Category: featured

School in Limbo? Here’s Help!

In our district, kids are going back to school only two days a week. WHAT!! That will leave a lot of parents with kids who want to do something fun and connect, as well as learn. Here is something that will help you out! : )

I began teaching and speaking over a decade ago. I focused on a learning tool that, at that time, was called The Closet. The printer said he loved my Closet Mastery Course but had to look inside because he wondered if I was training people to come out of the Closet. It also seemed odd to call this tool The Closet and then tell people they can use a box, a bag, or any old container that they would like – or even no container. So, the name was changed to The Spark Station.

When I began teaching this tool, my audience was almost exclusively homeschooling parents. The Spark Station initially helped kids want to learn so that the homeschool process would be less stressful. However, over the years, I realized what a fantastic, fun, and engaging tool it was for connection. My message morphed and eventually became a book, Becoming a Present Parent: How to Connect With Your Children In five Minutes or Less. 

The Spark Station has lived beyond homeschool because

it’s a beautiful way to ‘play’ and connect with kids. This is a boon for adults like me, who are a little play adverse.

Years ago, I created a 13-audio course about the Spark Station. This year I have offered the entire thing to all my readers FREE. It is in its original homeschool format, but all principles, rules of engagement, and outcomes apply broadly across the parenting spectrum. Over the next few months, I will create a multi-part series of articles on the Spark Station to help you use it in your home. It’s WONDERFUL, FUN, and EXCITING for kids! It is useful for toddlers, children, and teens.

The Spark Station – Part 1 What is The Spark Station

I used to say, “So what is the definition of the Spark Station? Simply put, it is a space where parents have put items that they think will inspire their children to explore further and learn.” Then I had a mom tell me she was on audio five before she finally understood what The Spark Station was.

Now I say it differently. The Spark Station is a tool you can create. It can be an actual closet or a box, a dresser, or any other place you can put new items to share with your children. It’s not the same as a storage space where you keep your learning materials, books, and craft items. Its purpose is to create a time and place when your children will be exposed to new and exciting ideas or be able to engage in things that already interest them, and where parents connect with their kids. It’s a time and space where both adults and kids can share what they feel joy or passion in, and what interests them, their SPARKS. I’ll share information on how powerful SPARKS can be.

You can use the Spark Station at a set time each week, say on a Sunday afternoon. You can also use it anytime you feel like it. You can use it as part of your school day if you homeschool. Dad can use it to connect after long days at work. However, it is not to be used by children alone because you want your own time. It’s important to remember that it is a connection tool and that can’t happen if you are occupied elsewhere. Another important thing is that when kids use it alone, it turns into a mess quickly, and then no one uses it. This is one of the five critical rules which I will cover in another article.

What I want to accomplish here is to encourage you to begin listening to the FREE course. If you don’t have time for a 13-audio course, then view this one audio. It will give you enough information to determine if this is something you want to have in your ‘connection’ arsenal. Or you can read each installment of the series of articles titles Spark Station Basics as they are published.

I’ll end today with some pictures of Spark Stations. You will see how diverse they are and how fun they look. : ) You will notice that they are large and small, fancy and simple, for little kids and big kids. They are all different!

But before I show the pictures, here is a letter from a mom who took the leap and gave it a shot. 

The  Spark Station and The Spark Station Mastery Course really work! I just had to share my experience with all of you. I finished lesson 5 of the Spark Station Mastery Course yesterday. I went through my home to see what I could find. I cleaned out the entertainment center (that is what we are using for our Spark Station). I was excited but nervous.

‘I found sand in the garage that I forgot we had, rice, material, art supplies, wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs, math wrap-ups, and the list goes on. I filled totes with the items I wanted to start with. The kids saw me doing this and were anxious to know when they could use all that cool stuff.

‘I dyed the sand; I dyed the rice, and I put the stuff in the Spark Station this morning. We did our devotional, and then we talked about how the Spark Station would work. I was really nervous.

‘The kids immediately went to the fabric and wanted to make capes. Unfortunately, the pieces we had were rather small, so we talked about using those pieces for other things and talked about how much fabric we will need to make a cape (it will appear in the Spark Station soon).

‘Then they found the colored sand, mason jars, and lids that I had in there. They used the funnel in the box to help pour sand into the jars and make beautiful designs with different colored layers of sand. While the older three were working with the sand, I pulled out the rice tub and set it up on a blanket. I had spoons, cups, bowls, etc. in with the rice. I just let it sit there, and as soon as my 18-month-old saw it, he was occupied until The older kids went to play with him when they finished.

