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family dinner table

Celebrating My Parents’ 50th Anniversary

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” -Ronald Reagan

Last week, I got to do something very special.

I celebrated the 50th anniversary of my parents’ wedding with them, each of my siblings and all of the spouses and grandbabies we’ve brought into the family.

Sitting together, eating dinner and celebrating as a family, I was reminded of another family dinner celebration 30 years ago. It’s one of the most popular excerpts from my #1 national bestselling book ON FIRE, so I thought I’d share it with you today.

I hope you enjoy it.

A Memorable Family Dinner from 30 Years Ago

chapter 1; pages 19 – 21

Have you ever experienced the joy of feeling that you finally made it?

Perhaps it was graduating school, landing your first job, or getting married. You worked, strove, labored, and achieved. You summited a mighty peak—and then discovered that the difficult part of your journey was just beginning?

For me that experience was coming home after being burned. I was nine years old, had just spent almost five months in the hospital, endured a couple of dozen surgeries, and lost my fingers to amputation. The painful experience of being away from family, facing continuous procedures, was finally over. The struggle was over; the celebration was on!

…that night Mom made my favorite meal: au gratin potatoes. (If you hadn’t figured it out yet, this likely just cemented it for you: I was a strange kid!) We sat around the kitchen table in our reconstructed house as a family for the first time since the night before the fire.

Dad and Mom sat at opposite ends of the table. Three of my sisters, Laura, Cadey, and Susan, lined one side, with my brother Jim, my sister Amy, and me on the other. Our family had been through inconceivable trials over the preceding months.

We’d lost our house in the fire.

My siblings had lost their parents to their near-24/7 hospital vigil.

My brother and sisters, ranging in age from eighteen months to seventeen years old, had been split up, staying with friends and relatives until the house was rebuilt.
My parents almost lost their son.

I’d lost my fingers, the ability to walk, and was scarred from my neck to my toes.

And yet here we were.

We made it.



One family.




And alive.

We were back to eating dinner, cleaning up spilled milk and worrying about elbows on the table. Life would return to normal. But undoubtedly, a miracle had occurred.

So tonight, we celebrated.

The food looked delicious. I closed my eyes and smelled the cheesy goodness. Then opened them and realized . . . I couldn’t eat anything. Because of wrappings, splints, and my inability to hold a fork, I could not partake in my celebration meal. I stared at my plate, not sure what to do.

My sister Amy saw me struggling. So, she thoughtfully grabbed my fork, speared a few potatoes, and elevated them toward my mouth.

Then I heard it.

“Put that fork down, Amy. If John is hungry, he’ll feed himself.”

I turned my head toward my mom.

What did she just say?

Put that fork down?

He’ll feed himself?


My friends, this is just the beginning of the story. Finish this chapter and learn the amazing lesson my mom taught me that night. Download the first two chapters of ON FIRE for free here.

A Reason to Celebrate

In the race through life, from one meeting to another carpool line, from one soccer practice to the next dance lesson, from this year into the next, we can sometimes take for granted the people, places and experiences that mean the most to us.

So, my encouragement to you is this: Don’t wait for the major milestones to get together, share a meal and celebrate.

Today, gather around the dinner table for the daily celebration that is life. [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]

In doing so, they -and you- will surely be transformed.

Today is your day. Live Inspired.

My friend, the older I get and the fewer meals I get to share with my siblings and parents, the more I realize: It takes real intention and commitment to have strong family relationship as we get further into adulthood. On this week’s Live Inspired Podcast episode, I share three things my siblings and I do to stay close with each other as we get older. Enjoy this intimate look at my family, how we stay close as “busy adults” + what it all might mean for you on Live Inspired Podcast Ep. #88.

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