My “two men” love to eat crab legs! Though it is not everyday fare at our house, it was Valentine’s Day, so I splurged. Adding coleslaw and garlic bread to the main course and then serving up ice cream for dessert (a must-have after crab legs!) made it an easy cooking night for me.
And yes the beautiful roses on the table are a Valentine’s gift to me from my dear husband. Would you believe that another dozen are up on my bedroom table? I don’t deserve this man’s extravagant love, for almost thirty-two years now. Yet my Valentine’s card to him best captures my heart: “After all this time together, I’m still smitten!”
But we’re talking about mealtime, aren’t we?
While last night’s menu was not standard cuisine, the goal and purpose of our dinner hour remains the same each evening. CJ always seeks to ask questions that provoke God-glorifying conversation and model biblical fellowship for our son.
Recently my husband has asked two questions that have generated meaningful interaction: What was the happiest moment of your day? What was the most discouraging moment of your day?
The other night, I was able to share with Chad that the most discouraging moment of my day was when I responded in sinful anger to his father. And the happiest moment was when CJ graciously forgave me. By dinnertime, CJ and I were laughing about this little conflict. Hopefully it was an illustration to Chad of the effect of the gospel on our marriage! And it was thoughtful dinnertime questions that made this conversation—and many others, possible.
But Mahaney dinners aren’t all serious. We love to make memories and have fun. Recently we have been reading from Calvin and Hobbes and Letters from a Nut—both of which have provoked much laughter.
Even though there are only three of us now, dinnertime still retains the essential qualities of fellowship and fun we enjoyed when the girls lived at home. And I hope by the grace of God that will never change.
Dinner at the Bradshaws does not always involve hats and sweatshirts, but it was a snow day and we Marylanders dress the part. The menu consisted of stromboli, steamed broccoli with butter and fresh lemon juice (yes, I do like some vegetables) and homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert (these also make for a good breakfast option if you are on the run). Caly enjoyed some delicious grapes, cheese, and goldfish crackers.
Mike and I use dinner time to catch up on our days. He loves to say, “Tell me every little detail, I want to feel like I was there.” I usually don’t have much trouble providing him with plenty of info. Dinner is also an opportunity for Mike to enjoy Caly. She has a rather early bedtime and Mike likes to take advantage of dinner to interact with her.
After we finished eating, Mike took Caly to have some “tub-time” (she could live in the bath) and I tackled the dishes. The end! Dinner is still a simple affair in our house. We look forward to more craziness as our family grows.
It’s pizza night at the Chesemores. Many Monday evenings (Brian’s day off) we take advantage of the one large pizza for $4.99 special at Jerry’s Subs and Pizza. When you’ve got four hungry men to feed, it doesn’t get much better than this!
Other nights of the week the menu will vary. Sometimes I pull a meal I’ve pre-prepared out from the freezer. Or, if I’m cooking I might make the boys sit at the table and read for a while. Recently I let them all stand on chairs in a row so they could watch me make dinner.
Conversation also varies. Some nights Brian and I have a chance to chat for a few minutes about our day. But most evenings, dinnertime with three boys is pretty much about the basics. Like teaching Owen not to sing at the top of his lungs at the table.
We’re working with three simple rules these days:
1. Feet in front
2. Use Inside Voices
3. No touching
(Did you catch the acronym here?)
In addition to basic manners, Brian is also using My First Book of Questions and Answers catechism to teach them the basics of theology. So far, Liam can correctly answer one question: “Who made you?” (It took a while to convince him that it was “God” and not “Thomas the Train,” which he thought was the answer to everything!) But Andrew can now answer dozens of questions about Bible truths and we usually review 7-10 questions each evening.
After eating, it’s down to the basement with the boys to wrestle with Daddy while I do dishes.
So, do you still want to come over? We’d love to have you. Hope you enjoy pizza. Oh, and don’t forget to use your inside voice.
Here we are enjoying some tangy South Carolina barbecue. The little guy at the end is Jack. On the left is Steve’s younger sister Megan, his mom, Nancy and dad, Bill. That’s Steve and me on the right.
This casual Sunday evening meal was followed by family night. We had a competitive game of dominoes fueled by Bill’s yummy home made trail mix (the secret’s in the peanut butter chips!).
In our multi-generational household with two homemakers, three adults working outside the home, and one toddler with stuff to say, dinnertime conversation is pleasantly eclectic.
Recently, though, Steve has been training Jack to ask questions. We want him to learn to take an interest in others. And he loves taking an active part in the adult conversation. “Dad, can we do questions?” he usually asks five minutes into the meal.
Beginning with Bill he takes a verbal lap around the table, enthusiastically asking: “Pops, what did you do today?” When he’s finished he wants someone to ask him about his day.
After one round, Steve helps him begin again. This time he asks each family member, “What did you read in the Bible today?” Quiet time accountability from a three-year old! Seriously, it’s my favorite moment of the meal. Our son gets to hear the gospel five times over from his grandparents, aunt, and parents. Not to mention the encouragement we all receive from this time of fellowship.
