Closing Out 2010 (Part 1)

3.5 month old Brandon is growing like a weed!

Christmas has come and gone, and there are many blog entries from this past month that have not made it beyond my mind.  I’m sure you’re getting as tired of reading (as I am of writing) “Where has the time gone??  It has flown by!”—so I won’t write it again.  But it’s still true.  And I’ve talked with more than a few of you who agree, which is comforting in its own discomforting way.  I know there must be a way to slow things down, but I also know that it’s harder than ever to do so with the pervasive invasion of technological devices that fill in the gaps which previously existed in any 24/7 time period.

We’re in our airborne “office” as we wing our way to the big island of Hawaii for a week plus of R and R, and as is always true, I’m loving the solitude one finds on a flight.  No real interruptions, save an occasional drink cart bumping down the narrow aisle.  Usually when a flight ends, we are launched into a weekend of ministry opportunities, but at this flight’s end, we’ll enter a period of mostly rest.  It’s a very promising way to enter the new year, even though we’re somewhat envious (honestly) of our New England friends who are being buried by a blizzard as we fly into 80 degree sunny skies which frame the crown jewel islands of the Pacific.

Our lives became richer this fall when our dear friend Helen Challener let us know of a couple in her church in upstate New York who would need a place to stay while the husband received proton radiation treatment at Mass General Hospital.  We invited Al and Bonnie to live with us during the 2-3 month process and we have fallen in love with this very dear couple.  We’ve shared many meals together and discovered many areas of compatibility, the most treasured one being our love for the Lord.  Al will hopefully be done with treatments in mid-January, and we’ll bid them adieu, knowing we’ve made life long friends.

Al and Bonnie moved in just after Julie’s engagement and we’ve become fast friends.

These past weeks are blurry in my fatigued mind and body, but memorable nonetheless.  Just before Thanksgiving, I spoke at Barbara Becker’s 6th annual Creative Memories Scrapbooking Weekend held at the Old Sea Pines Inn in Brewster.  To a sold out crowd of (mostly) serious scrapbookers, I spoke four times, and in between talks, did a bit of scrapping myself.  I love this weekend and am so honored to partner with Barbara on it.
One of the things that strikes me at this weekend every year is how important memories of people-centered events are to us.  All through the weekend, women work intensely on projects that are all about important people in their lives.  Memories, mostly good but some painful, are captured in artistically rendered settings made with colorful papers and stickers to join pages upon pages of life moments in a book.  These treasured books keep the past alive and preserved for the generations to come.  As I challenged the women, however,  God’s call to us is to thrive in the present.  The enemy’s strategy is to ensnare us in the past, as that will effectively cost us both the present and the future.  We must press to find the balance between the two worlds.

All thirty women broke for a special dinner Saturday night before getting back to the saltmines to scrap.

While I was speaking in Brewster, Paul was speaking in Sandwich.  Mike Allen invited him to give a stewardship charge to the congregation at Lighthouse Christian Fellowship as the culmination of a series he had given.  Paul loves to give and believes in the discipleship commitment of giving, so he happily embraced the call.  Mike later wrote that his congregation committed more financially than ever before. God obviously used Paul significantly.

I drove straight from Brewster to Sandwich, where Paul and I connected, and then on to Gillette Stadium where we joined 65,000 others to cheer the Patriots to a decisive victory over the Colts.  At the dinner in the tunnel afterwards, we had the delight of sitting with Danny Woodhead’s family and talking about our mutual passion for kingdom values, especially related to marriage and family.  That was a definite highlight.

Arriving at Gillette for the Patriots’ dominance over the Colts.  

As I’ve said in previous blogs, leading the Patriots’ Wives study this fall has been a joy and a delight.  In addition to doing the study, we’ve had three different baking workshops, featuring jam making, cinnamon rolls, and almond puff pastry.  Just before Thanksgiving, we had fun making cinnamon rolls together.

These Patriot wives show off their “monkey bread,” made with cinnamon roll dough.  It was delicious!

Thanksgiving was different this year, as we headed south to northern Virginia and for the first time in over 30 years, did not find my parents there.  They are adjusting to life in San Diego, and we’re all trying to adjust to life without them on the east coast.  We had a wonderful time with two of my sisters and their families, as well as with Julie.  Lisa was in Cancun.  Tough life.  She assumed the role of interim ATC for the women’s division 1 basketball team at JMU as soon as soccer ended and this was her first gig.  :)  She assures us she missed being with everyone at Thanksgiving—but also admits that it was a pretty nice vacation at an all-inclusive resort for 4 days.

Post-Thanksgiving feast in Sutherland, VA, with my sister Francene, her husband Thom, son Jon, and our bro-in-law David.
Home late Monday, counseling and Patriots Tuesday through Thursday, and then off to California early on Friday.  This time to Monterey, one of the most spectacular seaside towns along the central California coastline.  We filled in for our dear, dear friends, Johnny and Lori Potter, who took leave from their responsibilities as lead pastor to vacation with their children in New Zealand.  John and Marilyn Nugent, Board members for H.I.M. and chosen family friends, drove down from San Francisco to join us for the weekend and that made the whole experience even more special.

We spoke Friday night on marriage to an intimate gathering at the home of Dave and Suzanne Overton.  Loved it.  Saturday we hung with the Nugents, taking walks between rainy spells and exploring the world-reknowned Monterey Aquarium.  Sunday Paul preached at the service, followed by lunch with nine young married couples from Stone Harbor, where we fielded questions about building sacred marriages.  Almost nothing thrills us more than helping couples wrestle with God’s design for marriage. Our time with them was stimulating and very interactive.  We rounded out the day by watching the Pats rout the Jets.  Few in Monterey understood our joy.  :)

At the Monterey Aquarium with John and Marilyn Nugent.

The young marrieds from Stone Harbor chewed on more than lunch as we fielded questions about marriage.

The jelly fish exhibit at the aquarium was spellbinding.


We stayed through Monday in Monterey, knowing we were returning to more intensity, and thoroughly enjoyed our only dry day.  Tuesday was a travel day and Wednesday we repeated the cycle:  Pats’ wives study, counseling, more counseling, Pats’ couples study, fly out on Friday.

Whew!!  In between the lines, we spent plenty of time getting ready for Christmas:  sewing, baking, making caramel corn, batches of jam, shopping, wrapping, mailing, etc.  Sadly, not as much time preparing my heart.  Fortunately, God’s arms are wide open and His love isn’t determined by my preparation.  As the craziness has squeezed out most of my routines, including quiet times and running, I’ve experienced more homesickness than guilt.  And that’s reflection of His unconditional love and boundless grace.  Wow.