Right after Erman and I got engaged, we began making lists–lists of things we needed to start saving and preparing for, things to get or get rid of once we merged our lives, things we needed to do for our wedding, and people we wanted to celebrate with.
But our lists weren’t just about the wedding day. From the start, Erman and I have tried to focus on a bigger picture, beyond the “I dos,” setting our sights on the kind of marriage, home, and family we want to create together.
When I was in college, my best friend/roommate’s father tragically passed away. At the funeral, inside the memorial program, their family mission statement was printed alongside their family photo. I had never heard of a family mission statement, but I could see how their family’s focus was actualized in the lives the children were living. I loved the idea so much, I filed it away as something I wanted to do with my own someday-family.
So one Sunday, Erman and I sat down to figure out what our family’s overarching focus would be. We started by just brainstorming–spouting out words and ideas, goals that were important to us, and characteristics we wanted to exhibit in our own lives and teach our children.
After our brainstorm, we combined like ideas and I wrote up a master list. Because it’s something we want to teach to our children, I tried to find a clever way to present it so they could remember it easily. I started with a numbered list that rhymed, then tried to make it a poem, and finally settled on an acrostic, where the first letter of each line spells our last name.
Each word was carefully chosen and we plan to recite our mission statement each week at the start of our Family Home Evening activities. I later realized that there are 11 letters in our last name. Those 11 lines, plus our family motto (written at the bottom of our document) equals 12, which means I’m also having grand visions of focusing on one “value” each month some year down the road when our kids are older and we can memorize scriptures, meaningful quotes, and discuss the ideas and lessons behind each point.
I ended up changing “Family Mission Statement” to “Family Manifesto” because it sounds so much more solid, in my humble opinion. I like the oomph behind “Manifesto.” Once I had it to a place where both Erman and I were happy with it, I hired Elisabeth Wing at WingMade to design/illustrate it so I could print and hang it in our home. I’m beyond delighted with how it turned out. Elisabeth is so talented and I love how she drew inspiration from traditional Turkish embroidery to illustrate the floral motif.
I encourage everyone to create a Family Mission Statement. It’s a great way to build family pride, encourage family unity, focus your efforts, and instill what’s most important to you in your children. Here are the points of our Manifesto and the thought behind them:
We are a family that
Exhibits trust and love in God.
First and foremost, we want to teach our children to love and trust God, but more importantly, we want to teach them how to manifest that in their lives. Faith is an action, not just a nice thought or a simple utterance. We want to always make sure that we are loving, trusting, and praising God with our not just with our words, but turning that love and trust into action as well.
Runs to help others.
This point started as simply “give service” but it lacked something. Finally, I realized, there was no power or urgency behind it. One of my favorite scriptures is found in Mosiah in The Book of Mormon: “For are we not all beggars?” Erman and I want to be people who move swiftly to lift, help, and assist others. And we want to teach our children that we are a family that runs to make that happen.
Creates a welcome place for all.
As a Southerner and a former-eastern European-Muslim, hospitality is extremely important to both of us. We love to have people in our home, host dinners and parties, visit with friends, and find ways to extend an extra measure of love to all who cross our threshold. We want it to be apparent that our home is a welcome, safe place for everyone, regardless of religion, race, background, choices, etc. But beyond the walls of our own home, we want to teach our children that no matter where they are, they can provide kindness and hospitality to all, that the seat next to them is always open.
Is generous with our abundance.
This goes back to the notion of “are we not all beggars?” But it’s slightly different than running to help. Beyond the action of service, we want to always be aware of our abundance and find ways to live simply so we can share with those who have less. We want to teach our children about the mindful donations we offer and the variety of organizations we support financially. We also want to encourage their own philanthropy and giving.
Never stops learning.
Originally, this point focused on education, and while education is definitly important to us, we want to focus more on a love of learning. Erman and I both plan to get advanced degrees, but we also have lists of additional things we want to learn–from online or rec-center classes, to community education opportunities, to books we want to read and skills we want to research. We hope we can teach our children to love learning no matter where it’s available and to seek both a good education as well look for opportunities at every age and stage of life to expand their minds and skills.
Marvels at, takes care of, and travels this beautiful Earth.
Erman and I love to see the world. We love to take drives to look at the changing leaves in the fall, pull over to watch the sunset, or point out a particularly beautiful tree. We love road trips and plane rides, new cities and new foods. We have a travel bucket list a mile long and goals to save for those opportunities. We want to help our children see the wonder in this amazing, vast, diverse, and breathtaking Earth, to take seriously their role as stewards of her protection, and to make traveling to see it all a priority.
Always owns our mistakes and our awesome.
We want our children to know that mistakes are okay. We own them, learn from them, become better because of them, and move on. They need not feed shame in our house. There is nothing to be gained from hiding errors. On the flip side, we want to raise our children to be confident about who they are and own their awesome–a little phrase I say to people (usually girls and women) who hem and haw about their talents, skills, and characteristics that make them amazing and unique. Own your awesome! Know what you’re good and and be proud of it!
Understands that hard work is more important than talent.
I do not care if my kids are the brightest, most talented kids in class. I care that they worked hard, that they put in the effort, and can feel the pride that comes from doing hard things regardless of the end result.
Remembers to pray always.
God is at the center of our lives and our home. We are His children and He loves us. If we are to navigate this world successfully, we must communicate with Him. And a relationship with anyone depends on your willingness to talk to them, God included. We are a family that prays. We pray together and for each other. Erman and I pray as a couple. And we will teach our children how to access the divine power that comes from communion with heaven.
Expresses love and gratitude freely.
Graciousness is, in my opinion, becoming a lost art. We want to be a family that recognizes when we’ve been blessed and says thank you. And we never want there to be a question about our love. We will say it and show it–to each other and all we meet. Everyone is worthy of love and should hear it daily.
Really hugs tight.
We’ve found that most resentment, annoyance, and anger can be defused with a hug. At night, when we say family prayers, we end it with a family hug and boy do we squeeze tight. We shoot our love out of our arms and into the other person. Touch does wonders for the soul and like it or not, we’re huggers.