At the Table

I love to eat. Soup, pad Thai, corndogs, pizza, avocado toast—you’d be hard pressed to find a well-prepared, dish I don’t like. Except anything with water chestnuts. (What ARE those things??)

Even more than eating, I love what happens around the table. I grew up in a family of six who ate together on a nightly basis, so food has always been deeply connected to my relationships around the table. Conversation was often loud and chaotic, especially when my hard-of-hearing grandfather was present. But the table was never lacking life.

In 2013, Ben and I moved our family to Murfreesboro, Tennessee—about 30 minutes outside Nashville. If you know anything about the Nashville area, you know THE FOOD. New restaurants pop up daily. Everybody and their uncle is a foodie. We fell in love with hot chicken, grits, ramen bowls, sushi, and about anything at the meat ‘n’ three.

Sure, I fell hard and fast for the food, but what stuck with me was what happened around the table.

About a year after moving to Tennessee, my friend Allison asked whether I would be interested in helping her start an IF:Table. I had never heard of IF:Gathering as an organization or its annual event. But as Allison explained IF:Table—the opportunity to gather together with a small group of women to eat together and have authentic conversation aimed at knowing God better—I told her without hesitation, “I’m in.”

My IF:Table ladies circa 2017.

My IF:Table ladies circa 2017.

Over the next few years, this gathering became my haven. Once a month, I would sit with these women around the table. We each came with our baggage. We each came with our hurts and our hopes. In this short period of time, we walked beside each other through career changes, moves, babies (mostly mine), marital struggles, a stroke, a highly debated presidential election, parenting questions, and a host of differing perspectives. We came with our questions. We came with our frustrations. And what we found was a place to confess, to find compassion, and to expect honesty. And we were better for it.

When I moved back to Indiana in 2017, my IF:Table ladies were amongst the hardest to leave behind. Our connections and candid conversations had done something to free my spirit. Not in a hippie-dippy kind of way, but in an “Oh! so THIS is what God wants for His Church" type of life-changing revelation. I had found something special at the table, something I wanted to take with me.

Almost two years have passed since the move, and despite being states away, we’ve been able to stay connected to some degree or another—even if it’s just the occasional text and the Christmas card still hanging on my refrigerator. But they will always be with me, because I will never lose what I learned at the table: To gather regularly. To invite people with varying opinions and stories and perspectives into my life and into my home. To be willing to share sorrows and bear burdens. To show up unsolicited with that bowl of vegetable soup. To let life be messy and be in it together.