By Rachel Paxton
When our neighbors moved away, they left behind an old cedar chest and wanted to know if our family would like to have it. I was sure I could find some use for it. They're not that easy to come by, and it was still in pretty good shape.
I already had an older cedar chest, handed down to me from my father's mother. It had some old keepsakes in it--a framed pressed flower, a Dutch Bible, a household expense record my grandpa had kept long before I was born. To these treasures I added my mother's wedding dress, my high school year books, and my daughter's handmade baby dresses and blankets.
The new cedar chest ended up in the living room as storage for extra blankets. Every once in awhile I glance at it and think I should use it as a hope chest for my daughter.
My daughter is 14 now, and she's going to be grown up and moved out before I know it. I've always toyed with the idea of giving her a hope chest, but it seems so old-fashioned.
My daughter is a normal Christian teenage girl, trying to hold on to her faith while living in a world that is constantly sending her mixed messages. "Date," "Don't date," "Experiment," "Wait until you're married." She and her friends struggle with these life-changing decisions every day.
My daughter dreams of the day she gets married. She hopes to meet her husband in college, settle down, and raise a family. Any choices she makes along the way could change the outcome of her dream.
All she has to hold on to are "faith" and "hope." Faith that she will be faithful to wait for the man God has intended for her, and hope that her dreams of marriage will some day come true.
This is partially where the term "hope chest" originated. Originally they were called wedding chests, but Americans later called them hope chests as in "hope for marriage" and the promise of love and security.
If we as parents want to reinforce these values in our children, we must come up with ways to get these ideas across to them without shoving them down their throats. They have to share the dream with you and make it their own.
One way to share your vision of your daughter's wedded future, is to prepare a hope chest for her. Hope chests were traditionally used to store hand-embroidered linens, to protect them until the bride was ready to use them in her new home.
What you place in your daughter's hope chest is up to you and your daughter. Handmade items seem to be the most meaningful. It would also be a good place to store family photographs and albums for safe keeping.
When my daughter was about seven we started a tradition of buying her a Christmas ornament every year. When she leaves home she will take with her a collection of her own ornaments, each with a memory of a unique year of her life.
I will give her the baby dresses and blankets, and any other childhood mementos I have saved, like her birth sampler or favorite childhood storybooks for her own children.
Anything your daughter takes with her will help her to make her new house into a home. The memories she brings with her will be the start of new memories in her own family.
The more you and your daughter can share the dream and the hope for her future, the more likely she will be to hold on to the dream and carry it into her adulthood.
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