I had the opportunity to interview Linda Justice, the friend of a friend, who is a pastor's wife for over thirty years and the mother of three grown children. I think I'd like to join their family meals sometimes! Read about them...
Tell me about who was regularly around your table when your children were home.
Typically, our immediate family. When the children were school aged, a college student whose mother was a single parent spent many hours in our home and joined in with meal preparation and routine family activities including mealtime.
How often did you have family meals?
Being that my husband is a pastor and I homeschooled the kids, we were able to enjoy nearly every meal together until high school when schedules became more complicated.
What would you say was the forte of your family meals?
It was the laughter that erupted in our midst regularly as we joined our minds together in building stories that bordered on the ridiculous. Somehow, someone would come up with an idea and everyone would begin adding to it and making it funnier and funnier. These were exercises in exaggeration! The kids are now adults and they still do this when they are together.
What did you do at the table besides eat?
We often talked about what the children were learning in school, current events, biblical topics, or life situations. Sometimes mealtimes became a time of research as we investigated a topic in a deeper way. I have fond memories of my husband leaving the table to get a book to help us find more information on a topic.
What was one rule you found yourself telling your kids over and over?
“Come promptly when you are called.” Inevitably, we would be waiting for someone while the food was getting cold (and not always the kids!).
What did you typically do when you didn't "feel" like making dinner or ran out of time?
I would resort to making cornmeal mush—one of our favorites! Add some honey and butter, and pour on some milk. It’s simple and so good!
Is there anything you would do differently if you could start over again with your family?
I think that I would do something special on Saturday evenings to focus the family on Sunday worship. We did prepare in practical ways like showering, picking out clothes and shoes, and having Bibles ready; but having a special meal with a spiritual tone would’ve been a tradition that could’ve made a deep and lasting impact.
Was there any special challenge your family faced that affected family mealtimes?
There was a period of time when one of our children was going through a difficult struggle. We were unaware of the pain and hurt she had experienced. She, at times, carried her hurting and angry heart to the table, dampening the atmosphere.
How has including others around your table enriched your meals?
It has been a privilege for us to have other pastors, missionaries, neighbors, and congregants, and our children’s friends around our table. We have been strengthened by their stories, challenged by their needs, and given occasions by the Lord to help them with their problems and hurts. We took the opportunities with our children’s friends to intentionally speak about spiritual truths and delve into worldview topics. Having our kids at the table, allowed them to learn how to listen, to relate biblical truth to life situations, and to share hospitality with a variety of people.
Did you have family devotions at a mealtime?
We did not have family devotions consistently at mealtime, but there were periods when we tried. I remember having a “creative” prayer time once around the table. We decided that we would pray conversationally in sentence prayers; but the prayer of each person had to rhyme with the prayer of the one who went before. We made sure that we all understood that these were to be serious prayers, and they were! It was a fun time and one that we all remember fondly.
If you could have put anything at all in a spray bottle and sprayed it over your family table, what would it be?
It has to be a “double-dipping” prohibitor. This is only needed when just the family is gathered!
|Some of Linda's Family Around the Table Today|
What advice would you give to families who want to start meaningful family mealtimes?
I would advise the parents to view mealtime as a place to gather for the purpose of refueling—not only physically, but emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Mealtime is a time to listen to one another, to encourage, to learn from one another, and to mentor. The saying goes that more is caught than taught—so envision what you want your children to learn at the table, and live it. Your children will see what goes on between you and your spouse. They will sense the atmosphere of love that you create. They will find that mealtime is a healthy time to relax and refill.
Linda Justice is a pastor's wife who lives in the beautiful town of Lewisburg, Pennslyvania. She enjoys sewing, baking, developing friendships, decorating, and walking with her husband. Her passion is helping women grow in their faith.