The woman sat down at the old, scarred up kitchen table. It served her well over a lifetime. Her kids offered, often, to buy her a new one.

“Nah,” she’d say. “I like this one just fine.”

They didn’t understand. The table with its many nicks, stains, and gouges was no longer presentable. But she’d eaten many a meal here. Some were great. Some were terrible. Most were passable.

She laughed at the memory of her early cooking attempts. Her kind husband, Warren, was always thoughtful of her feelings. Otherwise, she’d never have improved in what was definitely not her God-given talent. In later years, before Warren left this earth for the next, he commented sincerely at what a wonderful cook she had become. There was surprise in his voice. Also admiration for her hard work.

Now she laughs to herself about the “had become.” The becoming was a long journey. Not the longest journey they shared, but still long enough.

On their first Christmas together he surprised her with a cookbook. On their fifth, he brought home a big, wooden table. She cried both times.

She thought the cookbook wouldn’t help, but it did. She still has it, even though she knows each recipe by heart. Stained and falling apart, the pages bring back mostly good memories. Some still make her cry.

For five years the couple ate together at a small card table in the kitchen. They owned two chairs. During the fourth year she noticed that Warren was gaining weight. “It’s your fault, Ruth,” he said. “You’ve become a wonderful cook.”

That made her happy, for a while. But always in the back of her mind was a sadness. She and Warren wanted a family, but no family came. They prayed. They consulted doctors. But no answers came as the years passed without change. Then Christmas number five arrived. Warren brought home a huge, wooden table.

“What are you thinking?” Ruth asked Warren.

“I’m thinking that we need to take a step of faith and prepare for the big family we’re going to have.”

Ruth thought something was wrong. Maybe she’d accidentally contaminated him through one of her recipes.

“Are you feeling okay, Honey?” she asked carefully.

Warren simply laughed. “I feel great! I was praying about the family we want and the Lord spoke to me. Well, he didn’t actually speak out loud, but I knew it was him saying that we need to take a step of faith. So I bought the biggest table I could find. I didn’t care what it looked like.

“That’s obvious,” said Ruth, as she laughed. Warren joined in. They laughed so hard they held onto their sides.

They made room for the table and made room in their hearts for hope. As they celebrated the birth of the Savior, they prayed for a baby of their own. By next Christmas, their prayer was answered. Their son wasn’t wrapped in swaddling cloths or lying in a manger. He was presented to them through an adoption agency. They received him on Christmas Eve. A year later, they received another bundle of joy. This one was a little girl. The following Christmas, Ruth gave birth for the first time to their third child at precisely midnight on Christmas Eve.

By the time their tenth Christmas together arrived, there were seven people around that big table. That one step of faith led to many little steps in Ruth and Warren’s home. Not all came as infants. Only one was born with Ruth and Warren present. But all were gifts.

Smiling now, Ruth rubs the scars in the table with deep affection. “Jesus, you came to earth as a beautiful baby, bringing hope with you. When you left, you were scarred and broken. But then you rose from the dead, bringing hope, love, and life with you. Eternal life for all who believe.

“Thank you, Lord, that each of us is welcome at your table. I know that’s where Warren is now. I know that eventually I’ll join him. And I know that the beautiful children who grew up around this battered and worn table will be there one day, too. Thank you for the gift of our family. But most of all, thank you for the gift of your love and your life.

“Lord, help those who want a family, but are disappointed year after year. Help all those who are sad and lonely this Christmas for whatever reason. May their long journey bring them to your table as a member of your family. And Lord, may someone in their family know how to cook. Amen.”

Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at kathyyoder4@gmail.com.

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