|Sunrise over Avalon Harbor . . . His mercies are new every morning. . .|
Three weeks ago we were flying home from Uganda. Today we're flying home from California. Maybe when we get home tonight, I'll change my watch from Ugandan time to Eastern Standard Time.
It's a quirky thing with me, admittedly, but it's something I've done for a really long time. It's not because I don't know how to change my watch, obviously. It's because I don't want to quite yet. For many reasons, my "heart" hasn't been ready to embrace that our days in Mbale, for now, are history. Mainly it serves as a reminder to pray specifically for what might be going on in Derek and Julie's lives at a given time. They've had a lot going on since we've left, and we've wanted to stay as connected as we can from seven time zones away.
Other than being completely confused when I glance at my watch in the middle of the night, it serves good "heart" purposes. Just don't ask me what time it is. :)
It took a week to adjust to being back in the states, sleep-wise and body-wise, but we didn't have that long before we jumped back in to ministry. In fact, within 24 hours of returning, we met with the core team of leaders for the Patriots Couples’ study over dinner to map out the plan for the fall, and we managed to stay awake through the whole thing! It was actually very inspiring to be with three of the player couples, as well as with Don and Betsy Hasselbeck, and to develop a new strategy with hopes of injecting some new life into the study. We've now had our first two evenings, and we had 18 at the first...and 32 at the second! We are more than excited at the potential of our gatherings.
Within 48 hours of landing back in Boston, we were driving to Falmouth to speak at an all-day Saturday marriage seminar for Falmouth Baptist Church. We had a really sweet time with Tim Rogers, who booked us to speak after coming to several "Worth It" conferences. It was an adjustment initially to speak at normal speed with less concern about idiomatic expressions, or cultural context, but the "saddle" felt comfortable rather quickly. It was a very positive time with very sincere folks.
|Most of the attendees of the Falmouth Baptist Church conference . . . a great group of folks!|
As though we had never been gone, the following week fell in to a predictable pattern. Wednesday morning was the Patriots Women's study, and we were thrilled to have 17 ladies show up. :) After a quick scone-making lesson by moi, we launched our study using Gary Thomas' new book, Every Body Matters. I really appreciated the message of this book when I read it this past spring and have been promoting it all summer at Family Camps. As Gary deals with the challenge of "stewarding" our bodies rather than worshiping or abusing them, he treds where few have dared to tred in the Christian community. His indictment that we've been content to be "chin-up" Christians, focusing on correct theology and doctrine, while ignoring the implications of application of those very truths on our physical bodies and health, is spot on. We've gotten off to a good start in the study, with good discussion of a topic extremely relevant to the fulfillment of God's purposes for our lives. Eighteen ladies showed up for week 2 of the study!
Counseling fills the balance of our Wednesdays, and continues on Thursday mornings until mid-afternoon, and then we drive back down to Attleboro for the Pats Couples’ study. The first week, Big Jim Martis catered a great bbq dinner of steak and chicken and the fixin’s, and then the second week Paul and I prepared a Mexican feast. The spirit and interaction has been great for these first two meetings. Pray for both of these weekly studies, that God would draw these dear couples to Himself in a deeper way.
|Big Jim is in the middle of a few of our players at our Patriots couples' study.|
Last Friday, Sept. 21, I flew to California alone while Paul fulfilled the commitment we had made to Camp Berea to do a seminar at their women's conference. Paul was one of two male presenters, and his seminar was presented three times on Saturday to full crowds. The ladies always love him.
Meanwhile my first stop in California was in San Diego to visit my folks. I hadn't seen them since Father's Day weekend and it was a joy to hang with them for a couple of days. My mom's health is good and my dad is declining, but not too rapidly. We had many sweet moments together. I was also happy to meet my newest great nephew, Josiah David Rivera, when Corey and Claire brought their crew over for a visit. I spent Sunday on Catalina Island, attending the wedding of Sarah Armstrong and Doug Hippe, long-time friends from family camp. It was a wonderful, God-honoring celebration and a great time for me to reconnect with many dear island friends. It was also a joy to spend the night with Wayne and Carol Herbst, Paul's youngest sister and husband.
