I last wrote just after our annual H.I.M. Marriage Conference was held (March 3-5) and I regret not having written about the weekend then because it’s hard to do justice to it and capture the essence of it weeks later.
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 . . .
|Our houseguests from California brought a lot of life and energy to our home during Easter week, starting with Easter Sunday breakfast.|
|Joyce was born and raised in Africa, and her “knocked knees” were surgically repaired at a CURE Hospital in Africa. Years later, Easter 2016, she was baptized in Arlington, MA.|
|Our delightful gathering on Easter Sunday, with much talking, laughter, and fellowship.|
|Most of the couples who attended EM April 2–3 . . . though some had already slipped out before this photo was snapped.|
"Excellent speakers. All of them. I took something from each talk. Thank you!!” (15-year-old male)
"I appreciated that nothing was sugar-coated. It helped me realign my thoughts on what really matters in life.” (15-year-old male)
"I loved attending with my teenage daughter. It opened up opportunities for us to discuss topics we had not, and gave me the way to do it. I wish I had known these things when I was a teen.” (female parent)
"I recently asked God to please show me someone that was going through the same struggle of staying pure. I am so happy this conference exists and I am thinking of so many people to bring next year. This conference helped me get closer to God.” (17-year-old female)
"Really appreciated the candor and vulnerability of the speakers.” (male parent)
"Getting to spend the day at 'Worth It' reinforced what we have been attempting to teach them about relationships.” (male and female parents)
"The things I learned today will change the things I do in the future.” (14-year-old female)
"Most of the speakers were fun so it helped teens who were not thrilled to attend.” (female parent)
"You guys fit so much into one day! Well done. Thank you so much for your ministry! God bless!” (female parent)
|Paul Friesen opens the day with passion and humor, instantly helping all attendees relax.|
Kate Wylie uses some volunteers to illustrate how hard it is to have a foot in both worlds.
|Adam Rowe addressed the issue of media and technology, hitting hard on the destructive nature of pornography.|
|Don Davis wrapped up the day with the good news of forgiveness and the hope of redemption.|
The aftermath . . . cleaned up and packed away . . . these folks stayed ’til the end. So grateful for them!
The cuties I spent a week with in California. I can never get enough of the grands!
|Held at the beautiful Carolina Inn on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, the ceremony was a declaration of the gospel of marriage.|
|Our wedding party . . . sooo late 70’s. Love it!|
Full time seminary students, worship leaders at their church, and parents to half a dozen laying chickens. Jake and Kaylee have a full life.
“Thank you for such a life-giving, refreshing weekend!”
“We learned so much this weekend and will recommend this conference to all our married friends!”
“What a fantastic reminder of how much God loves us and His design for our marriages.”
“We can’t thank you enough for the AMAZING weekend in Rhode Island. We are so blessed to learn what it is to be rooted in Christ as a couple. We are so grateful for the prayer session that equipped us to live our lives as one spirit and tackle the world together. We will be sharing our experiences and the tools with our small group.”
“My husband and I just returned from the marriage retreat in Newport and are HIGHLY recommending it to all our married friends! You guys do a wonderful job and we cannot wait to come back next year!”
“Thank you so much for leading, with Paul, such a wonderful marriage conference weekend. We came away with so much to think over and talk about. We are grateful for the wisdom both you and Paul share with so many.”
|Opening night: being lead in worship by Danny and Rayna Oertli, Rich and Sue Musacchio, and Paul and Lyss Gandy. A strong start.|
|The theme “Marriage Strong” was carried out beautifully by Kelly Plosker, who once again worked her magic on the ball room, creating an ambience of welcome, comfort, and delight. We are so thankful for her gifts used so powerfully.|
|Sunday afternoon . . . the guests are gone and the team is tearing down. We pause for a photo and a prayer, giving thanks for the incredible ways God met us.|
|Pioneer Valley Christian Academy’s headmaster, Tim Duff, addresses the larger-than-expected crowd at the “Worth It—Springfield” night.|
|The daily walk to visit “Cody” and “Mouse,”|
two horses who live in the neighborhood.
|Rachel, showing early signs that she enjoys being all dressed up with somewhere to go.|
|Sibling love. Ahhh . . .|
|Craig (worship leader) and Danika (asst. to program director) and Chris (emcee) and Suzanne flank us on stage at the Tuscarora Conference Center’s marriage conference.|
|Some of the mentoring moms at Bethany Church Greenland,|
ready to debrief the morning.
