Dear Woman of Grace

IMG_2846

Dear Woman of Grace,

We were so young, you remember.  We made decisions we had no business making, which in turn involved people who never deserved to get involved. My head was in a cloud of confusion and delusion and I made a series of poor, poor choices.  It was the first time in my 22 years that I recognized the domino effect that one poor decision could have on not just one life, but multiple lives.

The walls I had constructed with such recklessness came tumbling down around me and I felt overwhelmed at the rubble.  I wanted to crawl into a dark place and never come out.  You see, I had always been the example, the leader.  I had maintained my mask of perfection for many years.  Maybe no-one else bought it, but I did.  When I saw the rubble surrounding me, it wasn’t just my life that was a wreck… it was my identity.

And your loved one got hurt.  An innocent bystander was wounded by the chain of events that I initiated.  The guilt and embarrassment took my breath away.

Then there was the baby that was on the way.  In the midst of such chaos, God blessed Jimmie and me with a pregnancy that we so desperately desired.  With the news came immense joy.  Joy clouded by the guilt of a series of poor decisions that hurt and disappointed many.

It was hard to look you in the eye.  When our paths crossed, I avoided you.  I had no words  that adequately described my regret.  Then came the moment I will never forget.

We practically bumped into each other and when I looked up and saw your face, sobs emerged.  Intelligible sobs.  The words may have not been clear, but the meaning of my sobs was evident.

I’m sorry.

And you, woman of grace, you swept this young woman into your arms and forgave.  You poured out your grace on me in a way that so closely resembled the grace of God, I knew it to be a supernatural event.  My heavy sobs melted away into your loving embrace as you firmly said,

It’s okay.

I knew you meant it.  You told me to move forward and to take care of that baby growing inside me and that’s what I did.

Do you understand what you did for me 10 years ago?  Your forgiveness set me free.  That was a pivotal moment in my life.  Had you not responded to me with the love and grace of God, I could have been set upon a path marked by failure.  Instead, you forgave and set me free to advance in my ministry and calling.

My dark days were illuminated with forgiveness and hope.  Hope that you offered by the grace of God.

I have never forgotten what you did for me.  Your demonstration of forgiveness has shaped the way I respond to those around me.  It has kept me humble.  It is a constant reminder of the grace that our Savior shows to us all.  When I look at my beautiful family, I am reminded of your advice to move forward and take care of my family.

You could have told the world how our decisions impacted your family.  You could have made us your enemy.  You could have shamed us, shunned us and undermined our every step.  Instead, you have been a support and encouragement every step of our journey.  Our story will remain secret to most, but I want to broadcast to the world the impact you made on my life in a brief, 5-minute conversation.  You are a woman of grace and I honor you.

With gratitude and love,

sig

 

Moving Forward in 2014

movingforward

Last week I shared with you what worked best for me in 2013.  I want to be a person who learns from my mistakes and is encouraged by my progress.  I also want to prayerfully consider my plans and goals, and make sure they are in alignment with the word of God and his plans for my life.  I was amazed at how quickly these goals for the year came to me.  True self-reflection often points us in the right direction.

If you haven’t set goals for 2014, don’t feel like it’s too late.  January 1st is a great time to begin working toward changes, but really there is no better day than today.  Jimmie and I used this guide from The Art of Simple as a launching point.

So, here they are!  My goals for 2014:

Personal Goals:

Develop in the following areas:

1. Be present.  Whoever I am with deserves my full attention, whether it is my family, a friend, someone at my job, or God himself.  I want to eliminate distractions and focus on whoever I am with.   I want to be conscious of the beauty and blessings that surround me, whether in nature or in the life God has blessed me with.

2. Be intentional.  I don’t want to simply hope for the changes I know need to come about in my life or in the work I do.  I want to plan better, set goals, and be accountable for my progress.

3. Be joyful.  I need to smile and play more, especially at home.  A daily gratitude journal will help me focus on the gifts that God gives me each and every day.

4.  Relax.  My stress levels have been enormously high.  I need to set realistic expectations for myself.  I need to focus on my priority list and nothing else.  I need to take time to decompress.  I may need a massage from time to time to relieve the tension I carry.

Learning Goals:

1.  Read at least two books per month.  One should be spiritually edifying.  Use Goodreads app to keep track.

2.  Complete at least four Kay Arthur Bible Studies.

3.  Learn to use my camera in manual mode.

Physical Goals:

1.  Maintain a paleo lifestyle the majority of the time.

2.  Slowly introduce running into my lifestyle.

Marriage/Family Goals:

1.  Take time to relax.

2.  Go out on occasional dates.

3.  Have family devotion time at least two nights per week.

4.  Take a family vacation.

Accountability:

To stay accountable in accomplishing my goals, I will:

1.  Use my weekly calendar to schedule study times and devotion times.

2.  Schedule a monthly check-in with Jimmie to go over our progress.

_____________________________________________________

These do not include my goals for Gathering.  Thankfully, we have frequent leadership, team, and launch meetings in which we set goals and keep one another accountable.  It is also my goal to devote my time and energy to each item on my priority list.  These are just a few things that stood out to me as needs in my life.

What about you?  Do you have any resolutions?  Any goals for 2014?  Do you have any thoughts or advice for me in reaching my goals?  I would love your feedback.

sig

 

 

What I Gather About 2013

rg_quotes-2013

This year on January 1st I sat down with my husband and spent several hours discussing the ups and downs of 2013 and setting goals for 2014.  After a long break from blogging, I thought this would be a good time to share some things that worked for me in 2013.  Soon I will also share some goals I have for the coming year.

Health:

1.  The Paleo diet.  Nothing in my 32 years of existence has brought about more positive changes in my body than our radical change in eating habits.  I’m reluctant to call it a “diet” because we have become so accustomed to eating this way that it feels very natural.  I have more energy, have lost nearly 30 pounds, sleep better, feel alert and don’t have any digestive issues.  Several weeks of eating cruddy, sugar-laden food at Christmastime left me feeling bloated, tired, foggy and depressed.  This Paleo lifestyle is here to stay.

2.  The Whole 30.  Thirty days of saying no all sugar and processed food did wonders for my sugar addiction.  I was amazed at how little I craved foods I have always craved after even a week of adhering to the Whole 30 plan.  I highly recommend The Whole 30 for anyone who needs to reset their nutritional habits or kick their sugar addiction.

3.  Food.  Who am I kidding?  Food always works for me!  There were some clear winners, though, in 2013…. foods that I rediscovered or helped me meet my goals or made the Paleo lifestyle a breeze.  My favorites?  Brussels sprouts, eggs, dates, Lara bars, bacon, prosciutto, greens (especially kale, spinach, and beet greens), chicken sausages, pistachios, sweet peppers and organic ground beef.  Yum.

Books:

IMG_1103

1.  Bread and Wine  by Shauna Niequist.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  It inspired me to open my home and my heart to friends, neighbors and even strangers.

2.  Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.  I am a huge Kingsolver fan and this book didn’t disappoint.

IMG_0822

3.  Prototype by Jonathan Martin.  I closed this book feeling more beloved by God.  My eyes were opened to the way God sees and loves me.

4.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  This was such a fun book, full of whimsy and mystery.  I couldn’t put it down.  Thankfully I read it on vacation and was able to read all hours of the day and night to finish it!

IMG_1113

5. Saturday by Ian McEwan.  This book was beautiful and descriptive and made me want to become a novelist.

Personally:

1.  Transparency.  It has been a challenge blogging about some of my biggest struggles and insecurities, but I have found it to be extremely therapeutic.  I find myself working through my feelings as I write them out for the world to see.  Thank you to all of you Rachael Gathers readers, for your e-mails, comments, phone calls and shares.  You let me know that I am not alone and I draw so much courage and encouragement from your stories.

2.  Letting go.  This has been a  year that forced me to recognize that not everyone is going to like me, approve of me, or support me.  I will admit this has been a hard lesson to learn, but it is an essential lesson for us all.  I have found great peace and comfort in the love and acceptance I find in Jesus Christ and am trying not to care so much what everyone else thinks.  

Spiritually:

1.  Reading through the Bible in a year.  I didn’t quite finish on time, but I am almost done!  While this doesn’t take the place of Bible study, it was really good for me to be disciplined about reading the Bible nearly every day.  The app I used on my iPhone was extremely helpful in this regard.

2.  Creating a list of priorities.  This may have brought about the biggest change for me this year.  I didn’t see a drastic change in my behavior immediately, but rather a change in my thinking.  I began to think about what is important in my life based on time spent in prayer and study.  This has allowed me to evaluate many aspects of my life and begin to say no more often.

On the Blog:

Being flexible.  I am a very goal-oriented person, so I have felt a huge amount of frustration at not being able to plan posts better.  With my family, job, planting a church, and various other commitments, I have had to come to terms with blogging when I am able.  I try not to pay attention to stats and just enjoy posting when I can.  Mostly I enjoy the comments and feedback from all of you!

With that said, here are my ten most popular posts from 2013:

1.  Gathering Ideas for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

2.  A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

3.  Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

4.  A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Kitchen and Dining Edition

5.  I Gather a Letter of Love (Happy Birthday, Jimmie!)

6.  A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Dress Edition

7.  A Gathering of Bible Study Methods

8. Gathering Delight

9.  What I Gather About Chelsea

10.  What I Gather About Women of Valor

Many of these were popular thanks to Pinterest.  Thanks to those of you who pin my blog posts!

___________________________________________

There is a look back at some of the things that worked best for me in 2013.  I can’t wait to share with you some of my goals for 2014!

What about you?  What did you learn in 2013?  Was there anything that really worked well for you?  I would love to hear about it!

sig

 

 

Emmanuel, God With Us

Emmanuel
I have been listening to a song on repeat over the last couple of weeks. It is called I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad.  It is beautiful and profound and you can watch the video here.  Here are the lyrics I can’t seem to get out of my head:

“From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God”

______________________________________________

Jesus has been dealing with my heart for several years about Christmas and the way we celebrate.  When I came across this blog post by Jen Hatmaker a couple of years ago, I both rejoiced and wept, thrilled that someone put into words what I felt in the depths of my spirit.

