t a consideration or on our radar. Until.

On one of our weekly adventures of house hunting, we drove through Landrum. We knew about the neighborhood here because a lady who purchased one of our homes in Hendersonville moved here. We had been through the neighborhood several times before. This time was different. This house caught my eye.

The first time we walked in, it felt homey. Although it was a new construction. I could see us here. We looked a few more times and made an initial offer. It was accepted. However, we weren’t comfortable with the first lender we chose, I will not mention names but I will say, he was trying to overcharge on interest and fees. We backed out.

Called our friend Gerald, who works for First Citizens Bank in Landrum. We told him of our plans but asked him not divulge our plans because of the uncertainty surrounding them at the time.

Then Ned’s condition worsened and we dropped the whole idea. I actually have the email sent to the agent telling him, “We can’t do anything right now. My dad’s condition has worsened and I am needed here. If the house is still available when he passes, we will most likely pursue it again”.

After Ned died, within about two weeks, Terry noticed the price of the house had dropped below what our initial offer was. He said, “Let’s go look again”.

We did and we prayed. We asked God to lead and guide us. To direct us and make our path clear. He did. We made another offer and it was accepted.

We brought Mom down to show her. She loved the house. Although the thought of us moving caused her anxiety. At times, I think she was feeling like we were just going to abandon her. I had to remind her that I wasn’t moving a world away. Only 15-18 minutes further away than our house in Hendersonville.

As we moved through the process, I never doubted we were doing the right thing. I was unsettled and didn’t want to say anything just in case something fell through or I got cold feet and stopped the process. It had happened previously and I am a woman and emotionally charged at times, all things are subject to change. All things……

In fact one week prior to closing, I had resigned myself to the fact that God was going to stop the process. For weeks, everything had been at a standstill, and knowing full well that we had to close out by the end of January, the envelope was being pushed. Until, Tuesday, January 23 both the lender and lawyer confirmed our closing on January 31.

Suddenly, my heart sank into my chest and anxiety took over. I told Terry every reason I could conjure up why we shouldn’t go through with the move. I cried like a baby. He looked at me and said, “You know if this is going to cause problems for us and you don’t want to do it; I’ll back out now.” The earnest in his voice, coupled with the mere truth that God had been directing our path, quieted my anxious emotions. Then I began telling him all the reasons I knew this was the right thing to do. As I began verbalizing how God led us to this place and how every detail was working itself out, a calm assurance washed over me and I said, “How can I not go where God is leading? I would rather have a little anxiety over the thought of change than not walk in obedience to Him. Been there done that and it’s not a good place.”

So, on January 31, 2018, we closed on our house in Landrum and with the help of family and dear friends, we moved in on Saturday, February 3. It has been hurdle upon hurdle since moving in. I’ve barely been at home three full days. However, as I finish this up today, Terry and I are sitting on our quaint screened porch, sipping coffee, listening to the birds sing and I know I am home.

In the book Paul A Man of Grit and Grace, Charles Swindoll writes the following:

Learning the value of communication…..our story continues

One very important decision Terry and I made upfront was that we would make time to continue dating. We knew that the success of our marriage would be determined by the way we communicated with each other. The only way to effectively communicate was to set aside time for just the two us.

We enlisted the help of Sarah Scoggins and on Sunday evenings after church, she would come keep the boys. We did this on a regular basis for about the first six months of our marriage, maybe more. Of course, my parents and grandparents were often willing to take the boys for an overnight visit, giving us time alone together.

However, we learned we couldn’t be selfish with just time for us. The boys needed to be a part as well. So we made time for them as well. The goal was not to make them front and center but to make our relationship the primary and theirs the secondary.

I wish I could say it was easy. It wasn’t. My boys were accustomed to being the focal point. Between me, my parents and grandparents, we did a bang up job of marking them front and center. Adjusting this attitude would be hard, not just for me, but Ryan and Matthew as well. Again, things that are necessary are often hard at first and they take patience and time.

The one thing I had learned from observing other couples and their marriages, especially the good solid marriages, the spousal relationship was always primary and the relationships with children secondary.

Another thing that happened during our first six months of marriage was “the big kids”. I’ll have to back track s little yo explain.

Before terry and I met, in addition to being a part of the singles ministry, I also helped with the youth, I was teaching a group of girls. In fact, I began with this group when they were in 10th grade. At the time when Terry and I married they were in 11th grade. At some point between our 4-5 month of marriage, Jim Pearce, our youth minister approached me with a proposition for Terry. A male teacher was needed for this group of seemingly rebel 11th grade boys. These boys apparently scared off their other teachers. I can recall how many they had gone through since 9th grade, at least 4, maybe more.

When I asked Terry if he would be willing to teach them. He said, “Only if we can combine the boys and girls and you teach.  I’ll help.”