|It LOOKS warm . . . but it wasn’t!|
Nonetheless, we had a great time at the Nubble Lighthouse.
|The cousins—stopping long enough for a quick picture before voting to suspend the walk on the Marginal Way and return to the warmth of the car.|
|Cousin Katie, Auntie Lisa, and Nathan enjoy a rare opportunity to set foot on the island where Mr. and Mrs. Mallard raised their little ducklings.|
|Nathan and Rachel enjoyed dinner in the North End on Sunday before going to church on Palm Sunday.|
|Papa and Nathan made quick work of the 6” Spring snow fall.|
Derek, Julie and Nathan welcome baby Rachel to their family.
|Al and Bonnie Magill and Bill and Helen Challener were part of the marriage conference leadership team for First Pres Schenectady.|
It was a special joy to be with these four.
Hard at work, working together . . . many hands make many pies.
Connie Lawrence and Joy Coonradt have faithfully served Mom to Mom at Grace Chapel for years now. So good to reconnect with them!
|Lisa, Paul, and I walk the Coronado Beach at sunset.|
Does it get any better than this?
|The Garcias hosted the Dreves for a Saturday brunch . . . |
and fun was truly had by all.
|We were thrilled to share a lunch with our dear friends and ministry partners, Bob and Carol Kraning—especially after Bob’s near death heart attack episode this fall. These are “salt of the earth” people and we’re so thankful they’re in our life.|
|A couple of days in San Diego with my mom and siblings . . . |
We were happy to be there to celebrate my sister Melissa’s birthday with a cinnamon-roll-centered brunch.
|Our Thanksgiving table. We were delighted to have my second cousins, Madeline and Abby Shiell, and LeeLee Jackson, a mentee of Gabe and Kari’s, join the gathering.|
Our two days on the family farm in Pixley went far too quickly, but we did manage to get the annual family football game in: east vs. west.
I think we tied, though the west may disagree. :)
|One last event before we flew home: it was a joy to attend stage manager Kelsey O’Keeffe’s production of “A Christmas Memory” and to sit with her parents, our dear friends, Dawn and Jim.|
We thoroughly enjoyed speaking in to the lives of these couples considering marriage at Engagement Matters.
The Johnsons get a family walk in as night falls.
|The tradition continues: our annual visit with Grant and Emily Williams and their daughters|
|An added bonus of our St. Louis visit was catching up with Wes and Anna Welker and meeting their precious 4-month-old twins.|
The first ones who arrived to our final study got a sneak preview of the cinnamon rolls they would take home.
Pictured are some of the women who attended the Wednesday study all fall. Lexi is holding Hudson in the center back of the photo.
|Many of the couples who attended the couples study this fall. Our hearts for them are so deep.|
|Happy Birthday, Jesus!|
The “fam” on Christmas Eve
|The Amicos with the gingerbread house we made for them.|
|Ready for bed in new Christmas jammies…|
|The littlest “little,” modeling her matching jammies|
|Ana is ready for Christmas breakfast.|
Out-of-the-park delight with her new Olaf slippers.
“Just what I wanted!”
Brandon’s light saber makes it into Nathan’s hands and he’s mesmerized.
|Brief but sweet afternoon visit with Patty and Kimmie Benes . . .|
more chosen family
The morning after, with John and Marilyn Nugent.
|The “littles” are checking to see if the Gigi Cakes|
(aka cinnamon chip scones) are ready yet.
Family devotions, doing the Butterfly Song. Everyone’s favorite!
|Family walk in light rain, the day before the snow.|
|Nathan wasn’t quite sure what to think of this cold white stuff|
(a first for him) but everyone else loved it.
Papa and Brandon had a blast sledding tandem.
Of course! Snow ice cream!! Another first for the next generation.
|Overlooking the Wai’pi’o Valley on the northern shore of Kona, just before we hiked 1 mile straight down. Fortunately, we made it back up!|
On to Kauai, we hike the first 4 miles of the NaPali Trail, to this magnificent waterfall, and then walked the 4 miles back.
It was challenging and glorious.
Yes, that’s your man Paul standing under the waterfall.
Someone had to take the photo, so I sacrificed getting in that 55-degree water to be the photographer.
|We drove to Waimea Canyon on Kauai,|
the Grand Canyon of the Islands. Magnificent.
|After most had left, we grabbed this photo of a very small but delightful remnant of the conference attendees.|
|Sunset, crashing surf, and a great model.|
|The “littles” with the Mouse.|
|Eleven hours and 23K steps later, we leave the park.|
Guess you could say we made a day of it.
