Remembering to Make Room

Standing at the beginning of December, I’m already seeing very full days when I look at my calendar.  The joy and excitement of the Christmas season can often be matched equally with busyness, and busyness quickly leaves little room for anything else.  

We find packed calendars instead of leaving room for quieting ourselves.  We find ourselves wading deep in stress instead of leaving room for peace.  We begin drowning in parades, lights, parties, baking, Santa, holiday movies and Christmas shopping, instead of leaving room for being still and remembering why we are celebrating.  We can easily find ourselves doing so much, yet not remembering to intentionally make room for the One who we are celebrating this season.

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Even on that very night when Jesus was born into this world, there was no room for Him.  As Mary and Joseph searched for a place to come in that night, they couldn’t find anyone who had room for them.  It wasn’t until an innkeeper finally made room that the Savior of the world was born.  We need to remember this season to make room for the most important part of Christmas: Christ.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in the manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” –  Luke 2:7

I’m a Christmas junkie and love all things Christmas celebration, lights, parades, parties, and all of the festivities.  In the same breath, I’m also a homebody: an introvert who not just likes her quiet and alone time but desperately needs it for sanity and de-stressing.  When I pull up my calendar and see something marked on nearly every box in the month of December, I can feel my stress levels rise without having even done any activities yet, despite how good and fun those activities would be.

When both my introvert-self and Christmas-junkie-self come hand in hand, it makes for a rather awkward marriage.  I imagine there are a number of you who resonate and understand exactly what I mean; the deep desire to do all the fun Christmas things (because despite the Christmas season being more than three weeks, it just doesn’t feel like enough time for it all!) and simultaneously the aching need to just curl up in the quiet of your home in front of the fire.  How do you do both and not sacrifice one for the other? How do you make room for what matters in this season?

For me to try to successfully do both, I’ve had to carve out specific time to quiet myself.  I already wake up earlier than my children for such a reason so this seems like a perfectly good time to be intentional with my heart, mind, and relationships in this Christmas season.  Women, if you’re like me, you’re the member of your family leading what activities get put on your calendar. With this also comes the responsibility of not tiring your family with so many activities that the proper room is not made for Christ.  We must not just be hopeful in trying to leave room for Jesus, but we need to intentionally make room.  

My morning quiet times are always dear to me but especially so in the Christmas season.  Sitting quietly in the soft light of the tree, with the fireplace raging, and a hot cup of coffee in hand makes for a beautiful and delightful quiet time.  Not just for the glamour and ambiance of the space but for the intentional room and rest I make in my heart during this otherwise busy time. For if I am not first pointing my own heart back to Jesus and clearing space for Him, how well can I lead my family’s activities to do the same?  

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Friends, I want to encourage you to intentionally make room for Christ this season.  Let the other noise quiet down and rest in praise and the knowledge that a Savior was born unto us, and God is with us. He made room for our names in his book of life and gave up his space in heaven to come down to redeem our broken world.   

“’Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.  For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’  All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:18-25

Kayla AndersonKayla Anderson is married (for better or for worse) to the one who she knows without a doubt that God created her to be companions with.  Together they have four young children, Ezekiel, Asher, Ellery, and Alder, and run a hand-crafted soap shop.  She is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom and is in a season of learning how to gracefully be the central point and glue of their family.  Thank the Lord that she has Him to look to for wisdom, guidance, and strength!  She loves reading in the quiet, early morning hours, decorating their sweet little home, writing has been part of her soul since she learned how to write letters, and her love of coffee runs deeper than her coffee pot.  You can find more from Kayla on her blog or Instagram.

2 Lessons from the Magi (Plus a Free Printable)

It’s just turned December and I’ve already almost completed my Christmas shopping. I’m not normally so prompt in my shopping, but I’m not really a last-minute gift-giving gal either. I love choosing the gifts thoughtfully for my family and friends. It’s a reflection of my love for them.

