Perhaps you can relate to the chaos that is the family dinner table?
Kids rush in from play to slurp soup without a thought as to how the food got there.
For the mamas, dinner is a labor of love. From scouring Pinterest for recipe inspiration, to curating your shopping list, to checking your budget; the trip to the market with whiny wigglers, the hauling of the goods—sorting, organizing, stacking. At the end of a busy day, moms are only beginning the ever-draining dinner prep.
Then comes the cooking. If we could just start and finish cooking the recipe without one zillion interruptions, perhaps we would slip into our own dinner seat less twitchy, and more Mary Poppins-y.
A few nights ago, we were having our regular, normal dinner.
Well, normal for us, anyway. As a large family with six children 11 and under, “normal” means loud, messy, laughter, spills and plenty of interruptions.
In my mind, preparing the food and getting it onto the table signified a finished job. And so, on this “normal dinner” day, I finished cooking the meal, and plopped it onto the middle of our long table, where it sat, steaming. I slinked into my seat just as I had every dinner before that one. Hungry, tired, ready for a moment to rest.
We prayed…and then it got loud. As usual. About halfway through the meal, one child was dancing beside his chair. Another was making very loud sounds that you do not wish to hear at the dinner table. Three ate and chatted together. But one remaining child ate quietly, with a forlorn expression. My husband and I both noticed, and asked gently if everything was ok.
“Well,” this child’s lip trembled. “I had some questions about my faith. I just want to make sure that I’m loving God the right way, because He loved me first, and not just trying to earn His love.”
I sat up in my chair and every other noise around me sank into the background. My heart nearly exploded at this pondering. How much I related to it. We talked through the simplicity and joy of a life lived for Jesus. We also talked about how easily we can get distracted and overcomplicate things.
It’s good to respond to God’s call to obedience. But that’s not why He loves us. If His love depended on us getting everything right all the time, we would be in trouble! Thankfully He made a way for us, in spite of us. We can obey Him knowing that His love for us doesn’t change depending on our choices. That makes me feel so secure and loved!
My little one sighed in relief. The chaos at the table never stopped, even during this serious conversation. Looking back, that dinner table felt sacred. Even in the midst of total, utter chaos. Weird dance moves. Bodily functions. Spilled water cups. None of that mattered in the grand scheme, because God was using dinnertime to build eternal things, right there in the midst of the chaos.
God is always using the ordinary, messy, “normal,” places to do His work. He turns a simple dinner table into a sacred space of connection. A place to make disciples. A place to love and nourish our kids’ bodies and souls.
As we mamas work our tails off to find the recipes, track down ingredients, exhaustedly prep for another chaotic meal, let’s take heart. God redeems every ounce of our hard work. He is using us to create a sacred space where we minister to the hearts of the people we love most.
Despite my tireless meal planning, shopping and prep, I don’t even remember the meal I prepared that “normal” night. What made that table sacred was the love and attention around it.
Be encouraged, that whether your meal is spaghetti or Coq au vin, your family table is sacred.
Molly DeFrank is a mom and foster mom to five kids under ten. She writes about faith and motherhood—the hilarious and the hard; the fun and the maddening; the beauty and the blunders. She loves to share encouragement and laughter with women just like her. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, or her website, www.mollydefrank.com.