Nurturing Faith and Strengthening Family Ties Around the Table

If my dining room table could talk, it might begin with a story about cinnamon rolls whose aroma can pull family out of bed like a giant magnet. Smiling and sleepy, they sniff their way toward the dining room and the warm welcome of a breakfast gathering. My scratched up table might share memories of voices singing – or arguing; of conversations with missionaries, old friends, and people who became new friends; of the sound of laughter that accompanies holiday homecomings and boisterous birthdays.

Our gatherings around the table for feasting and fun are symbolic, a pale adumbration of a larger feast, and Sally Clarkson points her readers toward this truth in The Lifegiving Table. Remembering her own family’s heritage of traditions, she shares her motivation behind it all: “The soul satisfaction of belonging to one another, the anchor of commonly held traditions, and the understanding that our home was a sanctuary from all the pressures and storms of life.” (5)

Her exhortation is well-timed, for North American culture is characterized by a speed and complexity that leans more toward fast-food in the mini-van than family meals around a table. Statistics gathered by The Six O’Clock Scramble website indicate that the frequency of family dinners has declined 33 percent over the past two decades with the average time spent at a dinner table shrinking to a mere twelve minutes. Studies also show that children and teens who enjoy more than three family dinners per week eat more healthfully, are less likely to be overweight, perform better academically, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. (13)

It’s clear that time spent around a life-giving table nourishes more than just our bodies.

“The food is only an exclamation point!”

The rhythm that pulses under The Lifegiving Table is a mother’s deep desire to build memories and traditions that nurture close relationships among her children and to point always and ever to the faith that is foundational to everything she does. Intentional time around a table may be elaborate or simple; a gathering of the troops or a face to face, one-on-one heart-to-heart talk.

I read Sally’s book straight through, underlining and nodding and gathering inspiration, but the book could also be treated as a reference, for each chapter stands alone with very practical principles for some aspect of table-love alongside scripture verses to ponder, a gentle push in the form of suggested activities, and then, recipes that come from Sally’s tried and true collection.

Practicing rhythms of life around a table is enriching for many reasons. These are some of our family’s favorites, and The Lifegiving Table offers a wealth of resources for each one:

1.  Shaping a family culture

I was sharing a youngest-son glory moment with his oldest brother, and was surprised at his response: “Well, of course. He’s a Morin.” It turns out that our boys have a very strong sense of “this is who we are” as a family. Our prayer is that as they mix and mingle with people of many faiths and persuasions, they will continue to hold fast to the bedrock of “this is why we believe” and “this is what we stand for.” Values and traditions that shape and define a family are picked up and carried forward through shared goals and strong relationships that form a legacy over a lifetime together.

2.  Practicing conversation

It was a relief to me to read that sometimes things got loud around the Clarksons’ table. Dinner time conversation is a great place for trying out convictions, arguing an opinion, or validating thought processes. It has been my goal to draw each child into the conversation so each would have the floor at some point (for at least a few seconds!), but I had no idea how obvious I was being in this quest until my youngest as a toddler turned toward his dad during a lull in the conversation and asked, “And how was your day?’ with the exact tone of voice I would have used.

3.  Celebrating everything!

In sharing this favorite G.K. Chesterton quote, Sally urges parents to tap into the natural exuberance of our children to put on display the celebratory nature of God:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” (91)

4.  Pursuing discipleship in the midst of life

“A discipleship that cannot make room for the ordinary is unrealistic.”

Growth toward God can happen in an atmosphere of fun, and whatever we plan for our day-to-day, line upon line, precept upon precept building into our children must fit our family culture well enough to be sustainable over the long haul.  Realism dictates that we shelve perfectionism. If our family had waited for perfect conditions in which to practice hospitality or implement family devotions . . . we’d still be waiting.

5.  Making love your goal

We are made to love and to be loved. How sad when children go looking to have this need met outside their family, when the life-giving table is the perfect medium for seeds of friendship to flourish right in the home.

“What makes a table lifegiving is what happens at the table.”

