Making Time

A few things happened in quick succession this summer and together, they get the credit for inspiring Reclaiming Sunday Supper.

1. There was a hilarious Facebook meme going around, which began, "I'm so West Michigan, I . . ." and had people filling in the blank with stories about back in the day, when you could ride your bike to the corner store for cheap candy -- and buy your mom's smokes with a note signed by her. Someone in my feed, who grew up here, moved away, and is now a local media professional, wrote, "I'm so West Michigan, I can remember when you got in trouble for washing your car and mowing your lawn on Sunday." It triggered predictably fascinating comments, with those who are new to town expressing curiosity and amusement that Sundays used to be so strict around here, and those who grew up here chiming in with their own sets of antiquated Sunday rules. 

2. Our family went to the cabin for a weekend, and I brought along Shauna Niequist's wonderful book, Bread and Wine, to re-read. We invited another family with two little girls to join us, and one morning, after I'd just read Shauna's chapter about House Church (a small group of exquisitely close friends who gathered weekly in each other's homes for meals and friendship), I started a conversation about it with our friends. Was Shauna's experience really true? (They knew her tangentially, and said indeed it was.) Was this kind of committed community even possible these days, with every family we know scheduled to the minute? After we did the dishes that morning, I dangled my toes in the Little Manistee River, and I wondered.

3. A couple of weeks later, the website I manage published a fun profile of a very successful local businesswoman. She's a savvy realtor, a mother, an active community member, and a triathlete. How, the writer asked, does she do it all? Simple, she replied; if it isn't in her calendar, it doesn't happen. She explained how she schedules her life very intentionally, prioritizing time for family, exercise, and travel, then fills in what's available with work. It's not the first time I'd heard this philosophy, but somehow this time everything clicked: the memories of childhood Sundays, with their rejoinder against work; the moving description of House Church, with its unique ability to nourish and support; and the reminder that it's the busiest people who get the most done because they're so intentional with their time.

"There is NO time" is a text I sent my sister-in-law at one point this summer, and it often seems that it's true. At one point last month, I woke up at 4 a.m., looking at the ceiling and worrying in advance about what had become an insanely complicated soccer carpool schedule. (I think it's safe to say the moment you cross over from "a parent with some kids who play some sports" to "a soccer mom" is when you have more than one color-coded Google Drive spreadsheet open on your laptop and you've spent the better part of a week trying to make sense of hundreds of texts and emails about camps, tournaments, practices, and game schedules. But that's neither here nor there.) 

Nonetheless, it's September, which is the best month of the year, if you ask me, to begin again. New school year, new schedules, fresh pencils and shoes, and a renewed commitment, after the haze of summer, to bring a little more order to life. To make time for what's important.

It's true; there is still "NO time" -- or, at least, no more than there was before. But our family has been largely having Sunday supper most weeks for the last year or so. We've cobbled together some little traditions around it (all the best traditions are cobbled together ones, no?), involving the lighting of a very ugly blue glass votive candle that one of the girls chose from TJ Maxx a couple years ago and the writing in a gratitude journal about things that we're thankful for on that particular week.

And since we're cooking anyway, we may as well get some people to come sit down and eat with us. Coming off the unscheduled chaos of late summer, when things tend to fall apart and I hardly knew which day it was, not much sounds better than carving out Sundays as a day for heading to church (or, let's be honest, probably the occasional kids' soccer game), coming home to change into elastic waistband pants, and spending the afternoon reading, watching football, hiking, or playing outside while something cooks slowly in the oven. We'll see.

Why Sunday Supper?

Why decide, in September of 2014, to begin a family experiment in rest and connection around the table by committing to hosting a rotating cast of any and all interested friends and family at our Sunday suppers for a year?

Well, because we found, as our girls got older (they're seven and days-away-from-ten), our calendar was filling up with piano lessons and soccer practices, editorial meetings and dental appointments, work obligations and school open houses, and we had the strong feeling that we needed to balance six days of go-go-go with at least one day of eat, pray, love.

Because we found ourselves missing our nieces, even though they live just half an hour away, and we caught ourselves doing that thing where you see some favorite friends and yell, "Let's catch up soon!" as you're jogging past one another in the hallway or on the sidewalk.

Because we had memories of the long, lazy Sundays of our childhood, filled with only church, pot roast, and naps, and it sounded kind of dreamy.

Because we were doing plenty of the get-dinner-on-the-table-in-30-minutes kind of cooking, but hardly any of the inspired-by-a-great-new-recipe kind of cooking, and we needed a nudge to do more of the second kind, which we really enjoy.

Because we started to notice a connection between how often we checked email on our phones on the weekend and how ill-prepared we felt to plunge into another work week come Monday morning.

Because we wanted an excuse to get our girls in the kitchen more, learning to chop, stir, and measure with us.

Because so many great moments happen around the table.

Because we wanted to make more space for rest, joy, and gratitude in our lives.

Because we love to eat good food with great people.

Want in?

Good, because we want to see you at our table on a Sunday this year. If we've been meaning to "grab that drink" or "get coffee soon" -- Sunday supper. If we've been trying - and failing - to find a night to ditch the kids and have a great meal out -- Sunday supper. (Bring the kids.) If you're tired of cooking but up for telling stories around our big farm table -- Sunday supper. Pick a Sunday, invite yourself over, and bring some wine.