Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Hope Chest

Whatever happened to the days of hope chests and dowries? Cedar boxes filled with a variety of items for the future? Items or monies set aside for a couple once they wed? In our culture, this is definitely a thing of the past.

Just as we have abandoned the tradition of preparing for marriage by filling hope chests with things that one might need to set up house, so have we abandoned the tradition of preparing for marriage by teaching our children how to fill their biblical roles.

A hope chest usually provides some of the basics a new bride and her husband might need. Many Amish still stick to this beautiful custom, filling the hope chests with oil lamps, quilts, dishes, and such that would be used in their home once they are wed. Often these chests would have a special item passed down from generation to generation- maybe a bible, a quilt, or special recipes. Mothers use to teach their daughters how to sew as they worked on a wedding quilt to put away in the cedar chest.

Some of the items inside would have been gifts received throughout the years of a young girl's life. Others would have been things she collected herself, setting them aside for her future.

Nowdays, it seems the only things we save for the future are photographs and a few baby clothes. Some may spend hours preserving the past so those in the future can look back on it, but spend little of the present preparing for the future.

The bride's parents are usually in charge of paying for the wedding, dishing out a ridiculous sum in preparation for one day, while neglecting to prepare their daughter for those years beyond. If only that money would have been spent on things the couple really could have used, instead of trying to provide a wedding for all to envy and talk about. And then there's the wedding registry where guests are not only expected to buy a gift to bring to the wedding, but also a gift to bring to the shower that usually falls somewhere between the engagement and ceremony. I guess the mindset has become, "Don't prepare a hope chest! Hope people buy the best!"

Sometimes I think people don't really care if I attend the wedding or not... they just want a gift from me!

Maybe we should bring back this wonderful tradition. As we fill hope chests for our daughters, let us disciple them as the Bible tells us to- teaching them how to be keepers of the home. Let's not forget our sons either. My husband suggests filling a hope chest for boys as well. Inside their hope chests could be the usual tools needed to mend things around the home, a swiss army knife, and a Bible. Maybe you want to include a fishing rod or a hunting rifle.

Hope chests can also be filled with favorite childhood books to be passed along to the next generation. Timeless things.

A young girl's hope chest may be filled with a sewing kit complete with patches to mend clothes, a nice apron (maybe one handed down, or something she learned to sew herself), linens, maybe a tea set or nice china, silverware, a tablecloth, table runner, placemats, blankets, a small rug, etc. Maybe a nice plaque made by someone in her family (a father or brother) with an encouraging bible verse or family motto. A devotional for wives or a book on praying (such as When Couples Pray Together) would also make a nice addition to a dowry for a future bride.

And, as you gather these things and set them aside as your little one grows, prepare her for the future. Teach her how to cheerfully serve (which must first be done by being a cheerful server yourself). Teach her how to cook and bake (not just from a box, either). Have her fold clothes, clean house, and do the things that she is able to do for her age... and teach her how to do things the correct way- take the time to really show her how it is done. She won't learn how to do it perfectly in a day. Remember, most children don't learn just by observing. They have to do it themselves with guidance from you.

Teach your sons how to be helpful around the home. Teach them to be polite. They should learn how to do some of the things the women do, for they will need to respect the duties of a woman and realize that a clean home takes work (and that Mom is not a maid!).

Teach your sons how to work hard. I am so thankful my husband is a hard worker with a great work ethic. That sort of thing seems very rare among men today.

Teach your sons how to manage their money, and teach your daughters as well. Allow them to observe and help as you tell them what you're doing, and why you're doing it. Sons and daughters must learn how to run a home.

Teach your children how to speak to one another with kindness, how to be helpful and gracious. Most importantly, teach them the Word of God. Walk the Word yourself so they can see a living example before them. Study the bible with them daily, teach them how to pray, and help them to understand the commandments.

In order to help them have a successful marriage, it starts before they get married, before they're even engaged. It starts now, while they are young. They must learn to serve, to be honest, to be faithful, and most of all, to keep their hearts turned to God. Prepare their hope chests and their hearts for the future. Their future spouse will thank you.

[PS- here's a great page from a great site that talks about hope chests. Take time to look around, there's so much more to be found there in the way of wonderful articles on all sorts of subjects for Christian women... and men!]


homemakeratheart said...

I had a hope chest. Not filled like you said...but I had one! :o) It was my grandmother's, who gave it to my mom, who gave it to me. I kept all my "treasures" in it as a child and young adult. Now it hold Kylie's baby things and things for her when she gets older.
I open it sometimes just to smell it!

Rissa said...

I completely agree!

We've decided to give our daughters (if we're blessed with any) hope chests on their 13th birthdays. We plan to take them to Amish country to hand pick their favorite chest for a birthday "coming of age" trip. We'll add whatever we've collected for her (I hope the collect a china set for all my kids, boy or girl) once she chooses it, and from then on, whatever else we (or she) feel(s) should go inside.

I also have a book called Training Our Daughters to be Keepers at Home that is basically a 7 year curriculum - it has a lot of Above Rubies-esque type stuff in there. Although we plan to do "delight-driven" schooling, I will be adamant about teaching my daughters to keep house, sew, garden, care for children, etc. Just like I feel it's important to have structured Bible study, I believe this is a case where structure will be necessary. I may not have my daughters use the curriculum itself, but I will absolutely use it as a guide for myself as I teach them to fulfill this role.

I love the idea of teaching this from the get-go. As for my son, I have already begun to teach him to do things like close doors, help me sweep, and bring things to me. He's only 16 months, but I want him to have a healthy idea of godly servanthood, even now.

I've also decided it's extremely important for me to care for my home joyfully for the sake of my children. I've been praying that I'd always be able to do so with a smile on my face - to model that serving is a joyous, beautiful, rewarding thing.

Great post!

Victoria said...

I have a hope chest. Its my favorite possession.

Dharma Momma said...

My daughter has a collection of things, but no chest yet in which to store them...although, she's not even one yet. :)

But I agree with the sentiment. I hope to raise a woman who will one day be a wonderful wife and mother, and a son who can be a fabulous husband and provider.

Arlene said...

I think a hope chest is a lovely idea. I need to consider this for my daughter, though she feels she isn't ready for marriage yet (she's 18).

On another note, I know you post much about birth control so I think you'll be interested in the story of a local meteorologist who almost lost her life because of birth control pills. Her story is at . I'd like to know what you think about it.

God bless.

justme27 said...

What a wonderful idea! Now all I need are some kids.