In addition to the prayer table candles, my basket of candles to be blessed holds lots of small pillar candles that fit in plain glass votive candle holders.
Let me back up a bit.
As Advent began this year, I was determined that even if I did nothing else, I would ensure that we sat at the table for dinner and lit those candles often enough that the first two candles burned all the way down. If the first one needed to be replaced, all the better. December can be tricky. Basketball practices and holiday busy-ness converge to make the time absurdly busy. I was determined to ensure that we gathered at the table to pray and to break bread together every single day. And I did it! The candles were lit. The song was sung. The prayers were said. We sat together around the table every night. We ate and we talked and we connected.
For Christmas, the girls and I got a little giddy with tablescapes--lots of color and light the whole length of the tables. It was so pretty I wished it could be that way always. But tablescapes are really impractical. My tablecloths are washed almost daily and all those little pieces were cumbersome. Still, I wanted to bring the light of Christmas to our dinner tables throughout the year.
Several months ago, I was talking to a group of soccer moms and dads on the sidelines before the match began. The talk turned to dinnertime and every single person in the group was slackjawed when I said (in answer to a direct question) that I cook dinner every night. This was a group of doctors, lawyers, corporate executives, and accountants. They told me how hard they found the whole concept of putting a meal on the table. The refrigerator was empty. The kids were coming and going. No one really knew how to cook. I admit to stammering a bit as I shared about menu planning, grocery lists, and regular dinner times. It's not brain surgery or international law. Making family dinners happen does require sound management with a generous dash of creativity. And it benefits greatly from the resolve that comes from recognizing the value. We make sure our children take showers and brush their teeth. All those parents make sure their children get to soccer practice. I choose to make sure that my family eats dinner together every night. I think it's important. It's worth the effort.
The nitty gritty is that I make a plan every week and I more-or-less stick with it. The grocery list is keyed to the menu plan. Usually, I rotate three different weekly meal plans, changing them out seasonally or when we get bored. I cook. Most days, I start cooking dinner very early in the day, pulling several children into the process, cutting, stirring and measuring. Often, it all ends up in a Dutch oven to slowly bake or stew while we go about our day.
I shoot for the middle when scheduling dinner. It's not that often that everyone is home around the table at the same time, but usually most of us have a window when we can eat together. For those who can't be home at dinner time, I set aside individual plates, so that whenever they get home there is something nourishing waiting--something that let's them know they were remembered and they are loved. I call Mike late in the day and check his schedule. If he'll be home before 7:30, I make it work to wait for him (whatever it takes--snacks, a walk to the playground, bribery). Over the years, I've learned that my husband looks very forward to sitting at the head of that table and eating with his family. And they hang in there and wait for him; they want him there. If he absolutely cannot be home by 7:30, I feed the children and then set aside some kind of dessert from them to eat with him while he eats dinner. If he's not going to be home in time, I also set his dinner plate aside first, taking an extra moment to make it pretty. My children notice this attention to detail and I think it makes them smile. Overall, when it comes to dinner, there is a plan, a daily plan, and we work the plan.
Our dining room table is set with a tablecloth, real dishes, and --now-- candles.
The candles soften the mood, take the edge off the busy buzz of the people who gather. Lending this glow to our evening meal requires very little of me. I saved a few votive candles from our Christmas table and put them atop our cake plate. We light plain, unscented candles that don't compete with the smells of dinner. It's definitely not perfect. I'm on the hunt for a different cake plate when the budget permits. The one we have doesn't really go with either the decor or the season. It works well enough, though. The "centerpiece" is easily removed to change the tablecloth. And the effect is really quite civilized.
Candlelight invites us to sit a little longer. Candlelight casts us all in kinder glow. Candlelight makes every evening meal a little feast.
Preparing for Candlemas:
Candlelight at the End of the Day (tomorrow)