Tom and Betsy Newell were instrumental in running the conference in Arroyo Grande . . .
|. . . as were Paul and Sherri Masters, who treated us to a fabulous home-cooked meal of freshly caught fish. Yum!!|
|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.|
|The “Les Miserable” surprise theater group, sans Gabe and Kari, who rushed to my mom’s house after the show to prepare a fabulous Mexican feast.|
|The Garcias worked so hard behind the scenes to insure success on every level.|
|Sisters Sue, Lucy, and Melissa with my amazing mom at the west coast gala.|
|The Friesen side of the family represented at the west coast gala.|
|Four generations of our family . . . so blessed!|
|Julie and Derek were at the east coast celebration . . . via FaceTime. Here we are conversing in the midst of a room full of people. I was undone.|
|Kari and Lisa give public tribute at the east coast surprise party.|
|Paul, aka “Chauffeur Goober”, made sure that we got downtown for dinner and opening night of “Annie” on my birthday. If he quits his day job . . .|
|Kari and Lisa flew in from California for more birthday surprises.|
|Decked out and ready to join the 60’s club.|
|And finally: the brother! I was deeply touched by the efforts made by all my siblings to join in the celebration. My brother Frank and and my sister Francene both traveled from VA to surprise me.|
In the midst of this epic milestone celebration, we have been doing ministry. Back to the Salvation Army, we spent two incredible days with the officers from the Greater Los Angeles area looking at God’s design for marriage and ministry. We fell in love with this very special group of ministers. They are committed to living sacrificially for the Kingdom to a degree we seldom see. Their focus is to come alongside the most broken in our world, and give them “soap, soup, and salvation.” Their thrift stores support their drug rehab program, which boasts a 28% success rate for those who go through the (free) program. We had great interaction with them as they wrestle with balancing the demands of ministry (endless) and their families (also endless.) Several weeks after the conference, Major Ian Robinson wrote:
"People are still talking about the retreat and how it impacted their lives and marriages.”
|Part of the Salvation Army officers who attended the marriage conference|
at their retreat center, Mt. Crags, in Malibu Canyon.
|Colonel Doug and Colleen Riley were instrumental in the success of the conference.|
|Grant is the offensive line coach for Westminster Academy, the Christian high school the girls attend, and this photo follows a play-off win.|
|So thankful for Grant and Emily’s commitment to their marriage, family, and ministry.|
We love every minute with them!
|So much wisdom was “overheard” as Gordon and Gail conversed with one another|
as though none of us were there.
|Calvary Christian Church in Lynnfield opened their doors for this one-of-a-kind event|
and once again extended incredible hospitality and warmth to all.
I wrote to Gordon and Gail the following day:
"We couldn’t be more thankful than we are for the day. You and Gordon gave us all a gift we’ll never forget. A look not only into your living room, but also into your kitchen, your family room, and even your bedroom. You let us overhear your conversations about real life, which included failures as well as successes, the journey from a lack of understanding to understanding, selfish tendencies transformed by humble repentance producing unselfishness.
You showed us how to communicate, how to honor one another, how to love. And armed with the credibility of 53 years of marriage, you were most convincing because of the very nature of where your marriage is in 2014: tender, thoughtful, sensitive, growing, vital."
Gordon and Gail MacDonald have had a mentoring role in our lives for thirty years now.
What a gift to us!
|Douglas Gerber conducts the choir at his father’s memorial service while his mom,|
Nancy, sings (far right, front row)
We spent Sunday with a precious congregation in Swansea, Massachusetts: Bethany Gospel Chapel. We love this group! They heavily support H.I.M. events as well as the ministry, and we’re thrilled to partner with them. Paul preached and then we spent the afternoon in the home of Jim and Mary Klink, fellowshipping with many congregants over yummy homemade soup and salad.
|A portion of Bethany Gospel Chapel’s congregation who stopped by for soup and salad at the home of Jim and Mary Klink (back row, far right)|
|Most of those attending Engagement Matters this past weekend.|
That brings us up to date. It’s been a rich, full month of celebration and sages. May your experience include both of these as well.
|The leadership team for Mom2Mom at Bridgeway Church|
is doing a fantastic job of serving their young moms.
|Sierra Bible Church's leadership team, headed by Wayne Hoag (standing right next to me) are vitally impacting the Truckee community for Christ.|
|Randy and Joy Hitchcock (and their sons Chad and Cooper and dog Blizzard)|
were very caring hosts for our Truckee ministry tour.
|The Public Gardens at sunset on Easter Sunday Eve . . .|
Mama Duck and her ducklings in their own Easter Parade.
|Easter Sunday dinner . . . delightful time with friends, yummy food, great fellowship,|
and the resurrection. Can't improve on that!
