Keep The Votes Coming

You guys are flippin’ amazing.  Thank you so so much for voting and sharing with your people about Noonday Collection’s Go Getter’s Getaway.  I am just incredibly grateful.

Here’s the deal…the contest ends September 27th…so 5 more days and I was a day late getting started.  I hope I’m not going to drive you batty until then, but I’d really love to take this trip to see the beautiful country of Guatemala and it’s people.  You can vote once a day for every photo I post.  Example: Today I have 3 photos posted in all and you can vote once for each of the photos.  I have been trying to use direct links, but sometimes they can be a little wonky.

You can GO HERE and scroll through looking for the three photos posted below or you can find two of them via direct link below.  My most recent photo from today should be somewhere near the top.  Fingers crossed.

Click to vote for Entry #1

Click to vote for Entry #2

Today’s entry, but no direct link yet.

Thank you guys again and again x 1,000,000!  And always feel free to share.

Would Love Your Help

If you’ve been reading for pretty much any amount of time here on my blog you know I love Noonday Collection.  Like, love love!  Like true love!  I love everything it stands for.  I love the purpose and heart behind this company.  I love the products.  And I love their founder Jessica!  I still remember my first ever Noonday giveaway way back in 2011…WHAT!?!?!?!  Such a beautiful piece.

They recently launched their Go Getter’s Getaway where they are giving away a trip to Guatemala this November.  I had been thinking about it and then my friend Meredith really encouraged me to enter…couple that with a long car ride and I thought, let’s do this.

So here I am just a girl crying through her application paragraph asking you to vote for me. 🙂  It’s crazy easy.  All you have to do is CLICK HERE, find this phone of Everett and I and vote for me.  That’s it.

You can upload new photos each day and honestly, I think it will be really sweet thinking about what photos to share and why.  Lately, small challenges and goals have been really good for me and especially when they are associated with our FuShuai.

And please feel free to share and ask all your peoples to vote too.  🙂  Thank you so much in advance.  You guys are always crazy kind, thoughtful and supportive.

2 Months {Missing Him}

Today was rough…really really rough.  I woke up and immediately my mind raced back to the night Josh Kelley and I had slept beside Everett in his hospital bed knowing full well he didn’t have much time left here on earth.  I looked over where Josh usually lays and he was already up for the morning.  I thought about how when I woke that morning two months ago I had looked over at our sweet boy and burst into tears knowing we did not have long left with him.

I’ve pretty much cried all day long.  I watched as everyone mulled around our house very solemnly this morning.  When I woke Hudson up for school he sat up in bed with the saddest eyes.  I immediately asked what was wrong because I had literally just watched him wake from sleep.  He said, “I just feel so sad.”  They didn’t even know what today was, but their little bodies remember.  I listened over the phone as Josh cried in his office at work and we talked about all the hard things and hard places our family is in.  We talked about game plans and decisions and all the ins and outs of 7 people grieving and what might be best for each.  Everything is just hard right now.  We feel isolated and lonely.  Our kids feel isolated and lonely and Harper has voiced how she just feels like no one really understands how and why this is all so hard on us.  It feels like a gut punch when you listen to your children voice the same thoughts and feelings in your own head.

The little and big acknowledgements we receive through out our days are life to us.  The thoughtful text messages, the I remembers, the cards and kind gifts, the quick emails…they all make us feel seen.  We don’t need big grandeur things…the simple and small are beautiful to us.

Last Sunday was my first time to go back to church.  Josh had already been another time solo with the kids since I hadn’t felt ready for it so this time I took all the kids and my niece Meiya since he wasn’t feeling up to it that day.  All morning long while moving about the house and getting ready Josh and I had been talking about how hard going back to church has been…just all the layers of our feelings.  We talked openly and honestly and thought nothing of the kids and our niece moving about our house that morning likely catching pieces of our conversations.

