if that’s what you’re seeking. There was a time when I would focus on all that was missing from a picture like this. That view was usually wrapped around a desire for more carefree cartwheeling children. Life is so much richer now that I have eyes to see all that is there. There is one beautiful joyful child and I get to mother her. There are cartwheeeling children the world over. They don’t need to be mine for me to appreciate the hope, love and meaning that they represent. The overflowing love I have for this one can fill her and then spread wherever it’s needed.
Whenever I need a reminder about what abundance feels like, I look at the never-ending sky and feel gratitude for the chance to experience life below it each day. And then I do a cartwheel.
I’m especially convinced of this after hand-delivering thank you notes today. Last weekend the Relief Society of our church worked with Catholic Charities to host a Refugee Family Education Day and offer 300+ refugees job and home management classes. I was part of a committee that spent time seeking donations from different individuals/companies in the community so that we could serve lunch at the event. Today I got to return to the donors and tell them how meaningful the event was and how much we appreciated their support. There is something so beautiful and powerful in the recognition between two people that help was requested, received and appreciated. Gratitude adds meaning and perspective to this beautiful circle of life that we’re all connected in.
A few weeks ago on a sunny southern California day, I knelt at the side of my Grandfather’s grave as my dad and I arranged flowers in a makeshift flower dugout (a Titos Tacos cup was all we had and my dad was sure my grandparents would appreciate that more than the flowers).
My grandfather served in the Pacific Theatre during WWII. As with all veterans, his military service could be counted in years but the sacrifices he made for that service spanned his lifetime. As my family and I took a moment to honor this brave and good man my dad looked over at us and said “Guys, trust me, he wouldn’t want us to be here crying, he would want us to be at the beach having fun. He would want us to be living.” While the tears were important, it was a beautiful idea to me, to honor my grief, honor his life and his many sacrifices by living fully.
Viktor Frankl, who lived on the other side of the world and endured his own horrors in concentration camps as my Grandpa hunkered down in island foxholes, said “What is to give light, must endure burning.” Today we feel gratitude for the light offered to us by so many of our fellow humans. I stood up from the grave that day and brushed the dirt off my knees determined to take the light my Grandfather gave me and let it guide me into places where I can offer that same compassion and strength to others who may need it.
When we moved into our house in San Antonio back in 2005 we planted two peach trees. We mark the passage of time by these trees and their annual growth and bearing season after season. Through the years we had a variety of critters take up residence in the trees and two springs ago a little mourning dove family assembled a fragile nest in the flat space between two branches of one of the trees. Over the course of a few days, the petite mama bird used the long strands of grass and twigs brought by her mate to weave together a simple nest where she could lay their eggs. Mourning doves are not known for sturdy nests and her weave was light but thick and seemed to be sufficient for hold the eggs as the pair took turns safeguarding them. When it was time to thin the peaches (That means removing some of the tiny green peaches when they’re growing too close together) we were careful to work quietly and gently around the nest as the dove on guard kept a watchful eye on us. We did our best to keep our barking dog and bouncing balls clear of the space those doves needed to carry out their important work.
Despite our best efforts to protect the nest, they were subject to forces beyond our control. If you’ve lived anywhere in South Texas you know that the area can experience some mighty storms. There was one morning in particular when I sat nestled in my cozy morning space, when lightning lit the dark sky, rain pelted the windows and wind howled around the corners of my house. I thought with some angst about that little mama bird and her eggs, just 20 yards from me in distance but experiencing dramatically different conditions. As the storm worsened, my awareness of her heightened as I thought about that seemingly flimsy nest and her small weight. It is customary for the mother mourning dove to take the night watch, and I wondered if she’d flee to safety to save herself from being lashed by the rain and nearby leaves or if she’d stay with her eggs, offering them her warmth and protection while anchoring the nest with her small but steadying weight. As the storm raged with even more fury I was sure that even if she had stayed that surely her delicate bulk wouldn’t be enough to counter the strength of the wind and rain and that she and her nest would come to ruin. So much had we invested ourselves in this little bird family that I thought about donning my raincoat and venturing out to check on her but I realized that short of holding up her nest in a thunderstorm (which would put my own safety in danger and probably cause her more distress than the actual storm) there wasn’t a lot I could do for her at that moment. So with a realization that immediate intervention was not the needful course of action, I sent all the strength I could spare to that mama bird in the middle of a fierce storm.
