Our family was having a lovely meal over the Christmas break, when I surprised everyone at the table and spontaneously popped a question: “If each of you could pick three positive words that would best describe our family, which words would you pick?” Everyone was silent for a moment, and then Dominic, our oldest son, piped up with an encouraging smile and said: “Way to go, Dad!” Everyone chuckled because it’s usually Denise, my wife, who likes to ask meaningful conversation questions when the family gets together. So, I surprised them all!
We all started brainstorming and reminiscing about what we accomplished as a family, the places we traveled to while performing concerts, the people we met through our Cat.Chat ministry, our humble beginnings when the kids were really young, and some of the trials we walked through together. Each of our kids, including Jacob our son in-law and Catherine our daughter in-law, took their turns and shared words they thought best described our family.
I started writing the words down on a piece of paper and got excited with the wide range of uplifting words that were being shared. After about ten minutes, we had collected over thirty words.
We finished our meal and made our way to the living room for phase two of the conversation. With a grin I then said, “OKAY, now we each have to pick our top three words that we all agree on, that are written on this list. These will be the BIG THREE that we will put on our fridge to remember who we are as family and who we want to become. These will be our core values as a family.”
I put a mark beside my three favorite words on the list, then I passed it on to Denise who selected her top three and so on until the rest of the family went through the list. Catherine, Dominic’s wife, eagerly compiled the results from all nine of us and counted to see which words made the TOP THREE. Catherine smiled and passed me the list with the results. With eager anticipation, I announced the three words. With a huge smile, I said, “Are you ready? Here we go. The Montpetit family’s three words to live by are (drumroll please): Friendship, Faithfulness and Intentionality!”
Everyone cheered and cracked a few jokes as we pondered and discussed the results.
Soon after, with Luc leading the way, we began playing more board games, laughing and enjoying the Christmas season knowing that before long, we would all have to face the reality that the holidays would soon be over. The everyday routines and happenings of life would soon kick us into gear and challenge us forward into the new year. We were, however, all encouraged because now we had clarity on who we are as a family, and what we need to strive for to become the best people we can be while living the great adventure of life that God is calling us on. It’s amazing what three words can do for a family, if we choose to live them out not only in the good times, but especially in the hard and trying times.
Here are the THREE words, with an explanation and action plan, that we will be posting in our homes.
What three words best describe your family? I encourage you to have this discussion with your own family and see what you each come up with. Having three core family values keeps it simple, do-able and easy to remember.
The process of doing this with your own family can be just as exciting as the final result. I do realize that for some, communicating in this way might be something new for you and your family. However, taking steps to unite your family and encouraging each of them to grow personally will challenge them to greater heights. Deep down, every child longs for stability, clarity and a vision to strive for within the boundaries of a strong and loving family.
Oh, and remember to make it fun, light hearted and throw in a few snacks and drinks in the process. This short exercise of choosing “three simple words to live by” can lead your family into a journey towards a happier and more united family, not to mention the legacy you could be leaving for generations to come.
Pray about it, prepare, have fun and take action.