Our table is the center of all activity in our house.  It is hard at work from the moment the kids wake up (Breakfast is always the first order of business of the day for them.  Even before the bathroom.) to the minute we turn off the lights to head to bed and sometimes, often, that’s late.  It’s not just where we eat but where we school and read and sew and craft and write and prepare meals and hash out the big plans of life.  Serious work happens there.

When we moved into the Newman Center, we  were tasked with finding a table that would fit as many college students into the smallest space possible.  We learned then the power and importance of a table that was ready and welcoming to friends and strangers alike.  When we moved into this house, Nana Joyce bought us a second hand table to just “tide us over” until we could get something nice.  That table has been a work horse for the last 8 years. We have crushed and crowded around it’s perimeter.  We have stripped it and painted it -twice- only to have it dinged and stained and scraped with wear and tear.  But we were nearing capacity – sure, we could fit but we were losing room for guests.

It didn’t sit right.

Jac contacted Luke, a beloved seminarian, in the spring.  Luke, so very talented at so very many things, is a gifted carpenter.  Could he, would he, be willing and able to help Jac build a farm table?  He assured him he would and they began tossing around ideas.  Then this spring happened and when Luke called in May to see when we wanted to start, we couldn’t commit.

Not enough money or time or energy could be found. We were disappointed – not so much about the table but because Luke would be leaving (he begins Theology school in Rome in a week!) and we’d miss the opportunity to work with him.

Right before we left for California, Susan called.  “Have you done anything about a table?” she wanted to know.  Jac assured her we hadn’t. “Well, don’t.”

June came and went and so did July.  We saw our seminarians at Duc in Altum and Totus Tuus and at their many parish assignments and prayed for Luke while he spent the summer away attending the Institute for Priestly Formation. The minute Mama Syd and Papa Chris left we began the countdown for SEM PHOTOS 2013!!!  Always a highlight, the guys all come for their annual photos and we feed them and catch up.

That Sunday Luke and Michael arrived 2 hours early.  The kids, already anxious and excited, sprang from their resting places to check things out.  The guys apologized and assured us that waking the kids wasn’t their only intention. They needed to consult with us.

They would be building us a table.  THE table.  The sems and the “vocations office people” (and, really, I’m not sure who else) had chipped in and worked it out. They had desperately wanted to surprise us but there had been disputes during the planning process and Luke had put his foot down: he wanted to make sure it was exactly what needed and wanted. We planned for a awhile, took some measurements and Luke made some figures.  He and Michael left to go get the wood with the promise that they’d deliver the table within a week or so.

This gift, this blessing, is too big to comprehend.  Not just for it’s necessity or beauty or magnitude.  But the sacrifice, that’s where the love lays.

Luke had so very little time to spend on other things as he prepares to leave for Rome.  He will be away for 2 years.  There are so many goodbyes and preparations to take care of.  To be up at 2 am to stain and varnish? Then there are “the guys.” Michael, Grant and Andrew all traveled to Faith to cut and sand and drill and finish.  Today, when it arrived, Adam came to help fit it all together.  And everyone else who contributed to this masterpiece? It’s so, so good.

I know that this is what finding and living your vocation is about.  The sacrifice of love, the gift of self.  This is what our sems are learning and living.  Now we have a tangible piece of their call in our home.

It is beautiful.

Luke and guys,

We will never have the words to express our thanks and gratitude to you.  Your work is exquisite and greatly appreciated. The kids say they feel like kings and queens and they think the bench is the greatest thing ever. You are always welcome around our table and we can’t wait to have you here again.  And today you can join Fr. Christensen in saying you’ve made me cry, because you did.  In the best possible way.

We love you guys – thank you for loving us!

P.S. They were only like this for 2 seconds.  It will never happen again.