My husband has been out-of-town since Tuesday. Chad has had a basketball game or a practice for four evenings in a row (definitely out of the ordinary!). Consequently, CJ, Chad and I have not once been able to sit down face to face and enjoy a family meal together this week. I share this, not as a recommendation, but a reality.
On occasion, there will be days or even a week when family meals do not happen. Granted, we should work hard to make this a rare experience rather than the usual. But if a family-meal-lapse should occur in your home, don’t be discouraged or give up. A brief departure from the norm won’t destroy the big picture.
And let me mention one more important point. Even when family mealtimes are consistent, they are never perfect. I appreciate one author’s perspective:
If you have an image of some ideal supper in mind, the only thing you can be certain of is that tonight’s will not measure up. Still, something will happen. The surface will look shaggy, but underneath, over time, a form begins to take shape. Some type of ritual will grow. That overarching ritual, and the dozens of tiny ones that compose it will belong to your family, and to them alone. It will give meaning, frame, boundaries, comfort.
We hope our discussion this week has helped impart worth to all the seemingly mundane aspects that go in to putting a meal on our tables. Next week we’ll chat about all the practical stuff like planning, shopping and cooking meals.
What’s wonderful about your family’s “mealtime picture” is that its one of a kind. No one else’s looks quite the same. And as Janelle said yesterday, it’s all the seemingly insignificant habits, etiquette and personalities blended together that make your family unique.
(Speaking of blending, I have to tell you what happened to me last night. My poor husband wasn’t feeling well and so I offered to make him his favorite strawberry smoothie. I was having a little trouble getting our twenty-dollar six-year-old blender to work but that’s not unusual. Then I noticed a big chunk of something grey floating in the pitcher. I fished out a section of the rubber ring that is part of the blender assembly. I’m still not sure how it became the sixth ingredient in my smoothie. I’m just grateful I didn’t give my husband an even more memorable stomach-ache!)
It’s something as small as the way you fold your napkins (rectangle or triangle?), who takes ice in their drinks and where everybody sits. Do you hold hands to pray for your meal or fold them in your lap? Do you pass the food clockwise or do you serve buffet style?
Conversation is another major ingredient. There was always a lot of laughter in the Mahaney home. Even though my dad and Janelle are the only ones graced with a sense of humor, Dad had a way of helping us all laugh—even when our jokes flopped. Other families might be more serious and serene or have lively debates.
Then there are the stories. Simply by hearing about the events of each person’s day, you can build up a storehouse of “shared” experiences. Some of the more memorable stories become part of family lore. (Just ask anyone in our family about Uncle Grant’s picnic story!) Inside jokes and serious fellowship all strengthen—often in unseen ways—that almost indescribable bond.
So here’s something you can talk about at dinnertime tonight—what are the funny, quirky, and significant things that make our family meals one of a kind? Then thank God for these small, unique expressions of His boundless creativity.
Hey girls, a small detour from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you some news. Brett and Alex Harris are in the middle of a unique look at the modesty issue over at their blog, The Rebelution. They call it a “Modesty Survey.” Young women have submitted over 140 questions about modesty which Brett and Alex have made into a survey for men to respond. Brett has told me that they currently have 125,000 answers submitted from close to 1,250 Christian guys! So take a minute and check it out.
“It helps to imagine an ornate gold frame. Pick it up (don’t worry; it’s only pretend) and place it around the image that appears when you say ‘supper at my house.’ Bet the picture you see is very specific: These are the seats we sit in, the things we discuss. Here is the person who shows up last. That is the bowl we use for the rice…. Sitting down to a meal together draws a line around us. It encloses us and, for a brief time, strengthens the bonds that connect us with the others members of [our family], shutting out the rest of the world.”
I love photography; that is why I love this quote. It tells you to stop for a minute and observe. To pull up the image of your family mealtime. Can you see it? It can seem so trivial: What’s the big deal? You rush around, trying to get everything hot and on the table at the same time. Everyone comes, eats, leaves and you clean up. However this author is challenging us to take a step backwards and take a long, slow look at this seemingly mundane activity. There is something more that happens here.
Mealtime is a gathering. The people you love the most come to the same place at the same time. Conversations happen; memories are made. There is laughter and tears. A strong family bond begins to form—a bond that grows stronger by doing it again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.
The mundane has purpose. If it weren’t for the ordinary duties of food preparation and kitchen cleanup, than this moment, this mealtime, this bond, wouldn’t exist.
So the next time you make dinner, hang that “mealtime picture” on the wall of your mind while you grate the cheese and toss the salad. You are making much more than dinner.
Yesterday Mom proposed, with the help of Edith Schaeffer that “meals should be more than just food.”
Today, I want to call upon John Calvin to take us one step further. For a proper understanding of mealtime springs from a biblical understanding of food.
On the subject of food, the esteemed Calvin writes, “If we ponder to what end God created food we shall find that he meant not only to provide for necessity but also for delight and good cheer” (qtd. in Redeeming the Time by Leland Ryken).
If God created food merely to “provide for necessity” then mealtime, although an expression of his sustaining mercy, would be rather unspectacular. However, the fact that God created such a wide variety of foods with an unending combination of flavors and textures for our “delight and good cheer” makes mealtime momentous.
For ultimately, as with all of the good gifts that He freely gives us to enjoy, food is meant to point back to the goodness of The Giver.
