Easter at Old Stone Well Farm

Hope Always Blooms

Happy Easter to all from Old Stone Well Farm! It’s a special day, one where I find hope amid despair, life in the face of death, and remember that God is holding each one of us.
I also invite you to join me on Sofie’s Hill on this Resurrection Day for a beautiful sendoff for Rev the cat. (More on the timing of his farewell in the video! Talk about a God moment!)
It is a joy to have you with me on this day!!! I would love to hear about your Easter God moments. Email me at accidentalcountrypastor@gmail or watch the video on YouTube and leave a message.

Click below for our Easter celebrations to begin.


The Ground Beneath Our Feet

It was early morning and as I laced up my sneakers I could hear my husband’s question coming from the kitchen.

“Where’re you going?”

“Out for a walk. Do you want to come?” I asked.

Sofie, the Bernese Mountain dog who had already begun panting from the heat building up, looked at me horrified as if to say, “Please mommy, don’t take mimages.jpge out in that humidity. My fur will frizz just as badly as your hair!”

With a pat on her head, I reassured her she could stay in front of the air conditioner. I would deal with my hair by throwing it up into a ponytail. Again, I asked the question. My husband sided with the panting dog.

“Okay. I’ll be back when I’m back.”

And with that, out the door I went.

Walking had always been a time for me to clear my head, lighten my burden, slow myself down and talk to God. Lately, though, I’ve noticed my walks haven’t been all that prayerful.

Was it the oppressive humidity that comes with living below the Mason Dixon line? Was it now having to walk busy suburban roads rather than the rural ones I had fallen in love with while serving as an accidental country pastor? Or was it because I had unwittingly invited a long lost, toxic friend to join me on my walks?

Yes, somewhere along the way I had welcomed back Miss Rushed And Frazzled—the part of me that takes away any peace that does exist. The part of me who plays a narrative in my head of all the things that need to get done and keeps on playing it like some one-hit wonder on my playlist that I can’t seem to delete.

Admittedly, there was a time when my walks were anything but prayerful. There was a time when I couldn’t even feel the ground beneath me because I was so caught up in clutter. Hmmm? Clutter? What exactly is the definition of that word? That’s right. Clutter—to fill with too many things. My life was filled with too many things and it was destroying the who God wanted me to be.

Then one sweltering summer afternoon, where the exhaust from the New York City buses mingled with perspiration from people packed onto the sidewalks like sardines, all that clutter fell away.

It was on the corner of 32nd Street and Park Avenue that I, for the first time in my life, felt the ground beneath my feet.

It was there my fast-paced walk came to an abrupt halt when a boyfriend, walking by my side, dared to stop mid-step. Before I could ask why, the boyfriend pointed to our shadows and held them with his eyes as if he was gazing upon a Paul Klee we had just seen earlier that day at the Metropolitan Art Museum.

“Look,” he said, embracing a beauty I was blind to—just as I was to the Paul Klee earlier that day. Personally, I prefer the folksy charm of Grandma Moses. But I digress.

I guess my obligatory, less than a second look didn’t convince him that I was in the moment with him. He insisted again that I look. I did my best, but I just couldn’t see what he was seeing. He was noticing us in a moment of time on a city sidewalk. And he took the time to honor that moment as if it was sacred.

There we were, standing still as a silent liturgy lifted to heaven as the city rushed on without us. A squeeze of my hand signaled to me the sacred moment was over and we could begin walking again. I noticed, though, I was pulling him along as his steps were still so slow and mindful.

“Now what?” I asked with as much patience I could muster. He stopped again.

“You don’t get it,” he said with sad puppy dog eyes.

No, I didn’t. And he was more than willing to fill me in on what I was missing.

It seems I was missing what a privilege it was for me to be able to walk. I was missing what it meant to actually feel the hard pavement underneath my feet and to be thankful for the shoes I had that protected my feet from the scorching heat of the pavement. I was missing that fact that each step taken in my life was a gift leading to something beautiful.

