Last night I shared a meal with a small group of women. These women come from different backgrounds.
Some seemed to have grown up near Mayberry, other closer to the dysfunction of Married with Children. We are in different stages of life, with children at home, away at college, empty nests, almost grandma, new grandma and long time grandmas. We work at home and in the marketplace. There is actually very little that connects our diverse lives. Except the table…
Last winter we gathered together on a snowy New England weekend to watch the IF:Gathering. When I invited people, I didn’t really know how to describe the event, because I had not seen it before. I’ve never been so nervous about how it would work. But then we were together. We laughed, we cried, we bonded, and we committed to know each other… every month around the table. Since then, we have been breaking down barriers, overcoming fear and anxiety, and building trust.
This isn’t about the food (we’ve done pizza, potluck, and fancy) or the decorations (there aren’t any). I do try and make sure the house is presentable, but I don’t stress about these things. If they come early, they help. If I’m not done prepping when they all arrive, I put them to work. Some nights we do the dishes, some nights the dishes wait for me another day. I have one rule about guests in my house… you’re only a guest once. All of these friends have long outlived their “guest status.” Instead the focus of our attention is one each other.
I love how we collectively hold our stories. I forgot all about something shared last month, but someone else remembered… And asked. We are careful with one another, but also bold when necessary. We let the introverts listen, and also draw them out. We started out using the cards provided by IF:Table, but now this group has enough history that the cards seem unnecessary (but I still try). It seems like this time allows us to stop and focus on things that really matter…on relationships, on impact, on life.
Our commitment to stay small has made a difference for us. In order for intimacy and trust to grow, we need to get to know each other. We determined to create a safe space, where we might let down the guard and show up in a different way. This is hard work and yet, these ladies have been up to the challenge. The chance to really know and be know by a small group of women is precious and rare.
We’ve had some moments of miscommunication. But these ladies have braved their own fears and insecurities and made grace a priority. We are committed to love. Not just once a month but using technology we reach out for prayer and encouragement. Each time we gather, we go a bit deeper. We deal with real life. We shed tears for each others struggles and our own. We speak words of truth and power into each other and ourselves. We help provide perspective. We laugh… oh, how we laugh. What happens at the table, stays at the table.
I am privileged to know many of these ladies individually. I count them each among my closest friends. Some I’ve known for decades, others for just the past couple of years. Bringing this group of women together has been the greatest gift for me. I get to watch these insightful, powerful, loving women build into each others lives. We are growing more confident, more grace-filled, more purposeful, and more honest because of our time together.
The concept behind the IF:Table is so simple and yet revolutionary. We meet, we eat, we share our lives. When did sharing a meal become a revolution? And yet, for us it is combatting isolation and distance that threatens our ability care and share in our hectic world. I pray that this group will eventually lead to more, as these women reach out from their own circles of influence. But for now, I am so grateful to be at the table.
This is part of a 31 day writing challenge. If you are interested in following along, you can find the rest of the series here. Thank you for stopping by!