In and Out of Africa

In and Out of Africa

As we make our way back to Africa today, I’m at least slightly amused by the reality of our last week: on Sunday, April 30, we returned to Boston from South Africa; on Wednesday, May 3rd, we flew to California for a conference; on Sunday, May 7th, we flew back to Boston; and on Monday, May 8th, we left Boston for Uganda. Now . . . some would rightfully ask, “Who made a schedule like that?” 

Part 2: The Hills Were Alive

Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011:  Rain started as we parted ways with Nugents at Zurich Airport and continued for most of the next 48 hours.  We drove to Zug, Switzerland, to stay with Campus by the Sea friends who have recently relocated to this adorable town just 30 minutes from the airport.  Though much later than expected, the Tobins welcomed us warmly with a home-cooked dinner and lots of love.  It was such a gift to find shelter with them, especially on this rainy, messy night.  The rain abated temporarily late morning on Sunday so we (Bernie, Lisa, Paul, and I) hiked the Burgenstock overlooking Lake Lucerne.  I had hiked this with the girls and loved being able to introduce Paul to yet another experience we had shared.  The rain eventually caught us and reinforced what my second grade teacher, Miss March, had told our class the few times we experienced rain during recess:  "You're not sugar, so you won't melt.  Relax!"  It was a great hike with wonderful friends, who welcomed us to stay the night again rather than drive to Salzburg in the bad weather that night.  That gave us time to tour their town by foot and with umbrellas.  We were soaking wet by the time we finished, but it whetted our appetite to return when the sun is shining.  

Bernie, Lisa, Anna, and Kelly Tobin were wonderful hosts in Zug
(their daughter Emma was on a weekend trip).

On the Burgenstock hike, our banana yellow rain ponchos came in very handy.  

We took off early the next morning and drove in the rain to Salzburg.  I love Salzburg for so many reasons.  My love affair with this beautiful place began the first time I saw "The Sound of Music" in 1966 at the Loma Theater in San Diego, CA, with my beloved teacher Mimi Test.  That was the first of many viewings of this epic musical and each time I've been in Salzburg, I'm filled with the a desire to run through the green hillsides singing "The hills are alive....with the sound of music" and to relive the romance, drama, adventure, suspense, and beauty of this spectacular place.  We found a "zimmer frei" on the Moosestrasse (thank you, Rick Steves!) and headed right to downtown to begin our explore.  We had a fresh fish dinner on the banks of the Salzach River and topped it off with . . . yep, gelato!  As the sun set and the waxing 3/4 moon rose, we made our way back to our "gausthaus" to a cozy night. 

Little did we know that our cozy night would be interrupted.  Paul wakened with severe chest pains around 4 a.m. and only then did we think about how much we didn't know and how limited we were technologically.  No cell phones, no WiFi, no idea where the local hospital was, and no idea of who to contact and how to contact them.  When 30 minutes had elapsed and he was continuing to have severe pain, we hopped in the car and thanked the Lord for the GPS once again.  It directed us to the hospital, which was only 3.5 km away (PTL) and long story short, after six hours in the ER, two EKG's, two sets of blood work, an IV of saline, and an injection of a strong antacid,  he was released.  Thank you, Lord!  For awhile, it was looking like our trip was going to take a very sharp turn in a direction we hadn't seen coming.  None the worse for the wear, Paul insisted on continuing the tour since he by then felt back to normal.  So off we went.  :)

Released from the Krankenhaus (hospital), we resumed our travels.

First stop, the Untersburgbahn.  We did something "unusual" for us in Salzburg and bought the "Salzburg Card" which granted us admission to everything for one low price.  As a result, we did many things we never would've "paid" for individually and we loved it.  The Untersburgbahn is an aerial tram to the top of the Untersburg, which gave us an incredible view of Salzburg and neighboring villages.  From there we toured Hellbrun Castle and the magical water fountains.  Hellbrun Castle hosts the glass gazebo used during the "I am 16 going on 17" scene in SOM.  We had so much fun trying to avoid getting wet by the craftily hidden spouts of water throughout the grounds.  Since the day was gorgeous and warm, the occasional spray which hit us was welcome.
We spent the balance of the day walking the Monchberg and eating.  Somehow, even with the late start of 11:30 a.m., we managed to log 9 miles that day.  Paul's nighttime escapade did catch up with us, however, and we retired early.

View from the top of the Untersburg.

We walked endlessly through Salzburg and never really got tired (at least of what we were seeing!)

After a good night of sleep at "Haus Ballwein", we continued our exploration of Salzburg with our Salzburg card.  "HohenSalzburg" took up much of the morning, and we enjoyed the castle tour as well as the Marionette Theater.  Eventually we did a little shopping and got our "final" gelato before leaving this inviting place.

In HohenSalzburg, we changed roles temporarily.  :)

A little shopping—and a final gelato—and we were on our way.

Next stop, Hallstatt—but first, a breathtaking drive from Salzburg to Hallstatt via Wolfgangsee.  It was the kind of drive that would take forever if you stopped every time you wanted to take a picture.  There is nothing that can rival natural beauty.  Between the spectrum of greens seen in the meadows and trees, the blues in the lakes and skyscapes (which also played host to white, puffy, squeezable clouds), and the splashes of brilliance accented by flowers—each picturesque scene fed our souls and overwhelmed us with the evidence of God's incredible creativity and personal love for us.  I would've happily freeze-framed almost any moment on that drive.

Wolfgangsee is behind us and this photo doesn't begin to do justice to it.

One stop we did make en route to Hallstatt was at the Alpen Sled run or "sommerbotten."  This was in honor of Paul's love for speeding down hillsides—and he did just that.   It was so much fun to be dragged a long way up the side of a great mountain and ride "sleds" down a metal track.  There were two tracks side by side, so we started the descent together.  But Paul had given up that I would ever come off the mountain after at least five minutes passed after he made it to the bottom.  With some genuine concern, he told the operator that he thought something had happened to me.  The operator smiled and said, "She's fine.  She's just slow."  The brake was my best friend and I had a sightseeing tour on the way to the bottom.  I loved my ride and Paul loved his.  He saw nothing.  :)

Just when we thought a more idyllic place than Salzburg could never be found,  we arrived in Hallstatt.  Oh my goodness.  I'm not sure a more Disneyesque place exists (outside of Disneyland....which is so funny, because Disneyland copied these places!).  We checked into our little guesthouse perched on the terraced side of the mountain overlooking the Hallstattsee and wasted no time beginning our walking tour of this tiny town, trying to squeeze everything we could out of the remaining hours of sunlight, as rain was forecast for the next morning.   

