Some Things Take Time

Jessica and I took an adventurous walk yesterday, trying to get better acquainted with our new surroundings. Having recently moved we are becoming adept explorers, letting curiosity be our guide as we try new things and experience new places.

About halfway down a tree-lined street nestled in the shadow of the mountains I noticed that what I thought were light colored leaves were actually puffy seed pods. We gently pulled a few of the velvety pods from a tree admiring the full bright green seeds ensconced within them. Upon further inspection we found some more mature seed pods drying out on the ground exposing seeds that were weathered, dry and dark. While the shiny bright beauty of the newly birthed seeds, protected in their green cocoons were what caught my attention, they were not the seeds that were primed to grow. As we peered closely at the ground and sifted through crackly brown casings that pulled away easily from the dry seeds I was reminded that nature usually seasons seeds over time as she prepares them for growth. Their potential cannot be rushed but rather nurtured, letting it develop intentionally over time. I think the same goes for children, relationships, ideas and experiences. It can be hard to wait patiently for something or someone because the process of change can seem laboriously long. But people are a lot like seeds and when the conditions are right and the seed is ready the resulting beauty is usually worth the wait.

Take Action: If you've already applied this post to your life thanks for reading, please come back soon!

If you need some help to take the leap from story to action, here you go:
Think for a minute about a relationship (family, romantic, friendship, etc) that you're in that has potential. Consider the beautiful things that could come from that relationship. Focus on one of those beautiful things and then think about one thing you could do today to support and work toward that potential. So if I want to cultivate a stronger relationship with my daughter so that she'll talk openly with me when she's a teenager, I will strengthen our connection today by listening intently to her 8 year old stories when she wants to tell them to me. By listening today I'm building a little pod around the seed that is our relationship, creating space for it to grow and change and become what it's meant to become. As always, I'd love to hear your epiphanies!

In love and nature,
Lindsay

What is Family Council? (Agenda attached)

Coordinate & Cooperate @ Family Council(1)

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.

Family Council Quick Start Agenda & Notes

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.

Good luck!

Lindsay 2.0

p.s. I welcome your feedback and I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

O Pioneers

The summer I turned seventeen, my mom and dad borrowed a pop-up trailer and orchestrated a study of Mormon pioneer history for our little family of 7.  In our occasionally trusty, bright blue 12 passenger van, they carted us across the country to wander through the sacred grove, tour visitors centers and listen to kindly guides.  We traversed trails and hiked rocky mountains, visited jails and blacksmith shops, walked around temple sites, and forded rivers.  Our mother, always big on vacation preparation, had some stories at the ready for each of the sites we stopped at.  She would engage her 5 girls in conversation about the people, what it must have been like for them and what they might’ve learned.  Though the details of the stories are a bit foggy and the exact images of the locations we toured are sometimes hard to recall, the feelings of humble faith and community that I felt during those three weeks have never left me.

This past week I was asked to share some thoughts with our congregation about the pioneers and their humility.  As Ritchie helped me think through my ideas, we both humorously realized that I am not necessarily speaking from a fortress of strength as I address the topic of humility.  I’d like to think I’m not the only one of us who sometimes struggles to bend my will to leader’s direction or ideas or revelation.  My agency is a treasured gift and I appreciate direct communication from heaven as I try to understand why things are the way they are but there are times when the “why” of a commandment or invitation is not readily accessible and my thirsty faith has to continue on with only the hope of a drink on the horizon.  It is in those stubborn moments when it is my task to choose humility.  With that in mind, I decided to re-visit the stories of the pioneers with the hope of nestling into a more comfortable arrangement with humility.  I was intrigued as I contemplated ideas of personal humility, parental humility and community humility.

I believe that one of the things each of the pioneers lay on the altar were some of their ideas about how their lives would turn out.  Like all of us with a determination to follow the Savior, oftentimes we face moments where we are asked to let go of the lives or jobs or finances or health that we’ve dreamed of or worked for and we’re asked to be open to new things.  I believe that in response to these mental, emotional and physical challenges we can either hold staunchly to our former plans and cry foul (which I have been known to do on many occasions), or set off on our own journeys of faith where unknown paths coupled with some humble seeking can lead to surprising beauty.  But the beauty is often detected after struggling through heartache, pain, and seemingly impossible stretching.  Though we speak of the pioneers collectively, assuredly the men and women who crossed the continent in mid to late 1800s were as varied as all of us in this room.  I imagine they had dreams and ideas about how their lives would go and they worked hard to make those dreams reality.  Some of them were establishing farms, working year after year to clear away trees and create more land for farming.  Some of them had gone to school, learning professions or trades that would enable them to provide for their families and thrive in society.  Some of them were overseas, deeply entrenched with people and a culture they held dear.  Some of them were just getting established, barely making ends meet and working every daylight hour to provide themselves with the basic necessities of life.  Regardless of their background or station, when the call came to move, again and again, there were so many of these very strong folks who responded with obedience born of humility.