I am weary of the culture of more.  I am weary of the culture of excess.  I am weary of materialism and greed and un-gratefulness.  I am weary of mile long Christmas lists and unappreciative children.  My heart grieves at the excess all around me compared to the desperate needs of my own brothers and sisters who know me by name in Cuba.  I am saddened by the overabundance of holiday parties and food when the orphan I sponsored in Uganda died, most likely of hunger.  My heart is heavy and yet I know there is a better way.

My heart is whispering this prayer to my Savior…… I shall not want.

When I find myself scouring Pinterest for ideas to make my house more beautiful and my tree even more festive,

I shall not want.

When I try to give my children a memorable Christmas by purchasing toys instead of celebrating the blessed birth,

I shall not want.

When I pack my schedule full of activities and parties, trying to capture our society’s definition of a successful holiday,

I shall not want.

You see, in the 23rd Psalm, the first verse goes hand in hand.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

When I allow him to be my shepherd and guide, what could my heart possibly desire?  Emmanuel has come.  God is with us and we already have all that we need.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.  For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

This is what it is all about.  I will rejoice and be glad that the new morning has dawned.  In my moments of sorrow, Emmanuel, God with us.  In my moments of loneliness, Emmanuel, God with us.  In my moments of greed, Emmanuel, God with us.  God is here and he alone is what I need.

As the song so beautifully says, “When I taste your goodness, I shall not want.”

_______________________________________

What I DO want this holiday season?

I want a home full of daily scripture readings leading up to the celebration of the blessed birth.

I want moments of meditation with the family, sensing the sacredness of the celebration.

I want to bless others the way I have been blessed in abundance.

I want to give and serve and love.

I want to cry and feel peace flood my soul when we sing about the Silent Night.

I want to gather together and sing out the praises of Jesus, God himself wrapped in flesh.

I want to sit and partake of the bread and the wine in remembrance of Emmanuel, God With Us.

And so I pray.

When I taste your goodness, I shall not want all of the things.  I shall want you and you alone.

_________________________________________________

What are you doing this year to keep the celebration sacred?  I would love your feedback!

sig
Missed any posts?  Here are the most recent:

What I Gather About Whole 30

Dear Dad, Letter 4 (on cancer and trust)

What I Gather About Priorities

You can also follow Rachael Gathers via e-mail HERE!

What I Gather About Whole 30

whole30
If you had asked me a year ago if I would ever drastically change my eating habits, I would have laughed.  I probably would have laughed the way I do now when people ask me if I plan to start exercising.

I love food.  I savor every bite of quality food.  Restaurants are my happy place, especially if we are talking Indian restaurants, authentic Italian, or hole-in-the-wall heavens.  If you ever find me sitting at Mediterrano Cafe during a weekday lunch buffet, you will find a glowing Rachael.  Don’t even get me started on desserts and chocolate.

But when my husband came home with news of pre-diabetes and a warning to lose belly weight, I knew something had to change.  Just because I was never overweight did not mean I didn’t have a problem with food…. more specifically, an addiction to sugar.

So we began Our Wheat-Free, Almost Paleo Diet.  Our friends joined in with us and the results were immediately noticeable.  As we progressed in the changes in our eating habits, I began researching The Whole 30 program.  It looked like something that would be beneficial to our families, especially right before the holidays, so we jumped on board and are now on day 24.

I don’t like to focus on weight, but to give you an idea of the transformation, I will tell you that I have lost 25 pounds since July (13 since we started Whole 30), Jimmie has lost about 30 pounds, and even Ava has lost 10.  I find myself with a substantial increase of energy that typically lasts throughout my entire day.  I have noticed a difference in mental clarity… I don’t feel like I am ever walking around in a fog anymore.  I also think I have fought off illnesses in a shorter time frame than typical of this time of year.  Jimmie is also completely off of his medicine for diabetes.  The crazy thing?  I don';t miss the foods I used to eat.  Occasionally I will have an emotional desire to eat ice cream or pizza, but physically I am satisfied with the foods we are eating.  And the recipes are GOOD!

I never want to push a lifestyle onto anyone.  If you want more information about the Whole 30, see the link above.  I am frequently asked, however, about why we are doing it.  More than that, I am asked…

What do you EAT??

So I want to give you our actual meal plans from our first four weeks.  I have provided links where available.  Anything with an * next to it refers to a recipe from the NomNom Paleo app for iPad.  I highly recommend this app, whether you are a Paleo enthusiast or not.  Every single one of her recipes has been fantastic.  We aren’t so scheduled with our breakfasts, either, so first I will give you some ideas for healthy, Whole 30 approved breakfasts.

Breakfasts:

Bacon and eggs

Lara Bars (apple pie, cherry pie, or cashew cookie)

Coffee with Paleo creamer

Egg muffins

Deviled eggs*

Hardboiled eggs

Avocado baked eggs

Egg and veggie scramble

Coconut balls

Sweet potato and chorizo hash

____________________

Week 1:

Lunch 1: Tuna salad salad, nuts and sliced peppers

Dinner 1: Garbage stir fry*

Lunch 2:  Tuna salad salad, deviled eggs

Dinner 2:  Mahi Mahi, sweet potato fries, salad

Lunch 3: Pastrami and pepper roll-ups, guacamole and pepper slices, fruit

Dinner 3: Bacon burger with sautéed onion, mushroom and green pepper, salad

Lunch 4: Chicken salad salad, Paleo trail mix*

Dinner 4: Beef and tomato stew*

Lunch 5: Leftover stew

Dinner 5: Cobb salad (hb eggs, grilled chicken, bacon, avocado, cucumber, tomato)

Lunch 6: Pastrami and pepper roll-up, cucumber salad, trail mix

Dinner 6: Asian meatballs*, mashed cauliflower*, salad

Lunch 7: Leftover meatballs

Dinner 7: Grilled chicken, roasted broccoli

Week 2:

Lunch 1: Crab BLT salad*

Dinner 1: Chocolate chili, sliced avocados

Lunch 2:  Leftover chili

Dinner 2: Pork burgers on greens*, sweet potato fries, roasted zucchini

Lunch 3: Spicy tuna cakes*

Dinner 3: Grilled chicken, salad

Lunch 4: Pastrami and pepper wrap

Dinner 4:  Pork roast* tacos

Lunch 5: Leftover pork, cucumber salad

Dinner 5:  Broiled salmon, roasted broccoli, sautéed greens

Lunch 6: Bacon and guacamole “sandwiches*”, slices peppers, fruit

Dinner 6: Frittata muffins, sweet potato hash, bacon

Lunch 7: Leftover frittata muffins

Dinner 7: ?

Week 3:

Lunch 1: BLT egg salad

Dinner 1: Garbage stir-fry*

Lunch 2: Spicy tuna cakes*, sliced peppers

Dinner 2: Chicken sausage skillet meal

Lunch 3: Leftover chicken sausage skillet, trail mix

Dinner 3:  Shredded chicken taco salad

Lunch 4: Pastrami and pepper wrap

Dinner 4: Spicy Tunisian shrimp*, roasted broccoli

Lunch 5: Bacon-wrapped chicken tenders, sliced avocado

Dinner 5: Chipotle chicken soup, sliced avocado

Lunch 6: Leftover soup

Dinner 6: Pork chops, roasted zucchini, roasted mushrooms

Lunch 7: Brunch, bacon and fried eggs

Dinner 7: QDoba,( meat, lettuce, guacamole)

Week 4:

Lunch 1: (Brunch) Chicken sausage and peppers, fried egg

Dinner 1: Crispy smashed chicken with salsa*, bacon topped Brussel sprouts*

Lunch 2: Leftover chicken, cucumber salad

Dinner 2: Big O Burgers*, cabbage steaks

Lunch 3: Cobb salad

Dinner 3: Chipotle chicken soup, salad

Lunch 4: Pastrami wraps, tomato salad

Dinner 4:  Crock pot Italian beef over spaghetti squash

Lunch 5: Leftover Italian beef

Dinner 5:  Chocolate chili, sliced avocados

Lunch 6: Leftover chili

Dinner 6: Tilapia, baked sweet potatoes, salad

Lunch 7: Prosciutto muffins

Dinner 7: ?

_______________________________

Whew!  If you are counting, that is 28 days.  We haven’t decided on our last two yet.  This is just a glimpse into how we eat.  We have eaten at QDoba a couple of times, but otherwise haven’t eaten out at all.  For snacks, we eat nuts, fruit (I especially like dates), veggie slices, fried eggs, or avocados.  We are also able to drink coffee and tea, as long as there are no added sweeteners.

What do you think?  Could you ever do this?  Have you ever tried The Whole 30?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  If you have any questions about recipes or about my experience, please contact me or ask in the comment section!

sig

 

Missed any posts?  Here are the latest:

Dear Dad, Letter 4

What I Gather About Priorities

A Gathering of Vacation Reads

You can also FOLLOW ME HERE

 

Dear Dad, Letter 4 (on cancer and trust)

(I debated whether or not to share this publicly.  Obviously I landed on doing it.  I want to be an open book and always hope that my transparency will encourage someone else.)

shoes

Dear Dad,

Yesterday was one of those days when I would have given just about anything to have you with me again.

I have heard some words over the past few days that are still a bit surreal.

Suspicious.

Skin cancer.

Biopsy.

I’m pretty sure I inherited my rational brain from you.  Most days logic rules in my life.  Even so, here is how my brain was working during a lapse of sanity:

skin cancer = cancer = 9 year (often horrifying) battle with cancer = death at a sadly young age

Add to that Google searches which tell me those who develop non-melanoma skin cancers have a 50% greater risk of developing other non-skin related cancers.  In addition, if the person diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer is young (say, 32), the risk of developing other types of cancers jumps even higher.

Thank you, Google.

I recognize that all of this worry was premature considering I won’t know the results of the biopsy until Wednesday and it could be nothing.  And yet, I worried.

I don’t fear death.  You taught me there is nothing to fear.  I do worry about the implications of cancer to a 32-year-old mother of two who also happens to be immersed in a church plant and missions work in Cuba. So day one I was perfectly fine and on day two, I flipped.  On day two, I needed my dad.

I needed you to talk to me rationally and be my pastor.  I needed you to lay your hands on me and pray for a miracle.