"This weekend has deepened our understanding and strengthened the foundation of our relationship, and also raised challenging questions for us to consider."
"It has helped us identify areas to work on and be aware of, helped us to think of positive changes we can make to strengthen our relationship, and to not be afraid to take as much time as is necessary to be sure and ready."
"The weekend was so positive. It has reinforced our decision to be married one day while also giving us a reality check and opening our eyes to safeguards, boundaries, and practical things we can do to help our relationship."
|We had a great group of couples for our April Engagement Matters weekend.|
|Well, apparently spring has sprung in Ventura,|
and Brandon doesn't seem to mind the chilly water. No nerve endings in kids!
|Welcome to my “Gigi”’s delinquent blog. I’m only part of the reason she’s so far behind . . . but I think I’m the favorite reason. :)|
Cousins . . . celebrating the wonderfully God-honoring marriage of Mark Herbst and his bride Angie.
|Gabe and Brandon enjoyed the lively coastline during the ceremony.|
|Lisa and some of her FCA volunteers celebrate Easter together.|
|Engagement Matters was packed and inspiring.|
|Dan and Lois Frasier lead this group of teens through Letters to My Daughters using Paul's new discussion guide.|
|Kevin Munsey and his fiance Rawni flew out from California for Engagement Matters and we hosted them at our home.|
|Our engagement photo in March 1976. :)|
I’ve written this blog many times in my mind over the past month, and I’m confident that in the future, there will likely be technology that will take our thoughts and transcribe them. (Hopefully, selectively!) For now, though, lacking such a system, the pace of these weeks has precluded doing the “non-urgent” so I’m thankful that today as we fly to St. Louis, the time has come. We’ve had a fall of “two-fers”: five days on the road, “two fer” Boston. And those “two-fers” have been dedicated to our two Patriots studies and counseling, so that’s why it feels like we really haven’t been home much! We haven’t!
Backing up to Nov. 17th, we had a great morning with the MOPS group at North Shore Community Baptist Church. We love opportunities to speak into the lives of young moms. So much encouragement is needed during that season of life—which is delightful—but also so demanding, challenging, and often times undervalued in our culture.
Early on Nov. 18th, we packed our passports and flew to Seattle, where we rented a car and drove to Vancouver, British Columbia. We considered it an immense honor to partner with lead pastor Ken Shigematsu and his team at Tenth Church. We had known Ken from our time at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary back in the early 90’s and respected him then as a true man of God with a heart to impact the world for Him. We were delighted to reconnect with him last year as he wrote asking for input on a chapter he was writing on family. He invited us to spend a weekend with his congregation and it was definitely one of the highlights of our year to do so.
After spending Friday evening in the Shigematsu’s home having dinner with his family, we knew it was going to be a great weekend. His beautiful wife, Sakiko, and son, Joey, extended warm hospitality and we felt kindredly linked in short order. It was a lovely launch to the weekend.
On Saturday, we presented a marriage seminar in the morning and a parenting seminar in the afternoon. In between, we met with a team from the church to consult for them on family ministry within the church, and then spent that evening with a couple on their church lay leadership team, continuing the lunch conversation. It was a full, productive day.
The seminars were very well attended, which took even the planners by surprise, and even delayed the beginning of the morning due to so many “walk-ins.” A nice problem, really. The audience was engaged and thoughtful, and much to our surprise, had a rather large representation of single adults. Tenth Church does have a large single population, but we didn’t necessarily expect them to come to these two seminars. Happily, they did! As we conversed with more than a few of them, they explained that they wanted to gather as much information as possible before they were married or parents. Wise singles!
