Friday, October 31, 2014

Motherhood - An Eternal Partnership With God

Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. 
( The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para. 7)

I love the topic of mothers, probably because it is my life right now. There is nothing more that I wanted to be growing up, than a mother and wife. I have five beautiful children, four of which are living. My first baby died when she was just shy of four months old. I remember the day I had to leave the hospital without her. I broke down, it was devastating for me. She was my first and I wanted to mother her. I was blessed with four healthy children after her, and while I enjoy being a mother raising these very individual children, it can be hard at times. I wonder if I'm doing a good enough job. Will they stay on the straight and narrow? Am I being a good example to them? All I can do is my best and pray for them and myself daily to have the inspiration I need to be a good role model for them. As you watch this Mormon Message and listen to Elder Oaks (a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles), think of how we, as mothers, can perform unselfish acts by serving those in our immediate sphere of influence, our children. 

While studying more deeply about families, I learned a lot about how much of the world views motherhood.  In the textbook, Successful Marriages and Families, Jenet Erickson discusses in detail the importance of motherhood. She gave many insightful research data from 2005, but I wanted to get more up-to-date numbers, so I developed a poll and put it on Facebook. The questions are taken from topics in the textbook. The results of 25 mothers are as follows:

These results intrigued me because the poll was taken by members of the church and non-members. While 100% of those polled said they felt motherhood was part of their divine destiny, a few felt that religious behaviors did not have a positive effect in their mothering. We've discussed so far in this blog positive reason of raising children in the gospel, and we will dive more deeply into that in the weeks to come. But this post is primarily about and for mothers, so that we can gain a greater understanding of our role.

Jenet Erickson describes mothers as nurturers in the following ways when talking about the goals of effective mothering:

* Preserving life: Studies consistently indicate that mothers have a significant role in influencing their children's health and well-being throughout their development. (pg. 133)

* Nurturing growth and development: The desire to sustain the life of the child..... the ways mothers nurture their children's individual growth is the critical influence on their development.... through helping create an environment of safety, peace, and learning. (pg. 133)

Motherhood has its ups and downs. There are good days, and there are bad days. I know for myself, sometimes I dwell on the bad and forget about the good. But something I have been trying to do lately is concentrate on all the good, whether it be big or small. My children range in ages from 7-15, and as they get older, I am realizing more and more that while motherhood has its challenges, they don't go away as the children age, the challenges just become 'different.' But I've also realized that when I am taking care of myself, I end up taking better care of my children. Erickson explains it this way:
It is critical that mothers care for themselves and nurture their own minds, hearts, and bodies as they consecrate their minds, hearts, and bodies to mothering. They must be nurtured in order to be able to nurture those to whom they are consecrated. Elder M. Russell Ballard counseled mothers to: find some time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests. Pick one or two things that you would like to learn or do that will enrich your life, and make time for them. Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less time to give to others, even to your children" (pg. 135).

I have found Elder Ballard's words to be true in my own life. When I am taking care of myself physically, I am better able to care for my family. When I take some time just for myself, not too much time as to neglect, but enough to nourish my soul to replenish me, I feel renewed and ready to be the mother I was designed to be.

In the text, Erickson says this about single mothers,  

"Studies have consistently indicated, for example, that children do better under the challenging circumstances of divorce, poverty, and a parent's mental or emotional disability when rituals and routines such as family dinner, family prayer, assigned chores and responsibilities, and consistent wholesome recreation are in place" (pg. 136).

My previous post, When Parenting Alone, shares some examples of single mothers and their experiences.

Erickson goes on to say that as we take part in the work of motherhood that we can find our greatest strength as we rely on the doctrines of Christ and ask for help. We should be assured that we will be strengthened in our calling as mothers...."Truly, motherhood places her who honors its holy work next to the angels, for nothing could be of greater significance to God than the nurturing of His little ones-His precious children" (pg. 137). 

In conclusion, I hope you will enjoy this beautiful message by Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I hope we all remember that our role as a mother is an eternal partnership with God. 



