On my fiftieth birthday back in February, I was called over to my grandbabies' house. Sweet happiness met me at the door; bouncing with excitement, they had a surprise and couldn’t wait to reveal it.
Naomi and Olivia ran ahead to the bedroom and I followed wondering what they were so excited to show me. I turned the corner and found them dancing next to the Sunday School table I'd snagged for them at an antique store a few months before. It was set for a tea party.
They sat me down, placed a straw hat on my head, and told me I was the queen. That day I would wear the blueberry-picking hat and drink chamomile from a teensy cup. Sitting there with a hat just a bit too small for my head, my knees against the tabletop, I was joy-full.
The joy wasn’t about my status that day, or my place at the table under the blueberry-picking hat, but the joy was about them. It was seeing their joy as they were thrilled to throw a party that was as much for them as it was for me.
Because Annie (their sweet momma) had taken the serving role and opted out of sitting at the table, we ate cookies and sipped down three tiny pots of tea without having to lift a finger.
Those fifteen minutes were the icing on the cake of my fiftieth birthday.
I’ve sat around many tables in my life; pulled my chair up with those who brought me into the world, and with the lovely weathered bodies of those who brought them into the world. My family spread out like a tree. I grew up under their shade until I became my own leafy branch; cast my own shadow for those growing under my feet.
On a hot summer night just days ago, we pulled up chairs at a barn and witnessed the marriage of my oldest son, Jared, to Jessica, the love of his heart. Afterwards, we feasted. A Great and Gracious God cast his shadow over the place. There among us was a whisper humming beneath the revelry, a hint of what is coming…a shade, a refuge, a table wide and long…
"For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”(from Isaiah 25:4-9 ESV)
There are so many graces in this life, so many graces to speak as thanks to God. When I think of them, I wonder, are there any greater gifts than tables and shade trees?
Around tables and under the shade, we find hope when eternity is hidden behind its foggy veil. The veil keeps us from knowing in full while we wait---wait in hope, knowing in part, confident but hungry, eager for the day when death is swallowed up and faces no longer drip with tears.
We need to be around tables with our families and friends. We need to grow our branches and be willing to stand as shade for those who are growing up under us.
We also need to be willing to submit our branch to pruning so that the Light can shine down on them without our standing in the way. The shade falls at the direction of the Light.
We must let the Gardener have his way even when pruning seems scary when it seems like the shears are lopping off what is vigorous and thriving.
Fifty is shaping up to be a year of pruning, of letting go in order for the new to sprout and find its place among the branches.
This is a year of celebrations--- and it is also a year of pruning.
Life is painfully good. It is right in this season and it is joyful, though at times, it seems sorrowful. There's no ambiguity. All of life, its joy and sorrow, sets the stage for the waiting for eternity. The longing turns our eyes up, fixed; our hands strengthened, ready; holding our lamps brimming with the oil of our gladness as we wait for the Groom.
The Savior is setting the the table, preparing the feast. The blueberry-picking hats are ready and waiting for the children of God.
So we wait…
While were waiting, I should go get supper started.
I'm setting a table for two. It's time to say grace.