Thoughts at the Old Slate Farm Sink

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My beloved cows. Well, not mine. They belong to my neighbor, my husband and I simply allow them to graze on our property. It saves me from mowing more land!

 

WRITER’S NOTE:  This entry is a “Throwback Thursday” one. It was written a year ago but never published on Accidental Country Pastor. And so I wanted to share. 

I am not sure why, but tonight as I stood in front of the old slate farm sink washing the dinner (and lunch and breakfast) dishes in my little Vermont home, I felt a twinge of sadness, the kind of sadness that comes with good byes. It was strange because the calendar tells me it is still early in the summer and so this twinge couldn’t be the back-to-school blues I get even though I am way beyond those back-to-school years.

The twinge was sharp. What was this about?

As my hands instinctively plunged into the warm sudsy water fishing for the next utensil to scrub, my eyes gazed out the window watching the neighbor’s cows graze on our hilly pasture. A slight wind blew the tall grass and the limbs of the apple tree hanging over the marshy part of the yard swayed.

The cows only looked up for a second to see what the rustling was about before becoming disinterested and returning to munching on their dinner, which featured an appetizing array of clover and wild strawberries that mysteriously appeared on our property this year. (Those birds have a way of planting little surprises, don’t they?)

That’s when I wondered. Did they ever feel such a twinge? Were they ever aware of something larger at work in their lives? Did they ever give the winds of change more than just a disinterested passing glance?

Perhaps I am guilty of paying too much attention to the winds blowing in my life that often bring on these twinges of sadness. I have been told that I “feel” too much, but after more than four decades of living this way and sharing it through my writing, I wouldn’t trade my oversensitivity for anything. I remember a seventh grade report I did on the Noble Prize winning novelist and poet William Faulkner who said, “the human heart in conflict with itself can make good writing because only that is worth writing about.”

So I have learned to embrace the twinges I get. I embrace them and I see them as God’s gifts to me. Gifts that open me to seeing beyond what currently is, to the what might be, that always leads to the what is to come.

The cows munched, my eyes gazed and my hands kept washing the dishes.

Earlier that day I had a visit with a dear friend whom I haven’t seen in more than year. It was wonderful catching up with her. As we sat on her patio of her lakefront home, I had that familiar twinge of sadness. I guess I was already thinking about the good bye that was to come and wondered when I might see her again. I guess I was thinking about the last time I sat with her, as I got ready to move away just a year ago. I guess I got to thinking about the last time I sat in the double Adirondack chair and enjoyed the view of the lake with her husband, whose health was declining, by my side. I remembered the wind blowing then and how I just wanted it to stop. No more changes. Stop for just even a second.

I looked over at that chair now empty. The wind blew off of the lake and the roses she planted a few years ago, which have matured beautifully, began to dance as if filled with joy. So why then the sad twinge I felt?

As I drove the serpentine country road home, I passed a farmhouse that I have passed hundreds of times. I always took notice of it because in the yard there were these huge wooden letters that would spell out words. In all the years I have driven past that house, the words have typically been three that took turns appearing: “peace,” “joy,” and “rejoice.” This time, though, there was new word.

TRUST.

I had to slow down and do double take. Trust? I have never seen that spelled out before on the property. Trust. It was as if God put that sign there just for me, especially since the last “t” in the word was a cross.

Trus+…

Trust the twinges of sadness. Trust the now empty chairs. Trust the letting go. Trust the growing older. Trust the children turning into adults before your eyes.

Trust the winds blowing.

Trust…the unknown tomorrow for God will lovingly and gently reveal it. For it is God and only God who holds my comings and goings, my plans to my life, in His loving and very capable hands.

The dishes were done. The warm sudsy water had turned cold and sudless. And the cows? They began their march back home.

I watched the slow, solemn procession. Their tales waved as if waving good-bye to me. I leaned over the sink towards them as if that would keep them from leaving me. Over the hill and beyond they went until the last little calf was out of sight.

“Trust,” I heard myself whisper softy out loud.

The cows will be back…

Tomorrow. Just trust.

Living Water

There’s a marshy piece of land behind our little red house that is overgrown with tall grass, burdocks and goldenrod. On occasion a wildflower—or two—will peek its pretty head out from the overgrown tundra that has become its unexpected home, thanks to a bird dropping a seed en route in its flight south for the winter. Mostly, though, this marshy piece of land is made up of tall grass and weeds.

When my husband and I first moved in, we tried mowing this area so it would blend into the surrounding landscape. It was not to be. Even in the driest of dry spells the mower would sink down into the still wet and muddy earth beneath.

