We got a new dining-room table last year; new to us anyway. We bought it from a friend of a friend, and it’s best qualities were the price and size. We borrowed a trailer and drove an hour to pick it up in another state. It’s scratched in places, and one seat bears the imprint of a high chair, but we loved it from the minute we put it in our dining room. That table is, by far, the most important piece of furniture in our house.
If you’re like me, you try hard to spend time with all of your kids throughout the day. Anna and I hold hands and talk to and from the bus stop. Owen tells me about his day on the way home from cross country practice. Grace and Claire and I eat lunch together every day.
It’s not until dinner time, though, after school and work and practice and meetings, that we can all finally come together in one place. A meal around the table is typically the only time during the day that we are all together, and there’s something special and sacred about what happens there.
The table is where we enter into a time of corporate prayer, not only thanking God for the food, but also revealing our fears, hopes, and desires.
My kids have a chance to listen and interact with one another; laughing at each others’ jokes and enjoying each others’ stories from school, giving my husband and I a glimpse of the friends they are becoming.
My little one learns to take turns, to sit still, to eat things she doesn’t like. The table is a gentle means of instilling self-discipline in her.
The kids have the opportunity to listen to my husband and I discuss problems, opinions, or just things we find interesting. They’re learning about marriage and compromise and mutual respect, about who we are as people, not just parents.
If the table is where we fully enjoy the presence of our family, it’s also the place where we most profoundly feel their absence. All day long, I can be thankful and grateful that my college student is away learning and experiencing new things. When I set the table each evening, however, I feel the sting again – an important part of our family is missing. At the table, though, we can lean into this sadness together. We talk about when we’ll see her again, wonder if she would like the meal or not, and laugh at her Snapchats from the day. We’re teaching our younger ones that change, longing, and absence is okay and healthy.
And so during this season of growing, busy kids, I’ll cherish our table, with all of it’s scratches and imperfections. I’ll make an effort today and everyday to carve out time to gather my people around it, knowing that some days, it’s the only place where we can just sit and enjoy the company of our favorites, the ones whose lives we are both shaping and being shaped by.