It was Sacred Ground
It started getting dark around 8:30. Stars showed up to bring light to the inky black night sky.
The glow from the lights strung up around the yard made it feel like the actual stars were flirting with the grass below.
Lanterns flickered a soft yellow light from the branches of the saucer magnolia tree where they hung.
As these lights illuminated the deepening darkness, fifty women gathered into a circle, without prompting. This was a circle of gratitude, prayer, and thanksgiving.
It was a circle of blessings, dreams, and hope.
The benediction was spoken into the circle of women, eyes closed, heads bowed. And then, with sweet clear tones, the doxology was sung by 50 voices that sounded like a well practiced choir.
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
This was how the evening ended at The Black Barn. But it was a call to move forward.
The Sacred Ground of Maplehurst & The Black Barn
Maplehurst, a beautiful brick farmhouse, is tucked into a corner of Pennsylvania where you would never imagine it to stand. Flanked by busy neighborhoods on either side, Maplehurst is a warm gift for the soul. The gardens spill over with blooms in all different colors. Peaceful green hideaways reveal themself and invite rest. And, a little puppy named Coco Louise is more than excited to cover you with tiny kisses.
You simply cannot help but feel the Holy Spirit.
The Black Barn sits to the left of the farmhouse. A magnificent restoration (with some modern touches) of a 140 year old barn. It has been nurtured back to life with loving hands. A black iron spiral staircase strikes a bold contrast against the blonde wood on the walls. The wood stove sits heavily in a corner, flanked by two chairs inviting a long chat with a cup of tea. Couches line one wall, ivory blankets tucked around them and adorned with French knots. A farmhouse hutch houses glasses and flowers picked from right outside the door.
It felt holy when I stepped inside.
It still feels holy today.
It WAS holy.
The Middle Matters
The Black Barn, Maplehurst Gardens, and the farmhouse itself was home to the launch party for Lisa Jo Baker’s new book, The Middle Matters. (another book you must read. Look at that; three books to complete your summer reading!)
It was also home to a live recording of the Out of the Ordinary podcast, hosted by Lisa Jo and Christie. (Bonus! Now you have things to read and listen to!)
This gathering was a big deal and a long time in the making. I knew that it was a must for me to attend. The pull was strong and rooted in a way I could not fully understand. Until I arrived.
Writers, artists, fans, readers, family, and friends gathered to celebrate this book, these women and their collective work. We gathered to blanket Lisa Jo and Christie in love and prayer and gratitude. They stood in the middle of their dream coming true and we were there to bear witness.
Right there in the middle of the barn.
In the middle of the property.
In the middle of ourselves.
We laughed and cheered and celebrated. And ate tacos. Oh, and ice cream sundaes. With cherries on top! How fitting those cherries were.
I will not tell you what the podcast was all about. You need to listen to it yourself. I’m not going to tell you about the book either, because it’s now on your summer reading list and it would be wrong to spoil it, right?
But here is what I will tell you.
There is God in the voice of a woman reading aloud an essay about her deep love for her oldest son.
There is God in the tears of a woman who cannot believe that her barn is a vessel for service and mission.
There is God in opening hearts, homes, and souls to serve others who need the strength inside of you.
I was served by Christie and Lisa Jo (and their exceptional husbands and children).
I was fed and inspired.
My path became more sure.
My determination stronger.
However, they did not set out to serve me in particular. These two serve communities, through the talents God has asked them to use. Yet, in doing what they are called to do, they pulled me forward.
This is what we are all asked to do, as we walk in love, as Christ loved us.
May these days be filled with pulling each other forward, gently singing the doxology as we go.
I am being called to write. What are you being called to do?