Monthly Archives: November 2015

Give Thanks with Childlike Abandon


Every year we have a thankful tree. And on this tree we hang leaves that wear our words of gratitude. We share a meal with each other and with guests and every night in November these leaves are our prayers. Everyone gets a leaf in whatever hue or pattern they prefer and are encouraged to write down something they are thankful for. I have kept these leaves over the years and have been able to see the beautiful people that have graced our table, remembered the conversations we have had and have been able to look back at all we have been grateful for. The leave’s words are often simple like “food and shelter” or general like, “friends and family.” Sometimes, people specify like “Chipotle” and “my daughters dimple when she smiles” or “Bob Dylan”.

The one thing we have in common when we come to the table, universally, is that we can all think of something to be thankful for, sometimes begrudgingly but even still. We are thankful to have another day, to breathe, thankful for eggplant in purple and butternut squash in orange, we are thankful for gorgeous walking trails, blue skies, for holding “their” hand, for music. When we share these things, it bonds us in a commonality to our universal experience of goodness. There are good things all around us in the midst of awful, ugly things. There is love in the midst of hatred and war and a refugee crisis. There is life in the midst of fall and a winter coming. There is meaningful conversation outside of the annoyong red coffee cup one. There is the flavor of saffron and basil and curry in the midst of tasting harsh realities. There is presence in the midst of loss. There is a realm unseen but felt all around us. We can show up at the table and find something we taste, touch, hear, smell, see or experience that we are profoundly glad we do.

One of the consistent experiences we have with this discipline of gratitude every fall is that kids express gratitude differently. Adults stare at the leaves trying to muster something up. Adults write one word. Adults think about something that will have their preferred outcome when they share it and thanks, then, becomes more about self than about something bigger. Kids write with wild abandon. Kids write all over the front and back of their leaves. Kids are thankful for silly things and spiritual things. Kids are thankful for water and pop. They are thankful for what we take for granted and for what we stopped enjoying. They are thankful for so many things that they run out of room to write them. Kids don’t worry about seeming too thankful. Kids don’t overthink gratitude. They don’t feel the pressure to come up with something deep. It can be something as wacky as “farts” or as ordinary as “fuzzy blankets.” Kids aren’t trying to look cool, or mysterious or smug about life when giving thanks. They with unabashed abandon write like crazy about all the things they are thankful for including their dog’s name, even if it’s, Gizmo, and football, friends, family, God, water, root beer, candy, and even homework and tutors. When kids give thanks its almost like they can’t stop.


I find it interesting that in our expression of thanks we have gotten to place as full fledged adult people that we can’t seem too happy, too ecstatic, too grateful. That kind of place comes across as “over the top” or too “blessed” or naive and cheesy. And yet I keep reading the Psalms and the psalmists seem like they are more like children who in wild abandon start listing out all that they don’t want to take for granted, all that they cannot control, all that they enjoy, all that is good. And without shame, they bust out in crazy, no rules, no limits, praise.

Just look at Psalm 138.

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart;
I sing praise to you before the gods.
I face your holy Temple, bow down, and praise your name because of your constant love and faithfulness, because you have shown that your name and your commands are supreme.
You answered me when I called to you; with your strength you strengthened me.
All the kings in the world will praise you, Lord, because they have heard your promises.
They will sing about what you have done and about your great glory.
Even though you are so high above, you care for the lowly, and the proud cannot hide from you.
When I am surrounded by troubles, you keep me safe.
You oppose my angry enemies and save me by your power.
You will do everything you have promised;
Lord, your love is eternal.
Complete the work that you have begun.

Imagine this guy at your Thanksgiving table. And be honest. A guy like this busts out and starts thanking God for His love and His faithfulness and His Supremacy and His power and His protection. And all the while, you and I would be snickering while thinking “Get on with it, already! It’s time for mashed potatoes and gravy!” We would be judging this guy thinking “Does he realize not everyone feels so thankful?” We would be thinking he could have kept it simple and said “wife” or “Seahawks”, but no he had to keep on going.

