It’s permeated our lives but maybe we are becoming desensitized to it. In recent times, a lot of name-calling, pigeon-holing, and downright nasty verbiage assaults us in all arenas of our everyday lives.
You know what I’m talking about. In politics, in social issues, in religion, even about the you know what, nothing is spared. People call out others as this word or that. You’re (fill in the blank) so you must be (fill in the blank).
Judging and denigrating others just because they don’t concur with your point of view has become the norm. I recently listened to someone vent because another person’s social media post called folks “lower functioning” because they don’t choose to partake in a certain aspect of healthcare.
Really? Belittling people because they don’t agree with you? Are you as frustrated and weary of it all as I certainly am? I may have opposing personal beliefs and views from other folks, but I’m not going to slap a label on them because of it, spew forth vile words about them, or resort to name calling.
I’m no saint as I can be just as foolish with my words as the next person but there is a good reason why I refrain from joining the fray of divisiveness.
Just the other day, Papa and I took a Sunday drive after church. A warm, sunny afternoon prompted us to jump in the car and meander down some country roads. Eventually, the lure of ice cream caused a detour to nearby suburbs in search of a Baskin Robbins. That mint chocolate chip scoop of creamy yumminess was calling my name and German chocolate was beckoning to Papa.
On our way home, we traveled through more trafficked areas and while stopped at a stop light, I noticed a vehicle ahead of us that sported a plethora of stickers on its rear window and bumper. And then I spotted this: “Just another Republican working hard so you don’t have to.”
And you know what? I confess that, at first, I laughed but then as I ruminated over that opinion, that bumper sticker bothered me, not because I have anything against Republicans or Democrats or Independents or whatever your political affiliation may be. What didn’t sit well with me was the statement implied that all members of any other political party are slackers. And that’s just not true.
I don’t write this to engage in any kind of political debate because that’s not the purpose of my blog and never has been. Neither do I express my political views in writing here nor on social media because I know invariably someone will disagree and try to argue with me or categorize me with a label. Frankly, there’s enough outrageous division among us Americans and I do not want to contribute to it.
And that brings me to the point of my post today. Why are we so quick to examine other people’s lives and respond with criticism, anger, and judgement but we don’t stop, use self-control, and check our attitudes by thoroughly examining our own lives? And let me assure you, I am just as guilty of this as anyone else.
I’m reminded that, in two of the gospels of the New Testament in God’s Word, we are advised to inspect ourselves and our motives in calling out others in wrongdoing. In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus reminds us to basically check ourselves first.
Luke 6:41-42: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
In some versions, the word log is used instead of plank. Compare a speck to a log. Big difference huh?
I live in a region of my state with forests and often logging takes place in those areas. A few months ago, I watched for several minutes (and snapped photos) while large logs were loaded onto a truck for transportation. Those logs were huge and one certainly couldn’t help but see them!
But sometimes huge logs are sticking out of my eye and I ignore them. So if I notice the speck in your eye (your life) when I believe you are (fill in the blank) and resort to calling you a (fill in the blank), I first better check that log (my own thoughts, words, and actions) in my own eye (life).
I recently read another translation of these same verses in The Passion version of the Bible: “Why do you focus on the flaw in someone else’s life and fail to notice the glaring flaws of your own life? How could you say to your friend, ‘Here, let me show you where you’re wrong,’ when you are guilty of even more than he? You are overly critical, splitting hairs and being a hypocrite! You must acknowledge your own blind spots and deal with them before you will be able to deal with the blind spot of your friend.”
What does this tell me? That I need to examine myself, not to serve myself or dote on my self-centered nature, or justify “my way or the highway,” but instead I need to focus on the One who gave me the instruction above.
I don’t know about you, but I’m taking some time to gaze into the mirror searching for my own log-sized planks, which will become apparent when I focus on my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Because sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.
