All over the map

After getting Derek and Julie off to Uganda on January 14 and counseling all day the 15th, we took flight from Boston early the 16th for a speaking engagement that evening at Bayside Church of Granite Bay, California.  This view from the window of the plane on the tarmac at Logan became quite familiar after an unexpected early arrival of snow paralyzed the airport.  Three hours after scheduled take-off, two trips to the end of the runway, and two de-icings later, we were on our way to Denver, knowing we had missed our connecting fight to Sacramento and praying there would be a way to "get us to the church on time."

For the first time in the ten years we've been on the road with H.I.M., we almost missed a speaking engagement.  The best we could do from Denver was to fly into San Francisco, arriving at 4:23 pm, and we were to be at Bayside at 6:30 for sound check in preparation for a 7 pm start of the "date night."  Our talk was to begin at 7:30.  

Now if you know anything about traffic out of San Francisco in the late afternoon, you know we didn't have a hope or a prayer of this happening.  But thanks to the herculean efforts of daughter Kari and John and Marilyn Nugent, we fashioned a "this will work if everything goes perfectly" plan of catching a BART train (leaving behind our luggage), taking it to the Richmond Station, where John would be waiting in an escape vehicle to drive us to Granite Bay.  Amazingly, we arrived at Bayside at 7:37 pm, pulled on speaking clothes selected and purchased by our personal shopper Kari, and were speaking at 7:45.  Whew!!!  That was a close one—and it never could have had that happy ending without the Nugents and the Garcias.  We are so grateful for having such qualified accomplices.  We were also so grateful for the gracious, understanding Bayside staff who were ready to fill in for us if needed and who flexed with the moving schedule. 

Wed., Jan. 16: snow delayed us in Boston.

Fortunately, the talk went really well, and, as is always true of our Bayside events, we were warmly and enthusiastically received.  By the time it was over, we were wiped out, but so so thankful.

Long after the crowd had dispersed, we celebrated for a moment with these Bayside staff families and gave thanks for a great date night.

To catch our breath, retrieve our luggage, and hang with our dear friends John and Marilyn Nugent, we drove with them to San Francisco the following day along with Gabe, Kari, and Brandon.  It was a fun-from-beginning-to-end day as we played on play grounds, walked the city, and ate in Chinatown.  The spring-like day was perfect for enjoying the great outdoors, and after the crazy day of travel we'd had the day before, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Not sure who enjoyed the playground more: Brandon—or John, Paul, and Marilyn, who engaged in a very competitive game of spin the hula-hoops.  I can tell you who was more entertaining.  :)

A great dinner in Chinatown was a yummy way to end the day.

Our days with Garcias were so sweet, especially knowing that those days are "numbered" in Sacramento as they prepare to move to their new ministry assignment in Santa Clarita, CA, on Feb. 12.  We walked to the park every day, visited some favorite eateries, helped with the moving projects, and enjoyed every minute we had with Brandon.  Sunday was the big football game—the AFC and NFC title games.  Very thankful that we weren't playing each others teams (Gabe is a lifelong Niners' fan), we fully expected that at day's end, we'd call a truce and part ways in anticipation of a Patriot-49'er Super Bowl.

Well....we all know how that went down.  Pretty sad ending for our boys in red, silver, and blue...and especially heartbreaking for us since we have such deep hearts for the 14 guys who came regularly to the couples' study this fall.  Fortunately, both of our teams didn't lose and we were really happy for Gabe.  We were able to brainwash Brandon, however, and whenever he sees us on FaceTime (Apple's version of Skype), his first words are "GO PATS!!!"  Pretty smart little guy, eh???

Getting ready for the play-off games . . .

Monday night of MLK Day, I spoke for a Bayside staff women's gathering hosted by Carol Johnston and Sally Shaull.  It was a Q and A evening and I loved every minute of it.  Great questions about relationships, discipleship, priorities, in-laws, etc., made for rich conversation and I was truly honored to be part of this event.

Bayside staff women gathered for an informal discipling evening at the Shaulls’ home,
led by Carol Johnston.  Great time.

Off to Colorado we flew Tuesday, the 22nd, and were thankfully unhampered by weather.  In fact, we landed in 60-degree weather, causing us to re-check the calendar to make sure we had the right date!  We spent Wednesday at Focus on the Family, and were interviewed for a variety of their programs.  Our first 2.5 hours were spent with Jim Daly and John Fuller, recording a couple of days of radio shows on "Raising Kids with Convictions."  We'll keep you posted re: the air dates, but they thought the end of May would likely be the time frame.  