The Magi’s ( also known as the wise men) gifts for Jesus were carefully chosen as well. In fact, they were a fulfillment of prophecy. Isaiah 60:6 says, “They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.” The time between this particular verse and the actual event was around 700 years later. Talk about living in anticipation.

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We have two profound lessons to learn from the Magi that will help us every day:

1. Come as you are.

 The Magi were Gentiles, and Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. This to be profound because it means come. Come as you are to Jesus. We are no longer held by Old Testament rules. Jesus came to Earth so that we no longer had to have someone enter into the highest temple for our behalf to worship God. We can come to Him, without reservation.

2. We offer our gifts as worship.

Gold, incense, and myrrh were of significant value. Gold was the metal of kings. Giving Jesus this precious metal was stating HE was the long-awaited King. Frankincense was used in temple worship, and giving Jesus this gift meant the Magi saw Jesus as the High Priest (who ultimately connects us to the Father, God). Finally, myrrh was the gift I find to be most intriguing. It was used for embalming bodies. The Magi foreknew this small child would one day embark on death, the greatest death of all. Their precious, symbolic gifts were humbly given to Jesus, the King, the fulfillment of prophecy. 

As we give our presents to others this Christmas, may we be thoughtful. We may not be taking our gifts to the feet of the Savior but we do love others as a way to show our love for Him. May we offer our trinkets of love, but also the gifts within us. as worship to our Holy King.

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Click here to get your free printable of Matthew 2:11

Jesus came to Earth, born of a Virgin, lived fully as man for thirty-three years, died on the Cross, was buried in the grave three days, and rose again. He is the greatest gift of all. Won’t you receive Him this Christmas season?

Sarah DohmanSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globetrotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah on her blog or on Instagram.

Finding Purpose in the Pain of Christmas

Author: Karly Grant

Christmas. For some, that word brings feelings of excitement, glee, celebration, and magic. For others, that word invokes grief, dread, lost hope, or sadness. Or maybe you find yourself at a crossroad of all these emotions like I do? No matter where you find yourself this holiday season, I want you to know that you are seen, you are heard. The One who we remember and celebrate this season cares so deeply for you, about the real you and your emotions, more than you can ever imagine.

I am the first to get excited when Christmas decorations start going up, music with jingle bells starts playing, and Hallmark publicizes their list of new cheesy movies. I literally squealed with excitement upon arriving at work one day to see that decorations had started going up. I love the magic of Christmas; the excitement, the beauty, the memories, the laughter, the family time.

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When I dig a little deeper beyond the surface aspects of the holiday season, that’s where the fairy tale ends. It is so easy to be reminded in this season of all the hopes, dreams, relationships, and people lost. It’s amazing how quickly, with just one thought, the feelings of cheer can switch to those of sadness.

For me, as well as many others, cheerful Christmas memories include estranged family members and people who have passed away. Where these losses are felt year-round, they can be especially hard during this time of year. It is difficult to gather with family and reminisce about the good ol’ days, when there is someone dearly loved that is not there to celebrate with you.

Another area of pain in this season comes in the form of unfulfilled hopes or dreams. We all have that perfect Hallmark picture in our minds of families gathered around the Christmas tree, caroling, festive parties, and happiness. While I love all of these things, nothing brings up thoughts of inadequacy or dreams lost for me as quickly as a holiday party. As a woman in my mid-30’s, I am reminded almost immediately upon arrival at such festivities of my singleness. I know it is never the intention of the people hosting the parties, but I quickly notice the seemingly happy couples and feel left out of a part of the cheer.

I always dreamed of being a happy family. I looked forward to the day that my husband and I would stay up all night assembling gifts, only to be awoken too early by our children and relish in the joy on their faces as they opened gifts on Christmas morning. The older I get, the less likely it is that I will get to experience this dream that I’ve placed on a pedestal and that hurts.

