Come to the Table Event Recap

I’ve made some really beautiful friendships across the table. There’s something about coming together in a common space, enjoying a meal together, and bonding through our place of need. I love what Shauna Niequist says about the table:

We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished... The table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.
— Shauna Niequist

This is why I want to bring tender and hard conversations to the table. It’s a place where our common humanity is shared, and through my work as a trainer and facilitator, one of my primary goals is to help you get in touch with your humanity (and the humanity of others).

Below are some photos from my last dinner event in Los Angeles. I plan content and a general structure for each night, but I try not to come with an agenda, knowing some of the most powerful conversations happen organically, through the context of relationships formed. Stay tuned for more events and resources coming soon.

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All photos by Lindie Beth Photography.

All photos by Lindie Beth Photography.

Build Bridges Not Walls Table Event

Last weekend I had the honor of co-hosting a dinner event for 16 women in Los Angeles, California. I knew I wanted to bring the Build Bridges Not Walls curriculum into small group settings, and when Katie from At the Lane suggested hosting an event together, I knew this was an opportunity I had been looking for! 

Katie tackled the registration and set-up (which was a dream by the way), and I facilitated the conversation using my work guide curriculum. We started with conversation cards provided by Lumitory, a brand that creates products to facilitate hospitality in your home. The cards were the perfect way to begin the evening and get the conversation started. 

As we ate dinner around the table together I couldn't help but notice the table as an equalizer. Each woman, no matter what ethnicity or background, was sharing together, providing our bodies nourishment and sustenance. It was a beautiful picture of community to me. 

The night continued with prompts and thoughtful discussion questions centered around our interactions with the construct of race. Women shared bravely about their experiences and asked vulnerable questions about how to relate to both women of color and privilege. It was clear to me by the end of the night that spaces like this need to be created and protected.

I am by no means an expert on this topic, neither do I always have the right words to say. In fact, I've pretty afraid of being wrong. But I do know that when someone is willing to step out first, risk, and ask questions, it paves a way for others to feel safe, known, and seen. 

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The Beginning of Hospitality (Hint: It's Not Your Home)

In my classes at Fuller, we've talked a lot about the practice of hospitality. Traditionally, many believe hospitality begins in our home, but I'd like to challenge that idea. Does that I mean I can't be hospitable because I don't have my own home? I don't think so. 

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I've wrestled with this idea, especially as I watch people my age get married, have kids, purchase their own home, host potluck dinners and Super Bowl parties. Isn't hospitality about inviting people into the space you've created as a family? That may be one expression, but it's not the only way. 

Hospitality encompasses much more than the home - it begins in the heart. Is my heart open to others? Is it welcoming to the stranger? Am I open to feel compassion for those I may not yet know? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves, instead of how to set up our living room to impress or host the most guests. 

Don't get me wrong - I love seeing beautiful photos of gatherings inside my friend's homes, yet I want to expand the narrative just a bit so that hospitality becomes something all of us can practice, not just our married friends. 

Christine Pohl describes hospitality as the act of welcoming the stranger. It's about training our eyes to truly see people, especially those on the outside. 

One of the most painful experiences for minority members, according to Elizabeth Conde-Frazier in her book A Many Colored Kingdom, is the feeling of invisibility. Being invisible is more than simply not being seen, it means not being listened to or comprehended. And when we are blind to the people around us that feel invisible, we succumb to a blindness that does not allow us to open our hearts to the strangers in our lives. 

So, let me ask you. Is your heart open to really see? 

The first step to practicing hospitality is to open ourselves up to others, even the ones we may not see on a regular basis. As a majority member, I can love my unseen brothers and sisters by making them visible through the power of invitation. 

My challenge to you today is to identify and see the strangers in your life - they may live in your neighborhood or go to your church or school or visit the same fitness studio as you a couple nights a week. They may look like you or they might not. Think about who might be invisible to you. Look for who you would normally not invite in - to your life or your home - and make a conscious effort to reach out. It could be as simple as a conversation or an invitation to grab a cup of coffee together. Who knows - maybe it will actually progress toward your home.

Let's begin practicing hospitality from our hearts, opening them up to see and extend the invitation to both our friends and the strangers. 

Like a Shot of Pure Gold

I love birthdays. Each time the New Year begins and Spring starts to bloom, I start anticipating my next year of life. I typically spend time looking back, reminiscing and being thankful. Then I look ahead. 

This year, I knew my 26th year was going to be good. I affectionally deemed it my "sparkle year" - my year to do life big, celebrate, enjoy, and ultimately embrace who God made me to be. Growing up my mom threw the most elaborate fun birthday parties, so I decided to try my hand at throwing my own party. 

Instead of hosting a party for myself; however, I wanted to create an experience for my friends to enjoy with me. Anyone who knows me well knows I love to dance, so I created and hosted my very own dance party birthday. Special thanks to Refit Studio for hosting the party and to Mary Beth Walker for leading us in a cardio dance session! 

The Hostess: Celebrating Around the Table

If there's one thing I did not expect in moving to Waco, it was that I'd still be here.... over 2 and a half years later. But quite honestly, it's grown on me, and the people I've walked with over the past few years have become like family to me in many ways. Although life has thrown me several curve balls in the last few months, I have experienced friends rally around me, pray with me, and go out of their way to bless me time and time again. 

After coming back from my personal retreat a few months ago, one of the rhythms I wanted to put in place was regularly hosting friends over for dinner - to pause, celebrate and be grateful for the community I've found myself in. Although I do not have my own home, I still enjoy the process of preparing a meal, setting my table, and initiating good conversation. It's kind of soothing to me, and I honestly believe there's something magical about gathering around a table. 

A couple weeks ago, two of my roommates and I decided to each invite two friends over and host a dinner party in our backyard to ring in the fall(ish) weather. We asked each guest to bring a dish to share and then prepared a main course and served drinks. In the end, the menu came together perfectly and enjoyed a sweet little dinner outside in our backyard. 

Hosting doesn't mean you need to have your own home, fancy things, professional cooking skills, or even a matching dish set. It's simply an opportunity to celebrate the people around you by making the most of what you have now. 

Below are a few pictures from our little party - stay tuned for next month's gathering!

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