Here in the Unites States on this day of reflection, I am reminded of opportunity. Whenever a nation, city, family or individual is confronted by sheer devastation, be it a massive terrorist attack, an overwhelming storm or an acute crisis, there’s shock, grief and then some still space and then action. That little bit of space can be and often is the hinge on which everything afterward swings. When reduced to our very lowest, completely vulnerable and no longer blanketed by safety and security what do we choose? So many of us choose compassion. So many of us choose to be patient with ourselves and our circumstances. So many of us choose to help and rescue and offer aid. It’s our nature and that’s what we do here. As individuals in nations and citizens of the world, if we can continue to root ourselves in solidarity and compassion we can rise from any ashes, overcome any struggle and build resilience no matter the circumstance. Here’s to hoping that when that small space of stillness opens up, we take note and choose to ground ourselves in goodness.
As I mentioned in my “Love Story” Facebook posts a few months back, Ritchie and I went on our first date Valentines Day 1997 which means that we’ve spent the last 20 years cultivating our relationship. As I look back and reflect on how those two sweet teenagers made their way from that first spark of giddy infatuation to more steady and enduring love, I am reminded of how small consistent decisions have far-reaching consequences. Here are a few decisions we make that I am so very grateful for…
-Greet with a hug and a kiss. I watched my parents do this and so it seemed natural to welcome Ritchie home at the end of the day with this small ritual. When it was just the two of us I would stop whatever I was doing when he got home and meet him at the door. Now I am usually outpaced by Jessica and Cassie but almost everyday we all express our gratitude for Daddy’s arrival home.
-Fight fair. Early when we were married I drove Ritchie nuts as I played both referee and combatant in our verbal tiffs. With my Family Science degree I was armed with communication recommendations (many of which I am still working at :)) and I would stop us in the middle of an argument to insist that we not use words like “always” or “never” or to patiently request a specific example when I felt I was unjustly accused of something. 20 years later that looks like clear and calm communication most of the time.
-Commit to creating something unique. The relationship we have is unlike any other we have had or ever will have and it is different from any other marriage we know about. As long as we both keep choosing to make it a priority it will grow and deepen. We each bring our own gifts and in this shared space of our relationship we seek ways to let those gifts flourish as we develop as individuals, as a couple and now as a family. As two different individuals seeking to grow, learn and make it through life we sometimes stumble and we each have a birds eye view of the others shortcomings. In those moments we have the opportunity to extend patience, understanding and love and to witness the distinct beauty that comes from intimate kindness.
-Smile at each other. As often as we can. In the unexpected moments, the ones those two teens never could have dreamed of, from the hours of anxious anticipation in IVF clinics to the breathtaking views from mountain jungles sometimes there aren’t words to convey the emotion or the gratitude we’re feeling. In those moments, with a simple smile I’m saying thank you for the gift of your loyal and incredible soul at my side along this path of life. I think Ritchie’s smile is saying the same thing that gangly and goofy 17 year old said “Wow.”
Happy Valentines Day.
Yesterday I had the chance to go ice skating with Jessica. Having only been a few times in her 7 years she’s still a bit unsteady on the ice. She enthusiastically donned her skates and I watched her stumble through the door to the rink and wait with anxious anticipation for the Zamboni to finish it’s job so she could begin skating. Her initial enthusiasm quickly channeled itself into focused determination as she gripped the wall and unsteadily made her way slowly around the rink. After a few minutes, I followed her out onto the ice, watching her strong little legs jerkily move along as she tried to master the feel of balancing her entire body on two very narrow blades and gliding on a very unforgiving surface. When she was ready to leave the wall she took my hand and held tight, scooting one leg and then the other shuffling herself around the rink again and again. After a while she began to let go at intervals. Feeling increasing confidence in her steadiness, she would move a few feet from me, sometimes falling, sometimes skating and inevitably looking back to see if I was watching. After a few laps of back and forth hand-holding, I began skating close to her holding my arm out. I opened my hand and flexed my arm muscles so that my arm was strong and available to her. I imagine watching me skate was pretty comical, partly stooped with one arm bent at the elbow. It didn’t matter though, I wanted to serve as firm support for her when she needed it. She grabbed on quite a bit but increasingly she could balance on her own. A few times she skated farther from me and someone would come between us. Other times she’d fall and look up at me with the tears that come from pain (knees+ice=hurt) and question why I wasn’t right next to her, why I’d left when she needed me. I told her it was because she had skated on her own, she’d quickened her pace. I thought about God, as I always do in my contemplative parenting moments, and how his support for us is the same. He tells us his arm is extended, and that for all our faltering moments, His hand is stretched out still. Just like I held my arm firm and steady, He offers his strength, support and solidarity as we learn new things, as we stumble, as we venture out and gain confidence in this thing called living. And when we stumble and fall and look up blaming Him for His absence, he simply holds out His arm, helps us up and reminds us He’s never been far and that He’ll skate with us as long as we want Him there. I love that about Him.