“If we focus on self we see nothing, if we focus on others we see specks in their eyes, if we focus on Christ we see the logs in our own eyes.” ~ Burk Parsons
I am keeping you in the loop today on our Tuesday Tour – the Ashtabula Covered Bridges Trail or the “Covered Bridge Loop” in Ashtabula County, Ohio.
Last week, I showcased the first four covered bridges that Papa and I visited last summer on a self-guided driving tour. This week, enjoy the photos of the next four we viewed as we ambled down country roads – sometimes gravel covered – connecting historic, older spans with more recently erected ones.
Crossing the Ashtabula River in Monroe Township, the Root Road Covered Bridge looks the part of an old historic bridge. The two-span structure was originally erected in 1868 and has shown some wear and tear even though it was rehabilitated in 1982-83 when girders and a center concrete pier were added, and the 114-foot-long bridge was raised 18 inches. Driving through the Town lattice design, you can imagine the history this timeworn bridge has experienced. It certainly can’t lay claim to the prettiest covered bridge, but it deserves recognition for being one of the oldest still drivable spans in Ashtabula County.
Next, we found a newer bridge, State Road Covered Bridge, erected in this century in 1983. It was the first covered bridge designed and built by Ashtabula County Engineer John Smolen, Jr. and you will hear a little bit more about him in next week’s post. Assembled using 97,000 feet of southern pine and oak, the span features Town lattice construction and a four-foot-high window that extends the length (152 feet) of the bridge. We found this covered bridge, crossing Conneaut Creek in Monroe Township, lovely and more picturesque than the previous one. This site offers a parking area and public access to Conneaut Creek. Originally, an earlier covered bridge, built by two gentlemen named Ira Benton and David Niles for $100, stood there from 1831-1898.
It’s interesting to note that Conneaut Creek is actually the longest river in eastern Ashtabula County, and our driving tour took us to two more covered bridges crossing this waterway. Middle Road Covered Bridge was the next stop. Erected in 1868, it is a single span Howe truss design and is 136 feet long. Located about three miles south of downtown Conneaut, this historic bridge is in good shape having been reconstructed in 1984 when volunteers and some college students aided in its rebuilding. Again, I find it sad that people have chosen to deface this historic site with graffiti as you can see in the photo below.
The last bridge on today’s tour, but not the last in the driving loop (four more to be highlighted in next week’s Tuesday Tour), is Creek Road Covered Bridge. We arrived at this 125-foot-long Town lattice designed span just shortly after lunchtime and were delighted to find a place to park, no people in sight, and a restful park bench, where we peacefully ate our picnic lunch, overlooking Conneaut Creek. Sitting 25 feet above the creek, this bridge became one of my favorites on this trip. The original date of construction is not known, but the bridge was renovated extensively in 1994.
The soothing and tranquil spot provided a pleasurable break on our driving tour while we soaked up sunshine, heard birds serenading us with song, and listened to the gentle rippling of the creek. When we take time to just pause and observe the world around us, we find blessings, even at a covered bridge.
I hope you join me again next Tuesday to see the last four covered bridges out of the dozen we visited in the state next door. And I hope the serenity of these quaint bridges encourage you to look at the amazing sights in the world about you.
“Bridges become frames for looking at the world around us.” ~ Bruce Jackson
All I can say is…finally!
After April snowfalls, a roller coaster of fluctuating temperatures, frosty mornings and bone-chilling nights, I think it’s safe to say spring has finally arrived in my neck of the woods.
If you’ve been a long-time reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you’ll know that I sign off my posts with a quotation. It’s my thing. I love quotes. I keep them. I write them down and stash them away in a notebook.
And now, my thing is Spring. And for those of you living in the northern hemisphere of this orb we call earth, I want to encourage and inspire you to embrace the renewal of life we see in the erupting season of Spring.
We’ve all had a long season of winter’s oppression. It’s time to rejoice and break free from its grip.
