What I Gather about Chelsea

Becoming an aunt at age 11 has some advantages. Sadly, having nieces and nephews in my life now, while preoccupied with my own marriage, children, home and job, often means I don’t spend much time with them. Chelsea was a different story. I had always been the baby of the family, so when Chelsea was born, I was beyond thrilled to lavish my attention and affection on her. I mean, how cool is it to have a niece at age 11? We were always pretty close. I loved her from the start.

In November of 2011, Chelsea was coming back from a three-month stay with missionaries in Poland. She was 19 and not quite ready financially to get her own place, yet felt too old to move back into her parents’ house. Naturally, loving her the way I do, I offered her a room in our house. Thus began the 16 months of living with Chelsea.

On Sunday I am driving her across many states so she can start a life in Jersey City. It has been sad watching her pack and make plans for a life that won’t include me as much. I have grown accustomed to our chats, laughs, outings and fun. So today, in honor of Chelsea, I present to you….. WHAT I GATHER ABOUT CHELSEA.

1. Chelsea is fun. Maybe that sounds generic to you, but it means a lot to me. I take myself way too seriously most days and Chelsea has, well, helped me to lighten up. She is always smiling and laughing. There is no human on earth I would rather watch a funny movie or TV show with. She laughs from her heart, abandoning all self-awareness in whatever comedic moment is happening. Don’t underestimate this quality. I wish I had it. She brings genuine light and laughter to any situation. I would say this quality will serve her well in the harsh realities of life.

2. Chelsea is kind. I’m not turning a blind eye to her faults, people. She can be judgemental. Just ask her about our “red light” game sometime. However, I truly believe she has a kind and loving nature. I have witnessed this most when watching her interact with my children. Chelsea has lots of friends and social engagements, but when Ava or Isabel ask for one-on-one attention from her, she gives it freely. I have watched the way she whole-heartedly loves my kids and the kids at the preschool where she works. She doesn’t with-hold her love, but gives affection freely.

3. Chelsea listens. This one was a struggle for us. Chelsea came into our home with some questions and let me just say it, some issues. It hasn’t always been a smooth road for us, but once I recognized that my approach mattered in dealing with Chelsea, we crossed some pretty monumental barriers. When I approach Chelsea in love, she listens to what I have to say, even if she doesn’t agree with me. We have had so many long talks late into the night, discussing God’s plans for her future. Those talks, though not always easy, always left me feeling encouraged about her destination. Her path may not be the path I would have chosen, but I believe her destination will be the right one for her.

4. Chelsea dreams. Sometimes I have been the reality check for Chelsea with her big dreams, but I don’t ever want to stifle this part of her nature. If she is able to season her dreaming nature with responsibility and hard-work, there is no telling what dreams can come true for this girl. I think so often we are so full of reason that we talk ourselves out of the beauty of our dreams. Chelsea has huge hopes when it comes to her relationships, working in foreign places, seeing the beauty of the world and her walk with God. I believe this explains the spark in her eye and the joy that radiates from her. Her dreams are big and beautiful.

5. Chelsea loves God. I have never doubted this about Chelsea. This is a credit to her parents, her upbringing at a great church and to a God who is relentless in his pursuit of Chelsea. She has hit some rough spots along the way. She has had opportunities to lose faith and turn her back on God, but she never has. She has served in her church from a young age, and even now she is planning how she can serve in the church in Jersey City. I don’t know where Chelsea will end up (hopefully close to me!), but I believe with all my heart she will spend her life loving and serving God.

I will stop my list at 5 today. If I’m honest, there are days when I worry about Chelsea. I worry about her heading off to a big city on her own. I wonder if she has all of the tools she needs to thrive and make a life for herself. Yet, right now, when I look at this list, I feel peace flood my mind.


She will be the first to tell you she is not perfect, but I don’t know if she could be better equipped than she is with these five qualities. She often jokes that her time in our home should be teaching me how I DON’T want my girls to turn out. Really, though, I would be a proud mom if Ava and Isabel walk into their adulthood with the qualities Chelsea possesses.

So, Chelsea, know that you are loved by the Rennards. I wouldn’t trade this year and a half for anything. You have been like a sister to me a friend. You have opened yourself up to learn the lessons you were intended to learn while living here, and I have learned from you. You will be missed. Not the messes you leave everywhere you go, I won’t miss that. But I will miss your laughter, your sincerity, your big dreams and your love. Please know that you will always have our love and support and can always consider our house a second (or third) home.


