I am not naturally a morning person, but when you welcome children into your life, all manner of preferences must be surrendered. During the school year, it has become my job to manage family breakfast duties. Each morning, after dragging my weary bones out of bed and popping my head into the boys’ rooms to make sure they’re at least beginning to stir, I pad down the stairs and into the dark kitchen. I flip the lights and scratch through the refrigerator and pantry to figure out the morning’s menu.
Most days, I’ll take requests from the three I’ll be serving, acting something like a short-order cook. Our standard fare is boiled eggs and toast, Frosted Mini-Wheats, or yogurt with granola, maybe with a side of grapefruit or oatmeal. But if we ever have sourdough in the house, every other option fades into the background. When we have a loaf, my wife will actually hide it on a top shelf. Our rascally boys can devour one in an afternoon.
When I call the family down to eat, the three fill the room, with our dog Daisy trailing close behind. The kitchen exudes life now, energy. Typically, I light a candle, place it in the center of the table, and ask one of the boys, “Do you know why we light a candle?” Wyatt or Seth answers: “Because God is the light of the world.” My boys might remember the fact that God is light, but I suspect what they’ll remember even more clearly is their Dad putting match to wick and watching the flame pierce the grey or cold mornings.
We take our places around the table and hold hands. Every once in a while, we have to stop our prayer because Wyatt or Seth is (depending on their mood) either tickling the other’s hand or squeezing too tightly or refusing to stretch his arm far enough to reach his brother. After we sort out the dilemma, we return to our prayer. Thank You for this gift of food, God. Guide us into our day. Remind us that You love us. Then we eat.
We are together, around the table. Love is present. And I believe this simple love will be enough to carry us.
As we do, it is our practice to alternate days between reading Scripture or cards that ask questions we each answer. We are currently reading through Exodus, and this means that for the past week or two, we’ve been making our way through stories of Pharaoh and Moses going toe-to-toe in Egypt, resulting in the Nile turning to blood, hordes of flies and locusts, and the devastating account of all the firstborn taken by the Angel of Death. Thankfully, in previous readings, we’ve also encountered stories where Jesus feeds the five thousand and where God provides for Israel by gushing water out of a rock. Still, the entire Story forms us in the ways of God, and over the years of early mornings around this table, we’ve heard most of it. At the end of our reading, I say, “This is the Word of the Lord,” and the family answers, “Thanks be to God.”
On alternate mornings when we pull out the container of question cards, we hear intriguing enquiries. What songs would you pick for your family’s next road trip? What are you most thankful for? What is your family’s motto? What do your parents do that annoys you most?
You can imagine that the readings and questions often lead to good conversations, which is perfect since conversations are really the point of it all. They veer in every direction, however, and I wonder if the boys have paid attention at all to what we’ve been doing. No matter, because I believe that in the grand scope of things, regular presence—day after day after day—will yield the firm ground that will hold up their lives.
Breakfasts in our house are sometimes rushed, and our routine gets off schedule. Sometimes the conversation is meaningful, while sometimes everyone is doing his best to stay awake. Sometimes I’m jovial; other times I’m grumpy. But we are together, around the table. Love is present. And I believe this simple love will be enough to carry us.