About Us (or God is so Good!)

Greetings and welcome to our blog.  My name is Mistie and this is my husband Michael.  Together, we are the Crafting Kelleys.  We created this blog so that we might be able to record and share our efforts and forays into the crafting world as well as those (sometimes) simple and (sometimes) not so simple things we enjoy in life.  We are both so blessed by each other.  We complete and compliment each other in so many ways.  The area where it seems to be most evident (aside from our day to day harmony and love for each other) is in our mutual enjoyment of Christ, Family, our Church Family and CRAFTS.  

We both hold a firm belief that everybody needs a creative outlet in some way.  Some people like to write, some like to take pictures, while others like to sculpt, paint, color, or create in a wide variety of ways.  We encourage our children, family and friends to find that creative outlet that clicks for them (and for you) and then plunge right in.  

As for our areas of interest, the list is growing day by day, or so it seems.  Michael is a very talented artist.  His artistic abilities include drawing, painting, airbrushing and tattooing.  Michael previously owned and operated his own painting business.  He specialized in signs but also had a growing business for painting and airbrushing race cars and motorcycles in addition to the traditional airbrushed items in the marketplace.  Unfortunately, a hurricane followed promptly by a whirlwind of life's little (and big) emergencies forced him to close his doors permanently.  I have been designing and creating jewelry since 2009.  I also enjoy writing (and most will tell you, talking....and they would be telling the truth).  We both enjoy working with cross-stitch and may eventually branch out to embroidery and needle-punch.  Michael knits with his Martha Stewart Knit and Weave Loom set.  I enjoy knitting with two needles and crocheting.  I also recently discovered the calming joy to be found in making pot-holders on one of those weaving looms you buy for kids.  We snagged a great deal on a new sewing machine for me this week (Thursday was Thanksgiving day, guess what kind of sale we hit).  It was the only item we were willing to go out and spend money on.  Now I just need to find someone to teach me how to sew and use my very first sewing machine.  Hang on for the ride, this is going to be fun!  We have recently embarked upon new endeavors, including soap, candle and lotion making.  We are also branching out into making our own detergents and other household products in an effort to stretch every dollar until it winces.  We seem to be heading for full on homesteading!  

We attempt to garden (and had some measure of success for our first garden together this past summer) and I enjoy cooking.  We often end up in the kitchen creating something new together.  

We are also very active in our church and stand firmly upon our faith.  Without God, our faith and salvation, we could do nothing.  We are both members of the choir (if you ever decide to take a peek, you can watch our services online at http://www.antiochbaptistchurch.org/watch/index1.html) and I am so happy to say that we get to sit next to each other in choir.  Prayer just wouldn't be the same if we could not hold hands during each prayer.  Michael attends the men's group meetings and the Men's Advance (retreats) when he is physically able.  I am an active member (at least, as active as I can be when I am physically able) of our WOM (Women on a Mission) group and our Mission & Ministry Committee.  I recently joined our Prayer Shawl Ministry and am currently working on my very first-ever crocheted shawl for this group.  Crocheting is a new skill-set for me, I was taught by a very sweet, patient and kind friend at our meeting in October.  We also do other little things for our church family in any way we can offer help.  Our efforts can never repay the kindness and generosity shown to us by our church family or by God, nor could it ever save us.  We are just so blessed by our salvation and church family, we just cannot help but respond by being as active and as helpful as we can.

You may have noticed that I mentioned some physical limitations for both Michael and myself.  It may also have come to mind that it seems we have an awful lot on our plate.  I came out of my full time employment (government work) in 2011, one week before our wedding.  I was pulled from work by my doctors due to Fibromyalgia and many of it's related conditions along with degenerative disc disease and several other degenerative conditions in my spine and joints.  I entered a pain management program after I was pulled out of work.  It was this doctor that discovered (through numerous tests, MRIs and x-rays) just how bad things were and we are in the midst of several injections in the spine with the alternative outcome being surgery.  The very real possibility is that I could end up in a wheelchair if I had a significant jarring of my back or fell just right (or wrong, I suppose).  We will see what comes, but stand on our faith and I know that it will all come out according to God's will so I need not fret or worry.  

