Sunrise . . . Sunset from Vero Beach

Sunrise May 15, 2010 . . . Vero Beach, Florida

From a lazy perch in Vero Beach, Florida, Paul and I are getting some much needed R&R. The essentials of the day are behind us—running, walking the beach, taking a dip, reading in the sun (briefly)—so it’s time to “work.” First on my list today is making a blog post.

Our time in Sacramento, starting with the sixth annual Thrive conference April 29 - May 1, was adrenaline producing. Bayside Church of Granite Bay, led by our dynamic friend Ray Johnston, knows how to make it happen and this conference is the poster child for their incredibly creative vision of encouraging those in ministry so they can better encourage those in their congregations. Great speakers, hysterical comedians, thoughtful gestures (like free snacks between sessions), and vigorous worship make this a conference well worth attending and being a part of. Paul and I consider it a great privilege to be workshop presenters each year. This year our workshop was entitled “Got Sex?” and we attempted to give a Biblical view of sexuality. We recently received this email from a young woman who attended:

I wanted to express a heart felt thank you to the two of you for providing such a valuable workshop at Thrive, 2010. I was reluctant to go to your workshop and felt satan telling me all kinds of reasons why I shouldn’t go. I am so thankful I was able to hear and learn from you and to finally learn more about how God designed me and what He has in store for me as a wife.

Thank you for getting to the heart of the matter — Marital Sex — and for sharing yourselves, your wisdom, and of course God’s Word.

Virginia, thank you especially for your listening ear, words of wisdom, and your prayer for me afterwards. I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, one that I have been caring around since my early childhood when my father abused me when I was 3. Now, a mother of a 3-year-old and 1-year-old, it makes me determined to protect my children and teach them how God designed our bodies for good and NOT harm. I also feel the need to recommit to my marriage the way God designed it.

Again, I can not tell you how appreciative I am for the work you are doing!

May God continue to bless your ministry and of course, your marriage.

We are so thankful for God’s faithfulness to take our insufficient efforts and make them into something life-changing.

Thrive was also a great reconnecting and networking place. We met up with many dear friends in ministry, including the whole ministry team from BOSS (the church Gabe and Kari serve), and we had many fun moments of laughter as well as many “catch up” conversations.

Part of the ministry team from BOSS, featuring our daughter Kari and grandson, front and center in the photo. :)

Following Thrive, we spoke at a mini-marriage conference for BOSS on Sunday and Monday nights. One couple even flew in 3,000 miles to attend! Doug and Julie Macrae might have had ulterior motives to their trip . . . after all, they’ve heard us speak more than a few times. We’re suspicious that what prompted their attendance was hearing that Gabe’s parents gave our grandson a “Giants” outfit for Gabe’s birthday . . . and Macraes quickly countered with appropriate gear for the little guy, delivered in person. :) We so enjoyed having the Macraes out for so many reasons!

Gabe and Kari and Doug and Julie proudly display our grandson’s favorite gifts to date. :)

Doug and Julie arrived in time to join us for Sunday morning services at BOSS.

The marriage conference went well, all sports team talk aside. We loved the couples who attended and have confidence that some of them will be used to do marriage ministry at BOSS in the future.

We flew “home” to Massachusetts on Tuesday, May 4, and counseled all day the Cinco de Mayo. We were encouraged by a number of our sessions to see the transforming work of God happening in struggling marriages.

I spent all day (and night) Thursday finishing Lisa’s 21st birthday rite-of-passage scrapbook. Take heart if you feel behind on life: her trip was six years ago. :) And had I not done copious journaling on that trip, the scrapbook would’ve been a collection of photos . . . but not a whole lot more! My journal provided me with such important insights, lessons, and moments too important to forget, reinforcing my belief that “the weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory.” I was thrilled to successfully complete her album in time to begin our drive to Harrisonburg, Virginia, leaving Bedford at 3:30 a.m. Friday for her graduation at 7 p.m. that evening. :) Yes, we’re crazy. It’s actually a great time to drive if you can stay awake. We made it safely to Harrisonburg at 12:30 p.m. and got to enjoy watching Lisa’s softball team play ball at 3 that afternoon.

What a joy it was to attend her graduation....Actually, better said, what a joy it was to see her receive her diploma, get her master’s hood, and meet her profs and colleagues. Two and a half hours of watching all the grad students get hooded was a bit painful for these tired old folks, but we managed to be awake for her great moment. We celebrated with a very late dinner at a really great restaurant.

Lisa received her masters in exercise physiology from James Madison University and has accepted a position there as athletic trainer for their Division 1 Women’s Soccer Team.

Off with the purple graduation robe and ready for dinner.

After graduation, she was greeted by this poster made by her roomies. :)

She was totally surprised by her scrapbook, and we lingered over it, page by page, reliving the wonderful memories of her rite-of-passage journey in 2004.

The desire to run early Saturday a.m. (remember Lisa and I are running a half marathon June 6) lost out to the desire to sleep (we all had serious sleep deficits at this point) so we had a lazy start to the day. Lisa had to work that afternoon as the girls had their last regular season game, so we enjoyed seeing her team play one more time. That was followed by their senior awards barbeque which we were so thrilled to be there for! Lisa’s head coach started the awards night by giving a lengthy tribute to Lisa, which included naming her the “best athletic trainer I’ve had in my 20 years of coaching.” What a joy to share that moment with Lis.

Coach Katie Flynn honors Lisa with an “action shot” of Lisa treating one of her athletes.

We spent a lovely Mother’s Day in Alexandria with my parents and my sister and her husband. And then we made the long drive home, arriving at 2:30 a.m. Monday.

Mother’s Day in Alexandria with one human and one canine granddaughter.

You’ve probably figured out the beat: home in time for a full day of counseling on Tuesday, and then off to faraway places on Wednesday. We are in what has become one of our favorite places on earth . . . Vero Beach, Florida. Thanks to the kind generosity of Doug and Julie Macrae, we’ve had a week of true R and R. They were with us the first four days — very memorable days. On Thursday, they introduced us to the world of geocaching. What fun!!! It’s a treasure hunt for adults (or families!) in case you’re unfamiliar with it. We had a blast, and by day’s end, had “discovered” 14 caches.

Our first “cache” at Riverside Veteran’s Park.

Another very memorable thing we did was watch the space shuttle launch from Cocoa Beach on Friday. How blessed were we that the timing of the launch coincided with our days here! It was truly spectacular and gave us a whole new appreciation for the size and scope of such missions. What a treat!

We were 10 miles from launch from our perch in Cocoa Beach but that was plenty close!

We were a little too close to this alligator on our drive back to Vero, but Paul manage to protect all of us. Whew!

This would be a victory pose. :)

After all that geocaching, we had a lovely evening with Doug’s parents, Don and Mary Macrae.

It’s been good to be here, to catch our breath, and to be caught by God. There are not a lot of places we truly relax and disconnect, but this is one of them. It is a huge blessing to have access to this getaway.

With sunrises and sunsets bookending the days, we are more than aware of the goodness and presence of God in our lives. We’ve celebrated so much these weeks — from the healthy progression of Kari’s pregnancy, to Lisa’s graduation, to Julie’s wonderful and confirming time in Uganda and her safe return — we give all praise and glory to Him. From marriage conferences to workshops to counseling, we are so aware that apart from Him, we are nothing. We’re more aware than ever that He is our hope. He is our strength. He is our refuge. In Him and Him alone is true life. We celebrate that life!