Did I ever dream of this day? When the farm’s front porch and this space here – would welcome one of our own children to tell a bit of their own story? Our little boys, the future men – have become men, growing up right here, story after story, year after year, and I literally could not be more excited to hear our oldest son, Caleb, share a bit more of his story, catch his vision of how this Christmas could be more meaningful, and (heart flip!!!) even catch a glimpse of where God has unexpectedly taken his story. This weekend – a one-time, very special edition of “Only The Good Stuff” — multivitamins for your soul, straight from our son! It is with unabashed, wild joy that I welcome our son, Caleb, to the farm’s front porch!
Guest post by Caleb Voskamp
I grew up taking care of animals.
When I was four, I started bundling up and trundling out to the barn, to help feed our pigs and sweep up after they were done.
I grew up helping with the animals on the farm, and caring for animals of my own (which included a goat, a hamster, some chickens, many dogs, and even now a llama and some sheep).
The promise of future productivity, of little animals growing large, and of how these animals might help support families is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever experienced.
Perhaps equally as fulfilling, was discovering how to create real and tangible handcrafts that became new traditions for families to keep closer company with Christ day in and day, in their everyday life.
When I was 14 (almost 12 whole years ago now – how is that possible?), on winter evenings, after barn chores and school were finished for the day, I designed and carefully cut out a wooden advent calendar with 24 candle holders, lovingly sanding it and finishing it with linseed oil, so we could count down the days of Advent, keeping company with Christ from Cradle to the Cross – from Advent through Lent.
And I was able to share that 24 day candle Advent wreath with other Keeping-Company-With-Jesus with families all over the world, who have joined our family each Christmas in this deeply meaningful and beautiful tradition which captures the essence of Christmas – making room for Christ, anticipating daily moving closer toward Bethlehem and the birth of the holy Child who comes to literally rescue us and the whole world.
As a homeschooler through high school, I eventually enrolled in online classes studying classical art and literature – where I met this brilliant young girl whom I fell head over heels for.
I wink and confess: I wasn’t really on her radar…but more about that later on in this story.
From the very beginning, when I was just a young kid of 14, The Keeping Company has been a “not-just-for-profit” company. We began by using a portion of sales to support sponsored children through Compassion International, and then we fully supported a Compassion maternity centre in Haiti and more than 20 some mothers and their babies, which I visited in person with my Mom when I was 16 years old.
The Christmas Advent wreath was not only lighting a way for families to keep closer company with Jesus through Advent, so they didn’t miss Him come Christmas morning —- the wreath was also bringing light to some of the most vulnerable around the world so they knew how Jesus, through our support, was keeping company with them.
Fast forward a few years, and I reconnected with and – by the wild grace of God – started dating the girl from high school, the wonderful Colorado mountain girl — who was now at Harvard University in Boston, studying Art History.
Not long after we started dating, she helped provide design feedback for a wooden crafted manger that this crazy Canadian boy had designed, and I continued tinkering away at different ways to create artistic, meaningful ways to celebrate Advent, and help people Keep Company with Christ all over the world — soon also sharing the Clinging Cross, a beautifully polished wooden cross sourced from Bethlehem, to provide tangible, holdable comfort to those in times of grieving, suffering, prayer, and simply sitting still, being with Jesus.
As my relationship with the Colorado-homeschool-mountain-girl-now-a-Harvard-graduate grew more serious, she helped dream up and write a children’s story to accompany the Messiah Manger, the story of The Light Gift and Leora, a story of life-changing giving that families can mirror in their new family tradition of the Messiah Manger.
As the Colorado girl went on to finish up her masters in Art and Museum Studies in New York, she served at a church in NYC where the family ministry coordinator’s little daughter so loved The Light Gift she asked for it to be read every single night of Advent, and well into the new year! And just this week, a kind teacher bought a copy for every one of the students at her school…150 books! Lives and families changed this Christmas with this new We are so excited to be blessing so many children and families!
Last year, with the support of countless families around the world who shared the resources here at The Keeping Company, we were able to support and fill 23 farmyards and stables around the world, through Compassion International, impacting countless families and changing whole communities – so, through all of us, they know Christ is keeping company with them!
Families kept company with Jesus every day with their candle Advent wreaths as part of their meaningful Christmas tradition – and then lit more of the waiting world aflame with hope of Christ!
And this year? Not only did we find artisan woodworkers to carve wooden hands in Indonesia, a constant reminder of prayer, hope, and the joy of living open handed and cruciform, but also?
Yep, the wild grace of God: The wonderful Colorado homeschooled mountain girl and I got married!
And together, she and I have had the newly-wed joy of working together, writing together, dreaming together, to bring you a beautiful 25 Day Advent Devotional, studying the names of Jesus, with each day’s devotional accompanied by a deeply classical art selection – all as a FREE BONUS to accompany the new redesigned 25 Day Advent wreath, so that it can be used not only for Advent and Lent – but it also now has a 10 day candle section to be used to count down with anticipation toward birthdays and anniversaries!
While families supported us at the Keeping Company, we were able to support and fill 23 farmyards and stables last year, through Compassion. This year, we are dreaming of filling 75 farmyards and stables with you… because sometimes, you dream big.
With your support, we are already at 21 farmyards and stables this year, and together, we can do it, we can fill 75 farmyards, filling 75 communities with hope this Christmas! What a gift, to get to be a gift!
If you are looking for a gift for family or friend, we cannot recommend to you with more joy and excitement,
~ our illustrated book: The Light Gift,
~ and it’s accompanying heirloom the Messiah Manger,
~ or the family heirloom of the Cradle-to-Cross Wreath,
~ or any of our other beautiful handcrafted items.
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for joining this Canadian farm boy and his Colorado girl, who love crafting meaningful art — creating beautiful heirloom traditions for families to keep company with Christ, and giving new hope for families in need around the world.
And as we curl up on the couch here together, watching the sheep from our windows, the puppies in our laps, surrounded by the stories of the animals we grew up with and the heirlooms created and yet to be imagined, it is our joy to wish you and yours:
The happiest, warmest, and most joyful, Christ-focused Christmas.
You’re family is the the kind who doesn’t want to miss Jesus this Christmas!
Join us this Advent in beginning live-changing traditions; experience the joy of giving, and keep close and intentional company with Christ from the Cradle, to the Cross.
The Keeping Company is a “not-just-for-profit” — a portion of all proceeds from all Keeping Company heirlooms goes to fill stables and farmyards around the world with Compassion International, filling the hearts of families in need with hope.
Together, we can experience the joy and hope of God’s Greatest Gift, and share His light and love with the world!