Don't miss the leaves...or Jesus...this fall

Fall is unmatched in beauty as seen in New England.  We poked around Stowe, Vermont, en route home from Montreal, and were treated to beautiful views and breathtaking colors.

The past month has evaporated, but not without leaving behind many wonderful moments experienced in California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Montreal.  No wonder we find ourselves needing some refueling!

My days with Gabe, Kari, and Brandon all too quickly came to a close as I flew home Sept. 14th.  I will forever cherish the memories of those wonderful first days of his life and the gift of sharing once-in-a-lifetime moments with Gabe and Kari.  I’ve thought a lot about the joy of those days.  It’s been a really long time since I’ve been so completely and myopically focused on just one thing: in this case, the birth of our first grandchild.  I can’t remember a time when “nothing else mattered” — nothing was more important than enjoying him and serving them.  I wasn’t too busy, too tired, or too divided to do whatever needed to be done, be it making a meal, doing laundry, or rocking the baby.

God has spoken to me through the beginning of this new season of our lives.  He has gently reminded me that my relationship with Him warrants this same kind of devotion and focus.  He wants this same kind of priority placed on growing my relationship with Him.  He wants me to choose Him above the distractions of email, Facebook, running, etc.  I’m being re-calibrated, and it’s good.

Brandon continues to dominate our thoughts and hearts.  Here he is at 9 days old.  It was so hard to leave him on his 16th day of life.

Like mother, like son.  Those dimples…

So safe and secure in the loving arms of his parents . . .
Brandon has no cares in the world.

Finally, Auntie Lisa gets to hold Brandon, a few days shy of his three-week birthday.
Back in Boston Sept. 15th, I joined 9 Patriot’s wives at their request to lead the women’s Bible study this year.  Both honored and intimidated by the invitation, I’ve spent a lot of time praying about this unusual opportunity for months since being asked to do it.  We launched the Wednesday study on the 15th, using John Ortberg’s newest book The Me I Want to Be as a springboard for discussion.   I felt very met by God at that first study and am very hopeful that God will change all of us through our time together.

The next night we launched the Patriot couples’ Bible study and were delighted to have a good showing of mostly veteran players and wives.  We start with dinner, which provides fellowship time, and end with Bible study, which is very interactive and by God’s grace, disciple-making.  We can’t believe we’re in our eleventh season leading this study.  We are grateful each year for the privilege of serving in this way.

About 48 hours after landing in Boston, we were headed back to California.  On Saturday, September 17, Paul officiated at the wedding of lifelong friend, Calen Offield, and his bride Amber Clark.  Lisa, Calen, and his twin sister Kelsey grew up on Catalina Island together as best buds and have continued to remain close throughout the 27 years of their lives.  It was an honor to do this wedding for “chosen family” friends.  Calen and Amber have prepared well for their life together.  They attended Engagement Matters with us in January, and both are committed to having a long-lasting, God-honoring life together.  Paul did a great job on the wedding and many are still talking about how inspirational his message was as he spoke on God’s design for marriage.  We are so thankful!

Julie and Lisa flew in for Calen and Amber’s wedding, much to our delight!

Chase, Wendy, Amber, Calen, Packy, and Kelsey Offield celebrate the nuptials in the backyard of the Catalina home they grew up in.
Wedding festivities dominated Friday and Saturday and continued for us on Sunday and Monday as we enjoyed a variety of Island Company tours, including the new Eco-Zipline adventure.  What a blast that was!

Even at 60, he hasn’t lost his zip!

We also “shot” two rounds of 18 holes at the world famous Avalon miniature golf course.  We laughed and cheated our way through both rounds and decided we shouldn’t quit our day jobs to take up golf.

Before we set sail for the mainland, we spoke at a marriage event at the Avalon Community Church.  Organized by Paul’s sister, Carol, and her husband, Wayne, we were delighted to have a semi-full crowd in the sanctuary who seemed very interested in gaining some insights into God’s design for marriage.  What a great opportunity to impact a small community on an island that will always be very dear to our hearts.

Back to Boston late Tuesday night, Sept. 20th, in time to do the Pat’s wives study Wednesday, followed by hours of counseling.  Thursday started with counseling, and was followed by the couples’ study, with Big Jim Martis catering a great bbq dinner.   This is the 4th year Jim has cooked for the study and everyone always loves it when he comes.

Jim Martis stands with Matt Light, Steven Neal, and Don Hasselbeck as dinner is served.
Early Friday morning, we headed out again - this time by car!  We drove to Montreal, Canada, to speak at the second Evangelical Armenian Church Marriage Conference.  We spoke at the first such conference in September of 2008, held in Boston, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to reconnect with this wonderful group of people again.  “Badveli” George Dabbos and his wife Priscille hosted the conference at their flourishing church, and couples from Toronto and Boston made their way to Montreal to take advantage of it.  It was such a blessing for us to be with them!  They were like sponges, eager to learn more about God’s design for marriage, and we were impressed at the end of every session that they asked great questions and didn’t really want to stop.  Our hearts grew deeper for them with each interaction.  We were also very impressed at their stamina: after a long day Saturday, topped off by a late night end to the banquet session, one of the older couples suggested that gelato would be a perfect nightcap.  We arrived at the adorable gelato shop after midnight!  I’m not sure what they were going on, but I can tell you that we were happily exhausted!