I was dreading it, but I knew I needed to make a step forward.  I even questioned God as I got ready “I don’t even think You will have anything there for me today.”  And even more truthfully, it was pretty terrible and no great epiphany awaited me…so I thought.  The people we’re all so kind and gracious and I received lots of hugs and I do so love hugs, but it was just hard and sad to me.  We also sang one of the songs we sang together at Everett’s burial and celebration service so immediate tears from that.  I watched as Solomon filled out a prayer card asking for prayers because he and our family we’re so sad about losing Everett.  More tears.  I sat in the pew, pretty much fighting tears the whole time, doodling on a post-it note and half paying attention when Solomon handed me two pieces of paper and whispered, “These are from Meiya.”  I peered down the pew and caught the eyes of my gorgeous niece and she flashed me a sweet grin.  I looked down at the little pieces of card stock and felt seen…like really genuinely seen…like my 8-year-old niece knew how hard this was for me…for us.  She loves Everett deeply and had spent lots and lots of time with him and I know she hurts too.

I snapped a picture of the rainbow colored Fiesta cards right there in church and text it to her parents and said something along the lines of “If you guys die I hope you leave her to us.” 🙂

   In that moment God reminded me yet again of His sweetness and how important it is to acknowledge others in the places they are.  We don’t have to do crazy big things, we just have to choose to sit with others and acknowledge letting them know we see them right where they are…color those notecards and pass them down to the person who needs them.

One of the biggest things, if not THE BIGGEST, I learned from my Mom’s death was even when we do not know what to do for ourselves we can still do for others.  It’s easy to turn so inward when I am so broken and sad and angry and confused, but I know I have to fight to still look outward to those around me who need acknowledgment too…who need to know they are seen and loved right where they are…they are not forgotten!

So, we’re two months into this shit hole 🙂 Two whole months since our sweet boy’s heart beat it’s last brave beat. And while it is pretty terrible, like nothing we imagined, there are still glimmers of hope and God is still good.  We are so broken, but we will always sing a song of hope because of God who deserves our praise and sits broken amongst us.

8 Things

 1. Thanks to everyone who came out to chat and introduce themselves Saturday at the Salty Dog Festival.  It was this combination of really great/super hard.  I love talking to people about Everett, but it also makes me really sad.  Kind of a catch 22.  I loved when one friend said, “How are you?” and before I could answer she said, “Well you’re here.”  And I felt seen.  I kept telling myself “You got out of the house.  You made some things.  You’re having conversations with others.  Be proud.”  It was nice being out in the sunshine too and some of our favorite people came and said hi and hung around all day.    Plus, the RetroSno truck didn’t hurt either.  The best snowcones around.

(Please note how profesh my art is hung.  It made me laugh out loud when I saw it.)

2. I listed all my remaining items from the show in MY SHOP.  Most things are gone, but there are still 3 sets of key fobs and discounted stationery up for grabs.  I’m also going to try and list some zipper pouches and text key fobs soon.

3. This week has been even more wonky and hard for so many many reasons.  It’s like everyone’s grief has been heightened by 10.  Some new things have come up with Everett’s death that we didn’t see coming.  The regret and guilt are suffocating some days.  And our neighbor brought over a piece of mail of ours he got by mistake.  When I opened it I gasped and then sobbed.  It was Everett’s birth certificate.  Instantly I just felt the searing anger of it all.  Nothing, nothing, nothing is right about getting your child’s death certificate before even receiving their birth certificate.  I felt all the rage and anger and pain.  I wanted to fight someone…like someone needed to pay for this.

4.  I looked down in our van the other day and snapped this picture to share.  If you’ve never read Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, well, make it a must read.  So incredibly good.  I read it years ago, but my SIL borrowed it and had just given it back.  So incredibly good.  And we are all about some books on CD.  The kids LOVE them so much.  Right now we’re doing all the Percy Jackson books.  We’ve been through 4 of them so far and just started The Last Olympian this week.  We check them out from our library and they always gives us ample time to finish them.  Everyone gets into it.

5. We said goodbye to the wave pool two weekends ago.  It closed it’s doors for the end of summer and we all lamented.  There’s something so fun and special about this place.  We love how fun and diverse and welcoming about Wave Country is…which sounds silly, but is absolutely true.  Until next year old friend!

6. This little niece lovey has been giving me some major love and life lately.  I don’t even like babies 🙂 but there are a few littles I make an exception for…she’s one of them.  And let’s all praise Jesus for the black and white filter after a long sleepless night, dark bags under my eyes & busted blood vessels around my eyes from crying so hard.  Thanks Jesus.

