Compassion is the universal language of humanity. No matter what words you speak, acts of kindness and empathy resonate soul-deep. The more we each speak this language of compassion in thought, word and action, the more we’ll understand each other. The more we understand each other the more we can imbue our lives with peace.
Take Action: Today find a way to speak the language of compassion by reaching out to another person (family member, friend or stranger) and asking “What can I do to support you today?” And then if you’re able, do that thing.
The other day I attended a bridal shower where the honored guest asked everyone to offer a piece of marriage advice. It is always interesting to stop and consider marriage from the perspective of someone just diving into it. With every ounce of newlywed respect, it felt a little like trying to explain how to use, clean and care for one of the brightly wrapped gifts in front of her when her focus was, quite naturally, on the novelty of the item. I wanted to share wisdom and perspective about the work ahead, offer warnings about pitfalls and acknowledge the potential for deep and lasting joy. This is the jist of what I said:
With this marriage you are creating something that has never existed before. You each bring unique strengths and vulnerabilities to the relationship and your task is to combine those in a way that allows you to move through your days, weeks and years together. Life will invite you and this marriage of yours to many places. Some of those moments will be surprising and may break things that you thought were sure. Other moments will reveal that ties that seemed weak were actually very strong. It is important to remember that in all of this you have the ability to choose how you navigate those moments. The more times you are both able to turn to each other, communicate, draw on your inherent strengths, humbly accept and seek to move through your vulnerabilities the more your relationship can grow. And the more moments you can string together where all parties are growing and becoming something stronger, the more your marriage will thrive.
Take Action: Think of a relationship you value. It could be a marriage, partnership or friendship. Express gratitude to the other person in that relationship today. It could simply be for the existence of the relationship and how it enhances your life or for something specific like a kindness offered or a strength they possess.
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.
Our “plancha” ride
When Ritchie, Jessica and I set out for Guatemala last year we knew that we were undertaking some things we’d never done before and there was a good chance we were going to make mistakes as we immersed ourselves in experiences with new places, cultures and people. We committed that instead of getting frustrated when something didn’t quite go the way we planned we’d remind each other to “Live and Learn.” The strategy worked well for us and sometimes the mistakes were funny like when I told our local guide I needed to take a griddle (plancha) instead of a boat (barco). Other times they were more serious like when a flight got cancelled and we didn’t know that the large-group-tour-guide was running to the reservation counter because when you’re near the end of the line you wait for the shuttle for an additional hour AND get the last available hotel room on the outskirts of the city AND eat your “free” dinner with your six year old asleep in your lap around 10:30 pm. Nevertheless the practice of saying “live and learn” at each misstep helped us to laugh and enjoy our adventure. Over the past year we’ve continued to use this mantra in our home, work and travels and it’s lightened things up nearly every time. So next time you goof something up, just be curious about what you could learn from the experience. It makes a world of difference.
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!
Here’s an easy agenda for family council tomorrow. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how open communication in family council allows us to pool our strengths and help each other. We had our daughter’s birthday party this week and I’m usually great at coming up with ideas but then sometimes I have trouble with the more practical aspects of implementation and I end up running around like crazy trying to get details together. Ritchie prepares for life by identifying details and prioritizing them. As we’ve discussed this party at family council over the past few months, I was able to:
1) think ahead & plan ahead
2) incorporate both Ritchie and Jessica’s suggestions. I find that when they make suggestions they are usually pretty creative and if I’m open-minded I am able to utilize their strengths which balance and augment some of my enduring vulnerabilities. The end result was a more enjoyable day for all of us and an activity where everyone had some input. Nice! Yet another benefit to sitting down with the family and planning out our life together once week.
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.”