First – The Short Version

I was Born in 1980 in Riverdale, GA. I lived in Stockbridge, GA for 14 years. Most of those years I attended a Christian School, where my mother was the principal for part of that time. My father was an airline mechanic. I have an adopted brother 5 months my junior. We were active in church. At age 14 we moved to Young Harris, GA. I went to Towns County Comprehensive School. I graduated from there and attended Young Harris College for a year. I then attended Toccoa Falls College for 3 1/2 years. I met my wife there and graduated with a degree in Teacher Education. I now have two young boys and have been married 7 years. This current year will be my 9th year of teaching. We are very active in our local church and our driving purpose in life is serving Jesus Christ, whom I came to know personally at the age of nine.

Second – The Long Version

My parents are older than most. My father, Buddy (technically Hiram) was 48 years old when I was born; my mother, Nancy, was 36. They had been trying for a long time to have children, and I was their long-awaited “miracle child.” Before I was born, my mother recalls going out into the woods and finding a rock and kneeling there, and asking God for a son. I was born on March 28th, 1980.

In 1984, when I was four years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. They told her she did not have long to live. She says she went out into the snow one day, and prayed and asked God to let her live long enough to see me graduate from high school. The cancer went into remission. In 1997, shortly before I graduated from high school the cancer returned. God has been gracious still, and she is still with us and although she still has cancer, she is in general good health. God is good.

How do you tell your life story? Into what categories do you go? I will just skip around to different categories, and they may not flow completely chronologically.

By the grace of God, I was blessed to be born into a Christian home. My parents were loving, nuturing, and supportive. They were also both very hard working. My mother was an educator, and for most of my younger years was a teacher or administrator. My father was an airline mechanic for Eastern Airlines when I was born, and later for Northwest Airlines.

They had wanted children for years, and so had become involved in the foster care system. So growing up I was surrounded by various foster “brothers and sisters” during different periods of my young life. They had several before I was born, who had grown up and left by the time I came around. When I was born, I had a foster sister named Susan. She was 8 years old. She lived with us for the first 8 years of my life, before at the age of 16, she went back to live with her original parents. For a period of time I had twin foster “sisters” named Andrea and Amanda. One of the main things I remember about them is that Amanda had long fingernails, and I liked it when she would scratch my back. (Random, I know)

For another period of time I had another foster “sister” named Celina. She was fourteen; I may have been around 9 or 10 when she came. The main thing I remember about her is that she ate deodorant, and taught me what a certain curse word meant.

When I was four years old, I told my parents that I wanted a sibilng my age to play with. Soon thereafter, Bobby (now known as Robert) came to live with us. He stayed. My parents adopted him several years later to assure that he would not be taken away by the foster care system. Today, he is married and has two children. He is beginning a new career as a prison guard.

I had a great childhood. It was not normal in every sense. I believe that in the ways it was not normal, it was advantageous to me. I know what it is to be an only child. I know what it is to have many brothers and sisters. My mother was the Great Entrepreneur. She has done many random things in life, such as be a tennis umpire, raise exotic bird, raise dogs, raise worms, have a printing press and publish her own magazine, get a truck drivers license, a pilots license, etc., etc. I’d like to think I inherited a little of that spirit; just the de-crackified version.

Needless to say, my home was very entertaining growing up. I learned to help raise exotic parrots. I got to hand-feed them and play with them. At one time we probably had a hundred cockatiels. We bred them. At a different time we had…maybe 20 guinea pigs. That is a great time for a kid. We’ve had many kinds of dogs…a Great Dane, German Shepards, a Weimaraner, Daschunds (many), a Pug, a Sharpe, a Yorkshire Terrier, etc., etc. (Just as a side note, I have a scar on my face from where the Yorkshire Terrier bit me in the face.)

We lived on 3 acres in Stockbridge, GA (Henry County). Ours was a normal sized house, but my dad had a large garage, which he originally had built large enough to work on a school bus. (It was big.) He had a tennis court put in the back yard area. That tennis court was the source of many fun hours of tennis, bike riding, basketball, go-cart riding, fire-cracker wars and at one time, an above ground swimming pool. In our back, back yard (we had two) my dad would at various times have trash pits dug with a large backhoe. We did not have trash pick up, but would always cart all of our trash all the way to the back, back yard and dump it in the pit and burn it. When the pit would fill up (it would take years), my dad would have it filled up with dirt and would dig another one. I lit so much trash on fire with matches in my childhood years, that to this day, I do not believe you could wet a match so much that I can not light it.

