I have begun to realize that with every event, we are basically turning our living room into a nursery, our porch into a lecture hall, our barn into a community center and our farm into a Bible camp. Every space is used, and it feels right and good.
I have told the Lord many times that we will use every inch that He gives us, and after a weekend like we just had, I believe that is happening! We had families camping overnight, wood crafts in the barn, leather working in the backyard, soccer in the orchard and play dough at the kitchen table.
My hope with these gatherings is that the families who come feel the same welcome I felt whenever I visited my Aunt Louie’s farm growing up. The door was always open and we were always welcomed into whatever they were doing. Helping in the garden, repainting a shed, cleaning the kitchen… The families who come to these events are all like family to us. They all pitch in, bring food, move equipment, dig in our fridge, and enjoy our farm. It really does have a family reunion-type feel.
We based this year’s Grovestead Gathering on “Ancient Paths” from Jeremiah 6:16
Stand at the Crossroads and look
Ask for the Ancient Paths
Ask where the good way is
And walk in it
And you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, “we will not walk in it.”
I gave the first talk titled, “The Good Way: Will We Walk in It?” Jeremiah 6:16 is so sobering because it gives the exact instructions to find REST FOR OUR SOULS, and yet, they did not walk in it.
We had time right then for families to circle up with just their own family to talk about what might need to be added or subtracted from their schedules. And to talk candidly about what fears might be preventing us from doing what we feel called to do. Fears arise in all sorts of ways: fear of not fitting in, fear of opinions, fear of failure, fear of missing out…all of these fears were discussed. And then there was time to pray as a family for the Lord to make us bold, to give us courage and strength.
Even though I wrote the talk and came up with the questions, when it was time to circle up with Rory and our six kids had the most profound conversation about all of this. I just thought that was so remarkable. Even as we hosted, God was still speaking right to our own family.
We had friends of ours from an Old Order Amish community join for the weekend as our guest speakers. We first connected with this couple over letters, after the husband had read Rory’s book. They became penpals for a while before our family went to visit their community. Since then we’ve been back again and we have become good friends. They graciously accepted our offer to come and share on the topics of intentional community, functional homes and farms, and how to make a living homesteading (“…a living, not a killing”). As an agrarian Christian tradition over 500 years old, they had much to teach us about the ancient paths.
That first evening, after an epic potluck supper (5 tables long!), the women and men met separately for some thoughtful conversations and questions with our Amish friends. It was a really special time.
And then we had popcorn and a bonfire and a few families camped onsite. Honestly, I would love it if everyone could camp and stay around the fire to let the conversations linger. We just need a bath/shower house!
I suppose I should mention that there were 94 kids in attendance this year. Can you imagine?!! The honest truth is that it never felt like that many kids, which says something about how great they were. I got to do a lot of kid’s programming this year and as a result, I had more conversations with the kids than with their parents. And I am here to say the fruit of these folks was good. I enjoyed these children so, so much.
We began Saturday morning with Rory speaking about “Looking and Choosing at the Crossroads.” He talked about the crossroads that have been chosen for us, centuries before we were born. Crossroads of family, of the land, and of community. And showed what the fruit of those “modern paths” has been, and how we might find our way back to enduring families, connectedness with the land, and authentic Christian community. (All of our talks, including our Amish friends, will be available on the Gather & Grow website soon.)
Meanwhile, I had the kids down at the porch for The Children’s Show and Tell. This is a very favorite part of the weekend for me, where kids come up and share ways that they productively contribute towards their family’s economy. It is so sweet and good, with lessons all over. Two boys have started a cookie cafe, perfecting their recipes and selling to friends in the neighborhood and church. I commended them for this effort, two brothers working together, and mentioned that there is no way to purchase a homemade cookie at the store. Homemade has to come from a home!
Ivar shared about raising rabbits and another boy about raising pullets. And two brothers shared about their family lemonade stand and how they plan to have a hot chocolate stand in the winter because it built so much community amongst their neighbors.
There were so many nuggets of insight shared from the kids. It really was a great time.
Then the kids were off to their rotations. The littles played parachute games:
Everyone had a chance to make a leather key chain:
And Ivar helped each family make their own wooden tractor:
I said in my opening talk that the time this weekend itself was the real gift, to have a weekend to stand at the crossroads and look and ask. We are so busy that to take intentional time to reflect on where we’ve been, and to pray for vision for where our family is heading is rare thing. I think often we keep ourselves busy enough that we don’t ever do those two things: reflect where we’re at and to plan where we are heading. This gathering was an opportunity to do those two things.
Our prayer is that we all would ask for the ancient path, where the good way is. That we would have the courage to walk in it, that we might find rest for our souls.
It is so obvious that there are two storylines at play in our world today. One is of doom and destruction, with confusion and disorder at every turn. But the other is full of hope and peace, because even in the midst of the darkness, the Lord is most certainly on the move making ready a people. May we all stand at the crossroads and look. May we all ask for the ancient path… AND WALK IN IT!