If it’s Monday, we must be in Placentia . . .

We know we’re back in Bedford because there’s snow on the ground.  And it looks and feels dramatically different that what we were experiencing in California and Florida, which is where we’ve been most of the past 3 weeks.  We’ve had amazing moments with God and with His people in many different places, and our days have been full and our nights short - hence, I’m way behind on getting this blog written.  So fasten your seat belts because we’re going to fly through 1700 miles of driving and speaking 14 times in six different cities in California from Feb. 10 through 20th.

After tying up loose ends from the Gary Thomas Parenting conference (Feb. 5) and seeing a number of our counseling clients, we packed up for a 10-day driving tour in California.  It wasn’t quite the warm, sunny California one normally finds in mid-February in this garden state, but it was amusing to us to hear Californians lament the “freezing cold weather” they were having to endure.  :)  Having left 5’ of snow on the ground and temps in the single digits, you can imagine our lack of sympathy.  Though it was quite spectacular to see the snow-topped mountains behind Pasadena—a very unusual sight.

We arrived in Orange County late Thursday night and settled in to our home base for the next 10 days, hospitably opened to us by our dear friend, Wendy Turney.  Her “B and B” is charming and exceeded only by her.  We love to spend time with this great lady and each night we were there, we chatted way late into the night.  Good therapy for the soul.

The weekend conference for the Desert Vineyard Church (located in the Lancaster/Palmdale area) was held in Westlake Village and launched Friday evening.  Long time friends from Campus by the Sea had spearheaded the invitation for us to speak at their annual conference, and we’re so glad they did.  We fell in love with the heart of this church and were incredibly impressed with their senior pastor and his wife, David and Nancy Parker.  The church serves a community racked by gang violence, broken families, and a high incidence of substance abuse issues.  Their commitment is to be Jesus with flesh on to this very hurting population and to love them into the Kingdom.  From the top down, it was apparent that they are doing just that, and we found it refreshing to be with a large group of people who really know what is it to be the recipients of God’s grace and forgiveness.  They seemed to truly grasp that He is their only hope.

Our sessions with them were very well received and we had some great interaction with a number of couples.  It was a great start to our trip and a true honor to partner with this vitally Christian group.

Tom and April Garcia got the ball rolling on our partnership with Desert Vineyard, and Crystal and Brian Roseborough made it happen.

Tom and April Garcia got the ball rolling on our partnership with Desert Vineyard, and Crystal and Brian Roseborough made it happen.

Senior pastor David Parker and his wife Nancy were delightful.  Our lives have followed a very similar path and we felt a real kinship with them.

We drove to San Marcos on Sunday afternoon after the conference to take Julie out for a Valentine’s dinner (since it was a bit far for Derek to do the honors). We got to see her newest living situation, chat with some of her colleagues and friends at PT school (where they were studying), and had a nice dinner together before returning to Wendy Turney’s B and B.  We feel so blessed by every opportunity to hang with our kids.

Valentine’s Day was full of love.  :)  It started with a breakfast reunion with our longest mentoring couple, John and Grace Tebay.  How we treasure time with these saints!  Now in their late seventies, they continue to teach us how to live fully surrendered lives for Him.  Their lives are so winsome:  full, content, purposeful, making a difference.  What gifts they are to us!  Breakfast passed all too quickly—and then it was time for lunch, with more Tebays.  This time we met up with their youngest son, David, and his wife, Carrie.  David is the senior pastor of Calvary Church of Placentia—the church his father pastored for 50 years—and is also one of our CBS family camp speakers.  It was great to catch up with them and to get set for our evening at their church.

Speaking that night at their Valentine’s Couples’ Night Out was an incredible gift to us.  It has been years since we were in that church which was the site of many significant moments in our family history.  Paul was commissioned into ministry at Calvary Church of Placentia in 1972 by Pastor John and the elders.  His father’s memorial service was held there in 1983.  His sister Beth’s wedding happened there in 1984.  It was an evening full of nostalgia and reminders of God’s faithfulness to us through the years.  Many of those in attendance were long time friends and it was so heartening to see them continuing their journey towards the heart of God.  There were three generations of Tebays there, as David and Carrie’s children were part of the serving team.

There were also three generations of Brushwylers there, and that was one of the highlights of the evening for us.  Pam Brushwyler Curlee served on the kitchen staff at CBS in the mid-80’s, and she was “in charge” of the dinner for this Valentine’s event.  We were thrilled to meet her husband and two children and to see her parents, Gordon and Carol.  Pam took the time to let us know how shaping her summers at CBS had been for her spiritual growth, which was very humbling for us to hear.  It was a night full of gifts to our souls.  Another CBS couple, Herb and Karen Huitt, were also there. They are such tributes to the blessings of perseverance even when things don’t go exactly as you’ve envisioned them.  We’ve traveled many roads with Herb and Karen over the years, and God’s faithfulness again is the theme of our friendship with them.

It was a great night.

Our late night was great too as we strategically drove to Santa Clarita during non-traffic hours (if there is such a time in SoCal!) and spent the night with our close friends, David and Cherylyn Hegg.  We’re always inspired by them; we love their hearts and feel very in sync with them as ministry partners, parents of adult children, and grandparents.  We talked too late for ones our age, but it was well worth a slightly higher level of fatigue the next day.  After a great early morning breakfast, we hit the road northbound to “Brandon-land,” aka Sacramento.

At the Calvary Church Valentine’s Couples Dinner. John and Grace Tebay, Herb and Karen Huitt, and David and Carrie Tebay sat with us.

