As we talk about Family Meals Month, I know the logistics of making family meals happen often falls on your shoulders. Stacy did a great deal in our home to make it work in our home. The last thing we want is for family meals to feel like a burden. We don’t want it to be complicated. In fact, keeping it simple may be the only strategy that can make it happen, however often it happens. I want to take the pressure off.
I enlisted the help of a wise friend, Linda Montgomery, to share how she made it work for her family.
When Linda’s husband Mike read our recent articles about family meals month, he immediately started bragging on his wife. “Linda was a master of having the kids ready when I was available.” The couple has been married for 52 years and made family dinners a big priority in their home.
I had to ask what she did all those years ago that has her husband still bragging about her, and it turns out it was a simple idea that began as a shift in her heart.
Three Intense Years
When Mike and Linda were first married, she admits she had a difficult time feeling positive about Mike’s crazy work schedule and making it work for their family. Mike was a fighter pilot and a squadron commander at that. He had ongoing duties that brought him home at all hours. Their schedule was never consistent, and their home wasn’t either. They often moved with the Air Force.
They lived in Germany for “three intense years,” and she confessed that it was easy for her to get sucked into a “woe is me” mindset regarding her situation. It wasn’t until Mike and Linda became believers ten years into their marriage that the young couple went to a marriage conference, and she gained a broader perspective.
Linda realized her attitude about their moves and mealtimes was impacting her entire family. She began to plan to have something ready at night that Mike could eat when he arrived home – however late it might be. Sometimes the kids were already in bed, but if they were still awake, they would all gather for family mealtime even though Mike was the only one eating. Often, it was burnt or dry reheated food, which he gratefully accepted with the compliment, “It’s just the way I like it.”
Her simple, practical tip to have the kids ready and something on the table is helpful, but the secret, she told us, is her attitude towards her marriage and her family.
Marriage is Not About Us
Linda realized that Mike’s schedule was not easy for him either. He wanted to be home too. But he was a commander, was flying, and had crazy hours, something he could not control in that season. It wouldn’t change anything for the better if she had a disappointed attitude about it. It would only make things gloomier around the house.
Linda began to understand that their marriage is about the Kingdom, and she began focusing on how they could serve the Lord together in many roles over many years for God’s glory.
Where she was critical before, she adopted the attitude of thinking the best of him and his schedule without resentment. She experienced a real change in the respect she had for his role in the military. She realized that her care for him and their family would rub off on his role with others, which happened to be a squadron of 300.
Young Families Are a Season
Linda likes to remind others that young families are a season, a perspective she didn’t have.
“Kids are gone longer than we had them.”
The attitude in the home is set by the mom and rubs off on everyone, especially the children. Mike and Linda now see their two grown children carrying on the example they saw in their parents. Both are married with hectic jobs and families, yet somehow, they prioritize having family meals together as often as possible.
“I know it’s not easy, and it’s not every night, but it is their priority for the most part.”
Still Holding Hands
They have been connected with the military all of their married life. Mike retired from the Air Force in 1995 after 23 years of service, but the couple continues to serve military families through Cru Valor at Virginia Tech. Today, family meals – now a meal for two – are still a priority for the couple. It’s often leftovers, frozen meals, or breakfast dinners. But the couple is still intentional about eating together. And they are big on holding hands while saying grace.
“We hold hands as often as we can, especially while we pray.”
I am grateful for Linda’s wisdom and intentionality in making family mealtime possible in crazy scenarios all over the world. I hope it is encouraging that if Linda can make that happen, then it’s possible to do something in our family scenarios too. And I hope it takes the pressure off that it doesn’t have to be every day, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Mike’s profession didn’t leave room in that season to help with meals, but his grateful attitude inspired Linda to keep going on the many days I am sure it wasn’t easy. As with Linda’s family, the benefits continue after our kids leave the nest and go beyond our generation.
Mike and Linda Montgomery have shared their wisdom in their books Making your Marriage Deployment Ready and Enjoying Your Marriage in the Second Half. You can read more by them at Excellent or Praiseworthy and hear from them about Serving Military Families on the FamilyLife Podcast Network.
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