Though fall arrived “late” this year, it is making a quick exit as the Christmas season makes its appearance “early.” Or so it seems! As we fly home today from a 10-day trip during which we spent 2 days each in 5 different towns, I’m musing about walking in to a home bedecked in orange, greens, and golds, all representing the season just passed of falling leaves, harvest, and shortening days. But if past performance is any indication of future expectations, Christmas will be here in short order, ready or not. And though I’m certain my lofty goals of projects completed will exceed the time needed to complete them between now and then, I’m hopeful that my desire to prepare my heart for Christmas will outpace my attempts to prepare my gifts.
August has flown by, which is consistent with the beat of the whole summer. When the family camp program was canceled at CBS back in late December, we had no idea what the summer of 2017 would look like. We weren’t concerned that we’d be twiddling our thumbs, quite honestly, but we couldn’t have imagined then the opportunities that have unfolded for us. “Only God.” Indisputable.
For the first time since launching this blog over twelve years ago, three months have elapsed since my last post. In an unprecedented quandary, I’ve had a really hard time finding the words to write, for though there have been many great moments and experiences during this time, we have concurrently experienced some of the darkest and most difficult days of our life together. And quite frankly, I haven’t known how to communicate about this, fairly and honorably, especially since it’s ongoing. This is a season during which my silence hasn’t been “golden.”
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 . . .
Though the song “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” is affirming the beauty of the Christmas season (and who would argue that?), I could easily build a case for an equally fitting song to be written about fall in New England. I quickly run out of expressive adjectives to describe the delights of this season during which beauty parades in different colors and presentations daily for about six weeks. We have been savoring each eyeful of gorgeousness in this land of deciduous trees whose greatest beauty comes through the transition from life to death. Interesting paradox.
We were treated to an early kaleidoscope of color the last weekend of September when we drove to Newport Center, Vermont, to present a marriage conference at the Newport Church of God. The home church of Paul and Lyss Gandy (our 2016 CBS musicians and high school family camp directors), they persuaded Pastor Larry Wall to invite us and we’re so glad they did. We had a great weekend with the Walls and their congregation, celebrating God’s design for marriage. We tagged a couple of days on to enjoy the beautiful area while staying in Lyss’s family’s cabin on Lake Memphremagog. It was a true gift of restoration and renewal to be there as we hiked, leaf peeped, and enjoyed some time with Lyss’s extended family. And it officially became an international trip when we had dinner in Canada. :)
The conference was well received and we heard from many that God really met them during it. As always, we pray for ongoing fruit.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church overlooks the lake.
Spectacular photo taken by Lyss Gandy.
Paul and Lyss emceed and led worship for the conference, and did both so well.
Here we are with the Gandys . . . always a good time.
Dinner out with Lyss’s local family, who were delightfully hospitable and welcoming.
Pastor Larry and Sally Wall: passionate for Christ and for transformation. We enjoyed being guests in their home and sharing stories of hope.
On the drive down we found the colors to be distracting from keeping our eyes on the road.
Home October 4th, just in time for the Patriots’ women’s and couples’ studies, with some counseling packed in around them. We’re so thankful for robust groups in both of the studies, and we sense that God is doing a deeper work among us. Pray for those studies as you root for the Patriots. :)
Columbus Day Weekend brought with it not just increased foliage color, but a sweet visit from Derek and Julie and their precious littles. Though the four-day stay included the stomach flu for Rachel, a bad head cold for Derek, and a very rainy Sunday (no complaints—just reporting), it was so good to be together. Those unplanned-for-elements insured that we had plenty of down time, which was a good thing for all involved. We did stroller walks to the park daily and played lots of indoor hide-and-seek, games, and read a plethora of books. Loved every moment.
Papa and his girl Rachel showcase their very blue eyes and beautiful smiles.
We did make it to a little farm stand, but as you can see from Rachel’s face, she was still under the stomach-flu weather.
We got the Johnsons off Tuesday afternoon (always sad) and spent Wednesday and Thursday as per usual: Patriots studies and counseling. There was a lot of laughter and many points of connection as we taught on temperaments at the couples’ study Thursday night. Great time.
