About the Author

Jen encourages women to embrace both the beauty and bedlam of their everyday lives at BeautyandBedlam.com. A popular speaker, worship leader, and author of Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, Jen lives in North Carolina with her husband, five children, and a sofa for anyone...

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  1. Jen,
    I’ll be hopping right over to your blog, but first I wanted to say Hurray for your post! By many I was considered old-fashioned because I fought like a prize fighter to keep family meal times (and still do). Sure, it was a royal juggling act, but my family knew that dinner time was sacred. No tv blaring in the background; no short order cook act. We sat down and broke bread together and to this day, my children (now grown) confess that dinnertime was one of their favorite memories together. Yes, definitely the mundane can be a sacred time if we treat it that way. Keep fighting for those daily victories…they win the war.
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • Thanks Bev – it’s a challenge for sure and I realized that leading up to the holidays, we were prioritizing everything else when the most important moments were right in front of us. It cut to the core when our youngest actually put into words how much she was missing it.

  2. Both of our daughters are grown and live about twenty minutes away, but tonight is family dinner night because it is still important to make the connection relaxed around the table and fully engaged in their lives and we all need that.

    • Oh Kathy – I just LOVE to hear about your grown daughters still coming home for meals. In the south, there are a few rare families that still have Sunday suppers where everyone comes to grandma/pas house and that just resonates with me deeply. I sure hope some of our kiddoes end up close enough to be able to do that. 🙂

  3. We are a blended family of seven and so the ones who gather around our table very weekly and daily and children move between homes and parents. I am pretty consistent about cooking, but the reward isn’t the evening/daily meal and I’m just truly hoping I’m investing for their future.

    Our mealtimes often feel chaotic, messy, competitive or disappointing.

    Yet, still I find the value in the process of setting the table, preparing the meal, even cleaning up together. I hope that all these children look back with fondness on these times where we learned to be a family, honed our manners and created a new rhythm.

    It can be exhausting!

    • Missy – I can only imagine how exhausting it is but I can say with great certainty these moments are not in vain. They don’t appreciate it now, but they will look back and see the stability and intentionality by which you made this happen. Stay with it!!!

      Our dinners can feel that way now and I don’t have to worry about them going back and forth. Maybe you do this but we eat nearly every meal by candlelight, even if it’s just frozen pizza. There’s something about slowing down our day that just soothes us. Maybe you could try that? I also have conversation starters over on my blog that you could print out. Pulling one or two of those out around the table may just change things up a bit.

      Hang in there. IT IS exhausting!!

  4. I was so glad you posted this! I have been feeling like something is missing in our own home. And this may be just what I needed to see. I remember growing up in my own family, how important meal time together was and now, more than ever, with all the electronic gadgets we all have, it would be so glorious to actually lay those down and truly fellowship with one another! Blessings to you!

    • I’m so glad, CArlene – yes, make the table a technology free zone (which can be a challenge, even for me at times), turn the lights off and light the candles even with frozen pizza…enjoy 🙂

  5. I confess I do take out once or twice a week, but we always eat together. (yes, sometimes hubby has to do a work call) My b/g twins just turned 15; one has CP/is in a wheelchair & unable to feed herself. (not looking for sympathy). No, tv or electronics. Have gotten more consistent about having my son stay at table till everyone is finished. This may sound crazy, but I can use some suggestions for conversation! Reminded of what a college girl said to a friend of mine: Cathy and hubby, 2 high school boys at home at the time, ate meals together. The college girl noticed and said her family never did that. The things we sometimes take for granted!.

  6. I love this concept but it’s just myself and my husband and he really struggles with just sitting still and enjoying the time over dinner, he’d rather be ‘doing’ something. I really have no idea how to not feel like a mom with a teenager when I try to have dinner at the table.

  7. I LOVED mealtimes growing up. It was about the only time we really talked as a family. Thank you for reminding me how important it is. Too often I allow myself to be overwhelmed by stress in trying to get my littlies to eat what I put on the table, rather than allow it to be a time of love and sharing.

