While the outside of Manning hasn’t changed much, neither has the outside of my grandparent’s home. The same trees that I used to play under and climb are still there, although a bit larger than from when I was a child, the same barn that my Papa built by himself and nailed every board and plank with his own hands still stands facing the empty pasture behind their property.
As I drove up the other morning and stepped out of the car I was hit by the smells and sounds of a place that I have known my entire life. As I closed my eyes, in my memory, I could see my Grandmamma and Papa coming out of the door greeting me with hugs and smiles excited about the time that we were going to have at their house. But, this particular day that I drove up, that was not the scene I saw. I entered the house that day and stepped into their den. Looking around at the pictures and furniture, I recognized a place that shaped my childhood. A place that for any child would be magical and wonderful, a place of love and joy, laughter and stories, filled with family and excitement. I walked through the den into the dining room and saw the same round table that my grandmamma filled with food, where we sat for hours (and I mean hours) and traded stories and jokes, memories and dreams. It was a table that expanded with the coming of children, the marriage of grandchildren, and shrunk with the passing of those who have gone on before. This table also was the host of many a game of Risk, Scrabble and cards, where competition was fierce, loud, and often went on into the wee hours of the morning.
I strolled into the kitchen and I looked around and saw a place where my grandmother spent much of her time. Cooking, cleaning, and preparing what would be meals that my family would remember for a lifetime. And to my left, I saw her kitchen table. Small with three chairs around it.
This table never hosted a feast, never played a role in family game time, but this table was the place where I would sit and watch her and talk to her while she cooked, and as I gazed at her, I learned the basics of cooking essentials. I treasured this time with her, and as I stood there and looked at the table that played a role in my childhood I began to feel the change that has come upon this house.
Lost in a mirage of feelings, memories, and tears, I saw my Papa coming from the back bedroom greeting me with a smile and hug, excited to see me as always. But he was alone. Grandmamma is in Florence at a nursing home with Alzheimer’s Disease. She has difficulty remembering things in the short term and is unable to live at home now. Life has changed. It is something that I resist and wish would never come, but it does. Nowadays I find myself holding onto memories tighter than I used to because I feel like the life I knew is slipping away from my fingers like sand blowing in the wind at the beach. But, it’s not, it’s just change, and it’s natural and inevitable.
As much as I want to resist change, I can’t; as much as we as a people want to fight change, we can’t.
Our faith, much like life should change and grow. Why? Because we have a living faith through a living God. We sit at God’s “kitchen table” and we learn the basics and begin the long journey of discipleship. But it doesn’t stop there. We are to get up from the table and go out of the house and live. As much as I love my grandmother, and as much as I long to once again see her in the kitchen and hear her while I sit at her table, I know that particular moment in my life has passed; but I am excited because I have my own kitchen table where new memories are being made and where my children will sit and watch and listen.
As we enter this new year, coming from the expectation of Advent, the joy of Christmas into the waiting arms of Epiphany and Lent, let us not be afraid of change. Fear is powerful, and it can hold us back, but if we strive to reach our changing world we must first be open to change. And, as we think about those special moments at the table we take those lessons learned and apply them to our lives; because our faith is shaped by our experiences, our joys and sorrows, our gains and losses, our laughter and tears.
May we never forget the “table” experiences, but use them as we grow in our faith and as we bear witness to the love and power of Christ.
I pray that God would continue to bless us our church, our community of faith, and continue to bless our families through this new year!