at the table

Growing up in a family that was very intentional about sitting down at the table together each night, the transition away from home and into a space without a common table of my own was challenging. While there were often still people gathered around the table, I didn’t have a space of my own to start my own traditions as I was used to doing. At the time, this never specifically struck me as odd or disappointing. While I didn’t have my own table to cultivate community around, there were other ways this manifested throughout those years. And while I still don’t have a table, one practice remains the same.

Coffee.

Steaming cups, frothy milk, perfectly [or not so perfectly] pulled espresso shots, and a table. Not a table placed in the center of a dining room in a beautifully decorated home, but a table, in the middle of a coffee shop, used as a common place for people to meet – to gather around.

In fact, at this moment, I sit at a coffee shop in the Brussels airport, watching people gather together. Some, you can tell, are in a hurry, while others have stopped to linger, making the most of their international layover. But even in moments of the hustle and bustle of airport life, people still sit around a table – sharing words and coffees and moments together. *NOTE: I started writing this blog almost two years ago and I am, in fact, not sitting in the Brussels airport. Unfortunately.*

Community around the table can look different in various seasons and stages of life. But for me, in this season, “the table” is the corner comfy chair with the little wooden coffee table in front of it. It’s gathering and connecting over our commonalities, even if the only thing we have in common is the steaming drink that sits in front of us.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve showed up at a coffee shop, normally earlier than planned, meeting someone for the first time. Though to some this may seem intimidating (and honestly, I still feel this way sometimes), there is something beautiful and life giving about hearing someone’s story, coffees being sipped, and nothing known in common other than the mugs in our hands.

Common ground. That’s what coffee is. It’s the leveling of expectations – stripping down our preconceptions and our fears – creating a space that allows us to get down to the basics. Whether conversation comes easily or if it takes work to get things moving, the vulnerability and courage displayed by simply showing up permeates through the noise around you.

I’ve always said the best conversations happen while sitting on the kitchen floor or driving on a road trip. But after the last few years, I may have one more to add to the list. Honestly, I think some of the best conversations I’ve had, either first meetings or with the oldest of friends, were experienced with mugs in hand. The steam somehow breaks down the barriers put up by unknown expectations or anticipation; removing the walls that so easily place themselves between words and meaningful conversations.

I know for myself, fear creeps into every aspect of life it can. The big and small things alike are all permeated with some level of fear or the anticipation that accompanies it. As it’s something that has been more present in the last few years, I’ve also been much more aware of fear’s ability to impact my life in significant ways. So, you would think the thought of meeting someone I don’t know, in a coffee shop I may not have been to before, to probably make some sort of small talk (which I often dread), would terrify me; to the point that I would use any and every excuse to avoid such event. And to be honest, often times it does. But you know what, acknowledging that, yet stepping out anyway is not only empowering, but rewarding beyond measure.

There’s something about that table, in that random coffee shop, with that piping hot coffee in your hands that screams out “bold” – on both sides of the table. Because let’s be honest, the person sitting across from you is most likely feeling just about the same thing you are. But you know what, you both showed up. You both took bold steps forward – risking vulnerability and possible rejection, all for the sake of relationship and community. And suddenly, you’re both on the same page, at the same starting line, with the same goal in mind.

Relationship.

People going beyond the surface, the exterior, the façade, to truly engage with another human being on a level that is beautiful and God honoring. So many times, we place a big emphasis on “community”, as it’s something we all strive to have in our lives on multiple levels. However, I believe relationship with others, seeking and chasing after The Creator – individually and together – will naturally become “community”. It’s not something that needs to be accomplished, but instead becomes something we are able to experience because we are relentlessly pursuing the Lord together. And it may start with something as simple as boldly saying yes to the unknown waiting for you in that corner coffee shop.

So, whether or not you have a table in your home to gather people around, whether or not you feel as though you’re in a place to invite people in to your space, or whether your “table” is outside of the four walls you consider home, know that the place you find yourself is significant. Even if this is simply the coffee shop around the corner with the person God has placed in front of you, for such a time as this.

Rest in the fact that no matter where you find yourself, boldly stepping out to walk alongside someone else, pursing the Lord together, your “table” will meet you where you are. All you have to do is say yes – and order the coffee.

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Advertisements

shine like a star

So here’s a little story.

A story about one of my favorite families and their HUGE hearts for adoption. After too many failed adoptions and too many broken hearts, they have welcomed the sweetest girl into their family! Within the first week of arriving back in Uganda at the beginning of the year, I went to Asher to visit the orphanage where Stella was living. From the very first moment I saw her radiant smile, I knew this little girl was special. The interactions between Ash and Stella were something that can only be described by the linking of souls.

