A few years ago, my family traveled to a magical place called Blackberry Farm for the weekend. We literally ran around the farm completely enraptured with total joy because Blackberry Farm is heaven. Ever since that trip, it has been a running joke in my family that “this might be good but it is no Blackberry Farm.” Blackberry Farm became the measuring stick for all joyful, beautiful experiences and basically nothing else really ever measured up. I did not even know my husband at the time (cray) and so he has been forever curious of this magical place, which he likes to refer to as “Blueberry Farm.” This year my mom gave Matt and I the sweetest, most once in a lifetime Christmas present we could have ever imagined – a weekend at Blackberry Farm to attend the “Beyond the Book Event” with Shauna Niequist. Shauna Niequist + Blackberry Farm= so much goodness that it is enough to make your head explode.
Blackberry Farm was started by the Beale family who run it to this day. Last year the proprietor of BF, Sam Beale, unexpectedly died in a skiing accident, leaving his wife Mary Celeste Beale to run the property. The Beale family still lives on the farm and staying at BF feels like staying at your most stylish friend’s, perfectly designed farm. BF is known for its farm to table, award winning food and its meticulous attention to detail. BF takes the simple pleasures of everyday life, like rowing a canoe or eating brunch, and gives you the highest quality farm grown eggs and bacon and a handmade, bright green canoe on a crystal blue pond. We went for a hike, rode horses, swung on the most epic swing and fell asleep cuddling in a hammock next to a babbling brook.
Despite all that amazingness the best part of the whole trip was that we attended the “Beyond the Book” program by Shauna Niequist. If you have never read one of her books, stop everything and buy her newest book, Present Over Perfect right now. My entire life I have been obsessed with Shauna. Her writing about her journeys through life and faith in no small way have changed my life. I read the chapter of her book Cold Tangerines, “Twenty-Five” on the night of my 25th birthday. As I lay there reading, I had no job and was dating someone that I was not really crazy about. Life felt super uncertain and scary, but her words comforted me. Each one of her books have emboldened me to make scary, very necessary life changes. I later became so obsessed with Shauna that one year a friend had her write me a birthday card, which basically made my life. Long story short- I am basically Shauna’s biggest fan and stalker. Getting to spend an entire weekend hearing Shauna talk about writing in the place I love more than any place in the world was almost too much for my mind to take in. Shauna is funny and completely engaging. I took notes at a neck breaking pace, desperate to soak it all in.
“I believe that good things get made by people on good journeys.”
“You may be running for the achievement and recognition of someone who would love for you to run at your own pace.”
“We should all practice the counter cultural spiritual discipline of resting in our own unconditional value and we should be quick to remind others of their unconditional value before God. “
^^^Some of my favorite quotes from her sessions
Shauna recommended a few books as well- “The Gift of Imperfection” by Brene Brown, “Presence” by Amy Cuddy, and “Falling Upward” By Richard Rohr to name a few. Matt and I immediately bought all the books, and I can guarantee you that we will be ferociously reading them in the coming weeks.
The past weekend was a total gift, and just felt like the outpouring of undeserved grace. I will never, ever forget it.