View from the porch of our guesthouse in Hallstatt.

Another view from our porch . . . how cute is this??

The weather report was right, and the rain fell heavily the whole next day, so we exchanged our plans to hike to the waterfalls for a tour of the salt mines, for which this area is most known.  It was quite interesting and certainly worth a one time visit, especially on a very wet day.

In our salt mine tour special clothing, we enjoyed this "now we've been there, done that" experience.

We left Hallstatt earlier than planned for drier climes and ended up in Oberammergau.  This unique town hosts the "Passion Play" every ten years and it's been on my "bucket list" for years now to attend the Passion Play some decade.  Even without the play in session (the next performance will be in 2020), this town is so worth visiting.  It seemed like every building was adorned with fresco paintings depicting different scenes from the life of Christ.  Flower boxes.  Cobblestones.  Chalets.  Quaintness redefined.  

We found a room in Herr Anton Zwink's guesthouse.  Turns out that he's been in every Passion Play since 1950 and he has photos of each one hanging in the hallway.   It was very cool to be in his home. 

Herr Anton Zwink in three of the Passion Plays.  He's now performed in seven productions of the play, spanning the past sixty years.

Paul poses with Herr Zwink.
We resisted the temptation to ask for his autograph.  :)

We spent the next morning hiking to the top of Laber, one of the high peaks around Oberammergau.  It was a great hike, until we came upon a herd of grazing cows.  Our long held belief in the passivity of these creatures was turned over by an aggressive bovine who decided he didn't want us to walk across his pasture.  This near-death experience had a happy ending, because Paul turned tail and ran from the oncoming beast and we chose to circumvent the field rather than cross it. Our hearts were wildly pounding for awhile after that, and not from the exertion required by the climb.  The view from the top was well worth the risks taken.  We poked around this makes-you-not-want-to-leave town, but we resisted the pull and continued on to Stuttgart, stopping briefly in Ulm en route to buy some lebkuchen at the Weiss factory.  I bought as though everyone I know loves this German gingerbread, only to be reminded that I'm alone in our family with a desire for this confection.  Oh well, I got great deals.

Approaching the top of Laber, we conquered yet another peak.  :)

Our dear friend Gertrud and her sweet dog, Kuti, warmly welcomed us to Stuttgart with a yummy dinner and great conversation.  We've been friends with Gertrud since she volunteered at Campus by the Sea with her friend Elfriede in 1988.  We're always happy to reconnect with her; she's a wonderful friend.

Gertrud served us a delicious dinner and opened her home to us again.

Gertrud planned a full Saturday, which started with a hike in the Schwaibese Albs in Bartoloma and continued with a tour of the Steiff factory.  Steiff makes very high-end specialized stuffed animals and we had a great time touring the factory and posing with some of their larger products.  Very fun.  On to a beautiful monastery which is home to a spectacular cathedral, and then to a castle which set in view of our outdoor dinner.  We were joined at the Steiff factory by Elfriede and Uwe and the five of us had a grand time together.

Does it look like Paul is enjoying the Steiff factory?  :)

Gertrud, Elifriede, and I also had fun.

Sunday dawned beautifully and we met up with the Maiers again for a hike overlooking Hohenzollern.  Everything was beautiful about this hike and the company could hardly be improved upon.  We enjoyed a hearty meal of sauerbrauten at hike's end and then paid a visit to Uwe's mother's house for some homemade plum cake and coffee.  :)  We said our good-byes and sadly left our German friends for parts further south.

Kuti kept up with us on our hike on this gorgeous Sabbath.  
Gertrud, Elfriede, and Uwe extended such warm hospitality to us!

Final stop of this excellent journey: Titisee.  This sweet Black Forest village surrounds a beautiful lake (there is a theme!  We like bodies of water!).  Julie and I had hiked around the lake in 2006 so Paul and I hiked the highest peak in the Black Forest, the Feldberg, as recommended by Elfriede and Uwe.  Initially we thought twice about doing the hike when we saw the cool temps and cloud cover, but a look at the weather cam in the visitor's center gave us the assurance that within an hour, it would be warmer and clear.  And it was right!  

"Highest peak" might give the wrong impression.  Though true, the reality is that there aren't many high peaks in the Black Forest and this one was less than half the height of the Schilthorn, coming in under 2000 meters.  What it lacked in height, it made up for in distance and nine miles later, we made it back to the car.  We did stop at the Feldbergsee for lunch and we drank in the beauty of this pristine lake hidden in the valley of the mountains surrounding it. 

Lunch by the Feldbergsee was a welcomed refueling stop during our 9-mile hike.

Back to the town of Titisee, we briefly considered walking around the lake, but easily gave in to the seduction of shops and eateries as we sampled our way through the town.   All the while, we willed the millions of ticking cuckoo clocks to stop to make time stand still.  We were both very aware that our excellent adventure was coming to a close.

On the shores of the Titisee, we take it all in, very aware that the sand is
almost through the hour glass of this excellent adventure.

We spent our last night on the border of Germany and Switzerland, in Waldshut, to facilitate our early morning flight from Zurich.  Under a full moon sky, we wandered through a meadow full of grazing cows and then ate cheese and bread on the balcony of our room.  It was a perfect end to an unbelievable trip. 

The full moon rose over Waldshut on our last night in Europe.

Packed and ready, we board our flight in Zurich.

Our hearts were as packed with gratitude and joy as were our suitcases.  So many great moments.  So many beautiful views.  So many God-sightings.

And about that fresh new leather-bound journal I gave Paul on the first day of the trip?  On the plane as we returned to America, Paul pulled it out of his backpack and began writing fast and furiously.  I smiled.  We are so different in so many ways—but there's no one in the world I would rather have made this trip with than him.

Part 1: The hills were alive . . .

From the Lauterbrunen Valley in Switzerland—views like this were the rule, not the exception.

We've been home from Europe for just over a week now and I've had a curious avoidance to writing about this beyond-our-expectations trip.  Not that we’ve been sitting around eating bonbons—nor wondering what to do with all our free time since returning—but I finally realized last night that writing a blog post about the trip officially makes it “over,” “finished,” “done”—part of our history—and there’s a part of me that doesn't want to acknowledge that this long-awaited trip is now in our rear view mirror! 

