holy spaces

Our Dining Room

This post was originally written in October 2020. While much has changed since then, a lot has also remained the same. The main difference is that the “someday” I refer to is much closer now than it was when I wrote these words, and for that, I am grateful.

The plates that hang on the wall in our dining room

A collection of plates hangs on the wall in our dining room. The plates were hand-painted by my maternal grandmother. Born in 1917, her early life was shaped by the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, and two World Wars. The plates are symbols of beauty born from resilience. They come from a home filled with good food, laughter, and love, where gathering around the table was as natural as breathing.

The plates that hang in in our dining room bear witness to a piece of our lives. Until this year, our dining room was used periodically for meals with extended family and close friends. Much of the time it was quiet and unused, the one room in our house that usually remained tidy. I have fond memories in our dining room, of the types of gatherings for which I chose our lovely table – on which we have eaten good food on family heirloom china, just like in my grandmother’s house.  

In the last fourteen months, we have lived in our dining room in new ways. Last spring, I found myself filming videos at our dining room table when the COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to stay home from church. It served as an altar around which our family led the congregation in worship on Maundy Thursday and as the backdrop for story times and Sunday School lessons.

Our dining room functioned as a transitional space while we consolidated my church office into our home office, in preparation for leaving my position at the church I had served for 9 years. It served as a holding space for physical things on their way in and on their way out, and the people who have spent time around our table held emotional space for me in that time of transition.

Currently, the dining room is a home for virtual Kindergarten. It holds a laptop, crayons, scissors, pencils, paper, early reader books, and learning game supplies. It is a perpetual mess, the floor strewn with crayons, dirty socks, and tiny pieces of paper. It is where our daughter overcame her anxiety of going to a new school and where she learned to read.

Though it is rarely used for meals in this season, our dining room has been used more often, and for more purposes, than I could possibly have imagined. It may not look like it used to, but it is well-used. It is a space in which our family has learned, grown, and adapted to new circumstances. It is a room in which we have experienced love, joy, and grace in unexpected ways. It is a holy space.

Someday, we will set our table again with my grandmother’s china and gather with loved ones in close proximity. Someday. But until then, we will use the dining room for whatever purpose seems right, expanding its uses as we expand our definition of what life looks like in this season. And the plates on the wall will continue to hang there as concrete signs that we will we get through this, and eventually, beauty will emerge from the ways that we are being formed in this season.

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