7. I’m trying to keep up with another 30 Days Of Bible Lettering.  I liked the idea of committing to reading the Bible everyday…even if it was just one single verse… plus creating with it.  I needed something like this.

And 8.  Oh Harper girl.  This girl has been put through the ringer this year.  So many big heavy things for a 10-year-old to carry and she has done it with such grace and honesty and love.  Her mornings are so hard and her nights are always filled with tears.  We hug a lot and cry together a lot in her bed.  The other day I was listening to the new Imagine Dragons album and their song I’ll Make It Up To You caught my ear.  I know it’s suppose to be about a couple, but for me, it’s about our Harper girl.

PSA: Imagine Dragons Evolve Album is the bomb.

Okay.  That’s all I’ve got for today.  I’m feeling quite proud of writing here twice this week.  Hahaha.  It doesn’t take much these days.  And thank you for all the kind words about our Everett boy.  You guys made me teary eyed and grateful so many know how special he truly is.

*amazon affiliate links

What I Said About Him

Today is one of those days where I just want to remember him.  Everything about him.  All the ins and outs of his precious little personality.  I look through his photos over and over again.  And I want others to remember too.  Acknowledgment I’m realizing is the biggest gift to someone who is walking out deep grief.  I’ve been sleeping pretty crappy and still waking in the middle of the night and bursting into tears. So many words I want to share, but I thought today I’d just share what I said about Everett as his celebration of life service…his 4th birthday party.  Josh Kelley spoke too along with his brother Andy and they both nailed it.  I so wish we’d had the whole thing videoed, but I just beamed with pride over both of them getting up there and sharing the way they did.  Was so honored they spoke the way they did about our Everett boy.  So for today I’m just stopping in to say hi and I’ll leave you with what I shared about our FuShuai on the day we said our goodbye and celebrated his amazing little life.

I’ve thought and thought about what I would say today and finally started to put words down last night around midnight.  I listened to Josh read what he had written and I just cried because the love he has for his children is something fierce and wonderful to behold and I know he is so broken right now with losing Everett.  I’m not sure parents usually speak at their kid’s funeral…thankfully we’ve never had to attend a child’d funeral before.  We’re honestly not sure how any of this is suppose to work or go down, but I knew I didn’t want just anyone up here sharing about our boy and our God.

Everett was a gift.  A true treasure.  Yet another amazing child Josh Kelley and myself are so unworthy of.  I tell my kids almost everyday “I’m the luckiest mama in the world.  Why am I the luckiest mama in the world?”  To which they know to reply “Because you have us.”  Just like all of you parents here know you are the luckiest too.  I will never get over or understand God’s goodness in the way He has knit our family together, but I am forever deeply grateful.  Sweet Everett was no different.  We didn’t chase after him because we’re good people…we chased after him because he was our son.  We knew the incredible blessing that awaited us.  None of our children are our good deeds or our ministry…they are our kiddos…a deep seeded part of our hearts that God knit together so beautifully.  Josh and I know full well we are the lucky ones and put our little family together and we all make each other better.  We knew Everett would make our family even sweeter and boy did he.  He was hilarious and fun and kind.  He was braver and stronger than I’ll ever be.  He loved big.  I’ve never met a more empathetic child.  I remember laying in his bed one night before we left for Michigan and I started to cry while holding him close.  He said, “You crying mama?”  And I said, “Yes, buddy, but it’s okay.” The next thing I felt was his sweet little arm stretched across me and his own hot tears on my cheek.  He did this with anyone when he knew they we’re crying.  Goodness did he love well.  It’s an honor and privilege to be his family.  We know how crazy amazing it was to be loved by Everett.  To have spent almost 5 months with him all together as a family is a gift I will never get over.

And this was not the first time Everett had known love.  He was cherished and loved and cared for by the sweetest of people across the ocean his whole little life.  To those people Josh and I are forever grateful because they loved our son like he was their own before we could.  How do you ever repay that?  They kissed his face and hugged his sweet little body.  They celebrated birthdays and holidays and sang songs and played games.  And even more Everett spent his life with his best friend Tai who loved him fiercely back.  The night before we left for Michigan Shuai and Tai facetimed together and it will always be a highlight of my life watching those best friends see each other and chat with each other and laugh with each other again.  My favorite moment was when Tai said something to Everett in Chinese and Everett flashed a giant smile, turned to me and said, “He misses me.”  Goodness do these boys love well.