The vast majority of me, however, simply delights in the reality of it and relishes the memories, which I’ll now transfer from iPhoto and my mind (with what I know will be inadequate words) to offer you a description of Paul's 60th (plus 1) rite-of-passage journey.

The idea of doing this trip was launched by our dear German friend Gertrud, who had hosted the girls and me on each of their rite-of-passage journeys at age 21.  After my third and final daughter trip with Julie, Gertrud asked, “And what about Paul?  When will his rite of passage journey be?”  That set the wheels in motion five years ago and his 60th birthday was deemed the appropriate milestone. 

But God had other plans, and Paul’s 60th birthday was marked by the birth of our first grandchild, Brandon, so plans for Europe were happily postponed for a year. And so it came that his 61th birthday was celebrated in Gimmelwald, Switzerland, with a hike to the top of the Schilthorn (an almost 4000-meter peak rising from the Lauterbrunen Valley.)

The trip came on the heels of an intense summer, as previous posts record.  Ten weeks were dedicated to family camp (including orientation and other preparations), followed immediately by Julie and Derek’s wedding on August 21.  Only 2 days after returning to Bedford from the wedding, we flew to Zurich.  We briefly considered postponing our departure when the doctor said I had a touch of pneumonia along with a lot of bronchitis, but with Hurricane Irene making her way up the coast, we knew we had to get out before she arrived.  And we were so glad we did!  Thankfully, the Z-pack antibiotics combined with lots of prayer cured what ailed me, so our trip was unhampered.

The first week of our 17-day trip was shared with our chosen family friends, John and Marilyn.  Starting with renting a car, we replicated the trip I made with the girls, with one major adjustment: maps were replaced by a GPS system. I must say, that change alleviated most of the “breakdown” moments I had had navigating in unknown lands, guided with little more than poor maps in hand.  What a gift to be GPS-directed!!

The 21st-birthday rite-of-passage journey focuses on clarifying life purpose, so the girls were each given a new leather journal in which to record God-sightings and life lessons learned on the journey, as well as Gail MacDonald’s book A Step Farther and Higher which has an excellent chapter on how to write a life-purpose statement. (More details are found in my book Raising a Trailblazer: Rite-of-Passage Trail Markers for your Set-Apart Teen.)  I did give Paul a new journal—possibly his first ever, since journaling is not his cup of tea  :)—and suggested he record reflections of his journey to date and thoughts about his “second half.”  He smiled and put the journal in his backpack.  

Our first stop was Interlaken, and on a indescribably gorgeous spring-like day, we took the Jungfraubahn” to the “Top of Europe.”  The trilogy of snow-topped Alps—the Eiger, the Monch, and the Jungfrau—are well known ice-climbing peaks, as well as hosts to a cogwheel rack railway to the Jungfraujoch, billed as the highest railway station in Europe.  From the top, on a clear day. you can see forever—360 degrees of forever—and we took it all in.  We were overwhelmed, to be honest, by the majesty of God as shown in creation.  Being able to hike in light clothing to the backpackers "hut" was a real treat.  Great time!  Our stop in Grindlewald on the way back to Interlaken was also quite magical.  That sweet town is everything you imagine when thinking of a little Swiss hamlet at the base of gianormous Alps, with flower-bedecked chalets dotting the velvety green meadows and the sound of cow bells in surround-sound.  LOVE it.  Also taking advantage of the day were hundreds of para-gliders, whose colorful chutes made a garden in the sky.  We were mesmerized by it all.

From the Top of Europe” on the Jungfrau, we enjoy incredible views from every angle.

Hiking to the JungMonchHuitte, we enjoy very balmy weather as we walk on the glacier.

Loving every minute of it . . .

Next stop:  Gimmelwald, the home of Walter’s Hotel.  It was a hike to get there, after leaving the car parked in Lauterbrunen and taking with us only what would fit in our daypacks, but well worth it.  The incredible beauty surrounding us minimized the physical challenge of hiking the six miles—but my hiking companions did tire of me saying, “It’s just around the next bend.”  There were many more bends than I recalled.  :)

I was most excited about staying at “Walter’s” even though it was the least comfortable place we stayed on the trip.  The girls and I fell in love with Walter, a now 87-year-old Swiss gentleman who runs his hotel to benefit an Indian tribe in South America.  He’s remarkable.  He does most of the cooking and for years managed the hotel on his own.  He now has a “business partner” in Tim from England, who spends from May to November helping Walter run the place.  The hotel is largely unremarkable, but its quaint, family-oriented simplicity embraces you and the intangibles fill in the gaps.  Fortunately, my three traveling companions loved it too.  :)
Arriving at Walter’s Hote-L in Gimmelwald . . .

. . . we’re amazed that 87-year-old Walter is still running the place.

We conquered the Schilthorn on Monday.  This was the big one.  The impending hike unsettled each of us with questions of “can we do this?”  I had hiked it with Lisa and with Julie (it was closed when Kari and I made our trip in early May 2001), and in both cases, I was thoroughly challenged.  Long story short, we did make it, and I must say it was very fun for me to be in the “You can make it!” cheerleading role that I had been the recipient of on the two previous hikes.  :)  The first 2/3 of the hike we enjoyed gorgeous, springlike weather, but clouds moved in and during the last third, we were enveloped.  Most disappointing was getting to the top and being able to see nothing.  :(  That was overshadowed by the incredible joy of making it to the top alive which truly required “leaving it all on the mountain.”
Our hike to the top of the Schilthorn starts out under clear blue skies.  We loved walking behind this waterfall.

Still clear, the views of the opposing Alps are spectacular.

We were glad to get these cloudless photos early in the hike.

Though it looks like we've made it to the top, we still had a long way to go.

The top at last! The clouds and we arrived at about the same time.

Making it to almost 4000 meters, we were thankful, spent, and only mildly disappointed that we couldn't see a thing.  

I think Paul breathed a huge sigh of relief once we had conquered the Schilthorn.  Sort of like taking a final exam.  Once done, the rest is easy.  

So with sore feet and exhausted bodies, we took the gondola down to Murren and made our way back to Walter's for his delicious meal of lamb, rice, and mushrooms before hitting the hay.  The beds could’ve been made of nails and we wouldn't have noticed.  :)

On to the Cinque Terre on the northern coast of Italy we went, after hiking down from Gimmelwald, through Steckelborg, and across the unbelievably alive-with-natural-beauty Lauterbrunen Valley.  From waterfalls to wildflowers and everything in between, we were constantly “oohing” and “ahhing” and snapping photos like crazy.  Absolutely lovely!

