Don’t forget to participate in the Love Finds You contest I posted about on Monday! All those details here!
Serving Up Memories that Matter
This month, take time to come to the family table.
by Kelly Blewett
As she drove her three children, ages 8, 5, and 3, home from dance lessons, Tricia Goyer could not imagine what to make for dinner. She recalled that it had been four days since their family had shared the meal. As she pulled into the garage, she heard the kids start to argue and felt her own mood sink. “I can’t do this!” she declared, near tears, when her husband John came home. “I have nothing ready for dinner and I’m exhausted. I, I just want a little peace.” That night, peace for the Goyers began with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
How often do we have dinner together as a family? What do we eat for dinner when we’re in a hurry? What do we eat on special occasions, like birthdays? Benita Long writes “Every day we are invited, and called, to celebrate.” She believes that dinner is the perfect time for celebration, and not just on birthdays. Why are we called to celebrate? Do we agree with Benita Long that dinner is the right time for celebration? Why or why not? How do we feel about family dinner? What do we like and dislike about it?
Later as they washed off the plates, John offered a surprising solution to Tricia’s frustration. He told her, “We have to give something up; more than likely more than one thing. Like soccer or dance.” Tricia initially resisted, believing, as she put it, “the kids need those things!” However, upon considering John’s idea further, Tricia came to the opposite conclusion. The kids didn’t need their schedules so full. Tricia remembered sheepishly that she had initiated some of those activities simply because she did not want to look like a bad mom in front of her friends. Other commitments had seemed appealing because they were things Tricia or John had wanted to do as a child. “The more we talked about it, the more that John and I realized that when our kids were older they’d most likely never remember the other teammates they had on their preschool soccer team, but they would remember our dinners together as a family, and it would build a foundation for when they had families of their own,” she says.
In what kinds of activities do members of our family participate (for example, troops, clubs, sports, special lessons, reading groups)? Why did we decide to participate in those activities? Do the activities keep us from spending time together as a family? Is it important to us to spend time together as a family? Which is most important to us? Why?
These days the Goyers make a point of having dinner together as often as possible. Moreover, they have what they call an “open table” policy. Friends and family know if they stop by around six-thirty, the Goyers will invite them to share the meal. In addition, the kids can invite whomever they want to come over for dinner—if they let Tricia know in advance so she can put the right amount of pasta in the pot. Inviting others to join their family table brings the Goyers tremendous joy. It is one tangible way their family practices hospitality, as the Bible instructs us to do in 1 Peter: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4: 9-10). Inviting others over to dinner may seem like a small way to extend kindness and hospitality, but Tricia knows its effectiveness. Among her favorite guests are lonely college students and teenage moms, whom, she says, often do not eat dinners with their own families and truly appreciate the invitation.
One of the reasons it is important to practice hospitality like the Goyers is so that we can show those around us what God is like. He invites us to the most magnificent dinner party ever, the continuous feast that will go on in Heaven. By inviting people to come and share at the family table, we display the same welcome our Heavenly Father offers to us. Jesus ate at many people’s houses during his time here on earth. Read about his invitation to Zaccheus’s house (Luke 19) or his meal at Mary’s house (John 12). In fact, as far as we know, he never refused an invitation. Sometimes the Pharisees were surprised by whom Jesus chose to eat with, suggesting that certain people were not worthy of hosting such an important teacher. By eating with unpopular people, Jesus extended his acceptance and love to them. His dining became one way that he practiced ministry.
Why does our family think Jesus took time to eat with all kinds of people? How is the Goyer family practicing this principle by inviting over college students and teenage moms? How can our family do the same? Whom do we have over for dinner? Do we know any lonely people who may enjoy a meal at our table? Why is it important to “practice hospitality”? Other than having people over for dinner, what are some practical ways to practice hospitality?
Even though sharing a meal is about more than just food, sometimes figuring out what to cook can be daunting (and disagreeable, if everyone doesn’t enjoy the same things!). When Jesus lived, people ate fish, wine, beans, olives, grapes, and bread. These days, we might have a lot of options, but perhaps not a lot of time. Tricia’s experience of not knowing what to make may be a familiar story—the daily task can be difficult and draining. To find solutions to dinner dilemmas, check out books like Liz Edmund’s The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner. She offers practical ways to prepare quick dinners, recommending, for example, dinner theme nights as a fun way to stay on top of menu planning. She also suggests shopping for two weeks of food during one trip, and reminds families that focused grocery lists will save time and money.
G.K. Chesterton wrote “Good food is followed by good talk.” What do we think he meant by that? What does our family usually talk about at dinner? Do we do a good job of listening to each other so that we can all participate in the conversation? What kinds of things distract us from talking together at dinner? Who talks the most? Who talks the least? What are our favorite and least favorite things to talk about? [Can we direct them to the side-bar with some of Tricia’s fun “Questions to Chew On?”]
Whatever is on the menu, the time together as a family is what matters most. Tricia says, “Dinner together feeds our bodies and our souls.” She is right that the time her family takes to enjoy dinner today will provide the foundation for the meals her children’s future families will enjoy tomorrow. This month as your family comes to the table give thanks for the sustenance offered there, consider those who would be blessed to join you, and make memories that will matter for years to come.
Family Challenge: Extending the Table.
In Mathew 25, Jesus tells us that whatever we do for those in need we really do for him. How can your family extend the table and offer a plate to those who eat alone? Here are a few ideas!
Serve up dinner at a local homeless shelter. Most shelters need volunteers to dish out portions as people come through the assembly line. Afterward, share what you learned with your family.
Send cookies to a deployed soldier. Soldiers sometimes get tired of eating cafeteria food so far from home. Write a note thanking them for their service and send along your favorite homemade treats!
Volunteer during dinner hours at a nursing home. Many in a nursing home have wonderful stories to share about their lives. Ask the residents their favorite meals were as a child. What vegetable did they hate to eat? Who made their dinners growing up, and how long did it take to make dinner? Later, discuss with your family how your own dinners are similar to and different from those the residents described.
Week One: “Go, eat your food with gladness” Ecclesiastes 9:7 NIV
Week Two: “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20 NIV
Week Three: “You shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.” Deuteronomy 26:11 NIV
Week Four: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Mathew 6:11 NIV
Fun Questions to Chew On from the Goyer Family Table:
If you were a color, what color would you be? Why?
What extinct animal would you bring back if you could?
When was a time you were courageous?
What’s the last joke you heard?
If you could go anyone on a missionary journey, where would you go? Why?
If you could invent a machine to do one of your chores what would you invent? How would it work?
What is one thing you learned today?
What is your favorite Bible Story? Why?
If they packaged you to sell, what would your label say?
Rewrite the ending to a movie you watched recently. How would you change it?
As You Go
Discuss the process of preparing for and cleaning up from dinner. How are the tasks divided? Is there anything different that the kids can do to help Mom and Dad?
What are some of the ways that our family makes dinner special? Do we decorate our table with special centerpieces? Do we like to listen to music in the background? How can we make dinner feel like more of a celebration?
What are our family member’s favorite foods? What foods do people dislike? Why is it important for everyone in the family to try food they dislike sometimes? Does Mom or Dad have a story about a food they used to dislike that they now enjoy?
(photo credit: 3.whig.com)