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Mottos to Live By

Since moving to Wyoming, my family and I have had to step ever more bravely out of our comfort zones. After seven years of being rooted in a place, we are having to re-establish ourselves in friendships, community and familiar rhythms. Like tender, freshly planted shoots, we have felt fragile, wind-tossed and insecure at times. I've seen each of my children navigate their fears in different ways and I've tried to steward their unique personalities with encouragement that is tailor-made to serve them best. For each of them, this looks like a new family motto.

Family mottos are formational sentences, simple words of affirmation or slogans that reinforce our core values. They create a sense of unity and purpose that help to get us through tough times of navigating change, school, friends and general adolescence. We often say, Hannons can do hard things. Hannons are helpful. Hannons don't complain. Hannons let things go. They can be little catch phrases that remind everyone what we want for them. Obey: first time, every time. Go the extra mile. Observe and Serve. People are more important than things. Your brother is your best friend. Sometimes you have to lead your leaders. If you've never created a family motto, I encourage you to take some time to put pen to paper!

My oldest son, Roman, lives up to his namesake in every way. When he was born, we were inspired by the Roman centurion about whom Jesus said no one in all of Israel had more faith than him. The Roman soldier was a strong, directive leader who protected the vulnerable and understood authority. He knew Jesus could "speak the word only"and his servant would be well. Our Roman is the same. He is a man of few words, a fascinating blend of strength, leadership and playfulness. He is quick, efficient and decisive. We lovingly call him our Benevolent Dictator-- he expects blind allegiance from his little brothers and is incensed when they disobey him. Caring for this unique personality has been one of the great joys of my life. In this season of assimilation, I have encouraged him to protect the weak. To show up into every situation knowing he is a leader, that his voice sets the tone for others.

My moto in this season for my beloved Roman is "Be painfully patient." By this what I really mean is "Be more patient than you think you need to be." This involves encouraging practical behaviors like speaking to his little brothers in a soft tone, responding with affection rather than aggression and doing deep breathing when the moment escalates. When his temper and impatience do flare, I help him work through the anger by holding the brother he is at odds with and telling the offending brother at least 5 things he adores about him. It's the hug that no one wants to give. A tight embrace is hard to do when you're powerfully aggravated and you want to be far away from the source. But the beauty is, the boys always end up laughing and wrestling and resolving their issues.

For my beloved second-born, Levi, I've adopted the catch-phrase "Say Hi First." Middle school can be a tumultuous swirl of bullying, comparison and the endless pursuit of good hair-- the mop, the shag, the fringe-- the fluffier the better. Levi was named after the priestly Levites who ministered before the Lord in endless worship. He is tender, intelligent and deep-thinking. The Lord has blessed him with an ability to sing and play the piano and write beautiful prose. I often think Levi's emotional capacity combines with the brutality of Junior High and causes him to question his own confidence. He can come across as shy or even aloof. But he has a gorgeous soul with a sharp wit and a broadly studied mind. He's skillful at baseball, cross country and track. He is spontaneous, kind and creative. He wins every board game he plays and he can pick out tunes he's heard years ago. He has so much to offer the world. I never want him to doubt his inestimable worth.

So my motto for him in this season is "Say 'Hi' first." I want to encourage his confidence, initiative and leadership in relationships. I don't want him to assume his peers are rejecting him when they don't say hello or invite him in first. I remind him that they are most likely operating out of their own insecurity. Other teenagers are never thinking about us as much as we think they are. They're too busy thinking about their own unimpressive haircut, creased shoes and awkward conversational skills. So the behaviors I'm encouraging my 8th grader to adopt in this season are to start every conversation, prepare follow up questions based on peoples' interest, smile even when he doesn't feel like it, maintain bold eye contact and never assume someone is cooler than he is.

For Buz and I, our constant reminder is "Remain the Same." I heard a sermon years ago that encouraged this idea-- no matter what happens to you.. good days, bad days, sunshine or sorrow, whether you're cut off in traffic, wounded by a friend, frustrated by a child, or receiving joy and unexpected blessings, let your character and responses remain the same. So as we walk in the footprints of Jesus, we seek to remain constant in devotion, consistent in our responsibilites and unflinching in our integrity. No matter what is said or done to us, we strive for our response to be patient, forgiving and kind. Our committment is to show the people in our lives-- siblings, parents, co-workers, children, our community-- that we are a constant, ever-loving presence. It's so challenging when your teenager is sassing you to remain the same. When your parents are being difficult, you want to lash out. When you feel misunderstood or disrespected, the temptation is to react, to engage or to fight back, but this motto rises with flinty resolve and a gentle reminder-- Christ remained the same and so can we.

What are some of your family mottos? Leave me a comment below and share some of the words you live by! If you've never written one, take some time this holiday season to discuss your values as a family, dig into the Bible, and pen something meaningful. Keep a journal of family mottos, miracles and remembrances. Print it creatively onto necklaces or bracelets (my boys love these ones) or paint it on a sign and hang it in a place visible to all. Regularly repeat it to one another.

Happy motto-making!!

Love, Tara

And the Lord answered me: "Write the vision; make it plain on tablets so he who reads it may run." Habakkuk 2:2

Study up on the life of Mary the mother of Jesus this Advent season!


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