Last month I found myself going on and on about the significance of our family meal table. I truly was going on and on and there was nothing my husband could do but listen because we were only on hour 2 of our 7-hour road trip!
He’s a strong silent type. Although our new life circumstances have brought out the words from within him more often than before. But more so in the social setting. He’s still not much of a deep talker, especially when I’m rambling on and on. I suppose that’s why I’ve taken to rambling on this blog and my Instagram stories.
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“Verbal Processor” describes me perfectly.
I have never before organized my thoughts on the family table. But in doing so, I have realized how significant it really is to me and my family!
A bit of history
There are a few phases to my life surrounding the dinner table in our home.
When I was very young, my mother prioritized sitting for meals together. I have vague memories of eating dinner while the dogs sat on the edge of the carpet, waiting for their after meal signal to come and clean up after us. They were obedient dogs!
Then we entered the single parent stage.
Life was crazy.
My mother worked full time, went to university full time to get her degree, plus led girl guide groups and attended any and all school field trips and recitals. And each of us three girls had an extra-curricular activity of our own on top of it all.
There was not a lot of sitting down to eat.
Meals on the road running between activities became part of our normal routine.
And my older sisters often babysat me while my mother was working or in class so meals were had in front of the tv. We got really good at eating on our laps and cutting our food with a fork, never needing a knife!
Throughout my life though, we gathered for formal meals, especially at my grandparent’s home.
The table was always set with a tablecloth and centerpieces. Beautiful dinnerware and serving dishes. Candles too. The same went for holiday meals hosted in our home. My mother insisted on using her bone china (Old Country Rose by Royal Doulton) and polished silverware. We delighted in it.
Us three daughters knew the expectations at the table.
Pretty dresses and hair tied back. Good manners and polite words. We were taught not interrupt during the table conversation but also how to engage in it. It was expected that we wouldn’t only “sit still and be quiet”, but rather be apart of the dining experience. It felt great that we were treated as an important part of the whole process.
Now with a growing family of my own
We eat dinner together every night, cooked by yours truly. The table is set (and unset) by my children. It’s nothing fancy yet, but it’s a goal of mine to have a beautifully set table in the future.
We sit, pray, eat and talk with one another.
No tv or phones (even though it’s so tempting, and sometimes a work call interrupts).
It’s not always peaceful or easy. We do have 3 children ages 5 and under who are still learning so much. But more often than not, it’s a joyful, nourishing experience.
I’m thankful for our routine and how it serves all of us well. And now on the farm, we get most breakfasts and half our lunches all together too!
We have found great blessing in our mealtime routines and have been thinking a lot about why they are so significant for our family. So let me share.
5 Reasons Why Gathering Together Is So Important
1. Intentional Time Together
When you eat with another human, it’s intimate. While completing the necessary action of fueling your body, you are forced to look directly at one another. Talking and sharing. Getting to know each other and the details of your lives better.
I find this especially important for the relationship between husband and wife and their children.
So often our lives are chalked full of work, ministries, activities, and schooling that we practically live separate lives from our spouse and children.
Sitting around a table together, sharing a meal every day means that you are prioritizing those relationships. Catching up on the big and little things in the happenings of our days. Discussing (debating?!) important news in the world around us. Sharing our blessings and our sorrows.
It’s vulnerable and intimate and relationship building!
Many families say a prayer of thankfulness for their meals around the table too.
This is an intentional time to come together as a family before the Lord. And for many of us, this may be the only time we pray together.
Yup, we struggle with this in our day to day lives. But we find that if week can keep praying and thanking God for His provisions at our meal times, it’s easier to facilitate family and personal devotions throughout the day.
2. To Teach and Equip Our Children
Growing up, I learned so many valuable skills by gathering around a dinner table.
I learned what good, healthy food was (ignore the mac & cheese in front of the tv years). And how to politely ask for more or decline what you didn’t like. I was an extremely picking eater. Still am actually. But I was taught how to respectfully put the peppers and onions to the side and eat the rest of my meal without complaining.
I learned how to sit still. Quietly listening to the conversation, eating my meal, and waiting for my turn to speak.
How to appropriately use dinnerware and how to serve food around the table were essential in my training. My mother always said how easy it was to take us to someone’s house or a restaurant because we had the skills to eat and not make a mess (within reason, accidents happened).
I also was educated in how to set and unset a table. Where the forks and knives and glasses should go. Plus the attentiveness required to move precious plates and glasses without dropping the food on the floor!
I was taught proper manners. The meal table taught me how to say “Please”, “Thank you”, “No thank you”, “May I please…”, etc. Over and over again.
