The Journey Begins…

Lent begins with sooty smudges on our foreheads reminding us of who we really are, children in need of a savior.

Children who are indeed blessed beyond blessed in our brokenness. The smudged foreheads on Ash Wednesday remind us of who we really are and of the walk we have been called to walk in the season of Lent.

What a beautiful reminder.

What a beautiful walk.

This is a snippet from my sermon I am preparing for this Sunday, and as I prepare to invite those in the congregation to a deep and meaningful life-changing walk, I extend that invitation to you as well.

I know a thing or two about walks, journeys and wandering.

Last November, after three plus years of living away from the place God originally called me to serve–a little white church on the border of Upstate New York and Vermont–I returned home. I returned home with nothing more than faith and trust in God. No job, no health benefits, no “sure thing” for the future. I came home to an 18th century home which translates into “money pit.”

But home I came, because I know life is not fully experienced as God wants us to experience it until we take those leaps of faith. It’s so easy to say, “Well, I can’t do that because it just doesn’t make sense.”

When God calls us, it NEVER makes sense. In fact, rest assured that God always seems to lead us to do the impossible, to break open those closed doors so that those who are blinded by hate or jealousy or ignorance can see the light of Christ shining.

I was led a decade ago to do the impossible in a little rural church. The church I fondly refer to as “the little white church.” Its structure is really not little, if anything, its New England clapboard frame is quite large. But in terms of numbers gathered, it would rate as small.

But I walked the crazy walk into that pulpit and learned a beautiful lesson. While small in numbers that congregation had hearts that were/are huge. Quick to argue; quicker to love. Quick to doubt; quicker to fall on their knees to pray.  Quick to accept a former New York City fashion editor as their pastor; quicker to embrace that accidental country pastor as one of their own.

I am walking the hard walk again. I am journeying again. I am haplessly wandering again…or so it seems. I have made it back home, but now I need to go all the way in trusting God in how it is God wants me to serve him.

I am so glad the season of Lent is here. I am glad because it reminds that Jesus made a hard journey as well. Yet Jesus never stumbled, never faltered, never doubted each step he took–even when there were naysayers on the path and those who tried to make him stumble or worst yet, sought his life. He kept his eyes fixed straight ahead to the painful yet beautiful cross that awaited him. He kept knowing that the journey would indeed be worth it.

I believe too that the journey is worth it.

So journey with me. Let us pray together. Let us keep one another from stumbling or giving up.

If you have a prayer I can lift up for you, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. The prayers will be confidential and I will add them to my prayer time every morning when I walk up to the top of Sofie’s Hill here at the Old Stone Well Farm. And know that as I am sitting on a fallen tree overlooking the valley and gazing at Vermont’s Green Mountains in the distance, I will be praying for this broken world, for all the little white churches who are such amazing witnesses of faith in their communities, for God’s provision for those struggling and I will be praying for you.

You can send your requests to accidentalcountrypastor@gmail.com.

Blessings and peace,

Pastor Donna 

 

I just love this picture of the path on the rail trail here behind my little old house in Vermont. I thought it was the perfect Lenten journey picture to share with you. Notice how there seems to be a “opened door” at the end of the path. With God, my friends, there is always an opened door waiting for us.

 

IMG_1964.jpg

Stay Out of It

Stay out of it…

That was the advice from my mom the other night as we talked politics.

Just stay out of it. Don’t get involved, etc., etc., etc. Let the women march. Let others say what they want on social media. Let folks in the backwoods of Vermont fire off their guns in celebration of the recent inauguration.

Now my mom is not one to step aside from righting a wrong. Growing up she was always the one supporting me to write a letter to the school board if I, as a student, saw something wrong. Speak up and act to change things, rather than complain about things. That was her motto.

No, my mom doesn’t step aside from righting a wrong easily. So, her advice to me the other night I realized was one of motherly concern for her daughter. Her daughter whose first career was that of journalist and whose second incarnation in life is that of pastor.