Michael is living proof that God is still in the business of miracles.  He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma when he was 3 years old.  They removed two tumors from the same site under his arm in a very short period of time.  The second tumor being about the size of a baseball.  He was treated at UNC with chemo and radiation.  In the course of his treatment, he was given Adriamycin .  This treatment was still in it's early stages and the drug was experimental at that time.  The drug rid his body of the cancer; however, the final treatment caused him to have a heart attack.  The doctors were able to revive him, but they gave him only 6 to 8 months to live.  That was when he was 4 years old and he is now 42 (nearly 43 as I write this).  This damage to his heart led to many other health problems and the treatment had stunted his growth pattern at an early age.  His heart began to fail when he was 14 or 15 years old.  He and his mother lived in SC for a few years around that time.  They were forced to move back to NC so that he could undergo a heart transplant at the age of 17.  He had only been on the waiting list for four weeks when he was blessed with this new opportunity to live.  In 1987, Michael was the youngest person at UNC to have received a heart transplant.  He progressed incredibly with this gift of life for over 7 years, until the transplant team began to wean him off the corticosteroid.  At that time, it was common practice to prescribe ongoing daily doses of prednisone, it was only later that they found it increased risks for skin cancer as well as depleting bone density and other problems associated with long term steroid use.  This is only one of many medicines he continues to take today. In 1995 he went into rejection, full heart failure and re-entered the waiting list for a new heart.  He remained on the waiting list this second time for almost two months.  The second transplant was more difficult to recover from, but gave him another new lease on life.  Unfortunately, the heart failure also caused kidney failure.  Michael went on dialysis within a week or two of his second heart transplant.  Soon his body began reacting to the new heart's vitality and his kidneys recovered.  In all, he was in the hospital after the second heart transplant for a few months.  He had lost so much weight that he was actually down to 69 pounds!  (Anyone that knows us will tell you he is not a large man to begin with, but even for him, 69 lbs was low.)  He had lost so much muscle strength with the weight loss and being bedridden, he had to re-learn even simple tasks, including how to walk.  Once out of the hospital, he continued to thrive and live a full life including marriage and a son of his own. Something the doctors had said would likely never happen!  The previous kidney failure along with the toll of side effects of years of medicine sent Michael back into kidney failure about February, 2004.  This time, it was not going to resolve itself.  He went on dialysis and remained there for a year before his sister was able to donate a kidney for him.  Once that transplant was complete, he was back on his feet.  Over the years, between transplants and unto today, he has dealt with the after effects of the transplants. This includes many medications and vitamins including the ongoing daily dose of prednisone.  The time of his first transplant (and possibly even to his second) and of all the blood transfusions he has received over the years was before testing for diseases like HIV and Hepatitis.  Mercifully, HIV was not something that Michael had to contend with or face.  However, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2010, likely contracted from an earlier transfusion.  He is unable to take interferon (the normal course of treatment for Hepatitis C) due to his kidney transplant (it could send him into rejection).  So, now we monitor and wait.  If it were to progress to high enough levels of liver damage, the doctors would seek to begin aggressive treatment and deal with the kidney issues as they arose.  However, his enzyme levels are blessedly low.  Even more so, his levels from last year to this showed a decrease (slight, but a decrease none-the-less).  Michael has also battled issues with the prednisone (and other anti-rejection drugs like Cellcept and Prograf) making his immune system lower and more susceptible to skin cancer (at least 16 removed and counting) and causing loss of bone density.  Michael has severe osteoporosis, and kypho-scoliosis.  He had a hip replaced in November, 2005 after spending the previous two years on a cane and eventually confined to a wheelchair (all while dealing with dialysis, kidney transplant and the birth of a son in 2003).  He has had a few broken bones and fractures, most notably in his neck.  He went to the doctor for chronic migraines in 2008 and x-rays revealed a fracture in his neck.  The hospital had to call him to come back to be immediately placed in a collar and to have surgery scheduled as soon as he could.  He had only recently had one of his shoulders replaced and had a newborn daughter on the way along with his  older son and step-son he was caring for.  His shoulder was replaced in April, his daughter was born in June and his neck was repaired and fused in July of the same year of 2008!  

