Life Goes On

The full moon last night (Oct. 14, as I write this) reminds me that we’ve been home from Europe a month now. Re-entry has been harder than expected, quite honestly—and the beautiful summery weather we’ve continued to experience in New England contributes to the desire to keep hiking, biking, and gawking at God’s beautiful creation.  Fortunately, our schedule has allowed us to be so indulged, so we’ve had a “soft” landing, in a manner.

Though it wouldn’t appear that way to some.  Less than 12 hours after returning from Europe, I was driving to Foxboro to launch the Patriots women’s study, which is held every Wednesday morning during the season.  It’s an honor to be leading the study for the second year and we’re all getting a lot out of Cynthia Heald’s Becoming a Woman of Faith.  Fifteen women are involved and it’s truly one of the highlights of my week to interact with these engaged, honest, interactive women.

 A smattering of counseling appointments made their way into the balance of that week and on Saturday, Paul initiated Camp Berea’s Women’s Conference with the first male-presented workshop in its history.  Not surprisingly (from my vantage), he hit it out of the park with the women and received feedback that his was the most highly rated workshop of the weekend.  :)  We received this email regarding his workshop:

“I attended Paul’s workshop this weekend at the Women’s Retreat and he was excellent.  I think the women could have stayed all afternoon and listened to him bring understanding to them about their husbands’ reactions.  He was “right on” according to some of the gals I spoke with.  He was straight to the point and didn’t mince words, which spoke to many of them.  I doubt seriously if many of them have had such a clear delivery of how their husbands hear their words and how they deliver their words.”

He made it back down from Berea in time to have a farewell dinner with our dear friend, Margaret Austin, whose husband was picked up off the Patriots’ practice squad by the Texans—and just like that, they vanished.  We hated to see them go, as both Margaret and Thomas have deep hearts for the Lord and have added great ballast to the couples’ study and women’s study this past year.  But alas, the “Not For Long” league lived up to its reputation.  We’ll miss having them here for a long time.

Margaret Austin and I share a farewell hug before she joined her husband in Houston, where he now suits up for the Texans.

We did something in September we haven't done often in the past eight years since the launch of Home Improvement Ministries: we attended our home church two weeks in a row! It was so good to hear David Swaim (Highrock Church) preach in person rather than hearing him via podcast and to connect with many dear people who attend that church.

We were in full tilt the next week, counseling, doing both Patriots studies, catching up on neglected emails, sorting through piles which just grew over the previous four months of not being home, and regrouping in general.  Adding joy to some of these mundane tasks was having Julie with us for several days leading up to the east coast wedding reception held Sept. 21 at the Macraes’ home in Weston.  Derek joined the festivities on Friday, the 20th, after flying in from Uganda where he had spent the prior two weeks.  Yes, 17 days into their marriage, they experienced a 14-day separation, necessitated by his continuing duties as executive director of the CURE Children’s Hospital in Mbale, Uganda.  Though it wasn’t easy,  they both agreed it was much better than the four-month separations characteristic of their two-year long-distance courtship.

Their reception was delightful as many wonderful friends came to wish them well and to celebrate God’s goodness to them through marriage.  The youngest attendee was 6 weeks old—the first child of one of Julie’s best friends from high school—and the oldest was Thora Eames, at 93, who came with more vim and vigor than most of the middle-aged crowd combined.  We were honored to have my sister Francene and her husband Thom fly up from Virginia for the party, and were thrilled that Lisa's women's soccer team from JMU “just happened” to be playing Northeastern on Sunday, allowing her to catch the tail end of the reception.  It was a great afternoon.

It was a special joy to have Gail MacDonald, long-time family friend and mentor, attend the reception.

And Thora Eames—she inspires all of us!  She brought much energy to the afternoon!!

Doug and Julie Macrae kindly opened their home for the reception which was a huge blessing to all.

Lisa made it off the practice field to catch the tail end of the reception, and we had a happy reunion with her and my sister Francene.

Following the reception, we had the absolute delight of spending a couple of days with Derek and Julie in New Hampshire.  We rode our bikes around Newfound Lake and then swam in it—on Sept. 23 and 24th!!  The warm weather made the lake irresistible and we behaved as though it were summertime.  We enjoyed every minute of this getaway, especially knowing that in a few short months, Derek and Julie will settle in Mbale, Uganda, and such moments will be few and far between.

Mounted on our steeds, we rode the 18-mile circumference of  Newfound Lake on a gorgeous summer-like fall day.

Back to Bedford for the Patriots’ women's study and some counseling before driving with Derek and Julie to Rockport and Gloucester, where we splurged on some fresh-out-of-the-water 2# lobsters.  Home for a delicious New England lobster dinner and a competitive game of “Nickel.”  A perfect ending to a great day.