So the question remains, how do we find the balance between the cheer and the pain? How do we embark upon this season while keeping it real, but not allowing the enemy to speak lies that will either gloss over the pain with fake cheeriness or allow ourselves to have a pity party that brings gloom to the whole season? For me, I’ve found the answer is in Advent.

Advent is a season recognized by some churches that leads up to celebrating the birth of Christ. It is not something prescribed in the Bible as something that Christians must do, but something that I have found helpful in the last couple of years. As a child, my great-grandmother used to give me an advent calendar. I looked forward to opening up a window every day in December and eating the waxy piece of chocolate hiding behind the yuletide art. As an adult, I find the depth of diving into the words of God so much more fulfilling.

Last year was the first year that I purposely focused on the season of Advent. I did it imperfectly and missed some days, but it was definitely helpful to remember how much God loved me and to combat the lies that Satan brings during this season.

Last year during advent I focused on the word “joy” and even bought a little nativity set with this word prominent among the display of the manger. It was a year of hope as I looked forward to what I thought was ahead. I thought it would potentially be the last holiday season with my family for a while. God had another plan, but that’s another story. Joy is not the same as happiness. I still felt the pain of the hard times, but I knew that I had true joy because of the baby in the manger and the sacrifice that He made.

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This year, I still have the nativity set on display in my window sill, but as I look forward to the advent season, my word is “intentional.” I am going to intentionally spend time in the Word of God, intentionally focus on being real with Him in my prayers. Hard times will come. Emotions will come, but as I dive deeply into God’s Word and remember the truth of why we have so much to celebrate this season, I will be intentional about not allowing the lies of the enemy to overtake me or lead my thoughts down a road that only leads to destruction.  I pray that this year people will see the joy that comes from Christ as I am intentional about celebrating Him, even amongst the hard times, as I try to live out the words of 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Karly Grant headshotKarly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey, but she is willing to trust Him.

Hope for the Dark Days of Christmas

Christmas has always been one of my most favorite times of year.  In the middle of the darkest months of winter, we decorate with lights, bright colors, and cheer.  If there is reason to be sad, we can effectively hide it behind joyous carols and celebratory gift giving.

And yet, for many, Christmas is a deeply painful time.  Well-meaning celebrations become reminders of what’s lost and broken.

When finances are stretched there are few reminders as bold and blaring as Christmas time sales.  When a loved one has been stripped from your arms, few reminders are as painful and stabbing as the Christmas time merriment.  When you’re emotionally or spiritually lost, Christmas seems more a mockery to pain than a gift from God.  When your family is broken, family gatherings, or lack thereof, can allow a dark loneliness to set in.

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The lives we live are often surrounded by hardship and the  resulting damp, thick fog of sorrow can press in and easily take hold during the “most wonderful time of year.”

When I was a girl, I was always the first to object if the Christmas decorations had not been pulled out as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey had cooled.  Even as a child, one of the most beautiful things in the world to me was staring at the bright colors of Christmas as they broke through the darkness with a sense of hope and belief in something better.

I still live by that hope.  Even when life is hard and I lament the way things are, I can’t shake the hope and deeply seeded belief that the light always breaks through the darkness.

Right now, things are hard.  There are so many things threatening to dampen the joy of the season or snuff out the light in my heart.  But, hope always persists.

Jesus came into a world full of darkness: Political darkness, spiritual darkness, and emotional darkness.  Many sorrows had been suffered by the people living in those turbulent times.  Much like today, people were divided and an underlying thread of anger, hostility and fear had threaded its way into the culture.

And where was God?

God had been silent for some 400 years.

But we make a mistake if we believe that silence is the same as distance.  God hadn’t left or forgotten his people.

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And on that night, so long ago, the light of a star broke forth into the darkness and an infant took his first earthly breath.


The beauty of Christmas isn’t a promise that life will always be what we wanted.  The beauty of Christmas is the belief that wrong doesn’t get to win; it’s the hope that no matter how bad it hurts or how difficult it is right now, that darkness doesn’t get the last word.  There is hope for healing and hope for betterment and hope for our souls.  There is hope for eternity and hope for our futures.

