As the first real snowstorm of the quickly-coming-to-a-close winter “that wasn’t” blankets the area, I’m happily snuggled at home absolutely delighting in this thoroughly unexpected twist of nature. My “Let It Snow” collection of pleading signs that have greeted every visitor to our home this winter have been ignored by the Great Snow Maker...until now. LET IT SNOW!!!!
This is the perfect scenario for writing an overdue blog entry... and on leap day, no less. We have been home eight days since I last wrote...which explains why I feel very far behind on most maintenance issues. Our travels have taken us to CA, NY, and FL, and each trip has been full of people, ministry, and delight.
Backing up to Feb. 3, when I returned from London, I had no time to get over anything before we were in the saddle Saturday a.m. teaching at our H.I.M.-hosted parenting conference. Though the turn-out for it was disappointing, those who attended were very affirming of its value. Between the workshops and the plenary sessions, there was plenty of energy and hunger for encouragement and instruction.
It was interesting to juxtapose the seeming lack of priority placed on attending a parenting conference (too busy, kids' sports, no babysitter, etc.) with the immense amount of time and energy invested in being prepared for the biggest football game of the year which happened the following day. There were no lack of callers-to-sports-radio from armchair coaches who had clearly spent a lot of time analyzing the Patriots and developing a game plan that would produce the desired results. If fathers spent a fraction of the time investing in developing a game plan for their families...and then showing up to coach them through the "game of life," our homes would be so different.
Super Bowl Sunday started for us at Highrock Church, where we heard a challenging message by David Swaim, and was followed by a trip to Plymouth to visit our dear Thora Eames. She was recovering from hip replacement surgery, necessitated by an unfortunate fall off a ladder while washing her outside windows (Why not? Isn’t that what all 94-year-olds do on a Saturday afternoon?). We had a great visit with her and were most encouraged that her spunk and spirit were not dampened in the least. We presented her with a new Patriots shirt to wear as she watched the game that night as she is a diehard, energetic fan. Her son instructed the nurse to seatbelt Thora in her wheelchair during the game to keep her from leaping to her feet during happy moments (and dislocating the newly located hip!) We left so inspired by her amazing life.
Paul presented Thora with a shirt to wear during the Super Bowl, and Thora was more than thrilled.
So . . . the game didn't go how we had wanted/hoped/expected/prayed. It was heartbreaking for so many reasons, but mostly because of our personal relationship with a number of the players and their families. They really left it all on the field and it's hard to come up short. Fortunately, there's much more to life than football and we move on.
After a board meeting and a day of counseling, we flew to California for a return visit to the Desert Vineyard in Lancaster/Palmdale. This was our third trip there in a year and each time we're with David and Nancy Parker (lead pastor and wife) and their crew, we're more impressed with what they're doing and with how God is using them. We kicked off our time by speaking for the Antelope Valley Ministerial Association's monthly luncheon on Thursday. We were amazed at the broad representation of area churches in attendance and had many conversations that gave us glimpses into the greater work in that area. It's so encouraging to see churches working together to make an impact for the kingdom!
That night, the church hosted a Couples' Fiesta Date Night, and they pulled out all the stops! From a beautifully decorated room to live Mariachis and a delicious catered Mexican feast, the ambience was set for a delightful evening. The sold-out crowd was full of energy and didn't run out of it until we were done speaking. It was an extremely well done evening.
The Mariachis set the tone for a great evening at Desert Vineyard.
The catered Mexican feast was enjoyed at colorfully set tables.
Friday morning, after a very fun visit with some friends, we drove to Westlake Village for the weekend marriage conference for Desert Vineyard. There was a huge response to the conference, and we're convinced that when the senior pastor leads by example and attends the marriage conference his church is promoting, there is greater buy-in by the congregation. It sure was a bonus for us to grab moments with David and Nancy throughout the weekend. So many in that congregation have become dear to us over this past year! And we "owe it all" to Tommy and April Garcia, long time CBS family campers, who got the ball rolling for us at DV.
The conference was packed out, with couples from all ages and stages of married life.