Sunday we preached four times at two different locations. Tenth Church has exploded under Ken’s leadership, growing from 150 in 1996 to over 2,000 now. Space is an issue and they’re creatively working to “expand their borders.” Focusing again on family issues in our sermon, we were amazed at the number of moving conversations we had with many singles who are wrestling with developing Godly expectations for their future marriages and families. Many of them bought copies of Letters to my Daughters and we were blessed beyond belief to have conversations with several on Sunday who had already read it, after picking it up on Saturday! One young woman related to me through tears how deeply she had been impacted by the wisdom of Paul’s father’s heart. “I didn’t receive that from my dad, and I was overwhelmed by the message and the heart behind it. I feel so much better prepared to make a wise marriage decision now. I only wish I had read this book sooner; it probably would’ve saved me some heartache.”
Another beautiful young woman wrote:
I want to thank you full heartily again for giving me Paul’s book Letters to My Daughters. I’ve been reading it every night since. It has brought me tears and joys. As I read on, I reflected on my own past, my own experiences wishing I’d read it earlier, and thanking the Lord for bring you and Paul into my life.
We had many great conversations with married couples as well, but I think we were both so impressed with the hunger and openness of the single population at Tenth. What a great reflection of the heart of the ministry at that vital church.
After late night sushi following the evening service (which kept us connecting with the “we’re in no hurry to leave this place” crowd until after 10), we got some sleep and headed out early Monday morning for parts south. We felt like we were leaving Vancouver way too quickly. We were comforted that a return is in the offing when we received this kind email from Ken:
Thank you, Paul and Virginia.
It was such an enormous blessing to have you at Tenth!
You are declaring God’s wisdom about marriage and family in a way that is biblically faithful, wise, winsome, moving, and practical.
Perhaps most powerful of all you are living example of how a family can hike in a direction that’s different from the general culture and in so doing serve as a light on a hill.
I sense that God is truly honoured in your lives and ministry!
I don’t know if you recommend an ideal “wait time” ratio before you come back to a context, but if you are open to returning to Tenth we would love to have you again—and perhaps market it beyond just our local church.
Next stop: Seattle. We managed to squeeze in brunch with Richard and Donna Dahlstrom, who are on our short list of favorite friends and ministry partners. They inspire us! So down to earth. So real. So missional. Our time as a foursome passed all too quickly. On to the church (Bethany Community Church, for which Richard serves as lead pastor) to spend the lunch hour with his staff talking about the virtues of family camp. That was easy. :) Our passion for family camp runs deep for so many reasons, as we see it as one of the most effective venue for impacting families who make it a tradition. I think we were convincing.
Continuing south, our next stop was San Diego, where we spent a couple of days with my parents and assorted other family members. I was genuinely pleased to be in town to take my mom to have cataract surgery that Tuesday morning. Thankfully, she came through with flying colors and can’t believe what she’s seeing again. Good days with my side of the family before driving to the central valley to spend Thanksgiving with Paul’s side of the family in Pixley.
The farm in Pixley. Legacy. Roots. Shaping. Paul’s boyhood home, where his godly character was forged. It was so good to be back at the farm. Especially thrilling was introducing Gabe, Brandon, and Derek to Pixley; walking the cotton fields, playing the annual family football bowl; cracking walnuts gathered from the orchards; eating traditional dishes for the Thanksgiving feast; regaling tales of times gone by. We had family meals and family devotions with extended family each night in the “great room” of the farm house, which is still occupied by Paul’s oldest sister Sandy and her husband Wayne. Flashbacks of 35 years of history danced through my mind as we sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” together, as we’ve done many times over time. Four generations have been a part of my Pixley experience; five generations for Paul, whose grandmother and aunt lived with them when he was a young boy growing up in that house.
The greatest gift was gathering with three generations of Friesens, all of whom are committed to faithfully walking with the Lord. It’s hard to express how significant it’s been for our own family to be journeying through life with those who not only share DNA, but who share spiritual convictions. It’s been reinforcing for us to keep pressing on. It’s filled in some gaps for our daughters, especially during the teen years, to have cousins who would stand with them, especially when they felt “alone” in their values and convictions. Well beyond the tangible benefits of being on the farm were the intangibles, and we left refreshed and renewed after three wonderful days there.
But not home yet! We headed north with Gabe, Kari, and Brandon, and spent a couple of days with them before flying home on Tuesday, Nov. 29th.
