One Wild and Precious Life

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I didn’t realize how much I was losing a bit of my soul these past few months. But I was.

Looking back, I should have paid attention to that brief moment in October when, after taking a few vacation days from my former magazine job, I felt a strange sensation that I didn’t know I had grown numb to. I felt true joy.

I wasn’t doing anything special to conjure joy. If anything, the moment was quite mundane. I was crunching through the autumn leaves when suddenly I stopped to drink in the earthy perfume Mother Nature was spritzing me with.

As I stood there silently, inhaling deeply, I heard a still small voice whisper: Go deeper into the woods. This is where you will find life.

When I shared this with close friends and family, a question of concern was always asked. “That’s great, Donna, but how will you make a living?”

And so, that powerful and profound moment in the woods passed all too quickly. I was soon back to an existence that looked good on paper and that the world stamped with its approval. But if I dared to listen, and listen carefully, I could hear the disturbing sounds of a soul being sucked. It is not pretty. Maybe that’s why we often try to ignore it filling our every second with shallow affirmations.

As many of you know, I am now free from that existence. And while the question of how will I make a living hovers over me like a storm cloud, I know that beyond that cloud is a rainbow waiting to appear. (Just maybe, too, that proverbial pot of gold!)

My days are now filled with wrangling in a rambunctious puppy and feeding the remaining four chickens (yes, I lost little Nugget the other day to what I believe was a hawk).

I am loving the mundane and no longer see it as failure to produce, achieve or earn. I still do fight the urge to “do” — to send out resumes, follow up on job leads, to search for opportunities. While I know I need to do that, I also know that the most important task right now is to “patiently wait for the Lord, who will put a new song of praise in my mouth,” as I paraphrase my favorite piece of scripture, Psalm 40.

Michelangelo once said that “genius is eternal patience.” As someone whose creative spirit has garnered a paycheck all her life, I take comfort in his words. Everything takes time — and trust — trust in the God who made us each unique and blessed us with gifts to bless the world. So we can’t rush genius nor all those beautiful God plans. Don’t fret. Something will take shape — in God’s time.

So I wait. And as I do, the realization that the only way to live is being true to yourself grows stronger each day. I have ideas. I have dreams. Many of them seem far fetched. But when you send the far fetched off to God, they no longer seem silly — or impossible. They suddenly start becoming doable divine opportunities that not only bring joy to your soul, but joy to others in this world so desperate to smile and laugh again.

Pulitzer prize poet Mary Oliver once asked a very important question in her poem, “The Summer Day.” It’s a question I believe we all need to ask ourselves not only in soul-sucking seasons of life, but each and every day. That is, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

For those struggling this day, wondering why you are not feeling “right” or feeling a heaviness in your heart, step back, breathe, pray…and take a hard look at what might be causing it. And then dare to make a change. Dare to start living your one wild and precious life.

For me, that life is shaping up to be turning my back more on modern society and all of its power plays and drama. Life is too short, my friends.

I am inviting that still small voice beckoning me deeper into those real and metaphorical woods to tell me more, for I am listening. I am listening to what makes my heart sing and my soul dance. My life is dancing again as I master churning butter, stenciling walls with 18th-century correct designs, hand sewing an 18th-century round gown, making candles and baking bread over a fire. But I am not done.

Just recently, I have added to my Colonial life skill dreams and goals — or what I am now seeing as the “real Donna” beginning to emerge — to include beekeeping, weaving, spinning and making cheese.

If all goes well, by the end of this year, I will be making bread in my outdoor bake oven, churning butter, aging cheese, collecting honey and eggs and perhaps even weaving a blanket for warmth on those bitter cold Vermont nights. (Stay tuned for my adventures in accomplishing these things, as they will be featured in our time together at Old Stone Well Farm. Videos will resume shortly!)

This is how I want to live my one wild and precious life. How these pieces of my soul that bring me joy will turn into a paycheck is in the hands of a greater power who has never let me fall. For now, I trust and relish the soft sighs of a contented soul.

What about you?

What will you do with the one wild and precious life God has given you?

Take a moment to just “be.” Pray. Ponder. And click the video below to perhaps guide you in a meditation moment…or as I like to say, to give you a “monk moment.”

Old Stone Well Farm

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Dreaming of a Little Log Chapel

Lately, I am right in line with the psalmist, who once asked why, o, soul, are you downcast? I thought a week away from Old Stone Well Farm would improve my spirit.

So, I went into the wooded area on the farm, up the hill named after a beloved Bernese Mountain dog who used to greet my day. I went to Sofie’s Hill to revisit a long-desired dream of creating a prayer area…perhaps, even a mountaintop chapel.

As I explored, I came to realize the reason for my heavy heart. So if you are feeling out of sorts today, or even if you aren’t, come and join me as I find healing in dreaming, pondering, praying and spending time amid the trees. Click on the video below. And know, that where ever your heart might be this day, you have an accidental country pastor, praying for and with you.

Blessings!

Donna

This Way of Life: A Little White Church Lenten Journey

Join Pastor Donna as she reflects on the transforming power of Lent and takes you on a 40-day journey of discovering God’s message of hope and renewal that she discovered in a little white church and in the hearts of the people who called that church “home.”

