What if we lived connected?

Dan and I made a number of connections this past month, among them a large Christmas gathering with family, a writers’ critique group meeting, and a last-minute drive to Seattle to catch the premier screening of a film—made by a friend, and featuring another friend.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Family connections

A couple weeks back, Dan and I spent four days with family at a large, vacation cabin with a snowy pond dominating the backyard landscape. There were 20 of us. Dan’s kids and grandkids. My kids and grands. And a few hangers-on.

Dr. Pepper floats in honor of Uncle Tim’s birthday

Reserving a place for our families was potentially risky. And messy. No guarantees there wouldn’t be any tension. Or wounded feelings. No assurances that the teens wouldn’t get bored.

Turns out, the kids found plenty to keep themselves entertained. (Have you ever watched a soccer game on ice?)

Teens on ice

There was no tension in the air, even when gifts were unwrapped and stolen (white elephant gifts, but still).

Guess who ended up with the fur coat?

There was much food, and much laughter, and much bonding during those days at a gorgeous vacation cabin in central Oregon.

Colleague collaborations

Not long after, the monthly meeting of my writers’ critique group assembled at our house—these writerly friends who are a gift to me because they care about the success of my writing.

Joining a critique group can be hazardous. It opens us up for … well, for critique. But when we know these people want the best outcomes for us and our writing, what better gift?

Friend support

And then last week, Dan and I made a quick trip to Seattle to view the documentary, Space, Hope and Charity, premiering at the annual conference of the American Astronomical Society. The film was produced, directed, and written by my friend, Sandy Cummings, and features my friend Charity Woodrum in her journey to astrophysics despite unspeakable tragedy.

Ocean scene from the film, Space, Hope and Charity

Charity was nervous about the Q&A following the film. This would be a tough audience – these mad scientists with their non-emotional, intellectual matter-of-fact-ness.

The questions and comments were excellent, including those from a few men who still carried emotion in their voices. A woman from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration stood up and complimented the film and all involved, and encouraged Charity to come work at NASA.

Dinner afterwards was a hoot. Eight of us gathered around a table for Italian food, and conversation, and stories about Charity—all wrapped in uproarious laughter.

Jumping into a vehicle for a 600-mile, round-trip drive over the Cascade Range in January snow and rain probably doesn’t make that much sense. But it was so worth it as Charity expressed how our presence helped calm her nervousness.

L to r: Cyndi Atherton from Heising-Simons Foundation; Dr. Scott Fisher, Charity’s Univ of Oregon professor; Charity herself; Diana Jenkins, editor; and Sandy Cummings, producer, director, and writer

Friends who feel like family

Chip and Joanna Gaines have a manifesto for their business that reads, in part:

We believe in friendship,

because friends who feel like family are the best kind of friends,

and that nothing matters more than family.

Magnola Manifesto

I think it’s safe to say that Dan’s people and mine are friends as well as family. That my writerly friends are my sisters, my family of support. That Charity and all the people who have embraced her during this season of incomprehensible loss and pain … well, these people are my people, too.


Many of us understand the physical and mental health benefits of living connected within community vs. braving the world alone. But have we thought much about the component of reinforcement that takes place within community?

Synonyms for reinforce are words like support, undergird, build up, make stronger, validate, confirm.

The bonds that Dan’s and my family already had were undergirded and strengthened at the Christmas cabin. Time spent with my writers’ group, sharing my heart through my written words, is always confirming and validating. Our quick trip to Seattle to support and encourage Charity was fun beyond description.

And so …

Stay connected.

Speak courage and hope to each other.

Plan road trips to nowhere, but also road trips to somewhere.

Bond with the people God has graced you with.

Make fun. Make memories.

Don’t live in the margin of ‘someday’—someday we’ll all get together over the holidays. Someday I’ll write an article or a book and someday I might even let someone read my writing. Someday I’ll see the film.

Because there are no guarantees that someday will ever arrive.

Live in the gift that is today—the gift that affords connection and allows the spreading of hope and reinforcement to one another.

Side note:

From our experience at the late-Christmas-three-generation-family-gathering, here are 8 tips for better living within community:

  1. Play more often on slickery ice
  2. Frost more sugar cookies
  3. Hide more often in pantries
  4. Visit more museums
  5. Steal more (white elephant) gifts from each other
  6. Build more snowmen
  7. Honor each other more
  8. Throw more snowballs
May the grandkids never grow too old to throw snowballs at Grandpa Dan
Creative hiding places
High Desert Museum
Best snowman ever


4 intentions to set for 2023


Should I say yes … or no?


  1. Stephanie

    Love your articles and the reminder that memories are made with the simplest of things that include family and friends.

    • I love how you said that, Stephanie: “… memories are made with the simplest of things that include family and friends.” I’ve always appreciated the simple pleasures that make up an abundant life. Thank you!

  2. Ken Mays

    Thank you for sharing hope with family. Our family has risk factors as well. Your words rang true for us.

    Ken and Jacque

  3. Pat


    Beautifully written!

    What a great belated Christmas with blended families – everyone looked very happy making memories.

    I’m reading, Just Do! By Brandon Janous
    He totally reiterates making memories and living each day as if it is your last.

    Plus, Charity, bless her heart!

    May you and Dan be blessed with continued adventures in 2023!

    Hugs from wet CA 😥

    • Thank you for your comments and your blessings, Pat. Dan and I have said more than once how blessed we are to be able to gather our respective families together: “It’s the icing on our wedding cake!”

  4. Allison

    Such a beautiful reminder. You are so right, we don’t know what tomorrow or even the next few hours might bring. So we need to be intentional with our time and focus on all the blessings.

  5. Chris Wheeler

    Maryls wow I never thought I would make your writing ( well not me but my house ).
    Thanks for the link to our place you and your family are the sweetest. And if you don’t mind I might share this blog on my business social media .
    God bless you both ❣️

    • We had the best time at your cozy, beautiful place, Chris. Thank you, again, Yes, please feel free to share this blog anywhere you want!

  6. Rosalinda Goss

    Hi Marlys, Did Charity Woodrum attend Canyonville Bible Academy?

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