Right Where You Are

The plane was relatively empty. I was relieved. The last thing I wanted was to be packed in tightly like a sardine. Or worst yet, have someone sitting next to me so that when I inadvertently brushed against the other’s arm while making sure my seatbelt was tight and secure, a conversation would begin—one that would last during take-off, cruising altitude and landing. I just wasn’t in the mood for small talk.

I was on a late flight and tired. My tiredness magnified by the fact that once I touched down I still had an hour-plus drive before I could finally crawl into bed.

I looked around the empty cabin. Yes, perhaps I could get some sleep.

I began to nuzzle against the window and closed my eyes. That’s when I heard the conversation. An older couple was arguing about where to sit. What alarmed me, though, was that their voices were too close to my row. I kept eyes closed and listened. They argued in the way that told me they have been married for many years. The exchange, more humorous than heated, finally ended with the wife plopping herself down in my once-spacious row. Her husband was the distance away that she wanted. He was across the aisle.

I tried hard not to make eye contact with her, but failed. With just one crack of my eye, she began talking.

Were you on a business trip? (My professional dress gave it away that I wasn’t on vacation.)

What do you do? (Ugh…that’s not an easy one to answer. Let’s see. I am a minister. A writer. I was serving a church in Maryland. I’m now back in Vermont where I am trying to be a farmer—well, in my dreams I am trying to be farmer. Truth is, I have one little garden that is struggling and a half-finished chicken coop.)

Yes, all of this came pouring out of my mouth and as I did I could hear my husband’s advice, “You don’t have to tell your life story to a stranger.”

The minister/writer vocation fascinated this woman and spurred on more conversation. She wanted to know everything. And so, I told her. I told her about my call into ministry that led me out of Manhattan where I was editor of a fine jewelry magazine. I told her about seminary and my first call to a little white church in rural upstate New York. I told her about meeting my husband in that rural community. I told her about my dreams to have a farm, to be back writing and to be serving once again in a country church.

And before I knew it, I told her my confession.

“I’m not sure about anything anymore, really. I find myself wondering what God is up to,” I said with a shrug and a smile, adding, “Is it crazy to like wearing heels and, also love wearing barn boots?”

The cabin had grown dark. Only the reading lights overhead from a few seats could be seen. The woman didn’t answer back to my confession. That disturbed me. Throughout the two-hour flight she was quick with the replies. In fact, much to the chagrin of the person in the seat in front of us, she never seemed to once come up for air. She was blessed with a gift for conversation. images

She was quiet now and her gaze shifted from me to the window. I followed her eyes to see what she was mesmerizing her. All this time talking, we hadn’t noticed the full moon in the sky. This wasn’t just any full moon though. This moon was a deep, glowing orange. And from our vantage point in the sky, it looked as if we could reach out and touch it.

We stared and marveled at it, agreeing that we have never seen anything so beautiful.

Silence finally fell on Row 16.

Silence…till the woman, who I now see as one of those angels in disguise Hebrews mentions, gently took my hand and whispered, “You are right where God wants you to be.”

As the moonbeams illuminated the houses and little specks of cars below on the ground, I realized she was right. Life wasn’t as muddled as I thought it was. I just had to get above the confusion and focus my thoughts on things above—God.

For God has a plan. God always does.

We are each where God wants us to be.

 

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…”

IMG_1928

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?