‘When they bored with the rice, my older son pulled out the art box. He found cupcake liners in the box. Immediately the girls wanted some too. They asked me what they could use them for, and I told them anything they wanted. They seemed unsure; I told them I could see making a pretty flower. My son immediately said he wasn’t going to make a flower; he thought his would make a great head for a lion. They glued their cupcake liners to the paper and used the chalk in the box to draw the rest of their pictures.

‘I just sat there and grinned the entire time. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Why was I so afraid of this, it’s not scary, it’s incredible? I now have a…tool at my fingertips that gives me the perfect way to my kids. I can’t wait for tomorrow, and neither can my children.” Stacey S.

Please take a look at The Spark Station Mastery Course; it’s FREE.

Does your family have a good way to connect and do you use it consistently?

How would it impact your family if you added this one thing – consistent family play for connection?

Focus on what ties you together and your family can never fall apart. family.lovetoknow.com                                                       

It’s OK Not To Be Perfect, Really!

I have a delightful friend!

She lives across the country, and so we talk regularly on the phone. We enjoy sharing our lives, and we help each other solve problems. Nicole often feels that she is somehow not doing as well as she should be.

Recently we were talking about exercise. We’ve been talking about it for a few months, but Nicole hasn’t been able to find a way to fit it into her busy life. She is a single mom with kids who freelances from home.

She wants to set aside a 30-minute block of time to take a brisk walk. She would ask her mom to watch her boys.

After a month or so of this plan with no result, she decided that she needed to buy the right workout clothes and shoes. She needed motivation, so she did some research and made the order. A few weeks passed and still no follow-through. Her work at home life, because of the pandemic, got busier and busier. It was all she could do to fit the boys in and stay present enough to feel like she was doing a good job.

A couple of weeks ago, she was sharing her struggle with me. Her language was negative. “I’m just so lazy.” Remember that this is a single mom who works from home 40+ hours a week, so we took a bit of time to work on her self-talk.

Then I suggested that she set a time to leave her desk and do a few laps around the back yard. No special clothes. No need to call grandma. And instead of 30 minutes, what about 15?

She gave it a try, and this was her response – “I feel oddly motivated! Walking around the yard is invigorating.” Of course, it is. She is getting that exercise in, and she is feeling much better about herself and her days.

I suggested that she let that be enough until there was something more that she could do.

My sister, Rozanne, is an empathetic and vigorous woman. She is a certified health coach. She has been teaching the elderly how to keep their bodies in shape. The comments that come from her students have been amazing. She has made a BIG difference in many of their lives. But the comments aren’t just centered on her workouts. They are about her remarks, her empathy, her caring.

After taking a class on how to market her skills, she said, “I’m just not good enough for this field. I don’t have enough certification.” She was seriously taking herself to task for not knowing more than she knows and not doing more than she has been doing. I said, “Rozanne, you have something to give right now. Let that be enough until there is more.” After a pause, she replied, “I am going to remember that. I do make a difference now!”

We would all like to do whatever it is we are doing better. We would all like to know more. We would all like to exercise more consistently, but sometimes the backyard will have to be where we begin. We have to start where we are. We don’t have to stay where we are, but we have to start there.

It’s OK not to be perfect. Of course, you need better life skills to parent better. Many of us need to manage your money more efficiently. Most of us need to exercise more. We should eat better. There is a world of things that require more information, consistency, and practice to do better. BUT it is wise to remember that you have something to give today, as imperfect as it may be. Let that be enough until there is more!

Let others in on the good news that perfection is NOT required!

It Is That Important!

This article was written by a wonderful woman and friend, Laurisa Paul. She is an RN, a writer, homeschool mother of five, and an aspiring midwife. I felt that the topic hits so close to many women’s hearts and experience that it had to be shared. Read, enjoy, and learn.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

I hear this statement (question?) from women all the time. What I hear them asking is, “how do you live with so much peace and calm and joy?” (while a full-time mom to five kids, wife of an ambitious entrepreneur, committee member of a youth ministry, and taking on the great task of home school). “How do you find time for yourself?”

After thinking about this question for years on end, I have finally got an answer. The answer to how I take care of myself as a woman is easy: I meditate and pray. I assign my youngest out to the care of others so that I can exercise alone. I pursue topics that fascinate me. I set goals for myself and enjoy the challenge of achieving them. I think back to what I did for fun when I was single, and I DO IT!

But there is a real problem here: that answer doesn’t solve the dilemma for anybody. Women, both with and without children, are still perplexed (and sometimes irritated) with the idea of self-love, self-compassion, and self-prioritization, even given my quick and easy solution. The struggle continues because… the wrong question is being asked. It turns out, women don’t need to know how I actually go about doing it.

The more definitive question would be, “why?”

