We used to live in a small town in Virginia just off the Chesapeake Bay. Many a day when William got home from work we would be ready with bathing suits on and lifejackets in hand. Taking along dip nets and pails, we would jump into our little john boat and head out the mouth of Horn Harbor to a little strip of beach just at the cusp of the Bay. We dubbed it Turtle Beach because of the turtle eggs and shells we would often find there. We always hoped to witness the miraculous migration from egg holes to water’s edge of these tiny sea creatures but apparently it takes place in the wee hours of the morning and we were the kind of beach combers who love the full force of the sunshine at midday.
Due to shallow waters and changing tides we often had to anchor our little boat just off shore. William would cut the engine and we would walk the boat close to the sandy edge so that the propeller did not drag the bottom. Once there, my husband would throw out the heavy metal anchor and secure our spot. Not growing up on the water myself, I quickly learned that a boat once anchored is not always anchored. The changing tide, the winds, and impending storms all tugged against that anchor rope and if we weren’t careful we could easily find ourselves marooned. I learned that William had to keep a constant eye on our little launch as the day progressed and the tides shifted. He would often wade out and adjust the anchor to more secure sand, ensuring that it was lodged and well tethered so we had a ride home after hours of crabbing and swimming in the shallow waters. Some days the tide was so strong that it would have taken multiple anchors just to keep our light boat secure. Heavier ones, weightier ones, that would make certain we weren’t going anywhere.
Our kids are growing so quickly now although they still love to watch a crab shed and walk backwards out of its shell only to harden up and grow a new shell all over again. In one more year, we will have three teenagers sleeping under our roof. The idea of college looms large before us and the world grows wider for each of them every year; technology, part time jobs, driver’s licenses and the world of social media are all winds and tides pulling at our offspring. We are constantly wondering how to keep them connected to us. We see the winds and the waves of modern society and we feel our own fear of them drifting from faith, from us, and from one another. We find ourselves looking around for heavier anchors to throw out that will keep them safe and secure. Often at this age the temptation is to literally anchor them with weights and restrictions that are a bit too tangible. These restrictions are often illicit by our own fears and implemented by our own force of will. The security they need is much more elusive and intangible than all that.
We are not looking to immobilize them or bind them to the shores of a literal home, but we are looking for an anchor that will hold fast when there are storms, when there are doubts, and when pressure comes from a world that calls no one thing Truth. So, in this season of life we are brainstorming how to put the most reliable tethers out as well as reinforce those already in place. Family devotions keep us tethered to one another. Relationships that we cultivate between the children and their grandparents as well as with extended family and friends who are like family are all part of the tethering. Church worship together acts as a binding tether that will tug at their heartstrings year after year even after they have left our habits and home. The traditions and smells that we, as parents, are intentional to cultivate all around us- whether its making Christmas tea or filling the house with music – are all anchors with unseen ropes tied deftly to my children’s hearts. Our family sayings, our mottos, our scrapbooks and memories and the family trips that we have taken together are all tethers that may seem fragile on their own yet woven together over time they become much like the three stranded cord Proverbs speaks of, a bond not easily broken. In and of themselves these tiny links are not enough. I know it is not enough to come up with a family motto for the year, slap that on a t-shirt and think my kids are going to stay true to who God has called them to be. I know that it’s not enough just to stuff shoeboxes together every year, eat Sunday night cheesy chips and play family games. But it’s a start.
The other night, I was lying in bed with my two oldest children doing one of our favorite things which is to read aloud. My youngest son was nowhere to be found even though we called and called his name. I finally found him sitting in the floor with a bunch of Shutterfly books scattered around him. These were the books that I had started to make annually after the Creative Memories craze passed by and I grew weary of scrapbooking! In fact, I am two years behind right now and making a book for 2017 has been at the top of my to do list forever!
“Buddy, what are you doing in here?” I gently queried.
“We’ve all been calling for you to come. We’re reading together and want you to be a part!”
He looked up at me with bleary little eyes and said, “Mommy I am so glad we have these books. We’ve had such a beautiful life. I remember all the trips and fun things we did when I look at these pictures. We look so happy!”
In that moment, I knew that it was worth all the time I put into those Shutterfly books. It was more than just the preservation of fun memories and photos; those books were yet another strand in the cord I was weaving to connect my children’s hearts to my own- to help them see and remember the bigger picture that they form part of.
Woven together with time and intentionality each of these traditions, trips taken, and time spent together become an anchor for our children’s souls. In the weaving of memories, we are also weaving an identity and a security for them. These tangibles and intangibles become the breadcrumbs that always show the way back home.
So let us keep eating dinner together, lighting candles and singing out loud to our favorite Pandora stations. Let us celebrate advent with nightly rituals, attend church and sit together and gather for Thanksgiving dinner. Let’s watch and discuss movies, have hard conversations over dessert and plan trips of intentional togetherness. Let us tie, tether and throw out anchors so that our children hold strong during the toughest winds that time, culture and life blow their way. With time, these elusive strands of memory can be woven into a tie that binds and anchors their very souls.