Kindred Spirits Book Friends

by Rachel Dodge


Finding Kindred Spirits

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

I received this text from a dear friend who joined my family for dinner recently. She doesn’t have a family of her own to share meals with and her message reminded me to value something I typically take for granted. I’m fortunate to have nightly meals with my husband and two children. Around the table, we talk about our days, sometimes laughing, other times commiserating, but always sharing our lives together. While these meal times meet our physical needs, this table fellowship also meets our emotional and spiritual needs.Gathering around books has always been a natural and necessary part of my life. When I was little, my father read the newspaper to me after work while my mother cooked dinner. Before nap time, during long car rides, in doctor’s waiting room–even in the middle of the night with the chicken pox–my mother read whole books to us. Everywhere we went, she kept a book (usually atattered copy of one of Laura Ingalls’ Little House on the Prairie books) tucked under her arm. It didn’t matter where we’d left off last; she just opened the book and start reading.

I supposed you could say we were the original read-aloudrevival family!

As I got older, my parents and brother and I continued to read out loud, swap books, and talk about literature around the dinner table and everywhere else, but I rarely found other people who liked reading as much as I did—and certainly not the sweet, old-fashioned books I enjoyed. At school, I was the one with my nose in a book, the one who loved to dress up as favorite literary characters, the one who liked the “olden days.” In high school and college, I was the reader, the writer, and the English major. Everywhere I went, I always kept eyes peeled for “kindred spirits”—those who shared my love for beautiful books, charming characters, and heart-warming stories.

Perhaps that’s why I find it so enchanting to have found so many kindred spirits, in recent years, who love to gather online to talk about books. I kind of feel like Anne Shirley when she said, “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” (Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery)

I used to think I just needed to grow up and let go of my quaint ideas about life and literature, but now I know that I just needed to find my people.

Thanks to the ability to gather online to discuss books, I now know I’m not the only one who loves old books and old-fashioned things. Other people love to read treasured classics over and over again, too! In fact, I found out that many people read for comfort, are “mood” readers like me, and love to discuss favorite books. Best of all, many of my bookish friends are also sisters in Christ, which means we get to fellowship together . . . and talk about books!

Follow Rachel on IG

For those looking for ways to gather with others and foster genuine community around books, I think the best place to start is a buddy read (or group read-along). I’ll never forget readingLes Misérables in 2020 with a group of women from all around the world. That experience was epic in so many ways! I could have never slogged through it alone, but with my faithful reading buddies beside me, I knew I couldn’t give up. I can honestly say it’s one of my favorite books now, but I don’t know if I love Les Mis because it’s so good or because I have so many great memories attached to it. Gathering online like that for over six months was about so much more than just the challenge and victory of reading a really, really long novel; it was about grasping hands with other women across continents when the world was shut down and life was filled with heartache and unknowns.

‘Reading together creates community and friendship. It’s a way for women to connect with other women and do something that nourishes the mind and the soul. It’s a valuable investment for those who find deep connection with others through shared reading experiences.

Rachel Dodge

Since that first buddy read, I’ve continued to bond with awonderful group of bookish friends online. I’ve participated in buddy reads, launch teams, giveaways, and group chats. Many of the women I’ve met online have become my sister-friends and prayer partners. I have even met some them in person while traveling for vacations, events, and conferences!

Best of all, as an author of classics based devotional books, I also have the unique privilege of writing books that provide a space for women to gather together to talk about their favorite books and grow in their faith. I can’t imagine a more wonderful thing!

Books have provided a gathering place for me my whole life, and I’m so thankful. I honestly can’t imagine a life without books—or my bookish friends.


About the Author: Rachel Dodge is the bestselling author of The Anne of Green Gables Devotional, The Little Women Devotional, and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Rachel’s newest book is The Secret Garden Devotional! Rachel teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for the popular Jane Austen’s World blog. A true kindred spirit at heart, Rachel enjoys books, bonnets, and ball gowns. You can find her online at www.RachelDodge.com.


