I just made this comment to a friend: “The Dinner Table really is an exceptional place, isn’t it?”

Not only does healthy, beautiful goodness from our garden appear on our plates, but also delicious cooking is set before us. Even the meals that the kids prepare are nutritious and feed our bodies.

But my comment to my friend was referring to not only food, but also conversation. Literature that is read to the family, news that is shared, hearts that reveal vulnerability, words that sometimes seem cross, words that sometimes heal, and many times God’s Word that is read to the family, seem to have a flavor of their own. All when shared around the dinner table.

As a little girl, my mind would wander and I’d get distracted during family devotions. I’d want to be anywhere but “there.” I’d get comfortable lying my head on my mom’s lap, suddenly becoming very sleepy. I’d be reminded to “sit up!”

We’ve witnessed the same thing in our home with our children. If we’re sitting around in our family room for a family discussion, eyes begin to droop and bodies began to slump over.

Deep discussions, in our home, seem to be the most fruitful when everyone is eating. Food captures our attention. It keeps us centered and focused. We feel the comfort of food and it relaxes us. Each family member seems to respect each other more. As a whole, our family is more empathetic to one another around the table.

Have you tried to have a meal with someone you were at odds with? Hard to swallow, isn’t it? I think we’re designed that way. We really can’t break bread with others until we’re at ease with them. The table is a place of vulnerability and honesty. And when it’s not, it can literally make us feel ill.

I’ve always known the importance of the dinner table, but now it’s sinking in even more.

T Talk
A Always safe
B Break bread
L Listen
E Empathize

(Photos: Abby’s simple outside setting (top); fresh herbs from our garden (lemon thyme, cilantro, parsley and rosemary) mixed with garlic and oil and spread on bread, and then BBQ’d; books that we believe have made an impact around the Coughlin table)

19 comments on “The TABLE”

  1. Oh my goodness, you’re so right. It is brutal to have a meal with someone with whom you do not get along.

    I had this experience recently, only it was my unfortunate reality to discover how little I like the person in the 30 minutes it took for our dinners to arrive! Needless to say, I was pretty quiet that evening.

    However, I never would have seen the correlation if not for your clever blog. Thanks for a great post, and a wonderful daily read.

  2. Wonderful, wonderful post.

    Family dinner time has always been a priority with us. Our circumstances the last month have been strange, though – mostly due to me having surgery. So our dinners have been just loosey goosey. My daughter said two days ago that she misses real dinner with the family. My heart swelled to realize it’s as important to the kids as it is to me and Todd.

    Dinner (or maybe breakfast on Saturday) is where we connect. And I never thought about it the way you said. Everyone is focused when we’re eating. That’s absolutely true! Our best conversations – sometimes deep, sometimes silly – have been around the table.

    Thank you so much for defining what I’ve always known, but didn’t know why. Now I do!

  3. I dont know if I’ve ever left you a comment, I love coming here! Squinted to see the title of the books, and saw Dangerous Book for Boys – such a fun book I bought it for all the dads in our family. xoxo

  4. I love your acronym. I never even stopped to associate the dinner table is a safe zone … Excellent, excellent, excellent.

  5. I’ve always loved your photos of your dinner table. We too have so much respect for a sit down dinner at our dining room table. We don’t watch much tv as it is, but we never eat in front of the tv. The children don’t enjoy sitting down as much as we do but hopefully in time they will start to appreciate our meals. After our blessing we always start the meal with telling each other one thing we are grateful for.

  6. Great post!!! We are sometimes so busy that we don’t sit down together. But our youngest son is changing that, he is 2 and insists that we all sit down together. We hold hands as we pray, he calls this a bear hug, and if we fail to do it he has a fit.

    Thanks for reminding me of the important things.

  7. I love the acrostic. So true. Blessings on your Table!

  8. You know, I have never thought to have meaningful talks with my children at the dinner table outside of the usual “how was your day.” I notice, too, that my kids seem to tune me out everywhere BUT the dinner table. My goodness, it was as if you knocked me on the back of the head! I’m going to try something new tonight at dinner. Hmm . . . I will let you know what happens :-)

  9. Really beautiful table. It is tough to break bread with someone if you are at odds. I totally agree, how important it is to resolve these conflicts.

  10. You are so right about the importance of the table. It is the most important piece of furniture in our home. Every night we eat together whether it be at 6:00 or 9:00. No TV, telephone, or cd’s, it is just us together enjoying a home cooked meal, talking about our day, dreaming dreams, or being silly. It is so refreshing and very much a blessing to find friends who value many of the things I do. ~Jen

  11. Sandy,
    Thank you for all your wonderful inspiration and ministry through your blog. I believe in hospitality as a blessing and was recently able to bless the grieving family of our pastor with hospitality from the heart. They felt the love of our congregation through the small touches that were meant especially for them. God bless you and your family.

  12. It’s amazing how, after the flurry of preparation, we can then so relax around the table, to enjoy what we’ve worked so hard on with those who are present. It’s true that conversations are helped by the positive distraction of food and a filling tummy!

  13. Once again you have great insite on feeding the spirit as well as the body. The pictures are great! We love to eat on our back porch as often as we can. (Read: when it’s not 95 degrees with 99% humidity!!) Blessings, Diane

  14. This is a good post and so true. I have a 16-year-old son who speed eats and is ready to get up before I’ve finished fixing the little ones’ plates. We’re trying to make him understand that the family supper is about more than eating.

  15. Sandy, I just left a comment in your summer traditions section, oops! It would actually be more appropriate in this comment section. Soooo if you want to read it….? I really like your heart for hospitality. It is a gift that has grown in my heart!

  16. Oh Sandy, once again you speak to my heart and soul. Such words of truth. I love that you are reminding people to protect that sacred place… the dinner table. That place where we are safe to be ourselves and to know that we are being heard, wherever we are in life.

  17. That really is a beautiful table setting and the BBQ’d bread sounds awesome, too. Thanks so much for your thoughts. I’m going to try to keep this in mind more often.

  18. Beautiful table & great thoughts, as always, Sandy. It must be fun to sit around your family table. I bet I’d feel right at home!

    Southern Hospitality

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