What's there not to celebrate?

A picture’s worth a thousand words: Matthew expresses well the joy of a gorgeous fall day, perfect for apple picking.
Is there a better time in New England than Fall?  Daily, for weeks now, we’ve been served up a kaleidoscope of color in an ever-changing landscape and we have delighted in every moment of it.  Fall is such an energizing time of year — even as it ushers in the (sometimes) bleak winter months, which occupy about four times as much calendar space as does the autumn.  Still, the joys of this time of year re-charge our batteries and launch us into the coming season fully satiated and more deeply aware of the majesty of God as seen in creation.

In celebration of Matthew’s birthday, we managed to carry on the tradition of apple picking for the 20th Fall in a row.  The perfect day for one of our favorite fall activities included picnicking in the pumpkin patch, picking lots of apples, interacting with small farm animals, playing in the hay maze, and indulging in fresh apple crisp a la mode to wrap up in the festivities.  Definitely a quintessential New England autumn day.

Fun was had by all . . .
Our plans to fly to Arizona after our apple picking venture on Oct. 8 were changed when the church which had booked us to do a conference canceled just over a week before the event.  Ouch!  We were very disappointed, but they felt they had to postpone the conference due to low registrations.  But suddenly, we had a weekend “off” and since that doesn’t happen very often, we decided to  “make lemonade” and use the flexibility creatively.  We started the weekend with a date with our dear friends and ministry partners, Guy and Barbara Steele.  It had been way too long since we had been able to just relax with them so it became a gift to ourselves to have dinner together that Friday night.  We are SO thankful for them — we couldn’t do half of what we do without them — and that night reminded us that we love hanging out with them even when we're not partnering on a project for H.I.M.  Great time.

Saturday was a combination of more of our (my) favorite things:  yard-saling with a very dear friend, continuing the cleaning/sorting/purging process in our house, and having a good long visit with another very dear friend, Patty Benes, who was back in the hospital.  Though we hated to see her there, it was great to catch up with her.

Sunday, we went to church!!  We love to go to church and seldom “get” to go sit in the pews.  It was good to be “fed” and to connect with many dear friends.  As we entered church, we were followed by an elderly woman whose face I recognized, but was so out of context it took me a few moments to identify.  Suddenly overwhelmed, I realized I was face to face with Elisabeth Elliot Gren, one of my long time mentors (primarily through her writing, but through several personal encounters over the years as well).  There are few women for whom I have greater respect than Elisabeth Elliot, nor whose life has had a greater impact on mine.  I remember reading Through the Gates of Splendor and In the Shadow of the Almighty as a young bride 34 years ago and was convinced then I wanted Elisabeth’s life to help shape mine.  

Since I’ve followed her ministry all these years, I was aware that Alzheimer’s disease was slowly but surely overtaking her brain and decreasing her mobility, so I had given up hope of ever seeing her again this side of glory.  It was therefore a gift straight from heaven that we would be standing inches from one another, in the same church, at the same time, on the Sunday we were supposed to be in Arizona.

For me, it was a holy moment.  After the service ended, I met her granddaughter who is in college in the area and several other family members.  I then offered to sit with Elisabeth while they went down for coffee.  Amazingly, they agreed.  Though no intelligible words were exchanged between us, I knew I was sharing a sacred moment with a woman “after God's own heart.”  From her days at Wheaton College; through her long courtship with Jim Elliot; to her brief marriage to Jim which ended when he (and 4 others) were murdered by the Auca Indians in Ecuador (leaving her a widow with a less-than-2-year-old daughter); through her decision to remain with the Auca tribe to continue the work started by her late husband; through opportunities worldwide to influence this world for Christ by her extensive writing and speaking ministry; through the cancer death of her second husband; and until the past few years, still ministering faithfully with her husband Lars Gren — she has been faithful and her character has been consistent with one whose goal in life is Christlikeness.

She was so at peace sitting in that sanctuary.  She was safe and “at home.”  It was no surprise then when her family came back to take her home, she at first resisted.  I’ve seen the same kind of “hunkering down” in holy places by my dad, who also has Alzheimer’s.  My father is most alive when were playing hymns on the piano and he is belting out the words of those sacred songs he’s sung for over 80 years.  A failing memory cannot dislodge the deeply spiritual which has been forged by years in the crucible of living life for Christ.