Off to California first thing Friday morning for a full long weekend. Built around a wedding Paul was asked to officiate, the week had a little bit of everything. First stop: Biola University, where we were honored to tape two podcasts for the Institute of Marriage and Relationships, which is directed by Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace. Alisa had written a blog on our book
Before You Save the Date: 21 Questions to Confirm your Decision to Marry
and asked us to follow up her blog with a couple of podcasts. Even though we had to slog through a delayed-from-Boston flight (after getting to the airport at the ungodly hour of 6 am . . . and then leaving 1.5 hrs late :( ), waiting 30 minutes for our luggage at LAX, waiting another 30 minutes for the rental car van to pick us up . . . delaying our arrival to Biola by 1 hour 45 mins (and costing us lunch with the Graces), it was so worth it! We loved being with Chris and Alisa, whose hearts beat in sync with ours regarding family and marriage, and we are so excited about the Institute of Marriage and Relationships they are directing at Biola. The podcasts we recorded will be aired in the near future and we’ll keep you posted so you can tune in.
Speaking of Chris and Alisa Grace, they will be speaking at the annual H.I.M. Marriage Retreat, March 3-5, 2017, in Newport, Rhode Island. Registration has started and as has been true the past several years, it will likely sell out well in advance. Register now! This will make a great Christmas gift for your spouse, your married kids, your parents, and your friends.
Friday evening, we spoke at The Rock Community Church in Anaheim Hills for their couples’ night. Jeff and Shauna Ochoa spearheaded this marriage shot-in-the-arm evening and provided a lovely date night for many couples. We’ve partnered with this church numerous times in the past and are so thankful for their commitment to healthy marriages.
Jeff and Shauna Ochoa planned the Couples Night Out for The Rock Community Church in Anaheim Hills, California.
The main event of this trip to California was Davey and Ruthanna’s wedding, officiated by Paul. Ruthanna grew up coming to family camp at CBS and she and Davey Ray met at CBS when they both served on staff. They attended our Engagement Matters Weekend last December and soon after they asked Paul to do their wedding. We accepted the honor with pleasure. The wedding on Sunday was a God-honoring celebration of a couple committed to living faithfully for Christ. Held in beautiful Highland Springs Resort in Cherry Valley, CA, under an 1100-year-old oak tree, the metaphors of legacy, of roots, and of strength were lost on no one. It was a thoughtful, meaningful wedding and we were so happy to be a part of it. It was also such a joy to be with Dave and Kim Noble and Isaac Rossitor again, all fellow past CBS staff, as well as with the Lee family, who have been family campers for over two decades.
We also managed to squeeze in a few hours visit with John and Grace Tebay, two of our longest and most beloved mentors. At 84 and 82, they are beyond remarkable and we hang on their every word and insight—and savor every moment. Their godly wisdom has been an invaluable resource to us since before we got married and we feel so blessed to have them in our lives. We closed out Saturday over dinner with two couples we’re mentoring, Brent and Melissa Slezak and Josh and Carley Gire, and left so inspired by their hearts and hopes.
John and Grace Tebay are in a league of their own and we’re so blessed to have them in our lives.
Davey Ray and Ruthanna’s wedding was beautiful and Christ-centered.
Such a fun reunion with Dave and Kim Noble (former CBS director) and Isaac Rossitor (former assistant head cook at CBS.)
One last thing before we returned to New England: a day at Disneyland with Brandon and Ana. Gifted by a dear friend employed by the Magic Kingdom, we made the most of this celebration in honor of Brandon’s 6th and Ana’s 3rd birthdays. 25,000 steps later (collected from 8:30 am to 8 pm), we left happily exhausted and full of memories we’ll keep savoring and replaying. Big moment of the day? Brandon’s inaugural ride on the Matterhorn. Pretty daring for a just-turned-6-year-old. Ana and Papa set a record for the most times on Ariel’s Grotto and King Arthur’s Carousel, though those numbers would’ve been shared with the Winnie-the-Pooh ride had it been open. I will never stop delighting in Disneyland, nor will I give up my dream to one day work there (though my aspiration to be Tinkerbelle and fly from the Matterhorn across the sky has been scratched off the list . . . for about 40 years now.) How grateful we are for generous friends who help make such memory-making days happen.
