If Tables Could Talk, Oh the Stories They Would Share…

I rarely share about my singleness, mostly because I’m tired of hearing friends and family tell me to be content, or God blessed me with a single life, or that He’s preparing someone special for me. All nice things to say, I suppose, but not to hear year after year after year. I’m very content with my life and living my single years to their fullest – but someday, if a foxy Jesus-loving gentlemen happens to waltz across my path, I surely won’t ignore him – I might just waltz right after him.

Anyway, a week ago, or so, I read The Life-Changing Power of Table featured on Boundless by writer Suzanne Hadley Gosselin, which was based on The Power of a Dinner Table by David Brooks of the New York Times. While perusing through both articles, I realized I needed to write my own version, as it brought up many thoughts of things I wished would be, and many great memories that were.

. . .

I spent two and a half amazing, and challenging, years living in an intentional Christian community in the rural hills of Kentucky. When people ask me about my experience, one of my favorite memories to share is how much we bonded at our supper tables. A factor of the “intentional” community meant one of us [our communities varied in size, generally from 6-12 volunteers] would cook supper and lead a devotion. We were strongly encouraged to trade off for four of the seven nights each week. Each of my communities would do intentional dinners Monday through Thursday nights, and then usually have breakfasts together on the weekends, and “spontaneous” homemade pizza nights on Sundays.

We had a variety of flavors from spaghetti to stir-fry to sweet potato tacos, depending on each member’s culinary skill-set. I found my inner chef in those communities and realizing I had the perfect audience to try new dishes, got pretty extravagant in my meals, which my housemates thoroughly enjoyed. Post-meal devotions ranged from meditations to Scripture-reading to creative activities. We all came from different Christian backgrounds and welcomed the growth experienced through sharing our own beliefs, while openly listening to others (even, and especially, when they differed from our own).

At the beginning of a volunteer term (many of us would volunteer for at least one year) in the fall, dinners would be pretty mild. We would share about our volunteer experiences, as many of us served 40-hour weeks in separate programs. The housing folks would talk about the home-repairs or what their grateful participants cooked them for lunch. The elderly caseworkers would share stories of awe and inspiration, and most likely some stories of hilarity while “partying with the olds”. The camp folks would share what they were teaching the children at school, and we might pray for a child who shared too much about the struggles of their home life. Our emergency-assistance person would help us realize how blessed we are to having running water and heat in our home.

Throughout time conversations would flow from work life, to our own personal families, to sharing our testimonies, struggles and losses. I have a few memories etched in that were moments of depth of love, sitting round our table, not even eating, but sharing. We’d gather together as someone lost a loved one back home. We’d surround them with hugs, hot chocolate or tea, and an open space to share stories or even silence.

The table was expanded during Thanksgiving to fit as many volunteers as it could, and squished together we all shared dishes we would previously experience at home with our families. We would pray and go around the table and share what we were thankful for. And then we would enjoy an abundant meal and fill the room with joy and laughter.

If tables could tell stories, just think of what they’d share. Our table in those communities would have many ‘a’ tales to tell. It would share stories of the hard work we put in, our compassion and care for our participants, the gratitude for the way we were raised, and the family we loved – whether or not they supported our decision to be there. The table would smile through all the laughter and silliness. The endless nights of exhaustion in which we would stay up much too late, and say the darnest things that would become inside jokes to last through the ages. It would remember the feeling of dice rolled, cards dealt and the rhythms of other games played on its surface. It would share of the whispered stories – the ones that broke us out of our shells and freed us from chains that tried to hold us down. They would have always known who liked who, before any of us had a clue, and would had seen many epic romances blossom and bloom. Soaked into the fabric of the table, into the depths of the wood would be salty tears, delicious remnants of meals, coffee stains and the fingerprints of many great people who would go on to do great things, because of the stories they shared and the heroes they hoped to become while gathered around that table.

. . .

I gotta tell ya, I miss that table, and those people that sat around it. Approaching December, it’s nearly been three years since I departed my Christian community. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday, and other times a distant memory. For my first year out, I lived with a roommate – one of my housemates for two years in our intentional community. We tried to do dinners together at least once a week, though our differing work schedules made it difficult.