Thankfully you taught me some valuable lessons while you were still here, and I have even learned some on my own since you left.  I knew I couldn’t live in a state of panic for five days, and reached out to God for help.  Help came in an unexpected way.

See, I have this friend.  You would love her.  She is spiritual and wise and selfless and caring.  She persisted in making sure I was okay, and eventually I let her know I wasn’t.  She told me I had permission to worry.  I told her she was setting the bar too low for me.  She responded that there is no bar for me until Wednesday and that I could react however I wanted until then.

It was in that moment that I realized just how wrong she was.  (Don’t feel bad, spiritual, wise, selfless, caring friend.  We are all wrong sometimes.)  I had a moment of clarity and responded with this:

“I have a bar.  I need to be trusting in God.  I don’t get a free pass because something scary is on the horizon.  What kind of follower would that make me?  I know God allows lament and questioning… for a period.  But I also know he demands trust.”

What kind of trust do I possess when I trust God only during times of health, wealth, prosperity, joy and plenty?  Isn’t it in times of sickness, struggle, poverty, famine, lament and sorrow when my trust is truly tested?

I felt better after that conversation.  I felt even better after my church gathered around me and prayed to God on my behalf for health, healing and a good report.

What really made all the difference was my conversation with Jesus last night.

I don’t have you, Dad.  But we both know I have something even better.  I have the Holy Spirit on the inside that is my Comforter.  I serve a gentle Savior who speaks peace to storms and who bore stripes for my healing.  I don’t have you, but you introduced me to Him.  For nine long years, you modeled unshakable trust in Him and I choose to follow in your footsteps.

My prayer and hope is that this is nothing and that it leads to nothing.  I know that I don’t get a free pass on suffering while on this earth and that my days are numbered only what God permits.  I also choose to have faith and trust that my future is not determined by genetics (as your son Michael so graciously pointed out yesterday) but that a righteous woman’s steps are ordered by the Lord.

I woke up this morning with a peace that passes all understanding.  I will walk in that peace and trust until Wednesday and beyond, wherever this road may take me.

Thank you for teaching me by example.

Your girl,

Rachael

Want to read more letters to my dad?  

Dear Dad, Letter 3

Dear Dad, Letter 2

Dear Dad, Letter 1

 

What I Gather About Priorities

priorities

I was having one of those months.  Even though my calendar told me there was enough time to fulfill my commitments, my body and spirit were telling me otherwise.

All good things.

When I can help, I want to help.  It’s hard for me to come up with excuses to get out of doing things that matter.  It is in my nature to jump in and give my all, especially when it is for a good cause.

And yet…

My spirit wasn’t at rest.  I was feeling unsettled, foggy, tense.  My muscles were aching, my temper was short and I felt resentment creeping up in me.

My heart was crying out to God for an answer, for help, for a life boat.

(Enter the still, small voice of a gentle Savior)

So I sat down and made a priority list.  I have never done this in my life.  I have had a vague internal list of priorities in my head, but never anything concrete… never anything I could point to and say “No.  I can’t do that.  See?  It’s not on my list.”

I kept my list to ten items.  Of course, these ten items have sub-categories, so really my list is a lot longer than ten, but setting the limit at ten things made me feel sane again.  What made my list?  Here they are:

1. My relationship with God

2. My Marriage

3. My Family

4. Serving Others

5. Gathering

6. Missions

7. Myself

8. My Blog

9. Young Lives

10. Work

Let me make it really clear… ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME.  The things that aren’t so important to me didn’t make the list (unless they are a sub-category).  This list is a work in progress, and I am asking God for help in any edits I make.  During this process I have learned a few things.

1.  My current lifestyle doesn’t match up to my priorities list.  My relationship with God may be number one on my list, but there are days when God gets only the leftovers of my time and energy, if He gets anything at all.  I may say that my family is more important than my church, but when I go days without spending quality time with my kids because of church commitments, something is wrong.  This current list may not reflect where I am currently am, but it gives me a guideline to follow for where I want to end up.

2.  Numbering my priorities gives me power.  Mostly, it gives me power to say no.  If something isn’t on my list, unless it is really important, I’m not investing my time into it.  Of course, my priority list must be in alignment with scripture and how I feel God leading me.  If I make my blog number one on my list and say no to other things, I need God to hit me over the head with something.  My priorities must align with His.

3.  A priority list helps me get organized.  Even though I was busy all the time before I made my list, I didn’t really understand just how much I was committed to.  Putting it on paper was my wake-up call to get my life organized.  I made some changes on my calendar, made a decision to eliminate some distractions, and got busy.

I’m really thankful God led me to take a step back and examine my life.  I never want to get so busy that I can’t rest in His presence.  I never want to be doing so many  good things that I forget why I’m doing them.  I never want to have a mile long to-do list and in turn see the most important things suffer.  My prayer is for God to help me keep my priorities in check and always be in alignment with His purpose for me.

______________________________________________

What about you?  Do you have a priority list?  Do you have a hard time saying no?  Do you see that your priorities are not in alignment with the Word of God?  What steps have you or can you take to get your priorities in check?  I would love your feedback!

sig

Missed any posts?  Here are the most recent:

A Gathering of Vacation Reads

We Are Gathering

Dear Dad, Letter 3

 

A Gathering of Vacation Reads

beach
I have taken a couple of weeks off from blogging due to a vacation.  I will be back to my normal blogging routine soon, but first I wanted to share with you the books I read while on our trip.

________________________________________________________

My idea of a perfect vacation is reading and relaxation.  We recently returned from a 10 day trip to Florida with my mom and stepdad.  We spent the first part of our trip at a resort in Orlando and the second half at a private cabin on the beach on Captiva Island.

disney
(Proof that we did in fact take the girls to Magic Kingdom)

We did the Magic Kingdom deal one day (and my girls LOVED it), but mostly we relaxed.  The beach where we stayed was beautiful and isolated and therefore perfect.  I am able to relax most with the sounds of the ocean and a book in hand.  I know many of you love book recommendations as much as I do, so I want to share with you what I read on my trip.  I took five novels and only got through three, but they were all excellent in their own way.


I really can’t recommend The Night Circus enough.  I don’t usually delve into novels that dip into fantasy and magic, but Jimmie bought this for me for Christmas and I had heard good things about it.  I couldn’t put it down.  The story is unlike anything I have ever read, taking fantastical twists and turns along the way.  It stretches the imagination.  I have heard rumors of a Night Circus movie.  Time will tell if the movie can live up to the beauty of this epic novel.


This was a book I picked up on a whim at Barnes and Noble. I frequently don’t read the inside cover or back of a book, instead relying on the reviews of trusted newspapers. So I had absolutely no idea what The Fault in Our Stars was about when I started it.  It is basically the story of a teenage cancer patient.  Don’t let that description deter you from trying this book out.  It’s not the kind of book I typically enjoy, but this was charming and honest.  It has sad moments intertwined with great humor.  The main character reminded me a bit of a Juno-type character.  I loved every page.


Several bloggers I follow recommended The Shoemaker’s Wife.  It didn’t disappoint.  It is a sweeping novel, telling the story of several memorable characters and crossing continents.  This is my kind of book.  The main character inspired me to work harder and be more generous.  I did feel like the end was stretched out a little longer than I would have liked, but if you like beautiful, romantic, Italian love stories, this book is for you.

____________________________________________________________

Books I took but didn’t get to?    The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht and the classic Dune by Frank Herbert.  I don’t ever read science fiction, but Jimmie assures me the Dune series is amazing.

What about you?  What have you been reading?  Have you read any of the books I read on vacation?  I rely heavily on book recommendations, and would love your feedback!

Missed you all.  You will be hearing more from me soon.

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:

We Are Gathering

Dear Dad, Letter 3

A Gathering of Gallery Walls

You can also follow me via e-mail subscription HERE!

We Are Gathering

wearegathering

We open our homes and we open our hearts.

Come in to my messy house and into my messy life.  You are welcome.

We serve lots of food on big platters or right out of the slow cookers.  We fill our plates and nourish one another with more than just food.  We find a seat wherever one is available or make our own place right on the floor.

I know about your job, you know about mine.  We often know the needs to pray for without being asked or told.  We make our struggles and our humanity known.  You bear my burdens, I bear yours.

We gather before dawn, music soft and lights low.  We pray in the quietness of early morning, watching the sun rise together, before the world is awake.  Scripture pierces the darkness between us, breaking down barriers, both challenging us and equipping us for the day ahead.

We ask each other’s children the questions that matter to them.  We listen intently to the answers and watch their faces light up.  We listen as they struggle through the scripture reading, watch them receive the offerings with joy and overlook the noise they sometimes make.  We love them all.  It takes a village, after all, and everything is worth it when we see them raise their hands to the One we all love or sing out a song of praise.

We discipline them, teach them kingdom principles, mediate arguments.  We pour the Word of God into their little hearts and minds.  We teach them songs to help them remember the important things.  We ask them a million questions and reward them in a million ways when we see that what matters is sinking in.  We love them all.

We open our Bibles and expose our ideas about what we read.  We look at one another while we speak, ready to grow from the insight offered.  You challenge me, I challenge you.  We call each other out for making excuses or diluting what that Word actually says.  His words matter most and we don’t let each other forget it.

We cook meals for one other in times of joy and grief.  We plant trees of remembrance together.  We cry when one hurts, delight when one has joy.  We celebrate victories and raises and babies.  We hold those babies as if they are our own, speaking silent prayers of blessing over them.

We meet the needs when we see one struggling.  We write a check or buy the groceries or babysit the kids.  We cook the dinner or make the encouraging phone call or send the scripture via text.  We show up on the doorstep, ready to intercede on behalf of one another.

We pass the wine and the bread and do it all in remembrance of the One who paid it all for us.  We close our eyes in repentance.  We see the tears fall sometimes and we don’t judge.  We understand the love of a Savior and are moved equally in varying ways.  We are thankful, all of us together.

We raise our hands and sing out the praises of the One who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.  We clap and move and the kids join in and we are a new body of believers, worshiping their Maker as one.  We  tell each other of the goodness of the Lord with gladness.

We listen intently to our elders and honor them always.

We pass out food to the hungry.  We dig our hands into the earth, planting seeds in the ground and planting the seed in our community.  We embrace teenage moms as if they were our little sisters, and fight over who gets to hold their babies.  We give until it hurts to take care of the orphans, the homeless, the church planters and the ones reaching out to make disciples.

