Dear Family & Friends,
Finding our joy and hope in the journey of life can often be a great challenge. Enduring the raging storms that do eventually pass, but forever alter the landscape of our existence. Anticipating the establishment of a new normal, yet processing through the debris and repairing what is fixable. Discovering the secret of letting go, while also finding the balance of holding on. Realizing life – literally and figuratively - will never be quite the same as before. Marveling over the freshness and peace and community that emerge from what used to be. Worshipping for the eternal and the constants of faith that secure our joy. Knowing we are not alone, not without hope, not without a Savior. This is the essence of Christmas.
One of the biggest events that impacted our year was living through our first hurricane, a super-storm named Irma. This war god (literal meaning) arrived in September and easily demanded our attention for a month; maybe longer if you consider the problems she caused before and after marching across the state in her fury. It was a scary and overwhelming experience, and yet in the middle of the storm, we found places of refuge, love and kindness. Post-storm was actually the hardest part as we were forced to live in this space between our normal and waiting for normal to return. But even in the waiting there were answers, provision, support, and a strong spirit of gratefulness – especially when our power was restored after 8 long days!
Other significant memories of our year include vacations and milestone trips we were able to experience, some together and some separately. During spring break, we enjoyed a family + friends trip to Disney World. There were 13 of us running the parks for 4 days. It’s slightly embarrassing to admit that on one of the days, Tim and I found a bench and both quickly fell sound asleep. I was given the incredible opportunity to escort Dennis & Rebekah back to Guatemala for their first homeland visit in July, where Lydia was spending part of the summer on an internship. Our littles soaked up every moment learning about their beautiful country and gaining a new perspective on their heritage. Finally, Tim was able to take Michael on a special 16th birthday trip to California and Las Vegas in November. They ran hard for 4 days out west, making memories together and seeing all the things important to a 16-year-old boy.
Tim has started his 4th year with ABC Supply and continues to enjoy his work securing building projects throughout Southwest Florida. He experienced staying in a shelter for the first time in his life when he and Michael decided to stay in Sarasota to prep the house and face Irma’s wrath together. Other than sleeping on the floor, he found the whole experience of sharing close quarters with others in the community very interesting. Tim’s personal challenge is to submerge himself in the Gulf year round, even when the water temps are in the low 60s. I can assure you, this is an activity he does all by himself!
Lydia is 20 years old and just finished her junior year in college at USF. She is now in her social work program and on track to graduate next December. This year she moved into her first apartment in Tampa and bought a new car. She works 2 days a week as a nanny and also works at a paint-your-own-pottery shop, both jobs are near her school and apartment. Lydia spent 5 weeks in Guatemala this summer on an internship through Orphan’s Heart, where she lost her heart. It was a good thing I brought her “babies” to visit during her last week, because we had to drag her back to the US when the program officially ended.
Michael is 16 years old and is currently a sophomore at Riverview High School. He got his driver’s permit last February, but is not very interested in driving – very few of the 16 year olds in this community seem to drive. He is working for Rack Room Shoes in the mall just a few miles from our house and is really enjoying earning his own money. It’s a good thing too, cause this kid loves to spend money. He’s very busy with his friends most of the time, always making plans to run somewhere and hang with someone. The highlight of his 16th birthday trip to Los Angeles with his Dad was exploring Hollywood. Oh, and constantly eating out!
Isabelle is also 16 years old and is currently a sophomore at Booker High School where she is thriving in the art program. She was recently selected to collaborate with a few other students to create a unique mural about Sarasota that will hang in the County School Board conference room. She also joined the color guard this fall where she really found her tribe. Izzy drives even less than her brother; in fact, she hasn’t asked for the keys once since completing her last driver’s ed lesson in the spring. Her special 16th birthday trip occurs next summer when I will take her to San Diego to attend the biggest geek fest in the country: Comic Con.
Dennis is now 11 years old and is currently in 5th grade. He serves in the school’s safety patrol each day and is also part of the news crew for 2 semesters this year. He was very excited to get his braces off last month. He is looking forward to middle school where he plans to play any sport that involves a ball. Dennis has never met a stranger, and that includes everyone he met in Guatemala. It was hysterical to watch him “making friends” with all the vendors who approached us (and subsequently followed us) around Antigua as my Latino replied to every comment with: no hablo español.
Rebekah is now 10 years old and is also in 5th grade. She is fiercely dedicated to earning perfect attendance this year, which speaks to her dedication to school. She has become one of the top students in her class. She works very hard and long hours to get high grades, but her years of diligence are really paying off. She loves science and still wants to be an orthodontist one day. On that note, her braces came off last month too! She very much enjoyed her trip to Guatemala. She wants you to know the highlight of her trip was visiting the chocolate factory where she learned all about the harvesting and preparing of cacao.
Dawn - my big news is the big number I turned in August. I still can’t believe I am 50 years old! My heart was overwhelmed with all the special moments I shared with family and friends celebrating this milestone. My goal for this year was to finally finish my book, and though I made tremendous progress, Irma really threw off my pace. It will get finished one day, but being a mom and an advocate are my greatest priorities in this season. Returning to Guatemala after 8 years was a huge answer to years of prayer. I’m confident it was just the beginning step of reconnecting with this country to which are hearts are intrinsically woven.
This Advent season our family gives thanks for the mysteries revealed in our lives during 2017, while we marvel with prayerful wonder at what is yet to come in this next year and beyond.