And gratefulness, even when I didn’t prefer to eat the food. My family always displayed gratefulness for the meal prepared. Even if I left hungry (due to my own food stubbornness), I was thankful to have been fed and enjoyed the company.
When we gather as a family, we have the opportunity to teach and be an example to our children, daily. Repetition is the key to building healthy, respectful habits and that opportunity to train your children is there every evening!
3. Healthy Food!
It’s no secret that the healthiest (and least expensive) food you can feed your family is made at home.
If that sounds like a burden, to cook dinner every night, look into getting some tools to help you out!
I use my trusty Cuisinart Food Processor daily to: chop veggies, make sauces, grate cheese, mix dough (mmm, biscuits!), and more! It makes my food prep so much quicker, cutting down on my total time in the kitchen which is a win.
Plus I was given an Instant Pot for Christmas and am LOVING how fast I can cook a meal in it. Plus the clean up is less as so many recipes are done in one pot! It’s as dreamy as it sounds folks.
Your regular grocery store has so many healthy (Trim Healthy Mama friendly) whole food conveniences that help to put a healthy meal together quickly. I like to use frozen chopped veggies the most!
It’s worth it to invest in the food you feed your family.
In time, money, and effort. The reward will be great for your bodies and minds.
And maybe you can even woo those little picky eaters into eating new foods. I was told once that everyone likes all food, you just need to find the way you like it cooked/prepared/seasoned. When in doubt, blend in the good stuff into a sauce or soup.
Canadians, shop all your fave Trim Healthy Mama products here! Plus loads of low-carb, diabetic/blood sugar friendly foods. Everything from baking ingredients to craving-curbing snacks… Cookbooks, THM gear, supplements, exercise programs, and beauty products too!
4. The Spiritual Significance of Food
This is a topic I’d LOVE to learn and share more about. But for now, I’ll give you my initial revelations.
Food is spiritually significant. So is eating with others.
You can find numerous stories in the Bible of God providing food for his people in miraculous ways (think mana from Heaven in the desert and Jesus feeding the 5 thousand with a few loaves bread and fish).
Jesus also describes his body as the Bread of Life. And he asks that we break bread and drink in remembrance of his sacrifice for our salvation.
Luke: 22 verse 19-20
“19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Food is a very important part of our lives. We need it to survive!
And when we share it as a family, daily, we are fueled spiritually and relationally as well as physically.
5. Sharing a Meal is Showing You Care (fellowship)
For many of the same reasons as my first point, sharing a meal is a great way to build a relationship.
When you welcome strangers into your home, more often than not, they leave as friends.
Sharing a meal is a wonderful way to get to know someone new.
And often it’s less awkward if you have good food to indulge in together. It gives an unspoken schedule to the time together (visit with small chat, eat, talk and digest, then they go home) and helps ease some of those uncomfortable moments between new people.
It’s very personal to invite others into your home and to cook a meal.
There has to be a level of trust and safety as you enter into the situation (host and guest alike). I find that breaks down the barriers and relationships are more easily formed.
It shows that you are willing to put in time, resources, and effort to serve new people which shows you care about your guests. And it feels good for them too. It always feels good to be served and cared for.
Hosting dinner guests was once a very common activity but it’s a long forgotten skill.
Today families often struggle to sit together for a homecooked meal themselves which makes hosting a social evening seem to be an unattainable task.
But let’s bring it back!
Having friends or guests for dinner DOES NOT need to be a lot of work and cost, just do these things.
- Tidy your home, but you don’t need to deep clean. Pick up the tripping hazards and the rest can just be. Remember, stay vulnerable… we all have messes! I find a bit of untidiness in someone’s home makes me feel better about my own living situation. 😀
- Cook a delicious, simple meal. A family favorite perhaps. I love to make ham and cheese quiche. Or soup with sourdough bread. Or a BBQ in the summer. And now that I have an Instant Pot, I can make incredible food in very little time! Check with your guests ahead of time for food allergies is very courteous.
- Set a welcoming table. Add a table cloth and candles if that’s your style. Or go with paper plates if it’s a big group!
- Ask questions. Show your guests you are interested in them and care for them with your words.
I encourage you to gather your family around your table. Clear your schedules so you can all rest and eat in peace together. Soak up the time with the ones you love over good food and meaningful conversations. And if you can, invite a friend or stranger to your table, do that too.
Want to learn more about the significance of the family meal table? Check out these resources:
- The Lifegiving Table by Sally Clarkson
- The Lifegiving Table Experience by Sally Clarkson
- Trim Healthy Table (Cookbook plus the Trim Healthy Mama plan simplified)
Be encouraged, stay connected!
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