We have our struggles and our selfish moments and our glaring shortcomings.  We have a long way to go. We are not perfect and we proclaim that loudly and without hesitation.  But we are part of His body, and we understand how significant that is.  We understand the honor of serving alongside one another and through it all, we love.  We love past the failures and through the trials.  We love old and young, meek and bold, quiet and loud.  We love the only way we know how, allowing the God of love to flow through us, transforming us all the while.

We are gathering and we are Gathering.

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
Dear Dad, Letter 3

A Gathering of Gallery Walls

What I Gather about Disciplined Children

Dear Dad, Letter 3

Dad

Dear Dad,

I wondered how October would feel when it came around this year.

Your absence is always felt on the 5th.  I spent the day wondering what we would have done to celebrate your birthday.  You were not a man of celebrations.  I can’t seem to recall even one birthday celebration for you.  I’m sure we had them, but perhaps your lack of enthusiasm keeps anything from standing out in my mind.  So what would have been your 71st birthday passed and was fairly uneventful.

Sunday marks 16 years you have been gone.  A few years back I began wondering what this landmark would feel like.  This year, Dad, is the year that marks you being gone for half of my life.  I am 32.  You have been gone 16 years.

__________________________

I learned not to be afraid of death.  I learned that lesson at a young age and you were my teacher.  I can’t recall whose funeral it was, but I vividly remember you making me touch the dead body.  I wasn’t resistant, just curious.  When I felt the cold, unnatural skin, you explained that the soul had left the body, and that the soul is the essence of a human.  What was left was a shell, nothing more.

__________________________

“What’s the worst they can do?  KILL ME?”

I heard this line so many times during your sermons and lessons.  It was often in reference to passages about persecution.  Even as a young girl, I could come up with things worse than being killed.  But I knew what you meant.  You didn’t fear death and your fearlessness made you a hero to me, strong and courageous.

_________________________

Do you remember the day I came into the ICU alone?  You had suffered beyond comprehension.  Every organ seemed to be failing after the bone marrow transplant.  Mom was spent.  The future was unclear.  Prayers were rising up as a continual vapor on your behalf, but the suffering seemed never-ending.  It was rare for me to have a moment alone with you.

Do you remember what I said?

I spoke truth from my heart.  The words came easily.

“It’s okay, Dad.  You can go.  I will be okay.”

I wasn’t afraid of death.  I was only afraid of my life after your death.

_________________________

People have called me morbid.  As a student of sociology, I took classes like sociology of death and dying.  I can talk openly about my own mortality.

I recognize on a daily basis that my future is unknown.  I could live into my 90’s like your dad.  I could die of cancer at 55 like you did.  My life could end Thursday on my commute to work.  My life is a vapor.  Your death taught me that.

I don’t see this as a problem.  I see this as a gift, Dad.  A gift you gave to me until you breathed your last breath.

In recognizing that my every breath is numbered, I choose every day to live.

When you came to the end of your life, you had lived more than most live in a lifetime.  You loved well, had a beautiful family, a successful career, traveled the world and were adventurous.  Most importantly, you spent your life for the Kingdom of God.  You built a church, poured yourself into making disciples, loved and studied the Word of God, prayed without ceasing, and knew the Savior.

You knew Him all the way to your final breath.  You trusted Him with your future until the moment He called you home.

_________________________

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes….” (James 4:13-14)

________________________

I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of not living.  When I come to the end, I want to breathe my last breath having spent myself tirelessly and completely for Kingdom purposes.  I want to know my Savior personally.  I want the Word to live and breathe through me.  I want to be like you, Dad.

So this month I celebrate your birth and life, mourn your death, and celebrate your resurrection into eternal life.

And through it all, I miss you.

Love,

Rachael

Dear Dad, Letter 2

Dear Dad, Letter 1

 

A Gathering of Gallery Walls

gallerywallquote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know, I know.  I JUST said I wouldn’t be doing as many decorating posts and would focus on the spiritual… blah, blah, blah.  I can’t help myself.

I helped my friend do a gorgeous gallery wall in her baby girl’s nursery, and now I have gallery walls on the brain.  I will be doing one soon in my front room and have been accumulating my favorites from Pinterest.  I just had to share.

I will also share the gallery wall I did with my friend when I can get over there to take some photos!

Here are my favorites!  Just click on the image to visit the site of origin.


I love this design from Design Sponge.  I have always been drawn to maps and love how the rest of the gallery wall centers around the large map.  Also, that couch and coffee table are making me want to ditch my current couch and coffee table!


Curbly has tons of photos of wall-to-wall gallery walls.  Just click on the photo above to see more.  While I love this so much (especially with all of the white), I don’t think I have the artistic sensibilities to pull it off.  What do you think?

Gallery wall
Real Simple teaches us how to arrange artwork on this site.  I really like the idea of a gallery wall corner like this one.  I have a corner between my kitchen and staircase that has been bare since we moved in.  I’m considering something like this for that area.

gallery-wall-in-living-room
I think this is my favorite of all, featured on Emily Henderson’s site.  I love everything about it.  I am always drawn to design that features black and white with pops of color.  This is so beautiful and makes me want a royal blue velvet couch immediately.


A Beautiful Mess is one of my favorite blogs, and when I saw this post about installing a gallery wall, I knew I had hit the jackpot.  I had already been thinking about painting my walls grey and amazingly had bought a lime green couch for my entry room.  I will use all of these gallery walls for inspiration, but this will be the one I use most.

_____________________________________________

What do you think?  Do you like any of these?  Which is your favorite?  Have you installed a gallery wall in your house?  Did you have a plan or just wing it?

I will keep you posted on the progress of my gallery wall.  Hopefully it happens this year.  If not, maybe it can be a New Year’s project!

(Follow my “Gallery” board on Pinterest HERE!)

sig
Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
What I Gather About Disciplined Children
Dear Juan

 

Or get more decorating inspiration here:

Gathering Ideas for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Kitchen and Dining Edition

What I Gather About Disciplined Children

avaviolin
Ava started playing the violin just before she turned six, almost four years ago.  I remember early on posting a Facebook status, complaining about the stress around violin practice times.  I was half wanting to vent, half wanting advice from more seasoned parents.

The overwhelming advice?  Let her quit.

It was shocking to this then 28 year old mother.  It had never crossed my mind to let her quit.  I began evaluating whether or not I was expecting too much and whether the arguments were even worth it.

I then had the realization…. which I think I knew all along….. that children need discipline.

I came from a disciplined home.  My father worked hard at being a successful attorney and at his role as pastor.  My mother kept a clean and organized home and had dinner on the table every single night.  My parents set high expectations for me.  It never crossed my mind to argue with them about chores (until I was a teenager) or bring home a grade that was less than my best.  At church, I knew the behavioral expectations.  I easily sat quietly through an hour long Bible lesson when I was still in the single digits.  I prayed and read my Bible daily because that was the behavior that was modeled to me.

It has certainly been a challenge to remain disciplined in my adult life, but I am so grateful for the lessons taught to me as a young child.  The discipline of my childhood has served me well in my adult life.

I hear people all the time criticizing my generations and the generations younger than me.  Perhaps we set the bar too low and expect too little of our kids, and that translates to entitled, lazy, undisciplined children?

Violin is hard to learn and my daughter complains about practicing?  Let her quit.

It is easier to do the housework myself than to force my children to help.  I’ll just do it all.

My life is too busy.  My kids will be fine without a routine.

It is hard teaching my children to sit through a church service.  We just won’t go.

My kids are so disrespectful but I don’t have it in me to have one more intervention.  I’ll let it slide.

These are tendencies I struggle with daily.  Sometimes it is easier to just let it slide, give up and take the path of least resistance.  I find myself taking this path all too often.  But isn’t this a battle worth fighting?  I see enormous potential in my children, and I want to give them the tool of self-discipline.  I know it will serve them well, as it has served me well.

I’m certainly not an advocate for pushing our children beyond their limitations or fighting every. single. battle.  I don’t believe that creates a nurturing environment or a house that has any fun, for that matter.

But the beautiful thing about teaching our kids discipline is that somewhere down the road, they begin to see the payoff.  It took over three tumultuous years of violin practices and lessons before Ava began to make beautiful music.  She still has a long way to go, but she can take on and conquer a beautifully challenging song.  Ava recognizes that her hard work and dedication is paying off and that she has learned to play a very difficult instrument.  The battles come with less and less frequency.

So to all of you who told me to let her quit, I respectfully disagree.

____________________________________________

In what ways do you teach your kids self-discipline?  Sports?  Schoolwork?  Chores?  At church?  In what areas do you not compromise?  In what areas are you more flexible?  Do you agree with me that lessons of self-discipline will help with entitlement mentality?  I would love your feedback!  Especially from all of the seasoned parents out there!

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
Dear Juan

A Gathering of Links XVII

A Gathering of Prayer Methods

You can also follow me via e-mail subscription HERE!  Have a blessed day!

Dear Juan

Juan
Dear Juan,

I find myself praying for you in the mornings before the sun rises.  I whisper your name and pray for blessing, encouragement and provision.  Mostly, though, I pray for God to put a new song in your heart.  I remember those early mornings when your face was the first thing we saw at our door….. face beaming in the already hot, tropical sunlight.  You were aglow, knowing you were loved because God had given you a new song in the early morning hours.  And so I pray for new songs, whispered by the breath of God, come alive with your gift of music.

You played for me, entertained us for hours with your gift.  I loved making beautiful harmonies with the melodies you sang out.  You filled our house away from home with music, life and laughter.

You became my teacher.  I couldn’t ever quite grasp the Cuban rhythms or phraseology of some of your songs… but you taught me of simplistic faith.  Stripped of luxuries, comforts, conveniences and companionship, you were a shining beacon of simple faith.  You showed me what it means to follow Jesus without baggage and with total abandon.

You became my friend.  You took such care of our family, always putting us first.  You asked for nothing in return.  I crave the meals you made for us….. your meals taste like Cuba to me.  Mostly, though, I miss the hours spent around the table, talking and praying, playing and laughing.  Those were holy moments.

