Raised on catfish from the Mississippi Delta

Mississippi-RiverI sat in my favorite seaside restaurant enjoying a platter of fried catfish and hush puppies.  The food was delicious but I had to hold back the tears as my husband and I adjusted to a “table for two” instead of a “table for three”, now that our son was away in college.  I thought I would burst out crying when the hostess asked me, “How many for dinner?”  I wanted to stop and tell her all about my wonderful son who used to come with us.  I can still feel my husband rolling his eyes behind me.

As I enjoyed the food in the unusual quietness of our table, I suddenly remembered why I always liked to order the catfish.  It was a comforting image from my own childhood.  My grandparents had a riverhouse on the Mississippi River, and each summer we would go there when we were young.  The boys went fishing in the early morning, and by the evening my grandmother would fry up a large batch of catfish – or chicken if the catch wasn’t too good that day.  The adults would gather ’round the back porch cleaning the fish and swapping stories, while I was more happy to meander along the dirt roads or sit on the dock watching the sunset and dangling my toes in the water.  It is in those very tangible memories from my childhood that I still hold to today.  It guides me home like a beacon.  Whether it is the warm smells of a kitchen, a favorite childhood dog, or spending lazy days in a tree house, we are all brought back home in some way to our childhoods.  It never truly leaves us.

Proverbs 22:6 ~ Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

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The used up table

dining room table

I’ve been shopping for a new dining room table to replace the old table that’s been a steady fixture in our home for the last 20 years.  Shopping for furniture is stressful enough by itself, but I was not prepared for the emotional weight of it as well.

I looked at my old table with its scratches and worn chairs.  It needed to be replaced with something new and refreshing, but each time I tried to pick out a new table I hesitated with just a bit of melancholy.  I’ve served many meals around that table.  There have been Thanksgiving celebrations, birthday parties, moments of joy and even a few tears.  I remember a picture taken of me holding my two-day old baby son while sitting at that table.  Oh how I wish I could sit there now and have a nice talk with that young mom, and perhaps give her a little hug.  Throughout the years that followed, my son and I spent many evenings reviewing homework and studying for tests around that table.  I especially remember the pains of Algebra and Chemistry during the high school years.  We even had a large hole in the dining room wall from the constant banging of my son’s chair hitting against the wall in frustration.  That hole stayed there for over a year.  But he made it!  All of those scrapes and scratches and spots on the chairs are the well-earned medals of achievement of growing up.  My son is now in college and on his way to finding his own place in life; a path truly designed by the hand of God.

Now as I stroll through the furniture stores, all the new tables just look like cheap impostors to our home.  They don’t show the love from all the years gone by.  Our dining room table has always been cluttered with computers and books and printers for homework and other work.  We rarely used it for fine china and formal dining.  Yet time does not stop for any of us, no matter what our well-intentioned wishes may be.  We should happily cherish all those fond memories from the past, but also look forward to the future.  God has plans for us in every phase of our life.  Unlike my old used up table, we are not used up in God’s eyes.  He does not see our scratches and bumps, but only our potential.

After much deliberation and thought, I finally decided to go with a custom designed table and chairs where I can pick out every detail of the new table including the color, style, wood and shape.  Nothing ordinary will do.  I want something that will fit into our lives alongside the family photos and mementos, but also something strong and sturdy designed to carry us forward through the next 20 years with a fresh, bold outlook on the future.  It’s the same way in which God designs our lives too.

baby at table

Godliness with contentment is great gain.  I Timothy 6:6
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