Say Grace

say grace 2I’m not sure how it happened, but somewhere along the line, we got into this bad habit of eating dinner at the kitchen counter.

Being intentional in my mothering is not my strong suit – a truth of which I am regularly ashamed. But it is especially not my strong suit at dinner time, when everyone is hungry and crabby and strung-out on the day.

I am at my worst when the ground beef is smoking on the stove and Liam is wrapped around my leg, crying. When Dane is whining for a granola bar, and I am running on fumes, tired and worn and thisclose to coming entirely undone.

So Dane and Andrew sit on the stools, and we haul Liam’s high chair over to the counter next to them, and I eat standing up on the other side. I hold my fork with one hand while using the other one to grab things I’ve forgotten or that the kids have suddenly decided they need right this second.

At 22 months, Liam doesn’t ask for things as much as he screeches for them, and it’s “MIIILK” and it’s “FORK!” and a constant argument about CHIPS! I’m slicing up more cheese for the kids between bites, reminding them to say please, managing the chaos the best I can.

I know while it’s happening that I am choosing the path of least resistance over the path of peace, but I choose it anyway because it’s easier. Because I’m not sure I can manage anything more.

say grace

*

Once I heard a speaker tell a group of moms that the reason they don’t practice consistency is because they’re lazy. I balked in that moment at the language, and I get angry thinking about it now because I think it’s a dirty rotten lie.

I’ve never met a mom who is lazy. Really, I rarely meet anyone who is lazy.

When I look around me, I see a world that is tired. We are worn out and weary in one way or another – ever aware of how great the space is between what we want to be and what we are.

We are comparing and compared. Entirely sure we’re doing it wrong but not sure how to fix it. We are drawn to articles with 7 Steps to Confident Kids and 10 Ingredients for a Great Marriage. We’re looking for a few small somethings that we can manage. A procedure that will work. Someone who will tell us how we can fix it all.

But in the end, there are no magic phrases. Just time and intentionality. Just consistency and the hard, long work of love.

And we are choosing the path of least resistance because we’re not sure we have what it takes to resist.

*

One of my goals for 2013 was to begin to transition our family dinners to the kitchen table.

I am working toward it slowly, and right now, we’ve got about a 2 out of 7 night success rate. Not great. But still, good. So good.

And here’s what I want to tell you about our dinner at the kitchen table: it’s still chaotic. I’m frenzied, trying to get the chicken out of the oven and the bread sliced and the milk poured. I’m trying to think of what they might possibly ask for so that I can save myself a trip back to the fridge.

Dane sets the table and the milk spills. We forget to push in the chairs, and the dog jumps up and grabs a roll.

But then we are all sitting down. We’re facing each other. Dane doesn’t wait for us to remind him. (Truth be told, sometimes Andrew and I don’t even remember ourselves). But Dane does. He doesn’t close his eyes or bow his head or fold his hands. He just yells loud and glad, Thanks God for the food!

And how I love this phrase: Say grace.

When it seems like it’s too much and not enough all at once, say grace.

Look around you at the beautiful chaos of your life, and just say it. Grace.

Speak it out over the messy kitchen and the haphazardly set table. You’ve got paper towels torn from the tube instead of napkins and the cups are mismatched and it’s so loud.

Maybe you’re slouched, elbows on the table. Maybe not one of you is minding their manners. Who cares? Who ever said it has to be pretty? True grace so rarely is.

At our own messy dinner table, we’re all saying our “high” and “low” for the day, and maybe it’s a small thing, but it’s good. We never used to do it before. And there’s something about taking this time to sit around a table and look into one another’s eyes. There’s something about filling and being filled.

Liam is feeding the dog his chicken, and Dane has refused to try his green beans. And really so little has changed from the counter to the table. It’s just that sitting down here, I can actually see it. Grace.

It’s scratched into the worn table. It’s woven into our conversation. The kids get down without eating half of their food, and Andrew and I sit there still, keep talking about the day while the boys strip to their underwear and run back and forth the length of the house.

Say grace.

It’s as sure as the old 1980s ceiling light above us. It’s glowing bright, lighting the whole thing new.

24 thoughts on “Say Grace

  1. From your new twitter follower – I can so relate. Your dinner table chaos sounds exactly like mine, and will resemble it even more so in one month when we have our 3rd child. (You’ve given me a preview of what’s to come – with the high chair toting and all that!) Thanks for the reminder that grace is messy – if they talk with their mouths full, no need to get exasperated. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the empathy and the kind comment, Jennifer. So, so messy — this small-children-kind-of-grace. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the honesty. In a world full of perfect homes and Pinterest parties it helps to know that there are other moms who struggle. We ate dinner in the living room floor while watching a movie together. When you throw sports and other activities into the mix, family dinners can be hard to manage. Mine are mostly bigger now so I have less drama and more homework, but it all adds up to frustration some nights.