Visit Daisy’s IG here

I hope you have enjoyed this encouraging story from my friend Rachel. To make things even more exciting Rachel and I are so excited to partner for a Kindred Spirits Giveaway just in time for Galentine’s Day! Visit both of our IG communities and find how to enter there! Rachel’s IG

Gracefully,

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The Ministry of Table Fellowship

by Rachael Adams


An Open Table Opens Up Hearts

“Thank you for welcoming me to your table. I can’t remember the last time I shared a meal like
this.”

I received this text from a dear friend who joined my family for dinner recently. She doesn’t have a family of her own to share meals with and her message reminded me to value something I typically take for granted. I’m fortunate to have nightly meals with my husband and two children. Around the table, we talk about our days, sometimes laughing, other times commiserating, but always sharing our lives together. While these meal times meet our physical needs, this table fellowship also meets our emotional and spiritual needs.

The value of sharing meals with people was modeled by Jesus. We read about Him reclining at tables and hosting dinner parties along the shoreline. He had intimate gatherings with seven for breakfast (John 21) and with twelve at the last supper (Matthew 26). He also held larger gatherings, feeding crowds of five thousand (Mark 6) and four thousand (Mark 8) with a few fish and bread that He had multiplied.

The early church practiced coming to the table together just as Jesus did during His earthly ministry. This is one of the simplest ways the gospel spread. We read about this in the book of Acts as well as in another ancient source called the Didache. This early church document, compiled between 50-70 CE and used during the time before the four Gospels became prevalent, served as a practical manual to teach early church members how to live as followers of Jesus. Interestingly enough, the second largest section of the Didache focused on what believers did when they ate together at a table.

A man by the name of Thomas O’Laughlin who studied the Didache said this: “What set this community (the early church) apart was the sharing of food cut across the social stratifications of the ancient world and its dining practice. The poor and the rich ate together, the slave shared a table with their master, women ate with men, the outcast with the religiously pure, the Gentile sat next to the Jew, and all prayed to the Father and thanked Him for sending His Son.”

Isn’t this a beautiful picture? I imagine it’s a little taste of what heaven will be like—where we are all invited to the feast God is preparing for the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). Everyone is welcome at God’s table, just as the early church invited and embraced everyone at their tables too. But do we do the same?

Photo by: Echo Dearsman

Who sits around our tables? My prayer and challenge for us is to invite people beyond our biological families to gather with us because we are all family in God’s eyes. It’s exciting to think about how our gatherings could eventually even add to the number in God’s family as happened through table fellowship in the days of the early church (Acts 2:47). 

‘And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’

Acts 2:46-47

Our tables could be the places God does His best work. We don’t have to be gourmet cooks to make a meaningful impact. Store-bought dinner or restaurant takeout can be as impactful as homemade because the significance of the meal lies not in the food but in the people and conversations we have. Whether it’s simple or extravagant, a meal can go a long way toward growing bonds of love between family and friends.

How will your table become your ministry? Invite someone to break bread with you and see what God will do. Because where two or three gather, God promises to be there with them also (Matthew 18:20).

Rachel is a writer, podcast host, and true southern mama. When she is not mothering her two children or navigating living out of an RV (true story), She’s dreaming up ways of how to remind women like you that your life matters.


Gracefully,

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The Secret Garden Devotional

A chapter-by- chapter companion to the beloved Classic

Book Review in the Art of Gathering Series

Gathering Together Through Books

“I’m going to see everything grow here. I am going to grow here my self.”

Colin, The Secret Garden, Chapter 21

We all need a place to grow. I know you believe this too. It’s inherent in us and we know that the places where we grow healthy and strong are the places where we belong just for being there. We don’t have to prove ourselves or make others want us we simply are at rest and free to grow and become. Books were the first places to provide this knowledge for me. I began to grow in confidence believing that my story also belonged here with me. I was encouraged by stories like The Secret Garden, to believe that the past didn’t define my hope for a better future.

