Since our move, everyday is bringing new experiences, many firsts, often breathtaking. Last week we watched the first harvest moon in October since 2009 rise over the mountains as we watched from across the Columbia River. It was thrilling. Literally squeal-inducing from several of our children’s perspective. “I see it! I see it!”
Other days we often go down to the river. It is always there, but always new. It is always changing—widening, deepening, shallowing, rushing, or slowing—always new. Flowing continually, it shapes the landscape and spending time there is shaping us.
One particular day recently we all gathered on our back patio before we made the descent down the rock stairs to the river. We were in the midst of the biblical calendar’s Ten Days of Awe and this day we would make a memorial. It was Yom Kippur, the “day of covering”, and considered to be the most holy day of the year in the biblical calendar.
The grey sky was matching Jay and I’s sober mindset. The kids could tell something was different. As you can imagine as a family of eight, six of which are sixteen and under, our gatherings are not exactly marked by quiet. Yet, isn’t it amazing the power we wield in setting the tone wherever we go? This day we wanted the children to walk down to the river thoughtfully.
We spoke serious and confessed to them about our own need to repent and make course corrections, as we did, we spoke of how God’s forgiveness and washing of our sins was like the way this river washes on. This day we would be mindful of our need to be washed and grateful too.
We told them all to collect a rock, leaf, or other treasure to toss in. We told them it was meant to be a symbol and reminder of sin, struggles most of them don’t yet understand, but will. We would watch these symbols of things they don’t yet fully understand, sink to the floor, forgotten, or flow away. So that one day, when innocence is less certain, when they have seen and done more, this picture will be there too—washing.
We prayed. We walked quietly. We tossed. We watched. Simple, but this day was different. Time was set aside to consider where we’ve been, make course corrections where needed, humble ourselves, laugh at ourselves, laugh together, and recognize—memorialize—for a few moments in time, there is laughter and joy over us from our God—deep kindness and goodness.
Sobriety turned to lightness as we began to skip stones and exchange knowing glances with smiling eyes that mission was accomplished. Yeshua (Jesus) teaches us to repent of our sins and forgive daily. This day we made a picture to hold in our minds that this isn’t just something we say in a prayer, this is real and living.
Marks get made on our hearts and our children’s hearts everyday, this day we put one there on purpose. It was a tiny piece of a whole picture we’ll draw there over their lifetimes and ours. But it wouldn’t mean something, if it didn’t mean something.
“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” -Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 11
Now, as I write this, the turning of the spiritual year begins with a celebration of God’s word. It’s called Simchat Torah. The Torah is God’s word, so literally this day is called Rejoicing in God’s Word. It is a long kept tradition of people of the book taking time to specifically celebrate the living, breathing, book of God. This is not a sober day, this day is full of joy and dancing.
Here’s a chasidic saying that is full of light and life to me,
“We rejoice in the Torah, and the Torah rejoices in us; the Torah, too, wants to dance, so we become the Torah’s dancing feet.”
Keeping with these rhythms are beautiful opportunities to further engage with our kids in daily, tangible ways what it means to know our Creator and His ways in this wonder-filled world He has gifted us.
My two main reasons I love to study and follow along with the Biblical calendar: It’s an ancient rhythm, put in place by our Creator and His chosen people, whom He created to be a light and teach the nations His ways. Also, as a rhythm, it’s a continual cycle of occasions to teach our children, adding to the picture we are leaving on their hearts through the ease of simply walking through the year and pausing at appointed times, looking to the ancient paths—remembering.
It inspires me, and gives me courage not because this is something required of me, rather it’s something I’ve been invited into. Not to be overwhelmed as one more thing to do, but rather to be found in—this grand picture already drawn that I’m already living and breathing in, this. very. moment. Holy. Free.
There’s no fight here to be “enough”. The Biblical calendar is so full of life giving grace and truth, it’s the beat of the heart that made us, inviting us into the knowledge and remembrance that every day really is new. Like the river. Always new. Always there, even when I’m not listening or watching.
I used to hear a lot of Christians talk about how these ancient ways were complicated or demanding, yet once I realized this was Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) calendar and being yoked with Him is not a heavy burden, I wanted to know more. Would you be interested in learning more with me?
“Happy is he who is aware of the mysteries of his Lord.”
—Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath
We go down to the river. It is always there, but always new. It is always changing—widening, deepening, shallowing, rushing, or slowing—always new. Flowing continually, it shapes the landscape and spending time there is shaping us.
Every day truly is holy. Maybe the idea is that as we learn to stop at a few, we start to see the many.
What part of nature do you see this story of holy and always becoming new in?
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Don’t the leaves die with such beauty?
Ooh yes! This is one of those things that has been so fun to learn about with the kids too…how when they change colors they are actually turning back to their true, original color? Don’t you love that?
Don’t you love following Gods calendar! The Catholic calendar is different of course, but it does ground things, and give more meaning to our days. Thanks for sharing your traditions!
What a good word for it, ground. Thanks for reading Nicol!