Devotions: Transitions

Transitions are challenging for most people. They define a season of change and a time when a part of life is undefined or uncertain. My most recent life transition is the one I am currently in, the transition from college to the “real world.” I graduated from the University of Maryland this past May. Although I anticipated the transition to be challenging in some respects, I did not expect to be confronted by a pandemic and one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression. My plans for creating more memories with friends, attending graduation, and starting a job upon graduation were all taken away in a matter of weeks. The 3-week transition period I had planned for post-graduation turned to 4 months with no distinct end.
Despite all this, I have experienced indescribable peace and comfort from Christ during this season. There are two verses of scripture that I have hidden in my heart and have used to remain optimistic over these past few months. The first is Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” There is great comfort in knowing that when it seems as though your way of life has been uprooted and everything around you seems to be changing, you can remain grounded in Christ. Since Christ is unchanging, so are his promises. His promises for grace, mercy, provision, and strength to persevere in any circumstance.
The second verse is Jeremiah 29:11, a Christian favorite, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This verse reminds me to take a step back from my situation and try to view it with a godly perspective. It reminds me of the sovereignty of God in my life. He is a good God who created me for a purpose, and I have to allow him to work through me to fulfill that purpose. So when some of my carefully thought out life plans are disrupted, instead of sitting in despair for too long, I turn to God for clarity of where He is at work and for reassurance that what He has for me is better and fulfills a kingdom purpose.
In context, Jeremiah 29:11 was declared to the Israelites after being told that they would be in exile for 70 years. To me, that shows that God’s plan requires patience and trust, and throughout scripture, He has promised to provide the strength and endurance to withstand any season. Just as God recommended that the Israelites get comfortable and continue their lives in Babylonian captivity, I decided to do the same during this time of transition. In the past few months, I have rediscovered my love for serving, working out, cooking, reading, and panting. I have also been consistent with having quiet times with God, a goal I have had difficulty with for years.
Whenever we find ourselves in times of change, we should embrace the uncertainty, find ways to prosper in that season, and focus on the ways that God continues to work in our lives.
–Jane Njihia
Jane recently took — and passed — her Fundamentals of Engineering exam, the first step in becoming a licensed engineer.


From the Mainstream: Honeybees & Covid

What have Carol and I been doing since COVID-19 raced around the world shuttering the world’s economy? As a Realtor and a beekeeper, I have stayed busy as an essential worker. For the most part, as a Realtor, work has evolved, more Zoom calls and fewer face-to-face meetings. But not for the bees. Bees are all hands on, but the benefits are so very sweet.

Honeybees are not native to North America. There are about 4,400 bee species in North America, and a little over 400 bee species in Maryland. Most of Maryland’s native bees are solitary bees and do not build colonies like the honeybee or the native bumblebees. The honeybee was brought to North America with the first colonist and the honeybee spread throughout the continent. Indeed, the Native Americans called them “white man’s flies” because they usually arrived just before the settlers did as they moved west. Feral hives in the wild were more common than now for a variety of reasons. For example, a few years ago, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), was described. We have not seen CCD for several years now and it is thought to have been caused by a virus. But the bees are still struggling, and we lose about 60% of our hives a year in this area alone. Why are they dying? There are several reasons: loss of habitat, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and disease. Right now, the Varroa Destructor Mite or Varroa Mite is one of the biggest culprits. It attaches to the underside of a bee and sucks the fats out of the liver, weakening the bee and transmitting disease. This means that every week I am working with my bees or doing something for my bees to keep them alive.

Carol and I find that going into the hives and husbanding the bees is very relaxing. Yes, honeybees are considered a type of livestock. They are so relaxing to watch. I am not afraid of being stung and do not wear gloves, just a veil and a jacket most of the year. Many of my fellow beekeepers just wear shorts, a T-shirt, and a veil most of the time as honeybees are not normally aggressive. The bees tend to be cranky in July and August when it is hot, the colony is at its largest size of around 60,000 bees, and they do not have much to eat. We call this time of year for the bees the dearth, the nectar flow has slowed down. I know I get cranky when I am hot and hungry so how can I blame them.
I can go check on my bees, expecting to spend an hour, and when I look at my watch it will be 3 or 4 hours later. Taking care of the bees gets us outside. We have hives in the backyard and at Soleado Lavender Farm in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain. It is so idyllic. We harvested the honey the first of July because that is when the nectar flow slows down around DC area. Most of the nectar in this area comes from the Black Locust Tree and the Tulip Tree (Tulip Poplar) but we call the honey Wildflower Honey because the nectar comes from many sources. A bee will travel up to three miles to a nectar source and a single bee makes only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its life. During the dearth, July through September, we will be feeding the bees sugar water so that they have enough stores to get them through the winter.This is also the time we treat them for Varroa Mites. In the fall we will balance out the hives, and in the winter, we will feed them fondant, a food supplement made for the bees. In the spring we will check on the bees, and around St. Patrick’s Day we will start putting a box called a honey super on the hives.

I started beekeeping because I found that my garden was not being pollinated the way I hoped, and I had noticed a sharp decline in native pollinators in the yard. One-third of the food that we eat is produced because of the pollination done by pollinators such as bees. But I also did not realize how much work it is to keep bees. As beekeepers we visit the bees weekly in order to keep the bees alive. The only downtime is in the winter when on a warm day we check to see if the bees have enough food, it is also a time to prepare and repair equipment for the following year. Overall, beekeeping is a very rewarding hobby. Carol and I enjoy the drives out into the Agricultural Reserve, and since both of us have farming backgrounds, it is a way to revisit our roots. I also feel beekeeping allows us a way to be closer to God.To have a teaspoon of sweet honey is always so special. Honey is mentioned in the Bible 61 times so it must be good!