I grew up in the care of a deeply loving mother. She was the product of a broken home where she was not provided a model of parenting that met her standards. And so, when she became a mother herself, she gritted her teeth and gave her all. Quitting her job, giving up her own ambitions and dreams, she became only “Mother”. Even sleep became secondary to adorable birthday cakes, neighborhood preschools, incredible Halloween costumes made to order, Girls Scout cookies and badges, service in the classroom and church, play-dates, sports teams, piano lessons, and hand-sewn matching clothing for the whole family. We, of course, took advantage of all that was offered, leaving in the end, only a shadow of a woman we called Mom. When the door closed at the end of each day, all that was left was a hollow frame. She was exhausted. Unfulfilled. Angry. Overwhelmed. Depressed. Resentful. The mental hospital became the only place she could go for respite. I don’t have a single memory of my mom laughing.

I am grateful for this experience. Deeper-than-words grateful. Because of where I came from, I feel surer than ever that, as a woman, an individual, I matter. Just like every other mother on this earth, I want my children to have a great childhood and grow up to be successful, joyful adults. This is why I prioritize time for myself.

I prioritize time for myself because I know that when I am well-rested, I am more patient and kind.
When I exercise my body first, I have the energy to physically engage in their active lives.
When I prioritize time for connection with God, I open the door for grace to light my way.
When I make time to study my own topics of interest, I am mentally available to hear about theirs.
When I eat what I want to eat, resentment doesn’t follow me to the dinner table.
When I play regularly in a way that feels fun to me, it is easier to play in a way that feels fun to them.
I am the integral part of the livelihood of our family. I am that important.

Our children become who we are. More than anything, I want to raise empowered adults who take ownership of their own happiness. And so, I must teach them about boundaries. I must be a model of someone who says YES to things that matter most and NO to things that don’t. I must teach them that they are ultimately responsible to create the life they dream of. That it is not anyone else’s responsibility to do this, nor is it reasonable to expect that. I must teach that selfless sacrifice is a vital trait of a loving parent, AND that it does not have to be at the expense of one’s own joy. I teach my children these things by clearly setting the example for them. It’s worth carving out time for. It’s worth making a way!

Laurisa Paul

I see nobility in the call to motherhood and I feel great reverence for its importance. With the endless to-do lists that accompany family life, for what sake am I willing to keep honoring me as my top priority? For the sake of the highest aspirations that I hold for myself, and the dreams I have for my children and my grandchildren. For my sake, and for their sake. That is why I do it. It is that important.

I am sure you know a woman who needs this message today. Send her the link. : ) 

It Is Wise…

My sister uses only white dishcloths. When they are soiled, she boils them on the stove until they are white – I mean white! There is not a stain on them. When they begin to fray or wear out, they end up in the rag bag or the garbage.

On the other hand, I use any color dishcloth, and I don’t care if they are stained. When my dishcloths are soiled, I throw them in the washer. I do this until they are beginning to have seriously frayed edges and small holes. Only when they are not holding up to the job, do they head for the ragbag or the garbage.

This same sister had a rat that lived under her kitchen floor. It was a white pet rat, and it was blind. But it was a rat! A few times a day, he came out to be fed. After all, he was blind. I have a hard time allowing my husband to have one small dog.

In my family of origin, all the pans were dark. I thought that if you cooked in a kitchen pan or used a baking sheet, it got dark. There wasn’t anything you could do about it. However, as I got older, I noticed that my grandmother’s pans were ALL shiny and new looking. Hmmm!

What I discovered as an adult was that if some remnants of oil remained on a pan, then when it is next used, those remnants would be dark. Left long enough, the bottom of the pan would be dark. Since then, I have noticed some women with shiny pans and even more whose pans are dark. Mine are, for the most part, dark.

Here is something else I have noticed. Some people make hospital corners when they make their beds, and some don’t. I joined the nurses club in 7th grade and learned how to do a hospital corner, and so I make them.

Here is something I have never done in my home. We have never eaten a meal at the kitchen bar. We always ate at the table. I have a friend whose family eats almost all their meals sitting on stools at the bar. They seem to like that. It feels odd to me.

I was recently at the home of a friend, and I noticed that she had labeled baskets in her laundry room. There was a basket for whites and one for darks, one for jeans, and so forth. Then there were marked baskets for each person. As clothes were washed, they could be sorted and put into the correct room.

It caused me to think back to my laundry room when I was a young mom. Everything went into a pile in the middle of the laundry room floor. When washed, clothes went into a different pile until they were parceled out to different rooms where it was hopefully folded. If it didn’t get sorted and sent to the correct room before a need arose, whoever had the need would dig through the pile until they found what they were looking for. And sometimes whites and darks went into the same load because I was plain tired and wanted it done! That’s how it went in my home of origin too.

I know a family that plays games a couple of times a week. I never did that with my family. We didn’t play games with adults when I was growing up either. We took drives together, though, and we went camping.

