It was just a few weeks before Thanksgiving and we didn’t have a table.
Well, technically we did have table. An old one we had bought through Craig’s List that fit the small space in our old house perfectly. It was distressed cream and snuggly seated six.
But we’d moved into a blessing: a spacious house that boasted a huge dining room. We were hosting our first Thanksgiving and were expecting eight guests to add to our family of five. We didn’t have enough room around the table for everyone to have a seat.
We wanted our first official holiday hosting experience in our new home to be welcoming. I don’t think we were motivated to impress, but instead to nourish. We wanted everyone to have space, to find their place.
I knew I wanted a more rustic “farmhouse” style of table. I had collected pictures of them on Pinterest. But we certainly couldn’t afford buying outright any of the ones that captured my eye.
My husband, Josh, who was skilled in carpentry after all, decided to make one.
We just scarcely had enough time.
A generous friend donated wood to our cause. Southern Yellow Pine was taken to our local sawmill and planed into useable planks for the table top.
Slowly the table took shape. Legs were painted white. The boards that were to withstand holiday feasts and daily meals were stained rich and dark.
But the day before Thanksgiving it was still getting one final stain, drop cloth acting as a carpet to protect our floors. We had fans going to circulate the air all night long, hoping it would dry in time.
And it did. Just barely.
As the turkey fragrantly roasted in the oven we pulled together chairs and benches from around the house. The new table gleamed in all its freshly painted and stained glory, but the chairs that accompanied it were decidedly dented and mismatched. We now could cram ten people around the table and a few more in the smaller table in the kitchen.
Everyone was going to have a place.
Hospitality isn’t about the perfect table and matching chairs. I must remind myself of that sometimes, because the chairs still don’t complement the table, even now, three years later. They remain hand-me-downs and other people’s cast-off furniture.
Hospitality, as Shauna Niequist puts it in her book Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, “isn’t a sport or a competition. It’s an act of love, if you let it be. You can twist it and turn it into anything you want—a way to show off your house, a way to compete with your friends, a way to earn love and approval. Or you can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide.”
Hospitality is making sure everyone can find their place in our home. That everyone is nourished.