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It's Always Darkest Before the Fridge Door Opens
Few things bring a family together quite like opening the fridge and playing "Guess What It Was."

On my refrigerator are pictures of friends, family and animals, and one of my dad falling off a chair laughing. There are magnets, too. Imitation cabbages, cauliflowers and pumpkins—all fitting the décor of the kitchen. The dieter's favourite Bible verse is there: "He must increase but I must decrease" (John 3:30 KJV). Here are a few of my favourite fridge magnets:

You'll eat it. You'll eat it and like it.
Make yourself at home: Clean my kitchen.
Coffee isn't helping, get the jumper cables.

I don't know about you, but I love the kitchen. It is the heart of the house, the pulse of a family. So much happens there. Botulism and putting out fires are only part of it. Few things bring a family together quite like opening the fridge and playing "Guess What It Was." Could that thing that looks like a Chia Pet have once been a cucumber? The cheese weighs two pounds more than when you bought it, and it has hair! And that large thing, providing a sort of neon lighting, could it be the pot roast?

Then there's the stove. Nothing bonds a family quite like standing around a roaring grease fire.

And finally there's the table, the centrepiece of family discussions, announcements, debates, arguments and overeating.

Whether it's breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner, being together in the kitchen is about as good as it gets. Few things can silence teenagers more quickly than food. And few things can bring a family together faster than a feast.

A friend of mine has a sign on her fridge: "Home Is Where the Heartburn Is." Sadly, heartburn is commonplace in families today! We run to appointments, stressed out, grabbing half-made sandwiches or half-baked muffins with scarcely a nod left over for each other. In the midst of busy times, here are three items to place back on your menu—three suggestions to help you de-stress your life and bring back the joy:

Linger longer

One of the best ways to keep your children at home is to let the air out of their tires. Another way is to fill their mouths with dessert. Families that eat dessert together, stick together. So carve out time to enjoy chocolate, and put on the coffee pot, too. Drink enough coffee and you can visit all night.

Ignore the dishwasher

Few inventions (besides the remote control) have pleased us more than the dishwasher, but recently we tried something new at the Callaway house: we began washing dishes by hand. Our children hardly knew this could be done. They stood around staring, startled to think that such activity was possible. But a strange thing began to happen. We started talking while doing the dishes. Actually communicating. Do you remember what that used to be like? I taught my daughter the fine art of snapping towels on her brother's hindquarters. And I taught her how to run really fast down the hall and lock the bathroom door behind her. We hadn't heard this much laughing and screaming since the time my dad fell out of that chair laughing.

Pray together

There are five more items on my fridge, more precious than any fridge magnets. They are photos of our adopted children, the children we sponsor with the wonderful organization Compassion. Their names are Carlos, Joel, Dariani, Habtamua and Ndagirijwe (don't worry, I can't say it either). We pray for them before meals. Each of these five lives in a country where food is scarce. Praying for those who are less fortunate helps us remember how much we have to be grateful for and it's a sure-fire cure for complaints about the leftover Chia Pet salad.

Phil Callaway is the editor of Servant magazine, author of a dozen books and a popular speaker. His web site is:

Originally published in Faith & Friends, May 2007.




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