There is Christmas hope when darkness reigns.

Look up!

Lift up your head and see.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

That is what we celebrate.

That is what we celebrate when there is nothing else.  That is what we celebrate when everything else hurts.

We celebrate the hope of Christ and the hope that God hasn’t given up on us yet, even if he does seem silent for a time.

We celebrate the hope that what’s broken can be fixed.

We celebrate the hope that God is in the redemption business and the last page of our stories hasn’t been written yet.

Because Christmas is all about hope; hope that what’s lost will be found.

Jacqi Kambish

Jacqi Kambish is a Christian mom to three spirited children striving to balance the daily demands of parenting a child with special needs and meeting the needs of typically developing siblings while working full time and writing.  She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Bible Theology and Youth Ministry from William Jessup University.  Jacqi lives with her family in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and enjoys reflectively writing about parenting, faith, and the joys and trials of life while leaving her readers with hope and encouragement.  Her blog The Presumptuous Ladybug can be found at and you can connect with her on Facebook.

Gathering like Grandma

My Grandma Miller was wonderful at gathering people together. As a child, I greatly reaped the benefits of her gifting, although I did not realize she was displaying a biblical characteristic.  I see now that her hospitality was one of the greatest things about her. I want to live in that legacy and pass it onto the next generation.

Growing up, I got to see my out-of-state grandparents about 3 times per year.  In the spring, we visited their Arizona house for the whole week of spring break.  Grandma always had clean beds for us, a meal cooking after we arrived from our day of travel, new toiletries for us to use, and a pantry stocked full of fun things for her grandchildren.

 In the summertime, they provided a two-week long vacation on Lake Huron for all of their children and grandchildren. And every other year as the air chilled we celebrated Christmas for a week or so in their Ohio home. This almost guaranteed a white Christmas, a fireplace blazing, clean beds, warm meals, treats, Christmas gifts, music, and a lot of old family stories passed along to us, a tradition that makes me long for less technologically driven days.  

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I do not know much about my grandmother’s personality type.  Whether she was an introvert or extrovert, I am not sure, but she was so very good at gathering.  She made guests in her home always feel comfortable and lacking in nothing. As I have grown both in my Christian faith, as well as my role as mother and wife, I have noticed that gathering people together has been thrust upon me.  My husband and I have been given dozens of opportunities to host people in our home for various events, and I know there are hundreds of more opportunities before us.

I find my innermost introvert come to light when I prepare to gather people in my home.  I get very nervous, wanting everything to be just right. If something has not been perfectly cleaned, if I do not have ‘enough’ snacks for my guests to enjoy, I get so nervous that I flirt with the idea of canceling the event.  While it seems so irrational to say out loud, it is truly a battle I have within myself, and I have a feeling I am not alone in this.

In spite of my introvert tendencies, I read passages like Proverbs 31:20-22, describing a godly woman and am inspired. This chapter is laced with hints of hospitality and caring for those who enter her household.  “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.”  

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There are hundreds of ways we, as Christians, get to extend the love of Christ to those He has put before us.  Gathering and comforting people in my life is not only something the Lord has given me the opportunity for, but He has also given me with many examples of women who have done this for me.  Regardless if things feel perfect for gathering in my home, I believe I am called to do it.  I was blessed for so many years with the opportunity to be cared for in this way by my grandparents, parents, and many brothers and sisters in the Church.  As Christians, we are called to be hospitable and loving towards everyone. What an amazing opportunity we have to share the love of Christ by caring for people in this way!  As long as the Lord gives me the opportunity to have a warm home to invite people in, I deeply desire to do so and bring Him glory.

As is the case with many things in the Christian life, we may not always feel comfortable doing the things God calls us to (hello inner-introvert!), but He will equip us.  As Ephesians 4:11-12 reminds us we all have our role to play, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 4 little girls, Ruby, Cora, Lily, and Opal, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.

