Gather.

I was hoping to share with you an article I got published in a magazine. Instead, it’s an article I wrote for a magazine, but they in fact decided not to publish it. I’ve set some writing goals for myself, among other goals, and writing articles was one of them. Turns out, just like the all the real authors say, there is a lot of rejection associated with writing. Not cool. So, while this article was in fact rejected, I have to giggle to myself because I think it’s pretty good. Okay, I’m clearly biased, and maybe it’s just barely decent.

ButI hope you can see how special you are, my dear reader, since I feel like I can in fact share this article with you. It was tempting to tell myself because it wasn’t good enough for a magazine, it’s not good enough for anyone to read. But, I’m choosing to believe that isn’t true. I’m choosing to believe that perhaps it wasn’t the right article for them, but it’s still an article filled with truth, real life, and one woman’s thoughts on gathering.

The topic was simply “Gather.”  How appropriate with Thanksgiving just a month away!

Here is the article….

Gathering is essential. Our need for heart to heart connection is vital to our survival. And it is a silent and powerful way of demonstrating that no matter what we believe,  where we stand politically, or who or what we worship, that we love someone. We value them. When we gather, we are saying that even though we have differences, and life is hard and complicated, being together and making time for each other is bigger than those things.

 

Sadly, I recently lost sight of that. Just this past summer we visited our extended family in California. My husband and I braved the expensive and long international flights with our three kids so we could gather with our family and closest friends. And we usually have a pretty great time. But this particular trip, well, it was a cluster. I am not solely referring to the standard cluster we normally are as we travel internationally with 3 kids under five; as we lug around 3 car seats, 5 pieces of luggage, backpacks, strollers, sippy cups and snacks falling behind us like we’re Hansel and Gretel. People see us coming and they give us either sympathetic nods or annoyed side ways glances, praying we aren’t on the same plane.

 

No, I’m more specifically referring to the actual time with our families that was just not as great as it usually is, and it’s usually pretty amazing.  I still am unsure what exactly went wrong, but I think it was a combination of poor communication, bad planning, and not nearly enough grace for each other.

 

For weeks after we returned my husband and I talked about it. We dissected it, hoping to figure out what went wrong. And we blamed. Oh, how we blamed. As we picked everything apart, and finger pointed, all we began to focus on was our differences. We are all so very different from each other. My siblings, and my husbands siblings, we are all grown up now. Like, full blown real adults, with spouses, children of our own, and even real careers. And as we’ve grown up, thankfully, we’ve changed. We are no longer the immature children we once were; locking one another out of rooms, wearing each others clothes without asking, lurking around corners hoping to scare the other into tears, and taking family game night just a little too far with our competitiveness. Okay, confession, some things some of us haven’t outgrown. Ehem. So naturally, with all that growing up, we see things differently. We believe different ideals, we vote differently, we spend our money differently, we vacation differently, we school our children differently, we have different thoughts and ideas about Jesus, and we are raising our families differently.
That’s a lot of differences.

 

And that was all I could focus on for a while. But I finally decided to talk to the Lord about it, perhaps rant is a bit more accurate, and He listened. Then He held up a mirror to my heart, in the tender way that He does, and showed me my culpability. He showed me how desperately I lacked kindness and grace.  Grace. One thing I desperately needed on that particular trip, but sadly wasn’t able or willing to give. I was too consumed with my own stress, my own life, my own little family.

 

I knew I had to apologize. And I had a feeling, deep in my heart, there was something else God wanted me to do. My pride was telling me that time would heal this wound, and maybe we’d just not visit again for another year, or two. Because I knew if I wasn’t ready for another visit, they too probably weren’t too thrilled about us coming back so soon. But the Lord was prompting me to take a different route. He wanted me to repent, extend grace, and take the path towards reconciliation. And He also wanted me to book plane tickets, and more specifically, not in two years from now.

 

So, I finally listened. We are going to visit my family thisThanksgiving, and we put another trip on the calendar to visit my husband’s family next spring. Sure it means we’ll spend more money traveling, we’ll use all our vacation time visiting family, and we’ll be going back when our hearts are still a little tender from the last visit.

 

But we are going to do it, because I know what else it means. It means we are sowing peace, and choosing love. These next two trips are an olive branch, the best way I can tangibly demonstrate my love for them. I want them to hear me, loud and clear, when I say that I love you. Even when I act selfishly, even though I’m probably not always easy to love. Even though there was hurt and misunderstanding on both ends. Because I am learning it’s essential to choose love, and give grace freely, especiallyin the thick of our differences.

 

So as I prepare for this next gathering, I want to be a little less concerned with what I’m packing, and spend a more time preparing my heart, asking the Lord to fill me with more of Him, and less of me. It’s only with the Lord’s help that I can do that. Because, let’s be honest, if I’m going to brave another international flight with my adorable but legit hot mess of a crew, that’s the only way I want to arrive. Full of grace and love, and perhaps a few half chewed goldfish stuck to my pants as well.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Gather.

  1. Thank you Jessica for such wise words. I love you beyond words!! I needed this right now! Love you Barbie

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. So well said Jess – family is so important and we all need to offer more grace to one another – I know I do. I will be praying for your upcoming trip. Love you!!!!!

  3. Such insigh &, soul searching . I loved this relevant story, Jessica. Realizing we don’t all feel or think the same but love each other anyways is a huge step in healing wounded hearts. Don’t take it personally….. just be open to God’s leading & continue extending olive branches:).
    Continue writing & submitting your stories. You never know whose life you’ll touch!
    Hugs!

  4. Dear Jessica – Oh yes – you speak truth!! Although I think every one of us can relate to your words in this article, maybe writing this article was a necessary process for you to experience as you work through the reality of family life as adult with your own growing family! We always walk away from extended family times aware again that family is hard work – it requires grace given with no expectation of ANYTHING in return. It is God’s process of shaping you, not them. At my advanced stage of life I know for certain that it doesn’t get easier. Yep, that’s how it feels to me. But when you lower expectations (and for us length of time together) it does get less traumatic. Now I realize how cynical that sounds – and I don’t mean for it to sound that way. But I also think family was GOD’S idea. He knows what it takes to shape us into people He can use. It is indeed a sanctifying process.

    So go with realistic – and grand expectations of your time with your family at Thanksgiving. I hope our little Albuquerque house will give you moments away from the whole group to keep some kind of schedule for your children (a necessity when you travel), and maybe moments to reflect on how good God is in blessing us with family. Hugs to you today! Cathy

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  5. Jessica,

    You are wise beyond your years!

    I’m sorry your article didn’t get published because ALL families need to read this. Your family is not the exception here. I believe we all deal with this type of thing when it comes to families.

    As the holidays are quickly approaching, and we spend more time than usual with our immediate and extended families, I pray that I will remember what you’ve written and extend Grace to each and every person I’m around. Oh, how grateful I am that my Heavenly Father doesn’t forget or choose not to extend Grace to me for my shortcomings on a daily basis.

    I pray that we all remember to Love as Christ has loved us and through that love, be able to extend grace and forgiveness in all circumstances when we’re with the ones we love the most.

    Please continue your writing. I’m certain that the people that God would want to speak to through your writing will see it whether or not it is actually published. So keep up the good work!

    We love you and your family!

  6. Such great timing with the holidays coming up! You’re such a gifted writer. Thank you for being bold and honest and willing to share! Love you!

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