You became my brother.  You were the form of the body of Christ at her best…. laying aside all self-interest and loving me, your sister in Christ, as yourself and more.  I never doubted you would lay down your life for me, not even in the beginning.  I don’t know the exact moment we became family.  Maybe it was my life-altering moment on the roof?   But I feel that you are my brother with every fiber of my being.  My brother.  My brother.  My brother.  What more fitting a label than that?

I miss you.  We all do.  Our family talks of you often.  We wonder what you’re doing, who you’re with, whether you have food and money for transportation.  But I know down to my core that wherever you are…. whatever miles you are walking on long dusty roads to serve…… I know that you are not alone.  I know your Savior walks with you, and I know he is giving you songs.

I only wish I were there to hear you sing them.

Your sister in Christ,

Rachael

IMG_1357
Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:

A Gathering of Prayer Methods

Using the Lord’s Prayer as a Pattern

Dear Dad, Letter 2

Using The Lord’s Prayer as a Pattern

Lord's-Prayer

When I reflect on my life and progression as a follower of Jesus, few things show such marked growth as my prayer life.  I don’t say that to impress you, let me assure you.  My prayer life has highs and lows, lulls and progressions, and even shallowness and depth.

My parents taught me to pray by example.  They were a praying set.  One of my fondest memories of my dad is hearing him in the prayer room before church, praying in Spanish.  Now I often do the same.  My early prayers were typically selfish and short, but I imagine God was pleased that I was talking to him at all.  As I grew up, I prayed for longer periods of time, with a bit more consistency and more on the behalf of others.

In my teenage years, I heard a message on using The Lord’s Prayer as a pattern in our prayer lives.  My prayers have never been the same.

Just think about it, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Jesus himself responds and says, “pray like this.”  Whatever follows the “like this” is pretty important in my book.  Jesus wasn’t asking us to recite word for word the prayer time after time.   He was giving us an important glimpse into the spiritual realm and how we should be spending our time in communication with God.

Here is my very brief take on using the Lord’s prayer as a pattern. (You can see Matthew 6 and Luke 11 to read the prayer in context.)  There is a lot of information on this topic in books and online if you’d like to know more.  I also have a printable guide to stick into your Bible.  If you’re interested, e-mail me at rachael@wearegathering.org

Our Father in heaven

We recognize we are talking to our heavenly father who loves us and wants what is best for us.

We acknowledge this and thank him.

Hallowed be your name

A time for worship and praise.

His name deserves to be glorified.

We enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

We align ourselves with the plan and purpose of God.

Not my will but yours be done.

Pray for God’s kingdom to come to our lives, our church, & our world.

We desire to glorify God by making disciples of all nations.

Give us this day our daily bread

A time to bring our requests before God.

Recognize he knows what we need before we even ask.

Our requests should align with the plan of God.

And forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors

Acknowledge any bitterness or anger we are harboring.

Forgive the person and pray for them.

Only then do we repent and ask for forgiveness.

We turn away from our sin toward God.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

Pray for the enemy to have no place in our lives.

Pray for God to empower us to walk in righteousness and holiness.

(Doxology) For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

We can end our prayer with worship and praise.

We ask all in the name of Jesus.

____________________________________________

There are a few components of the Lord’s prayer that are important to notice.  First, notice the pronouns.  Jesus used “our” and “us” instead of “my” and “me.”  We should not be selfish in our prayers!  Including others in every component of our prayer time allows others to benefit from our prayers.  I often pray on behalf of my family, my community, my church and the global church.

As I have matured a bit in my prayer life, I have recognized that most of this pattern in the Lord’s prayer is devoted to getting my heart right.  I used to spend so much time praying for my list of wants and needs.  Now, I spend the majority of my time in repentance, acknowledging that God is Lord of my life, and aligning my life with HIS purpose and will.  When I take the time to get my heart aligned with the plan of God, my requests naturally are in alignment with his will.  When I am in a flow of the Spirit during my prayer time, I don’t necessarily have to spend an hour giving God my list of requests.  I simply speak them in faith, believing that God knows what I need before I even ask.

___________________________________________

There are certainly other forms of prayer, some of which I will cover in a post next week.  However, the Lord’s Prayer is what I come back to time after time in my prayer life.  I pepper in meditation, journaling, intercession, common prayers, and praying Scripture, but the majority of my prayer time follows this simple yet profound pattern.  Who, after all, is more qualified to teach us to pray than Jesus himself?

What about you?  Do you use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern during your prayer time?  What other forms of prayer do you practice?  I would love your feedback!

sig

 

 

 

Missed any posts?  Here are the most recent:

Dear Dad, Letter 2

Gathering Fashion Inspiration

You can also FOLLOW ME HERE via e-mail subscription.

 

Dear Dad, Letter 2

Dear Dad,

I have seen the photos so many times…  you as a little boy, living in a foreign land I couldn’t even fathom.  The stories of your childhood delighted and enchanted me, although you were never the source of the magnificent stories.  They usually came from Grandma or Mom, glimpses into a life that seemed impossibly far from the life I shared with you. You were quiet about your undeniably challenging childhood.  But those stories I heard made you superhuman to me…. special, special, special.  I wanted to be like you.  I wanted people to tell stories about my life in a faraway land, full of challenges and adventure.

Cuba2 Cuba3

_________________________________

It was a typical day for us in Cuba…. October 29th, 2012.  You had been gone for 15 years and we had been traveling to Cuba for the past five.  Our little family was bouncing along the Cuban roads in a church van filled with various Cuban pastors and friends.  One of them?  Your friend, Armando Roca.  He has become a friend to us, Dad.  He has been our guide, translator, cultural adviser and endless source of entertainment.  I had asked Bro. Roca several times to take us to the house where you lived in Cuba.  He always assured me it was so close, yet he always postponed it for another day.

This day was different.

Sometimes I wish I had a little warning for the big moments of my life, just so I could prepare myself emotionally and mentally.  I had no time to prepare for turning the corner and seeing this house.

Cubahouse
The funny thing, Dad, is that this house was within walking distance of the house where we always stay in Havana.  I had probably walked and driven by it multiple times.  But this was the moment that God chose to introduce me to my past.

Do you recognize it?  In spite of the weathered exterior, the unsightly fence, damaged roof and the overall neglect…. surely you recognize your childhood home.

I can’t describe the depth of my desire to sit down and talk with you about your life here… the very same town where we do much of our work in Cuba.  I know bits and pieces… how you went to an English school, played on the grounds of the famous Tropicana, the way you could hear the music late into the night.  I know about the humidity and the hard work of planting a church, the language that was as natural to you as English.

But Dad, I long to know what it was like for you.  Did you love Cuba the way I love Cuba?  Did it feel like home the way it feels like home to me?  Did you realize you were right in the middle of history and a brewing revolution?  Did you leave behind people you love the way I have left behind those I love?  Did you walk along the Malecon, breath taken away by the magnificent beauty of the ocean beating against the sea wall?

I had mere minutes at your house.  Some day I will go back, introduce myself to the owners and stay to soak it all in.  On October 29th, 2012, I had brief, hurried moments.  You can tell by the photos how rushed we were, what a whirlwind it all was.  But our photo, taken just steps away from your photo, is a prized possession.

Cuba cubafamily

House 3511.  In a city we both call home.

Love,

sig

 

Read Dear Dad, Letter 1 HERE!

Gathering Fashion Inspiration

rg_quotes

Those of you who know me well are probably laughing at my title.  I have never been known for my trendy style or love of shopping.  The majority of my clothing comes from Goodwill, and comfort is a huge priority for me.

However, I recently read an e-book called The No Brainer Wardrobe and I have to say, it inspired me.  While I’m not interested in spending lots of money or being on the cutting edge of fashion, I AM interested in having a functional, well-organized closet, full of pieces that work well together.  I am all about simplifying my life.

If that’s appealing to you and you struggle in that area the way I do, I highly recommend spending the $8 and 1 hour reading the book.  You will immediately want to purge your closet!

The author gives one piece of advice that has really stuck with me.  She recommends making a style board on Pinterest, pinning various outfits you love.  She then recommends looking for common themes.  This was so eye-opening for me.  I had never really evaluated what clothing I am drawn to.  Here are some of my discoveries:

1.   Dresses, dresses, dresses.

Okay, this one I knew.  I practically live in dresses.  I especially love knee-length dresses with sleeves.  My love of dresses is so obvious.  Just look at my Pinterest board, Dresses I Love.

My inspiration:


(Source)


(Source)

Orla Kiely

(Source)

I love that many dresses can be worn year round, with sandals or boots, with or without a cardigan.

2.  Stripes, Plaid, Polka-dots

Once I started evaluating my likes, I was amazed at how much fell into one of these three categories.  Here are some examples from my Fashion board.

adorable

(Source)

oui oui

(Source)

perfect layers

(Source)

3.  Feminine Detail

I wouldn’t say I go overboard with lace and frills, but I do appreciate a feminine touch, especially when it comes to dresses.

Love the colors

(Source)

Cardigan love

(Source)

4.  Black & White, Blues, Greens, Yellows

While I don’t limit myself from wearing certain colors, my preferences seem to lean toward black & white and the whole yellow, green, blue spectrum.

(Source)

Layering striped tee under a dress.

(Source)

love green green green.

(Source – from my board I <3 Green!)

__________________________________________________

I think identifying these preferences will serve me well, especially in future purchases.  It has already helped me to think outside the box in styling items I already own.  There may be hope for this thrifty non-fashionista!

What about you?  Do you put a lot of effort into your wardrobe?  Is your closet out of control?  Do you long to streamline and simplify?  What style, color and patterns are you drawn to?  I’d love to hear from you!

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
A Gathering of Links XVI
Our Wheat-Free, Almost Paleo Diet
You can also FOLLOW ME HERE!

What Kind of Person?

It was one of those nights in the Rennard house.

Tempers were flaring.  Hormones were raging.  Frustrations were high.

My sweet 9-year-old was testing my limits.  Disobedience.  Disrespect.  Unkindness toward her little sister.  Temper.  Grunting, growling, stomping.  Talking back.

I stepped out of her bedroom, gave myself a few moments alone to catch my breath and calm down……

Mind racing.  Feelings of failure.  Inadequacy.  Fear of the future.  Disappointment.

Then it comes to me.

