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Without is a four-part theological reflection series about what God showed to me during my Lenten fasts. I write in hope that God may speak to you through my witness. Today’s post is the final part. Click here to read part one (about my unplanned fast from writing), here to read part two (about fasting from social media), and here to read part three (about my experience with the Daniel Fast, a vegan-plus food fast).

Thursday night embodied why I nudged our family towards fasting from dining out for Lent.

My day was busy with writing and house work. My girls’ and my afternoon post-school was packed with homework and sports. Evening plans with one of my girlfriends fell through, and I was bummed. The kicker: I had food at home, but no plan or recipe in mind, and no motivation to cook.

I was raised in San Antonio, TX. I can never get enough Mexican food.

I was raised in San Antonio, TX. I can never get enough Mexican food.

A margarita sounded better and better by the minute. I text Husband, and tell him to meet us at our regular Mexican food jaunt. How easily I fall into the temptation of the “give up” — scrap it all and go out to eat.

I like the place, and my girls like it too. I like the food, I like the margaritas. I could, however, do without the flat screen TVs that crowd the walls and fill the air with a din, even though the sound on each TV is muted. I dig in enthusiastically (probably a bit overboard) with my girls to play the games and color on the kids’ menu. It’s the same kids’ menu they’ve had for about 2 years now. My girls are bored in what seems like the blink of an eye.

What happens next was predictable. Their faces are set towards the wall, and my daughters are watching March Madness basketball. (No, they’re not basketball fans. No, they didn’t fill out their own brackets. Florida Gulf Coast would have busted their brackets by then, anyway.) I’ve lost my girls’ attention for the span of our family’s stay at this place.

Strike one against family time at the dinner table.

Husband arrives. He’s tired from his work day. A commission sales manager, he’s talked all day long either to customers or co-workers. He doesn’t wanna talk any more, but he does his best. He does desire to connect with his family.

Our daughters give Husband distracted greetings. This pales in comparison to the welcome he gets when we dine at home. Both girls run towards him at full-speed — arms wide and at the ready for a huge embrace, faces beaming with happiness of their Daddy’s return home, love for him oozing out of their pores, bodies unable to contain their excitement about wrestle time that is sure to ensue.

Husband and I look at one another in defeat. So, we greet one another with an across the table kiss and questions about our days. I try to strike up a conversation with him about a decision we’ve been trying to make. He says that he wants to talk about it, but that time and that place aren’t the best. I sigh.

Strike two against family time at the dinner table.

Thankfully, when the food comes all attention is centered on the table. We’re able to pray together, enjoy shallow, yet existent conversations, and laugh together a little. Okay, so maybe this wasn’t a complete bust, I think.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

As soon as I say that to myself, we see some friends who, ironically enough, we’d seen the last time we ate at this restaurant. They have three children. We all get up to greet them. When it’s time to sit at our own tables, our girls go sit with our friends. Why? They “wanna catch up” because “we haven’t seen them in a while.” Translation: two of the three kids just commandeered their parents’ iPhones and are playing video games. Our girls want in on the action. Husband and I shoot one another an additional defeated look.

Strike three against family time at the dinner table. Caught us looking. We’re out.

I must confess that we failed on our family Lenten fast from eating out a couple of times. But, all in all, we stayed faithful. (It helps when Mommy is on the Daniel Fast and can’t really find anything on most restaurants’ menus that she can eat, anyway.) And it was a very good thing.

Our pace was slower, and all four of us were much more relaxed. We followed our “no technology at the table” rule. We were able to talk to one another without having to overcome background noise and other distractions that come with the eating out territory. I wasn’t anxious about keeping my children entertained so that they wouldn’t watch nearby screens. No crayons nor puzzles necessary. Husband got his much-needed time to reset his mental and emotional state before we ate together. So, by the time he came to the table, he was ready to engage with us. Our family time at the table broke out into spontaneous bursts of good eye contact, smiling at one another, storytelling, unbroken attention, laughter, lovingly picking on one another, and discussions of family outings soon to come.

Now that is a grand slam family dinner.

More family dinners at home, and less distracted eating for us.

How about you? Have you given fasting from eating out a chance? What did you notice? If you have yet to try, what to you think will happen?