Returning the Favor

When I moved into my home in 1977, I salvaged an old table my father was discarding. Our family grew from four to seven around that table.

Then we shrank. When their father departed, we were six.

The years began to show on the table. One of its legs began to wobble. Without warning, it would collapse to the floor leaving all the work for the other three legs. We would laugh. But after a while, one of us found the falling leg not so funny.

When my youngest son was eight years old, he found a hammer and some very long nails and played carpenter. He reattached the errant piece, permanently joining it to the table. The repair was effective, but not pretty.

A few years later, I got a “new” dining room table—also recycled. This table was better. It expanded. And our family was expanding. I had remarried. Some of the children had grown and married and had children of their own.

So the table could be small for everyday dinners, and it could be large for family celebrations. Plus, it was reliable–for a time. Then one of its legs turned mutinous too.

This time, my husband Paul played carpenter, and unless you peeked underneath, you didn’t know the difference.

But our family continued to expand. Eventually, even our stretched out table was too small. Our range of motion became cramped. From fork to plate, to mouth and back. We yearned for extra room for side dishes and elbows.

So we bought a new table. An Amish carpenter constructed it.

This table is even more expandable than the last one. And it’s rectangular rather than oval. Now we have room for baked corn, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and a host of elbows.

The table was ready just in time for Thanksgiving.

But in order to use your furniture, you first must get it into the house.

Paul heaved and I pushed. But even in its smallest state, the table was too wide for our front door. It would have to come in through the back door. To accomplish that, we would have to hoist the table over the back rail deck. And that seemed impossible unless we could get someone else to help.
The best candidate seemed to be the young man who had just moved in next door. He was strong and he was home.

As only Providence would have it, he is a mover by trade. God had placed the perfect workman right next to us.

Moreover, there are many workmen with you, stonecutters and masons of stone and carpenters, and all men who are skillful in every kind of work. 1 Chronicles 22:15

All we had to do was ask.

The old table went out the back door and the new table came in.
We had planned to put the old table on the sidewalk with a “Free” sign on it. But Paul found out that this very neighbor and his wife had no table. Now they do. We would never have known their need if we had not asked for his help.

So I’m thankful for my new table. I’m thankful for the craftsman who made a table with legs unlikely to wobble in my lifetime. I’m thankful for the help of a neighbor and that we could help him in return.

I’m thankful for all the elbows to occupy our table this holiday. This year, two high chairs sit beside the table. In coming years, perhaps more will join us.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the Master Carpenter who places us in each other’s lives and gives us opportunities to help each other.

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
 For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 136: 26

Revised repost from 2016, published 11/20/17 on

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26 Replies to “Returning the Favor”

  1. I chuckled at the visual of trying to get that big table into your house! How many times do we forget that part? Ha ha ha…. but yeah, so many reasons to be thankful. When we look, we can find all kinds of things to remind us of that.

    Bless you! Lisa Q

  2. What a brilliant lesson for us all – thank you.

    This phrase has hit me today – We would never have known their need if we had not asked for his help.

    Why? Because I am not the greatest at asking for help. Giving it, offering it, Yes all day. Asking for it. Hmmm This is a good lesson for me

    1. It was funny that night, Bob. I’m usually the shier one. My husband is the outgoing one. But that evening, I had to urge him to request help. We have both been so glad so many times since then. These neighbors are such lovely people! We learned that night too. Happy Thanksgiving! God bless and thanks!

  3. I love the thought that the table that saw so much love with your family is now heading off to another family to see it grow in love as well. I laughed when you said “he was strong and he was home” :). I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving around your new table!

  4. Nancy, are things so providential! God’s hand is in so many places in this story. God works in so many wonderful ways and and we have so much to be thankful. I like to imagine your expanding family all sitting around your table this Thanksgiving. Blessings to you and your family. Have a wonderful dinner – full of rich fellowship and the joy of gathering around a table to break bread with beloved family.

  5. God is our master carpenter and He can fix so many things in our life. I loved how that table benefited many families in its journey. And God can use us to benefit others even when our legs wobble and fail. Thanks.

  6. What a powerful analogy! And I love you final line: “Most of all, I’m thankful for the Master Carpenter who places us in each other’s lives and gives us opportunities to help each other.” I agree!

  7. What a special time you must have during family gatherings, Nancy, but I’m guessing you still don’t have room for all the tasty side dishes. I’m glad you can get to know your neighbors and see God’s providence in the relationship. I prayed for opportunities to share the gospel and to demonstrate God’s love to them.

    1. The table is larger but the room is becoming smaller. We added two high chairs this year. So we’re hoping, hoping, hoping to have a long-planned expansion to our dining room done by next Thanksgiving. May God bless you and your prayers for opportunity to honor and speak of Him.

  8. Wow, wow, wow! What a fabulous story, Nancy. And what a “happy ending” to a table tale that’s really no tale at all but true. Love that your neighbor helped, then received your old one. Such a beautiful and powerful message.

  9. What a cool story, Nancy. Thanks for sharing.
    I’m always surprised when God shows up like this. I don’t know why. He cares for everyday things we face as well as the big life things. He’s our Father after all. This is a great reminder that God is wanting to build my faith and trust in him.

  10. What a beautiful story! How wonderful to have lived in the same house for forty-one years, and how glorious to have a beautiful new table to meet your needs! The Lord is so good to meet all our needs, and the needs of the helpful neighbor in the meantime!

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