I took the proposition back to Jim. He was willing to do anything to get these boys a teacher. He agreed to our terms. So, in July of 1995, we began teaching this group of amazing kids, commonly referred to in our house as “the brag kids”.

Once we began teaching them, our Sunday date nights turned into Sunday hangout night at Terry and Kelly’s. Ryan and Matthew always looked forward to seeing them.

Our once a week date night quickly became a thing of the past. However, we were still determined to date. It just looked different and happened less frequently.

We knew that God had given us this amazing task of leading and guiding these teenagers through their senior year of high school. I also knew from prior experience, youth need you to be involved with them on more than just Sunday. The only way to build trust and confidence is spending time with them. However, we had to exercise caution, even with them, and not allow them to intrude on our family and alone time. It’s a juggling act.

The juggling act was made more difficult because of my activity level at church. Y’all I was involved in everything. I sang in the choir, lead children’s choir, and worked with the youth on Wednesday nights, in addition to teaching them Sunday morning. I also worked a part-time job. In addition, I was consistently asked to take on more tasks at church. I loved the busyness. I was volunteer, extraordinaire. Terry didn’t approve. He didn’t mind telling me either.

He said, “Kelly, you have two boys to take care of and you’re constantly dragging them to church and leaving them for others to care for and you’re not being fair to them. They’re young and need you. If you can’t say no when you’re asked to do something , give me the phone and I’ll say ‘No’ for you. Besides, it’s taking time away from us too. I know what you’re doing is good but you can’t do everything.”

Talk about a wake up call! The church and activities had been my lifeline for the past 4 years. Again, he was right and I knew it. He wasn’t telling me not to do anything and drop everything, he was just telling me to get my priorities in the proper order.

If we hadn’t taken time for each other and had not learned to communicate, this whole conversation may have resulted in a far different outcome. However, I knew that he truly wanted the best for me and for the boys, He wanted me to value my time with them and not put my church activities ahead of them.

Sometimes life can be that way, we allow good things to take precedence over the greater things. The older I get the more I realize that time invested in people has more subtantial rewards and yields a much greater return on investment than being busy all the time.

First Week….First Christmas tree and first sleepless nights!

Our story continued……

Our first week of marriage had some rough spots. So, if you’re under the impression that we’ve somehow just sailed through the past 23 years, I’m sorry to disappoint you and tell you that we’ve had our share of struggles.

Obviously our honeymoon couldn’t last a full week because of Christmas coming. We headed to Murrels Inlet on December 17 and returned on December 21.

Since we had closed on the house the 7th of December, we were all set up and ready to move in. We picked the boys up from my parents and went to our new home.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree and I wanted to put on in the picture window. I asked Terry if he and the boys would go find us a tree. In the meantime, I could finish unpacking those few remaining boxes and get the lights and ornaments ready for the tree

When they arrived back with the tree, I was disappointed, to say the least. The tree poorly misshapen, dry as a bone, needles falling with each move. Terry assured me that was the best they had to pick from. It reminded me of the Charlie Brown tree, only larger and a little more full.

Once we got the tree set in the stand, we realized the trunk wasn’t exactly straight. It had a slight curve which caused it to be cattywampus! A clearly defined lean-to the right. (If I ever find a picture, I’ll share it). We straightened it with the base as much as we could.

Finally, the tree was ready for lights and decorations. Now, I have a thing for blown glass tree ornaments and had purchased a ton of these before Ryan was born. Since the boys were both small and wanted to help, I knew better than to let them hang the ornaments. I hung them around the middle and top and let them hang the non-breakables around the bottom, where their little hands could reach.

Once decorated, the once frail looking tree, had life. Our first tree! We were all proud of it. The only foreseeable issue was the lean-to and the distinct possibility the tree could topple.

We had thoroughly enjoyed our first full day as a family of four. Then came the first night.

Considering that the boys and I lived with my parents and Matthew didn’t sleep through the night. He was accustomed to getting out of bed and crawling in the bed with me. If I wasn’t home, he crept downstairs and got in bed with Mom and Ned. Terry was well aware of this and had already told me that Matthew was not sleeping with us.

“He’s 3 years old and old enough to be sleeping by himself  Besides, he’s in a bad habit of not sleeping through the night becasuse you and your parents have allowed him to get in bed with you.  I’m not sharing my bed with a 3 year old.  I’m sharing my bed with you.”

We tucked the boys in  They shared a room because that’s what they were accustomed to, even at Mom’s.  They went to sleep right away.  Terry and I went to bed.  He locked our bedroom door to keep Matthew from coming in.  We had nightlights all over the house, thanks to Mamaw.  Like clockwork, around 2:00 AM, Matthew gets out of the bed.  Our house was small and I could hear the pitter-patter of little feet, not to mention, we had some creaky floors.  He came to the door and turned the knob.  It was locked.  He knocked gently on the door.

