Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all else will be added unto you…
The priest at our marriage encounter 10 years ago taught our group how to sing this hymn by the women singing one part, the men another, then all together in chorus the “Alleluiah!” It impacted my husband and myself deeply. We were many, then one group; we were two, then one flesh; many parts, one body; many ideas, one truth. What holds us together (or Who?) and what do we choose as first things in our family?
There is a beautiful Noah’s ark that sits on our sofa table. It was built by a humble servant of God, Moses, and his wife, Evelyn, who never had biological children, but influenced many young ones in schools and churches with their hymns and mountain lore, even those young at heart in nursing homes. The wife thrust the bag into my arms one December evening during Advent, saying, “Moses said you mentioned this to him…it’s just a little gift for your little ones. Merry Christmas.” She turned and left us speechless.
The ark is detailed, beautiful, and accurate in it’s inclusion of not only Noah, but Noah’s wife, and Shem, Ham, and Jabeth and their sweet wives. I say “sweet” because our youngest daughter described the little wooden characters that way back then. It’s sweet from the sturdy wooden ladder that closes up the doorway when all are safe inside right up to the delicate pair of doves that sit atop its arched roof. I say “sweet” because each piece was lovingly cut, sanded and oiled with “olive oil, so your little ones can chew on them and not get sick” I was told.
But, perhaps the sweetest aroma of all for my husband and me was the selflessness of that gift. How many hours were spent selecting, dreaming, crafting, rubbing, smoothing, praying, and hurting went into that gift? We choked back tears as we tried to figure out how to thank them, how to pay them…but we knew that no monetary offering could come close to the love they showed us. My husband had been out of work for awhile, and finding a job before Christmas was not going to happen. We had been on the prayer list of so many in our little parish, and the gifts kept coming spiritually and physically all through Advent and into the Christmas season and beyond.
That gift of the little ark brings to mind the question: What is our family “arche”? What are we, as husband and wife, patriarch and matriarch, what are we dreaming of, praying about, sanding, sawing and oiling with olive oil? Who are we getting the dimensions from for our ark? What do we deem meaningful enough to invite inside and batten down the hatches with?
The word “arche” (pronounced “ark-kay”) means according to Webster’s “what stands the test of time…” Yes, what will we be thinking about when my husband and I sit on the back porch in a swing under a warm blanket watching the sun set and remembering? That dream of sharing long-term memories with our gray hair and storm-weathered skin is the point of vision of our whole marriage. My husband says “That would be the ultimate reward on earth for a life well-lived.” I say that defines our arche, for I remember him sharing this vision with me while walking on the beach on our honeymoon many, many years ago. It’s probably why we hold hands sometimes.
If our “arche” is comprised of memories, what do we do as a family that will “stand the test of time?” What makes it into the ark? What do we deem worthy to include in our limited space of time together on Earth with its storms raging all around? It’s the longing for God…the desire to please the Creator of all…this longing and memory of longings lead us as husband and wife to discover our Paideia, our little school in the home, our family culture that is both unique, and yet the same, as other families of our faith, other Christian families. It is time unfolding and each in our family acknowledging that passage as…
- We eat together
- We sing together
- We worship together
- We cry together
- We work together
- We rest together
- We play together
- We pray together
- We create together
- We learn together
- We laugh together
- We travel together
- We talk together
- We live together
- In communion and community
Our arche, our ark!
Our safe refuge during the storm.
Over the summer of 2015, I had the blessing of taking part in Dr. Christopher Perrin’s class “Scholé in the Home” through Classical Academic Press, where I learned so much about teaching fewer things more intentionally and choosing curricula carefully by putting God first and foremost in my personal planning time every day. It takes time to re-orient the whole, entire ark.
It really all boils down to this: Christ must be the King of my Heart. There is no substitute for time with Him, His Word, His Spirit, His Heart! However, there are so many practical ideas and beautiful thoughts to ponder that I would like to share with you. Stay tuned to see how I have learned step into morning more easily, so that our family somersaults with ease into each day ahead of us…