In his self-described “happy sermon” about food, one of our favorite teachers, Robin Boisvert elaborates on this point. We want to encourage you to listen to this message as we continue this series. Maybe even turn it on while you’re making dinner!
Meals. They occupy a big part of our lives. Three times a day they show up – morning, midday and again at evening time. We have to plan for them. Shop for them. Prepare them. (Or pick up the phone and order them.) Eat them. Clean up after them. Often our kitchen can feel like a 24-hour diner, and we’re the short-order cook, waitress and bus boy rolled into one.
Given how much time they take up day after day, we thought it might be useful to have a conversation about meals. What is the significance of mealtime? How can I make delicious food for my family (or myself!) with less effort? What are tips for a peaceful, memorable mealtime?
We’d also like to invite you to our homes for dinner. Not literally of course. Although we’d love to have you visit, our houses are not quite big enough to accomodate everyone. But we will give you a peek into dinnertime at the Whitacre, Chesemore, Bradshaw and Mahaney households as this discussion unfolds. We hope you will accept our invitation.
To answer the question: “What is the significance of mealtime?” I’ve solicited the help of Edith Schaeffer from her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking. She writes:
There is no occasion when meals should become totally unimportant. Meals can be very small indeed, very inexpensive, short times taken in the midst of a big push of work, but they should be always more than just food. Relaxation, communication and a measure of beauty and pleasure should be part of even the shortest meal breaks. Of course you celebrate special occasions—successes of various members of the family, birthdays, good news, answered prayer, happy moments—with special attention to meal preparation and serving. But we should be just as careful to make the meal interesting and appealing when the day is grey, and the news is disappointing…. Food cannot take care of spiritual, psychological and emotional problems, but the feeling of being loved and cared for, the actual comfort of the beauty and flavor of food, the increase of blood sugar and physical well-being, help one to go on during the next hours better equipped to meet the problems.
Food can’t solve our problems, but it is a gift from God to help us meet our problems. Whether small or big, for a large family or just for you, meals should always be more than just food.
This story is pretty cute:
After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, “That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys.”
See ya soon!
for Carolyn, Kristin, and Janelle
Thanks to all of you who participated in this week’s discussion. May God give us all grace to leave a godly legacy to the next generation!
This week’s assignment is to read Chapter Two and check back next Friday when we’ll share some thoughts on this chapter.
Friday Funnies will be online shortly.
Have you been encouraged to “Preach the gospel to yourself everyday”? Have you wondered how to do it?
Inspired by my husband’s example, I have desired to grow in this discipline. So for the month of January I decided to suspend my current study of the book of Genesis and to solely study the gospel during my morning devotions. CJ gave me a booklet entitled A Gospel Primer for Christians to aid me in this endeavor. I am finding it so helpful that I simply had to tell you about it!
The first part of the booklet is comprised of “Reasons to Rehearse the Gospel Daily.” The second and third parts of the booklet contain “A Gospel Narrative” written in both a prose and poetic format that facilitates memorization and recitation of the gospel. Though it is a mere seventy-eight pages, this little resource is chock-full of the truths of the gospel and the Scriptures that affirm these truths. It reminds us of the valuable blessings which the gospel can render in our lives if we but preach it to ourselves each day.
The author, Milton Vincent, describes how this discipline has affected his life:
Over the course of time, preaching the gospel to myself every day has made more of a difference in my life than any other discipline I have ever practiced. I find myself sinning less, but just as importantly, I find myself recovering my footing more quickly after sinning, due to the immediate comfort found in the gospel. I have also found that when I am absorbed in the gospel, everything else I am supposed to be toward God and others seems to flow out of me more naturally and passionately. Doing right is not always easy, but it is never more easy than when one is breathing deeply the atmosphere of the gospel.
Need I say more about the powerful impact of this daily habit?
If you would like to obtain this little booklet to help you get started or become better at preaching the gospel to yourself every day, you can download it here, or order it in booklet form by contacting:
Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church,
1363 Linden Street, Riverside, California 92507
Naming a child is a subjective process. A lot of factors come into play: the sound and meaning of a name, the name of the bully in second grade, the middle name of great-aunt-so-and-so, name likes and dislikes held since childhood, places we’ve lived, favorite colors or flowers or foods….
It’s a great responsibility, giving a human life a name—one that will stick with her, for better or for worse, for her entire life.
That’s why Steve and I took the process of naming our little girl—due at the end of March—very seriously. We picked it up in line at a game booth at our church’s annual Harvest Carnival in October. Yep. I was there with Jack (a.k.a. Thomas the Train) when I noticed the nametag of the little girl in front of me. I knew her and her family and had always loved her name—or more precisely, the shortened version of her name, which she goes by.
Steve liked it too, and after “test-driving” it for a couple of weeks, we’ve settled on…are you ready….
Actually, the full name is Victoria Carolyn but we’ll call her Tori.
“Victoria” we chose mainly because we liked the nickname. However, it also shares the same meaning as my name which is “Victory”—so that’s kind of fun.
“Carolyn” is after Mom of course. If I had ten girls (which I wont!) I would probably give all of them her name somehow or another. If you don’t understand why, read here.
So, there you have it. Tori Whitacre is due to arrive sometime in late March. We’ll keep you posted as the day draws near.