Cold spaghetti noodles dangle down the side of the big red pasta bowl like snakes slithering from their nest. A blue-flowered napkin covers the puddle of chocolate milk that was spilled when a certain five-year-old reached for the last piece of garlic bread, and an untouched bowl of lettuce offers proof that someone didn’t eat his greens.
But for a moment, we’ve cast aside our lectures on healthy eating and quieted the clank of porcelain dishes, and we’re lingering long in the middle of the mess.All seven of us are home for the evening, no track meets or baseball practices, no band concerts or church events; so we’re seizing the moment and giving Jesus room to roam between the splats of spaghetti sauce and pools of spilled milk. We’re opening the Word and inviting the Word made Flesh to make Himself comfortable in our clutter.
I’ve handed every child a self-portrait covered in clear contact paper, a dry-erase marker, and the artistic license to decorate their photo as they wish.
The boys are hunched side by side in a conspiratorial huddle. Luke’s head is tilted toward Joshua’s, my firstborn’s cheekbone aligned with the top of his little brother’s tousled crown. Joshua’s shoulders are quivering with a steady stream of giggles, squeaks and spittle slipping from his pink pursed lips like air exiting a balloon with a slow leak. I can’t see the artwork beneath the shield of their shoulders and the tower of dinner plates that block my view, but I’m certain that, in the end, my boys’ pictures will be garnished with a masculine mixture of hilarious and gross.
Lizzy sets down her marker and raises her eyebrows at her chortling brothers. However, just beneath her wrinkled brow is an unadulterated look of adoration. I breathe a short prayer of thanks for teenagers who still indulge their mother’s crazy antics, and I try to ignore the stomach-lurching twist that reminds me that our time around this table as a family of seven is growing short.
The youngest girls are lost in creativity, their heads bowed low over their squiggly creations. Hannah hums as she draws. Maggie scribbles. Erases. Scribbles. Erases. She knocks over a bottle of ranch dressing as she reaches for a blue marker and looks up just long enough to give me an apologetic shrug.
Rob pushes his chair back from the dirty table and stretches his legs straight out in front of him. He clasps his hands behind his head and waits patiently for our unconventional Bible lesson to unfold. Fifteen years of parenting with his right-brained wife have grown my husband accustomed to quirky mealtime moments such as these.
Finally, our artists are finished, and with much gala, their embellished portraits are revealed.
We holler and point, comment and cackle.
Maggie tries to add earrings to her brother’s photo, and he retaliates by drawing a baseball hat atop of her golden curls. Maggie begins to cry and Josh spews a quick defense over his little sister’s drama. As usual, my great idea spirals into utter chaos.
Eventually, the theatrics dwindle, and I try to steer the conversation toward the truth that has been simmering in my mind since I opened my Bible at daybreak.
“It was fun to alter your own image,” I say as I sweep my hand across the silly photos lined up on the table. “But what if these photos represented the way other people actually see you?”
I pause as the kids instinctively glance down at the pictures.