A step taken leads to a cool drink. A step taken leads to arms waiting to embrace us. A step taken leads to hearing a new voice, seeing a new place, experiencing a new experience. Without steps taken forward, you wind up nowhere. I was able to those steps. Be thankful for that, he said.

I didn’t understand, too, that life was like our shadows on the sidewalk, begging for us to notice and savor the moment we are in, for that moment will never be again. I didn’t get it. But he did.

He had spent time in the Peace Corps teaching English to children in Africa. It was there he began noticing for the first time the ground beneath his feet. He noticed how others didn’t have the ability to walk as he did. He noticed how others didn’t have shoes to protect their feet from the sun soaked, drought ridden ground. And it was there in Africa he stopped to marvel at the beauty of his shadow on the earth, for far too many of those children he taught would not have shadows to marvel at as their life was shortened by strife, poverty, war and hunger.

“Do you realize what a gift we have right now?” he asked, looking down at his feet. I stood there speechless. I never knew there was so much to be seen, experienced and celebrated in each step I took. I looked down and stared at my feet on the ground beneath me.

A squeeze of my hand nudged me to begin walking again. Right foot, left foot. My shadow walked with me—and I noticed.

Right foot, left foot. I noticed the pounding of the pavement on the sole of my shoe.

Right foot, left foot. I noticed the gift I had been given. I noticed the gifts that were waiting ahead of me.

Right foot, left foot. My steps were different. My steps were prayerful.

Now, many years later I stand on a noisy suburban road. I find myself stopping again. I need to notice my shadow. I need to marvel at the sacredness of the moment I am in, for aren’t all moments we have sacred?

I drink in the heavy morning air scented with car exhaust from the busy road near the house my husband and I rent, not as fresh as the air in our home in Vermont but at least not as pungent as the air that summer afternoon in Manhattan. It is air nevertheless that fills my lungs and for that I thank God.

Right foot, left foot. I am walking—prayerfully again.

Right foot, left foot. I am walking—with God again.

Right foot, left foot. I feel the ground beneath my feet—again.

Right foot. Left foot. I know each step forward will lead to something beautiful—again.

Day 12—The Broken Ornament

A Little White Church Advent

Come on an Advent journey and walk the rural roads and snow covered paths with Donna Frischknecht as she shares stories of God’s promises being fulfilled in the most amazing ways. These stories of “Emmanuel”—God with us—were gathered during her time serving as minister in a historic white clapboard church in upstate New York, right on the border of Vermont, from 2007-2013.

December 12

There I was in my office at the little white church just sitting at my desk, not being very productive. My mind was preoccupied with something silly really—something that happened earlier in my day that I just couldn’t let go of.Unknown

I was once again rushing out the door, something that never happened when I was an editor living in New York City. Back in my secular days, I was always organized and early for appointments, often leaving at least 30 minutes leeway in my schedule so I would not experience this frenzy of rushing about. With extra time to spare I would be able to enjoy some window-shopping or people watching on the busy sidewalks of Manhattan dressed in holiday cheer.

Now as an ordained minster of word and sacrament, it seemed as if I was always running late for something. I guess I was letting the old joke, “They can’t start without you pastor” go to my head.

“Someday they probably will start without me,” I mused.

Anyway, there I was rushing around to throw my laptop in my bag, an apple and a yogurt for lunch (I was trying to offset the abundance of Christmas sweets that were coming my way from all the wonderful cooks the little white church was blessed with), my large thermos of coffee and other papers to read and catch up on.

I had yet to put on my snow boots and so I ran about the house in my socks, which was not a good idea when your floors are 18th century pine boards with a downhill incline perfect if you wanted to do some indoor skiing.   My foot slid on one particularly slick old plank that slanted in the direction the Christmas tree. Before I knew it I was sliding straight into it. Crash! On the floor it went, along with the ornaments.

