Shauna Niequist talks about how the table is the center of her home — life around the table is something she honors, cherishes, and seeks to cultivate in her life, with her family, and in her home.
"I can't imagine life without a table between us," she says in Bread & Wine.
And I agree with her, in theory.
I've always wanted my home to be a place of warmth. A place that's inviting, welcoming, and comforting. A place that welcomes vulnerability, a place characterized by community and authentic relationships.
And I do love life around the table.
Family dinner was a staple of my childhood. With the busy schedules of four children and a military father, there were certainly many days where a member or two of our family was missing from around the table, but family dinner was important. Distractions were put away, phone calls left to the answering machine. Dad would ask sometimes ridiculous and sometimes probing, thoughtful questions. We'd laugh and learn and celebrate our life together as a family. With us all nearly grown and off establishing our own lives, family dinner with everyone is a rare occasion, and for that reason, when it happens, it's celebrated.
And perhaps one day, I will return to this same kind of life around the table. When I have a family of my own, with smiling children and a handsome husband, family dinner will again be a staple in my life.
But for now, the table isn't so much the center of my home, the center of my relationships, the center of the ministry that takes place there.
For me, the center is the couch.
The living room or the family room — whatever you like to call it, for both terms are appropriate — has, for many years, been the centerpiece of how I do and live life in my home.
It started a little bit in college, where our tables were small and it was rare that any of us were actually in the apartment for dinner. And when friends entered the picture, there were never enough chairs or space at the dinner table to accommodate the whole crowd. When I lived on my own my senior year, my table was nothing more than a folding card table and a couple of chairs lent by my parents. Room for myself and one other person, at most.
So we moved to the couch.
We curled up against soft pillows in warm blankets. We flipped off lights and watched movies. We filled mugs to the brim with steaming hot tea or hot chocolate, because coffee isn't really a thing in my house. We piled plates high, balanced beverages precariously on seat cushions, and while food still played an important role, the centerpiece was the comfort and warmth of the couch.
I see it play out in the lives and homes of my other friends, too.
We gather, yes, around food. There is something about food that seems inherently linked with community. Again, perhaps it is my upbringing — coming from a large immediate family by many people's standards and a large extended family by everyone's standards.
Food conjures up thoughts of togetherness — of sitting on the counter watching my grandmother bake cinnamon rolls. Of decorating spritz and sugar cookies in the kitchen with my siblings under the watchful eye of our mother. Of leaning against the counter as my grandmother bustled around the kitchen, chatting, but never allowing any of us to help. Of learning from the hands and heart of my mother how to proof the yeast, how to roll the pizza dough, how to bake it to soft but crispy perfection.
But even with family dinners starting around the table, they rarely stayed there. Inevitably, we moved to the living room or the family room, curled up on the couches, and laughed into the night together.
And that is the part of my home that has come to represent togetherness for me, in the midst of my friends and my community.
We burrow deep into couches, pulling up our knees, sharing or tossing blankets to and fro, holding pillows in laps, squeezing in together. We talk long into the night, often far later than is smart for our early wake up calls. We dig deep into the hard and nitty gritty of life. We talk about joy and we talk about sorrow. We dream and scheme and plan and hope together. We talk about what has been, what is now, and what might be in the future. We share our hearts. We share our sorrows, hopes, dreams, and more.
Life for me is lived amidst the cushions of a couch — amidst the comfort and familiarity of kicking off your shoes, curling up with a blanket, and making yourself at home.
And that's I hope this space feels like. I hope it feels like coming home or coming into the home of someone you love. I hope it is a place of familiarity, of comfort, of rest. A place where life and dreams are celebrated. A place where we talk about the hard things, the good things, the necessary things. A place where we get excited about the little things and the big things and the things of all sizes in between. A place where vulnerability and authenticity reigns, where masks are never necessary because above all, you are confident this is a place where you are seen, heard, and loved.
That's what I hope my home is to the people in my life and I hope this space, this 'home' of mine online , feels that same way — comforting, inviting, and lovely.
Come have a seat on the couch. Stay a while and we'll talk — about life, about love, about friends, dreams, and faith. I'll offer you tea or hot chocolate, if you want coffee you'll have to bring it yourself. Let's get to know one another and share life together.