Marriage is Not Hard

Maybe Jenni and I are just weird, and maybe we’re naïve, since we’ve only been married 10 years, but we feel like marriage isn’t hard. WeddingMarriage is not tough. Life is tough. Life stinks sometimes. It can be excruciatingly painful and hard, but marriage is one of the best systems for dealing with the difficulty life presents. Having someone to talk to, to lean on, to reach out to, to serve, to help, to confide in, to love, to cry with, to hold, makes life manageable.

Even the genuine differences of opinion, and different views on various topics aren’t difficult in marriage. Pride and selfishness are hard, and cause problems, but pride isn’t marriage, and selfishness isn’t marriage. Those things hurt marriage, damaging our best system for dealing with the difficulties of life.

Life is hard. Sin is hard. Pride and selfishness are hard, with or without marriage. Marriage is not hard.

What I’m talking about is less intended as a statement of “fact,” and more of a statement of perspective. And while words alone do nothing to dramatically change the day to day experiences of life in an extremely challenging and cruel world, a change in the way we see the world around us can. What I’m promoting is a paradigm shift: an entirely different way of viewing marriage.

I see marriage as a perfect ideal. Marriage is selfless, kind, generous, loving, patient, empowering, binding, synergistic, and even exalting. Marriage is something that goes well beyond the simple addition of two individuals entering a life-long partnership. It’s the essence that takes that initial partnership and turns it into the germinating seeds of divine companionship. Marriage, as an institution, ordained of God, is perfect. It lifts, it deepens, and it expands. It has no flaws, and it always pulls people together.

People, on the other hand, are flawed. People are imperfect. People are emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and physically unstable in countless ways. We’re mortals living on a very, very mortal world. Life on this earth is intended to be hard. It’s intended to be infuriatingly challenging, almost to the point of impossible, for one simple reason. We are the direct offspring of God. No simple life would suffice to teach embryonic deities the essential lessons to become all that our Father intends us to be. Life, in all its stages, was never intended to be easy.

God sends us here because He knows what we have the power to become. He has given us the tools necessary to become like He is. There’s a reason that the family is central to God’s plan. It’s not just a way of keeping us organized. It’s not just a way of saving us from loneliness. Marriage is an exalting organization. It’s an endowment of power, the very seed of exaltation. There’s a reason that the sealing covenant is called the covenant of exaltation. Marriage, most especially temple marriage, actually begins that process.

And yet, in all of this, we’re still imperfect, flawed, mortal beings. But we’re learning. We’re growing. We’re failing (a LOT), and if we’re taking the right approach, we’re learning from our failures and becoming better. That process is hard. It’s really hard. But it’s not the exalting powers and gifts given by God that make it so hard. It’s the imperfect, flawed, mortal parts of ourselves that make it hard.

I don’t deny that life as a married person is hard. Life as an anything is hard. But marriage itself—that ennobling, binding, wondrous blessing that strengthens us as a couple and as a family to endure the crosses of life—is not hard. It’s wonderful, liberating, and joyful.

The problems arrive when I act against my marriage. When I am selfish, when I am prideful, when I forget to exercise the power God has bestowed upon me in order to bless, strengthen, and love my wife, I am being a problem. And at those times, I need to change. I can’t act against what I know is right without hurting my marriage, and marriage is the very embodiment of everything I know to be right.

That’s why I can never blame marriage for any of life’s problems. Marriage lifts. Sin pulls down. Marriage exalts. Pride and selfishness damn.

When I find that I’m not measuring up, I don’t blame my marriage, and I don’t blame my wife. I try hard not to allow myself to get too discouraged with myself, either. And the simple way to avoid discouragement is to change—to humble myself, apologize, and change my behavior. I know I won’t be perfect in this life, but the journey is so empowering and ennobling that I can’t give it up, I can’t stop. And I certainly won’t ever throw away one of the best tools available for making that happen for both me and my wife. We’re in this for the long run. We’re in it forever. It’s not eternity or bust, it’s just eternity.

And we’re going to make it work, together.

The Next Time

The next time some guy cuts you off in traffic, pray for him—like really, really, pray for him. Pray that he might have all the good things in life that would make his life truly incredible.

The next time your kid breaks something of yours that you love, take her in your arms until you’re ready to let the item go. Then tell her she’s better than any silly whatever-it-is.

The next time you’re stuck in traffic, find something beautiful, such tree, a cloud, or a sunset. Stare at and absorb it until the joy of it almost overtakes you.

The next time you see a casual acquaintance, talk to them like you really care, like they’re your best friend in the world.

