4 One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.

5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works. [b]

6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.

7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Psalm 145

For the past few weeks, we’ve been working on habits in the areas of planning our meals, how we purchase them, and ways to simplify preparing them. Now we’ve reached the finish line and we get to present them to our loved ones!

Present them, you ask? Don’t I just have one of the kids set the table, put the food out and ring the dinner bell?  Well there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and it’s what happens at our house on the majority of days.

However, God spoke to my heart some time ago about all the events and parties I would do for extended family, friends and church and asked me if I shouldn’t do the same for my own family on a regular basis…meaning more than holidays and birthdays.   I am definitely one for keeping those occasions extra special, but isn’t every day we have with our families extra special? We are not promised a next birthday, or next Easter or even tomorrow, so why wait to lavish some specialness on those dearest to your heart?  So at least once a week I incorporate some of these ideas into our meal times.  For us it usually happens on Friday and Saturday when we slow down from our weekly activities.

Set the Table

Pull out the good stuff paper plates and plastic ware are practical for every day use, but isn’t it fun to eat off the good stuff?  Pull out those pretty dishes that are collecting dust in the cabinet or china hutch and use them.  It’s a great opportunity to teach the kids about handling nicer things and it makes even the simplest of fare look more appetizing. Even a plain set of ceramic dishes can be dressed up with little hassle. Serve drinks in goblets instead of the normal mismatched cups and glasses.  Kids will love this.  You can find an inexpensive set at discount stores, garage sales or even the dollar store. I noticed that Kroger has them 4 for $5 right now. Lay out cloth napkins you won’t even notice the  extra laundry 🙂

Good dishes & bowls - not a pot or pan in sight, just a sweet face!

Let the kids help decoratethis is a fun idea I got from a Doorposts book on Sundays. Tricia also mentioned this book in a recent post. Encourage them to use their imagination.  They can find fun things in the house that are special to them. Have an aspiring builder fashion mini sculptures made of legos for the table. Or have an animal lover choose favorites to create a zoo centerpiece.

The outdoors also offers a plethora of goodies to choose from –  flowers (with permission, of course) in little bud vases or small dishes are always a classic. Glass containers make for a great display of things picked up on a nature jaunt, such as leaves, pinecones and other interesting treasures.

A simple meal dressed up with flowers the kids picked out a the farmer's market.

They can make place cards, print out or hand write bible verses for the family to read or create  fun placemats. Use artwork from that giant pile you’ve accumulated for placemats as well.  This is especially fun if you have grandparents coming over for dinner.

Set the Mood

Let the music play there are eight of us at the table, so we don’t need a lot of extra noise 😉 However, sometimes I like to play some background music (usually instrumental) , both when we’re making dinner and at the table. I often like to match it with what we’re having – italian music with italian, mexican with mexican – I know, real creative, right?  For more elegant meals, some classical music adds to the ambiance. Plus it broadens our musical repertoire. You can find inexpensive compilations on itunes or if you keep your eyes open, even for a buck at places like Walmart.

Who needs dinner at a fancy restaurant? Some lively tunes make you feel like you're already there!

Let there be lightanother inexpensive and easy addition that goes a long way to setting the mood is candles.  There’s just something about dinner by candlelight – the warm glow of sweet faces, the mystery of it – that makes me wonder why we don’t do it more often.

Dining by candlelight is a delight!

If you are celebrating advent, incorporate that into your dinner routine and let it be a natural flow from breaking bread together to preparing hearts for Christmas.

If your dining table is within sight of the fireplace, light the fire for dinner. If it’s not, move dinner to the fireplace, picnic style or set up a card table draped with a tablecloth.

Set the Tone

PrayAt our house, we take turns praying before dinner, a different person each night.  It encourages little ones to not be shy praying in front of others, while still in a safe environment.  Not to mention, we enjoy hearing their prayers develop from simply bless this food to our bodies, to adding things and people who are on their hearts.

On our menu chalkboard, we have a place for jotting names of those in need of prayer and we remember them during this time.  It becomes another great teaching opportunity for kids and seeing prayers answered – sometimes in ways we expect and sometimes in unexpected ways.

Keeping photographs sent from family and friends in a basket and choosing one or two each night is a great way to bless loved ones with the gift of prayer. Friends of ours keep the Christmas cards they receive in a basket and pray for a different family each week  from among those.

A great use for all those Christmas cards.

The key is to not make it a long, drawn out ordeal, but a reminder of where all good things come from and an effort to  bless it forward by interceding for others.

Then play – Spontaneous conversation is great, but if your family needs a little jump start, consider playing the mad, sad, glad game or asking other fun questions.  You will be surprised where these can lead. Celebrate a success, whether it’s a promotion or a first tooth lost, with a special plate or a silly song.  Speak about what God is doing in your family’s life and celebrate His goodness.

The important thing is to NOT make this a source of stress!  Have fun with it. Pick one or two things to try and remember to include your family. Once you get in the habit of doing it, it’s a breeze!

Now it’s your turn – what do you do to make meal times special?

Other resources you might enjoy ~

Family Nights Tool Chest series by Focus on the Family from their Heritage Builders collection

Family Fragrance by J. Otis and Gail Ledbetterpractical, intentional ways to fill your home with the aroma of love.

Eating Bread – the one habit that’s most changed usa wonderful blog post on family Bible reading after dinner