Do you think of your family table as a place of discipleship? Our family tables are a place where we can offer Christ to others. Our hope is that our children and others would leave with more than just full bellies but with the truth of Jesus who wants to feed their souls. Does it sound a bit overwhelming? It doesn't have to be and I'm sharing some tips from a great resource in helping you get started creating your own lifegiving table.
“Even the simplest supper, meal, snack, or teatime can become, in some way, a feast—a lavish celebration of the living God's life and goodness. It's not just about the physical act of eating, but about sharing and enjoying life as God designed and gave it to us. That is the essence of the lifegiving table.”
What We Are Truly Feeding Others:
Eating is a part of our day. God designed these bodies to need food to survive. As a family, you will eat thousands of meals throughout the course of your years together (3 meals a day x 365 days a year x 18 years – that's a lot of meals!). In The Lifegiving Table, Sally Clarkson helps us to create a vision of how God might use our tables. She reminds us that we can create an environment that says, “I love you”. Your family table can be used to build and strengthen your relationships with each other and to teach your children how to honor each other.
“Breaking bread together, sharing food, sitting at table eye to eye is essential to individual growth and relationship. Adults and children are not just bodies to be fed, but also minds to be challenged, hearts that depend on emotional input to survive and to grow as healthy human beings, and spirits that long for connection with God and purpose in life. Feasting together is a powerful way to fulfill physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.”
~ Sally Clarkson
I know as a mom of adult children that our time with them is fleeting to have a day to day influence. This book was a great reminder to be intentional with the time we have with our babies at home. It wasn't so much about a lot of effort but being intentional. I know as those of us who love Christ we desire for our kids to see that love lived out and our time together at meals is one way we can invest in their lives for things that matter eternally. But again we need to be intentional because as moms this usually falls on us.
If you take nothing else from this post please grasp the truth that having a relationship with your children makes everything easier. I can attest as a mom who worked hard at building relationships with my children over many meals and day to day interaction that no matter the direction of their lives that connectedness and those memories of time together will always be with them.
Food seems to naturally open up relationships and it gives us time to slow down and get to know one another better. The main purpose of your table is to be intentional in establishing a foundation of a relationship with one another. Use your table to create a place of love and an oasis from the busyness of life.
Your children should know that you value what they have to say, they know that their thoughts matter. It's a great time for discussion and can shape them in so many ways. Sally reminds us that habits, routine, and rhythm are powerful tools in shaping our children. I love how the Clarkson's used their table to help their children to articulate well through lively discussions, to share ideas, discuss books they're reading, talk about a biblical worldview, ask questions openly and bring God's Word into all of life. It was a sacred place that they shared together.
They used their table to teach their children manners, conversation skills and how to honor one another. Your table can be a place to teach your children to have an attitude of gratefulness, build friendships with one another, and just create a place of love and togetherness and belonging. As Sally would say, “these are my people”. Those sweet faces around your table mama are your people.
How we need more “homemakers” so that all who live in this transient, contemporary world might have a place to belong, to feel loved and valued, to serve and be served, to give and receive and celebrate all that is good.
~ Sally Clarkson
Simple Steps to Making the Most of Your Table:
One of my favorite chapters was one entitled Living Out Grace where Sally talked about survival vs. sustainability. Her Table-Discipleship Principle in this chapter was “A wise disciple must make space for rest and beauty in the midst of life.” I know many of you are in the midst of busyness every day with littles underfoot so I want to give some tips from this chapter that may be a blessing to you.
Your table can be an anchor in this season of your life. Take time to plan what your meals look like during this busy season. Maybe you need simpler dinner options and determine what is a reality for your family right now. Even in the simple dinners, you can bring beauty and ritual to your table.
Take the time to set the table and determine what your time together at the table will look like. It can be a bit more challenging with littles to sit and linger long over a family devotional or conversation but they need to learn and they won't unless you start training them. Children love routine. Light a candle and put on some music in the background. Those two things alone give you the desire to linger a bit. My grandchildren who are young notice my music and candles during meals.
We can create a place where children know that their thoughts and opinions matter. Our culture is one of isolation but you can model at your table that your children are important. Take the time to make eating together a priority as much as possible and maybe it's only one night a week – start somewhere. Remove technology from the table because phones take the focus off people.
Celebrating Life Together:
I love some of the Clarkson's family rituals and even in my now empty nest, I'm going to put some of these into practice. As I'm writing this I'm preparing for grandbabies to be here for a sleepover so I'm going to be intentional in my time with them. Our influence in the lives of others for Christ doesn't stop once our children are grown and gone. My husband is still someone I desire to pour Christ's love into so I will continue to be intentional in our mealtimes together. My neighbors and friends are ones I desire to show hospitality to and let them know they are valued and important to me.
Thoughts on Living it Out:
Take the time to make the most of the holiday dinners. The seasons of Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas just naturally point to Christ so think how you can be intentional in those meal times. It is a good time to invite others into your home who don't have families nearby to share those special mealtimes with too.
Utilize some discussion questions to get the conversation going at your table. A few from the back of the book are:
-What is your favorite thing in nature? What shows God's art best?
-Start a story: “Once upon a time…” and then have the others continue it one by one The last one has to come up with an ending!
-Name one place you would like to visit. Why would you like to go there?
After the meal read a poem together and discuss it or read a book together a chapter at a time each night.
Discuss a Bible story together and memorize Bible verses together at the table.
Start a ritual of an afternoon teatime together. Have a simple treat and everyone picks their favorite beverage. Just sit and savor and enjoy chat time together.
Have a teatime with your children or husband or a friend one on one. Ask questions like “How are you?”, “What's going on?”, continue to be intentional in making relationships a priority.
Use inexpensive candles and music at every meal. Set a simple table with what you already have on hand.
Get your children involved in the setting of the table, cooking of the meal and what the discussion or devotional will look like and maybe even a game after dinner together is a fun option. Teach your children to clean up after dinner. Mealtime is a great tool to teach life skills!
This does not have to happen all in one day. I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book if you are able. It is a wealth of information and one I have found myself continually referring back to as I'm working in my home on areas where I would like to be more intentional in our mealtimes together. I love it because it doesn't necessarily need to be read through from front to back but you can just read a chapter that pertains to you in that season.
We need to prepare our hearts and determine what goals we would like to set for our family table times together. The table is the easiest place to start because everybody's already there and they have to eat! You can initiate and provide the atmosphere where beautiful mentoring and discipleship within your family can take place, mama. Where will you start?
“Our laughter can glorify God as much as our thoughtful meditation. Our cheerful performance of mundane tasks like vacuuming can honor God as much as our faithful church attendance. Serving pizza to a houseful of teenagers can strike spiritual gold. We must learn to cherish all the moments of our lives and to call them holy.”
~ Sally Clarkson