What's for dinner now?

Photo by Mariana Medvedeva on Unsplash

Monday to Friday, 4pm - 10pm. For many years these hours have felt so hectic. I’m sure anyone with kids can relate. When my boys were younger I remember physically juggling bath time, teeth-brushing, and bedtime. Homework and school projects were later thrown into the mix. Eventually the boys became more self-sufficient, brushing teeth and bathing on their own – even if they weren’t always excited about it... 

“Mommmmm! Do I have to shower AGAIN tonight?” 
“Yes, honey.” 
“But I did it last night.” 
“Yes, I know. You have to do it EVERY night.”
“Awe Mommmm”
(I think this conversation occurred nightly for a long while… Thank goodness we’re past that!) 

These days the boys go to bed on their own, very often later than I do. I’ll admit it: sometimes, as I realize the boys have barely told me goodnight, I do miss that hectic nighttime routine and the bedtime snuggles that always followed. Now, in exchange for the boys’ increased self-sufficiency, my husband and I run a free Uber service, constantly driving to & from evening practices and lessons.

And somewhere, in all of this craziness, there has been one constant: DINNER!

As a girl I remember my family having dinner together regularly. I valued those family dinners and whenever possible try to recreate them for my own family now – even if we’re not eating until 8pm when everyone has finally returned home. (Clearly afternoon snacks are super important!)

I’ll be honest … I know right now the boys miss their sports and seeing their friends. But there’s a piece of me that has really enjoyed the slower pace of our evenings these last few weeks. I understand, and certainly respect, that not everyone is in the same boat. But for our family this has been a hidden blessing within this COVID pandemic.

In our house the meal planning and preparation usually falls to me. Our regular pace of life typically doesn’t allow for anything spectacular. Dinner is usually something quick and easy or served from the crockpot. And often it feels like our menu is limited and on short rotation!

But one day recently I was off work, and thanks to COVID, we were all home. This doesn’t happen often so I decided to make something special for dinner. Please don’t ask for the recipe because, in full disclosure, I have no idea what I made. This seems kind of funny when I think about it now…

I do recall however, that it wasn’t one of our regular meals.  It was something new. Different. It required thought. And time. And I was excited to prepare it and serve it to my family.

“Dinner’s ready!” I hollered as I put the last plate on the table.
I poured my glass of wine. And waited
From within I felt a spark of excitement start to grow. My family made their way to the table. We sat and said grace before taking our first bites. 
And I waited
My husband finished quickly, needing to log back on to work. 
My two boys finished shortly thereafter, barely putting their dishes in the sink before returning to their rooms.
I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen as my excitement morphed into irritation. 
I was still waiting …
For what never came.

A couple days later, on what happened to be Good Friday, I woke early as I always do. Relishing the peace and silence around me, I grabbed my coffee along with my prayer journal and a pen…

Jesus, it happened again. I put thought, and time, and energy into dinner for my family. It sounds silly, but in a way, this dinner was an expression of my love for them. But no one acknowledged it or said thank you. No one appreciated it. I feel so upset. Why does this keep happening?

As I sat there, He whispered quietly into my heart …. 
Jen, if your family had said thank you, would that really have been enough?
Or were you actually looking for more? Hoping they’d tell you it was delicious, and they loved it?
Do you think … perhaps … you allowed the lack of a compliment on that meal to somehow indicate that YOU were not good enough? On some level rejected? Or unloved?

I stilled as I again pictured our dinner that night … 

Wrestling with my feelings, I realized that underneath my irritation … really was disappointment. I’d previously rationalized my irritation, telling myself (and often my family) “I do all the work!” and “No one helps or appreciates it.” But if I’m honest, that wasn’t the whole story. Just as Jesus had revealed, I was seeking my family’s approval of that meal so I could translate it into their approval of me. And even though the meal started as an expression of my love for them, I had turned it into a way for me to gauge their opinion of and love for me. 

Jesus kept going …
Jen, today is Good Friday. A day for you to remember my crucifixion and death on the cross. This was something I did for you. To redeem you and save you. It was a huge outpouring of my love for you. 

