Our children were toddlers and preschoolers when we first heard the idea of building a family record of God’s faithfulness with tangible reminders of stories from our lives. This idea came from the Growing Kids God’s Way segment, Memorials, and is based on the Israelite account found in Joshua 4. The Lord instructs Joshua to take 12 stones from the Jordan River to set up as a memorial to God’s faithfulness and provision. We were challenged to collect memorials of our own so that we would remember to tell the stories of God’s faithfulness in our family. Now 20 years later, we have a beautiful box of items that remind us of special events and people in our lives. These include something from our first date, a photo of a re-enactment of a special incident, receipts of unexpected provision, and reminders of both times of joy and sorrow. God’s faithfulness is woven through all of these and is part of the faith legacy we pass on to our children as we talk about those memories.
Also in our Memorials Box is a simple spiral-bound journal which records about 15 years of New Year’s Day conversations where we would sit down as a family and share our favorite memories from the previous year and then set some goals for the year ahead. We started this when our oldest child was 5 and our youngest was not yet born. We continued the practice through our kids’ teen years, missing only a couple of years along the way.
On each page, the left side was filled with memories from the past year. We used the following prompts to spark memories in each child:
- What is a favorite memory from our family camping (or road) trip last year?
- What did you enjoy about your birthday celebration?
- Tell us about something you worked hard on and were proud of this year.
- What do you like about the new house/community we have moved into?
- What is great about our family?
After noting their answers, we would look at the previous year’s goals, encouraging them in the steps taken toward those goals and praising their achievements. Then we would fill the right side of the page with goals for the next year. Starting with Dad, we all shared something new we would like to try or learn in the new year, and a character quality or habit we would like to work on. We would try not to be too pointed about this but would encourage the kids to think about how they could grow in love, grace, and wisdom. As parents, our own vulnerability about this set the tone.
Some years we added family goals for the coming year: things we would like to do together or family time habits to rekindle. It was interesting to hear from the kids when some of those important things like family devotions or fun family nights had slipped. This also meant they were investing in building our family identity.
Looking back through the journal pages brings back many sweet memories and a few laughs too! The habit of jotting down our goals gave us a window into each of our children’s hearts and prompted many discussions. It also helped us to encourage them more intentionally in the coming year. I would challenge you to take some time to sit down with your family and share your stories of God’s faithfulness in your life. You will be blessed as you recall what God has done for you. Then, take a few minutes to jot down some goals for 2019. Let this be a tool to help your family as you step into this new year!