If relationship is the goal, a life-giving table can be found anywhere people come together to find refreshment for body, soul, and spirit, and where the value of relationship is based on the value of individuals as God’s image bearers and much-loved children.

//

This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Additional Resources

Table Mentoring

Sue Moore Donaldson shares inspiration and practical advice for ministry around your table at her website, and in her books. Hospitality 101 is a Bible study featuring lessons from The Ultimate Host, and Table Mentoring will help you get started on the joyous path of coming alongside another person around your welcoming table.

Also:

Be sure to give a listen to At Home with Sally Clarkson and Friends,  a podcast in which Sally shares more thoughts on the Lifegiving Table along with interviews with fascinating guests.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

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Published by

Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

82 thoughts on “Nurturing Faith and Strengthening Family Ties Around the Table”

  1. This book sounds interesting Michele, and very needed with today’s society. I like that the table is scratched, which shows use. Thanks for sharing some of your table memories, and your review of this book.
    ~ Abby

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  2. Beautiful Michele! Exactly what our culture needs…. a home rich in love, faith, authentic belonging, with room at the table for others. Thanks for your words. This is very close to my heart.

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  3. I’m a big believer in the family table and we made it a point to have dinner together almost every night when my son was growing up. I’m happy to see him repeat this tradition with his young family. And I know we all ate better for it, rarely going through a fast food drive through despite many after school activities and a busy schedule. I am sad to think of what families are missing who don’t practice this and happy there is someone promoting it. Thanks for introducing me to another interesting writer, Michele.

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  4. I’ve seen this book, and it looks great! Our family is pretty good about gathering at the table daily, but sometimes it looks messy and quick. It’s good to hear I’m not the only one, but also good to hear that there are things you can do to strengthen that time, make it more purposeful, and invite others in to the normal 🙂

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  5. Love this review and the principles you share. I could not agree more about how important they are and how increasingly rare they are in our modern day culture. When I look at so many issues that seem to plague us, I cannot help but think the dismantling of the family unit is one of the core issues. Everything and everyone seems to pull at it. There are bosses at work who expect work comes first, ministries that nimble away precious family time because of a ministry meeting that must be attended, sports activities, and music activities, etc,, etc. These are not bad things in and of themselves, but collectively they lead to less family time around the table that cements the bonds of attachment, gives clues of what might be ailing this or that person that would be missed otherwise, the sharing of family stories that seem to naturally flow, and so much more. Amen!! Amen, to this post!!!

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  6. Time spent together round a table is such an important way of strengthening relationships. It is sad that in many families that is being lost today so this book sounds like a good reminder of why it is important.

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  7. There is something about the family table that I have always found so comforting. The Norman Rockwell classic painting comes to mind.

    But as this book seems to intimate, the family table isn’t just reserved for big family holidays, but for the day to day interactions.

    It looks like a great read. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Very nice review! Anything that encourages families to spend time together nourishing one another – emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually – is a good thing. Everyone needs to eat. Choose a time to do so together and bring grounding to your life! Love it!

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      1. That is the reason I am determined by the grace of our Almighty God to be there for my family. There is nothing good like knowing that we call do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. This post reminded me of a maiden thanks giving dinner i attended at my friend’s place during my schooling! It brought back many fond memories in this difficult time of mine while i grief for a lost family member.. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Such a great decision to make lots of room for the table. We can add another table to the end of ours, and it hangs over into the living room a bit, but the door is very wide, so we go with it!

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  10. Wow, Michele. What a great post! I have so much respect for Sally Clarkson and how intentional she is with strengthening family bonds. Your words got me thinking about what our family’s doing “right” as we share family dinners. As I’m certain you know, it’s harder and harder to have good family dinners as the kids go through the teen years. Our boys have been in a season of busy-ness for a few months now. The end of October will begin a time of slowing down for us. We still eat dinner together–whoever’s here that particular evening–but I’m so looking forward to sitting down as a family of four again and talking, laughing, expressing.

    Okay, so maybe I went off on my own tangent here. I guess I’ll wrap up by saying what you shared from Sally’s book makes so much sense, and it rekindles the flame in my heart to connect with my family around the dinner table–for so many reasons.

