Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Kelton Christmas Letter - 2013 (Our Extraordinary Year in Review)

2 months married!

Happy New Year from the newly established Keltons!

It was just our first Christmas season as man and wife and we can hardly believe we've been married for over 6 months already. God's grace has held us so tightly on what's already been an adventure, and we thought we might catch you up a dash through sharing a little online year-in-review Christmas letter.

My sweet baby niece Terra :)
Leah was in the USA, babysitting for my darling new little baby niece Terra, starting my small photography business Whispers of Light Photography, and planning our June 1st wedding!

Charles was in the UK and after having been laid-off from his great job web-developing for The Money Advice Service, he looked for temporary work before he planned to come to the states and ended up working long, long hours at a London McDonalds :( So proud of my humble, handsome man for being willing to do whatever it took!

More wedding planning and more long-distance relationship-ing-- rounded off by my getting to attend the birth of my littlest niece Gracelyn Mae as the birth photographer! What an incredible experience to witness such a miracle!
Miss Gracelyn's first day outside the womb! She was born Feb 24th, 2013.

In March, Charles' closest friends threw him a "Stag Do"-- a British tradition to celebrate the groom before his wedding! They went clay pigeon shooting and out for a nice meal, just the guys :) I got to spend Easter with my family, which has been a novelty these last 8 years studying & working in ministry!
A few of Charles' besties on his Stag-do
Easter 2013
Then finally, April arrived and on the first weekend I hopped on an overnight bus to Chicago to meet my handsome fiance off an airplane with a kiss for the first time in half a year! We spent a wonderful few days with my darling Breyette aunt and uncle and cousins there, and then back up to PR where my Dad promptly gave Charles a cold (it was still blizzard-ing in April this year!) and dirty job feeding calves. Straight from the streets of London to the sheds of the ranch :) At the end of April, my American bridesmaids and personal attendants threw me such a touching bridal shower at my cousin Jackee's beautiful lakeside home and so many of my aunties and cousins made it. I was so blessed to feel everyone was celebrating along with me. I lovedlovedloved being the bride!

Reunited in Chicago after half a year apart!
Working for the future father-in-law on the ranch feeding these constantly hungry little guys-- up to 30 at a time!
Almost all of my aunties made it to my bridal shower :)
My matron-of-honour (my big sis!) and I at my bridal shower
My 3 sweet little nieces who came along to my bridal shower :)
Two of our best friends, Amanda and Jon, and Charles' Mum arrived from England in mid-May! It was surreal to have our best friends over in Minnesota!! They dug right in and helped us tirelessly in the final weeks of preparation for our homespun wedding (like making 300 mini-cheesecakes and 150 party favours), but we also got to have a little fun showing them around my hometown (The Good Life Cafe was very popular, as was Minnesoda Fountain, Dean Park at sunset and Heartland Park at night, Itasca State Park to visit the headwaters of the Mississippi, and Dorset). The last week of May, 2 more of my darling friends from college, Abbie & Paul, arrived! And almost the whole of the rest of Jon's family, The Cannons, arrived-- Charles grew up from the age of 2 as if he were the Cannon's 6th child, so having them with us on our wedding day was absolutely precious. My family quickly took to every one of our English visitors-- Kenan even developed a little crush on "Big Abbie" (which he called her since his sister is also named Abby), until he met someone a little closer to his own age in the Cannon family, 2 year old Chloe, whom he now calls his girlfriend :) As a whole family, we enjoyed playing games with our guests, having a huge bonfire to make room for wedding parking, and sharing a house amongst all 12 of us-- many of us sleeping on the floor! Our whole wedding experience was such a blessing which we are so grateful for, but especially heart-warming was having all of these English guests come all that way to be with us. We cherished every moment of our time with them. Charles and I even had 4 of our dearest friends share a hotel room with us on one night of our honeymoon when we were bringing them down to the airport-- hahahaha!
We bought a car! We call her Doris the Taurus :) She's well-used, but we're grateful!
Having a bonfire with my family and our English friends!
My darling besties from college who came all the way from England to be with me at my wedding!
I love you so much, Miss Manda and Abbie...
Our English/American group at the Headwaters in the week before the wedding!
We started out the month of June 2013 by GETTING MARRIED! We are just so incredibly grateful for the beautiful, meaningful wedding day my parents' gave us. We were surrounded by 110 of our family and dearest friends in my parents' enchanting back garden when we said our vows to one another, feasted, toasted, and danced the night away! Visit my blog post about it here: Our Wedding. They say a picture speaks a thousands words, so feel free to peruse our wedding photo albums and read the story of our day in the captions. My dear friend Jo came over from Sweden to be our photographer!
Check them out--
Part 1: The Dreamy Details
Part 2: Getting Ready to Walk Down the Aisle
Part 3: Sacred Vows on Holy Ground
Part 4: Wedding Party & Family Portraits
Part 5: The Reception & Ceilidh Dance
Part 6: The Bridal Session at Fish Hook River

