Keeping the Feasts

Shabbat

Sabbath / Shabbat
Passover / Pesach
Unleavened Bread / Hag HaMatzot 
Firstfruits / Reishit
Pentecost / Shavuot
Trumpets / Rosh HaShanah
Day of Atonement / Yom Kippur
Tabernacles / Sukkot
Feast of Dedication / Hanukkah
Feast of Lots / Purim

One of my favorite parts of our family’s life rhythm includes keeping the biblical feasts. I’m often met with raised eyebrows when people hear that we celebrate weekly Shabbat dinners, but it’s the most beautiful part of our week! My sons get very excited when Friday rolls around; they know we’ll be enjoying pizza at the Shabbat table — complete with the weekly Torah portion, candles, and prayer sticks (prayer requests written on wood craft sticks). I love watching my husband place his hands on our boys and bless them, my heart melts into a giant puddle as he speaks encouraging words of blessing over their lives. I love hearing my boys recite the blessings, and I love the scriptures that are hidden in their hearts from repeating this weekly rhythm over the years.

Here is a PDF our family’s Shabbat table reading.

When we first began celebrating the appointed feasts, I used A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Robin Sampson and Linda Pierce. I’ve never been one to make copies and do worksheets, so I read through the content and customized it for my family. It is packed with helpful information, steeped in scripture, and an excellent jumping-off point for anyone interested in keeping the feasts. I like Heidi Cooper’s My First Torah when it comes to reading aloud at the Shabbat table.

After we began consistently keeping a grace-filled Messianic Shabbat, we added the spring feasts beginning with Passover, then counted the Omer all the way from Firstfruits to Pentecost. After a summer sabbatical where we try not to sweat to death in Texas, we welcome the autumn season with the Feast of Trumpets — my little men blow those horns with all of their might and we eat apples with honey to rejoice in God’s sweet blessings for the new year. On the Day of Atonement we read the story of Jonah, pray for the day of Israel’s ultimate restoration, and are so grateful that Jesus tore the veil through his ultimate sacrifice.

We began keeping the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths last year, and the boys enjoyed eating dinner in our tent structure on the patio! This provides the perfect opportunity to talk about God’s faithfulness to the Hebrews when they wandered through the desert for forty years — it’s also a fun harvest celebration that reminds us of God’s provision. This feast was traditionally celebrated with ceremonies of water and light, to prophecy the coming of the Messiah. It was during this feast when Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” The next morning he went on to say, ” I am the light of the world,” (John 7-8) so his statements during this time were immensely profound! Our goal for this year is to set the tent up in the back yard and give it a go…we’ll see.

The Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah!) was actually our first feast to keep, and we’ve been doing that for the past several years. Learning more about this particular feast led me down the wonderful path of keeping Shabbat. If anyone wants a very gentle entry into the biblical feasts, I’d suggest starting with Hanukkah! This is a festival of lights in which we are so beautifully reminded that God is light, and that He is faithful to deliver his people from the oppression of sin and death — as evident through the story of the Macabees. The boys enjoy playing dreidel games and lighting the candles each night. This often overlaps with our Advent season, so our house absolutely glows with light after sundown!

Here is a PDF of our family’s nightly Hanukkah Readings.

The end of winter finds us in the Book of Esther with the Feast of Lots. Purim has been such a fun celebration that reminds us of God’s deliverance. While Esther delivered her people from Haman’s evil plot of certain death, Jesus delivers all who believe from that same irrevocable decree. We attend Gateway’s awesome Purim party, complete with noisy groggers and lots of booing when Haman’s name is read aloud. Tasty treats and dancing into the night make Purim something to look forward to each year!

Our family has been so blessed by keeping these feasts. It helps us have a greater understanding while reading through the Old Testament, and we’re able to see how Jesus came and fulfilled each feast that God appointed. The annual feast cycle constantly reminds us of God’s faithfulness in each season of life, and prepares our hearts to hear his voice.

My One Word

Since 2015, I’ve prayerfully considered and carefully chosen one single word to focus on each year. In lieu of New Year’s resolutions, My One Word allows me to cut through the ever-present pressures and white noise of life. At the end of 2014 I was juggling a new baby and a two year old; I was overwhelmed by parenting two little boys, preparing for the homeschooling adventure, and attempting to keep my head above water with household duties. The word nurture helped me rightly order my priorities. I needed to nurture my children, nurture my marriage, and — most importantly — nurture my relationship with God. That focus word became a lifeline while navigating the adventure that was 2015.

As 2016 loomed on the horizon, I longed for a purposeful vision that would sustain my hopeful family ideals. God placed the word intentional on my heart, and I began to focus on it with laser precision. By the summer of 2016, I had permanently deleted my Facebook account in an effort to be fully present for my husband and kids. I intentionally invested in specific books, authors, and podcasts that spoke into my life in a meaningful way. My broad and wide friendships were culled down to a small handful of deep and intentional relationships that can weather any storm. The ebb and flow of this intentional lifestyle anchored me to Christ and kept unnecessary distractions at bay.

As the sun set on 2016, the pace of life had quickened beyond our comfort level; the dawn of 2017 found my husband and I in need of rest. Simplify became the cry of my heart. We cut out activities that kept us on the go — to include bible studies and marriage-building classes at church — choosing instead to focus on our family at home. I purposefully stopped blogging for most of the year in an effort to simplify my mind and heart. It became a time of sheltering-in-place to build a biblical foundation that will (hopefully) sustain our family for generations to come. Instead of a weekly women’s bible study, I began to read the weekly Torah portion. As a family, we simplified life by celebrating biblical holidays rather than getting caught up in cultural, quasi-religious agendas that, in the past, just kept our wheels spinning. Friday nights have become a beautiful celebration of God’s commandment to rest; Shabbat dinners at the dining table on Granny’s fine China are now the highlight of each week. Far be it from me to alter our Shabbat routine — my children won’t allow it! Living a simplified life has blessed our family beyond anything I could have imagined in January of 2017.

Looking back, I can see how living a nurtured life led to an intentional vision of simplification. During the times I neglect nurturing my soul with God’s word, my stress levels rise and I become an impatient, graceless mess. If I allow myself to get caught up in the endless oblivion of my phone screen, I lose intentionality and am carried along by wisps and whims of nonsense. My family deserves better…and so do I. Were I to try and sign my kids up for every enrichment activity under the sun, we’d end up cranky and stressed from overextending ourselves. It’s my responsibility to carefully weigh our commitments and simplify family life. I am the gatekeeper and guardian of our home, may I not be caught sleeping or chasing after the wind during these precious, formative years.

As yet another year draws to a close, I am brimming with hope and possibility for 2018. The word flourish has been flitting and fluttering through my heart for the past couple of weeks; I long to see how God uses this new One Word to guide me through the next twelve months. I will continue to nurture my family and my soul. I will seek to be intentional in all of our dealings and decisions. I will carefully simplify anything that can possibly be simplified, and — with God’s help — I will flourish in the process!