Journalist plus pastor equals trouble at times for both callings are spurred on by a passion for truth telling and for a desire for advocating for the underdog.

“But mom, I can’t just stay out of it,” I said quietly. “To do so would be going against everything I am.”

More importantly, to stay out of things, to keep silent, to turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, whatever body part you want to use as a metaphor, to do any such thing is going against all Jesus is. Jesus whose inauguration speech in Luke’s gospel, echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, outlined his policies: proclaim freedom for the prisoners, restore sight to the blind, set the oppressed free. There was no mention of building walls, but rather building bridges of love so that all could cross over each other’s “side” and finally understand one another and begin working together to make a better life for all.

Frederick Buechner, a writer and theologian who lives just up the windy mountain road from me here in Vermont, once said when Jesus told us to love our neighbors, he wasn’t telling us to love them in a “cozy, emotional” way. On the contrary, Jesus, said Buechner, is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our well-being to that end.

Do I want more job opportunities for those I love here in rural America? Yes. Do I want relief from the burgeoning medical insurance my husband and I pay each month, a payment that is so high, provides so little in return and means we must dip into our savings to help pay for it? Yes. Do I want a better country, a better world, a better future? Yes, yes and yes. But not at the expense of others.

For if I forget there are indeed “others” also trying to live and build a good life, then what kind of person am I?

To stay out of what is happening nowadays is to be like all those in the crowds who followed Jesus but didn’t go all the way to the cross with him for fear of jeopardizing their comfortable lives by upsetting the powers to be or even worse, upsetting friends and loved ones.

I sit here in the home that I have cried to God to return to. God turned to me and heard my cry. And for that I will be forever grateful. I sit here in my 18th century home with the wide plank floors that slope and stare out the window at the snow covered Green Mountains of Vermont so thankful to be brought back to an area in which fills my heart and connects me ever more closely to the divine.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be a reporter once again and for the opportunities to continue being an accidental country pastor as well.

My heart is full, but heavy as well. It is concerned. I can’t pretend all is well with the world, just because all is well here on my little fledgling farm.

There is work to be done. There is good news to proclaim. And that good news is not going to be easy to proclaim.

Then again, it never was.

 

img_2107

The old stone well covered in snow is a beautiful sight here on the farm. But as the accidental country pastor reflects today’s news headlines, there is the realization that there is work to be done beyond the farm. 

Sundays at The Old Stone Well Farm

In the midst of all the protesting and division in our country this weekend, Pastor Donna invites you to step away from it all and to reflect on what it means to come together and remember the promise to those walking in darkness that light is indeed shining.

This Thanksgiving

 

Thanksgiving is drawing to a close. The turkey, stuffing and yams (what’s left of them) are sitting in the fridge in Tupperware bowls. The dishwasher is tackling the dishes I rather not tackle. And the pecan and pumpkin pies are waiting to be warmed, sliced and topped with ice cream. The holiday dinner finale, however, will have to wait. I need to do something important. And I need to do it now.

I need to pause, take a look around and fall on my knees in prayerful thanks to God who answered the cry of my heart in the most amazing way. I have to offer my tears of joy to God and recommit my service to Him who has brought me here to the place I am right now. Home. Home in the little red house where cows are my neighbors and Vermont’s Green Mountains are my backyard. Home where those who once knew me “the pastor of the little white church” still remember me as such and who have shown excitement to have me back and who have embraced me with their hugs and blessings on the streets of the village, in the coffee shop, post office and gas station. Home. A place where one’s heart is content and is guaranteed to find strength for the trying days and refuge in life’s storms.

Yes, I am home.