We spent 2 nights at the beautiful Red Bridge Inn in Park Rapids (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this B&B!) before we headed down to Mpls to bring Charles' Mum and 4 of our English friends to the airport, and after a couple of days enjoying what Mpls had to offer for a honeymoon, we boarded a plane down south to the smothering heat of New Orleans for a week's stay in a timeshare of my grandmother's! What an awesome wedding gift :)
At the famous Cafe De Monde on our New Orleans honeymoon

Visiting an old mansion in the French Quarter
Eating an alligator po'boy!

St. Louis Cathedral at the heart of New Orleans
Upon arriving back in MN, my amazing sister and brother-in-law had prepared their camper for us to spend a few weeks in while looking for work! This mean, we literally camped in Hannah and Joel's yard, and had 4 little darlings knocking on our camper door every morning, so excited that all they had to do was go outside to get to Auntie and Uncle :)

Our nieces and nephews joined us in the camper for a sleep over one night!

We went down to Nebraska at the end of the month for the Fox Family Reunion
We had hoped that we might have found a job for Charles by July... but we ended up spending longer in the camper than we intended! We were so grateful to God for providing enough photography sessions for me to keep us going. And we also enjoyed a quick roadtrip down to Chicago with my Grandma Pearson where we camped out in my Aunt & Uncle's backyard for my twin cousins' graduation party :) We've been so excited to get to make so many fabulous memories with family this year back in the states!!

We were still on the job hunt for Charles and were actually in Fargo/Moorhead visiting my little brother Jonah when we got the call that my Dad had been in a terrible car accident and they didn't know if he'd survive... The next few weeks we spent most of our time in the ICU and helping to keep things running while he was laid up, as well as fielding all the questions and concern for him! He is STILL recovering-- on crutches still over 5 months later. But he's alive and well. Burning the candle at both ends, like usual, he fell asleep at the wheel and ran into the back of a semi-truck. The force of his crash actually broke the hitch at the FRONT of the trailer, believe it or not. It is truly a miracle that he is alive. We're anxious to see what God has in store for his life in future!


We moved a few hours south to central MN in  the last few days of August to move in with my Grandpa, closer to a nearby city with job opportunities. Grandpa lost my dearly-loved Grandma the summer before and was pretty excited at the idea of having us move in to his empty house for awhile since Charles wanted to stay and experience living in the states.

We took a quick trip down to Southern MN to visit my aunt and uncle at their cabin on the mighty Mississippi and had a picnic on their pontoon boat on a sandbar in the middle of the river at sunset :)

Charles had lots of interviews but it was Sept when he finally got offered a contract! The company wasn't even advertising a position-- he just sent them his CV because they were the kind of company he knew-- a small digital agency in downtown St. Cloud. They are experiencing rapid growth and needed an account manager to come on board, and there Charles was. So, they offered him a job in management! And after about 4 months job-hunting, he landed one by God's grace and provision, and we began to settle in to a new area.

