A Life of Blessings, Root Canal Included

You'll all be glad to know I seem to have survived the root canal I had this morning. However, the numbness is just now starting to wear off four hours after I left the endodontist's office, so we'll see how things go from here. I am so thankful for little Sam rolling around inside of me, but I find myself not so thankful for the fact that I am limited to Tylenol as my pain suppresant option. C'mon. Does anyone actually choose to take Tylenol on their own? I might as well eat M&M's. Let me rephrase that...I'd be better off eating M&M's since at least I'd get a moment of pleasure from their yumminess. Tylenol is completely useless to me. It is so far inferior to ibuprofen that I do not consider them in the same league. But, this is the price I pay for another bouncing baby boy...in addition to the price of rotting teeth. Ever since I had Jack, my life has been filled (Ha!) with dental problems galore. Really, this is our last baby! Really! (But he's so worth it, I'm sure.)

In trying to alleviate any pre-root canal anxiety, I tried counting my blessings, and realized that they are so numerous, how could I complain over one little endodontic procedure? Even if it does mean drilling a hole in part of my body, ripping nerves out of my head and then jamming some artificial substance in their place? I even count the fact that I am able to get my teeth fixed and that I can do it with local anasthesia rather than experiencing an amount of pain that I'm sure would make me want to die a blessing in and of itself. I won't bore you with the long list of blessings in my life, but that is a nice segue (can I tell you how impressed I am with myself for spelling that word correctly on the first try?) into Part 2 of my Vermont trip. How is that, you ask? Well, it was just one big, humongous ball of blessings!
I think when I look back on this trip months and years down the road, I will not first think of the beautiful scenery, or the lovely accomodations, or even all the YUMMY food. My first and fondest thought will be of the people I met along the way. If you don't already know, I'm not really one to meet and befriend a lot of new people, especially total strangers. But having people around like Jackie makes it impossible to not meet people. Her mouth would open, heads would turn, and the inevitable comment would come: "You aren't from around here, are you?" Really? What gave us away? So, we'd have an open door to launch into our reason for being in their lovely state, which led to various other topics of conversation, mostly relating to the fact that we loved their weather, for if we'd been at home, we'd be roasting in 100+ degree heat.
Of course, the people we spent the most time with, and got to know the best, were Trey and Robyn and Paul and Eva. Trey is the pastor of New Life Community Church, which our local church partners with. Trey is originally from our home church and has been in Vermont for a few years as a church planter. The other couple, Paul and Eva, lead another church in the town of Northfield, Northfield Bible Fellowship. Basically, they've formed a partnership as two of the only evangelical, Bible-believing churches in the town. How awesome to see the body of believers cooperating rather than competing! The VBS we helped with was held at Paul and Eva's church, which happens to also be their house. When you raid someone's home and cook dinner in their kitchen every night, you get to know them pretty well. Jackie charmed them with her southern drawl and her grits, while Emily matched wits and sarcasm with Paul. I think they just felt sorry for me - the big pregnant girl - and even threw me my first baby shower for baby #4. It consisted of Paul throwing some water on me from a plastic cup and presenting me with a guitar onesie for Sam, to commemorate Paul's obvious love for all things guitars, including apparel. It was really such a sweet and thoughtful surprise. They wanted Sam to always remember his trip to Vermont.

In addition to these two pastors and their wives, we got to meet and spend some time with several members of their churches. I just love seeing how different all these people are, how unique and beautiful their testimonies are, and how they all have the same Lord and Savior. One woman had been to the point where she wouldn't get out of bed, but came to know the Lord this past Easter and is now an active member of the church. She was at VBS to help out for four out of the five nights. Then there was the older gentleman who is struggling to make ends meet and keep his life going after the death of his wife. He admitted that he didn't have much to offer, but came each night to try to help anyway he could. We had several unchurched kids who came to the VBS and four who accepted Christ. This area of the country is largely poor and we were able to feed some children who probably really needed the meal. In Vermont, people don't go to church because it's expected or to gain social status or to find clients. They go because they are looking for something, or Someone, to fill a void in their lives. They're a mixture of people all seeking the same Jesus, and the church is a place where they come to be loved and to love. It's refreshing, really.