At Captain Joe’s, we were amazed by this ginormous lobster.  We let him live, and settled on four 2-pounders which were out of this world.

We had a great turnout for the Patriots’ couples study Thursday night and all seem to be engaged in the Jesus on Marriage study Paul wrote for this fall's curriculum.  We're having a lot of good and thought provoking interaction following sharing a meal together.  We're so thankful that Matt and Susie Light are hosting the study again this year.

Off to Pennsylvania we drove to speak at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church, on Sunday, Oct. 2.  En route, we stopped in Lancaster for dinner with one of our cherished mentors, Barbara Boyd.  A contemporary IVCF colleague of Paul’s parents, Barbara is an absolute inspiration to us.  She has faithfully followed Christ since meeting Him in her early 20’s and as we listened to her life story over dinner, we were even more impressed with her incredibly fruitful life.  And with her joyful acceptance of how her life has unfolded.  Engaged to be married to Ralph Willoughby in her late 20’s, her hopes and dreams for a God-honoring marriage were dashed when Ralph died of a virus months before they were to be married.  Barbara never married, but rather than live with the bitterness of unfulfilled dreams, she poured herself in to Kingdom work and was used mightily by God for decades as she served with IVCF.  She is still “green with sap” (Psalm 92) as she continues to live for Him as an octogenarian.  We were deeply touched by our time with her.

We had a great evening with Barbara Boyd as we made our way to Elizabethtown, PA.

It was a true joy to return to Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (EBIC) after having a wonderful introduction to this congregation almost a year ago.  Steve and Liz Lane head up this vital church and it was a delight to spend a bit of time with them while there.  We spoke at both of their Sunday services, taught their very large adult Sunday School class, and did a parenting seminar.  We packed a lot in to a short time and actually hated to leave so quickly—but we had an engagement in Harrisonburg the next night so on we went.

Steve and Liz Lane and their sons Michael and Scottie were wonderful hosts for us at EBIC.

Next stop:  Harrisonburg, Virginia.  After a brief but lovely visit with my sister and her husband, Laura and David Leach, in Burke, Virginia, we drove down to Harrisonburg with Lisa, and spoke at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) large group meeting Monday night.  Lisa has assumed a position of leadership with FCA at JMU this year and she was so happy to have us speak on the topic of relationships to a good-sized group of student athletes.  We loved it and were honored by the opportunity.  It was an added bonus to have some moments with Lisa as well.  Our trip back to Boston on Tuesday was smooth, fast, and uneventful.  That’s the way we like road trips!

Lisa poses with part of her FCA leadership team after the large group meeting Monday night.

Back to Boston in time for the Patriots women’s study, counseling, the Patriots couples’ study, and more counseling.  In between we also spoke at Mom to Mom at Grace Chapel, and it was good to reconnect with many dear friends there.

The moms at Grace Chapel’s Mom to Mom were very happy to have access to resources after we spoke.

We flew to California on Friday, Oct. 7, to attend the wedding of a young man who grew up coming to Campus by the Sea.  Over the years, we’ve become close family friends so it was a joy for us to celebrate with Matt Engle and Tara Klein as they entered the covenant of marriage on Oct. 9.  Derek and Julie joined us for the weekend and due to the gracious generosity of friends who loaned us their "empty" home in Camarillo, we had a wonderfully relaxing and refreshing weekend around the wedding festivities.  We got a bit of work done between hiking, swimming, and having a blast with Derek and Jules—and the wedding was delightful.  A really special highlight of being at the wedding—besides the obvious—was reconnecting with one of my best friends from college, Janet Siemens Spencer and her husband Greg, who is a professor at Westmont.  Janet played the piano at our wedding and we hadn’t seen each other for about 23 years.  We had a great time filling in the blanks of the past many years and made a commitment to stay in better touch.  What an unexpected gift!

We hiked to Paradise Falls in Camarillo with Derek and Julie during the wedding weekend.

 What a joy to reconnect with Greg and Janet Spencer at Matt and Tara Engle’s wedding.

Two last visits before flying back to Boston completed the trip.  We had the joy of meeting Christian Baker Offield, the almost-3-month-old son of Calen and Amber who we married last September.  Since we've known Calen since he was born, it was very special to meet the next generation.  Much to our delight, Calen’s mom, my very dear friend Wendy, was also included in the visit.  We spent the night with another very dear Wendy (Turney), and flew back to Boston on Tuesday, Oct. 11, very, very grateful for a memorable-on-many-levels weekend.

Calen and Amber with their son, Christian, and his grandma, Wendy.

And so life goes on.  We were back in the saddle in New England for a mere 48 hours.  But that’s news for the next blog.