Thursday, July 12, 2018

Insights on the Family: The Crucibles of Life

"The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave"
(The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

The hard times we go through in life are sometimes referred to as crucibles. "A crucible is a furnace-like vessel that endures intense heat that refines and transfigures raw materials into a new, stronger substance" (Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives). The text continues to help us understand that the crucible helps to get rid of impurities and unify elements so that the end result creates a new object. 

Crucible pouring molten metal into a mold,
The reason trials are called crucibles is obviously because when we go through hard times, we are being refined and being made into new people. Once we have passed through something hard we often feel like a different person, and we cannot go back and be the same person we were before. Trials alone don't make us into better people. I think it depends on how we handle the trials. If we turn ourselves over to the Lord, it is through Him that we can have the trial turn into something beautiful.

Elder Richard G. Scott said, "It is important to understand that [the Lord's] healing can mean being cured, or having your burdens eased, or even coming to realize that it is worth it to endure to the end patiently, for God needs brave sons and daughters who are willing to be polished when in His wisdom that is His will" (To Be Healed). It is through the Lord that we can have strengths in our trials, power to overcome weaknesses, and blessings of healing. He can take our burdens and trials away, but I think He often just strengthens us as we work through them. He understands that we need the good and the bad experiences of life to become the kind of person he wants us to be.

Jesus Teaching in the Western Hemisphere (Jesus Christ Visits the Americas), by John Scott 

President James E. Faust said long ago, "Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength. For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process" (The Refiner's Fire).

Though our trials, tribulations, and afflictions are hard, it is a way for us to be perfected through the atonement of the Savior. Below is a video I put together for my husband for our anniversary a while ago. The reason I share it is because the first song is by Julie de Azevedo entitled "Masterpiece." In this song she talks about how we can become who God wants us to be as we allow the Lord to shape us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Insights on the Family: Love is spelled T-I-M-E

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). 

I have written about many of the principles listed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the last one is wholesome recreational activities. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf  said, "In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities. We establish a divine bond with each other as we approach God together through family prayer, gospel study, and Sunday worship" (Of Things That Matter Most).

Brothers enjoying a story together.
As we spend time together not only doing the things that bring us closer to God, but also doing the things that bring us closer together, we will build strong families. The activities we do together vary from family to family, and the phase of life can change what we do together. When my children were really little, we enjoyed going to parks and playing with toys. We would sit and read books together and just being home seemed to be enough for them. Our family has grown out of the baby phase and we are in the middle of school and teenage phases. It is challenging trying to find wholesome recreation we can all do together and enjoy together. What it ends up coming down to is sacrifice. For all of us to enjoy time together, someone may have to sacrifice a personal want. I have seen that in the end, everyone usually is happy we spent time together.

Enjoying a walk together.
There are eight elements that I read (in Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives) that build the most meaningful experiences in people's lives:

  1. We are confronting tasks that we have a chance of completing.
  2. We are able to concentrate on what we are doing.
  3. We have clear goals.
  4. We receive immediate feedback.
  5. We act with deep awareness and forget our own cares and worries.
  6. The experience allows us to exercise a sense of control.
  7. Our concern for self disappears, yet the sense of self becomes stronger after the experience.
  8. The sense of duration of time is altered.
Making positive memories together doesn't necessarily mean having an expensive vacation, or going out and doing something sensational. Sometimes the most memorable times are the small moments in life. The times that we spend talking together, walking together, listening to each other. These are times where can enjoy each other's company without the hustle and bustle of life pushing us apart. I love the eighth element, "time is altered," because when we are truly enjoying time together, time seems to fly by.

Exploring the Solar Eclipse together.
My own family tries to find good times together that are simple and inexpensive. We like to read together, do some of our chores together (like shopping), swim together, go on drives together, take walks together, watch movies together, eat yummy treats together, and I am sure there are more. I hope that as I build up a lot of these little moments, my children will be able to look back on their childhood and have a fondness of remembering how much we love each other. I hope that as I continue to work making time for these moments, our family can be stronger.