“Ava, what kind of person do you want to be?”  I say with tears in my eyes.

Avaschool2

________________________________

This question opens up an honest dialogue.

Does she want to be like her parents?  Like all the members of her family who have devoted their lives to serving God?  Ultimately, does she want to be like Jesus?  Does she want to be someone who is transformed by the Holy Spirit and bears the fruit of the Spirit in her life?

OR….

Does she want to be ruled by her flesh?  Does she want to be selfish?  Does she want to be disrespectful and unkind?  Does she want to always get her way at the expense of everyone around her?  Does she want to harm those who she loves with her sharp words and unkind actions?

_________________________________

Tears well up in her eyes.  She is processing, thinking, evaluating the question posed to her.  I hold her close, pray earnestly for her, reaffirm my love and acceptance of her, tell her I am blessed to be her mother.

_________________________________

This question has been churning in my head for weeks.

Ava, what kind of person do you want to be?

I know what kind of person I want Ava to be.  I have my own hopes and dreams for her.  While I can train, teach and lead by example, the choice ultimately belongs to Ava.  Will she allow the Holy Spirit to transform her into someone who reflects the character of Christ?  Time will tell.

__________________________________

Meanwhile, I hear the gentle voice of a loving Father ask me the question…..

“Rachael.  What kind of person do you want to be?”

Do you want to know me and respond to my voice?  Do you want to lay aside weights, sin and distraction in order to know me more?  Will you allow me to remove the pride from your heart?  Will you be someone who makes space in your heart and life for my lost sheep?  Will you reflect my character with your words and in your deeds?

OR……..

Will you put me on the back burner of your life, calling on me when it is convenient?  Will you elevate yourself at the expense of others?  Will you fall in step with the materialism around you?  Will you go where you want to go instead of where I lead?  Will you gossip and slander?  Will you exclude others so that you feel more included?  Will you always put yourself first?

________________________________

Will I allow the Holy Spirit to transform me into someone who reflects the character of Christ?  Time will tell.

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
Dear Dad, Letter 1

A Gathering of Links XV

What I’m Into, July 2013

You can also follow me via e-mail subscription here!

Dear Dad, (Letter 1)

me&dad

Dad,

You have been gone for half of my life now.  Some days this fact astounds me.  Other days, you are a stranger to me.  Don’t get me wrong.  You left a permanent imprint.  You left your mark in a profound way….

But your voice is faint and sometimes inaudible in my mind.  Your face is familiar only through photographs.  I don’t remember the subtleties of your expressions, the strangely beautiful shade of your eyes, your movements, your touch.

What I have is a permanent impression of a person who marked me with such force, the entire course of my life was altered.  I remember how you made me feel secure, even in the midst of such chaos.  I see shadows in my mind of afternoon naps with you on the couch and ever-so-faint remembrances of sitting on your lap when I was much too old to do so.

I am marked by your strength.  I sometimes wallow…. feeling so sorry that I only knew you for 16 years, wondering if I really knew you at all.  Then I recognize that in some ways, I knew you better than most.  I knew the Dad who was tried by fire and came out as gold.  I have no specific memories of you pre-cancer.  I’m sure that is sad for some to hear.  However, I have come to recognize that cancer was not our enemy.  Cancer was the fire through which you passed, allowing God to remove the impurities.

Cancer was the battle you fought that made you a warrior.  Cancer stripped you of any self-reliance and threw you into trust of a loving Savior.  You allowed the trial of cancer to show you what was truly important in life, and I would be living in denial to think that somehow I didn’t benefit from that realization.

You loved me fiercely.  I never doubted it for a moment.  Dad, you used your limited time with me so, so wisely.  You poured your heart and too-short life into introducing me to Jesus.  It was not an easy introduction.  I met the Jesus who walks us through the fire.  Dad, we both came out as gold.  What more could I have asked for?

Time?  Maybe.  And yet….. maybe all of that pressure on you, and therefore on me, is what allowed your imprint to be permanent on my person.  Lasting.  Never even fading for a moment.

I have the days when I long to hear your voice, feel your touch, seek your counsel, share with you in my joys, burden you with my heartaches, benefit from your wisdom, see your face.

But if not for cancer, if not for God transforming you through that fire, you wouldn’t have been the dad I knew.  I wouldn’t be me.  So I trust in the One who works all things together for good.  You taught me about him.  You taught me that lesson.  It is imprinted on my very being.

Love,

sig

 

 

What I’m Into, July 2013

(This post is linked with Hopeful Leigh’s What I’m Into post.  Check it out here.)

IMG_3534

Books:

I had high hopes for July.  My June reading list was extensive and I hoped to continue that trend into July.  And then…. something happened.  I will share later.  Keep reading.

But I did succeed in reading a few books.  Here they are:

IMG_1113
Saturday by Ian McEwan was the best piece of fiction I have read in a long, long time.  Each night when I finished reading, I would marvel, sometimes to myself, sometimes to Jimmie, about the genius of this author.  The first chapter was a bit slow, and I must admit I nearly gave up on it.  I am so glad I persevered.  The entire novel takes place within a 24 hour time span in the life of one man.  It is insightful and surprising, sad and hopeful.  I am excited to read more of McEwan’s work.
IMG_1108
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty was a solid summer read.  It kept my interest and was the kind of entertainment I relish during lazy summer days.  I will say that I thought the end dragged on a bit much.  It was interesting after reading Saturday reading this book, which covers a 50 year time span.
IMG_1103

 Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist was beautiful and moving.  This is storytelling at its finest.  I loved the heart I felt on each and every page.  God has been prodding me and challenging me in the area of hospitality for a couple of years now, and this book opened my eyes to the profound impact hospitality can have.  I earmarked so many pages with fantastic recipes.  I can’t wait to make some of them.  I have a feeling that I will re-read this book many times.

Television:

Remember when I said I had high hopes for the books I would read in July?  Well, television happened.  We got rid of cable and hadn’t been watching much, if any, television.  Then I had one of those nights when I just wanted to curl up in bed and watch something.

Enter Parenthood.

parenthoodbanner.jpg
Friends, let me just tell you, I finished all four seasons in the month of July.  I watched episodes on Netflix every night, late into the night.  I was hooked so fast and fell in love with the characters in a way that has only happened with a couple of other television series.

Blame my wimpy reading list on this show right here.  Then watch the first episode on Netflix.


Make fun all you want, but I own all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls on DVD.  I get in the mood to watch this series from time to time.  I finished season 7 in July.  It’s always a little sad saying goodbye to Lorelai and Rory, at least until next time I start the series over….

Funny story.  My mom saw the DVD’s at my house a few weeks ago.  I gave her season 1, not sure if she would get into it.  She called me a couple of days later, asking for all seven seasons.  She and my aunt  had spent lazy days at her camper, watching Gilmore Girls.  They fell in love with it.  How can you not?

Food:

As I announced a couple of months ago, I have given up sweets and soda for the rest of 2013.  It has been going really well.  I had a successful cheat day on July 4th (which is part of the plan).  I have had a little Nutella two times in two months.  I also have eaten some fruit pops that are very lightly sweetened, but only a handful of times.

Then about a month ago, Jimmie’s doctor recommended that he go on a wheat-free diet (based on the research in this book.)  We discussed it and decided to dive in.  We have eliminated nearly all wheat from our diet and most carbs.  We are working toward adhering to the paleo diet.  Basically, we eat high quality meats and eggs, tons of fresh, organic vegetables, some fruit and a small amount of dairy.

Jimmie and I have both lost weight and are learning day by day how to change our eating habits.  Here are a couple of things making our life easier right now:

1.  Nom Nom Paleo – This is a great website with lots of paleo recipes.  There are so many websites out there, but this is one my brother (who adheres strictly to the paleo diet) recommended.

2.  Eggs and feta.  I have never been a breakfast eater.  I am now making myself an egg scramble each morning with mushrooms, peppers, spinach, whatever veggies are around the house, and… FETA.  I have always loved Feta cheese but had never tried it in my eggs.  This has made me a breakfast convert.

3.  Trader Joe’s.  Trader Joe’s has long been my favorite grocery store.  Now, with their extensive offerings of gluten-free items, we can find affordable groceries that fit our wheat-free diet.  We go every Sunday evening, spend about $100 and are (mostly) set for the week.

4.  Noblesville Real Food Market.  My brother is part of this market, and provides us with organic produce and high quality meats.

5.  Live the Way’s Noblesville Community Garden Project.  My  husband has been working tirelessly to get this project off the ground and now we are (literally) enjoying the fruits of our labor.  We have been eating tons of fresh kale, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, beets, beet greens, turnips, peas, tomatoes and more.  It is so rewarding eating food I planted myself.

Other:

I’m also into the pool:

IMG_3515 IMG_3400
And my new camera, along with the A Beautiful Mess app:

IMG_3247
I have a new love for downtown Indianapolis after our trip on the 4th of July:
IMG_3500
And I’m hopelessly in love with this newborn. Ah, Ruby: (read my prayer for her here)

IMG_3622
That’s about it for me!  I can’t believe Ava starts school tomorrow and I start work the following week.  It has been a great summer, full of fun, family and friends.  I am feeling blessed.

_________________________________________________________________

What about you?:  What are you into?  I would love to hear about it.

sig

A Gathering of Parental Confessions

b9e0c59cd2d911e1ae9122000a1e8b03_7

There’s something therapeutic about confession.  We all are guilty of trying to make ourselves appear better than we actually are.  Whether it is my portrayal of myself as wife, friend, mom, cook, housekeeper, employee or Christian, I want you to think I am better than I am.  I’m growing by leaps and bounds in this department.  I know that I find transparency in others so refreshing, so I am trying to become more honest and transparent about myself.

Therefore….. here are some (possibly sad, possibly comical) confessions about my life as a parent.

1. I pay my daughter to read.

In my defense, I got this idea from a friend.  Her daughter isn’t a huge fan of reading books, so they offered to pay her $5 to finish a challenging book.

A few weeks later, I found myself incredibly frustrated.  We take a weekly trip to our public library in the summer, and Ava always picks out a bag full of novels.  She then brings them home, where they sit until our next library trip.  The only thing that gets read are Archie comics.

(I may or may not have told her she will never be a smart person if all she reads are Archie comic books.)