I think my one complaint about being a single adult is not being invited to meals. I’ve attended a couple different churches throughout time and the focus tends to be on the poor college students (which still is a good cause!) but what about the poor single adults who live alone and need fellowship? There have been bright lights in the darkness, like meals shared before Bible studies, or being treated to lunch by a couple after church, but those are the rarities. I still try to get together with my housemate-friend once per week, and we trade off cooking for each other (like the good ole days!) which are definitely highlights to my week. Otherwise I find myself watching TV while eating, hoping to gain some wisdom and humor from my TV-friends. I find they are great talkers… but not so much, great listeners.

. . .

Growing up, I was blessed to have a family that ate together. Mom always welcomed in our friends who lived near and far – and provided great meals and snacks for our slumber parties. During holidays and special events we expanded as we invited in our extended family members and friends. There was always a plethora of food, joy and love to share. Our table knew of laughter, games, potlucks and parties. It knows the stories of our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s held up plates of bonattas, cottage cheese dip, grandma’s mac and cheese, Christmas steaks, Eileen’s cakes, and all the Thanksgiving fixings. It’s heard the concerts that my brother and I would put on for my mother’s Christmas gift… my brother’s melodious accompaniment to my monotonous singing (poor, poor table). It also contained moments of sadness, as friends brought over sympathy food when we lost grandparents and family friends. It soaked in the dampness of tears, while welcoming the warmth of hugs and friends drawing near. Underneath it would lie an unconditionally-loving, and beloved mutt ready to sweep up the sadness and scraps left below, barking and jumping and helping us grow.

But if you sat down and had a chat, with our dear old table, it would have mostly shared of a mother that deeply cared, a family that shared and two children that were ever so prepared – for all that life would throw their way, because of the time spent around that table.

. . .

Through the past couple years, I’ve enjoyed my independence of being able to fully provide for myself – as well as have a space of my own to decorate. Though my table has been more of a prop, than that story-soaker. It’s hosted a few meals with friends, a couple with family and one truly happy Halloween party. If it could talk, it might be as disappointed as I sometimes am, missing out on the fellowship that used to be. But we will cherish this season of quiet preparation, for it won’t be forever… I’m hoping that my next chapter in life will include roommates, or at least a community of a few+ ladies and gents who want to share meals together. (I’ll cook, as long as y’all bring some wit, charm and stories to share. 🙂 )

If the tables in my life could say anything at all, they’d mention the times when friends came to call… the adventures we shared, the moments we cared… the lives we lived, and the fellowship we did. They would soak in the times of memories and tears, but in the present they’d celebrate with cheers!

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So now as you go, think of what might be… If you table could talk to you…

What would it share? What would you see?

My Grandpa’s Song

Disclaimer: Reading through some of my old works, I found this one. I wrote this free-verse poem in high school – 12/6/2005 – Eleven years ago!

Waiting to say things,

I miss my Grandpa tonight.

His almost still body sitting on his blue recliner.

Peering out to the neighbors across the way.

His Finnish accent rambling on and on.

As he munches some chocolate-covered peanuts.

I am his granddaughter, his song.

. . .

The cozy feeling was all around us,

As I looked around the familiar restaurant.

The Family Tradition was their favorite place to go.

My brother sat beside me and my grandparents across.

Our hearts were satisfied as we satisfied our hunger.

. . .

We reached my grandparent’s house later on.

My grandpa sat back in his recliner.

We played an old familiar game.

I ran by his recliner as he reached out to tickle me.

I can hear his deep laugh and my faint screams of joy,

. . .

Distant crying woke me up the next morning.

I heard my mom’s voice along with a few others,

But my mom was in the cities, wasn’t she?

My heart pounded as I rushed toward the kitchen.

I blinked to stop the tears that were blinding me,

As my mom told me the tragic news.

. . .

No day has been the same ever since,

But our memories will live on forever.

And my grandpa saying things in my heart.

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Fostering Hope

Disclaimer: Sometimes I’m a great writer, and I can spin words to help others think, create and feel. Whereas, other times I feel like I’m simply putting words together until they make a sentence, boring and basic. This is one of those times. My wish is to make the words on this page come to life to create freedom, laughter and hope, and maybe they will… but if they don’t it’s because I’m trying to express two deep darks – one a secret and the other, a hope.