So here’s a list of some springtime quotes that I enjoy. May they put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. (See what I did there? 😊 )
“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” ~ William Shakespeare
“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ~ John Muir
“Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.” ~ W. Earl Hall
“The point is that the pleasures of spring are available to everybody, and cost nothing.” ~ George Orwell
“Spring: the music of open windows.” ~ Terri Guillemets
“The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” ~ Harriet Ann Jacobs
“Spring is painted in daffodil yellows, robin egg blues, new grass green and the brightness of hope for a better life.” ~ Toni Sorenson
“Spring will come and so will happiness. Hold on. Life will get warmer.” ~Anita Krizzan
“Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.” ~ Carl Friedrich Gauss
“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” ~ Virgil A. Kraft
And finally, this last quote that I’m signing off with describes me perfectly right now. Perhaps you can identify with it as well.
“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” ~ Gustav Mahler
Sometimes you just stumble onto a treasure by happenstance, and when you do, it develops into a memory – one from the past to remember and revisit in the future.
As often happened during this past year of the you know what, Papa and I were once again grateful for a blessing. What makes us feel so blessed? Living in a rural area.
Even though plenty of travel restrictions prevented us from taking more than one vacation or far-away excursions, living where we do enabled us to venture out on road trips by car, partially satisfying our desire for exploring new-to-us places.
We set out one late summer morning in 2020 for such a trip. We ventured to the state next door – Ohio – for a bit of exploring another rural area we hadn’t visited before and where we wouldn’t have to worry much about social distancing and the like.
The focus of our destination was to locate covered bridges and on our way back home, catch some glimpses of a couple of lighthouses around Lake Erie. Happily, we accomplished both goals, but the covered bridge excursion truly revealed a treasure for us.
Little did we know that the county we chose to visit in the northeast corner of Ohio is considered the covered bridge capital of that state. Nineteen covered bridges, including the longest and shortest in the entire country (USA), are situated in Ashtabula County. The modern Smolen-Gulf Bridge holds the title of being the longest at 613 feet in length and the touted shortest is the 18-foot-long West Liberty Covered Bridge.
Seventeen of those covered spans are operational and open to vehicular traffic year-round. We managed to see a dozen of them in one trip and I decided to highlight those in three parts for my Tuesday Tour. Look for part 2 next week on May 4 with Part 3 posted on May 11.
The treasure we discovered is that visitors can travel on a 67-mile-long driving tour, called the Ashtabula Covered Bridges Trail or the “Covered Bridge Loop,” via country roads to view these unique bridges by using a self-guided driving map. Five types of construction are visible in the historic Ashtabula County covered bridges: Howe truss, Pratt truss, Town lattice truss, Burr arch, and Inverted Haupt truss.
Our first stop was Netcher Road Covered Bridge, which traverses Mill Creek in Jefferson Township. This bridge, at 110 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 14½ feet high, features a single span of timber arches with inverted Haupt walls and is classified as “Neo Victorian” design. However, it is not a relic from the past but instead is one of the newest covered bridges since it was constructed in 1998 and was funded by a state department of transportation grant. Netcher Road bridge is located about two miles east of Jefferson, Ohio.
Bridge #2 on our driving tour was South Denmark Road Covered Bridge, also crossing Mill Creek. At 81 feet in length, this Town lattice style span was built in 1890. It’s only 2.7 miles away from Netcher Road Bridge, but because of construction/road closure occurring at the time of our visit, we could not view this bridge.
Another newer bridge, erected in 1986 to celebrate Ashtabula County’s 175th anniversary, is the Caine Road Covered Bridge. With a single span Pratt truss design, this 124-foot-long structure crosses the Ashtabula River in Pierpont Township and is 6.7 miles from the South Denmark Bridge.
The next stop on our driving tour enticed me even more than previous ones. Sitting in a small park along the south side of Graham Road is the aptly named Graham Road Covered Bridge. Interestingly, this 97-foot Town truss span was re-built from the remains of a damaged bridge that washed downstream during a flood back in 1913. It originally crossed the Ashtabula River in Pierpont Township, but was relocated in 1972 near its original site. Not open to vehicle traffic, a distinguishable aspect of this renovated bridge is the quilt block design painted on its side.
