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The art of lingering

During the next three months, we’re all in this together—thinking about food, planning menus, coming up with guest lists, scheduling ourselves silly, spending too many hours on Pinterest for ideas on how to get the “best recipe” or plan the “perfect holiday party.”

For me this year, I want my focus to be simpler, and let me tell you why.

After our recent trip to Africa, my husband and I learned a lot about ourselves. We learned that, as important as time is, we do not want busy-ness to consume our lives.

We learned from the African people the blessing of un-hurriedness. It was a bit of a culture shock to us at first, but we relaxed and spent more time interacting with people, lingering around the dinner tables. We made new and lasting friends.

I saw a different side of hospitality that was well with my soul. We felt the tyranny of the clock fade away, seeing that people actually do not die if they show up late–sometimes really late–and that meals are never served in a hurry.

In some countries, lingering is a way of life, and it would be rude to rush through a meal.

Lingering: Lasting for a long time or slow to end.

I love that. It sounds so enjoyable, so important, like we will miss out on something supernatural if we don’t linger.

When you think about it, holiday meals take hours to cook, if not a couple of days.

We set the table with extra touches, place the food on the table, but then it happens: we sit down, say grace, everyone dives in, and the meal’s over! The art of lingering is completely lost.

Sometimes we spend more time creating our memories than actually enjoying them.

So, I’m starting to think differently about the holidays that are starting (somewhat unofficially) this month.

I don’t want to miss out because I’m too hurried, so I’m going to focus on these three tips:

1. Morning Time: Plan meals earlier in the day. Nourish our body and soul with a slow cooked meal. Start early so we have more time to linger at the end of the day. Let everyone know what time dinner is so we don’t miss out on the dinner experience.

2. Day Time: During more leisurely times, sit and talk or actually do nothing for another 10 minutes each day. Learn the importance of enjoying one another, or contemplating, relaxing, thinking, praying.

3. Evening Time: During mealtime, turn down the lights, ban electronics and cell phones from the room, forget about the dishes. Encourage our family or guests to linger over good conversation.

I’m challenging myself, and you, to savor a different rhythm than our culture these next few months. Instead, choose lingering mornings, 2-handed coffee hour get-togethers, gratitude in the forefront of our minds, relaxed dinnertimes and moments with our loved ones, saying no to some invitations (be discerning about what is best for our families), and lingering over mealtime experiences.

What tips have you learned that have made time more precious to you that help you keep your balance during holiday times?

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  1. Traci

    Lingering as a way of life–how different. I’d like to live in Africa for a while to experience that. I went through a bit of culture shock in the same regard when I lived in a small town in Italy for a summer. Time flowed differently there. I took the art of lingering back home with me, but it was soon lost to the need for exact schedules and to do lists. It’s hard to find a balance when one’s schedule is jam packed! I hope to find a better balance with more time to linger in the future.

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      Time does flow differently, Traci. I wonder if we could really make it a way of life? I bet your time in Italy was wonderful!

    • Jean |

      Sandy, I enjoyed this post and Tara’s comment about living at a slower pace with less money (and things) and her life has never been better. It was so refreshing after having just read an article about a $30,000 bottle of vodka!

  2. Debbie

    I love the idea of lingering! Especially during the holidays. Thanks for these ideas. I am going to try to actively practice lingering (to some degree) over the next few months!

  3. Katie Harding

    The idea of lingering sounds dreamy, but with three small children it’s sometimes hard to linger and have adult conversations but I am surely going to try my best to do this more!

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      Couldn’t agree more, Katie … with 3 small kiddos, it’s hard. Maybe start with 5 minutes longer at something you love, each day. 🙂

  4. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    I am the world’s slowest eater, so lingering at the table comes naturally to me :). But with little ones and a husband with a full work/school plate, our meals often feel more chaotic and rushed than peaceful and leisurely. I love what you described, though, and I want to foster those habits in our home. Even if in this season, it’s just baby steps :).

