ORGANICALLY GROWN IN ONE YEAR

I've never really been one to pay more for the organically grown produce at the supermarket because I am such a tightwad. Plus, I'm not very health conscience. But when my friend was helping me put my feelings into words about Gatherings, and how it has grown into something I did not expect, she used the term "organically grown" and it just felt right.

Ellen Garbardi can make a word stand to attention. She and I have been friends for over 20 years - our sons grew up going to St. Andrews together. During those years, she often times shared her journaling of poems and stories that she wrote of her boys. She even put on workshops to try and teach us mamas how to journal our emotions about our own children. And, of course, I did my best to imitate her abilities, but to no avail.

This past Monday, I sent her a text that read "You need to teach me how to write, will you do that?". I have such a desire to be able to write my emotions about the evenings I spend with you, Ladies, but I am not feeling very competent about my abilities. That sweet Ellen immediately picked up the phone and called me. We visited quite some time about Gatherings. I was passionately writing down every single word she spoke. Because, like I said, she has such a way with words. I wanted to try and capture her way. When Ellen said "Jill, Gatherings has grown organically - it has moved through you - brought life through you - and something larger than you has been at work" my heart melted. Because something larger than me has been at work, and I pray that life has been brought through me - to all you ladies who have allowed me to share myself with you during this past year. I will accept Ellen's words. Graciously. Thankfully. And hold on to them. Forever.

As I will hold onto the memories of this past year. One year ago today, November 2, 2017, the very first Gatherings - twelve ladies walked through my door to gather together to make fall floral arrangements. As of today, somewhere in the range of 350 women have crossed the threshold of my home to participate in one of 22 classes. I have watched Gatherings grow "organically" into something that I had no idea it would become. In fact, I had no idea last year at this time that I would have had the ability to develop and maintain a website, start blogging, or desire to help small businesses grow through advertising their products and using their space for classes. I'm pretty sure the word "organic" means to use only natural fertilizers. And the only natural fertilizer for this little project has been the hand of the Lord God Almighty. Because I can assure you, I had no plan or ability to grow anything of this magnitude.

The seed was planted in September 2017, by my daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Ford, after I had mentioned to my kids that I wanted to do something more with my life. She had moved from Birmingham after marrying my son just one year before, and was desiring to find a place to create while visiting with her new Life Group friends. So when she said she would love for me to open my home to give ladies a place to gather and create, I bought a bunch of flowers, and we had a flower party for her Life Group class. Then I opened it up to other friends for a Christmas wreath party the next month. And then a young lady at the wreath party mentioned that she would be happy to teach the girls how to make French Macarons. And that gave me the idea of "hey, why not have different ladies with God given gifts to come and teach these classes" - not necessarily professionals, but ladies who have a gift that needs to be shared with other ladies. And then early this year, I was watching the Superbowl and saw a commercial about starting your own website. Lo and behold, the next thing I know, I had created a website with the ability to pay on-line, post pictures, and write blogs.

And so the growing begins.

A SCROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE

FIRST GATHERINGS CLASS

FALL FLORAL DESIGN

NOVEMBER 2, 2017

FIRST CHRISTMAS WREATH

SECOND CHRISTMAS WREATH

FRENCH MACARON CLASS | LAUREN BOWIE

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DIRT & DANISH | SHEILA JONES

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DATE NIGHT | WINE TASTING | SCOTT JACKSON

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EASTER FLORAL DESIGN | DIANNE SWANSON

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CANVAS & COCKTAILS | MANDY ELLARD

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PHOTOGRAPHY | LAUREL DONAHOO

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PETIT FOURS | MARY MARGARET WHITE

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TRAVEL SKETCH JOURNALING | BETH DEAN

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FATHER'S DAY SUCCULENTS | HART BERRY

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CANVAS & COCKTAILS | CHRISTIE FARESE

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CALLIGRAPHY # 1 | BETSY GREENER

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INSTAGRAM 101 | LAUREL DONAHOO

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CALLIGRAPHY # 2 | BETSY GREENER

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CINNAMON ROLLS | DIANNE SWANSON

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FARM TO TABLE | LISA ROOKS & TWO DOG FARMS

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PEACE RETREAT | GLAMPING

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INSTAGRAM 2 | LAUREL DONAHOO @ ARCO AVENUE

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CANVAS & COCKTAILS | SARAH MCTAGGART

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ELEVATED ENVELOPES | MEAGAN BABB

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FUTURE GROWTH OF GATHERINGS

Just like I had no idea how Gatherings would take root and grow, I have no idea what the future holds. I can tell you that I have been talking with some"girlie" businesses to host SOME future Gatherings at their locations. My hubby has been so generous with his time away for us to play. But I do want to be sensitive to him.

So, make sure you pay very careful attention to the location when you sign up for next year's classes. I am working on class schedules now. If you know of someone that is extremely gifted in an area, please drop me their name for a possible upcoming class. As of now, we have some great things brewing for this spring: art and watercolor classes, cooking classes (king cakes, pizzas, petit fours, cookies), wine tasting, mixology, calligraphy, and flowers. But what are some others you might like to see offered?

Also, if you know of any restaurants that want to be a "Friend of Gatherings" by supplying the appetizer and dessert for one of the upcoming classes, let me know. In return for their sponsorship, I will feature the restaurant on the Gatherings blog and the Local Scene page on the website. The more sponsors we get, the lower the class fee can remain. And in turn, the more classes you can sign up for ... we all win!

And speaking of sponsors, a huge thank you and major shout-out to the following for trusting in and supporting Gatherings over the last several months:

VILLAGE BOUTIQUE

COLONY WINE MARKET

VIEW GALLERY

SOMBRA MEXICAN RESTAURANT

BEAGLE BAGEL

4 TOP CATERING

THE LOUNGE @ BAR R'EVOLUTION

HARDWARE FOR HER

TWO DOG FARMS

SALAD DAYS PRODUCE

DUCKWORTHY GOODS

BLESS THIS FOOD

FUSION COFFEE HOUSE

Only three classes remaining this year - so sign up today.

And don't forget to buy your mother, daughter, sister and girlfriend a Gatherings Gift Card for their Christmas happy.

PRAYER FOR THIS COMING YEAR

What a ride, Lord!

You have been so good to me.

Thank you for this past year.

For the opportunity to meet