Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Imperfect Family Table

'Although the table is a place for intimacy, we all know how easily it can become a place of distance, hostility, and even hatred.  Precisely because the table is meant to be an intimate place, it easily becomes the place we experience the absence of intimacy.  

The table reveals the tensions among us.  When husband and wife don’t talk to each other, when a child refuses to eat, when brothers and sisters bicker, when there are tense silences, then the table becomes hell, the place we least want to be.

The table is the barometer of family and community life.  Let’s do everything possible to make the table the place to celebrate intimacy.'
- Henri Nouwan

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*

It's circa 1960s, this photo is, with loved ones gathered around the mahogany table, layered in white linen starched and pressed within an inch of its life.  All have donned their Sunday go-to-meeting attire and another homemade feast has been savored.  The main course {savory chicken and dumplings laced with fresh rosemary ... or perhaps a herbed roast leg of lamb with mint jelly} has been polished off.  Dessert is about to be served on the beautiful blue-rimmed china.  Fresh flowers create the centerpiece, and that ain't no store bought cake front and center.  Blue depression glasses are filled with ice cold milk, and smiles and laughter wrap themselves 'round and 'round the crowded room.

This is a feast of love and laughter that somehow springs from imperfect hearts in an imperfect family.  And only by His grace are there seldom tense silences or harsh words as we gather together.  For this is a safe place and this is the stuff that memories are woven of, secure and warm and strong.

*

Fast forward to 2016.  Six of those adults now dine with Jesus in the most spectacular dining room ever.  The little cousins {I am unseen on the far left} are now all in their 50s and 60s and are scattered over four states.  They very rarely gather, which makes any reunions oh so sweet.

Two generations later, I am now the presiding granny at yet another table.  Sweatshirts and jeans are the Sabbath attire.  A new passel of cousins gather with their parents and grandparents.  We're talking hot dogs straight off the grill, spinach salad tossed with fresh veggies, hot homemade applesauce, and chips.

Any treasured remnants of Grandma's mid-century china are stashed away in someone's cupboard somewhere, and we dine on rectangular styrofoam plates and glasses hastily pulled from the kitchen cabinet.  A typical dessert at this table?  Rarely homemade.  There is no time or energy for that these days.  Ice cream comes out of the freezer, and Hershey's syrup and sprinkles and whipped cream from a can does the trick.

Yet half a century later, the barometer reads the same.  It's a different time, a different place, but one central truth remains.

This is a feast of love and laughter that somehow springs from imperfect hearts in an imperfect family.  And only by His grace are there seldom tense silences or harsh words as we gather together.  For this is a safe place and this is the stuff that memories are woven of, secure and warm and strong.

*

I wipe the spills and the crumbs from my husband's handcrafted table, scarred barn wood redeemed from the scrap heap, marred with scratches, gouges, and knots.  This imperfect heart overflows with gratitude for childhood memories way back in the day ... and this, the here and now.  For a rare Christ-centered legacy that wends its way through the generations.  For those little ones careening through the house, shouts and laughter and occasional tears echoing as bare feet pound on smooth wood in the hall, up and down the stairs.

I head back to the kitchen, stepping around an assortment of little sneakers and boots kicked to the side and abandoned toys hastily dropped along the way.  I join my daughters in wrapping leftovers and washing dishes.  We wipe down sticky counters and close the fridge and cupboard doors tight.

But the hearts of those who fill this home today?  As imperfect as they are, somehow, some way, by His miraculous grace they remain open wide to each other through the toughest of times, the unexpected changes, the differences in personality and opinion, the miles that separate.

And in the process of attempting to love each other well, those same hearts remain wide open to their Heavenly Father from whom all comfort and blessings have flowed.

Imperfect hearts.  Imperfect family.  Imperfect table. 

Redeemed.





54 comments:

  1. Truly a beautiful post, My Friend! I yearn for that intimacy which has vanished with too busy lives. What happened, I ask myself quite often!
    God Bless You, Friend!

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    1. And you, my friend, have asked the million dollar question, even as you've put your finger on the absolute truth.

      'Too busy lives.'

      Yes, yes.

      What a way to kick off this conversation. You've done it, Lulu ...

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  2. Imperfect yet lovely and loved. Beauty at the table. I'm looking forward to sharing a table with my extended family this weekend for "a feast of love and laughter." Love this, Linda!

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    1. Feast hearty, friend! Savor every crazy minute.

      These are life's biggest blessings ...

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  3. Great post. I never did the family table thing...my original 'family' was kind of bad.

    But I learned that enlisted Marines can be the best blended family ever, especially when nearly coming to blows over something completely inconsequential.

    And so, by serendipity...a story that describes this, that I hope will segue with what you've written...

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/02/whats-in-name-story-of-viet-nam.html

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    1. Fabulous point, Andrew, about discovering a strong sense of community via the military. Well said.

      The same goes for creating family with our brothers and sisters in the church or in the neighborhood.

      Our blended families are beautiful. And they are strong ...

