Marriage Musings

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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.

 

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Easy Agenda for tomorrow’s Family Council

Families Grow with Family Council Graphic(2)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!

Adventures in Family Meditation

IMG_5849We have a family meeting every Sunday night.  A few weeks ago at one of these meetings I applied for the role of “Miller Family Healthy Habit Coordinator.”  I told my family that no one will love them more than I do and no one will devote more time to caring for their well-being than I will.   I lovingly explained that I’ve been ardently preparing for this work for approximately 30 years (my twin sisters were born when I was 6 so my mothering career began early) and that I would like to offer them guidance for growth, health, healing and wholeness.  I earnestly explained that there are a lot of other places where my knowledge and experience are in high demand but that the most meaningful place for me to employ these skills is at home with them.  And to top it all off, I would be willing to do this job for free.  After some “where is this going” looks and some laughter, Jessica made a short list of people who she felt were better qualified to fill the position.  Among her preferred applicants were Grandma, Grandpa and Cassie (our dog!?!) but as none of them were available or able to verbally petition for the post I was able to secure it.  I explained that each week I would introduce one new habit for us to incorporate into our routine with the hope that our health and happiness would be enhanced as we seek to care for ourselves and help other people.

We started with meditation because it’s the most logical place to start.  Meditation is a powerful tool for increasing resilience, navigating stress, and growing through struggle.  When you’re a living being, it’s nice to have a few minutes where you just sit still, remember that you have a body and listen to your breath moving in and out of it.  Each night, after Jessica puts on her pjs and brushes her teeth, we sit cross-legged in a haphazard circle and practice meditating together for 2 minutes before we say a family prayer.  To increase kid-appeal, we light a little candle and use the free Insight Meditation Timer app and Jessica gets to choose the chime that signals the beginning and end of our practice.   It’s fun because there are little dots that show you who else in the world is meditating with you.  (We found that Friday evenings are a low point for global meditation while Sundays are pretty popular).  Usually we meditate with around 800 other people and it makes it feel a little less foreign and a lot more communal.

Now before you say “we could never do that” let me reiterate that it’s a practice meaning the whole goal is to try, put forth the effort, put our bodies there, recognizing that most of the time it’s a little crazy with Cassie licking our faces or Jessica staring at the wall (sometimes I peek to see what she’s actually doing while Ritchie and I are closing our eyes).  It’s me telling her to meditate the way I do instead of respecting that she’s going to have her own little 6 year old way of managing things (something you’d think I’d be used to by now…).  It’s Ritchie chanting “ommmmmm” with a playful smirk on his face.  I take it all in stride (probably because I meditate on my own each day so that I can handle whatever these yahoos throw at me 🙂 and I smile.  Meditation is changing our life.

With love,

Lindsay 2.0

 

The Need for Boundaries: Tougher examples

I’m afraid by using recent examples, I may have glided past the giant awkwardness of my first 5 years of trying to navigate boundaries.  The dinner example was from 6 months ago, after years of ample practice with this revised version of marital give and take.   If I had offered you an example from even 3 years ago,  it could’ve included another night at the dinner table with a heated discussion about book club, accusations flying and me eventually storming away from the table, tears streaming down my face,  my bare feet agitatedly carrying me down the street to the stop sign where I wallowed in my resentment & frustration with my spouse’s seeming lack of understanding and disappointment in my own ability to be patient.  We still remember that day every time we notice the dent I put in the door frame when I slammed the door with strength I didn’t know I had.  Rest assured this new understanding we’re building over here is coming with some good old-fashioned time and hours of sometimes patient communication.

Here are a few more examples:

Last week we had just returned from a trip out of town and then my little one was sick so at the end of the week I had two days to work through mountains of laundry, put our house back together, and handle numerous other neglected responsibilities before the business of this week hit.   I happened to have a PTC meeting the next morning where we would be wrapping some items for our upcoming event.  Fighting every urge in me to show up, be “responsible” and “supportive” and then handle my resentment later (emotional credit card balance), I emailed the leader of the project and told her that in lieu of attending the work meeting, I was going to spend the time working on my assignment at home and I gave her a report on my status.

For me, having boundaries means letting people down sometimes and I really don’t like doing that.  But when I do, it’s a lot like acknowledging that I have a credit limit and the discomfort of my honesty helps me to assess my commitments and be more realistic about what I agree to handle.  I may have disappointed her and the few others there by adding to their workload but I also know my family experienced a bit more patience from me last week because I managed a limit.   It seems like maybe conflicting feelings are an uncomfortable and necessary part of boundaries.

