Kitchen Table Grace

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My kitchen table has become a sacred place for ministry. A sacred place for grace.

I didn’t set out to make this the case. In fact, years ago, I often struggled with insecurity at inviting people over…fearing my house was not as clean as others, or my decorating skills somehow lacking, or, perhaps, even worse that my company would prove dismal.

I feared rejection in so many ways, and yet I longed to connect with other women, to grow in friendship, and to especially grow in deep heart conversation. I knew I needed to get over my fears (most of all, myself) and begin to simply invite people to come into my home to share life.

It began with sporadic offerings–often simple invitations to share a cup of coffee or iced tea while our children played together (back in those years), sometimes even out of strapped finances or simply the exhaustion that comes with taking children out somewhere. And, even with the children coming in and out of our discussions, I discovered something amazing. I discovered that our conversations nearly always dared to go where our conversations at play places and other such public spots seemed to miss.

Our words and our topics plumbed the depths of our hearts, and we were able to share on deep, soul-knitting levels, that seemed to reflect incredible ministry and Kingdom purpose.

Friends opened up their hearts about their fears, their doubts, their wrestling of the soul. They asked honest questions about Jesus, about God’s Word, and about how those intersect and apply to their lives today. They confessed sin, they shared their secrets, they shared their joys, they begged for prayer, and they received it.

It seemed the privacy of a home, and the willing ears and heart of a friend, opened up ministry opportunities in ways I had not seen in our friendships before. As I recognized what was happening, I became even more purposeful in my prayers over our home, over this space, and over our gatherings, having the very sense that God was doing some ministry work right here under our modest roof.

He was doing ministry work right here at our second-hand kitchen table inherited from my in-laws, in our cozy “starter-size home,” with our simple small offerings, and our second-hand toys for the kids.

Now, we had seen ministry in this house over the years in various forms, some to various family members and friends in crisis,  in offering a place to stay or an ear to hear, but somehow these kitchen table conversations took me by surprise.

I suppose I didn’t expect my friends to go so deep (though I longed to), nor did I suppose they had the struggles they shared (before they shared them). These were unexpected ministry opportunities that surprised me and, though many involved much pain and wrestling, blessed me.

They blessed me with the depth of the love and trust that was offered me, they blessed me in the transparency and grace that was offered and reciprocated, and they blessed me in teaching me that often times THIS is the ministry we are called to!

God used those kitchen table conversations to begin to build a desire to connect with others through women’s ministry. Those conversations helped me realize I was not alone in my struggles. They helped me realize there were many themed struggles my friends were facing. Those conversations kept me grounded in truth, and called me to be rooted in grace. They helped me dig deeply into God’s Word for answers to my friend’s questions, encouragement for their despair, prayers for their pain. They challenged me and  grew me as a follower of Christ.

And, today, as I have been walking in my calling to women’s ministry, in serving the ladies of our local church with the truth and grace of God’s Word, as I’m invited to partner with other women’s ministries around the area to do the same, I know that my heart has been formed and prepared by those times. I know that my preparations and my sharing are modeled after those kitchen table conversations, those kitchen table graces.

In fact, I have continued to be blessed to share sacred time, in this sacred space with various friends over these many years, and I often find those times minister to me just as much as they minister to my friends (and those times bleed over into ministering to the various ladies I teach).

I often wonder what I would have missed if I had stayed a prisoner to my fears and excuses for not inviting other women into my home, into my kitchen, and into my life. Oh, what I would have missed—the stories, the wrestling, the heart-level sharing, the cries in prayer, the many lessons for my own sinner’s heart, and the grace upon grace.

What about you? Have you considered a “kitchen table grace” ministry?

Have you considered simple ways and/or simple spaces you can leverage to connect with others in friendship and discipleship?

What, if anything, is holding you back?

Will you prayerfully consider purposing yourself to be available to have these moments in your calendar, in your life, to share and experience God’s grace with others?

It doesn’t have to be weekly, it doesn’t have to be hugely planned or elaborately orchestrated. No, it simply needs to have a willing heart, open to recognize opportunities,  lips willing to invite and encourage, and ears and heart willing to listen and pray.

And don’t worry about having the right words or the right answers. Worry only about having a heart surrendered to God, prepared by time abiding in His Word, able to enter into the suffering of another, and wiling to usher a friend to the throne of grace. God’s all-sufficient grace will supply everything you need.

I will be praying for each of you, as you consider stepping out in faith, opening up your home and your heart to share in sacred ministry with others. Asking God to bless your “kitchen table” space with His amazing [more than kitchen table] grace.

Awesome never rests and that is awesome grace.

The other day as I was quietly passing through our local discount store, I passed by a t-shirt that caught my eye. It was in the girls’ section, and I wasn’t in the market for any girls’ clothes, but I was passing by on my way to another section of the store and couldn’t help but see the colorful shirt near the end-cap.

It declared, “Awesome never rests.”

I wish, especially since I am hoping to live more graciously, that I could report that my first thought about this t-shirt was consistent with my eventual thought about this t-shirt. I wish, but, alas, it wasn’t.

I saw the t-shirt, registered the phrase, and kept pushing my cart past the area to my next destination. And, as I pushed the cart, I thought to myself, “okay, another declaration of awesome about a person. Another placing the child on a pedestal of awesome…and another glorification of busy-ness. Another symptom of our culture.” I’m not certain my head didn’t physically shake, but I am certain it was in my spirit.

And, then, as I pushed the cart a few feet further, I began to think about this message, and how it could speak to people who continually work to get things done, to serve others, and how they don’t sit idle for long. My heart began to warm toward the sentiment, as my mind was filled with images of people I know who are the epitome of this.

Then, as I pushed the cart a few feet further still, another thought struck me.

Awesome. Who is awesome? Only God.

“Awesome never rests” turned into thoughts of “Awesome never sleeps”

And THAT made me think of the incredible words of Psalm 121:3-4:

He will not let your foot slip–
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

This passage has meant so much to me over the years, but especially in the past few months, and in this very past week, as a friend living overseas and I have wrestled in prayer for one another. We are living in completely opposite time zones (13 hours), so our overlap of wakefulness is on the small side, but our ability to intercede for one another in the hours our friend is sleeping (and potentially struggling with finding true rest in letting go of whatever burden is at hand) is great. In this particular season, in some particularly isolating burdens, she and I have been able to share our hearts and burdens, and then encourage one another in the Word and in prayer.

In some very meaningful ways, this reality of life has been a sweetly tangible reflection of the words of this Psalm.

God’s Word confidently states God watches over [us]. He doesn’t sleep (and through His constant watch He will not allow our feet to slip). He is watching our coming and going, no matter the time zone, no matter the hour. He is a God who never sleeps, but is always working for us, for His purposes, for His glory.

He is “not asleep” when I am praying for my friend while she sleeps, and He is “not asleep” when she is praying for me while I sleep. He is actively listening, actively watching, and actively working. Always.

An ever-wakeful, ever-present, ever-active God is a picture of grace. We don’t deserve it, but He is eager to give it (and to remind us of the reality of it through His Word).

As my mind reeled with these thoughts, and my soul welled up with doxology, I knew I had to turn that cart around and go back to the shirt and get a picture so I would remember this “picture of grace.”

Awesome never rests tshirt

And, the more I reflect on this picture of grace, the more I find myself wishing I could squeeze myself into a kids’ sized shirt so I could clothe myself in this declaration as well!