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Thursday, August 04, 2016

Gather

The conversation began at least a year ago, probably more.  Seth's dad wanted to make us a new table for the breakfast area.  "But you have to tell me what you want."  He kept reminding me over and over.  I knew what I wanted.  But I kept putting it off.  This spring he gave me no choice.  I told him I wanted old and rustic and farmhouse.  Not long after that, he said he'd found the perfect old sinker cypress boards for our table.  What had been for a long time a conversation became our new table.

Picking out the boards was quite a process.  I had to pick the board, decide which side I wanted and then put them in the order I wanted.  At this point, the boards had already been planed.  But this is what we started with.  I wanted as many knots and nail holes as we had available.

After he got the top of the table put together, I had to pick out the wood for the legs.  And then I had to pick out which way I wanted each leg to face and which leg where.

The whole process of building and crafting and sawing and nailing is quite intriguing to me, especially when it's something that comes from where I am, something that comes from who my husband and children are.  It's a table.  But it's not just a table.  Seth said it best the other night.  He said it's the kind of table that, when you sit down, you aren't in a hurry to get up.  You want to stay awhile.  And that's exactly it.

Sometime last year or year before last I read Bread and Wine.  Really, the only reason I purchased the book was for the recipes and one recipe in particular.  I didn't know much about it except that it was a memoir.  And each chapter ended with a recipe.  Of all the books I've read during the past few years, this is the one I think about the most.  This is the one that's had the most profound impact on my life.

I love memoirs.  I'm just fascinated by people's stories.  I love to people watch at the mall and can't help but wonder who they are, where they came from.  The subtitle reads "a love letter to life around the table."  And that's really the best way to describe this book.  It's about gathering.  Gathering around the table.  And eating.  And what happens when we gather and eat, what happens when we share life and love and hearts and stories.  It just makes you want to swing your front door wide open and invite everybody inside for fellowship and laughter and fun.  You might even shed a few tears, too.  As a matter of fact, that's guaranteed.  It's about allowing God to work in you and through you to minister to family and friends and those who aren't yet family and friends.  Food.  Family. Faith.  Yes.  Profound.

But in order to gather around the table, you need chairs.  And, can I tell you?  That's the one thing that held me back all those months when my father-in-law kept saying, "Now tell me what you want."  Because I knew that as soon as I told him, he'd do it.  And then I'd have this table.  And no chairs.

We have heart of pine floors throughout the whole house.  The kitchen cabinets are stained a deep cherry.  And now we have a cypress table.  I wanted something to "break up" the wood tones, something to lighten it up a bit, something with texture and soft and cozy.

And, because Pinterest is the BFF to those of us who are creatively and home interior decor challenged (like myself!), that's where I went.  I pinned lots of ideas.  What I really wanted just isn't practical at this point in my life (because there's a four year old in the house . . . and a tween-agery boy).  So I decided we could do something else in the interim and eventually works towards "really want."  After all the pinning (and pining), this was my inspiration for the chairs.

Seth said, "Well, you have to go antiquing."  And everybody everywhere just started laughing.  Because Julie antiquing is just about like Julie yard sale-ing.  No, I am not sick. No, I do not have fever.  I had a yard sale AND went antiquing IN THE SAME YEAR!  Let's just say I have a new found respect for antiquing.  Now.  There's antiquing.  And there's ANTIQUING.  In other words, there are antiques.  There are heirlooms.  And there's junk.  I've seen a lot of all!  Mostly the latter.  

I have inherited several heirlooms over the years, like my great-grandmother's tea cart and my grandfather's old secretary, which used to belong to his daddy before him, and my grandmother's wing back chairs and tea set.  My new table now fits into this category, too.  So last Saturday Seth and I spent the day combing through antiques stores, warehouses and barns for chairs for our table.  I had the best time!  This is what we came home with:  

My absolute favorite chair is the second one from the right, the little French chair.  I sure wish I knew where it came from and what kinds of stories it could tell.  The seat needs to be recovered, but it's my favorite.  I also love the first chair on the right, the Windsor backed chair.  It's the very first one we found and purchased.  We wanted ten chairs.  We came home with seven.  Seth said we absolutely had to come home with at least seven chairs so we could have his parents over to share a meal at our table.  I have to admit . . . I'm so excited that I have an excuse to go antiquing again!

There was lots of conversation about which chair would go where.  And I'm sure they'll be moved around some more.  We still haven't decided whose seat is whose, and there has been, at times, very lively conversation about who is going to sit where (which is why I decided against bench seating on one side because I KNEW they'd complain about not having a back . . . and now they argue over which seat they're going to sit in!).

And something else.  Cindy sent us this arrangement when we moved to Mississippi.  We'd just bought a new table at the time.  We didn't have a formal dining room so I told her I wanted something with a little height, something rustic and not too formal.  It's been on the center of our table ever since.  But I saw a picture (thank you, Pinterest) that reminded me of something from years ago.  I'm going to be moving this arrangement somewhere else because I'm getting an old bread bowl that came from Pa's side of the family.  Mama has had it for years, and it's been living in her attic for a long time.  But not anymore.  It's going to be on my table.

These pictures just don't even convey the beauty of this table.  We are constantly talking about this table.  You don't even walk by this table without stopping.  And talking.  And thinking.  And gathering.

It couldn't be more perfect.  Really.  It's the perfect gathering place.  And that's what I want to do.  I want this table to be full of faces and stories and food and memories and laughter.  I want our home to be open to our friends and family.  I haven't done enough of that.  Gathering.  But that's going to change, and the Lord has already opened the door for gathering and inviting.

When he finished the table, my father-in-law called me out to his shop.  He pointed out every perfect imperfection, he reiterated all of the things he could change or make better.  But I found only one thing wrong with it.  I asked him to engrave it for us.

This table and God's timing . . . that it would be this exact summer, this exact time . . . it's quite interesting.  There have been a lot of hard times, valleys, tears, difficult relationships, burdens.  There have been days when the sadness was so thick it was nearly suffocating, too heavy.  There have been so many questions with no real answers.  There has been loss, a lot of loss.  But all of it has brought about a conversation and a mending of sorts that could only be done through suffering and sadness and sickness.  People have gathered.  And cried.  And prayed.  And loved on each other.  And now, here we have this new table for gathering.     

On the day these boards were originally planed, by father-in-law had a mild heart attack.  A heart cath showed four significant blockages that had been there awhile but hadn't been seen before.  So this Tuesday my father-in-law will have open heart surgery, bypass surgery.  I ask you to pray for him, for the surgeon, for my mother-in-law and my husband and his brothers, my children and Avery and Beau and Abbie.  I ask you to pray for health and healing.  Because there's more gathering to be done.

"Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to Your holy name and glory in Your praise."  ~Psalm 106:47

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