I just didn’t have time for this catastrophe. I calmed my nerves and picked myself up off of the floor to assess the damage done. Not too bad, so I thought. Upon picking up the tree and setting it upright again, I noticed underneath it was a broken ornament that broke my heart.

It was the porcelain heart my boyfriend, John, gave to me the last Christmas we had together. Little did I know just two months into the New Year, he would be killed in a freak jeep accident in Africa.

“Nooooo,” my heart silently wailed. “Not this ornament.”

I didn’t have time to cry over a broken ornament so I just wrapped it up in a paper towel and threw it in my bag along with everything else, hoping to take a closer look at it later on to see if it was able to be repaired.

As I drove to church I kept saying to myself, “Don’t cry over an ornament. It’s just an ornament. It’s just a material thing. It’s not worth the tears. I don’t need an ornament to remember John.”

But now here I was at my desk feeling sad about the ornament I now held in my hand, which, upon closer look was broken beyond broken. The sharp shards of glass pricked my skin as I lovingly touch the pieces. I tried fighting back the tears but it was no use. They came.

“Why this ornament of all ornaments?” I wondered.

Just then a soft knock came at my door. I looked at the clock on my desk and noticed school was just let out and so I had an inkling who it was at my door.

The kids in the village I served often swung by on their way home from school to hang out with the pastor. They especially loved writing messages and drawing pictures on the dry erase board hanging on my wall. There was many a Sunday morning I would walk into my office to find the most beautiful message from the kids.

“Come in,” I said, quickly wiping away my tears.

Sure enough the “girls”—as I called them—came barreling in, talking a mile a minute and going straight for the markers to the dry erase board. Still holding on to the ornament, I joined in on the tween talk of the day about the latest song downloaded on their phones, what was served for lunch in the cafeteria and, can you believe who’s dating who? No way!

I noticed, though, one of the girls was uncharacteristically quiet. Typically bubbly, she sat in a chair not taking part in the dry erase board party going on. Before I could ask what was bothering her, she spoke.

“Pastor Donna, do you believe God can put together broken hearts?” she asked.

What a question to get as I literally held the pieces of a broken heart in my hand.

“Yes, I believe God can put together broke hearts,” I said, hoping to sound convincing in which, judging by the look she gave me, wasn’t convincing at all.

“The Bible tells us God binds up the brokenhearted,” I continued. “And Jesus himself said ‘blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’” I was drawing upon all the scripture I could think of right then and there.

Still this typically bubbly girl didn’t look convinced. I then asked why she asked such a question. All my years in seminary and my clinical pastoral education did not prepare me for what came next. A young cousin of hers was killed and she had recently gone to the funeral and she was struggling with that dreaded “why?” question adults can’t even make sense of, let alone a young girl.

With pieces of the ornament in my hand, I remembered something John once said about how it’s only when our hearts are broken can Christ enter in and do something beautiful in our lives. I had my answer for this girl with her own broken heart.

“Not only do I believe God can put together the pieces of our broken hearts, I know for a fact God WILL and, in the process, God will do amazing things. For the brokenness leaves room for Christ to enter in and make something beautiful,” I said.

I then opened my hand and showed her the ornament John gave me on what was our last Christmas together. I told her about John and my own loss. I told her about the ornament and how it broke that morning and how I knew it was silly of me to cry for our loved ones are always held safely in our hearts. I then reminded her that Christ, whose birth we celebrate, was born exactly for this—to give us hope in the midst of our sadness.

With her eyes still wet with tears for her cousin, she leaned forward to take a closer look at the ornament and its many broken pieces.

“Pastor Donna, that sure is a lot brokenness in your hand. Jesus is really going to enter into your life and do something amazing,” she said with what might have been the first smile she smiled that day.

She didn’t know how true her words were. Amazing things were to come. Amazing things will always come when there is room for Christ to work in our lives.

The girls soon left and as I went to leave as well I noticed the dry erase board message the other girls were working on. It read:

Jesus heals our broken hearts.

And now insert one huge smiley face, one very large heart and a few “xoxo’s” that went along with that message.