As I’ve made my way through a bit more life, it’s easier for me to imagine the process they perhaps went through to become those faithful men and women, for surely, they didn’t begin the journey in the same way they ended it.  With the benefit of hindsight, I have contemplated the blessings they received and the beauty they witnessed as a result of their decision to obey.  A decision, that I imagine for many of them, was fraught with doubt, uncertainty, full-fledged fear and maybe even a little resentment.  The beauty of our perspective is that we get to see all of them on the other side.  We see the accomplishment dressed in all it’s historical glory and we rejoice in their experience.  However, if we had caught them in their moments of decision, moments I’m confident came again and again, I imagine we would’ve seen them experiencing the kind of conflict, turmoil and frustration that comes in “the middle” of a challenging circumstance.  The outset, filled with excitement and the promise of adventure, quickly faded into blistered feet, broken wagons and tired children.  The faithful fortitude we cherish was probably something they really did muster up, step, by precious step.    During those long hours of walking with the threat of Indian attacks, with cattle slogging through mud and torrential rain, I wonder if any of them echoed the thought I find myself thinking so frequently, “Is it really supposed to be this hard?”  I used to think that the decision to venture out on the trek was a decision that was made once.  But now, like any act of submission or obedience, I imagine it had to be re-made at each stopping point along the way. The decision to keep moving had to be made again each time the oxen needed to be hooked up to the wagon and each morning when the bedding needed to be folded and gathered and carefully tucked into the handcart.  And then again when it was time for sunburned arms to heave the weight of the handcart.  The decision had to be made when slipping worn and half-soled shoes onto the feet of a worn and tired-souled child without any answers as to when the walk would be over or what the day would bring.  Surely there were mothers who looked at their babies and wept at the monumental task that obedience was requiring of them.  And yet, each morning, so many rose, prayed and worked, just trying to move forward, day after sweltering day. In the words of a dear friend, they just kept trying.  It’s hard for me to believe that there weren’t moments of grumbling or times of disagreement and when those times came, on a starry night in the middle of a prairie or at a tricky river-crossing, there was a decision, yet again, to submit ones will and the well-being of one’s family in order to follow the inspiration of a prophet and those he had called to lead.  And when that obedience meant frozen toes, crushed limbs, lost children and trailside graves, I can’t help but think the decision to obey felt like a weighty one.  And like Joseph’s prayer, I imagine sometimes they were left wondering where the Lord was.  Where was His help and why were they being asked to struggle so hard and for so long?  Much like us, I think of them tired, devastated or discouraged, unsure of how to pick themselves up and move away from the crude grave of a small son, or an aged mother.  I believe those moments they put one foot in front of the other, really represent the most beautiful and accurate testimony of humility that there is.

My seventeen year old self considered those pioneer stories with a focus on the initial decision to go and the glorious arrival in the valley.  My 33 year old self realizes that those stories are mostly full of “the grueling middle” and it probably bears a close spiritual resemblance to the middle that most of us experience.  The peace that comes with understanding, may not have graced their souls in the immediate way we attribute it to them.  It’s likely that they experienced their revelation piece by piece as they chose to seek it.  I believe many kept trudging forward based on faith in the promise of a prophet that what they were doing would lead to something beautiful and good and so often, that beauty and goodness ends up being manna for a starving soul, rather than a change in circumstance.

I think about what a gift it was to those children who walked alongside their parents. And maybe, on the mornings when weary bones could barely handle another step, an exhausted mother or father might look up to see a tow headed boy, kicking a rock as he walked beside the wagon.  And like so many things, the thought of someone else may have kept them going because if nothing else, this trek was an undeniable testimony of humble obedience for the children who watched their parents muscle on through untamed lands and angry rivers.  And for so many, whose tired bodies gave out before the trail did, the effort was the important thing.  The process of faithfully moving as far and as long as possible, regardless of the outcome, that was the testimony.  And now, all these years later, humbly wearing my own parenting mantle, I want nothing more than to guide my sweet Jessica’s steps to the Savior and it is likely that any humble actions I can accrue will speak louder than any sermon I offer.

