Raising our Kids with a “Legacy List”

As we start a new year, I’ve inevitably begun thinking about things I want for this coming year. Since my  track record with New Year’s resolutions is shaky at best (ie. thinking I’d do the whole 30 diet for all of January was a joke last year), I’m trying to keep it simple this year.

Over a year ago, I posted a list of legacies I wanted to live out with my family. That post must have struck a cord with a lot of parents out there because it received a lot of blog love. That list is obviously near and dear to my heart as well, so I wanted to revisit it to remind myself for the coming year. Not only that, but I would love to give you some ideas for how to make your own legacy list.

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Make Your List

My list was comprised of 10 values we wanted for our kids. I could have brainstormed a longer list, but I kept the list to 10 so I could prioritize and not be overwhelmed by setting an unattainable amount of goals. I picked an overarching statement: “I want my kids to grow up knowing how to love well” and based my top 10 off of that. Choose priorities for your family based on your main goal. For us, faith is a top priority, so that took the first couple slots. The rest are characteristics and values that we hope will teach them to love God, love others, and love who they’ve been created to be. Here is my list:

  1. Worshipers of God
  2. Live out the gospel 
  3. Adventurers and explorers
  4. Culturally-aware
  5. Family time to be important and fun
  6. Individuals
  7. Respectful
  8. Hard-workers that know making mistakes is okay.
  9. A sense of humor
  10. Little givers

Explain What Each Item Looks Like 

You don’t have to go into a lot of depth here, but it’s good to verbalize what each priority looks like in everyday life. It’s easy to say you want “respectful kids”, but how would you define that? Jot down a few ideas for how this might look so that you’ll be able to set clear goals for how to attain a certain value. Here is an example of one of mine:

We want culturally-aware kids. Obviously, we love cultures and love learning about them. We

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Paella at a Spanish Restaurant

want our kids to appreciate our Costa Rican and American cultures; but we also want them to have a love for all people. We hope they want to learn new customs, try new foods, learn new languages, and see new places. Obviously, we won’t allow racism in our house, but we want it to go above and beyond that–which means showing our kids how to be open-minded, accepting of cultural differences, and interested in the lives of others that are different from us.

 

Explain How to Instill Each Value

This is where you get to put your desires into action. I’d imagine you can des-

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Our daughter and foster son

ire to be a really great parent, but that desire has to be paired with action. After each priority and it’s description, I included a practical way that Albin and I were going to try to instill each value in our kids. Here is an example from our hope that our kids would learn to live out
the gospel like Jesus did:

We want this to be like second nature to them, so we’ve started to live like this: stopping to give away groceries to people begging, fostering needy kids, going onto the streets on Saturdays to talk with the hopeless, finding ways we can stand up for justice, etc.

 

The Results After One Year

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Scarlet Macaws at an Animal Refuge Adventure

Amazing. I am incredibly thankful I made this list because it helped our family live out so many things during 2016 that we may not have made a priority otherwise. For example, we want our kids to be adventurers and explorers. To make that a reality, we started going on at least one family adventure a month. We started planning our monthly adventures and putting them on the calendar and they quickly became a priority. As a result, we made some amazing family memories and we looked forward to time together.

So as we look forward to 2017, I’m excited about our little family and about being a parent. I love that God entrusted me with little lives to care for and I want to do that to the best of my ability. This little list has helped me set and meet attainable “goals” for our family, and as I look back over our progress, I’ve seen my own confidence as a mom be raised. Some days are great and some days I feel like I’m failing, but I’m reminded that all those days are worth cherishing.

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What I Envisioned for My Life vs. Reality

This week I got a serious personal reality check when I was supposed to be giving some advice to a friend. As I typed a message out to her, I became increasingly aware of how close the topic hit home in my heart. She had written something about how it is difficult to submit our dreams, hopes, and desires to God’s authority.  As I told her what I thought she needed to do (i.e. surrender her dreams to God), I felt increasingly aware of my hypocrisy. 

I have so many goals, dreams, and desires. A lot of them are great, God-honoring, kingdom-bringing, world-changing desires. My problem is when God isn’t making those desires happen on my timetable, I feel discouraged, impatient, or frustrated. I know what I have envisioned for my life; but why does my reality not look like that? I put a lot of pressure on myself to do big things, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But while I’m fretting over what I’m not doing, I’m missing the joy I can have about the things I am doing. Sometimes I feel that if I’m not the president of World Vision, setting up tents in my backyard for refugees, AND adopting every child without a family in the world, I’m not doing anything. I start to minimize the ministry that I have to my daughter, our foster baby, my husband, and our neighbors. I feel like praying for my friends serving in ministries and supporting them financially isn’t enough and that I should be there fighting in the trenches with them.

And then God asked me … do you trust Me enough to surrender to My plans for your life?

My answer: yes, but Your plans involve me bringing total world peace, right?

So, my daughter is pretty strong-willed. She thinks her little 15-month-old self knows what is best. I love that kid more than life itself, which is why I don’t let her do everything she thinks is best (like sticking millipedes in her mouth. Yes, that happened). Sometimes I just randomly shout out, “I’m in charge here!” She then gives me that one going on sixteen adolescent look that says, “I got this, lady.”

Sometimes, I think that I probably sound like my 15-month-old when I’m talking to God. He’s telling me that He’s in charge and knows what best and I’m hollering back, “I GOT THIS!”

As I’ve prayed about this particular flavor of sin in my life, I’ve realized I need to surrender to His plans. For some people, those plans include being the president of World Vision, but am I going to be content if God’s plans for me are less-noticeable, not in-the-spotlight ministries? Will I submit to changing poopy diapers and be okay with not writing a book and saving every bicultural marriage today? Yes, because I’m realizing that those visions of grandeur need to be surrendered; that’s where true life is found. When I lay down my self-envisioned life, only then will I truly find the abundant life Jesus promises. Maybe my reality doesn’t look exactly how I thought it would look, but if I’m submitting to His plans, it will be exactly what God wanted for His kingdom. And really, at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Maybe someday soon I will adopt all the orphans, direct a global ministry, and house all of the refugees. But for now, I’m going to be faithful in what God has for me today.

“I found my life when I laid it down.” –Hillsong, “Touch the Sky”