Although my dad was much older than my peer’s dads, I never really knew it growing up. He did everything with me that other dads did with their children. I just had the benefit of more wisdom and common sense given to me. One of my most ingrained memories of my father as a child is hearing his truck drive up the driveway, and then running outside to the truck and hugging him; his work uniform always smelling like engine oil. He was (and is) a man of simple pleasures. He enjoyed cutting the grass, drinking buttermilk, peanuts in coke, moonpies and having cornbread and sweet tea with every meal. He always mezmerized me with his ability to draw. He could draw even simple things, like screws and horses with specific and sometimes caracture detail. He spent a good deal of time in his gigantic garage working on various machines. As a child, he was constantly dragging me out to the garage to try to get me to learn whatever it was he was doing out there, but my brain was wired differently. I wasn’t good with my hands or able to draw; puzzles frustrated me. Much to his chagrin, I was much more in my element in front of a computer, the piano or in the local library. But he spent countless hours doing things with me. Whether we were riding the lawnmower together, or he was sitting (probably for hundreds of hours in total) at karate practice, just watching – I was his most prized possession. They say that people often take their impression of their earthly father figure and transpose it onto their idea of God. If that is the case, my initial exposure to the character of God was that of self-sacrificing love – in word and deed.

When I was born, my parents attended Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. We attended there until I was in the third grade. The Pastor’s name was John Moody. It was an Independent Baptist church and was what you might normally think of when you think of a rural, Baptist church. The Pastor had the coiffed gray hair, and suit; singing the old hymns, etc., etc. Some random things I remember about that church was Mr. and Mrs. Black – the old people who were friends of my parents. Mrs. Black would sometimes keep the nursery when I was in there, and sometimes we would go over to their house and help Mr. Black shell peas. I also remember that Mr. Black (an old farmer type), would turn his old truck all the way off when coasting down a large hill. Some other random things I remember from that church are that they had red (bright red) carpet and blue pews; and that they had Awanas in the gym behind the church, and I enjoyed it.

We left there when I went to the fourth grade, because my mother became the vice-principal at my school, Mount Zion Christian Academy, and she was required to attend the church that was part of the school. So from the time I was in fourth grade through the eighth grade we attended Mount Zion Baptist Church in Jonesboro, GA. I suppose I will pick up with the church theme later, since I don’t want to jump too much. But let me tell you about when God saved me.

At the age of five, I remember crawling up into my parents bed and telling them I wanted to be saved. The truth of the matter was, I was just terrified of going to hell. So I professed to be saved and was baptized, even though I wasn’t really saved. But having been blessed by hearing the gospel my entire life, I remember that day at the age of nine, when God saved me. Oh what a blessed day. I had some sort of argument with my mother at home about practicing the piano. She sent me back to my room to practice. As I sat on my piano bench, the gracious hand of God reached down and touched my wicked little heart. Although I did not deserve it, and through no merit of my own, God saw fit to touch my heart of stone and give me a new heart of flesh. Instantly I became convicted of my sin. I felt the dirtiness of my condition in a way I had never felt before. I knew that I was a sinner, and guilty in the sight of God. I went crying in my conviction back to my mother and told her I wanted to be saved. She took me into her little office beside her bedroom and knelt down on a metal stool. We looked at the Scriptures together and I repented of my sinfulness and with my new regenerate heart, I placed my faith in Jesus. Since that day, I have never been the same.

…Now, I will discuss my schools.

I began school at the age of 2, by being enrolled in the K-3 (Kindegarten for 3 year olds) at Mount Zion Christian Academy (MZCA). My mother enrolled me a year early, because she considered me ready. She had worked a lot with me during my first two years of life, and I was well prepared. But after my three years of Kindegarten there (K-3, K-4 and K-5), she decided I wasn’t mature enough to go on to the first grade, so she enrolled me for a year in a Montessori school. A couple of random things I remember from my year there was that when I first walked in the door with my parents, the teacher (an Indian looking lady) leaned way down in my face and asked me if I wanted a chair. Also, she had a large stack of green play money on the window sill and I always though it was real money. They also had an old speedboat on the playground and I thought that was cool to play in. After my year there, I returned to MZCA and was there from the first through the eighth grade.

