I remember exactly when it was I realized that Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. We had taken our children to see a live stage production of Dickens Christmas Carol, our now 20 year old just a toddler on my lap who sat spell bound by the entire event. Not only is the story satisfying, as classics always are, but the importance of the relationships we share, especially as experienced during Christmas, touched my heart in a new way. I realized the value of family traditions and purposed to continue the ones we had started during our early years of marriage. I also thought about how those traditions might fit into other things we wanted to pass along to our own children because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
This past week we pulled out Christmas decorations and began preparing the house for family and friends who will come in the next few weeks. When Clay was a child, his dad always filled stockings for him and his sister, a tradition we have continued first with our own children and now with the grandchildren who spend Christmas with us. Everyone is not always here at the same time, but the stockings for each one hang in the front hall and every year it is fun to look at the new ones that have been added as our family has grown. The rule is that you can enjoy your own stocking when you wake up but you have to wait for everyone else to open the presents under the tree. (I suspect that my father-in-law was buying himself a few extra minutes of shut-eye when he dreamed up this tradition.)
In the past we have made the trek to the Christmas tree farm but this year we bought an artificial tree for the first time. I must admit I was a little nostalgic for those days of tromping through the snow and walking up and down the evergreen- dotted hills looking for the perfect tree. But the new tree is beautiful as it wears the ornaments I made the year after a house fire destroyed all the ones we had collected and the ornaments continue to tell part of our family story, reminding us of God’s faithfulness to us.
When everyone arrives, we will play board games, eat my famous cheese ball, tell both new and old family stories, recollect Christmases past when my dad and grandmother were still living, feast on Christmas turkey and pies and cookies of all sorts. We will sing Christmas carols, enjoy the church choir, and repeat the story of Christ’s birth as we look at the nativity set on the fireplace mantel.
But I will also see some changes this year. We have four new babies who have never been to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We have new stories to tell since we were all together and I will begin as I show them a sweet adobe house ornament, sent to me by the dear ladies I shared with at a homeschooling mom’s retreat in New Mexico. I am excited to remember God’s faithfulness in the lives of these wonderful moms and can’t wait to pass that along to the rest of my family. Among other things, I also will begin the family tablecloth tradition that my friend, Kourtni, wrote about on her blog a few weeks ago. What a wonderful way to visibly see God’s blessing in the lives of a family that has purposed to serve the Lord as they have come together year after year.
During the past year I have seen the phrase “multi-generational faithfulness” used over and over again by homeschoolers and have finally decided that there is a greater need for examination of this term. When I first heard the phrase, I found myself nodding in support of it because I was assuming that it meant that homeschooling moms and dads were to faithfully pass along a spiritual heritage to their children, as we have purposed to do in our home, demonstrating to our children the very particular ways that we are part of God’s covenant family. In fact, I had thought of it in much the same way as we have passed along Christmas traditions, that is, painting a non-verbal picture for our children of those things that are particular to us, as Campbells.
But much more that anything we have done, I have believed that multi-generational faithfulness means that we can look back and see God’s faithfulness to us, His mercy poured out to multi generations. In fact, it has far less to do with what we do or have done and much more to do with what He has done and continues to do in us.
As I began looking at the ways the phrase has been used in homeschooling circles and at the teachings of those who use it, I have come to realize that there is very specific meaning attached to this phrase, another layer of teaching that is implied when one is called to multi-generational faithfulness. As with the series of articles on the family integrated church, I intend to explore the implications of this phrase over the next few weeks. It will undoubtedly take me longer during this busy season of preparing for and enjoying family, but I think it will be helpful and encouraging to those who are seeking to raise children for God’s glory alone.