Thursday, October 30, 2014

When Parenting Alone

In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para. 7)

This blog post is dedicated to those who happen to find themselves as a single parent and have concerns raising children in the gospel. Please take a few moments and listen to this brief talk by Elder Baxter, speaking directly to single parents.

I found Elder Baxter's words to be so comforting and encouraging. I know that the leaders of our church care for all mothers and fathers, regardless of their marital status. But having said that, there are still real concerns that many single parents face with raising their children, and feeling adequate enough for the task. Our prophets and leaders, and especially Heavenly Father, knew, that while the ideal family setting is with both parents in the home rearing their children, it would not always be the case. That is why they understand that family adaptation is necessary. Single parents can still teach their children to live the gospel standards with faith.

In the book, Successful Marriages and Families, Hart, Newell, and Haupt say, "Despite many similarities among modern-day families, each family has unique circumstances that affect the way parents raise their children" (pg. 103).  They also encourage, "In parenting, mothers and fathers have the challenge and opportunity to apply general principles derived from inspired sources and adapt them to their individual and family circumstances as they diligently strive to meet their children's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs" (pg. 103).

Ellen is a single mom having recently returned to activity in the church and is raising two teenage children. Ellen was not raised in the church, and her children are not members, but her daughter has taken interest in the church and she wants to support her in this. Her question is two-fold.

1) How do you support one child embracing the gospel and the other who has no interest?
2) How do you raise a teenager in the gospel when I, myself, was not a member of the church as a teenager?

Sandy, a life-long member, had this to say:

I think she will have to rely on the young women's leaders and the For Strength of Youth pamphlet. My mom was a convert so she raised an LDS daughter even though she had never been an LDS teen herself. She should set the same standards for both children - not because the church says so but because it's something she wants to do. Even if they both were interested in the church that doesn't mean their experience and reactions to things would be the same.

Julie, an adult convert to the church said:

I was thinking about one of my husband's brothers who left the Church. I remember, we would invite him to family dinners and birthdays and he would never come. We finally realized the reason: He was afraid of being judged, afraid of comments about why he wasn't at church. We still loved him and it was so hard to see him feeling bad. We knew he was on his own spiritual journey and we still have hope that one day he will come back to church. But if he never does, he knows we love him and he is important in our family.
Although LDS missions, temple marriages, and baptisms were events that deserve celebrating, there were other wonderful things in this earth life to celebrate too: College graduations, new jobs, new babies, weddings, etc. Although I am still in the process of raising my children, I will be proud of all of them and their accomplishments, both of eternal nature and earthly temporal blessings.

One of the blessings we have as members of the church are the various resources available to us in assisting with our responsibilities as parents. As Sandy mentioned, utilizing the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet will help Ellen greatly in establishing guidelines for her children. One of my favorite websites is the Mormon Channel. There are many short little videos, such as the one's I post regularly on this blog, and many inspiring lectures to help us in bringing good media into our homes. From there you can listen to people around the world talk about their trials and triumphs and how the gospel helps them in their individual family circumstances. But with all there is at our fingertips, and as hard as we try to teach our children to live good honest lives, we must remember they have their agency. 

I have a friend, Jilyn, who is a single mother in the church. I asked her to share her perspective specifically for this post. She says:

I’m so grateful for the opportunity I have to raise my daughter. I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to be able to raise her in a gospel centered household and have the gospel the center of our lives. It's so fun to be able to see those milestones where she learns how to pray and is so excited to have family home evening. We have pictures of Jesus and the temple in our house and she loves going to see the temple and even inside the waiting room. She has her own Book of Mormon and Bible and knows some of the pictures that are inside of it. She also looks forward to church and the opportunity to go to “my class” as she calls it, which is nursery.

I’m so glad I have the gospel as a base in my house. Most single women don’t have a priesthood holder in the home, but for me, I’m fortunate to be living with both my mother and father and my dad is a worthy priesthood holder. Living with my parents and having frequent contact with family, my daughter has a wonderful role model between both of her grandparents and uncles on both sides of the family.