The next time you get a ticket, fine, or extra charge for something, humbly accept it and genuinely wish the messenger a good day.

The next time you spill, break, or accidentally delete something, step back and laugh. Laugh and laugh like a loon until you really feel like laughing. Then laugh more.

The next time you have a private prayer, pray until you cry.

The next time your spouse says something that bothers you, take a moment to collect yourself, and then walk up to her and kiss her like there’s no tomorrow.

Sometimes changing a life doesn’t mean doing it right every time, just the next time.

Essential Questions

Essential Questions

All of us are effected by cancer, whether by personal experience with it, or by a friend or loved one who’s been through it. The more I speak to or hear from victims of cancer, the more I’m convinced that cancer is not a matter of death, but a matter of life. Those who suffer with it find more meaning in life, more gratitude for life, and more love of life.

One of my duties at my job is to record speeches held, and in this one, a man with a severe case of cancer was invited to speak. The man is a friend of mine, and I was deeply touched by his words. I pray for him and his family, and I thank him for this beautiful life perspective he offered on this occasion.

Sixty Days to Live…

play-with-me-baba For family home evening tonight we watched a movie called, “Return with Honor,” about a young guy who gets in a terrible car accident, and has a near death experience where he is asked what he has yet to accomplish in his life.  He gives his response and he is told that he has sixty days.

It got me thinking.  What would I do with my life if I knew I only had sixty days to live?  Obviously I would wish to be able to raise my kids and take care of my wife, but if I knew that wasn’t an option, and I only had sixty days left, what would I do with it?

I was listening to an advice call-in program on the radio one day, and I don’t remember what the caller was asking advice on, but the advice given was interesting.  “Your doctor just called you and said you have six months of life left, and not a day more.  I’m not saying this just to make you think about it, I want you to decide what you need to do in that six months, and then YOU DO IT!  Six months.  That’s all you get.  What ever you would do if you only had six months to live, do it.”

So, what would you do?  What would you stop doing?  What would you change?  Who would you visit?

Think about that  – whether sixty days or six months, whatever you would do in that time if you knew you were going to die, do it.

Journals and Diaries: Ideas for Keeping it Fun!

I have been keeping a daily journal for about sixteen years now, and I love doing it.  One of the things that keeps me at it is using variety in my journal-keeping methods.  Here are some examples:

Traditional Methods

1. Keep a small pocket notebook with you wherever you go, and when an idea of something to mention in your journal comes to you, jot down a word or two that will remind you of the incident so you can write about it in your journal later.
2. Write a memory of something that happened long ago.  Remember that it probably won’t make a difference in the next generation if you wrote it the same day or years later.
3. Write about something funny that happened recently.
4. Write about something someone else did recently.

Creative Methods

1. Draw a cartoon, sketch, or simple painting of the event(s) of the day in your journal.  Write what the picture represents, and be sure to Continue reading

The Chronic Distraction

I was deeply impressed with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf‘s talk this evening in the priesthood session of the Church’s general conference about not getting distracted by less important things.  It got me thinking about how easily I get distracted from quality family time.

Why is that so stinkin’ easy to do?!  Why is it so easy to push my kids away so I can check my Facebook?  I tell myself it will only be for five minutes, but it never works out that way – and it has nothing to do with Facebook itself.  It’s me.  And if the distraction is not Facebook, it’s the piano, or email, or the garden, or even the dishes.  Sure, those are all good things – things that I should take advantage of.  But must I use the most quality family hours to do them?

I suppose everyone struggles with stuff like that.  That’s why I think it’s SO good to get these reminders once in a while.  Usually the things the church leaders encourage us to do are simply things that our conscience has been trying to get us to do for a long time.  The reminder simply brings it back to our immediate attention – oh, yeah, my family really IS more important to me than the computer.  Oh, yeah, my relationship with my Heavenly Father really IS more important to me than preparing a time-consuming meal.

Then I tell Heavenly Father about my mistake, and how I’ll do better, and I expect Him to say something like, “Duh, dude!  Hulllloooo!”  But instead He just smiles and gives me a hug.  If there’s anything that will solidify a re-dedication, it’s that.

He always does know what works best.  Always.

the-chronic-distraction

Click cartoon to see it big

Why Mormons Build Temples

With the hype that the Church has gotten about temples lately, I would respond that the temple is a house of God, and I deeply love its ordinances.  They get me closer to my Savior Jesus Christ, and they help me become closer to my family.

I attended the temple this last weekend, and every time I go, I love the Lord more, I love my family more, and I want to try harder to be like my Savior.

Through the ordinances of the temple, I can have my family forever.

Here’s a video the Church put out about why we build temples.  I agree with it one hundred percent!

