Gary Thomas

New Year's . . . Really? (Part 1)

Does anyone else feel like New Year's Day should be about now—and that though the calendar already says January 16, 2013, it feels like that's impossible?

That's where I am.  We have just finished a full-to-overflowing month, filled with memorable family moments, rest, rejuvenation, and renewal.  "The End" to our family reunion was written Monday night as we bid farewell to Derek and Julie and sent them back to Uganda.  Let the New Year begin!  

So, after a month of not needing to know exactly what day it was very often, we're back at it.  An early morning trip to Logan and we're off to California and Colorado for a 12-day ministry tour.  The New Year is rolling.

But first, I need to wrap up 2012.  Picking up just after Thanksgiving,  I had an important lunch with my longtime mentor and friend, Gail MacDonald.  It's impossible to express what it means to me to have Gail continuing to invest in my life, which she's faithfully done for 28 years.  I've learned so much from her, both formally and informally, and her life lived for Christ has hugely influenced mine.  I will be forever grateful that Gail continues to carve out time in her very busy schedule for me.

Lunch with Gail MacDonald at the Bedford House in NH,
belatedly celebrating my birthday and prematurely celebrating hers!

We welcomed in December with a half-day H.I.M.-sponsored conference, "The Church Family and Your Family."  Designed to encourage churches to intentionally build into families and marriages, we were very pleased with the group of around 30 that gathered that morning, representing about 8 local churches.  We were especially impressed by Bethany Gospel Chapel of Swansea, which sent four couples from their leadership.  That's a church that is serious about this very important mission!  The morning was lively with discussion and inspiration, all while sitting in the atrium-like living room of the Macraes' home as snow fell softly outside.  It was a really wonderful way to spend the day!

The group of leaders from Bethany Gospel Chapel who attended
“The Church Family and Your Family” conference.

Monday, Dec. 3, we were honored to partner with the Faith EV Free Church of Acton by speaking to their Mom to Mom group.  Lorraine Stobbe extended the invitation and we were so pleased to be a part of that very exciting ministry.  One of the women we spoke to afterwards shared that she had just come to Christ after having been a part of Mom to Mom for several years, and that she was now praying for her husband to embrace Christ.  Very cool.  

The week was filled with counseling, Patriots studies, and getting things done for Christmas.   As I was perusing my iPhoto collection of photos for this blog, I came across this one which seemed very fitting to include.  Our ideas about love and serving can be so lofty at times and seem out of reach, but this photo captures love-in-action.  We "rescued" this destined-for-the-garbage pumpkin from the porch of some dear friends, and Paul, as a gift to me, processed it.  Our freezer now has a good amount of pureed fresh pumpkin, which will be used to make soup, pies, and breads.  It's a win-win-win.  Paul has spoken my love language loud and clear and has been duly appreciated, and many will enjoy the fruit of his labor in various treats from the kitchen.  And the pumpkin has a happier ending than in a landfill.  

The girls asked if he used a chain saw to cut this baby open.
He did not.  Just brute strength and a huge karate chop.  :)

We canceled Engagement Matters scheduled Dec. 8-9 due to low enrollment, which opened up the weekend for our annual trip to St. Louis.  We were SO happy to not break tradition with our beloved Williams family.  As usual, our weekend was filled with baking, talking, and catching up, in between and during their normally scheduled school and sports events.  Something new this year was being introduced to "The Duck Dynasty" reality t.v. show . . . and that made the girls "happy, happy, happy."  So many great moments with this precious family; so thankful for this Christ-centered home.

The tradition continues: matching jammies for
the family . . . except for Wilson, the dog.  

All too quickly the weekend was over and we flew home on Monday, Dec. 10, in time to go to Gillette Stadium with Stacia and Annette Woodhead to watch the Patriots handle the Texans (the first time.)  Annette, the mother of #39 (aka Danny, Woody, etc.), and I had a blast talking shop about marriage and family during commercial breaks.  We share many similar passions, and she and her husband are helping families in Nebraska embrace God's design for them.  The weather was great, the game was a blow-out, and still, it was the conversation with Annette that was the highlight.  It's so very encouraging to see how God is using others to impact our very confused and wounded culture with the good news of the gospel. 

We had a great night at Gillette Stadium with Stacia and Annette Woodhead.  Go Pats!!!