The artwork on the side of a historic covered bridge will remain in my memory and I’ll smile each time I gaze at that photo (at the beginning of this post). Memories of a lovely summer day’s travels and sights are added to yet other special thoughts. That pretty quilt-block design reminds me of my mother, who loved to fashion and create beautiful hand-made quilts.
Memories that last become treasured keepsakes in our minds, don’t they?
“Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.” ~ Mattie Stepanek
Storms in life…they come and sometimes often and close together.
Storms have never really frightened me. As a child, I often perched myself on our covered front porch to watch thunderstorms and lightning strikes until my mother, in a distressed voice, called me to quickly get back in the house.
I’ve been known to take walks in the rain. But I also have resorted to safety when thunder clouds rolled in, skies darkened menacingly, and threatening tornado warnings rang out.
Storms from weather patterns fascinate me, but the one thing that causes my heart to sing and puts a huge smile on my face is when suddenly after a storm, an amazing sight appears in the sky overhead – a rainbow.
What is it about a rainbow that just makes us feel good about the world? What is it about spying those colorful spectrums of light that makes my mind automatically begin singing words, written by E.Y. Harburg, who wrote all of the songs for the movie, The Wizard of Oz?
“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
When that melody and those lyrics come to my mind, the Judy Garland version from that movie is not what plays in my head. Instead a version, including lyrics from “What a Wonderful World”, first made famous by Louis Armstrong, sung by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is my favorite. You can listen to it here.
Rainbows. They make us believe there is light and joy and happiness after a dismal storm. God mentions rainbows in the Bible, His Holy Word, and the very first one appeared in the first book of Scripture (Genesis) when God sets a rainbow in the sky after the great flood as His promise not to destroy the wicked world again by water.
In other scriptures, the rainbow symbolizes God’s glory and power and the fact that He is a covenant-keeper. In other words, the rainbow demonstrates that His works and His ways are beautiful and good and that God is always with us, He will never forsake us.
That’s the kind of reassurance we need after storms of life batter and beat us down. And they will do so. Just recalling this past year and the storms of the you know what remind us how detrimental and destructive it has been for so many of our brothers and sisters around the world.
“If you want to enjoy the rainbow, be prepared to endure the storm.” ~ Warren Wendel Wiersbe
But God gives us hope and reassurance that we can persevere.
These thoughts permeated my mind recently as Papa and I were driving back home after a visit to our oldest daughter and son-in-love who live in a different state.
For quite some time, they have been searching for a house to purchase and of course, what transpired in the last year put a halt to that. Daughter’s background is in medical research and amidst lock-downs, restrictions, and upheavals, what’s been happening has occupied the forefront of her mind.
But at last, the timing seemed right and a house to fit their preferences came on the market. When they were able to buy their very first home, Papa and were so happy and excited for them. We couldn’t wait to see their new place in person, so we traveled the seven hours or so to help them clean and prepare it for their move.
And that’s when it happened. Rain fell as they showed us through their house, but then it stopped, and the sun appeared. We stepped outside onto their front porch so that Mama could snap a photo of them at their new place and we all could not help but see it — a rainbow. Not just a portion of one, but a complete, end-to-end rainbow, as if to say “dreams really do come true.”
But that rainbow meant so much more. It signified a promise that God is with our beloved daughter and son-in-love, that He provides for them, He blesses then, He gives them hope and beauty after a storm.
And He does that for us all – no matter who we are or where we live or what our circumstances may be. He’s there to help us weather life’s storms, its disappointments, and its difficulties when He ask Him for His help and we offer up a gift of gratitude and thanksgiving for His provision and for that wonderful world He gave us.
“Gratitude is the real treasure God wants us to find, because it isn’t the pot of gold but the rainbow that colors our world.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich
Each time I view photos of the covered bridges I highlight today in this Tuesday Tour, a certain title of a book and movie come to my mind.
