El Amor Crece en 2013*
Dear Loved Ones,
As we celebrate the Christmas season in Nicaragua with both of our families we reflect on this past year and think of all we have to be grateful for. It has been a year with immense challenges and difficulties, but also one of bountiful grace. When I think of grace this time of year, the song about the 12 days of Christmas comes to mind, and all the gifts that are given for each day. We, too, have had our share of gifts in 2012. The gift of saying goodbye to a loving community in Waslala, when we realized we needed to leave. The blessed fortune to have a new community welcome us, love us, and help us create a home. The gift of our students, yes, even the ones that test our patience. The gift of our church community that sets an example of faith. The gift of the land, whose beauty we marvel at each day. The gift of our neighbors that lend a hand and an extra plate of food. The gift of our supporting organization, Volunteer Missionary Movement, that enables us to live and serve in Nicaragua. The gift of another culture that challenges us daily to think differently and expands our worldview. The gift of thinking and speaking in another language. The gift from visitors that came to be with us in our community this past year. The gift that Diego, our dog, has been to our lives; not just because he is a fierce protector, but because of the way he loves us in return. The gift of our community of friends back in the States that always knows when to send an email, offer a prayer, or reflect on a blog post. The gift of returning to California this past September for a visit with family and friends. The gift of being home when my Aunt Tracy died, and being able to comfort my dad. The gift of our families that shower us with love from afar and an occasional care package. The gift of each other, as we realize how strong of a relationship we have together since we have overcome various obstacles this past year. And, the gift of our God that loves unconditionally and has shone light on each moment of darkness we have experienced in 2012. It is this light from our God that we pray brings hope, healing, renewal, and reconciliation to a world that at times seems broken and irreparable. With all the gifts in our lives, we know with absolute certainty, that we can embrace differences and together overcome our human stumbling. Blessings to you all this Christmas and may 2013 bring more light and peace to your lives and our world. Love and Peace, Kristin y Billy Follow our journey here; Support us here.
The following are photo descriptions clockwise from top left: 1. A stained glass image of the Holy Family taken at the Iglesia Las Mercedes in Granada, Nicaragua. 2. Maria y Jesús taken in the Hotel El Convento in Leon, Nicaragua. 3. Madonna with child; taken in the main foyer at Billyʼs alma mater, Mercyhurst University, in Erie, PA. 4. My host mother and her daughter in their home in Estelí. 5. San José y El Niño (St. Joseph and The Child) by Nicolás Rodríguez Juárez (1667-1734); taken at the museum Fundación Ortiz Guardian in Leon, Nicaragua. 6. Hike atop the cerro in La Garnacha in April. 7. Renewing our wedding vows for our 3rd anniversary at our parish in San Nicolas. 8. At the Managua Airport welcoming our siblings who visited us in August. 9. Our puppy Diego (who has quadrupled in size!) in our backyard in July. 10. The end of the retreat for the graduating seniors in November. 11. Celebrating Obamaʼs re-election underneath our mosquito net. 12. The Byrnes family together on the beach in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, for Christmas. 13. The Simms and Byrnes families celebrating a Nica Navidad! 14. The Simms family in Granada, Nicaragua, at Christmas. 15. Showing our thanks with our cooked turkey on Thanksgiving. We celebrated with three other volunteers from Waslala (Iain, Julia, and Chelsea) in November. 16. A sunset cruise in San Juan del Sur with Claire and Joanna when they visited in June. 17. Billy with three of his students on Kristinʼs birthday in October. 18. Kristin and Jara showing off their stylish aprons in the kitchen in August. 19. Billy helping his 8th grade class sing and choreograph the song Stand By Me for the English Song Competition in Estelí in August. 20. On a hike in Waslala, at our friend Juniorʼs coffee farm. We are with Simon and Fredi, two German volunteers who returned home to begin college in July, after a year of volunteer service in Nicaragua. *Our Christmas letter this year was titled with the help of Idalia, the Director of our school in San Nicolás. After years of titles that rhyme with the upcoming year, we decided to try our hand at a title in Spanish this year, but had difficulties finding something to rhyme with “trece” (thirteen). A brief conversation with Idalia and she had thousands of ideas for us! Hence our title, “Love grows in 2013!”