Over the past 10 years or so that I have been blogging and homeschooling, I have made countless friends online. Many of those friends have become my dearest friends after we were able to spend time together in person. There have been a few that I’ve never met in person that I consider to be close friends and confidants. It’s really a pretty amazing blessing . . . this Christian homeschool mom blogger community.
These friendships are often nurtured at homeschool conventions and blogging conferences (2 of my favorite places to be) when we gather to learn, network, and fellowship (the fellowship part is the best part). Last September I attended a conference in San Diego, for professional bloggers from any niche. It was a jam-packed couple of days, but on the first full day, in between 2 of the busy sessions, a conversation struck up between a fellow Christian homeschool mom blogger and me. There weren’t a ton of homeschool bloggers in attendance, and I had met Mandy before at another blogging conference the year before, so we were not strangers.
As we began chatting, she asked me about Ben, and told me that she had recently read our adoption birth story. She shared how touched she was by it, and then opened up to me about her own journey through infertility and adoption. She glowed with joy as she pulled out a sweet baby picture and explained that she had just become mommy to a baby boy a few months earlier, and that in a couple of weeks his adoption would be final. She smiled with pride as she told me the story of how she had become an instant mommy just a few years earlier, when she married her husband and his 3 children. Her husband had been widowed, so she really had become “mommy” overnight. She openly shared about the struggles and joys of receiving the blessing of an instant family. And how she was blessed beyond measure by her family, but how she had also longed for a baby.
We had a lot in common, and I very much enjoyed our few minutes getting to know each other a little better. She was easy to talk to, and one of those people that draws you into her story with an infectious smile and easy laugh. It was clear that Mandy was a Jesus girl. I smiled, teared up a couple of times, gave her a Marcy hug and was genuinely thrilled for her. But alas, the time came for the next conference session, and we had made different choices for which ones to attend. That was the last time I talked to Mandy Kelly.
I love that when you have Jesus in common how quickly friendships are formed, and how deeply those relationships grow when you share a conversation and a hug in person. When you have something more intimate, like infertility, in common, it’s especially a blessing.
Mandy blessed me that September day in ways she couldn’t have known, simply by her willingness to share with me. My infertility days and Ben’s adoption are a distant memory for me now. I’ve been mothering Ben for over 16 years, and for a couple of years, I’ve felt mired down in the throes of homeschooling high school and trying to prepare this boy for manhood. The pain of infertility has long passed, and those sweet early days of mothering a newborn are no longer fresh in my daily memory. But my sweet conversation with Mandy that day left me reminiscing in my heart. Listening to her speak about her family with so much love and gratitude hastened me to whisper a prayer of thanks for my own gift through adoption. And it reminded me of how much I love sharing our miraculous story, too.
Having a conversation with someone you barely know with such intimacy is pretty rare. Unless you are a Christian homeschool blogger anyway. Had I know that that would be my last conversation with Mandy, I might have invited her to dinner, taken more time to get to know her even better, taken a selfie.
Basked in her sweet spirit a little longer.
But how could I know that just a few short months later she would perish in a devastating house fire with her husband, Scott, that precious adopted baby boy, 9-month-old Judah, and the youngest of the 3 children she had mothered for the past 5 years, 9-year-old Lizzie?
How could I know that we would all be left so suddenly with only the words she has written on her blog, and few Facebook live videos from which to soak in her smile and spirit?
Just hours before the fire that would take her life, a previously scheduled Facebook post, tied to Mandy’s blog, popped up with her thoughts about when disasters strike. “Disasters happen all around us, each and every day,” she wrote. And disasters are “opportunities in our lives to be a vessel of the grace, mercy, truth and love of the Gospel.” She was speaking of the 1000 Years Flood in South Carolina last year, but how amazingly comforting would her words become this week.
Losing the opportunity to make Mandy a more important part of my life is sad and sobering for me. How many conversations have I rushed, instead of savoring? How many people in my life do I take for granted, not realizing that life can be short and death unexpected? Even for a young family. How many opportunities for blessings have I have hurried through?
The week since the Kelly family left earth for heavenly places has been a tough one in the Christian homeschool blogger community. Many of use have mourned, reminisced, prayed, and shared together. Most of us have hugged our children tighter and spent time reflecting on our own call to worshipful living. And today, many of us are devoting space on our blogs to share in what simple (or profound) ways Mandy touched our lives. I think you’re going to read about how Mandy was a devoted wife and mother, talented blogger, and a fiercely loyal friend. And that she had a smile that would light up a room. But more than anything, I think you’re going to read a lot about Mandy Kelly knew she was a child of the One True King. She knew it, and she lived it.
Please go read a few of Mandy’s blog posts. Be blessed by them. And even if you didn’t know Mandy, know that it was her heart’s desire for all of us to live worshipful lives every day. An unexpected blessing — a brief conversation with her — touched my heart that day. But her legacy of worshipful living lives on in all of us who are willing to follow her beautiful example.
Perhaps I, and many of you will be inspired to walk in grace, mercy, Truth, and the love of the gospel a little better today and tomorrow. As Mandy always wrote . . . let’s all “worship with my life.” If we do, her legacy will continue to bless many well into the future. We will be proof positive that when disaster strikes, Jesus remains sovereign.
I think she would really love that.
2003 Charleston Hwy.
Cayce, SC 29033