Christmas Letter 2018

Happy December and Merry Christmas, dear friends!

This year has been a beautiful year of growth and healing, treasuring each gift God has given us. Esther has grown and delights us daily, Peter is strong and running after life again full-tilt, and I am pursuing joy through valleys and mountains as faithfully as I can. As I look back on 2018, one word comes to the forefront: “gift.” I have a renewed sense that each day, each moment, each person in my life is a gift, a treasure, more valuable than any precious stone or commodity. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning,” from James 1:17 rings true. My unchanging, ever-faithful, ever-present Father God is steadily sending treasures to us, and my hope is that my heart, and our hearts, will be open to receive these gifts with true gratitude each day. Let’s look back at this year in the life of the Webbs together!

The changes from age 17 months to age 2 ⅓ are truly astounding. 

Recently the biggest challenge is her strong opinions that can become more than a little contrarian--the good side of this is that she is strong and confident! Often that presents itself in a strong decision about what she wants to wear, or insistence that we address her as “baby kitty.” Reading books is one of her favorite activities. She’s also begun very casual reading lessons with mom and dad, and can read the sounds “s” (“S says Ssss like Snake!”), “m” and short “a.” Esther’s vocabulary and comprehension for language even surprised her pediatrician, who announced a few months ago that she’s conversing at a 4 year old level! She loves to sing, and knows more lyrics to “Amazing Grace” and Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” than I do! She climbs, jumps with both feet off the ground, unzips her coat, and puts her dishes in the sink (when reminded). 

Esther still loves people, 

and is in a generally better mood when we get out of the house. She is ALL about helping, and wants to help with every step of making breakfast, or coffee, or putting the dishes away. Tasks definitely take longer with her help, but I hope that investing in that time now will help her understand the value of pitching in as she grows older. One of my favorite little things she does: If she gets hurt, she handles it by giving it a kiss--herself! It’s adorable to hear her bump into something, then hear a little “smooch” as she continues to play. She has a generous heart, and loves to give gifts. Especially earlier this year, whenever she’d find a tissue, paper towel, or a piece of paper, she would wrap up a toy or book or spoon and give it to you as a gift. Almost every night, we pray this prayer, and she repeats the words after me as I go along: “Dear God, fill me up with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” One night, she asked, “What does self-control mean?” I told her, “Well, self-control is doing the right thing, even when it’s hard.” Now she will bring that up often, and she really latches onto it when I tell her she showed self-control and obedience when she listens and obeyed. It’s amazing how much God is teaching me about His gifts through the gift of Esther, and it is so sweet to see her personality develop and grow! 

Clearly, as you can see, I have spent my year finding my footing in Motherhood! 

I am learning what that looks like for me, and doing my best to let go of expectations. Trying to trust God to lead me and help me be the best Tori I can be is my priority, because that will give Esther the best mom for her. In many ways I’ve really only started the journey--any mom out there knows how hard it is to turn off that inner voice saying, “Good moms do ____, not what you’re doing,” and instead tune into the Still Quiet Voice that says, “Because you love Me and follow Me, you are a good mom.” 

Some ways I’m trying to be the best version of me: 

The first quarter of the year, I actually completed a Bible reading plan (this is so hard for me!) and read 91 chapters of the bible in 91 days, alongside my good friends who messaged each other to stay accountable. Later in the year, I was feeling deeply discouraged, and realized I was having a delayed processing of the grief from last year’s battles--each anniversary of finding the cancer or having a surgery was so bittersweet--and it was more depressing than I would have imagined. So I worked hard to give myself space, reached out for help, and after a few months I am hopeful that I’m entering into some new freedom in this area. The Lord, as He always is, was faithful to stay by my side even when I felt like His voice was so clouded in my mind. I finally found some refreshing through a different method of Bible study and journaling, and it’s been a welcome relief. I’m still working from home part-time for New Day with Social Media and Print/Graphic Design, and I continue to be a LipSense distributor. I let go of Weight Watchers this spring, struggled with falling back into some unhealthy habits, and then began a moderate version of the Trim Healthy Mama plan in June, and I’m excited to say I’m ending the year at 24 lbs lost in the last 1 ½  years. I’m also working hard to spend quality time with with my girl friends, because they are essential to my well-being. It’s a challenge making that happen with a kiddo--sometimes it looks like coffee at my house during nap time (instead of meeting at a local shop) or driving an extra few hours out of our way to go to a special park so we get to talk in the car! 

Our marriage has been a beacon of light in our lives. 