—David Mecklenburg& Carol Anderson


PDA Mission Trip #27 (Cumberland, MD): Day 4

Day 4 – We’ve melded into one work group at the Race Street house . . . all hands on deck – or porch, as the case may be. The dreaded rain that spurred an outdoor painting marathon yesterday was much lighter than predicted today, allowing us to not only finish all the painting and touch-ups on the porch, but also add molding, baseboards, and trim. 
There was one additional round of sanding the drywall (and vacuuming the dust) before we were ready to begin painting the dining room, stairs, and upstairs hallway. In addition, we decided to fix one of the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen. By the time our day ended, everything except the hallway ceiling had been given a first coat of paint, and the cabinet was basically back to normal.
Our homeowner spent much of the day watching us work and reading, several times expressing how nice everything looked and also a feeling of safety. Tomorrow we’ll complete a second coat of paint where needed, finish the kitchen drawers, and clean up, leaving the house looking as if we had never been there.
We thank the First Presbyterian Church of Cumberland for hosting us, the NAILS organization for directing our work, and all the volunteers who contributed their time and skills in carpentry, painting, etc. and COOKING!!  And most of all, we thank God for the good health and friendships we enjoyed!

Trip Participants:

Bob and Maxine Aldridge, Carol Anderson, Bruce Andrews, Cecilia and Edco Bailey, Ella Bastine, Lucille Baur, Carol Bunch, Dottie and Lynn Cairns, Dave Francis, Mary Beth Lawrence, Abby Lindstrom, Elisa McClelland, Russ Madsen, David Mecklenburg, Stuart Morrison, Alexandra Parker, Mel Reid, Fletcher Tukes, Steve C. Ward, and Bob and Mary Wasik


PDA Mission Trip #27 (Cumberland, MD): Day 3

Day 3 . . . Hump Day. That’s the day we usually feel the effects from using less frequently used muscles, different sleep routines, and the increased level of activity. But we shake it off because we also are really making progress on our projects and see how much our work means to our homeowners.

On Race Street, we were met with tears of joy as we arrived this morning. Our homeowner felt so uplifted by the improvements we have made and are making on her house. She had been overwhelmed with all that needed to be done, and just getting a new kitchen ceiling and cleaned-up cabinets, appliances, and walls has brought her so much pleasure. She had spent part of her evening washing kitchen curtains and organizing the items on her counters.
Because the forecast for tomorrow calls for rain, we spent a lot of time today scraping old paint off and then painting her front porch. What a difference fresh paint makes, particularly when what was there was very old and mostly flaking off.
The Eastern Avenue team completed their project today. Another very productive day. Stair railings were successfully completed without too many duplicate cuts. Hand rail posts were set in concrete and trim was attached to all the rails. We all worked “nicely” together and kept arguments over tool usages to a minimum. So we have declared this house completed!
Tonight was our Homeowner Dinner and it was a delight to have them with us as we enjoyed another excellent meal from our cooking crew. No matter how hard we work on these trips, we are guaranteed to gain a few pounds. Looking forward to more good work, food, and fellowship tomorrow!


PDA Mission Trip #27 (Cumberland, MD): Day 2

Work Day number 2, and we have melded into precision work group teams. Both teams can be very proud of today’s accomplishments. Anxious to find out just what was completed today? Read on…
Rallying on Race Street, “The Rascals” moved into high gear with more mudding and drywall sanding. The goal is to get the dining room, stairway, and upstairs hallway painted before we leave. But we also took on scraping off flaking paint on the front porch and adding a new front porch ceiling outdoor light, with plans to start painting the front porch tomorrow. But back to today. The crew working on finishing the suspended ceiling felt as if they were engaged in a game of Whack-a-Mole as they tried to properly seat each tile. As one fell into place neatly, the next wouldn’t settle in and we’d have to lift another tile to adjust the problem area and then try to get the lifted tile back in place. After some fancy trim work on the final tile, we got them all to lie down smoothly and celebrated with high fives and applause.
Speaking of worthy of applause, our cooking crew: Ella Bastine, Carol Bunch, Cecelia Bailey, Mel Reid, and Mary and Bob Wasik continue to outdo themselves. They also have become well known at the local Martin’s grocery store serving as ambassadors for PDA. The store even gave them the store discount that is usually reserved for local community members. Let’s face it, Carol and Ella can sweet talk most anyone into doing most anything.
Now, on to those “Engineering Experts” working on Eastern Avenue. Fletcher continues to give them the highest praise. Tonight he said that they were doing the volunteer equivalent of a $15,000 job. More now about what they accomplished.
Our team started work on Monday morning analyzing necessary repairs for two porches (front and rear of the house). The posts holding the roof up consisted of rusted metal structures and were no longer doing an adequate job. So both roofs needed to be jacked up; then the metal posts were cut out and replaced with pressure-treated posts. There were no railings on either porch and the stairs did not have handrails. After the roof was secured, then hand railings were added, including lots of vertical balusters.  As is typical of PDA trips with too many knowledgeable craftspersons, many methods were offered to determine the proper spacing of the balusters. After consultation with the Internet (and we all know that the Internet is always correct), an app was selected to determine a good solution. It all worked out well in the end and the railing looks very nice (the homeowner is very pleased). We have started the stair railings, but most of this work remains (more adventures tomorrow).