If you asked my husband and I a few months ago if we would be saying a Thanksgiving grace at our farm table with the slight slant due to the old 18th century floors in our house, I would not have believed it. For a few months ago the possibility of returning home seemed to be a “not now, but later” dream as I struggled with leaving a good ministry job. I, admittedly, allowed the security of an income cloud my belief in God who makes all things possible. I had let the expectations of the world—a good job with benefits—dim my talents and passion for serving God beyond a church building. Dare I say, I had, gulp, lost my faith in God and began trusting in my own abilities to make a life worth living. And where did it get me? Nowhere.

But God is patient with us. God doesn’t give up on us. God continues to work in our lives, even when we have taken over the steering wheel. And so in the spring, God ever so gently led me to a retreat for clergy. A gift of sorts to step away and discern the next steps in ministry. Every morning I woke up early to go for a walk. As the mist hovered over the lake and the birds awoke with song, I felt something. I felt a connection to the divine again. And I heard it. I heard God whisper, “You can do all things. Trust me.”

You can do all things. Trust me.

But how will I pay the bills if I move back to Vermont?

Haven’t I provided for you before? You can do all things. Trust me.

But where will I preach and share the amazing promises of a God who never leaves us alone?

I will show you how to reach my children. I will provide the opportunities. You can do all things. Trust me.

But…

“Donna, can we pray for you?”

The offer came from the retreat leaders one afternoon. Perhaps they saw me deep in thought. Perhaps they saw right through my smile and sensed the worry within. Perhaps they could see I, like Jacob, was having one heck of a wrestling match with God.

Whatever they saw, I accepted their offer and told them about the strong pull on my heart to go back home and to become an advocate, a voice, for small rural churches, but I just couldn’t see a clear way back. They gave me a warm, reassuring smile that told me they completely understood where I was at that moment. They had been there once as well. They asked what was on my heart and I shared. I shared with them how I could see myself back home in rural Vermont, serving God, serving His children, but that I didn’t the way to get there. I told them how I wanted to get back to my writing roots and still be a pastor. I told them the ideas I had for cooperative rural ministry where it wasn’t about just one church, but a network of churches serving together. I told them about my ideas for a rural ministry network, offering resources and prayer support. I told them my dreams. Now it was time to turn to God and hear His dreams for me.

We clasped hands, bowed our heads and prayed. We prayed for surrender. We prayed for strength. We prayed for provision. But most of all we prayed for God to use me as God wanted to.

After the “amen” we began to make our way to lunch. It was then one of those prayer angels stopped me before entering the room and reassured me, “You will be home and home just in time for the holidays. I just know it. You will be serving God beautifully. I can see it.”

On the last day of the retreat, each participant was given a stone embossed with the word “Credo” on it. It would be a reminder for us to live out the dreams God had awakened in each us, to realize the responsibility we had to use our talents in glorifying God, to live out our life’s creed and not fall victim to simply making a living, but rather unleashing the life God has planned for us. I carried that stone with me for months, caressing it, holding it, praying with it and tonight it sits on the fireplace mantel surrounded by the gourds I have once again received as a gift from a dear woman from the little white church who has always made sure the pastor’s house looked perfect for the holidays.

Yes, the pecan and pumpkin pies will have to wait to be warmed, sliced and topped with ice cream. For I need to fall on my knees in prayerful thanks to God who heard my cry and who has led me to where I am at this moment. I am home. Surrounded by cows, Green Mountains, gourds and many welcome home hugs.

And so a blessed Thanksgiving to you from me, the girl who once lived in Manhattan and wore cute little heels but who dared to trust God and leave it all behind for the joy and privilege of being an “accidental country pastor.”

