Half marathon

Whirlwind on Steroids (part 3)

Wrapping up the whirlwind: our annual H.I.M. Memorial Day Family Camping Trip was canceled due to dire weather forecasts, which proved to be true.  Though very disappointing, it was the right decision.  Snow fell in VT and NH that weekend!!

As a result of that cancellation, I was able to fly down for my brother Frank's remarriage.  It was good to be with five of my six siblings even briefly.

Six of the original seven Collins siblings at Frank's remarriage.  

In between lots of counseling appointments and preparation for family camps, we also took on re-painting and re-carpeting our long-neglected downstairs in anticipation of having Derek and Julie with us for the next several months as they birth their first child.  :)  We are very pleased with the results and have wondered what took us so long to prioritize those projects!

Lisa and I ran the Covered Bridges Half Marathon Sunday, June 2, for the 4th year in a row.  As it turned out, 85 degree temps and 95% humidity made it our most difficult "half" and our worst time.  In spite of Lisa's gracious encouragement throughout all 13.1 miles, I spent much of it wondering if I could do it.  Thankfully, I did, but I vowed to not compete in a "hot" run again.  Ever.   

Even so, the grueling nature of the run was made somewhat bearable by the kind-hearted people who stood along the race route and sprayed us with their garden hoses.  Lisa and I were extra blessed by our dear friend Glenn who twice met us along the route with a spray bottle and icy cold wash clothes. Especially at mile 11, when 2 more miles seemed impossible, Glenn refreshed us with these coolants and encouraged us with "You can do it!" I was amazed at how revitalizing such acts of kindness were and what a huge difference they made in our determination to finish well.  Well, at least, to finish.  For the record, I am using "we" very generously here.  Lisa could've run circles around me and finished at least 45 minutes sooner than we did.  She is very, very gracious.

Lisa, Pam Barker, and I ran as the "Green Team" this year at the Covered Bridges Half Marathon.
13.1 miles later in brutal heat and humidity, we celebrated our accomplishment.  

It was a joy to reconnect with Bethany Church of Breakfast Hill, New Hampshire, on Monday, June 3, as we spoke to their First Monday Couples' Night.  To a packed room, we spoke on "finishing well" in marriage and the couples seemed very engaged and appreciative.  First Monday at Bethany was spawned by First Monday at Grace Chapel, launched by Gordon MacDonald and carried on for 9 years by Paul.  It was heartening to see the continuation of that strategic ministry to men.

That evening ended with the exclamation point of Derek and Julie's return to the States to begin the wait for their baby's arrival.  Derek once again flew within 24 hours after a positive malaria diagnosis.  :(  Fortunately he responds quickly to medication and had enough in him to make the trip.  He did return to Uganda 11 days later and will return to the States July 12 for the countdown.  Their due date is July 25.  Exciting times!!!

Welcome home, Derek and Julie!  A delayed celebration of Derek's birthday included
freshly baked cinnamon rolls and fresh blueberries.

Not many people make Phoenix, Arizona, a destination of choice in June, but we did—in response to an invitation from lead pastor David Harris to do a marriage conference at Paradise Church.  We loved partnering with David and his crew, who did a great job of putting together a meaningful weekend for couples.  We were especially pleased to reconnect with Matt and Christen Bumen and their precious children Derek and Riley over breakfast one morning.  Paul married them 10 years ago and it's very, very encouraging to see their vital, growing marriage.  Though very brief, our time was rich and wonderful.  And hot.  It was 113 degrees on Saturday.  :)

Matt and Christen Bumen and David and Tammy Harris were instrumental to making the Paradise Church conference happen.

Along with this crew, all of these folks have deep hearts for marriage
and are serving Paradise Church in some manner.

Straight from Phoenix, we flew to Washington, D.C., to pull off a surprise 30th anniversary party for my youngest sister, Laura, and her husband, David.  Our girls are some of their "surrogate" children and together with them, we really wanted to honor their beautiful marriage. They have been so intentional about keeping their marriage alive and growing—and truthfully, they make marriage look great.  We're so thankful for them.

It was a blast working together with some of their closest friends to honor them on the occasion of this milestone.  Thankfully, it came off without a hitch and along with 30 of their closest friends, we celebrated their uncommonly good union.  

Here they are on June 18, 1983 . . .

. . . and here they are 30 years later, still madly in love with each other,
and even more in love with Christ.

The party-goers at the home of their dear friends Bob and Lisa Hartman (front row, far right).

We drove back home early the next morning with Derek and Julie, who had driven down for the party, and began the countdown for our summer at Campus by the Sea.  It was crazy to say the least but we managed to get through our final counseling appointments and wrap up other loose ends before we flew to Caifornia on Saturday, June 15th, as Derek flew back to Uganda.

It was a joy to spend Father's Day with Gabe, Kari, and Brandon, as well as Lisa and Julie, and then all head to Campus by the Sea together on Monday, the 17th, where we launched our 38th summer there. 

Gabe opens his Father's Day gift from Brandon: SF Giants' t-shirts for both.  :)

The best gift for this dad—his three daughters!
Off to Catalina we go, with three grown up daughters and two grandchildren on the way.

The whirlwind sort of has landed in Gallagher's Cove which hosts Campus by the Sea.  Not that we're sitting around eating bonbons, mind you, but we're breathing deeply the sea air and basking in the simplicity of life disconnected from technology and traffic.  We're in to our second week of family camp already and I'll write about that before long.

I mentioned in the first part of this series that we've had some of the highest highs and lowest lows over this past month.  The lows have included almost losing my dad over Memorial Day Weekend, when he apparently suffered a TIA or a mild heart attack (from which he has fully recovered, thankfully, though his decline from dementia marches on).  The night of Memorial Day we received word that my sweet cousin Donna's 21-year-old son had drowned accidentally, and that news plunged us all into deep sorrow.  More recently, the mother of very dear friends succumbed to a 9-month battle with cancer, and these friends had lost their dad just 9 months ago, also to cancer.  And we experienced greater challenge than usual assembling a program team for family camps this summer.  Plenty of applicants, but putting together the right team for working with our older kids was difficult.

I wish I could say that we handled these all with grace and confidence consistent with our belief in our Sovereign Lord, but there were many moments of anxiety, concern, and grief.   No apologies for grief; it is what it is and warranted in times of loss, but it's been good to be reminded these weeks at camp that God really is in control and that He's got us covered.

Inside and outside of the whirlwind.

All praise is His.   

Leaping through February

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.