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    2. Our Christian family is the height of blending, and I think we may be surprised...nay, shocked...at the identity of those who are truly our sisters and brothers.

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    3. Amen. We are too quick to judge who's who. I trust that our Good Shepherd, who knows the deepest recesses of our hearts, knows who's who in His eternal Kingdom.

      And in that truth I find peace ...

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  4. Linda. Love this view sitting at the table. There may not be something perfect there with each bite, but with each bite they're drawing closer together to support the future - to hold each other with dying breath and be prepared to face whatever, wherever and whenever. Imagine the loss if everyone went to different tables, sat in front of the TV and thought they were strong enough, good enough and ready enough. What you say is the truth. There is a beauty to the dinner table. I have only my husband at our dinner table but still we choose to join together and talk. It is a special place. Thanks for reminding me. I've got Chicken chili on the stove and sent the hubby out for lettuce. What goes with chicken chili? Guess I should have sent him for some salines. Oh well, it will not be perfect, but that doesn't matter: we're one, we're together and Jehovah Jireh still reigns! Blessings....Christ

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    1. Chris ... I thought I pulled out chili from the freezer from this morning, but it turns out to be ham and bean soup! Whatever.

      The two of us will eat hearty ... and be thankful for leftovers stashed away for a rainy day.

      ;-}

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  5. I love my family!!!!!

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  6. Oh Linda I loved this little glimpse into the history of your family! That photo is priceless -- I love to look at my family's old photos to see what's on their tables too! Times change, schedules are different but the love of our families remains, doesn't it? I love to think of our family members who are in heaven now, looking beautiful and enjoying each other in their heavenly glory and it reminds me that these days are just the beginning of our stories and there is much more to be written on the other side! xo

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    1. Speaking of peering at old photos ... it was fun to discover that the gold candlestick that had been in my kitchen cupboard was originally my grandma's, thanks to spying it on the far right of this photo.

      And thanks for the reminder that heaven awaits ... with so very much ahead for all those who love Christ. I needed that perspective, that reminder today, Valerie.

      Thank you, thank you, friend ...

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  7. You paint such a cozy picture, Linda. It's such a comfort to know that through redeeming grace love can fill imperfect hearts and families. :)

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    1. I get a little wary of family portraits that look just a little too perfect, ya' know?

      ;-}

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  8. Hi Linda! First of all, I LOVE Nouwen. Love that quote from him.
    Second of all, I could have been at that table easily. Right down to the headband, this was our family too. We had different china, but it's all the same. Happy, crazy times around the dining room table.
    Now of course, it's much different. The children are so small that they eat two bites in a flash, and are begging to go play. The parents and grandparents sit and try to talk, but it's still happy and crazy. Such a gift! It's really grand to 'see' you open and enjoy yours.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. Henri Nouwen has brought great consolation to my soul, Ceil! The first thing I do each morning online is to read one of his daily devotionals. Super, super insight.

      When I read his writing about the table and all it represents, I couldn't help but write about just a few of my own table experiences. Knowing we all share bread and butter each day binds us together in some elementary way, doesn't it ...

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  9. Loved the blog. You two should be "flies on the wall" (or, our honored guests) when the 28 of us on the farm eat together. You would be encouraged seeing and hearing what is going on.

    And, sometimes another son, who lives 1 hour away is here with his family of 3 (or 6 when it is holiday time) and that makes 31.

    And, if our granddaughter and her boyfriend are here, it is 33 people. If the other 2 boys and a girlfriend were here there would be 36.

    Add our other son and his wife and 2 adopted 2-year-olds - - -well, you get the picture.

    When the 2 of us have all of our kids, grandkids and great great grandkids here (no extras) there are 43 of us!!!

    So much talking, laughter, games, serious conversations - and sometime hymn singing.

    We are blessed. And, of course, no one is perfect.

    {via email}

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    1. 43!!!!

      Oh my.

      I thought 13 was alot ...

      Your cup overflows and overflows, friend!

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  10. Your post reminds me of family gatherings at the farm when I was growing up. Most of what was on the table came from just outside the door, and the desserts were ALWAYS homemade,usually a pie {or two or three} made by my dad. Dad was one of seven, so for most gatherings we put the two 6ft tables end-to-end, stretching into the living room with the card table at the end for the kids. It was pure chaos. Lot's of laughter, joking, and love. Now that I think about it, I'm not surprised I crave quiet so much now after growing up with all that ;) Great post, Linda! Have a blessed week!

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    1. We crave the joyous chaos, that sense of belonging and being loved.

      And then we crave the quiet, the solitude, to savor every moment ...

      And to indulge in yet one more piece of pie and a cup of hot tea.

      ;-}

      Love that your Dad did the baking. Love that, June!

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  11. That picture brings back memories!! What wonderful times!! A great t4radition to continue no matter how many or few people can be there. Those "anchor" moments will look different, but the results are the same.

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    1. For sure those anchor moments have changed for the two of us over time, haven't they, Mah ...