In the morning, shortly after the sun rose and the skies cleared, I hiked up my pajama bottoms and ambled out through the wet grass to the tree, expecting to find some degree of disaster. Instead what I found was a serene mama mourning dove sitting on her nest. Upon further inspection I was surprised to see two tiny beaks reaching out as well. It was not just eggs that she guarded but barely-hatched baby birds! Despite the ferocity of the storm, that little nest along with it’s steadying mama held and it was enough to keep those little birds safe. Delighted at her strength, fortitude and resilience, and determined to support her in some way, I rushed back into the house, grabbed the birdseed and refilled the bird feeder, making sure to spill some extra on the ground. For a few short weeks afterward our family joyfully watched those little birds grow. There were times when we glimpsed them stretching and craning their necks around in the nest on their own. As the tiny birds grew and a parent returned with food there were times when we wondered how all of them were going to fit in the nest without one of them toppling out but balance was achieved and nature ran her course until the nest was empty and they finally ventured out on their own. The nest served it’s purpose to support the growth of the fledglings and the mother and father had served those little birds by providing an anchor, balance and nourishment when it was needed the most.
Family council is a quick weekly meeting with everyone in the household. It’s best to have it regularly but even if you just do it once a month your family will learn to communicate, coordinate and cooperate with more ease. The most basic meeting would include a schedule review and a discussion of individual/family needs. As you practice meeting together you might find that you’d like to incorporate some other topics into the practice. I recommend starting small and firming up the habit before adding more items to the agenda. Just practice being together, talking openly and being as patient with each other as you can. This week’s agenda will help you have a well-rounded meeting in just a few minutes. Holding the space for family council each week breathes life into the home and gives the family and its members room to heal, grow, and become a strong team.
I have been off my synthroid medication for 8 months. I had my 6 month follow up in February and my antibodies were the lowest they’ve ever been, my thyroid hormones were were great. I’m telling you this to give you hope because bodies can heal. I have been told (repeatedly) by all manner of individuals that this doesn’t happen. I have been told by a small handful that it can. Anything is possible.
I remember sitting on the living room floor with Ritchie 2 years ago. I’d just been to the doctor where they suspected I had celiac disease. I was devastated because autoimmunity can be a slide and once you have one disease it’s easy to start collecting disorders until eventually your body is just mired in dysfunction. I sat there feeling so disheartened at the prospect of that and also humble. Like, well, if this is what God wants I will accept it. But, like many of you, I had other plans! Mainly living with and loving my family having adventures, using my gifts and skills to help other people grow. These last few years have been an interesting adventure in cultivating a deeper understanding of the interesting tapestry that is woven from personal choice and God’s will. Sitting on the floor in tears, I didn’t feel like I had filled the measure of my creation, there was more for me to do. And not in a self-aggrandizement kind of way, just in a mothering-give-back-to-humanity kind of way. So I asked God to help me figure out a way to do that, to fill the measure of my creation. I remember praying to be healed and then over time I changed my prayers to ask for the gift of healing. Instead of relying on something external to change my circumstance, the gift of healing meant asking God to teach me about this beautiful creation of his (the body) and to help me understand it and how to work with it’s natural tendency to heal. I think sometimes we think of the gift of healing as something we have and use for other people but in my experience asking for the gift of healing to heal myself has been a different kind of prayer leading to a beautiful journey. Like any artist, I have found my Heavenly Father to be more than willing to share the intricacies of His creations with me. Tune into your inherent strength & divinity, be brave enough to seek it and see what happens!
Tomorrow is Sunday, it’s the day we have Family Council each week. Family Council lets our family practice communication and connection around the everyday things in our life. It’s the space in our week where we talk about our schedules and check in with each other about how life is going in our house. Meeting together briefly each week has given our family a lot of opportunities to communicate and creatively tackle problems and challenges. It’s taken us from a place of reactive growth to proactive growth. A few weeks ago I posted a quick start agenda and guide. This week I’m posting an Easy Family Council Agenda with tomorrow’s date. It just includes gratitude, a schedule review and a quick reflective question. There are three agendas to a page. Print out enough that each family member has a copy, give it a try after dinner tomorrow and let me know how it goes!
When beginning a new habit it’s important to start small, be consistent and build some incentive into it. This Family Council Quick Start Agenda covers the basics and allows you to easily begin your first family council meeting this week. Use this agenda until meeting together weekly is an established routine (at least 1 month).
To your spouse you can say “Hey babe, I’d really love your feedback and input on some family stuff and I’d like to have a brief family council meeting. I’ll take care of the agenda.” People rarely say no when you ask for their opinion.
To your kids you can say “Hey guys, I want to know what’s going on with you, we’re going to have a quick team meeting after dinner on Sunday.” You may get grumbling but you can smile and offer to let them choose the game.
Expect to hear “How long is this going to take?” from all parties. Smile and respond with “Not long, and it’ll be fun.”
Print 1 Family Council Quick Start Agenda copy for each member of the family and provide each person with a colorful pen which makes their random doodling all over your painstakingly-prepared agenda look especially nice. Feel free to review the agenda with notes but if your family sees that many words on a page at your first meeting they may run for cover so tuck it under your copy of the Quick Start Agenda and refer to it as needed. Start with the gratitude and make sure each person receives some because that sets a tone of love and appreciation for the whole meeting. Ending with a game leaves everyone feeling like there was at least something fun that came out of it.