On the culminating day of our trip, we stood atop This Is the Place Monument in Utah feeling such a profound respect for the trek that these faithful men and women endured together.  The understanding that they had with each other as a result of the shared experience was beautiful to contemplate.  Feeling buoyed up by being part of such a beautiful collective faith, I remember purchasing a t-shirt, emblazoned with the “Faith In Every Footstep” logo.   A short time later, our family came across a pioneer scene depicted on canvas and the emotions I felt then are still poignant, half a life later. In the foreground there’s a steep muddy hill on the bank of a swollen river with treacherous rain clouds above.  There are wagons, with torn canvases flapping, men and women, straining to heave them from the river’s water up onto the meadow grass.  The steepness of the bank is evident in the faces and muscles of the pioneers.  There are several wagons struggling to make the ascent, cattle slipping with each step, and several wagons in the distance that have already begun to work their way forward in the prairie grass.  Towards the back of the scene, the sky lightens and inside the brilliant setting sun you can make out a blurred outline of the Salt Lake Temple with her majestic spires.  Hinted at, in the evening clouds above is an image of Joseph Smith, clasping a Book of Mormon to his chest with one arm and holding out the other hand in a guiding gesture indicating in the direction the wagon train is traveling.  By that time, Joseph was but a memory for these faithful saints who were spurred on by his love for them and the testimony He was asked to share with them.  And the temple was a distant hope on the horizon.  With the benefit of hindsight, I knew that those strong men and women, depicted in a moment of desperation, were on their way, through an arduous trek, to a beautiful place where they would continue to face challenges but where they would build temples, thrive and enjoy many blessings.  I felt the beauties of the stories and poignancy of the losses and the gift of faith that these men and women offered by simply continuing to move forward.  That faith, and the belief in the prophet they loved so dearly was what spurred them on during a journey filled with many hard things. They went because he told them that it was what the Lord wanted and they chose to believe Him, and then to believe his successor.  They had followed the prophet, time and again, because of the conviction they had that he would lead them to good things.  And when they had moments of doubt or fear, or even rebellion they figured out that obedience was just a simple step away. They knew that their conviction didn’t excuse them from facing hard things along the way, but their continued effort was a testimony they offered in humility as they worked to be part of something larger than themselves.

Ultimately, that is what humility affords us right?  The opportunity to slowly and carefully make our way through mortality with the promise of a steadying connection to heaven.  We do this as individuals, in families and as a community of Saints led by inspired leaders one faithful footstep at a time.

Thank you pioneers.

Lindsay

The Need for Boundaries part 1: The Slippery Slope

I was really nervous when I first mentioned the idea of staying home to my beloved RJ.  I was talking to him on the phone as I drove home from my job as an administrative assistant when I threw caution into the wind and brought it up.  We’d only been married for 3 years and it was still just the two of us and I knew the idea of unnecessarily living off of one income sounded ridiculous.   I still consider it a blessing and a mark of his character, that he responded with thoughtfulness as opposed to disbelief.  As we contemplated plans for our upcoming move and his first “real” job we knew we’d be strapped with a house payment and probably a car payment (unless I walked everywhere-which ended up being something of a reality for a while) and who knows what else.  But we had high hopes that our sweet blonde child would be on her way to us soon so we decided we didn’t have much to lose and I would test the homemaking waters.  We both liked the idea of one member of our household being “available” and as I filled my days with caring for our home and for RJ, I was grateful for the opportunities I had to offer time to other people as well.

As the months and then years wore on and there was no change in our family situation, I began to think that perhaps I needed to do more helping and maybe that would somehow heal the cavernous and deepening void in my soul.  I threw myself into service with a storied zeal and decided to try the Savior’s invitation to lose myself in His service.  I wondered if perhaps there was something I needed to learn or do or become that would somehow qualify me for this blessing I was so desperately seeking.

There was joy in the opportunity to bring relief to others and I realized that mothering takes many forms.  But like many mothers, I began to slide my needs further and further from my consciousness as I sought to respond to the beck and call of everyone else.   Eventually this started to wear on me, but because I am stubborn and have always been a big believer in faith, I determined that I simply needed to cultivate more faith in order to manage the increasing demands on my time, strength and emotions.  Eventually (and fortunately) this approach landed me in the aforementioned psychologist’s office, tired, disillusioned, resentful and really sad.  As I worked through the mountain of hard things I’d accumulated, the idea of personal boundaries kept resurfacing.  Apparently I didn’t have any.  Not even one to speak of.  I could do pretty well keeping boundaries other people set for me (religious, familial) but my boundary-setting skill-set was still sitting unopened, perfectly shrink-wrapped in a distant and forgotten corner of my brain.  Fortunately this wise woman seemed adept at assisting lost souls like mine and she began to help me see a few places where I could get to know and then reclaim myself so that I might more fully offer myself to others.   At this point, anxiety abounded and I was desperate for any help so I wasn’t about to turn up my nose  at her counter-intuitive advice.   And I felt like there was truth in her words so I had hope that somewhere along the way the ideas would align themselves with the promise the Savior offered. During the years that have followed, as I’ve gotten more comfortable with the idea of saying no sometimes, I can see the beginnings of a beautiful and different fulfillment of His promise.

More soon.

Love,

Lindsay