  8. Jen, I love that the thing God spoke to you for this year, at least for the now is to re-establish those connecting times with your family. God gave me One Word and it is BREATHE. He knew I needed to slow down and live in each moment. So, I’m not doing lofty and great things. But I am doing my best to guard our family times. We have some busy nights (tonight’s one of them), but most nights, we eat together, write down a few “gifts” from our days and talk. My boys talk tons about whatever’s on their minds, and I love it.

    Kudos to you for making those mundane moments holy moments!

  9. Jen, I get it, I so get it that God is pushing you toward simple yet monumental family time. This year I felt God telling me to just enjoy my youngest son’s company. He’s a junior in high school, so he’ll be leaving soon. At first, I thought there had to be more, but God was pretty adamant. So, that’s what I’m doing – enjoying my son’s company, even if he’s just doing homework on the other side of the couch. I know I won’t regret it, just like you won’t regret your invested time in family meals.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Love this post. I am amazed by the number of people I know who don’t eat even one meal a day together with their family. We tried to make having dinner together a priority in our family from the beginning, thanks to my loving mother-in-law, who set this example for her children. Meal time was a time for connection, reflection, praise, encouragement…as well as the physical nourishment we got from the food. Our kids talked around the table. They fought some as well. Sometimes, we included others around our table. As our kids got into sports and other activities, I gave myself a break and decided that we could be just as happy and connected around a table at McDonald’s…if we were together…because there were away games and swim meets and tournaments. We made the effort. Now that our kids are older…two are married…when everyone is here for a meal it is loud and crazy…and so fun! I’m so thankful that we got into the habit a long time ago, because sharing a meal around the table…together…is something we all still enjoy to this day.

  11. So excited to check out your quick meal tips. Please tell me they are kid-friendly! I’ve got some picky eaters. They are trying to eat like normal people, and I’m trying to meet them half way. Lol Beautiful post!

  12. Dear Jenn,
    just before my husband of 31 years died, we adopted our twin infant grandchildren. We already had custody of their 7 year old brother. Our oldest daughter is their bio mom. Owe have since moved to a new house and my other two daughters moved back in to support me raising the children. The twins are now 3 and big brother is 10. Dinner around the table has helped us fight throught the tough challenges of losing their father and “blend” the non-traditional “blended” family. I’m 50. This family is too important to quit on; although, there are many moments I contemplate that very action. God is good and He has set my heart toward these little people He so dearly loves.

    Another very helpful thing to do is… on a night after a particularly stressful day any child can ask for a “special dinner”. That means no tech., no lights, curtains drawn, and the good China, silver and candles are used. Nothing like candle light and hot dogs and mac & cheese. It doesn’t matter what you eat. It matters that it’s us and the whole world including close friends are shut out for just a dinner time, but it is magical and makes your heart swell with appreciation. Anyone can ask for the dinner, so it’s not all about mom wanting the family to be close. It’s about the 10 year old or the 23 three year old wanting the family closeness.
    Sincerely,
    Darlene

    • Darlene,

      I just love that the children can ask for a special dinner. You are truly working to make this family work & come together. God bless you for all that you are doing for your family.

      Prayers for you and your children on the death of your hubby. May God give you the strength and courage to keep on. I pray you feel His loving arms giving you a great big hug!

      ((((Hugs)))

  13. Jennifer,

    Great encouraging post! My hubby and I both work & getting homemade supper is hard. I usually do something frozen & we sit in front of TV. On special occasions I will make us sit at the table and eat by candlelight. I love to cook homemade meals when I get the time and energy!

    Blessings 🙂

  14. “Their choices were so “daily,” but in this most ritualistic act, holy moments of gratitude emerged.”

    There’s something holy about pressing your hands in warm, yeasty dough. I can’t bear the thought of a bread maker. I want to feel the dough squeeze between my fingers. It’s an offering of love when it comes out of the oven. In this busy world, those “holy” moments are not so plentiful as they were in our parent’s time. Some days it’s fried fish and salad. Each moment though is cherished as life is so short.