He Restoreth My Soul

Sunday morning David and I realized we hadn’t made any plans for the weekend because our lives have been so busy. We felt like getting away from our everyday life, so I called our long-time friends, Janel and Paul Gamm, and asked them if we could come to their Labor Day party. Janel and I met in the playground in Fairfax, Vermont, when our son, Paul, and her two oldest girls were little, more than a quarter of a century ago. She and her husband, Paul, have a little farmette in Vermont. Janel has a horse, chickens for eggs, and a garden where she grows many veggies. They have a place in the woods where it’s very quiet, with a pond in their backyard and a view of Mt. Mansfield, the tallest mountain in Vermont.

The trip up north through Vermont was a perfect day —  the sun was out bright, with fluffy clouds scattered across the sky. The cloud shadows cast on the Green Mountains made it all the more picturesque. Silly us, we forgot to take pictures, so all I have are “Amish pictures,” the kind that are indelibly inscribed in my mind. These scenes were new to Rebecca, so David and I felt like we were seeing them for the first time.

Every Labor Day weekend, Janel and Paul have a potluck get-together for a group of friends. We all sit on their back porch and pick soybeans from the plants Paul brings in from the garden. Then we gather in the kitchen and hold hands, singing the doxology (Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow) for our grace before the feast begins. The fellowship with our friends was what we all needed. Rebecca felt right at home. She had brought baked goods to share, which everyone enjoyed very much.

Spending time with our friends made David and me realize how much we miss our long-time friends in Vermont. We love our home here in Western Massachusetts, but it is three hours away from where we called home for thirty-some years and where many of our established friends live.

That night, I stepped outside on the Gamms’ back porch and I saw what looked like the Northern Lights. It was in white, not in color as I’ve seen before. Others stepped outside to see it, but couldn’t. I may have imagined them. But I like to think that I had my own personal viewing of them.

The next day, we drove up to Isle La Motte where Paul and Janel bought an inn. Paul was going there to mow the lawn, and we tagged along. It has a beautiful view of Lake Champlain, not far from Saint Anne’s shrine. It is quite the project for them to undertake… the inn is old and needs many restorations. As we drove past the shrine, and saw the outdoor cathedral, I said to Rebecca that I’ve often wondered why the Amish don’t have their church services outdoors. She reminded me that the Amish believe that they should pray away from the eyes of the “outside world.” I had completely forgotten that belief. Our Anabaptist ancestors did meet in caves and barns and such during the Reformation Movement in Europe.  They had to worship and pray away from the eyes of the public, for there were dire consequences if they were discovered by the authorities or the “outside world.” It is amazing some of the traditions that are kept down through all the generations since then, without really knowing why.

This kind of following of tradition reminds me of the story of a woman who would cut the ends of a roast before putting it in the oven. Her husband asked her one day why she did that. Her answer was, “Because my mother did it.” So the husband asked his wife’s mother why she did it, and she said, “Because my mother did it.” They decided to ask the grandmother why she did it, and she replied, “So it would fit in my roasting pan.”

This kind of following of tradition without knowing why is not just true of the Amish — rarely do I see an outdoor worship area. What seems like such a natural thing — worshipping God out in nature — is not done by any religions I know. I wonder why? Seeing that outdoor cathedral made me want to attend a service at Saint Anne’s shrine.

Photo by Jim Millard

The conditions were perfect for our trip back through the islands. We could see the Green Mountains on our left and the Adirondacks on our right. The mountains looked blue, off in the distance, under a blue sky with cotton clouds. It was the kind of Beauty I wanted to drink in and keep with me forever. What a gift that we had such beautiful weather!

We decided to take the southern route back, through Middlebury and Rutland, then Route 103 that cuts through the mountains to Ludlow, the Okemo ski area. The views of the Bristol Valley between Vergennes and Middlebury are some of David’s and my favorites in all of Vermont.

In two days, we pretty much toured Vermont from one end to the other. The only part we missed is the Northeast Kingdom, another beautiful area.

When we arrived home, I said, “It’s so good to be home. I love this house.” Rebecca said, “But it was also a good trip.” David and I agreed. We had the best of both worlds this weekend — a restorative trip to Vermont, and a place we call home to come back to.

What was your weekend like? What restores your soul? 