Day 10: Tending to Our Hardwired Souls

“How do you know Freddie?” Pete asked as I went about my early Sunday morning ritual of chasing away pre-preaching jitters by straightening hymnals, removing scrap paper from pews and setting up the lectern with sermon notes and announcement reminders.

Pete was the local Catholic who lived down the street from the little white church and his early Sunday morning visits became a standing date that I looked forward to. It was a time to catch up with what was happening in the little village, laugh and share our stories of faith (both high and low), all before the official worship hour would begin, with me putting on my clergy robe and him leaving to go up the road to be with his Catholic brothers and sisters.

“Who?” I asked as began setting up the props needed for that morning’s children message—trick candles that can’t be blown out and water on the side in case of fire. The kids of the little white church are going to love this!

“I don’t know a Freddie.”

“Yes you do. I read your sermon online and you mentioned him,” Pete insisted.

Now I was really confused. I thought back to the sermon and realized Pete was talking about Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian minister, theologian and writer of more than 30 books, one of which I had taken a quote from to illustrate a sermon point.

Shocked that Pete knew this pastor/writer that I had only encountered during my time studying at Princeton Seminary, it was now my turn to question him.

“Are you talking about Frederick Buechner? If so, how do you know him, and know him as ‘Freddie’?”

Turns out Pete’s dad was an electrician and Pete, who used to help his dad out, remembered doing a job at Frederick Buechner’s home which was just “up the road, heading out of the village towards Vermont, over the mountain.”

I was stunned with awe and excitement.

“Wait, the road heading out of New York State towards Vermont, then over the mountain? That one? That’s where I live!”

“Yep. You didn’t know Freddie’s your neighbor?”

I couldn’t believe that an author/pastor/theologian whose books were on my very shelves in the “oldest house in Rupert” as the locals referred to the house my husband and I bought, lived in the same neck of the woods I had come to live—and love.

“Wow, so you know Frederick as ‘Freddie’,” I uttered again. Life in a rural village never ceases to amaze.

Later that day as I sat on the porch of our little red Vermont home, still feeling this awe that Pete knew “Freddie”, I got to thinking about all the other creative people who called this part of the world home.

There was an author of several books about dogs, in which a movie was actually filmed years ago starring Jeff Bridges (Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm). He lived up the road on the outskirts of the village in which the little white church stood.

On the outskirts a bit farther up the road, heading north, was a noted chef from Manhattan who resided in my ultimate dream home—a period correct 1700’s home complete with a pond, goats and sheep.

Other neighbors surrounding me included an artisanal cheese maker, a rug creator, an angora yarn designer, a metalsmith, a glass designer, a painter and a freelance writer whom actually worked at the same New York City publishing company I worked for and who remembered me, as I had the office down the hall from her. She was now living this rural way of life as well.

All these creative types living in an area that to me, when I was interviewing with the little white church, was just some unknown speck on the map.

As I gazed out at the beauty that I had the privilege of calling my backyard, I suddenly realized it was no mistake all these creative people lived here. If anything it made complete sense to me, for it was here God’s creation as untouched by developers, no housing developments or malls marred the majestic landscape. Creation’s colors were still pure for there were no streetlights overpowering the stars’ lights and creation’s song could still be heard for there was no noisy traffic to contend with. It was here creative souls could find inspiration each and every day, for inspiration dawned right along with the sun’s rays each and every day.

I knew then it was no mistake God called me here for I remembered a piece of advice a pastor friend gave to me as I began discerning God’s call in my life.

Knowing that I was coming into ministry as a writer, she urged me to never forget that creative part of me. She told me how important it would be for me to always be mindful to tending my soul for it was God who had hardwired my soul to the things that would ultimately bring me joy—and life.

“Be aware of the things that awaken and inspire you, for the day-to-day business of the church will quickly make you forget the who you are that God made you to be.” Her advice is true for all, not just those called into ordained ministry.

No. It was no mistake for me to become an “accidental” country pastor. It was God leading me first out of suburbia and then out of the city to the place where God knew my soul would be forever nurtured and awakened to new inspirations dawning right before my very eyes each and every day.

God has hardwired all of our souls with that which gives us joy and a sense of fulfillment. The trick is for us to be aware of that hardwiring and be mindful of the need to nurture our souls, unlocking that joy and sense of fulfillment by being in the places where we can breathe a sigh of contentment and realize we are where God intended us to be.

For my sister, her joy is at the ocean. That’s why she will be moving out of suburban New Jersey to finally live the Floridian life she and her husband have always dreamed of. A friend who still lives in Manhattan does so—even though other friends, like me—have moved away, because that is where she finds her soul awakened to God. And yet another friend is at home in a housing development in the suburbs, enjoying the bliss of living her authentic life.

For me, the pastor, the writer, the wife, the daughter, the friend, the child of God…my soul finds rest in a place where the rising sun coming up over Vermont’s Green Mountains greets me with inspiration each day. (I wonder if Freddie gazes at the same sunrise as well and is inspired?)

I got up off the porch swing and went inside. I had a call to make.

“Hi Mom! Hi Dad! You’re never going to believe what Pete told me today? Guess who lives up the road from me…”

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The view of the rising sun as seen by Pastor Donna on top of the hill behind her little red house in Vermont…just down the road from Freddie. 

This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: Reflect on where it is in your life that soul comes alive with joy, with inspiration…and where it ultimately finds rest in God?