 

A Prayer

 Loving God, you see the struggles in our hearts. We want to follow You and trust, but the worry and fear seem stronger and greater than our faith. Forgive us. Increase our faith in You. Help us to let go of all the what if’s. Help us to realize life is too short not to trust You. Help us this very moment to see the impossible can be possible. With you by our sides God let us dare to dream big, dare to stand up and make the world a better place, dare to go against what the world says is living and live with You at the center of our lives. Let us always be thankful and praise You for the wonderful way you lead each one of us to that place of belonging, fulfillment, contentment and joy—to that place we call home. Amen.

img_2800-1 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s All Good

It’s November which means everyone on social media is writing about all the things they are grateful for. Now I am not a cynical person and I will admit it is refreshing to see positive affirmations being sent out into the universe rather than gripes. Lord knows we really need hope for our tomorrows. (Need I remind you our nation’s election is just around the corner.) But I will admit I have always (to some extent) wondered why don’t we ever express our gratitude each and every day? Why relegate thanks to the month in which we celebrate a day of giving thanks?

Why can’t we be grateful all the time? Because there really is something to praise God for all the time. There is. I know that for a fact.

I sit here this morning looking out my kitchen window of my little old house in Vermont. Locals call it the oldest house in the hamlet, which brings a big smile to my face because I adore old houses and I am grateful for them even when the plumbing fails and the roof leaks.

I sit here after a long three-year journey of sorts has ended. It was a journey which led me on winding roads to other places, filled with many twists and turns, potholes and challenges, dark times and cloudy days.

Three years ago, I made a decision to leave a place where I knew in my heart was home and where God had originally called me to serve. But temptation to see other places took hold of me. Perhaps there was greener grass and larger pastures that were even better than the grass and pastures in Vermont?

The day my husband and I were leaving Vermont, I remember gazing at the Green Mountains that were quickly becoming little hills fading into the background as the car drove on, and I heard myself say, “I am really going to miss that view.” And I did.

Three years I wrestled with God. I grappled with God. I asked God, where was he in my life?  Silence…so it seemed to my ears that were not ready to listen.  I even wondered if God really wanted me in ministry. Who was I? Why didn’t things work out? And where were the green pastures that were healing balm to my soul and spirit?

Three years of being away from home in foreign places (no, nothing exotic, they were all located in the United States, but still felt foreign to me), and I finally realized I was in way living in exile. And like God’s children who found themselves away from home, they were in exile for reason. They had lessons to learn. They had to learn to put God first. To trust God always. To love and live no matter where life took them. They had to find the joy of the Lord even when they didn’t find green pastures. They had to learn, like I had to learn, to give thanks and be grateful in all circumstances. For God is still our loving God in all circumstances.

It was during this time in my life that a woman from the community who heard about “the new pastor,” came by the church to give me a gift. Now she didn’t know me. She didn’t know my struggles. She didn’t know that I was a Vermonter living in exile. All she knew is she wanted to meet me and give me a gift. There in the package was a coffee mug with the words, “It’s all good” on it. I smiled and realized it was all good—exile or not—because of God who is always with me.

And so my time in “exile” was a turned into a time of growing stronger in faith, learning more about God’s mysterious ways and trusting God—and drinking a lot of coffee from that mug. Little by little, day by day, as I fixed my eyes on God life became beautiful again and I began to see how God was indeed using me and leading me.

Now in this month of November in which we will gather with loved ones in our homes and pause just long enough to think about all we have, I find myself home. Truly home. Not just in my beloved Vermont house with green grass and beautiful pastures that heal my soul and spirit. I find myself at home in a way I have never felt before. I find myself at home with God. Content, renewed, refreshed and committed to singing God’s praises and sharing the good news with all. I find myself knowing now the importance of being grateful in all circumstances and giving thanks each and every day I have breath in which to give thanks. I know the beauty that comes to your life and the life of others around you when you give thanks even when there seems to be nothing to be thankful for. For I am thankful—even now as I look at all the moving boxes that need to be unpacked and wonder why the water pipe is making that strange noise. Yes, it’s all good. God is with me.

What about you? Where are you in your life? Are there greener pastures tempting you? Are there moving boxes to pack or unpack? Are there water pipes making strange noises? Can you be thankful this day and every day?

You can. Because it is indeed all good.

img_6970-1

The Accidental Country Pastor is home again in Vermont. Watch for more writings on all the beautiful God moments in rural America and coming soon video devotions. 