A family that plays together stays together.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Insights on the Family: The Joy of Work

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... work."

Work and joy? How can that be? Today we view work as something to get done so that we can go and do something fun or more enjoyable. Kathleen Bahr and colleagues said, "A common notion in Western culture, that an ideal life is work-free." She then goes on to recount how Adam and Eve received commandments to go and "till the soil and bear and care for children. ... [and yet] we prefer life's bounties at minimal cost, without the so-called interruptions of children [and work]. In other words, we long for the life Adam and Eve left behind in the Garden of Eden" (Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, p. 214).

It is hard to want to work "by the sweat of [our] face[s]" (Genesis 3:19). I know that I have memories of complaining about going out in the yard and having to weed the garden. Getting hot, sweaty, dusty, and dirty felt so uncomfortable. I still struggle with wanting to go out and do the yard work. Yet I have also come to love yard work as well. When I step back and see what I have done in my yard to take care of my plants I feel a deep satisfaction. It is a feeling of accomplishment and awe in how I have been able to create something beautiful.

Gardening isn't the only kind of work. There are different kinds of work that are involved in caring for our home and family. Clark goes to work to help provide for our family. I work in caring for our children and home. Together our family works to take care of the many tasks that keep our home clean and cared for. (At least we try to have the children help.)

It is often difficult to help the whole family be involved in working on taking care of a home. Kathleen Bahr et al. even says that the whole family is vital to the work done in the home. She then says, "To insist that children help when they would rather do their own thing does not damage self-esteem; it aids the discovery of true worth. Such insistence says, 'I need you. You are an essential member of our family. We cannot get along without you or your help'" (p. 221). 

Working together can be difficult, and I am sure we will and do hear a lot of complaints, but over the course of life as we keep striving to work together as a family, we will build unity and love. When I was a newly wed, Clark and I were able to work side-by-side in helping to work on repairing a home. As I look back on that hard work, I don't remember the sweat or weariness; I remember feeling so happy to be working together. It was such a fun memory even though it was hard. Taking care of our home everyday can be that way too. Even though it is hard, hopefully we will look back and remember how fun it was to do it together.

Working Together
I gathered as many pictures as I could find of our family working together and something magical happened. I have to admit that I have been having a pretty hard morning, just feeling down. Yet as I went through years of pictures we have stored digitally, and seeing the fun times we have had working together; I found myself not feeling quite so bad. As we work together, we can look back and see how that work has changed us. We can see how far we have come and how much we have learned. I know this helps me, and I am sure it will help my children learn many different kinds of skills. Work does bring joy because it helps us strive to become something more than we are. Through work we will discover our talents, abilities, and worth.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Insights on the Family: The Healing Power of Forgiveness

"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men" (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10).

Lost and Found
Forgiveness and Repentance go hand-in-hand. We all make mistakes, some larger and some smaller, and we are all required to forgive and repent. It is good to be forgiven, but it is most important to be forgiving. Having a forgiving heart is healthier physically and emotionally, and it also builds stronger relationships.

Elaine Walton and Hilary Hendricks shared that "for victims of serious offenses, Elder Richard G. Scott recommended forgiveness--although it is 'most difficult'-- [it is] 'the sure path to peace and healing.' And President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized that forgiveness 'may be the greatest virtue on earth, and certainly the most needed'" (Successful Marriages and Families, p. 203).

Chris Williams shares his experience with forgiveness and the power it has not only in his own healing, but in the healing of everyone else involved. I love his concluding words, "I'm grateful that God allows tragedies and trials to occur in our lives. Not because they're easy or because they're desired, but because they help us love." I think this captures the essence of forgiveness, we become more capable of love when we forgive. We are able to see others as God sees them, and we are able to understand better God's love for us. We are all in need of forgiveness, and thankfully, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we are all capable of forgiveness.

