Over the course of the weekend we began talking about the next time we would see our daughter. Our plan is to fly to NYC to be with her for Thanksgiving. It will be a gathering of all her theater friends and mom and dad. I asked her if there were any plans yet and she said that we would do most of the cooking for the meal, but we would gather at another apartment because, “They have a table.” The discussion moved into specific dishes of her holiday favorites and how we could transport them to her friends apartment (a challenge still to be resolved!) We then quickly moved into how we could decorate the table for the holiday, what I could bring from home on the airplane and what we could use from her tiny apartment. I assured her I would manage to fit something in my suitcase for the feast.
As we talked, my mind went back to when she was as a little girl. I remembered one night when she was very small and I was scurrying around fixing a meal for some visiting missionaries. She said, “Mom, we haven’t put the candles on the table yet. We have to make it special.” She quickly took care of it. Even as a very young child, probably four years old, I remember her saying, “ Let’s fix a cup of tea and sit at the table and chat!” I laughed and realized that she had figured out that the way to get mom’s undivided attention was to sit down with a cup of tea like mom did with her friends.”
And so we did, many times.
After she flew back to NYC I began looking around our home and noticed all the tables. My mind reflected on the wonderful memories around those tables, the many relationships nurtured, deep conversations, delicious feasts, and the many dreams, hopes and prayers shared. There is something special about the table in your home
Most of all, the relationships fostered through it’s service are what I cherish; from the tradition of Christmas teas with my girls to a simple cup and conversation with a dear friend.
I remember my Meemaw telling the story about how she wanted a new dining room table and pestered my grandfather until he finally agreed to drive her to the Montgomery Ward store in the "big" town of Monroe, Louisiana. He refused to go into the store and waited in the parking lot while she picked it out, just to make sure she didn't take too long! I guess you could say about eighty years later that it was a wise purchase!
I can still picture all the people gathered around it through the years, many in heaven now. About eight years ago when I inherited my mom’s table I just couldn’t part with it and so now I use it as a craft table up in our attic loft.
The life we have shared around that table has been woven deeply into the fabric of our family and home. Through the years we shared many feasts and memories as we gathered with our own children.
I grew up eating on the table that belonged to my dad’s mother and still have the chairs that went with it. So it seems the tradition of life around the table for me really began with the inherited family table on which my own mom so lovingly prepared so many meals.
Our family table has been a vehicle used to foster love, to disciple our children
as we gathered for a meal and thanked the Father for His provision.
Around it we have built friendships, offered hospitality, shared our faith and celebrated life together.
"We all need to eat and drink to stay alive, but having a meal is more than eating and drinking.
It is celebrating the gifts of life we share. A meal together is one of the most intimate and sacred human events.
Around the table we become vulnerable, filling one another's plates and cups
and encouraging one another to eat and drink.
Much more happens at a meal than satisfying hunger and quenching thirst.
Around the table we become family, friends, community, yes, a body.
That is why it is so important to 'set' the table. Flowers, candles, colorful napkins all help us say to one another,
'This is a very special time for us, let's enjoy it." Henri Nouwen
Creating an atmosphere of beauty is part of my love language and a way to express my creativity.
But the table and the meal don’t have to be fancy. Make it your own unique expression of love. A simple salad or sandwich says I care just as well.
You don’t even have to have a table. I have a dear friend whom I love to get together with to share a cup of tea and a little dessert. Her apartment is too small for a table. We visit and pray using a small coffee table. I cherish those visits.
The important thing is the people who gather around and the life shared together.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
Ken and I have had to be intentional through the years to make sharing life around the table happen. We live in a fast food, pick up and eat on the run culture. Statistics show that the sharing of a family meal has declined 33 percent in the last twenty years and the average time spent at the dinner table has shrunk from ninety minutes in the middle of the last century to less than twelve minutes today. And I wonder if the loss of quality time together shared over a meal has not been partially responsible for the break down of the family in America. Often with our own children we had to make the choice not to participate in a certain activity in order to preserve some time to share our lives around the family table.
It takes some effort to prepare a meal and invite guests, but the fruit seen in our lives is worth it.
If you live alone, invite people over regularly to join you at the table. A home cooked meal is great, but there are so many options these days to pick up food to serve when your schedule doesn’t allow the time.
Some of the best, most creative meals I’ve ever experienced have been cooked by men. My children and I love it when daddy cooks up one of his dishes!
If this whole idea intimidates you, ask people to bring their favorite dish to share. That takes the pressure of so much preparation off you and puts the focus on the relationships.
If you don't have the tradition of the family table, today would be a great day to start!
Throughout the week I watched the walls come down as personalities emerged and convictions were shared. It happened gradually, but most noticeably during the meals they served us each day. Over the meal, everyone relaxed together. Strangers shared about their work, their dreams and passions, their struggles and some shared a window into their faith. In those days around that table of thirteen strangers I saw unexpected leaders emerge from what I would have thought that first day. I did a lot of listening and observing and it was really a challenge not to talk. When the time came for the hard task of making a very difficult decision on the last day, I was so grateful for the meals shared around that courtroom table because I had come to know something of the people gathered there and valued their thoughts. If this can happen with thirteen strangers, imagine what can happen in your family, with friends, neighbors or someone you don’t yet know very well as you share your life around the table with others.
So let me challenge you this week:
Be intentional about the family table
Get creative in this beautiful fall weather.
Take some time to celebrate the bounty of God’s provision in your life
and share His life within you with others.
Use your imagination….
Plan a romantic dinner in the garden,
a fall picnic with the kids,
set a table for breakfast on the porch or deck.
Your table might be a blanket spread out in a park.
Invite some friends over for appetizers or dessert,
or simply light the candles, share a pot of soup and break bread!
Investing time to nurture life around the table gives us the opportunity to speak into one another’s lives.
You might be surprised what happens when you choose to share life around the table!
Grateful for the life shared around my many tables through the years!
Resources: The Six O'Clock Scramble
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