Of Mentors and Neighborhoods

I love this photo from our wedding. 

It really captures the joy of the day as well as the style of the day.  Truly happy memories marched through our minds as we drove—on April 24th, a beautiful spring day not unlike the one 38 years earlier when we entered the covenant of marriage—to Reading, Pennsylvania, to celebrate our 38th anniversary.  Listening to the Carpenters crooning love songs which will always be connected to our courtship, we reflected that thirty-eight years is starting to sound like a long time . . . and though certainly all of the starry-eyed dreams we carried into marriage in 1976 haven't been realized, we both agreed that the theme song of our honeymoon, "I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow" still rings true.  God has been so gracious to us and we are so very grateful.

We had been home only 2.5 days before heading to Pennsylvania after returning from California. We left a day early for our speaking engagement that weekend so that we could celebrate our anniversary, and we had such a great time!  When the innkeeper at the Reading Inn heard that we were celebrating our 38th anniversary, he put us in the honeymoon suite.  :)  Dinner, poking around the outlets briefly (honestly!), and reminiscing about our years together combined to make it a very sweet time.

We took advantage of being in the Lancaster area and had lunch with our dear friends Liz and Steve Lane, and then spent several hours visiting our beloved Barbara Boyd, who has been a Friesen family friend/IVCF colleague for over 60 years. In fact, she was living with the Friesen family in Santa Monica when Paul was only 3 years old. We have very deep hearts for Barbara and consider it a great privilege to spend any and all available time with her.  Now 90 years old, she inspires us all the more. She is aging with grace and joy, and with a single-focused heart for the Lord. That's always been true of Barbie.  Having suffered the traumatic, unexpected death of her fiancé while in her twenties, she never married but, amazingly, carries no bitterness or regret.  "I've had the privilege of helping college students fall in love with God's Word through my Bible and Life series ( a discipleship program she developed for IVCF which was used for decades in InterVarsity's training camps).  What could be better than that?"  She has lived an "all in" life for Christ.  What a saint!

Barbara Boyd is one of our most treasured friends and mentors.

On to Marsh Creek Community Church for our weekend marriage conference.  Joel and Sara Schuster, lead pastor and his wife at MCCC, invited us to speak at their church after hearing us speak at the Brethren in Christ pastors’ conference last September. They are a young, energetic couple with a vision for reaching young families in this area between Philadelphia and Lancaster.  We loved working with them!  The marriage conference was Friday night and all day Saturday, and then we spoke at all three services on Sunday. Great spirit. Great time. 

Another highlight of the weekend was spending Saturday evening with some more of our very favorite seasoned mentors, Bill and Jo-Ann Shore. How we love these two! "Salt of the earth" for sure—their hearts, spirits, energy, and vision belie their over eight decades of life.  They are tireless in their efforts for the Kingdom and only eternity will reveal the lives changed by their unselfish devotion to investing in others. Every church should have a Bill and Jo-Ann Shore in their ranks.

Dinner out with mentors Bill and Jo-Ann Shore.

We also loved spending Sunday afternoon with Joel and Sara Schuster and hearing their hearts for making a difference in their community.  God is blessing their efforts according to many of the congregants we spoke with.

Joel and Sara Schuster were delightful hosts to us as we ministered to
their congregation at Marsh Creek Community Church.

Home for two very short days, which were full of counseling and preparation for returning to the west coast.  And just like that, we were in California to speak at three workshops at the Thrive Leadership Conference.  We've been honored to speak at every Thrive Conference Bayside Church of Granite Bay has held and it's really one of the highlights of our year.  The brainchild of our dear friend Ray Johnston, it is a conference designed to "recharge, refresh, and renew" those in ministry.  And it really does!  Lacking no energy, it is a conference on steroids that reminds you that laughter is good medicine, that great teaching is especially important for those who teach, and that celebrating life with the Body of Christ refreshes the soul.  We love Thrive!!  Our workshops went well and we had many great conversations. 

Thrive kicks off with Bob Smiley, the comedian, keeping everyone in stitches.

