Our patio dining table.
It is a gift, a treasure, a calling.
It is lovingly referred to as “The Table” by our friends and family.
And it tells most of my favorite stories.
Last year I attended a “Storyline Conference” led by Donald Miller. A guest speaker, Sarah Harmeyer, shared about her desire to really know her community that led her to ask her dad to build a table that could seat twenty people in her backyard. Once it was completed, she began walking around her neighborhood, inviting people over for dinner. And everyone who dined at her table was invited to sign it with a permanent marker. By the end of one year she had over 500 signatures on her table, and her community had connected in ways she hadn’t even imagined by the simple act of eating together.
An inspiring picture of what scripture so beautifully describes as the “breaking of bread”- the sacred connection that mysteriously happens between human souls when we are known over a shared meal.
I LOVED her story! And talked about it many times in the weeks following the conference. My husband agreed that it was an inspired idea, but he could not offer even a guess as to when we could purchase an outside table for twenty, let alone build one. (While Ryan is brilliant at many things, crafting a ginormous outdoor table isn’t exactly in his wheel-house.) So I just tucked that desire away in the “maybe someday, but definitely not now” section of my hopes.
A couple months later, the young men who share family dinner with us every Thursday presented Ryan and I with a thank you card for the countless meals, conversations, support, prayers, and unlimited use of our washer and dryer. And they told us that they wanted to build us a table for twenty…as a gift.
They split the cost of the supplies and one of the guys, who is a skilled craftsman, offered to design and build it – giving all of us opportunities to help with some of the finishing work.
And now we have a table for twenty that is covered by the signatures of our loved ones, and nearly full at least twice a week with the faces and hearts of young men and women who have been grafted into our family. Souls that have been bound to ours by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Five years ago when Ryan and I first responded to God’s call to open our home and offer it as a place of family and discipleship within our community, we had a very small 8′ X 10′ kitchen with a portable dishwasher that rolled over to the sink and hooked up to the faucet, and a dining room table made to seat 6-8 people comfortably.
I think often about the blessings that we would have missed out on if we had held back our “Yes” to God’s call until we could actually accommodate a large group of people. The love and the laughter and the memories and the relationships that would have never have happened if we had said “Yes, BUT not until we get ourselves ready.” Because “Yes, but” isn’t really a yes. And so much of what I love about my life and my home would have been lost if we had held back our obedience until our human calculations could demonstrate that we had gotten everything in order and ready to host a crowd.
Creating something by our own power and resources – something that we knew was “manageable” would never have been as amazing as what has been built by saying “Yes. We’ll do that now. We will cook a meal in our tiny kitchen that can include others and eat together in our modest dining room. We can love others well even if our house is small and only has one bathroom. And so we will respond in obedience to God’s call – opening our front door wide and welcoming others in – trusting God to teach, equip, and provide for us and the people who come.”
Many meals were spent bumping elbows around an overly full dining room table before we had enough money to purchase a larger one. And then we became squished around that table in our tiny dining room for a while before an even larger table was built for our patio. But ironically the imperfections, and out growing our spaces while we laugh and love and share our lives with each other is what makes it all feel like family – not hosting or entertaining or even ministry. Because discipleship at it’s best is inviting others in to live life with us – witnessing first hand the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beauty of our lives. No one who comes to our home needs or wants me or my family or our home to be perfect. They just want us to be real and the space to be authentic.
In scripture Moses dramatically demonstrated what our trust merging with God’s faithfulness can look like as he stepped first into the Red Sea BEFORE God parted the water. Moses’ trust and obedience made way for God to rescue a nation. Our trust and obedience, on a much smaller and far less dramatic scale, has still nonetheless made a way for God to connect us with His people in deeply significant ways. Connections that are changing us and the people who spend time in our home through glimpses of the Holy Spirit at work in and around all of us.
In our home, this happens best at The Table, because twice a week we gather there to intentionally engage in soul-nurturing conversations.
Every Monday a community of young women gather here to eat dinner together, discuss a current bible or book study, and share our burdens and praises and prayer requests.
Every Thursday a community of young men gather around The Table with my family to share a meal and our lives with one another.
As we pour out, the people who gather here pour back in through mutually expressed encouragement, prayers, support, and laughter. A lot of laughter. And a lot of love.
These meals and the conversations that evolve at The Table are often some of the most Holy Spirit inspired moments of my week. The lessons I learn in this sacred space are powerful and transformative. And I’m adding a section to my blog that shares specifically about the things that I’m learning during meals and conversation and bible study and prayer at The Table.
Because it’s my happy place. The place in my home where the veil is most often thinned between the spirit and the natural world. The place where I glimpse the kingdom God on earth as it is in heaven.
And I look forward to sharing more about what I’m learning at The Table, as we (you and I) explore the places where God is calling us to say yes, and respond in obedience even before it makes sense, so that He can amaze us with what He can do through hearts that are merely willing.