We loved every minute of our time with these two anointed men.  We "clicked" immediately (bantering about football initially) and discovered how deeply our hearts were in sync and resonated with a shared passion for families and marriages.  The radio show recording was very natural and "easy" and we knew we were being prayed for by those who knew where we were.  

Our next stop was the "Boundless" studio, where we were interviewed by Lisa Anderson, who directs this singles ministry arm of Focus.  We talked with her about the role of parents in helping their young adult children navigate relationship issues, especially regarding marriage, and we really enjoyed sharing on a topic we're so passionate about.  That's supposed to air on Valentine's Day, so check out the Focus on the Family website and follow the prompts for Boundless broadcasts.

Our last stop was an interview with Roy Baldwin, who is directing a new Focus program for "Dads and Daughters."  We love the idea of this initiative and were honored to be in on the ground floor.  Roy talked to us about possibly helping them develop some curriculum for young parents.  We said "Twist our arms."  :)  At the end of five hours in various studios, we left feeling very, very met by God and are praying that He will use our words to carry His words where needed.

John Fuller and Jim Daly spent a couple of hours interviewing us for some upcoming
Focus on the Family radio broadcasts.  What an honor and a privilege!

We spent the evening with our sweet niece, Kristi Rottschafer Daggett and her family, catching up over Little Caesars pizza and enjoying their three precious children, and then we crashed.  Uncharacteristically, we stayed another night at the hotel in Colorado Springs so we could "sabbath" on Thursday, in anticipation of a very full weekend of ministry in Denver.  It was a great decision.  We spent several hours hiking around the "Garden of the Gods" on a spectacularly beautifully day and felt quite refreshed as we drove to the Oertli B and B in Parker (a suburb of Denver) that evening.

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs . . . we hiked 7 miles
and didn't tire of the unique and beautiful scenery.

We love the Oertlis.  It's just energizing to be with them, and they always make us feel so loved.  They're easy.  Comfortable.  Fun.  Laugher bounces off the walls.  Tulo (the dog) chases balls.  Maggie digs for dinosaur bones.  Gracie gives up her room.  Jack's kindness and unpretentiousness touches us.  Love them!

It was a gift from God that our first days in Parker intersected with our dear friends Dave and June Bullock's last days in Parker, so we seized the opportunity and spent several hours over brunch catching up with one another.  What a treat.

We picked up with long-time friends Dave and June Bullock,
as though no time had elapsed since our last visit.

Mission Hills Church hosted “Spark” marriage conference that weekend at a local hotel and it didn't take us long to fall in love with this vibrant, open congregation.  It was easy to see why after spending some time with their lead pastor, Mike Romberger, and his wife Jane.  We were very impressed that Mike and Jane attended the conference and actively engaged in being full participants.  We were blessed to hear their heart for their congregation and to see the fruit of their vision for the church.  It is a thriving, growing, relevant ministry that God is using in big ways in Denver.  

360 attended the Mission Hills Marriage Conference in Denver the weekend of Jan 25-26.
The team behind the Mission Hills Conference did a great job of putting it together and pulling it off.

The Mission Hills conference ended mid-afternoon, and then we headed to Front Range Christian School that evening to speak on parenting teens.  We always love partnering with Dave and Kathleen Sherman, who have worked tirelessly at Front Range through the years, and they once again did a great job of setting up the evening.  They were as surprised as anyone that their hoped-for crowd of about 20 grew to almost 100, and an interactive evening followed. We shared a late night dinner with Dave and Kathleen, along with their newly-engaged daughter, Kaylee, and her fiancé, Jake.  Kaylee and Jake are refreshing: they have been committed to honoring God throughout their relationship and stand out because of the wisdom and depth they have at their age.  Both are in seminary now and will be married in August.  It was a delightful evening all around.