Our drive over the Susten Pass was likewise spectacular on that springlike day, and such a different experience than when Lisa and I had decided to take that route in 2004 since it was clearly the shortest distance between two points on the map. That day was not springlike, but rainy and foggy, and making the drive on the two-lane road (without guardrails in many places) was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.  With trucks as our only real companions on the road, we had a white knuckle drive I hope to never repeat—and we couldn’t see a thing.
Driving the Susten Pass on our journey from Interlaken to the Cinque Terre, we had backdrops like this.  :)   

How different it was to drive the Susten Pass on a clear, beautiful day!  The vistas were incredible, and though the roads were the same narrow two-lane unguarded windy ones Lisa and I drove, we enjoyed every minute of the 45-minute journey because we could see everything.  A great spiritual lesson recorded in my journal.

We arrived in the Cinque Terre just after sunset on Tuesday, August 30, and settled in to a great hotel overlooking the water.  After a good night’s sleep, we hit the trail, hiking between the towns of Monterroso, Vernazza, and Corniglia.  It wasn't lost on us that we were overwhelmed by the beauty of God's creation in the Cinque Terre—though it stood in sharp contrast to the kind of beauty we had loved in Switzerland.  From the ice peaks and glaciers of the Alps, to the warm “liquid ice” of the Ligurian Sea . . . From the verdant green meadows and blossoming flowers growing wildly or meticulously placed in window boxes, to the dusty, cobbley footpaths which wended through vineyards and terraced gardens producing fresh basil or rosemary—or orchards of olives, fig, or apple trees, we were reminded over and again of the amazing diversity of creation, and of the vast spectrum of what we consider “beautiful.”  We drank it in as we hiked a good 10-12 miles that day, interrupting the sweat-producing exercise with dips in the refreshing sea at least twice, and indulging in gelato the same number of times.  We capped the day with fresh caprese and delicious seafood eaten on the porch of our hotel room as the sunset melted into the western horizon.  It really doesn’t get much better than that.

In Cinque Terre, we begin our first hike from Monterroso to Vernazza on a gorgeous day.
What a difference 24 hours makes!

We rewarded ourselves with dips in the Ligurian Sea to be refreshed after our
arduous and quite warm hiking in the Cinque Terre.

We continued the reward with gelato . . . the best!!

We delighted in the sunset from our balcony in Manarola as we ate our dinner.

More hiking in the Cinque Terre, with unbelievable sights along the way.

We did more hiking the next day before packing up and heading to Florence, but not before indulging in more gelato.  “Carpe Diem!”

We had a full day in Florence, and we packed it in.  We toured the Uffizi Museum as well as L’Accademie, which houses Michelangelo's statue of David.  We also walked almost 20 miles as we explored this historic, artistic city.  We continued our love affair with gelato in Florence.  :)  We had a great time, but preferring hiking mountains and swimming in oceans to museums in general, we weren’t sorry to drive out of Florence on Saturday morning, Sept. 3, only 36 hours after arriving. 

From the Piazzale de Michelangelo, the overview of Florence was amazing.

A great dinner outdoors was a fitting end to a great day of touring Florence.

The drive from Florence back to Zurich was the only part of the trip we'd rather not remember.  Apparently everyone in Europe decided to end their holiday on the same day and through the same route, which also happened to be on a day that several key roads were closed for repairs. So the 6-hour trip ended up taking 11 hours, and our small window to explore Zurich closed as we made a painfully slow trip to the airport.  Fortunately, the Nugents weren't flying out until Sunday morning, so their return flight was unaffected.  We took advantage of our setting by talking endlessly about our family histories, our hopes and dreams, and eventually even defaulted to singing. It seemed fitting to break up the challenge of being held captive by traffic by singing “The Grumbler’s Song” and that definitely added levity to our situation.
This was our view most of the 11 hours it took us to get from Florence to Zurich. Yikes!

We sadly parted ways with the Nugents at this point, and they returned to the States to rest their weary muscles and sore feet and to revel in the accomplishments experienced and the beauty seen.  Our days together were packed with wonderfully unforgettable moments and we'll cherish them always.  
We headed to the small town of Zug to hang with some dear friends . . . and part 2 will pick up there!

From Tenting to Tea Partying

Cruising at an altitude of 35,000' en route from London to California, this 11-hour flight affords me opportunities to catch up on some neglected quiet activities . . . like my through-the-Bible-in-a-year-with-D.A.-Carson readings, journaling, and now blogging. No complaints from me regarding this long flight. I love enforced quiet and stillness, since I seem to have a hard time making it happen on my own.

It’s been quite a month since my last post. Our days in Vero Beach came to an end and we returned to the saddle refreshed and ready to go. Which was a good thing, because we arrived late Thursday night, May 20, and Paul spoke at a men’s event Friday night. This is the second year in a row he has spoken for this group, which is lead by Alan Siegel, and he loves the spirit of the group. He was very well-received.

Saturday we spoke for a marriage conference in Easton, also run by Alan Siegel, and had a wonderful day with many eager couples, from young marrieds to older marrieds. We were very heartened to receive this message from one of the couples who attended:
You and Paul were probably the best speakers I’ve ever heard. I looked at my husband’s outline and was surprised at his honesty and felt he tried to treat me nicely yesterday. He, too, thought you both were very good speakers. Thank you.

We’ve had an ongoing dialogue with this couple and God is at work in a big way in their marriage. Praise Him!

We drove from Easton to Hingham and were privileged to speak for a Couple’s Coffee House hosted by South Shore Baptist Church. Bill and Rebecca Haeck spear-headed the evening and did a masterful job transforming their social hall into a welcoming, candle-lit, cozy coffee house. We always love partnering with SSBC and this was no exception.

Bill and Rebecca Haeck hosted the Couples Coffee Shop at South Shore Baptist Church on Saturday, May 22.

In the meantime, house guests arrived! Our very dear friends, John, April, and Lizzie Aleman, came to town for a graduation and we were thrilled to have them crash at our house. We spent all of Sunday together, first worshiping at our home church, Highrock Church in Arlington, and then relaxing over Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and home-grilled bbq. We thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with them and building on our almost three decades of friendship through Campus by the Sea. Their kids, Nathan and Lizzie, have both served on staff at CBS in the past, as well as on family camp staff in New England. Their family is a great encouragement to us personally.