You see, these structures are three out of 10 remaining covered bridges in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. And each time I think “the bridges of Somerset County,” my mind leaps to a book written in the 90’s, one that became a popular movie in the same decade, The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller.
“First you must have the images, then come the words.” ~ Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County
The story involves star-crossed lovers: a professional photographer, who travels to Madison County, Iowa to take photos of famous covered bridges there for National Geographic, and a lonely farmer’s wife. I can honestly say I didn’t care much for either the book or the movie (which starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep), but for some reason, that title sticks in my mind.
So here are some of the bridges – not of Madison County, but of southern Somerset County – which we visited by happenstance last summer. In the midst of the you know what, Papa and I needed a get-away, so one Saturday we embarked on a day trip out into nature, one where we wouldn’t encounter a lot of people.
After arriving at the 20,500-acre Ohiopyle State Park, which serves as a gateway into the Laurel Highlands, we hoped to enjoy a view of Ohiopyle Falls, a 20-foot waterfall on the Youghiogheny (pronounced YOK-i-gay-nee) River.
But the place was crazy busy with people who had the same idea, so we nixed that, shelving it for a week-day another time when it might be less crowded. After finding a quiet spot for a picnic lunch, we meandered down country roads and wound up in Somerset County in search of three covered bridges that all cross the same ribbon of water, Laurel Hill Creek.
The first one we encountered was the Lower Humbert Covered Bridge, near Confluence, PA, about a 25-minute drive from Ohiopyle. Also called the Faidley Covered Bridge, it’s located at an intersection of Humbert and Covered Bridge Roads in Lower Turkeyfoot Township.
At 126. 5 feet in length, 12.3 feet in width, and 8 feet high, the double span bridge was constructed in 1891, using Burr arch truss and King-post design. Maintained by the county, Lower Humbert was rehabilitated 100 years later in 1991 when two steel beams were added in order to support vehicular traffic and a concrete pier, encased in stone, near the bridge’s mid-way point was also included.
Today, this covered bridge, is in good condition and we enjoyed driving through it. Research revealed that it was not the only covered bridge that existed in that area in the past. One called the Upper Humbert Bridge, which also had a King-post design, once stood about one mile upstream from the Lower Humbert. Unfortunately, an arsonist destroyed that bridge in 1969 and it was not rebuilt.
We next found King’s Covered Bridge, also located in Middlecreek Township just off Route 653 about 12 miles southwest of Somerset. We appreciated the fact that there were ample parking spaces in a park-like setting so sightseers can walk through the bridge, which is not open to vehicular traffic, and that a picnic pavilion is adjacent to it. The site is owned and maintained by the township.
The date this 127-foot long and 12-foot-wide bridge was constructed is not certain. At one time, King’s Bridge was believed to have been built in 1802, but that conflicts with the fact that covered bridges were not erected in that area until the late 1800’s. Research on covered bridges indicates that the first confirmed American covered bridge was bult in 1805 in Philadelphia, PA across the Schuylkill River.
So more than likely, a bridge (not covered) may have been erected there in 1802 but was replaced by King’s Covered Bridge using multiple King-post trusses. Then in 1906, the bridge was rebuilt using Burr arch trusses.
After being bypassed in the 1930’s by a modern, steel bridge, King’s Covered Bridge fell into disrepair and actually was used as a livestock barn for several decades, Thankfully, it was rehabilitated in 2008.
It is beautiful from the outside. However, what disturbed me most about this link to the past was, after waiting for a couple of bicyclers to pass through the bridge (photo at beginning of this post), we walked inside to find its interior walls covered in spray-painted graffiti. What a shame.
King’s Covered Bridge is not far from the ski resort areas of Seven Springs and Hidden Valley. It’s also a short distance from Cole Run Falls, which is a popular set of waterfalls.
