There is so much to share, I couldn't possibly cover it all! I know my description will not do it justice...but I will try to give you an idea of what our week was like.
In a few words: Beautiful, inspiring, challenging, edifying, encouraging, uplifting, cleansing, intimate, revealing, humbling, learning, growing, celebrating, rejoicing, loving, working, giving, receiving, laughing, crying, holding tight and letting go.....
We met with about 15 other families at a state park in TN to keep, honor and celebrate YHVH's Biblical feast of Sukkot (otherwise known as The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths) the best we could where we are and with what we've got. About 9 families stayed all week, as others came and went during the week as their schedules, lives, commitments allowed. Families from TN, MO, HI, FL, NC, PA, KY and AL were present. We have been to larger gatherings before, but this was very special because it was small enough that you could really get to know folks and spend time together and build connections-- that is much harder to do in a large gathering.
- Torah Study Daily - Every morning we gathered around in our camp chairs, children on blankets and read from the Torah. Our goal was to read the book of Deuteronomy that week together as a group. We read about 4 chapters a day; it took a couple hours every day...but it was a SO worth it! The Fathers/Husbands read and discussion was opened to all. There was no "speaker" or preacher or anything like that. It was just several families who are passionate about Yah's Word, reading it together and sharing. It was beautiful.
- Worship and Praise with Music Daily - The family who"hosted" the gathering often lead the group in this. They had song books printed up for the group and had many talented musicians in the family. Guitar, keyboard and violin. A couple other families also lead at different times. It was nice, very "organic". There was Hebraic dancing every day and all were encouraged to join. Even the littlest ones were welcomed into the circle. There was also a Baptism / Mikvah as we gathered at the TN river. It was a beautiful thing as whole families went in the water to express their unified commitment to YHVH.
- Serving Daily - There were many opportunities to serve in the group as needed. People arrived and left at different times, so the men were quick to help others set up (and tear down) their camps, as needed. Older children from different families always had the younger children of neighboring families on their hips. There was a beautiful awareness and servitude between the age levels. There was such a tender awareness of the littlest ones. This, I was keen to notice as I have so many! :-)
We also had a chance to go to a family farm and help them bring in the sorghum harvest during the week. All ages...even my little ones. We stripped and cut the sorghum. it was a wonderful experience. I knew NOTHING about sorghum before that day...and left with a very well rounded knowledge of it! The farm was nestled in Amish country on Russel Creek in TN, on an off grid farm. Of course that is what we are striving to do (go off grid and farm - among other things they do) and so it was a real blessing to us. We got to see so much in action first hand. We learned a lot and it really connected some dots for us! We were treated to a surprise wagon ride at the end of our work day. The family we were helping does not use tractors, rather horses for their farm work - so the oldest son hook up the team and took us for a ride up the dirt road.
- Daily Hospitality- We hosted or were guests at other camp sites for meals every day. One of the beautiful traditions about Sukkot is to have guests over in your "sukkah" (tent, booth temporary dwelling or Tabernacle) and fed them and celebrated the feast. That was going on all week long between the families. We had a couple larger corporate meals too...but it continued through out the camp...as it hummed with fellowship all week long. Shofars blowing at any given time with a "Halleluyah" after were sounds in the backdrop through out the week.
- Less Was Best- There were some things planned, but the schedule was intentionally left"open" to allow The Ruach (Spirit), lead the event...and He did! There was never a dull moment...but it never felt pressured or "busy". The first night we were there, it was late at night, I was tucked in I heard a very strong wind in the camp. It was so strong I was not sure if it was rain or wind. As I listened; it was as if I heard the would "ruach" being blown thrown through the trees, I heard it again and heard Him say "I am here". Boy was that powerful! My hair stands on end as I recall it. YHVH is SO GOOD!
- Iron Sharpening Iron Daily There were many conversations all week long about matters in Torah and the Body of Messiah. People bringing things to the surface the YHVH had been working out in them and showing them. Talk of how one determines the new year was a hot topic as we find many people becoming more aware of the things that YHVH has put in place to "clock" His calendar, according to Scripture's record. It was good stuff. The Body encouraging and challenging one another without offense to people being in different places and a real willingness to understand and seek out YHVH's truth...it was spiritual poetry in motion!
- Giving/ Learning and Growing Daily There was such a sense of commrodry and generosity in the camp. In the "spirit" of Sukkot, people came ready to give and share. There was a giving table, baskets full of bounty from farmers harvest and food that they had put up. People were sharing and giving of the things they had to give. Everything from, music, recipes, handmade items, food, clothes, supplies...there was so much. Everyone came expecting to give. I was so wonderfully surprised to receive so much! We were actually given a small cook stove, when someone learned that we had taken our heater out and looking for another way to heat the house (because my daughters hair caught fire on our old heater twice last winter!). This couple (whom we JUST met!), went back home loaded up a brand new cook stove they had in storage and gave it to us! Another dear friend sewed jumpers for my girls and took time to teach me how to start knitting and Hailey how to Crochet! I also had an opportunity to embroider a square in a young lady's "coming of age quilt" (Her parents were giving her a surprise tea during the week and all the ladies gathered to encourage her and celebrate her passing from girlhood into women hood.) I had NEVER embroidered before, so one of her sisters and another friend sat and taught me how...and I was able to embroider a Scripture into her quilt. It was a precious experience. Another person demonstrated/taught us how to make colloidal silver and sent us home with a gallon! The list just goes on...as people gave of their resources, their time their experience and their skills to build one another up all week long! My friends adult daughter from PA surprised me with a precious gift she made (just like one she made for her mom) since we share the same heart for adoption. It was a really sweet mug with Scripture. They weren't even camping with us, they came for a day visit from another state park meeting about 2 hours away. It so sweet (but too short) to see their family too!
- YHVH Taking Us to Another Level We find that every one of YHVH's Appointed Times brings an acceleration on our walk with Him; Be it revelation He gives us about Himself or His plan, further clarity of Scripture study, strengthening our spiritual muscles, humbling us and fixing our course, encouraging us on the vision He has put in us, further equipping us to go to the next level or commitment and service, developing a stronger love for His people, demonstrating His sovereignty, refreshing us if we have become weary, and sometimes even a much needed "clobber up side the noggin". We are so thankful for His Appointed Times!!!! We wouldn't trade them for anything in this world. He gives His people exactly what we need! He is YHVH Yirah!
- Making Life Long Friends - True Kinship I believe that life long friendships were cultivated at this feast. I spent time with women whom I truly fell in love with. That is a very precious thing to me. I pray it be so! (I'm getting all mutsy even thinking about it!) The richness and transparency and openess and love. It was a much needed thing in my life. I am so thankful!!
- Cooperating and Dieing to Self Daily When you dwell with a group of people, in order to do it and keep your shalom it takes cooperation and dieing to self. Maybe things aren't being done the way you would, maybe you have needs that are not being met or are "out of sorts" or out of your comfort zone? Maybe the spirit of offense tries to rear its ugly head, or judgement sneaks in or selfishness reveals itself. These are all great opportunities to learn humility and how to truly LOVE one another as ourselves. It is what we make it. We can minister life or death; YHVH has given us that power. It is our job to make the choice, and to remember we reap what we sow.
In short, I think this verse best describes my experience this Moed:
Phil 2:1-5 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Messiah, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Yahshua Messiah