Disneyland was spectacularly dressed up for Halloween.
Brandon’s response just moments after his first ride on the Matterhorn. He was pretty happy that he conquered this very scary ride.
Back in New England, we’re joining the masses who are mesmerized by the glorious parade of fall colors which are truly breathtaking. No photos or words can capture the display, which unmistakably points to the glory of God. We’re savoring the days and thanking the Lord for His creative nurturing of our souls through such reflections of His majesty.
|“Be exalted, O Lord, above the heavens . . .” This photo was taken out of the window of the plane flying from Denver to San Diego. The changing skyscape kept us mesmerized for almost an hour. It was spectacular.|
|Here we are: our entire immediate family. Brandon walked me down the aisle after Ana lead the way as the “flower girl.” Gabe and Derek each read scripture and everyone else did the hard work of making it all happen. It exceeded our expectations.|
|My dear mama, almost 87, is the only living parent we have and we are so grateful for her health and mobility which allows her to be present at moments like these.|
|These five weren’t present 40 years ago! :-) The next generation, by God’s grace, will carry the mantle of truth in the decades to come.|
|Jack’s 16th birthday celebration started with brunch at his Aunt Susie’s house. Such a great time!!|
|Along with my sister Melissa, we had a great night at the zoo. The bronzed gorilla is no relation.|
The “Greatest Generation Ever” memorial includes a bronzed collection of injured veterans being entertained by Bob Hope, with a continuous loop of one of his comedy routines being broadcast. Pretty remarkable.
|Hiking to “Interlaken” along the first lake . . . breathtaking!!|
|Taken from Independence Pass on our way to Aspen, this photo doesn’t really do justice to the incredible beauty—so use your imagination.|
|Paul, fully recovered from his brush with altitude sickness on the climb to the top of Aspen, stands on the platform upon which he married Wes and Anna Welker four years ago.|
|Jeannie and Bob Mannes were most gracious to receive us for a “down memory lane” visit in their home in Denver.|
|Elsa and I had a great time together catching up.|
|A wonderful group of CBS family campers gathered for food and fellowship in Parker on the Johns’ family ranch.|
|One more sweet celebration of our 40th.|
|The Daggetts—Kristi, Tim, Isaac, Maddie, and Joel—met us at a park for a wonderful time of reconnection.|
Our final social gathering prior to flying home—bbq and s’mores at Danny Oertli’s parents’ home. Delightful!
|We “rocked it” with Nathan and Rachel for three days while their parents got away. Loved every moment.|
|Sunrise behind us as the moon sets before us over the Rockies. Such assurance that He goes before us and behind us, always present, always with us. How comforting! All praise is His.|
|Our first program staff photo, taken during orientation week.|
|The night of our last family camp banquet, all dressed up and ready to go.|
|Brandon and Ana are in love with their new little/big brother Micah James.|
|The program staff are teaching the new group of campers the memory verse song, which Paul and Lyss Gandy “wrote.” They set 1 Peter 3:15 to music and it tops the charts as one of the best memory verse songs written for CBS ever.|
|Claire Peister, Lyss and Paul Gandy, and Joe Yardley brought down the roof when they performed as a quartet.|
|Our 1st annual "4th of July Old Fashioned Picnic and Games” was held on Sat. July 2 and fun was truly had by all. Pictured here is one of the four teams that competed against one another.|
|Apparently this team won 1st place—at least in this popular “toss the cheese puff onto the shower-cap-smothered-in-shaving-cream” event.|
|The annual game show—this year named “The 2016 Gallagher’s Games”—was a huge hit and this dedicated, hard-working team made it look easy week after week. Such a great night of laughter, friendly competition, and intergenerational craziness.|
|The 4th annual “Ladies Only” tea was held one Saturday afternoon for the staff women. Especially lovely is leaving our staff shirts behind and celebrating the bond of women.|
|The full moon loop hike is another staff-only hike, and though only 11 took advantage of this opportunity this summer, it was one of the best hikes ever. The clear, bright night made flashlights unnecessary . . . and a few bison made it interesting.|
|Off this intrepid group goes to enjoy the island in this unique way.|
|Successfully to the top of Lone Tree, sweaty but smiling. The full-sun morning added challenge to the hike.|
|Taylor Tebay and Ryan Beiter share a moment before Ryan boards the boat to return to the mainland.|
|This is just part of what they set up in our honor.|
|This is the crew that orchestrated the tribute given in our honor at the banquet for family camp 4. Such precious friends/family.|
|Campers surround the “baptismees” to hear the proclamations of faith prior to them entering the waters.|
“Great is Thy Faithfulness!!!Morning by morning new mercies I see.All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”
|Hand-carried, freshly cut lilacs from New England “fragranced” the surprise visit to honor my sister Laura for her birthday.|
This little fighter, Maggie, attacked this plastic tube with a vengeance, which betrayed her very weakened, sickly condition.