A Gathering Prayer

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, meaning Christmas is nearing as well. If you are graciously hosting a holiday event this season, take a moment to whisper this prayer to Jesus, a man who loved to gather all sorts of people together around His table. When the turkey turns out less than desirable, or you cannot handle one more awkward question from a distant relative, know that He cares about you, gracious hostess. He sees you are trying your best; girl, He loves you even if you can’t replicate Grandma’s stuffing recipe or your house has mismatched furniture and looks nothing like Pinterest pictures. Relish in your imperfections, and rejoice in your obedience to Him who calls us to practice hospitality with everyone. May this holiday season be filled with joy and always point you back to Him.

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Click here for a free 8.5 by 11 print.

Sarah DohmanSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globetrotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah on her blog or on Instagram.

Gathering Wanderers

There is a story that has become etched into the structure of our family.  My grandma has always been one to host, and more than that, to gather people. A visiting missionary who has devoted his life to Cote D’ivoire was in town (circa the 90’s), and our family and extra friends had gathered to hear his stories and spend time together. The plan was to make Fry-bread, a recipe passed on from a friend on the neighboring Warm Springs Indian Reservation. We joked that they must have given us a slightly different version of the recipe because it never turned out quite the same, but this time it was our alteration that created a recipe we would never forget

Oil beginning to simmer, we helped heat up cans of chili, chopped onions, grated cheese, and mixed up sticky globs of dough that would soon bubble in the golden oil.  Suddenly, the pot of oil began to overflow, and with it a pungent scent overwhelmed the room. The jug of oil had been accidentally swapped with a neighboring jug of Pinesol floor cleaner! Dinner was late that day, but the stove had never been cleaner. More importantly, the people who gathered were close and loved.

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In my grandma’s kitchen, I learned how Jesus taught us to welcome the stranger. That is what hospitality is after all. It isn’t hosting a gala with food you’d never eat on a normal night, or inviting the people over that you already know and agree with on every issue. Hospitality is making strangers belong and sharing the life saturated with the Spirit of God to those hungry for more than a bowl of soup.

In the kitchen with the dishwasher that pulled out from the wall with a butcher board top for kneading, we made pizza to welcome college students who lived too far away to go home for the holidays.

At the hearth of the fancy new gas stove, we lined up dozens of frozen gloves, hats, and jackets for children waiting to drink hot chocolate and thaw off before heading out into the snow again.

The freezing pantry (that is actually a lean-to outside of the house) welcomed college students arriving in the middle of the night to scavenge for a midnight snack.

In the kitchen with an eclectic china set consisting of every pattern (from every decade) of Corelle plates bought for ten cents at yard sales, we tried out recipes from far off places with exchange students from almost every continent.

The single bathroom, with no lock, but a drawer full of combs that could be pulled out to stop the door from the next occupant’s entrance, wasn’t a reason to shorten the guest list.

The back bedroom with shag carpet and a VHS player let the children play and the adults talk about the things in their lives.

I didn’t know then that the people who gathered could have had so many barriers to friendship and were carrying such heavy loads.  The big things our world is at war with have all been addressed around that table. Racism. Mental Health. Poverty. Broken families. Addictions. Economic inequity. I didn’t realize that I was seeing the outcasts be loved, the struggling have equal footing at a meal, the sojourners becoming family. Categories that could have divided, were instead celebrated and shared.

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Many of those who gathered are now scattered into their own places, creating their own places of welcome. When I began to recount to my husband, the many ways I have seen people gathered with love and imperfection, he showed me how the gathering never stopped; It has been carried on in me, and in all those who are now scattered.

Because I saw strangers welcomed, we haven’t had more than a year of our marriage without someone living with us for some amount of time.  Since I saw people feel welcome with sweet tea and writing their names on red solo cups, I don’t feel bad about breaking out the paper plates.  Since holidays were shared, and extended to anyone, I am on the lookout for who might want to join in this year. Since food and culture are so important to share and help people feel welcome, we have had Ceviche for Thanksgiving made by a foster teen.

