Serving and Sending

Julie's off! Feb. 3, 6 a.m., Boston Logan airport to Entebbe, Uganda.

As it snows in New England on this early February day, our daughter Julie is enroute to Mbale, Uganda, to begin her almost six-month medical mission serving with Cure, International. She'll land in 85-degree equatorial heat in about 18 hours and will be very far from these cold winter days. It was a tearful farewell in the pre-dawn hours at Logan Airport, to be honest, in that "sad/glad" confusion of feelings that co-mingle at such times.

The preparation for this part of Julie's journey began at least fifteen years ago, when evidence of her unusually compassionate heart began emerging. Coming home from third grade one day, she announced that she had spent her lunch hour in the class with four special needs children, all of whom were wheelchair bound and non-verbal. We asked her why and she responded, "Because it's fun! I like the kids." She spent the majority of her lunch hours in that classroom for the remainder of the year and she grew to love those kids. We suspected then that Julie's giftings and heart would lead her to minister to overlooked people in forgotten places. The vision of serving in Africa was born during her junior high years and now that dream is becoming a reality.

And that's where "sad/glad" collide. We are so thankful, so glad, so humbled that our 23-year-old is doing this with this next chapter of her life. We have confidence that she will be Jesus "with flesh on" to the many children she will serve in The Cure's pediatric hospital. We know that her smile and her joyful spirit will brighten up any space she occupies. We believe that her competence will help post-surgical patients rehab and that her encouragement will motivate them to push beyond the pain to the promise. We have faith that God will use her to make a difference for Him as she walks her talk and loves Jesus-style.

But we're also sad. It's hard to have your child 7,000 miles away, in an unknown-to-us place and culture. We are somewhat aware of the risks that will be a part of her life as she serves, and those risks seem scarier than the ones we face in our country. Though she'll be part of a medical team, she goes "alone" and knows no one there.

And so we cry and smile, pray and ponder, and trust that her roots will hold her and her wings will take her where God wants her. You can vicariously experience her life in Uganda by checking out her blog, which will undoubtedly be updated far more frequently than mine. (I have made a New Year resolution about blogging...and I'm only a month behind to date!)


Dec. 17, many of the Patriot wives from the couples study gathered for a cinnamon roll baking class taught by Virginia. All left with pans of rolls to bake in their own homes on Christmas morning.

I apologize that it has been so long since my last post. Backing up to mid-December '08, on a similarly snowy day, about a dozen Patriot wives gathered with rolling pins in hand for the sixth annual "Baking Cinnamon Rolls with Virginia" class. What a yummy day! At least twelve dozen rolls were made, most of which went home in an unbaked state to be frozen for Christmas morning baking. Our couples' study wrapped up the following night, Dec. 18, and we left encouraged by the spiritual and marital growth in the couples. Though we fully expected to meet again in January, during the post-season, it wasn't to be. :( We were with our couples one last time, on Dec. 21 at Gillette Stadium, as we joined with thousands of other crazy fans at the 2008 "Snow Bowl" and cheered the Pats on to "freezing out" the Cardinals, 47-7. (Hey, isn't that the team that just played in the Super Bowl? Strange....)

Christmas Dinner traditions continued with Paul and Christie Borthwick, Felicia Coluzzo,
and Hank Bazigian joining us for food, fun, and fellowship.

We were thrilled to have Lisa and Julie with us for the holidays, and equally thrilled that Gabe and Kari were happily traipsing through Europe on their two week "wedding gift money" memory-making trip. At 33 Washington Street, we maintained time-honored traditions, like making gingerbread houses from scratch, hiding Baby Jesus until Christmas morning, having matching jammies, receiving letters from Santa, reading Luke 2 on Christmas morning - after almond puff pastry fashioned as a wreath and before opening stockings, making batches of caramel corn for gift-giving, and inviting "chosen family friends" to join us for Christmas Eve and another set for Christmas Day dinner. It was such a relief and a joy for Christmas Eve to arrive and put an end to my rushing-to-catch-up which seemed to mark the month. I never did catch up, and some packages were never sent, but the exchange was right. We spent many hours in the hospital with our dear friend Patty, who ended up back at the Brigham for the week before Christmas with blood clots, as well as supporting other friends for whom the holidays were not bright and merry.