Don’t get me wrong. Whitacre dinnertime isn’t always a worshipful experience. Some days we’re rushing off to church meetings, or Jack needs discipline, or only two in a family of six can make it.
But despite our inconsistencies, a three-year-old boy is learning lessons that will shape the man that he becomes—proving that you can’t measure the value of a meal by the grocery budget.
Our week would not be complete without a Friday Funnies that centered around food. My little friend, Will, wrote a school report containing some instructions for making one of my favorite sandwiches, the grilled cheese. Check it out here.
Be sure to join us for some dinner on Monday!
on behalf of Carolyn, Nicole and Kristin
Elizabeth wondered—as I’m sure every woman has: “Oh, what is it I do want? Somebody who feels as I feel and thinks as I think; but where shall I find that somebody?”
God alone knows the answer to “where shall I find that somebody?” But He’s already told us how we—and that somebody—should feel and think. For a true soul mate is one who ultimately feels and thinks as the Bible feels and thinks.
In our book, Girl Talk, Mom outlined several biblical qualities we should look for when considering “that somebody.” She also provided a few question to evaluate how we as women should “feel and think” about a potential spouse.
Whether you’re still wondering where you will find that somebody, or are currently in a relationship, we hope these thoughts will help you evaluate love from God’s point of view this Valentine’s month:
C.J. and I sought to provide our daughters with a “list” from Scripture of essential qualities that should characterize any man desirous of pursuing them. These qualities included:
1. Genuine passion for God. The greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matt. 22:37). A mere profession of faith is insufficient. A godly man will consistently display love, obedience, and increasing passion for the Savior.
2. Authentic humility. ‘This is the one to whom I will look,’ says the Lord, ‘he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word’ (Isa. 66:2). Your daughter will marry a sinner—that is certain. But if he is a humble and teachable sinner who is quick to repent, then he will be sure to grow in godliness. This humility will also be evident in his love for and submission to God’s Word.
3. Love for the local church. At the center of God’s plan on earth is His church. A young man must be pursuing fellowship and serving faithfully in a local church if he is to make a good candidate for a husband.
4. Biblical convictions about manhood and womanhood. A successful marriage is due in large part to a couple’s grasp of their respective roles and responsibilities. A potential husband must be committed to complementary roles found in Scripture. He must be ready to embrace his responsibility to love and lead his wife. (Eph. 5:22-25).
In addition to comparing the young man to this list of essentials, we also helped our daughters evaluate God’s commands to wives. From Scripture we asked our daughters the following questions regarding the young man each was considering:
-Do you fully respect this man the way a wife is called to respect her husband?
-Can you eagerly submit to him as the church submits to Christ??
-Do you have faith to follow this man no matter where he may lead??
-Can you love this man with a tender, affectionate love??
(1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22, 33; Col. 3:8; Titus 2:4-5)
Again, this list of qualities and questions is not exhaustive. However, it provided clear, objective, and biblical criteria to assist our daughters in determining God’s will—whether or not they were meant to join their lives with a certain young man.
The conclusion to this chapter appropriately sets up the courtship stories to follow: “Each courtship, whether or not it ends in marriage, is its own unique journey. But God has provided all the wisdom that we need in His Word.”
For more on relationships and our own personal courtship stories click on our “Courtship” link.
BOOK CLUB ASSIGNMENT: Please read chapter five and come back next Friday to hear a present-day Elizabeth share how “God Never Makes A Mistake.”
While there are valuable lessons to be learned around the dinner
table, there are also wonderful memories to be made as well. By
faithfully eating together as a family, ordinary meals can together
become an extraordinary memory. But sometimes it’s fun to mix it up a
little. When we were young, mom looked for creative ways to turn
certain dinners into special memories. We chose our favorites to get
your own creative juices flowing. Check these out:
Encouragement Dinner—We took turns encouraging each member
of the family over dinner. For dessert, we drew names, and with sugar
cookie dough and alphabet cookie cutters, spelled out a godly character
quality of the family member whose name we had picked. We were then
assigned to do one thing special to honor that individual during the
Mystery Dinner—Each family member had been assigned a
particular aspect of the meal (appetizer, main course, side dish,
dessert, etc.) the week before. We could decide what we would make, but
we had to keep our dish a secret. So, when we showed up for dinner, we
had a surprise of a meal—including peanut butter sandwiches, fancy
salad, green bean casserole, shrimp cocktail, and Kool-Aid. To set the
mood we had mystery music in the background. The game for that evening
was an invigorating round of Clue. We finished off with a mystery movie.
Switching Places Dinner—My mom had us draw the name of
another family member and we had to sit in their seat at dinner and
behave like them throughout the meal. I remember it being so funny to
see my dad imitating my Uncle Grant (who lived with us at the time) and
my mom acting silly like Janelle.
We repeated this dinner activity years later when Joshua Harris and
Andrew Garfield (who were attending the Sovereign Grace Ministries
Pastors College) lived in our basement. It was even more hysterical the
second time, especially since Josh gave an Academy Award worthy
performance as my dad. He even wore an imitation bald cap!
