A Family Table

Nearly 13 years ago, before I started Stones and Feathers, I began a blog to share our family’s journey. I was a beginner at blogging, but I had been telling and writing stories for most of my life. The first post after my introduction was a story about a table. Last week, all our family who could come here gathered around that table to celebrate our son Jeremy’s birthday. As I edited and cropped some photos of the gathering, the table spoke to me again. This time I realized that by now, 6 generations of my family have gathered there to give thanks for good food and and to tell our stories.

January 14, 2009: Last night we gathered after work and school to celebrate Sean’s birthday. I pulled out my biggest soup pot and made gumbo with shrimp and crab. As I chopped and added tomatoes and onions and garlic with some of the last garden peppers to survive winter temperatures, the house filled with promising smells. The addition of rice, a crusty baguette and a Red Velvet cake completed the menu, but not the celebration. That happens in many places, but mostly we gather noisily around the table by a wall where a sign says “Memories Made Here.”

 If the oak could speak, it would fill our hearts with stories. The table came to me when my grandmother was going to live somewhere other than her home. Today I believe it is called downsizing. She called it “breaking up housekeeping”. My grandfather had died and she, refusing to move in with my parents, went to live in a tiny apartment not too far from them. Not married long ourselves, we had no room for a big dining table in our apartment, but I loved the table that had been where we gathered to eat at Grandma’s house, and I wanted to keep it. She and Papa bought it second hand around 1920 after their house burned. They were replacing furniture. Since she was selling what she could, and badly needed the money, we insisted on paying her for the table. She would only accept $25.00. It sat for several years in Mother’s and Daddy’s garage. When we bought our first house with a dining room, we brought it to live with us and so began its role in our own family celebrations. That was nearly forty years ago. Since then, it has moved with us from San Antonio to Dallas and other Texas homes, to California and beyond to Indonesia. Perhaps it felt like a homecoming for the table when we brought it back to Texas in 1992. It was certainly a homecoming for us.

Last night, the gumbo was spicy and delicious. Sean’s birthday candles lit up the room, and our gratitude to God for him and for our family lit up our hearts. Grandma Terrell’s table was the altar of another blessing of our food and family as it held our bowls and our elbows and soaked up another memory, another story of family celebration. (posted originally in mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com)

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October 18, 2022: Once again we gather to celebrate a son’s birthday. Now our family has grown so we need more tables! I fill with so much gladness and gratitude when I think of all the places we have had this table in our home, all the occasions for sharing meals, all the laughter and sometimes tears. Many dear friends have joined us. Not long ago, our pastor and a deacon friend brought communion to us so we shared that cup and bread there too. Now I am the grandmother who has been “breaking up housekeeping.” Joe and I have been blessed to live with Ben and Kristen, Nora and Oliver for the last six years. I still call the table “Grandma Terrell’s Table” but it is more fitly called our family table. When it travels on to beckon more gatherings, it will stay a part of our family story.

Threshold, Then and Now

Three years ago, I posted thoughts about thresholds.  I did not know in early January 2015 that before the year ended we would be getting ready to sell that home and move to share a home with our youngest son and his wife and daughter. And none of us knew then that a baby boy would soon join us in our new home. That post can be viewed in the link at the bottom of this page.

We have been in our new home for a year and a half now. I photographed doorways in this house.  When I compared them to the post in 2015, I smiled (OK, a tear as well) because of the similarities.  Our favorite art hangs on new walls. Our family photos grace a new spot, with a new family member included. I realized that I can say the same words with confidence today, Epiphany, January 6, 2018.  .

The day of Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas, a day for remembering the visit of the Magi to the home of Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus. This was a time of discovery, a time of finding what they had been seeking. Although we are not told how they lived out their discovery, only that they returned by a different way, I like to believe that part of that “different” way was not only to avoid Herod, but because they were beginning a new journey of change.  They had come to, and crossed a threshold.

As I enter the new year, I, too, am crossing a threshold.  I am moving from one place in my life to another. I do not always know where my steps take me, but I can trust that light will be given me for the way.

Blessing the Threshold

This blessing
has been waiting for you
for a long time.

While you have been
making your way here
this blessing has been
gathering itself
making ready
biding its time
praying.

This blessing has been
polishing the door
oiling the hinges
sweeping the steps
lighting candles
in the windows.

This blessing has been
setting the table
as it hums a tune
from an old song
it knows,
something about
a spiraling road
and bread
and grace.

All this time
it has kept an eye
on the horizon,
watching,
keeping vigil,
hardly aware of how
it was leaning itself
in your direction.