The mounting health problems and issues of betrayal eventually led to a breakdown of his first marriage.  Michael's divorce was finalized only after repeated requests made to his wife to try to work things out and seek counseling.  While this was a tremendously painful period, he would later find that this was the first steps that led down the path to finding the soul mate that God had chosen for him.

I had a good childhood with my mother and father.  However, I was victimized by another trusted person in my life at a very young age.  The memories of that period would haunt me for a very long time to come.  I chose my male companions very unwisely, allowing myself to be further humiliated by tolerating abuse in one way or another in most of my relationships for many years.  My first marriage was not an exception to the rule.  My separation came about after 6 years of major turmoil and finally betrayal.  With one daughter and another child on the way, I found myself alone and moved near my parents for their support and assistance.  This period of turmoil  and the following 11 years of loneliness and growth was difficult, but the outcome was worth it.  I moved to North Carolina from Texas with $5 in my pocket, no car and no place to stay since my parents house was already full to the rafters with my other two sisters and niece.  One day after my arrival, I had a place to stay - rent FREE for the first 6 months.  This place was a one room efficiency in the back of my parent's neighbor's garage but it allowed me time to build up a savings to purchase an old station wagon (I miss that beater of a car) and to put a security deposit down on a 3 bedroom apartment.  One month to the day after my arrival, I had a good job working for the local county government.  One month to the day after that, I had my station wagon.  We moved into the new apartment with enough time to prepare for the birth of my son.  My divorce was finalized one year after the birth of my son (2 1/2 years after our separation), only after I repeatedly requested to try to salvage our marriage by attending marital counseling and individual therapy to try to work things out.  I remained single for close to 10 years after my separation before deciding to get back into the dating pool.  A few dates with one man revealed that he was not the man chosen for me.  I would wait for over one more year before I would try again, this time meeting my soul mate, chosen by God.  Of this, I have no doubt. 

The story of how we met is equally unique.  My mother called me one day in early February, 2011 to tell me that e-Harmony was offering free communication all month long.  I brushed her off gently, reminding her that I had paid for a membership once before and never got more than a few matches and always several hundred miles away from me.  She persisted, saying that since it was free I had nothing to lose.  I agreed but continued on without giving it another thought until a few days later, when my mother brought it back up.  Finally, I relented and logged on.  I was quickly surprised at how wrong I had been. I had over 70 matches, all within a 2 hour drive.  The very first profile I looked at (with my then 15 year old looking over my shoulder) was for a man who had many things in common with my interests.  These included faith, family and CRAFTING! My daughter jumped up and shouted, Mom, that man was made for you!!"  I agreed and sent my first contact with a prayer for God to open the door if it is His will and to slam it shut if not.  I continued to read on and sent communications to a few other men, but kept going back to that first profile.  I remember telling my daughter that I would LOVE to have this guy be the one, but that I would probably not be that lucky and would probably find that God says no.  The next day I logged on and was so excited to see a response from that first match! I had also received a response to one other message but was able to quickly rule that one out for various reasons.  I sent another message to my first contact and we continued back and forth until we finally decided to move it to facebook.  Now, on the other side of that computer, Michael had also previously had a paid membership to e-Harmony, only more recently.  He had just cancelled his membership just a few days before due to no suitable matches, when he received a message that he was not expecting.  He had forgotten that the month of February was free.  Since neither of us was a paid member, we could not see each other's pictures.  We will both confess that we fell in love with each other before first site.  We moved to facebook (where we could finally see pictures) on February 14, 2011.  Shortly thereafter, Michael was looking at my pictures when his mother (he was living with her at the time) walked up behind him and asked who he was looking at.  He firmly responded that he was looking at his future wife.  On this end, I was looking at his pictures with my mother and daughter and all agreed that this was my future husband.  Of course, we did not base these opinions on pictures, we had already formed those decisions from our on-line communications.  Now, I do not normally endorse people getting into on-line relationships willy nilly or basing lifetime decisions on such limited contact over such a short period of time.  However, many people who have met their "soul-mate", chosen by God, will tell you that this is something you know and feel deep in your soul, almost immediately.  Additionally, we both spent a great deal of time in prayer separately and together about our decision.  We also participated in pre-marital counseling with our pastor.  My best friend (who had a very similar and parallel experience at the same time as mine) put it in a way that just made sense.  She said that it is like Adam finding his Eve.  I am bone of his bone, chosen by God to be his mate and when "the rib" (me) found her Adam, it was as if we had known each other forever.  It may sound strange, but that has been my experience and that also of my very best friend (outside of my husband, God and my mother).