We wrapped up the Patriots Women’s study on Wednesday, December 12, with a cinnamon roll baking workshop.  With 18 women regularly involved in the study this year, I hadn’t really thought of what that meant in terms of dough for this popular annual event.  I now know.  It means A LOT of dough!  I started making the dough at 5 a.m. and drove down to Attleboro at 8 a.m. with 12 batches of dough rising in the trunk of our car.  :)  Thankfully, we had plenty of dough and lots of laughs working with it.

We also wrapped up a wonderful fall study of Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas and had a time of sharing about what the study had meant to each one.  It was evident that God was stirring hearts and drawing us closer to Him through our time, which—cinnamon rolls aside—really is the desire.  I’m so thankful for each of these precious women.  They are really very special. 

A few of the women proudly showcase their handiwork.  

Our final women’s study—sweet, sweet group.

It was straight from baking rolls to Logan to pick up Julie and Derek from Uganda!!!  Our dear friend Helen had joined us for a few days to be my right hand girl in all the preparation, baking, wrapping, cleaning, etc., so it was an extra mutual bonus for all parties to reconnect.  Homecomings are usually joyful and this one surely qualified.

These happy smiles are for more than the Dunkin' Donuts
coffee Helen bought to welcome these two from Africa!

Later that evening, Paul returned to Logan to pick up Danny Oertli, who had been flown in to do a mini-concert for the Patriots Couples Christmas party Thursday night.  Arriving after midnight, he thought he had landed at the North Pole upon seeing the “elves” hard at work making gingerbread houses.  :)

The after-hours crew making the annual gingerbread houses.

After a full morning of counseling, we finished baking, wrapping, and preparing for the grand finale of the Patriots Couples’ Study, and headed down to Attleboro for a really great night.  Betsy Hasselbeck and Kara Mankins had transformed the Mankins’ dining room into a beautifully decorated room, delicious food had been brought in, and the Ugly Sweater Christmas party began.  (Let me note here that when it had been suggested during the previous study that the party become an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” night, I had NO idea that they were referring to the very sweaters that I’ve worn Christmas after Christmas, never thinking them “ugly.”  I honestly thought they meant something very different, so was I surprised to show up and see what this young generation considers “ugly.”  What a rude awakening!)

Sweaters aside, the evening couldn't have been more delightful.  After laughing over the parade of "ugly sweaters" and eating a fabulous meal,  Danny Oertli did a fabulous concert, highlighted by his original tune written just for that night (in anticipation of the AFC title game between his beloved Broncos and our beloved Pats.  You can hear it here on YouTube:    As we now know, that song will have to wait for another year to go viral, as the Broncos will be watching the Pats and the Ravens in the AFC title game, but we all thoroughly enjoyed Danny's creativity and passion expressed in that song.  Matthew Slater talked about his walk with Christ and Paul wrapped it up with a charge that goes beyond the season.  It was a perfect night and we were very, very thankful for how God had met us through the study this season.

The Ugly Sweater gang

That takes us through Dec. 13 and that’s it for now.

I have to try to figure out how it’s already Jan. 16.

It's Time to Change

Sunrise over Avalon Harbor . . . His mercies are new every morning. . . 

Three weeks ago we were flying home from Uganda.  Today we're flying home from California.  Maybe when we get home tonight, I'll change my watch from Ugandan time to Eastern Standard Time.

It's a quirky thing with me, admittedly, but it's something I've done for a really long time.  It's not because I don't know how to change my watch, obviously.  It's because I don't want to quite yet.  For many reasons, my "heart" hasn't been ready to embrace that our days in Mbale, for now, are history.  Mainly it serves as a reminder to pray specifically for what might be going on in Derek and Julie's lives at a given time.  They've had a lot going on since we've left, and we've wanted to stay as connected as we can from seven time zones away.

Other than being completely confused when I glance at my watch in the middle of the night, it serves good "heart" purposes.  Just don't ask me what time it is.  :)

It took a week to adjust to being back in the states, sleep-wise and body-wise, but we didn't have that long before we jumped back in to ministry.  In fact, within 24 hours of returning, we met with the core team of leaders for the Patriots Couples’ study over dinner to map out the plan for the fall, and we managed to stay awake through the whole thing!  It was actually very inspiring to be with three of the player couples, as well as with Don and Betsy Hasselbeck, and to develop a new strategy with hopes of injecting some new life into the study.  We've now had our first two evenings, and we had 18 at the first...and 32 at the second!  We are more than excited at the potential of our gatherings.  