Jilyn is blessed to have her parents helping her at this time of her life, and as they do that, they are fulfilling the words of the proclamation that say:  Extended families should lend support when needed.

Hart, Newell, and Haupt stated, "Some children, despite gospel-centered teaching in the home, will use their agency to make decisions that take them far from parental values. In these cases, good judgment is needed to strike the right balance between love and law" (pg. 113).

What I would say to Ellen, is to keep on doing what you're doing, setting a good example to your daughter who is embracing the gospel, as well as your son, who for now, is not showing an interest. The standards the church teaches ARE for everyone, regardless of our membership. I would say to Ellen that all that is expected of us is our best effort, and that the moral values you are teaching your children now will reap benefits we may not see at the moment. Said President Hinckley,  

"Of all the joys of life, none other equals that of happy parenthood. Of all the responsibilities with which we struggle, none other is so serious. To rear children in an atmosphere of love, security, and faith is the most rewarding of all challenges. The good result from such efforts becomes life's most satisfying compensation" (pg.115).

To conclude this post, I've added a short video of Ann, a single mom who has learned through her trials the importance of being a good example to her children.


Parenting - It's a Tough Job, But SOMEbody's Gotta Do It!

Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God, and to be law-abiding citizens where ever they live. ( The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para. 6)

I love this short little clip about a father taking the time to listen to his son. Time... that seems to be one of the biggest obstacles parents face when trying to rear their children. But it is what our children need the most from us. 

Let's face it, raising kids is hard. I don't believe anyone ever said it would be easy, but babies are so cute and fun to have around; however, they're a lot of work. And it doesn't get any easier the older they get. Parenting is the most difficult job there is because no one child is alike, and no mother or father are equal to the next parent.  But there is help, and Heavenly Father has provided a way for parents to rear their children through love and righteousness in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recently on Facebook I asked the question, "Why does it matter HOW we parent?" I wanted to share the following responses with you:

Just look around at society. The majority of parents are detached, doing their own thing, kids are disposable (abortion, ignoring, or throw money at them instead of investing in them), entitlement mentalities (parents and kids), allowing a socialist education system to teach their children instead of being a part of the process, removal of God, values, ethics and morals, etc.

Go back and look at an episode of Leave it to Beaver... whenever Ward isn't working, he's with June. They are a team, the family is together as a team. And while I realize it's a script... it set a standard for the 50's.

NOW... go look at current programing... draw your own conclusions. Yikes! Society totally reflects media.
Add to it that families/friends sit next to each other and text to each other. We're social beings... created to interact... not be on devices.

I could go on and on... so many reasons why it's critical HOW we parent... because if we don't do it well... the world is chopin' at the bit to take over.

Remember every soul is important in the eyes of GOD. Parenting is all about souls, little pliable minds and spirits. If we love them then we desire to teach them in all things. We then also desire to create in them a love of the arts and of knowledge. To help them understand that others feel the same pain, joy and despair and hope that they feel that they may be gentle in the lives of others. Parenting is basically example. Our example in all things... they become like us. So in parenting we have to look at ourselves in how we must change for the sake of growing better children than ourselves, we need to nourish them properly in all ways. Not just feed them but read to them out loud the best books, create with them in doing art, playing with clay, making bubbles to blow, doing experiments and talking about the results. Parenting is having fun with them, laughing with them, running and jumping, looking at bugs. Parenting should never just be correction, or sternness... but equal to love that our Father in Heaven gives us. He listens to us, thinks about the request or sends us back to think about our request, he makes us use our minds and develop our character.

