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Speaker, Writer, and Author of GodSpace

The empty table (and some thoughts on filling it)

As a treat to myself on a fall afternoon, I pull out my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven. At 3 in the afternoon, I chop onions, garlic, rosemary, and parsnips; brown beef ribs marbled with fat; pour nearly all of a bottle of red wine over all of it. Chop, brown, simmer, braise. Salt, pepper, butter. I’m in my happy place.

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Once the meal is in the oven, I work for a few more hours, savoring the smell of Zinfandel-braised short ribs that drifts up the stairs to my office. A bit later, I make mashed red potatoes (with a few turnips from the last farmer’s market of the season thrown in) with butter and rosemary.

IMG_2454By the time my husband walks in, the house smells amazing. We sit down to dinner, and he peers into the pot of mashed potatoes. “That’s a lot of potatoes,” he says. He’s right. I have not yet figured out how to cook for two people. We’ll eat leftovers for the rest of the week.

I’m adjusting to this spacious nest, as my friend Tim calls it. “Empty” still feels like a more accurate adjective. It’s not easy, as I shared with you last week. The biggest emptiness of this nest is my kitchen table. I’m hungry to feed people. It may seem strange but it brings me great joy to cook, then gather people around a table to feed them. My husband appreciates my culinary efforts, and loves to eat. But he knows there is something missing.

“Maybe we need to have people over for dinner more,” he says, after refusing a third helping of the short ribs (the sauce is amazing, but this dish is not exactly light).

“Yes,” I agree. One of the many things I miss about having my children at home is feeding them and their friends. One of our family’s trademark practices is hospitality—whether to friends or strangers. In this new stage of life, I’m trying to figure out how to make that a regular practice again.

My husband’s comment resonates, affirms something God’s been stirring in me lately: open your home and table to people who need to connect with God and one another.

shabbat I believe it might be tied to Sabbath. I recently heard a message from a rabbi on Sabbath. I was challenged to open my Sabbath practice with a meal (as we did for years when our children were younger), not just for my husband and I, but for others. Saturday evening seems like the perfect time to open our home and invite friends to gather around the table.

Sabbath is a day to slow down and rest. With my children off to college, my Sundays are suddenly eerily quiet. No more volleyball tournaments, no more youth group gathering in our house on Sunday afternoons, no more groups of teenagers stopping by after youth group. And honestly, no more Saturday night family meals. It’s just—restful. Yet—something is missing. Sabbath is not just about making space, but making space for God.

Sabbath practices change with the seasons of life. I feel God stirring, inviting. There is a saying, “More than Israel has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel.” I wonder if Sabbath—and specifically, the Sabbath table—might keep me, in this new and strange season.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

  1. I love these thoughts Keri, because like you hospitality is part of my DNA. But I am at the other end of the journey trying to figure out how to manage it with a three and five year old.

    And like you I am feeling a calling to try and figure it out again, how to gather people around a table once more.

    Thanks for this timely post, (and nice to have you back posting again :)),
    Jodie

    • Jodie,
      Gathering that three and five year old around a table is just as much hospitality as throwing a dinner party. In your season of life, those are the people you gather around a table most often, and that really matters. And yeah, I suddenly have more time on my hands to post on my blog. 🙂

  2. Hi Kerri,
    I was like you once with an empty table and like you I filled it with friends and neighbours. Then the grandchildren arrived and the table was very often sitting 7-8!
    We have now moved to the eastern side of England and I regularly have 7-8 at the table, so things go in circles!!
    I am making my way through Simple Compassion so your e-mail came to inspire me as usual. Thanks for the mail and the book
    Norwynne

    • Norwynne, thanks for visiting! glad you are enjoying Simple Compassion as well. I appreciate your perspective. For now, my children are in college so we (hopefully) have a few years before grandkids show up. But your thoughts are very encouraging.

  3. This has my mouth watering. I love what you have said about Sabbath, and family meals. I look at my wonderful kids, and think much of what is in them came from the dinner table (and I am not talking about the meat and potatoes.)

    When my parents were in our area we would spend most Sunday afternoons (our Sabbath) there with our kids, loving and living together – talking, playing games, reading, napping – doing life together.

    Thanks for sharing your heart here.

    Ben

    • Ben, thanks for stopping by. I agree, we build into our kids at the dinner table. We get to practice hospitality first with our families.
      And our Sabbath is Sunday as well, we just like to use the tradition of sundown to sundown, so we start Saturday evening and go to Sunday evening. Sunday afternoons are indeed a great time for reading, napping, games, etc.

  4. “I’m hungry to feed people.” God has given you a passion and a gift there, Keri.

    Abut the same time our kids were heading off to college, my wife Liz started working with a group of students she would stay with from 4th grade in to junior high. She got to know a few of the girls well and they found out we have a swimming pool. So they invited themselves over one summer day a couple years back. The visits continued.

    Then Liz began helping them with homework when school started up, first by staying after school with the 6th grade teacher to work with the kids in the classroom. In 7th grade it turned into a homework club at our house 3-4 nights per week, every week of the school year last year. We went from spacious nesting to being really crowded some nights with up to 6 kids strewn about the house at various tables. One night when our son and daughter happened to be home we had the kids in four groups and each of us was helping them with a different subject.

    We’re not doing the homework club any longer now that the kids are in 8th grade and figuring this stuff out on their own, but I figure something else will come along to occupy our space. My wife has a hunger for helping people, so something is bound to develop.

    I am sure that God will work through you to bless anyone you and Scott invite into your home to share your hospitality, too. Thanks for this post and the way you got me thinking of the ways God’s people can serve others in their homes.

  5. I’m happy to report that we got to have some old friends (and one of their friends, who became a new friend) around our table last night. What fun. I made a pork roast with sage, rosemary, garlic, and lemon. It gave me joy to watch them enjoy it, and to engage in a lively debrief of the Storyline conference around our table. Feeling blessed.

    • That sounds like a fun night, Keri!

  6. Hello all, wanted to share a link that our friend Jodie (her comment is above) wrote in response to this. She’s written a lovely post on her blog, please pop over and read it and share if you’re so inclined.
    http://onlyhalfwaythere.net/2014/11/10/what-hospitality-looks-like/

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