|The mother of the bride, Jenny, is one of my dearest friends.|
On Monday I spoke to a group of young moms in Ladera Ranch. Two of Lisa's dear friends, Heather Vataha and Amber Offield, collaborated to make that happen, and it was such an encouraging time to talk about "The Things I Wish I Had Known..." with this group of thirsty young moms. I LOVE this age/stage and delighted in encouraging them in the hope of the gospel, which is sometimes elusive when life is full of the craziness young children often bring. Financial pressures, marital challenges, exhaustion, confusion, wanting to do the best but experiencing unwanted feelings of failure to an overwhelming degree at times. We talked about lots of things and all seemed to really appreciate that I had felt all of those very things—and had survived them. By God's grace. It was a very special time.
|Amber and Christian Offield and Heather and Laila Vataha pulled together the moms gathering I spoke for in Rancho Ladera.|
|And here are the moms—outnumbered for sure by the kids!|
It was a treat to spend the balance of the time with my dear friend, Wendy Offield, before flying back to Boston on Tuesday. I returned feeling very blessed: for all of the moments in California, and also for the husband I have. Traveling alone, I was reminded of how much he takes care of when we travel—from hauling all the heavy suitcases, boxes, etc., to getting rental cars, driving to unknown places, etc. And never getting flustered or acting like it "can't be done." He gets it done and I am so spoiled. And more thankful.
Back in Bedford for a mere 48 hours for the two Pats studies, for counseling, and then back to California. This time to the Bay Area, to spend the weekend at Bethel Christian Church in downtown San Francisco. Our dear friends, John and Marilyn Nugent (who are also H.I.M. Board members), arranged the weekend. It was varied and well put together as a "Relationships Weekend," featuring us as speakers and Danny and Rayna Oertli as musicians. We love any opportunity to partner with the Oertlis!!
We launched the weekend on Friday night with a talk on purity, given to teens and their parents. We were thrilled with the response of a very engaged group; both teens and their parents were interactive and responsive. During the first half of the evening we spoke to the group together, and during the second half we fielded questions from the parents, while the teens met with their youth leaders. The questions were thoughtful and heartfelt. We were reminded of how many more challenges face these parents today and how much more difficult on so many levels it is to protect and prepare teens according to God's design. Thankfully our hope continues to be in the gospel, and that hasn't changed through the generations.
All day Saturday we did the "Irony of Intimacy" marriage conference. We were thrilled to have Kari and Gabe, along with three couples they're mentoring, drive out from Sacramento for the conference. :) It was also heartening to have Bill and Kristen Smith, friends from CBS, fly in from Reno, and James and Charlotte, a sweet couple who attended Engagement Matters, as well as Drew and Dana Macrae, show up. Charlotte told me, "As we celebrated our first anniversary in July, we were thinking about the assignment from Engagement Matters to have an annual marital check-up . . . and then the email came announcing this conference! We were so happy!"
|Gabriel and Jessika, Jerron and Danielle, Gabe and Kari, and Lamar and Kalyce drove from Sacramento to our marriage conference at Bethel Christian Church.|
We were happy, too. It was a wonderful day of celebrating God's design for marriage in some very practical ways. God seemed to meet many there, as evidenced by their comments.
Sunday morning we taught a joint Sunday School class on "Forgiveness" and God met us in a powerful way. I prayed with a forty-something-year-old man who said he carried deep anger towards his father who was severely abusive to him, his siblings, and his mother. He said he wanted to walk in freedom, and through tears we prayed that he would release his anger and allow God to handle his father with justice.
Paul preached the morning worship service and was anointed. He preached with passion a stirring sermon on God's desire to take us from paralysis to praise—and young and old alike seemed very moved by it. We wrapped up the weekend by enjoying Danny Oertli in concert and he did not disappoint. It was a rockin' evening.
|What fun to rock out to Danny's concert with Nathan and Julie Aleman and Liz.|
Under a full moon and traffic-free highways, we drove to Sacramento after the concert, so we could be wakened by our grandson, Brandon, early the next morning. And that's exactly what happened. :) Our 24 hours with Kari, Gabe, and Brandon flew by, but was a delightful ending to a wonderfully full weekend.
|Brandon, 25 months, still loves being on Papa's shoulders.|
As October opens its pages, we are glad for a few days to enjoy the best New England has to offer: fall. Brilliant salmon, orange, crimson leaves pop out against the not yet turned leaves as harbingers of the steady parade of colors that will be ours to behold this month. The delights of New England fall are unmatched and we're very thankful we'll be around to drink it in.
I guess it is time to change my watch.