Besides all the people we met as a direct result of our work with these two churches, we met several interesting characters just randomly during our days. Unfortunately, due to the unexpected nature of these meetings, I don't really have pictures of them. I really wish I did, because it's not everyday in my life that I meet such interesting people. There was Mary, who seemed to be in charge of The Square Biscuit, which is a restaurant in Northfield that claims to serve real Southern cooking. Naturally, a group of women born and bred in the South simply had to go see if it was the real deal. I will say the food was my least favorite meal of the trip (aside from the sloppy joes we fixed), though they did know how to fry bacon for a blt, and the sweet tea did not pass my taste test. However, Mary was very friendly, if a little on the manly side. She had noticed the fact that we prayed before our meal, which obviously is not as common in New England as in the Deep South, and, as we paid for our meal, she asked us to pray for her. She has battled cancer before, and it has returned. She attributed her previous recovery to prayer, but in that vague "spiritual" sort of way without actually indicating she believed in Jesus. I'm praying that Trey and Robyn will be able to get to know her better, but I'm thinking I probably should have made an effort to share the gospel with her myself.

One night, we made a stop at the neighborhood grocery store just down from our luxury suite at the Hollow Inn & Motel. My mom, Emily, and I stayed in the car while the other two ran in for muffins, pluots, and other assorted and important food items like chocolate covered raisins. We parked next to a woman who was poring over a map. When she opened her truck door and headed toward us, I figured she was going to be very disappointed that she was asking directions from three ladies from Alabama. She did proceed to ask us if we could tell her where she was, which we could barely do, and then she shared that she was just looking for a hotel to stay in for the evening. Well, she actually came to the right place for that. Who better to ask than three temporary residents of the swankiest place in town? It turns out that she had spent the last thirteen days and nights driving alone in her camper-shelled pickup truck from Alaska to New Hampshire. She had spent all thirteen nights in various campgrounds alone which she happened to come across on her journey. That just blows my mind! This girl here has never spent even one night in a tent of any sort. I have stayed in a campground multiple times, but I was always in my grandparents' decked-out rv. I'm thinking that doesn't count as camping, but that's as close to it as I ever plan to get. So, anyway, Superwoman just wanted a mattress and a shower, and since the Hollow Inn & Motel did have running hot water and mattresses that weren't all that bad, we went ahead and recommended it. She wanted to make sure it wasn't too nice or pricey. I just had to laugh.

The next morning, we saw her at the Deluxe, Extensive Continental Breakfast and she looked very refreshed and ready to continue on her way. She even took our picture to commemorate the only part of her journey where she met five Southern girls who just laughed when she complained of the heat in Vermont. Jackie proclaimed that our new friend was also her new hero, because we all agreed we would NEVER go on a 14-day journey alone across a continent, camping along the way. There was a certain lonliness about this lady, who was just so grateful for friendly faces and a warm shower. I will always wonder where her journey really took her.

Now to my absolute favorite person that we just happened upon during our most interesting trip. One morning, we volunteered a few hours at a local food bank. It was our job to sort donated food into one of many categories or to declare it useless garbage and toss it into a giant garbage box. After a very quick and detailed training session, we were put to work with three people from the department of corrections (otherwise known as criminals) and one very sweet man who appeared to have Downs Syndrome. We sorted and tossed and pondered what in the world borscht really is and why anyone would want to eat it, but after a while we were told to take a break. We made our way to the handy dandy break room and sat down with Shawn...our only co-worker who had actually chosen to be there that day. Little did we know that we were in the very presence of an Olympic gold medalist. That's right. He won six gold medals at the Indiana Special Olympics at their first ever ballroom dancing competition! I could have kicked myself for not bringing my camera. He humbly told how he was interviewed by the newspaper and the local news channel, and then how his dance instructor gave him a surprise party. It was so sweet. Evidently, he comes up to Vermont every summer to spend time with his brother's family and spends a significant amount of his time there volunteering at this food bank. In fact, we were there on his last day for this summer, and all of his coworkers gave him a surprise going away party later that morning. It was such a blessing to witness his sweet spirit and how happy he was to come spend his time helping others. There was almost a fist fight, however, between Emily and one of the "criminals" who wasn't treating Shawn so well. Fortunately, I was able to restrain her and we avoided any police presence on our trip.

I'm sure I'm forgetting someone, and I'm sure no one has made it this far in this super-long post anyway. But you get the idea. God blessed us with the chance to meet some very interesting and even inspiring people. I live most of my life in a bubble of sameness, and it was so good for me to get out in the world and meet people who are really totally different than I am. In each one of them, however, I saw the goodness of God, whether these people even really know Him or not. I won't soon forget them or the lesson to just open my eyes as I'm doing ordinary things. You never know who might notice you praying before a meal or who might be very appreciative of something you find pretty ordinary or unpleasant. It's funny. We go on these kinds of trips with a mission to spread God to others in some way, but it always ends up that God uses others to show us more of Himself. He's just amazing like that.


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