The Aleman family (far right) joined us for worship at High Rock Church in Arlington, and reconnected with family campers Tim and Linda Brown and family and Heather and Lydia Dietz.

Monday and Tuesday we both had a variety of appointments and “stuff” to do before counseling all day Wednesday. And then off again, this time me alone, to surprise our daughter Kari on her 30th birthday, May 27. What a fun surprise! By Friday night, all three girls were together celebrating her and we snuck off to a hotel in downtown Sacramento to further the celebration as a last getaway before baby arrives. Though everything didn’t exactly go as planned, it was a memorable and honoring time. Hardly 48 hours passed before I was flying back to join the H.I.M. Memorial Day Family Tenting Weekend!

In honor Kari’s 30th, Baby Garcia received some Red Sox garb from us . . . and some Giants garb from his dad!

The end of our hotel getaway was spent soaking in some Vitamin D poolside. (l-r: Lisa, Julie, Kari)

Of course the tenting weekend had started without me, and Paul was there with Jim and Sue Martis to make sure it happened. Twenty-five families (numbering 130 people) pitched their tents or drove their rigs to Myles Standish State Park for this annual event, and except for a brief (easy for me to say since I wasn’t there yet) two-hour shower at dinnertime on Saturday, the weekend was graced with fabulous weather (which means a whole lot when you’re camping in a tent!)

I joined the party on Sunday and everything was going swimmingly. In fact, many were swimming . . . or fishing, or biking. Regardless of the activity, everyone was clearly having a grand time.

As it goes, each evening the community gathers around a common meal (planned and prepared by Big Jim Martis of MJM Catering) which is followed by a time of worship, devotions, and s’mores. Mike and Seth Allen sacrificially drove to the campsite every night to lead worship and did a wonderful job again this year, and Paul lead the devotions in the inimitable Paul Friesen fashion.

The highlight of the weekend came Sunday night when Paul brought Thora Eames to camp for the evening. Thora, at 92, is still as spry and full of life as ever and young and old alike delighted in having her join the fun. As part of devotions that night, Paul interviewed Thora in front of the whole group. Everyone listened with rapt attention when Paul, acknowledging that Thora had experienced much loss these past years, asked her how she had managed with so much grief to keep going with a smile on her face. “Oh Paul,” Thora responded, “God has been so faithful to me!! I don’t have anything to complain about. Every day I wake up and thank Him for being so good to me.”

It was a recordable moment. Thora is the poster child for the truism: “Life is 10% circumstance, 90% attitude.” Thank you, Thora. We were all so blessed by her presence!

Paul interviews Thora, while Faith Metaxotos secures her bond with “Granny Thora.”

The weekend wrapped up on Memorial Day with our second annual Memorial Day parade, organized by the Barkers and the Cranes. Glenn Franks was selected to be the Grand Marshall in recognition of his service to our country. With most of the children mounted on their bikes and sporting patriotic colors (including glittery tattoos), and accompanied by the voices of an approximate 20-voice choir singing patriotic melodies, two laps were made around the camping circle to commemorate those who have protected our many freedoms, including the freedom to worship.

Glenn Franks served as the Grand Marshall of the second annual Memorial Day parade.

On your marks, get set, ride - carefully and slowly. :)

And the 2010 Memorial Day Family Tenting Weekend came to a close, with some families adding extra-curricular activities afterward, like picnicking at another lake and then making an ice cream stop as the exclamation point to an already great time.

The carefree escape from the worries of life came to a screeching halt Tuesday morning as we spent the day in our office counseling. We’re never far from the painful realities of life, which show up in so much brokenness relationally. By God’s grace, however, we’re privileged to seen much growth and healing in many marriages.

Early Wednesday morning, June 2, we drove to Cornwall, CT, to join the pastoral staff from Valley Community Baptist Church (VCBC) for the fourth year in a row. We’re so honored to be re-invited to speak into the lives of this amazing group of fellow ministers, lead by Jay Abramson and Tim Ponzani. We feel very personally connected to each of them by now and love just being with them. We led four sessions, dealing with ministry and personal issues connected to family and marriage, but mostly we just hung out, played games, took walks, and ate fabulous meals. It was as refreshing as it was productive, and we were most touched by them sending us off by praying specifically for us as we prepare for a very full summer. We’re so pleased to be looking forward to spending another week with Jay and Liz Abramson as they’ll be speaking at one of our H.I.M. Family Camps at Camp Berea in August. They are salt of the earth people.

The pastoral staff of Valley Community Baptist Church gathers for a photo op at retreat’s end.

Someone recently asked if I’ve really ever read the book Margin by Richard Swensen (since I often recommend it) and my emphatic “yes” confirms that just because you’ve read something doesn’t mean you’ve been changed by it.

The question was prompted by the description of what followed our conference for VCBC. We got home Friday early afternoon, and spent the balance of the day packing and preparing for the weeks ahead. Saturday was the annual H.I.M. Pool Party, hosted by servant-hearted and unflappable Doug and Julie Macrae. I (along with daughter Lisa, and friends Pam Barker and Kelly Plosker) left the party early to drive to Woodstock, Vermont, to run the Covered Bridges Half-Marathon Sunday morning, June 6.

Richard, Kit, and Beth Hendricks, and Lisa Friesen were some of the pool party attendees.

Which we did. In pouring rain (I had prayed specifically for it not to be a hot race, and it wasn’t!), we ran the 13.1 absolutely gorgeous course, and then made the 3-hour drive home to shower, finish packing, and fly out of Logan at 10 p.m. for London.

It does seem kind of crazy now, but losing a whole day of the London trip for rest and sanity seemed like a terrible trade-off when we made the plans. And besides, when we made the plane reservations, we thought the race started at 7 am. When we found out it didn’t start til 10:15 am, we felt a little bit of pressure to set a new course record. Even though we didn’t, we made it with plenty of time to spare.

Thankfully, it all went like clock-work. Lisa and I cut 7 full minutes off our last half-marathon and definitely didn’t overheat. And I even talked during this race. Back in November when we did our first half-marathon together, I stunned Lisa by not uttering a single word during the entire 13.1 miles. I couldn’t afford to give up any breath for non-essentials.

Pre-race photo: Lisa, me, Pam Barker, and Kelly Plosker.

