Spring has sprung in New England and we are surrounded by new life in all its glory. Cherry and apple blossoms, tulips and daffodils, tulip trees, azaleas, and rhododendrons . . . and lilacs in lavender, white, and purple. The air is fragranced with beauty. The days are longer. The trees are being robed. It is truly a glorious time of year!
In the midst of all this beauty, we celebrated our 39th anniversary just half a mile from where we spent our honeymoon in 1976. Graciously invited back to Mt. Hermon Christian Conference Center in Santa Cruz, California, to speak at the second of their annual marriage conferences (we spoke at the first conference last year), the conference opened on the day of our anniversary (April 24) and we decided it was a perfect way to celebrate the event. Dave Burns, director of adult ministries at Mt. Hermon, was a delight to work with again and the sold-out crowd was warmly receptive and very responsive. We thoroughly enjoyed our time speaking, hanging out with some great people, and celebrating our anniversary by re-visiting the very same Foster’s Freeze Ice Cream stand we frequented daily on our honeymoon.
|The Mt. Hermon team who served the marriage conference weekend. Dave Burns is in the middle.|
|Dear friends who attended the Mt. Hermon conference:|
Carter and Tracy Welch and Mike and Tricia Toews.
|Ah yes . . . Fosters Freeze . . . just like it was 39 years ago!|
We had a couple of days prior to heading to Granite Bay to speak at the Thrive Conference, and we made the most of it. We had a lovely evening with Howard and Kathy Clark, along with Bill and Christi Bachman and their sons, who hosted us for the night. Great food, stimulating conversations, and lots of love was shared. Our riches in relationships continue to multiply. So blessed!
|Howard and Kathy Clark, Bill and Christi Bachman with sons Andrew and Nathan . . . |
we spent a delightful evening together.
On to Half Moon Bay for an overnight to really celebrate our anniversary (without a hundred other people) and we had what we needed: a lovely, clean room at the Half Moon Bay Lodge and an expansive shoreline for walking. Though clouds obscured the sun, it gave the ocean an opportunity to wear a new face and we will never grow tired of the ever-changing beauty of the sea. We enjoyed every minute of our getaway.
We managed to have a pre-marital counseling session with a couple we’ll be marrying in September, and then on to Santa Rosa to spend some precious time with Rosemary Dougan. It was our first time with her since Garth’s death in March and that was hard. The reality that Garth really has left this earth was inescapable, and having never been with Rosemary apart from Garth, his absence was deeply felt. Seventy years of marriage (it certainly downsized our 39!) . . . living for Christ, and loving each other in Christlikeness . . . truly mentors, friends, and chosen family. We look forward to celebrating Garth’s life on May 30 in Santa Rosa, knowing that joy and sorrow will intermingle throughout his being honored.
|Loved having some time with Rosemary Dougan, though we all missed Garth so much.|
On to Sacramento where we participated in the annual Thrive Conference, hosted by Bayside Church and directed by Ray Johnston. We’ve been privileged to present workshops at all ten Thrive conferences and consider this one of the highlights of our speaking year. Not only do we have the honor of teaching on family and marriage (this year we presented three workshops on the topics of marital sexuality, parenting, and reducing the risk of divorce), but we take full advantage of hearing great speakers whose teaching edifies and instructs us, as well of reconnecting and networking with dozens of people important to us. Our days were full and profitable in so many ways.
|Ray Johnston and Paul greet each other at the beginning of Thrive 2015.|
Paul returned to Bedford after Thrive ended May 2 and I flew to San Diego to spend a few days with my mom. The bonus was having the Garcias and Lisa at my mom’s when I arrived, affording a few hours of 4 generations interacting. Each of these moments are gifts. They left that evening, and I stayed until Wednesday morning before flying home in time for counseling on Thursday. The visit with my mom and 4 of my siblings was good in every way. I love getting time with her and she always expresses such gratitude. I always tell her I wish I could stay longer, to which she always responds, “I’m so grateful for every minute you’re here.” The garden of her heart reveals that she has sown seeds of gratitude as opposed to seeds of entitlement and bitterness. Great life lesson.
|Four generations of strong women.|
|My mom and four of my six siblings celebrate the Cinco De Mayo|
at a San Diego Mexican restaurant.