So I offered her $3 for every library book she finished the rest of the summer.  She finished her first one the next day.

2.  I bribe and/or threaten my children.

Bedtime is a sacred time in our home.  Not actual bedtime, but the quiet that follows shortly thereafter.  There are no compromises when it comes to bedtime in the Rennard house.  Both of my girls know that we don’t mess around with this rule.  Ava knows that if she gets out of her bed, she will be grounded the following day.

When we moved Isabel out of her crib, we bribed her with M&M’s.  She knew if she stayed in her bed all night, she would get candy the next morning.  Don’t judge.

3.  I allow some lazy mornings.

Many mornings, I have to be up early for work or to get Ava on the bus.  On the mornings when Jimmie gets Ava on the bus or we have nowhere to go, I permit laziness.  This means I get up to get milk and a bowl of Cheerios/craisins for Isabel, then get back into bed.

I either sleep a bit longer, get my Bible reading done, or catch up on blogs.  I have been known to let her watch TV until 10 or so while I do this.

4.  I sometimes hide.

I recognize this sounds terrible, but I KNOW you moms out there can relate.  Sometimes the noise, demands, complaining and arguing get the best of me and I just need a moment of peace.  My favorite hiding places?

Bathtub.  I lock the door and let Jimmie be boss and referee for a while.

Bedroom.  I have been known, very occasionally, to take my dinner into my bedroom while I eat and watch TV alone.  Father/daughter time is important, right?

Shopping.  When I’m feeling really overwhelmed, I take a quiet trip alone to Goodwill or Target or somewhere where I can wander in peace.  This approach works wonders.

5.  I yell.

I never thought I would be the parent who yells.  With Isabel, yelling isn’t necessary.  She responds well to discipline in a normal tone most of the time.  Ava is a different story.  She seems to not hear anything I say until I have dramatically raised my decibel level.  I’m working on this one.

__________________________________

I think five confessions is enough for today.

As parents, I think we need to permit ourselves imperfections without feeling like failures.  We have so many positive interactions each and every day with our kids.  We give so much of ourselves to make sure they are fed, clothed, healthy and happy.  It is so easy for me to overlook this fact and focus instead on the negative all the time.  I will continue in my attempts to grow and develop as a parent, but I also want to allow myself room to be human.  I want my kids to see my imperfections as well, so that they learn about grace, apologies, forgiveness and unconditional love.

What about you?  Don’t leave me alone here… what are your parental confessions?

Happy Monday!

sig I know it has been quiet around here lately. My daughter starts school next week, so you will see more posts starting then. Have you missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
What I Gather About Worship
Gathering to Heal
You can also read my blog via e-mail by subscribing HERE!

What I Gather About Worship

worship-alone1
(Image Source)

Some of my earliest memories involve my child-like attempts at worship.  I have to believe the times I stood in front of our small church as a little girl and sang my heart out for Jesus must have been pleasing to God.  I imagine God feeling the way I feel when Isabel looks lovingly at me and tells me she loves me.

As with most spiritual disciplines, growth was necessary in my view and practice of worship.  For a very long time I had a very narrow view of what it meant to worship God.  That mindset involved showing up on Sunday and singing several songs with hands raised or while clapping.

Of course, I know that corporate worship is important and vital in our Christian walk.  We see examples throughout the Bible of God’s people coming together, unified for the purpose of exalting the one true God.  As a singer and worship leader myself, there is nothing quite like gathering with a group of people with one unified purpose in mind:  to bring glory to God.  We celebrate victories in song, proclaim joyfully the great God we serve, and rededicate ourselves as the unified body of Christ to his purpose.

Yet over the last five or six years, I have prayed, studied and sought after a greater understanding of worship.  There have been some key moments that have led me to the understanding I currently have.  I will share three with you today.

1.  My Life is a Vapor

Psalms 141 is a beautiful psalm of David.  In verse 2, we see the concept of our prayers going up before the Lord as incense and our lifted hands as a sacrifice before the Lord.  When I think about my life, I imagine a continual vapor rising up before the Lord.  Whether or not that vapor is pleasing to him depends on whether I am seeking to worship and honor God in my words and actions.  When I pray without ceasing, a pleasing vapor rises to the Lord.  When I take time out of my day to lift my hands in surrender, a pleasing aroma ascends to God.  When I demonstrate the love God has shown to me to others and carry out my purpose in the Kingdom, the vapor rises and is worship to the Lord.

2.  Freely, Wholeheartedly and Without Hesitation

I will never forget the Sunday these words came to me.  I was in the midst of a powerful time of worship and these three words came to my mind.  I have been forever changed.  To me, these three words represent the what, how and when of worship.  The “what” is freely.  Worship is giving everything.  I withhold nothing from an all-powerful God.  I am not guarded before a risen King.

Wholeheartedly is the “how” of worship.  The manner in which I worship much reflect the greatness of the God I worship.  Whatever I do, whether in my everyday life or in a church worship service, must be done with all of my heart.  I cannot be lukewarm in worship of a Savior who reigns as Lord of all.

Without hesitation is the “when” of worship.  I worship every time I am aware of the greatness of God, without pause.  If I see a glorious sunset, I don’t hesitate to thank and praise the God who created it.  When singing a song addressing the glory of God, I don’t hesitate to raise my hands in surrender to the God of which I sing.  When I see an opportunity to glorify God through my actions, I can’t hesitate to act in the moment.  When I have an opportunity to serve, I must decrease that he may increase…. without hesitation.

When my worship only takes place in a two-hour window on Sunday, it is shallow.  Some of my most profound times of worship have been in my kitchen or alone in my bedroom or beholding the grandeur of God’s creation.  A lifestyle of worship is a daily recognition and celebration of the greatness of God.  If we all lived this way every day, just imagine the depth and celebration that would take place when we do gather to worship together!

3.  Let Worship Be the Fuel for Mission’s Flame

These are the words of a profound Matt Redman song.

“Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame.  

We’re going with a passion for your name.

We’re going for we care about your praise.

Send us out.

Let worship be the heart of mission’s aim.

To see the nations recognize your fame.

‘Til every tribe and tongue voices your praise.

Send us out.”

I first listened to the lyrics of this song while living in Cuba.  As you can imagine, it had tremendous significance to me at that point in my life.  The lyrics say it all.

___________________________________________

I am sad to admit that while I continually feel the call to be a true worshiper, I often ignore the call.  One of my favorite passages about worship talks about worshiping God in spirit and in truth, then goes on to say:

“the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)

I imagine God looking down on his creation, seeking those whose life is a sweet-smelling vapor of worship… those who are worshiping freely, wholeheartedly and without hesitation…. those who carry out the Great Commission because they want to see every tribe and tongue proclaiming his glory…..

And I don’t want his gaze to pass me by and look to another.  When he is seeking worshipers, I want to be found proclaiming the glory and greatness of the God who called me out of darkness and into his marvelous light.  I want my actions to be worship to the Most High.  I want to be found rejoicing at the beauty and excellence of his creation.  I want to be found with words of thanksgiving and adoration on my lips.

__________________________________________

Have you worshiped God in some way today?  Have you marveled at his creation or had a grateful heart for the change he has made in your life?  Have you lifted your hands to him in surrender?  Will you sing out songs of praise to him?  When he is seeking for worshipers, will you be found among them?  My prayer today is one of repentance for the times I have failed and a re-dedication to be found among those worshiping in spirit and in truth.

sig

Gathering Ideas for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

shabby-chic

When my niece Chelsea moved out, we moved Isabel back into Chelsea’s room.  Sadly, I had very little inspiration for decorating her room, so it has been neglected.  The walls are white, the furniture in desperate need of some TLC and there is no cohesiveness in the least.

Then, after helping to throw a Shabby Chic baby shower for my friend, I decided to take Isabel’s room in that direction.  She was already using the shabby chic comforter from Target and had the curtains and a few pillows to match.  I am enlisting the help of my very talented and artistic sister-in-law to help me finish the room.  When it is finished, I will share photos of the results.  For now, I will share with you some of my favorite pins from Pinterest that are giving me inspiration!  (Click on the pictures to be taken to the website or the pin for more information!)
Shabby Chic paint colors @ Home Design Ideas

I am loving this color combination.  I definitely kept this color palette in mind when I chose the paint color for her room.


The bed in this photo reminds me a little of Isabel’s bed.  I especially love the dust ruffle and chandelier in this photo.


I love everything about this room.  It is so soft and feminine.

All Things Shabby and Beautiful
I purchased a couple of old windows similar to this one to use in Isabel’s room.  I love how they used the fabric behind the window.  Marty is taking on this project and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

Just did this project the other day. Will be putting a red rosette and red ribbon on the back for the Christmas season! Also, still looking for an old frame to put it in.
Here is another adorable idea for using an old window.  I think this would be pretty in any room with seasonal wreaths!

Fabric framed with old windows house-projects
I don’t love everything about this room. I mainly pinned it because I liked the use of the old windows and the chandelier.

I love the idea of this (scrapbook paper pack as wallpaper).
I know this is a nursery, but I love the block wall. I’m not sure I could handle and entire wall with so many prints, but I thought it would be cute as a small accent wall or even in a large window or frame.

Tea Party Table!
While this is an adorable idea for a party, I will probably make this garland of scrap fabrics for Isabel’s room. It is an inexpensive way to bring color and shabby chic fabrics to her room.

Which of these rooms is your favorite?  Are you a fan of shabby chic?  I would love any links to amazingly decorated shabby chic rooms while I’m in the process of redecorating!  You can follow my board, Little Girls, on Pinterest to pin these yourself!

Make sure to keep your eyes open for the final result!  Hopefully it will be done within a month or so.

Happy Monday to all!

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:

A Gathering of Books:  June 2013

A Gathering Under the Trees

A Gathering of Links XIV

And you can follow me via e-mail subscription HERE!

A Gathering Under the Trees

IMG_0753
I have this character flaw that sometimes can be a blessing.  I am a perfectionist, at least in some areas of my life.  In college, I had panic attacks frequently and wouldn’t settle for anything less than an A.  This characteristic turns from being useful to being a flaw when I simply don’t do something because I can’t do it perfectly.