Within 48 hours of landing back in Boston, we were driving to Falmouth to speak at an all-day Saturday marriage seminar for Falmouth Baptist Church.  We had a really sweet time with Tim Rogers, who booked us to speak after coming to several "Worth It" conferences.  It was an adjustment initially to speak at normal speed with less concern about idiomatic expressions, or cultural context, but the "saddle" felt comfortable rather quickly.  It was a very positive time with very sincere folks.

Most of the attendees of the Falmouth Baptist Church conference . . . a great group of folks!

As though we had never been gone, the following week fell in to a predictable pattern.  Wednesday morning was the Patriots Women's study, and we were thrilled to have 17 ladies show up.  :)  After a quick scone-making lesson by moi, we launched our study using Gary Thomas' new book, Every Body Matters.    I really appreciated the message of this book when I read it this past spring and have been promoting it all summer at Family Camps.  As Gary deals with the challenge of "stewarding" our bodies rather than worshiping or abusing them, he treds where few have dared to tred in the Christian community.  His indictment that we've been content to be "chin-up" Christians, focusing on correct theology and doctrine, while ignoring the implications of application of those very truths on our physical bodies and health, is spot on.  We've gotten off to a good start in the study, with good discussion of a topic extremely relevant to the fulfillment of God's purposes for our lives.  Eighteen ladies showed up for week 2 of the study!

Counseling fills the balance of our Wednesdays, and continues on Thursday mornings until mid-afternoon, and then we drive back down to Attleboro for the Pats Couples’ study.  The first week, Big Jim Martis catered a great bbq dinner of steak and chicken and the fixin’s, and then the second week Paul and I prepared a Mexican feast.  The spirit and interaction has been great for these first two meetings.  Pray for both of these weekly studies, that God would draw these dear couples to Himself in a deeper way.

Big Jim is in the middle of a few of our players at our Patriots couples' study.

Last Friday, Sept. 21, I flew to California alone while Paul fulfilled the commitment we had made to Camp Berea to do a seminar at their women's conference.  Paul was one of two male presenters, and his seminar was presented three times on Saturday to full crowds.  The ladies always love him.  

Meanwhile my first stop in California was in San Diego to visit my folks.  I hadn't seen them since Father's Day weekend and it was a joy to hang with them for a couple of days.  My mom's health is good and my dad is declining, but not too rapidly.  We had many sweet moments together. I was also happy to meet my newest great nephew, Josiah David Rivera, when Corey and Claire brought their crew over for a visit.  I spent Sunday on Catalina Island, attending the wedding of Sarah Armstrong and Doug Hippe, long-time friends from family camp.  It was a wonderful, God-honoring celebration and a great time for me to reconnect with many dear island friends.  It was also a joy to spend the night with Wayne and Carol Herbst, Paul's youngest sister and husband.

The mother of the bride, Jenny, is one of my dearest friends.

On Monday I spoke to a group of young moms in Ladera Ranch.  Two of Lisa's dear friends, Heather Vataha and Amber Offield, collaborated to make that happen, and it was such an encouraging time to talk about "The Things I Wish I Had Known..." with this group of thirsty young moms.  I LOVE this age/stage and delighted in encouraging them in the hope of the gospel, which is sometimes elusive when life is full of the craziness young children often bring.  Financial pressures, marital challenges, exhaustion, confusion, wanting to do the best but experiencing unwanted feelings of failure to an overwhelming degree at times.  We talked about lots of things and all seemed to really appreciate that I had felt all of those very things—and had survived them.  By God's grace.  It was a very special time.

Amber and Christian Offield and Heather and Laila Vataha pulled together the moms gathering I spoke for in Rancho Ladera.

And here are the moms—outnumbered for sure by the kids!

It was a treat to spend the balance of the time with my dear friend, Wendy Offield, before flying back to Boston on Tuesday.  I returned feeling very blessed: for all of the moments in California, and also for the husband I have.  Traveling alone, I was reminded of how much he takes care of when we travel—from hauling all the heavy suitcases, boxes, etc., to getting rental cars, driving to unknown places, etc.  And never getting flustered or acting like it "can't be done."  He gets it done and I am so spoiled.  And more thankful.

Back in Bedford for a mere 48 hours for the two Pats studies, for counseling, and then back to California.  This time to the Bay Area, to spend the weekend at Bethel Christian Church in downtown San Francisco.  Our dear friends, John and Marilyn Nugent (who are also H.I.M. Board members), arranged the weekend.  It was varied and well put together as a "Relationships Weekend,"  featuring us as speakers and Danny and Rayna Oertli as musicians.  We love any opportunity to partner with the Oertlis!!

