Luke 2:19: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
I grew up in a household that made eating meals together a priority. We tried to eat dinner together every night and most of the time breakfast was a time to come together as well before starting the day. Therefore, that concept of eating together was not new to me.
However, when I started dating the man who is now my husband, his mom introduced me to the gift of weekly family dinners. Even before I was legally part of their family, my mother-in-law included me in this weekly tradition. She would schedule one day a week when she would invite all family members who lived close enough to gather around her table for great food and lots of laughter. She was always flexible with the time, day of the week, and menu, showing us that what was most important was gathering together at least once a week to regroup, reconnect, and stay close.
She would always prepare a Thanksgiving feast – something different each week that was always incredibly delicious. That was not what drew us to her table, though. It was the fact of being accepted and included that kept everyone coming back. Once my husband and I exchanged wedding vows, we began adding additional family members to the weekly celebration. My mother-in-law would happily add more chairs to accommodate the newest additions. Highchairs would not stay vacant for long. Those that had filled them years before graduated to the kids’ table while new members took their place. Cousins built relationships, adult brother-sister bonds tightened, respect for elders was taught, and old stories were re-lived, giving those of us not born into the family a glimpse of what life was like back then.
Sadly, life moves on and some family members have moved to other parts of the country or are no longer with us, making it impossible to have such big family dinners every week. However, the five of us still have the privilege of sharing dinner at least once a week with my in-laws. It has kept us close and kept us connected. Our kids look forward to “dinner with Grandma and Papa.” It has become a time to learn from the past, look to the future, and stop long enough to sit down and enjoy the present.
I want to thank my “mother by marriage” for giving me the gift of being part of her family from the beginning. My challenge for everyone else is to take the time to find that gift for your family as well, whatever that may look like for you: Weekly family dinners, once-a-month coffee shop get-togethers, or quarterly loud, chaotic family gatherings. Let us not lose sight of taking the time to build memories today to pull out and remember tomorrow.