In the book I have referenced, the author shares five steps that Everett Worthington has found as a path of forgiveness:
  1. Recall the hurt. This is acknowledging that something was wrong.
  2. Empathize. This is being able to see the perspective of others.
  3. Offer the altruistic gift of forgiveness.
  4. Commit publicly to forgive. Sharing the commitment to forgive with others makes it more likely to happen.
  5. Hold on to forgiveness. This means moving forward. Don't let the pain of the past haunt the future.
"Today Is the Day to Forgive. Knowing how imperfect we are, surely we can extend healing forgiveness to those we love" (Happiness in Family Life).

Forgiveness is something that comes from within and happens inside of the forgiver. Again the book I am reading  says, "forgiveness is for the benefit of the victim." It is the only way to truly be free of the burdens of resentment, anger, blame, and other negative emotions. When we clear those feelings away, we are better able to love, feel empathy, humility, and other feelings that make us better people.

Today is the day we need to forgive. So when someone in our family irritates us, let us be forgiving. When we are out and about on the town, be forgiving. It is something we can do everywhere.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Insights on the Family: The Strengthening Power of Prayer

"Prepare every needful thing and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 109:8).

President Thomas S. Monson counseled, "Remember to pray fervently. To those within the sound of my voice who are struggling with challenges and difficulties, large and small, prayer is the provider of spiritual strength. It is the passport to peace. Prayer is the means by which we approach our Father in Heaven who loves us. Speak to Him in prayer. And then listen for the answer. Miracles are wrought through prayer" (Be Your Best Self).

"Prayer can restore harmony and
promote a greater desire to work together" (Lambert, p. 199)
Nathan Lambert wrote that "prayer is the means by which individuals may invite God to play an active role in their relationship" (Successful Marriages and Families, p. 197). Lambert continues to share how as families and couples pray for the members of their families their view and perception of that person changes. They come to see the person and the relationship in a more holy and sacred way. Prayer helps heal conflict and helps families form goals that help the relationship grow. Prayer helps couples and families be more unified.

After prayer hugs
Prayer has been an important part of my life long before I had my own family. When Clark and I married we started the tradition of prayer together morning and night. We had heard counsel to couples from church leaders that it was very important to never go to bed without first praying together. President Monson had received the same counsel and was told that as they prayed aloud together on bended knee, "misunderstandings that develop[ed] during the day will vanish as you pray. You simply can't pray together and retain anything but the best of feelings toward one another." So we have strove to keep this commitment, and I feel it is a unifying experience. As children came along, we held an additional prayer together in the evening as a family. When I am organized and doing well, we also hold a morning prayer together as a family. I can't think of sending my children off to school or other activities without know we have knelt together and prayed.

My heart feels love and gratitude when my own children will request prayers. I loved hearing my son ask that we pray (while we were sitting in the van ready to pull out to go somewhere), or another one asks that we pray for a family that we know that is struggling. These experience impress in my mind the amazing power prayer has in shaping who we are and our relationships with each other. My children become more other-concerned and their heart are turned to serving and caring for others. I am sure that as we continue to keep praying in our family we will continue to be shaped and bettered because of it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Insights on the Family: The Importance of Faith

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith [and] prayer."
The Family: A Proclamation to the World

If faith is an important part of having a successful family, then I think it is important to understand what faith is. In Hebrews 11:1 from the New Testament, faith is described as a "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

In the Book of Mormon we read that "faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true" (Alma 32:21).

The dictionary version of faith Google gave is that faith is "complete trust or confidence in someone or something."

This definition and the scriptures brought to my memory Indiana Jones. Now I honestly can't remember this movie very well, but I do remember this Jones character had to face a test of faith. He knew there was a bridge crossing a great chasm, and yet the bridge was invisible until he took the first step. Faith is a vision of something you hope for, you hope it is good or real, but it is not something you don't have complete knowledge of. 