My friend Rachel has written a brilliant devotional companion to the this treasured story. She has a gift for writing Christ centered companion devotionals for our treasured reads. You can find my review for Little Women here and how it touched my heart as a young Mama. The timing of reading these devotionals has always amazed me, they have come into my life at a time when I needed a treasured story but also hope for the future amidst uncertainty. I know the pandemic is still fresh in our minds with all the uncertainty it held but the soothing balm of reading stories that ultimately point us to Jesus was a sweet gift. I first read through Anne of Green Gables and then through Little Women with our kiddos in our homeschool and I just smile at the cherished moments of togetherness and prayer.

Over the last few weeks I have been writing and inviting writers to share about their experience with gathering together in the good times and bad times. So, it just made me giddy to read that Chapter 21 in the devotional focused on the importance of gathering together and how it creates space for us to grow and thrive. I love how Rachel describes this, ” The secret garden in full bloom provides a picture the thriving Christian community God desires for each of us- a place where we can flourish and grow. the body of Christ isn’t trimmed and perfect; it’s full of variety and gifting and imperfections. It’s a place where weakness and growth coexist, burdens are shared, and hearts are tended…And where the family of God builds one another up and invites others in.” What a breath of fresh air, we are meant to be together for our benefit, the building of the Church, and for the glory of God.

‘And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’

Acts 2:46-47

I urge you to pick up a copy of this gorgeous devotional as we head into the thick of winter. I know this sweet story along with the devotional will provide for you a lattice of hope on which to grow in endurance as you wait for spring. The deep roots that are built in community will not only tether you to truth but they will also nourish you in the dead of winter. Be encouraged Dear heart you are meant for belonging, community, and thriving.

Gracefully,

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A Table in The Desert Place

A Guest Writer Series

He Sets a Table for You In the Midst of Hard Times

Welcome, your place is ready. Sit down. Breath. Feel your soul exhale as you wrap your hands around a warm cup of tea and a story. The stories shared here are the perfect mix of encouragement and practical. These writers want to share a bit of their heart with you so that gathering at the table is seen in the right light. Gathering together is how we are wired. Gathering at the table is how we are formed and known. Praying for you, that as you read your soul will fill its worth, He is waiting for you at Table, come.

Daisy

“So what is your plan? What are you gonna do when the house sells?” I pause for a brief moment before replying. This thought rushes in, “This is just absolutely nuts-I must be either crazy, avoidant, or completely full of faith in God.” To be honest, there could be a mixture of all three mixed in with my ever changing emotions in my journey with the Lord. “Well, I don’t know…we’ll figure it out when we need to,” I replied to her. I’m relying on the faith and hope that He will sustain my family and me as I lean on Jesus and what He says to be true.  

Have you ever been there, friend,  wondering just how in the world you are going to keep it all going? Well, grab a tea or coffee or the last bit of energy you may have and let’s chat for a bit. 

When my sweet friend, Daisy, asked me to provide a piece for this blog series, I immediately laughed probably a lot like Sarah laughed when God said she was going to have a baby by the following year. I started wondering, “What can I write that could possibly bring some encouragement to someone during a difficult season?” Honestly, the well felt like it had run dry. What I can offer is simply part of my story-a little snapshot into this “desert place” we are facing and just how beautiful gathering around a table has been and will be during uncertain and difficult times.

“I just received a termination letter,” my husband says over the phone. In short, he lost his job without any reason, any cause, or any explanation. This news blasted into our lives on the heels of the passing of my dear cousin and my husband’s loss of his aunt, who was like another mother to him. My parents were staying long term with us each dealing with newly diagnosed health problems. Meanwhile, my mother in law struggled with her health while trying to care for her husband in and out of the hospital. I felt and,quite honestly, still feel like I’m on a battlefield. And as if that wasn’t enough, one of our children began struggling with some serious issues and the other was simply not fitting in at school- and needing additional help with studying and focus. My prayers during all this became fragmented, cries for help and strength. There are days where the only prayers I can muster are simply calling out to God His characteristics and His promises…because honestly it is all my spirit can do. Meditating on His sovereignty and faithfulness while recalling the promise of never leaving me has been a source of strength. “Be still and know that I am God”, “in the presence of the Lord is the fullness of joy”, and “I will never leave you” have been breathed into my soul and as I repeat them back, I feel the strength for that moment. While this practice has proven to be healing and transforming, it isn’t all the Lord is using. 

