A while ago I received a lovely gift. Twenty-four hours away for rest and relaxation with friends, with plenty of space to laugh, breathe, unwind, and create.
Officially, I was at our church’s women’s retreat, but the group was very small and intimate, so instead of an event, it felt more like an escape.
When we planned the schedule we made sure to include plenty of downtime. Most of our church women’s lives are overscheduled to the hilt, and we wanted this retreat to be the opposite of that. So instead of a full weekend of intense programming, we left a lot of open-ended opportunities for restoration and Sabbath moments.
Some people hiked, some read, some napped, and a few of us crafted.
I choose napping and crafting (no great surprise I am sure). The crafts I chose to work on were things I have been wanting to make and never seem to have the time to try.
I began by making Story/Prayer Stones.
To make them I used store bought river stones.
I prepared the stones by buffing them with a t-shirt to get any oils or dirt off of them. Next, I rubbed them against each other to scratch some of the sheen off, creating a slightly more porous surface.
Next I cut out a variety of shapes (some better than others) from fabric remnants.
I cut out a bird, a flower, a heart, a cross, and a star, and set them aside.
Then I combined some school glue with a little bit of water and using foam paint brush, I coated the top each stone with the mixture, laying my fabric shapes on top as I went along.
Once the fabric was tacky and sticking to the stone, I applied a thin coat of the glue mixture across the top of the shapes, and then set aside to dry. Once it was dry, I applied two more coats of the glue mixture, letting each layer dry in between.
The stones are now lying on our kitchen table where I am hoping that we can use them as Story Stones and Prayer Stones during dinner.
For instance, if the conversation is lagging or mired in complaints and bickering (please tell me my children aren’t the only ones passing snide remarks at the dinner table? Please?) I may ask everyone to pick a stone out of the bowl.
Then I may ask them to tell me a story inspired by the shape on the stone, or to share a petition or thanksgiving that their stone brings to mind.
Because they are adolescents I imagine there will be groaning the first time I try this. They will think it is silly or childish.
But I also know from experience that if I persevere and push to go deeper, our conversations and our hearts will be richer for this time of sharing.
I know that my youngest will try to make us laugh.
I know my eldest will share something he has been hanging onto for a while.
I know my husband will prove once again how insightful he is, or share some piece of his childhood I have never heard, that will explain another facet of his heart to me.
I know that I will experience a brief reprieve of the ever-present to-do list ticker tape running through my mind, as I roll my stone over in my hand and think of my own stories and thanksgivings to share.
Of course I could be wrong. This idea could be a total bust.
But I think it is worth a try. More than one try actually.
One of the wonderful facets of our faith tradition is that we are no strangers to the gifts that come from repetition. And so, like requiring my kids to put a small serving of salad on their plate meal after meal for years on end, until finally they are so used to it’s presence that they eat it before they realize what they have done, discovering in this happy accident that Hey! They like it!, I will do my best to continue to invite them into conversation and prayer using the stones, over and over and over again, until it is no longer “another weird God-thing mom is doing” but is instead simply part of our dinner liturgy.
Maybe I am a hopeless optimist, but I think it is always worth a try to bring my family back around to faith, laughter, and great conversations, because when we get to that place, it helps us to muddle through this thing called daily life better together, rooted in more than just our own abilities, bound together by more than a common address.
And that to me is worth suffering through a ton of eye rolls.
How do you foster conversation at the dinner table?