We're really not in Hawaii anymore...

We flew from Atlanta to Boston on Monday the 28th of March, welcomed home by a very spring-like day.  Matthew, who along with his mom picked us up at the airport, was thrilled to discover the crocuses in our front yard, as were we.  Tthese fragile purple flowers are the unmistakeable symbol that winter has lost its grip and spring is coming.  And so it was a rather rude awakening . . .

Matthew poses with our “field” of crocuses . . .

. . . to be greeted by snow several days later.  Wow!  Classic New England!  Though everyone knows it won’t hang around long at this point in the year, it was disconcerting to more than a few who felt like there’s been more than enough snow already this winter.

. . . which were buried three days later by the April Fools Day snowstorm.

We jumped right in to life as we know it when we’re home.  Paul actually made an airport run later the night we returned to help out a friend!  His servant-heartedness touches so many.  Counseling, sorting mail, unpacking, and preparing for two H.I.M. events in the next two weekends filled that week.  We always try to accommodate invitations from local churches when we’re in town, so the weekend of Engagement Matters, April 2-3, ended up being very, very full.

Friday night, April 1, we spoke at North Shore Community Baptist Church for a couples dessert night.  Hosted by Ryan and Kelly Plosker, the evening was well done and enjoyed by 40-50 couples.  In typical Kelly fashion, the tables were decorated simply and beautifully, and both fruit and sweet desserts were available.  She even took the labels off the water bottles because they clashed with the colors.  :)  The extra mile!

We so enjoyed the evening.  The couples responded well to the teaching and seemed to really appreciate having a date night with a purpose.

The tables were beautifully set . . .
. . . and the couples were very engaged in the teaching.

Early Saturday morning, we headed to the Macrae home in Weston to hold Engagement Matters.  We had a lively collection of 16 couples who hailed from all over New England, as well as one couple from Seattle and two couples from Pennsylvania.  Along with Ryan and Kelly Plosker, we taught through lots of material on God’s design for marriage and challenged the couples with many practical considerations in light of God’s Word.  We enjoyed interacting with this thoughtful group who seemed to have a sincere desire to make wise decisions.  We have such a deep heart for this arm of our ministry, believing that doing good work prior to marriage can increase the chance of experiencing a more fulfilling and God-honoring marriage.  We’re grateful for these couples who contributed to this being another successful weekend.

Engagement Matters weekend is always a highlight for us.

Most of the couples posed for a photo at the end of our last session.

Saturday night, we drove straight from the end of the first day of Engagement Matters to Medway Community Church to speak for a couples date night there.  We have a long history with that church, having spoken at their first couples date night back in 1995.  The many return visits since have endeared this congregation to us.  It was great to meet their new pastor (it's always a good thing when the senior pastor shows up at such events in the life of the church!) and to reconnect with old friends.  Though we were pretty beat by the end of the evening, we were really glad for the opportunity to partner with Medway.

At 2 am Sunday the 3rd, a family of four from Moses Lake, Washington, arrived to spend a week at our house.  Kent and Staci Copley have been featured in previous blogs, as Kent serves as the executive pastor of Moses Lake Alliance Church and has invited us to speak at their marriage conference multiple times over the past years.  One of the joys of doing that has been developing a deepening friendship with their family, so they chose to spend their spring break exploring Boston and hanging out with us.  Their flight was delayed out of Denver; hence their very late arrival.

Monday morning waffles with Kent, Staci, Tori, and Britni Copley, who spent a week with us.

We had a blast with them!  We love their daughters who are absolutely delightful, and the parents aren't too bad either.  We had many fun moments with them (around our counseling schedule and final preparation for the “Worth It” conference held April 9) and loved having the laughter of little girls in our home again.  We had lobster races with the fresh catch bought in Maine, watched American Idol together (an indoctrination for us, since we have never really found the time or priority to tune in to this popular show), and shared many leisure meals together while we heard about their adventures in and around Boston.  It was truly a joy to have them.

We wrapped up Engagement Matters that Sunday afternoon, and then Paul headed off to his next speaking engagement: a men’s event at Grace Community Church in Chelmsford.  Bill Keating, who arranged the evening, was thrilled with the large turnout of men and Paul has received very positive feedback on his talk.  It’s so encouraging to partner with a church that is committed to building into men.  Though truly exhausted by this time,  Paul was honored to be a part of this movement at GCC.

We also had a low moment in this week: we completely missed a speaking engagement on Thursday, March 31.  It was an awful moment to receive a call at 9:56 am that morning and to hear the voice on the other end say, “We have 57 women that are waiting to hear you speak this morning.  Are you on the way?”  Paul was at the office, and I was knee deep in preparing the house for our house guests—and for the first time in our many years of ministry, we had completely forgotten about a commitment.  Though we offered to jump in the car and try to salvage the morning (after admitting that we had failed to remember), the gracious woman said not to worry, that we could reschedule.

It was a huge moment of grace.  Her response was so gracious.  She said, “Having just returned from spending days with my mother who has stage 4 cancer, you not coming this morning is minor.  Please don’t worry about it.  The ladies are having a great time talking and we’ll all look forward to rescheduling you.”

Wow!  What a gift she gave us that morning.  Though we really did feel terrible, she was clear in insisting that we not lose sleep over it.  We’ll be touched by her response for a long time to come.

No, we’re not in Hawaii anymore, but we’re truly glad to be back in New England with many folks we love and are privileged to serve with.  There’s no place like home . . .
. . . unless it would be Sacramento, California, where our precious little-big grandson is growing and changing daily.  Here he is pictured at 7 months with his Red Sox colors proudly displayed.  Now if he could only bring them a little luck . . .

7-month-old Brandon makes it harder to live 3,000 miles away.