When you go out to gather your people, look at what you have, not at what you wish for. You have everything you need to make someone feel important and loved. Don’t let your location, your decor, or your regular-life food keep you from inviting people in.

Look for the strangers, who need a place to land. There are so many people just waiting for an invitation.  Those who are wandering about in life, who need to be grafted into a family.

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

The Beauty of Gathering Imperfectly

Much thanks to Joanna Gaines and the Magnolia team, I’m guessing about half the population might now have a decorative sign that reads “gather” hanging on a wall somewhere in their house.  You can’t see it but I’m over here raising my hand. Yep, I know I’ve got one. (In fact, mine even came from a trip down to Waco, TX a few years ago, straight from Mrs. Gaines’s store itself.)  Centered on the wall above my dining room table, it is visible from the dining table, the kitchen, and the living room. Gather.


My dining room, my kitchen, my living room – my house, it was bought larger than we “needed” for the purpose of gathering people within these walls.  They were bought as a place to intentionally practice hospitality.

Kayla Anderson Gather

Growing up, my parents hosted people all the time.  My mother has practiced hospitality for as long as I remember – the elaborate and fancy tablescape and place settings, the appetizers, dinners, and desserts.  The conversations, laughter, and the widespread variety of those who came into our home: regulars and new families from our church, family members, visiting speakers from our church, missionary families from other countries, people who had great wealth, and people who were struggling financially.  All of them gathered within the walls of my childhood home regularly.

While my mother was great at the fancy things and making everything look beautiful, feel cozy and taste wonderful, I realized at a young age there was more to it than that.  I’m not sure anyone would complain about a beautiful setting and a delicious spread of food set before them, but I was noticing the other details.

When people filled our humble home, did they laugh and share stories and enjoy their time getting to know one another?  Did they relax and linger, not rushed to get back to their place of comfort in their own home? Did they kick off their shoes and coats and make themselves at home?  Did they play games and simply enjoy fellowship and each others’ company? Those were the things I noticed as a child, and those are the things I think of when gathering people within my home as an adult.

I love beautiful surroundings; I love a clean home; I love a well-cooked meal.  However, far more than the need for everything to be “perfect”, I long for my whole family to love being hospitable.  I long for us to be relaxed and not stressed to invite people into our less than perfect home. I want for my home to be a place to drop your shoes and coats and be a place to get comfortable and feel at home, even for first-time visitors.  I want for those gathered in my home to most of all feel loved, cared about, and that we are growing an authentic relationship. I want for them to feel hosted in a well-loved home and not just entertained in a crisp, staunch house.

I want to be one who welcomes, for people to feel that I want them in my home and more so,  I want them to come back. Hosting is not work that I am doing begrudgingly. . . but in order for them to feel that, I need to be sure I am hosting out of a heart of servanthood and earnest love for anyone who comes in my doors.  

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:8-9

There were earlier days when I strove for perfection.  I wanted the house to be immaculate and the food to be fancy and divine.  I wanted the table to look like an interior designer lived here in my home. I would grumble to my family, stressed out and counting down the hours till the people left my home and I could it clean up and be alone once more.  

Praise the Lord, for He has been gently showing me what really matters within hospitality. He’s been working on me over the years and tweaking what wasn’t quite right within me.  I’m still working on it. Thankfully God commands us to practice hospitality not to be a perfect hostess, am I right?  I need to keep practicing.  But also – did you catch that?  God commands us to practice hospitality. He actually commands it.  He doesn’t say, “if you have a gorgeous house, plenty of extra money for extravagant meals, and copious amounts of free time, invite some friends over.”  Nope. He simply commands us to “always be eager to practice hospitality.”

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“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.  Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13

I want to host and love on those that are close friends and those that I haven’t yet met.  I want to be glad and sincere in my hospitality. I want to always be not just willing but eager.  Friends, hear me now, loud and clear: you needn’t be perfect in your home or your hosting. You need only to invite and open the door.

