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!

 

A Gathering of Links XIV

links
First of all, I want to say thank you to all of my new readers and subscribers!  Welcome to Rachael Gathers.  I am so grateful for those of you who take time out of your week to visit my little corner of the Internet.  My goal is to gather ideas and experiences for our journey in the Kingdom of God.  I hope that will include spiritual inspiration, parenting and marriage encouragement, and fun ideas for making a house a home!

Each week or two I feature my Gathering of Links post.  I am an avid blog reader, so I take my favorite links from the recent week or two and feature them conveniently listed in one blog post.  It is my little gift to those of you who don’t have time to sift through the blogosphere daily like I do and link you up to my favorite posts.  I also include a little glimpse into what’s happening in the Rennard house.

Summer is in full swing at the Rennard house!  We have spent a couple of glorious days at the pool at my mom’s house.  Isabel isn’t a big fan of the pool yet, but we are working on it!  We celebrated Jimmie’s birthday and Father’s Day within one week!  Ava just left for a 10 day trip with my mom and stepfather.  The house is already eerily quiet.

This is my favorite photo from the last couple of weeks.  It captures Isabel, mid-spin.

IsabelSpin
Ah, to be three again!

My most popular link lately was Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower.  Thanks for all of the likes and shares!  I had more hits on the day I posted this than any post in RG history!

Now, let’s get to it!  This may be my favorite gathering of links yet!  There is SO MUCH great material here.  I hope you grab a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea, sit back, relax and enjoy some of these awesome links.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From A Deeper Church, Watching Our Language.  Discipleship is important…. so is friendship.

From A Deeper Story, Everything Must Go.  Yes and AMEN!  This rings to true in my life.  I am learning to let go of stuff….

Sex and the Path of Holiness at Rachel Held Evans.

From A Holy Experience, Why You Are Where You Are:  For Such a Time as Now.  Also, her post A Letter to the North American Church: Because It Is Time is so powerful.

The Perfect Shade of Greige from Jamie the very worst missionary.  This spoke to me.

From A Deeper Story, When It’s Time to Throw Out All of the Good Answers.

Parenting:

From A Holy Experience, a powerful look into what it means to show grace to our children.  What All Mamas (and us) Need to Thrive This Summer.

From Narrow Paths to Higher Places, A Mother’s Faith.  An all too familiar account of miscarriage, mourning and the questions that come along the way.  Moved me to tears, remembering my own pain.  Also, check out her series on Empowering Parents to Prevent Abuse.  All of it is great.  This link is to part 3.

From Lisa-Jo Baker, When Your Temper Scares You – some suggestions for defusing.

A hilarious look at Surviving Summer from Jen Hatmaker.

At A Deeper Family, I Don’t Want My Daughter to Hate Me.

Love and Marriage:

Over at Sarah Bessey, In Which [Love Looks Like] Spinning Our Own Yarn.  My dear goodness, this is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Food Love:

Red Pepper Shrimp Scampi from A Beautiful Mess.  I love all of these things.. how could I not love this recipe?

Watermelon Pico de Gallo from Pioneer Woman.  Yum.

House Love:

Part of Design Mom’s series, Living With Kids.  I love this home so much, I could move in  tomorrow.

Book Love:

From A Modern Mrs. Darcy, Reading is better when it’s done wine tasting style.  I love this concept.

______________________________________________________

Whew.  That’s a lot of links!  Please let me know what your favorites are from my list, or point me in the direction of some of your favorite blogs and/or posts from the past few weeks!  Maybe I will feature one next week!

sig

Missed any posts?  Here are some of the latest:

What I Gather About Friends Without Fathers

What I Gather About Movement

Also, you can get e-mail updates of new posts by clicking HERE!  Have a great weekend!

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

What I Gather About Movement

prairie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image source)

The sun shines down on this open prairie.  The tall grass sways gently in the warm summer wind.

Our movements are slow.  Slower than my fast-paced mind wants to handle and slower than my hurried feet are used to walking.

He stands in front.  I am keenly aware of his presence, rightfully at the head.  We travel behind, dutifully, a line of obedient followers…. followers in every sense of the word.

He walks deliberately.  The placement of each footstep is carefully orchestrated.

I feel the pressure of the choice we must make with each passing moment.  Will we stay in step with him?

Or…

Will we cave into our innate desire to push ahead?