I love the following video by Elder Hales on parenting:

From the text, Successful Marriages and Families, David A Nelson quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley:

As children grow through the years, their lives, in large measure, become an extension and a reflection of family teaching. If there is harshness, abuse, uncontrollable anger, disloyalty, the fruits will be certain and discernible, and in all likelihood they will be repeated in the generation that follows. If, on the other hand, there is forbearance, forgiveness, respect, consideration, kindness, mercy, and compassion, the fruits again will be discernible, and they will be eternally rewarding. They will be positive and sweet and wonderful.... I speak to fathers and mothers everywhere with a plea to put harshness behind us, to bridle our anger, to lower our voices, and to deal with mercy and love and respect one toward another in our homes. (pg.125)

The most common things you will hear members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourage families to do is daily scripture reading, daily personal and family prayers and weekly family home evenings. When done on a consistent basis we allow the Spirit to enter our homes and teach us, allowing inspiration to come to us individually and collectively for our family's needs.  Nelson concludes by saying, "In short, the family that embraces multiple opportunities to teach will generally find that they need to discipline their children far less often as their children internalize principles and gradually evidence greater ability for self-control" (pg. 126).

The world is a scary place, and we as parents shudder to think that our children will have to enter it combating all that is thrown at them. But we don't have to do it alone and without resources. We have so many tools at our fingertips in the church to help us along the way if we use what we already have at our feet: our homes for prayers, scripture reading and family togetherness.

The most important tools have been given to us by a loving Heavenly Father as he has shown us the path to teaching our children as we do so in love and righteousness. We are their first example and how we treat our children, and the amount of time we devote to them shows them how much we love and care for them. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

How Do YOU Define an Equal Marriage?

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para.7)

I love the above paragraph from The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I appreciate the definitive terms used to describe the roles of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. But what I love most about it is the last sentence...... "In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners." Equal partners! The world in which we live today has spoken loudly about the need for women to feel equal to men, or there isn't enough equality in this or that. But Heavenly Father has clearly stated the divine roles of husbands and wives, and I have come to appreciate more fully the significance of this meaning. He is not saying that the husband is any better than the wife. He is not saying that the mother is of any less importance to the structure of the family. He is saying that each are to work together as equal partners, that we are obligated to do so.

In the book, Successful Marriages and Families, Valerie M. Hudson and Richard B. Miller discuss what is meant by the term equality. "Equality is all too often used to mean 'identity'; that is, that two equal things must be identical to each other" (pg. 38). Sound familiar? Yet in a marriage between a man and a women, both serve together in a partnership, equal to each other. From the text Hudson and Miller quote from Elder Bruce C Hafen (a member of the Seventy at the time):

Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to "rule over" Eve, but this doesn't make Adam a dictator.... Over in 'rule over' uses the Hebrew 'bet', which means ruling with, not ruling over.... The concept of interdependent, equal partners is well-grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel. Eve was Adam's "help meet" (Genesis 2:18). The original Hebrew for 'meet' means that Eve was adequate for, or equal to, Adam. She wasn't his servant or his subordinate. 
(p. 40 (2007, p. 27))

Hudson & Miller go on to say that equal partners will help each other in their different roles. So what does this mean?

Haley, a convert to the church who has been a member for almost 2 1/2 years, and just recently married had this question.......

What should expectations be for housework for a busy husband? If he is busier than you, does that necessarily mean that he shouldn't be expected to do any housework?

I think this is a question many of us have had. This is not an uncommon issue to work through.  Provided below are three responses from members of the church to this question.

Shirley, a mother of 5 who has been married almost 12 years said:

I'm blessed with a husband that doesn't view certain chores as "women's" work. With that being said, I'm not sure if he's EVER cleaned a toilet, (just kidding). But he is happy to help me with whatever is needed. As a stay-at -home mom my job is the home and kids- it's pretty much a 24/7 job. (Occasional breaks of a few hours here or there to myself). However I have a co-worker who shares the work load. His hours are also 24/7 but he has a slightly different job description than I do, that of making money for us to live on takes him out of our home several hours a day. Once home we share the responsibility of whatever is needed. But we have certain talents and strengths that have us focusing our individual skills in slightly different ways. I'm the better cook and usually but not always fix the meals. He's much stronger so he does most (but not all) of the wood cutting and stacking. Some things we are pretty equal in, we both tuck kids into bed and change diapers. We both do dishes and laundry (depending on the day and time it's needed). We both lead our family in prayers, sweep the floors, help with homework, and take the garbage out. However, I do what I can solo while he's at his "other" part of his job (making the money). I think husbands and wives need to make sure they are partners when it comes to chores as in everything else. But though partners are equal, they are also different. Communicating openly and often can help decide if job responsibilities need to be modified or added. And one the MOST important parts of this "job partnership" is openly showing and expressing appreciation for all the work and effort your "coworker" (spouse) is doing. Nothing makes an employee want to do better than a pat on the back, a big kudos, or the employee of the month award! Saying thank you, I appreciate all you do, You're amazing, I'm so blessed to have you, You're a ROCKSTAR, and I love you, go A LONG WAY to making it all worth it! 