|Sunrise over one of the lakes at Cumberland Wilderness Retreat.|
|Under the tent—the “meeting hall” at this not-yet-developed but full-of-potential camp.|
Battle of the sexes . . . men against women in finger-rocket-blasters.
Fish fry—starring freshly caught fish by the campers—absolutely to die for (well, the fish did).
Cumberland Wilderness Retreat’s future—site of the first construction which will happen in the next few months. We prayed over the land together.
The family campers at Cumberland Wilderness Retreat: 75 campers, 17 families.
The family camp staff—all great folks who served endlessly through the weekend.
|Papa and his well-loved grands, Nathan and Rachel.|
|Rachel lights up a room!|
|Bob and Clara Sharpless are such an encouragement as they continue to be involved in Kingdom building in their golden years.|
|Jim and Marge Perry have also been a part of CBS history for decades. When we got married, they were family campers, and eventually their sons served on staff.|
On the boat heading over to CBS for the summer. This is a great group!
|Staff optional hike up “Scar” with “Lone Tree” in the background.|
|Dick and Nancy Beggs, retired from Christian camping (they are connected with Camp Maranatha in Idyllwild), stopped by for a visit. Our friendship spans our marriage; we met them at the CCI conference at Mt Hermon in 1977. They are treasured friends.|
|The program team for the 2016 family camp season. Such a great, great group!!|
Sunset at Cumberland Wilderness Retreat. Unfiltered beauty.
|Ross and Caitlyn Macrae stand with Paul soon after being pronounced husband and wife.|
Julie and Nathan stand in front of their new house in Mechanicsburg, PA.
|Wedding by the sea . . . Paul re-married this couple, much to the delight of their two children.|
|We had a great time on Nantucket Island with Julie and Nathan. It was the first time for all of us to this beautiful island.|
|Aunt Margaret makes 100 years of age look like 80!|
|Ana is all smiles in her new birthday Sports Coupe. Can’t believe she’s 2 already!|
|Lots of fun birthday moments with our little pink princess and her big brother, who loves everything about birthdays, no matter whose it is.|
|Our daily walk on the beach help to stimulate our brain cells for writing.|
|We met up with our dear friends John and Marilyn Nugent along the “gold coast.” Note: only John is pictured here. :-)|
|We happily connected with our best friends from seminary, now living in Monterey, Johnny and Lori Potter.|
|And we checked in with newly transplanted from New England to CA, Steve and Jenny Luxa. It made In-N-Out all the better to share it with friends!|
|The Union Fellowship at Park Street Church welcomed our teaching on finances.|
|Paul and Lianna Chong host the Union Fellowship group.|
|Jon and Marilee exit after being pronounced husband and wife by my brother-in-law, David Leach.|
|The original “Collins crew” with the matriarch.|
|Julie, Betty Ann, Barbara, Dawn, Helen, and me. Kelly had already retired for the night. Helen is still surprised!|
|Carl and Cathy Blatchley and Lars and Bethany Nielsen worked hard to make the Grace Baptist Church marriage conference successful.|
“Thank you, Paul and Virginia, for a wonderful life-changing marriage conference. As I shared with you, I've never been to a marriage conference that takes the Biblical, temperament, and biological differences and make them very, very relevant to marriage. Your reinforcement of how differences can strengthen your marriage when viewed with grace and gratitude helped us greatly.”