The thought crosses my mind that we all could make a faster path.  We could pass in front, going ahead of him.  We could make a new path to the right or the left.  None of us want to go back, but some moments even going backwards entices me more than the painstaking pace we walk now.

The words pass through my mind…. the kind of words I have learned not to ignore….. the words that speak life and light and direction…..

Alert to his movements.

We must be alert to his movements.  We must carefully and deliberately place our feet only in the steps he has already made ahead of us.

___________________________________________________

To be alert to his movements, my senses must be heightened.  I must keep my eyes on him.  There are so many distractions in every direction.  My gaze must be fixed on him.

I must listen.  Perhaps he will give directions for navigating this terrain.  Perhaps I will miss his still, small voice if my ears are tuned to the noise and chaos surrounding me.

I must be patient.  He knows the pace I can handle, the pace that will cause me  to arrive at my destination at the proper time.  I must not go ahead, to the right or left, or especially backwards.  Perhaps a time will come to run.  Right now, I walk.

___________________________________________________

Lord, let me be alert to your movements.  Where you lead, I will follow.  Let my pace be in perfect time with your footsteps ahead.  May my eyes be fixed on you and my ears tuned to your voice.  When you stop, I will stop.  When you give the directions to run, I will sprint with all that is within me.  When you warn of a stumbling block in my path, I will avoid it.  I have nothing to fear.  With the help of your Spirit inside of me, I will follow your directions and follow your lead.  No other path interests me.  No other leader will earn my trusting gaze.  No pace is too slow or too fast if you are before me.

___________________________________________________

Don’t let me go a single step without your presence.  I am alert to your movements.

For love, I follow.

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. (Psalms 5:8)

__________________________________________________

When was the last time you felt specific direction from God in regard to your movements?  Have you ever felt God asking you to speed up or slow down?  To look to Him for direction on your journey?

Love to all and have a blessed weekend!

sig

 

Missed any recent posts?  Here are the most popular from the last month?

A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

Gathering Self-Control

What I Gather About Accusations

Subscribe to Rachael Gathers HERE

 

 

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

Dear Jimmie,

Today is your birthday.  You are 32 and I realize that I have spent over half of my life loving you.  I can’t remember the exact moment I fell in love, but I remember whispering to a friend at such a young age, “I will marry him.”

d2deebf8472f11e28fa722000a1fbcea_7

The road hasn’t been easy.  Not by any means.  You comforted me through the greatest loss I faced at 16.  You patiently waited while I searched for something or someone to fill up that hole in my heart.  Had I only paid attention from the start, I would have realized that your unselfish love always pointed me to the only one who could fill that void.

We were too young.  Of course we were.  And yet I knew, I knew, I KNEW… God had sent you into my life.  He sent me into yours.  I had lost the man I loved all of my childhood, and God sent you to me early…. a precious gift.  I would never trade even one of those early years.  Married at 19 simply means we have had more years to love each other.

I haven’t forgotten.  The day you forgave… instantly… my transgressions with a gracious embrace that turned me toward the light and freedom of love.  That is who you are.  One who forgives.

The rocky road we walked, recognizing that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.

We had weaknesses, let’s not forget.

And then we had the kind of new beginning that only a resurrected Savior can offer.  You loved me through those times and I will never forget.   You chose me over and over again, demonstrating the kind of love that has no boundaries, made possible only by your continual choice to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit.

IMG_0156

I witnessed as you and I propelled, as the minister prophesied…. propelled into a ministry that was more terrifying and rewarding than I ever could have imagined.  We walked those dusty streets in the tropical sun, and were reborn again.  Reborn into a purpose beyond anything we could ask or think.  I watched you transform into an empty, willing vessel.  And I was proud.

Despite your youth, you proclaimed the gospel, stood for justice and mercy, held your ground, and poured yourself into people and purpose.  Your compassion and love for humanity poured from you, in prayers, lifestyle and conversation.

jimmie

I will never forget what it felt like to be united for a common purpose in a strange land that somehow felt like home…. away from everything and everyone familiar, we walked hand-in-hand through the new terrain. Our marriage and our love were reborn and we have never been the same.

_________________________________________________________________

Some people have us all wrong, thinking I am strong because I communicate more.  Or thinking I am the forgiving one because I put on a smile in the midst of heartbreak and anger.