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A Gathering of Links VII


I hope wherever you are, you are taking in spring and the glory of God’s creation.  We had a beautiful time of worship with some friends last night and spent the majority of our day at the community garden.  It has been so good for my soul to be outside, surrounded by new life.  I am reminded of new life in Christ Jesus.

Thanks to all of you for making my most popular post What I Gather About…. Here.  It was dedicated to my husband.  I hope you could tell how great he is from the way I gushed!

Here are my favorite links from the last week.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!


From Lisa-Jo Baker, when you’re wondering if you can face another week of the same routine.


From Jerusalem Greer, because bread pudding is one of my favorite foods ever.

From A Cozy Kitchen, because who doesn’t love spaghetti and meatballs?

For Inspiration:

An interview with Sarah Bessey.

Please take a moment to look through these breath-taking photos from Smithsonian Magazine.  God’s beauty is all around.

Have you subscribed to A Holy Experience yet?  Take my word and do yourself the favor.  I am weekly amazed by the beauty and depth of Ann Voskamp’s words.  It is so hard to choose a favorite to share with you, so read them all!  My favorite this week was this…. When Life Burns, What We Could Do For Each Other.

I also want to share a quote with you that I read from Rachel Held Evan’s blog.  It was spoken by Brennan Manning, who recently passed away.  I didn’t know who he was, but this quote has been in my mind an on my heart all week.

“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.” ― Brennan Manning

I hope you enjoy my favorite links from the week.  I will leave you with my Instagrams from this past week.


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Gathering In Close


When I was 19 and in college, I started working at a preschool at a church in Indianapolis.  I have worked there off and on ever since.  My boss and co-workers are great.  They have been flexible with the birth of both of my girls and our travel to Cuba, hiring me whenever I need a job and they have an opening, and letting my sub when they don’t have an opening and I need some extra money.  They have graciously let me take both of my girls to their preschool program for free while I work.  It’s a job made in heaven for this mom.

Currently I work two days a week.  I leave with Isabel about 7:15, before Ava wakes up for school.  Jimmie gets Ava on the bus, then I am home by the time she gets off the bus at 3:45.  It has been a pretty good system for us.

Recently, though, Ava has been complaining about me going to work.  Many nights throughout the past eight months we have dealt with supposed stomach-aches, tears, and guilt-trips.  Our typical conversation has gone something like this:

Ava:  Are you working tomorrow?

Me:  Yes, Ava, I work every Monday and Thursday.  You know that.

Ava:  I don’t WANT you to go to work tomorrow!

Me:  Ava, you know Daddy will be here with you in the morning.  I already laid out your clothes.  He will get you on the bus.  It will all be fine.

Ava:  But I don’t WANT Daddy to get me on the bus.  I want YOU to get me on the bus.

So the conversation goes.  This has been a little unusual for Ava, considering she has always been a Daddy’s girl and most days would choose her dad in a flash!  I have tried to comfort her, reminding her that many kids don’t have the luxury of having parents home to get them on OR off the bus.  I have talked to her about what a blessing my job is to our family and how good it is for Isabel to go to school, just like she was able to go to that preschool.  I have prayed with her, hugged her extra tight.  I have tried waking her up before I leave for work, just to say goodbye.  I have tried sending her morning texts before I clock in at work.  I have even talked to her on the phone before she gets on the bus.  None of it worked.  The complaining had been getting worse and worse.

Fast forward to this past Monday.  She begged me to wake her up before I left for work.  When I did, she opened her eyes, looked at me, and started sobbing.  I eased her back to sleep.  That night at the dinner table, we had a discussion.  It went something like this:

Me:  Ava, we really need to talk about how you react to me going to work.  I feel like you are trying to make me feel really guilty and I don’t understand why.

Ava:  (tearing up)  I just want you home in the morning.

Me:  Ava, Daddy is always here with you.  We never leave you alone.  I just don’t understand.

Jimmie:  (thank God for Jimmie)  Ava, does it bother you that Mommy isn’t close to your school during the day?

Ava cried, nodding her head.  Thanks to Jimmie’s probing question, the reality of what she was feeling hit me hard.  I work 35 minutes away.  Jimmie works 45 minutes away.  Ava has been worried all this time that if something happened at school, Mom and Dad wouldn’t be close.

