It’s long been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. From a nutritional standpoint I completely understand. However, when it comes to feeding my soul the greatest value lies in dinnertime.
Not long ago, I wasn’t much of a fan when it came to dinnertime. While I enjoyed being with my family, I didn’t care too much for the pre- and post-dinner routine. Cooking has never been my strong suit, and washing dishes or loading and unloading the dishwasher felt tedious. And unfortunately, the two went hand-in-hand.
Even so, I found enjoyment in the “in between” — the period of time when I was seated at the table alongside my sweet family. Nevertheless, I was still missing the point. Some nights, thoughts of the stressful workday or the neverending to-do list filled my head. I was there, but I always wasn’t present. I was thinking of what I needed to do and where I needed to be next — dishes, bath time, laundry, emails…and if I could muster up enough energy, preparation for the next day. Sure, we talked about school and our days in between bites, but it’s different now.
This year, I returned to work full time. Living in Los Angeles (County), I was no stranger to traffic. But I wasn’t prepared for the fact that my commute and work schedule would result in so many late nights. I had stopped eating dinner with my family with the exception of a handful of times. Instead, if I was lucky, I’d be able to kiss the girls and tuck them in after I got home. Other nights, I became teary while gazing at their sleeping faces. Later, I’d head to the kitchen to prepare a plate of leftovers cooked by my supportive husband. Table for one.
My heart was heavy during this time. I began to feel disconnected. Our evening routine, although sometimes extremely exhausting, helped bind us together. Woven throughout our dinners was an invisible thread tying us closer and closer together each time we said grace or shared a story. Even in my occasional “absence” as I thought about the “to-dos,” I was still there.
During that time, my sparkle was becoming rather dull. With each tear my babies shed, each time they gripped me tighter my heart caved. At work, I was doing something I believed in. Something that I felt honored to do no matter how hard. But the cost was great.
After a couple of months, we decided to make some changes. And nowadays my soul is being nourished each night. I’ve been served a second chance and am pouring out an extra helping of gratitude because having gone without has caused me to see how precious dinnertime is — even if it has been one of those days, even if it’s slightly over cooked chicken or spaghetti sauce in my toddler’s hair. Even if it’s washing dishes to the tune of my babies playing or alongside my husband who believes in teamwork, even in the kitchen.
Sometimes we eat breakfast for dinner
Since then and even more since I’ve been striving to be more mindful about the way we eat (although we do believe in dessert, Chipotle and In N Out in moderation of course), I’ve begun to look at cooking, the prep work and cleanup) as a ministry. I am doing this unto my family. Blessing them blesses me. I’m not feeding them simply in order for them to survive but to thrive. I’m striving to nourish their bodies and their souls.
Each night, we sit together and we laugh. Occasionally we have to redirect to avoid conversations that focus on the heavier stuff that comes with living. I’m a worrier by nature and have been learning not to bring that to the (dinner) table with my words or demeanor. I want this time to be about us.
These days, we listen to our oldest eagerly tell stories, reminding her not to talk with food in her mouth and laugh at our toddler who has become quite the comedienne. We pick utensils up off the floor and pretend we don’t see when our dog joins us by eating the food that didn’t make it to our littlest’s mouth. We dirty extra dishes all in the name of setting the table and for that period of time we are present, together our family thread brings us closer and closer together.
Yes, I’m exhausted and don’t always end the day feeling that great, but nowadays when I go to bed each night my belly isn’t the only thing that’s full. My heart is also. And my hope is that it’s the same for my family.
And perhaps one day this fullness that I feel will sustain me when our table is no longer set for four and instead set for two. My husband and I will be full. We will be satisfied knowing that we poured our hearts into nourishing our family.