Amber, married almost 24 years with 5 children had this to say:

First, I think we need to be careful with the word "expectations".  Too often, I have found that if I expect "something" and that "something" is not delivered, I can get frustrated and resentful when and if that "something" is not fulfilled.  I would rather like to think that each spouse would have enough respect for the other spouse to recognize and help when and where it is needed regardless of who had the busier day.  We all have busy days whether at work or at home, and in many cases, who is to say they are busier than the other? 

In today's society we have seen an increase in role reversals where father's stay home and mother's go to work outside of the home.  Regardless of who is at home and who is away at work all day, both spouses still have responsibilities to help provide and nurture the family.  Each family unit is different from the next and requires spouses to have an equal partnership in making sure their family is provided for.  Some days one spouse may do (or feel like they do) more than the other but it's not about keeping track of who does what; it's about working together and providing help where needed. 
I am extremely blessed to have a husband, who regardless of his ever growing workload, will always know when and where to help. That is the epitome of love and respect.  He can sense it, he can see it and he can KNOW just what to do.
And Letia, a mother of 2, married 6 1/2 years said:
Even though Paul's main job is making money and mine is mainly taking care of the house and kids, we share responsibilities.  We both have strengths that we play to.  We both work out of the house so we have to have good communication to make things work whether we are swapping places or getting a babysitter.  
When we were first married we had to discuss roles since both of us lived on our own for some time before getting married.  Paul was and still is great at cooking and baking.  He knew how to separate and clean laundry.  He was and is pretty tidy.  I felt as the wife it was my role to do the cooking most of the time.  We did everything else about equally until he had less time and I took over most of the cleaning and all of the laundry.  When he is home though, if he sees something that needs to be done, most of the time he will pitch in.

I really think each couple/family is different. What works for one, might not work for another. You have got to talk about roles every now and then.  Circumstances change.

Take a few minutes and watch this clip from a round table discussion involving LDS church leaders as they discuss the family and individual roles.  Begin watching the clip at 16.06 and stop at 18.25. (watch the video under the subtopic of 2008 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting).

What are the benefits of an equal partnership? There are MANY!! Hudson and Miller have outlined the following (p.43):

* Happier relationships 
* Better individual well-being
* More effective parenting practices
* Better functioning children
* Better overall marital quality
* Less negative interaction
* Less likely to experience verbal aggression and physical violence
* More satisfied with physical intimacy in their relationship
* Personal well-being of spouse is greatest
* Generally better parents

Other links that are great resources for this topic of marriage roles, and well worth the time to listen are:

I want to leave you with some words of advice from my Facebook friends who shared their thoughts.......
* I lived very much as an independent "me" individual before marriage. I wish I had had the mind set of a "we" and the "future" in terms of finances. Saving, budgeting, and paying off/staying out of debt are great skills to learn BEFORE marriage. My husband thankfully had those habits, but it has been hard for me to develop those traits and desires.

*  Love is fragile.... it takes care, it takes much forgiveness, it takes joint effort to work, it takes putting each other over others.. even mothers... help each other to accomplish dreams and never ever discourage your partner in his dreams.
* No matter how much you love each other...compromise is key to getting along and being happy.