But you…. you exude strength.  You are filled with the strength that comes only from having an unquestionable purpose.  You work and pray and work and pray to see the Kingdom come.  You forgive freely, praying earnestly for your enemies.  You are so filled with the love of God that it spills out into all aspects of your life.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

When I interject my name in the place of “love” in this passage from Corinthians, I feel like a liar.  When I interject your name, Jimmie, I feel like I am accurately describing so many aspects of your personality.  You have loved me patiently, in spite of my irritability and stubbornness.  You are kind to all.  On and on it goes.  You endure all things.  Your love never ends.

You are the human face of God’s love in my life.  You love me enough to call me out on my nonsense.  You love me enough to make space for my gifts and callings.  You love me enough to forgive, time and time again, no matter how great or small the offense.  You love me enough to pull me up when I’m sinking.  You love me enough to point me to Jesus…. every time.

rachael

______________________________________________________

I have never gushed about you in public like this.  I know you prefer to fly under the radar.  I know you never want people to see you, only Jesus.  But today you are 32 and I celebrate you.  I honor you.  And I can only hope to love you the way you love all.

Happy Birthday.

Yours,

sig

 

A Gathering of Links XIII

It is Monday and my links for you are late!  I know you will enjoy them equally, late or not!

But first…. Our weekend was busy with garden work, church, and a violin rehearsal and recital for Ava!  We were so proud of her.  She played beautifully from memorization.  All of the years of practicing and all of the money spent on lessons seemed worth it in that moment.  She is starting to make music with her instrument and her progress is a beautiful thing to witness.

avaviolinrecital avarecital
Her teacher has been a tremendous blessing to our family.  Ava has grown so much in her love for violin, willingness to practice, and overall sound of her playing.

Now, let’s get to it!  Here are my favorite links from the past week!

First of all, my most popular post from the last week was What I Gather About Accusations.  My approach in dealing with offenses has changed since I read this story differently.  Thank you to everyone for sharing the link to the post and for your feedback.  Hearing your feedback makes blogging worthwhile!

Spiritual Inspiration:

Sarah Bessey, In which you’re a pioneer.  On that note, why not check out the song Pionner by Rick Pino.  It moves me to tears every time I hear it.

At See Preston Blog, When I have made altars of sand in want of stone.  Beautiful and challenging.

From Nish Weiseth, A note for those in the valley.

Book Love:

From Simple Mom, What I’m reading this summer.

From Sarah Bessey, In which I have a (not so) serious problem.  I can so relate to this.

For Moms:

Playing from Sarah Markley.  This resonated with me.  I need to loosen up and play more.

_____________________________________________________

I just finished my first book on my summer reading list!  At the end of June, I will review the books I have read for all of you Rachael Gathers readers who love to read books!

I also want to say a huge THANK YOU to the very thoughtful Rachael Gathers reader who sent all three Call the Midwife books!  I won’t mention you by name, but please know that was such a happy surprise for me!  It really made my day.

books

While I am thanking readers, I also got a really cool surprise in the mail a couple of months ago!  This little handmade purse (which Ava has claimed as her own!) was knitted with red yarn and recycled Target bags!  How cool is that idea?  I had never heard of this idea and was quite impressed at the ingenuity.

purse

I’m convinced I have the best readers anywhere, not just because two of you surprised me, but because so many of you inspire, challenge and encourage me.  Thank you!

sig
Miss any posts?

A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

What I Gather About Accusations

Follow Rachael Gathers HERE and get new posts directly in your inbox!

A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

door

Things have been a bit serious here at Rachael Gathers for a few weeks now.  I thought for a change of pace, I would share some of my favorite recipes when cooking for a crowd.

Almost two years ago, we started hosting a small group in our home.  One of the first weeks, I offered to serve dinner.  There was something really sacred about inviting people to my home and serving them a meal.  I never looked back, and have been cooking for anywhere from 8-25 people nearly every week for two years.

When I first began, I had NO IDEA what I was doing.  I could barely pull off meals for my own small family, much less a group of 15-20.  Thankfully, my crock pot and Pinterest came to the rescue!  I’m honestly not sure I could have pulled off so many meals without my two crock pots.  I have learned so much about not only cooking for large groups, but also about hospitality.  God has opened my heart as I have opened my home.  There’s simply no other way to put it.

So without further delay, I present my favorite recipes for a crowd.

1.  Shredded chicken tacos

This is my go-to meal when I’m in a hurry or out of inspiration.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit just how easy and foolproof this recipe is (and I must credit my friend Tasha for sharing it with me!).  Ready?

