Burlington, VT, metro-area population 208,055 (one third the population of the entire state), the largest city in Vermont. Yup, that's not very big compared to where we have lived in the past. I've heard it called the big little city because of it's access to shopping, public transportation, the arts, and education that is not found in kind anywhere else in the state. It's home to the University of Vermont, Seventh Generation, Lake Champlain, and brilliantly, Ben & Jerry's. Burlington was Children's Health Magazine's best place to raise a family, and one of National Geographic Adventure's best cities to live and play. It's beautiful here and seems to have it all, really.
Now here is another, lesser known statistic about Vermont. A recent Gallup poll has Vermont as the least religious state in this country, with other New England states coming in just ahead, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusettes. Check out this article in USA Today:
As I said, they seem to have it all. We sense a lot of pride from Vermonters for their state, which we share to an extent. But as a Christian, it's hard not to feel like we are living in a spiritual vacuum here.
While I am still dealing with my feelings of lonliness and missing our spiritual family in NJ, you should know that we think this city is amazing. If I could just implant a few close friends or family members, I would have nothing to complain about. We live on a very central road with Lake Champlain right accross the street. On a clear day we can also see Mt. Mansfield from our huge backyard. Here is a terrible picture, we have a small view of the lake from our front porch:
Here is our duplex, we live in the middle house on the left side:
We have been taking advantage of the short walk down to the lake a lot, here are some pictures of our cold, cold walks:
Jude seems to like it here, he loves to be outside. We had a couple of miserable walks with him testing out his stamina and tolerance for the cold. Conclusion: over an hour in temps below 20 is a bad idea. Kevin rigged a sled to a backpack to pull Jude in when the snow is high. He also likes to ride in the backpack with Kevin in his snowshoes.
Is it too early to start potty training? A girl can dream, can't she?
One huge blessing has been the Christian community here in Burlington. I really think we have met someone from just about every single church or ministry in the Burlington area, and there aren't many. Unlike in NJ, the Christian ministries here seem to be networked a lot better, at least the people in them all know each other. Within a week of moving here I was invited to join a women's bible study made up of women from several different ministries. I can't say how much this has meant to me, and in many ways, I think my transition would have been much tougher without them. I am still getting to know them, but have connected with a few that I spend time with outside of the group. All except a couple have young children, so we have that in common. I really have never felt so cared for by strangers as I have by these women. They call me to hang out, they invite us over for dinner, they are meeting a need in my life for fellowship and I am thankful. We have also been meeting weekly in our home on Sunday mornings with a terrific group of people who have really bought into this church plant. Brian, Jan, and Steve have been an encouragement each week and we look forward to seeing the church grow from here.
We have also met a refugee family that moved here a month ago from Nepal. They are still learning English, so our communication is very limited. But we have had such a great time getting to know them and helping them adjust to the American way of life. The family consists of a young married couple (18 and 20 years old), who have a 17 month old baby girl. His parents are also here with them, they are actually closer to our age! Jude has had fun with his new playmate and they had us over for dinner the other night. Here are a couple of pictures. We had an amazing dinner, which they served to us without eating themselves, and watched Indian music videos that they enjoy on the computer.
Since I started this post (a long while ago), the weather has gotten so nice and warm! We have been spending as much time as possible outside and Jude couldn't be happier than when he is running around the yard or going on hikes with Kevin. By "warm" I mean 40 and above, by the way. Here is a smattering of pictures of what we have been doing with ourselves over the past couple of months.
In our backyard:
Reading about huge red dogs: