Several years ago, I bought my first kitchen table.  My parents had given me another when I was in college which served its purpose lovingly for many years.  But something about starting a new family with my daughter and this little farm made me long for a new table.  A place to create new memories, friendships, and recipes.

I began the search in the old Tobacco Barn here in my hometown.  A large tobacco warehouse that has been converted to a multi booth antique mall, it holds many trinkets and treasures and a few junktique items as well.

As I slowly strolled down each aisle and around every corner, my eyes danced across hundreds of pieces of furniture.  Nothing seemed to be to my liking or in my limited price range.

And then, in the last booth right by the counter, there it was.  An old farm table base that someone upcycled by adding lovely pine slats that were stained a warm honey color.  A square instead of a rectangle, it would fit perfectly under the window in my kitchen–large enough to seat an intimate gathering and small enough to fit in the limited space of my kitchen.  And, to my surprise, it came in under budget!

table side view  table top view

I brought the table home and admired her place in our little homestead.  I knew that her presence would invite family meals, creative projects, and cooking experiments. What I couldn’t know was her capacity to create sacred space for long conversations, carefree laughter, and warm tears.

Table has become a place for friends to reconnect over lavender chamomile tea.  She has set the stage for life decisions related to college and employment.  She has been a sanctuary of shared dreams, deep emotion and solemn prayer.

And most importantly, she has welcomed friends and family into the heart of our home and created sacred space for deep personal centeredness on what is meaningful to our lives.

As I sit here this morning and fondly reminisce about all that Table has witnessed in these past 10 years, I think about all the other tables that hold sacred space.  Altars in churches, Welcome Tables in communities, and even the simple tables in our homes.

Perhaps Table is more than an object–perhaps Table is a a source of healing and connection, an opportunity to just be–with each other and with our Maker.  I wonder what love and grace could be born out of such opportunity–perhaps enough to bring a little light into such a dark world.

Mary Oliver’s The Place I Want to Get Back To

In the past year, deer seem to have become my spirit animal.  We have crossed paths, stared into each others’ eyes, shared apple trees and surprised each other in the darkness of night.

deer at Shalem

In my readings of deer as spiritual beings, I understand that they are a sign of gentleness, intuition, and grace.  I return to those words each time I am blessed with a deer crossing the path of my life’s journey, and I find a sense of peace and comfort in returning to my center.

This week, my spiritual director reminded me of this poem by Mary Oliver.  I’ll be sitting with this one for awhile.

The Place I Want to Get Back To

The place I want to get back to
is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness
and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me
they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let’s see who she is
and why she is sitting
on the ground like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;
and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way
I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward
and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years
I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can’t be repeated.
If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named

Mary Oliver
Thirst (Beacon Press, 2006)

give up and give on–lessons learned from Lent

This is a repost from a couple of years ago.  I am fully appreciating its relevance on this Ash Wednesday.  ~cameron

This morning, a friend of mine posted a link on her facebook wall to a “Reverse Lent Challenge.”  The subhead noted, “Don’t give something up.  Take something on.” In her comment section, others had noted that “giving on” was more their speed than “giving up.”  After planning the youth lesson on Lent last night, I had to stop and think about that one.  What does it mean to “give on,” and how does that connect with or replace “giving up?”

As an adult who recommitted to her faith journey about 10 or so years ago, I have wondered about the motivations for self-denial at Lent.  It seems that for some, it becomes about bragging rights (who can give up the most items or who can make the biggest sacrifice) or dieting (giving up soda or sugar because it’s a great way to kickstart a diet). In essence the spiritual piece becomes “lite”ened by our own personal desires.  Isn’t Lent really about digging deeper into what drives our choices, to explore what creates worldly distractions for us so that we can draw nearer to God?

I will admit that I struggle with the idea of self-denial and wrestle with what would be most meaningful for me to give up each year.  Sometimes, I am not so good about it, and I have taken the easy way out.  Who doesn’t want to lose 5 lbs before Spring clothes weather?  In the last couple of years, however, I have made 3 commitments to myself:

1.  To spend more time learning about the intentions of Lent–what it means to my faith tradition and what it means to my relationship with God

2.  To choose one material item to let go of so that my physical-self experiences self-denial

3.  To choose one spiritual item to work on so that I let go of some of my own desires and distractions to better hear what God is calling me to do in this world to live out my faith.

It is not easy, and I am not always “successful,” but in those moments, I also learn more about my humanity and about the impact of God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy.  And from that, I grow more into the person I know I am called to be.

And so, what does it mean to “give on,” and how does that connect with or replace “giving up?”

After some intentional meditation time this morning, here is how I responded to my friend:

planting a seed here–you are still giving up some things:  focusing on yourself as well as engaging in the distractions that take you away from the important things in life (like those mentioned in your link)–one of the “teachings” of Lent. So go forth and give on!