* The real work comes after the wedding. And be sure to actually like the person you marry--eternity is a very long time. There will be days when you don't get along or you are tired or sick or whatever but try to remember to be kind. Life should not always be dreary or sad or depressing--have fun with each other--try new things--go new places. I was 39 when I finally married & it was hard for me to give up my "independence"--I was so used to making my own decisions & taking care of myself--it was a difficult change to have someone else to live with & discuss things with & make decisions with.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Not Just a Spoonful..... But a Ladel Full of Love!

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para. 6)

Please take a couple minutes and watch this endearing short message of how couples express love to one another.

Isn't that the sweetest thing? Watching this video made me think of the little things my husband does for me. John and I have been married for 18 wonderful years, and  he still refers to me and always introduces me as his bride.  I imagine when we are old and gray, rocking in our chairs, that he will still call me his bride, and I'll still feel as lucky then to be his bride as I was the day we were married.

But let's be honest..... every day of married life isn't always peaches and cream. The honeymoon period is just that; a segment of time full of bliss and excitement as two independent people form a union, eager to share their lives together. But then something happens.... reality! Maybe the ad below sounds familiar to some???

What an example this couple is of patience: use it before you lose it! Sigh..... I know I could improve in that area, that is for sure. It seems like patience is a huge attribute to acquire for newly married couples, with so many opinions, ideas, and personality traits that are brought together. I love this example from Elder Bruce C. Hafen, "A bride sighed blissfully on her wedding day, 'Mom, I'm at the end of all my troubles!' 'Yes,' replied her mother, 'but at which end?'" (Successful Marriages & Families, pg.33 ). I had to laugh after I read that. Oh.... to be young and in love.

I posed a question on Facebook recently asking what married couples wish they knew ahead of time, or what advice they would have for those about to be married. Some responses are highlighted in blue throughout the post, and some I've included here:

It's not about me. Marriage is about serving your spouse and doing so willingly, endlessly and with true joy. And ultimately it's about what brings God glory.
        • Don't lose the laughter.

       • You marry your spouses' family and all that comes with it.
       • Spend time in God's Word and in prayer together.

* I wish I had known that September is elk hunting season. (I had to include this one, I thought it was so funny!) 

 * I would recommend learning more about communication, personality types, love language, right brain/left brain, do a strength finder test to get to know yourself better, and be able to understand more about the people you are dating and why they might act the way they do, etc. 
* Falling in love is easy, and courtship comes easy at first. It was a slap in the face to me, how hard marriage and unconditional love really is. It's SO important that we make a wise choice in our partner, not just an emotional one.....and that we stay truly committed to each other.  
* I wish I had known that I would have to repeat myself. A lot. And that my husband can't read my mind.
Such varied and honest responses, and maybe you don't necessarily relate to them all, but in each of them is some advice that can be applied to married life in one form or another.  So how do we get our marriages to start off on the right foot, with BOTH feet planted, from both the husband and wife, firmly in the ground on solid foundation? From the text Successful Marriages and Families, Stephen F. Duncan and Sara S. McCarty Zasukha outline six foundational processes that couples can use in their lives to help their marriage blossom.

Foundational Process #1: Personal Commitment to the Marriage Covenant

From the Family Proclamation we read: "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God" (para. 1), "husband and wife have a solemn duty to love and care for each other" (para. 6), "marriage.... is essential to His eternal plan" (para. 7).  As members of the LDS church, we believe that when we are sealed, or married, in the temples we have made covenants as a couple with God and that these covenants are founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ (pg. 28). Elder Bednar, an apostle in our church, explains this relationship in the diagram below.

                                                                     The Savior

                                             Husband                                         Wife

"The Savior is positioned at the apex of this triangle, with a woman at the base of one corner and a man at the base of the other corner. Now consider what happens in the relationship between the man and the woman as they individually and steadily 'come unto Christ' and strive to be 'perfected in Him' (Moroni 10:32). Because of and through the Redeemer, the man and woman come closer together" (pg. 28).

One of my favorite quotes comes from another apostle, Elder Robert D. Hales where he said:

 "An eternal bond doesn't just happen as a result of sealing covenants we make in the temple. How we conduct ourselves in this life will determine what we will be in all the eternities to come. To receive the blessings of the sealing that our Heavenly Father has given to us, we have to keep the commandments and conduct ourselves in such a way that our families will want to live with us in the eternities" (pg.29). 