This was a wonderful experience all around. Beautiful course, great friends, and a wonderful husband who drove up Sunday to ferry us to the start and from the finish, as well as to cheer us on and get finish line photos. We’re already eager to do it again.

Post-race photo: 13.1 soggy miles later. :)

The past week, we’ve had the great delight of experiencing London for the first time. This trip was a graduation gift to Lisa, in honor of her successfully completing her master’s degree, and London was the destination because her best childhood friend, Kelsey Offield, is studying there. Kelsey’s mom, Wendy, is one of my dearest friends, so the four of us spend the week together, dredging up unforgettable moments from our life’s journey together over the past 27 years, as well as making many new memories together.

Add to that the “only God could’ve made this happen” moment when we found out that our chosen family friends John and Marilyn Nugent would be in London at the same time, and you have two women who feel very, very personally loved by our gracious heavenly Father.

So we’ve spent the last six days exploring a new land and seeing come alive the photos and stories related to the UK we’ve seen and heard all our lives. We experienced most of the sights and sounds by foot (and my pedometer kept track, informing us that we averaged 10 miles a day) and loved most every minute of it. We ate great food, saw great theater, saw historical sites, and fell in love with the quaint charm of this country which served as a prototype for New England over 300 years ago. We visited Stonehenge and Bath. We had afternoon tea. We were privileged to be in the country for the “Trooping of the Colors” in honor of the Queen’s birthday, and we stood on the parade route, 20 yards from the Royal Family as they rode by on horseback or in carriages. We were quiet about our heritage Saturday night when the USA tied the UK in the first round of World Cup Soccer but secretly thrilled and so proud of our team. :) Along with the Nugents, we worshiped at the Holy Trinity Church of Brompton, the home of the ALPHA course developed by their senior pastor, Nicky Gumbel.

Lisa and Kelsey in front of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. They never did find Mr. Darcy, though you can be sure they looked!

With Wendy, Marilyn, and John, ready to see “Les Miserables”

At the “Trooping of the Colors” - Queen Elizabeth parades by in her carriage.

Kelsey and Wendy were wonderful hostesses, and John and Marilyn were great traveling companions. It would be hard to improve on the trip, unless it would be reclaiming the day Lisa was side-lined with the stomach flu. Even there, God was so gracious to protect the rest of us.

Though there were many highlights, the highest light of all was seeing “Les Miserables.” We’ve seen it multiple times by now, but never have we been more moved by the clarity of the message of grace. Maybe its because I’ve lived so much more of life now than I had 20 years ago when I saw it for the first time - and am so much more aware of how completely dependent I am on His grace - or maybe its because I’ve seen His grace be so transformative in my own life as well as in the lives of so many we come alongside. Whatever, I was profoundly touched by the play and challenged anew to walk in grace in a deeper way.

So now, the UK is in our rear view mirror, and when we land in several hours, we’ll head directly to Campus by the Sea for our 35th summer. That’s beginning to sound like a long time. We believe we have a wonderful summer staff assembled and can’t wait to see what God will do in our midst in the next seven weeks.

HIM Team Trinidad 2008 Returns!

We’re safely home from our Family Missions Trip to Trinidad and so full of blessing and thanksgiving. Words will fail me, surely, as I try to express how God met us and used us these past eight days, so read between the lines if you can.

This trip had more “this is the first time . . .” moments in it than any other in our ten-year history of doing family missions trips (except the first)! Our day of departure heads the list—and apparently it was a harbinger of things to come.

We gathered at Logan last Saturday, March 8, on a rainy, cold morning . . . giving thanks that it wasn’t snowing (yes, even me—I knew that snow would have an unwanted affect our departure, so I gave thanks for rain). Nine hours later, after incremental delays attributable to “low visibility” in Boston and NY-JFK, where we were to connect with a direct flight to Port of Spain (POS), and, after boarding once, only to deplane 45 minutes later, we were re-booked for the next day. A big first. Back home we all went, to clean houses and empty refrigerators, to water turned off and water heaters turned down, with no suitcases (since all had been checked in already, Delta chose to keep them for the night), we spent the night in our own beds. Our greatest disappointment was knowing we would miss our only real chance to attend a Sunday worship service with our Trinidadian brothers and sisters, especially those in Campoo who are continuing the church we helped plant years ago. That really was our sadness.

Take two: Sunday, we regroup, dressed as we were the day before (mostly), and thankful for a successful “launch” at 11 a.m. In a race against the clock in Atlanta, we thankfully made it to our connecting flight just in the nick of time, and happily landed in POS around 7:30 p.m. The next “first” then emerged . . . and was not entirely surprising, admittedly: we arrived, but most of our luggage did not. :(

The next two hours were spent locating the 13 (out of 31) pieces of luggage that did arrive, and filing claims for the pieces that didn’t. It was a rather wild time which delayed our arrival at the TTUM compound to around 10. Once there, we were warmly embraced by those who have become so dear to us through the 9 years we’ve partnered with them. Ashoke and Stephanie, Javed and Jenn, John and Donna, Tony and Annette, Maltee, Kelvin, Joshua . . . such precious folks!

We also were thrilled to connect with Sarah Hathaway, one of our team members who joined us from Calvin College. We had spent hours on the previous Friday trying to re-route Sarah so she wouldn’t be hampered in getting to Trinidad due to the winter storm which hit the midwest on Saturday (the one that eventually caused our delay!). Ironically, she arrived in Trinidad on time on Saturday—while we all were stranded! Interesting twist.

Monday we wakened and knew we weren’t in Boston anymore. Warm temps, clear skies, sights, sounds, and smells so different from our normal existence. We were housed for the first time in the “hotel-like” rooms we had helped build on the second floor of the sanctuary . . . and had air conditioning for the first time! Rather plush missionary quarters. :)

After a wonderful Trinidadian breakfast of “bakes” and cheese, we assessed our limited supplies to see what we had to work with for the launch of Backyard Bible Club (BBC) that afternoon in the little village of Bellamy. By God's grace, we had all the props for the “Sower and the Seeds” skit and part of the corresponding craft, so we went with it. We rehearsed the skit, worked out team dynamics, and prayed.