One of my good friends would visit far-flung places in the States with her family a couple of times a year. That seemed out of the ordinary to me. We drove to my grandmas and played with cousins or went camping in Yellowstone Park.

I’ll bet as you have been reading this, you have made some mental judgments. They will have been based on your version of how something ought to be done. That is natural, but it can be dangerous.

It is usually counterproductive to compare. There are as many ways to run a home and family as there are families. Some methods are more orderly than others. Some may appear to work better than others. Then there is just personal taste. Women tend to put their systems or ways of doing things against their neighbors and friends. Often, they come out as the losers in some imaginary game of ‘Who Does It Better.’

It Is Wise…

It is wise to look at what works in your home and be OK with it. If something isn’t working, ask the simple question, “Why doesn’t this work.” Then experiment with new systems or ways of managing a thing until you find what does work.

It is wise to look for systems or ways of managing if what you are doing doesn’t or has stopped working. Others can share what works for them. If it sounds good,  give it a try. Just remember that it isn’t a case of ‘Who is doing better.” It is merely a case of “What works for us.”

It is wise to keep comparison and judgment out of your life. You will find that your happiness and contentment will increase. Your family and home will feel and fit more comfortably.

If this article could help a friend, let them know about it.

Grandma, You and I are the Same!

Grandma, You and I are the Same!

When you improve your life skills, it’s a boon to your whole family. The better able you are to navigate life and the more growth you have, it naturally rubs off on those around you.

Case in point. Over a decade ago, I began my quest to improve my ability to manage my thoughts so that my life results would be more in line with what I wanted. I read books, attended many events and classes, got some personal mentoring, and even did some energy work. I noticed that I was happier, more often, by choice. I spoke kindlier to myself. My confidence went up. I was able to help others make changes also. It felt good. My granddaughter, Mary, was born just after I began my quest to control my life, my happiness, and my responses; to stop being a victim. Although I didn’t know it, she has been watching me.

A few years ago, she saw a vision board on my wall and came and asked me what it was. I explained that it contained pictures of what I wanted to happen in my life. She must have thought about that for a few days and then she came and asked me to help her make one. She also noticed that I made my bed every morning, and soon she began doing the same. She was only eight or nine, and nobody told her to do it. She saw that I did it and that it was a good thing. She also saw the sayings and affirmations that I have on my walls. If you go into her room, you will notice that she has hopeful and joyful sayings all over the place. When she makes anything or buys anything, she makes sure that the words she loves are on it.

One day, about a year ago, she said, “Grandma, you and I am the same.” You know she is right. I work to remain in control of the story that I tell myself, and so does Mary. Her room, art, clothes, and actions all reflect her understanding that she oversees how she feels and how life looks.

Not all children will respond this way. My two grandsons are not the least bit interested in making their beds. : ) They don’t wear upbeat sayings on their clothes. They don’t do much art, and when they do, it doesn’t say things like “Love Yourself.” LOL However, I can tell they are learning valuable things, and it comes out now and then in something they say and do.

Our example to our children matters. If we feel like victims and live our lives as if we are, our children will see that and follow suit. If we blame and criticize, so will our kids. If we talk poorly to ourselves, then how can our children believe that they are any better. We can’t and won’t be perfect people or parents, but what will last and impact our children the most is when they see us growing. There is power in understanding and believing that you are 100% in control of your life. You may not be able to control all the circumstances, but you can manage your response.

I have seven grown children. Some are edging into their fifties, and they tell me how much my continued desire to become better has helped them. So, if you have issues in your family, look inside. See what you need to do to take control of your feelings, your own life. Let go of victimhood—practice consistency. Take charge of the story you live and tell yourself. Clean up your self-talk. It will not only bless you. It will bless your family!

Who do you know who could use a good example?

Family Mission Statements Rock – Part 4

Congratulations on creating your family mission statement! However, for it to translate into a family culture, you must now use it. Here are some ideas to engage with your family mission statement in meaningful ways.

Ideas to Engage with Your Family Mission Statement

1. Recite it daily. Determine a time when your family is generally together consistently. Our family says our mission statement just before bed because that’s when daddy is almost always there with us. When your mission statement is memorized and reviewed daily, it will begin to come to mind when you need it most, for example, during a teaching or a disciplining moment. Lines of our family mission statement often come when I feel tempted to speak or act in ways that are contrary to the specific culture we’re trying to nurture in our home.

2. Use it to help make big decisions. Is your choice in line with the objectives of your mission statement?

3. Use it to help regain focus and realignment with the things that matter most to your family.

4. Use it to guide your family’s educational plan. The specific values that your mission statement mentions, such as money management, entrepreneurialism, freedom, honesty, or service, can all inform your educational opportunities, ideas, and materials.