I could fill volumes about those years at MZCA, but I will try to be brief. I was in regular classrooms until the fourth grade. That year, the school created a gifted program called W.H.I.Z. I tested into the class. Basically it was a classroom where cubicles lined the walls. You worked at your own pace through individual curriculums so that a student could learn as much and as fast as they could handle. The classroom teacher for those 5 years in W.H.I.Z. was also the lady who was my first teacher at the age of two, Mrs. Yarbrough. So in all, she was my teacher for six out of the first fourteen years of my life. She was a terrific teacher and a godly person; besides my parents, I do not think there has been an adult that more affected my life. I was fortunate enough to see her come to my wedding years later. I feel a connection to my students after one year, I can’t imagine what it would be like to teach them six years. My five years in W.H.I.Z. were wonderful and I had many great experiences.

I suppose I need to include a short section that is important to me: The Piano. My parents got me started playing when I was three years old. I took more formal lessons starting when I was five. I took lessons from age five to age seventeen. My first teacher was my mother, and we butted heads quite often, as I didn’t take well to music theory and practicing. But she forced me, and that was a good thing. She basically made me play the piano until I was good enough, that I actually enjoyed it. Then one day, when she gave me the opportunity to quit, I refused. My formal education in piano ended when I was a junior in high school. During that final recital, I was the last one to play. It was a classical piece, (I can’t recall the name), that was quite difficult, but I had it memorized. I was always very nervous during recitals. But I can remember being in my seat right before my turn, and saying to myself…”just take it.” Bascially meaning, “you’ve got this!” I played it, I feel like, with zeal and gusto and it was a great capstone to a long journey of music. I sort of play half by sheet music and half by ear. And to this day, although I rarely play in public, I find the piano to be my refuge and destresser. I can drift away into old hymns of the Faith, contemporary praise and worship, or bang away at Southern Gospel favorites. But I usually don’t play much in public, because when it comes to official church piano duties, there are plenty better than me. I usually play for me – some people sing to their hearts content – I play to it.

Then, in 1994 a very dramatic change occured in my life; we moved. My parents both retired and we relocated to Young Harris, GA. For those that don’t know, Young Harris was a town so small, that it would be similar to Mayberry from the Andy Griffith show. Actually, it was smaller and more rural than that. At the time, there was not even a red light at the town’s intersection, just a blinking yellow light.

I did not know what to think about my new surroundings. I was from just south of Atlanta. From a interstate bridge near my old house, you could see the city. When I moved to Young Harris, I felt as though the cows outnumbered the people. This was also my first foray into public school. I met some good friends, that I also went to church with. I started off the ninth grade by playing the saxophone in the band. I had played the French Horn in middle school, but I wanted a “cooler” instrument for high school.

I played football my sophmore year of high school. It was not easy considering I was extremely unathletic and only weighed 145 lbs. Physically, it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But even though I hated getting run over on a regular basis, I was proud of myself for sticking it out all season. I didn’t quit. I wasn’t raised to be a quitter. But when that season was over, you could have offered me all the money in the world and I wouldn’t have played again.

When we moved to Young Harris, we joined McConnell Memorial Baptist Church in Hiawassee, GA. I was very blessed to be a part of a great youth group there where I grew in my faith during my high school years.

I attended Towns County Comprehensive School in Hiawassee for 3 years. Instead of returning for my senior year, I enrolled in a Post-Secondary Option program and went full time to Young Harris College. Although I was glad to get free (the state paid for it) college class credit, I very much disliked my academic time there. The school, in my opinion, is liberal and anti-Christian. I had to deal with the likes of a feminist English professor and History and Political Science professors that felt it necessary to bash and pervert Christian beliefs. I believe God was allowing me to experience that so that I would appreciate my next place of learning.