With one week to go before the job started, we headed up north on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Canada so Charles could cross it off his North America bucket list :) We had a dreamy few days traveling up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Our most memorable part of the trip may be when we coaxed Doris the Taurus right up a mountain to watch the sunset over Lake Superior on the edge of a cliff, only to nearly run into a bear both on the way up the mountain and on the way back down! Our night in Duluth, MN was also just dreamy. So much beauty!

Our first month of settling in to some normalcy in our tiny new town-- the same town where I lived for the first 7 years of my life :) So strange to be back in MN so long! I found part-time work to supplement the quieting down photography, so Charles and I commuted the half hour together. Happy days settling into married life. So thankful to be in it together!

November brought with it Charles' first Thanksgiving!! And our first time celebrating this important American holiday as a married couple :) Due to work, we couldn't go up north to my family til the weekend, so we spent the actual Thanksgiving Day volunteering in the local nursing home to spend some time with the elderly who didn't have family to celebrate with, and then had a Thanksgiving meal with my lovely aunt & uncle and cousins in the area. Then over the weekend we went home to have our family Thanksgiving! So, score! Two Thanksgiving meals to kick off Charles' first time celebrating the holiday! haha :)

Now, Minnesota is known for its snowy winters and below 0 temps. But, just Charles' luck, it was the coldest December on record here!! With weeks of temps in the -20's Fahrenheit (which means -30's Celsius!) Nonetheless, we have loved celebrating our first Christmas season together :) In lieu of having our own home with our own tree, we managed to help put up 3 different trees together this year, to help out various family members. And the nieces and nephews and I took Uncle Charles sledding as soon as we got back up north to my parents' backyard :) My big brother even let Charles have free reign with his prized snowmobile! Now, we need to organize an ice fishing trip, some snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing and his winter experience may be complete :)

We were married on this bridge in my parents' backyard 6 months prior to this!

2013 was such a highly anticipated year for us, and a crazy one at that with all the changes and transitions it brought! It has been such a precious blessing to have so much time with my family, a great foundational time for they and Charles to get to know one another as we look toward a future farther away. The children are wild about their fun Uncle. Just the other day 14 month old Terra started calling him by name-- "Ga-ko" for Uncle :) He's trying to train her to call him "Uncle Cool"-- haha! We just spent the past weekend celebrating Christmas with first the extended Pearson family (which is HUGE, with Dad's 5 sisters and their families) and then the extended Seger family, and it is just so precious to get to share these people I love and whom I "come from" with this man I love. I'm so grateful.

We are still counting dear our ordinary moments together, as we spent so much time apart in our courtship! But we're also looking forward to planning some more extraordinary times, like trips about the US to visit various people and places in 2014, while also praying for wisdom for next steps. Please pray for my husband as he clarifies what career moves he wants to make, including going back to uni before we start our family! It is such a privilege to be given this gift of building a life together. Pray that we do it well, with wisdom, and with grace for one another, and plenty of overflowing love, so that our loving God may be glorified in The Keltons :)

We're so thankful for all of our friends. You have been such a support to us in this life-changing year of 2013, and we can't tell you enough how much you mean to us. Know that we are holding you up in prayer at the cusp of this new year! May it hold all that you hope for...

With so much love,
The Keltons <3

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

On being Homeless (And on being Home)

It snowed again last night. Winter is wrapping its icy arms around Minnesota and very soon will be squeezing tightly.

I dropped a few more wedding Thank-yous in the post today on my way to work and right outside the post office stood a man bundled up against the cold, holding a cardboard sign reading, “Homeless. Anything helps. God bless.” 

And I couldn’t just do nothing. 

Last night Charles and I started watching a dated documentary on street children in Bucharest, Romania. When I was 20 years old, I spent a few months working with abandoned babies in that very city and had my heart stolen away by their glinting brown eyes and bewitching smiles. Our babies had been saved from the streets and the sewers. The children in the documentary had fled to the streets and the sewers. These particular ones were sleeping in a subway station with a little gang of other children who had, for various reasons, ran away from their hopeless homes, chosen the streets rather than remain under their tormented family roofs.  The streets kept them hungry, constantly tired, cold, and riddled with lice. Huffing paint kept them from noticing those things too much. When they’d get any money, they’d spend it on paint rather than food because when high, they’d forget they were hungry. One of the children maneuvering his way through life on the streets was the same age as my little niece Abby. 