Breaking the pattern, we stayed home the first weekend of December. Sort of. We didn’t really stay home, we just didn’t actually fly anywhere. :) Friday night we spoke at Couples’ Date Night at the North Shore Community Baptist Church and had a lot of fun teaching on temperaments. The beautifully-planned evening (thanks to the creative efforts of Ryan and Kelly Plosker and their great team) was a fitting launch to the holiday season, forcing a pause to prepare for the physical and emotional challenges of this great but sometimes hard month. Always love being with this group.
One of the attendees wrote:
“The entire weekend was so amazing! My girlfriend and I are so very thankful to have gone and are excited about the future together. You and Mr. Friesen did just an amazing job and we are glad to have had such wise counsel.”
How we pray that God will use this weekend to prepare couples for a marriage which fulfills His design!
After another great Patriots win, the first week of December included an H.I.M. Board meeting in addition to the normal counseling and Patriots activities. We are so very thankful for our board. They are very smart and very dedicated to this ministry, and each of them sacrifices a lot to make this ministry happen. We are blessed.
As the calendar days march on under the heading of “December,” I must admit that we’re still a bit back in November. We have no Christmas decorations up yet . . . in fact, we have a few pumpkins hanging around our house, and harvest-scented candles still fill the holders. It’s a really good thing that we’re not in charge of the world, or there’s a very strong possibility that Christmas would be celebrated sometime in late January or February! Our pattern this fall of being home “fer two” days (and gone for five)—and those 48 hours being full of counseling and Patriots ministry—has caused many important things on the home front to be neglected. We’ve truly loved everything we’ve done but are committed to reassessing how to schedule our lives with more wisdom.
For now, though, we have another plane to catch. We’ve been home for 48 hours and it’s time to get moving . . .
|Matthew poses with our “field” of crocuses . . .|
. . . to be greeted by snow several days later. Wow! Classic New England! Though everyone knows it won’t hang around long at this point in the year, it was disconcerting to more than a few who felt like there’s been more than enough snow already this winter.
|. . . which were buried three days later by the April Fools Day snowstorm.|
We jumped right in to life as we know it when we’re home. Paul actually made an airport run later the night we returned to help out a friend! His servant-heartedness touches so many. Counseling, sorting mail, unpacking, and preparing for two H.I.M. events in the next two weekends filled that week. We always try to accommodate invitations from local churches when we’re in town, so the weekend of Engagement Matters, April 2-3, ended up being very, very full.
Friday night, April 1, we spoke at North Shore Community Baptist Church for a couples dessert night. Hosted by Ryan and Kelly Plosker, the evening was well done and enjoyed by 40-50 couples. In typical Kelly fashion, the tables were decorated simply and beautifully, and both fruit and sweet desserts were available. She even took the labels off the water bottles because they clashed with the colors. :) The extra mile!
We so enjoyed the evening. The couples responded well to the teaching and seemed to really appreciate having a date night with a purpose.
|The tables were beautifully set . . .|
|. . . and the couples were very engaged in the teaching.|
Early Saturday morning, we headed to the Macrae home in Weston to hold Engagement Matters. We had a lively collection of 16 couples who hailed from all over New England, as well as one couple from Seattle and two couples from Pennsylvania. Along with Ryan and Kelly Plosker, we taught through lots of material on God’s design for marriage and challenged the couples with many practical considerations in light of God’s Word. We enjoyed interacting with this thoughtful group who seemed to have a sincere desire to make wise decisions. We have such a deep heart for this arm of our ministry, believing that doing good work prior to marriage can increase the chance of experiencing a more fulfilling and God-honoring marriage. We’re grateful for these couples who contributed to this being another successful weekend.
|Engagement Matters weekend is always a highlight for us.|
Most of the couples posed for a photo at the end of our last session.
At 2 am Sunday the 3rd, a family of four from Moses Lake, Washington, arrived to spend a week at our house. Kent and Staci Copley have been featured in previous blogs, as Kent serves as the executive pastor of Moses Lake Alliance Church and has invited us to speak at their marriage conference multiple times over the past years. One of the joys of doing that has been developing a deepening friendship with their family, so they chose to spend their spring break exploring Boston and hanging out with us. Their flight was delayed out of Denver; hence their very late arrival.
Monday morning waffles with Kent, Staci, Tori, and Britni Copley, who spent a week with us.
We wrapped up Engagement Matters that Sunday afternoon, and then Paul headed off to his next speaking engagement: a men’s event at Grace Community Church in Chelmsford. Bill Keating, who arranged the evening, was thrilled with the large turnout of men and Paul has received very positive feedback on his talk. It’s so encouraging to partner with a church that is committed to building into men. Though truly exhausted by this time, Paul was honored to be a part of this movement at GCC.