We miss our FuShaui terribly.  Nothing about this feels good or right.  Everything about it feels so backwards and wrong.  We are broken and sad and angry and confused.  We feel like a giant mess.  But this is the power of the love of Christ…that we don’t have to be okay with any of this.  We can cry out to him in love or anger or sadness or confusion or pain…in any state we can cry out to Him and He is there.  We do not have to fix ourselves up.  We do not have to be okay.  We do not have to change one thing about ourselves to come to Jesus.  God loves us as is right now.  We’ve done nothing too terrible or embarrassing or mean or unjust…nothing keeps us from our Father.  So if you leave here with anything today please know you are loved.  You count.  You matter.  You are cherished and beautiful and seen by a God who created you in His image and that is absolutely worthy of our Creators love all on it’s own.  He loves each of us immensely and longs for us just as we are.

We cannot thank this community that has rallied around our boy and our family in our darkest days.  You have showered us with the love of Christ and allowed us to experience Jesus in a way we never have.  We will lift His name high because He is absolutely worthy of our praise.

I’ve Been Creating

I have seriously sat down and started to write here about 13 different times this week.  So many thoughts and feelings and emotions currently swirling around our hearts & house.  Each time I just feel like the writings are for me right now so they sit unpublished and that’s okay.  I’m really hoping to share a bit tomorrow, but today I’m here to just share about two things.

1. I’ve been creating.  I am not open for custom orders yet because my mental game cannot handle that right now.  I have been slowly creating at my own pace and so far it has been working really well.  Some days I know I just couldn’t handle the pressure of completing orders along with deadlines, etc so this is the route I’m taking because I feel like it’s better suited for my grief right now.

Our bank actually gave me a booth in the Salty Dog Art Festival this coming weekend…Saturday September 9 from 10-4.  It’s literally at the end of our street so it worked out perfectly.  I told myself I would show up with at least something.  It gave me something to work for, but I took the pressure off myself by giving myself that one rule…just show up with something you created with your hands…anything will do.  It also gave me some inspiration to try something new.  If you’re local come out and see me.  I’m sure to have some super cute little assistants and there are always tons of amazing artists and yummy food trucks.

I’ll have stationery sets almost 1/2 price, some art pieces, lots of key fobs and zipper pouches.  I’d never sewn a zipper in my life, but it was always something I wanted to do so no time like the present.  And then it became a good stress creating project so 24 8×6 zipper pouches later and voila.

So if your in the area and need some fun goodies be sure to swing by and check out the Salty Dog Art Festival.

And 2. There is still time to grab “but if not” apparel from Sage Harvest Gourmet Jerky in support of our family and Everett.  I actually got mine this weekend and it’s crazy soft and I’m thinking about ordering a second one. 🙂  You can place your order HERE.  They also kindly sent us some of their jerky to try as well and it’s so tasty and delicious.  Each flavor was super good, but I polled our house and the favorite flavor went to Western!!  If you’re a jerky loven be sure to snag some.

Thank you guys again and again.  I receive the kindest of emails and messages and comments all the time.  Thank you so deeply for loving on and praying for our family.  We truly mean that.

Pushing Myself

I haven’t done a totally random post in forever.  I always think about stopping in, but things are just wildly hard right now which means everyday tasks I used to be so used to feel really difficult.  This morning has been incredibly hard…full of lots of emotions and feelings and sadness and tears.  I seriously stood in the entrance of Kroger this morning at 6:30am and cried…my body a sweaty, smelly mess…a cart full of groceries…rain pouring…texting with a precious friend about the deepest of losses and the most beautiful of hearts…and I just broke down and sobbed right there.  No worries about me fellow Kroger shoppers…nothing to see here.

