Wednesday, October 1, 2014


One night on our vacation, Dustin and I talked for a few hours over dinner (one of the many many benefits to a vacation sans kids- long uninterrupted meals/conversations) about the values we wanted our family to embrace. I'm sure you've all seen the "live, laugh, love" plaques that are all the rage on Pinterest and at Homegoods...our discussion was about creating something like that, but maybe a liiiiitttle less cheesy. Our goal was to get a short list of words that could serve as our family's unofficial mantra- a list of principles that would govern our family's actions. What will the Bowdens be known for? If forced to sum up our unique approach to life in a few words- what would we choose? What are the hallmarks of how we talk, think, and act? 

Sure, we could cop out and just pick "Jesus" or even "Love"...(frankly it's not a cop-out at all, because if we were able to consistently live by even just that single principle, we'd be doing just fine indeed) but if we counted those as givens (easier said than done, givens, but nonetheless...) what would our additional focuses (foci?!) be? 

I love little exercises and discussions like this, and thankfully I have a husband who may not totally share my enthusiasm, but loves me enough to play along. I challenged us to identify five attributes for the list, not for any reason other than that number sounded like a good balance between a few and too many. We then debated options back and forth, examining semantics, evaluating priorities, and discussing the merits of different concepts. 

It was an interesting task- forcing each of us to distill our life goals to the most fundamental elements. We struggled to let go of some things we valued, and even some that come easily to us individually, in favor of ideals that would better round out our list, and our family. We wanted to make sure each attribute was working hard- representing a large enough concept to be truly valuable (and worthy of a top five entry), but also wanted to maintain enough specificity that the words still felt personalized to our family (where "live, laugh, love" goes wrong in my opinion...) We also wanted to make sure we weren't missing something crucial- the yang to all of our yins that would add the much needed counterpoint to another word on our list. 
It was a lofty goal for one conversation, so surely there will be a need to refine and reevaluate, (I'll hold off on the Bowden Manifesto tattoo for now) but we were able to at least arrive at our rough draft of five values. Here's what our trendy, distressed, hand lettered, custom etsy ordered sign would read: (our bonus explanation of the words would have to be handed down to future generations in an oral tradition, or perhaps just jotted on the back...)

Approaching life with vibrancy; having a genuine interest in the world, and a desire to participate in it in a meaningful way.  

Being true to yourself, rooted in a deep knowledge of who and how you were created to be. Being honest, and willing to be vulnerable with others.

Constantly yearning to learn more- with. Keeping an open-minded spirit and childlike sense of wonder- always pondering and asking: "what if, how, and why?"

Doing hard work, again and again. Pushing through challenges, boredom, fatigue and doubt towards worthy goals and dreams.  

Seeing the opportunity to lead and love through acts of service. In humility, considering others greater than yourself.

And as I type our "official" list- I can already think of scores of words that could have, or should have, been included. Humor, Respect, Compassion...there are probably hundreds of values that are equally worthy of top-five status, and certainly some that would be the very first thing on another family's list of priorities. But as much as this activity was about narrowing things down, I also know that it's inherently impossible to live by only five things. We're all a combination of thousands of tendencies, gifts, and priorities. In the end, it actually became much less about the words we landed on, and more about the conversation that led us there. I learned more about my husband as he described the things most important to him. He heard more about my family, what words we intentionally or unintentionally lived by growing up- and how that shaped what I want out of my own family now. We aligned on a remarkable number of points, and most suggestions were expansions of each other's ideas, vs. conflicting concepts. 

It is interesting too, to think about what this conversation could have looked like 9 years ago- had we approached it on our honeymoon, rather than this anniversary trip. It's possible that our values haven't changed too drastically, but our ability to identify and articulate them has certainly grown. And though we're only a couple years into the lifetime journey of parenthood, having real live kids has definitely transformed our theoretical ideas on what we want our family to be. I imagine that if we were to approach this exercise in another nine years, we might land on a few of the same, with perhaps a few change ups needed. 

So we didn't come home with tablets etched with our Five Forever Phrases, and we didn't immediately overhaul our lives to fit our self prescribed mandates. But we certainly have some things to think about, and some exciting starting points for a more intentional life together. 

(And in case you can't tell, we had to pick words for our family, because pictures....just might not be our thing.)

I'm curious to know what you think (of course I'm's one of my words!)...Does this concept intrigue you too? Have you ever tried to come up with a personal or family mission statement? Do you have words that resonate with any of them match ours? (oh, and for those Candors in the bunch, itching to tell me what my list is lacking...take a stab at drafting your own before judging too harshly. It's hard!)

P.s. I got a kick out of seeing how many of the words we landed on were also included in a list I did back in 2010. Turns out some of this is more ingrained in me than I thought. 
Also- more word play here, or check out all of our resolution posts, if that's your thing.


  1. OMG FIN. She is SO BIG. Even though I'm watching her grow (albeit virtually), I seriously feel like she just sprouted up into a little child overnight.

    Anyway, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Something I need to sit down with Ryan and discuss as well as I think it's such an important part of actually… living… and creating… and nurturing a family. Ha, maybe those 3 words are a part of mine? To be continued…

    1. Right? She turned into this little person!
      Would love to hear what you come up with for your family motto!

  2. I really like this idea! Perhaps it's because I also find the "live laugh love" thing totally cheesy and impersonal. My list of 5 would definitely have curiosity and persistence in there...perhaps also "patience" as that is something I am always working on.

    1. Patience.....I'd be scared to put that on my list b/c then I'd have to do it! It's so harrrrrrrd!