The best piece of advice I received on my wedding day came through a written card. In it the woman wrote, "Remember the feelings you had for your husband as you knelt at the altar, because it will be those feelings that will carry you through the hard times that come." I think of that often and ponder also on the feeling that we had a binding covenant with the Lord as well that has helped us through the trials we've encountered. 

Foundational Process #2: Love & Friendship

* I would also say be best friends before marriage! Too often we have a list of what we WANT in our future spouse. I think we would be wiser to have a list for CAN NOT HAVE. Weaknesses have a tendency to stick with us as challenges forever. For example if you're a neat freak, you know that being married to a slob will be a bone of contention maybe your whole marriage. Or if you hate to spend money, then marrying a shopaholic will be really hard. It's important to know each other's biggest weaknesses. If you can handle those, then you'll do much better and be much happier!

  * Make time for each other no matter how crazy your schedule gets.

  * Look for ways to bless your spouse... daily. Especially important to do when you don't feel like it or they don't deserve it.

* Just know your communication style as well as your spouse's, how they like to show love and how they want to be shown love. Know that marriage isn't a feeling it's a path of growth and a lifetime of experiences.

Duncan and Zasukha suggest, "Sometimes our couple conversation is all about the business of life: the job, the kids, problems. Of course, these things need to be handled, but it is also important to simply talk as friends" (pg 31). 

Foundational Process #3: Positive Interaction

This is where I feel it is so important for us to remember why we married our spouse to begin with. We were willing to take the flaws that came and live with them. 

* Never speak ill of your spouse... no matter how badly they deserve it. 

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "I have witnessed much of the best and much of the worst in marriage...... Faultfinding replaces praise. When we look for the worst in anyone, we will find it. But if we will concentrate on the best, that element will grow until it sparkles" (pg. 32).

Foundational Process #4 & 5: Accepting Influence from One's Spouse
                                           Respectfully Handle Differences and Solve Problems

* We all need to be heard, truly listened to... especially what we are saying BEHIND our words not just the actual words.

   * Be a team. Be on the same page. Work together -  not against each other.

* My wife and I dated for two years before we were married. One question we asked each other was this: Visualize that someday your grandchildren will be seated around the dinner table and one of them will be asked by their grandchildren...."Grandma, tell me about your grandma" What do you want them to say?  The answer to that question is how you should live your life. You can't fake it inside your family. They know you better than anyone else. They see you at your best and at your worst. What you want them to remember and pass onto their children, grandchildren about what kind of a person you were is how you need to live you life. It is who they will remember. That is your true legacy.

* Biggest thing I can think of, and it takes both parties to be in on it together, is to learn to "Get Over It". Fights are bound to happen but when they do just let it go. You don't need to dwell on it for hours, days, or even months.... Just forgive and forget.

* I don't know if I wished I had known, but I learned really fast about the difference between listening and hearing. And hearing without pre- thinking what I'm going to say. I also learned the no-no words not to say in a fight " you never...."
Who doesn't want to be heard? We all want validation and respect for our thoughts and opinions. Our spouse should certainly be the one we can go to, to confide to and be an influence on. 

Some steps Duncan and Zasukha suggest are:

Eliminate destructive patterns
Calm yourself first
Bring up the concern softly, gently, and privately
Learn to make and receive repair attempts
Soothe yourself and each other
Reach a consensus about a solution  (pg. 33-34)

Foundational Process #6: Continuing Courtship through the years

* Men... never stop courting your wives. Ever!

One thing John and I have tried to do these last 18 years is continue dating. Countless Friday nights have been set aside for date night. It isn't weekly, but it has been often. The dates don't have to be lavish, expensive or fancy. Be creative. Just do something. Make the effort of nourishing your marriage.

I want to end this blog post with a sweet, touching video of one man's love for his wife as he lovingly takes care of her while they both suffer from physical ailments. I feel it sums up beautifully the admonition that "Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other."