Christmas Letter 2015

Merry Christmas!

Our 2015 was quite an eventful year. Our first adventure began only a few weeks into January, when Shelby had a positive pregnancy test, an answer to prayer. At that time, we were beginning the second half of Frank’s vicarage (pastoral internship) at Holy Cross Lutheran in Moline, IL. Frank was able to experience the day-to-day life of a pastor, writing sermons, visiting the sick, teaching classes, spending time with the teenagers at youth events, and preaching. We both had such a wonderful experience at this church. We were treated like family by the supervising pastor and the congregation. It was very difficult to say goodbye!

We moved out of Moline at the end of July when Shelby was 31 weeks pregnant. Because our apartment in Fort Wayne was not ready until August, we stayed with Shelby’s parents in Michigan for a week. Once we moved back to Fort Wayne, we spent August settling in and preparing for our baby and for Frank’s last year in seminary. Frank also returned to his job at Meijer.

Shelby has been keeping busy with her blog, www.brokenquiet.wordpress.com. It feels good to be writing again, and it is fun to know others are interested in what she has to write. Her most popular blog articles this year were the ones about Lyme Disease, the harm in Fifty Shades of Grey, and an article about the chemicals absorbed through our skin from our everyday soaps. The article on chemicals had almost 2,000 views. However, Shelby’s favorite posts to write are the posts about Esther.

Esther was due September 25th, but she decided to come early. Shelby went into labor on Wednesday, September 16th. After 24 hours of labor and getting stuck in the transition stage for three hours, Shelby decided she needed an epidural so she could rest and gather some strength. After 31 hours of labor, Esther Grace was born on September 18th at 6:01 in the morning. She was eight pounds, five ounces. Had she been born on September 17th, she would have shared a birthday with Shelby’s sister, Kayla. Instead, Esther shares a birthday with Frank’s brother, Christian.

We chose Esther’s name from the book of Esther in the Bible. Esther was a Jew but also queen, the wife of Xerxes, King of Persia. Xerxes issued an order to have all Jews killed at the request of his right-hand man, Haman. Esther put her life on the line by approaching the king without being summoned. By doing so, she saved her people – the line from which the Messiah would come. We pray that our daughter has the same faith and courage.

Esther is three months old now, and she has already learned and changed so much! She loves to smile at us, and she definitely knows the effect her smile has. She loves to “talk” to us in her adorable baby babble. Her face becomes very serious, and she concentrates very hard on what she wants to “say.” She is also very serious about the hanging toys on her piano play mat. She concentrates very hard on reaching for the toys and holding them. She lifts her legs and kicks at the air, rotating herself like the hands on a clock until she has scooted in a 360 degree circle. Esther makes us laugh every day, and we can’t imagine life without her.

We are so excited for Esther’s first Christmas. We enjoyed dressing up and taking Christmas pictures in our living room. This year, we will travel to Michigan to see Shelby’s parents and visit Christ the King Lutheran in Southgate, where Esther was baptized. We’re excited for future years when we can start our own family Christmas traditions. We plan to completely skip over the Santa traditions, and rather than Elf on the Shelf, we plan to do Star from Afar along with other fun Advent activities.

As Christmas approaches, we have been thinking about our birth experience. We had a doula with us the entire labor, and we were surrounded by amazing nurses. Esther was delivered by an experienced OB. She was born in a hospital that was clean and designed to provide a calm atmosphere for new moms. Our pediatrician came to the hospital to give Esther her first check up. We had hot meals delivered to us. Shelby had a comfortable two-day recovery at the hospital. What must it have been like for Mary and Joseph, all those years ago? They had no doula, nurses, OB, or pediatrician. Rather than a clean hospital, they had a dirty stable. Shelby thinks back to her horseback riding, stall mucking days; she would certainly not want a baby born in a stable. When and what did Mary eat after Jesus was born? What was her recovery like? Was Joseph terrified delivering Jesus without help? We can’t imagine all that Mary and Joseph went through during labor, delivery, and recovery.

Even more so, what was it like for Jesus? Not only was He born in the unpleasant surroundings of a stable, but He left the perfect home to come to our broken home. This alone was such a tremendous sacrifice. And yet, His sacrifice for us had only begun. He lived a perfect life, despite facing all the same temptations we face. Although He was innocent, He bore our sins, died for us, and paid our ransom. He suffered hell – all for our sakes. What amazing love is this? He was raised on the third day, our sins forgiven, and later ascended into heaven, where He is now preparing a place for us to join Him. Christmas is such an amazing time to think about these things and to look forward to that day when we will leave our broken home and  join Jesus in our new home – His home.

We pray you and your family have a blessed Christmas.

Love,
Frank, Shelby, and Esther

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