I can’t put words around how deeply impacted I was by this God-arranged encounter with one of the true heroines of Christendom — but I left church with a deeper desire to be more surrendered to Him and to not miss the important due to the urgent.

Monday we got away for our own mini-marriage retreat in Newport, RI, and en route we had a lovely lunch visit with our precious friend, Thora Eames.  Amazing to have back to back days with two different women who have had such a positive spiritual impact on my life.  Dear Thora . . . almost 93! Our visit fell on the eve of her 70th wedding anniversary which she would mark alone having been widowed for 3 years now.  Still living by herself (in an in-law unit at her son's house), she tends her own garden, cleans her own house, cooks her own meals, and in between all that, checks emails on her desktop computer.  And praise is continually on her lips.  Though she no longer drives, desperately misses her beloved Eliot, lives an hour away from where she spent 50 years, and suffers a variety of aches and pains associated by “overuse,” Thora doesn’t complain.  “What do I have to complain about?” she proclaims . . . and she means it.

Though she insists that our visit was a huge blessing to her, we left knowing that the greater blessing was ours.  Really.  Her genuine heart for the Lord and the way she has lived her life is as uncommon as is her name.
Visiting Thora . . . a truly remarkable lady!
On to Newport, we continued to check out a hotel for possible future use by H.I.M. for a marriage or family conference.  We had a lovely evening, got a good night's sleep, and after meeting with the conference planner over breakfast Tuesday, we walked all 7 miles of the Cliff Walk (round trip). It was a gorgeous day and we drank it in.  We returned to Bedford late afternoon refreshed and ready for full days ahead.

The day was perfect for walking the Cliff Walk in Newport, RI.
Wednesdays and Thursdays are consistent this fall: on Wednesday mornings, I lead the Patriot Women’s Bible Study, and then join Paul for counseling from early afternoon until 9:30 pm.  Thursday, we counsel from 8 am through 2 pm, and then head down to Foxboro for the Patriot's Couples Bible Study from which we usually return around 10:30 pm.  Friday mornings, we head out for our weekend conference, returning late Tuesday — and begin again.

October 15, we flew to California to partner with Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita, CA, as keynote speakers for their Healthy Sexuality Conference.  What church do you know of that dedicates a whole weekend to dealing with the issue of sexuality from God’s perspective?  We are SO impressed with Grace Baptist's commitment to equipping their congregation with information and perspective on a subject long neglected by the church.  Neglect, in this case, has contributed greatly to many distortions and much evil connected with the potent and dynamic dimension of our sexuality.  We applaud this church's leadership for tackling this important but delicate subject.

There were many facets to the weekend.  Friday night, after being delayed significantly by traffic, we spent the evening with the pastoral staff team talking about marriage, ministry, and morality.  The dinner was beautifully hostessed by George and Janice, who graciously opened their homes and worked overtime to pamper this hard-working group of ministers and their spouses.  We fell in love with them.

Paul spoke for a men’s breakfast the next morning, challenging them to be “men of standing” with pure hearts and minds. That evening after church (at which we were interviewed about the Sunday afternoon conference), we spoke at two separate workshops on singleness and sexuality.  We had good interaction in both sessions which were attended by singles from 18 years old to much older singles.  No matter what their age, singles in our culture today who understand God's design for purity are in a very, very small minority.  We encouraged them to trust Creator God, confident that His plan is good and right.

Sunday, after attending both morning services, we spoke for 3 hours at the actual Healthy Sexuality Conference.  We often include a 45-60 minute session on marital sexuality during a weekend marriage conference, but we loved having 3 hours to develop with more depth God’s design, Satan’s destruction, and the Delights and Hope in biblical healthy sexuality.  We felt very met by God in the afternoon and pray that each who came were also met.  We did another workshop that evening, and then, rather spent, we drove to north San Diego with our daughter Julie who had joined us in Santa Clarita for the weekend.

The next day, we received this email from the Care Pastor who helped coordinate the conference:
Paul and Virginia,
We are thrilled with the work of Christ and His Spirit in and through you.
Our good and beautiful God poured out His love, grace and truth through you unto us as a healing oil. 
I want to express our gratitude, respect, love, and appreciation for you.  
The marriage you are making is a masterpiece. 
Your love for each other is inspiring and gently challenging to us. 
I pray you rest well, refill, and draw enjoyment from one another as you pause between our house of worship and your next place of serving.
(Luke 5:16)
Love and respect,
May His kingdom purposes be affected by the weekend!