I just wonder what happened to us? When did we stop feeling so grateful that we no longer wanted to make a long list? At what point did we get shy, callused and ashamed of being full on grate-full? We are grate-kindoffull. Maybe what we should abandon is our pride, our reputation, our uptightness, our agendas, our fear of looking like a fool, our negative vibes, our disgruntledness, our dreams lost and given up, our complaints and our callused hearts.

Might I remind us that we are still kids and He is still our Father. May we this Thanksgiving with wild, abandon, make lists of what we are grateful for. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Give thanks in all cirumstances. Give thanks when you are young and when you are old. Give thanks when you have a turkey on your table and when you have pepperoni pizza. Give thanks when grandma is there and when she is now, gone. Give thanks when there is family dysfunction at it’s greatest height and when the peace this year surprises you. Give thanks when you can’t see what you so desperately want to for its called faith. And give faith when what you have always wanted is sitting right in front of you. Give thanks when you have homework in middle school and when you still ahem work as a 4o year old. Give thanks when you have running water to shower and when the power goes out and you can’t do anything except sit in the dark and do nothing with the very people you give thanks for. Give thanks. This is God’s will, to be like children, thanking, thanking, thanking. It might just be that when you wildly abandon all the polite, expected, stuffy rules of an adult and go crazy in thanks that you will feel again like a child.

with abandon

Happy Thanksgiving friends. I find myself thankful for early Christmas music, gingerbread lattes with the whip cream and nutmeg. I am thankful for belly laughter, my fireplace, lit candles, SNL skits, Adele’s vocal chords, good books that make you feel like you lost an ol’ friend when they come to an end. I am thankful for my kids who are the best gifts I have ever been given. I am thankful for flowers in all their brilliance, annoying labradoodles that look like stuffed animals, good friends that fit like a pair of sweats. I am thankful for Bieber’s come back and that I can say that out loud and your judgement of me doesn’t define me. I am thankful your not judging me right now. I am thankful for spiritual wisdom that resides in people I get to do life with and for hot water. I am thankful for friends who prank me and people who invest in my kids. I am thankful for my husband who is the very best cheerleader and who is the real deal, with a good heart. I am thankful for God’s bounty of love that meets me at every corner and reminds me who He is so I can be reminded about who I am and who I am called to be. I could keep going, but I don’t want my abandon to keep you from yours! Eat a lot of turkey and make long long lists… -Willow

Shop and make a difference!

AmazonSmile holiday

The blustery days of November are upon us, and the holidays are just around the corner. Avoid the weather, the mall, and help support Collide by doing your holiday shopping through the Amazon Smile program. Amazon Smile is a simple and automatic way for you to support Collide every time you shop, at no cost to you. And when the holidays are over, you can continue to support Collide all year long through your Amazon purchases. You can shop as usual through Amazon, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to Collide! If you haven’t already done so, we’d love for you to click on the link below and get set up.

Here are some ways to do that:

The first is by simply bookmarking in your web browser, and clicking through it each time you make Amazon purchases (the screen will look no different than it usually does).

Another way to get your account linked is by going to Login to your Amazon account and go through the prompts to choose Collide as the charitable organization you support. When you enter ‘Collide’ in the search box, make sure you select the one in Bellingham.

If you have more questions about the Amazon Smile program, check out

Thank you for being a part of what Collide is doing- your support makes a real difference! We’d also love for you to check out our upcoming events, and how you can be involved.

Waiting for the Will Be by Kelli Hawkinson

kelli my story

When my kids were babies I remember just sitting there holding them in my arms,  just staring.  I would sit for long periods of time and watch them sleep sweetly.  Sometimes they would do that little crooked smile where it looked like they were having a sweet dream, or crease their forehead like a worried old man.  I love babies!

