Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Willis'

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness a light has dawned.”
~Isaiah 9:2

 Dear Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas!  It’s hard to believe that another year is gone and behind us!  As I sit down to write this, we have 5 days left until we celebrate the birth of our Savior and the birth of hope into this world.  As we near the end of 2013, this is a good time to reflect on all that’s happened this year.  I think about Isaiah 9:2 and how well it sums up the conditions of mine and Shawn’s hearts right now.  This year has been a most difficult year for us and we have struggled greatly with many things, but yet we remember at Christmas, more than ever, that our lives do not remain in that darkness!

The most difficult part of this year has been the continued wait for God’s answer regarding children.  At the beginning of the summer, we prayerfully decided to move forward with adoption and “accept” (as best as one can) that we would not have biological children.  Almost immediately after deciding this, we both strongly felt the Lord leading us to actually wait a bit longer before starting the adoption process.  To be honest, it was a very frustrating time for me as I had just reached the point of “almost acceptance” that I wouldn’t be getting pregnant and was finally able to say, “Okay, Lord, we will adopt.”  And to have God pull us back from that after finally reaching that point of acceptance seemed nothing but cruel.  

But over these past few months, we have unmistakably seen His hand at work.  Our OB-GYN doctor left the office and we were forced to find a new one.  In God’s providence, we have found a wonderful and capable doctor to take over for us.  After meeting with him, he assured us that there is every possibility for us to get pregnant AND stay pregnant.  He was able to answer all of our questions regarding the difficulties we’ve had in the past.  And as crazy as that sounds, ALL of this happened within 2-3 weeks after our decision to adopt!  God has a way of putting our plans on hold, doesn’t He?  And so, we continue to wait and follow the Lord’s leading.  We don’t feel that God has “released” us to move forward with adoption and yet we continue to grieve month after month when we don’t get pregnant.  In light of this, please pray for us as we wait upon God’s will.  Our desire is to walk the path He has laid before us and to walk that path with faithful steps.  Please pray that our steps would not waiver and that we would unfailingly trust in God’s providence in this most precious area of our lives.

We will soon finish up our 3rd year of ministry at Faith and West Friesland Churches.  We continue to see daily how the Lord is calling us to serve these two churches and we pray for the strength to serve Him well.  Just like any other ministry, we’ve experienced many ups and downs this past year.  God has not granted an easy year to our churches, but yet He continues to remain faithful in every way.  Please pray for Faith and West Friesland Churches as we move into another year.  Pray that Shawn and I would be rooted and established in love as we continue to minister to and serve the people in Iowa.  Pray that the churches (us included) would continue to grow in our knowledge of Christ and our desire to serve Him and each other.

We are continuing to learn that God is not only a God who provides us with joy in our happy times, but He is also a God who comforts and holds us close when we encounter life’s most heart-wrenching moments.  Praise be to God!

Rather than walk you step by step through the blessings of this past year, I'm going to consolidate several different events into a summary for you:  

January – Shawn turned 37.  I embarked on a “healthy lifestyle” journey at the beginning of the new year and have lost almost 20 pounds in 2013.  I continue to enjoy exercising and searching for healthier ways to cook for myself and for Shawn, while still avoiding a “rabbit food” diet.

February – We celebrated 5 years of marriage!  My wonderful husband planned a surprise get-away for me, and whisked me away to a hotel!  He even ordered chocolate-covered strawberries for me – my favorite!  Isn’t he great?  Also in February, I conducted a 40-Day fast from Facebook.  It was time well-spent with my Lord and I was truly blessed from it. 

March – We hosted an Easter Dinner at our house and served 23 people, including my parents!

April – My parents came back to visit, and brought my Grandma along too!  It was a wonderful visit!

May – We got about 10-12 inches of snow in early May.  Did I say we live in Iowa?  haha

June – My sister and her 3 kids came to visit for a week.  While here, Austin had a seizure and became unresponsive.  In God’s goodness, we got him to the nearest ER in time and he was soon air-lifted to Des Moines Children’s Hospital where he received excellent care.  He has suffered no lasting effects from the experience.  My sister’s week long stay turned into a 2-week stay as we waited for him to be released from the hospital and recover somewhat before traveling home.  The next day, Shawn and I traveled to St. Louis, Missouri with our Iowa Mission Team to work with the refugee population in South City St. Louis.

July – Our churches put on a Vacation Bible School.  Shawn was the teacher for the oldest group and I dressed in character each day to teach the children their Bible lessons.

August – I turned 32.  We took a much needed 2 week vacation.  One week was spent with family.  The other week, we spent alone in St. Louis.  While there, we had a visit with my awesome friend, Erin and her husband, Todd.  We hadn’t seen each other in over 2 years and the time was well-spent with lots of laughter.  We were also able to meet a long-time friend from our old church, Brooke.  She’s the perfect person to bring out a smile and we were encouraged after her visit.  She’s awesome!

October – My Uncle Jerry, Aunt Cheryl, and cousin Kristine came to visit for a weekend!  Shawn was very happy about this because he got to watch the St. Louis Cardinals play a very important game in their hotel room!  (For the record, he was also just happy to see them and the game was just an added bonus!) 

November – My parents and Grandma visited in early November.  I am so blessed to have a wonderful Grandma!  Long before the rest of the house was stirring, she was up sweeping my floors and doing my dishes.  I’ll never be too old to be spoiled by my Grandma!  In November, we also hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner.  My parents and my sister and 3 kids were able to come for the extended weekend.  It was a great time of laughing and relaxation, to be sure!

This year has not been without its difficulties, and at times it has felt as if nothing else existed, but you can see that God has truly blessed us in every way.  We are learning more and more every day that God does not promise us a life of pain-free ease but rather, He promises that there will be trouble and hardship but we will never be alone.  Shawn and I have experienced this first-hand and we are grateful for God’s continued blessing and provision in our lives.

We send our love and thank God for each of you!  May the new year bring each of us more opportunities to serve the Lord and seek His will!

Merry Christmas! 
Shawn and Melissa