Tuesday, April 5

The Mealtime Grace

 This week I was given a stack of books on home-education, celebrating the church year and children's spirituality by a friend who was paring down her bookshelves.  It feels a bit like Christmas with a new stack of books to page through and I've been doing just that, over and over, never settling with one book for long, but just flipping through one each time I walk past the table, which has been the books home this week.  In one of the books it mentioned the importance of the daily mealtime and/or bedtime prayer with a child (and, of course, I can't find it in any of the books now.)  But it made me pause and think about how, what seems like the simplest of prayer times, can be the most formative.   It is easy to take the saying (or singing) of a mealtime grace for granted.  After all, Jim and I have always shared a simple prayer of thanks before meals and after Jonah arrived it changed to a simple song, but it has always been there.  It is as much a part of each day as waking up or brushing our teeth, one of those things that is rarely absent from our rhythm.    
When I was a child my father said a prayer each night at dinner and it always ended the same way, there was such comfort in those prayers.  Short and repetitive, but very meaningful and those prayers imprinted me.

When Jonah was born Jim and I adopted a song that our community group sang as a grace.  We held Jonah's hands starting at around four months and sang together each night.  "We thank you Lord for happy hearts; for rain and sunny weather.  We thank you Lord for this our food and that we are together. Amen."  I still remember the day Jonah, at six months old, reached out his wee hands to hold ours when we went to sing before a meal.

When Jonah was three he started to get goofy when we were singing the song, so I decided some variety might keep him interested (and it worked).  We began singing the Doxology and Bless our Home.  We soon added The Clapping Song which some friends introduced us too and it remains a favorite; it is fun because everyone at the table participates.

Because we have guests frequently and we now have a variety of songs I made cards with the different prayers last year and put them in a basket on the window sill  (photo above).   Each song is on a different color and we have a few poems in the basket too.  Jonah loves handing out the prayer cards and reading along.

Sometimes the simplest act is the most formative; the prayer so familiar that it easily becomes commonplace in our rhythm is the most dear.  In the full days of mothering it is good to remember that simple things are often the most important.

Below are a few of our favorite mealtime graces.  If you have a favorite, please share it in the comments.  We'd love some new ideas.

The Clapping Song
This is all to a simple tune and everyone claps along.  At each ______ the next person at the table adds something they are thankful for.  You sing the stanza with three _____s and "right where you are" as many times as it takes to let everyone participate.

Thank you God for giving us_____________
Thank you God for giving us_____________
Thank you God for giving us _____________
Right where we are.
(repeat above as many times as necessary)

Bless our Home
This is sung to the tune of Edelweiss.  I found this in Martha Zimmerman's book "Celebrating the Christian Year" (an amazing resource!).  This is my favorite of our graces; I love the line 'may our talk glow with peace'.

Bless our home, bless our food;
Come, O Lord, and sit with us;
May our talk glow with peace,
May your love surround us;
Friendship and love, may they bloom and grow,
Bloom and grow forever; 
Bless our home, bless our food;
Come, O Lord, and sit with us.

Note: I've also enjoyed the book Saying Grace: Blessings for the Family Table by Sarah McElwain.  Simple and beautiful inspiration for mealtime graces.  I know there are other lovely books of graces (this is just the one I happen to have).  If you have a book of mealtime graces/ prayers you like; please share the title in the comments.


Emily said...

I really like the prayer cards idea. We're still singing the same one that you taught us in Seattle pretty much every day. We'll have to test out these new ones too. I'll just warm my lovely singing voice and give it a go. Er... maybe I should have Jeremy lead.

Annemarie said...

We sing grace at our house too. We've always done "Oh the Lord is Good to Me," but recently I wanted a grace that really belonged to our family. I stole a prayer from a Waldorf book, added a few things to the words, and set it to the tune of "Be Thou My Vision." This is what we sing while holding hands around the table:

Oh God we thank you for this food
For rest, and home, and all things good
For wind and rain and sun above
But most of all, God, for those we love.

Thanks for sharing some of your favorites!

Storyteller said...

We always begin our Junior Church sessions with a variant on the song you call the Clapping Song. First we sing the names of everyone present - Thank you Lord for John, Thank you Lord for Mary, Thank you Lord for Storyteller, right where we are! and then we sing anything that circle participants have mentioned that they are thankful for that day.

When I was a child, my parents often had us sing "The Johnny Appleseed Song" when guests visited for dinner. Maybe this is what Annemarie calls "Oh the Lord is Good to Me"? The Lord is good to me / And so I thank the Lord / For giving me the things I need / The sun and the rain and the appleseed / The Lord is good to me / Hallelujah! That was always sung while holding hands around the table, and we enjoyed surprising guests with that "Hallelujah" sung at the end, pulling their hands upwards so that all our hands were raised for it.

Watkins said...

Thanks for the comments and ideas. We'll be sure to try the blessings.