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    1. That was no tangent, Jeanne — it was actually, I believe, central to the purpose of Sally’s writing. She wanted to turn our hearts toward home, and, like you, I’m looking forward to coming days of candles on the table against the early dark outside, hot soup and warm dinner table conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the basis for Sally Clarkson’s book. I have many memories of growing up and the conversations we shared around the table. The food brought us together but it is love that binds us.

    G.K. Chesterton’s quote is wonderful. I have never thought of God exulting in the monotony. I love the image of the patient Father as he willingly says “do it one more time” or allows us to ask for things on repeat as a child does. Amazing!

    Thank you for this review and another book that I would love to read.

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    1. That G.K. Chesterton quote actually convicts me of my impatience with monotony, so it’s one that I keep near anyway, and seeing it in Sally’s book intensified that feeling that I’m supposed to read through Orthodoxy in 2018. I’ve never made it all the way through before, so we’ll see . . .

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  12. Do it again! and celebration – this resonates.
    I’m challenged recently to be more hospitable like I was prior to moving to the west coast. Hospitality allows for relationship building and everything that comes with it.

    PS – you are such a thoughtful commenter; I aspire to be like you.

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  13. Well, Michele, I am a big fan of family tables and family dinners and G.K. Chesterton…on top of being a big fan of your blog. So I’m very happy this morning. 🙂 Stopping by from the #breakthrulinkup!

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  14. Our table has endured 3 little ones, it is scratched and marked and yet is more beautiful with every passing day and meal shared with my children and their father. #mg

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  15. Life happens at the table … and yours sounds warm and welcoming and secure, Michele! The lessons learned are lifechanging and often have a ripple effect on our kids as they move on and practice hospitality ’round their own tables.

    Love that.

    And cinnamon rolls? I’ll be there in 10 minutes … will bring the coffee. Or would you prefer tea?

    ;-}

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    1. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if 10 minutes was all it would take to meet around one of our tables?
      And YES to the ripple effect. The first time our oldest son invited us to dinner along with a pastoral candidate for our church, I nearly swooned with delight. They have a pretty busy table as well, and that keeps me thankful.

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  16. Yes, yes, yes. When our girls were young, we ate breakfast and dinner together around our table every day. Traditions like Sunday night spaghetti and Saturday morning apple pancakes became traditions for their homes.

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  17. With all of the politicians and celebrities trying to change the world….the real secret lies at the dinner table, doesn’t it?
    I have always been a firm believer in family meals and their importance. I may need to add this book to my must-read list.
    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hmm. That’s good to know because you’re no slouch (contrary to what you believe about yourself). I don’t want to make simple and beautiful things complicated. You’ve given me something to think about.

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  18. Hey Michele! I’m glad that I landed on your website again. I had no idea this was you until I got to the very bottom of the page and saw your name. I should have known! Because you are one of the most articulate people I “know”. :o) What an excellent review! This post ties in so well with my website (welcome home ministry) which is why I clicked over. I was your neighbor over at Holley’s! Have a blessed day!

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  19. I enjoy having people come into my home, but I feel completely inept at preparing meals, etc. I hope that this is an area that God will help me grow now that both of my kids are in elementary school. I loved Sally’s book that she coauthored with Sarah Mae called Desperate…So good! Thanks for the great recommendation Michele!

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    1. Hey, I just listened to a talk by Ashley Hales yesterday on hospitality,and she said just forget it! If you can’t cook, go to the store and buy a pre-made lasagna! Can’t recall where, but she said they were $4.99 somewhere. That’s amazing, because I know I can’t make a lasagna for that cheap. The point was that the food is NOT the point. Here’s the link to that video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osVPZx0hew8

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  20. Great review, Michele. One of the things that’s been hardest for me about my kids growing up, is that we don’t have family meals as often. Two are adults, but once they got to having jobs and girlfriends, etc., they weren’t home for supper as often. Now, it’s usually just us and our youngest, so we don’t gather ’round the table as often since it’s usually the three of us always together anyway. It hurts my heart that we use our table less, though. I fought for family mealtimes. (Even when my husband lived/worked out of state and came home on the weekends for 8 mos. — I sat down at the kitchen table with my kids for supper each night. It’s always been important to me.) Looks like a good book, thanks for sharing. 🙂 xoxo

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    1. We’re in a similar place, Brenda. We have breakfast every weekday and Sunday morning, and dinner together most nights, but it’s just the three of us now, so sometimes the boy is out and it’s just the two of us. Not a bad thing, but definitely a different season for us both!