At conference end, Paul and I share a moment with David and Cherylyn Hegg (lead pastor) and Doug and Julie Macrae (H.I.M. board members.)

On to San Diego to celebrate Julie’s “White Coat Ceremony” at Physical Therapy School Monday night.  We were SO thankful for the timing of this special event in her educational pursuit of a doctor of physical therapy degree!  After taking the Hippocratic Oath, she received her “White Coat” as a rite of passage to her first internship, which will begin November 1 in Fairfax, VA.  It was gratifying to be there, to meet her professors and some of her classmates, and to mark this important milestone in her degree program.  She'll be done with four of seven “trimesters” at the conclusion of this seven-week internship.

A high moment — and a reprieve of sorts from the rigors of studying: Julie receives her “White Coat.”
We also managed to sneak a quick visit in with my folks in San Diego while Julie was in class on Monday.  It was great to spend even a couple of hours with them.

The last part of our trip was a scheduled five-hour layover in Sacramento to check in on our grandson, Brandon, who is already seven weeks old.  In the five weeks since we've seen him, he has grown so much!!!  Every moment of the five hours was magical, though fleeting...

We are very grateful for even five hours.

Brandon’s Red Sox shirts have been replaced with Giants shirts, much to the delight of his dad, who has been a lifelong Giants fan.

It’s been so good to celebrate both ends of life these weeks.  Elisabeth Elliot Gren, Thora Eames, and my folks all reflect lives lived for His glory . . . and as their earthly lives wind down, their anticipation of the eternal celebration with Jesus comforts and strengthens them even as their bodies and minds break down.

At the other end of the spectrum, Brandon’s new life exudes hope, delight, purity, and the miracle of birth.  And God is over all — the beginning and the end.  He goes before us, and behind us, and holds all things together.  It can’t get any better than that.

Don't miss the leaves...or Jesus...this fall

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.

The past month has evaporated, but not without leaving behind many wonderful moments experienced in California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Montreal.  No wonder we find ourselves needing some refueling!

My days with Gabe, Kari, and Brandon all too quickly came to a close as I flew home Sept. 14th.  I will forever cherish the memories of those wonderful first days of his life and the gift of sharing once-in-a-lifetime moments with Gabe and Kari.  I’ve thought a lot about the joy of those days.  It’s been a really long time since I’ve been so completely and myopically focused on just one thing: in this case, the birth of our first grandchild.  I can’t remember a time when “nothing else mattered” — nothing was more important than enjoying him and serving them.  I wasn’t too busy, too tired, or too divided to do whatever needed to be done, be it making a meal, doing laundry, or rocking the baby.

God has spoken to me through the beginning of this new season of our lives.  He has gently reminded me that my relationship with Him warrants this same kind of devotion and focus.  He wants this same kind of priority placed on growing my relationship with Him.  He wants me to choose Him above the distractions of email, Facebook, running, etc.  I’m being re-calibrated, and it’s good.

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…

So safe and secure in the loving arms of his parents . . .
Brandon has no cares in the world.

Finally, Auntie Lisa gets to hold Brandon, a few days shy of his three-week birthday.
Back in Boston Sept. 15th, I joined 9 Patriot’s wives at their request to lead the women’s Bible study this year.  Both honored and intimidated by the invitation, I’ve spent a lot of time praying about this unusual opportunity for months since being asked to do it.  We launched the Wednesday study on the 15th, using John Ortberg’s newest book The Me I Want to Be as a springboard for discussion.   I felt very met by God at that first study and am very hopeful that God will change all of us through our time together.

The next night we launched the Patriot couples’ Bible study and were delighted to have a good showing of mostly veteran players and wives.  We start with dinner, which provides fellowship time, and end with Bible study, which is very interactive and by God’s grace, disciple-making.  We can’t believe we’re in our eleventh season leading this study.  We are grateful each year for the privilege of serving in this way.

About 48 hours after landing in Boston, we were headed back to California.  On Saturday, September 17, Paul officiated at the wedding of lifelong friend, Calen Offield, and his bride Amber Clark.  Lisa, Calen, and his twin sister Kelsey grew up on Catalina Island together as best buds and have continued to remain close throughout the 27 years of their lives.  It was an honor to do this wedding for “chosen family” friends.  Calen and Amber have prepared well for their life together.  They attended Engagement Matters with us in January, and both are committed to having a long-lasting, God-honoring life together.  Paul did a great job on the wedding and many are still talking about how inspirational his message was as he spoke on God’s design for marriage.  We are so thankful!

