Valuing time at the dinner table.

Growing up, my family always sat around the table for dinner. It was the one time each day when we were all together. We often had friends over for dinner, and many times we hosted the visiting speakers at our church, so we had guests at our table too. My dad was an amazing cook and found such joy in preparing meals for others, something he passed on to me.

I carried on this tradition with my family, and although my husband, Mark, and I are empty nesters now, we still sit at the table every night for dinner. Even if we’re busy and end up ordering take-out, we sit at the table to eat. It’s a time for us to reconnect and not only nourish our bodies but our souls. If you think about it, every home has a designated place for the table, whether it is called the dining room or the breakfast nook, and most everyone has a table. It’s a place where, no matter how chaotic schedules get, people can gather, relate, and refuel.

My passion for table time is one of the reasons I love hosting Thanksgiving. Most years we have our “Big Family Thanksgiving,” with around 32 family members, a week early so everyone can attend. But my absolute favorite thing is FDN (Family Dinner Night)—a night to have all my kids and grandkids home for dinner. I love it so much that Mark and I decided a couple of years ago we wouldn’t let anyone do dishes after the meal. Instead, we continue to connect with the kids and then wash the dishes after they leave. I would rather enjoy our time together by sharing, laughing, or playing a game around the table.

You may not realize it, but the Bible talks a lot about table time. In Matthew 9:10, Jesus has dinner at Matthew’s house, and in Luke 19:1–10, Jesus eats a meal at the home of Zacchaeus. And in Revelation 3:20, we read, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (emphasis added). From the celebration and dinner that was prepared when the prodigal son returned home to Jesus having dinner with all the disciples the night before He was crucified, dinners at the table are seen throughout Scripture. And all these references tell me table time is important. It’s important for our relationships and for our families, and I try to treat this time with attention and care.

I am passionate about my friends and family feeling prepared for, so I spend extra time and effort preparing for a meal even when it’s not a holiday or special event. Sometimes I purchase scrapbook paper (usually sold by the sheet) to use as place mats. They can be holiday or birthday themed or simply be there to add a pop of color. It’s just a tiny addition to help make every table time unique. Sometimes we forgo the fancy dishes and use disposables so the cleanup is easy and we have more time to enjoy each other’s company. Preparing your table to be different and special is an easy task young kids can help with as well, and it provides a little more excitement at dinnertime.

Whenever I have my kids and their families over, I try to include a food I know everyone will enjoy. Sometimes the meal includes paleo, vegetarian, or grain- and dairy-free items, but I always include something from the “comfort food group,” better known as dessert (my favorite!). I like to make the preferred dessert of choice for whoever’s birthday is closest to that night. My kids aren’t huge birthday cake fans—one requests strawberry crepes, one wants peach cobbler, one asks for angel food cake, while another prefers red velvet cake; however, Texas chocolate sheet cake is never refused!

Throughout the years, we’ve started a few traditions with our table times. During the fall season, we have a special piece of artwork we place on the mantle that says, “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” It reminds us of the goodness of God, and we love to reflect on it while we share communion or the Lord’s Supper with one other. Matthew 26:26 says that while the disciples were eating, Jesus took the bread and broke it and handed it to them. The first communion was really a dinner with Jesus where they were all relating around a table. When we share the Lord’s Supper around our table, each person shares something they’re grateful for. We focus on what we have because Jesus gave His life. It’s always a sweet time to stop and reflect on His immeasurable love.

Whether you have lots of people at your table or just one or two, consider making table time a priority. Each family’s table time may look different, especially as the family grows. Table time when my kids were young looked a lot different than it does now with grown children. It’s all about making memories and spending time connecting with one another. Even if you’re on your own for a night, set an empty place at your table and ask the Lord to join you. You may be pleasantly surprised by His presence. We are told in Revelation 19:9 that one day we will all join Jesus at the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven. Now that is table time.

Until then, I’ll continue setting the table and ringing the dinner bell.

Sandy Jobe is the associate pastor of Gateway Women and Marriage & Family at the Grand Prairie Campus. She is also the author of Hearts Gather Here, a cookbook filled with delicious recipes and personal stories that will inspire you to make memories around the table. She and her husband, Mark, have three married children and three grandchildren.