I know breakfasts and snack times would be fun around our granite island in the kitchen, flipping pancakes and drizzling waffles with golden syrup in the nearby counters and stove. But it’s too far for me even with my wheelchair. Our main dining room which is very rarely used would also be an stylish place to celebrate special occasions, but I’m not comfortable there for a long period of time. Sometimes when I’m feeling extraordinarily well and have enough courage and excitement to go out of our bedroom, the center table in the living room is a nice place to gather with my people to celebrate. I would be reclining on the sofa while they sit on the carpet around the table, Japanese-style. But that only happens once or twice a year.
So, there’s this mobile table that I had it custom-made some years ago for our bedroom. Actually, it’s a mobile kitchen and dining table in one. When I’m well and strong prodded by an inspiration to feed my family with home-cooked goodness, I cook on it using a single-burner electric stove or grill. Often, it’s a preparation area for whatever we’re baking. But everyday, we gather around it to eat, sip tea, talk, play, paint, craft. It has carved its own place in our home, like a hearth. Or an old faithful dog. Always there to serve. Always waiting for the next gathering.
Because of my health condition, that mobile table has become the gathering table for our family through the years. It’s not only a physical gathering, but I believe, a spiritual one as we partake in the food and laughter and love and the hovering presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, it’s not only a simple partaking for physical nourishment, but also a fellowship with Him who provides it all: the family, the love, the joy, the connection. It is a rejoicing and celebration with Him.
Our gathering table is a table of thanksgiving. I cannot count the times that we have lifted up praises and thanksgiving to God around it for the blessings, answered prayers, and victories, hearts full. Just simply, His goodness and faithfulness. And always, remembering to invite Him into our celebrations (He’s the very reason for them!) is remembering to strengthen the ties that bind us to His Kingdom and with each other. If we believe that God’s presence is everywhere, then He’s present in our celebrations, too. He sits with us, dines with us, and even laughs with us.
So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house… (Deut. 26:11)
The story of our gathering table began years ago when our family was brittle, hurting, almost divided, the mended seams gaping open in some places. We were grappling with the change in our lives: struggling to follow Jesus’ and our Church’s teachings, to be pleasing to Him in how we live our new lives. And of course, there were my terrifying illness, the company which my husband took over and the many complexities and responsibilities that came with it, and the confusions and stresses that glued them all together so that we were weak against them. (And truth be told, the old and ugly attitudes of the “old man” were still clinging fast on us :(. I admit we were slow in bearing fruits).
My husband would often leave the house for the office after a painful, often ugly, disagreement, leaving me hurt and bewildered. Sometimes even young Hannah would receive sharp words from him and we would be clinging to each other after he had left, me, holding her tight, hoping that the words would be squeezed out of her pores. It was during these times that I intentionally stood up against the works of the devil in our lives: the strifes, the ugly and hurtful exchange of words, the heaviness, the pure misery. It was exactly these same things that drove me to rise up in victory, to create “beauty” in the face of the ugly. So, I would use every ounce of strength I had to prepare delicious food for the family and gather them around the table to humble ourselves before God, to tell Him about our miseries, and ask Him to turn the “ashes” into something beautiful. To transform the ugliness, darkness, and coldness that surrounded us into His light, love, and joy. We celebrated with the Lord to shake off the frolicking demons and trample them under our feet!
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)
Often, there were only the three of us gathered around: little girl Hannah, toddler Tim, and me. But I was thankful for those moments. I wanted our children to know and feel that love resided in our home. No matter what. The love and mercy of the Lord, His very presence – it’s what eases away the stinky, stinging, black smoke of unkindness and harshness. The absence or lack of love among us.
Jesus’ love covers all our sins.
There were lasagna, grilled chicken, home-baked bread, ice cream, and any food that I believed the kids would like and appreciate. I would encourage them to smile. Laugh even. Yes, before long we would be laughing, pushing further away the hurts and the memory of them. And we were healed.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Ps. 147:3)
So, our table had been a faithful witness to it all: the tears, the prayers, the persevering faith and hope. The love as fragile as thin ice over a frozen lake. With a single cold, hurtful word, it just might crack again.
That was the history of our gathering table, made sturdy with the stories of our individual lives and those of our family as a whole.
But in recent years, as dark clouds gave way to shimmering light, our gathering table has heard more laughter than it could take. The stories – funny, heartwarming, uplifting, meaningful, lessons-filled – are ingrained into the wood, creating a patina that makes its hue deeper and more homey. Like a grandmother’s embrace. Or an old friend’s.
But it’s not really about the furniture, is it? It’s not the wood, its grain pattern, or its hue. It’s really the power of God’s love that binds and draws us closer together around it. Subdued. Expectant. Grateful. Celebratory. It is sacred in its purpose and function. So, it doesn’t need to be our mobile table, our kitchen’s granite island, or our formal dining table. Wherever we are gathered around, there is family, community, and fellowship with the Lord’s Spirit.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Mat. 18:20)
Recently, when the family was all agog because Hannah and Tim both received medals in academic excellence in school during the year-end Reading of Honors, our gathering table beckoned and I thought, “We need to celebrate and invite our one and only Guest of Honor.” Around the table, when we raised up our hands toward heaven and I recited a thanksgiving prayer, tears pooled in my eyes. The goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in our life are so very precious to us. And we invited Him to our table to partake in the joyous celebration.
What does your “gathering table” look like? What is its story? Its history? If it could talk, what would it tell?
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Journey with Jesus,