At 4, we arrived to “canvass” the neighborhood, which is only one of the very un-American things we do while in Trini. Imagine wandering through a rural street, hollering “Good afternoon!” and having a resident emerge to listen to your invitation to BBC which “will be held on the savannah (read: open field) by the tent at 4:30.” Amazingly, at 4:30, the savannah is teaming with children who are energetic and excited about being there. Wild. We had about 36 kids come the first day and felt really good about our interaction with them. We returned to the compound in time for dinner (it was about 25 minutes by “maxi”—a mid-sized bus) and debriefing. We found that not having suitcases simplified life; there was no time needed for swimming (skinny dipping was forbotten) or even changing clothes. And if you couldn’t change clothes, showering was not that appealing—which worked well, since the compound was experiencing a water crisis, so the water was shut off all but several hours a day (early in the a.m. and late at night) which was, by the way, another first. :)

Each night our team met for debriefing and praying together. We experienced deep bonding quickly, in part because “crisis” aids such solidarity and in part because of the previously existing relationships we had all forged through the years. Each person was so important to the team and stepped up in making their own unique contribution to our collective effort. We felt like one big family and Paul and I truly loved “leading” them.

Our prayers were answered Monday night when Paul and Javed returned from the airport with all 18 pieces of missing luggage in tow. PTL!! After having spent three days in the same clothes, we were really happy and grateful for things easily taken for granted.

Tuesday a.m., freshly showered and in clean clothes, we spent the morning visiting two Hindu temples on a fascinating tour led by Jenn Bachew. The importance of this piece can’t be underestimated as it sets up the obvious contrast between a life dedicated to worshiping an idol and a life dedicated to worshiping our living Lord. We watched a pundit sincerely offering alms and chanting prayers to the “monkey god” at one temple and we observed thousands of fragments of broken “deias” offered at the “water temple.” We saw four funeral pyres set and waiting dead corpses, which would be burned to ashes, which would be scattered in the river, which according to Hindu belief would eventually make it back to the Ganges River for reincarnation. It was very impacting.

While at the water temple, Melanie accepted the invitation offered by a Rastifarian-looking fisherman named Balam, to tour his home and business. What a unique opportunity to have an insider’s view into the life of a very entrepreneurial local! We saw his catch of the day: beautiful looking, plump shrimp and small fish, but we also unfortunately saw the murky, muddy waters from which they came, which dimmed their appeal. He took us inside his “home”—a squatter’s dwelling made of corrugated metal roofing and other discarded components fashioned into a suitable-for-him abode. He proudly showed us his “tauer” (incorrect spelling - it’s the flat skillet used to bake roti), his bbq, and his kitchen.” His home was nestled right on the shore line of the viscous water and couldn't have been more hospitable, extending an invitation to all of us to return for a fishing excursion with him. “Just bring your hammocks,” he suggested. Jenn said that kind of an experience was a first for her—and obviously for us, as well.

That day was so clear we could easily see Venezuela, which sits just 7 miles from that part of Trini’s coastline. What a gift to have such a lovely day! On the way back to the compound, we bought fresh fruits and veggies from a small farm stand to supplement the very high-carb, low-fresh fare at TTUM.

Back to the compound for lunch and preparation for BBC. Fortunately, now flush with supplies from the suitcase reunion, we had everything needed for the remaining three days of club. At 4 p.m., the savannah in Bellamy was flooded with kids within moments of the maxi’s arrival and we increased to 50 kids. Pastor Paul’s promise of an extra treat for any who brought someone new to club created quite a stir, and a good bit of lying and conniving by children who all wanted an extra lollipop. :) The afternoon went very well and culminated with the kids enthusiastically decorating Prayer Journals with really cool foam stickers. We returned to the compound very encouraged, satisfied, and thankful. That night, after our team meeting, we celebrated Melanie’s birthday with cake and ice cream, which was a treat for all.

Wednesday we were up and out early to do a program at a local high school. We had very little information regarding what to expect prior to going. Typically at the high schools, we present for one classroom during their period of “Religious Instruction” (RI). We were all delighted and somewhat relieved when Javed climbed on the maxi to accompany us to Cunupia HS that morning. Upon arrival at the security shack for the high school, Javed was told by the security guards that the school was in upheaval due to a student stabbing a teacher the day before, which had caused the teachers to strike. Their grievance was against the government’s changed policy regarding student discipline (that a teacher couldn't really discipline a student, taking their cues from America . . .) which they felt left them unprotected as teachers. In the absence of teachers, the principal requested that our team present to the entire student body.

Yikes! Not only were we going into a school which had experienced some form of violence the day before, but we would have the whole school! (The newspaper account of the incident was different from the verbal accounts, so we really don’t know what happened—it was enough to know that something bad happened to cause the teachers to refuse to teach.) Feeling thoroughly unprepared and some degree of terror, we filed into the open-air auditorium and experienced God’s grace and provision in some remarkable ways. We were all very aware that God had gone before us by having Javed with us that day; he was the right person for addressing that audience and did a great job, connecting with the students as only another Trinidadian could. Paul did the “iodine and the cross” illustration, and brave Talene spoke forthrightly about her faith and how it makes a difference in her daily life as a high school sophomore. Their chaplain opened in closed the time by leading several Christian choruses with his booming, rich voice, relieving us of the need to inadequately and anemically lead them musically. And then it was over. We were all relieved and thankful to return to the bus safely. The Cunupia experience was full of firsts. We all left with a much deeper awareness of God’s presence and protection.

On to an elementary school for our second school that morning, and that was also full of firsts. Usually we have the whole school at the primary schools and were joyfully welcomed. At Madras Road Government Primary School, we had one classroom of students, and were not even introduced by the somewhat dour teacher in charge. We usually get to interact with the kids after a presentation, but they were sent straight back to their classes and we left. We prayed that God will water the seeds sown.

Day three of BBC happened that afternoon. About 60 kids arrived for a somewhat raucous time of singing, performing, crafting, and playing. The best part for us is loving on these kids and letting them know how loved they are by Jesus. We knew many of their names by this point and each had bonded with different ones. It’s amazing how deep our hearts were for these children in such a short time.

That night was Prayer Meeting at the compound and Ashoke asked Paul to teach on relationships. We were sharing the compound with a great group of high school students who attend Whitfield Academy in Kansas City, Missouri, and since they would be attending Prayer Meeting also, Paul worked to cover the varied generational needs of this important topic. He did a great job and received a ton of affirmation especially from the Whitfield kids. We were so thankful.