Just a few minutes away from King’s Bridge, we located another covered bridge, which I think is my favorite of the three. (Maybe because there were old-fashioned roses and daisies in bloom beside it.) Barronvale Covered Bridge, the longest of the 10 remaining covered bridges of Somerset County at 162 feet in length, is also known as Barron’s Mill Bridge.
This nearly 14-foot wide, two-span Burr truss structure is not open to vehicular traffic and can be found in Middlecreek Township in a beautiful setting. It is in very good condition, but it is privately owned so visitors need to be respectful of that. Sightseers can park and walk through the bridge though.
A placard at the bridge details its history, stating that a miller named Peter Kooser petitioned county commissioners in 1828 to build a bridge near his gristmill for his patrons. By 1830, Barronvale’s construction was completed by builder Cassimer Cramer at a cost of $300.
In 1845, the two-span bridge needed repairs to strengthen it so heavy Burr arches were installed, which allegedly cost the county $750. Repaired again in 1907, stone supports, which came from a nearby quarry, were installed.
All three of these historic covered bridges were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. They serve as reminders to the past and are worthwhile remembering and visiting.
“The heart never forgets, never gives up, the territory marked off for those who came before.” ~ Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County
It’s been one long year of feeling empty, hasn’t it? At the beginning of this you know what, Papa and I flew back from our jaunt to Arizona to find empty highways on the way home from the airport. Eerily empty roads because lockdowns had begun in our state.
Following that, our empty nest became a little less empty though as our young granddaughter basically moved in with us for just about two months because her mama (our daughter) is a hospital nurse and was in danger of being exposed to the plague (she was).
Even though our lives were full of caring for our Little One, our hearts felt void and empty because we couldn’t see our family near or far, couldn’t visit friends, couldn’t attend worship services at church, couldn’t enjoy social gatherings, couldn’t lead Bible study in person, couldn’t shop for groceries or anything else except online, couldn’t travel except for nearby drives in the car….the list of could nots just seemed to empty happy thoughts out of our beings like a pitcher pouring water out until the very last drop.
The emptiness left us bone dry. Finally, a little break from that void occurred during the last days of summer. Our family braved an opportunity to venture to an ocean beach for a week-long sequester in a rented house with all of us congregating – Papa and Mama, three adult offspring, two of their spouses, and our precious three little grandchildren.
That emptiness felt in our family from not seeing one another in person for so long vacated and in its place joy and love and gratitude filled the void as we relished just being together as a family. That was in August 2020 – five months into lockdowns, restrictions, and social distancing.
Yet more empty months continued to drone on in our world. No holiday get-togethers, no Christmas shopping except online, no family outings, no mingling with other fellow humans. Instead, we hid behind masks if we did venture outside our homes and tried to express friendliness, compassion, and respect for our fellow emptiness sufferers with our eyes in place of our smiles.
The toll taken on our fellow human beings has been heavy. So many have suffered through job losses, closing of family-owned businesses, mental stresses resulting in depression, despondency, and substance abuse, isolation from loved ones, not to mention losing those who became ill and succumbed.
And as insufferable as all that is, the toll on our spirits is also most grave.
We humans have surrendered to sheer fear. We’ve further divided ourselves – the masked vs. the unmasked. We cower anxiously from other humans we encounter, suspicious of one another, and even angry because of their actions or inaction. And although the onset of a touted vaccine to ease the burden has arrived, we still consider one another with disdain – the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.
When will it stop? This feeling of emptiness that eats away at every one of us? That looms large over us even yet? That occupies space in our minds and in our lives?
“Why does the feeling of emptiness occupy so much space?” ~ James de la Vega
We hope for light at the end of the tunnel. Slowly, we see it within our grasp. Restaurants opening up for dine-in customers, in-person worship services, entertainment venues re-opening somewhat, more folks shopping outside of their online routines.
Just recently, Papa and I walked through a nearby shopping mall – a place we haven’t stepped inside for over a year. And to say I was shocked doesn’t do justice to how I reacted. We were two of only a handful of people there. But what stunned me even more was the fact that the place was empty.