God truly gives good gifts: we encourage each other, challenge each other, and love spending time together. The last few years we’ve fought intense battles, both physical and emotional, battles that can make you or break you. I am humbled and honored to say that God has used the refining fire of marriage to make us into who we are today. What a rare treasure it is to have known each other the majority of our lives, and to have spend the last 8 ½ years married...and to still like each other so much! We are 100% into strategy games (we’ve played 428 together this year so far!), and loved building our board game collection as a way to invest in our marriage and in our friendships--when we have an hour to spare together, we are likely going to play together! 

Peter’s recovery lasted well into the beginning of this year. 

We went to a doctor’s office on average at least once a week, often twice, for many months last winter/early spring—between physical therapy to regain Peter’s strength to lift big things and do life, follow up appointments, and catching up on other doctor things (like the dentist), plus Esther’s struggles with colds and ear infections—it was a lot. That was a trying season for our family, but I am excited to say that by about March Peter was back at about 80% capacity, and today he is running at near 100% (prayer for a few lingering effects is always welcome). This September, Peter completed a goal he set last year at the end of his chemotherapy journey: he completed his first 5K!  We are acutely aware that many who face cancer do not return to this level of vitality, and that every kind of cancer is different. We honestly do thank God every day for making Peter cancer-free, and giving Peter more years to further His Kingdom and love his family and community. 

WorshipArts’ tenth year was marked by a major milestone: 

we are renting our own space near downtown Kalamazoo! This has let us consolidate our practices from three different churches into one central location, and that means Peter is able to spend even more time with students, instead of commuting and setting up. What a paradox: the sweet, lifting confirmation that our decade-long desire is a vision from God and not just our own hearts, juxtaposed with the joyful, stretching burden of caring for carpet, chairs, purchasing music equipment, and juggling all the new financial needs and time it takes to manage a brick and mortar space. And the impact has been evident. We now have a team of 5 directors and 5 interns. Jesus is showing up each week and challenging both our leaders and our students to seek deeper purity, faithfulness, and community. We’ve faced some hard situations, and seen God come through in relationships in powerfully unexpected ways. God is living and active, and He’s ready to fight our battles for us as we choose to build lives that are focused on worshipping Jesus. 

Peter has blown me away in his leadership capacity, 

both in ministry and in our family. After getting the WorshipArts building, Peter realized with a new space, it would be tempting to overcommit himself to projects, so we prayerfully made a change. We now go to church on Saturday nights at the New Day Vine Campus (it’s the same church we’ve attend our whole marriage, just a different location), so we could have one day each week with no consistent commitments: Sunday became Family Day. Having this day has kept me rejuvenated like never before--many Sundays have felt like a mini-vacation where we can sleep in, stay in our PJs, or go to a bookstore or out to eat together. Sometimes we choose to go to a church event or visit our parents, but it’s never from a place of obligation, and that’s been a joy. I’m so thankful for the gift of Peter’s leadership and stewardship of our hearts by making sure Esther and I get to see him with his undivided attention each week. 

We are so blessed by family that loves 

each other and loves Jesus! This year we were gifted an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime vacation in honor of Grandma and Grandpa Webb’s 50th wedding anniversary. Nineteen of the Webbs--Peter’s siblings, parents, grandparents and uncle’s family--all journeyed together for nine days in Florida, where we visited Walt Disney World and spent relaxing time at the lovely New Smyrna beach. Other lovely highlights include taking Esther to her first stage production of Daniel Tiger Live, celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary in Ann Arbor, taking Esther to the Columbus Zoo when visiting in Ohio, a special beach day on Lake Michigan, going to Binder Park Zoo with Poppy Wright, Emily and Andrew’s housewarming party in Lansing, and Esther’s 2nd birthday party with special guest Tinkerbell herself! We are also THRILLED to announce that Peter and I are becoming an Aunt and Uncle--three times over! Any day now, Samantha and Luke will give birth to a precious baby boy, this April my sister Emily and Andrew will bring a boisterous boy into this world, and in May Olivia and Clayton will give birth (in England!) to a joyful little guy! Yes, Esther is about to have three boy cousins, and we are ecstatic! 

Thank you for caring about our little family. 

We pray that the greatest gift, reconnection with Father God through Jesus Christ, and renewal through the Holy Spirit, would be a spring of life for you and yours this season. “For sin’s meager wages is death, but God’s lavish gift is life eternal, found in your union with our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One,” Romans 6:23, TPT. For some of you, 2018 brought joyous times, for others the darkest battles--for most, a myriad of mundane life, happy moments, and sad struggles.  No matter what life has brought you, we love each of you and thank God you’ve walked another year with us. Your life is invaluable.

Thank you for being our friends, and we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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