Thanksgiving was my first holiday in Africa far from home and family. It’s not celebrated here. I had a difficult time making it feel like Thanksgiving without the emotional connections I had to certain traditions–that either required more or certain people or certain foods I couldn’t get here–like turkey. Ever since then I’ve thought about traditions–their importance, as well as what traditions I could establish for our own family. Certain traditions wouldn’t work here; I would have to make my own.
Then I read a book by Noel Piper, Treasuring God in Our Traditions. I was again impressed with the value of traditions and determined again to plan some lasting traditions for our family.
Our newest traditional idea came from a pastor friend in the States. While visiting his office, Seth noticed jars full of marbles on a high shelf. When asked what they were, our friend explained, “I have one jar for each of my children, with one marble inside for each month of their life from birth to 18 years old. Every month I take out one marble from each jar and pray for that child. The jars are a visible reminder of how much time I have left with my children.”
We liked the idea so much that it was one of the first changes to our house when returning to Africa. We placed our jars in a very visible place in our house, and we added a jar for our marriage. Every month we add one marble to our jar to signify how much time we’ve invested in our marriage, and every month we remove one marble from each of the children’s jars to show that our time with them is fleeting and should be treasured.
We set up the jars with the kids’ help, and Seth and I were shocked at how much time with Caleb had already passed for us–1/3 of our time with him is gone! Often as I pass the jars in such a noticeable place, I have a visible reminder that this day counts; and that my words, actions, plans, and prayers for my children on this day are important!
We just performed the Marble Removal Ceremony for the second time since beginning this new tradition. After the kids were in bed, Seth and I took out a marble from each child’s jar and prayed for that child, begging God to bless them, call them, cause them to prize Christ more than anything or anyone, and to keep them safe from the many spiritual dangers around them.
There is a lot of nostalgia connected to this tradition. As I remove that marble, I remember…cherish…treasure the time that I had that month with each child; and I feel humbled and convicted about the time I have left. Oh, God, make me worthy of this incredible, challenging calling of motherhood! I fall on my knees in awe of God’s goodness to me and in humility and hope for the future.
And I praise. I thank God for time–the time I’ve been given with these precious children, and the time I have left with them.