Thanksgiving at Old Stone Well Farm

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s a busy day here at Old Stone Well Farm, and I invite you to come and join me as I get the fire going to make the pies in the Dutch oven, boil the Christmas pudding and melt the beeswax for more Advent candles.

And I will share with you a recent discovery about my black-and-white chicken. Hint: She is a perfect fit for living here at this 18th century home. For now, I want to take time to thank you all for your support with this ministry.

I have some plans for it in the new year, but I need your support. So share with friends and like on YouTube! And now, let’s get cooking.

Blessings! Donna

Old Stone Well Farm

A Widow’s Trust

No, I am not in Scotland, but the location for this week’s Old Stone Well Farm is breathtaking. Join me as I walk among the ruins of French and British forts in Crown Point, New York…and reflect on the trust of a widow whose life was seemingly in ruins, but with a little faith — and a little oil and flour to make bread — she discovered God was indeed with her.

If you like this time of worship, please let me know. Like it on YouTube, share with others and if you haven’t subscribed to the YouTube channel, please do so. Click on the window below for the video to begin.

Blessings! Donna

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.

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The Thanksgiving Quilt

 

A sense of accomplishment began welling up inside of me. There I was running the last lap and the finish line was in sight. In my case, there I was sewing the last lap of my second quilt, piecing and stitching by hand the dreaded binding, which for me—a self-taught, novice quilter—was tricky beyond tricky.  IMG_1565

Just as a runner’s legs grow mushy in a race, my fingers were mushing up from the repetitious sprinting they were doing. With a thimble protecting only one finger, the others had to put up with the constant pain of being pricked by a needle. It was especially painful when the needle inadvertently stuck under the nail of my thumb. “Ouch” wasn’t the only word being uttered under my breath, making my husband look up from his reading and lovingly chide me with what I already knew.

“You may want to rethink holding a quilting group at the church if that is what comes out of your mouth.” It was then I wondered about all those faded black and white pictures of women quilting I would gaze at as a child.

My mind romanticized the quilting circle, picturing a serene gathering in what would be the house of my dreams—12 over 12 Colonial windows (no post-1840’s sash windows for me, thank you!) with a bucolic view of rolling hills where from a distance the echoing of bells could be heard ringing from the necks of the grazing sheep; wide plank floors with a warm patina that comes with age and that gives off a sweet, pine scent when the room is warm; a stone fireplace complete with a loaf of bread rising in the bread oven; and, if the quilting group lingered to dusk, beeswax candles, hand dipped of course, would be lit to guide each little stitch. I never wondered till now, as the needle slid under my thumbnail once again, if those women in bustled and hooped dresses with high lace collars sitting serenely in a quilting circle were indeed as serene as they looked. I wondered how many hurting thumbs and calloused fingers were in those faded pictures.

With my own hurting thumb and another finger completely calloused, I continued towards the goal of getting this quilt done. I was sprinting because I had wanted to surprise my mom with this quilt at our Thanksgiving gathering. It was going to be a special gathering this year for it would be the first time in many years in which my brother-in-law, a newly retired police officer not having to work holidays anymore—would be at the table with us. We would all once again be seated at the table in the dining room of the house I grew up in. When was the last time that happened? I couldn’t remember.

Life has been so crazy for far too many years it seemed, with everyone running in so many different directions. But there comes a time in your life when you realize you have the power to stop all the busy craziness that keeps families scattered. There comes a time when you realize time is not in abundance. The time we have together is scarce and so the time to stop wasting the days, the hours, the minutes to be with those you love is right now.

For time together creates the memories we will need to draw upon later for strength when a grieving or broken heart feels it has no strength to go on. And like little scraps of fabric, time is sewn together into a beautiful quilt of memories that comforts you, heals you, hugs you when the arms you want to hug you are no longer there. But we throw away little scraps of everything—even time—don’t we?

I guess my new-found realization of the limited time we have is a sign of growing older, right up there with the reading glasses that have all of a sudden appeared on my bedside table. Or perhaps my awareness of time slipping by comes with being a minister for when I stand with family by the grave of a loved one, I am reminded that I need to get better at treasuring the time I have with those I love. I need to stop wasting my days with problems and petty nonsense that admittedly get too much power in my life, edging out what really matters. I need to hold on to the “scraps” so that I will have my own quilt of memories to wrap myself in when I need to.

Yes, I was sprinting to get this quilt done so that I could surprise my mom with it at this year’s Thanksgiving gathering. I guess in a way I wanted my mom to have a surrogate hug from me for all those times I could not be there to give her a real one. I wanted my mom to know that while I now don’t get to see her as much as I once did, I think about her always. I was stitching more than fabric. I was stitching love and hugs together. “Ouch!” followed by “!#&!!#!!$!”

You guessed it. The needle stuck under my thumb again. The last lap of this quilt had hit a snag as I tried to straighten out a very crooked binding. I stopped to take a breath and regain my focus. I had to get this Thanksgiving quilt done. As I went to pick up the fabric again, Sofie, my old bumbling Bernese Mountain dog, sauntered over and decided to plop herself down on top of the quilt spread out on the floor. Before I could scoot her off (try quilting with a 98-pound dog on top of the material), she nuzzled her head into the fabric and rolled around a couple of times and then she nuzzled some more before letting out a loud sigh of contentment. She rested her sweet head on top of her front paws and nuzzled her nose deeper into patches of calico. It almost looked as if she was praying. With head still resting on two front paws, she lifted only her eyes up towards me and gazed at me with a look of peace, of love, of joy born out of treasuring the simple things in life like scraps of material pieced together to make a surrogate hug for someone I loved.

It was then I realized I had reached the finish line. The crooked binding was fine just the way it was, and I know my mother would agree for how many times had she taken a cock-eyed, taped together, hanging by one thread gift from me with the words, “This is just beautiful, Donna.”

The sense of accomplishment welled up inside of me. The Thanksgiving quilt stitched out of love had now received the best finishing touch ever. This was a quilt blessed by Sofie. What better gift to give to my mom than that?