This is part 3 of an introductory post on the origins and inspiration for Full Cup Farm. Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Over this past holy season, I reflect on part of the inspiration for the “Full Cup” portion of our farm. Amy and I met in May 2000. I was attending a Senior High Rally, the last of the year to celebrate graduating high school seniors. Rallies are weekend long events at Camp Mechuwana for junior high and senior high youth to celebrate fellowship, friendship and God’s love in the one of the most beautiful serene settings. On the shores of Lower Narrows Pond in Winthrop, ME I had returned to rallies after a 2 year hiatus. At the time, I thought flipping burgers for minimum wage and moving heavy things to prepare for football season was a better investment in my time. However, it seems the return on investment never came to fruition. I became a really physically strong benchwarmer who had pocket money to burn holes in pockets without learning how to save.

I met Amy, during an ice breaking type game. We were sitting in a circle on the industrial carpet over concrete floor, playing a game of first name alliteration. My friend Paul leaned in to my ear, “That’s Amy.” Awesome Amy smiled as I passed the ball of yarn to her across the circle while hanging on to my loop. After the 30-40 other highschoolers, also had their turn, the big project was untangling our yarn knot, but I ended up standing next to my future wife.

I’d be lying if I said, “I knew she was the love of my life, from that first moment.” Actually, I didn’t realize it until about 1.5 years later. Summer 2000, we both worked at Mechuwana as camp staff and became good friends. We hung out once or twice during my first year at UMF, she drove her little Dodge Shadow to Farmington to see crappy movies at the Narrow Gauge Cinema and eat bad pizza in my dorm room. Looking back, I had an inkling when walking her to her car, we hugged goodbye and paused a nanosecond too long looking at eachother before she got in her car. My friends at college saw it, “who is thaaat?” with knowing intonation. “Just my friend Amy.” I was oblivious.

The next summer, 2001, we were both at Mechuwana on staff again. That’s when it hit me. Hard. It started as a hint of jealousy when she would talk about the townie boy who helped out some at camp, and she had plans with. As fate would have it, he cancelled last minute on their movie plans. This was my big chance, I offered to take her instead. She accepted, not realizing. Sitting there through “The Score” with Marlon Brando and Edward Norton, I was sure she could hear my heart beating. My sweaty palms were too shy to reach over and grab her hand. We had a nice time, no sparks.

That summer was winding down, Amy being two years younger than me was still in high school. She was the high school football team manager. My good friend and eventual groomsman, J-man (Jason) and I attended her school’s exhibition preseason game before I had to be back at UMF. After the game, Amy, J-man and I hung out for a bit. J-man and I had prepped that I was going to tell Amy I was smitten. I was interested in dating, becoming more than friends. That jerk Jason, forced my hand. We had ridden back to the school after grabbing a bite to eat, Amy was dropping Jason and I off to our car. From the back seat, “Ok Amy, I’ll see you later. Mike has something he wants to tell you. Bye.” He steps out of the car, closes the door. He leans up to the passenger window, where I was sitting, with the goofiest grin and double thumbs up, seeming to say “Go get ’em Tiger.” Yadda yadda yadda. I tell her, blah blah blah. She barely responds, and I get out of car and go to my car. Her lack of response worried me.

Over the next 4 months, we spent a lot of time talking on the phone…this was before texting was big. At times, they were excellent conversations. At times, periods of comfortable silence. Amy was never fully on board of extending our relationship beyond the “friend zone” until Christmas 2001. I had one dozen roses sent to her as a Christmas gift. I was in Bangor with my family and she was spending it in Auburn with hers. I didn’t hear anything until December 26th. We talked on the phone, and I had done it. I successfully wooed my queen.She agreed to “make it official” as per customary dating protocol for teenagers at the turn of the 21st century.

We continue to make December 26th, a special day for us. We recognize it as the date, we started our romantic relationship, even if it was just through a phone call. I proposed to her on that date 4 years later, by hiding her engagement ring inside the new pair of gloves she got as her final Christmas gift that year. I could lie and say she still has those gloves, but she doesn’t. She still has the ring…and me. She’ll have to work a lot harder than she did losing those gloves if she wants to be rid of me.

We owe our meet cute, half of my chronological life with her and our family to Mechuwana. However, it gave us something so much more powerful. Our belief and trust in God. Camp Mechuwana is part of the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church. Amy and I have yet to find a place that fully completed that place in our heart where God and love resides better than Camp Mechuwana.

There is great man, that has touched more lives than I think he even realized before his untimely passing. He voluntarily drove me and many other teenagers to youth rallies over decades so that they could grow in their relationship with God. Amy and I both remember his wisdom, love and most importantly humor as virtues we strive to embody everyday. By living those virtues, I believe he healed more people than I ever will in my career as a PA. I still consider him a role model. I carried a poem around in my wallet for almost 20 years, and it finally tore away from its years in there as a reminder to serve others the way he did. Maybe he knew the poem, maybe he didn’t. He lived it though.

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
-Emily Dickinson

Julio DeSanctis had a deep baritone voice that was the most feared of all karaoke performers at some of these youth events. Common at these events are also songs of praise. There is one in particular that involves a 2 part arrangement where the men traditionally sing a rhythmic low line as a background to the women parts singing the melody. Julio was our anchor for that low line. “Come fill my cup” was a call for believers to have God fill their life with joy and love. Julio, Mechuwana and God have done that for Amy and I.

As part of our farming adventure, Amy’s love of knitting and all things yarn would come in to play. We started with 2 angora rabbits to utilize their fleece for our own purposes. We knew once, we moved to our new homestead here in Casco, sheep and goats would soon be in our future. We would be shepherds in a literal sense for the animals and also a metaphorical sense for our own children. Part of being a shepherd is giving your flock, or charge, food, water and shelter. We knew pastures full of lovely grass was the best way for us to do that. Be a part of the land, honoring it’s natural beauty in its flora, fauna and also its ecological substrate of geography, geology and hydrology.

We tossed around many cute, quirky, funny, whimsical names for our farm when we started the process of legitimizing what we do. Honestly, I can’t remember a single one of them now. They never seemed quite right. We reflected on what had been important to us in our lives, what we wanted to learn, what we had done up to that point, where we wanted to take it and what we wanted to leave as a legacy.

My first boss as a PA used to travel around the department to visit with his staff regularly. “Just stopping in to check the weather” is what he would say. It was really his way to check the departments satisfaction, stress and engagement level. Last I check NOAA, has not invented a workplace morale barometer yet. Amy does this with me, but it’s not a weather check, she asks me if my cup is full. Is there something I need to fill my cup? I know this a symbolic metaphorical cup. The same cup that Julio kept anchored deep in my heart.

The 23rd Psalm from the King James Version reads:

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Amy and I realized that this piece of scripture, hits on every aspect of the life we wish to live at our farm. Take time to enjoy the beauty of nature, laying down in green pastures and walking beside still waters. Being mindfully present in nature makes us feel better, restore our souls. Through our time at Mechuwana, we know that God will provide for us, prepare a table and protect us. We would continue to do that for our charges, the animals and children as their shepherd. Most importantly, through these practices and beliefs we knew we would have our “Full Cup”. It would be our “Full Cup Farm.”

Oh and coffee…not much is better in the morning than a full cup of coffee. Mmmmm. Time to brew some. Happy 18th Christmas together Amy. I love you.