We launched the weekend on Friday night with a talk on purity, given to teens and their parents.  We were thrilled with the response of a very engaged group; both teens and their parents were interactive and responsive.  During the first half of the evening we spoke to the group together, and during the second half we fielded questions from the parents, while the teens met with their youth leaders.  The questions were thoughtful and heartfelt.  We were reminded of how many more challenges face these parents today and how much more difficult on so many levels it is to protect and prepare teens according to God's design.  Thankfully our hope continues to be in the gospel, and that hasn't changed through the generations.

All day Saturday we did the "Irony of Intimacy" marriage conference.  We were thrilled to have Kari and Gabe, along with three couples they're mentoring, drive out from Sacramento for the conference.  :)  It was also heartening to have Bill and Kristen Smith, friends from CBS, fly in from Reno, and James and Charlotte, a sweet couple who attended Engagement Matters, as well as Drew and Dana Macrae, show up.  Charlotte told me, "As we celebrated our first anniversary in July, we were thinking about the assignment from Engagement Matters to have an annual marital check-up . . . and then the email came announcing this conference!  We were so happy!"

Gabriel and Jessika, Jerron and Danielle, Gabe and Kari, and Lamar and Kalyce drove from Sacramento to our marriage conference at Bethel Christian Church.

We were happy, too.  It was a wonderful day of celebrating God's design for marriage in some very practical ways.  God seemed to meet many there, as evidenced by their comments.

Sunday morning we taught a joint Sunday School class on "Forgiveness" and God met us in a powerful way.  I prayed with a forty-something-year-old man who said he carried deep anger towards his father who was severely abusive to him, his siblings, and his mother.  He said he wanted to walk in freedom, and through tears we prayed that he would release his anger and allow God to handle his father with justice.  

Paul preached the morning worship service and was anointed.  He preached with passion a stirring sermon on God's desire to take us from paralysis to praise—and young and old alike seemed very moved by it.  We wrapped up the weekend by enjoying Danny Oertli in concert and he did not disappoint.  It was a rockin' evening.

What fun to rock out to Danny's concert with Nathan and Julie Aleman and Liz.

Under a full moon and traffic-free highways, we drove to Sacramento after the concert, so we could be wakened by our grandson, Brandon, early the next morning.  And that's exactly what happened.  :)  Our 24 hours with Kari, Gabe, and Brandon flew by, but was a delightful ending to a wonderfully full weekend.

Brandon, 25 months, still loves being on Papa's shoulders.

As October opens its pages, we are glad for a few days to enjoy the best New England has to offer: fall.  Brilliant salmon, orange, crimson leaves pop out against the not yet turned leaves as harbingers of the steady parade of colors that will be ours to behold this month.  The delights of New England fall are unmatched and we're very thankful we'll be around to drink it in.

I guess it is time to change my watch. 

The Twists and Turns of November 2011

The Oct. 30, 2011 Nor’easter created great hardship for millions, but also painted some unusually beautiful vignettes which prompted the question, “What's wrong with this picture?”

What a month it’s been!  We returned from California on Oct. 25, got through days of counseling and the two Patriots studies, and then hunkered down for the Nor’easter of 2011.  Not to minimize the very challenging circumstances that evolved from this unprecedented October storm, but we were secretly very pleased to be in town to “experience” it firsthand rather than read the reports about it (which seems more typical for us due to our travels.)  Let me also confess that since we only lost electricity for about 10 hours, we faced none of the hardships incurred by so many others, so we could “enjoy” it as few could.  At any rate, we were awed to see the power of God in nature and the unusual marriage of fall colors and snow.  Wild weather!

November was ushered in by our annual evening with the couples at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  We love Lita Schleuter, director of the seminary wives program,  and are honored to partner with her and to mix with the students.  We always find this engagement stimulating as we interact with those preparing for ministry and struggling with the somewhat unknown future challenges of balancing marriage, family, and ministry.  It was a great evening, capped with a brief but sweet visit with some of our family friends’ students who are attending Gordon College.

We received this kind email from Lita after our evening together:

Paul and Virginia,
What joy it is to always have you come and encourage future church leaders!!  You are indeed preparing soldiers of the Cross!
Your teaching reached across cultures - in the audience were couples who are already leaders in their countries, and they were greatly encouraged by God's word as presented by the two of you.
Thank you for making yourselves available to God to bless His Church!
In Christ’s joy,

We were so honored to spend the evening at GCTS with Bonnie Robinson and Lita and Dan Schleuter, along with many student couples.