Every year I want to have a picnic on or around June 21st to celebrate the longest days of the year.  Every year we don’t do it because in my mind, our picnic must be perfect.  I need a beautiful tablecloth, my Longaberger picnic basket filled with cloth napkins, beautifully packaged gourmet food, real silverware, candles and perfectly dressed attendees.  Sound ridiculous?

Sadly, this kind of perfectionism keeps me from doing so many things in my life.  Some days I leave my house messy because I don’t have three hours to make it perfect.  I don’t start a book if I know I won’t finish it within a few days.  I want to learn more about photography, but don’t consider myself artistic enough to ever be a professional.  I don’t cook a meal because I know it won’t be as good as the meals Jimmie makes.  On and on it goes.

Last Thursday I came face to face with this character flaw.  Ava was leaving the following morning for a 9-day trip with my mom.  I told her we would go on a picnic that night so we could spend some quality time together.  As usual, life happened and I didn’t get to pack the perfect picnic basket.  So, instead of postponing like I normally would have, we went to Marsh, picked up a bunch of random food, and headed to Forest Park with an old blanket, grocery sacks, and paper plates.

It was divine.

IMG_0780 IMG_0766 IMG_0757 IMG_0752 IMG_0770
We had Pringles, stuffed peppers and garlic mushrooms from the Olive bar, summer sausage with cheese and crackers, baked potato salad from the deli, and iced tea and coconut water. Weird? Yes. But we ate to our heart’s content.

Ava talked about what she was looking forward to most on her trip. She played at the playground while I read under the giant evergreen. In those moments, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have my beautiful tablecloth or gourmet food. All that mattered was that we were with our little girl.

As I snapped a few photos, I realized that I have learned something from my new camera. I used to think there were certain moments that were photo-worthy…. birthdays, special outings, holidays and momentous occasions. My camera has taught me that special moments take place in the mundane events of my everyday life. It didn’t matter to me that the picnic wasn’t something that wasn’t magazine worthy. I wanted to capture it anyway. My standards of perfection too frequently limit me from embracing each and every moment as a gift from God. Instead of waiting for perfection, I instead want to find the beauty in my everyday life. I want to be quick to say, “YES!” when an opportunity comes my way, not worrying about living up to some unrealistic standard that no-one holds me to except for myself.

I will be quick to see the beauty when sitting under a tree, leaned against my husband, reading a book. I will relish in the joyous laughter of my daughter on the monkey bars. I will pause and notice the way the evening light streams through the trees. I will see God in it all and I will be thankful.

_____________________________________________________________________

Do you struggle with the need to be perfect?  Does it keep you from living your life to the fullest?  What are some of the most mundane details of your life that you find inspiring or beautiful?

sig Missed any posts? Check out the most recent:
A Gathering of Links XIV

What I Gather About Friends Without Fathers

Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

And you can get e-mail updates to Rachael Gathers by subscribing HERE!

 

What I Gather About Friends Without Fathers

I never quite know what to expect on Father’s Day.

IMG_0710

It always includes celebration of my husband who is a selfless and engaged father to our girls.  I feel thankful for my father-in-law who is so attentive with my girls and supportive of our family.  I spend time reflecting on the step-father in my life who embraces my family as his own and loves us so completely.

Mostly, though, I think about my dad who has been gone as many years now as I knew him…. half of my life. Sometimes I have happy recollections and feel gratitude for the time I had with him.  Other times, Father’s Day is a dark day, full of anger, resentment at the happy celebrations around me, and feelings of abandonment.

This past Sunday was somewhere in between.  I was doing okay until I watched this short film:

And What Remains  It is beautiful and moving and for whatever reason, sent me into a spiral of grief and sadness.

They whys and hows of the waves of grief have no explanation.  I can just tell you that I had not felt so overwhelmed by grief for a very long time.

My compassionate and ever so patient husband does everything right in those moments.  He doesn’t press me to talk or try to fix anything.  And yet, in that moment, his attempts at comfort were not what I needed.

His dad lives 20 minutes down the road and can be reached within seconds on the phone, visited within a half hour in the car.

_______________________________________________________________

I have a long-time friend who lost her father suddenly a few years ago.  She is one of the most genuine, honest and insightful people I know.  In that moment of my grief, I sent her a text to “check on her,” but what I really wanted was to remind myself that I was not alone.

Here are some excerpts from our text conversation (shared with permission)….

“A very hard bond we share.  Oddly today is harder than years past.  I suppose because I haven’t thought about him in a while.”

“I am struggling today for some reason.  It’s hard sometimes, recognizing the memories are fading.”

“Yes.  The realization that there won’t be new ones and we’ll keep reliving the same ones.”

“I feel like I’m grasping to hold onto them, yet it’s not working.”

“I remember him now more as an idea than as a person.  Does that make sense?”

“Yes it does.”

“I’m sorry yet thankful to share this hard bond with you.  Most people our age don’t understand.”

“They don’t.  I’m thankful for you because it’s hard for anyone to grasp until they experience it.”

“I see pictures of him sometimes and realize I had not imagined his face in a long time.  His voice is hard to hear.”

______________________________________________________________

This conversation brought more comfort than I can convey.  Just knowing that she was experiencing some of the same emotions I felt so strongly made me feel that I wasn’t alone.

I sent messages to a couple other friends who have lost their fathers recently.  I wanted them to know they weren’t alone either, and that I was praying for them.

Isn’t that what we all need at our very core?  To know we aren’t alone?

______________________________________________________________

Later that evening, I felt compelled to look through old photos.  I came across this one, saw the date and couldn’t stop staring.

rachaelhs

This was my school photo, taken my junior year, weeks before my father’s death.  He was actually dying as I smiled for the camera.  I found it so astounding to look at this photograph and feel I was looking at a stranger.  There are so many things I would love to tell this girl in the photo.  I would tell her it is okay to be sad and to hurt.  I would tell her pretending won’t get her anywhere.  I would tell her the guy she is already in love with will never leave her side and will be her husband.  I would tell her God will send strong, loving men into her life to be father figures to her.  Mostly, though, I would tell her she’s not alone.  I would tell her that God will step in as Father.  And I would tell her that she has friends who care and always will, even 16 years from now.

Thanks to my friend (you know who you are) for reminding me I’m not alone.  Love you.

_______________________________________________________________________

Are there particular holidays or days of the year that are difficult for you?  We all have lost someone we love…. do you find it is helpful to talk with someone who has been through a similar experience?  Do you find comfort in using your difficult experiences to help others going through similar situations?  I would love your feedback!

sig
Read more about my struggle with faith after my father’s death on my post, A (Re)Gathering of Faith.

Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

IMG_0560

My friend Heidi is having a baby girl in July.  We are so thrilled to meet little Ruby.  My friend Tasha and I began planning her shower a couple of months ago (with the help of Chellee, Andrea and Kathy as well!) and decided to go with a Shabby Chic theme to correspond with Ruby’s nursery.

We enlisted the help of my very artistic sister-in-law, Marty, and got to work.  We decided to do an outdoor afternoon tea under the trees.  My mom agreed to let us use her house, which is beautifully landscaped.  The result was lovely in every way.  I have to say it was probably my favorite shower of any kind I have attended.

IMG_0559The shower was truly a collaboration.  Marty and my mom had several tablecloths we were able to use.  We layered lace over solids, then topped the lace with vintage squares.  We brought a variety of our own plates in pinks and whites.  The tables were just long, portable tables and we rented the chairs from a local party supply store for $2 each.
IMG_0560 Mom let us use her collection of teacups. All of them are gorgeous. I brought my collection of mason jars to use as glasses for the iced tea and water. Tasha found the adorable striped straws at Hobby Lobby. Marty brought her vintage blue mason jars and we bought bunches of baby’s breath for a simple floral arrangement.
IMG_0562 IMG_0570 IMG_0572 We found these tags at JoAnn Fabrics. They are from the Martha Stewart line and they went with our theme so perfectly. We stapled the name tags to a tea bag and set a name tag on each plate.
IMG_0580 We bought the eyelet paper lanterns and the garland at JoAnn as well. They are also by Martha Stewart. We loved the look of fresh white against the backdrop of the trees.  Mom had a gorgeous pink begonia on her deck that we carried under the tree.  It was a beautiful addition to the shower.
IMG_0583 Six little girls attended the shower, so we set up a table just for them. It was so cute watching them pour their tea and act like little ladies.
IMG_0584 You can see here how we set up a seating area for Heidi to open her gifts. Thankfully we had perfect weather for the shower. It sprinkled lightly about 20 minutes before the shower and we were a little panicked, but thankfully it stopped just in time. It wasn’t too hot or cold and there was a light breeze under the shade of the tree.
IMG_0590 IMG_0594 We served hot tea, iced tea and ice water with lemon for the drinks. For food, we served simple finger foods. I made pinwheels out of spinach tortillas, garden vegetable cream cheese and ham. Andrea made delicious cucumber sandwiches. Tasha made little toothpicks with half of a strawberry and a slice of banana. Chellee brought mini-scones and little strawberry cookies. I didn’t get a photo, but at the end we served cupcakes in teacups. It was such a cute idea (thanks, Tasha!). We bought pretty teacups and plates at Goodwill, washed them well, and put our peach and tres leches cupcakes inside. The girls got mini cupcakes in mini teacups. As a thank you for attending the shower, everyone got to take their teacup home.
IMG_0595
Chellee looked so beautiful in her white dress.  I just had to snap a photo!
IMG_0598
Tasha worked so hard to make this special day possible for Heidi.
IMG_0599
Heidi and her mom.
IMG_0607
Heidi’s daughter, Lily, is so beautiful and excited about the arrival of her new little sister.
IMG_0619

IMG_0627
That’s me with Heidi!
IMG_0629
I love these ladies and had so much fun working with them to pull this shower off!  I have to mention again that we couldn’t have done it without Marty’s help and my mom’s yard!

_____________________________________________________________

What do you think of this shower?  Is there one idea we used that stands out as your favorite?  What’s your favorite baby or bridal shower you have attended?  Do you like planning and throwing showers?  Have you pulled off any great ideas for showers from Pinterest or elsewhere?  I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts! (You can get more party ideas by following me on Pinterest!)

sig Missed any posts?
What I Gather About Movement
I Gather a Letter of Love
A Gathering of Links XIII