I lost my dad recently, and the emotions of it continue to be excruciating. I’ve gone through cycles of grief, sadness and feeling alone after losing my biggest cheerleader.
Standing beside a casket gives an incredible sense of finality – there will be no more phone calls to catch up, no more Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners all together as a family, no more advice when things are hard, and no more celebrations of life’s little and big victories.
Solomon understood this when he penned Ecclesiastes 7:2:
“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”
Essentially, we are encouraged to look back and consider how we are living our lives and “take this to heart.” He says there is still time to examine the direction of our lives and make the necessary adjustments, changes or corrections.
It’s important to examine our lives on a regular basis and not just when a loved one dies. One of the ways our family has “looked back” as part of our traditions is by creating an “Eyster Family Annual Report.” Now, if that sounds boring and sterile to you, just hear me out...
Our Annual Report started more than a decade ago. Our children were in elementary school when we began writing what we were grateful for between Thanksgiving and Christmas – but you can start as early as January.
Everyone participated and we created a long list of great memories from the year. Fun things, trips, vacations, major milestones, celebrations, new friends, new accomplishments…you get the idea. You would be surprised at some of the things a 6-year-old will think of!
Once we finish the list, we spend time going over it and reflecting on all the life that had been lived. When our kids were young, it was fun and silly and we all laughed and enjoyed memories of the year.
As our children got older and life became, in many ways, more serious, our annual review became an incredibly important part of our family’s traditions. It was still fun and sometimes silly, but in addition to great memories, vacations and milestones, we started listing things we learned and how we grew personally.
We started adding pictures and major goals that were set and accomplished. We even began listing the mistakes we made and experiences we learned from, calling them our “Epic Fails”. It has become a powerful way to be aware of how God was at work in our lives and how good and faithful He is, regardless of circumstances.
Here are a few excerpts from last year’s report:
The Annual Report also makes us keenly aware that life moves pretty doggone fast! There is an old saying, “The days seem to last forever but the years fly by in an instant!”
We now have more than a dozen Eyster Family Annual Reports chronicling major happenings and events in our family. I am grateful we took the time to really reflect on all God was doing in our lives and in a lot of ways took it to heart.
Let me encourage you to start this tradition with your family. In fact, FamilyLife has made it simple for you by creating a mobile application called “Our Family’s Year In Review.” It helps you capture memories from 2015 in categories like “Marriage” and “Fun,” reflect on how God worked in your lives, and make some plans for 2016.
It’s part of FamilyLife’s new “My FamilyLife” app, which offers a variety of interactive experiences for married couples.
One final note: When my daughter – now 21 and married – read this article, she told me, “Make sure you tell parents that their children will grow to appreciate how important this tradition has been in their lives.”
Though we wish it were so, the reality of life is not always a Cinderella story. But during some difficult days, I learned there was something better than a magic wand to wave away my troubles.
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Walt and Ann Bealke have been married for a long time, just not to each other. They are now 5 years into their marriage (the third for each of them), and are seeing God redeem their pasts and build a Gospel-centered marriage.
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