Before diving into dinner talk, let’s start with some highly important high chair chitchat. There are times in everyone’s life when there is a seemingly minor course correction that has dramatic implications. I am not talking about the times (yes plural) where my car has grazed the solid line or the last minute dash to the dairy aisle to ensure the highest fat content of whipping cream ends up in my coffee. I am slightly obsessed with whipping cream and honey in my morning cup o’ java!
I am referring to the internal removal of lies that appear benign but really are malevolent. So today, I cheer for chairs. Not just for chairs, in general, but for the specific metaphor I dove into that resulted in the removal of a ridiculous thought that I inadvertently allowed to alight in my life. I also cheer for whoever reads this blog and may subsequently pluck out a bur from their own saddle chair. Yes, be prepared – I have researched heavily different types of chairs and will insert for maximum register on the lame scale. When I say researched heavily, that really means I wandered onto the world wide web once. Isn’t that the same?
Cheers! Let’s sit on this topic for awhile. I love that it is finally time for us to recline in our ladderback chairs, massaged by the chair metaphor, to be uplifted in heart and thoughts. Adirondack, baby, Adirondack!
Vintage & Vinyl. In our dining area, our 1950sish table has a spot for every member of the family plus a few extra chairs that we can grab from various corners of the household. When someone is not there, we can still enjoy the meal but his/her chair sits empty. I notice it. Sure we can eat and enjoy but a truly enjoyable feast has everyone there.
Here’s some history on my beloved table and chair set. Years back, when we lived in small town Saskatchewan, I bought 1950s chairs – sturdy and super cool, gathered from garage sales and thrift stores alike. I also bought a table from my friend in the same style. Out of creativity and with our budget in mind, I bought vinyl in different colours and covered each of these chairs. Then providentially, when my in-laws bought a house, there was a table that perfectly matched my other table sitting solitarily in the basement rather tragically – and so I quickly fetched the fetching table. It’s what we have used for several years now. Lately, I’ve been treating my paintings on the surface and so somehow I need to figure out how to remove the spots of clear varnish that I have inadvertently slathered all over.
As I reflect on this now, I see so clearly how the chair metaphor was already being formed in my heart. Unique chairs, matching and recovered. Isn’t that kind of like us? We are unique yet we belong to each other, covered and recovered as the years go by? I didn’t really grasp the extent of the metaphor until recently. Hence this post.
Rationale Riddle. A new and dear friend from another beloved country reads this blog. And laughs at my jokes. My ‘lame joke’ parking pass has now been validated – not just locally but internationally! And I feel loved. A wonderful side benefit is that this revelation has given me license to announce to my children that someone from another continent reads my blog.
If we refer to our place as a chair, I would have to admit that this is how I saw my chair for quite some time. I approached the table of life looking for a virtual “reserved by someone who was more worthy” sign on my chair or a validation stamp. Somehow I missing seeing the indelible, irrevocable engraved scripture on that very chair that states that it is not me who commends myself (nor anyone else) but God. And I totally missed that the chair had my name only on it. What is this ridiculous rationale that riddles my life?
Confounding & Confirming. I once bought a ticket for the U Bahn in Munich but forgot to validate it. Clueless as to proper procedure, and quite relieved to arrive at my necessary destination rather than some village in Norway. (Not that I don’t want to go to a Norway village, because I would love to, but just not when I’m supposed to be in mid Munich). I unknowingly cheated the system by not getting my ticket validated. Is this how we feel when we sit in our chairs without a date and time stamp – that we are somehow cheating or sneaking in? Desperately fearing that someone will notice and kick us off the chair we’re seated in? Is that really how God works?
I wrote the initial version of this blog from a temporary office – a European bathroom in the middle of the night, quietly writing with the pad of paper perched on the radiator so that I wouldn’t disturb my dear travelling friend. On a scale of 1-10, this writing spot rated 0 for ambiance, 10 for privacy, and an unknown score for conventionality. After all, writers write from all sorts of places. I published this from my quiet office in the middle of the day.
Why do I write in the middle of the night when my body is aching and longing for sleep? Simply stated – because God speaks to me then especially when I have allowed the noise of the day to interfere with my listening skills. I am developing the habit of listening regardless of the time for His words are always timely. It also happens to be a time where few family members are requesting sustenance.
Maybe you need to rock in a pressed back or set in a chaise, too? So let’s convene in this caquetoire, assemble in this virtual armchair and see how comfortable it really is! I will stop babbling from this bubble chair. Yes, I love the sheer volume of the chair words I get to use!