Of course we love being with Gabe and Kari, but we all know that they don’t change much in a month, so our focus of course is the rapidly changing one, Brandon.  At five months, he’s full of smiles and curiosity.  He still has met no stranger.  He’s learning to use his vocal chords and is discovering that he can move to get what he wants.  The miracle of birth and growth amazes us anew as we watched this little guy develop.

Five-month-old Brandon has no trouble sporting a toothless grin.  :)

Way too soon after arriving in Sacramento, we “went to work.”  We spoke at BOSS Remix that night, wrapping up their annual series on “God Loves Sex” and were honored to do so.  We’re humbled to partner with Gabe and Kari in that vital ministry and love rubbing shoulders with their students.  So many of them are hearing for the first time about God’s design for their sexuality, and their hunger for truth is refreshing.  We followed the evening meeting with late night burritos around Gabe and Kari’s kitchen table, squeezing all we could out of our short but wonderful visit.

Students at Remix listen intently to our talk on God’s design for sexuality.

Kari takes a break from the book table to mug with one of her “girls.”

Early Wednesday morning, Feb. 16, we headed to north Sacramento for breakfast with some of our best friends, Ray and Carol Johnston, before speaking to a moms group at Bridgeway Church.  It’s always so much fun to speak to such groups as it’s so unusual for a man to address them. Paul’s perspective is always appreciated and it was a very positive morning.

I’m not sure who does our scheduling :) but we had to be in San Luis Obispo by 6:30 that night for a 7 p.m. speaking engagement, so with only a brief stop in south Sacramento to give Brandon another hug and kiss, we zipped off to SLO.  What a beautiful drive!  The rains had greened the hillsides and bright blue skies dotted with puffy white cumulus clouds filled the backdrop.  We really did enjoy the journey.

Our evening meeting was at Grace Church, whose family pastor, Ken Peet, invited us to speak to parents and teens on God’s design for sexual purity.  The turnout was huge and the attentiveness of the audience was spectacular.  It was a great evening and according to Ken has spawned many good interactions since.  What fun for us to go back to Lisa and Julie’s old stomping grounds!  In spite of a very short stay, we managed to have bbq tri-tips at Firestones and frozen yogurt at Bali’s.  :)  We also had a wonderful visit wit Jan and H.A. Northington, who graciously provided a place for us to stay that night.

The students and their parents are listing qualities they think will be important in a mate.

We were up early (there is a theme) and off to Pismo Beach for a consulting meeting before continuing south all the way to San Diego, stopping at San Marcos en route to pick up Julie for a night at the theater.  A true highlight of our trip was going to see “The Wizard of Oz” on stage that night.  Philip Northington, a long time friend who grew up as a family camper and now is part of the cast of this traveling show, invited us to be his guests and we had a lovely evening.  Since Phil didn’t perform that night, he got to sit with us and share his insider tips on the show.  It was really fun to be with him.

My mom, Julie, and Phil at the theater for a great stage production of “The Wizard of Oz”

We were on the move again Friday (shocking!) from San Diego back to Orange County for a family conference at The Rock in Yorba Linda.  By now it really was “If it’s Friday we must be in Orange County . . .” on this a-different-city-almost-every-day tour!!!  This conference was arranged by Brent and Melissa Slezak, a sweet family who attend CBS family camp.   Friday night was another teen-parent evening dealing with issues of purity and working together as families towards that end.  It was a really good evening and we were very impressed with the mature behavior of the teens and the receptivity of all.  The next morning, we were back at the church to do a parenting seminar, and that also went very well.  Many of the couples in attendance are CBS family campers who look very different “dressed” for proper society.  We took this photo as proof that their wardrobe does include more than shorts, bathing suits, and flip flops.  :)  We loved being with them at the half-way mark between family camps.

Families at “The Rock” who also attend family camp at CBS were very supportive of the parenting seminar.

After reconnecting with another set of treasured mentors in our lives, Bob and Carol Kraning, and visiting with Paul’s sister Carol and her family in Brea, we went back to Wendy Turney’s for the final night in SoCal.  Sunday morning we attended Mariners Church with friends.  It was a treat to introduce two very special couples to one another.  They both attend Mariners, but would likely have never met each other, given the size of the church.  Both couples are really close friends of our Lisa’s (and ours!) and we think they’ll enjoy each other.  The time at church and at our last Mexican lunch for awhile was delightful.

Colin and Heather Vataha (and baby Laila)—transplants from New England to Huntington Beach—and Calen and Amber Offield (and Mom Wendy) joined us at Mariners for church and then lunch on our final day in SoCal.

Back to Wendy Turney’s to pack and fly home.  This picture of me and Wendy by the blooming lemon tree proves that our location is not in Boston.  With solar batteries recharged and hearts full and overflowing with gratitude for safe travels (over 1500 miles driving) and great experiences in six different cities and venues, we jetted up to San Francisco for one last treat before returning to Boston.

Wendy’s hospitality was over the top, making us feel very, very loved.

Our final treat was having dinner with our dearest friends, John and Marilyn Nugent.  Now residents of San Francisco, they zipped over to the airport to take advantage of our three-hour layover.  Over a leisurely dinner, we caught up on what God is doing in each of our lives and added more ballast to our cherished friendship.  It was the perfect ending to a very satisfying and successful trip.

Outside the SF airport, we grab some moments with our dear friends John and Marilyn Nugent.

And so the sun sets on a fabulous trip.  And it’s back to the snow piles . . . but not for long!