Empty. Not just of people, but of stores. A once thriving place of commerce now resembled a ghost town. Storefront after storefront closed for good. Permanently. Completely dark and empty of merchandise. Absent. Gone. Depleted. How many people lost their jobs there, their livelihood?
This emptiness, this void we’ve all encountered for so long is enough to shake your beliefs, chip away your confidence in returning to ‘normal,’ unhinge your trust. But this vacuum of hollowness and those vacant places in that shopping area remind me that our lives don’t have to be devoid. It’s only so if we choose it.
“In all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.” ~ Carl Sagan
We can and still must reach out to others with care, with kindness, with love. As a believer in Christ, I am called to do so.
We are not empty shells just existing in a daze of futility. We have souls to reach out to God for help to cope and persevere. We have minds to think of ways to help one another. We have hands and feet to serve each other. We have hearts to feel compassion and care for those suffering more than we are. We have mouths to speak to one another with words of respect and to utter prayers for recovery for our brothers and sisters in our nation and across the world.
And we must use them to fill the empty void in others’ lives as well as our own.
“Always show kindness and love to others. Your words might be filling the empty places in someone’s heart.” ~ Mandy Hale
I embarked on a quest quite a long time ago: to visit as many of our 50 states in the United States of America as I could. I‘m pleased to account that, so far, I’ve visited 40 with 10 more to check off the list.
I suspect I acquired this desire from my father, who loved to travel and enjoyed poring over a Rand McNally road atlas of America just imagining all the trips he could encounter. He managed a number of those with my mother, but after she passed away, his zeal to journey too far from home waned. But he still studied those road maps.
For the last year, the you know what slapped the kibosh on our own travels, which is why I’m looking back over places we’ve visited in the past including the covered bridges featured on my Tuesday Tour.
A few years ago, Papa and I traveled to the New England states on two separate trips to check them off my to-do list. Our first trip took us to parts of New York state we had never visited before and then on into Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
On our second excursion to New England in the summer of 2018, we ventured into Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. And it was in Vermont that I discovered I liked photographing covered bridges, although with our packed itinerary, we only visited two that we happened upon while on our way to other sightseeing stops.
The first covered bridge that caught my eye was West Dummerston Covered Bridge which we passed on our way from Brattleboro to Weston. Papa graciously turned the car around and drove back to the site so I could jump out of the car to snap photos.
This historic covered bridge, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, is named the longest entirely covered bridge, at 280 feet long, in the state of Vermont. And we just happened upon it by chance.
Spanning the West River in a small town named Dummerston, Windham County, the bridge, which stands on stone abutments and a central stone pier, features two spans, flush vertical boards on its sides, wooden clapboard ends, and a corrugated metal roof. The interesting feature, I think, of this one-lane bridge is its side walls which have diamond-shaped openings in them admitting light inside.
I found this one so picturesque, we drove through it twice and I took multiple photos of it. In my research later, I learned that it is the only known surviving architectural example of a renowned master bridge builder named Caleb Lamson, who constructed it in 1872.
Back on the road again, we stumbled upon another covered bridge on our way to Woodstock, Vermont that same day in Taftsville. This wooden bridge is one of the oldest remaining covered bridges in not only the state of Vermont but also in the United States as it was constructed in 1836.
Located along US Route 4 in Windsor County and spanning the Ottauquechee (pronounced (AWT-ah-KWEE-chee) River, the Taftsville Covered Bridge is 189 feet long and 20 feet wide (with a roadway of 16 feet) and was designed with kingpost trusses with arches on a central pier.
Prior to 1836, three bridges once stood in that spot but were destroyed by floods. A local resident, Solomon Emmons III, was then contracted to build the timber-framed bridge that still stands today and is used for vehicular traffic. The bridge was so busy, we only drove through it and I only managed photos from inside our vehicle. The photo at the beginning of this post is from inside the Taftsville Covered Bridge.
