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)
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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.

Sarah Clews gather.png

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.

Beauty in the Gathering

75+ ladies joined one another around circular tables, ate tasty food, and shared their stories as we gathered at the local church. Our pastor’s wife prompted us with questions about social media, and how easy, how often, the comparison game takes place. Simply open up Facebook, or my personal fave, Instagram, and the scrolling begins. Swiping downward through apps can be mindless, but can also prompt me to look at other people’s pictures and wonder, “Am I missing something?”

gathering-beautyMy particular table included women ranging from teenagers to women in their forties. Some were college students, some were college graduates. Three married with children, five single. The initial questions I asked as table hostess included basic information, but soon deepened into less explored, hard conversations. Vulnerability. Honesty. Beauty. Sentences strung together with meaning and transparency began to harmonize as we took turns listening and speaking.

We sat there, eating appetizers and desserts, sipping on various beverages, and I took a moment to soak in this precious glimpse of beauty. Here sat women, in varying life stages, talking about dreams and reality. Sharing about the goodness of God, and His character. Words of encouragement spurred on truth being spoken into one another’s lives. The women who gathered were heard, and loved on. They left that evening feeling connected, and craving more face-to-face encounters. I witnessed numbers being swapped, prayers being prayed. Other table leaders shared that those at their table felt hand-picked by God and placed there with purpose.


And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47


beauty-gatheringThe beauty of a gathering is that it is a God ordained practice, and we who love Him have been called to embrace its richness. When we gather in His name and eat, walls built around weary hearts can come crumbling down. Words of affirmation offer truth and love. Frequent gatherings, such as those in the book of Acts, stir up the hearts of the attendees and build relationship. Sitting elbow-to-elbow with another person,  breaking bread, tangibly hearing and seeing a person, reveals their needs. There is divine beauty in knowing another person’s heart’s desires. Jesus himself purposefully broke bread and drank wine during his last meal on earth with the disciples. He wanted them to remember him, and prompted them to meet together often.

Dear friends, gather together frequently. Break bread with one another, quench both physical and spiritual thirst, and honor God by encouraging each other. Find the beauty locked in the folds of gathering, and be reminded of God’s goodness and grace that stands firm in all circumstances.


Readers, Who could you encourage, listen to, or gather with to grab hold of the beauty that can be found as God works amongst the relationships He has given you?

sarah-dohman-squareSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, 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 at her blog or on Twitter.