Since we were in the “neighborhood" . . . we flew to Los Angeles to speak to a SS class at Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton Sunday morning.  But before we got there, we spent a delightful evening with our precious friend Wendy Turney, who feted us with an ongoing anniversary celebration.  Phenomenal steaks served on her beautifully set outdoor table: once again, amazing food exceeded only by more amazing company. We love any time we get with Wendy, which is sadly never enough.
A lovely anniversary dinner prepared by Wendy Turney,
exceeded only by spending some quality time with her.

Off to Fullerton Sunday morning for an early breakfast with Luke and Lanette Lidyoff. They organized our being there and it was so nice to have an hour with them before the class.  We've known Lanette since she was a little girl coming to family camp at CBS; now she's the mother of three and she and Luke are continuing the tradition of family camp. Their small group had studied The Marriage App this past semester and that prompted the invitation. The class was packed and the group seemed to genuinely appreciate our time with them.

Luke and Lanette Lidyoff hosted us at Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton on Sunday, May 4.

Continuing around the neighborhood . . . we drove 4.5 hours up the coast to speak at Grace Church of San Luis Obispo that evening.  We clearly have a west coast mindset as opposed to a New England mindset.  We'll never forget when we first lived in New England, we were asking an older couple if their married children lived near them in Lexington.  "No, sadly not.  They live in Nashua, NH" and their body language indicated that the distance was great.  We later found out that Nashua is a mere 30-minute drive from Lexington and realized then that our perspectives were quite different.  This is clearly an area in which we've been unaffected by our now 23 years living in this neck of the woods!

We just love to partner with Grace Church any time we can.  We have great respect for Tim Theule (the lead pastor) and his wife, Susie, as well as for Ken Peet (the family ministries pastor) and his wife, Judy.  They've given us an open invitation to teach any time we're "in the area" and Fullerton is sorta in the area . . .  :)  We had a wonderful night speaking to a full house. The joy continued as we were invited to spend the night with the Theules in their very unique, intentionally-built family home in Arroyo Grande. Great time with the whole family before heading back to Santa Clarita to be with the Garcias and Lisa for a day and a half.  It was truly worth the drive to spend those hours on "the gold coast" and even more worth it to drive back to have those precious moments with our family.

Tim Theule welcomes everyone to our talk at Grace Church in San Luis Obispo.

Continuing in the "neighborhood" theme, we flew to San Francisco Wednesday morning to speak at Bethel Church's Wednesday night gathering  You may be wondering who plans our schedule . . . and I must confess, at times we do, too.  :)  Just mostly thankful we can keep up with ourselves still!  After a delightful afternoon with John and Marilyn Nugent, we spent the evening at the church and all went well.  Off early the next morning to fly back to Boston . . . for a few days, anyway!

Happy to be in our own neighborhood for a few days, we spoke at Free Christian Church of Andover on Friday night, May 9, for a "couples' night out" and then all day Saturday at Cambridge Christian Fellowship Church.  Both events were enthusiastically received, and we were encouraged to receive this note from CCFC:

"We had such a wonderful time with you and Virginia on Saturday! As I said on Saturday, I think the retreat really did hit the spot in terms of encouragement and exhortation for our marriages, especially during this particular season at CCFC. We have received a lot of positive feedback on the day, and are thankful that God really worked through it."

We're always aware that only God can change a life.  Our mandate is to be faithful, and that we strive to be.

Seth and Melanie Bilazarian and daughter Ani were in charge of the couples' night
at Free Christian Church in Andover.

Larry and Jenny Kim lead the congregation at Cambridge Christian Fellowship Church.

It's been a full month, with a lot of traveling. speaking, and connecting with people in many different neighborhoods and ages and stages.   Quietly, but noticeably, the landscape has changed from the stark barrenness of a harsh winter to a kaleidoscope of color that robes spring. New life is everywhere, from verdant green lawns to tulips and daffodils blooming; from lilacs fragrancing the air to robins filling the airwaves; from azaleas and rhododendrons dressed to the nines, to long, beautiful, dry spring days which enliven body and soul. What a magnificent time of year!  

It's good to be in our own neighborhood right now to drink all of this beauty in.