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.
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!
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.
Yesterday as I settled into the news of the terrorist attack in Belgium and felt the fear that comes when people are hurt, this scripture kept coming to mind. These timeless words were uttered by the prophet Elisha to his servant when they woke up confronted with a seemingly insurmountable opposing force (represented by the tents). Before taking any action, Elisha prayed that the servant’s eyes would be opened and that he would be able to see that their sincere and brave efforts supporting Israel were augmented by the surrounding horses and chariots of fire. It was at that point that the real state of things was clarified to at least those two individuals.
Sometimes when disaster strikes or hurt abounds, it can be hard to “see” the hand of God because frequently we want to see Him in protection. Like Elisha and his servant, we want heaven’s hand to be manifest in the avoidance of pain for innocent people. It takes practice, patience and earnest seeking of the spirit to learn to see him in the midst of pain, to see Him in moments when resilience is being cultivated. After yesterday, take a deep breath and acknowledge the fear that you naturally feel because it has the power to transform you, to give you the desire to see things you might not have seen otherwise. When hurt abounds, as it does now, God can always be “seen” in the healing if that’s what you’re looking and praying for.
After acknowedging any fear or anxiety, try to see this: The signature of the adversary’s work is in fear, division and coercion. On the other hand, the signature of heaven is found in compassion, cohesion, healing and growth. So find peace in the stories of compassion that begin to emerge, bask in the goodness that flows from people who care. Find strength in the solidarity of humanity, the vast majority of whom abhor such violent acts. Watch as wounds, both physical and spiritual, heal through the ministering grace of heaven. Listen for the stories of people who draw on angelic strength and choose to grow through this hard thing that life offered them. And hug your babies, your spouse, your parents or yourself, maybe sit in stillness for a few minutes, smile at a neighbor or a fellow driver, recognizing that whenever you choose to love, unify, heal, strengthen and support growth, especially in the midst of fear, you’re in good company “for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
Around the age of 14 I learned to slalom ski on Lake Mojave in California. I had been water-skiing for a number of years and I was getting increasingly comfortable and ready to put another sport in my recreational repertoire. Sometimes life offers us the choice of taking on something challenging. Sometimes it doesn’t. This is one of the times I got to choose and here is what I remember about slalom skiing: Until experiencing it, I had little understanding of just how much work it takes to stay steady and rise above the water.
I had watched other people, snugly fit in their life jackets, hop into the cool water, wrestle with an unruly ski, fitting one foot in first and then tucking the other behind it. I’d watched them struggle to keep their heads up as they waited for rope, jostled in the water at the mercy of the current and the boat wake. I’d seen them grab the rope and straighten the ski, positioning their bodies directly behind the boat. And then I’d watched them call “hit it” to the boat driver and endure the pull of the boat, rising almost effortlessly out of the water as the ski would plane out and they’d fly across the lake with exhilarating freedom.
What I learned when it was me in the water is that those few seconds that seem effortless are, to the skier, quite challenging. And that the hardest moments of skiing are the moments of endurance between “hit it” and gliding across a lake of early morning glass. No matter who you are and how strong your body is, those few seconds of extreme pull require commitment, endurance and vision. You have to tell yourself that you won’t let go until you reach your goal. You have to remind yourself that you can do it and you have to see yourself skiing on that lake. Sometimes struggle is like that and when you’re in the thick of something hard, those moments where everything seems more than you can bear, you think you can’t hang on or that you’re the only one who struggles or that you’ll never move through the stretching moments you find yourself in. It’s not. You can. You’re not. You will. Believe & hang on.
Every summer when I go to Lake Powell I like to slalom ski at least once to remind myself what it feels like. I usually have to make a few attempts because I’ve forgotten, as it’s easy to do, how to hang on to the rope when every muscle in my arms and legs screams for me to let go. I ski to practice skiing, to get some water up my nose, shake it off and try again. I ski to remind myself that I am capable of enduring the pull of the boat for as long as it takes to get me up out of the water. I ski to practice steadying myself in positions I know will move me forward as the wake of the boat and the water of the lake rock me back and forth. I ski to remind myself that it’s worth hanging on because there’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise as I slide across the lake with a smile on my face, the wind in my hair and my fingers grazing the top of the water. Like most things in life, the price we pay for experiential knowledge can be steep but it’s worth the effort.