Our Christmas Letter

Hi Sweet Friends,

Merry Christmas! No matter what this year has held for you I pray you will tangibly feel God's love and presence as we anticipate the Messiah being born to save us, to save our world. This advent season (advent just means the days leading up to Christmas) has been extra special for me. Christmas with a baby has all sorts of awe and wonder in it. Although Jackson will have no memory of this Christmas season it has still been so fun meeting Santa, buying presents and talking to him about Jesus coming to redeem this world. 

2016 was a busy year full of seeking God and really discerning His will and what He wanted for our family. It was a hard year but spiritually it was so rich. We grow in the valleys and I am so thankful for the ways God has become so real and sovereign to me and to Mark.  

After a very busy fall of 2015 working overtime every weekend because of staffing changes, we decided to put Mark's schooling on pause. At the beginning of 2016 he enrolled in classes and got started! Mark is working away at his masters of theology from Veritas seminary in California (online don't worry!). I've been so proud of the way he has juggled being a husband, father, working 40+ hours and studying in the evenings.

The beginning of the year I was pregnant and had a lot of pain and physical limitations. I wasn't bed rest but apart of me wishes I was because I had to work until May in pain. Some days Mark would wheel me around in the church wheelchair because I couldn't walk a hundred meters. I had pretty bad pelvic girdle pain ( I didn't know that was a thing either) so the last couple months of pregnancy was not fun.

Then May 12 happened and 2016 changed forever. Jackson Thomas blessed our lives after the longest labour he has been such a joy. I have felt so fulfilled in this calling of being his momma. I feel like I found my calling, my place, my groove. Being his momma is my most favourite thing and this year has been incredible having a wonderful healthy baby. He is such a good baby (minus the sleep) and I can't thank the Lord enough for this gift and miracle of a baby. 

Going on maternity leave and finding purpose again was exactly what I needed spiritually. It was a hard season of working overtime most weeks and then having Jackson and being removed from it all was exactly what I needed. It was so good for Mark too to have another focus to our day. I would love to be able to stay at home and raise my babies but financially that is just very unrealistic so I am trying to be positive about being a working momma. After I changed my mindset I am honestly excited to go back to work. I have so many new ideas and things I want to get done and implement and Mark and I still talk every single day about church, programs and different ministry aspects. 

At the beginning of the year when Mark started school to get his masters I was still hesitant about the whole pastor calling. I trusted Mark a hundred percent and would follow him and support him wherever he believed God was calling our family but I wasn't sure how excited I was to be a pastors wife and raise "pastors kids." Even though we are in full time ministry now, and Mark is a pastor now, being a head pastor was just a whole lot scarier to me. But after my break and taking a step back from ministry I know this is exactly where God is calling us and calling me. I think Mark will be a great head pastor one day... if only we knew when that move would be! Who knows? Next year, five years? We will just keep trusting God and listening to his voice. Obviously I would love to stay in Elmira forever and we would love to have him pastor here but we have no idea of what God has in store so we will continue to trust and wait. 

Along with Mark in school, I also enrolled in a wedding planning certificate course in the fall. Man, these past few months have been even busier with both of us in school but it has been good. After helping brides plan their weddings and loving every minute of it (even the stressful parts) I really felt God saying "yes" to this dream of mine to make it into a small business. Our evenings consisted of putting Jackson to bed around 7pm and then both of us studying, writing papers and doing the online lectures. Thankfully, my course was only one semester and I have graduated! Really excited for what this means, even if my business doesn't take off till after I'm done having babies. 

2016 was good to us and I am such a blessed woman. So so blessed. I have been so wrecked these past few weeks with all the Aleppo news and reading everything. I actually just got on my knees and cried one night at the overwhelming pain these beautiful people are dealing with. I can't imagine Canada being at war for six years, me wondering if my baby will live or if we will have enough food to eat and wondering when the next air strike will come. I am so grateful for food, a roof over my head and my healthy family. I am thankful for health care for great friends and for safety. 

I have lived outside my own little world more this year and let myself feel the hurt and the brokenness that is around me and in this world. I have often been overwhelmed from the election, to Syria, to the momma who doesn't have the resources to care for her baby and the teenager feeling alone and abandoned. Instead of being so overwhelmed I remember what I learned in South Africa all those years ago. Do something...it matters to that person. These two words "do something" have given me hope throughout 2016 and all the craziness. I do not need to do everything, but I am called to do something. I hope to do more financially and with my time in 2017.

Merry Christmas Friends! I pray you will take time to reflect on Jesus coming to save us. He really is the thrill of hope that our weary world rejoices in.

Blessed to know you and thankful for your readership:) 

Lots of Love,

Mark, Maddie & Jackson 

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