Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dinner Conversation

When I host our weekly Family Dinner, I want it to be more than simply eating food. I want it to be a meaningful event for our whole family. Memorable. Substantial. Soul nourishing. I invest those hours cooking and cleaning up so that I can create togetherness and teachable moments for my whole family. I see this wonderful table time as an opportunity to talk about real things with our children and grandchildren and to really connect with their hearts and minds. Since we have some very funny people sitting around our table, the challenge is to integrate the serious stuff long enough to get them all thinking a little more deeply.

In the past year, there has been a bit of trial and error trying to find a formula that works with the wide range of ages, temperaments and attention levels that surround our table. This is where I am settled for now.

First of all, the cornerstone of the evening comes from scripture. One of the grandchildren or I will read a Bible verse from this little book, and start the discussion by asking what the verse means. We go around the table and listen to the various opinions on the meaning and applications of the verse. The discussion is generally short but engaging.

Next, following the same procedure, one of us asks a question from this book. This one is usually a personal response to the question, a reflection of the speaker's personality or uniqueness.

This requires listening, and honoring the varied responses. Not an easy task with a bunch of talkative and opinionated teens and pre-teens, but they are getting better and better at honestly expressing themselves and respecting one another's uniqueness.

Finally, after dinner is over, we play an interactive game. This one was given to us by Rachel for Christmas. The grandchildren LOVE this game. It provides many opportunities for hilarious answers and endless potty talk. Sometimes we have to outlaw all answers with the word "poop" in them, just to keep it from deteriorating into total silliness. Other times we play "Spoons", "Assassin", or put together a tray of random objects that are passed around the table and from which a group story is spun with each person keying off of their chosen object. That one is usually very funny too. We try to be spontaneous and creative with the games. As homework loads increase, the game time decreases. Still, even a half hour of games is fun for all of us.

When the weather improves and the sun goes down later, we will likely play softball or tag or something physical outside. I find that it is essential to have something totally fun and carefree to counterbalance the serious talk. As they say, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.

My hope is that years of these meals, with interesting conversations and fun times will, in time, accumulate into something beautiful and sacred:
the creation of wise, loving, compassionate, fun-loving, faith-filled young adults who know who they are, where they have come from and where they are going... children that grow up to be adults who bring love and goodness into the world.

Anyway, that's my plan.

Psalm 71:17
Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.


Anonymous said...

I JUST love what you wrote! We also love to play Things and yes our 9 year old Jake can be funny and get away with it. I love to hear our grandchildren laugh. Your evening is so wonderful, thanks for always sharing. I can't wait for our new journey to fall into place. xoxo Sharon

Jenny said...

How blessed you are to have your family around you! I wish mine wasn't so scattered about. You are making wonderful memories!

Anonymous said...

This is why Plan B in your eyes, was actually Plan A in His!

Gberger said...

These evenings sound like so much fun. I join you in your hope (which I think is a prayer) for your family. I wish all children and families had such loving visionaries leading, guiding and providing for them as your beloved and blessed family has in you. May this prayer be answered and bear fruit now and in the future!

Anonymous said...

Your children and grandchildren so so blessed to have you Karen. I am sure they know that already, I think it's worth saying over an over again. I wish all moms and nanas are like you, so nurturing ... so loving. I al always learning from you.

A Maui Blog said...

Oppss.. that was me, LIZA, commenting last. I didn't notice that Noelle was logged on ;).

Anonymous said...

Wow.. I'm just trying to keep my family together in the most primitive of ways. I can only dream of this. For you, you've had tragedy in your life. For me and many others, yours is an enviable life, full of riches we'll never know.

Anonymous said...

It all looks so yummy and am thinking about you all each week as you prepare this. I know I would but no one to come over. Karen you give me strength over all the miles. xoxoxo Sharon

Jeri said...

Beautiful! A wonderful plan.

Anonymous said...

I love family, friends and fun dinners. I just purchased the game and conversation book based on your recommendation. Can't wait to make some more memories with my loved ones. Thanks for sharing!!
Jenni Anderson

Anna/Flowergardengirl said...

The gift of conversation will open doors far and wide. Feeling comfortable while talking is like walking while juggling.

You try to think in the now--but then your mind rushes ahead and then you can't talk when you got it on your mind so you lose it---so much work.

Exercising the tongue on good things and practicing make it old hat. I'm in that category and am grateful to my great aunt for discussing the National Geographic with me. could of been boring but wasn't. She was the master of conversation and it has opened a ton of opportunities for me. I'm grateful.