Paul preached on Sunday morning — in English, of course, through an automatic translation system.  We were quite impressed (to say the least) that most of the Armenians there speak four languages, and English, for most, is language #3 or 4.  Definitely puts mono-linguistic Americans to shame.  He was very well received, even when he said that it was more important that one marry a vital believer than that one marry an Armenian. :)  We felt so warmly received and were so well cared for.  Sunday night we had a lively evening with George and Priscille and Monday night with his associate, Raffi and Arpi and their adorable daughters.   We spent Monday touring downtown Montreal by foot before making the beautiful drive home on Tuesday.  It was a fruitful and delightful time.

We just received this email from the associate pastor of the Montreal church:

       The entire weekend was filled with a joyful godly presence as we dug out
       rich truths through your teachings.  All those who were present were
       enriched, even last minutes skeptical participants were so excited that they
       were rebuking those who did not make the effort to join us.

       Your deep and insightful teaching was beneficial for both our relationships
       and godly living. All our preparation and work behind organizing this event
       was outweighed by the blessings that followed.

       It was our joy to have you both with us and would ask that you consider
       calling on us on any occasion that brings you near our area. It would be our
       pleasure to be able to accommodate you and always look forward to your

All praise to Him!

Some of the couples who drove up from Boston for the conference.

Out for delicious Lebanese food with “Badveli” George and Priscille Dabbos.
The drive from Montreal to Boston was beautiful, in spite of it being overcast and rainy at times.  Fall has come early to Stowe, Vermont, so we took full advantage of it and spent a while meandering through the town and even making it up to the Von Trapp Family Lodge, which is one of my favorite places in Stowe.  It placed a large exclamation point on a really good weekend.

A very cute fall display on a sidewalk in Stowe.
Home late afternoon Tuesday, and I was off to the Patriots’ Women’s Study first thing Wednesday morning.  :)  There’s a little pattern going here.  After another great morning with the ladies, I’m feeling more relaxed and comfortable with God having me with them.  Back up to Bedford for counseling all afternoon and evening....and then more of the same Thurs.  Couples’ Study that night with a smaller turn-out, but a very worthwhile evening.

We didn’t drive out or fly out Friday a.m. :)

We did speak, however, locally, at the Mom to Mom group at the Trinitarian Church in Wayland.  Our talk on in-law relationships spawned so many questions that they ditched small groups and stayed as a large group while we fielded the questions.  We loved it!  Great morning.

Saturday and Sunday were Engagement Matters, and though the group was small (six couples), we’ve grown to expect this turnout for our fall session.  We thoroughly enjoyed each of the couples, and love the deeper interaction which is afforded by small numbers.  The Macraes graciously hosted the weekend and the response from the couples was really positive.  We continue to love this weekend.

I also spoke Saturday night at Grace Community Church’s Women’s Fall Kick-Off Dinner!  What a delight it was!  Women really do know how to create ambience and put together a lovely event.  Allison Nash, director of Women’s Ministries, and her team did a beautiful job on the whole evening, from a 5-star dinner prepared by their in-house chef, Toby, to special music by the Ross Sisters — the evening would’ve been fine without me.  :)  But, they had me speak anyway, and I felt that God did give me a message.  Armed with many insights gained from my Brandon moments, I spoke on how easy it is to miss Jesus due to our distractions, disappointments, and deceptions.  It was grace that I received much positive feedback afterwards.  Apparently I’m not the only one who struggles to stay focused on my priorities.  :)

After EM ended Sunday afternoon, I made my way over to Guy and Barbara Steele’s home to honor their future daughter-in-law, Stephanie Chin, with a bridal shower.  I had been very impressed with Stephanie when she and Matthew  attended EM over a year ago, but I was even more impressed with her when she made the decision to commit part of her bridal shower to assembling boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  What a great reflection of her heart!  And what a great way to assimilate 35 women, ranging in age from college students to those who had graduated from college about 4 decades ago.  :)  Everyone worked together, wrapping and filling boxes, producing 29 completed packages which will brighten the Christmas season for needy children around the world.  What a great idea!

The shower was lovely in every way.  Stephanie and Matthew did receive many lovely gifts, and the guests were feted to a delicious spread of “tea party” food provided by MJM Catering.

Stephanie and her mother May help assemble the boxes for OCC.
And, if that wasn’t enough, we had a H.I.M. Church Reps dinner that evening.  :)  We really do have to pack it in when we’re in town!  About 35 enthusiastic friends of H.I.M. came to the Macrae home for a fabulous dinner (incentive enough for most to come!) and exposure to the H.I.M. events in the upcoming year.  There was a great spirit and a strong commitment to spread the word so many can take advantage of the strategic events we host.

And then, we collapsed.  Happily — but definitely — out of steam.

Some of those who attended the Church Reps Dinner at Macraes.
And so we’re off and running, grateful for opportunities to influence lives for Christ.  Our prayer for you, as well as for ourselves, is that we won’t miss Jesus in the craziness of our over-committed lives.