5. Have fun with it. Have your children create artwork or collages that reflect your final mission statement. Display this art in a prominent place in your home. Develop a family cheer, motto, flag, or t-shirt inspired by your mission statement.

6. Develop a family VISION. A family Vision is essentially the why of your family mission in story form. Your family Vision is what motivates each family member to care about doing the things that the family mission statement describes. Mary Ann Johnson beautifully illustrates the power of a family Vision and how to use it most effectively in her fabulous book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with your Children in Five Minutes or Less.

To create your family Vision, start with the backdrop of a family tradition, like Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or something that holds a powerful sense of connection and meaning for your family. Close your eyes and, in your mind, see your family engaging in that tradition 20 years from now. What will it smell like, sound like, what will the tastes be? Who will be there, and what will they be doing? How will it feel to be together, and how will people be treating each other? Develop a story with as many details as possible, just as if you were creating a bedtime story for a child. Develop this story so that it describes why the accomplishment of the family mission statement is so significant; it will be what allows this story to come to pass 20 years from now.

Share this story with your family and allow them to add more details that are meaningful to them. Then let this story to become part of your family story. Tell it often; driving in the car, at bedtime when someone is sad or struggling, etc. The more you tell the story, the more they will care about the mission statement, and the more the words of the mission statement will be written on the hearts of your children.

Using your mission statement and telling its story is what turns words on paper into your home culture. Doing this will help you lay the foundation for a great life.

  • You can access Part 1 and Assignment 1 HERE
  • You can access Part 2 and Assignment 2 HERE 
  • You can access Part 3 and Assignment 3 HERE

Do you know someone with kids? They need this!

You can raise amazing children. I promise!

As I was raising our children, I made many mistakes. I was not gentle enough. I was a yeller. Sometimes I did not listen. I could be stern.

On my birthday this year, my children told me how much they loved our family and me. They reminded me how much their friends loved coming to our home. I have even heard from some of those friends, how much our family and our home meant to them. I was astonished, grateful, and heartened.

What My Kids Said

Here are some of their comments, paraphrased. I’m not sharing them so you think well of me but because I want to make a point about imperfect parenting.

“Mom, you are so wise and self-governed. I am grateful to you. Our friends wanted to come over for dinner and play because of the security you offered in our space.” Jenny

“Mom, I want you to feel super loved. I wouldn’t choose anyone else for my mother.” Marie

“You’re an amazing woman. The things you have accomplished are truly wonderful. I’m so proud to say you’re my mom.” Seth

Last night I was thinking about you quite a bit. I was thinking about our growing up. We had a lot of struggles and a bunch of kids. We kids never saw anything or understood how hard that was. Now we are adults, and we know it. And then you took in all the neighbor kids as well. It’s just amazing. I appreciate what you did. You and dad were amazing, big time. Look what amazing kids we all are. It’s from you guys.” Andrew

“I get to talk to a lot of my friends about their families because they struggle and aren’t connected. I have a hard time relating. We are connected, and I’m grateful we have such an amazing family. We do love and care about each other. We don’t take that for granted.” Jodie

Some of these comments came with tears as well as smiles. I was blown away!

It’s easy to remember all the things you didn’t do that you wish you had done. It is easy to remember all the wretched things you did that you wish you hadn’t done. It’s hard to know what your children are going to take away from the experience of being part of your family. Often, as I have discovered, it’s better than you think.

Raising a Family Can Be the Best and Worst of Times

I have said that raising my family was “the best of times; it was the worst of times.” These words from the Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities describe how I felt perfectly. In fact, in 1996, at the height of our family problems, that is what I wrote under our family photo.

I remember the fun we had: breakfast on the tailgate of our old pickup truck at the park, quiet conversations while weeding in the early dawn hours. We canned together, read as a family, and ate dinner, and talked. We had fun at bath time, during nighttime cuddles, and while sitting together at church. These were memorable and satisfyingly ordinary days. These were the best of times.

I also have seared on my mind the struggles we shared as a family of nine—a husband who traveled for a living, drug abuse, premarital sex and a child born out of wedlock, thoughts of suicide, failure in school, smoking, alcoholism, lack of belief in one’s value as a person, quitting school, abandoning church, a mother who yelled, managing feelings of despair, and coming to terms with same-sex attraction. These were the worst of times.

That is why I have shared some of my birthday messages with you. If our family can experience what we did, and still come out so well, then so can yours.

You won’t, and, frankly, can’t do everything right. Your children will struggle as they grow. You’ll struggle to do all that’s required in your chosen vocation as a parent. You will fall short and make mistakes. It is part of the process of being human, of being in a family.

Perfect isn’t what makes good parents and families. Those who stay the course, even when they’re not doing as well as it could be done, they are the amazing parents that will raise amazing children. I promise!

