As a treat to myself on a fall afternoon, I pull out my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven. At 3 in the afternoon, I chop onions, garlic, rosemary, and parsnips; brown beef ribs marbled with fat; pour nearly all of a bottle of red wine over all of it. Chop, brown, simmer, braise. Salt, pepper, butter. I’m in my happy place.
Once the meal is in the oven, I work for a few more hours, savoring the smell of Zinfandel-braised short ribs that drifts up the stairs to my office. A bit later, I make mashed red potatoes (with a few turnips from the last farmer’s market of the season thrown in) with butter and rosemary.
By the time my husband walks in, the house smells amazing. We sit down to dinner, and he peers into the pot of mashed potatoes. “That’s a lot of potatoes,” he says. He’s right. I have not yet figured out how to cook for two people. We’ll eat leftovers for the rest of the week.
I’m adjusting to this spacious nest, as my friend Tim calls it. “Empty” still feels like a more accurate adjective. It’s not easy, as I shared with you last week. The biggest emptiness of this nest is my kitchen table. I’m hungry to feed people. It may seem strange but it brings me great joy to cook, then gather people around a table to feed them. My husband appreciates my culinary efforts, and loves to eat. But he knows there is something missing.
“Maybe we need to have people over for dinner more,” he says, after refusing a third helping of the short ribs (the sauce is amazing, but this dish is not exactly light).
“Yes,” I agree. One of the many things I miss about having my children at home is feeding them and their friends. One of our family’s trademark practices is hospitality—whether to friends or strangers. In this new stage of life, I’m trying to figure out how to make that a regular practice again.
My husband’s comment resonates, affirms something God’s been stirring in me lately: open your home and table to people who need to connect with God and one another.
I believe it might be tied to Sabbath. I recently heard a message from a rabbi on Sabbath. I was challenged to open my Sabbath practice with a meal (as we did for years when our children were younger), not just for my husband and I, but for others. Saturday evening seems like the perfect time to open our home and invite friends to gather around the table.
Sabbath is a day to slow down and rest. With my children off to college, my Sundays are suddenly eerily quiet. No more volleyball tournaments, no more youth group gathering in our house on Sunday afternoons, no more groups of teenagers stopping by after youth group. And honestly, no more Saturday night family meals. It’s just—restful. Yet—something is missing. Sabbath is not just about making space, but making space for God.
Sabbath practices change with the seasons of life. I feel God stirring, inviting. There is a saying, “More than Israel has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel.” I wonder if Sabbath—and specifically, the Sabbath table—might keep me, in this new and strange season.