GPS is amazing. I am finding it hard to remember how I ever left home without it. There are times when I have no idea how to get where I need to go, but I hop in the car with confidence because I can just plug the address into my phone and trust the GPS to get me where I want to go. Sometimes in the middle of a trip I wonder, “Am I still headed in the right direction?” There are times when my phone will take me places I wouldn’t necessarily choose to go and I can begin to feel unsettled and unsure. I zoom in on one particular leg of the trip and lose sight of the end, which can be downright scary.
Parenting can feel like that at times. The beginning of this journey for most parents is often pregnant with excitement coupled with terror. There are enough “firsts” to keep us on our toes and moving forward. But as the newness wears off a bit, and we settle into our roles as mom and dad, we can get a little bogged down navigating those middle years. The nature of life, especially life with small kids, keeps us buried in the immediate. We can jump from one urgent thing to the next never taking a step back to see the big picture.
We would never think of packing up our suitcases and leaving for a family vacation without choosing the destination. But it’s easy to be so busy parenting that we forget to think about the end goal. Most of us have a vague idea what we want to be true of our family, but if we don’t clearly define our vision it’s hard to know if we are headed in the right direction. Here’s where a “family vision” can help. I don’t actually love the wording here. A lot of people get excited about things like this. I’m not one of them. It actually intimidates me. I prefer to think of this more like a family theme – something I want our family to be about. A theme or vision like this gives us perspective and reminds us of our goal, which can be especially helpful in those middle years.
Here are three steps that can pull you out of the turn-by-turn directions momentarily and help you imagine the end goal for your family.
· Create it – It may seem daunting to try to create a family vision, but don’t let that stop you from trying. I like to think about things I know God wants to be true of us and try to come up with a concise phrase that embodies that. It’s helpful to make it short and catchy so that it’s easy to remember and repeat. Here are a few examples to get you thinking…Know God’s Love – Show God’s Love. Know Jesus – Make Him Known. Do Justice – Love Kindness – Walk Humbly. Love God – Love Others.
· Communicate it – It’s only mildly helpful to do all that work creating a family vision statement if you are the only one who knows about it. You need to talk about it - a lot. See if you can think of a creative, engaging way to communicate the vision. This will help everyone to be on the same page and
headed in the same direction. Communicate your vision so that your family is excited and inspired to jump right in. You can even take it a step further – brand it. Come up with a cool logo that embodies your vision. Notice I said, “cool”. Don’t make it cheesy. Kids - especially older kids - will not get that excited about a corny logo. If you are a musical family, put some notes and lyrics to it. If you’ve got an artist in the family, let them be creative with the theme. The main idea is to make sure the phrase comes up over and over and over again.
· Check it – We have so many teaching moments with our kids, most of them growing out of tension or conflict. They can very easily leave us emotionally exhausted. I get it. I’m right there with you. But don’t miss these opportunities. These difficult moments open the door to revisit your family vision. Check in by asking how the situation could have been different if all our words and actions more closely lined up with our family vision. Help them think through what it would look like to pursue the vision moving forward to bring resolution. End by asking God together to give you wisdom, strength and discipline to pursue Him and the vision He has born in your heart.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying a family vision will solve all your family problems and make all your wildest dreams come true. There will still be plenty of detours, roadblocks, obstacles and challenges on this journey. But, if you and your family know where you’re headed, you’ll be able to navigate those challenges much more easily keeping the big picture in mind. Go on. Give it a try. I’ll be cheering you on!
Written by Aimee McGuiness, Mom to four kids ages 6-14 years, Wife to Paul, Dickson City Next Steps Pastor at Parker Hill Church.