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  21. Sounds like a beautiful book! Dining around the dinner table seems to be a bit of a dying art… My prayer is that we will be able to keep love alive at ours despite growing obligations outside the home. I love the line, “food is just an exclamation point.” Too often we make that the focus in stead of fellowship. Blessings!

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    1. So many good things to do, and so little time. May we find grace to say yes to the few good things we will pursue outside our homes and then put our main energy into building lives around our table.

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  22. Awesome! I love the toddler line. So funny yet sweet. It’s evident your family has grown up doing this healthy practice. The other day I read a post by Texting the Truth. It was on starting and ending the day with our kids by seeing them. Spending that extra few moments. The phrase used was to bookend the day. I visualize what I hear and read and I pictured bookends on a shelf. Books obviously go between bookends. So I thought, well, if our kid represents the book, don’t we want to be able to “read” our kids? And that’s what we need to do, is take that time intentionally. I think in this day and age we need to make the effort to build relationships with our family members by pausing to actually BE with them. Thanks for your post!

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  23. Love this subject, Michele! I’m all about the family table. It is one of the few things I really feel good about doing consistently throughout the years of raising my girls.

    I’m also blessed in that we try to still eat together with our kids and their families at least once a week. I will cherish it as long as we can make it happen.

    I loved this line: “He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” Now THAT gives me pause. Have I gotten so “old-fogey-like” that the I AM who always was thinks younger than I do? (I’m sure that is true!)

    I’ll be thinking on that for a long time …

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    1. That line from Chesterton has challenged me for some time, and when I saw it in this context, it jabbed me again. I really want to get into his writing in the new year.
      And I’m a teensy bit jealous over this weekly family meal that you’re pulling off. We’ve got one son who’s a couple of hours drive away, so we don’t see him and his wife nearly enough because of their school and work schedules (and ours!), but when we do all get together (we’re ten now! unbelievable!) it’s such a cause for celebration.

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      1. Yes! I’m so thankful two of my girls live in my village, and the third lives 45 minutes away. But it wasn’t always this way. For four years, one lived a thousand miles away. I know the pain of the empty chair at the table.

        Liked by 1 person

  24. Thanks so much for this wonderful review—I’ve added The Life-Giving Table to my to-be-read list! I’m currently reading Sue’s Table Mentoring and have really enjoyed her take on the mentoring relationship. I’m a huge fan of gathering around the table and have made it a priority in our family! Stopping by from #SaltandLight 🙂

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    1. Great, Laura! I really enjoyed Sue’s book, and am still processing the challenge to invite someone to my table for the express purpose of a mentoring relationship. Sally brings the spotlight into the home, so both books have a lot to offer to those of us in the following life!

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  25. I don’t have time to read through all the comments on this post this morning, but you made me think about when I was dating my husband. The vast majority of our dates were centered around a dinner table. What a perfect place to get to know one another! I am so blessed to share life with a man who still wants to linger around the dinner table each evening and talk. We’re still getting to know each other on a daily basis. I love your post on this topic.

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  26. Its very useful article about nurturing family table memories. I also agree that atleast we should have our one time meal with all our family members together to Strengthen the bond between all. I just love to read all your table experiences and memories you made.. I also love to read the books that are based on this. Thanks for sharing all these.#sundaythoughts.

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    1. This has been one of the richest sources of good family memories for me. And I still love it when everyone comes back home and we gather around the table. Sally’s book was a great encouragement to me as well.

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  27. I love big, loud family get-togethers and small family meals alike. There was a time years ago when my older kids would roll their eyes when I insisted on sitting down for family dinners. But as they raised their own families they did much the same thing and I’m happy they did.

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