Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Shawn!

Today is Shawn’s 37th birthday!  Shawn LOVES mexican food so he requested chicken tortilla casserole, mexican rice, homemade refried beans, and green beans for supper (and a special carrot cake…that I did NOT make, of course!).  He’s pretty excited!
            As I think about Shawn’s birthday, I also think of the great blessing he is to me!  If someone would’ve told me 8 years ago that I’d be married to Shawn Willis, I would have burst out laughing.  I had known who “Shawn Willis” was for years because his best friend attended my church.  Dave and I had served together on mission trips for years and had somewhat of a sibling-sibling relationship – so of course, I knew who Shawn was!  But the idea of being married to someone I hardly knew was just crazy…at the time.  Well, a few spaghetti suppers and pie auctions later – and we were together!
            We started dating in April ‘07 and realized by July that we were going to get married.  He proposed in October and we were married on February 16, 2008.  It was a whirlwind 10 months and one of the most exciting times of my life!  During those 10 months, God took my life plans, threw them out the window, and gave me new ones!  He made me fall in love with a man I had barely known and changed my life…and I’m so thankful!
            Since then, we’ve experienced so much together.  Shawn was going to Covenant Seminary when we got married and we are proud to say we survived the seminary years!  Shawn survived the 1 hour, 20 minute drive one way to seminary almost every day for 2 ½ years and I survived sharing my husband with Hebrew/Greek translations, papers, sermons, MDF’s, endless books, and worrying about him falling asleep on his drive home!  We enjoyed our new life together in our small apartment in Sparta and will always remember that place with warm hearts.  But God had something else in mind.
            Shawn graduated from Covenant Seminary in May ‘10 and began the search for a call.  In September, we heard from the churches of Faith and West Friesland in Ackley, Iowa.  We went to visit in October and loved it!  The people were wonderfully loving and welcoming and we felt right at home.  In November, Shawn accepted the call to pastor the two churches, passed his ordination exam in December, and we hit the road for Iowa in January!
            Since moving to Iowa, we’ve experienced homesickness, loneliness from family, old friends, and our old church, two miscarriages, and the struggle to find “our place” here.  But we’ve also experienced the joy of meeting new friends and church family, serving the Lord where He’s called us, and learning to rely on each other more.  So, if someone had told me 8 years ago that I would be married to Shawn Willis and living in Ackley, Iowa – I guarantee I would have laughed.  But I’m so grateful that I did marry him and I’m so grateful that we followed God’s leading to Ackley!
            This man that I call “my husband” is so amazing!  He hugs me every morning before getting out of bed and tells me that he loves me.  He gives me a kiss every time before he leaves the house and as soon as he comes home again.  He calms me with his singing as he goes about his work at home.   
            He makes me laugh with his deep, booming voice and his other crazy voices that I get to hear every day!  He makes me smile when he spills the sugar all over the counter every time he makes his coffee.  He makes me proud when he gobbles up my food each night and tells me how much he appreciates my cooking.  I shake my head when he forgets to hang his suit up and put it away on Sunday afternoons.  He makes me giggle when he answers my sister’s phone calls and gives her a hard time, only to find out that she can think quick on her feet and he’s left speechless with no response!
            He makes me feel beautiful when he wraps his arms around me while I’m doing the dishes and tells me how blessed he is to be married to me.  I love that he presents me as his wonderful wife to others, even when I’m not always wonderful to him.  I think it’s sweet that he lays down on my side of the bed to warm up the sheets for me before I climb in.  I love waking up and finding him in the middle of the bed, hogging the whole thing – even though we have a king size bed.  He makes me cry when we dance to one of our wedding songs, “Feels Like Home” by Chantal Kreviazuk.   
He comforts me when I tell him that I can’t stand to be so far away from my family and reminds me that he is my family, along with everyone else in Iowa.  He drives me crazy when he leaves his shoes lined up on the floor in our bedroom, instead of putting them away in the closet.  I love that he works so hard every day at this calling to provide for us.  He understands when I have to leave him for 2 weeks to care for a recovering sister and her family as her son fights to stay alive.  I love that he’s willing to give up a fun day to just stay at home and save that money for our future adoptions.   
            He makes me excited when I watch him interact with our nieces and nephews and I can’t wait to have children with him.  I love that he’s willing to try new foods that I make, and I especially love that he eats the “not so great” ones without complaint!  He picks me up when I’m consumed with grief over the loss of our two children and the long waiting for a family.  I love that he holds my hand when we’re in the car together.  I smile when I watch him working in our garden and get to see his excitement for homegrown veggies.  I love how much he misses me when I’m away.
            He reminds me of God’s faithfulness every single day of my life.  He shows me Christ as I watch him read his Bible and pray for the churches every day, even when he doesn’t have time.  He grows my faith as I listen to Him read a Psalm and pray for our day together each morning.  He encourages and convicts me when he preaches God’s Word from the pulpit.  He forgives me when I screw up, even if I’m not ready to forgive him.  He laughs at me when I tell him that I still haven’t washed his jeans because I avoid laundry like the plague!  He grins when I tell him that he’s the most handsome man I’ve ever seen.   
            He fills my heart with such a great love that I can’t imagine loving him more – but yet my love for him grows every day.  This love is a mystery.  I love this man and am blessed to call him “husband”!
         So, if you see Shawn today - make sure you tell him Happy Birthday!  I praise God for Shawn and I praise God for his example of godly living and "faith lived out" for me to see!  I love you, honey!