One of my deep, dark secrets (which you already might know…) is I don’t like babies. That which really frustrates me about this deep, dark secret is how unaccepting baby-loving people are of non-baby-loving people. Why must we, who don’t particularly love babies, feel like “bad people”. While unable to sleep parce-que feeling anxious about faking a desire to hold my uber adorable newborn niece (because she is my niece,  and I do love her) I read articles on Google via my search for “She’s cute,  but I don’t want to hold your baby.” Many of them started out with the sentence “I’m a bad person.” Then were followed by a myriad of relatable and hilarious stories of these women gracefully trying to say no to propositions to hold other people’s babies. Some stories were more offensive then others, which gave me the idea to write my story, hopefully in the light of humor, freedom and hope (random fact: half of this story was typed on the memo pad of my cellphone – be impressed).

I’ve only ever held babies because I  feel like I’m able to serve their parents by giving them a break, not because I actually enjoy it… Does this make me a bad person? No. Just because I have no desire to hold any baby I come in contact with,  does it mean I love them any less?  No way!  God crafted me this way.

Ever since I can remember,  I haven’t wanted my own kids.  Before I knew where babies came from, I would fear that God would give me one,  knowing I didn’t want one.  Growing up, as my elder cousins started having kids,  I always felt like the odd duck because I didn’t want to hold their kids,  or even ooo and aww over them. I was told all the good ones (and even believed them for awhile) like, ‘once you meet the right guy,’ or ‘it’s just fear, ‘ or ‘you’ll be such a good mom someday..’ It all made me feel like I needed to want to have kids to be human, or woman.

I found freedom when I found friends who shared similar feelings to my own. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to have your own kids,  and you are not a bad person for not holding babies.

Now don’t get me completely wrong,  as I do love kids!  Once they hit toddler stage and start  acquiring the personalities God created in them, I enjoy their company,  and oftentimes enthusiasm for life.  And I do want to be a mom someday,  just in a “path less traveled” sort of way.

God has blessed me with a heart (and a hope) to be a foster mom,  and for that,  to Him,  I am eternally grateful. I have started to humbly pray that he will equip me to love,  provide for, boldly fight for and even selflessly let go of, when is necessary. I pray that God will watch over them, hold and comfort them, and keep them safe wherever they are now. May we only meet in His timing.

Towards the end of my stay,  I finally had an opportunity to stand up for myself.  As one of the grandma’s offered me more “auntie time”, and as my insides clenched and escape mechanisms clicked on,  I responded as honestly and lovingly as I possibly could, “I’m alright.  I love them, (gesturing to my nieces), but I don’t really  like babies.”  The other grandma tried to rationalize by claiming,  “Well when you’re not used to holding them…” To that I responded, “No that’s not it.”

I don’t know how to express to my family that my uninterest in babies in no way reflects my love or care for, or interest in them. This is the best I got. You can accept it or not, but I will no longer deny who I am. I will always choose puppies over babies, but that doesn’t make me a bad person – it makes me, ME.

To anyone out there who has been shamed (self or others inflicted) for not holding babies, be FREE! You’re not alone, and you’re not a bad person. You are different, and different is wonderful! Imagine how boring the world would be if everyone  ‘ooo’d and awww’d’ over babies – what would the poor sad ol’ puppies do… or the toddlers who realize they now have to share their attention… or my favorite, the often-forgotten, elderly [and amazing] generation?

Vote for RahRah – loving puppies and respecting her elders since 1988.

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And onward to my heart for fostering. About a year ago, the Prez of my company asked me about my 5 year plan. I told him my goals were less vertical and more horizontal. I wanted to make sure that whatever I was doing was drawing me closer to the Lord. And by the end of the five years, I wanted to be able to support something other than myself. Verbally, I shared maybe a dog, savings account or a car payment… by deep in my heart, I was saying foster kids. This past year I’ve been able to successfully provide for myself, which is indeed a dream come true! However, now, moving towards my goal, I’m working at budgeting better and seeking opportunities that will allow me to provide for my future foster kids, which I know will take sacrifices.

IF Miss Hannigan can do it, surely, so can I 🙂 I recently rented the newer version of Annie and watched it thrice times before the rental period ended… I only, kinda completely love it, and all the songs. (I’m singing along right now…)

To my future foster kids, if you’re out there, somewhere. I’m sorry I can’t help you right now. I can only afford me right now, but I’m working towards you. I’m praying for you. I know it is through unfortunate circumstances that we will meet, and I wish they weren’t so, but I’m excited to meet you – and with God at our side, we’ll get through this crazy life together. Stay strong.

“I am willing, as the Spirit leads, to bring this seed to harvest, in Your time and place, Lord.”

-RahRah’s Prayer

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