Growing up, we ate Saturday Stew.

It was a conglomeration of all of the week’s leftovers in one pot, because we lived under the poverty line, and my parents hated waste.

So if we didn’t finish our supper, the week before, it would go into the pot and we dreaded Saturdays. Liver and onions mixed with spaghetti mixed with meatloaf.

Mum didn’t want us to take our meals–the blessing of having food, and the love with which it was prepared–for granted.

She made love, in the kitchen. She baked homemade bread and homemade granola. She made every meal from scratch and because I was home-schooled until grade five, she did “cultural” meals once a month in which she cooked a meal from the country we were studying. I still remember the African peanut-butter stew, the chunks of beef in the peanut sauce over rice.
My mum didn’t know how to tell me she loved me, in words. She wasn’t a big hugger and compliments didn’t come naturally because her own mum hadn’t complimented her (see this post, here.)

But she put oregano in the spaghetti sauce.

She broiled tomatoes and cheese on top of the creamy macaroni, and she crunched up potato chips in the tuna casserole. She made homemade chocolate zucchini cake because she wanted us to be healthy, and every swirl of the spoon, every donning of the apron, every evening standing over the stove was the posture of love.

Even Saturday Stew. Because she cared, not only about us but about our futures and our children’s, that we would know compassion for a world in which 15 million children die every year from hunger. So she taught us to clean up our plates and to this day, I do.

But for four years I refused my mother’s love.

I stopped eating at the age of nine. I refused Mum’s expression of love, because I had decided it wasn’t enough for me. I needed more, but what I didn’t realize was, there was no amount of loving that my mum could do that would fulfill me. I needed my Abba Father’s love.

So out of desperation Mum began making calorie-rich meals in order to try and save my 80-pound body. But the rest of my family just ended up gaining weight while I just sat there and said “No.” No to her love. No to her desperate attempt to hold a little girl who couldn’t move past her hurt.

Now I’m eating again, and I’m a mother. And I hate cooking, but I bake bread from scratch. I bake chocolate zucchini cake, and even though some nights are still store-bought chicken wings or pizza, I use oregano in my spaghetti sauce and I bake chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven because, as Bob Goff has taught us, love does. It does dishes and meals and sweeping and folding sheets.

And sometimes, my husband cooks us supper and in the same way, it’s a love letter.

Communion is bread and wine, but it’s so much more than that.

It’s the symbolism of sacrifice.

Meals, too, are a symbol of sacrifice for one’s family.

The kitchen table is the heart of the home, the place where nourishment happens–both spiritual and physical. It’s the place where my dad would pull out his Bible with the cracked spine after Mum’s homemade meal and we’d read a passage and then pull out the basket of Christmas cards, and pray for a particular family, each night.

In the same way, every night after supper, Aiden runs to grab The Jesus Storybook Bible and Trent reads it to the two boys perched on his lap.

Even if we can’t spend time preparing meals, let’s spend more time over the dishes we serve. Let’s spend longer than we need to at the supper table.

Because it’s around the table and over steaming dishes that family… and life and love and everything holy… happens.

[Photo: Robert S. Donovan, Creative Commons]

Today I’m delighted to be giving away Shauna Niequist’s new book, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table.

What is your favorite dish, either to cook or eat? Tell me in the comments and I’ll choose FOUR winners by the end of the week.

every thursday, we gather together to celebrate redemption. here are the details:  

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