LL Barkat shared, yesterday, about the story of a friend's worn, wooden table, and how grace brought it into her life and placed it just right. Then she invited others to share about the storied tables and chairs in their own lives. My comment that I didn't have a worn, wooden table, let alone space for one, opened some thoughts and I thought I'd share them here.
Right now, Oso (that bear of a man that I married) and I don't own any property. We have our rented apartment, and we haven't had the chance to pick and choose different pieces of furniture to put it it. Generally, we have a hodge-podge of the things we each owned before we married and whatever we could get right around our weddig from various friends, family, and stores with sales. We're so far from having a worn, wooden table that's just perfect that I can't even tell you how far that is...it's just far.
Most couples start out like this, I think. Over the years, they get their own place and slowly replace the things they have with things they love. Sometimes a particular aesthetic rules the day, but many times people buy pieces that mean something to them, then arrange and rearrange until they get it just right. The whole house is like the wooden table, reflecting the family, what it means to them to be a family, and the graces of sharing with each other and caring about each other.
I don't know if Oso and I will ever have that.
These days, he's working his tail off to qualify as an Army chaplain. When he does, we'll start a twenty-something year journey through the United States' Army bases. We don't have many details yet, but even if we're graced with longer-than-usual tours in these different places, we'll move more and farther than the average family. Growing the kind of home where I'd even know where that sort of table belonged seems out of the question, let alone having the time to find the perfect table and put it in place.
It's a mixed bag, all this thinking about moving around. For me, I love traveling new places and seeing new things, but I hate moving. I love immersing myself in different places, but I like coming home. I think that's what this is all about for me--a sense of home. The worn, wooden tables and the stories behind them mean "home" to me, with the grace and the love and the laughter of the home I want to build.
I don't think it's just chance that this is coming up now. Oso and I have been talking about what it would take to raise healthy, happy, secure kids in the Army and how we would build our family around that. One of the things we've talked about is how we'd have to intentionally build a sense of home and make our family's sense of home different from that of most people. We've talked about different options: a place we return to, again and again, as a family; calling one of our parents' homes or a close friend's home "home" and visiting often; teaching our kids that home is found more in people than in a specific place, and then whenever we're more-or-less together, they're home.
Honestly, some version of the last one seems like the best option. And so our children will have stories about each other and about us, stories that go with photos or memories, and not so many stories surrounding the physical things that structure our lives. I think it will be a grace-filled life, indeed, but a different sort of one.
All of this reminds me of one of the things that drew me to Oso the most. He was with me the night my grandpa died. We'd been dating about a month, though we'd known each other for about a year-and-a-half before that. That night, he held me. He didn't say anything, didn't try to make it better or get me to talk or make me laugh. Instead, he sat with me.
I don't know how long we sat there. It probably wasn't long, but I've reflected on those moments so many times that it seems like we sat there forever. What I felt that night, besides grief for my grandfather, was an immense amount of space. There was enough space in Oso for me to be however I needed to be that night, for me to cry or laugh or say nothing. He didn't have an agenda and he didn't need me to feel anything in particular.
As we continued to date, that space became more and more important. I felt like I could stretch out in it, like there was really room for all of me. Gradually, I realized that the space in him had become my home, more than any four walls and a roof ever could.
Talk about grace...this home-in-him that I found is the best gift any one person could ever give another, I think. A place to stretch and cry and pray and play and change and grow and laugh. Like anything human, it's not perfect, but it was the best gift this girl could have been given. Though my everyday sense of that gift fades the longer I live there, that's the kind of home I want my children to have.
And all of this brings me to the one piece of furniture (if it even qualifies as that) I have that has a great story. Actually, it's a really simple story.
I started painting again in the summer of 2007. When I say "again," I mean that I hadn't painted since somewhere around 3rd grade, making it nearly 20 years between tries. I've written a lot about rediscovering the art in me before, so I think it's sufficient to say here that it was a huge step for me to pick up a paintbrush and make something.
I'm a slow painter, but by the fall I had a couple of works that I actually liked, that meant something to me and that I felt happy with.
One day last fall, I came home and Oso was already there. He was in another room, so I went to throw something in our extra room before I went to find him. I walked in the door to the extra room and saw a box on my chair. Since I didn't leave a box on my chair, I went over to move it to his chair so I could use mine.
When I looked at the box, I couldn't believe it. It held a folding art easel, complete with different paints and brushes and a palette.
I ran to the hallway and, still not knowing where he was, shouted, "You bought me an easel!"
He yelled back, "You weren't supposed to go in there!" and then came out from wherever he was.
He found it at Costco, he said. It wasn't that much, he said. He didn't know how good it was, he said. But he couldn't have seen me any better or bought something that, right then, would have touched my heart more.
The easel still stands in our extra room. I paint on it when I get the chance, which isn't as often as I'd like but that's ok. Every time I use it, I think about the man who is my earthly home, and all the little graces he gives me every day.
And one of the best things about the easel? It folds down into a little box with a handle, so I can take it wherever we go.