And now that
you are here
this blessing
can hardly believe
its good fortune
that you have finally arrived,
that it can drop everything
at last
to fling its arms wide
to you, crying
welcome
welcome
welcome.

– Jan Richardson

Jan L. Richardson is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church.

Link to January 6, 2015 post:

https://tinyurl.com/y85wyvus

Advent Blooms

paperwhitesMy first Advent post this year pictured the paperwhite bulbs Nora planted on the day her baby brother was born, November 26, 2016. My, how fast they have grown!

paperwhiteblooms

Today, almost 4 weeks later, Nora holds her growing leaves close and says she loves them. Their blooms should be ready to grace our Christmas dinner table!

norapaperwhites

She loves her baby brother even more!  Oliver has many adoring arms to reach for him. He has grown too, a much more amazing miracle than the paperwhites. It has been fun to watch growth and blooming. Tending the blooms and the baby has given particular grace and meaning to these days of Advent, to my reflections of another baby and the way He changed the world.

oliver3weeksOliver and his Papa Joe.

 

Saying Grace

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Most days begin with prayer and thanksgiving – for years now I have kept a gratitude journal.  This reminds me to focus on all the everyday ordinary blessings I receive as grace.  When we gather for a meal as a family, we hold hands and give thanks for our food. Nora calls this our “Maymen.”  The table is the same one I mention below in an excerpt from my blog post in 2014.

I am remembering childhood meals around my Terrell grandparent’s table in Smith County, Texas. There were hearty breakfasts with farm fresh eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy,  dinners (at lunchtime) that often included  peas and tomatoes from their garden and an iron skillet of cornbread cut into wedges.There were suppers, often the same food reheated or a bowl of soup, and Sunday dinners after church. There were holiday meals at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas where the table and kitchen were both filled with chicken and dressing or a ham, plus those garden fresh vegetables which had been put up into canning jars. To follow, there would be an assortment of sweets – cookies, sweet potato, pecan, and mince pies, and often a pound cake. The food and occasion might vary, but there was always the same beginning: This, too, was something I could count on.  Papa Terrell would say grace. Today we may say a blessing or give thanks, but he always said grace.  The words were always the same, and rattled off so quickly I could never understand them.  But his posture spoke to my heart with no need for words.  Over 70 years later, now I see him clearly in my mind:  gray head bent forward and bowed in humility.

“We offer grace at table as a form of waiting with confidence…reciting such a prayer is sometimes referred to as a way of preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. We offer grace in amazement that even the good things we have rejected are being offered again. And then we eat, and the food meets an earthly need of our souls, and we are made whole.” – Cynthia Rigby, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary*

For me, the calendar days designated to Thanksgiving are a wonderful approach to  beginning of Advent exactly because of this waiting with confidence…preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. Our family will gather once again around the old oak table, the very same one that Grandma loaded with food and where Papa said grace.

Neighbors

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open the garden gate

come sit while we talk,

receiving the gift of each other

“While the spirit of neighborliness was important on the frontier because neighbors were so few, it is even more important now because out neighbors are so many.”   —Lady Bird Johnson

Tonight is National NIght Out, a time when we are encouraged to get together on our street or in our neighborhood.  There will be a gathering near us. I would like to know my neighbors better. I need to know my neighbors better. Because all of us are so busy with our own family’s schedule, it becomes an act of mindfulness and will to take the steps that make that possible.

“We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another… There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the road once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might indeed become neighbors.”  Henri J. Nouwen,  Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

Word Gathering

IMG_2832These words are powerful all by themselves. At times when I am feeling overwhelmed or bewildered, I sometimes choose one just one to help me focus or to use in a breath prayer. But I love seeing them gathered like this.

blessings

thanks

share

peace

gratitude

all gathered together

leaning on each other

grace

Hold On

AntiqueRoseEmpMothersDay 013

Suppose your whole world seems to rock on its foundations. Hold on steadily, let it rock, and when the rocking is over, the picture will have reassembled itself into something much nearer to your heart’s desire.     -From The Seven Day Mental Diet by Emmet Fox

Since my recent injury and then  surgery day before yesterday, I have been holding on  – to my husband’s loving and steady arms, the strength of my sons, our family, friends, and church, and, always, the eternal Grace in which I am bathed.. The picture has not been reassembled so much as it has been brought into focus. This camera lens has sharpened and clarified all the pieces. I am dearly loved, well cared for..basking in Light, healing.

My Lenten journey has begun.