Tommy and April Garcia convinced David Parker that he should have us come and speak at Desert Vineyard.
All too quickly, our five days with Desert Vineyard were up and as we said our good-byes, we felt like we were leaving very dear friends.
Since it was only Sunday afternoon, why not do another event? On to Yorba Linda we drove (about an hour south) to speak at "The Rock" for their Valentine's Date Night. This was also the second year in a row with this group, headed by Brent and Melissa Slezak, and we had a great night. The Slezaks have such strong ministry gifts and such a deep passion for family and marriage, so it's a real joy to partner with them. The evening was beautifully done, from the decorations to the dinner, and we had a very receptive audience to speak to. We loved every minute of it.
Brent and Melissa Slezak did a great job on the Valentine's Date Night at The Rock.
Since "all work and no play make one dull" we took Monday to play. . . at Disneyland. The Slezaks made that possible (Brent is employed by Disneyland) and we had a really fun day at the Magic Kingdom and California Land. Just honing our skills for our grandchildren . . . :)
We never tire of nor get too old for the fun of the Magic Kingdom.
We flew home on Valentine’s Day and spent a full day Wednesday counseling, and an equally full day Thursday with various events, the highlight of which was our end-of-the-season celebration dinner with our New England Patriots couples Bible study group. Unfortunately, between those who had already left town for "home" and others who had had surgeries, our group was rather small—but we had a really great evening together. Don and Betsy Hasselbeck were surprised when Paul read the dedication of the study he wrote for our group this fall ("Jesus on Marriage") to them. We are so grateful for their partnership!
Off we drove the next morning...for upstate New York! Glens Falls to be exact! We were privileged to do our first conference for the Pine Knolls Alliance Church and were so pleased to feel very much at home with them right off the bat. Richard and Amy Dean, who came to Engagement Matters many years ago, planned the conference and overlooked no detail. They did a great job of covering the bases and the conference ran very smoothly They had a great turn-out and we were thankful for a very enthusiastic audience. The conference ran Friday night and all day Saturday. On Sunday, we spoke for two Sunday School classes on marriage. We had a great experience and are so thankful for what they have going at that vital church.
We spoke to a packed out conference for Pine Knolls Alliance Church in Glens Falls, NY.
Richard and Amy Dean did a masterful job of planning the conference.
We drove back home, after a stop in Glenville, NY, for dinner with our dear friends Bill and Helen Challener, and were thankful for non-winter weather that made the drive very easy.
Continuing the rhythm, we unpacked, did laundry, and repacked, counseled for a full day, and then were off again. Destination: Florida! Conference: Pro Athletes Outreach, for the 12th year.
We love this conference. PAO is committed to putting together a high quality program, steeped in solid Biblical teaching, and this year was no exception. Dr. Tony Evans and Louie Giglio were two of the best who gave challenging, brilliant messages to this group of professional football players and their wives. Paul and I did our temperaments workshop twice, and spent a lot of time interacting. It was great for us to reconnect with many ex-Pats as well as others who have become friends through the years. Our Lisa flew in during the conference to join me for an after-conference event and we loved having her with us.
David and Kassidy (and Karis) Thomas, Doris Simmons-Woods, Thomas and Margaret Austin, and Janelle David — all ex-Pats — loved reconnecting at PAO.
And about that after-conference event: Lisa and i joined 20,000 other Princesses (with a few Princes thrown in) to run the Disney Princess Half-Marathon that Sunday morning. This was our 4th half-marathon together (my fifth and her seventh) and we both agreed it was our best. Not our best time (though almost) but certainly the most fun. Taking full advantage of the princess theme, we "fit in" with our self-fashioned princess garb and enjoyed the cool, overcast morning run from Epcot through the Magic Kingdom and back. It touches me so deeply that Lisa is willing to run a much slower race so she can run with me. That's sacrifice.
At 4 am, getting ready to run . . .
Two hours and thirty five minutes later, we crossed the line and got our beautiful medals. :)
So that's the month in a nutshell. It was fast. It was fun. It was full.
And it ends with snow. Leaping with joy . . . and looking forward to tubing tomorrow. At last.