 

 

The Big God Message in a Little ‘Dead’ Stick

I pulled up to the dirt driveway that was quickly becoming reclaimed by nature as the grass, now no longer being trampled daily by tires, was growing back.

I got out of the car. It felt good to stretch. It felt even better to see the Green Mountains greeting me on the driver’s side of the car. I gazed at them and smiled as I remembered how seeing them always gave me something to praise God for even on the days there seemed little to praise. It didn’t matter what kind of day I was having or whether it was sunny, raining or snowing. Whenever I got home from a long day of ministering out in the community, seeing that view always revived my soul. Nature was indeed God’s medicine for me.

I stretched some more and allowed my soul to revive. The drive from Maryland to Vermont was a long one, but one that was necessary if my husband and I were to check up on our little red house that had been on the real estate market for awhile.

As I made my way to the house, I did my usual assessment of its condition. More paint peeling from the clapboards. We’re going to have to take care of that sooner rather than later. What’s that? There seems to be s a wider gap in between the upstairs window and sill. We’re going to have to take care of that sooner rather than later too.

I continued my assessment as I made my way to the front door, taking note of the pang of sadness in my heart when I saw the realtor’s sign stuck in the front yard. I was secretly glad that no one had yet offered to buy our little house. And I think my husband was too.

My eyes went passed the sign and I was about to assess the old weathered picket to fence to see just how many pickets fell to the ground. But there weren’t any pieces of broken or rotted wood this time. Instead there was a rose bush filled with buds cascading up the side of the fence.

I dropped my bags and ran to the roses. I had to touch them. I had to smell them. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I never thought I would ever see this day. Roses!

Let me explain. When the roses first came to me they were little sticks with seemingly no life to them at all. I was shocked. I looked into the bag they travelled in hoping to find some clue as to why the online nursery I ordered them from sent me sticks instead of lush roses. Was this a mistake? An online scam?

I showed my husband the sticks and then showed him a print out of a picture of the roses I thought I had ordered.

He looked at the picture and began laughing. “Did you really expect to get five mature rosebushes for only $5.99? You got exactly what you paid for,” he said, reassuring me the sticks would eventually grow into the roses I had wanted.

We went outside and began putting the sticks into the dirt alongside the old weathered picket fence where I had envisioned beautiful roses climbing all over like in some fabled cottage in the English countryside.

As he made the hole in the ground and gently placed the stick, filling the dirt back in and then instructing me to pour what seemed to me to be way too much water, I kept sighing about how nothing would come of these “dead” sticks.

“Why are we wasting our time?” I kept asking. My husband just kept planting.

Later that week I shared my rosebush fiasco with Amy, a woman at the little white church who was beginning to help out more with our children’s ministries.

I lamented to her about how my husband insisted we plant these “sticks.” I made sure my story had just enough dramatic flair to it to make it entertaining. And entertained she was. Not, though, for my storytelling skills.

She was amused that sitting before her was a pastor who preached about all things being possible with God and, yet, when it came the promise of beautiful flowers coming from little sticks, my faith was seemingly lacking.

“It’s just like the ministry to the youth we are growing here. It might not seem like much, but in time, you will see something beautiful bloom,” she said.

In time…

That night I sat outside on the front step breathing in the smell of the freshly turned soil of the fields all around that would soon be planted with corn. I looked over at the fence and stared at those seemingly nothing sticks in the ground. It wasn’t just God’s ability to turn a stick into a beautiful rose I was questioning. It seemed lately my faith was seemingly lacking.

A year went by and life, as life does, threw a curve ball of sorts. An offer to pastor another church came and, after months of struggling with what to do, I found myself packing boxes to move.

The day the U-Haul came was a busy one, filled with many emotions that I had hoped I had stuffed securely into one of those boxes, for I just didn’t want to deal with them.

