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The Dinner Table

I love the Guest Blog section of CommunityEats. Today my friend Natalie Bardwell shares beautifully on the Dinner Table. I can’t wait for you to read it!

Natalie and her husband live in Harrisburg, PA. with their 4 kiddos. Together they lead a YWAM base that trains missionaries for both local and international mission, with a focus on the Ivy League Universities of  North America. Natalie is a spectacular  wife, mother, friend. She is a stellar cook, and a creative soul.

( Jeremy and Natalie Bardwell with their 4 little delights)

                                                        The Dinner Table – by Natalie Bardwell. 

Entertaining subtly declares, ‘”This is mine – these rooms, these adornments. These are an expression of my personality. It is an extension of who and what I am. Look, please and admire.” Hospitality whippers,” What is mine is yours” – Karen Main – Open Heart, Open Home

( there is always lots happening in the Bardwell kitchen!)

Growing up in Canada, my family ate a steady diet of carbs, on top of carbs, with some veggies on the side.  Potatoes were our lifeblood and our dinner table was the couch, in front of our TV.  We had occasional meals around the dinner table, but for the most part, we were absorbed with tv entertainment.  My dad worked often, my mom slept often and both were heavy chain smokers. My grades were mediocre, I didn’t work very hard around the house and my parents’ marriage eventually ended up in a divorce when I was in high school.  There could be a vast array of reasons for my past, but I can’t help but wonder if the dinner table could have prevented some of its trajectory.

Don’t get me wrong, aside from the above mentioned, my parents took good care of me and I always felt loved, but there is something to be said about eating together; it truly impacts people’s lives.  They say children who’s families eat together have better grades, are less likely to get involved in drinking and using drugs and have an overall better relationship with those around them, particularly their parents.  The dinner table is a place in which we learn social skills, a place to be vulnerable, to learn about others, to learn to love others, to understand manners and etiquette.  The dinner table is not just a place to gather, it is a place to learn.  It is a place where good communication becomes crucial and where people can feel valued and loved.  Tears and laughter are shared around the table.  People can let down their guard and be themselves.  It is a sacred place.

Now that I am grown, with a family of my own, I put a high priority in having dinner together regularly, around the table.  We often have guests over and even large groups of 10-20.  Potlucks, sit-downs and picnics are a common affair for us and it has been vibrant and life-giving for us and our friends.  Our young children are slowly learning manners and etiquette, and they frequently experience and interact with people of different cultures.  Just recently we had a dear friend and her husband over for dinner and they cooked a delicious Bengali curry.  As is customary in Bangladesh, he ate with his hands and my daughter Acacia turned to me and said, “Can I eat with my hands?”  When I said yes, her eyes lit up and our guest taught her the best way to do so.  It was a highlight for her.  I love watching them try to hold chopsticks and then give up and spear their food with it instead.  They are gracious enough to try things at least once but they are being exposed to the nations one dinner table at a time.

( Natalie- bottom right corner- and one of her 4 children at a very full and happy table!)

 So what have I learned most about eating around the dinner table with my family, friends and total strangers?  

~It draws us closer together.  We learn about each other’s days, joke around, declare what we are thankful for, tell stories and learn interesting new things.

~It opens hearts.  We let our guards down and speak openly from our hearts.  We’ve had many raw vulnerable moments with others and have had opportunities to speak into people’s lives because of it.

~We find rest.  We sit, relax and enjoy the food and friendships, even if it’s around a box of pizza.

~We offer a family to those without. To those who are far from home, we offer a place to take their shoes off and feel loved.

~It creates a sense of value in everyone involved.  It is a place to cheer each other on, speak life into one another and make others feel like a million bucks, because we are all valuable, and we are all entitled to love.

~We learn.  About cultures, interesting facts, new recipes, the latest news, how to do new things, etc.

The dinner table is a sacred space, and we must all treat it in such a way.  You never know when you will be sitting across a new lifelong friend, or perhaps even your future spouse.  It may well be the most beautiful place in our home and in our hearts.  

What are some of your favorite dinner table memories?  How have you been impacted by time around the table, negative or positive?  How can you use your dinner table as a platform to impact those around you?


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