So what about my chair? Does it matter how I sit in it? My son likes to sit on his knees – makes him feel taller. So I correct him and rightfully so – it isn’t healthy for his knees nor is it respectfuly. When I try to sit in my chair on my knees spiritually, God corrects me, lovingly reminding me that my height is not the criteria for sitting in the chair. I will not miss any of the feast regardless of my height. It doesn’t matter if everyone at the table seems taller. It is my family status that enables me to sit at the table. What I need for that is not to sit on my knees but to fall on my knees, in repentance and gratitude, embracing the joy of the invitation to the table, knowing that it was nothing and no thing of my own doing that created the chair or the invitation.
What about the invitation to eat? I am always invited but do I choose to sit in my seat? The table is set for a feast but do I see it? It’s not like God throws virtual pizza boxes on the table (like I do on Friday nights) and says “have at it and hurry up”! It’s not a buffet of mass produced food just because everyone is invited. Though EVERYONE IS INVITED!
It is a feast prepared with love and creativity, filled with surprise and joy for the palette. Allergies are known and accounted for. Preferences acknowledge and taste buds challenged. New things to try and great conversation.
It’s not quite like how I approached Thanksgiving. I made five different kinds of pies including pumpkin cream cheese for my father and father-inlaw, lemon tarts for my mother-in-law. To be honest, the lemon tarts were a compromise of deference and rebellion. Lemon, from all of my accounts, is a cleaning fluid not a flavor. Lemon, in my mom-in-law’s books, is a delight. I love her and I wanted to make something for her that she could keep post the meal, popping it in the freezer so that she could have one whenever she felt like it. Coincidentally, well not at all, I also have a hard time putting lemon in a crust when crust real estate is limited. There is no question that in my kitchen anything else trumps lemon for placement. So she got her tarts and I saved my crust from lemon contamination. Win, win! I also made cherry for my sons – in a polka dot pattern because again laziness and innovation met to create a pattern for upper crust that didn’t require the heavy lifting of measuring and rolling out exact top crust shapes. I always use my grandmother’s pie plate to make my mom’s favourite pie, in memory and thankfulness. I go on this way, creating pies until everyone’s favourite is available. Yes, I was creative and everything was delicious, so I heard. But my weaknesses were also indulged, not that anyone noticed. Though now that I’ve written it, it’s obvious, not that my weaknesses aren’t blatant already.
Thankfully, God’s feast is not a compromise of anything! It is lavish, limitless and lush with kindness, passion, heart, health, righteousness and purity guiding every dish.
I hung out at the spiritual table for quite a few years, thinking it was a bit like an appetizer, snacky-type event. Had a sense I belonged, but didn’t think about the possibility of having a unique chair. Saw other people sitting at the table, but didn’t think to do it myself. Knew I was inadequate and that everyone else was, too. Aware of the universal invite, accepted with deep gratitude the invite to be there. However, I let my thinking stop there, allowing an opening for some wrong thinking. Only through much trial and test, did I begin to realize how beloved I am, so deeply known and considered. And then I found my spot. Yet I still didn’t see the feast and my perspective was a bit fuzzy. Sometimes I still need to clean my glasses – when I allow the noise and clamour to cloud my vision.
This is what I now know. I am convinced that there is a unique chair for me at the table. It is my chair. I not only have a spot, but it is my spot. No one else can sit in it. If I choose not to sit in it, I miss out and I am missed. The wonderful thing about this table is that my chair is no bigger nor smaller than anyone else’s. The table has room for every person and everyone has their own unique chair.
You may be wondering why I was in Europe. I was wondering for a while, too. I felt I was to go. So I made initial plans, thinking that I was saving a spot for someone else. Then once the flights and hotel were booked, I thought I was probably just going to be an observer not a participant and certainly not an invited guest. Then through a divine course of events, I became part of an international arts team. Even when I arrived there and found myself at the first meeting, I was still a bit shocked that I was there, let alone i the company of such amazing artists. I looked around and kept expecting for someone to tell me to step aside so that someone more worthy could sit in my spot. I could see very clearly how each of the other members was to be there. Why was I so reluctant to sit at this feast? How could I not see the chair that was set before me? How could I not view the chair I was already seated in?