It was good to get back to Bedford for a few days. There was lots of counseling and catching up, along with a a delightful evening spent with the congregation of the Arabic Evangelical Baptist Church in West Roxbury. This was our second year speaking on marriage to this church and our hearts deepened even more for them. Led by Reverend Khaled Ghobrial and his wife Vanille, we were very impressed again by their commitment to grow their families and marriages in Christlikeness. On the eve of Mother’s Day, it seemed a fitting focus.
|Sweet friends at the Arabic Evangelical Baptist Church in West Roxbury.|
Even without having any of our children close by, nor being near enough to my mom to celebrate Mother’s Day, we had a sweet time at home with one of our dear friends who is a single mom of a disabled child. Paul served us up a yummy meal and we shared a lively conversation around our table. We then took the party to the Boston Commons where we crazily snapped photos of the blooming beds of tulips and flowering trees as dusk eventually brought a slow, beautiful end to a magnificently beautiful day.
Monday night, May 11, found us back downtown, not to wander through the gardens, but to speak to the Union Young Marrieds group at Park Street Church on Biblical principles regarding finances. Organized by the directors of Union, Paul and Liana Chong, the evening drew quite a crowd (over double what they usually have) which underscores the need for addressing this potent issue. We love hanging with 20-30 somethings and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
|Paul and Liana Chong direct the young marrieds ministry at Park Street Church.|
What a joy to host Wai and Elaine Wong and their daughters Thursday, May 14. They were in Boston for a medical convention, and we were so happy that our schedules worked out for us to spend an evening together in our home. The evening passed all too quickly.
|The Wai Wong Family came to town and we love spending the evening with them.|
Off to Ekton, Pennsylvania, we drove down for the weekend to do a second annual marriage conference for Marsh Creek Community Church. We had such a wonderful time reconnecting with Joel and Sarah Schuster who lead that ministry. Their vision for the importance of building into marriages and families is refreshing. Our conference culminated a month-long emphasis on these seminal matters. We were thankful for a great response to the weekend.
|Joel and Sarah Schuster are doing a great job leading the ministry|
at Marsh Creek Community Church in Ekton, PA.
Taking advantage of being in that area, we spent our non-conference time in the richest sort of way. Our first visit was with Haddon and Bonnie Robinson, who have retired to Willow Valley, PA. Haddon is a well-known preacher and preaching professor from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which is where we developed a relationship with him and Bonnie. They became mentors-at-a-distance for us and we welcomed any time we could hear Haddon preach or hang out with them at the seminary. Haddon’s health is failing now (Parkinson’s Disease, a recent fall and a minor heart attack all have combined to limit him greatly) and we were so thankful for the opportunity to spend some time with them. Married now 63 years, they continue to live for Christ and love each other truly. What a gift to be with them!
|Haddon and Bonnie Robinson are still praising God in spite of many medical challenges.|
Next stop: Calvary Missionary Fellowship Retirement Community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to visit 92-year-old Barbara Boyd. “Barbie” lived with Paul’s family early in her career with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and after her fiancé, Ralph Willoughby, died from a virus while Barbara was serving at Campus by the Sea with the Friesens, she continued her ministry with IVCF and never married. She is truly one of the most winsome Christ-followers we’ve ever known; her joy is contagious and her trust is flawless. Since we were last with her, she’s moved from independent living to assisted living due to declining memory, but she was still an engaging conversationalist. Loved our visit.
|Barbara Boyd and Paul enjoy catching up on family history.|
Rounding out our tour of octogenarians plus, we had dinner with our dear friends and mentors, Bill and JoAnne Shore. They’re poster children for “80 is the new 60” as they are fully engaged in serving the church through mentoring, teaching, etc. We hang on every word the Shores say. What a gift to spend several hours with them!
|Bill and JoAnne Shore make the 80’s look very young.|
Spring has sprung and filled the earth with beauty, but we were reminded with each visit with an over 80-year-old this month that beauty is seen in the fall of life as well. What a gracious, generous God we have who lavishes us with beauty throughout the seasons of nature and of life! Grateful for all these opportunities to delight in His beauty!