Previously, I shared about life using analogies about Niagara Falls and the Niagara River, but this time I would like to share an analogy from hiking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  

We love hiking in the White Mountains because we have have to work for the view.  But the perspective that we gain is worth the effort.  I remember back to times of vigorous climbing, sweating, huffing, and puffing, thinking, “Why do I call this fun and enjoyable?”  Some of the trails were long, winding, steep and treacherous.  At times I wondered if the trail would ever level out and when we would reach the top.  But then it happened!  There would come a break in the trees, and we would turn around and see how high we had climbed and how far we had come.  We would stand and take in the view.  There was a breath of encouragement at that moment.  Our perspectives just seem to change; there was an internal or emotional breath of fresh air.

There are particular parts of this mountain range that are called “notches.”  A definition of “notch” is, “a deep, narrow mountain pass.”  On Franconia Notch, the view was breath taking as the Presidential range opened up.  We could see what lay ahead.  All the hard work and sweat seemed rather insignificant in comparison to the incredible panorama that suddenly filled the horizon.  It was one of those times when the wind was blowing through my hair and mind, and I stood there exposed to the elements and the excitement of life.  It was a notch, a mountain notch, a reflection of life.

Debbie and I feel that we have just caught a glimpse of one of life’s “notches.”  But the unique perspective about this notch is that we are standing on a vantage point where not only do we see what lies ahead, but we can look back over the terrain and see where we have come.  Here we are in the notch just having sent all our children back to college.  Looking back over the range we just traveled, we think back to arriving in the States in July.  We look over the mountains of August and September and settling our children in college and traveling up north to Upstate New York, our “home base” for most of the year.  Then came the peak of October, when we helped with a missions conference at our church in Southern Tier of New York and rekindled friendships with our family in Jesus there.  We visited churches, shared through pottery talks, and spent many lunches and suppers together with dear friends, but we still weren’t able to see everyone.  It was a very good trail, but one we knew would be marked by a brisk pace.  (It was during this time that we found out that Aunt Esther would need hip replacement surgery in January 2014. We are so glad that Jesus has called us to this trail that will enable us to be near her this year through this time.)  

After arriving back in Upstate New York, we were able to regroup for a few days before tackling the next mountain range and heading back down south, from New York to Texas.  Our trip down south had a focal point of helping the Owens family as our niece recovered from major reconstructive jaw surgery.  On this particular trail we were able to visit family, friends and supporters.  It was a special time, but, again, the trail called for a brisk pace and the time went very quickly.  (Just a footnote about all these travels, what a blessing to travel with the “Bride of My Youth.”  Traveling with her, there is always something to talk about, and I so enjoy spending time with my best friend.)  We arrived in Texas about a week after our niece’s surgery.  It had gone very well, and the X-rays from before and after the surgery were amazing.  For those few weeks we were there, we were able to help with some small projects and spend time with Nana (Debbie’s mom).  Even though Nana, in her confusion, couldn’t always remember who we were, she always seemed to know we were part of her family, and she is a  special lady to spend time with.  During Thanksgiving, we were able to spend time with our children, their friends and some students from RVA.  A few days later, an ice storm hit the Dallas and Fort Worth area, the same winter storm we mentioned in a previous email.  As the residue of that storm was finishing up, we were back on trail.  We headed to college to pick up two of our children and another RVA graduate (who we were blessed to have stay with us during the Christmas break) and began our travels up north.

At an earlier time, Debbie and I had discussed the possibilities of the first real break of our “college” children, their Christmas break.  Yes, we were looking forward to spending time with our children but felt that if we had the opportunity, we would love to open our home to students from RVA who needed a home for this break.  After all, we feel that Jesus has called us to stand in the gap for the children of missionaries, and many of these young adults are here in the States now.  After taking our son to the airport to head back to college a few days ago, we counted and realized that, besides our own three children, we had seven RVA students visit our home during their Christmas breaks, from anywhere from two meals (the shortest visit) to three weeks.  What a blessing!  

Back to “life’s notch” Here we are standing on the notch of the New Year mountain peak, the notch of transition.  Looking over the past five months, the 12,000 miles we have already driven, the view is incredible!  It has been a good hike.  Yes, it has been busy, but a VERY good hike.  Jesus is SO good and His mercies are new every day.

Now picture with us what it is like to turn around and look at the mountain range ahead…

Could you imagine with me the feelings you would have if you were standing in this notch looking at this beautiful view, with the stark realization that you are lost?  You realize you are not sure what direction to go, but you know you have to traverse the mountains ahead?  Where do you begin?  How do you go about doing this?  It would be a feeling of fear, overwhelming fear…

BUT, this is NOT the scenario!  Yes, we are standing on this notch looking at the beautiful panorama of the mountains ahead.  But what peace to follow the eternal Shepherd who has traveled this path many times before.  He leads us, and He travels with us.  If we look at Psalm 23 in the light of trail ahead, what peace!  He is a Shepherd; He goes before us.  Then what comfort to see that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8)!  But what about the trail?  Ephesians 2:10 talks about the “good works He has prepared in advance for us to do.”  Here we are on the notch, and we have just looked at the range we just traveled.  Our Shepherd was so good and faithful, He was with us throughout this part of the journey, leading us, going before us.  In fact, we have come to realize He IS a faithful Shepherd; it is just in His nature to be faithful throughout the whole journey of life.

Looking at the trail ahead, Debbie and I are excited.  We are able to be a part of the church that I (Ed) was a member of growing up.  We are looking forward to being involved in various ministries.  We are teaching a homeschooling art class and loving it.  We will be helping out here at the campgrounds where we are staying.  There will be church visits in which we will share about RVA and the mission field, and pottery talks coming up.  The nice thing is that the long distance travels are over for a while, and we will be able to live in the same house for a longer period of time for the next several months.  Looking further on down the mountain range on the not-so-distant horizon, we see August and returning, Lord willing, for two more years to Rift Valley Academy.

We would appreciate your prayers for our children as they adjust back to college and that we would all have a passion for our King.  Please also pray for Debbie and me to be wise with our time, for balance with what the Lord has called us to, and to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16). 

Thank you again for all you do for us!  We are grateful for your support and the important part of the team you are in Jesus.  I know we say this again and again, but we DO appreciate you.  We love you!

Love in Jesus,

Ed and Debbie

P.S. The picture at the top of this letter was not taken in the White Mountains, but was actually taken in the Smokey Mountains while visiting our friends at the Master’s Mission