My husband and I were busy going back and forth into the house and out to the van. We had a productive rhythm going, that is, until I stopped right in my tracks. Something whispered in my heart to turn around and look at the old fence where dead sticks were once stuck into the ground. I put the box down on the grass and slowly walked over to the fence not exactly sure of what I expecting to see. Out of the five sticks that were planted, only one remained. And not only one remained, but there on its still seemingly dead stick of a body was a gift for me—one green leaf waving in the wind as if waving good bye, sending me off with a message, “…in time you will see God’s promises bloom—in time.”

All the pent up emotion I thought I had safely packed away and secured tightly with packing tape, came falling out of my heart. Hearing my sobs, my husband came rushing out of the house. I pointed to the little green leaf waving at me.

“Amy was right. Everything is just beginning to take root. I can’t leave my little rose bush.”

My husband comforted me with promises of visits back home. “But…but…but when the house sells, then what?” I protested. My husband comforted me some more with the reminder to worry about that when the time came. It never did come.

Time moved on with no offers to buy our house and so more visits to the house were planned. With each trip back yet another new green leaf on the rosebush was waiting to greet me with the same message it waved good bye to me with, “…in time you will see God’s promises bloom—in time.”

And now…roses, actual roses! IMG_2432

Like Simeon whose eyes had finally seen the long-awaited promise of the Christ Child that day in the temple, I, too, felt as if I had seen a long-awaited promise in the roses that were now filling a lush green bush that was once just a stick in the ground. I was seeing the promise of a hope that can never die when that hope is deeply rooted in God.

For God can take those seemingly dead sticks are in our lives and turn them into something beautiful. God can bring us back to life. Amy was right. In time…

“What are you doing?” my husband asked as he came from the car with the rest of the bags only to find me wrestling to take down the realtor’s “For Sale” sign that was jammed way down into the ground.

“Our roses are blooming.”

It was all I needed to say. And with that we tossed the “For Sale” sign away.

 

 

Hot Coco, Cherry Jam and Bread

Aunt Sofie is not expected to make it through the night.

It’s strange how a few words spoken in just seconds have the ability to linger in your heart. But linger they do. Just as the smoky residue from the burnt bacon I attempted to cook for breakfast that morning continues choking my lungs, I can’t stop this sadness within from suffocating me.

I am sad for my father’s older sister that her time has come to close her eyes to the beauty of the Swiss Alps she had called home for more than eight decades. I am sad to think she will no longer pick cherries from the trees I once helped her pick from when I was child visiting my dad’s family in Switzerland.

Nothing tasted as good as the tartness of her jam spread abundantly on thick, crusty bread served up with a side of hot coco. Even in the summer hot chocolate was the drink served to us kids, and this wasn’t the packets of Swiss Miss I was used to. This hot coco was the real deal, made with milk from the herd of Brown Swiss who munched on grass and wildflowers in the field. As the drink cooled, the milk would curdle on top creating a slippery film of creamy sweetness you could peel off and eat.images

If you really wanted to fit into the Swiss side of the family, you would dunk the crusty bread into the chocolate elixir, allowing it to get soaked just enough to make it moist yet not to the point where it would fall into the bottom of your mug. The “who can dunk the bread the longest into the hot coco without having it disintegrate into pieces” became a game for my brother and sister and I that summer.

I pick up the roll on my lunch plate. I dunk it into my tepid coffee. Kerplunk. Game over. I had once again dunked too long. I stare into the mug. I can’t breathe. I am suffocating. Suffocating with sadness over the loss of my Aunt Sofie and what it represents.

Her death is not just the passing of yet another one of my father’s many siblings. Her death widens the ever-growing gap between me and my Swiss heritage and adds to a worry I have held since my teen years—what will happen to my connection to family when my father is gone? I never was good at mastering languages and so my meager attempt at learning the Swiss German dialect spoken by my family failed many years ago. And so I am sad about losing a family that I have never really known except through the all too few visits made and the all too few stories my dad has shared with me.