      Be sure to tell your girls that Mom and Grandma used to wear just-about-matching dresses! Maybe they'd like to do the same with you!

      hahaha

      ;-}

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  12. Beautifully said. Nothing better than dining with family around the table sharing memories and making new ones.

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  13. This makes me smile so big! I remember gathering with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents and the grand time we had! :)

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    1. Smiling with you, friend! Those are the memories that shape our heritage ...

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  14. How I love this post, my friend! The pic reminds me of an era I recall well. I still have my mother's depression ware, but it is clear (Royal Lace pattern). This glimpse into your life and the foundation of family connects with many memories of my own. Thanks!!

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    1. I'm a big depression glass fan, Pam! Sadly, I don't have any place to display / use all those lovely pieces, but they're all safely packed away ... maybe someday?

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  15. The dinner table is one centering point in our lives. I wish I could say our family is still grounded around ours. I suppose it is sometimes, but not as often as I'd like. Too many factors to explain, growing and gone children mostly. Do you remember Sunday dinners? Sunday dinner was a big deal at our house. After church - and donuts - and middle of the day and regular as the sun coming up and going down. Thanks for the memories and the inspiration. As always.

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    1. I hear you, yes, my friend. Not as often as I'd like either. Makes me cherish the times we DO share, even if they are chaotic and crazy.

      Sunday dinner was always a big deal growing up. SUNDAY was a big deal growing up, keeping Sabbath in mind, focused on church and all things associated with it.

      Times have changed, haven't they. And not necessarily for the better ...

      Sigh.

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  16. Linda, your words reminded me of memories from my own childhood with family gathered 'round the big table. So much has changed since those days. Miles separate us now, but it does make those gatherings extra sweet when they happen. Thank you for sharing, friend. : )

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    1. I absolutely hear you, Crystal. Absolutely ...

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  17. Linda,
    What a cherished legacy and what joy to read of how you're continuing a tradition of love and laughter around the table. Truly a gift :-) Praising God with you, my friend :-)

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    1. Yes, Dolly! Let's hear it for traditions that include gathering together and creating memories that make room for lots of joy and laughter ...

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  18. This post brings back many happy memories when we used to gather together as a large family around the table.

    Thank you. God bless you and your whole family.

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    1. These are the memories worth celebrating, cherishing, revisiting, aren't they, Victor ...

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  19. This is so stunning and honest. Thank you for the glimpse into your family then and now. The big family with cousins around the table reminds me of many family gatherings growing up. You realize that there is probably a picture in my archives that looks almost like yours since we grew up in the same era. Your writing always blesses me! Thank you for letting God lead you to share from your heart. Hugs!

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    1. Yep, we're from the same era alright, Mary! It's one of the reasons we resonate so ... but even more, it's our faith in Christ that binds us close and our love for writing and sharing community that links us arm in arm.

      I'm grateful to walk through this season with you ...

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  20. Oh this is beautiful Linda! I lived every moment! We eat supper together as a family every day! And the girls and I eat most of our other meals together. We don't watch tv at home and have never had any difficulty in carving out this time together. Have a beautiful weekend. <3

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    1. What a light you shine as you share that there's no TV holding court in your home, Jandi. Yours is a rare decision and one I admire GREATLY!

      I'm guessing that lots of creativity flows freely in your home because of that wise choice.

      ;-}

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  21. The table truly is a unity symbol for families as they gather throughout the generations. No wonder our Lord used the table to unite His followers one last time at the Last Supper. I love the photos and thoughts here, Linda. You are master weaver of words and meaningful challenges for us all--to make the most of those family moments. For they will disappear and change before we know it! Hugs to you, my friend!

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    1. Thanks for that sacred reminder, Beth, of how Christ used time around the table to unite, to challenge, to celebrate, to grieve.

      Truly, He is our inspiration ...

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  22. Linda, thank you. It was a pleasure to read this and slowly savor your memories and insights.

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    1. Thanks for sharing at the table with me, with us, Lois ...

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  23. What a beautiful memory. I remember those 1970's tables and give thanks for 18 years of family meals wit my own kids. Since my kids grew up in the Middle East, with a slower pace, that was fairly easy to do. So thankful. And hotdogs off the grill are great!

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    1. Interesting insight about another culture, Betsy. Where we live surely affects how we do life ...

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  24. Just beautiful, friend. Beautiful!!

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  25. It seems that all our special memories are made around a table! We have years and years of special pictures through the years of various milestone occasions around our parents' table... and while there is a lot that changes, you are right, the most important thing that counts is that love is still there, regardless if there is china or paper plates :) Enjoyed your post today!

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    1. {smile}

      I can't help but think my Grandma would be horrified at how Sunday dinnertime has evolved, with all things casual. But I'd like to think she'd just adore those great-great-grandchildren she won't get to meet til someday in heaven ...

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  26. Imperfect indeed... but that's how Jesus welcomes us to him as well. What a lovely remembrance and worthy tradition to continue. ♥ I'm inspired to clean off my table!

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    1. And your visit is an inspiration to me, Heather! Thanks for jumping into the conversation!

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda