Sitting in Derek and Julie’s cozy living room next to a lit Christmas tree and a roaring (gas-fueled) fire in the fireplace, I’ve finally found the “pause” button. Truly, that button has been “MIA” for the past two months and it feels really good to carve out a few moments to reflect on the the past two months which have been on the huber fast track.
There have been years in which Labor Day weekend signals an abrupt end to summer as the crisp to cold winds of fall arrive as if in a hurry.
Not this year. “Dog days” describe most of the month of September and the beginning of October, as summery temps belie the calendar dates, and pools buttoned up for the season seem “missing in action” as the endless summer unfolds.
Our summer ended with huge exclamation points. Invited by our dear friends John and Marilyn Nugent to share their rental cottage with them in Ogunquit, Maine, we enjoyed the unusually warm ocean (67 degrees), fresh lobster off the fishing boats, and miles of walking on the Marginal Way and on the Ogunquit Beach. It was the perfect beach holiday, and we hated to see it come to an end.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart!” Psalm 34:3
This verses aptly sums up the past month for us as we have been privileged to speak at 4 different family camp weeks. Though it should go without saying that the deepest desire of our hearts would be fulfilled by a reinstatement of our lifelong ministry at Campus by the Sea, we are so very grateful that our passion for encouraging and strengthening families through family camp found expression again this summer in four wonderful weeks of camp.
It all started at the H.I.M. marriage conference in 2011, when Sonny Vu and his wife Christy were introduced to us. In the years since, their journey has taken them back to their homeland of Vietnam and our knowledge of them has grown only through third party mention. The “third parties” began to mention that the Vus would be interested in bringing us to Vietnam for a marriage conference if we were game, and, in the words of Brian Reagan, “…and one thing led to another…” and on June 27, we were on our way to Vietnam!
Greetings from Viet Nam!! We’re not grounded anymore . . . and we’re so thankful that this ministry trip was given the green light by the interventional pulmonologist who is managing my health issue.
The cancellation of our trip to Ethiopia and Uganda May 22—June 13 was very disappointing on so many levels, but we leaned in to being home—for longer than we’ve been home in a really long time—and managed to get some things done that have been left undone for a really long time. Closets, desks, and the garage were all attacked with determination to purge the unnecessary and establish order . . . all of which I found quite therapeutic and Paul went along with. :)
It’s been quite a month! Within three days of returning from Lebanon, we were in the air again, this time to California. Our 2.5 week trip there was in jeopardy when a visit to my primary care physician revealed that the pneumonia (which had been diagnosed in late March, but which we thought had been successfully treated) was still alive and amplified. She reluctantly agreed to let me travel, if I promised to do only what I had to do, and rested in between. Armed with antibiotics and a sobering report from the radiologist, we headed west.
After almost a year of planning and anticipating, our two-week ministry trip to Lebanon is now “in the books.” We’re in the midst of flying home from Beirut as I write this, and one of the benefits of this long flight is the opportunity to process and ponder the past eleven days as we partnered with our Evangelical Armenian brothers and sisters in Christ who are serving Him faithfully in this often times unstable part of the world.
One reunion bled into another as we wrapped up the nuclear Friesen family gathering in Pennsylvania on Jan. 4 and flew to California to celebrate my mother’s 88th birthday with the Collins side of the family. All of my siblings were able to make this grand celebration and, including in-laws, grands, and great-grands, the final count came in at 33. Sadly, Paul was stranded in New England by the blizzard which suspended operations at Logan and Kari and her family were felled by the flu the night before the party, so they were unable to make it.
After rolling in on a red-eye flight today and landing at Logan and going home for only our fifth day in the month of January (which is almost out of days), I am finally getting to what has been a near-the-top entry on my “to-do” list since the third week of December 2017: writing this blog post. I love to write, but I need space and time to do so and, well, that’s been hard to come by in the days that wrapped up 2017 and the ones that have begun 2018. I’ll rely on pictures to “say a thousand words” so this won’t turn into marathon missive.
Though fall arrived “late” this year, it is making a quick exit as the Christmas season makes its appearance “early.” Or so it seems! As we fly home today from a 10-day trip during which we spent 2 days each in 5 different towns, I’m musing about walking in to a home bedecked in orange, greens, and golds, all representing the season just passed of falling leaves, harvest, and shortening days. But if past performance is any indication of future expectations, Christmas will be here in short order, ready or not. And though I’m certain my lofty goals of projects completed will exceed the time needed to complete them between now and then, I’m hopeful that my desire to prepare my heart for Christmas will outpace my attempts to prepare my gifts.
It is a season of weddings, funerals, and falling leaves. Of football, pumpkins, and sweaters. Of hot soup, warm bread, and apple cider. Of Patriots Bible studies, marriage conferences, and counseling. Of birthdays, anniversaries, and memories.
This year, it is also a season of hurricanes, floods, fires, and shootings.
With visions of Yosemite’s matchless beauty still dancing in our heads, we flew east in time to do laundry and repack suitcases with appropriate gear for speaking at Park Street Church’s family camp held at Camp Laurel in Readfield, ME (central Maine) the weekend of August 25-27. It was the perfect ending to an incredibly paradoxical summer. Though we have partnered for years with Kris Perkins (Park Street Church’s pastor to families/marriages) by speaking at various workshops and seminars at the church, this was our first experience with their annual family camp. And we loved it.
August has flown by, which is consistent with the beat of the whole summer. When the family camp program was canceled at CBS back in late December, we had no idea what the summer of 2017 would look like. We weren’t concerned that we’d be twiddling our thumbs, quite honestly, but we couldn’t have imagined then the opportunities that have unfolded for us. “Only God.” Indisputable.
Wow!! I always thought our summers on the island, running seven and a half weeks of discipleship training for dozens of college students as well as 6.5 weeks of family camps, flew by . . . but these past 7 weeks redefine “flying.” I am in utter disbelief that we are at the halfway mark of August . . . and still on the road and in the air, by God’s grace, going strong. What an unbelievable journey we’ve been on!
Returning from Ethiopia on May 22, we were very thankful to have several days at home before heading to California for a couple of weeks. It was especially good in light of the fact that Paul was “under the weather” with a gastro-intestinal bug that hopped on board his system the previous Friday while in Ethiopia. Thankfully “Cipro” knocked it out of him fairly quickly and he was none the worse for the wear a day later.