December 24, 2017
Dearly Beloved Ones,
As fans of teams with losing records like to say, it’s been a rebuilding year for us – quite literally, as we labor to return our home in Aiken, SC to human habitability after nine years of abuse and neglect by guests and tenants whose devotion to upkeep of the place was perhaps somewhat less keen than we might have hoped. We have learned a very important lesson – never rent out or allow friends to stay at a property you might possibly intend to occupy yourselves in the future. It is heartbreaking to see how others treat the home in which you have so much invested monetarily and emotionally.
But considering it’s been such a long time since we managed to get a Christmas card sent out, it might be best to catch you all up a bit before relating this year’s happenings. Since neither of us can remember exactly how long it’s been, let’s start with Brian’s return from the war in Iraq in July of 2008.
Knowing that he would be returning to a field support job that would have him on the road continually, Brian chose to take a position in Germany where the temporary accommodations are more to his liking than those at places in the States like Ft. Polk, Ft. Drum, and Ft. Irwin. After spending the summer of 2008 supporting field exercises around the Bundesrepublik, a fixed-base position at the newly activated Regional Hub Node in Landstuhl, Germany came open, and Brian pounced on the opportunity. He found a rental house in Lambsborn, Germany only a few kilometers away from where we lived while we were stationed at USAFE HQ in the late 1980s. Sue then joined him that winter. For the next three years, we wandered around Europe revisiting many of the places and people we knew from our time there in the Air Force.
We were deeply involved with our local church – Calvary Chapel – Kaiserslautern and became devoted Volksmarchers with our little dog, Peanut. In the late summer of 2010, Brian’s Mom and his sisters Alison and Melanie came over, and we visited Berlin, Prague, Croatia, and Venice for a few weeks together. One of the highlights of that trip, was our visit to Wittenberg where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door on October 31, 1517 at the start of the Protestant Reformation. When we were stationed in Europe during the Cold War, Wittenberg was in East Germany, and would have been very difficult for a military person to visit. Then in the late spring of 2011, an opportunity came up to support the newly-established Regional Hub Node at Camp Roberts, California. So on May 31, 2011 we flew off to the land of fruits and nuts.
Our new life on the Central Coast of California was an amazing adventure. The week after we arrived, we were invited by one of Brian’s coworkers to join a wonderful fellowship of Christ followers at Refuge Church in Atascadero. Soon, Sue was knee-deep in the soup kitchen ministry there, and Brian was faking his way through running the sound for Wednesday night services, eventually serving as an elder in the church, and leading a Friday night Bible study. We had the opportunity to help out a few folks who were in dire straits, and best of all, we got to visit Israel twice during the five years we were part of that fellowship. While we were in California, we adopted our second little dog Grace (so-named before we knew how truly ungraceful she actually is) – a pure-bred Star-butted Bakersfield Dumpster Diver – from a shelter in the Central Valley. Our eldest son, Christian Anthony, moved out from Tucson to join us in California, and stayed with us until we retired and moved back to South Carolina in 2016. Brian even managed to set a wildfire with his angle grinder on the steep hillside behind our California house a few months before we left, which the fire department thankfully got control of before it spread outside our own property – praise God.
The Central Coast region is fabulous, and we spent every minute we could on the trails up and down the region. We survived one memorable, chilly night hunkered down in a burnt-out redwood trunk after we lost our trail in the Ventana wilderness of the Pacific Coast range, and Brian fell over a 15 ft. cliff into the San Antonio River just before it got completely dark. We have never prayed so desperately as we did on that night, and God was faithful to bring us out unharmed despite the abject stupidity of our getting into the situation to start with, and our utter unpreparedness to cope with the unexpected in the wilderness. Unfortunately, during one of our hiking trips on Camp Roberts, our little dog, Peanut, stuck her head into a ground squirrel hole and found a rattlesnake living inside. We managed to get her to the vet two hours away in time to save her life, but the bite destroyed her thyroid, and she has never really fully recovered from it. We also had the opportunity to see what was thought at the time to be the world’s oldest living non-clonal organism – a 4600-year-old Bristlecone Pine high up on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, and of course we visited the magnificent Sequoia and Kings Canyon National parks, Hearst Castle, Big Sur, the Monterey Aquarium, and the central coast beaches from Santa Barbara to Monterey.