There is a correlation between faith and the quality of family life. "Faith is a principle of action and power. Whenever you work toward a worthy goal, you exercise faith. You show your hope for something that you cannot yet see" (True to the Faith). When a family has hope or beliefs that they are all unified on, this gives the family strength, purpose, and direction.

If you have been reading my blog faithfully, you might remember how I shared a quote from Randall Ridd about the power of having direction in life. The idea was shared that a rower will have no energy to row if he or she doesn't have a destination in mind. When the rower has a destination in mind, they are able to go forward with more vigor. Faith gives us that vigor. We have a view of something we hope for, and faith is the energy that keeps us working toward it.

Our daughter's first trip to go into the temple.
There are three dimensions of faith that are explained in the book I am reading, "Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives," they are religious community, religious practices, and religious beliefs. I can see how these three dimensions have played out in my own life. I have faith that through the covenants my family has made in the temple that we can be sealed as a family forever. That means that when this life is over I will still get to be Clark's wife, I will still get to be my children's mother, I will still get to be my parents' daughter, etc. We can be linked together forever. There will not be a "'til death do us part."

Those are my beliefs, and those beliefs are strengthened as I am active in my religious community. This community also helps to shape and influence my children; teaching them morals and values that will help my children grow into good adults that will have families of their own.

Our son's baptism
We then continue to strengthen our faith and beliefs as we practice our religion. Our lives are influenced for the better as we live our faith. In the marriage and family book it shares how a study found that "highly religious teenagers appear to be doing much better in life than less religious teenagers" (p.190). I believe this is the case because the teenagers have a view of what the purpose of life is. They have a direction to take in life because of their faith.

I hope that my children will continue to see life through eyes of faith, because I know as they turn their hearts toward God they will have the vigor and energy to press forward and make the most of life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Insights on the Family: Extended Family Lending Support--Continued Parenting

Extended families should lend support when needed.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Grandma Siler snuggling with our first little one.
The Proclamation was given in 1995 when I was just a young teenager. Through the years I would read this proclamation or hear it quoted. In this particular quote, that extended families should lend support when needed, I often thought it meant parents  should step in to help their adult children when needs arise. This might come in the form of helping them move, helping with child care, allowing the struggling family to live in their home for a time, checking in on the family through phone calls or other means, and so much more.

I know the parents in my life have done these things for my family as well the families of my siblings and in-laws. I have seen siblings moving in to my parents' home when they were transitioning jobs or homes. I have seen grandparents watching grandchildren when the parents were unable to be home. All these acts of love help strengthen these families and give the aid they need through stressful times.

Grandpa Rowe exploring with our two oldest.
Now that I am older, my family is getting older, my parents are getting older, ... everyone is getting older! I see that there is another side to this statement. In the book I have been referencing in this series of posts on the family, I have learned that the "the probability of living to 65 has doubled." The text shares that in 1900 the average life expectancy was 49 years old, while to day it is 77! That is quite the change. With people living longer, the need for the younger generation to step up and care for their elders has increased.

It is important for us to watch out for our family whether they are young or old. In this video clip the people are serving an elderly man who needs help, this is the kind of love and service we should give to our family as well as in our community. President Ezra Taft Benson said:

"We encourage families to give their elderly parents and grandparents the love, care, and attention they deserve. Let us remember the scriptural command that we must care for those of our own house lest we be found "worse than an infidel" (1 Timothy 5:8). ... If they become less able to live independently, then family, Church, and community resources may be needed to help them. When the elderly become unable to care for themselves, even with supplemental aid, care can be provided in the home of a family member when possible" (To The Elderly in the Church).

I am thankful for the love and support extended family has given to me, and I hope that throughout my life I can lend love and support as well. It is "important that family members work together and support each other. Despite the demands of care giving, this labor of love also brings significant blessings" (Chapter 17).