New Year's . . . Really? (Part 2)

December 14 ushered in eight of the best days of 2012.  Kari, Gabe, and Brandon flew from California, Lisa from Virginia,  Derek and Julie from Uganda, and Paul and me from Massachusetts, all gathering in Orlando for an early Christmas reunion.  From Orlando, we drove to Vero Beach, where we enjoyed the remote hospitality of Doug and Julie Macrae who loaned us their on-the-beach condo for the week.  The days which unfolded were "as good as it gets" and we all felt so, so blessed.  Walks on the beach, playing in the pool, eating great meals, hanging out in jammies from dinner on, playing some competitive "Nickel," and our favorite pastime of all: watching Brandon, playing with Brandon, laughing at Brandon, being amazed by Brandon . . . all combined to make a most memorable gathering.  

At 28 months, Brandon was pretty much all we needed for entertainment.

Daily walks on the beach were therapeutic on all levels.

Papa and Brandon had fun in the pool . . . especially when Papa was a whale.

I made sure our time together was well-documented photographically,
and this beach photo-shoot was a highlight.

So was this one—and I am grateful for sons-in-laws who willingly participated in both wearing the jammies I made AND being seen in public in them.  :)  Great guys!!

We were all so grateful for this gift of relaxation, rest, and time of reconnection with each other.  Disconnection from all of our ministry commitments was just what we needed.   

We left Vero Friday Dec. 21, to go from our quiet, secluded getaway to one of the busiest places on earth . . . Disney World!  Another gift to our family: dear friends from California (who are also Disneyland employees) gave us passes to "The Happiest Place on Earth" and we had a blast experiencing the Magic Kingdom through the eyes of a 2-year-old.  It was a first for all but Paul and me to visit Disney World and we had a great time.  The only real surprise was the weather, which registered 40 degrees at 8 a.m. Dec. 22.  The plus side of that was that only the hearty ventured out, so the crowds were smaller than expected during the morning.  :)  It was the exclamation point on the end of a great family time.

Brandon was thrilled to meet Goofy in person—and Gabe was thrilled that Brandon was thrilled. 

We made it til 7 p.m. before throwing in the towel and returning to the condo to get warm.  

Dec. 23 we got Garcias on a plane back to California and Johnsons off to Oklahoma, each to spend Christmas with their "other" families.  That left Lisa, Paul, and me in Florida, and after considering many options to launch the celebration of Lisa's upcoming 30th birthday, we took friends up on their offer for us to use their home in Ft. Lauderdale and off we went for another almost-week of sunny, warm weather.

It was another first for us to visit Ft Lauderdale, and we had so much fun exploring this area.  Lots of beach walks, late breakfasts, a dinner cruise on the inter-coastal waterways, and an all-day trip to the Keys filled out our time.  Christmas was different . . . lacking all of the "trappings" and all of the people with whom we usually celebrate, it definitely felt a bit like "Skipping Christmas" but Christmas Eve service at the local Calvary Chapel brought it all into focus.  Paul and I loved having these days with Lisa and have many sweet memories from them.

Paul very creatively fashioned a Christmas tree from a limb he found in the trash . . .
and then decorated himself with paper cut-outs.  We were impressed!!

On our Christmas day walk, we came across this Sandman Santa and hijacked it for a photo.  :)

We were quite entertained by feeding the tarpon in Islamorada at “Buddy’s.”  Another first.

We packed our warm weather clothes and after-Christmas-sales finds and flew back to New England on Saturday, Dec. 29, just in time for our first big winter storm in a long time.  We felt so fortunate!  Honestly!  We're among the few who actually love it when the white stuff falls and it was a "cold" warm welcome back home.

Paul was honored to do the chapel for the Miami Dolphin players that night and then fought his way home in the raging storm.  We were so thankful when he crawled in around midnight, safe and sound.