Lord, help me to practice hospitality in the ways you’d have for me to do it.  Enable me to be ready to help when your people are in need.

Kayla AndersonKayla Anderson is married (for better or for worse) to the one who she knows without a doubt that God created her to be companions with.  Together they have four young children, Ezekiel, Asher, Ellery, and Alder, and run a hand-crafted soap shop.  She is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom and is in a season of learning how to gracefully be the central point and glue of their family.  Thank the Lord that she has Him to look to for wisdom, guidance, and strength!  She loves reading in the quiet, early morning hours, decorating their sweet little home, writing has been part of her soul since she learned how to write letters, and her love of coffee runs deeper than her coffee pot.  You can find more from Kayla on her blog or Instagram.

Gathering Discernment

I once went mushroom hunting and had no idea which mushroom was safe to pick and eat. Add to this, the complication that I was in a different country with companions who were learning English, and mushroom terminology was not part of the curriculum! As we stepped over logs and scoured under leaves, I had to rely on their “yes” or “no.” Left to my own devices, I certainly would have gathered ones that would cause illness. But, thankfully, we enjoyed the most delicious mushroom soup afterward—with no ill effect.

As we walk with God through the forests of our lives, we often don’t know what to gather that will nourish us. To teach us, God walks with us using the language of the Bible, circumstance, and internal nudges. We can become more adept in this language if we pay attention regularly.

So often, when we follow the prescribed paths—whether prescribed by parents, teachers, leaders, church culture, or wider culture—we miss a lot of mushrooms. We don’t listen to the guide. There’s a path so we follow it, whether it’s our path or not. We go forward because it’s safe and clear, while our Companion is pointing off to a thicket of trees to our right with a forest of mushrooms beneath—delicacies that will enrich our meal together. But we have to see him pointing, we have to say yes to the wander and no to the path, yes to the unknown and no to the clear, so that we can gather the gifts, joys, and nourishment to our soul that he intends for us.

Kimberley Mulder Gather.png

Have you ever hiked a trail that was harder and longer than you expected, and you didn’t bring enough water or snacks? You start to ration your sips and bites. Your mindset shifts into gritty determination to ignore the discomforts of dry throat and rumbling stomach. Making it to the end becomes the victory, hopefully with a nearby store, vending machine, or at least a water fountain!

But when you adventure with someone who knows where to find nourishment, you don’t have to carry so much, and you can finish your adventure satiated, even delighted! It takes trust, lots of it, because there’s no trail map telling you how long it will be or where to find food and water, there’s only Him—your Guide.

Maybe you have followed already into the woods. Stop and turn to your Guide and pay attention to what he’s pointing out, what he’s highlighting in your life. Are there topics, ideas, people, that are repeated in your life, seemingly out of nowhere or with no relation to each other—coincidentally?

That is often Jesus, the truest, wisest guide, showing you something that he is tending to. He is gathering these things to you for your benefit. It could be opportunities regarding service, or the topic of forgiveness keeps cropping up, or you keep crossing paths with a neighbor in unlikely places. It could be any of a million things, so take some moments to pay attention, maybe write them down to start seeing the connections, and listen to the Lord as he gathers them. What is he teaching you? Asking of you? Giving you?

Maybe you are on the path—it could be a trajectory laid out for you from birth, the most logical way forward, what someone else wants for you, or something that will benefit your pocketbook while starving your heart. If it is a path that Jesus is leading, not other people or other purposes, stay on it. Trust your Guide!

But if you realize your Guide has stopped and is pointing off into the woods, and you recognize your path was laid out by someone or something else, I encourage you to go gather your goodness with your good Guide. You are probably terrified of stepping off the path. It’s risky, there’s cost, and you don’t really like tramping through brush anyway. But He will never fail you. He is for you, He will not leave you nor forsake you, for you are His beloved. Trust your Guide!