Success doesn’t require perfect. Let someone else know this truth!

Family Mission Statement – Part 3

 

In preparation for writing your family mission statement:

• You’ve considered what’s been holding you back
• You’ve let excuses go or come up with strategies to overcome any real roadblocks
• You’ve been doing creative work on your own – “What do I want my family to do or know” list.

Now it’s time for everyone else to get involved. The next steps will likely be more effective if you take the time to do them over a few days or weeks. Don’t try to do it all at once. The idea is to keep the “fun” flowing.

I. Getting Creative Together
Start your family mission statement experience by getting the creative juices flowing. Before you jump into the writing portion, spend some time getting your family engaged with the idea of what a family mission statement is and what it contains. Use activities that allow everyone to privately consider what they think should be part of the family culture, and how they want it to feel in their family. Here are some ideas to get ideas flowing and help everyone feel involved.

A. The Core Values Box
Core values are simply people, activities, beliefs, skills, or things that matter most to us. Core values range from concepts like love and acceptance to material things like a home. Other examples are things like caring for animals, honesty, entrepreneurialism, freedom, wise money management, or education, etc.

As a family, decorate a Core Values box and put it in a prominent location in your home, like your dining table. You could design it like a collage with pictures that identify things your family values, or everyone can take a side to decorate however they wish. The idea is to get everyone engaged with the Core Values box.

During your activity and throughout the week, everyone will put core value ideas in the box as the ideas come to them. Then during your mission statement development activity, you will open this box and use the ideas inside to create your first draft.

B. Core Values Collages
Gather magazines and other materials to be used to create collages. Pictures could be printed from the internet. Each person will make their own collage. Use words and images which depict how they want the family to feel and the core values that should become part of the family’s culture. Hang the pictures up in a prominent area so you can ponder them through the week.

During your mission statement development activity, give everyone some time to describe the meaning of the items on their collage. Have someone writing down all of the ideas that are shared which will help you create your first draft.

C. Core Values Artwork
If you have younger children, it might be more useful to create drawings or paintings that help your children describe their feelings about their family. Again, put these pictures in an area that will allow them to be seen, and ask your children often to explain the things they have drawn.

II. Getting Deeper Together
You’ve taken the time to get some creativity flowing. Your family members have begun to engage with the idea of how they want their family to feel. You have considered the elements of family culture that are important to your family. Now it’s time to start asking the right questions to help deepen the articulation of the things that your family values.

Gather your family together for a question and answer activity. You can have each member write down their answers or have an open discussion with someone assigned as a scribe to capture each person’s ideas.

Below is a list of various questions. Choose the ones that best fit your family or make up your own. If you have very young children, make sure your questions are age-appropriate.

Questions to consider when developing a family mission statement

1. What makes you happy? What are those things in life that put a smile on your face and get you through your difficult days?
2. What makes us fulfilled? What are those things in life that bring us the most satisfaction and leave us with a feeling of completeness?
3. What do we want for ourselves and our family? What are our hopes, dreams, and aspirations, not only for our family but for ourselves as well?
4. What is most important to you about your family?
5. What are your collective goals?
6. When do you feel most connected?
7. How would you like to relate to one another?
8. Describe your family’s strengths.
9. Describe your family in 5 years, 10 years, or 15 years.
10. What do you value? (For example, relationships, faith, independence, wealth, hard work, generosity)

Want more question examples?

1. We are at our best when _______?
2. We are at our worst when________?
3. What do we love to do together?
4. As a family, what can we better do to help each other?
5. As a family, what can we contribute to others, or how can we help others outside our family?
6. Are there things we should be doing or changing as a family, even though we’ve dismissed such thoughts many times? What are these things?
7. Imagine a party celebrating our family 20 years from now. What do we want people to say about our family honestly? People view our family as:
8. What one emotion would we like most to fill our home?
9. What are the principles that operate in our family? (Such as trust, honesty, kindness, service, etc.)
10. Let’s think of balance as a state of fulfillment and renewal in each of the four dimensions: physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. What are the most important things we can do, in each of these areas, to have the most significant positive impact and help us achieve a sense of balance?
Physical:
Spiritual:
Mental:
Social/Emotional:
11. Imagine its ten years in the future. Envision where we want each member of our family to be. What have we accomplished; how do we see ourselves? Who will you be in 10 years?

III. Getting it Down Together
Finally, it’s time to start organizing your ideas into a concrete form. Don’t allow this family activity to breakdown over “word-smithing” details. Later you will assign someone, usually mom or dad, the job of designing the final draft to bring back to the family for approval.

The easiest way to begin getting your family mission statement down is to choose a design formula that feels right for your family. Mom and dad should choose the formula before this activity begins. Although there are many different forms that mission statements can take, here are three basic forms you could choose from.