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      Thanks for sharing, Jenn. With small kids, it’s hard. Maybe start with having everyone stay around the table 5 extra minutes. 🙂

  5. Marcie

    I had not realized it, but many of our family traditions are already “linger” traditions — going to the honey farm and hanging out for an afternoon. We use the wax and dip candles for the advent “windmill,” setting it up and letting it run through the end of every supper in December as we chat about the meaning of the coming Christ. Later in the month, we make caramels or taffy, individually handling each piece with love. Our decorations are this way too — tying fabric together in a wreath, knitting something, all things that simply cannot be hurried!

    We also don’t do many things with extended family that would cause us to “run about.” We make it a point to see those we love and care about, and to visit with the forgotten. Otherwise, we don’t feel compelled to see everyone and his brother just because it’s the holiday season. We know who our true historical and current support networks are and we invest heavily in those, not worrying about every tie and connection that we *could* have.

    We really don’t do holiday gifts. Handmade, simple things that are from the heart and not out of obligation.

    We don’t sign up for a lot of holiday activities unless they will point our souls to Christ, activate our minds for His glory, or provide for the poor and forgotten.

    I am so thankful to live in the slow lane!

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      I love what you said here, Marcie: We know who our true historical and current support networks are and we invest heavily in those, not worrying about every tie and connection that we *could* have.

      We live our lives that way as well. 🙂 There is so much freedom in not saying “yes” to every single invite. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      Very cool, thank you for sharing! We change it up every year as well, and I learned years ago {hard lesson} to ask the family what they want to do (rather my agenda, which included meal planning). I don’t think we’ve had a repeat holiday–Thanksgiving or Christmas.

  6. Sarah Beals

    I loved this. Mealtime in a house with older kids is much more enjoyable as we eat slowly and really enjoy the evening. Also, having a later dinner time makes it the final event of the night. Thanks for this!

  7. Tara

    I learned to linger only after taking early retirement 5 years ago. My fast paced life was making me sick. If you don’t have to resort to something so drastic, great, but I found that a complete change of circumstances was in order. I live with less money and ‘things’ and life has never been better!

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      Thank you for sharing, Tara … so inspiring and true: I live with less money and ‘things’ and life has never been better!

  8. Dee

    Nearly 30 years ago I asked my husband for no more gifts. Not for Christmas, not for my birthday. To me. Every day is a gift. I wanted the consumerism of it gone. We have taken it a couple of steps further, nixing a gift to us both at Christmas, meaning no lavish expense of something we did not need anyway. We also have elected to only exchange cards on birthdays, Easter, and Christmas. Now we enjoy the holidays, preparing a sumptuous meal together and lingering over the table. Our daily lives have slowed too. Blessings abound if you only take time to look for them. Namaste

    • Jules

      I have resisted this for some time despite not really wanting any gifts. I was fearful that by not giving gifts we would lose the celebration altogether. However, I see now that we can still celebrate whatever the occasion is without buying into the consumerism of the time. I had a sad example in our family of a relationship which was dead but they still lived together without any sign of communication or affection for each other. These were the only people I knew who didn’t give each gifts. Now I realise they were probably y more honest, in their sad way, than other family members who give gifts for outward show despite serious gaps in their relationship. Also as a fairly new grandmother I don’t want to fall into the trap of overwhelming the grandchildren with lavish gifts neither needed nor wanted. I have seen young friends dispairing of the quantity of gifts from grandparents, some of whom seem to compete with those on the other side of the family. Here’s to celebrating with consuming! May lingering with each other be our gift this season.

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      Thank you for sharing, Jules. We’ve limited our gift giving as well and focus more on meals and doing fun things with people during the holidays. I’m thankful for happy, content children (ages 22, 20, 18) during the holidays, who understand the true meaning of the season. That said, we do still love to give.

      I’m going to take in your words of wisdom here for that day when I become a grandmother:

      Also as a fairly new grandmother I don’t want to fall into the trap of overwhelming the grandchildren with lavish gifts neither needed nor wanted. I have seen young friends dispairing of the quantity of gifts from grandparents, some of whom seem to compete with those on the other side of the family.

      Thank you Jules!

