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 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.