Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Place at the Table

There are all kinds of statistics out there in support of families coming together around the dinner table. Eating a family meal together is such a treasured time, all-too-often crowded out now by the busy schedules of individuals. Athletic contests, work commitments, meetings, special events and more--all strain at the family to make it very tough to carve out some time to eat and talk together.

Now take that further, to the next generation, when the kids grow up and start raising families of their own. The nuclear family is now the extended family, and times to eat and talk together as Mom, Dad, and the adult kids become even MORE rare and precious.

I was lucky enough to get a few hours of that precious time the other night, with the family that raised me. My parents, some of the my brothers, and all of my sisters gathered together in the private room of a local restaurant to celebrate my mom's "retirement". (I put that in quotes because, knowing how hard-working my mom is, she will probably be working at another job before too long!) We were there with our spouses, who my folks have always considered their kids, too.

I really wish my other 3 brothers and 4 sisters-in-law could have joined us, but life gets in the way. Stuff like a broken elbow (hang in there Tammie!), a recent hospitalization, and protesting for the rights of middle-class workers . We missed you guys!!

Mark and I can't afford a babysitter, so it was a real treat to leave the kids at Grandma Jan's for a few hours and sit down with my side of the family with no interruptions, sharing memories, updates, and laughter.

We are an animated bunch. I hadn't laughed that hard in months! The hours zipped by, and I thanked my husband for putting up with all of us. He reassured me that it was fun for him, too. I wish he could have been there when I was a kid, sitting on a stool at the corner of the supper table between Mom and Dad. Praying thanks to our Father in heaven for this meal...hearing Dan give his latest impersonation of the nursing home residents he worked with or of Dad...watching Dad shake with laughter and Mom wipe tears from her eyes...night after night, with few interruptions. When life was simpler. Granted, my family has always had its share of dysfunctions, but I never doubted that I belonged, I was loved, I was safe, and God was in control.

Do my own children feel the same way when they come to our dinner table? Do they feel a strong respect for their parents, yet enough self-confidence to share their thoughts from time to time? Do they feel safe inside of our little family unit? Do they give thanks and praise to the God who resides over all dinner tables? I sure hope so.
It's been a very stressful week at our house, given the current governor's budget bill proposal. It directly affects our ability to put food on the table and take our kids to the doctor. Beyond that, it makes us feel that, as people who trained to become teachers not for the money but for the chance to make a positive difference in children's lives, many folks around us just don't care. If we try to fight for our right to talk, to come to the table so-to-speak, we are seen as whiners and freeloaders. There's already a prevalent notion among many folks around here that we get overpaid and have "summers off". And yes, I say "we" for 2 reasons: 1) we are married and are therefore one flesh; and 2) I spent several years teaching and hope to return to the public school someday soon. (At least I DID hope for that! Everything is kind of in limbo right now!)

The right to sit around the table. It is so vital, so necessary to be able to share in giving thanks, having fellowship, observing, listening, and even offering a few thoughts now and then. I didn't intend for this post to end up on the front steps of the Wisconsin Capitol, but the current situation is heavy on our minds and hearts. I keep trying to put my focus back on God, the One who never changes and doesn't pull the rug out from under us. He was, He is, and He is to come. He will provide, no matter what happens. He offers us a place at His table, thanks to the sacrifice of His Son. I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with my family as a child the other night, for all the nights I get to sit in my home with our family now (and I will do everything in my power to not work "nights" no matter what job demands may arise), and ultimately for my place at the Lord's table!

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.--Psalm 90:2


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