We went on to have a conversation about what would happen in an emergency.  We eased her fears by letting her know we both always have our cellphones and that our neighbor and friend Tasha is almost always home during the day.  She relaxed and didn’t say anything about me going to work on Thursday.

As I have thought this week about Ava’s internal struggle, I have had great empathy for her feelings.  I have recognized a similar longing inside of me.  It has been a prayer, a stirring in my soul for as long as I can remember.  I have cried it out.  I have worried about it, whispered it as a prayer in the middle of the night.  It has been the plea of my heart and will continue to be as long as I live.  It is the cry of a vulnerable child to a loving parent.

God, just let me know that you are close.

Lord, no matter what path you have placed me upon, let me feel your presence near. 

Be close enough that I may hear your still, small voice.

Be present in my life, that I may see your beauty in the many moments of my day.

When I cry, send comfort.

When I am broken, mend the pieces of my life.

When I find myself in the mire, lift me out with your ever-present hand.

When I call upon your name, come to my rescue as only you can.

Jesus, just let me know that you are near.

“It is the LORD who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1)

Have any of you had any similar experiences with your children?  Can you relate to my prayers?  Do you feel God near?  Do you worry when you don’t feel him close or can you rest in knowing he is there whether you feel him or not?  I would love your feedback!


P.S.  Have you subscribed to Rachael Gathers yet?  If not, please take a moment to enter your e-mail address here.  It will only be used to update you of RG new posts!  Have a great weekend!


A Gathering of Links VI


It has been two weeks since my last gathering of links post, so this one may be a little longer than usual!

It amazes me how much things can change in such a short time.  Two weeks ago we got about a foot of snow here in Indiana.  Today I spent the day working with my family in the community garden, in a t-shirt, in 70 degree weather.  I even have a mild sunburn to show for it!  It is just another demonstration of God and the mysterious ways He works.  He makes all things new, sometimes in ways that are beyond anything we could ask or think.

Thanks to all my fabulous readers, my most popular post in the last two weeks was A Good Friday Gathering.  My favorite post was the one that poured from my heart… What I Gather About the Walk to Golgotha.

Here are some of my favorite posts from some of my favorite bloggers.  Why not grab a cup of coffee, sit out on your deck, and enjoy some evening reading?  You won’t regret it with these links!

Easter Reflection:

From Jen Hatmaker, A Broken Hallelujah.  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

From Melissa Greene at A Deeper Story, Easter Snow.

From Kathy Escobar, Easter Hope(less).

At A Deeper Story, The Red Balloon.

For Spiritual Inspiration:

From Mary DeMuth, The Enoughness of Enough.  I can so relate to this post.

Interesting perspective on the gay marriage debate at A Deeper Story.

From Sarah Markley, Kneeling in the Dirt.

Turning Hate Mail Into Origami from Rachel Held Evans.


Lisa-Jo Baker’s On Letting Our Girls Be Ourselves.

On Marriage:

Addie at A Deeper Story:  Unequally Yoked.

The Case for Not Marrying Young from Leigh at A Deeper Family.  What a great perspective!

Home Inspiration:

I love the bright colors in this featured home from Design Mom.

I love this tray from Jen at Girl in the Garage.

Food Love:

Anyone love making granola as much as me?  Check out this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen.

At A Beautiful Mess, mini pineapple upside down cakes.  YUM!


Such helpful iPhoneography tips from A Simple Mom.  Loved this!

Was anyone else able to enjoy the beautiful weather today?  What have you been reading and loving lately?  I would love to hear from you!

Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to my blog, would you take just a moment to subscribe?  Just enter your e-mail address at the top of my page where it says “Follow Rachael Gathers” – Thanks and I hope the start to your week is fantastic!!


A Gathering of Links V

blog2-1It is later than normal for my weekly post of links.  I have been stuck in bed for four days with some kind of flu/sinus infection-type illness.  Thankfully I’m feeling better today, although my muscles feel like I have just run a marathon without any conditioning.  Let’s look at the bright side… there’s at least a foot of snow outside.  Oh, that’s not the bright side?

