Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hope Reigns

"Many things are possible for the person who has hope. Even more is possible for the person who has faith. And still more is possible for the person who knows how to love. But everything is possible for the person who practices all three virtues." - Brother Lawrence

If you are like the majority of families in the world, your year has been filled with the whole range of life experience...joy, sadness, loss, struggle, illness, victories, and the list goes on.

This year, especially, we've seen many people, even leaders, struggle with a lack of hope. If you are leaving Alleppo right now your hope level may be not much more in size than a grain of sand. If you said goodbye to a loved one this year your supply of hope may be at an all time low.

While our circumstances and environment may be influenced by others and world events beyond our control, our spirit can thrive in desperate situations because of our Creator God and His provision and promises for us. Our plans may have to change. Our methods may have to change. Our attitudes may have to change. But God is unchanging and so is His abundant love for us. He is there with us in a hospital room, a crumbling marriage, or a far away land.

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, whose birth we are celebrating, we are no longer in a hopeless state. Those who enter into a life with Christ do not exist under a cloud of total despair. Knowing this we can be hopeful even if it feels like our prospects and reserves are dwindling. The miracles still happen. And we can run alongside others and continue to speak hope over them when their lives may be faltering.

"The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross." J.I. Packer

Live and move in hope. 
Keep running alongside others in need of hope.
Rejoice for your King has come. 
Hope is ours!


Photo credits: Used with permission "Hope" Artwork by Annie LaPoint
Boy decorating tree: Sheryl Bullock


Friday, September 30, 2016

What I learned on my visit to New England

We just spent two weeks visiting New Hampshire, Maine and Prince Edward Island (a Maritime Province in Canada.) It's a different "world" than I'm used to. We spent most of our time in small coastal areas or farm communities. We savored 3 nights on a small farm in an Air B and B place near the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The laid-back feel influenced much of what we saw. Towns like Portland or Augusta, Maine, no doubt, would be somewhat different than what we experienced. But it was good to be "unplugged" for the most part and enjoying the slow life. I noted a number of things while traveling through the various towns and seeing some incredible natural beauty and regional distinctions.

1. Eastern locals are very friendly and welcoming...at least that was our experience. People who visit this area tend to be quite friendly as well. We often chatted with people at the next table when eating at a restaurant. ("Where are you from?" "What did you see and do today?") When people are on vacation they tend to be pretty cheerful. Politics was left at home...we didn't hear any political discussion. We got the feeling that if you were in an emergency situation with these people, you could count on them and they, on you. It made me realize there are many kind and helpful people in the world despite what you experience via the internet.

 2. White churches with steeples are everywhere. They are even in the tiny towns of 200 people. Most of the ones we saw are still used as churches while some of them are now "town halls" or community-use buildings. And a few were boarded up or abandoned. There can be 3 or 4 white churches in some towns. I really wanted to attend a service, but we weren't able to make it work with our schedule.

3. Seafood is very popular in New England and there are many people who work in the fishing industry. On our schooner trip we saw areas with hundreds of lobster "floats" used to mark where a trap has been lowered. The floats are painted very distinctly so that a fisherman can find his trap among the hundreds. I got the feeling that messing with someone else's trap is a big NO-NO. And you can go to jail for 5 years if you try to fish for a living without a proper license. They check the traps every couple days to see what they've caught. After this trip I decided I'm buying more fish to eat. We loved it.

4. The coffee scene is less obvious in New England. We went days without seeing a Starbucks or other coffee chain. And we saw few independent ones. Some towns probably just have one and some, none. However, Keurigs are in many hotel and inn rooms. This would not work in Redding where I live. They would disappear along with the pillows and towels.

5. New England has a rich sense of tradition and patriotism. I immediately noticed many homes had American flags flying above their doorsteps on an average day. Small towns have veteran memorials in parks to honor their youth who served in wartime. We saw many old cemeteries with tombstones and engraving completely worn off.




 6. New England weather is hard on structures. There are beautiful buildings and very worn, rundown buildings. Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV Show, "Fixer-Upper" would have plenty to choose from for renovating in New England. November through March means colder weather and January-March means quite a bit of snow on the ground. If you don't have extra money and have a wood-sided home or church, chances are a new paint job is low on your priority list and chipped paint is the norm for you.


7. If you live in New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island, Canada, French is the secondary language and British teacups are very popular. We came across a yard sale that had an abundance of bone china teacups. A couple moves for us in the past decade and a trend toward downsizing has decreased teacups in our household so we didn't buy any.


8. There are wires everywhere! They really mess with your photo composition. 

9. Creativity abounds in New England. This was evidenced by the the many "artist gallery" and "pottery shop" signs both in towns and along the roads. There was a sense of the whimsical and funky as well as traditional art. In Bar Harbor, Maine, they have North Bubble and South Bubble Mountain. Hence the sign for this business....
This piano was outside a Littleton, NH, collection of stores for anyone to enjoy. Who cares if it needs to be tuned. It's just fun.

10. New Englanders seem to value the past. We noticed many things were probably as they were a long time ago. There didn't seem to be a prevalence for "updating" or modernizing something. Little eating nooks were well-worn, but quite popular. There was a simplicity with the ordinary. I found that refreshing. Obviously, there isn't a great obsession to tear down the old house and build a new and larger one because we saw complete towns of very old homes with no variance in old and new construction. We did not see tracts of homes which means that the rural areas are not growing much, if at all, in population. At the little farm where we stayed in New Hampshire we loved how a portion of an old barn was preserved in the wall of a newer one. History means something in New England and even if it's old and rickety they obviously are not anxious to get rid of it.
11. We learned about terms such as "down east." The meaning of this is better explained here than anything I can attempt to articulate.

12. Maine ranks second in the U.S. (Michigan is first) in number of lighthouses. They are a big deal in Maine. A few are still operating. However, light keepers who live on the property don't exist anymore. Some of the lighthouses are on islands. They are a big tourist draw.
West Quoddy Lighthouse

13. Despite weather experts trying to predict when leaf colors will turn, it seems that even the locals don't know much about that. They said it's fairly unpredictable. We were definitely experiencing an Indian summer during much of our stay. By the time we left we noticed the beginning of more yellows and reds. Apparently, Vermont residents in higher elevations who had already had cool temps were not seeing much color yet either.

14. And lastly....when you cross the border into New Brunswick, pay attention to the STOP sign before the booth where the border officials are. The sign says, "Please stop until lane is clear." The vehicle ahead of us at the booth pulled away so we just pulled up to the booth. The person in the window put her hand up motioning for us to stop again. When we got up to the window an irritated supervisor said "when it says STOP, it means STOP." We learned that once at the STOP sign, you have to wait till the person motions for you to move up to the booth. Noting this error on our part, the second time we had to cross into Canada (when visiting Roosevelt's home on Campobello Island) we heeded the warning only to learn that it was no big deal there. Cars just pulled up to the window if it was clear. And no one got mad. 

Well, that's about it. I'm craving seafood!