Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Power of Paper Plates

When I woke up rather early this morning, I was excited about being able to write this post for you all. (Actually, while I certainly HOPE this blog benefits you dear readers it is serving as a very real outlet for me right now. Communicating for the purpose of encouraging is one of my passions. And this spring instead of my usual travels, I've needed to focus on projects at church and home - twenty-fifth anniversary; nursery renovation; fifth annual spring tea; major surgeries for two daughters; etc. Enter internet! So, thanks for reading.)

One of my earlier posts was about the "trauma" of dining alone. (One friend responded by saying that dining alone was really a treat for her; don't you love being part of the diverse body of Christ? There is an entire, wonderful train of thought on this topic that threatens to derail me this very moment but I must resist and stay focused!! LOL)


So, last night we were able to have one of our routine, not-so-special, nothing-out-of- the-ordinary, average, run-of-the-mill family dinners. Which I really consider: ABSOLUTELY RESPLENDENT! (Yes, I am aware that "resplendent" isn't the most appropriate adjective to use here; but it happens to be one of my favorite words and I regularly look for opportunities to use it even if in less than optimal moments like now. Smile.) Back to the dinner.

You must understand that while I was growing up, my mom unintentionally wove a tradition deep into the fabric of my life. Until I was twelve year old, my dad worked at Monsanto, a factory in Pensacola. He worked the day shift and came home every afternoon at 4:30. Because we usually had some activity to attend at church that night and because my dad was a hard worker who was also very skinny, dinner needed to be on the table when he walked in the door.

The menu varied but in some form most always consisted of: one meat, two vegetables, a starch and some type of home made bread. "Loaf" bread (you know, Sunbeam or Wonderbread) was not considered "bread" at our table. Thank heavens Frank doesn't feel that way! Even after Dad and Mom went into full time pastoral ministry, we ate dinner all together almost every evening.

Fast forward several years to 1979 when Frank and I began sharing our evening meal as husband and wife. Sometimes it was with friends but most often just he and I, forming our own little family tradition. A high chair was added, then a booster seat and a high chair, then two boosters and a high chair.

By this time, my young husband was very focused on his work and ministry. Breaking away in the evenings to come home and eat dinner took real effort. And finally we discovered that if we didn't make it a priority, it wouldn't happen at all. So, we prayed over the matter (because it was so very important to me) and came to some more reasonable expectations.

Very often, I would give him a quick call about twenty minutes before the food was ready to serve. He would dash home, slide into his seat at the head of the table, ask grace, begin to eat and attentively listen to four women offer random comments on their days (which often meant trying to decipher baby-jabber because no woman wants to be left out of the conversation!) Thirty minutes later he would "reseat" whoever had climbed into his lap (on especially tough days that was ME), give everyone a quick kiss bye, and hurry back to the office.

The meal itself was irrelevant. The time was extremely short. The point was that we made an effort to CONNECT each day.

Fast forward another thirty years. Our lives are totally different now and one would expect that meals together as a family of six adults (yes, we've added a wonderful son-in-law) would only take place Christmas, Easter and Fourth of July. But apparently at some point during those hurried moments of less than memorable menu selections, a thread from the "family dinner" spool caught in the loom which was weaving the tapestry of our daughters' lives. And family dinner has became important to them as well.

As crazy as our schedules are, they asked that everyone make an effort to reserve Monday nights as often as possible, for coming together and connecting. It is indeed RESPLENDENT!

Last night was the first time in a while that we were all able to be together. But each one came without guilt, The meal itself was mediocre at best (my roast was entirely too dry and we had to settle for canned corn instead of fresh or frozen). But there were copious amounts of conversation, we drank deeply of one another's company, laughter added an incredible fragrance and a little teasing was just the seasoning we needed to complete a true feast.

I've had the pleasure of dining in some fabulous restaurants, in foreign countries, even with a few dignitaries. But those opportunities pale in comparison to sitting at my own table surrounded by the true treasure of my life, eating pizza off of paper plates and drinking sweet tea from plastic cups.

I'm so thankful that we made the choice years ago to assign value to the task of connecting on a regular basis as a family. And if the opportunity is yours, I encourage you to do the same.

Don't worry about the menu, the location, the time, or even the color palette. I absolve you from all guilt on those matters. (Can I do that as a protestant pastor's wife?) Just focus on consistent connection- once a day, once a week, once a month; whenever it's possible for you. Everything else will fall into place. And you too will begin to weave a beautiful family "tradition" that will probably look different from that of everyone else. But it will eventually have great significance.

Haven't you seen the label on some clothes, "The variations in the pattern of this fabric are simply indications of the care given to produce a one of a kind garment and in no way should be considered a flaw." (Gotta love advertisers!)

Savor the moment - Bon Appetite!


  1. Resplendent writing!

    And yes, family meal time is sacrosanct in the Smith house, too. Whether it's fish sticks and macaroni, or soup from the crock pot, it's the time together that makes it a feast.

    Great thought and great way of communicating it. It made me miss the meals we've had with you all! :-)

  2. As a young family with a 10 year old, a 13 month old, and another on the way, along with two full time working parents, we struggle daily to find the time not only to cook, but to eat dinner together. I have found, though, that when we make the time, even if the baby is whining, and my husband is tired, we feel more like a family than at any other time of the day. Here's to starting our own family tradition!

  3. well spoken!

    Around the Marvels dinner table, how can I say this,hhmmm "We let it all hang out" #) laughter, tears, hugs, daddy kisses,chloes no, NO!(by the way thats our dog)what better way to feed your relationship and have a tasty burger, all at the same time?... YES(:}