I recently had the privilege of interviewing Shelly Esser, the Editor of Just Between Us, a magazine for Christian women launched almost 20 years ago with a vision to encourage and equip women for a life of faith. I was excited to learn that she is as passionate as I am about family mealtimes!
Tell me about those at your dinner table.
I am the mother of four daughters ages 14 to 23. Currently, everyone lives at home except our oldest. We do respite once a month for an Ethiopian teenager, and there are friends and family and a boyfriend on a weekly basis.
How often do you have family meals?
Throughout our kids’ growing up years, we have had nightly family meals. Now, two of the girls work a couple nights a week, but the rest of us sit down to dinner together. I have made it a priority to work around activities and work schedules where possible to ensure the family dinner hour wasn’t skipped. I am intentional, so it can be done.
What would you say is the forte of your family meals?
Connecting and encouraging. Recently one of my friends and one of my daughter’s friends spent the weekend with us. Two twenty-somethings, my high school freshman daughter, and my 60-year-old friend all talked so naturally. Dinner was filled with lively conversation and laughter even though everyone was strangers when they sat down together. I left the table knowing that some significant things had taken place. It was evident that God was orchestrating things as only He could. And He was able to do it because there was the opportunity through the mealtime that provided the place for eternal things to happen. The family dinner time is so much more than just food!
What do you do at mealtimes besides eat?
All of our family and holiday celebrations. For example, every Valentine’s Day I decorate the dining room in red. We exchange valentines and share something we love about the people around our table. It’s a night of love for our family.
We have a huge life-sized cutout of Brett Favre that my daughter won at school. We started having fun with it years ago and bring him up from the basement on special occasions putting a party hat on him, or graduation cap and gown, with signs saying crazy things for birthdays and special occasions!
We have wonderful conversations about all kinds of topics – spiritual, dating, world events, politics, school, hopes, dreams, encouraging one another, prayer, vacation plans, friendships, and other topics that come up.
What is one rule you found yourself telling your kids over and over?
That the dinner hour is sacred and no answering the phone, texts, etc.
Read my next post to learn when Shelly uses candles on her table, what she would do differently with mealtimes, and her advice to those who long to connect with their families at dinner!
Shelly Esser has been the editor of Just Between Us, the magazine for encouraging and equipping women for a life of faith, for the last 21 years. Additionally, she serves on the Board of the Pastoral Leadership Institute and has been active in women’s ministry through the years. Shelly and her husband, John, have four daughters ages 14 to 23.