I decided I wanted September to be different in some way…even if it was small.  Things feel so drastically different than they used to, everything is crazy complicated now and I am tired…tired of feeling lonely, tired of feeling mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, tired of grief having us by the throats….just so tired.  I wanted to take back my life in any small way I could so I’m trying to push myself in a few different ways

1. I’m trying to get back to working out consistantly 2. I’m trying to write everyday.  Most of those writings are sitting unpublished and will likely never meet another’s eyes, but they are for me…for my mind and soul.  And 3. Start creating again…big or small.  Our bank even gave me their booth at our yearly art fair at the end of our street in September.  Now I might show up with stationery and 11 key fobs, but I will show up and I will have at least something I created with my own hands for sale.  I just need something to change and change always needs to begin within.

So in an effort to push myself I decided to sit down this morning and share some randomness.

We swam 4 times between Monday and Sunday.  One of those times Brea and I sat all by ourselves at a completely empty pool and soaked up rays and chatted away.  One time our littlest had the whole pool to herself.  And we also hit up the wave pool yesterday. Church is really hard right now.  It’s filled to the brim with the kindest and most lovely people, but Josh and I struggle to go right now.  It’s just a lot of reminders and memories and we love them, but they also feel sad & heavy.  So Sunday the wave pool was our church of choice and the sun was quite splendid.  It definitely did not hurt we got to hang with friends, see Ashley and munch on chicken fingers and icees.

(You guys, putting clothes on is even arduous.)

In Nashville we got to experience the eclipse in totality.  Everyone was off of school and Josh worked from home.  Some friends and family came over to eat and hang out.  Honestly, I didn’t know much about the eclipse…like didn’t even know when it was…until some teachers from the kids’ school told me about it.  I thought it would be neat, but never did I think it would be as remarkable as it was.  We had over two minutes of totality and it made me tear up.  Of course I longed for Everett to be with us, but I also thought about a line from a song:

The deepest depths, the darkest nights
Can’t separate, can’t keep me from your sight
I get so lost, forget my way
But still you love and you don’t forget my name

I have a lot of feelings about God right now and candidly, a lot of them are not good and I know they are inaccurate.  Still my flesh has to walk through those and process those and this reminder of how He has not forgotten us…how He knows how hard our struggle is right now…how He deeply loves us…was enough to make me want to travel to see every eclipse totality our continent will see.

We let Harper dye her hair blue.  She casually mention it one time and was shocked when without hesitation I told her she could.  Growing up there we’re things my mom did not battle…things that we’re easy yeses because she knew there would be bigger things that would require a “no”.  Decorating my room however I wanted, dying my hair all kinds of colors, getting more piercings and so on and so on we’re always yeses. It has been far tougher than we imagined watching our children grieve the loss of their brother and if you know Harper Kelley you know she loves her siblings fiercely and especially the littles…Amon, Everett and our littlest.  She is so sad and cries a lot and asks hard questions like “WHY???” and makes comments like “I just don’t understand” and “Why is this not getting easier, but harder?” and all we can do is hold her close, nod in agreement and say “yes” to all those things which are easy to say yes too which might stir up some joy for her grieving heart.

Josh Kelley is taking each of the kids over night hiking and backpacking by themselves.  Harper already has gone and Hudson was up next…in order of age.  They did not die which was awesome and they had a really sweet time together.  Pictures started rolling in Sunday afternoon once they got to some cell service and all I could do was smile.

We have received countless kind things in the mail.  I don’t even know where to start with this.  I have lost all hope of ever writing thank you notes at this point.  So many things.  So many cards.  So much kindness.  The kids do most of the opening and if there are personal cards for just me I sit those aside for later.  I’ve started working through some of those because at first I had a very hard time reading everything.  There we’re just ALL THE EMOTIONS of my own coupled with lots of emotions from others and it was pretty hard to process it all.  So many really thoughtful things have shown up at our house…ornaments, lots of Fiesta donkeys in all shapes, sizes and varieties, artwork, gift cards, jewelry, toys & treats for the kids and so much more.  Please please please know how deeply grateful we are.

Last Wednesday I was having a particularly rough day when our mailman handed over a giant box full of rainbow donkey piñata pillows.  Yes, yes you did read that correctly.  And 8 of them to be exact…one for each member of our family.  Insert all the tears.  I sat down and weeped over this incredibly kind gesture of love.  The kids we’re ecstatic about them, snagged their own and landed each pillow on their beds.  Denise, THANK YOU!  You are a gem and crazy talented and each of the Kelleys so loves their personal Fiesta pillow.