|After the second service Sunday morning, we thank the Lord, with Carl and Cathy Blatchley, for meeting us this weekend.|
|Don and Betsy Hasselbeck were at New England Chapel for the couples’ night. Love them!|
|We are so thankful for Nate (executive director of Berea) and Heidi Parks to whom we have passed the mantle of family camp.|
|What a joy to perform the marriage of Paul and Alyssa Gandy in Newport, VT.|
|Two “half staffs” combined to make a powerhouse “whole staff” at Berea. This is the week one staff . . .|
|. . . and this is the week two staff.|
|Staffer Erik Anderson leads his group of guys. During the second camp, we had 64 students 4th grade and below . . . and 51 of them were boys.|
|Kelsey O’Keeffe, serving for the sixth summer at Berea, finds a creative place for her high school girls’ small group time.|
|One of the 14 baptisms in Newfound Lake . . .|
. . . with some of the witnesses celebrating this meaningful declaration.
|Jumping into frigid water at Sculptured Rocks|
provided an afternoon of fun.
|Daily hikes along the lake front renewed our minds and worked our bodies. Mark was joined by several other staff guys after this photo was snapped.|
|Howard Clark, who was our speaker for both camps, holds court with the staff during a riveting Question and Answer session.|
|Our final staff photo after the week two banquet. Parting is such sweet sorrow.|
|Standing in line for the zip line at SpringHill camp with the Wong family. We loved it!|
|SpringHill is a beautiful place!!|
|To celebrate the end of family camp and Paul’s upcoming birthday, the Wongs took us to “Black Rock Steak House” for dinner and it was great!|
|Brunch at the Wongs': great food, but greater company.|
|Our niece, Heidi Rottschafer Lemmerhirt, and her 3 came for a visit that was enjoyed by all.|
|Eric and Stacey Rauch stand with us before we spoke for the couples event.|
|With temps reaching 106 degrees, it was really refreshing to jump in their pool.|
|The grand finale: strawberry cream pie a la Kari.|
|Standing in front of Lisa’s new rental at CBU!|
The Labor Day Family Camp program staff team . . . a stellar group!
|A full camp enjoys worship led by Christian Hushaw, Alea Peister, and Seth Heinz.|
|Dancing under the lights and the stars. Very, very cool.|
|Late-night staff gathering around Paul’s cookies and stories of engagements. Great bonding time.|
|David and Cherylyn Hegg served as our resource couple for the weekend. We always love spending time with them.|
|What a perfect ending to a wonderful visit with my mom!|
|The sun sets on another summer at Campus by the Sea.|
|The entire staff team: facilities, program, and year-round staff.|
|The program staff.|
|The “staff only” annual shore hike . . . pausing at Frog Rock.|
|For the first time in a long while, the 4th of July fell on Saturday,|
so we rented the "Blanche W” and took the staff in to watch the fireworks in Avalon Harbor, followed by a flying fish tour. Such a fun night!
|Every Saturday night the staff enjoyed Paul’s freshly baked|
chocolate chip cookies—much to their delight.
|The annual tea party for staff women was delightful.|
|In a most unusual twist, Family Camp 5 arrived in RAIN, and in order to keep our campers as dry as possible, the our staff cheerfully got drenched.|
|The annual staff-only hike to Lone Tree took place during Family Camp 5,|
and though it didn’t draw a large crowd, those who went had a great time.
|The “Staff Coffeehouse” was resurrected this summer, featuring some great acts as well as some great desserts. “Pavlova” a la Vonny was the biggest hit.|
|Into town for our “staff appreciation dinner” to celebrate our seven weeks of serving together.|
|Dave and Vonny were our “right hand people” serving as the “deans” of the staff cove,|
Little Gallagher’s, as well as leading the college group.