Off to Gillette Stadium we went for the Pats’ final regular-season game in which we routed the Dolphins.  We had such a great time connecting with the many couples who have faithfully been a part of the Couples Study all season, and the highlight for us was getting to introduce Lisa to them.  Since they had all met Julie two weeks earlier at the Christmas party, we heard many, “Your girls look SO much alike!”  A very fun time was had by all.

What a great time we had at the final Pats game!
We were thankfully and surprisingly warm in spite of temps in the 20’s.

We welcomed in the New Year by spending some time in Boston enjoying First Night features, including the 7 p.m. firework display, which was fabulous.  On to join with a number of family camp families for a family-fun new years party and home before the ball dropped.  A great way to welcome the new year.

Lisa and Paul on the Boston Common early on New Year’s Eve.

Derek and Julie rejoined us late on the 2nd, overlapping with Lisa for her final days in Boston, and our days were filled with exploring the delights of Boston, hanging out with friends, meeting up with our dear Helen in Stockbridge, and enjoying being together.  We were all sad to send Lisa off on Sunday, the 6th, back to her life and world in Harrisonburg, VA.

This ice sculpture provided a suitable backdrop for us and our bags. 

A lovely lunch at the Red Lion Inn with Helen was a highlight of our day with her,
though shopping at the Lee Outlets was a close second.

Another highlight of these days was having Dave and Kim Noble, directors of Campus by the Sea, live with us for a week while they visited their children who live in downtown Boston.  We had many leisurely breakfasts together and a few evenings, affording us opportunities to get to know one another in ways that our busy shared weeks at CBS preclude.  We loved it and we love them.

This slightly distorted photo was the best we could do with the self-timer,
but we're all glad to have captured a frame of our time together with Kim and Dave Noble.

The highlight of this young new year was celebrating Lisa's 30th birthday last weekend.  It was a full-on surprise, commencing with Derek and Julie ringing her door bell “out of the blue” on Thursday evening, Jan 9th.  Kari, Paul, and I were hiding in the van we had driven down from Boston (via Lemoyne, PA, where Derek and Julie had done some CURE business at headquarters) and Lisa was close to "heart attack" surprise when she opened the van and found us.  :)   Off to dinner we went, taking with us Lisa's wonderful roommate, Rachel, who was our right-hand-gal in setting up Lisa's birthday weekend.  No one could stop smiling.

Dinner at “Dave's Restaurant” with Lisa and her housemate Rachel. Let the party begin!!

The next part of the surprise was Friday night, and 30 of Lisa’s closest friends and family pulled it off.  A delicious Mexican feast was enjoyed by all, but the highlight was hearing tributes to Lisa.  Many brought “thirty” of something that made them think of Lisa and presented them to her with an explanation of the symbolism.  It was deeply moving to hear how God has used Lisa in the lives of these friends, and the themes about her life were consistent: her love for Christ, for people, for serving, for fun, and for chocolate.  It was one of those “Could this have been any better?” evenings and we were so, so thankful.  

Lisa’s surprise party was a blast and she was duly honored
by all of these very-important-to-her people.

The fam—for one last photo before we all disperse.

We also gave Lisa a book of affirmation, compiled and produced by Kari and contributed to by many.  It was a beautiful shout-out to a remarkable young woman.  I know we’re biased, at least a bit, but we are so very proud of who Lisa is and we're quite humbled to be her parents.  She reflects the amazing love of her first love, the Lord Jesus Christ, and lives so winsomely for Him.  Her selflessness and her servant-heartedness has touched all of those around her and she is loved, esteemed, and cherished.  Many of her friends are moving in the direction of Christ because of her.  How easy it is to celebrate her life!

So, that’s how we've brought in the new year.  It’s been such a sweet run of days.  We’re now up to speed—we’ve hung the 2013 calendars—and accepted the fact that 2013 is underway.  

By God’s grace, we stand as a family, facing the new year, with confidence and hope vested in Him and Him alone.