Take Action: Nourish your soul with a prayer today, gratefully acknowledge one blessing and ask to have the eyes to see His hand in your life.
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.
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!
Our relationship with truth is manifest in our daily decisions. We can think, talk and read about truth but real power flows from the commitment to experience truth each day by choosing to let it guide us in our actions.
The more you live the truth that you have, the better you’ll understand it.
The more you understand the truth you live, the more you will search for other true things.
The more truth you seek, the better you will recognize how all truth is woven together.
The more truth you seek to collect and implement, the firmer your foundation for living and parenting.
Firm foundations lend themselves to lives of peace, growth and stability.
“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.”
In the middle of a numbness so shocking and deep, I was blessed with a measure of grace for a few days but I soon found that peace alluded me as I muddled on with life and holidays and vacations. It is so hard to seek heaven and hear silence. Left to my own devices, I could glimpse moments of preparation, mostly in the form of my connections with other people. As I continued to grasp at any strands of heaven that came my way, I was offered the opportunity to weave together a new understanding of God and to seek Him where He is instead of where I wanted Him to be. From a broad perspective, this endeavor has turned out to be one of the more enlightening journeys that I have found myself on. But as is so often the case, the enlightenment has been accompanied by soul-searching and a depth of awareness that is sometimes staggering.
Many times throughout His ministry, the Savior offered His listeners the opportunity to find the things they were seeking. I think we live in a time when it is increasingly easy to find ideas, information, opinions, such that one can cultivate community around any ideas he or she wants to. I think one of the pathways to spiritual growth is the belief that one can be a lifelong seeker of God, continually piecing together an understanding of heaven during whatever experiences one finds oneself in until the day that soul and heaven are eventually reacquainted in full and we have the opportunity to see Him as He is. With a bit more life experience, I have a better understanding of how much effort it takes to make this reconciliation sometimes, to seek out and believe in goodness, love and mercy in the face of devastation, to courageously grow and live when there are so many reasons to fear. With the effort has come the realization that each unique journey offers surprising beauty. Here’s to bravely seeking to see.
to experience life. Sometimes it feels confusing, oftentimes it’s messy, it can hurt and be overwhelming, it has the potential to be peaceful, joyful & exquisite.
to inhabit a body. Sometimes you’ll feel at odds with it, oftentimes you’ll forget that so much of life is written in it, it can weaken and break, it has powerful potential to heal and guide you to wholeness.
to be part of a family. Sometimes it will surprise you, oftentimes you won’t realize how much it has shaped you, membership is forever soul-altering, it has the potential to support your growth & nourish you in a way nothing else can.
to make choices. Sometimes they feel daunting, oftentimes you’ll realize you can’t control the consequences, it can be hard to make the same one consistently, they create your response to the invitation and they will shape your experience.
So much depends on how you receive and respond to the invitation. The invitation itself isn’t out to get you. It may be offering to teach you a few things. If you are snugly cloaked in the awareness that you are incredible and that you’ll have the strength you need when you need it, you respond with your inherent goodness.
If you draw on your strength of soul (yes, you have it) and seek to learn and grow, no matter how hard some moments may be and no matter how many times you have to get back up after you stumble, beautiful things are in store for you. I promise.