    1. I love that you had a movie picnic. We do that sometimes too. (And Pinterest is the worst for appreciating the truly messy. We non-Pinterest moms have to stick together!)

  3. My 4 kids are all grown now, and mostly on their own, but how well I remember the guilt you describe, guilt that was fueled by well-meaning conferences and “Bible studies”, and I spent those years feeling like I was never doing enough. I wish I could go back 30 years and tell young mom Denise that it’s okay, that you’re not less than because your house and your kids and your life aren’t put together at all times, that you don’t have to listen to the messages of try harder, and that those messages that tell you you can indeed have it all and you’re a failure if you don’t are lies. Since I can’t go back in time and tell myself that, I’m trying to do that with the young moms I know now, including my own daughter.

    1. So glad that they have someone like you speaking truth into their lives. We need that! Thanks for sharing Denise.

  4. Addie, Thank you for the encouragement! I needed to hear this today. One of my goals for 2013 was to make it a year of “grace”, especially for myself as a mother. I came to the conclusion this year that I cannot teach my little one about the Gospel without living it out in my own life, in all it’s messy glory. But it is a struggle to not strive for some sort of Pinterest perfection…Why is something so simple, so hard to accept? Anyway, thank you, thank you!

    1. Oh my, I love this: “I cannot teach my little one about the Gospel without living it out in my own life, in all it’s messy glory.” Yes. Thank you.

  5. Yes Addie, just so very yes.

    I think your 2 out of 7 is remarkable. Because progress is slow steps, always.

    My Pastor, who is a our age, a huge hilarious dork and very quotable says this often: “I’m going to do it just the same way I’d eat an elephant, one forkful at a time.”

    Weird analogy but it always sticks to me when everything around me feels crazy and insurmountable.

  6. Oh, I so relate to this 🙂 Especially the part about trying to avoid trips back to the kitchen…that made me smile. It seems like a great kindness to yourself, to sit down and eat with your family, even with all the intention it takes to make the “little things” happen….but of course they’re the big things. Anyway, I’m with you, trying to make those moments happen, amazed every time grace shows up in the mess.

    1. Love this: “trying to make those moments happen, amazed every time grace shows up in the mess.” Yes. Lovely. Thanks Emily.

  7. “Maybe you’re slouched, elbows on the table. Maybe not one of you is minding their manners. Who cares? Who ever said it has to be pretty? True grace so rarely is.”

    I love this statement! True grace rarely is – so appropriate for every area of our lives.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Carol

  8. It makes me think of what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said — “God didn’t call us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful”. You are so faithful, Addie!

    1. Love that Mother Teresa. Wise, beautiful woman. Thanks Barb, for sharing that quote and for the kind words.

  9. Thank you, always, for being so honest.

    In my family, saying grace has been beautiful too, but in a different way. My brother and his wife and 2 year old son are living at home with my parents, and while it means someone is occupying the toddler almost all the time, the clash of adults can get messy. But he loves to pray before we eat! Even when the adults get resentful toward each other, we hold hands and close our eyes and his little voice says “God thank you for mama and daddy and granny and papa and Aubrey and Haley and granny and mama, thank you God thank you God thank you God! Amen, woohoo!”

    Little kids praying. Beautiful stuff.

    1. That’s so amazing. I love the prayers of little kids too. Thanks for sharing your story!

  10. When I first saw your title, I thought you were going to write an analysis and dissection on that commonly used phrase and I was interested to see where you would go with it – as you have that unique ability to dissect with grace 🙂 You’ve brought a completely different picture of that phrase to my heart. Thank you. It’s so often said so hurriedly and I don’t even think about it – but those words “Say Grace” written into those times where we’re frantically hungry and chaotic are so beautiful. Thanks for giving me a new appreciation for this phrase.

    1. Glad you liked it Marilyn. 🙂 Yes, I’m learning to see it in new ways myself…and I love this idea of “saying grace” rather than “saying a prayer.” It seems like so much more. Thanks.

  11. “Who ever said it has to be pretty? True grace so rarely is.”
    I love this! It is so true yet we have these expectations that everything should be neat and wrapped with a bow.
    Thanks for today’s post! I needed the reminder!

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