Old Stone Well Farm

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Monk Moments

Addicted to hurry is something I never thought I was until I began noticing how quickly I ran through my days, cramming in them more and more things to do.

So when I had a few days away from Old Stone Well Farm, I decided to use the time to reset my spirit — and my priorities. I didn’t pack books to read and I didn’t even jump on social media. Instead, I decided to savor the spiritual space I was in and listen to what author Kathleen Norris calls the “monk moments.”

Come and feel the sand between your toes with me, and find the courage to truly be still. (And discover a few old churches with me!) I would love to hear how you are resetting your life? Drop me a note or comment.

So, let’s begin. Click the video below and enjoy!!

Blessings,

Donna

Matters of the Heart

I just want to have everything figured out. I mean, really, it all seems very simple. Either we move forward or we don’t. It’s one or the other. I just don’t understand this indecision.

My friend’s email this morning struck a chord, bringing back to me the time in my life where she is now. The time when I seemed to be finally hitting my stride. My career as an editor of a magazine was taking off and dare I say my love life too. Or so it seemed.

There was this one pesky little problem hanging over me like an annoying cloud that teases you with the threat of rain yet no rain ever comes. It was the problem of indecisiveness. It was a problem on both my part and my boyfriend’s part as we tried to figure “us” out. Do we move forward together? Does that mean engagement? Then a wedding? Wait. Where do you see yourself in five years? Or how about just next year? Do you want to live on the Upper West side or Lower East side?

Let’s cut to the chase and get to the more important question. No, not the “do you want children” question. What I want to know is do you perhaps sometime in the near future see yourself living in a historic old house within commuting distance to Manhattan? (Yes, that was my burning question and I was surprised to learn that many people aren’t fond of the small windows, low ceilings and lack of closet space that charm me. Luckily, years later, and with a different beau, that question would be answered with one caveat. The home would not be in commuting distance to ANY big city or congested roads and that was fine by me.)

Now these questions were never actually discussed as two healthy adults should discuss. These were the questions silently swimming in our minds as we tried to figure out what I call “the matters of the heart”—those things we hold close to us, that make us who we are and that are often the very things that guide us and drive us, helping us move forward even when it seems we aren’t really going anywhere. The matters of the heart are unique—and sacred—to each of us, thus, making them tricky, if not complicated, for another to even begin understanding where it is you are coming from.imgres.jpg

And so I read my friend’s email over again not wanting to rush in too quickly with a response for I was once where she was. I remember many a seemingly helpful email from friends who thought they knew what was best for me. Again, matters of the heart are unique and sacred things. But their words didn’t do much to comfort or help me. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to hear or perhaps they weren’t the right words. Who knows? Again, matters of the heart are unique and sacred things. All I knew was that I wanted to make sure my words would be hopeful and helpful.

I sat there tapping my fingers on the keyboard but nothing hopeful and helpful was appearing on the screen before me. I hit the delete button and tried again. After doing this one too many times, I gave up. It was time to face the truth. I really didn’t know what to say to my friend that would give her the bright hope for tomorrow she was seeking. I thought about how disheartening it was to keep searching into the future and only seeing clouds. I was there once—and find myself there again at times. For even after finding the man who answered correctly my living in an old house question, life always presents you with next steps to take.

And perhaps those steps are not meant to be easy. Perhaps we are not given a crystal ball out of mercy and grace of not knowing exactly everything that will happen. Perhaps we are meant to take one faltering and indecisive step at a time, trusting not so much in the unique and sacred matters of the heart we think are guiding us, but trusting that the One who has placed that sacredness within us will not fail us. For if God lovingly calls us by name, then why let any unknowns in life rattle us or even drag us down?

And here is something else. Why do we even spend time hoping for another to understand us or for us to try to understand them? Have you ever driven yourself crazy with the question, “But what are they thinking?”

One time while peering into a cloudy future, I stumbled upon a devotion that I knew was God’s way of hitting me over the head with exactly what I needed. The devotion basically said each heart is intricate and only God knows exactly what is in each heart. We can try all we want to understand the other, but we will never fully get to the most private and intimate place. That place is reserved for the God who created us. All we need to do is place the unique and sacred matters of the heart (mine and yours) into God’s loving hands.

All of a sudden I began typing my reply to my friend…

God sees beyond our cloudy futures. And God has already made up his mind. He’s decided (thank goodness!) to never leave or forsake us. This I do know. The matters of the heart matter much to God. Trust the sacredness to the One who is Divine.

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.