A Thankful Heart

There’s plenty wrong in the world these days, but blessings always abound if we just open our eyes to notice and appreciate them. As we prepare our harvest tables this holiday season, let us also prepare our hearts with an attitude of gratitude for the many blessings – both large and small – that we enjoy in America, no matter what our financial circumstances or personal predicaments. Join the Mountain Farmgirl with “A Thankful Heart”…

I was just thinking the other day that Thanksgiving might possibly be my favorite of all holidays. What can be better than taking stock of our many blessings, and sharing the day with friends and family?  I like to make this day a reminder that we should be thankful EVERY day, not just on the holiday alone.  But often, in our bounty and comfort, it’s all too easy to take our circumstances for granted, and forget how blessed and fortunate we truly are.

For me, Thanksgiving is not about the food, although I do thoroughly enjoy cooking for friends and family, or being at my mother’s house where the most magnificent feasts abound!  As vegetarians, my immediate family’s dinner does not include the turkey with all its trimmings, but rather elaborate vegetables, salads and homemade breads and desserts. And as both an innkeeping and restaurant family in particular, the day itself is anything but a day of vacation for us. However, I love everything it represents and it is potent reminder to have a thankful heart and adjust my attitude if it gets out of line!

This year I found myself in the car for the majority of Thanksgiving Day. It was an 8-hour drive from my mom’s house, where I had been vacationing with my sister, and my brother and his family, back to our Lodge in New Hampshire. My husband held down the fort in my absence; our daughter and one of our sons was working in the restaurant, our married sons were each with their spouses. So due to circumstances beyond our control, our official Thanksgiving dinner was on Friday, when we reconvened from our various activities and holiday responsibilities. Dinner was mostly prepared by our daughter Zia, who was home from college, and our son Joshua. As a rare treat for my husband, she roasted a chicken with all the trimmings. It was a marvelous day!


Sadly, Thanksgiving  wasn’t a joyous occasion this year for many people. With unemployment levels at nearly 20%, many families had a hard time just putting food on the table, let alone prepare a feast.  And with the aftermath Hurricane Sandy to deal with, untold families on the east coast did not even have homes to celebrate in or even any belongings left to their names for that matter… an almost incomprehensible predicament to those of us in warm and cozy surroundings, amongst the things we love. Situations like these require perspective, seeing the BIG picture … which is not always easy to see when we are so close to disaster.
I’m reminded of a very special lesson I learned almost 35 years ago about ‘thankfulness amidst adversity’, and it was demonstrated by a beautiful man who was well into his 90’s at the time.  It took place at the Cornwall, NY Friends Meeting House, where my husband and I had been married, and where we were then members of this small Quaker church. Thinking back to that day, it seems that some children had broken into our meetinghouse one Saturday night and started a small fire in the back of the building. Not arsonists per se, they had apparently started a small campfire to keep warm, which had quickly gotten out of control. But for the grace of God (and an efficient group of volunteer local firemen), this ancient wooden structure built in 1790, would have burnt to the ground. Fortunately, the damage was largely contained to one area in the back of the building, and our meetinghouse miraculously survived.


The morning after this fire was a Sunday, and members of our meeting – unaware of the events of the previous night -- showed up for worship as usual. But smoke and water damage made it impossible to meet indoors, and everyone was in shock over the state of our beloved house of worship. After our little band of onlookers surveyed the situation and made many speculations as to how the fire started, William B. Cocks, the man I refer to above, quietly walked into the meetinghouse and carried out a chair. He set it up under one of the huge maple trees near the driveway.  Soon everyone was following in his footsteps, bringing out chairs, Quaker benches, bibles, etc. There was much work to be done, and as we all know, many hands make light work. However, at precisely 11 a.m., William B. held up his hand and in his gentle but firm manner said, “Friends, please take thy seats in God’s outdoor cathedral. It is time for worship.”

I don’t think that many people, under the circumstances, expected Quaker Meeting to happen that day.  I know I didn’t!  But William B. made his announcement like it was the most natural thing in the world … and somehow it was!!  As we each centered down in hopes of hearing that ‘still small voice’, God spoke to, and through, us. “Praise God for sparing our meetinghouse”.  “Lord bless and watch over the children who started the fire.”  “Thank you, God, for your merciful blessings.”  Paul in the New Testament reminds us that our own happiness and well-being is not dependent upon our outward circumstances, and he learned that lesson firsthand throughout his life. However, it was the first time I had been witness to such love and thanksgiving in the face of disaster.  William B’s grace had created a teachable moment, the lesson of which I have never forgotten.


While visiting my mom last week I drove by our old Meetinghouse, and felt drawn to pull in and reflect. This is about the only place I know of where the hands of time have literally stood still. I peered through the wavy glass of the 18th Century windows.  The two rooms were exactly the way they were when my husband and I got married there so many years ago … right down to the table where we sat after reciting our vows, and on which we signed our marriage certificate!  It was like taking a trip back in a time machine.


I silently gave thanks for the people in my life; and for the blessings that abound despite my periodic setbacks. I remind myself that I consciously choose to focus on the good rather than the bad things in my life, and they enough – in fact they are many. Thanksgiving Day comes but once a year, and alas it is over until next November. But its spirit should be ours day in and day out. Pray, Farmgirls … for what are you thankful today?

Until next time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from Cathi,
The Mountain Farmgirl



By: Kelly Ryan
On: 11/27/2012 11:11:55
What a beautiful Thanksgiving message Cathi! You truly captured the meaning of this holiday.
My 8 year old son and I are also vegetarian and this year he wanted to do a "global Thanksgiving" with ( vegetarian) dishes from around the world. We had so much fun with his idea and he chose most of the recipies and we had such a lovely day!
Again, thank-you for your lovely blog!
Kelly Ryan in CA
By: Sukochi Lee
On: 11/27/2012 11:42:56
So beautifully put....and so very true.
By: Louise Marie
On: 11/27/2012 12:06:27
i thank you for this post. i just had a fire in my home this past Saturday night. It actually was a grease fire. I have so many times since then thanked the Lord for the small fire. It could have been so much worse. Many times i forget to thank Him for my many blessings. This time was not the case. i know how blessed i am to have come out of this fire with as little damage as was the case. Thank you for helping me again to see it as such. God bless you with His mercy and grace always.
By: Betty Benesi
On: 11/27/2012 13:21:44
It is difficult sometimes to bear in mind that our happiness and well being is not dependent on outward circumstance. I have been face to face with this lesson many times, unfortunately, the lesson is sometimes painful as I'm sure our hurricane survivor friends will tell us.
In any case, your stop at the meeting house sounds so wonderful in that you got a little perspective on your own life. It is not often enough we take the time to acknowledge this opportunity. We move too fast and then the moment is gone. That is why I am so truly grateful for this time of year.
By: Adrienne
On: 11/27/2012 15:20:05
I am thankful to be alive one year after cancer surgery and radiation. I am also thankful I can still read, comprehend and respond to wonderful articles like yours. Many blessings to you and your family!
By: Michelle
On: 11/28/2012 11:32:08
This year, friends and neighbors knew many people left helpless and hopeless after Sandy. We packed up and sent anything we could, delivering it to our Shore points.
So as I sat with my friends and family, I only found one word that summed it up, along the lines of your seniment, and that was simple and beautiful: ENOUGH.
By: Denise
On: 11/28/2012 16:14:08
Thank you Cathi.
Loved reading this. You are right on the mark and true spirit of thanksgiving. I, too am going some challenging times but God is with me and He always comes through for us. In this my faith has grown and my trust in my saviour. Thanks for your wise words. Stay close to Christ our everything

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir

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