The Table

I read a book this past summer that rocked my world rather unexpectedly.  From the onset the topic was clearly one near and dear to my heart, food.  So I watched a few videos, checked out the author's blog and literally sat crying in front of this very computer screen.  Then the book arrived and I read it in one day.  This author laid out her soul so beautifully.  I have never once understood the table and it's depth of sacredness like I did after reading this book.  I knew why it was that I craved people gathered, doors flung wide open and bread being broken.  That my friends is a holy language. 
 
And here I sit, having read the pages and even hosted a book club, which you can read about here.  Life altering if not game changing at the very least in the kitchen.  Let's begin there.  With the recipes.  They are simple.  The ingredients overlap and they are so tasty.  Filled with flavor and delicious through and through.  I have made several of the recipes in the book, some are regulars around our table already.  Others were experienced with the book club, over wine and laughter and the learning that comes with new friends.  And now the recipes have my stories and the pages of my book are splattered and stained and dog eared.  Sacredness.  You may be scratching your head and thinking, food, really?  How can that be defined as such.  Well it can.  It should.  It is.

Ever since having a family and particularly since the Things have been old enough to sit still through an entire the meal the table has been a gathering place for us.  All six to come together.  Take a deep breath and share.  Share the food prepared or picked up or defrosted. Talk about our highs and lows for the day.  Before you go thinking it's all happy and roses over here, don't.  There have been nights where little ones have sat, arms crossed not wanting to touch what was in front of them.  Or tears have been shed and voices raised loud.   Where heads hung low because of the shackles brought to the seats.  There have been silent nights.  No words leaving our lips.  Sometimes because of sadness.  Other nights because of anger.  Some just because there is nothing left to give.  I believe that is what makes the table such a sacred place.  We come, bearing all that the day gave us, and we lay it down.  Amongst the people we love.  The ones who love us, regardless.  Agape. 

Shauna Niequist, the author of "Bread and Wine", the very book I have been referring to throughout this post, speaks of being "fed and nourished on every level"  around the table.  That is exactly what I have experienced.  Her words say it so much more eloquently than mine, "The table is the life raft, the center point, the home base of who we are together".  And for us, this family of mine, it seems that way.  So the conversations, the meal, the laughing, the music, the candles, the messy beautiful is all shared at the table.  It isn't the food that takes center stage, although I'd be lying to you if I didn't say that it matters to me, but the heartbeat of this home can be felt around the table.  The times where we sit and the Things are begging to leave, there's homework, or chores, or friends, or this or that, and we force them to sit just a few minutes more.  Then those few minutes have turned into a half hour and none of us are the wiser.  Granted, there may be dancing or singing, sometimes full fledged performances complete with self created characters, that is the dinner hour at our house.  During the weeks where Husband Jared and I are more like taxi drivers and the Things are in constant disarray I know that when we sit around the table there is an audible exhale from everyone.  That is our life raft. We all know it.  Now I am understanding why.

Jesus broke bread with people.  With tax collectors and with His disciples.  He called it communion.  And we "experience it, or at least we could, every time the bread and wine are present-essentially, every time we are fed", says Niequist.  Herein lies my revelation.  The "why" of sacredness felt at the table.  Where Jesus asked us to remember Him.  A place where barriers are crossed and the everyday can be transformed into extraordinary.  All beause we are being fed.  Sharing sustenance, and in this case for both body and soul.  Such a beautiful picture.  This concept alone brings my desire for our table to be a holy space to a higher level.  When the very act of communion has been built into our soul there is no wonder we crave that intimacy in our lives.  Sitting around the table with my people could be nothing less than that.  A sacrament lived out, and as Niequist writes, "The idea of  a Savior, of a sacrifice, of body and blood so many centuries ago, fills our senses and invades our present when our fingers break bread and our mouths fill with wine."  Thus the table has the potential to become a place of remembering, inviting Him in and celebrating.  A sacred place.  Holy in it's purpose, in it's existence. 

After all this, the reading, the pouring over scripture, attempting new recipes and learning how to navigate through the in between, I am so grateful.  Cup overflowing kind of grateful.  This book spoke to my heart.  Seeped in and changed the perspective.  The table truly is the heart of our home.  It is the "intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of one's stomach, that is, necessarily tied to the heart", so claims Niequist.  And I so believe that to be true.  For my family and hopefully for all those that join us around the table as well.  Perhaps the perfect and maybe only way to end this is to quote directly from the author herself, again, because her words typed on the pages are what spurred this inside of me.  These are some of the last sentences, towards the conclusion of the book, wrapping it up pretty, "The table is the place where the doing stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children.  We allow someone else to meet our need.  In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel."

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