Gather Kimberley Mulder

Whether you are in the woods gathering insights or on the path contemplating the step off, gather your wise, encouraging friends and share with them what God has been showing you. Have them pray and listen to God, too. We are fallible, we might gather the wrong mushrooms or draw the wrong conclusions, and the people the Lord has gathered into our lives are instruments of his grace. Do the same for them.

Maybe you are part of a small group at church, bring this to them. Maybe you have one or two trustworthy people who are looking out for your best interest, gather with them. If you don’t have these kinds of people in your life, ask God to gather them.

The Lord who points out what is worth gathering in our lives is the same who gathers us to himself, trust him to lead you well.

2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

God’s Faithfulness in the Gathering

Well folks, ready or not, the holiday season is upon us. As much as I love my family and friends, this season can also be immensely stressful and draining for me, the introvertiest of introverts. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the festivities and the people that I get to celebrate with, but I also cherish the times of solitude, rest, and recharging that I plan for myself before and after holiday get togethers.

While it’s easy, especially this time of year, to get caught up in the fanfare of the large gatherings, or conversely spending too much time in solitude, God has been faithful to show me the sweet spot in between. As King David declares in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

It is often in these times of dwelling, that in the background of the merriment and crowds, God uses a gathering within the gathering of just one or two other people to encourage me in my faith. In these small moments of big events, God reminds me of who He is and who He has created me to be.

Gather Karly Grant

While many of these experiences happen with good friends and family, one-on-one or in a small group, one time that sticks out to me happened just recently in a large church gathering. It was a Sunday morning and I was feeling particularly down. I almost didn’t go to church that day, feeling full of self-pity and loneliness. I was struggling with where I was at in life and feeling like God wasn’t hearing my prayers or at least not answering them in the way that I thought he should be. I couldn’t see his direction to a clear path. Not one part of my humanity wanted to go to church that morning, but that’s precisely why I knew I needed to be with God’s people.

As I was sitting in church, feeling sorry for myself, I cried out to God. I couldn’t tell you what the sermon was about that day, but I was praying prayers truer than I had allowed myself to say in a while. There having a personal moment amongst hundreds of people, I   felt alone and unseen by God as I desperately tried to trust. As service dismissed, I began to wonder why I had even bothered going to church that day. Couldn’t I have prayed the same prayer in the comfort of sweats at home? Then a young woman approached me. I had never seen her before.

She had been sitting a few people down from me in the pew. She seemed nervous but said that she had noticed me during the service and had been lead to pray for me. She told me that she felt like God was urging her to let me know that He saw me, He hadn’t forgotten about me, and He had a plan for my life. She then handed me a prayer that she had written for me and told me I could read it later if I wanted and asked if she could pray for me right then. This was exactly what I needed that day. I haven’t seen that girl again since, but that “chance” encounter, that small gathering of just two people inside the clearly seen larger gathering of the church service, was orchestrated by God and blessed me more than that lady will ever know.

I am one who too easily retreats to solitude when times are tough. While some alone time is good and healthy, it is the sweet moments of being real with friends and allowing God to speak to and through me in day to day life that have the largest impact.

Karly Grant Gather

There is a reason we have the church, that God has called us to gather, and it’s not just spiritual, it’s scientific too. The New York Times posted an article in December of 2016 titled, How Social Isolation Is Killing Us. They reported that research shows all kinds of ways that isolation negatively affects us, makes death come more quickly for those who are sick, and greatly increases chances for things like heart disease.

God created us for one another, this is why he reminds us in Hebrews 10:24-25 to, “… consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

What does all this mean for us, for me? As this season of celebration approaches, I will still have times of introversion, but I will also relish the gatherings. And in the chaos of them look for ways to have smaller gatherings as I pray that God will speak to and through me as we celebrate. For there, his faithfulness is palatable and present. In a world that tempts us to feel alone, God reminds us we never are.

Karly Grant headshotKarly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm of adoption.