The Oct. 30, 2011 Nor’easter created great hardship for millions, but also painted some unusually beautiful vignettes which prompted the question, “What's wrong with this picture?”
What a month it’s been! We returned from California on Oct. 25, got through days of counseling and the two Patriots studies, and then hunkered down for the Nor’easter of 2011. Not to minimize the very challenging circumstances that evolved from this unprecedented October storm, but we were secretly very pleased to be in town to “experience” it firsthand rather than read the reports about it (which seems more typical for us due to our travels.) Let me also confess that since we only lost electricity for about 10 hours, we faced none of the hardships incurred by so many others, so we could “enjoy” it as few could. At any rate, we were awed to see the power of God in nature and the unusual marriage of fall colors and snow. Wild weather!
November was ushered in by our annual evening with the couples at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. We love Lita Schleuter, director of the seminary wives program, and are honored to partner with her and to mix with the students. We always find this engagement stimulating as we interact with those preparing for ministry and struggling with the somewhat unknown future challenges of balancing marriage, family, and ministry. It was a great evening, capped with a brief but sweet visit with some of our family friends’ students who are attending Gordon College.
We received this kind email from Lita after our evening together:
Paul and Virginia,
What joy it is to always have you come and encourage future church leaders!! You are indeed preparing soldiers of the Cross!
Your teaching reached across cultures - in the audience were couples who are already leaders in their countries, and they were greatly encouraged by God's word as presented by the two of you.
Thank you for making yourselves available to God to bless His Church!
In Christ’s joy,
We were so honored to spend the evening at GCTS with Bonnie Robinson and Lita and Dan Schleuter, along with many student couples.
Hannah Bastedo, Holland Stewart, and Monica Wong are family friends all studying at Gordon College, so we had a late night “Nick’s Roast Beef” run after speaking at the seminary.
Our long-awaited “Sacred Marriage” conference happened the first weekend of November, and Danny and Rayna Oertli’s arrival on Thursday, November 3rd, got the ball rolling when we picked them up en route to the Patriots couples study so the couples could enjoy a mini-concert. Our group was smaller that evening since many of the couples had been without electricity since the weekend storm, but the group present was greatly blessed by Danny’s music.
Danny gave Betsy Hasselbeck an impromtu lesson on his guitar before his mini-concert at the Pats couples’ study.
That was the start of a great weekend. Gary Thomas spoke Friday night and all day Saturday to a crowd of about 550, and God’s spirit was unmistakably present. He is anointed to bring a very counter-cultural message to a world steeped in self-centered entitlements, which wrecks havoc on marriages. He challenges us to think about marriage from a design perspective, making it about God, rather than from a cultural perspective, which makes it about “me.” His message was clear, convicting, and hope-giving. Especially heartening to Paul and me was seeing many, many couples with whom we’ve walked for years now, who have been met by God in very life-changing ways. Their once very struggling marriages are now on solid ground and the hope of the gospel is seen very practically.
Besides Gary's inspiring and practical messages, the spectrum of workshops hit the mark by addressing specific areas of interest, and were led by highly-qualified resource couples. We had the usual offerings of conflict management, temperaments, and investing in your marriage, plus some new ones. David and Michelle Swaim presented a workshop on developing a missional marriage with a global perspective. As they taught, holding their seventh adopted child, 5-month-old Andrew, they caused many to consider living far beyond themselves. We received great feedback on the workshops.
And as always, the worship led by Danny and Rayna Oertli was used by God to draw us to Himself. It was a great, great conference.
Several comments we’ve received since:
“We really felt so enriched and blessed to be at the marriage conference this weekend. It was worth every penny of the $20 per hour! (cost of babysitter!) Thanks again.”
“My wife and I attended the recent Sacred Marriage conference, what a blessing! I frequently give Sacred Marriage to couples as wedding presents and during premarital counseling, I loved hearing Gary in person and was personally challenged and stretched to grow in loving my wife as Christ loves the church.”
After the conference, Doug and Julie Macrae treated Gary Thomas, the Oertlis, and us to a wonderful dinner at Il Capriccio in Waltham.
We rounded out the weekend with a visit to Foxboro, where we were witness to a deja-vu game against the Giants. Everything about the experience, minus the score, was perfect: weather, company, food, friends. Danny and Rayna enjoyed their introduction to our football world nonetheless, especially because their Broncos took the Raiders down that day.
It was a great afternoon at Foxboro, in spite of a not-so-great loss to the Giants.
Our post-conference recovery week included an H.I.M. Board meeting, counseling, Patriots studies, and speaking at Mom to Mom at Grace Chapel. We divided and conquered and each did a workshop on Thursday, Nov. 10. As always, it was good to reconnect with a few familiar faces and to partner with this great ministry to moms.
Carolyn Sylvester, Lisa Cerci, and Connie Lawrence were a few of our favorite faces from our Grace Chapel days.
Veterans Day weekend took an unexpected turn when we got a phone call from our newly-married daughter, Julie (whose husband Derek was in Uganda for two weeks), regarding a somewhat urgent medical concern (which has, thankfully, been since resolved). In light of a relatively “light” ministry weekend (Paul had a men’s breakfast to speak for at 1st Congregational Church of Hamilton and we were scheduled to participate in a very important wedding which Paul was able to do alone), I hopped on a plane within hours and spent the weekend with Julie, awaiting several test results. Though there was a underlying concern running throughout the days, it was a very sweet time to spend with our Uganda-bound daughter during her last months stateside. We laid low, overall, since she wasn't feeling great, but did manage to sneak off to the beach at Coronado and take a sunset walk Sunday afternoon. On that walk, we also admired the Hotel Del Coronado, where Paul and I spent the first night of our honeymoon 35.5 years ago. It's on our bucket list to return there for a night or two, but for now, it brings great delight to just look at this magnificent hotel from the incredible beach upon which it sits.
The Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego sits majestically on the beach and holds great memories for us.
And, turning around 180 degrees, the setting sun declares the glory of God.
Paul carried the ball in New England and spoke at two more Mom to Moms, one at St. Michael’s in Bedford and the other at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Acton. He is also wildly popular with the ladies and the feedback we got confirmed that nothing has changed.
At the Patriots Women’s Study that Wednesday (the 16th), we exchanged our Cynthia Heald study and Bibles for cinnamon roll dough and rolling pins. This annual event is lots of fun and we had a blast together rolling dough, splashing butter, sprinkling cinnamon sugar, and baking this yummy treat for all to bring to their families.
The annual cinnamon roll workshop produced dozens of rolls and happy consumers.
The almost finished product with some of the accomplished bakers.
But before I sign off: how could I not post this photo of our quickly growing and changing Brandon? :)