6-8 chicken breasts

1-2 jars of salsa (I prefer Herdez)

Yes, that’s it.  This makes the juiciest, most flavorful meat for tacos.  I dump the chicken and salsa in the crock pot and cook it on low for 8 hours or so.  Before I serve, I simply shred it with a fork.  You can drain the liquid if you prefer, but I like how juicy it is.  I typically plan on one chicken breast per two people.

2.  I LOVE this Crock Pot Minestrone soup from Skinny Taste.  I typically double the recipe.  I always have extra spinach, cooked Italian sausage, Parmesan cheese and cooked pasta for people to add in on their own.  It is delicious and healthy.

3. This Italian Chicken from Crock-a-doodle-do is tasty and I like that it incorporates vegetables.  I like to cut the chicken breasts into large chunks before I serve it.

4.  Slow Cooker Jambalaya from My Recipes has been a crowd favorite.  I typically make one crock pot with shrimp and one without for people who don’t love seafood.  It isn’t too spicy, which is great for kids, but forces me to have a large selection of hot sauces on hand.  With this recipe, I also recommend letting the rice cook longer than 30 minutes.  I typically let it cook closer to an hour.

5. Chicken Tortilla Soup from Miller Musings has been one of my most frequent dinners.  It is one of those meals you that you can dump everything in the crock pot and not worry about it again until 5 minutes before dinner.  I love that.  This soup has a great flavor and is delicious with tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream on top.  I always double or triple the recipe to feed the crowd and have leftovers for the next day!

6. Crock Pot Ravioli Casserole from Becoming Betty is delicious.  It sort of reminds me of lasagna.  Again, I always double or triple the recipe.  This is typically served with a large salad and garlic bread.

7.  From Southern Plate, this is the recipe for Cheesy Chicken and Rice.  You have to love casseroles to love this recipe.  Everyone at my house always gobbles this up.  We actually had it Monday night!  It is just a classic chicken and rice recipe.  I have quadrupled this recipe before and had two giant crock pots full.

So there you have my favorite recipes to feed a crowd!

We also rely on go-to meals like hamburgers on the grill, chili in cool weather, spaghetti, sandwich night, and lasagna.  I normally have a big salad to help fill people up, offer something healthy, and make the main dish last for everyone.  I also use paper products so I can enjoy my company and not stress about clean-up.

You can find all of these recipes and many more crock recipes by following me on Pinterest.

_______________________________________________________

Do you ever cook for a crowd?  What are your go-to recipes?  Are there any crock-pot recipes you can suggest for me?  I’m sure our small group would be thrilled to have some new recipes added to the same old mix!

sig

Missed any recent posts?

What I Gather About Accusations

A Gathering of Links XII

Subscribe to Rachael Gathers here.

 

What I Gather About Accusations

feetaccusations

Last week I was reading the story in John 8 about the woman caught in the act of adultery.  Most of you know the story…. a woman is caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees.  They are ready to stone her, as the law dictated, but first want to use this as an opportunity to trap Jesus.

It is a moving account of the wisdom, love and compassion of our Savior.  He delivers an incredibly powerful line…

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  

One by one, the accusers walk away, no doubt in a state of self-reflection.

The woman is saved.  Jesus to the rescue.  When I read this story, I am always reminded the price I deserved to pay for my sin.  I am reminded of a Savior who stepped in as the unblemished sacrifice, taking on my sin and the sin of the world.  Jesus to the rescue….

Yet as I was reading this story last week, I began to think of the accusers in the story.  These Pharisees and scribes in the story always get a bad rep, and rightfully so.  They were judgmental and had every intention of stoning the woman, while also wanting to trap Jesus.

And yet….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus saved this woman’s life.

Were their motives wrong?  Yes.  Was their attitude bad?  Yes.  Were they judgmental?  Absolutely.  Did they have compassion?  No.

And yet….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus saved this woman’s life.

She was guilty, no doubt.  The Bible clearly states she was caught in the act of adultery.  Her guilt was not up for debate.  As only Jesus can do, he showed them that just as she was caught in the act of adultery, they were also caught in the act of judgement.  Their guilt was apparently not up for debate, either.  We hear no arguments from the Pharisees and scribes when Jesus delivers his line to the crowd.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Both parties guilty.  One party walks away with her life.

_____________________________________________________________

The accusers in this Biblical account didn’t want this woman’s life to be spared.  They wanted her to pay and were ready to execute both judgement and punishment.  And yet….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus saved this woman’s life.