The table in the desert place is really what this is about. My desert place today looks like losing a close family member, losing a job, uncertainty about children, and health concerns while also wanting to remain faithful in the work the Lord has called me to. Your desert place may look different but I wager you can relate to this list. While I still struggle at times to rely on the Lord completely, I am always amazed to find He has been preparing a way for me all along. A group of us had committed to gather at the table for a meal each month to listen to each other, and care for one another’s hearts. Let me be honest…while all of this has been happening in my life, the last thing I have wanted to do is gather together, listen to, and be there for other people. My plate is full-I am a wife, mom, daughter, daughter in law, bible study leader, bible teacher, volunteer, and substitute teacher….how in the world can I do anything else right now?! Although I’m not proud to admit these feelings, speaking them outloud to Jesus primarily but also to friends who will listen without judgment is freeing. The encouragement I have received from them pushes me past the limiting and intrusive thoughts, and this has been an undeniably significant part of this journey. 

As I went to the table one evening, I arrived hungry, exhausted, and frustrated. I even remember saying, “I may only stay for a little while, gals.” But as I crunched down on the most delicious candied apple, my erected walls began crumbling. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to open up fully about the circumstances I was walking through. That night as we ate and poured out our hearts to each other, we ended up petitioning the Lord for what was heavy in each of our lives. It was sacred ground; a holy moment that just an hour before I wasn’t willing to receive. But isn’t this the beauty of gathering together around a table with your friends who love Jesus more than themselves or their agendas? Our food wasn’t elaborate that evening and the table wasn’t elaborately adorned, but the unforgettable beauty of that night was a group of women on their knees before their Creator crying to the One who heals, the One who provides, and the One who fights for us.

The table became an altar on which we reminded  each other that only King Jesus can satisfy us in a way that lasts. While my physical body has experienced hunger since then, my spirit continues to draw encouragement even now from His miraculous gift that evening.  As I write this, I’m planning to have them at my home in a few days. I’m smiling because even though nothing has changed in our uncomfortable and stressful situation, there is something that remains-Jesus. He is my source of strength. He is giving me the ability, energy, and excitement to plan a meal and prepare my table for our next meal. Setting the table is not just one more thing to do during the holiday season. Instead I want to remind you that  gathering around the table is a gift one through which miracles happen with eternal repercussions. Remember, He sets the table first for you even in the midst of arid desert places and it is only sweet, King Jesus who provides in the midst of what feels impossible.

Gracefully,

Amber

Photo by: Christina Von Moll

Amber writes in Dayton, OH from her dining table in front of a large bay window, always looking for the light. As a Mother, Writer, and Bible teacher she encourages women to open the word and befriend faithfulness. When she is not chauffeuring her children you will find her enjoying good food with her husband, reading, or setting the table for an impromptu lunch!

Connect with Amber

Email: amberrod22@gmail.com

Noonday Shop

Instagram: @amberrod22


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The Art of Gathering

A Guest Writer Series

Cultivating a Spirit of Togetherness this Holiday Season

Welcome, your place is ready. Sit down. Breath. Feel your soul exhale as you wrap your hands around a warm cup of tea and a story. The stories shared here are the perfect mix of encouragement and practical. These writers want to share a bit of their heart with you so that gathering at the table is seen in the right light. Gathering together is how we are wired. Gathering at the table is how we are formed and known. Praying for you, that as you read your soul will fill its worth, He is waiting for you at Table, come.