And I struggled to fall asleep with images of their sunken brown eyes in my head. What was heartbreakingly bittersweet was watching their childish nature break through as they played together. Their lives were desperate and their worlds were more adult than any 8 year old should ever have to deal with, and yet, their eyes would light up as they’d strip off their dirty clothes and play in a fountain with a dog, or walk through a buzzing metro station singing to themselves and dancing…

When I worked in Romania in 2007, it was just after the post-communist country had become part of the EU.  I rarely saw any street children. It was rumored that to clean up to become part of the EU, the corrupt gov’t had rounded them up one night and taken them away to be killed and buried in a mass grave, because one day they were there—an estimated 20,000 of them in Bucharest alone— and the next day, gone… Their numbers were only slowly building back up as destitute families in the country would send their children in to the city to beg. 

The documentary makes me want to hop on a plane and get back there, even if it was over a decade old since its filming. But my life is very different than it once was, being back in America and having a husband now. The struggles in front of me are very different struggles. The heaviness is a very different weight. And our good Father is reminding me to do whatever I can to live it well, to live it for Him. Reminding me that wherever He has me, I am called to be all there. Fully present. Listening for His voice, extending His hands…

So when I saw the homeless man standing in the snow at the stoplight by the post office this morning, I couldn’t drive by. And I was strangely afraid to approach him. I am led far too easily by fear which cuts me off from my faith… So I stopped at a grocery store and picked up a few things to sustain him, and then pulled into a nearby parking lot, took a deep breath and some of Jesus’ courage, and walked up to him. 

He had eyes as blue and clear as the Minnesota winter sky. He was gentle and kind. I told him that this was a particularly cold state to be homeless in. He agreed and said he tried each night at 6pm to get a bed at the local salvation army, and that he was trying to get back down south. I asked him about his life. He told me that his father was a pastor in Arkansas and actually ran a homeless shelter! I asked him if he had any way to contact him. His Minnesota-winter-blue eyes shifted and he changed the subject. I wish I would have told him that I know what dad-issues look like. He told me he had kids in Wisconsin, and a girlfriend in North Dakota in the hospital. I wondered why with so many connections, he was homeless on this cold street. He gave me a smile when he told me how much he appreciated the groceries. I gave him a smile and a “bless you”, but didn’t tell him how much I appreciated the lessons taught in his eyes. 

Maybe he was on drugs. Maybe he drinks away his money. There are usually reasons for being on the streets. I would fix it all for him if I could. But this morning all I saw was Jesus’ love for him. All I felt, once I pushed past the fear, was God’s tender heart for him. And a longing for Him to bring us all home…

I think we’re all a little bit homeless. I know I am. I think we’re all a little bit desperate and somewhat choosing to live on the streets and huff paint to ward off the hunger pains. Hunger for heaven, hunger for the deepest connection with the designer of our hearts which it is so hard to maintain this side of heaven.  So hard to hold on to how He loves us when everything around us is beating the tender flesh of our hearts against the rocks. I’m realizing with sometimes overpowering intensity that even the most decent of people are walking perilous inches away from devastating evil, sometimes flirting with it, sometimes jumping right in and dancing with it. Letting it break them, and those who love them. Sin does this. Sin breaks our world down. Sin leaves us homeless, high on drugs to numb the pain. Jesus said that our sin was unbelief in Him. “Lord God, I believe, but help my unbelief.” We are all sinners, we are all breaking one another down. 

But, oh, how He invites us to be built up, and to build one another up. To turn our faces from our unbelief and believe. And after realizing the depth of His grace, to be set free from the system of breaking down ourselves and those around us with our sin. It’s the most basic tenet of Christianity, really. Belief which changes us. But things have been so very hard. I’ve felt so very broken down. It becomes a new realization all over again. 