This is the lie I had no clue that I was believing. It’s simple enough. I inadvertently lived as though I believed that there were a bunch of chairs around God’s table and everyone sat wherever. Of course, we’re all invited – God loves everyone. That made sense to me. Then after that, I guess I thought that whoever accepts the invitation sits in whatever chair they find first because all chairs are equal therefore the same. That’s the second part of the lie. The third part of the lie was that I had allowed history, circumstance and circumspect to create a haze around my identity to the point that I questioned myself as an artist.
Then suddenly in that meeting, I got it. I finally understood. It’s who I am, not what I do, though what I do is important. I am not defined by what I do. I am to be. And I am an artist.
Chairific News! I’ve been given a chair. My chair is unique, it matches me, it’s what I do. But the chair without me being present is just my lonely chair. I can’t stand at the table to eat. I need to take my place. Me without my chair is just an aimless me, wandering around the table, hoping to grab some scraps. Even more important is that the whole point of sitting at the table in my unique chair is to rest and eat, be renewed and restored, uplifted and encouraged. To encourage the same for others seated near, beside and across from me. To converse about everything, important and seemingly trivial, with the Person who gave me the invitation.
What is your chair? Do you smell the feast? Have you found yourself at times sitting on your knees? Are you waiting for your reservation to be called? Gazing at your chair instead of eating? Do you worry that someone will take your spot around the table?
I refuse to escape to the egg chair. Instead, let’s leap into the lambing chair. Which according to the world wide web, were very rare, individually produced by carpenters, thereby making each unique. How perfect of a chair is this to consider for this conversation!! Couldn’t find a picture of that kind of chair to include, but maybe that’s the entire point – each chair is a mystery, an adventure and a discovery.
Unique & Every. You are invited. So is every other person. You belong. So does every other person. You have a unique place in the family of God that only you can fill. So does every other person. A family has multiple members, all beloved and all belong.
It is important how you approach your chair and how you choose to sit in it. Be assured that your chair can never be filled by anyone else. Nor do random participants or persons of your choice fill other family members’ chairs. Know that until you sit in your chair and abide there, you are deeply missed. Some people sit for awhile and then leave the table. Some people arrive early. Some seemingly late.
The wonder of it all is that you get to choose. You are choosing already. So am I. On a daily basis, sometimes momentarily even. You can make a new choice if you want to.
You are not the only one sitting at the table. You are not alone. There is a huge family at the table, feasting right along with you.
What can we expect to be served? Great joy awaits. So does sorrow. That’s part of joy. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami – we learn about that in school. All tastes are represented in the feast, leading to ultimate health. It’s a culinary adventure filled with mind-boggling creativity and unfathomable connection.
I encourage you to open your eyes, your ears and your heart and see the feast set before you. When I do that, I can hardly breathe. It is beyond what I can understand and I am so thankful. Thankful is a small word to describe how overwhelmed I am. I know that my chair was costly, purchased with extravagant love, that I will never fully grasp as long as I am on this earth. It does matter the manner in which I approach my chair. Lately, I’m running as fast as I can to my chair. Not to beat someone else to it, but because I long for the feast. I’m hungry, sometimes starving even.
Sure, sometimes I have to sit next to a family member that I need to learn to appreciate. I equally know that sometimes I am that ‘wacky aunt Sandy’ to someone else. Isn’t that the fun of family – having stories to tell?
I hope to meet you at the banqueting table. I will do what I can to avoid being that awkward relative that you really didn’t want to sit with. No guarantees though. Except this – you are invited, you belong, and your chair is yours alone to fill. And there is a feast. Beyond what you could ever plan or imagine.
Putting feet to the metaphor – as part of my acknowledgement of the invite to sit at the table, I plan to recover my beloved vintage chairs, with a unique colour to suit each person of the family. During this process, I may or may not be hear a few comments that may or may not question my sanity or the practicality of this venture. That’s okay, too. Regardless, I am resolute in my belief that these chairs will be a forever reminder to me and hopefully to my family of how we belong and how we each have an irrevocable calling along with the indisputable invitation to sit and dine with the Lord and each other. Of how when one is missing, that person’s chair is truly empty. It cannot be filled with another even though there is always room for one more at the table. And if perchance, we should temporarily physically sit in another chair, that might present the opportunity to gain perspective, spend some time praying for each other, appreciating our family, and thanking God for our picturesque and at times perplexing place at the table.
He brought me to His banqueting table, His banner over me is love!
Cheers for chairs indeed!
(c) 2015 11 03 Sandy Foster, Ranenpur