Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” There are many things I do not know. I do know that in a few weeks a cold and scared human fleeing to the mountains from Syria will be handed a sleeping bag. And when that human lays down at night on the hard earth under a blanket of brilliant stars and snuggles up in that sleeping bag she will feel something slightly rough on the inside lining near the zipper. And when she wakes up in the morning and the sun illuminates the world she will see the simple stitching of a seven year old in the shape of a heart. And that one action, that one acorn, I do not know what forests will grow from it but I have faith that it can be the beginning of something beautiful on both sides of the world.
“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.”
Over the past few years, Ritchie and I have visited with a few of the best fertility doctors in the city. We wanted to have some closure around our miscarriage and we wanted to explore our options for moving our family into the future. After meeting with various local experts, we had a choice to make. We could:
- Spend $17,000+ to poke ourselves with needles, hand over bodily fluid samples, spend countless hours in stirrups and doctors offices and hope that all of that would result in a new member of the family.
- Or we could try something that seems outlandishly simple and actually makes quite a bit of sense. We could drop all the diagnostic labels that we’ve accumulated over the years and live intentionally & joyfully. You see, I’m a gardener. And plants, like other things bearing the signature of God’s creation, when properly nourished and supported, tend to bear fruit rather effortlessly.
So I decided to change our diagnosis (after putting the autoimmune condition in remission, I give myself permission to do things like that :)). Our diagnosis is not filling the measure of our creation in the present. So our prescription is to change that and use our resources to infuse our life with as much joy and meaning as our moments allow.
I think this is definitely a conceivable plan.
My daughter Jessica takes violin lessons from a skilled Suzuki teacher. The methodology originated in Japan and it is especially useful for teaching music to young children because it initially focuses more on ear training and muscle memory than note reading. It’s a beautiful milk before meat idea. Each week my small-but-growing girl begins her lessons by carefully holding her violin in rest position under her arm, gently holding her bow in the crook of her finger, bowing at the waist while saying “Will you please teach me?” To which her teacher responds, “Yes, Jessica, I would love to teach you.” In this mutually respectful manner they begin 30 minutes of music practice and instruction together. As her formal music training draws to a close each week, she ends the lesson in the same posture with the words “Thank you for teaching me” to which her teacher responds “You are very welcome, you may now pick a prize.” Though I don’t think Mr. Suzuki originated the prize box, it’s a great bonus for a six-year-old.
Last night, I found myself offering similar gratitude to heaven and then this morning as I began my day in prayer, I found myself thinking of this violin ritual and it’s words. As I move through this day, I am seeking to learn.
Where are you at in your cycles? Personal stubbornness and fast-paced, push-through-it culture often distract me from seeing myself as a cyclical being. Because I live in the south, it’s easy to blend seasons together and feel like it’s perennially summer. With electricity, an iPhone, and general busyness, it’s easy to lose touch with the light dark cycle each day. Without attention to it, I can lose track of where I’m at in my menstrual cycle and experience surprise at the mood and energy changes that come my way. I barely notice the moon unless it’s full and staring me in the face. And those are just obvious physical cycles that many of us share. I’m humbled by the realization that I am flying through my life barely utilizing very natural and beautiful tools that I believe are designed to realistically maximize growth.
In reading “The Rise” with some friends, we discussed the idea that things and people grow when there are limits and that unbounded growth is not actually optimal in the long run because you end up with parts that probably would’ve been pruned if there had been limited resources. There are also course corrections and clues about oneself that come with boundaries and yet we are beings who constantly seek to grow. Considering growth in cycles gives us space and permission for that growth to be renewed, re-committed to and sometimes scaled back in a patient, nonjudgmental way; realizing that’s the way growth is intended. Attuning ourselves to the cycles in our lives seems like a gracious way to treat the development of our minds, bodies and spirits. Healing and understanding have slipped into this life of mine as I’ve become aware of and sought to connect with my cycles.
Want to tune into the patient perspective of cyclical growth?
*Cultivate awareness about your cycles by observing patterns in your life without judgment. It’s easy to get caught up berating oneself about repeated mistakes or seeming setbacks, but if you can just patiently observe yourself you might tune into some insights on natural cycles that are a part of your unique world. (Thanks to Alisa Vitti for that suggestion).
These past nine months have been a ride. I think it’s what my parents would call an E-ticket, the kind of ride you wait in long lines for and surrender tremendous value in order to experience. As I’ve tried to patiently work with this body that, at times, seems bent on deterioration, I’ve grappled with some startling realities and examined some long-held beliefs. I’ve swallowed my fair share of judgment, waded through many a difficult conversation and seen glimpses of divinity in some unexpected places. I’m still holding on for dear life but I think I might be ready to articulate a few of the things I’ve been noticing along the way.
Want to ride with me?
I’ve been thinking about the immense quantities of time that I sink into my relationships and how many of my precious minutes find themselves spent building connections with other people, especially the two darlings that live here in my home. Oftentimes in conversations that tend toward exciting endeavors or recent accomplishments I find myself quietly thinking of the relative simplicity of my days. At this point in my life, I am quite literally immersed in early childhood. It is simultaneously grueling and fascinating. How often does one get such an intimate view of the building of a person?
In my more humble moments, like when we’re shoe shopping and Jessica loudly says to me, “Mom, you can’t make me wear those shoes,” I find myself smiling slightly after I process the blow to my pride. Yes, this is where I choose to devote almost all of my energy-to my relationship with this child, who sometimes backtalks, frequently whines, complains that I’m inconsistent, doesn’t like my story selections and thinks that I hardly know how to do anything. Living daily in moments like those, makes it hard to articulate just what it is that I do that is so meaningful and valuable. But I’m helping to build something. And it’s gonna be beautiful.
Our relationships, especially the ones that have the power to affect us at our very cores, can elevate us to beautiful views of love, loyalty, sincerity and compassion and also send us crashing into the depths of self-doubt, loneliness and despair; and sometimes we experience both within the same relationship over the course of a few minutes, hours or days. Relationships are so fluid, multifaceted and unique which can leave us feeling content and/or conflicted. Their quirky intricacies are known only to the individuals party to them so it’s nearly impossible to guess at the exact dynamics that play out in other relationships. Oftentimes we keep details about our most treasured relationships pretty close to home. And yet our daily interactions throw us headlong into many situations where relational satisfaction and discord are very deftly displayed. I believe our goal is to learn to relate to each other with the same honesty, compassion and understanding that the Savior offers us. And I believe that any precious time and effort we devote to enhancing our relationships is time well-spent.
I’m going to be honest, we have no idea what we’re doing over here with this puppy. So we waived the white flag and had a puppy education class with a local “canine behavior solutions expert.” After watching us interact with our puppy over the course of several hours, one of her most salient pieces of advice to me was to “throttle back on your verbal communication.” In the throes of puppy training, I’ve talked and talked and talked to cute little Cassie, trying to teach her English. I imagine she will eventually catch on to my words, but in the meantime, there is a more universal language available and it entails more action than speech.
This morning, as I was hastening my sweet preschooler through her morning routine, I thought of this wisdom again. My little one had had a particularly tough morning after a bed-wetting incident necessitated a bath and the dreaded washing of her long blonde hair. As I combed through the inevitable tangles she cried out in pain. My usual response is to acknowledge her pain, explain to her why there are tangles, what might be done to prevent them and how I’m sorry for any fault I bear for them but we simply have to comb her hair. Because I’m practicing keeping my mouth closed a bit more, I simply gave her a hug. As she turned and nestled her little tear-stained face into my shoulder, I held her and most of the fight went out of her. I’m grateful for the reminder that actions carry a voice of their own.