I don’t remember what I was reaching across the table for, exactly.
But my arm brushed over cracker crumbs and the tears sprung up immediately.
I haven’t served enough meals to them here. What will they remember of this table?
I’ve never told the kids the story of how we got it.
One day I will.
It started about 12 years ago.
We met at the store at 3 pm after my classes. I remember the time, because he was late and I felt like he didn’t care about our wedding registry. He confirmed that suspicion as we trolled through the store, wide-eyed and staring at our future with a zapper gun in hand. He held my hand, but he wasn’t emotionally moved by the napkins and serving bowls. Truth be told, I think he realized that our grown-up life was about to start, and that’s scary.
I felt it too, but I never said a word. I just kept shooting the gun and praying that the right silverware would help it all make sense.
“What about this, Ang?”
It was the first four-word sentence I remember him saying, so I turned around with the eagerness of a child, ready to point my weapon at whatever made him want to have life with me.
And I loved it immediately.
Weathered wood. Four chairs. Rustic. Simple.
I smiled. Because I wanted to see our children there.
We received notice a few weeks later that the president of his record label (Mike Curb…thank you, Mr. Curb!) had purchased the entire set for us as a wedding gift.
It was our first real furniture, and it promised we would be a family.
We were married in August.
In September I was home alone, sipping coffee before work. I remember that Natalie Grant was doing an interview on the radio and then the towers fell. He was in Washington. I begged the Lord to let him come home to the tiny apartment with the sliding glass door and shiny black pleather couches (classy). And he did.
For our first Christmas, we had to move the table diagonally in our tiny little apartment, because we couldn’t fit our Christmas tree around it otherwise. Todd came up the stairs and knocked on the door. When I opened it, he stood with a tree that was at least a foot higher than our ceilings. Hot chocolate didn’t seem too trite, and we sat, buried under pine needles and laughter.
His parents came for supper at one point, and he asked me to make the meal. I cried, but he never knew. I didn’t know how to make supper. I went to the grocery store and found an index card with a recipe on it, purchased all of the items, and made “homemade” beef stroganoff. When his parents knocked, the table was set with our wedding dishes. They were pumpkin orange and I lit two candles and wore an apron. I remember.
He answered the door and I invited them in. We sat at our little table, four chairs filled, and I jumped up to get drinks because I realized I had forgotten them. It wasn’t perfect, and I was disappointed.
My mother in law is a fantastic cook, but more than that, she’s a fantastic mother in law. So she ate like she had never tasted anything like it and she praised me. When they left, I cried again because I was so happy about my stroganoff. This time he knew.
I don’t remember the date, but I set the pregnancy test in front of him while he read at the wooden table. He was shocked. So was I. We cried because we felt like we were back in the store again, pointing at what we wanted but not really understanding how it would all come together to make life beautiful.
We lost the baby. He wasn’t home when it happened and I was angry. I sat at the table and yelled at him when he came back. He didn’t mean to. It wasn’t him. I know that now. Just like I know I shouldn’t have called him what I did, months later, when I scooped up my dishes angrily, threw them in the sink and stormed out the door.
He came after me. He always did.
And we sat at the table and we tried to make it make sense.
They don’t know any of it.
They don’t know that we moved into a beautiful house while Abby was still in the hospital. That I wanted to be their mommy so badly and when she came home, sleepless nights spilled into morning and I told him I wanted to sew. I felt like it would make it look right, and, well-I don’t know. I can’t cook.
So he surprised me.
Came home early one day with a sewing machine in his hand and I jumped up and down. I had no idea how to wind the bobbin, but I knew he loved me and wanted me to be happy. And that was enough.
For years I sewed at our little table. One day when it rained, I sat with a pen in hand and started writing. I hadn’t done it in years, but it brought the life out of me.
It’s crevices are filled with more than crumbs. They hold the memories of 11 years of misunderstandings, overreactions, victories, burnt dinners and the purest joy we can have here in this life. It’s also covered in crayon marks and knife marks, with invisible fist marks, misunderstandings, and wounded pride. And so many other things I wish looked differently.
He didn’t know I saw him that day, but I did. I was watching through the glass doors as he sat with the twins and read them Scripture. Later, on the same table, he decided to make the entire solar system out of clay with them (to scale). I fussed that night because there was glitter everywhere, and I’m so sorry I did.
One of my most constant life-themes is missing the point.
Abby and Ellie sat under it one day while I was crying over Audrey. They played Barbies and discussed the fact that I was basically losing my mind. I found them there but I couldn’t say a word. I just waited for him and he made it better.
He always did.
It’s weathered, this wood.
I can almost see it in my mind’s eye, the way it would look if the camera always sat watching it and life moved around in fast-forward and we could see all the stories and tears, watch our children outgrow their booster seats and refuse spinach.
I’ve made crafts with them, talked to them, prayed over them, sewn their dresses and their lives there.
And yet today, the tears came because I felt inadequate. I want to serve them everything they need here on this wood and I wonder if I have.
I cry to the Lord because I know He sees my pain.
He whispers to me…
Your love is enough. And when it isn’t, Mine is.
But still I doubt.
When you love people like this, it never seems like enough.
And so another day closes, another sponge pushes the memories onto the floor, and it will all be swept up soon.
Swept away into life, and soon they will be as well.
I wish they could see the way I prayed for them here. I pray they will know I desired the best, and even when my flesh failed, His power equipped them in spite of me.
I pray they will grow to be strong women in the Lord, believing in Him the way they have seen me believing.
They’ve seen my hands raised to Him when the words wouldn’t come.
And God, if it’s Your will…could they make a better stroganoff than their mama?
It’s a simple piece of wood, and I know that.
But I’ve been building so long.
My hands are tired and some days my heart breaks over what I didn’t serve here. Not just meals, but true food.
Lord, I beg You to make my offering enough…
And I will continue to serve everything I have in the meantime.