But before talk about going off to college, let me digress. In my junior year of high school, the Lord began to deal with my heart in a strong way. I’m not exactly sure how to explain it, except that God began to burden my heart to deal with sin in my life. Much of this was sin that our world finds acceptable. This divine intervention in my life was spurring me on in the process of sanctification. (The process that all Christians will go through as God makes them more like Jesus. This is not unique to me, but a process that the Bible says happens to all true believers.) It reached into all areas of my life. God began to change the desires of my heart. It was definitely a process, but this part of my process happened over a rather short period of time. I got rid of music I knew I shouldn’t have been listening to, I began to change the way I talked and joked, and I was impassioned to share the Gospel, especially with my friends. I struggled then, and struggle still to this day with battling fleshly desires; but this period marked a distinct time of transition in my life. My mind usually tries to put things into word pictures, and the mental picture I had of this time was that of a black tunnel, and at the end was a light. I saw my life as moving towards the light (God). At first I was haughty and thought, “I am walking towards God.” And then it was as if God spoke to my heart and said, “No, I am drawing you to Myself.” It was a reminder that not only is our salvation wholly of God’s grace, but so is our sanctification.

So after my year at Young Harris College, I transfered to a true Christian college, Toccoa Falls College. It was a refreshing blessing to then go to a Christian college that was filled with many true believers, who were seeking to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord and follow after His direction for their life. My years there were marked with spiritual growth and development of Biblical knowledge and worldview.

I was admitted into the Teacher Education Department at TFC. (How that happened is a whole other story.) I believe that God let me know that was the direction I was to take. During my time there I met my wife Tori. She was also in the Teacher Ed. Department. The story of our relationship would take a volume of it’s own, so I will just say that I practically stalked her.

I graduated in December of 2001, and rented a single-wide nearby and got my first job in the middle of a school year (it was December after all), and waited for Tori to graduate a semester later. She graduated a semester after me in May of 2002, and we married in June of that year.

My first job was teaching Physical Science at Banks County Middle School in Homer, GA. I got the job because the kids were so bad that they had run off the teacher. Needless to say, my first school year experience was a trial by fire. I spent one more in Banks County and then got a job where at a Christian school in Gainesville.

The Christian school in Gainesville was Westminster Christian School. I had always intended to return to my roots and teach in a Christian school. I have a passion for Christian education. I was there for two years. During that time Tori gave birth to our first son, Micah Walter Kelly. He was born in February of 2005. We had always planned for Tori to stay home with our kids. We were confronted with a financial dilemma. Tori had been teaching the sixth grade in the public school near our home. In order for her to stay at home, it would cause us to rely mainly on my income. Christian schools are many things, but well paying they are not. They also are not able to offer very affordable insurance. The total amount that would have been taken out of my already small check for family health insurance would have been around $900 a month (just for insurance!) Needless to say, there was no way I could stay there if Tori was to stay home. This was difficult for me. I felt sure that God had brought me there. But when the time came, God gave me peace about leaving and providing for my family by going into the public school system. This coming year will be my fourth year teaching the sixth grade in our local school system. I see myself as a missionary there; standing in the gap, trying to be salt and light in the environment God has placed me in.

In 2007 Tori had our second son, Noah Samuel Kelly. Micah and Noah are certainly their parents’ pride. I was blessed to marry a godly woman, who happens to be an expert in the field of children. We both now have our Masters degrees in education, but Tori has become especially educated in the area of preschool aged children. She works part-time, a few mornings a week as a director of a local preschool. She has read many books about early childhood development. James Dobson and the like are common books to see laying around our house.

Let me take a step back a moment, to add another part of our journey. While I taught at Westminster, we also worked part time as Ministers to Children at a local church. We were there for two years and learned much about the practicalities of church work. We apply this to the work we do in our current church, which we love very much. We have been involved in various activities. Tori’s work lies primarily with the children’s department, and I am very involved in the Men’s Ministry and am the Director of Evangelism, which focuses mainly on G.R.O.W., our corporate outreach program.

So that is a synopsis of my life. I know it sort of jumps around, but there are so many dynamics to life. I have purposely left off the names of many of my friends and their (often dramatic) impact on my life, because I would hate to not do someone justice or leave someone out. If I spoke of them, this document might never end.

The theme of my life has been the grace of God. He was gracious in the parents He gave me, the true friends He put around me, the Salvation He wrought in me, the spiritual journey He has put me on, the wife and children He has blessed me with, and the Kingdom work He has privileged me to work on. I like the way Pastor John Piper puts it when he says, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” I pray that my life’s satisfaction is found increasingly in Him, and by that He will be ever glorified through my life.

Published on October 23, 2008 at 6:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

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