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.
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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.

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.

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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.

Gathering Gifts of Grace

Gather is a very “en vogue” word lately. We see it printed on banners and painted on signs because it hopes to offer a sense of warmth. For me, it brings to mind the idea of gathering my people and compiling the memories of the year. Together we take stock of what’s come and gone.

This quote by Charles Spurgeon comes to mind when it is time to reflect, “We are too prone to engrave our trials in marble and write our blessings in sand.”

In the middle of whatever Monday dumped in my lap, it’s so hard to remember the good things that have happened. It is far too easy to feel pessimistic or overwhelmed. So this November, I’m taking time to gather my blessings and count the gifts from God that I don’t deserve.

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The Gift of Family and Friends

What a year I’ve had! My new nephew was born in February. After a tumultuous delivery and stay in the NICU, he’s a healthy, happy, chunky guy!

I also gained a brother-in-law this year as my sister got married at the end of August! A beautiful end to our summer.

We’ve made some new friends this school year as well as new friends in our church!

What has happened in your family or with your friends for which you can give God thanks?

The Gift of Firsts

We’ve had a few firsts this year too. My oldest daughter started losing her baby teeth this year as well as getting glasses for the first time.

We were able to buy our first home after being under contract three times!

First time for my husband going through the process and achieving his mastership through our taekwondo organization.

My baby, my last baby, walked for the first time (shortly before we moved to our new house in May).

What were some of the firsts you encountered this year?

The Gift of Growth

Physical growth for my girls—height, teeth coming in. My oldest learned to ride her bike without training wheels this year!

Spiritual growth: for my oldest—we think she’s almost ready to get baptized, for me—learning more dependence and trust.

Mental growth: for my oldest—learning math this year and swimming with no wings, for my middle girl—her speech sounds are improving as well as her independence, for my youngest girl—potty training (!). For myself—stretching my perceptions and trying my hand at art.

How have you seen growth?

Gather Sarah Clews

Gathering Blessings

I picture that each of these things I’m thankful for is like a precious stone and I’ve gathered them all, rolling them in my hands, reminding myself of what the Lord has done. And the rest of it…the infections, the financial strains, the home inspections that didn’t come back as we hoped, the personal disappointments, the bad behavior…I’m leaving that behind. 

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. -Psalm 9:1


Sarah Clews HeadshotSarah Clews loves being the wife of Carson and mother to three little girls. She received her degree in English from Corban University and still loves the craft of writing. She also helps her husband run a martial arts school. In her free time, Sarah enjoys talking with grown-ups (!), finding new authors, doing online research, and reading her favorite childhood stories to her girls.