a handpainted card that arrived in the post this week… xx

One of the darkly comical notes for 2020 is that in January I had been considering a “word of the year” (something I’d only done once before).

I said to a friend that I was thinking of the word “gather”, but I wasn’t sure if that was a realistic word for me.

I am an introvert. 

I really like people. I like to be included. I love sitting down in a comfortable space… like my garden… and having a chat.

My work is ALL about people, and I love my work.

And I’m an “introvert” because I need time alone to recharge, and be quiet inside. 

As an introvert I have to fight my first impulse, which is always to say ‘no’ to an invitation that will take me out of my house.

I like to stay home. I like to work in the garden. I like to go for a walk. 

I like to be alone, although 2020 has given me more “alone time” than even I want.

I like people. I like visitors. I like to have people in my garden and watch them interact. 

I like to laugh.

I like to create the space, and then watch people enjoy it. That’s how I enjoy it. 

I love people to feel loved and welcome.  And I feel loved by their presence.

If you know the Enneagram, I’m a 5w4. I’m an observer. I’m an investigator. And I love colour and colourful things…

And my word for 2020 was GATHER. 

I shake my head.

I wanted to think of new ways to gather people together.

I wanted to explore what “family” means when my own family is 7000 miles away.

I wanted to create meaningful experiences for the families I know here in Ireland.

I wanted to look at how we were doing our monthly gatherings and work out how to do it better. 

I wanted to have people in my garden, and get out the barbecue and fire pit. I had ideas…

I stocked up on marshmallows (apparently my birthday is National Toasted Marshmallow Day… that’s a thing).

I wanted to stretch my own comfort and say “yes” when I was invited into something new.

I wanted to believe that when people invite me into their lives and experiences it’s because they want me there.

There is this sentence fragment in Acts, and it speaks to my heart. 

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts… Acts 2:46

That. I wanted that.

A couple nights ago An Taoiseach announced that these current level 5 restrictions will be extended at least until the end of February, and most children won’t be back in school until after St. Patrick’s Day.

This means we cannot gather in the usual ways. 

It means homeschooling, and a 5 km limit when we venture out.

It means no visits or visitors, and essential journeys only.

For some it means they will NEVER be alone.

For me it means, a giant leap forward into my future as the cat lady who wears the same clothes every day and shuffles around the garden in my “good outdoor slippers”- muttering under my breath about neighbourhood kids and other peoples’ pets.

So what has “gather” meant to me in 2020. 

“Gather” is the wonderful people who check on me during the week. 

In the summertime, “gather” meant afternoons in the garden when the sun was shining, and a friend dropping by.

“Gather” is conversations in the driveway, 2 meters apart, while my 6 year-old friend veers near me and then away – wishing we could hug.

It has meant Bible story recordings and my very own YouTube account.

“Gather” was a wonderful, cold, sunny Christmas morning at a picnic table, sharing Christmas cake, and mulled wine (heated on a camp stove), and sausage rolls. 

“Gather” is the slightly motion sick feeling that comes when a four year old carries the phone around his house and shows me all of his toys.

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts… Acts 2:46

As I write, it becomes clear to me that this year “gather” is MORE about the “glad and sincere hearts” than it is about being “in their homes… together”.

As I remember these times we have “gathered” (and others! a gift of a painted rock from a 3 year old… coffee and a walk on Thanksgiving Day… a masked visitor during a blackout – which sounds rather sinister when I say it like that…) they are sweeter than they might have been in 2019.

I know they were offered with glad and sincere hearts.

And I know that the effort to make these things happen, was greater.

What will “gather” mean in 2021? 

So far, it looks very much like 2020.

And so I ask myself, what can I do this week to gather those around me, and those I love – with a glad and sincere heart?

How do I reach out with my heart, when we cannot be in our homes, together?

And for those who are overwhelmed, the challenge may be allowing yourself to receive it – the blessing of a glad and sincere heart.

For you who are tired… For you who are overwhelmed… “Gather” also means this:

He tends his flock like a shepherd: 

He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;

he gently leads those that have young.  Isaiah 40:11

 Inhale: Give me a glad and sincere heart…

Exhale: …that I will not miss the gift of presence in my days.

That’s what I would have said…

2 responses »

  1. Such beautiful words, Kathi! I also love the picture of Gathering with a glad and sincere heart. Lord, may it be so!
    I want to find new ways to acknowledge my glad heart…even alone!???
    Blessings, Dear Friend.

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