Though they have legal guardianship of Stell-Bell, they will have to wait several years in country to fully & legally adopt her as an official Collie. All of these steps and procedures require a great deal of money. Would you consider partnering with them as they continue in this journey? Below I have posted their latest blog post – a beautiful description of their adoption story so far. You can also see the original post here. This family holds a special place in my heart – they are doing BIG things for the Kingdom. 

image1.PNG

It is funny to me that I would ever seriously think that my family’s life would go according to my plans. And really, thank God for that! My plans are far less than what God has planned for us.

Dru and I always knew adoption was something God called our family to. It really wasn’t even a question. So in 2010 we started pursuing the adoption of a child from Ethiopia, Africa. We journeyed that way for about a year, lost thousands of dollars and came to the realization that although it seems wonderful, everyone in the adoption world is not ethical. But, through that struggle and loss Sole Hope was birthed! In 2013, after moving to Uganda for Sole Hope we found out about two children who needed a home. These children called us “mommy” and “daddy” and were with us on and off for six months. In the end we came to know the truth that these two children had families that were looking for them. Again we lost thousands of dollars and ended up heartbroken. In 2013 we also met a tiny and sick little boy we named Eli. He stole the hearts (in a major way) of every person in our family. And he too was taken from us after living under our care for over a year.

But, on Christmas day in 2013 I went to visit my soon to be niece at a local orphanage. She had malaria and was in bed the entire time I was there so I ventured out and started interacting with the other children. A special little girl caught my attention. She seemed so joyful & content. I asked my friend who knew the children to tell me about this little girl. Her name was Stella and I needed to know nothing more. My heart fell in love with her immediately and I experienced nothing like I have ever felt before, I knew she was mine but it scared everything living out of me! My soul pursued her in an unimaginable and uncontrollable way. One day I broke my hearts silence and asked Dru if he would ever consider adopting a child with a physical/mental disability like Stella. And in true Dru fashion he said, “Of course. She needs a family too.” (Love that man!) And so the journey began of bringing Stella into our family.

10678726_10204476619889592_3846665790938354348_n

Jumping back to July 22, 2014, Eli was taken from our family and it felt like the death of a child. I didn’t know how I would parent any more children; I wasn’t sure how my heart could grow to love another child that wasn’t already a part of our family. I was hurt, broken, torn up, depressed and yet I still had this strange hope that could have only been from the Lord. Only a few weeks after Eli was taken I was sent an email at what felt like a horrible time from the orphanage. “Everything is ready for you to adopt Stella. Just submit your paperwork to your lawyer and we will get a court date.”

WHAT!?

Horrible timing I thought. But my heart still ached for Stella. And because I know that God is the author of all things that have to do with time we pressed in and allowed him to open and close whatever doors he wanted-but, with very cautious hearts. After all, we didn’t want to “lose” another child and we didn’t want to have to tell our kids again that this girl would not be their sister. Stella stayed at the orphanage to guard our hearts and I would go visit her a couple times a week. I finished all of our paperwork like a robot, not really attaching any emotional energy to what I was doing. On October 23, 2014 we went to court and in a quick, matter of fact way the judge granted our family legal guardianship of Stella. What does this mean? SHE IS OURS! We can’t legally change her name for three years because we are waiting to finish the adoption in Uganda, but they can’t take her from us…and that feels Oh! So good.

Now for the cool God story that I didn’t even realize until after she came to live with us…

In 2010 when I was pregnant with Asa, Dru and I said that if the baby was a boy we were going to name him Asa, and if the baby was a girl we were going to name her Stella. Stella was born only 6 days before Asa, in the same year. So little did we know that while our Asa was in our arms in America, our Stella was being born in a little village three hours outside of Jinja, Uganda in the same week!

Let me tell you about our little star, Stella. She is six years old and has the most infectious laugh! Like, more infectious than Ebola. She is happy all the time…unless of course she thinks you are withholding food from her. She is so motivated to move and groove like any six year old, but her little body was made just a little bit different. Stella has cerebral palsy and microcephaly. She can’t walk, YET, but she is in physical therapy and is working hard. She can however get around very well with some amazing upper body strength. She also can’t talk, at least not like you and I can. She can say a few words and we are teaching her American sign language. She is SO smart and picks new things up very quickly. She also has unbelievable rhythm and loves music. Stella has extra needs that will require extra strength, extra stamina from our family and extra faith and we cannot wait to watch her grow and change and rejoice with her in what the Lord does in her life.

1013642_10204476620049596_7655292901031932343_n

10458230_10204476622369654_8019253301541267928_n

God writes amazing stories. He has taught and is teaching our family astounding things through a tiny human being named Stella who is extra special. If you want to join our story, please do. Unfortunately it comes with a high price (in dollars). Just like any other adoptive family we have lawyer bills, paperwork fees and many other costs that we have to pay to make this little girl a part of our family. If you would like to either help us raise money, or make a donation we would be so thankful.

You can make your donations to:

Online: http://www.gofundme.com/i0m2qk

Paper check: Andrew and Asher Collie
605 East Innis Street
# 3263
Salisbury, NC 28145

PayPal: dru@solehope.com

Or email us at asher@solehope.org to let us know your creative idea for helping us raise money! (We need to raise $16,000)

To read more about Eli’s story on Instagram search ‪#‎ChocolateDropEli‬ and to learn more about Stella’s story on Instagram search ‪#‎SweetStellaBella‬.

