Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
There is something special about living in small town, rural northern Minnesota, that really makes one really appreciate all of the grandeur and splendor that abounds around us. There is also a uniqueness to life in the North Shore country that many envy, but surprisingly few want to embrace as permanent residents. This time of year is when opportunity presents itself to allow us to slow down a bit and truly appreciate the small things that can mean so much.
I remember growing up in the suburban area of Washington, D.C., where our county held over a half-million residents. There were many grade schools, parks, shopping centers, and houses so close you could almost reach your hand out a window and shake your neighbors hand out of their window. And yes, there were kids everywhere, so there was never a lack of friends to hang out with. However, the noise of dense suburbia and non-stop traffic and activity can get old after a short time – unless you are really an urbanite and need that. My grandparents, who raised me, were from rural Virginia and moved to Washington, D.C., in the 1920s, because that's where the jobs were. They acclimated over the years to adapt and survive through the Great Depression and World War II. Relatively stoic, they never talked much about those years. My grandfather's only comment was usually, "You did what you had to do to get by." One of the greatest treats was to go to "the country" for a visit. This entailed a two-hour trip to the area of rural Virginia where my grandfather was born and raised. It was another world. People there talked slower and with a different accent. They also delighted in "visiting." There were three primary areas designated for visiting: the front porch (with the obligatory chain swing), the parlor, and the kitchen. I liked the kitchen best because of the tempting aroma of homemade delicacies that teased great delights to be enjoyed later on. But what was really extraordinary about visiting in the country was the quiet, even outside. It was mesmerizing to hear the small sounds of nature usually drowned out by the cacophony of sound in suburbia and large cities. You could distinguish small animals, birds, leaves rustling in the trees. My grandfather told me, as a seven-year-old, that if I was quiet enough that I could hear the corn growing in the field. You know… It is over a half-century later, and I still remember those as some of the best times growing up as a child. Now, here we are in the North Shore in 2020. What is to remember? The COVID-19 Pandemic, stressful times that we have not experienced for decades, and uncertainty what the new norm will be in three weeks or three months? Yes, to all, but if that's our primary focus, then we may be depriving ourselves of some great memories to share with others. This past week saw the first real snow event of the season for us. I know it is an overused cliché, but the snow was having the perfect "snow globe" effect and was truly breathtaking to behold. It was also the first real frost, where we once again had the pleasure of trying to remember where the scraper was to clean the windows. I am certainly glad the car has a remote start. Now, I just have to remember to set the temp and fan accordingly when turning the engine off. Never too old to learn, right? It's also something to see when the first deer begin to look for forage and make their presence known. It was also a little alarming when the neighbor's four free-range roosters decided to migrate to our front door and simultaneously announce their presence. Yes, it's the little things we need to think about and slowing down to take the time to notice. It may seem like a small thing, but it means the world to me. At a local eatery, we go to every Sunday for breakfast, they know us by name. We talk and catch up on how everyone is doing. We are friends, and that means everything here
on the North Shore. I can hear the theme song from "Cheers" in my mind right now.
I sincerely pray that we never become so busy that we can't see and appreciate all that is going on right around us. This can be as simple as thanking someone for their service to us, being there when we needed them, or just to drop a line or a call to someone we haven't spoken to in a while. There is a characteristic that some people have that I really wish I could excel at. Those are the people who never met someone they couldn't talk to and make friends with. My grandfather was just that type of person who could make you feel relaxed and at home with a friend. Yes, it's the little things that mean so much.
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)
“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’
May you be blessed by God’s word. Chris