Merry Christmas from the Gatzke Family!
Christmas is by far my favorite time of the year. What's not to love about celebrating our Savior's birth, spending time with family, playing in the snow, and decorating cookies? And this season, we are especially thankful for all of the Lord's blessings in 2010.
Steve is currently in his last year of graduate school and will be receiving a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology from Bethel University in May of 2011. What an accomplishment! High school was a struggle for Steve and to see him excel in his undergraduate work and now in a master's program is very rewarding for him and I couldn't be more proud of his hard work and determination. One of his requirements for school is to complete 700 hours in the counseling field through an internship. Monday through Friday mornings, he spends his time leading group therapy, family therapy, and individual therapy for sex offenders. His confrontational style of therapy has been an asset to the program and it's clearly evident that there is a great need for counselors like Steve to help this particular group of people. Steve has a heart to serve others and his career change from IT to Counseling has been a blessing.
While Steve's been juggling school and his internship, he's also had some significant set-backs in regards to his health. Over the past year, he has been hospitalized 5 times and has had 2 major surgeries related to his Crohn's Disease. And unfortunately, he will need to have surgery again in the spring to reassess his colon and intestine. We're hopeful that with this next surgery and the medications, that his Crohn's Disease would be controlled again. His strength and stamina isn't what it used to be, but every day he shows great improvement.
Steve wasn't the only one with medical problems this year. I also ended up having surgery in June (3 weeks after Steve's first surgery) to remove a tumor on my parotid gland. Once again we praise God that the tumor was benign, that my recovery wasn't long, and that we live less than 5 miles from one of the greatest medical facilities - the Mayo Clinic.
In the midst of the stress of Steve's ongoing health issues, I was experiencing a significant amount of stress at work. The economy had affected the Dermatology department quite a bit and while no one was ever laid off, there was still uncertainly about whether or not we could sustain all of our staff in the outpatient area. Mid-July, I applied for a part-time position in the Allergy Department, and on September 16th I began my new position (one day after Steve was hospitalized again, this time for severe dehydration). Changing jobs wasn't something that Steve and I were anticipating this year, but it has been an absolute gift from God. And I have no doubt in my mind that this is where God wanted me all along. The staff welcomed me with open arms and now I'm considered one of the "sisters." The work itself is very challenging and rewarding. Each day is so different from the next and I look forward to develop my nursing practice here for many years.
Amaya has been our constant source of joy through all our challenges this year! She is nearly 3 years old - and is growing up before our very eyes! Amaya is a very tender and empathetic little girl. I think our experiences in the hospital have molded her to be even more loving, caring, and sensitive to the needs of others. I admire her ability to "go with the flow." While I was trekking back and forth to the hospital visiting Steve, she never complained about having to go to Grandpa and Grandma Gustafson's house. While she missed her Daddy tremendously, she adapted very well and we praise God for flexibility. We also praise God that she has a very special relationship with both sets of her grandparents who live in town.
Amaya is also very active and loves to bounce, dance, twirl, and run! This past year she has participated in both gymnastics and swimming lessons. We'll continue the swimming lessons this upcoming year and for her birthday, we've enrolled her in an 8 week dance class. She is especially enjoying our 40 inches of snow with her new sled and shovel!
Amaya also started preschool at our church this past in the fall! She attends class on Fridays for 2 1/2 hours. It's amazing how quickly she picks up new songs and Bible verses. Amaya has recently shocked us with learning to recite the entire Pledge of Allegiance! She knows her ABCs and recognizes about half of the letters and numbers. She's already showing an interest in reading. Often times, she'll grab one of her hundreds of books and "read" to me!
While our year wasn't exactly what we anticipated, we praise God for our circumstances. We've learned to rely and depend on the members of the Body of Christ. Our asking for help, gave another person an opportunity to serve. We are thankful for the many people that reached out to us to encourage, love, and support us. We are thankful for our parents who literally carried us through these months of uncertainly. We are thankful for a God who doesn't promise us an easy life, but promises never to leave and never to forsake us. We are thankful for a God who promises to comfort - promises to provide - promises to unconditionally love us. When we were weak - God was strong. When we didn't understand - God knew the plan. We have learned to set our hopes on heaven - to hold firmly to His promise of eternal life - to trust that He is faithful. Whatever our future holds, there are no surprises for Him. And it is because of this, that we look forward to 2011 - with hope and a future walking side by side with our Lord!
Steve, Jan and Amaya.