Backwards Dinner—This meal was inspired by the definitions
of the word “backwards”: “doing something in the reverse of the usual,
the right way,” and “toward the past.” We, of course, did everything
backwards for that particular meal. We had breakfast for dinner. And we
had to have fulfilled a “backward assignment” during the day and tell
about it at dinner. The options were to wear an article of clothing
backwards (one that people could see!), eat our lunch backwards in the
presence of a friend, walk backwards around the outside of the house
three times (while it was still daytime!), or wear a nametag all day
with our name written backwards. Then, at dinner, after we reported on
our humiliating “backward assignment,” we looked backwards over the
past year and recounted one specific example of God’s goodness.
Progressive Dinner—This one works great for the little guys.
We ate each course of our dinner in a different room of the house while
doing an activity. In the first room we ate hot dogs and put a puzzle
together. The Memory Game and deviled eggs came with the second room.
It was applesauce and story-time in the third room. We concluded with
apple cider and talked about the meaning of each of our names in the
last room (To my sisters’ delight that is when I discovered that my
name means “gift from God”).
Silly Dinner—For this meal, we came dressed in “silly” attire. I can still remember running around my house that afternoon
trying to put together all of the craziest stuff that I could find.
This was right down my alley (probably not one of Kristin’s favorites).
We all assembled for dinner looking ridiculous—mismatched outfits and
crazy hair. We ate our meal starting with dessert (a practice I still
enjoy) and ending with our salad. This was made even more hilarious
with Mom having us use the wrong utensils to eat our food. Then we
launched into a series of silly activities. We drew a picture in the
dark. Mom turned out the lights and gave instructions: “Draw the
outline of a house. Put a door on the house. Put a tree in the
yard….” You get the idea. Not exactly art museum material. We then
drew names and gave a silly command to the person whose name we drew.
The evening ended with a lovely family picture.
“Children learn manners mostly by example. It’s only when they don’t pick up on some detail that we must point out their lapses…manners are a cut-to-the-chase way of teaching important life lessons.”
Just as we learned many life lessons from the books we read after dinner, the same can be said about dinnertime manners. Table manners may seem insignificant but, as the author points out in the quote above, they reinforce important qualities such as courtesy, love for others, and self-control.
When I think about dinnertime manners, my mind immediately jumps to a white teddy bear with a red and white striped hat that played Jingle Bells when you squeezed his paw. This little guy was the much-coveted prize of the “Mahaney Dinnertime Manners Contest.”
There was a time when the manners of my sisters and myself…well, let’s just say that you wouldn’t have wanted to come to our house for dinner. The regular reminders of “no elbows on the table,” “no talking with food in your mouth,” “no eating with your fingers” and “no interrupting” seemed to be falling on deaf ears. (Sorry, Dad and Mom!) Drastic action was needed and so the “Manners Contest” was born.
Rules? We had one week (one week!) to reform our backwards dinnertime habits and re-acquaint ourselves with our silverware. Dad and Mom would be the official judges, observing us closely at mealtimes and choosing a winner at the end of the week. The winner would receive the bear.
I wanted that bear so badly! I still remember thinking through my every move as I ate my chocolate chip pancakes (a Saturday night favorite). The week came to an end and it was time to announce a winner. And while there had been much growth in all of us, one daughter stood out above the rest. Yes, it just happened to be me. And to this day, it’s one of my favorite stories to recount to my sisters.
I hope this sparks your creativity. You may feel that you are constantly reminding your children to exercise better table manners. Don’t get discouraged! Consider using a game or a prize to motivate your children. You will not only teach them important lessons, but a life long family memory can be made. The little white bear that played Jingle Bells when you squeezed his paw has been forever recorded in the “Mahaney Family Memory Book” to be told, retold, and told one more time!
Even with a simple menu, a lot of work and planning goes into making family mealtime a reality. So what do you do once everyone is seated around the table?
We’re going to share just a couple of traditions that defined Mahaney family dinners over the years. This is not to say dinnertime at our house was perfect—like any family we had conflicts, rushed meals, seasons where nothing extraordinary seemed to happen. However, by strategically using dinnertime to make memories our family bond was strengthened.
My favorite dinnertime activity was when Dad read aloud to us after dinner. Sometimes he would read one chapter and we’d all scoot off to various meetings or activities. Other days we would sit with unwashed dishes late into the evening—all engrossed in the story. Predictably, when we’d come to the end of an especially moving book, Dad would be overcome with emotion and unable to finish. Someone else would have to volunteer.
Dad used breakfast (when everyone was fresh) for Bible study and theological teaching. After dinner reading was amusement with a purpose. Over the years, Dad read us numerous biographies, history books, and works of literature.
Particularly vivid in my memory are the many books we read on the African-American experience: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Help Me Remember, Help Me Forget, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry to name a few. Dad wanted to be sure we understood—as best as white suburban children can—the tragic history of slavery and racism in our country.
The Chronicles of Narnia were a favorite and so was The Hiding Place, Through Gates of Splendor, Deadline and Dominion by Randy Alcorn and Our Town. Most recently, Dad, Mom and Chad have been enjoying The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and Letters From A Nut.
It has been said that books can take you places you’ve never been. By reading together after dinner, our family shared many experiences and went many places—together.