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7 thoughts on “He Restoreth My Soul”

  1. Hi Saloma, interested to hear your thoughts on outdoor services. In Scotland, where i live, there used to be a tradition of presbyterian churches holding outdoor communion. I have seen photographs of outdoor communion in the Scottish Borders c. 1900 and I was told by someone that there still are services held outdoors sometimes in some places. And coincidentally I’ve just been reading an interesting description of the annual Free Church of Scotland Communion celebrations in the 19th century in “A Hundred Years in the Highlands” by Osgood MacKenzie (1921). He describes how upwards of 3,000 people would gather annually in Gairloch in the Scottish Highlands and hold communion services in a grassy hollow near the church, where they were sheltered from the wind. He says “I should be surprised indeed if a stranger passing along the road … on hearing, say, three thousand voices floating up out of this wonderful deep hollow, and chanting beautiful ancient Gaelic psalms, could help being perfectly charmed with the solemn sound and feeling that he had never heard the like before.”
    Certainly if there are still outdoor services here I don’t think they are on this scale or of this beauty!

  2. Sarah, thank you for this inspiring and wonderful description of the Scottish outdoor communions. It makes me want to go to the Scottish Highlands, which is something I truly have wanted to do sometime in my lifetime. With the description you just gave, I feel like I’ve experienced it vicariously.

    Many Blessings to you!


  3. Hi Saloma! I removed my last name to protect my identity. You should know me from previous posts. Here is a chapter from my weekend:

    I enjoyed going to our vacation property in Sauk County, Wisconsin this past weekend. Spending time at the lake in the sunshine is always a soul restorer for me.

    I have written about our Amish friends in the past. I did get to visit with them again this weekend. Saturday was a very windy day. After visiting with Amos in the barn, who was reupholstering a couch, I ventured to their house to pay Elena a visit. Their oldest daughter, Mary Ann, who is five walked with me to the house. She is slowly getting to know me and trust me. She actually struck up some conversation with me as we walked. Through broken English, she said it was very windy this day. She’s quite precocious. I immediately replied that it was a good day to fly a kite. She looked at me in curiosity. “What is a kite?” she asked. I explained to her the best I could. I remembered having a kite back at our cabin.

    I visited with Elena for awhile. She told me a weasel got into the coop and killed three chickens the night before. She dressed them and planned on cooking them for supper that evening. I mentioned Mary Ann’s curiosity with kites to her and told her I thought I had one and would come back to show it to Mary Ann.

    I returned with the kite an hour later. The wind whisked across the prairie and began to fly the kite. Mary Ann was elated as she never had seen one before. After I got the kite high into the air, I let Mary Ann hold the kite string. She called for her mom, who was inside canning tomatoes, to come out and see her flying the kite. Being a recent empty nester as our youngest recently went off to college, I instinctually bonded with Mary Ann as if she was a grand daughter. We flew the kite for an hour or so. As all things must pass, I told Mary Ann that we will have to do this again soon. She beamed a big smile and nodded. Elena thanked me for keeping Mary Ann occupied as she free to finish canning. I told her it was my pleasure. It was a good day!

  4. Hello, Saloma! Our summer business is over and I can now begin MY summer! Quiet time restores me … sometimes with my Bible, sometimes just my thoughts and prayers. Our little jaunts we take here and there are also restorative but I love coming home, too. We worked hard Labor Day weekend as it was the end of the busiest part of the summer season; however, Bill and I now have the opportunity to take a motorcycle ride (eek!!) to Vermont! Our original plan was to cross at Ticonderoga and drive north to Shelburne. Have dinner with friends, tour a few places and ride back home. This will be my first long trip on the motorcycle. I’ve never been more than 30 miles! … this should be interesting… :-)

  5. Hi Saloma!
    I don’t even remember what I did over the weekend – except for Monday because I spent the whole day at the state fair, getting there early enough to see the exhibit hall (and my entries) before volunteering all day at the 4H chicken barbecue.
    I love the country. I also love the ocean. I call it ‘sea therapy’. Just watching the waves ebb and flow is comforting.
    Last year we happened to drive by the shrine of Our Lady of Grace in Colebrook, NH. We stopped and walked around. It was pretty cool – I had never seen one of these kind of places before! Perhaps you and David would enjoy a road trip up north. And of course, fall would be a beautiful time to do it!

  6. Saloma,

    I’m just catching up on blogs after a busy summer of goings & comings.

    My soul is always restored in the great outdoors, usually away from crowds of people.”Be still and know that I am God.” is the verse that comes to mind and I find stillness most in the untamed places. Water – sky – mountains restore me and remind me of God’s phenominal creations. I feel properly “put in my place” in becoming yet again aware that I am part of the whole and infinitely connected to it, but certainly not the center of all. Even an hour or two of stillness in the woods refreshes me and helps as I plunge back into my busy daily life!

  7. There is a beautiful spot in Ringe NH called Cathedral of the Pines that holds outdoor services. Unfortunately many of the trees were destroyed during the hurricane. My church in South Deerfield tries to have one mass a month outside during the summer months. As our priest reminds us, it is important to worship in the beautiful setting that God has created for us. We all do enjoy the change and really can enjoy the beauty of nature. It is so important to slow down and take time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us not only in nature but of the people who around us.

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