Terry said, “Matthew, go back to bed.”

At this point, he started to cry and knocked louder.  Terry kept reassuring him he would be fine and needed to go back to bed.  I was crying too.  It was breaking my heart to hear him cry but I knew I had to break the cycle.  It’s just hard and especially when Matthew was my baby, at the time.

After a few minutes the crying ceased,  I drifted back to sleep.  The next morning we were up early.  Upon opening the door, we found Matthew curled up outside our bedroom door with a blanket.

The next night, the same thing, only there was less crying and Matthew did go back to his room  The third night, he came and only a gentle knock at the door.  No crying.  He went straight back to his bedroom.  That was the last night he got up in the middle of the night. From that point on, he slept straight through the night, at least when he was home.

I remeber telling Terry I felt like he was ripping my heart and Matthew’s heart in pieces. Truth is, he was.  It needed to happen.  We just weren’t ready, at first.  It was traumatic for all of us.  Terry didn’t want to hurt either one of us.  He just knew what was best.  I hade to learn to trust that about him and so did Matthew.

We had a wonderful first Christmas and our tree was still hanging on, by a thread.  We planned to take it down on Decebmer 28.  It didn’t quite make it.

The boys were rough-housing, typical boy stuff you know?  They can’t help themselves. They dashed through the dining room into the living room and somehow Matthew’s hefty little self hit the tree.  Still, to this day, have no clue how it happened.  It just did and suddenly, like the great mulitude of angels singing, there was a great mulitude of cracking and breaking of glass.  Remember, I had all those lovely blown-glass ornaments around the middle and top section of the tree.  The thud.  The crash.  The breaking of glass.  I knew what happened and in a fit of rage, I screamed at both of the boys.  Sent them to their rooms and started crying over those shards of broken glass.

I didn’t think one time about the fact that neither one of them had been injured or cut by the glass.  At that moment, all I could think about was my lovely, beautiful ornmanets destroyed.

I was so angry that I made Terry angry.  He didnt yell and scream at the boys but he did give them a good talking to.

Then he and Matthew both tried to console me.  Matthew said, ‘Momma, I’m sorry.  We can get you some new ones.”

I didn’t want new ones.  I didn’t want to be consoled.  I just wanted to be angry.

A little while later, after I finally calmed down, Terry came to talk to me.  He let me know very quickly that I had behaved like a child.  Sadly, I knew he was right.  He also reminded me that the cattywampus tree was probably destined to fall anyway.  He also reminded me that those boys were little.  They were going to play rough.  Things were going to get broken.

After this incident, I would love to tell you I never had a childish outburst again, but that would be a lie.  What did happen after this particular outburst was my attitude towards things of value began changing.  I began to see the importance of lives over things.  I began to see that the hearts and lives of my children were far greater than any blown-glass Christmas ornament on my tree.  I slowly began to change my perspective.

The other valuable lesson through our first days together was learning that Terry and I had to communicate.  We had to talk about our feelings about things and we had to work them out.  We didn’t always have to approve of eachothers behaviors or attidudes but we did have to learn to effectively communicate.  If we were going to make this marriage thing work, we had to talk but more importantly, we had to learn to put God at the center of everything.  It was a choice that we had to make then and one we are still making today.

The First Fight

The first fight (Continuation of our story)

To this point, we had hurdled over meeting parents, my boys and Terry were developing a relationship. Things were going well, or so it seemed, until that dreadful day in June. Terry was playing in a golf tournament and then leaving afterwards to go to the beach with Tom, Marie, Brad and Zach.

I wasn’t really happy that he had planned to play and then leave because I knew that there wouldn’t be time to see him. So, I did what I knew how to do best….pitch a fit.  I ranted and screamed and cried hoping he would see it my way.  No such luck, I had met my match when it came to battling of the wills.  He was even more determined than me.

So he played golf and then left for the beach, he did call me before he left, but I was giving him the silent treatment and highly determined not to back off my previous position, besides, I wanted him to know I was still angry.  I knew he was still brewing hot with anger too.

This was back in the day, before the age of cell phones, so I knew we wouldn’t talk much while he was away on vacation.  However, by the end of the third day and he hadn’t called, I admit, I started to wonder if my irrational behavior had run him off, but the next day he called.  Sadly, I was still very short and cold with my responses but he tried to keep the conversation upbeat and not allow the past to be brought up.

