Around the table, life happens. Around the table, stories are shared. Around the table, love grows.

When people ask my favorite part of Fellows, my quick answer is the community surrounding me—the people pointing me towards Jesus. But recently, I have started thinking about what makes that community so special, and I think the answer is in how it was built. Any relationship takes time. And time around the table with this community has been sweet.

There is something about sitting around the table together that unites—maybe because we all need food to survive, maybe because eating is an activity enjoyed by a large majority of people, maybe it is in the example set for us by Jesus. But most people would agree that somehow they find joy in the simple act of eating.

With my host family, it looks like Monday nights spent in the kitchen laughing at Pete’s stories of hilarious fifth grade boy things and reminiscing on middle school as I hear about Ally’s love for Justin Bieber and her friends. I am encouraged as I watch the way Spencer and Derick love each other and their kids. Around this table, I feel inclusion, welcoming, belonging. Around the Daniel's kitchen island, I feel like I am just part of the family.

My sweet mentor and I share life around the tables of various delicious restaurants in Raleigh, usually trying to make the most of a quick break from work. Barbara encourages me to race towards Jesus with my whole life. She loves me with the most thoughtful gifts, often times just because she knows it will make me smile. She sets an example for me in the way she loves her husband, her family, and the random stranger serving us at the restaurant. Around those tables, I feel poured into in a way I never have before.

Thursday nights are reserved for cooking and praying and deep life chatting and eating and questioning at our weekly Roundtable dinners. As we sit around a rectangular table (never quite understood the name), we hear stories. Stories of how the Lord is working. Stories of tough, confusing situations that sometimes make it hard to believe God is in them, but then stories of how we see God in the midst. Stories of grace upon grace. Stories of redemption. Stories of deep joy. Stories of healing.

And then of course there are those spontaneous nights around tables that bless me in ways I could never expect. The late nights of accidental karaoke around the piano bar table. The coffee shop dates that turn into deep life chats around the table at Sola. The nights of tough conversation about what it looks like to really, truly love people around my aunt and uncle's kitchen table.

There, around the table, we see each other. I don't mean simply laying eyes on one another, but truly seeing into the depths of their soul (in the least creepy way possible). We bring the mess of our lives to that table, learning what it looks like to share our burdens. We tell stories and share joys, celebrating even the smallest things (like when I don't completely butcher a Roundtable meal...).

It is around the table where we share ourselves--our real, honest, vulnerable, messy selves. These tables have become sacred space. The tables of unassuming coffee shops and kitchen counters and beautiful dining rooms have become spaces for encounters with each other and with Jesus. Around the table, life happens. And yes, life around the table is messy, but it is so stinking beautiful. Around the table, my cup runneth over.

 At first, I was disappointed that this is the only picture I have of us around the table. But then, I realized that this is real. This is honest. This is what life around the table actually looks like. So here ya go... 

At first, I was disappointed that this is the only picture I have of us around the table. But then, I realized that this is real. This is honest. This is what life around the table actually looks like. So here ya go... 

-Carryl Tinsley

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