Somehow, He’s constantly speaking to me most powerfully in encounters with “the least of these”. And it gives me hope that even when I am at my weakest and most broken and at my least, He can use me to pull someone else’s eyes up to His face… 

His grace, His love, His attention, His care is just astounding.
And I want you to see it, feel it, know it, perceive it for yourself.
I’m praying (albeit a weak whisper at this season in my life) for you reading this. How I want you to find your Home in Him.…

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale by Ian Morgan Cron

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron was, by far, the best read of my summer.

With Cron's deliciously witty and profound style of writing, I felt I journeyed with our protagonist Chase, an all-American pastor facing a crisis of faith, on his spiritual pilgrimage. Much to my delight, Chase's journey wasn't just a figurative one, as Cron took him to Italy to visit his Franciscan monk uncle. It was there that he was introduced to St. Francis of Assissi, whom, across the generations which separated them, patiently led him deeper into the loving heart of God in the midst of this painful world. Chase became fascinated by this historical figure and his testimony of faith, and in studying him, tracing his movements across the Italian countryside, he was led to meet interesting modern-day figures living out their journeys of faith and doubt in myriad ways. He began to see the world with different eyes. And he would never be the same.

I think Cron is a brilliant writer. Here he's written a novel, but also a biography, and even a deeply theological sermon all in one. His characters are believable and real, but they exist to teach. I felt I met with God in their stories on the page. And don't even get me started on his description of Italy!

Watch out for this writer. I don't think he'll disappoint. But especially, watch out for this book. Let it open your eyes to the depth and beauty of this God, even in the heartache of life on earth. Somehow the pain makes the beauty even more sweet...

* *I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, 9 August 2013

Catching up...

Oh poor sweet blog-- always there, left in the shadows as I get on with living! I will try to catch you up a little as some people have been asking...

It has been such a busy summer as Charles and I settle in to married life and continue to work out what that life will look like practically. Also, as I develop my photography business. I am too too excited to announce that I have booked my first wedding! Ideally, there would be many more on the books to come :) All in all, I am finding this art form-meets-job a delicious treat to my creative little soul, even if it means I must work my rear-end off for very little pay right now to build it up! Check out the new website at: www.whispersoflightphotography.wordpress.com.

My handsome hubby is still pounding the pavement for jobs in the web-developing world. The decision is that if there's not a phone call with a perfect job soon, we'll head down to Milaca to move in with my Grandpa, who is very much missing my Grandma, and look for any old thing to pay the bills while Charles starts work on his MA in Psychology. He gets all excited when he reads articles about Neuroscience, of all things...

Daily, there will be a moment when I look up at him and the air is pretty much knocked right out of my lungs again as I am shocked once more to think that God gave him to me, me to him.

We have just today vacated the camper where we have been spending our first few months together parked in my sister's backyard :) We believe in having stories to tell the grandkids someday after all...

The writer in me has been lying a bit dormant these days. I think there is too much to say and I get overwhelmed. My means to say it all are so limited. So I try to listen more. Perhaps later it will be time to pen what I hear in the silent times now...

But, because I cannot help it, I have started a little project with my darling friend Lizzie which keeps us connected across the miles and miles of Atlantic. www.1000blessings.wordpress.com is an eclectic little list we've decided to start keeping listing any random thing we feel grateful for or about. God gives blessings so lavishly in the day-to-day. They pour out in such a torrent that if we're not careful to catch them, we'll miss them as they wash over us. So, Lizzie and I are trying to catch a few and hold them up to the light. To say thanks...

He is ever good, ever kind.
Listen, little heart of mine, and you'll hear Him breathing over it all...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Long-Awaited Post: OUR WEDDING!

I have had a very hard time sitting down to write a post on our wedding day. Yes, life has been busy and crazy and unsettled, but also because it just seems such a gargantuan task, trying to put into words such an experience. So, I'm afraid I can't really try.