As toddlers my kids were adventurous and easygoing.  They loved reading books and watching Veggie Tales. I loved teaching them new things and watching their little personalities develop.  As grade schoolers they were obedient and hardworking at school.  They were polite and almost always kind to one another.  I was adamant that they keep their fighting to a minimum.  We’d talk about them having each other’s backs and always being there for each other;  they were on the same team.  Their problems seemed so small and few.  The biggest heartbreak was the momentary fight with a friend or temporary consequence for disobedience.

I didn’t cry when they went off to kindergarten, or get super sad when they outgrew my favorite outfits.  I have always been one to embrace each new stage with open arms because it has brought with it new and exciting experiences and a closer relationship with each of my kids.  I looked back on earlier times with fondness- I miss the funny way they’d say certain words, or nap when they were tired, but I have always loved seeing my kids succeed in new challenges.  

I now have a daughter in high school, a TEENAGER.  This has been my biggest transition so far but for reasons I suddenly find myself at a loss to explain.  I think this transition has been so hard for me because what I’m experiencing is totally different from all the things I thought would be tough.  My teen has not grown into a typical, moody eye-roller.  We made it clear that that’s not really how things are going to work in our house and although she is far from perfect, she has (so far) gone along with that.   

She seems to be adapting well.  She is a phenomenal student, she is playing sports, and she was elected Freshman Vice President.  She is independent and for the most part she is taking care of all of her responsibilities, chores, homework and calendar with ease and little help from me.  She loves attending youth group.  She is a super hard working athlete, putting in extra time regularly to better her skills.  She goes to bed each night reading her devotions, shares her life with me, asks me for advice, genuinely likes hanging out with her family, and tucks her brother into bed each night.  She is funny, kind, gracious, grateful, and a fiercely loyal friend.  So what’s the problem right?  I’ve spent the last few months trying to nail down why this phase has been the hardest one on me yet.

I finally realized that I need to do some mourning.  I have to mourn the loss of innocence; the innocence that I had always worked so hard to protect.  When our kids are little they are proud to obey the rules, to be kind, and do the right thing.  As they get older the focus shifts to being cool and all other things take a backseat to that end.  The focus becomes to make fun and to look down on those who do not make the same choices.  

It breaks my heart that my daughter no longer feels comfortable being who she feels led to be; that her sweet innocence and desire to be pure of heart is no longer the norm of her peers.  I hate that about adolescence, but it is something that I’m sure every American teenager must journey through, that I remember going through.  I don’t want her to change one bit of who she is to keep her friends or impress the crowd.  So far she isn’t willing to make these compromises and I love her for that.  I tell myself I should be jumping for joy but it has been such a bubble burst for me.  We are entering a time of transition where those who have been friends for so long may choose a different path than she will travel.  It has been hard to see her confidence take a hit, holding back her conversation in social situations because her perspective is not always the popular one.  That is the hardest part for me.   

At Collide gatherings we have been talking a lot about the idea of “backwards blessings”.  These are the blessings that come from Jesus’ promises, and they often do not look like those that the world values.  In Matthew 5 Jesus talks about these backwards blessings.   The Greek word “Makarios” is used and conveys the idea of being “favorably placed to receive something good”.  This is the idea that maybe what God has for us looks different than what the world measures as good and worthy.   Jesus says:

Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Being blessed means taking yourself out the situation that “is” and placing yourself in the spot that waits for the “will be”.   I feel like this concept is easier for me because I have experienced His true comfort when I have mourned, and His mercy when I have shown it to others. But to watch my sweet girl navigate this road of trust has challenged me in a new way.  For a teenager this often means going against the flow, sticking out, and standing up, and it can be very lonely.  

To navigate this sometimes lonely road takes faith and trust; a road of believing that choosing these “backwards blessings” will be worth the trouble and hurt that sometimes accompany those choices.  

It takes patience to stand in that place of waiting for the ‘will be’ where you may wait alone, and for what seems like way too long.