FORMULA #1
Gather together all of the core values you’ve identified as a family. Decrease these by two, then decrease by two again until you have one final core value. Keep track of your last 4-6 subsequent core values and then insert them into the formula below.

To (insert Central Core Value here) by (insert three to five Subsequent Core Values here).

EXAMPLE
Our Family Mission
To encourage others to become like Christ through loving relationships,
healthy lifestyles, and stimulating experiences.

FORMULA #2
To…. (Do something)
In such a way that….. (Quality of action)
So that…. (We gain these results or benefits)

EXAMPLE
Our Family Mission
To realize our dreams, goals, and aspirations as a family and as individuals in a way that stretches our intellect, enriches our Christian faith, strengthens our character, and enriches our family life. So that we are fulfilled, happy, confident, and always close.

FORMULA #3
Just create a big list of the things that matter to you. Use words such as “are” and “is” rather than terms that suggest “will be.”

EXAMPLE
The Olsen Family Mission Statement
· We love and obey God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
· We celebrate our family’s faith, heritage, and traditions.
· We show our love for one another in word and deed; we pray for each other; we are courteous, caring,    positive, supportive, and considerate.
· We live a healthy lifestyle and maintain order and cleanliness in the home.
· We raise up children in the way they should go, making learning together an integral part of daily life with books and enriching experiences.
· We optimize the competing forces in our lives for good: health, wealth, aesthetics, rest, exercise,                recreation, work, skills, and knowledge.
· We enjoy life today and live it fully; we accept the wonderful gifts from God: forgiveness of sins and eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son.
· We are wise in the way we use our time, talents, and money; we establish good habits, help others, and teach them the truth of God’s salvation.
· We contribute something of worth to the community; maintain the environment, mankind’s institutions,  and religious, political, cultural, social, and individual freedoms, all to glorify God.

Our family felt most connected to the Big List. 

Here is our family mission statement.

The Palmer Family Mission Statement
The Joyful Palmers are a Team! Yeah!
We love, create, and protect family time, both one-one and everyone together.
We talk about our needs, thoughts, and feelings, and we carefully listen to each other.
We treat each other with respect, patience, and kindness.
We speak and act in a way that allows the Spirit to be with us.
We nurture, support, and celebrate each other’s ambitions, dreams, and missions.
We are always honest and do the right thing even when no one is looking.
We courageously commit to public virtue.
We know that God loves us, and we are wonderful and amazing!
We build our knowledge, skills, and attitudes of self-reliance and freedom.
We make everything around us better and more beautiful.
We build others up through service, sharing, and love.
We protect our home, and the Spirit dwells here.
We learn, live, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Love is our compass and our anchor.

IV. The Final Draft
Don’t try to make the final draft as a family. It has the potential of creating too much contention. Once you’ve got the core ideas down, give someone the task of editing and making it sound good. Then it can be brought back to the family for the final unveiling.

Assignment #3: Decide which activities to use to prime your family’s creativity, which questions you will ask, and the form that you want your mission statement to take. Then determine your timeline. As you develop your plan, give special attention to making these activities fun and memorable. Include food, or outings, or whatever will make the events unique for your family.

You can find Part 1 of the series HERE. You can find part 2 of the series HERE.

Please share your family’s mission statement here in the comments section of this blog post. Your example will help other families as they work to create their own family mission statements.

Maggie Understands Happiness!

When the weather is good, I take my granddaughter Maggie for a walk. In the spring, summer, and fall, that’s almost every day. She has minimal use of her arms and hands and no use of her legs, so getting out for a walk is a real treat.

Maggie happened upon something that makes her very happy on these walks. She waves to every car that passes us. She holds her hand as high as she can and moves it as much as she can. From behind the wheelchair, I wave too so that people don’t miss her waving to them. It’s like being in a parade!

When people pass by, one of three things happens:

  • They see her, give a big wave, and then their face lights up with a smile.
  • They see her, give a half-hearted wave, but don’t smile.
  • They are looking in a different direction, or they are distracted and don’t see her at all.

For those who see her, who wave and smile, Maggie is like a small gift. It doesn’t matter what else might be happening in their day. It might have been a bad day. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse or are short on money or have some other significant problem. But for that moment, as they pass Maggie, they feel a spark of joy. Those who wave but don’t smile have the opportunity to have their spirits lifted but choose to stay down. They decide not to have their spirits lifted for even a moment from whatever is troubling them. And what about those who don’t see her or are distracted. Because they weren’t looking, they missed the opportunity to be lifted. They lost out on the gift.

This little example of what Maggie and I experience every day is what happens in life. Some, no matter their problems, let light in when it comes their way. They choose to be lifted even for a few seconds. Some choose to stay down, to struggle and feel bad. Some are not even aware that there is light and happiness to be had because they aren’t looking.

