Risen Indeed!

With California gas prices well over $4.00 a gallon, and a one-way rental car fee exorbitant, we enjoyed our first train ride in quite some time as we made our way down the Pacific Coast from Arroyo Grande to Orange County.  What a great way to travel!  We enjoyed the view along the coast, and when that ran out (because the train turned inland), we were productive on our computers, and when we arrived in Irvine, met by our dear friend Wendy Offield, we were rested and ready to go!  Good decision.

Julie and Derek picked us up the next morning and we drove together to Santa Clarita to meet with the wedding coordinator on site at Grace Baptist Church.  What fun to be with them!   Derek had flown in from Uganda the previous day in time to help Jules celebrate her 26th birthday, and every day of the week he was stateside was treasured.  After a great day getting wedding stuff done, we had an animated evening with Wendy over dinner and headed out early the next morning to pick up Kari and Brandon from the San Diego airport.  That was the first of many airport runs: over the next few days, Derek's sister arrived, followed by Lisa, and finally Derek's parents.  It was a “meet-the-parents” event for the parents—and we were so thankful for the time together to get to know each other a bit.  We rented a house on the beach in Encinitas for all of us and that was brilliant in terms of giving us lots of hanging out time between events.  We talked a lot, enjoyed good food, walked on the beach, watched the sunset each night, and played a few rounds of a Johnson card game called “Nickel” after night had fallen.  Great times.

Derek and Julie enjoy the view from Wendy's house in Laguna Beach.  Quite honestly, they would've enjoyed being anywhere, as long as they were together.

Three ladies and a baby . . . We're not sure what we did for entertainment before Brandon arrived.  :)  Left to right:  Lisa, Julie, Kari holding 8-month-old Brandon.

The occasion which brought us all together from the four corners was a bridal shower for Julie.  Our dear friend, Jodee Neal, hosted the gala at her home in Poway and the afternoon tea party on Easter Saturday was lovely in every way.  It was a wonderful reunion of family and friends, and amazingly, five of the six Collins “girls” (my sibs) were there, one of Paul’s sisters, as well as my mom.  Julie was honored to have lacrosse teammates from her Cal Poly years, Derek's mom and sister, and a variety of cousins and other family.  Her Grandma Collins gave a very fitting devotional from her vantage point of an almost-63-year marriage, and her words were meaningful to all.  A trivia game filled in some personal information about both Derek and Julie, and then Julie was showered with many beautiful personal gifts which won't be shown on this blog.  It really was a great time celebrating something so good and God-honoring as their upcoming nuptials.

Jodee Neal hosted the shower for Julie and did a beautiful job.

Julie listens intently as her Grandma Collins gives the devotional at the shower.

Five of the six Collins sisters were able to celebrate with Julie at the shower.  (l-r: Sue Hekman, Lucy Silveira, Melissa Collins, Francene Green)

Brittney, Chelsea, and Janelle looked different at the shower than they did on the lacrosse field!  All four are very tough (and beautiful!) competitors.

It meant so much to Julie that so many gathered to celebrate with her.

Easter Sunday was full of the inimitable joy spawned by the reality of the resurrection.  After our traditional breakfast of almond puff pastry in the shape of a cross, the Johnsons and Friesens went to services at Seacoast Community Church.  Besides a solid message by Dale Burke and inspiring worship, we connected with some of our long time friends from CBS family camp.   They're everywhere!!

Just in from church, we get a shot of both families, still dressed up.  We're so thankful that Julie's in-laws are vital Christ-followers and that they raised a son like Derek.

Easter dinner was hosted by my oldest sister, Lucy, and her husband Rick, in their lovely old Victorian home in downtown San Diego.  I think there were about 28 for the afternoon and the gathering was amazingly lacking in chaos.  Great moments of reinforcing family ties.

Rick and Lucy Silveira and Derek and Julie strike a pose before the exodus begins.

And then the airport runs began.  Kari and Brandon actually left Saturday night so they could be with Gabe for Easter and for his birthday (which along with our 35th anniversary, landed on Easter!)  By Monday morning, we were all on outbound flights to OK, VA, MA, and Uganda—thankful for the days shared and looking forward to the wedding.  Derek and Julie were especially thankful that this will be their last pre-marriage farewell.

We returned to Boston refreshed and full of gratitude for these very special days.  He is risen indeed!!

The sun sets on Derek and Julie's last farewell before they get married in August.