It didn’t really start until we brought home our first little baby. That moment that we carried him in his little car seat, fast asleep, into our apartment for the first time. We crossed the threshold of our home and somehow we knew that everything from this point on was going to be different.
We plunked that car seat in the middle of the living room and looked at each other with eyes to say, “Now what?”
Well, the now what was simple in that moment. He was sleeping so leave him right there and let’s get at making some lunch, but the moment he peeped and we lifted him out we knew life had changed. Our home, for some reason, felt more like a family home than just a couple’s. We knew now that the things we did were not just affecting ourselves but the life of this little squishy human. We knew that things were about to get real!
It was at this moment that everything we did became so much more intentional. Why do we eat dinner at this time? What sort of food are we bringing into the house? When do we open presents for Christmas? Why do we light candles leading up to Easter? Do we hang stockings and take pictures with Santa or do we not? How do we celebrate first birthdays? And baptism? And all the days in between?
It was at this point in our life that we realized that we wanted family traditions. We wanted our kids to come to expect certain things at various points each year. We wanted them to be able to anticipate them and get excited about them and cultivate an understanding of why we do the things we do and we wanted each of these why’s to point back to Christ, the creator of the first traditions.
We see time and time again that he tells his people to remember. Remember the sabbath, remember passover, do these things in remembrance, set up the stones so that you may remember. These are all so much more than just remembering the events though! These are all pointers to what Christ has done. We’re told to remember because! Because he is good and because he has saved and because he is faithful and because he wants our good.
He also anticipates the why’s of tradition. He tells us in Joshua 4 that the people should set up a stone memorial, of sorts, so that, “when our children ask in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall tell them…”
We knew, in our family, that we wanted these same sort of pointers to Christ and to his work in our lives. We wanted to set up our special days and holidays and traditions so that when our children ask why we light the candles or play this music or eat this food, we can share with them the history of these things and God’s work in our life and they can all point to his saving grace. It was no longer enough to just have a little pile of rocks on the bathroom counter, when they asked why (and they will ask why, because kids!!), we could tell them that each one was from a place that we have lived and we can talk of how God moved us from one location to another by his leading and with his love. These rocks are no longer just rocks, but traditions and a story of our family history that is rooted in Gods work in our life.
About ten years ago now, I came across Noel Piper’s book, Treasuring God in our Traditions, and I have been endlessly thankful for it. Never before and never again since have I found a book that talks so meaningfully about the traditions we have in our families and how and why to pass them on to the next generation.
“Memory is the mother of traditions. Almost all of our special days are celebrated because they remind us of something significant in the past. A birthday looks back to a birth. An anniversary looks back to a wedding. A funeral looks back on a life. Christmas looks back on Jesus’ birth. Easter looks back to his death and resurrec- tion. Our celebrations are occasions to look back and remember what God has done in the world and in our lives.
At the same time, we are also looking forward. The preparations we make and the eagerness we feel as we look ahead toward a special day are a foretaste of the emotions we will experience when we encounter God in a special way as we celebrate. And that encounter with God is, in turn, a foreshadowing of the great day when we will see him face to face.” Noel Piper
I was reminded of this book yesterday as we celebrated our Mother’s Day traditions. My boys do the lovely, yet typical, coffee delivered in bed but there is so much more. Each year my husband takes at least one boy to the flower shop and they choose specifically what they want for me. They never buy prearranged bouquets from the grocery store but they march right into the cooler and they pull what they want and compile it and it always, ALWAYS has an explanation. This year their were three brilliantly coloured flowers amidst the rest, the same type of flower but each with its own vibrant colour, ‘one for each of us boys,’ I was told.
Yes. Each one similar, created in the image of God their Father, but each so different, vibrantly coloured, unique in their gifting and abilities, much the same, but oh-so-different.
My flowers are always meaningful because of the tradition of them picking and choosing for various reasons and explaining to me the why’s of their thoughts.
Our Mother’s Day afternoons are spent, each year, at the garden store. We head there straight after getting out of church and the boys make a run for the animals immediately upon arrival. The boys pet and feed the goats and the sheep and marvel at the little babies that still have wobbly legs. Then we wander the aisles and aisles of flowers, each one picking what they think is pretty or unique and will add to the beauty of our pots and flower beds.
In the afternoon, we all get our hands dirty. We grab small shovels and potting soil and we dig with our hands and we arrange and create as we gently press these new beauties into the earth. We’re careful with the roots and we water them just a bit and then we stand back and marvel at the work of our hands.
Why? Not just because it’s what we always do but because our traditions have a story. A story of the creativeness of our God and how that is reflected in nature. A story of surrounding ourselves with the beauty He has given so we might see him in it and be thankful each time we step out on our deck. A story of life and nurturing and growth as we gently place the tiny flowers into the garden. A story of motherhood and the responsibility it is as we tend to the roots, care for them daily, ensuring they have a solid foundation and then watch them bloom and grow.
Our Mother’s Day traditions tell a story of how gentle Christ is with us and how he tends to our souls and is patient with us as we grow. How the growth sometimes seems so small that we don’t even notice until one day the pots are bursting with flowers and we see he has done a good work in us.
Our traditions reflect back on what he has done and look forward with anticipation to what he will do. It’s why I love them. It’s why these days are special. Because its more than just flowers and cards, it all points to Christ.
You can read Noel Piper’s book for free online at the Desiring God website. I couldn’t manage to get a link to work but if you enter this into your google search you should find it! http://cdn.desiringgod.org/pdf/books_btgt/btgt.pdf
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