We loved our life and church in California, but after five years it became apparent that Brian’s job position at Camp Roberts would soon be eliminated. It was also obvious that we would be unable to make our California mortgage and property tax payments on our retirement income. The California politics which over-regulate practically every aspect of life were starting to strain our patience, and we were increasingly certain that the state of California will soon make the practice of Christianity, the ownership of firearms, and any speech (or even thought) against homosexuality and abortion illegal. Furthermore, Brian was starting to have nightmares almost every night about waking up in a burning house surrounded by a burning hillside. There was also a distinct possibility that our well would run dry after nearly five years of drought. By the time we left, our neighbor’s well across the road had been dry for over two years, and our own well was down to half a gallon per minute from the five gallons per minute flow it had when we moved in. The thing that truly convinced us to come back to South Carolina though was the news we received from one of our old friends from Calvary Chapel – Aiken about the new church they were just starting close to our old Aiken home – Calvary Chapel Fellowship – Williston. We truly love the family of believers who adopted us at Refuge Church, and the ministries we were active in there. It was painful to have to leave, but after a great deal of soul searching and prayer, we decided that we should return to our old home in Aiken, SC once again.
Sue and our youngest son, Jeremy Matthew (who had flown out from South Carolina to help with the move) took the first truckload and two of our vehicles east in May 2016, while Brian prepped the California property for sale. It was finally ready to list at the beginning of July 2016, and we received a full-price offer the afternoon of the first day it was listed. Brian retired from nearly 23 years with General Dynamics on August 9th. Sue flew back out to California one last time that day, and we went on a whirlwind farewell tour of Northern California for ten days just before we left California for good. We finally visited Yosemite National Park, and spent a few days revisiting the Humboldt County redwood country we fell in love with many years ago. After the sale of the property closed on August 19th, we headed out together with the second truckload towing the third vehicle back to Aiken, leaving Christian Anthony living and working in San Luis Obispo, CA.
And that brings us up to our rebuilding adventure this year. When we got back, all the floors in the house had to be replaced, fences restored, walls cleaned/repaired/painted, gutters cleaned and re-hung, piles of refuse and overgrown vegetation removed, etc., etc., etc. The hard physical labor of restoring the Huppstead to livability has consumed most of our time and money since our return to Aiken in the fall of 2016. Jeremy, who has lived in the area since we first moved here from Tucson in 2002, has helped us out a great deal in this effort, and is now living with us until he can find another place of his own. He is an avid (that is to say, fanatical) fisherman, and has patiently taught us the ins and outs of fishing the local lakes and rivers. This year we purchased a canary yellow Mercedes Sprinter van, a tandem fishing kayak to stuff inside it, and a small travel trailer to tow behind it. With this rig, we have spent as much time as we could afford, camping and fishing in the South Carolina state parks along the Savannah River, the southern Appalachians, and the Atlantic Coast. We’re hoping in the next few years to tackle the Appalachian Trail. Unfortunately, our little dog, Peanut, who once easily did 40 km of Volksmarching on the weekends in Germany, and 20 miles a day hiking on the Pacific Coast wilderness trails, is no longer up to such physical ardor. If the truth be told, it can’t be many more years before we won’t be either.
The work on our little Huppstead keeps us busy, not just with repairs and upkeep, but with raising our five goats and twenty-something chickens and ducks. We have also taken up honeybee keeping. We currently have three hives, and hope to build up to around ten over time. Honeybees are a fascinating aspect of God’s amazing creative genius. Keeping honeybees is a physically and intellectually challenging pursuit that provides a lifelong learning opportunity. We are both active in our local and state beekeepers associations.
At night, Brian tinkers with his blog – https://huppbrian.us – where he writes about the events in our lives, the projects on our Huppstead, the beekeeping lessons and activities in our Huppiary, and BriRants on various political, religious, and cultural topics.
So with that, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas, hoping that the season brings to your remembrance the LORD Jesus – the One true and living God – who came in the flesh on the first Christmas to save mankind from judgment for our sins, to restore us to Himself, and in His infinite mercy to give us the gift of eternal life as His chosen sons and daughters. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Love in Jesus’ Name,
Brian & Sue Hupp