I can’t tell you how often I long for simpler times. My boys are just reaching the age where life is getting busy. Between three different schools, tutoring, soccer and baseball practices, homework and school activities, in just their preschool and early elementary grades, I can already feel the tension.
Caught between the needs and desires of our kids, individual work, exercise and personal passions, and the importance of quality family time, life is crunched. Many days we run from one activity or appointment to the other doing an endless number of things for our kids but not necessarily with them.
As they continue to grow and develop I catch glimpses of what lies before us. The responsibilities, pressures and temptations facing children today are things we didn’t have to even think about at their age. And in the attempt to help them succeed in everything we’re pushing them through childhood at breakneck speed.
For the last 6 months, I’ve felt God pressing on my heart to take a step back. To pull back from the chaos driving our days and sit down and reflect on what matters to us. Not about how things appear, you know, the things that normally trip me up – approval, acceptance, fitting in – but what really matters to us.
As a family, we decided to sit down and talk together about what is important. The characteristics and qualities we value in our hearts and home and how we want to live our lives and relationships with intention, integrity and purpose. As part of this discussion, we wrote a family mission statement. A reference point for us to use when we are deciding what things to commit to and when to say no. When to push forward and when to step back.
I’ll be honest, this wasn’t an easy process. If I’m telling the whole truth it’s something that’s been spinning in my head for nearly two months and hasn’t made it to paper because either my husband or I were dragging our feet. Surely the core components of what drives our family should’ve been higher on the priority list, but excuses are rampant. And when we finally settled down to talk about it we ended up in a fight! Perfect.
I think if we’re truly honest, these things aren’t easy. The sifting out and paring down and tightening in – all those things run counter to our culture. Counter to what we value so closely: appearances, comfort, acceptance. So after we calmed down and got a little feud out of the way, here is what we came up with.
We used our last name and made an acrostic:
Spend quality time together, loving each other and the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength;
To encourage and support one another in our unique gifts and abilities; to be
Real, honest and open about both our joys and our sorrows, our successes and our failures.
Advocate for peace and unity in our family and relationships; and have
Integrity in all that we think, say and do;
Trusting that God will fulfill the desires of our hearts if we live our lives based on His truth and offer Him all that we have with a thankful heart.
Here is what we did to come up with our acrostic family mission statement:
1. Talk as a couple
First my husband and I started a conversation about creating a family mission statement. We talked about things like what a mission statement is and how it matters to our family. Here, we basically prepared our hearts for where God would guide us in designing our family and allowed time for this project to settle in our spirits.
2. Invite the kids
Next we invited the kids to start throwing out their ideas of what is important to them. I have to admit I was surprised at what they came up with. Our kids are young so we had them just tell us words or phrases. If your kids are older you could have them each sit down with paper and pencil and see where their hearts are without the pressure of the family dynamic. It would be really fun to see where they are individually and then bring those pages together and brainstorm as a family from there. Here are a few words our little guys came up with: being together, courage, love, faith in God and telling the truth.
3. Write it all down
Have a notetaker and just get everything on paper. Once you have all the ideas down you can start playing with words and putting them together.
4. Decide on a format
Do you want to have a short catch-phrase or a long and developed statement? Maybe both. We decided on the acrostic because I just think it’s a neat way to tie in your family name and make it part of your legacy. For us, there was something so personal about including our name that we couldn’t do it any other way. But we’re also working on a short take-away phrase that we can use to remind each other when we’re getting bossy or crabby toward one another. A way to quickly remind ourselves and each other to get back on track with what matters to us.
Every single one of us was made to make art. I think it’s easy to start making excuses that we’re not creative or good with words and how or why that excludes us from stepping into the arena. But the truth is we all have this aching desire to create something. To be a part of something – or build something – bigger than us. What better place to build than our families?
Building our families based on the values we hold dear is a risk. We risk looking different, not going along with the flow, and disappointing people we’ve worked so hard to please. But this life is about being bold. Brave. Like old beautiful oaks, our roots go deep. So we commit to learning from our past and preparing as humbly as we can our future. Standing up for what we believe and stepping away from what holds us back.
If we want to live free we have to start taking steps. Here’s a first step: Create your family mission statement. If nothing else, you will learn how and where the individual hearts of your family beat strong. You will discover where you’re going as a family, what you’re already doing well, and where you desire to go in the future. Nothing great comes without cost, but the things of this world are worth losing for the sake of your family. For truth, hope and a lasting legacy.
Where is your family going and what matters to you? How did God uniquely design your family to be a light in a dark world?