If “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .” is related to a house decked in outdoor lights, a beautifully decorated tree indoors, and stockings “hung by the chimney with care,” we’re off. Way off. Thankful to have just gotten all pumpkins processed and the orange and rust decorations put away after being home only 6 days in the month of November, it’s beyond my reach to make our home “look a lot like Christmas” at the moment, and knowing that we won’t be celebrating Christmas in our home this year (as we did last), decorating the house will not be at the top of the “to do” list any time soon.
It’s a good thing there’s more to Christmas than the visible trappings.
With so much bad news, heartache, hurts, and difficult situations surrounding us, the Hope of Christmas—which comes in the form of the Christ Child’s birth—is the best news ever. It seems to be better news every year!
Going way back to the end of October, we spent an annual night at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary speaking to the couples connected with the Partners in Ministry Course, facilitated by Mary Ann Hollinger, whose husband Dennis is the president of the seminary. We spoke on “Marriage and Ministry: What we’ve learned along the way” to a bigger-than-expected crowd who eagerly leaned into the evening. The Q and A for the last half hour reflected thoughtful digestion of our presentation and sincere hearts for gaining wisdom. We look forward to this evening every year and are so thankful for the opportunity to partner with the seminary.
After everyone had gone, we grabbed this photo with Mary Ann Hollinger and this precious family from Nigeria.
Mary Ann was thrilled with the larger-than-expected crowd at the Partners in Ministry evening for couples.
After counseling and Patriots’ studies, we leveraged the Patriots’ “bye week” (Nov. 6) and headed south to Florida for some sunshine and ocean. After spending a few days with Doug and Julie Macrae (and walking the beach as often as possible), we went on a “cheap” last-minute cruise out of Cape Canaveral and truly relaxed for three days/four nights. Our stops at CocoCay (a Royal Caribbean owned Island) and at Atlantis were both beautiful and we had a blast being together for these off-the-grid days. A funny, God-orchestrated moment happened when we were walking Cabbage Beach near Atlantis and we stopped and asked the only couple on that stretch of beach to take our photos. He commented on Paul’s Patriot’s cap, identifying himself as a Broncos fan. “Oh, we were just in Colorado for three weeks speaking at a church in Highland Ranch.” “We live in Highland Ranch,” they said. “We spoke at Mission Hills Church.” “We
to Mission Hills . . . Oh!
are the couple that spoke!!” Small world. We walked off chuckling, thinking “What are the chances . . .”
Always happy for time with our dear friends and ministry partners,
Doug and Julie Macrae.
Enjoying the beach at CocoCay.
From Florida, we flew to California for a reunion with Paul’s first cousins—the first such gathering since we’ve been married. It was such a sweet time of reconnection and of celebrating all that is good related to God’s faithfulness. We are so privileged to have such a godly heritage on both sides of our family. We greatly enjoyed catching up with the first cousins, and even more special was having some time with all of Paul’s siblings. Wonderful celebration of family!
All living first cousins except one were present
at the reunion held near Mt. Hermon.
Paul’s siblings and spouses . . . Blessed!
Before leaving the Bay area, we spent a day celebrating our “chosen family” friends John and Marilyn, who both crossed the great divide into their 60’s recently. We had a blast walking the beach (have you noticed how we gravitate to beaches wherever we and they are?) before having a great birthday lunch at the Cliff House Restaurant. Very special times. We had dinner with other dear friends that evening, and then a flight back to Massachusetts for a brief 48 hours.
Fortunately, John and Marilyn like walking as much as we do.
Back home in time for the Pats’ studies and counseling, before flying
to California. In that brief window, my birthday was duly cerebrated by these wonderful ladies!
Sweet birthday surprise by the Patriots women upon our return from CA.
The weekend of Nov. 11–13, we had the honor of speaking for Golden Hills Community Church’s annual marriage conference. Held at Zephyr Point Conference Center (on Lake Tahoe), the packed-out weekend was hugely successful. Though Johnie Moore (the pastor to families at GHCC) was unable to make it at the last minute due to health issues in his family, the team pulled it off without a hitch and we all felt met by God. We love this group!! Especially meaningful to us was that six of the couples are dear CBS family campers. What a treat to see them mid-year!
The CBS family campers who attended the marriage conference hosted by Golden Hills Community Church. Great weekend!!
One of the highlights of the year happened soon after leaving Zephyr Cove. We had the privilege of leading a “Resurrection Ceremony” Sunday night for a couple whose marriage had been ravaged by infidelity more than four years ago. After a lot of humbling, hard work and a huge amount of the grace of God, reconciliation and redemption happened and this couple wanted to memorialize their “new” marriage through this “Resurrection Ceremony.” “Our marriage was dead . . . and it is now alive. We have experienced a resurrection.” It was a joyful celebration and poignant reflection of the hope we have in the Cross. What a privilege to be a part of this incredible work!
