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By Jerrica KF Ching

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

If I think of the word togetherness, the word that quickly follows would most likely be family.  Then if I think about all the times my family spends together, from childhood until present day as an adult in her early thirties, the clearest memories of togetherness are for Christmas.  Christmas was the one holiday where my parents would invite family from both sides of the family over to our home for a big Christmas dinner.

Growing up in Hawaii, there is never a concern about inclement weather delaying flights or car rides, since my entire family was on the same island.  My mom would say grace for the food while my cousins took turns lighting the advent candles.  My dad would prepare a giant ham for dinner for all of us, and my siblings and I oversaw some type of Christmas game; either we’d have a game where you had to unwrap a present while wearing oven mitts, or a Christmas edition of Family Feud.  This Christmas dinner tradition was always in existence, and even though there were some years where one or two family members couldn’t make it, it was always something that we knew would happen in our home.

Of course, as with most families, COVID-19 changed the way Christmas would look and how we could celebrate togetherness.  Initially the idea of not having a Christmas party felt very strange, however even though some restrictions were lifted this past year in 2021, my parents opted to not have the Christmas party, as it would’ve felt stranger to hold it instead.  Even if we followed all state guidelines for limiting the number of people over at our house, would that be considered responsible?  Would it be safe?  What if someone became sick after the party then how would we feel?

I think the sheer amount of questions regarding health and safety outweighed the desire to be together “like normal” – whatever normal now meant.  What I think my family quickly learned in 2022 however, was that togetherness didn’t have to center around Christmas time.  As we are now in September – three-quarters of the way through another year – I realized how fortunate and blessed my family and I are that we were able to make the most of technology, our airline miles, and time off with one another.

We learned that it doesn’t have to be Christmas to feel that sense of togetherness.  We don’t need a huge party of twenty family members to feel as though we are having family time.  Instead, it can be the five of us — my parents, my brother, my sister, and myself — being very intentional about a family dinner when I’m visiting during an off-season month to Hawaii and playing card games.  Or it can be a zoom call with everyone to catch up on what we’re all doing.  Whether in person, or apart from one another, I think the biggest contribution of togetherness is the intention to have it.  To come together as family or as community, to create memories, relive pastimes, or to simply be with one another.

It was incredibly easy to feel as though something was amiss when plans needed to shift due to a global pandemic.  I think many of us may have even felt “wrong” that we weren’t spending time with people in the same manner that we are used to be it through ministry, fellowship, or stewardship.  Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” – a refreshing reminder that regardless if we are with families, friends, or community, and regardless if it is big or small, God is there in togetherness with us.

Jerrica KF Ching grew up on the island of Oahu, Hawaii and currently lives in the beautiful state of Washington, working as a licensed mental health counselor and Asian/Pacific Islander mental health specialist, working with children, teens, and adults within the AAPI community. She graduated with an MA in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling from George Fox University, where she is now an adjunct professor and supervisor. Her research on racial colorblindness has been published in The International Journal of Social Science Studies.

By Melanie Mar Chow

Photo by Scott Swigart

“togetherness: the pleasant feeling of being united with other people in friendship and understanding” (Cambridge Dictionary)

Recently, I awoke from an afternoon nap to the sound of a drumline. I live two blocks away from the local high school. I played flute during my secondary education and learned the role of the drumline is to set the tempo. Hearing the drums as a band member signaled the leader’s whistle to signal the start of making beautiful music together. Each band member understood the importance of their notes coming together to become a symphony. 

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By April Yamasaki

Photo by Joel Olives

For the last few years, I’ve chosen a key word or phrase to help give focus to my year. I don’t think of these words and phrases as goals to achieve, or as new year’s resolutions to feel guilty about when I don’t measure up. Instead, my key word or phrase often represents what I hope for the coming year.

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By Ajung Sojwal

Photo by yrjö jyske

There’s a certain assumption of purity, maybe even holiness, around the notion of simplicity.  But, the other day, it dawned on me that the state of being simple, uncomplicated, with freedom from guile, which the dictionary calls simplicity can be a dangerous allure. Dangerous, because such an imagination devoid of subtlety, complexity or diversity has no capacity for transformation. 

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By Angela Ryo

Photo by CLAUDIA DEA

Ever since reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster as a teenager, I have tried to practice simplicity as part of my spiritual life. And over the years, I have discovered that living a life of simplicity helps me to recognize and nurture the richness and complexity of my soul. I think that’s the paradox of simplicity: the lesser I own on the outside, the fuller I feel on the inside.

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By Casey Iwanaga

Photo by Alice Popkorn

God’s love is simple
Everything else is tough
He just loves, its not forced upon or mandatory
Whether we want His love and acceptance, its there
When life gets challenging its there
When life is joyous its there
Its simply there
Always
Waiting for us to accept it

Casey Iwanaga is a senior at the University of California in Merced. Her father is a retired pastor currently serving as Chairman of the OMS Holiness Churches.

By Diana Shing

Photo by karlnorling

I have heard it said that God is not concerned so much with what you are doing for him, but more concerned with the person that you are becoming.  After all, we are not human “doings” but human “beings” created in God’s image.  I believe the call to simplicity is the call to “just be” the person God has uniquely created us to be.  To live in the truth of who we are and to rest in God’s love, enjoying His companionship and intimate friendship.  To be fully at peace with God, others and ourselves. It is the picture I get when I read Psalm 23.  To be like a sheep resting in green meadows, beside quiet waters.  Not lacking anything.  Having everything that I need.  It all sounds so wonderful.  

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By Diana Kim

Photo by K-Screen Shots

As I drive around, I notice more and more bumper stickers and car ornaments that have me cringe: flags that say “F*$& Biden” or have a blue stripe on an American flag representing “Blue Lives Matter,” ”Trump 2024” bumper stickers, and window decorations that spell out in caricatures “My Right to Bear Arms.” For a split second I think, “What if I tore up that flag?” or “What if I ripped off or scratched out that sticker?” But then I remember that it is our American right to post and say whatever we think or believe – freedom of speech constituted by the First Amendment. 

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By Wendy Choy-Chan

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

I have had someone claiming they wanted to “speak the truth in love” to me. Yet, their “truth” was some rules that they demanded me to follow, and their “love” was conditioned on me submitting to them and their rules. I experienced no truth or love from them. 

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By Emi Iwanaga

Photo by Greg Dunlap

“From the time you were very little,

you’ve had people who have smiled you into smiling,

people who have talked you into talking,

sung you into singing,

loved you into loving.”

—Mr. Rogers

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