Vonny also directed the elementary program. So thankful for them!
|The host and hostess of “Go For the Glory” . . . stylin’!!|
The “fam” minus Gabe, who had returned to the mainland to lead
the college missions trip from his church.
|Nathan helps Papa ring the bell for announcements.|
A bunch of Friesens, Herbsts, Rottschafers, Clarks, Oertlis, Millers, and Stucks.
So fun to have them all at camp!
|The original 3: Kari, Julie, and Lisa.|
|Barbara Steele and Betty Ann Bleu joined us in surprising Laura on her birthday. So fun!!|
|“If I were a butterfly, I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings . . .” These families joined the ranks of those who have wildly embraced the simple but profound truth of this song.|
|The outdoor kitchen: breakfast on a grill!|
|Fishing was a favorite pastime and all who got their lines wet were|
handsomely rewarded with many fish . . .
|. . . which fed the group on our last night. Best fish fry ever.|
|Baptisms were done at the quarry lake and it was very inspiring to see|
five young ones proclaim their desire to follow Christ.
|The family camp photo!|
|Final moments of family camp, gathering around the Thompson family|
as they move from the area so Keith can attend seminary.
|The founding families: The Thompsons and the Kings,|
after three exhausting days of serving everyone at camp. Tired but content.
|Many of the CBS contingent who attended Garth’s Celebration of Life service in Santa Rosa.|
|Lisa and Rosemary sharing the love.|
|First program staff meeting 2015.|
|First “selfie” with 18 staff who hiked Scar for the first of many times.|
|Welcoming Joe Yardley to the team on Wednesday, flying in from NC after orientation at UNC.|
|Our first day in Mbale, visiting the CURE Children’s Hospital.|
|Auntie Lisa and Brandon visit a sweet mama and her baby.|
|Gabe, Kari, and Ana went from bed to bed, talking and praying with the mamas.|
|Our day trip to Sipi Falls was wonderful and all made the hike|
except Derek, who was nursing a knee injury.
|Daily walks in the neighborhood gave us exercise and insights into the life and culture of Mbale.|
|The JENGA crew who spent the day with us being trained in Biblical marriage.|
|Chiko II pays us a visit during our outdoor breakfast.|
|The “cows come home” after a day of grazing.|
|We celebrated Julie’s 30th a bit early at the Endiro Coffee Shop.|
|After a very long and bumpy 8-hour drive, a very happy crew arrives at Bwana Tembo,|
our lodging for our safari.
|Brandon was enthralled with every sighting, and was especially captivated by this giraffe that followed us for awhile.|
|On the Nile River cruise, we enjoyed watching these elephants frolic in the water.|
|We think it’s a friendly smile...|
|With Murchison Falls in the background, we get a family shot on the Nile.|
|What all good mates do: carefully groom their spouse.|
|Continuing our family tradition, we circled up to pray before parting ways.|
|We spent a day training these local pastors in marriage ministry.|
|Pastor Wilberforce and Sarah Okumu, who lead the fellowship at Pearl Haven Christian Center, attended the couples’ date night dinner.|
|We spoke at the Pastor’s Prayer Breakfast during the Easter Convention.|
|We also spoke to the whole Easter Convention after the prayer breakfast.|
|Nathan and his good friend Faruke, whose father John is the groundskeeper for the Johnsons. Faruke is a wonderful, motivated young man who will be sorely missed|
when the Johnsons return to the States this summer.
|The “Worth It” speaking team — such a great group!!! So thankful for them.|
|Calvary Christian Church in Lynnfield hosted our annual “Worth It” conference|
and the house was packed.
|A favorite destination . . .|
|. . . and this is why! Quite mesmerizing to watch these turtles and koi.|
|Barry and Saundra Galloway shepherd the flock at Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard|
and are impossible not to love.
|Lisa, Head Coach Cori Close, and I get a photo prior to the Women’s Basketball Banquet.|
|Sweet time with Liz Aleman and Julie and Nathan Aleman|
in San Francisco soon after we landed in California.