Facebook photos from the day Stella and I met by @wanderingwithmary.

[Please feel free to share]

give thanks

Oh, my heart is full.

Today was my first time hosting a Thanksgiving dinner – it was also my first Thanksgiving in Uganda. Holidays here are different – not bad, just different. You are away from family, the comforts of “home” (no matter what Drü says, this “Canadian” still gets to celebrate Thanksgiving), the temperature is completely wrong, and you can’t buy 75% of what you would need for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Have no fear, we snuck (okay, not so exciting) people brought us those foods that we are missing here (Hello French’s Fried Onions) & helped us make this day even more special.

This morning started off a little different than most. Instead of putting the finishing touches on my assigned dish and heading to the farm to shoot skeet, I walked down the street to watch Asher kill our dinner. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, our turkey was happy as a clam, running around the outreach house this morning. Some might think that is the most disgusting things that you could do the morning of Thanksgiving, but honestly, it was a perfect start. There was lots of laughter, turkey chasing, & just being with friends. So our sweet Mr. Turkey that tasted oh so good this evening, started our morning out in a unique and ridiculous way.

This afternoon was filled with laughter, cooking, pumpkin, cheese (because the aforementioned friends brought good REAL cheese from America – bless them), & fighting with the oven for more space than it could offer. Creativity was at its peak this afternoon as we tried to find enough pots to cook in, enough pans to bake in, and a make-shift pie plate to bake my pecan pie in. But have no fear, the puzzle was completed and everything turned out just beautifully.

We sat around the table, sharing a meal, just enjoying the different relationships that were around us. (Not to mention it was #SweetStellaBella’s first Thanksgiving as apart of the Collie family – such a special time.) It was definitely different than any Thanksgiving that I’ve experienced (I mean we imported half of our food), but it was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever experienced. For one night, we could put our work aside, and truly be thankful for the beautiful country that we are in, the delicious food before us, the community around us, & our Creator above us.

But enough of my rambling – clearly you are all waiting for the turkey killing pictures. Well, don’t you worry, they are here. Here’s to Thanksgiving – to traditions in an untraditional place.

IMG_7071

IMG_7078

IMG_7084

IMG_7125

IMG_7127

IMG_7140

IMG_7144

IMG_7155

IMG_7177

IMG_7209

IMG_7180-2

IMG_7185

IMG_7197

IMG_7221

FullSizeRender


moving forward

FullSizeRender

Community is a beautiful thing.

Last night marked the final time that we all would be gathered around that table in that house – a house alive with community and deep friendship. That table was the place that I ate my very first meal in North Carolina over three years ago. Little did I know at that time how significant that house & that table would be in my life. Conversations around that table were ones of encouragement, of happiness, of tears, of growth & understand.

My second trip to North Carolina came the weekend after I left my nursing program. The decision was fresh and the emotions were still raw. My life was moving in a direction that I didn’t understand & next steps were uncertain. All I knew was that something needed to change – and I had not the slightest idea of what that could look like. That weekend, I sat at that round table in that very kitchen and had a conversation with the people who would turn into some of my biggest mentors. Suddenly, I felt more at peace, more understood, more at home. Fall turned to winter and I returned before the end of the year to that place that tucked itself into my heart. I spent almost two weeks falling more in love with these people and this place – and that table.

It was after that trip that I made the decision to work towards moving – after much joking about just that. Somehow things started falling into place. Things starting making more and more sense. And just like that, three months later, this sweet town would be my new home & these people my extended family.

And still we gathered around that table. Dinner parties, holiday parties, after parties, homework parties, porch parties. New friendships, intentional relationships, dear friends, life friends. Good conversations, hard conversations, deep conversations, laugh-until-you-cry conversations, just straight up cry conversations, life-changing conversations. New friends because life friends around that table. Life was lived around that table.

And yet, life continues when we leave that table. Those friendships, those conversations, they go beyond the table. The memories are the people, the relationships, the community. While the memories seem to live in that house, it was the people who made the memories. What made that table so life changing, was the souls that gathered around it each night. We gathered around that table knowing that we would share laughs, tears, and life. We knew that we would be cared for around that table – physically, mentally, and spiritually. And last night, as we sat there for the last time together, we went around and described our best memory there. Through laughs and tears, we all talked about the things that sit near and dear to our heart – but there was one thing that was very evident. The memories were the people. The memories were created in that house, but without the people they would be completely insignificant.

So here we are – in a new season. We all have lives that move in different ways, at different speeds, in different places. But still, we will gather. It may not be around that table, but it will be with those souls.

So here’s to the next season. Here’s to a new table. Here’s to many more years of community and deep friendship in whatever house we find ourselves.

FullSizeRender