Most all children have dreams in their hearts of what they might become when they grow up, or the prat they might play in the story of life. Yet, often we forget that we are to be the ones who fan the flames of their imagination, to give them confidence to learn to have faith in how God will use them in this world. We are dream-coaches to provide a foundation from which they might launch well into their adult worlds. And it all begins when they are young and innocent and can dream big without fears or doubts.
Yet, as mothers and fathers, it is so easy to get distracted by the details of our lives. We have so much to do! We must feed our children well and take care of their health. We must oversee their education and their training to make sure they will be able to take care of themselves and live in a civilized society. We train them in righteousness so they may understand how God wants them to live. We try to relate to them in mature ways and help them learn to have healthy relationships.
Yet often, I think, we get lost in these multitudinous tasks that rule our lives, and we lose sight of the underlying purpose behind all these tasks, which is to prepare our children to go into the world and bring light, love and beauty to a fallen world. Each of us is to play a part in God's kingdom work. Right in our homes we have the potential to raise future leaders who are moral, filled with faith and ready to take hold of their arenas for Christ.
What each child longs for is to be loved and cherished, to be understood, to be listened to, to feel like they belong. to feel that they have something of importance to live for and something unique to give to the world. All children and adults long to know that their lives have meaning.
One of the most important ways our children felt these values deeply and the way we passed on this kind of security as well as ability to take risks to live by faith, was at our family table because we were together there hundreds, thousands of times over their lifetimes. Our children have all become authors of published books, we have a composer, a movie maker, a future professor doing a phd and a scholar writing to influence theological thinking. Yet, all of these dreams were formed over many times of discussing, building convictions and dreams, talking about the needs of the world, praying together over issues.
I knew that everyone's adrenalin was down at night, Clay would be tired from a day at the office, and I would be worn down from giving so much of myself.
Yet, when I learned to see our time together at dinner as a time when we could all breathe in grace, comfort, inspiration and a place where everyone could find welcome and love, I purposed to design such a space. I came to understand that I was the conductor of such dreams, soul treasures, and it gave me direction in how I planned to be intentional each night to pass on the encouragement their hearts needed in these areas.
When children hear the words verbalized night after night, "Thank you, Lord, so much for the sweet children you have given us. We are so grateful that you always love us and want us to be with you. We are thankful for this meal and all the ways we see your faithfulness in our lives today. Be with us as we spend time together tonight. Help us to know how we might serve you and others through all the days of our lives."
When they feel you have prepared for them by buying or making something tasty. When the table is a place where everyone can share their feelings and be accepted and tell the details of their day, when no dreams are considered too big to verbalize, these rhythms will begin to touch deep places in their heart that they long to have filled.
To have a place to belong and be cherished every day is a gift that few people feel in their lifetimes.
Each of our children has been given a specific personality and a particular set of circumstances that will give shape to God's purpose for his or her life. Even our "different" children and all of our children who are a challenge for us to raise, have a place in their lives to serve the purposes of God. It is our privilege and responsibility as parents to help our children understand their particular fit in God's plan.
Sometimes, often, this inspiration starts at the family table. This means pointing out special skills and talents. It also means giving them encouraging messages that helps children realize that God has a story of beauty and light to tell through them in their lifetime. I means they can be the tool thorough which others will feel His love, His encouragement, His truth. In other words, we are to help them see themselves and their potential and then to inspire them for God's purposes by hearing these personal messages repeated often in our times together:
"Joel, you are so musical. I loved hearing you play today. Maybe you will write great music that will encourage others to worship God and to want to know him!"
"Nathan, you are so friendly and outgoing, and such a great story teller. I know God will use your personality and skills to reach out to many and to make a bridge for them to understand the truth."
"Sarah, what an excellent writer you are. I loved your story today. You are also so artistic. I'm eager to see how God can use your work to encourage others to understand him better or to appreciate the beauty and design of his creation!"
"Joy, you are so compassionate. I love the sweet cards you make! I can see the Lord using you to comfort and encourage many lonely or hurting people. You have such a heart for people."
As mothers, we have the hearts and the trust of our children from the earliest moments of their lives, and they need us for so many reasons. They naturally look to us for physical sustenance, protection, affection.
Deep in their hearts, however, they also long for a special place to belong, a place to feel their worth, and they need us to help them find it. They also look to us as those who believe in their potential. Our family table is the natural place to share these profound messages over and over again. These words and the pleasure of eating together will be what builds the foundations of their confidence and sense of calling as they hear them repeated through years of the rhythms of sharing meals together in an atmosphere of acceptance.
These precious children were designed to fulfill a purpose for God by bringing his glory to bear through their lives. They were designed to be his hands, his voice, his heart and mind through the various kinds of work they undertake in his world. And you will be the one who draws this out of them and gives them an imagination of how they will move forward into their own story they will someday live with their lives.
This kind of legacy takes place over years, through ups and downs, great conversations and arguments. It is not about serving gourmet food or even a home cooked meal. It is about the life that takes place in relationships and in conversation and time spent personally together over meals that builds the legacy. Yet, the life of a family who talks about life as a habit while sharing time regularly together builds a heritage that will fuel lives with faith.
You will find many more stories and lots of inspiration in my new book, The LIfegiving Table. For more about this book, go HERE: http://sallyclarkson.com/lifegiving-table-launch-page/
Enjoy your family table this weekend and slowly build a place where the life of love, encouragement and acceptance becomes the air everyone breathes when you are together. Sometimes this takes a while to build, but little by little, the rhythm of practicing gathering to feel the sweet life of growing together will build a community that will not easily be broken.