|Early morning breakfast with Drew and Dana Macrae for our annual “marital check-up."|
|Lunch with Ross Macrae and his fiancée Caitlyn|
before heading to Golden Hills Community Church for the evening.
|Johnie and Becky Moore were such gracious hosts at GHCC.|
|The CBS contingent at the dessert night . . . How we love these families!|
|My mom was pretty thrilled to have Danny Woodhead and Benjamin Watson|
as her dinner dates at the PAO conference.
|David and Cherylyn Hegg are dear friends and ministry partners.|
We loved having them with us for the marriage retreat!
|Doug Macrae presents David Hegg with a signed Brady jersey . . . |
just what every Seahawks’ fan wants. :)
|The newlywed dinner was well-attended and spawned some lively discussion.|
|Part of the H.I.M. team that worked the weekend. So grateful for each one of these servants!|
|Kelly Plosker invested hours in making sure everyone felt welcomed|
and cared for in the ballroom by her creative decorating.
“Our first retreat and our mutual expectation for a clearer picture of God’s design for marriage was exceedingly met! Thank you!”
“Thanks for another Christ-centered weekend and for giving us additional tools/resources to grow our marriage and further understand God’s plan for marriage.”
“Thank you for this experience. It has been life-changing for us and our marriage.”
|Engagement Matters attendees March 14-15, 2015|
|The serving team: Melanie Bilazarian and Cathy and Carl Blatchley.|
"I now have many tools to work on bettering my relationship and having a successful marriage.”
“I loved the tie back to scripture and the examples and anecdotes were good for getting a point across. I also appreciated the resources available and recommended.”
“Everything was explained so well and in such an engaging way. Everyone was so approachable for questions. I loved it all. Very well done.”
“It opened up many avenues of discussion, many topics covered that we haven’t thought through.”
|Our first day at the CURE Hospital . . . deeply moving.|
|A fair representation of the Collins family line gathered at my sister Sue’s home for Thanksgiving.|
|Coach Cori Close inspires her team, though their efforts fell short vs Nebraska.|
|Brandon and Auntie Lili at our Thanksgiving-on-1st-Advent-Sunday celebration|
enjoying their “name card cookies."
|Gabe and Rosemary Valencia encourage us with their story|
at at the CCCA Conference in Orlando.
|Elsa Stanley, whose dad Mark we’ve known since we were students at SDSU,|
graced us with a sweet visit upon our return from Florida.
|Just before Thanksgiving, we made apple pies from scratch at the Patriots women’s study.|
|At our last meeting, after making cinnamon rolls, we exchange goofy gifts,|
some of which are displayed.
|Our final Patriots couples’ study night . . . missing four couples who had come all season.|
It was a great group.
|"Go Bruins” was lost in the huge crowd of UConn fans, but we were there!!|
|Hadden, Lucy, and Wiley join Papa and Nathan in singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.|
|This little boy is all about balls! Christmas morning fun.|
|Paul, Lisa, Julie, and Hank strike a natural pose for the photographer.|
|Linda Bartel Dismukes joined us for coffee in downtown Kona.|
|We spent a great evening with Mark and Angie Herbst (Mark is our nephew.)|
|Church Sunday morning with Dave and Debbie Hazlebeck and John and Marilyn Nugent.|
|We walked endlessly along the coasts of these Hawaiian islands . . .|
|. . . and at points, came upon sleeping turtles . . .|
|. . . or swimming turtles. Any kind of turtles worked for us.|
|The sun rises over Perkins Cove . . . in the very still, cool morning. Love.|
|Paul's "birthday lobsta" from dear friends . . . so yummy!|
|Gigi and Brandon decorate his birthday cake.|
|The finished product brought smiles all around.|
|Papa and Brandon break in his new birthday squirt guns in the pool. Not sure who had more fun!!|
|Paul was honored by the staff with a Shelby-directed birthday skit,|
since camp started on his real birthday.
|Lisa came through, recruiting Rhema and Kendrick (both UCLA student athletes) |
to serve on our staff. They all did a great job.