Hannah Bastedo, Holland Stewart, and Monica Wong are family friends all studying at Gordon College, so we had a late night “Nick’s Roast Beef” run after speaking at the seminary.

Our long-awaited “Sacred Marriage” conference happened the first weekend of November, and Danny and Rayna Oertli’s arrival on Thursday, November 3rd, got the ball rolling when we picked them up en route to the Patriots couples study so the couples could enjoy a mini-concert.  Our group was smaller that evening since many of the couples had been without electricity since the weekend storm, but the group present was greatly blessed by Danny’s music.    

Danny gave Betsy Hasselbeck an impromtu lesson on his guitar before his mini-concert at the Pats couples’ study.

That was the start of a great weekend.  Gary Thomas spoke Friday night and all day Saturday to a crowd of about 550, and God’s spirit was unmistakably present.  He is anointed to bring a very counter-cultural message to a world steeped in self-centered entitlements, which wrecks havoc on marriages. He challenges us to think about marriage from a design perspective, making it about God, rather than from a cultural perspective, which makes it about “me.”  His message was clear, convicting, and hope-giving.   Especially heartening to Paul and me was seeing many, many couples with whom we’ve walked for years now, who have been met by God in very life-changing ways.  Their once very struggling marriages are now on solid ground and the hope of the gospel is seen very practically.

Besides Gary's inspiring and practical messages, the spectrum of workshops hit the mark by addressing specific areas of interest, and were led by highly-qualified resource couples.  We had the usual offerings of conflict management, temperaments, and investing in your marriage, plus some new ones.  David and Michelle Swaim presented a workshop on developing a missional marriage with a global perspective.  As they taught, holding their seventh adopted child, 5-month-old Andrew, they caused many to consider living far beyond themselves.  We received great feedback on the workshops.

And as always, the worship led by Danny and Rayna Oertli was used by God to draw us to Himself.  It was a great, great conference.

Several comments we’ve received since:

“We really felt so enriched and blessed to be at the marriage conference this weekend.  It was worth every penny of the $20 per hour! (cost of babysitter!) Thanks again.”

“My wife and I attended the recent Sacred Marriage conference, what a blessing!  I frequently give Sacred Marriage to couples as wedding presents and during premarital counseling, I loved hearing Gary in person and was personally challenged and stretched to grow in loving my wife as Christ loves the church.”

After the conference, Doug and Julie Macrae treated Gary Thomas, the Oertlis, and us to a wonderful dinner at Il Capriccio in Waltham.

We rounded out the weekend with a visit to Foxboro, where we were witness to a deja-vu game against the Giants.  Everything about the experience, minus the score, was perfect:  weather, company, food, friends.  Danny and Rayna enjoyed their introduction to our football world nonetheless, especially because their Broncos took the Raiders down that day.

It was a great afternoon at Foxboro, in spite of a not-so-great loss to the Giants.

Our post-conference recovery week included an H.I.M. Board meeting, counseling, Patriots studies, and speaking at Mom to Mom at Grace Chapel.  We divided and conquered and each did a workshop on Thursday, Nov. 10.  As always, it was good to reconnect with a few familiar faces and to partner with this great ministry to moms.

Carolyn Sylvester, Lisa Cerci, and Connie Lawrence were a few of our favorite faces from our Grace Chapel days.

Veterans Day weekend  took an unexpected turn when we got a phone call from our newly-married daughter, Julie (whose husband Derek was in Uganda for two weeks), regarding a somewhat urgent medical concern (which has, thankfully, been since resolved).  In light of a relatively “light” ministry weekend (Paul had a men’s breakfast to speak for at 1st Congregational Church of Hamilton and we were scheduled to participate in a very important wedding which Paul was able to do alone), I hopped on a plane within hours and spent the weekend with Julie, awaiting several test results.  Though there was a underlying concern running throughout the days, it was a very sweet time to spend with our Uganda-bound daughter during her last months stateside.  We laid low, overall, since she wasn't feeling great, but did manage to sneak off to the beach at Coronado and take a sunset walk Sunday afternoon.  On that walk, we also admired the Hotel Del Coronado, where Paul and I spent the first night of our honeymoon 35.5 years ago.  It's on our bucket list to return there for a night or two, but for now, it brings great delight to just look at this magnificent hotel from the incredible beach upon which it sits.

The Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego sits majestically on the beach and holds great memories for us.

And, turning around 180 degrees, the setting sun declares the glory of God.

While with Julie, we were also able to pop in on my folks and have lunch with my sisters before flying back to New England late Tuesday evening.  It was a gift to receive good news from the test results before flying home that day.