Our last ministry stop in Colorado prior to flying home was held in the home of ex-Patriot Tom Ashworth and his wife, Julie.  Tom and Julie were part of the couples study during the years Tom was a Patriot, and they made some pretty pivotal decisions to follow Christ during that study.  It's given us such great joy to watch them grow in the Lord through the years.  They invited us to speak on marriage to their small group on Sunday night, Jan. 27th, and in that intimate gathering, we were impressed with the honesty of discussion and sharing.  We were also so impressed with Tom and Julie's hospitality as they opened their home to 16 adults and about 32 kids (or so it seemed!) without flinching.  "This is why we have this home," Julie shared. Love her heart!

Tom and Julie's small group gathered to talk about marriage.
Tom and Julie Ashworth are faithfully seeking and proclaiming Christ
in the Castle Rock area of Colorado.

So after five varied and productive days in Colorado, we flew back to Boston Monday morning.  Amazingly, snow began falling as we returned and we were thrilled to have winter welcoming us home.  Honestly.  :)  Especially since it didn't jeopardize getting to the church on time.

Counseling, an H.I.M. Board Meeting, and multiple small gatherings filled the next few days before we took off again, this time driving.  We were slated to speak at the Mennonite and Brethren Marriage Encounter banquet on Saturday, Feb. 2, and though we were honored by the invitation, we really had no idea of what to expect.  We were very surprised to find out shortly before the event that 550 would be in attendance!  The evening was a great affirmation of the commitment of the group to honor and encourage marriages.  We were very impressed with both the breadth and depth of this event.  Snow started falling about 2 hours before the start time of the banquet, and amazingly had little effect on the turn out.  Many conversations at the end of the evening indicated that God was at work in hearts.  One couple shared with me that their 30-year marriage had almost gone down in the previous year because he had neglected his wife as he pursued the expansion of his business, and she had neglected him as she had poured herself into the children—but by God's grace, they were working to save their marriage.  He said that the message that evening had spoken directly into his heart and he was more committed than ever to loving his wife well.  Praise God!

Don and Twila Sauder organized the Mennonite and Brethren
Marriage Encounter banquet and did a great job.

The banquet for over 550 was held at Yoder's Restaurant in Lancaster, PA.

Have car, will travel.  After the banquet, in the snow, we continued south, driving to Harrisonburg, VA, in order to preach at the New Beginnings Church Sunday morning.  It's a long story why we said yes to this invitation, given the timing and the distance between the Saturday night event and this early Sunday morning event, but we knew it was right, so we did it.  We were very thankful to arrive safely at Lisa's condo at 2 am, and caught a few zzz's before filling the pulpit at New Beginnings.  

What a great church!  Pastor Tim has a very missional view towards his community and is committed to being a beacon of  hope in that area.  The conversations we had with many after the service confirmed that people feel very welcomed and accepted in that body.  We so appreciated the opportunity to partner with them.

Monday night we spoke at the JMU FCA Huddle on the topic of relationships. We love to challenge college students to think differently about preparing for marriage that most are accustomed to, and after speaking to the mixed group for the first half of the meeting, the guys went off with Paul and the women stayed with me to discuss issues in a single-gender setting.  I can't speak for what happened in the men's group, but I was very impressed with the interaction with the women.  The distorted messages of the culture were examined through the lens of scripture and many seemed to "get it."  It was a very energizing evening.

A shot from the back of the room during the FCA huddle as we spoke on relationships.
The "girls only" segment of the evening was very interactive and fruitful.

We hated to see our time in Harrisonburg come to end as it meant saying good-bye to Lisa, but with hearts full of gratitude for our great days together, we did just that.  Our long drive home was broken up by a stop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to spend some time with our life-long friend, Barbara Boyd.  "Barbie," an IVCF colleague and close personal friend of Paul's parents, is approaching her 90th birthday and she is remarkable.  She is a saint.  Words of praise are continually on her lips.  She loves Jesus.  She loves His word.  It is her lifeline, her bread of life.  It's always a spiritual experience to spend time with Barbie, and each time we visit her we leave feeling humbled to have been in the presence of one so deeply in love with Christ.  

At the end of so many ministry opportunities in so many places all over the map: from CA to CO to PA to VA and with MA sprinkled in the midst, time with Barbie was the perfect "ending" to this run of days.  Our short visit with her was renewing, delightful, and challenging all at the same time.  We left wanting to be more fully surrendered to Him.  

How blessed we are to have Barbie in our lives.

Paul and Barbara Boyd enjoy reminiscing about the years Barbara
lived with the Friesen family back in the late 50's/early 60's.