Last random thing for today.  School is in full swing which means sickness immediately plagued us.  Can we all just wear hazmat suits and go about our normal lives living germ free?!?!?!  Sol already missed a day of school and our littlest came home feeling puny with a fever.  I had to wake her up at school to which she fell back to sleep during our 2 minute drive to our house and she then proceeded to get in her fetal position and fall back to sleep again.  Insert all the eye rolls emojis…no ones got time for sick kiddos.

Hudson and Solomon both tried out for the rhythm club at school…aka the dance club.  No one was more shocked than I was that they both wanted to.  They stayed after school two days to learn the routine and then on Thursday they stayed late to preform it on their own for the judges.  WHAT IN THE WORLD?!?!?!  The results we’re posted on the door of the school Friday afternoon.  They both hopped out very anxious and excited.  Hudson made the team and Solomon made alternate…and they we’re both totally good with it.  I cry about everything these days, but watching them standing up there reading over the list made my eyes leak a watery substance.

And their entire school is broken up into 4 teams this year.  All the kids are mixed up, but Hudson and Amon ended up on the same team which means they wear matching shirts every Friday.  The other day after school I looked over from the kitchen and my heart exploded.  Brothers are the best!

That’s all I’ve got for today.  Thank you so much for stopping by to read…I know this little space on the internet currently holds a lot of sadness and bitterness and cuss words and rage 🙂 so I appreciate your willingness to read and still come into this space along with me.

“But If Not”

I just wanted to drop in today and share about a really sweet company who has decided to come along side our family during this difficult time of transitioning into our new unwanted normal without Everett.  We are incredibly humbled and honored to have new friends who have linked arms with our family in such kind and supportive way.

From Sage Harvest Gourmet Jerky:
“…we will always sing a song of hope.”

And that’s just what the Kelley family did.

They sang a song of hope when they saw their son’s face across oceans and knew there family would be even better with him in it.

They sang a song of hope as they learned about the unique and fragile heart beating inside their little warrior’s chest.

They sang a song of hope as they traveled to China to make sure that their warrior with the special heart and an uncertain future would know the healing power of redemptive love.

They sang a song of hope as they brought him home and lovingly took him to the very best medical facility where skilled surgeons would mend their baby boy’s broken heart.

And, somehow, with an unimaginable strength and unshakable faith, they continued to sing a song of hope as everything went wrong …

And, between tears and with shaky voices, they sang a song of hope as they left the hospital, not with a wholehearted son held tightly in their arms, but instead with empty, aching arms and shattered hearts of their own.

Everett Louie Shuai, the bravest of heart warriors and most beloved of sons, went to be with the Lord on July 18th, and his beautiful family showed us all what it looks like to boldly walk into the flames with an unwavering faith and unfaltering love for God — and to come out faithful, no matter the outcome. They showed us how to love and serve each other and our Father through the deepest and darkest of valleys.

They walked into the flames with their baby boy, so hopeful for healing, renewing and restoration — knowing and believing that their God could deliver these things, but if not, their hope and faith in our one true God would remain.

And it has.

As they figure out how to live out the hurt and grief of the “but if not,” would you join us in singing a song of hope for Everett and his family? Would you join us in giving back to the family who has given us the most beautiful example of relentless love and abiding faith?

When their voices are cracking, when the weight of grief is too much, when they are just simply too weary to sing, let us sing a song of hope for them and with them. Let us sing for Everett, for a family with beautiful faith and for a God who is true and good — no matter what.

100 percent of the profits from our “but if not” shirts will go toward loving the Kelley family and helping them to offset the medical costs for Everett’s care. Thank you for loving this family right along with us.

You can purchase your “but if not” shirt at http://sageharvestjerky.com/merchandise/strong>

The people and family behind Sage Harvest are crazy kind and we are so grateful.

You can find them on Instagram and Facebook as well.  Check them out and get yourself a tee.  I just ordered a tank top and I’m pretty excited about it.  “But if not”, I mean come on, yes x 1000!!!!  And as hard as it is, we are living that right now and we know God is still His good, loving and merciful self even in the death of our sweet boy!  “But if not…”