I think it also takes support from people who have experienced the life those backward blessings give when they are realized.  I will be this support for my kids.  I will stand in that place of waiting alongside them, trusting and believing that what God has in store for them is so much bigger than I could ever ask for or imagine.  I will pray for the friends of my children, that they can share this road with, ones that they can feel free to be their true selves around and grow spiritually with.  I will pray that my kids will be brave enough to be set apart, but humble enough to not set themselves above.  And through the inevitable bumps they will have along the way,  I will pray that they always know that there is no place they can go that is so far that the love of Jesus (and their mama) cannot reach.

A Blessed Day

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We had such a beautiful day with women gathering for our first Collide of the year! It was a day of stories, live transformative art, worship, monologues, dancers, worship and seed planting. There might not be anything more powerful than God in a room full of hundreds of women who come from all different experiences coming together to share pain and seek blessing. This event was like a deep meaningful conversation in community that brought women to a table to share their pain, loss, grief, mourning, infertility, cancer and sickness and how in the midst of such trials they held onto the promise of God’s blessing to come. We left with hope, faith and inspiration to keep holding on, enduring, praying and waiting on spring in the midst of fall.

Take a look at some of the images captured from the day….

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Thanks to all those who made this such a beautiful day! Our next Collide day for women is coming in February and registration is already open just for you to get your early bird registration ticket!

Holding on to my Father’s finger by Ann Vallee

ann my story

I consider myself a glass half full person, for the most part. But the current season of life that I am in fights against every aspect of that which defines “glass half full”.  This season isn’t just half empty, it is FULLY empty.  You see, my husband Mark and I, are what you would call Empty Nesters.  Mark loves our girls and is relishing in being a grandpa, but he REALLY loves being an empty nester.  I, on the other hand, loathe it.  Loathe is a strong word, but in this case it is not strong enough.  

I can remember the day when Mark and I told our parents that we were pregnant with their first grandchild.  They were so excited and I distinctly remember feeling so proud of how joy-filled we made all of them feel.  I dreamed of the day that I would be a mom and knew that I would love it; I just didn’t realize how much until I was holding my sweet babies in my arms.  For the next 25 years, I could never get enough of either of my girls.

They are incredible women, who are building amazing lives for themselves.  That’s what we want, right?  We want our children to be strong, independent and making their own way.  But as I sit here after having a few days of them being in our home, listening to the quiet, my Mama heart aches for the days that Bailey would be yelling “Ken-naw” or McKenna singing every song she has ever heard without stopping.  I long for the random dance parties, the hours watching Hallmark movies, driving to swim and dance practices, the belly laughter, the rolling of the eyes (ok, I don’t REALLY miss that one), the snuggles at bedtime, the deep conversations in the hot tub, and the endless opportunities to serve them in a multitude of ways.  I’m still blessed to be their mom, but it’s a different kind of role now.  

As I have reflected on this new role, I wonder how many times I have evoked these same feelings from my sweet, Heavenly Father.  Does He miss me when I am too busy for Him? Does He long for me to burst out in song or dance in worship to Him just because I can? Does He want to hear me belly laugh when my heart is so full of gratitude for Him allowing me to be their mom?  Psalm 100 is a favorite of mine because it reminds me that I am to “Shout for joy, worship with gladness and come before Him with joyful songs.”  The Message says to “bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into His presence.” When my children were young girls, God showed me Psalm 100 in tangible ways, and how to experience it through them.  

My “nest” is empty and I could spend my days focusing on that, yet I am going to choose (some days force myself, like today) to look at my nest as incredibly full of gratitude, joy and love. He is here with me in the quiet, in my heartache and my longings.  He is here to rejoice with me when I am counting the sleeps until my family is here with me again.  It is in this space that I close my eyes and imagine myself holding my Father’s finger, as He is guiding me through each of these times.

I want to focus on how great, how wide, and how deep His love is for us.  For He is good all of the time, all of the time He is good.  

 Dad and P