Lisa

Jet-setting isn't as glamorous as it looks . . .


. . . but it's "worth it."

So 48 hours after the Boston Marathon Bombing, we were on a flight to California to speak at Bayside Church's monthly couples' date night.  Though we have loved, loved, loved doing this every month of 2013, it seems that each month is challenged with obstacles.  Weather delays.  Lost luggage.  Almost missing the event.  Crazy!

Continuing in the theme, our luggage didn't arrive with us because our to flight Sacramento via O'Hare was canceled (thunderstorms this time!) and we were rebooked to Sacramento via San Francisco.  Our bodies made it but our luggage didn't.  Paul was all too happy to make another trip to Costco to buy his monthly new outfit for speaking.  Me, not so much.  Especially since my personal shopper (Kari) has re-located to Santa Clarita, so I was left to my own devices in a very limited amount of time.  I know, I know.  First World Problem.  No sympathy expected.

The theme of this date night was marital sexuality, and we appreciated the very responsive crowd.  So many commented on how grateful they were that we were willing to address this "verboten-in-the-church" subject.  One couple wrote, "LOVED all that you shared last night @ Bayside…God worked thru you, reaching right into our 30-year relationship…I'M AMAZED!!! Thank you."  We were very thankful.

Thursday we spoke at the first event geared towards the 55-plus gang at Bayside.  Allan and Karen Hearl lead this new ministry which is just beginning to take shape and we were honored to help with their launch.  A salad luncheon followed by worship led by Brandon Yip preceded our talk on "Finishing Well."  The group was eclectic and represented the spectrum from married and remarried, to single and single again through widowhood or divorce, and everything in between.  But despite the diversity of life stage and experience, there was a sweet spirit in the place. As the committee met to reflect on the event, there was agreement that it had been very successful.  Praise Him!

Allan Hearl welcomes the 55-plus crowd to the launch of this new ministry outreach at Bayside.


Still without luggage, I flew down to Burbank that night and met up with Gabe, Kari, and Brandon, and Paul flew back to Boston the next day (united with his luggage.)  I spent a frustrating number of hours on Friday awaiting delivery of my suitcase (which had been flown multiple times between Boston, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and finally Burbank) but it finally arrived, and off to the beach in Ventura we went to play late in the afternoon.  Very, very fun.

Gabe, Kari, and Brandon enjoy the beauty of Ventura Beach.


Kari and I spoke at a women's conference at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach all day Saturday, while Paul spoke at two Iron Sharpens Iron conferences in New England.  Our day was much more relaxing and lovely than his, but he felt good about his experience.

Women's Conferences are works of art. Really. The beautiful decorations. The delicious food, presented as though for a Queen's Court. The details all tended to. The air of expectation. The delight of women gathering. These women did a fabulous job of preparing for the day and Kari and I enjoyed working together on "Sacred Influence:  Journeying through life with Racers, Pacers, and Tracers."  Borrowing from very impacting talks Gary Gaddini gave at Campus by the Sea a number of years ago, we talked about the importance of mentoring and of being mentored as we go through life.  It was truly a joy for me to speak with Kari, and I think the women really appreciated that, too.  It was a good day.

The beautiful snack table reflected the care and beauty of all aspects of the women's conference
at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA. 


Most of the committee that made the women's conference happen—a great group of ladies!


Early the next morning, I drove to San Diego to spend 5 days with my parents.  My mother has recovered beautifully from her mastectomy, and it was such a privilege to spend a few days enjoying being with them and doing a few projects around the house, as well as helping with the early morning and nightly routines with my dad.  I also got to be with the three sisters who live in the area at various points.  Really special, memorable days.

My remarkable mom at 83, following two surgeries in the last two months.  I told her she'd set the bar at a level I hope to never have to reach!  What an amazing woman she is.  So thankful for her.


I flew back to Boston on Thursday, April 25th, and disappointingly, my luggage didn't arrive with me.  Oh no!!!  Not this again!  In a Groundhog's Day-esque way, Friday the 26th was a repeat of Friday the 19th, only worse.  The suitcase, promised at 6 a.m., eventually arrived at 5 p.m.  A very long, frustrating day.  Crazy again.  And yes, I know, a first world problem.  

The following day was our annual "Worth It" Conference, focused on sexual and emotional purity.  This family event is one of the highlights of our year.  We believe so passionately that we experience God's best when we trust His design, and this is especially true regarding relationships.  

We had a packed house and a phenomenal staff whose teaching and life stories both inspired and challenged the audience, which was composed of parents and teen-agers.  All of the staff were open and honest about the goodness of God's design as well as the heartache of going against it.  Besides the three plenary sessions, we offered relevant workshops and peer group, gender-based sessions that provided forums for going deeper in some areas.  The day ended with a challenge to commitment to purity.

Most of the "Worth It" staff, gathered at day's end to thank the Lord for meeting us.

Retired NFL player Don Davis poses with a group of eager students at the "Worth It" conference.


The feedback on the day was overwhelmingly positive and some of the comments included:

"There were several times throughout the day that someone said something and immediately I would think, 'I came here to hear that.  That was meant for me!  It's just crazy and wonderful."  (16-year-old female)

"The most beneficial part of the day was that I'm worth the wait!"

"Great message.  My mom brought me and, to be honest, I didn't want to come.  I AM SO GLAD THAT I DID!"  (13-year-old female)

"It was an awesome day.  Great food, fantastic speakers who really related to us students . . . I will definitely come again!" 
 
One youth leader sent this:
"Overall, all 8 kids that came really liked it and said they loved the speakers and learned a lot and wanted to bring others next year!  The girls said, "It was great to hear everyone's stories about making mistakes so that we know not to follow in that same path, but we really liked hearing Lisa talking about doing it the right way!" (Go Lisa!) They also LOVED hearing Adam talk about how he valued his wife so much before they were married and that is proof that she can trust him to value her and be faithful forever. Another quote they loved was from Jillian about, "You don't have to worry about attracting all the guys. You will attract the one that God has planned for you.'"


We couldn't have been more thankful for the day and pray that the effects of the day will be felt for years to come.

The following day we had the privilege of conducting a "renewal of vows" ceremony for a couple whose marriage was rocked by infidelity three years ago.  Through years of hard work and lots of God's grace, their marriage not only survived, but is thriving. It was a celebration we'll treasure remembering.  There were many poignant moments, but I'll never forget the look on the face of the 14-year-old son as his parents recommitted themselves to one another.  He later said, "I've been praying and waiting for this day for 3 years."  His radiant face said it all.  

The very full weekend was rounded out by some exploring Boston with daughter Lisa and her friend/mentee Jillian who flew up to help with "Worth It."  We had a blast walking the streets, taking in the sights, and consuming the delights of some great eateries.  A perfect end to a great weekend.

Lisa and Jillian and I delight in the Public Garden's blooming tulips. 

It was very nice to not board a plane this weekend—or to be waiting for errant luggage to be delivered. 


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.