Julie and Lisa flew in for Calen and Amber’s wedding, much to our delight!

Chase, Wendy, Amber, Calen, Packy, and Kelsey Offield celebrate the nuptials in the backyard of the Catalina home they grew up in.
Wedding festivities dominated Friday and Saturday and continued for us on Sunday and Monday as we enjoyed a variety of Island Company tours, including the new Eco-Zipline adventure.  What a blast that was!

Even at 60, he hasn’t lost his zip!

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.

Before we set sail for the mainland, we spoke at a marriage event at the Avalon Community Church.  Organized by Paul’s sister, Carol, and her husband, Wayne, we were delighted to have a semi-full crowd in the sanctuary who seemed very interested in gaining some insights into God’s design for marriage.  What a great opportunity to impact a small community on an island that will always be very dear to our hearts.

Back to Boston late Tuesday night, Sept. 20th, in time to do the Pat’s wives study Wednesday, followed by hours of counseling.  Thursday started with counseling, and was followed by the couples’ study, with Big Jim Martis catering a great bbq dinner.   This is the 4th year Jim has cooked for the study and everyone always loves it when he comes.

Jim Martis stands with Matt Light, Steven Neal, and Don Hasselbeck as dinner is served.
Early Friday morning, we headed out again - this time by car!  We drove to Montreal, Canada, to speak at the second Evangelical Armenian Church Marriage Conference.  We spoke at the first such conference in September of 2008, held in Boston, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to reconnect with this wonderful group of people again.  “Badveli” George Dabbos and his wife Priscille hosted the conference at their flourishing church, and couples from Toronto and Boston made their way to Montreal to take advantage of it.  It was such a blessing for us to be with them!  They were like sponges, eager to learn more about God’s design for marriage, and we were impressed at the end of every session that they asked great questions and didn’t really want to stop.  Our hearts grew deeper for them with each interaction.  We were also very impressed at their stamina: after a long day Saturday, topped off by a late night end to the banquet session, one of the older couples suggested that gelato would be a perfect nightcap.  We arrived at the adorable gelato shop after midnight!  I’m not sure what they were going on, but I can tell you that we were happily exhausted!

Paul preached on Sunday morning — in English, of course, through an automatic translation system.  We were quite impressed (to say the least) that most of the Armenians there speak four languages, and English, for most, is language #3 or 4.  Definitely puts mono-linguistic Americans to shame.  He was very well received, even when he said that it was more important that one marry a vital believer than that one marry an Armenian. :)  We felt so warmly received and were so well cared for.  Sunday night we had a lively evening with George and Priscille and Monday night with his associate, Raffi and Arpi and their adorable daughters.   We spent Monday touring downtown Montreal by foot before making the beautiful drive home on Tuesday.  It was a fruitful and delightful time.

We just received this email from the associate pastor of the Montreal church:

       The entire weekend was filled with a joyful godly presence as we dug out
       rich truths through your teachings.  All those who were present were
       enriched, even last minutes skeptical participants were so excited that they
       were rebuking those who did not make the effort to join us.

       Your deep and insightful teaching was beneficial for both our relationships
       and godly living. All our preparation and work behind organizing this event
       was outweighed by the blessings that followed.

       It was our joy to have you both with us and would ask that you consider
       calling on us on any occasion that brings you near our area. It would be our
       pleasure to be able to accommodate you and always look forward to your

All praise to Him!

Some of the couples who drove up from Boston for the conference.

Out for delicious Lebanese food with “Badveli” George and Priscille Dabbos.
The drive from Montreal to Boston was beautiful, in spite of it being overcast and rainy at times.  Fall has come early to Stowe, Vermont, so we took full advantage of it and spent a while meandering through the town and even making it up to the Von Trapp Family Lodge, which is one of my favorite places in Stowe.  It placed a large exclamation point on a really good weekend.

A very cute fall display on a sidewalk in Stowe.
Home late afternoon Tuesday, and I was off to the Patriots’ Women’s Study first thing Wednesday morning.  :)  There’s a little pattern going here.  After another great morning with the ladies, I’m feeling more relaxed and comfortable with God having me with them.  Back up to Bedford for counseling all afternoon and evening....and then more of the same Thurs.  Couples’ Study that night with a smaller turn-out, but a very worthwhile evening.

