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.  

Gather Britney Bradley

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.”  

Britney Bradley Gather

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.
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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.

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.

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.