The match on e-Harmony was only the beginning to a whirlwind courtship.  We met for the first time over dinner at the Homestead (a local steakhouse owned by some friends from church) a few weeks later.  At the time, Michael lived almost three hours away (or two, the way he drives).  Remember, I was employed but he was not.  He was driving to my area every other weekend for visitation with his children (a long unfortunate story).  So, we made a point for him to meet me after one of those visits.  About a month later, my parents suggested he should not drive so long each way in one day, so offered one of their spare bedrooms for him to sleep in and then he and I could visit at their house (and I would go home every night, of course).  His first visit out, he brought his mother.  She is such a sweet and precious person, we were all happy and excited to be meeting her.  One of my concerns with dating was I did not want to have to move.  My dad is retired military and my ex is active duty military,  I had moved enough times in my life that I was thoroughly sick of it.  That, and I have the best hometown and the best church family that is so much more than I deserve.  Michael and his mother fell in love with the area and our "little" church family.  Michael also reminded me that he could be disabled anywhere and since I was employed, it made sense for him to move here (we are also closer to UNC).  Even after coming out of work, this is still the place of choice to live for both of us (and, eventually, we hope it will be for his mom as well).

So, now you know all you wanted to know and maybe even more.  Thank you for hanging in with me as I wove the story of who we are.  I think it is helpful for you to understand who we are to better understand our mission and our methods to our "madness" (so to speak).  Please bear with us as we strike out on this, our newest adventure.  I anticipate we will post in spurts depending on our physical health and abilities, but we will do our best to document thoroughly when we post.  We hope to provide you with good pictures and instructions so that you may also benefit from our ramblings.  We will work diligently to give credit where credit is due (i.e. refer you back to the blog or person that inspired or provided the instructions that we follow).  If at some point we miss something and you catch it, please let us know.  We do not want to steal anyone's thunder in any way, shape or form.  Please feel free to comment, ask questions, and provide feedback.  We look forward to hearing from you and know that this will only make this experience even better.

Sending the warmest of wishes for God's unfailing love, mercy and blessings for you and those you love,
Michael and Mistie

P.S.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention the blog that inspires me in so many of my crafting ways, and in a way inspired this blog.  Please, if you are looking for another great blog with lots of charm and a plethora of information written by a wise and wonderful lady, please visit Jillee at her blog, "One Good Thing by Jillee" by clicking HERE.  I ran across her blog while looking for craft projects and instantly fell into a love-hate relationship.  I love that blog and am truly awed and inspired by her and her story.  I hate that I didn't find it sooner!  LOL  Keep on living, loving and forgiving; you will be happier for it in the end!  God Bless!

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