  9. Jules

    Last year I asked everyone who would be here for Christmas what they wanted for dinner. The answers were surprising, to me, and it turned out some of the dishes that took so much work weren’t even liked/wanted especially! This year we have moved countries and are having Christmas with my husband’s extended family. I don’t know them particularly well and was a little anxious about it. However, while visiting recently a nephew said we need to decide who is bringing what for Christmas dinner, which will be at our house. We protested that we are hosting and will do it all. No, that wasn’t how it was going to be! Very quickly dishes were allocated according to what each person’s speciality and preference was. I was a bit stunned at first then absolutely delighted. I get to spend all my efforts on making the desserts I love doing without having to fuss with the rest of the meal too. Iniitially I resisted this concept as I felt it made us poor hosts but now I see it allows everyone to contribute and us to relax some and enjoy our guests.

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      Jules, this is the way we have entertained for 25 years. Everyone contributes. Since we host dinner parties quite a bit, I really enjoy not having to do it all, and letting other cooks shine! Thanks for sharing Jules!

  10. Chantel

    I also agree I love the notion of lingering. It goes hand in hand in my mind with savoring. Which is what I want more of in life! I especially like the idea of planning your meal earlier in the day if not getting it going earlier in the day then when my kids come home from school I have more time to actually focus on them and talk with them. I remember growing up my grandmother was always slaving away in the kitchen and was always the last person to sit down at the table and she was always the last person remaining at the table when everyone else was done and moved onto the next thing I felt like she always worked so hard and never reaped any of the good part of our meals.
    Thank you for this lovely reminder!

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      Beautiful reminders, Chantel, of how it should be. It’s easy to experience burnout {I have} so I’ve learned to ask for help in the kitchen {which makes the family appreciate the meal more} and then I ask everyone to “linger” with me. I want to reap all the benefits – LOL. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Tracy @ OurSimpleHomestead

    This really got me thinking of ways I can get our holiday meals t last longer. After all the work of making a big meal I just want to sit and visit and enjoy my family around me. Often everyone is in such a hurry to clean up. Thank you for inspiring me to find way to linger more!

  12. Breanne

    We started a tradition a few years ago when we lived far away from family of going to a provincial park and having a hot dog roast after a hike. It’s often deserted but the fall colours are gorgeous. It’s a little non-traditional but we linger and make such good memories.
    At home, we remind our little girls to sit still and eat slowly. They get down before we do but our example of lingering for a little longer (when schedules allow) hopefully sets a precedent for them.

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      I love your hot dog roast idea, Breanne! Very fun. We encouraged our kids to linger as well, and I can say it’s paid off. We often would bring a book and read something to them before or after the meal, and get a lively conversation going!

  13. Becki Campbell

    I absolutely adore this post! Oh it is so wonderful…sorry to gush. I am learning and re-learning the fine art of lingering. What I have found really helps me- I do all the prep-work that I can the day before. Everything placed in zip locks or containers. Reheat or throw things in the oven- done! I can have more time the day of to sit and visit instead of being the busy bee around the kitchen. I have to be more intentional the week up to the meal- but SO worth it when my house is full of my dear ones. Thank you for sharing this. Wonderful reminder of what truly is important during this upcoming holiday season.

    • Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

      Great example of planning ahead, Becki. I like to make a list, getting myself organized so I can actually enjoy “the day of” of mealtime. Thank you for sharing!

  14. CompassionateLee

    Happy Sunday Tsh 🙂 Prayer time is where the art of lingering becomes most important for me. I love to talk to God, but I love His response even more. If I rush through my prayer, I don’t leave time to hear from His precious Holy Spirit.

  15. Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom

    Sandy, I love and agree with this so much. . I’ll have to go and read about your trip to Africa but I know exactly what you are talking about. . I spent some time in Juarez, Mexico on a missions trip and it’s amazing how humbling it was and how much I learned just from watching and observing and not having any distractions around me. This is a great post and great reminder for us to slow down, make real connections with people and just serve the people around us in any way that we can. Thanks for this inspiration today!

  16. Lee @ Modern Granola

    I really like the way this is worded. Lingering feels like something Americans aren’t really allowed to do. We are so rewarded for being busy! But I like the idea of stopping the glorification of busy and slowing things down. Thanks for the post 🙂

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