|Kendrick, Lisa, and I hosted one of the s'more tables, a first for Kendrick. |
He was a quick study . . . spearing those marshmallows!
|We lost our sunlight earlier than we finished our dancing,|
so with the aid of a floodlight, the dance went on. Very cool!
|Walking the beach at Torrey Pines State Park . . . breathtakingly beautiful.|
|Lunch with Mimi Test and my mom was a true highlight of my time in San Diego.|
|The sun sets on the summer at Coronado Beach. "The heavens declare the glory of God." Amen!|
|Staff team for HIM/Berea Family Camp Week 1|
|Staff team for HIM/Berea Family Camp Week 2|
|Ashoke and Stephanie Bachew joined us from Trinidad for our two weeks of family camp at Berea.|
|Newfound Lake provided the perfect setting for baptism for these eight . . .|
|. . . and during week 2, these four adults.|
|Bill Campbell accepts the signed banner from Paul during our closing session.|
|The staff have their own finger-blasters battle after the campers have cleared out . . . |
one of the many perks of being on staff here. :)
|MaryAnn Bastedo, Melissa Kovacs, and Josh Bachew join me in serving s'mores at this station . . .|
|. . . while Shelby Krueger, Jessica Hopkins, Naomi Frey, and Elissa Johnson |
keep customers happy at the other station.
|The amphitheater was packed for our outdoor worship evening and |
perfect weather enhanced the whole experience.
|Long after most campers had left the amphitheater, Kelsey O'Keeffe, Kayla Krogh, and Scott Johnston kept the singing going with this little crew of siblings and cousins. Endless worship!!!|
|The final worship set for week 1. I love this shot of some of the |
70 junior/senior highers at camp this week. They were tight!
|Paul Gandy, Kelsey O'Keeffe, Dakota Baker, and James Yardley lead worship for both camps. During camp 2, they were joined by Glen and Zachary Powell. Worship was inspired.|
|The ninjas await their cue for the birthday skit.|
|Each week, the staff had an audience with Pastor Ashoke, |
who taught on full surrender and relationships.
|A trip to Sculptured Rocks was fun and cold as each brave staff |
jumped into the frigid snow melt pooling river.
|Twice-daily staff meetings were punctuated with occasional treats. |
This basket of candy bars from Kelly Plosker brought smiles to all.
|Creative rain gear (modeled by Jessica Hopkins and Shelby Dreves) was in order on Wednesday of camp 2 when a huge thunderstorm visited the area from early morning ’til late night.|
|Our California staff were amazed that even with such a deluge, |
life goes on as though nothing were happening.
|In place of the daily Scar hike at CBS, this staff takes a daily 4-mile roundtrip hike |
to the lighthouse, followed by a refreshing swim in the lake.
|This is it. Final night . . . after 9 full weeks for most, and 2 for some, |
we join arms in the gym to celebrate the faithfulness of God.
|And the next morning, after an all-camp photo, we sing "We love you campers, oh yes we do!" |
to our loved, departing family campers.
|One last hug before the team began to disperse. So much love. Such full hearts.|
|The "Fam" in Vero Beach: Derek, Julie, and Nathan on far left,|
Gabe, Kari, and Ana next, Lisa next to me and Paul, fronted by Brandon.
|First day of orientation week, we got off to a great start.|
|Five weeks later, seasoned and bonded, this amazing group of staff had proved|
their commitment to Christ as well as to the campers.
|Derek and Julie head out on a hike with Nathan in the backpack and Ana on front.|
|Sisters and babies . . . such fun!!!|
|All the family minus Gabe (who was leading a missions trip)—|
We shared many happy moments at camp.
|Brandon helps Papa with devotions.|
|Paul's oldest sister, Sandy Clark, and her gang, plus sister Beth|
and nephew Brian Rottschafer and his family joined us for camp 5.
|The 6 am departure for the shore hike didn't discourage many as 35 staff made this annual trek.|
|Happy staff hikers conquer Lone Tree once again.|
|The hosts of "The Ology Game" were joined by swashbuckling Brandon.|
|S'mores anyone? Brandon enjoys one with his "Boo" Lyss.|