We didn’t drive out or fly out Friday a.m. :)

We did speak, however, locally, at the Mom to Mom group at the Trinitarian Church in Wayland.  Our talk on in-law relationships spawned so many questions that they ditched small groups and stayed as a large group while we fielded the questions.  We loved it!  Great morning.

Saturday and Sunday were Engagement Matters, and though the group was small (six couples), we’ve grown to expect this turnout for our fall session.  We thoroughly enjoyed each of the couples, and love the deeper interaction which is afforded by small numbers.  The Macraes graciously hosted the weekend and the response from the couples was really positive.  We continue to love this weekend.

I also spoke Saturday night at Grace Community Church’s Women’s Fall Kick-Off Dinner!  What a delight it was!  Women really do know how to create ambience and put together a lovely event.  Allison Nash, director of Women’s Ministries, and her team did a beautiful job on the whole evening, from a 5-star dinner prepared by their in-house chef, Toby, to special music by the Ross Sisters — the evening would’ve been fine without me.  :)  But, they had me speak anyway, and I felt that God did give me a message.  Armed with many insights gained from my Brandon moments, I spoke on how easy it is to miss Jesus due to our distractions, disappointments, and deceptions.  It was grace that I received much positive feedback afterwards.  Apparently I’m not the only one who struggles to stay focused on my priorities.  :)

After EM ended Sunday afternoon, I made my way over to Guy and Barbara Steele’s home to honor their future daughter-in-law, Stephanie Chin, with a bridal shower.  I had been very impressed with Stephanie when she and Matthew  attended EM over a year ago, but I was even more impressed with her when she made the decision to commit part of her bridal shower to assembling boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  What a great reflection of her heart!  And what a great way to assimilate 35 women, ranging in age from college students to those who had graduated from college about 4 decades ago.  :)  Everyone worked together, wrapping and filling boxes, producing 29 completed packages which will brighten the Christmas season for needy children around the world.  What a great idea!

The shower was lovely in every way.  Stephanie and Matthew did receive many lovely gifts, and the guests were feted to a delicious spread of “tea party” food provided by MJM Catering.

Stephanie and her mother May help assemble the boxes for OCC.
And, if that wasn’t enough, we had a H.I.M. Church Reps dinner that evening.  :)  We really do have to pack it in when we’re in town!  About 35 enthusiastic friends of H.I.M. came to the Macrae home for a fabulous dinner (incentive enough for most to come!) and exposure to the H.I.M. events in the upcoming year.  There was a great spirit and a strong commitment to spread the word so many can take advantage of the strategic events we host.

And then, we collapsed.  Happily — but definitely — out of steam.

Some of those who attended the Church Reps Dinner at Macraes.
And so we’re off and running, grateful for opportunities to influence lives for Christ.  Our prayer for you, as well as for ourselves, is that we won’t miss Jesus in the craziness of our over-committed lives.

New Beginnings

Well, he’s here.  Brandon Michael Garcia was born on his Grandpa Paul’s 60th birthday, August 29, 2010, and that’s why it’s taken me awhile to update this blog.  :)  When the choice comes between holding the baby or doing computer work, there is simply no contest.  So in the quiet of this early morning, while he’s still sleeping, I’m thrilled to fill in the blanks of these past two weeks.
We flew to Sacramento on the 23rd of August and spent the next couple of days enjoying time with both Gabe and Kari and Derek and Julie.  We relaxed, ate some great meals, played games, and generally enjoyed some very “vacationesque” moments.  Though Derek and Julie were with us only 2.5 days, we enjoyed every moment we had and then sent them off to spend a couple of days with his family in Tulsa, OK.  Before Derek left, however, we supported him and Paul as they took on the challenge of assembling the changing table we had bought.  The mission was accomplished, and provided both entertainment (for those observing) and some sanctification for those assembling.  

Breakfast at Tower Restaurant was on the agenda for the first day we arrived and its delicious breakfasts did not disappoint.

Paul, Gabe, and Derek grill up a great summer dinner after a leisurely afternoon at Gabe’s parents’ pool.

Derek and Paul begin the process of assembling the changing table.  So many pieces, so many confusing directions, so much at risk.

30 minutes later...

90 minutes later… mission accomplished, much to the delighted of the non-hired assembly crew.