Saturday, January 5, 2013

Goodbye, 2012!

I have to admit I was ready for 2012 to be over.  Is that wrong?  I saw everywhere how God upheld me and strengthened me and blessed me in 2012 – but I was ready to move on to this year.  Ready to move on to new hope and a new possibility of joy in 2013.

I was excited in September to start reading through my Chronological Bible for the first time.  I’m pretty dense when it comes to history (or any historical events for that matter) so it’s been pretty great for me!  Anyway, I just started the story of David last week.  Since I’m reading chronologically, I actually read the events of David’s life alongside the psalms that he wrote at the time of those events.   It’s a completely different way of reading the Bible and I love it!

Just the other day I was reading Psalm 13, which was probably written when David was fleeing from Saul.  As I read the first part of the psalm – my heart resonated with what David wrote:

“How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
And every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
My enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him.’
And my foes will rejoice when I fall.”
(v. 1-4)
As I was reading, I thought, “Doesn’t this just fit perfectly?”  I’ve certainly felt like God has forgotten me and hidden His face from me. Just like David, I think, “Okay, God, that’s enough.  You can make things better now.” 

You know, there are tons of psalms that David wrote – begging God to rescue him from a difficult situation or from pain.  There were times in David’s life that were absolutely painful, that rocked him to his core.  There were times when he didn’t even want to keep living.  But if you keep reading through David’s story – you’ll see that eventually he was made king over all Israel.  He was the greatest king that Israel ever had!  He was the FIRST relative to be named in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus! 

 “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (v. 1)
 I’m sure when David was having those really bad days, he wasn’t thinking about being a great king or being forever famous because Christ was going to be in his family line.  I’m sure he was only thinking about the pain.  But eventually, the pain ended and God ushered in a time of great blessing for David.

And so, reading through David’s life has grown my faith and begun to spark a new hope within my heart.  I may be in a time of pain but I know that God will soon usher in a time of great blessing.  A time of blessing so great that I will remember no more the pain of now.

I’m hopeful that God will grant me the desires of my heart this year – that Shawn and I would be able to have children.  I’m hopeful that God will “look on me and answer me.”  As the year 2012 ended, I thought about the end of Psalm 13.  I read it on December 30th while we were visiting Shawn’s parents.  I smiled when I realized that David wrote this, even in the midst of his pain and suffering, and that he meant EVERY word of it.

"But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
For he has been good to me."
 If you’re hurting right now, don’t forget that God’s love never fails.  He has been good to us and He will continue to be good to us.  Sing to the Lord and endure the suffering - painful as it may be.  And know that God will eventually usher you into a time of blessing so great that you will remember no more the pain of now. 

As for me, I will trust in God’s unfailing love.  I will rejoice.  I will sing.  He has been good to me.  Yes, I’m very glad that 2012 is finally over.  I’m excited to see what 2013 will bring for me and Shawn.  And now, I think I’m finally ready to look at adoption and begin moving in that direction. 

Hope is kindled…

For those in need of hope,