As the week passed on, I was anxiously anticipating his arrival.  When he finally got home, late in the day on Saturday, he came over to see me.  Finally, I was over my silly anger fit, but it wouldn’t last long.  By the time he got ready to leave, he informed me that he wouldn’t be seeing me the next day, at least not at church, because he was playing golf again.  I stewed. I tried to reign in the donkey, but this time, the donkey was coming at him full force.  (Honestly, he was probably laughing at my idiocy)  Still, I could not change his mind.  He had plans and he was sticking to them, no matter what I did or said.

So, when he left, I was angry and so was he, essentially a week had changed nothing.  Feeling extremely frustrated, I decided to give him just enough time to get home and call him.  Fortunately, I calculated his trip home with almost precise accuracy and called at the right time.

Finally, after long silences and more angry words, he said something I will never forget, “I realize at some point, there will come  a day, when I have to give up some of the things I love doing; but now is not the time.”  At that point, I realized that he was not only thinking ahead to our future together, but I was the one who was being selfish and unreasonable.

This argument, or fight, if will happened over 23 years ago.  I can tell you that he was true to his word.  He has given up a lot to be the leader of our household.  He continues to bless our family with his deep love and dedication.  I rarely pitch tantrums anymore.  They still don’t work on him.  Never have and never will……

 

My Red Cross Experience

One thing I feared most was that one or both of my boys would be unreachable if something happened to Ned, or any of us for that matter.

I feared and dreaded the “red tape” I might endure with the American Red Cross. I never had reason to contact them.

On Wednesday, October 25th, that changed. Facing the reality of the depravity of Ned’s illness, I could no longer hesitate.

I was given instructions and the number to call from a lady at the Elizabeth House. She informed me that it may take a little time giving the information but assured me the process was easy.

The initial call consisted of giving information about Matthew. It was easy. After about two hours, our nurse Jen, told me she had talked with Red Cross to validate the information about Ned’s condition. Within 8 hours, I received a call from Diane. She would be managing my case.

She informed me that if I had not heard anything within 8 hours to call her back. I did. She knew Matthews boat had been notified. However, we had gotten no response. So, she put out another plea.

The next day she called and assured me the boat had received notification. She said, “Hopefully, you will hear something from Matthew soon! Please let me know the minute you hear anything.”

Later in the evening, a call came through. I knew immediately it was Matthew. Our connection wasn’t ideal; but, I was able to tell him his Papaw was still alive. Our call was dropped.

Upon returning to the Elizabeth House, after my brief conversation with Matthew, I found out that he had been able to talk to Ned and Mom. What a blessing.

I immediately called Diane. She was thrilled to know we had talked with Matthew. I thanked her profusely.

A few minutes later, I get another call from the Red Cross, informing me that if Ned dies, I am required to open up a new case.

In the wee hours on Sunday, October 29, I received the call about Ned’s passing. Needless to say, sleep was not on the radar after that call. I cried. I prayed. I cried more. Then at 3:45 AM, I once again called the American Red Cross, only this time I had to open two case files, one for each of the boys. Although, I could call and talk with Ryan directly the proper channels have to met for emergency leave. It’s the process.

Several hours later, Diane called. She wanted me to know that she had sent notification to both commands.

The following day, she called again. Just checking to see if I had heard from either boy. Fortunately, later in the day, I was able to inform her Ryan had been granted leave. He would be home.

Tuesday came and went. Wednesday morning she called again. She said, “I have verification that command received the message but they haven’t replied.” I explained that I was very aware of Matthew’s importance on his boat and also aware he may not get to come home.

I told her several times how instrumental she was and how her continual communication with me was much appreciated. I cried while thanking her for going the extra mile for me.

Then she said, “I normally don’t share my story but I will share with you. The reason I became a volunteer is because I had the same situation happen to me. My son was deployed when my father died. I called the ARC. They didn’t follow-up. I even held up my dads funeral for 10 days waiting to hear from him, which caused issues with other family members. When I finally received notification, I was told that he was on special assignment and they could not even deliver the news to him, much less allow him to come home. Due to the lack of communication, I was determined not to allow this to happen to other families.”

No wonder she was so remarkable communicative, She knew. She understood. Instead of being angry and complaining about the system that failed her, she did something about it.

But her story continues.

Diane is a Gold Star mom. She has buried one son. Diane has another son who was shot at Fort Hood in 2009. She has not just sat around mourning the loss of one son and the substantial damage to another. She gives and she gives. She goes way beyond the call of duty. She’s just a volunteer.

Diane’s story is only one of many whose families have lost loved ones fighting for our freedom. This family, like so many others, is the reason we celebrate Memorial Day. These men and women have placed their wants, desires and needs aside to defend and protect the United States of America. Let’s say to the families how much we appreciate them for supporting their loved ones decision to become part of something bigger than themselves. Just like Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends” For years and even now men and women have been called to give up their lives for our freedom.