In our house my role is to manage our growth and experiences so I create the family council agenda each week. In the coming weeks I’ll share ideas on how to evolve your agenda as your family acclimates and embraces the meeting. So much of it is in the presentation and like Ritchie said, when the agenda shows up, we have family council.
p.s. I welcome your feedback and I’d love to hear how it goes for you!
“I don’t blog nor do I write (heck I can hardly read for that matter) so consider this important. Our family has been working on getting back to it’s A game for a little while now, and I think we are about there (minus the regular daily issues we call life). About 8-10 months ago my brilliant wife decided that it was time that we follow the counsel given to us by the leaders of our church and not only have our regular FHE on Mondays (Family Home Evening, which consists of a song, prayer, spiritual thought, some scripture reading, a game, and my personal favorite, a treat), but now we had to have Family Council on Sunday nights. So I went along with it as any decent husband would, I wasn’t too excited about it to be honest, and I thought well maybe it will go away if I do it a few times. But the agendas keep coming and we keep having it. Even though everything else she seems to suggest improves our lives this one didn’t include an increased consumption of bacon like her change in our eating habits so I wasn’t as excited. It has been over 21 days so now I think it would be considered a habit.
Basically a Family Council is now the life blood of our family. We go over the details for the upcoming week for the whole family and then figure out if we have any conflicts and if we do we make an adjustment and go from there. This is a great opportunity for me as a dad to be involved in the everyday lives of my girls. Before we started this I use to roughly know the ins and outs of what was going on but because 10-12 of my waking hours are spent at that place called work I was in the dark a lot or I missed important milestones in their lives that had I known about them I could’ve adjusted my schedule around and been more apart of their lives. Well now with Family Council I can be and am. I don’t miss as much of the important things in life anymore.
Not only do we schedule but we plan for the future, we make travel goals, talk about ways our family can help others, go over self-help tips, go over credit card bills, list car and home debt, teach Jess life basics like our phone number etc. Family Council has made a big impact on our family and the weeks it doesn’t happen sure are rough. It is a great way to have us all be accountable for ourselves and each others needs. Give it a try for a month, start out simple and then get more depth. We always have a treat and play a game, or if you are lucky and we forget to close our curtains you might catch us in one of our famous dance parties instead of a game. Who says tall people have no coordination, whoever it was was right……
Check out Elder M Russell Ballard’s an Apostle’s talk about all the ways Family Council can help you.”
It is Easter. I am 35 and it feels like maybe I’m wholly celebrating it for the first time. I’ve spent the past 2 years seeking to put an autoimmune condition into remission. In the process of working with healers, both in heaven and earth, to accomplish this seemingly miraculous feat, I have cultivated a deeply affectionate and respectful relationship with my body, this friend of my soul. I have sought to understand the way it communicates to me, to come to terms with it’s vulnerabilities and utilize it’s incredible strengths. I have learned how to nourish its different systems and respect the interplay of this intricate work of God. I have had a front row seat to some of the inherent rebalancing capabilities that are built into it and I have grown to love it in a way that you love an old worn set of scriptures or a favorite book, one that you re-visit many times because it contains more wisdom than you’ll ever glean in a lifetime of study. You see, this body of mine, it carries both the signature of God and the story of my life, manifesting so much of how I have lived and been treated and what I have chosen to make a part of me, all of it written in the fleshy tables of my heart.
When my spirit is called home, it will still the beating of that heart which has guided me to so much goodness. It will lay aside this mind which has sought to make sense of my experiences in ways that lead to learning and growth. The eyes that have watched many a sunrise will close and the ears that have heard laughter and birdsong and music will cease to collect sound. The departure of my soul will quiet the breathe that allows life to flow to all of me. Life will withdraw from these bones which have structured my work and it will leave the muscles which have given strength to my endeavors. It will leave the arms that have cradled my child and held my spouse and the hands that have opened books, written words, prepared meals, dried tears, planted seeds and pulled weeds. The legs and feet that have kicked soccer balls, walked the dog and held me firmly to the earth each day will cease to carry me. Without the atonement, that separation of my soul from my experiences would be permanent.
Inviting myself to make peace with the inevitability of this moment has encouraged my soul and body to weave themselves together to create a life where I don’t waste the moments I spend in this body, I own and cherish them. It is with tear-filled eyes that I consider the gracious redemptive work of the Savior that we commemorate today, wherein He gave me the opportunity to inhabit this body and to choose how to use it to grow and experience living as I seek to glorify and serve Him. What a blessing that the labor of connecting my soul and body need not be a finite work, but a timeless and eternal one. Happy Easter.