Our 2016 Christmas Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

I know for many of you this past year was joyful with births and new jobs. For others, it was difficult with loss of loved ones, jobs, or illness. And many of you have been in our hearts and prayers, as we know we have been in yours. It is such a joy to walk through life with others, through the ups and downs of life in community. Thank you for your love.

I thought about doing a big long recap of the year, but I think I will just share a few highlights, and A LOT of photos. 🙂

Rebekah loved seeing and playing in snow during the winter. We got to see quite a bit of snow while at the National Conference on Youth Ministry in Colorado Springs last January. The conference was amazing. We will miss it this year. It is always a great time to get refreshed and encouraged spiritually. Plus, last year we were able to catch up with friends from across the country and a couple of my cousins and their kids! Rebekah started crawling on Christmas of last year, and since then she has been an unstoppable force. (Just tonight she was running circles in the house before bed yelling “I fast!” We didn’t mind since it got out the remainder of her energy. 😉 )

In the early spring Mitch’s mom and stepdad sold their property in Republic and moved to Branson. It was a bittersweet move because they had to say goodbye to a home with many memories and, of course, the land and creek. But now they are able to enjoy the beauty of nature right outside their window without all the upkeep involved. And Branson is a happening place–so there are always new attractions to check out together. Granny also moved in with them. It’s been a rocky year of health for her, but she enjoys watching the wildlife and more time with family.

Spring burst on us in the form of exploration. A walking Rebekah had so much to explore! We spent many days outside. We traveled to Kansas City for Leadership Training for Christ with our teens and families, Mitch went to Winterfest in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with several teens, Rebekah and I visited friends and family in Nebraska while Mitch was on a mission trip in Honduras, and around Rebekah’s birthday we took a few days in Springfield, Branson, and Silver Dollar City for our personal vacation. Rebekah turned one in April, complete with all the bumps and bruises of an ambitious new walker. But nothing held her back.

In May we bought our first house! We love it. Our neighbors are fantastic, we are not far from a beautiful lake and the park. It has been a good fit. Don’t judge this picture too harshly–it was the day we closed on the house, and the family had moved months ago, so the lawn was in a bit of disarray. We spent a few days prepping the lawn and painting and cleaning inside to make it our own before we moved in.

Summer kept us booking with travels to church camps with our teens, another road trip for Rebekah and I up to Nebraska, and many fun youth events that we tried to squeeze in while the teens were on summer break. At the end of summer, after students went back to school, we took a long weekend trip to St. Louis and Springfield. Rebekah loved the zoo and Grant’s Farm, and we explored downtown a bit too.

Fall slowed down a lot for us. It allowed for us to do more as a family and build cherished memories and traditions. With teens back in school, there was less time for activities, unless we were going to their games or events. We also learned in early September that I was expecting. For a couple months or more I was just getting by fighting off strong fatigue and nausea. That made the fall both fly by and drag on. However, we did not expect at our first ultrasound to discover we were expecting twins!

November fell on us in a storm of change. We were trying to wrap our heads around twins, and in the midst of that, we came to the decision to step down from ministry. I always like to make it very clear that 1) there were no scandals involved, and 2) we love our teens greatly and always will. But it became apparent for a host of reasons that it was time. Since then, life has had the element of uncertainty to it. But within that uncertainty, we cling our rock, Jesus Christ. He offers us very certain promises and hope that surpasses anything life may throw at us.

It feels like we just got back from our Thanksgiving travels, but now Christmas is come and gone. Though we will leave up the decor through New Years so we can celebrate with my parents. December has been an unusual month for us in many ways. I am so glad that we cultivated so many family traditions around Advent and Christmas. These traditions have kept us grounded in a rhythm of remembering God’s goodness and promises. Every day Rebekah looked forward to unwrapping a book before bed and putting a new ornament on her Advent tree. And we loved getting to read scriptures about Jesus with her every day. Yesterday concluded it with her adding the star to the top of the tree and reading the nativity story. It is really quite cute. And all the ornaments survived. With the exception of one or two that our dog ate . . . Hazel . . . 

We also unwrapped her last book tonight–also the nativity story. Though it was a bit wishy washy, so before bed we also read the nativity story out of The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (affiliate link)–one of our all-time favorites. Last weekend we celebrated with Mitch’s family. On Thursday we went with his mom and stepdad on the Polar Express. Despite her lack of smiles for pictures, Rebekah loved every minute. Except for when the train whistle blew and scared her! She loved the lights, the story, the music, the cookies, and especially Santa. She’s been talking about Santa ever since . . .

As we leave 2016 behind us, we head into a new year and new adventure. I honestly don’t know what to expect out of this next year except to be surprised. But we will take each day with prayer and joy.

Blessings to you and yours. Thank you for reading.

Love,

Mitch, Nathana, and Rebekah

P.S. If you are new to The Engaged Home please check out my favorite posts of 2016 below! You can also stay up-to-date with us by following The Engaged Home via email (see my sidebar), or on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. 🙂

Big Changes
Advent as a Family
When Life Shakes You Up
Going Home: An Anchor Set in Shifting Sands
My Life Clinic
I am NOT a Parenting Expert
Blue Box Gifts
Gather Around Inspirations: Thomas Locker
Gather Around Inspirations: Spring Learning Activities
A Breathe of Fresh Air: Dealing With Anxiety
Stay-at-home Mom Seeking a Friend
Free Printable Valentines, Stationary, and Verse Cards
A New Take on Coloring
Winter Picture Books
Crossing Kansas

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