Before Derek and Julie left for Oklahoma, Ray and Carol Johnston and their crew surprised Paul with an early birthday celebration.  During a lovely breakfast gathering, each of the six Johnstons tributed Paul with their “Top 5 List of Things We Love About Paul Friesen” and it was extremely humbling and meaningful to him.   We continue to consider it such a privilege for our families to journey through life together; we’ve shared close to three decades now.

Ray and Carol Johnston, along with Mark, Scott, Christy and Leslie, honored Paul with lots of affirmation to mark his 60th birthday.

On Saturday, the 28th (his actual birthday is the 29th), John Nugent  (without Marilyn, who is finishing up the sale of their home in Pennsylvania) surprised Paul by showing up at Gabe and Kari’s house midday.  Introvert that he is, Paul wasn’t interested in a big gathering for his birthday, so we’ve tried to celebrate him in a way meaningful to him.  We had a great afternoon with “Nuge” before heading to downtown Sacramento and doing a walking tour of Old Sacramento and the capitol building, etc.  A fabulous dinner at “Mortons” followed, and Nuge had barely driven off to his apartment in Redwood City when Kari announced that it looked like labor was beginning.  That 1.5 hour walk around Old Town worked!!  :)  

We thoroughly enjoyed exploring Old Sacramento together.  Here we’re standing on the bridge over the Sacramento River.

A delicious steak dinner followed our explore.

So, at 10:30 at night on the 28th, Kari went into labor.  It took several hours to convince us it was real labor, but by 3 a.m. we were convinced, so off to the hospital we went.  I have to admit that though we really had hoped the baby would come on Paul’s 60th, we were mentally prepared for him to arrive after her August 31 due date.  Once at the hospital, it was confirmed that she was in fact in labor and they checked her in.  To make a long 22-hour labor “short,” everything went really well until 3 hours of pushing (at the end of 19 hours of laboring) couldn’t get the job done, so Brandon was born via c-section at 8:49 p.m.  At 8#15 oz and 21.5”, he was just too big for Kari’s body to deliver.  Thankfully, though she lost 2 liters of blood in the process, she is recovering really well and we’re all enjoying a really healthy, beautiful baby boy!
We were grateful that we could be at the hospital throughout labor (in the room with them) and delivery (in the waiting room).  God has been so gracious in the timing of Brandon’s birth and in allowing us to experience firsthand so many one-time-only moments.  During part of the wait, I wrote this note to a friend who had just left her oldest child at college and was experiencing both the pain and joy of such passages:
You’ve been in my thoughts especially this month as you’ve prepared to launch your daughter to a new world of independence and exposure.  I’m sure you had very mixed feelings when you left her at college today...joyful anticipation for her future, which is bright and full of promise, and sadness at the changing of seasons for you as a family and for her as a young woman.  I don’t think anything really prepares us for such transitions entirely.  As I write, I’m sitting in the hospital waiting room while Kari, my firstborn, labors to launch into the world the next generation and ushers our whole family into another new season.  Life is full of changing seasons.
I imagine you have some of the same feelings for your daughter now as I have for Kari.  Prior to now, I hadn’t really considered how much I would want her delivery to be much I would hurt to see her hurt, and struggle to see her struggle.  I find myself wanting to protect her from the have her experience the joys of childbirth without the pain of the birthing experience.  I’ve suddenly remembered all the risks and potential complications of childbirth, and of possible problems with the baby.  I don’t want her to have to endure any of that.
I can imagine you have similar thoughts for her as she enters this whole new world - so often hostile to the kind of values and beliefs you’ve helped her embrace.  I can imagine you having some fears or at least concerns about her roommate, her classes, her profs, her Christian fellowship, her decisions, her hopes, her dreams.  I can imagine that you feel as powerless at this point to change the course of any of that as I do.
And that’s exactly where the Lord wants us.  He is reminding me to release her and to trust Him.  He’s reminding me that He is sovereign over all - the good and the hard.  He’s reminding me that He IS enough...for her, and for me.
I am praying that you’ll hear His reminders to you too, dear friend.
With much love- 
P.S.  As it turns out, after 22 hrs of labor..including 3 hrs. of pushing after being fully dilated...Brandon Michael was born via c-section at 8#15oz, 21.5” long.  Too big to get through Kari’s pelvic floor.  We saw him for the first time around midnight last night.  Everyone’s doing really well today, though she lost over 2 liters of blood post c-section.  The feared needed transfusion didn’t have to happen today - PTL - and mother and baby are doing really well.  
So...all my musings of wanting to protect her from pain remind me of how little control I have over so many things.  Thankfully, the Lord has been extremely gracious and so many things that could’ve been haven’t been so we’re all feeling very, very blessed.