Maggie is an excellent example of the first type of person. She can’t walk, talk, feed herself, or even take herself to the bathroom. Maggie has to wait for everything, and we aren’t always as fast as I am sure Maggie would like us to be. She is often in pain. Her legs ache, and she can’t always find a way to tell someone. Of all the people I know, she has every reason to be unhappy. But Maggie is like those first people in our parade. She finds small things that bring her joy. She embraces them and chooses to be happy.

Jokes, for example. Maggie loves jokes. She laughs and smiles and throws her arms in delight. She chooses to see the small moments of joy that happen in some very long days. Being pushed in her wheelchair brings a smile to her face. Waving at perfect strangers, even if they don’t wave back, makes her happy. Maggie fills her days with small moments of joy, making her days pleasant, despite her struggles.

Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes there are so many downs they threaten to overwhelm us, but happiness is a choice. Look for the moments of joy and let them in. They won’t solve your problems, but you will feel better, you will see more solutions, and life will feel lighter.

Know someone who needs more joy? Pass it on.

Family Mission Statements ROCK – Part 2

 

For many of you, developing a family mission statement may have been on your “to-do” list for a long time, but you have never gotten around to it. Or, maybe the idea is new and a bit daunting.

Here are some sabotaging beliefs and myths that real people have said about mission statement development.

1. “My children are too young to get involved yet.” Or, as one mom put it, “I don’t want my four-year-old influencing our mission statement.”

Even though children might not be able to articulate it, it matters a lot how their family “feels” to them. The family is a child’s world, and they can, even at very young ages, make valuable contributions to the discussion of what matters to the family.

If children are too young to participate, it’s never too early to begin consciously creating the culture of your home through the development of a family mission statement. Their contribution might merely be participating in the daily reciting of the mission statement.

In our home, we have a disabled, non-verbal four-year-old, a very busy two-year-old, and a five-month-old. Our children were too young to have participated in the actual development of our family mission statement. But they very actively participate in the daily reciting of our mission statement. Our two-year-old loves to say the first line, “The Joyful Palmers are a team! Yeah!” Our disabled daughter engages with a huge smile, and the five-month-old soaks in the feeling of it all.

When children are a little older, they can contribute by drawing their ideas of what matters to the family and how they would like the family to feel.

2. My children are too old. I don’t think my children would accept it.

Older children may very well reject something that might challenge the current family status quo or come down from the “powers that be.” Working with older children requires that we pay special attention to “doing the dance” of inspiring.

Primarily, a family mission statement should never come down as an edict from parents. No matter how fabulous your mission statement might sound, it must be created as a family to have any real investment by everybody.

Consider engaging your older youth and young adults in a way that gives an air of anticipation and excitement to the development of this statement. Be prepared to invest in this process. For example, consider taking a unique family retreat, or maybe your children would respond with some private, preparatory, one-on-one talking.

Never create it yourself and then announce it to the family as the new thing. Make it fun; involve food and activities that your family enjoys.

3. I’m not creative enough.

Mission statements don’t require creativity; they require truth.

4. A mission statement must be short; we can’t fit all that’s important to us in a brief statement.

Here’s an example of a family mission statement that is not short.

Habits of Our Home
We obey the Lord Jesus Christ.
We love, honor, and pray for each other.
We tell the truth.
We consider one another’s interests ahead of our own.
We do not hurt each other with unkind words or deeds.
We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
When someone is sad, we comfort him.
When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
When we have something beautiful to share, we share it.
We take good care of everything God has given us.
We do not create unnecessary work for others.
When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
When we open something, we close it.
When we turn something on, we turn it off.
When we don’t know what to do, we ask.
When we take something out, we put it away.
When we make a mess, we clean it up.
We arrive on time.
We do what we say.
We finish what we start.
We say please and thank you.
When we go out, we act as if we are in this house.
When necessary, we accept discipline and instruction.

5. A mission statement needs to be long.

Here is an example of a short and sweet family mission statement.

Our Family Mission
To encourage others to become like Christ through loving relationships,
healthy lifestyles, and stimulating experiences.

6. I’m not sure we need a family mission statement. We seem to be doing just fine without one.

That’s a fair evaluation if “just fine” is your standard.

Assignment #2: What roadblocks, if any, have been keeping your family from creating your family mission statement? Are these roadblocks real or excuses? If they are real, write them down. Now begin considering solutions to these roadblocks. If you need help, reach out to your spouse or a friend to help you start seeing opportunities and solutions.

You can access Part 1 and Assignment 1 HERE. 

Do you have a Family Mission Statement? We would love to know how you did it. Please comment. Do you have a friend who needs this?