Daisy

Gathering with friends and family, especially during the holidays, is a treasured gift. To see loved one’s faces and hear their familiar voices nourishes our souls just as the meal nourishes the body. 

We know, however, that it’s not always possible to have everyone we love gathered around the table. While it’s never the same without the uncle who cracks the corny jokes, the grandmother who bakes a family recipe to perfection, or the sibling who helps to make the unseen feel seen. There are ways to honor their absence, as well as create lasting memories for those who are around the table. In honoring those far or no longer with us, we cultivate a spirit of togetherness that will thread gratitude throughout the generations. Grounding us to the present and helping us see that our time of gathering whether in person or in spirit remind us that we have received grace upon grace. 

Ideas to Cultivate a Spirit of Togetherness

Because sometimes we need a go to list of ways to be together without a big fuss, I have made you a list to tuck away, go to when you need a reminder for how to extend an invitation, and gather those near and far. 

Choose joy. Focus on those who will be around our table this holiday season. Not every situation creates happiness, but we can always choose joy. Though we miss those around our table, we can choose to celebrate the power of being present with those who are with us.  

Send a card. If possible, ask as many relatives as possible to either sign your card or send one of their own to the person who is unable to attend. Be specific about why you will miss them. 

Fill up plates. Does the missing someone live nearby? If their absence is due to an illness, deliver a plate of food (and don’t skimp on the pie!). Deliver it with a smile and a holiday-sized air hug to make it extra special. Food has a way of bringing people together in a way few other things do.

Plan a Facetime or Zoom session ahead of time. It will give everyone something to look forward to, especially the person who is unable to be there in person. 

Give to others. Donate the money usually spent on additional groceries to a ministry that feeds the hungry during holidays in honor of those missing from your holiday table.

Create a “Why We Love You” Jar. Write down various reasons why you love the person who is missing on slips of paper. Place them in a plastic jar to ship, or mail only the slips of paper in an envelope, if you prefer. Include directions to draw one a day leading up to the holiday and read it aloud. It’s sure to be a warm reminder of your love for them. 

Create a table runner. A week or two before the holiday, ask loved ones to draw and/or write messages on Kraft paper. Cut it to the size of a placemat or table runner. Drop it in the mail in time for missing loved ones to place it on their holiday table. If you’re unable to create a table runner, consider writing messages on a card that can be folded and put on display. As always, it’s the message that matters most. 

Make a voice recording. Pass a phone around the table so that everyone can share with the missing loved one that they’re missed. By sending a recorded message, your loved one can listen to it on repeat. 

Make a video. Like the voice recording, pass a phone to each person and record a short message. The advantage of sending a video is that the missing loved one can see both their faces and hear their voices, which is a blessing indeed. 

Add an empty chair around the table. It’s a simple but powerful reminder that although a loved one’s physical presence is missing, they are not forgotten. 

Share memories. When we share specific things remembered from past holidays, especially with the younger generation, we partner with God, reminding everyone present that they belong to your family, and hopefully, a godly family heritage. If the missing loved ones have passed, ask everyone to celebrate their memory by sharing their own favorite remembrance of them. 

Speak truth. Write holiday-themed scripture verses on small cards, handing out one to each person around the table. In place of a meal prayer (or in addition to), take turns reading the various cards. The Word is living and active and the most powerful source of togetherness regardless of who is present around our table. 

A Prayer of Togetherness

Take a deep breath and remember that it’s not up to you to make togetherness happen but you get to partner with the Maker of Unity. You get to partner with the Prince of Peace so come before him in prayer and join him in the art of gathering through his strength.

Heavenly Father, we are thankful for the spirit of togetherness we share with You through Jesus Christ. As we navigate this holiday season without loved ones present, help us to remember that You are here in our midst, offering comfort and joy despite the disappointment. Show us how to be present—emotionally, spiritually, and physically—with everyone You seat around our table for Your purposes and pleasure. Amen. 