“It’s just useless,” my husband would say, noting the look of disappointment on my face.

“Really? Perhaps I can try?” I offered.

A look of fear washed over his face. I knew what he was thinking. He would come home one evening from work to find his wife and his beloved riding mower sinking quickly into the marsh. I tried my best to assure him I wouldn’t do anything stupid, at least, not attempt anything stupid when he wasn’t home to help rescue me—and his mower.

Still I was not ready to give up on my vision of an unmarred rural New England landscape, one that would rival those pictured in a Country Curtains catalog.

As a teen I would bypass all those teen-cult magazines talking about how to zap a pimple or get a cute guy to notice you. My reading pleasure was a Country Curtains catalog. I would stare longingly at the pastoral views that were pictured beyond the multi-paned windows draped with material hanging on rods. I wondered what it would be like to live with views like that? (I now wonder now how many curtains did I buy from that catalog all due to my intoxication with the view and not the curtains per se?)

I no longer had to wonder. Each window from our little red house looked out upon rolling hills, cornfields and the green mountains of Vermont. And everyday, no matter how the day was going, whenever I looked out the windows, I smiled and thought, “Wow. I have my very own Country Curtain views.”

All except for that darn piece of marshy land right in back of our house. It was an eyesore to me.

My husband suggested we could turn it into a pond. Perhaps. But until then, every time I sat on the back porch there it was right before me—tall grass and weeds blowing in the wind with only the occasional pretty wildflower—or two if I was lucky—peeking out to cheer me up. I soon began to wonder why was that little piece of land always so wet?

One day as I took our bumbling Bernese mountain dog, Sofie, for a walk on our sprawling five acres, I got my answer. There up a ways from the marshy piece of land was a tiny steady stream of water flowing and feeding down into the weeds and tall grass. I walked along the stream of flowing water trying to find its source. Was there a larger stream? A pond somewhere I didn’t know about? A brook? I kept walking…and walking…and walking. I found no such bodies of water that were feeding this steady stream that nurtured my marshy piece of land. Perhaps there was an underground spring of sorts.

It was time to turn back to the house as the sun was beginning to set. And so we walked, me with my feet on dry ground and Sofie, of course, with her paws happily prancing in the tiny stream of flowing water.

As we got closer to the little red house, I saw something I had never seen before. There in front of me was the most beautiful tall grass blowing in the wind. There in front of me were these goldenrods made ever more golden by the sun’s setting rays. There before me was not a marshy eyesore I so badly wanted to get rid of. There before me was something beautiful created by living water coming from an unknown source feeding the grass, the burdocks, the weeds, and yes, even the occasional wildflower—or two.

Jesus talked many times about offering us living water—water that quenches what is dry and parched and brings life and hope back. Living water was a metaphor those in Jesus’ day would understand for out in the wilderness, after the much needed rains would come, water would be “alive” flowing on its own power bringing the relief those who were thirsty needed. The flowing water was viewed as powerful, mystical, sacred…and beautiful.

We all need living water. Water that not only quenches are deepest physical thirst, but living water that flows in our lives with a mighty God power, carrying us and leading us to all that is lush and all that is truly beautiful.

I looked down at Sofie still with her paws in the living water we had just discovered on our property, when all of sudden she assumed a hunting position with nose pointed forward, one front paw extended with one of her hind legs reaching back the other direction. I held more tightly onto her leash so she couldn’t lunge forward to get the beautiful red winged blackbird that swooped in and landed on top of the tallest pieces of grass swaying in the marshy piece of land that I had once thought was an eyesore. It was no longer that. I now saw it for what it really was. It was a sanctuary for God’s creatures—a sanctuary created by living water.

Life can’t be an unmarred pastoral landscape. We try to create such, but it just can’t be. Life needs a marshy piece of land with weeds and tall grass and burdocks and goldenrod and that occasional wildflower or two. A place touched by the power of living water which then becomes a blessing to those all around.

And so the marshy land still stands behind our little red house looking prettier than any Country Curtains view I could have ever hoped for.

It stands as a testimony not only to the power of living water on our property. It stands as a testimony of the living water I know that flows in my life, the only thing I need when my soul is parched.

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The marshy piece of land, fed by the living water on our property, sits to the left beyond our old stonewall. It’s no longer an eyesore, but a beautiful sanctuary for tall grass, burdocks, goldenrod, the occasional wildflower or two, and yes, even weeds. And the birds love sitting on top of the high grass.