Paul carried the ball in New England and spoke at two more Mom to Moms, one at St. Michael’s in Bedford and the other at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Acton.  He is also wildly popular with the ladies and the feedback we got confirmed that nothing has changed.

At the Patriots Women’s Study that Wednesday (the 16th), we exchanged our Cynthia Heald study and Bibles for cinnamon roll dough and rolling pins.  This annual event is lots of fun and we had a blast together rolling dough, splashing butter, sprinkling cinnamon sugar, and baking this yummy treat for all to bring to their families.

The annual cinnamon roll workshop produced dozens of rolls and happy consumers.

The almost finished product with some of the accomplished bakers.  

After only 48 hours at home, we were off again—passports required...

But before I sign off: how could I not post this photo of our quickly growing and changing Brandon?  :)

Sacred Parenting

Gary Thomas speaks . . .
. . . and people listen.

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

With that, Gary Thomas opened dialogue with a room full of parents seeking Godly wisdom on parenting.  Returning to New England to speak for the second Home Improvement Ministries conference in 15 months, Gary imbued a cold, wintry Saturday with tremendous value as he taught on this critically important subject.

Gary is profound.  In the midst of a Christian culture wanting easy answers, formulas and quick fixes, Gary teaches from a completely different perspective. The tagline on his best selling book Sacred Parenting reads “How raising children shapes our souls” and that casts the trajectory of his insightful teaching. “One of the greatest gifts a parent can give children is personal holiness” is the distilled truth which ran throughout his three sessions.

“The question isn’t 'How can we make them behave?' but 'How should I behave so they'll want to behave well?'”  Again and again, Gary emphasized that God's design in parenting is not just about shaping the next generation, but about sanctifying parents.

Many parenting guides subscribe to the truth that parents who walk their talk are more believable and impacting and that you can't pass on what you don't have.  While Gary's teaching is not inconsistent with these truths, the outcomes are still measured by the next generation and as important as that is, it's still not the focus of sacred parenting. “Are we growing ourselves so our children will benefit?” he posited during the opening session.

That radically different approach is what makes Gary Thomas' teaching so life changing.  Following the conference, one parent wrote  in:

The H.I.M. parenting conference far exceeded our expectations! Gary Thomas exhorted us to “parent out of reverence for God” and to embrace every minute, because the time we have with our kids is short! He also encouraged us to give the best gifts we can to our kids and those are: parents who model a growing walk with Christ and parents who prioritize their marriage relationship. The workshops were also excellent, full of great practical advice and encouragement! This event was a huge boost for our family! Thank you for putting it on!
            —Sacred Parenting Conference 2011 Attendee

Besides three rich, deep, and challenging sessions with Gary, a wide spectrum of workshops were offered.  Workshops were presented by eight different teaching couples—including an NFL player, the founder and headmaster of a private school, a cardiologist, a family practice doctor married to a software engineer who homeschool their 4 children, a senior pastor with six adopted children, a junior high pastor, an executive pastor, and a licensed social worker.  The workshop topics included media, homeschooling, teenagers, teaching your kids about sex, passing on your faith, being godly parents when you had none, balancing life and parenting when both parents work, and getting it going in the right direction with young children.  It was a privilege for us to work with such a strong team of highly-credentialed and successful people whose highest commitment is sacred parenting.

The workshop leaders introduce their topics. Each workshop was offered twice and much positive feedback was received on the excellent job done by these highly qualified teachers.

Once again we were so grateful for a tremendously servant-hearted team who staffed the conference.  Sue Martis and Barbara Steele managed the event, from publicity to registrations to on-site execution, and Jim Martis of MJM Catering took care of the food.  They had a great group around them who sold books, arranged food, directed traffic, welcomed and registered attendees, and kept the day going.  The folks at Calvary Christian Church were stellar.  Partnering with them has been such a gift.  Their belief in what we do is greatly encouraging to us personally and offering their facility is a gift.

Part of Jim and Sue Martis' team who prepared lunch.

At day’s end, our only regret was that every seat at Calvary Christian Church wasn't filled.  For those who didn't make it a priority to be there, it was a lost opportunity.  For those who did, they left changed, charged, and blessed with renewed hope, passion, and vision for this very sacred journey of parenting.

At the end of the day, we paused to thank the Lord for His presence which filled every aspect of this conference and for this great group of volunteers and H.I.M. Board members who sacrificially served to make it happen.  We are blessed beyond words.