It was our first official day in our new home. Boxes lined the walls in every room, but with Christmas two weeks away I was motivated to get settled and enjoy the upcoming holidays. Kneeling before a box to sift through its mysterious contents, I pulled out an old family photo where my three baby-faced daughters smiled back at me.
The days are long but the years are short, right? Maybe it was the fresh start in a new city, new community, new house. Maybe it was just a nostalgic moment with a forgotten photo. But in that moment my parental heart skipped a major beat with the realization of the handful of years we have with all three of our children under one roof. Only three or four more years of passing through the same kitchen, sharing walls, laughter, and eye contact on a daily basis. With that settling realization, my husband and I decided to implement in our family what he and I had each done on our own for years: choose a word of the year. With this twist on a family version of word choosing we designated three categories to help capture our focus for the upcoming year: one word for purpose, one for progress, and one for play.
In Matthew 6:21 Jesus tells us, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” His words lay the groundwork for choosing our family’s annual words. As we define our focus together we’re essentially declaring what we treasure, and therefore, ultimately where our collective heartbeat resides.
With God’s Word in mind, we gathered and asked the big questions to guide our first “Annual Family Words”: What’s one purpose we will treasure this year? Where do we want to experience intentional progress? How will we play and experience fun as a family?
Why do we do what we do? For this season where we’re putting down roots in our local community and kids’ school systems, we long to see God glorified in how we invest our time in serving other people. Whether coaches on sports teams, teachers, families in need, neighbours, or each other, we will purpose to glorify God through serving others, so our first word was serve.
As a family, where would we like to set measurable, attainable goals and see progress in action? Where can we prayerfully practice the art of discipline and experience growth? We’re a creative family who appreciates and practices visual art in many forms, so our progress word is create. Whether it’s attending a local art museum’s art classes, dedicating time and resources for experimenting with new art mediums, or just breaking out colouring books with dessert at the dinner table, we want to intentionally progress in our family’s capacity and skill to create this year.
It might seem like an oxymoron to plan for play, but if your family is anything like mine, weeks can sweep by with busy schedules and full calendars without us ever pausing to have fun together as a family. In hindsight, these playful moments give us treasured memories and photos we love to look back on. In our active, social family it’s easy for all our ‘fun’ to be had apart from our family. Friends, sports, hobbies, and church events are all good things, but sometimes their good impedes on our opportunities to have fun together because we’re constantly pulled in five different directions. This year our play word is together. With it in the forefront of our minds, we’ll prioritize game nights, road trips, movie theatre outings, basketball afternoons at the community centre, and evenings huddled around the fire pit with the five of us, together.
Define and Declare
Once defined, our annual family words (Serve, Create, Together) give the heart of our family common goals to grow into. We declare them by displaying them as frequent and memorable reminders in places like lock screens, the kitchen calendar, and in our prayers. We use them as filters for sifting what’s good from what’s best for our family this year. They also give us reason to celebrate when we recognize success in keeping our priorities in order. Jesus knows better than anyone how our hearts tend to wander toward rust-threatening, moth-appetizing treasures on this planet (Matthew 6: 19, 20). We’re prayerfully giving Serve, Create, and Together a try in hopes that our combined efforts will plant seeds of faith in our family that will continue to produce eternal fruits for generations to come.