What would happen if we brought our accusations to Jesus?  First.  Before pronouncing guilt, before executing judgement or punishment, what if we brought the accusations before a compassionate Savior?

If these accusers had taken Jesus out of this equation, the woman surely would have been stoned to death.

I fear that when we take Jesus out of the equation in dealing with offenses, we risk harming the accused…. killing someone’s reputation, harming their ministry, wounding their Spirit, denying them of the unmerited favor a Savior has to offer.

Perhaps their guilt is undeniable.  Perhaps they were caught in the act of sin, slander, gossip, backbiting, adultery, lust, lying, cheating.  Perhaps they truly caused harm to you or someone you love.

Even so, our accusations should never be taken before the court of public opinion if they haven’t first been brought to Jesus.

I am so quick to bring my accusations before my peers.

Did you hear what SHE did?

Did you know he said that?

Guess what they did to me now?

Can you believe they are actually DOING that?

We all know what happens when we bring our accusations before Jesus.  Perhaps that knowledge is what keeps us from doing it.  We want a GUILTY VERDICT AND SENTENCING.  And when we choose to bring our accusations before Jesus (bad motives or not), we tend to hear the gentle words of a loving Savior.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.”

Jesus causes us to look inward, recognizing it is hypocrisy to judge someone else when our own hearts are darkened with sin.

Maybe, just maybe….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus in prayer will save a person’s reputation, our relationship with them, their ministry, their self-esteem, and their access to unmerited favor.

Perhaps we will be changed for the better as well, with our own self-reflection bringing an opportunity to show grace and walk in a perpetual state of forgiveness and love.

________________________________________________

Do you tend to take your accusations to Jesus first in prayer?  Do you have the tendency, as I do, to complain about offenses to a spouse or friend first?

sig

***Note:  I recognize that sometimes offenses must be dealt with.  Jesus gives us guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17.  I am not denying that at times, offences and sin must be addressed.  I am only advocating bringing the offenses to Jesus in prayer first and foremost.

 

A Gathering of Links XII

blog2-1

It’s that time again!  I love linking you up to my favorite posts of the week and this week there are a LOT!  First, some highlights from my week…

We had a relaxing three-day weekend, spent mostly at home.

Some exciting things are on the horizon for Gathering!

Ava had her last day of school and is home for the summer!

A long-time friend was married, seemed incredibly happy and had a gorgeous wedding.  Here we are, getting ready to leave for the celebration:

family

We actually planted at the community garden!  All of my husband’s hard work is finally paying off.  The garden is looking fantastic and we are all eager to taste the (literal) fruits of our labor!

garden2

Now let’s get to it and link you up!

My most read post of the week was Gathering Self-Control (and an announcement).  Thanks for all of the positive feedback!  We now have at least 10 adults committing to all or part of this challenge.  Day 1 down.  Lots to go.

Marriage and Family:

On Loving Well from Narrow Paths to Higher Places.  I can’t tell you how much this post resonated with me.  My love language is also acts of service, and I found myself relating to so much of what she discussed, especially after having just written What I Gather About Myself as Mom!  Love this post!

At A Holy Experience, When strong mamas feel quite weak.  This was so insightful.

From Lisa-Jo Baker, How to Fall in Love.  Again.  Because we all must choose to fall in love over and over again.

Spiritual Reflection:

At A Deeper Story, Lessons from a Fundamental Baptist on Memorial Day.  I enjoyed this perspective.

Food Love:

Info about the paleo diet at Simple Mom.  Our family is attempting to transition to a more paleo-friendly diet and I found this really helpful.

Fried pickles at A Beautiful Mess, because who doesn’t love fried pickles??

Also at A Beautiful Mess, Three Super Healthy Salads.  Because months and months of no sweets = new food choices necessary.

For Fun:

I’m going to make these Washi Wildflowers from Girl in the Garage with Ava.  They are so cheerful and I love that they won’t ever wilt.

So.  Funny.  From Jen Hatmaker, Worst End of School Year Mom Ever.  This made me laugh out loud.  Truly.

________________________________________________

So there you have it!  Those were my favorite blog posts from the week.  What are you reading these days?  Have you discovered any new blogs I need to check out?  I would love to hear from you.  I hope your weekend was fantastic and that the coming week is full of sunshine and joy!

If you haven’t already, subscribe to Rachael Gathers and get posts delivered right to your inbox!  You can do that HERE!

 

sig