Example shared with permission from all parties:  Several years ago, RJ and I were both filling leadership roles in our church.  Our congregation operates entirely based on volunteer efforts so people offer extraordinary amounts of time in order for us to enjoy the religious culture that we love.   We found ourselves in an annual family meeting with the leader of our congregation and we ended up talking about the assignments our family was handling.  We explained that our life felt full of a lot of good and important things and that our little family was struggling.  In addition to our church efforts, we were  offering support to our family and friends and we were both trying to soak up the novel babyhood we were experiencing.  We pointed out that we may be 30ish but we were/are rookie parents and we were loving the chance to really focus on learning how to work together to help our little girl grow.  We asked him to consider this information and the assignments we had and we were hopeful that some kind of change would be made for one of us.  I felt real apprehension and shame and embarrassment before and after the exchange because I didn’t think I would ever ask for something like that.   I had questioned myself for months about the validity of my feelings.  I believe Heaven can and does make up the difference.  People far busier than myself offer far more time, etc, etc.  But ultimately I had to come to terms (again) with the the reality of the situation and if verbalizing that reality meant that I was less faithful or less charitable than I thought I was then I just had to humbly accept that and work honestly from there.  At the same time, the pace had stopped feeling needful to us and as I prayed I didn’t feel discouraged from opening up a dialogue.

Because we were responsible folks who were apparently doing a fabulous job of looking put-together, our bishop (the leader of our congregation) was surprised to hear that we were having a hard time.  Thankfully, he was very gracious with the honest information we offered him and RJ’s assignment was changed shortly after that.  With time, it just is what it is but in the limbo phase just afterwards, I was torn between relief and guilt.   I couldn’t get over feeling like we had maybe let our bishop,  or all the people we worship with or maybe even Heavenly Father down.  That was a hard place to be.  (Incidentally, seeking his permission to use this example freed me from some of that self-inflicted guilt).  This man has always been a supportive and loving figure for our family and he could appreciate and champion our perspective once he knew what it was.  I was really, really grateful that he responded with such compassion.

It would’ve been easy to wrap this one up by saying it was Heavenly Father’s will that we change or that it was the right time.  Honestly, it just felt like a choice.  Ultimately, all service is right?  So I owned a choice and owned the consequences.  In hindsight, I realized a lot of healing was happening for 2 broken hearts in this house but it’s only with distance that I’ve been graced with that understanding.  I imagine I would’ve found goodness in continuing as well.  At the time, all it was was uncomfortable.

With love,

Lindsay

Always Never

When we were first married, I would aggravate RJ to no end with my educational background in marriage and family.  On more occasions than not, he would graciously stop arguing long enough for me to play defense and referee and inform him about the proper ways to conduct a marital discussion.  One of the things that I always blew the whistle on was the use of the words “always” and “never.”  I was not going to stand idly by and have myself accused of doing something off-putting with that kind of consistency because there are very few instances when I can muster it purposefully.  After a number of years, I learned to change my tactics and ask “Are you sure I do that ALL the time?  When was the last time?” or “Could we please just discuss this current interaction?” instead of stopping him mid-sentence to call a foul on his word choice.   And now, with the space between those types of discussions becoming greater and greater,  I think this good man has patiently learned to live with my recurring shortcomings.  Most of the time.  The point is, those are words that I generally avoid when describing traits or interactions because, at least for me, it’s usually disappointing or unrealistic to expect that kind of steadiness from myself or mortality and her occupants.

However, when it comes to Heaven’s employment of the words “always” and “never,” I tend to grasp onto them with intense devotion because I desperately appreciate being able to count on some spiritual steadiness in my ever-shifting life.  Paul’s closing lines about charity give me pause every time I read them.  He says this “…charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there by knowledge, it shall vanish away. ”

And then, from another man in a book of scripture I love dearly:  “Wherefore my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth.  Wherefore cleave unto charity which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail-but charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.”  My favorite thing this book of scripture are the people who testify of the Savior.  Their individuality is striking and I appreciate their words, which complement the unique voices in the Old and New Testament, as people who enjoyed relationships with Jesus Christ.  Moroni wrote those last words and he was a man who lived to witness the self-destruction of an entire society of people.  He watched his peers either die in a winner-take-all battle or dwindle in spirit and he shares his perspective on charity after witnessing all of this.  His was the gracious gift to become closely and personally acquainted with the Savior in the midst of a sometimes horrific life.  Like many people who come to charity after from harshness, he has striking ideas to share about how to love and be loved.   His words echo Paul’s as they both bring to light the endurance that charity engenders.  In the dark and sometimes shameful places of my life this promise, that charity would see me through, was the only candle I could make it and it has yet to fail me.