We also had a low moment in this week: we completely missed a speaking engagement on Thursday, March 31. It was an awful moment to receive a call at 9:56 am that morning and to hear the voice on the other end say, “We have 57 women that are waiting to hear you speak this morning. Are you on the way?” Paul was at the office, and I was knee deep in preparing the house for our house guests—and for the first time in our many years of ministry, we had completely forgotten about a commitment. Though we offered to jump in the car and try to salvage the morning (after admitting that we had failed to remember), the gracious woman said not to worry, that we could reschedule.
It was a huge moment of grace. Her response was so gracious. She said, “Having just returned from spending days with my mother who has stage 4 cancer, you not coming this morning is minor. Please don’t worry about it. The ladies are having a great time talking and we’ll all look forward to rescheduling you.”
Wow! What a gift she gave us that morning. Though we really did feel terrible, she was clear in insisting that we not lose sleep over it. We’ll be touched by her response for a long time to come.
No, we’re not in Hawaii anymore, but we’re truly glad to be back in New England with many folks we love and are privileged to serve with. There’s no place like home . . .
. . . unless it would be Sacramento, California, where our precious little-big grandson is growing and changing daily. Here he is pictured at 7 months with his Red Sox colors proudly displayed. Now if he could only bring them a little luck . . .
7-month-old Brandon makes it harder to live 3,000 miles away.
|At Honaunau, we couldn’t get enough of these sea turtles who were enjoying “fresh sushi in the sea.”|
|Down the challenging path to Captain Cook’s memorial, we all snorkeled in Kealakekua Bay and marveled at the stunningly beautiful undersea world.|
|Back up that awful trail from Captain Cooks, Gabe suppresses his masculine pride to don Kari’s nursing apron to provide protection for Brandon’s fair skin.|
|Gabe stands on the lava formed coastline on the southeastern shore of Hawaii, and is mesmerized by the power and fury of the ocean.|
|Brandon enjoys the sunset at Honaunau on our last evening together.|
|This is really what it looked like. Breathtakingly beautiful, we didn’t leave until the last rays of sun were swallowed up by darkness.|
Saturday morning, Jan 8, we were leading Engagement Matters for 12.5 couples. Along with the resource team of Ryan and Kelly Plosker and Doug and Julie Macrae, we agreed that it was one of the best weekends ever. Not sure how to qualify that, except to say that we all had great interaction with the couples, who were open, engaged, and taking it all in. They seemed to be there with hearts to seriously consider truth that would impact their thinking regarding making “the second most important decision of life.” We continue to love this event and pray that God will use it to change the world through at least a few of these future marriages.
|With Mr. and Mrs. Steele (times two!) at the reception.|
“It helped us to bring up and clarify some things we hadn’t discussed and has helped us to grow closer and communicate more effectively”
“Confirmed that problems are real”
“There is a lot to do! But God’s grace and redemptive nature is so comforting”
“We are getting closer to not getting married. This has helped us figure this out. We have seen that we have too many differences. It raised questions about our relationship we had not faced.”
“It has helped me realize I am marrying a great man.”
|Fall is unmatched in beauty as seen in New England. We poked around Stowe, Vermont, en route home from Montreal, and were treated to beautiful views and breathtaking colors.|
|Brandon continues to dominate our thoughts and hearts. Here he is at 9 days old. It was so hard to leave him on his 16th day of life.|
|Like mother, like son. Those dimples…|
|Finally, Auntie Lisa gets to hold Brandon, a few days shy of his three-week birthday.|
|Chase, Wendy, Amber, Calen, Packy, and Kelsey Offield celebrate the nuptials in the backyard of the Catalina home they grew up in.|
|We also “shot” two rounds of 18 holes at the world famous Avalon miniature golf course. We laughed and cheated our way through both rounds and decided we shouldn’t quit our day jobs to take up golf.|
|Jim Martis stands with Matt Light, Steven Neal, and Don Hasselbeck as dinner is served.|
|Some of the couples who drove up from Boston for the conference.|
|Out for delicious Lebanese food with “Badveli” George and Priscille Dabbos.|
|A very cute fall display on a sidewalk in Stowe.|
|Stephanie and her mother May help assemble the boxes for OCC.|
|Some of those who attended the Church Reps Dinner at Macraes.|