Some days you walk through life as my Beloved. You're aware of your identity and that your value comes from being my daughter. On these days I know you are receiving what I did on the cross as I hoped you would - as a gift that speaks volumes to your worth and to my love for you.

Other days I see you “hustle for your worth.” And I know you’re not receiving my gift, not really. But Jen, even when you don’t receive it, even when you don’t open it and allow yourself to rest in it … it doesn’t lessen the value of my gift. And it doesn’t change my love for you.

Jen. Stop trying. 
Just Be Still. 
And know that you are my Beloved.

My eyes filled with tears. Sitting with Jesus … allowing His words to wash over me, I once again felt whole. Perfectly content. Totally at Peace. Loved. I wanted to stay in that moment forever.

But I never do stay in that moment - and isn’t that the problem?  
He’s going nowhere. He’s not “changing the rules” of our relationship. He’s not taking His love elsewhere. He is steadfast, solid. Continuing to offer me unconditional love. 
But me? I apparently keep wandering off…

Just this morning I heard the Lauren Daigle song "You Say" for the millionth time. (You can listen to it HERE.) I’ve heard it so many times – on the radio and in person (if you’ve not seen her in concert – do it. When the world opens back up get your tickets!). And when I pay attention to the lyrics it brings tears to my eyes. 

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.   Again and again.  Tears.

But I didn’t understand why until now:
     … Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know

     You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
     You say I am strong when I think I am weak
     And you say I am held when I am falling short
     And when I don’t belong, oh, You say I am yours
     And I believe, oh, I believe what you say of me
     I believe

     The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
     In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity …

I think each time I listen to these words it’s as if I’m hearing who He says I am. For the first time. Because somehow … I’ve forgotten again.

After all, we only have to scroll back a few months in this blog to see proof… 
Didn’t He just tell me HERE that I’m his beloved daughter? 
And didn’t he tell me HERE that my value and identity should come from Him alone? 
I’m amazed at how quickly I forget. (However, I think I told my son to bring his dishes out of the game room 57 times yesterday. And….. the dishes are still in the game room now. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so amazed.)

I’m so incredibly grateful He continues to patiently remind me who He says I am. (He has much more patience than I do about those dishes, by the way!) But honestly, I think He’d like me to stop forgetting! He wants me to remember it on my own. He wants it to become my reality.

I think each time He reveals His love to me – whether it’s in a big or little way – He’s calling me to continue writing about it in my prayer journal and in this blog. And although I am humbled and amazed that anyone in cyberspace reads these words I type, He wants me to see the importance of rereading them myself. So I can remind myself regularly of His love. (And perhaps He wants me to continue seeing Lauren Daigle in concert as much as possiblešŸ˜‰.)

So. Here we are…

He continues to offer His gift of unconditional love.
He has put it on the table, just as I set dinner on the table that night. 
And now, He’s waiting.
He’s waiting for me to RECEIVE it. And stop trying to earn it. 
And then, He’s asking me to REMEMBER it. Each. Day. Of. My. Life.

And just as He wants this for me, I know He wants it for you, too.
Pay attention to your day. Your emotions. Your habits and actions. 
Find a quiet place, and ask Jesus to reflect on your life with you. 

Are there times you, too, are trying to earn this gift of love that He gives so freely? 
Times you are performing for your worth?
Times you base your value on what you have? 
Or on what others say about you? 
Or on what you think of yourself?
Or on your feelings?

Today, I’m praying for us all. Praying that we will know ourselves the way He knows us – as His beloved children. That we’ll stop needing to be reminded of who we are in Him. And that we’ll walk through each day, fully realizing that He delights in us simply because we are His.

I know the next time I set dinner on the table – whether it’s take-out or a home-cooked gourmet meal, there’s a chance my family will see it only as a meal. They may not receive it as a huge expression of my love. But I also know – and I’m trying to remember – that it won’t change my worth. Or how much I am loved. Or who I am.

Lord, when I feel called to perform, let it always be for Your praise. Not mine.
And let it never be to establish my worth.

Praying, as always, that God will breathe life into these words.

___________________________

(blessed by these words? feel free to share, so you can bless others.)

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