The “Resurrection Ceremony” was full of joyous hope.
Monday night, the 14th, I spoke at an informal gathering of about 40 women in the home of Ray and Carol Johnston (of Bayside Church in Granite Bay, CA.) Carol asked me to speak on marriage and ministry “stuff” to a group of her “mentees" and then take Q and A. It was a lively evening! Loved every minute of it and was so honored to do it.
Carol Johnston, with twin daughters Leslie and Christi, and daughter-in-law Kayla. Love all these women!
While we were in California, Julie’s baby Rachel turned 1. How can
be??? It really doesn’t seem that long ago that Veteran’s Day 2015 took on even greater meaning with her entrance into this world. What a joy and delight she has been and is. She was well celebrated in Pennsylvania, and we got a piece of the action via FaceTime.
Rachel turns 1.
Home on the 15th . . . in time to make dough for twenty apple pies before the 16th rolled around. Our annual Patriots women's apple pie baking day is conveniently scheduled in time for Thanksgiving and we pulled it off once again. So. Much. Fun.
A non-pi pie day. :)
And after being home for 48 hours, we boarded a plane for . . . you guessed it, California. There is a pattern.
This Thanksgiving trip was for the pleasurable celebration of family. We spent time with Lisa in her new home in Riverside, discovering some gems of her new surroundings by hiking Mt. Rubidoux together. The Garcias later joined us for her tree trimming party which was about as good as it gets. With Lisa, we drove to San Diego to spend a couple of days with my mom and while there, we celebrated my younger sister’s 60th birthday in fine fashion. Back up to Gabe and Kari’s for Thanksgiving, and then on to Pixley, where Paul’s family gathered for post-Thanksgiving frolic. Back to Garcias’ to trim their tree and then back to Boston on the 29th of Nov.
At the top of Mt. Rubidium . . . ”mount” might be an exaggeration,
but it was great to get out in the fresh air.
Ta-da!! Auntie Lisa’s beautiful, freshly cut tree, all trimmed and ready for the season. Her little “elves” made it oh so fun!
At a great Imperial Beach restaurant, we celebrated
my sister Melissa’s 60th.
After several friends canceled their “reservations” for Thanksgiving dinner, we had a sweet little gathering with just us.
Family and chosen family gathered on the farm in Pixley. This event was hosted by Jim and Betty Morehead and included delicious bbq and a rousing game of flag football.
Let the decorating begin!!
Back just in time for . . . that’s right, the Patriots studies and counseling. In honor of the first Super Bowl Championship, the Patriots organization flew the 2001 team in for this past weekend’s game against the Rams (the team we beat in the Super Bowl). Grant Williams was on that team, but more importantly, Grant and Emily were the ones who started the Patriots’ women’s and couples’ studies back in 1999. We invited them to speak to the couples’ study on Thursday night, Dec. 1, and it will go down in history as one of the best nights our study has ever had. They spoke as veterans, football-couple-to-football-couples “in the trenches.” Their message was clear and inspiring. The couples
hearing from them. What a gift!! The whole Williams family spent Friday afternoon with us before heading off to be feted by the Patriots organization.
With Grant and Emily Williams, the “grandparents” of the couples’ study, these young players hung on their every word.
It’s hard to believe that these young women were babies when Grant played for the Patriots! They’ve grown up so beautifully!!
This past weekend, we had our bi-annual Engagement Matters Weekend. We love this very intimate weekend The six couples who attended were super engaged, inquisitive, and interactive. They came from UT, VT, NH, NJ, NY, and MA!! Ryan and Kelly Plosker hosted the weekend in their lovely Wenham home.
One attendee wrote:
“Hearing scripturally based wisdom on many of the issues we have wrestled with in an eloquent, diplomatic way was so helpful. We felt affirmed in our relationship and this has provoked wonderful healthy conversations.”
“Loved the practical application of scripture. It has confirmed and strengthened our trajectory towards marriage. I feel this weekend has given me a clear picture of the Biblical foundation for marriage.”
“Learning in a homey, relaxed atmosphere is very helpful. Each section jump-started many important questions and discussions. I learned a lot. Loved the practical applications and illustrations from real life.”
What a privilege to be able to speak in to the lives of these young couples.
Engagement Matters . . . one of the best ever.
Whew!! It’s now Wednesday, and we’re not flying out of town this Friday. Next, yes, but not this.
Maybe some of those decorations will make their way from the attic to our living space . . . and we’ll be able to take the “not” out of the title of this blog. Have a blessed Advent season and we do wish you a Merry Christmas. More than ever, we need the message of the manger to restore our hope and give us vision. Glory to the newborn King!!
Outside . . . it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!