Having stood the test of time, the Taftsville Covered Bridge is one of over 100 covered bridges still existing in the state of Vermont, where at one time there were more than 600 such structures.
At the time we visited Vermont, I hadn’t yet developed an interest in seeing more covered bridges, but now, I’d love to travel back to New England – preferably in the fall to be awestruck by the colorful foliage – and visit more of these charming reminders of days gone by.
A link to the past – that’s what these quaint and picturesque bridges symbolize to me. They take me back in time to an era when life was simpler. And I think we need to remember our past in order to secure a better future. Not make the same mistakes, learn from history not erase it, and use that knowledge today.
“Today is the bridge between the past, regarding which we unconditionally accept that
everything has occurred according to God’s plan, and a future where we place our unconditional trust in God’s omnipotence and His benevolent design for our lives.” ~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Out with old, in with new.
Sounds like I’m celebrating New Year’s, doesn’t it? Out with the old year, in with the new one.
Well, no, I’m not behind the times. My calendar points out that it is April, not January. And whew, aren’t we all glad it is? Finally, spring is arriving.
With its arrival, our thoughts turn to new life, new growth, a reemergence of hope. We smile at the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips pushing their way up through the earth to burst forth into our drab world in an array of spring green and brilliantly vibrant colors.
Out with the old, in with the new. Out with Ol’ Man Winter, in with the new season of Spring.
But my thoughts take another turn as I consider that phrase – out with the old, in with the new.
And again, pictures truly are worth a thousand words as they inspire me with thoughts worth putting down in this blog.
One day last year, as Papa and I did so often during this you know what, we took a little driving jaunt with our oldest grandchild along. We ended up parked in an area watching an old building, once used for multiple purposes but now decrepit and unusable, being demolished. (pictured above)
Little One had never seen that kind of destruction ever before, so she was fascinated and asked several questions about the scene we watched. My memory bank took me back to an occasion that reminded me of her mama, our daughter, when she was a preschooler.
At that time, we lived in a suburb of a midwestern city where new housing developments were springing up hither and yon. For some reason, we drove through one of those areas where a new house was under construction.
Imagine our astonishment when our little daughter asked this question from her back seat booster: “Why is that house broken?”
Huh? It took a minute or so for us to realize that our little one had never seen a house in various stages of construction, so to her, the house looked like it was being dismantled rather than being assembled.
In her eyes, that edifice was broken not newly constructed; she categorized it as old and wrecked, not new and erect. Perspective matters, doesn’t it?
Just recently, a flurry of activity occurred on a parcel of land zoned commercial near us. For years, a vacant building existed there. The place wasn’t dilapidated, just empty, not used.
Wrecking crews and large machinery spent several weeks destroying the existing building and leveling the ground there. Out with the old.
But then, a different kind of activity began. Brand new construction commenced for a new business to be located there. In with the new.
A drastic change began taking place. Pondering this, I can compare it to our spiritual lives. We find ourselves set in old patterns of sinful behavior leaving us feeling broken. Sometimes our lives seem wrecked, even destroyed by the consequences of our own actions.
But something amazing happens when we invite a Savior named Jesus to enter our lives, our hearts, our very being. He heals the broken-hearted, He restores the wrecked, He erases destruction and, in its place, new construction arises.
A new identity. A new creation. A new life. That’s the promise and blessing of a Christ-centered choice to become a follower of Him.
“Through Christ we have a new identity. We should not be speaking to our old man, the sinner, and giving him his identity back.” ~ Eric Samuel Timm
A verse in God’s Holy Word, the Bible, tells us what happens when we make that choice: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The onset of spring reminds me to leave old inclinations, old thoughts, old ways, and old sins behind me and start fresh with new inspiration, new perceptions, new life.
Out with the old. In with the new. Sounds like the promise of spring, doesn’t it?
“You cannot move on to a new phase in life if you bring your old baggage with you, let the bad go, and move onto the new.” ~ Patrick Read Johnson