Thursday, October 27, 2016

So great a cloud of witnessess...

This October has been one of the most beautiful that I can remember. Brisk, cool mornings--the dew soaking my shoes through before 9 am. October: month of reflection, preparation, cool mornings and hot, sunny afternoons. Last October was an emotional roller coaster of a time: a dear woman passed away, Tim and I learned of the job we now hold, our wedding was two months away, and we were two months into our year-long internship.

October 15, 2015 | A gorgeous day spent outside with fellow seminarians making apple cider. It was in the midst of this community that I learned of Tracy's passing. In the midst of the most perfect fall day of flannel, organic apples, and fresh-pressed cider, we learned of the worst news imaginable. They don't go together--the joy and perfection of a fall day and the death of a beautiful, kind, joyful woman.

October 15, 2016 | Was the same kind of day. The quintessential fall day of cool mornings, vibrant leaves, and warm afternoons. Most of this day was spent in a classroom for a weekend intensive. I had been asked to craft a worship center on the theme "A Great Cloud of Witnesses." A year removed from her death, I reflected on the woman whom I consider to be one of my witnesses. As I moved heavy bricks, wound tulle, and lit candles, I remembered Tracy. I remembered her excited phone call upon receiving my Bethany application. I remembered Tracy tearfully, purposefully, mightily standing up for young women ministers. I remembered Tracy's beautiful worship style and invitational leadership. I remembered our walk to enjoy Harvey's in Bridgewater--talking about call and the happiness in our lives. I remembered her talking about her future husband and meeting him online, and how it's okay to date outside the Brethren pool. I remembered meeting her after she had raced through the airport to make our international flight to Burma. I remembered joy, belly laughs, intentional conversation, journeys, bible studies, ice cream, and real talk.

I was in the chapel of Bethany Seminary--in a place to which Tracy had helped call me, had journeyed with me. The perfect fall light illuminating the otherwise dim, dormant sanctuary. Her rays of light continue to shine upon me like the hot afternoon October sun--adding warmth to a cool day.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


It was a natural choice—using the beloved, collected dishes from my mother and grandmother’s curio cabinets. Dishes so loved they live behind glass windows—like a piece of fine art in a museum. It was a natural choice to use the collections of Mamaw’s and Mama’s plates and tea cups—thrifted from Goodwill or yard sales, found in auction boxes and on wooden shelves. The church plates were a light green, plastic, and simply obscene for a navy and gold wedding. The beloved dishes of my loved ones weren’t plastic or styrafoam—they were washed and re-used, to be loved again and again. It was a natural choice to honor those I love and what they love. 

Months before the wedding while visiting my mother, she tenderly takes the first set of dishes she ever owned from a box that lives in the attic. Holding one, silver rimmed, Winter Set plate from American Royalty, she smiles and talks about saving money to buy a whole set of nice dishes. Not plastic divided plates, not thick dinner plates, not a ceramic set from Target—a set of nice dishes. Her own set of dishes for hosting, for entertaining, for the sheer delight of eating from something nice. She laughs that she paid full price for them—she’s never done that for a set of dishes since.

The stories that came from the dishes on that special day were many. “I ate from a set of dishes I collected plate by plate from my local bank” or “the dishes you had are like a set of my great grandmother’s.” They were stories of love and memories of shoo-fly pie, green beans, and corn on the cob. Stories of homemade meals and slow food cooked by loving hands. 

By using them, we honor them. By delighting in their form and function, we honor the something before our eyes. We honor the craftsmanship. We honor the artistry and the intricate design of the pattern. We honor the lives they’ve lived before gracing our tables. We honor my grandmother and mother who love dishes so dearly that they hunt for them, collect them, and display them behind glass doors in their homes.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Embracing 2016

I have never been a year-long resolution keeper--like the other 92% of people who don't keep their new years resolutions. My friend, Marian, and I share our new years resolutions each year--although I know I will forget about mine in a couple of months. It's a nice idea, it's just never worked for me. 

The idea of naming my year or living into a word for the year has really spoken to me this season. People have written all sorts about choosing a word and or picking one little word. It's a way to frame your year, to live into your values, and to grow into a vision of who we want to be at the end of the year. The word I have chosen for 2016 is...


1. to hold someone in your arms as a way of expressing love and friendship 
2. to accept (someone or something) readily and gladly
3. to use (an opportunity) greatly 

There is so much change happening in my life--that has happened, is happening, and will happen! That I can see! That's not even the things outside of my longitudinal vision that are yet to be seen! Tim and I were married in December, are moving in February, starting a new job in March, and transitioning to becoming "connections" students. My first tendency is to project myself into the future and not be present for the "now"--for what God is doing right before my eyes. 

I fling my arms open to the newness that is unfolding and the journey that lies before my feet. 
© Katie H.
Maira Gall