Whether we like them or not, family is important. Family gives us a sense of belonging and an understanding of who we are. As I get older I have come to respect that truth. I have also come to understand why it is that Vermont is and will forever be home to me. For whenever I see the clouds hanging low over the hills and valleys, whenever I hear the cows moo, whenever I hike high into the Green Mountains, whenever I pick cherries or strawberries, whenever I wake up to the early autumn surprise of seeing snow sprinkled on the top of the mountains like powdered sugar on a donut, I feel a powerful sense of belonging and I feel connected to those whose eyes are the same blue as mine.

We will never truly understand who we are, where home is or what makes our hearts come alive with great joy, until we come to know those we are a part of.

And so as each elderly aunt and uncle closes their eyes to the Alps before them, I feel the urgency all the more to keep my eyes opened, to see the many blessings of family before me and to surround myself with that which says “home.”

I feel the responsibility to preserve legacies—even if the legacy is simply the game of dunking bread slathered with cherry jam into a cup of hot coco. It’s something. It’s a start.

 

This Way of Life: A Little White Church Lenten Journey

A Shamrock Surprise

It’s been one of those days where everything seems to be getting done at a snail’s pace. There are things weighing on my heart, matters swirling in my head and, of course, stuff on my plate calling for my attention. Extra strong coffee isn’t breaking through this haze nor is the over the counter medicine helping to remedy the sniffles and coughs from allergies that appear along with the buds on the trees.

Between the sniffling and coughing and replying to emails and planning Holy Week worship, I wonder: Why can’t the peace of God, which passes all understanding, be something that never leaves us? Why is peace so fleeting?

I have moments where I feel God’s presence. These moments often come when I am walking up to the top of Sofie’s Hill, named so for my Bernese Mountain dog who, in her younger years would run so quickly up the grassy slope to this beautiful spot where one can drink in the views of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

There we sit together, me in deep prayer; Sofie in…perhaps deep prayer, but I think her thoughts are more about the biscuit she will soon get that is still sitting in the pocket of my sweatshirt.

But then it happens.

As soon as I descend from that mountain top (more like hilltop) high, the peace evaporates as I begin thinking less about God and more about the day’s agenda before me.

Peace evaporates when I forget God knows my agenda better than I do.

Peace evaporates when I forget God has the answers to the questions and the solutions to the problems.

Peace evaporates when I insist on focusing on the weeds around me rather than seeing the beautiful new life sprouting forth out of adversity.

The peace I long for is not steadfast because I am not steadfast in my trust of God. Thankfully, though, God is steadfast and always trying to remind me in many ways that He is there even when I am not.

I got a beautiful reminder of that this morning.

I noticed the Christmas cactus on my desk was looking a little shabby. Luckily this cactus is a hearty, low maintenance kind of a plant suited for someone like me with a brown thumb. Still, as hearty as it is, even I knew it needed some TLC.

As I parted its wilting leaves in order to get the water directly into the soil, I noticed something hidden underneath. There sprouting forth was not just one but two clovers. Their three heart-shaped leaves quickly brought to mind the legend of St. Patrick and how he used the clover (or shamrock) to teach about the trinity with each leaf representing Father, Son and Holy Spirit.imgres

I couldn’t believe my eyes that underneath what seemed to be dying leaves were these clovers growing. What I saw staring back at me was God’s way of saying to me, “I am here, even when you can’t see or understand. I am here.”

That’s when it happened.

Peace washed me over as I realized what I might see on the surface is not what God sees. That always there is hope growing in the midst of what seems hopeless. There is always an answer and always a solution. God is always there and the peace I long for is always there too.

I just need to clear the negativity and the gunk I allow to weigh me down in life so that what is revealed is the beauty of God—the blessed trinity—always there in my life.

This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: If peace seems fleeting in your life, take a step back and re-examine your life. Is God in all things or not?