Family vacation in Vero Beach after Christmas was just what the doctor ordered.
We were refreshed, renewed, and had a blast with daughters Lisa and Julie.

Soon after Christmas, we drove to Alexandria, Virginia, to spend a couple of wonderful days with my family before flying to Florida for a week-long vacation using our friends' Vero Beach condo. Though Paul and I have logged many hours there, reading and writing for our doctorates as well as writing most of our books, it was a first for Julie and Lisa. After experiencing this little slice of heaven, they are amazed that we've gotten any work done there! Our days were unbelievably refreshing, renewing, and relaxing. We walked the beach endlessly, soaked in the rays limitedly, played tennis competitively, read semi-voraciously, ate appreciatively (Chef Paul did most of the cooking), and rested deeply. It ranked on the short list of best vacations ever and it was just what we needed.

2009 was ushered in quietly, as we were too tired to do much more than watch the ball drop in Times Square on TV. After driving home on January 8th, however, nothing has been quiet since. :) We launched a full January schedule by speaking on the evening of the 9th at Trinity Baptist Church in Nashua. This is one of our "partnership churches" and we thoroughly enjoyed being a part of their couples' dessert night. Matt and Beth Ide creatively designed the evening "sandwich style:" two talks, with dessert in the middle. The large crowd was engaged and responsive and we left very grateful for the opportunity to have encouraged marriages.

Some Engagement Matters attendees enjoy a meal in between sessions.

Our first Engagement Matters of 2009 started the following morning. We love this weekend. Partnering with Doug and Julie Macrae, we challenged our enthusiastic and somewhat naive couples to consider the principles as well as the practical outworkings of Christian marriage. We're still stymied by recruitment for the weekend, but are more committed to continuing to offer it than ever. Alumni of the program give us more positive reinforcement than needed. Our next Engagement Matters weekend is April 18-19 and we'd love for you to send pre-engaged or engaged couples our way.

Paul spoke at the Mom to Mom group at St. Michael's Parish in Bedford on the 14th and as always, the moms loved him. We spoke together the next day at Grace Chapel's MTM and that was an honor as well. Mom to Mom ( is a much needed and well-done program in these times when the value of the role of mothering is oft times underestimated and invalidated.

Family Getaway Weekend in New Hampshire was a blast!
Brian and Heather Dietz joined the HIM team as worship leaders, much to the delight of all.

Our third annual and largest ever "Family Fun Getaway Weekend" was held January 17-19 at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, New Hampshire. Twenty-seven families contributing 112 bodies spent the snowy, wintery weekend in the "castle," enjoying the beautiful atrium pool, great food, and lots of fellowship and encouragement from fellow pilgrims. Brian and Heather Dietz led worship and Paul did family devotions. An added bonus was having veteran Family Camp staffers Julie, Macain, and Lars take the kids for part of Sunday evening while the parents had an open question and answer forum with Paul and me. It was a very successful weekend and fun was truly had by all.

The H.I.M. Board held its first annual vision retreat in Vero Beach in late January.
We all agreed it was a great way to get a lot done.

It was back to Vero Beach the next weekend for our first ever H.I.M. Board retreat. Bill Tiffan, a long-time friend and ministry partner turned consultant, spent the first day with the Board, leading us through a process to clarify ministry objective and goals. He was very helpful. The next day, Board member John Nugent helped us develop some practical applications of the objectives and goals and that was also very helpful. Unanimously, we felt it was a very productive weekend and should be repeated next year.

The original five gathered for a final weekend together before Julie's departure for Uganda.

This past week has been consumed by preparing for Julie's launch. It was extremely meaningful to have Kari and Lisa come home for the weekend in support of her, and the days were a great mix of family time and family/friend time. A send-off party was held Saturday night, the 31st, and the attendees spoke of Julie's heart so well. From co-workers at the gym to her nannying charges, from Board members to high school classmates, everyone agreed that Julie's heart has made a huge difference in their lives and came to express their love for her and support of her.

That brings us up to now. The snow is still falling and minute by minute, Julie is getting farther away from us. How good it is to know that she is His and that she rests in the shadow of the Almighty. That's the only truth that can comfort a sad/glad mother's heart.