The cap of a very long but good day was a definite highlight of the week: John and his steel pan band performed an hour-long concert for the American contingent. It was phenomenal. We worshiped, rejoiced, and praised through music, singing, and dancing. Yes, even Paul. The Whitfield kids pulled him on to the floor to “boogie” with them, I guess figuring that if he was hip enough to speak the way he spoke, he must be hip enough to dance. I wish you could’ve seen his face as they forced him to join them. :) We went to bed that night exhausted, but so, so aware of the goodness, presence, and power of God. We would clearly need it for the next day.

Thursday a.m. was challenging in many ways. We descended on Auntie Pearl’s orphanage to clean, since most of the children were in school. Our main project was to clean the laundry/freezer room, which we discovered had a population of roaches that would qualify it as a small city. I can still feel roaches crawling on me today. To say it was a stretch would be a gross understatement, but since the adults were committed to modeling servanthood with a smile to our progeny watching us, we attacked the disgusting, dirty, and “living” area with smiles on the outside and revulsion on the inside. Seth and Richard led the charge nobly and fearlessly; I did the best job of appearance management I could possibly muster, only once shrieking in terror as a roach ran up my leg. We developed the “roach rumba”—a dance that evolved as we stomped the scattering roaches that emerged as objects were moved or clothes shaken out.

Meanwhile, most of the team was caring for the dozen or so younger children not of school age, changing diapers, bathing, holding, and loving—while others were reducing the trash strewn about the back yard. Each team member stepped up incredibly, jumping in with hands and feet and mostly heart. It was a morning none of us will forget.

We left there with aching hearts, honestly, so aware that our efforts would make very little difference, really. We prayed that God would somehow multiply what we had done, like loaves and fishes, and that He'd show us how to respond to what we’d experienced even as we return to the U.S.

Day 4 and grand finale at BBC that afternoon brought all 60 children out even before our maxi arrived. We had a great afternoon, presenting the gospel, finishing projects, and wrapping up with the iodine and cross illustration. Sarah did a great presentation on the “wordless necklace” and Paul explained how to ask Jesus into your heart. Most of the children prayed the prayer with him, and only heaven will sort out who did so sincerely. We parted after many hugs and promises of prayers and left the little village of Bellamy in the hands of God.

After our team meeting that night, we broke out “Catch Phrase,” one of our favorite games, and had a rousing match which pitted the men against the women. The women ultimately prevailed, but only by the skin of our teeth. It was a highly competitive, sometimes ruthless match which provided lots of laughs.

Friday was full of more firsts. We started the day visiting New Haven Elderly Home and with no knowledge of what to expect, entered with a degree of trepidation. We found about twenty elderly folks in various stages of mobility and mental acuity who were delighted to feel not forgotten for an hour that day. We sang hymns with them, some of whom didn’t miss a word. We did a drama, made them cross necklaces, and spent time talking with them individually and touching them, physically and emotionally. It was sacred time.

On to a primary school in the early afternoon, we had a wonderful time presenting to a very appreciative audience and then “limin’” with them after we were done. From there, we were thrilled to go to Campoo to reconnect with some of our longtime friends there as well as to see the progress on the church building. TTUM has decided to build an orphan home in conjunction with the church, which is a very exciting development. It was such a joy to be there and to see the work of God being faithfully carried on.

The highlight for several of us was to reunite with Preema, our Hindu friend from our very first BBC in Campoo. Preema had the keys to the community center we used for our first BBC, so we got to know her and her four boys well. At week’s end, she responded to Ashoke’s invitation to receive Christ and wept for thirty minutes after. We had made contact with her each time we’ve been there since, and though it doesn’t appear that the seed fell on fertile soil, she always seems to glad to see us. It was a joyful reunion with her, which prompted many tears from her again. We prayed for her and were so thankful to have had those moments.

We rounded out that afternoon by spending some time at “Angel Michael’s Orphan Home,” another first. An unknown entity to TTUM, Jenn had set it up hoping it would be a good place for ministry. It turned out to be a very sketchy place, with lots of evidence of being Obea Baptist (a curious mixture of witchcraft, voodoo, and Christianity). There were only school-aged children there and only one expressed an affect. The rest were relatively void of expression and very unresponsive. It was sad.

Our final ministry event was that night at the compound. Paul and I taught on relationships for their youth group meeting and again, were besieged with positive responses. The local youth were especially appreciative; we were grateful to have significant conversations with many of them. PTL. The evening was rich with worship, led by Javed, fellowship and fun, led by Whitfield Academy, and teaching. Between that and the Wednesday night Prayer Meeting, we felt less “gypped” by missing out on Sunday. :) We concluded the evening with a Catch Phrase rematch—and the women again prevailed. :)

Saturday was our last full day there and we had an unrestful but fun day of rest. The day started with yet another first: turns out that a drunk young man had trespassed on the compound in the middle of the night and found a place to sleep in one of our rooms, which was occupied by three young ladies. The youngest wakened and, unable to waken her two sleeping sisters, took it on herself to command him to leave their room. After some resistance, he did, only to wander down the hall to another room with an unlocked door. The two guys in this room thought his snoring was from someone on the team, so there he slept there ’til morning. The first we all knew about it was when armed officers (uzzi-armed) arrived at the compound to arrest this guy. No small amount of drama ensued, and our departure for Maracas Bay was delayed slightly.

Off we eventually went, stopping first in Port of Spain for one hour of mostly fabric shopping, and then on to Maracas Bay. We indulged in the inimitable “Bake ’n Shark” lunch delicacy before enjoying the “just right” ocean (in terms of temp and wave action). We couldn’t have had a nicer time. From there we made a quick stop at a market for edible souvenirs, and then spent a couple of hours on the river cruise to watch the nightly migration of the Red Ibises, Snowy Egrets, and Blue Herons to their wildlife preserve. It’s a rather magical show they perform and such a confirmation of Creator God, who sets such things in motion. Everything was perfect about the experience, so we felt very blessed.

Our evening was spent wrapping up and we shared a very sweet time of sharing and prayer together as a team. Packing, “liming,” and sharing filled the evening, and then we went to bed for our final time at TTUM. Sad farewells were exchanged early the next a.m.—we left with hearts so full of love and gratitude.

The above photo was taken at Logan Airport, Boston, just after our arrival back home. Our team was delighted and honored to be met by a precious group of family and friends who gathered to welcome us home. Not on the trip, but included in this photo, are Robie and Donna Gould with daughter Anna; Dan, Liz, and Timmy Yardley; Guy and Barbara Steele; and Rick Welles. We felt so loved!