“These children threatened to undo me from time to time with their whining, their silly fusses, their selfishness and immaturity. Yet, here they are, enjoying each other, laughing at each other’s jokes, discussing issues loudly, and participating in family bonding–willingly, generously.” (pg. 151)
So much of this book has touched my heart and made an impact on myself and my family but this chapter had two quotes that might just be the two that I most needed to hear. The one above is one that I believe many mothers of younger children probably need to hear. Sometimes the days are long and hard. Sometimes we feel like we have grand ideals but no matter how we try it just isn’t working. Knowing that Sally went through all of that, the fussing, the selfishness, the immaturity and it all came together in the end is reassuring. I think it helps as we are in the trenches to know that we are not alone and that others have walked this path. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children and I love being their mother. All in all I’ve been blessed with some wonderful children, but some days it is hard as they struggle to get along with each other and to mature.
“One of the greatest strengths of the family table comes from the knowledge that no matter what we do, no matter how we fail, we have a place to belong, a place where we will be forgiven and where we will still be loved and welcomed.” (pg. 154)
I was blessed as a child to grow up in a family both nuclear and extended that I knew loved me. I always had a place where I belonged. We strive each day to make sure our children know that same love and acceptance. We gather together around the table and join together in praying, eating, and talking. My children sometimes bicker with each other but we work hard to make sure that they know that as siblings they have to love each other and treat each other with kindness. They know that we may discipline them to help them, but that it is always out of love and nothing they do can make us stop loving them. It is my prayer that they always feel they can come home to us and that through that deep but imperfect love they are better able to understand the perfect love of Jesus.
“Life can be discouraging at this time of history. But knowing I belong to a people, ‘the Clarksons’ has given me the grace to keep holding fast to my spiritual ideals in a world that disdains what I believe. I know I will always have a home to come to when I need a place to fall apart or to belong. I know that wherever I go or whatever I do, I will have a place to come back to, a place I know I’m welcome and have a role to play. And because I have that, I know I can persevere in whatever the Lord calls me to do.” (pg. 158)
This quote may be the quote that I needed most from this whole book. Sometimes I spend too much time watching the news or thinking about the current state of affairs in our world and I get sad and discouraged about the world I’m raising my children to go forth into. I worry that they will face such difficult times and challenges, but I love this perspective. Aside from them having a personal relationship with Christ, this is what I want for my children. I want them to be comfortable going where He calls and doing what is right because they know that they have a refuge in our home and our family. Sometimes when we are correcting table manners for the umpteenth time or reminding the toddler that we use our fork and not our hands for rice (a very real reminder I gave several times at the dinner table tonight) it can be easy to forget the importance of the time that we spend together bonding around the table. When I can keep the end goals in mind it makes the day to day seem not quite as tiring or tedious. As the saying goes, “the days are long but the years are short”. I need to use my time together with my children wisely so that when I shoot them out into the world like arrows (Psalm 127) they are prepared for what they must face and that they know my home is a refuge for them.
On a more hands-on, practical note, I loved her practice of affirmations on birthdays. Our tradition is to allow the birthday child to choose the menu for that day (with-in reason) and to have a special cake or treat that evening. It has become so much of a tradition that my children makes sure to ask about what my husband or myself want on our birthdays when we are meal planning that week. I love that they are also taking ownership in the tradition. My son enjoys helping my husband cook my favorite breakfast each year. However, I love the concept of spending time that morning praising and affirming the birthday child. I am looking forward to incorporating it into our tradition. We try to affirm our children often and encourage them to affirm others, but I think having that time set aside for that is a powerful tool. I’d love to hear about your traditions and how you spend time blessing and affirming in your family.
I also am planning to do more studying and praying about speaking blessings over my family and friends. I’ve seen blessings in the Bible and know that they are Biblical but have not really used spoken blessing a lot in relationship to others. There are many verses including those mentioned at the end of the chapter that speak to the topic of blessings. I am looking forward to doing a more thorough study on the topic.
Table-Discipleship Principle: Love and affirmation given generously provide the foundation for opening a heart to influence.
I pray that we all take the time to make sure that we are generously showing our love and affirmation to all of those with-in our homes and those whom we have a chance to reach. This week as you reflect on this chapter try to plan ways to celebrate and convey a blessing to a friend or loved one. Think about whom with-in your house and friends outside of your house could use a blessing and affirmation this week. Whether that be a spoken word, a card, or some other idea that shows your love and God’s to them this week.