While I haven’t been thrilled with the illnesses in my home or the horrible weather launching spring 2013, I must admit that anytime I get really sick, like stuck-in-bed-for-days-sick, it gives me a new appreciation for my health and my life.  It makes me want to live it fully and take advantage of the time I have.  So what better time to get sick and better again than the week of Easter?  I am anticipating so much this year.  I know that spring is coming and with it will come new life and beauty.

I will talk more about Easter later this week, but for now I want to direct you to some great links from the past week or so.

First off, thanks to my fantastic readers, my most popular post this past week was A Gathering of Goodwill Finds.  My own personal favorite was What I Gather About Layers, Life and Spring.  That post was breathed to me by the Holy Spirit and encouraged me so.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From Lisa Jo Baker, on hospitality

From Jen Hatmaker.  I love how bold and honest she is, while still demonstrating such love.

My FAVORITE post of the week… I wish I had a son to share this with…. from A Holy Experience.

For Parents:

From Sarah Markley, on Knitting Us Well Together.

On Marriage:

From my friend over at Becoming Whitney, Desperation.

For Easter:

Design Mom’s painted egg cartons.  I hope to find time this week to make these for my girls.

Pioneer Woman’s fun rice krispie eggs.

Food Love:

Because I lived in Cuba… from A Beautiful Mess, banana chips.  Also, their 25 breakfasts to love.

From Oh Happy Day, churros?  Yes, please!


From my friend Jen at Girl in the Garage, on overcoming fear.

What about you?  What books are on your nightstand?  What have you read this week that has inspired you?  Any favorite recipes or blogs to share with the rest of us?  I would love your feedback!

A Gathering of Links IV

blog2-1I heard on Thursday that the temperature in Indiana a year ago this week reached 80 degrees.  It has been so, so cold here and all I want to do is hibernate until spring comes with its warmth.  Contributing to my blah mood was a week spent with a sick baby.


She was so pitiful.  Thankfully, being holed up in the house, both unwilling and unable to leave, I at least had some good reading material.  I hope you enjoy my favorites from this past week or so.

My most popular post was Gathering Delight.  I truly appreciate all of the positive feedback in response to this post.  Let’s remember to be honest with each other about our shortcomings as parents.  We can draw from each other’s strength and stories to become the parents I know we can be.

My personal favorite post from my blog was A Gathering of Cuba Photos.  It took me back to a land I love.  Plus, I spent hours editing photos for the first time in Photoshop.  It’s a process, but one day I hope to have a clue what I’m doing!


From The Actual Pastor:  To Parents of Small Children… this made its way around the Internet this week!  I think so many parents of young children need to hear they are doing a good job.

From Luke at A Deeper Family.


From Sarah Bessey:  I love her “In which [love looks like]” posts.  The openness with which she speaks about her love for her husband and their journey is simply beautiful.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From A Holy Experience:  I love this idea of A Grace Garden for Easter.  What a fantastic way to create something beautiful with our kids to remind ourselves of the grace of God!

From Jen at A Deeper Family.  I love this post about being real with one another.

For Fun:

Design Mom’s Nigellissima.  I have been somewhat obsessed with Nigella for about ten years now.  I was thrilled to see that someone else has fallen in love with her.

At A Beautiful Mess… because who doesn’t love hummus?

If I were just a little more motivated to be crafty, I would make these salt dough eggs from Design Mom with the girls.

Please let me know if you like any of these links!  Also, what have been your favorite posts this week?  Are you reading anything worthwhile?  I would love to hear from you.

Finally, have you subscribed to my blog yet??  If not, please do!  Just enter your e-mail address where it says “Follow Rachael Gathers” above my picture on the top right of my blog.  You will receive a link to each new blog post.  Your e-mail address will not be used for any other purposes.  You can also follow Rachael Gathers in your favorite RSS feed using the RSS button at the top of my home page.  Next to that button you also have the opportunity to follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.  Whew, that’s a lot!! Thanks and enjoy the last night of your weekend!

Gathering Delight


Bedtime. Let me set the scene for you.  Dinner is over.  Hopefully dishes are done.  There may or may not have been arguments about a certain 9-year-old practicing violin.  There may or may not have been screaming about a certain 3-year-old not wanting to get out of the bath.  Homework is done, sometimes after much complaining.  Mom is tired.  Dad just wants to sit down.  After bathroom trips, teeth-brushing, picking out clothes for the next day, another bathroom trip, and searching for the perfect stuffed animal or book for the night, we tuck them in, say prayers or play our thank-you-God game, and lights are out.  Okay, okay.  There may or may not be a threat about what will happen if either of those girls gets up.

