Last month we paid a visit to New Community Le Vay, a house in France owned by our church that I have wanted to visit for many years. Despite a tumultuous start to the holiday, missing the ferry and having to take the Eurotunnel, we eventually made it to Normandy and to the beautiful French farmhouse of Le Vay, situated in the rural village of Maisonelles Le Jardin.
Le Vay is a beautiful old property, full of character and charm and situated in 2 acres of land. With vegetable patch, wildflower garden, sheep and chickens, it is a beautiful place to retreat, to relax and to contribute to the working of the land.
The heart of Le Vay is all about community – enjoying being together, eating together, chatting together, working together, laughing together, crying together and doing life together. I found it a great place to step back from the busyness of life and ask myself how i’m doing; a place to assess goals, dreams and aspirations and align them with the plans and promises of God.
With guests coming and going with each week, month and season, no two communities of people at Le Vay are the same – and that’s part of what makes it special. The prayer for everyone’s time at Le Vay is that they will make a ‘new community’ together, where relationships thrive, trust develops and life is shared. Mike and Amanda are the perfect hosts; they facilitate interesting and thought-provoking conversation, provide a listening ear and impart a wealth of wisdom into situations.
Mealtimes were some of my favourite times at Le Vay, sitting around the table for a couple of hours enjoying fresh food from the vegetable patch that had been in the ground earlier that day and engaging in fun and friendly chit chat, laughing around the table. Amanda is an incredible cook (I still think back to the amazing Le Vay carrot cake when I reminisce!) and we loved enjoying her wealth of recipes and mealtime treats. We could sit for hours with no agenda other than enjoying each others company and the food set before us.
There’s something special about eating from local ground, (enjoying the best beetroot and butternut squash I’d ever tasted) knowing the hard work Mike and Amanda (and many others along the way) had put into nurturing and growing these crops. Salads, fresh veg, meats, cheeses, wines, tea and cake, breads, croissants, pancakes, pizzas, canapés, pastries, fruits – you name it, we enjoyed it!
On the topic of food, I’d like to take a moment to pay a little homage to the French way of life.When in France we visited the town of Vire on market day walking by stand after stand of fresh, local and seasonal produce. Meats, fish, seafood caught that day, vegetables, fruits, homemade jams, freshly cooked crepes – the food is grown/caught/made locally and sold in that region on that day. Everything is so fresh and flavoursome. Even the supermarkets follow seasonality in France and try and source produce from local farmers – something I think is admirable when I compare to the English supermarket giants who get produce from the world around. France, thank you for keeping local businesses alive, enabling butchers, bakers, greengrocers and fishmongers to thrive.
I also think the French have a great attitude toward the enjoyment of food and the appreciation of flavours. I’m not saying we don’t appreciate food in England, but when was the last time we had a two hour lunch break to sit down with friends, food and wine, and took time to enjoy it? Just a thought…
Le Vay is also about fun, freedom and expression of creativity. Whilst we were there we enjoyed games of football and frisbee, running around the grounds as well as playing many hours of board games in the house. Upstairs there is ‘the Upper Room’, a place to get creative with music, with guitars and keyboards and an atmosphere ripe for songwriting and worship. I took some time to get back into playing keys – a childhood hobby that is easy to fall by the way side without having a piano at home, but after a few days the notes came back and I could play old favourites once more.
Le Vay is also a place where nature speaks. In the beauty of the French countryside birds sing, flowers bloom and creation shows us its majestic nature. At night we often lit campfires and enjoyed toasting marshmallows whilst looking up at the night sky. Never before have I seen so many stars or appreciated the vastness of space in all its dazzling beauty.
We had a beautiful time at Le Vay, as I’m sure our friends would agree. It was great to be together, to adventure and journey together, to take time resting, reading, relaxing and to be still. There is something particularly special about Le Vay and the new communities being continually formed there. It is difficult to describe to someone who has never witnessed it for themselves. But my prayer as we go away from that place is that we will each keep the heart of that community with us and show the love that we shared in Le Vay to our communities wherever we find ourselves.
We miss you Archie!