All I can say is, on the 1st of June 2013, I put on my mother's dress which I had altered to my taste, took the arms of my Grandpa and my Dad, and followed my 4 darling flowergirls, 2 adorable ring-bearers, 4 beautiful bridesmaids, and 4 handsome groomsmen down a baby's breath lined aisle in my parents' lush and green backyard. At the end of the aisle, in front of a hundred of our dearest friends and relatives shivering in the chilly, grey afternoon, stood the handsome man who won my heart. He extended his arm and I took it.

And it was the most precious, beautiful day to start our life together with.

Photo courtesy of the incredible Megan Robinson Photography
We were married in my parents' beautiful backyard, on Mom's little wooden bridge. It was STUNNING!
Photo courtesy of Paul Cannon Photography.

My darling Grandpa and my dad walked me down the aisle together :)
(My cousin Veronica and her husband Daniel were snapping some great photos like this one!)

Seeing him standing there at the end of the aisle filled me with so much peace after such an emotional morning!
(Photo taken by cousins Veronica & Daniel)
Charles and I had a time of communion in our ceremony just the two of us during a beautiful duet performed by my dear friends who came over from England. They sang "The Only Promise that Remains" by Reba McEntire (Hear the original version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKf-Vmba3zk). I love this photo. Charles was praying over us...
Photo taken by Veronica & Daniel

Our Communion table. The bible belonged to my great-grandfather Max Karo, the father of my dear Grandma who passed away last summer... She was so very missed at my wedding...
Photo courtesy of Paul Cannon Photography.
Our first kiss as husband and wife!!!
(Veronica, this is one of my favourite photos of the whole day :))
We JUST said "I Do"!
(Photo taken by my lovely Aunt Mary :))
My gorgeous bouquet. Our amazing florist was a lovely lady named Kelly Sandquist of Kelly's Cottage Gardens
Photo courtesy of Paul Cannon Photography
Details of our day. Photos courtesy of Megan Robinson Photography.
Photo courtesy of Megan Robinson Photography

Details of our reception tables. Each table held a different framed quote from love letters Charles had written to me over the years! And vintage dessert plates.
Photo taken by my Bridesmaid Emily

At our wedding feast :)
Photo taken by my bridesmaid Emily
My beautiful bridesmaids: my cousins Emily and Jackee, my dear friend Amanda who came all the way over from England, and my favourite big sister Hannah :)
Photo taken by my Aunt Mary
Charles and his groomsmen: my brother Jonah, his "brothers" from England Jon, Tim, and Paul
Photo courtesy of Paul Cannon Photography

Photo courtesy of Paul Cannon Photography
We had our "first dances" on the patio before starting the traditional British Ceilidh dance on the lawn. Charles and I danced to "Time in a Bottle" by Jim Croce (hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO1rMeYnOmM), then he and his Mum danced, and my Dad and I danced, and then we had a celebratory dance with the nieces and nephews who gained a new uncle that day ("Move it, Move it" because, after its Madagascar fame, it's become a big favourite amongst these little ones :)) Tucker was too shy to join us for this dance :(
Getting ready with my bridesmaids
Photo taken by my bridesmaid Emily

I am IN LOVE with my dress-- my mother's wedding dress redone for me! So very perfect! I didn't want to take it off in the end :)
Photo taken by my Aunt Mary
My handsome groom. Love him!
Photo courtesy of Paul Cannon Photography

It's a mix of available photos as we wait for our main pictures, but hopefully it gives you a little glimpse into our momentous day. Thankfully, so many friends took photos for us, and we were blessed with having a number of pro photogs there! I cannot wait to see them all and would love to share them with anyone who would like to see. I wish everyone could have been a part of this first day of the rest of our lives!

Many of my incredible friends back in the UK got together and prepared a very special video which was shown at our reception, to our surprise. I have the coolest friends ever :) Check it out here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dNPGGxHz9So

It was a perfectly beautiful beginning. It went far too quickly and I do wish we could go back and do it again now so I could savor each and every moment all over again. 

There are not enough words to describe the monumental feeling of pledging my life in faithful love to this man, my husband. All I can say is... thank You, Jesus. For him, and for what You have planned for us.

...I loved our wedding celebration :) 

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