Checked in...labor progressing...this is GREAT!!!  Even easy!

Julie flies in from OK around 2 p.m. and clearly hasn’t missed the birth!  Obviously, just waiting for her… At this point, Kari is almost fully dilated so delivery should be imminent.  :)  

Really?  Still waiting?  Water broken at 9:30 a.m., fully dilated, fully effaced.  Let’s get this show on the road!

Around midnight—after c-section—the happy family welcomes Brandon Michael.  All smiles now.  :)

Paul agrees this is the best birthday gift ever.  :)

There really aren’t words to capture the joy of such moments, such miracles, such amazing love.

In the midst of everything, Paul’s birthday was celebrated.  :)  Thanks to technology, the girls “skyped” Lisa in from VA when they presented Paul with a beautiful book of tributes to him from family and friends, compiled in a treasured “iBook.”  The girls each tearfully read their tributes to their unbelievable dad, and I read mine to the guy who’s the best person in my life.  He was so deeply touched by the many expressions of affirmation to him from so many.  It was a birthday he’ll never forget for many reasons.  :)

The next few days, while Kari, Gabe, and Brandon hung out in the hospital, we tried to get things more ready at home.  On Wednesday, September 1, they ventured out into the world en route to settling in their little nest here in Sacramento.  Since then, we’ve had a blast helping them have confidence in their natural instincts and taking a bazillion photos (thank heavens for digital!) of his constantly changing face.  We’ve had the privilege of keeping everyone fed, keeping the laundry clean, baking cookies for the visitors, and regaling Gabe and Kari with tales of Kari when she was Brandon’s age.  

We’ve spent countless moments in awe of the miracle of creation and in giving thanks to Creator God for this little masterpiece named Brandon.  We’ve delighted in getting to know Gabe and Kari in a whole new way as we watch them enter this new season of their lives with so much joyful expectation and wonder.  We’ve thanked the Lord a billion times for arranging the timing of all of this as only He could, in part to bless us with being able to experience all of this.
We all feel beyond blessed.

Kari and Gabe take five-day-old Brandon out for his first stroller ride.

On day 9, they pose for more family photos.  :)

This photo pretty much captures the last 10 days of our’s all about him.  :)

A very prejudiced grandma thinks he’s the cutest thing ever.  :)

Thankfully, this scheduled break followed ten weeks out straight with virtually no “down” time, so we’re recuperating from our full and wonderful summer in this unique and privileged way.  Since no one knows when exactly a baby will come, we left our schedule open until our first studies with the New England Patriots which occur on September 15 and 16.  Paul actually returns to Boston today, because he’s finding Brandon a bit “too distracting” to the work he needs to get done.  I, on the other hand, don’t want anything to distract me from Brandon for another week, so I’m staying.  :)

We did take a quick 36-hour break to drive down to Temecula to join the celebration of Kraig and Eryn Kraning’s wedding on Labor Day.  Our long time friendship with Kraig’s grandparents and parents, as well as having Kraig on staff at CBS several years ago, all contributed to us not wanting to miss this special day, so we did it.  During those brief 36 hours, we drove 14 hours, visited my folks for 4 hours (they relocated to San Diego recently), and were at the wedding for 4.5 hours.  In between, we hung out with Julie and got a little sleep.  We had a wonderful time and pray that Kraig and Eryn will experience the matchless blessings of a marriage lived for Him.

Bob and Carol Kraning were the first ones we greeted at the wedding. 

Kraig and Eryn are served communion by both sets of Kraig’s grandparents.

Outside of Brandon’s world, Julie is settling into her 4th of 7 trimesters at physical therapy school and Lisa is in full tilt as the athletic trainer for JMU’s women’s soccer team, which is off to a great start.  We’ll be with both girls on Catalina Island the weekend of Sept. 17th for another very important occasion, as our lifelong friend Calen Offield marries Amber Clark.

That brings you up to date on our lives.  We are bursting with joy and overflowing with gratitude.  And enjoying this “new beginning” exponentially more than we could’ve ever imagined.