Gracefully,

Cathy

Photo by: Mindy Braun

Cathy Baker writes from a tiny studio lovingly known as The Tiny House on the Hill in the Foothills of SC. As an author, Hope Writer, and Bible teacher for over twenty-five years, she encourages women to pause and embrace the seemingly small, mundane moments of their day for God’s glory. She invites you to join her in the tiny house where you’re always welcome to come on in and take a seat. There, you’ll find a free copy of Ways to Pray Throughout Your Home. You can also connect with her on Instagram or inside her free Creative Pauses Facebook Group.

Connect with Cathy

Creative Pauses from The Tiny House on the Hill

Email: CathyBakerAuthor@gmail.com

Author of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach and Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains

Facebook: Cathy S Baker

Instagram: @cathysbaker


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The Art of Gathering

A Guest Writer Series

Welcome, your place is ready. Sit down. Breath. Feel your soul exhale as you wrap your hands around a warm cup of tea and a story. The stories shared here are the perfect mix of encouragement and practical. These writers want to share a bit of their heart with you so that gathering at the table is seen in the right light. Gathering together is how we are wired. Gathering at the table is how we are formed and known. Praying for you, that as you read your soul will fill its worth, He is waiting for you at Table, come.


Connection
Meals
Joy
Sorrow
Journaling
Learning
School
Deep talks
Board games
Meaningful conversations
Meeting with my Maker

Gathering at the table represents more than eating a meal at dinner time, it’s the center of our home. I have encountered my Maker there for devotions in the early morning. It’s where my husband and I did our very first devotions together as husband and wife. Then with our boys nestled between us we hold family devotions together. We have expanded the table over the years to make room for our small groups and feasts with friends. The table is where every one of the boys birthdays has been decorated and celebrated. The table is a precious and integral part of our lives.

I remember the day I met Daisy for the first time at the table. I was invited by a friend to go to my first IF:Table and Daisy was the host. Event though the table was beautifully decorated and inviting, the one thing I recall is Daisy’s warm smile as she said, “Welcome.” That day marks the beginning of our gathering at table but thankfully of our friendship as well. Invitation does not call for a perfect place, just a place that is full of the Lord’s love and grace.

Gathering and making room at the table for others is important especially when you make space their season of grief. Over a year ago my dad passed away leaving me feeling a bit untethered. I found myself at the table and I found it full. Friends and family brought food and friendship to our table giving me the freedom to just be with my mom and extended family. What a gift. During those months we continued to meet with our small group, eating together created space for me to share my grieving heart. It was joy mixed with grief a reminder of the kingdom of God-the tension of the here and the not yet. My father is a believer in Jesus Christ he loved the Lord, and I know that I will see him again. I know that there will be moments when I will miss him espcially his prayers.

The way my parents practiced gathering around the table was to always have an open spot ready for anyone. I remember sharing the table with missionaries, friends, and sibling’s friends-eating together as a family. The more I gather at the table the more I realize that Inviting others over even if they say no, is important. The invitation is the just the beginning to know that you are thought of and invited is the catalyst to gathering authentically.

You don’t have to be the best cook, because I’m certainly not. If all else fails, make it a Mexican food night— you can’t go wrong. Everyone loves chips + salsa. Your heart for each other and the kindness of gathering at the table are what truly matters. So, do the inviting without hesitation because you have been invited first by the one who longs to meet you at the Table. He will give you the grace to make room at the table for others. I invite you to then pray ahead of time. Ask the Lord to meet you and your guests as you “break bread” together. May your table be filled with nourishing grace.

Gracefully,

Johanna

Devoted to my Maker. Married my husband David, for over 23 years + mom to three wonderful guys. Yes, I am surrounded by testosterone and BOY do I LOVE being their mom! I am a graphic designer by degree and author for the love of it. I’ve recently started selling Scripture Collections. My Christmas ScriptureCollection sets just launched, please visit me and get a set for your own table.

Connect with Johanna

Instagram
@johanna_devotedtomaker

Facebook


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