Currently Isabel is in a stage where she is testing my bedtime limits.  She shares a room with Ava, so many nights she keeps Ava up for an hour or more.  She sings, talks, gets up, hits Ava, tickles Ava, climbs into bed with Ava.  Now that she is potty-trained, she comes in our room, having to go potty.  Again.  She slams the closet door, plays with her toys.  She makes messes, then opens and closes her bedroom door just to see if we are outside.  She.  Tests.  My.  Patience.

Ava knows that Mom has enough drama at bedtime and is usually pretty good about staying in her bed.  She knows getting out of bed means grounding from her Kindle.

I hope I have set the stage adequately for the happenings of Thursday night past.  This particular night we tried to get the girls in bed early because Ava had ISTEP testing the next morning.  I had told Ava that the next day I would not be home when she got off the bus and she would walk to Tasha’s house.  She was nervous about it, but we talked it though.  Tasha’s house is only a block or two away and Ava walks and rides her bike there from time to time.

About 30 minutes later, Ava was in our room.  I didn’t look up.  I didn’t want to lose my temper or get into a discussion.  It had been settled.  Ava would go to Tasha’s.  Jimmie walked her back in her room and was in there for a long time.  When he came back in our room, the discussion went something like this.

Jimmie:  Ava is sobbing.  She wants to see you.  She is nervous about tomorrow.

Rachael:  She has walked to her house before.  She goes to Kristi’s house, that is even farther.  She is being dramatic.

Jimmie:  She said she had a dream that someone kidnapped her by the park.  She is scared.

Rachael: (still relatively unmoved) Jimmie, she is just looking for reasons not to go to sleep.  This isn’t a big deal at all.


I believe that often when Jimmie raises his voice, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through him.

I walk into the room.  My baby is looking up at me, tears streaming down her face.  She reaches up, wraps her arms around me and holds on for dear life.  She is scared.  I finally come to my senses.  I speak soothing words.  I make other arrangements.  We make up.  I hold her, hug her.  I speak of Jesus as our protector.  I speak of fear and how it has no place in us when we know Jesus.  I pray over her.  I stroke her hair and watch her in wonder as she sleeps easily, comforted by my words and her Jesus.  I am so overwhelmed with love for this child, I think I may burst.

I hear the voice, somewhere deep inside, speaking truth I have avoided.  This is your child.  Take delight in her.  She is wondrous.  She is not an inconvenience, she is a delight.  Find joy in her.  Speak gently.  Show her grace.  Be a soft place to fall.  I delight in you, my child.  Now delight in her.  Your child.

I don’t know when it happened.  I always have moments of delight in Ava.  She is so smart and confident.  She is caring and strong.  She leads, she loves.  She has PASSION.  My head knows this, but for a while now I have been so consumed with myself, my problems  and my struggles that my heart wasn’t in it.  It may have been that way for a week.  Maybe a month.  I pray it wasn’t longer than that.  I was so grateful that God woke me up Thursday past.  It is easy for me to take delight in the 3-year-old who hugs mama all the time, says the cutest things, cuddles and kisses.  I thank Jesus that He reminded me that I must wonder at Ava.  She is a glorious gift.  If I look, I can see Jesus in her.  I can see the beauty of creation.  I can see His love in the way she loves.  I am delighting in her again.

He delights in me, after all.  The Bible tells me so.  Even when I fall terribly short as a mom.  Even though I am willful and resistant to His prompting.  Even if I get up when I’m supposed to stay put.  Even though I make messes.  Even if I pretend I need something when He has given me everything I need to rest.  Even when I talk when He wants me to be quiet and still.  Even if I slam doors He has opened so I can see the light.  Even if I annoy and hinder my brothers and sisters on this journey with me.  Even if I’m afraid when there is nothing to fear.  Even if I cry even though He has assured me everything will be okay.  In spite of myself, He delights in me after all.

Do you delight in your children?  Do you ever consider that God takes delight in you?  What obstacles keep you from delighting in your children?  I would love to hear that I’m not alone in this struggle!  This wasn’t a mom-moment I am proud of, but I thank God for the lesson that followed.