Making Moments

Making Moments

I believe that life is lived in moments. When I am old, will I look back and remember the daily routines that fill up most of the stuff of each day? I doubt it. Will I remember getting behind on a bill or school assignment? Not likely. Will I remember taking our the garbage and doing the dishes? Not really.

Chores, routines, jobs, and finances may be the mortar that keeps my life from falling quickly to shambles, but a building cannot be made entirely of mortar. And when it comes to living a meaningful life, it is the bricks that I will remember when I look back on my life.

And what are the bricks of my life? The moments – the moment I first noticed the girl who became my wife; the moment my daughter said something hilarious; the moment I felt great pain for a loved one; the moment I first saw my newborn son.

While some moments are life-altering, others just make the day a little more pleasant. Life is lived in moments. When I get so busy that I let such moments pass without my notice, life begins to feel rotten.

I have a wife and two small children. I have a full-time job, a mortgage, and bills stacked high. I’m also a musician and author. I’ve just published my first CD and I’m in the process of redrafting my first book. In addition, I am a partner in a new business that is small but growing. I am very busy. I know how easy it is to let the most important people in my life get the least attention. In fact it’s very hard not to let that happen.

I’ve discovered that it isn’t merely a matter of waiting for these precious moments with my loved ones come. If I wait for moments come, they only come occasionally. I don’t want my life to be made of mortar with a few occasional bricks. I want my life to be lined completely with brick, only using mortar for what it’s intended – to keep the structure together.

I cannot just expect the moments to come. I have to create them. I have to make moments. Whether a moment lasts an hour or only a few seconds, if I want my life to be filled with moments, I have to make them myself.

So I have made a decision. Actually, you might say I’ve begun a project. Remember I am a writer, and since I’m nearly finished with my first book, I need to start working on another. This is my plan: every day for the next year, I will keep a record of at least one moment that happened that day. Every day. I cannot skip, and I cannot make something up. It has to be a real incident, and I have to keep a record for every single day of the year. If I don’t have time to write the full incident on the day it happened, I can record a keyword or two and then write about it later – but the incident must eventually be written.

I’ve decided that for this project, a moment will be defined as a meaningful moment I had with a loved one. It may be a painful moment or a joyful one, so long as it was somehow meaningful. It can be as simple as a joke someone told, with the laugh we shared, or as deep as a desperately needed talk or hug.

In short, this project is an attempt to keep me looking for and making those precious moments that make life meaningful, both for me and my loved ones.

My commitment to record the daily instances keeps me accountable, and my intentions to later publicize them will motivate me to keep going. I’d publicize all of them on this blog – but remember, I’m intending to write a book, and I want to keep enough out of the blog to lure people to buy the book when it’s ready!

I do intend to study and write on some relevant topics on the subject as well, but the bulk of the book will be the complete collection of moments.

I hope this project will help any who read these entries to see that it is possible for anyone, under any circumstance, to reach out to their loved ones and make moments with them.

In terms of this blog, I will be doing other entries as well. This is my writing blog, but since my project will take up a good part of it for the next while, I’ve named it Making Moments.

The Jughead American Dream Burger

I have Conquered the Jughead American Dream Burger. That’s one of my few claims to fame – eating a 1 KG (2.2 lb) hamburger with a side order of fries in 35 minutes. That weight didn’t include the weight of the bun or extra fillings of the burger, either. 2.2 lbs of pure lean beef. When they brought it out, I thought it took the term “my eyes are bigger than my stomach” to a new level. In this case, the burger itself was bigger than a good part of my abdomen, and looked like a small cake.

Pano’s Diner was a little restaurant owned by one of the local stake presidents, so we got free shakes whenever we came – which worked out nicely for washing down the Jughead American Dream Burger.

I’m almost ashamed to say I ate the thing. Two other missionaries had conquered it already, and I wanted to show them up. You might say I did, since it took only took me a half hour, while it took them 2-3 hours to finish their’s. But I’ve always recognized the fact that the faster you eat, the more you can eat. But even more than that, anyone who can finish the burger in one sitting got a free shirt, and got to sign the wall of the restaurant. Who could pass up such an opportunity?

I still have that shirt, and I wear it with pride. It’s fun to be able to explain how I got it.

What I generally fail to mention is the difficulty I had in keeping the stuff down. Numerous times I felt it almost coming up, and for many hours afterward, even most of the day, I was deathly thirsty. A couple of times I tried to drink, but even a sip nearly brought the load out. Also, it was probably the most money I spent on a meal in my whole mission.

In reflecting back on this, I thought about how much we gorge ourselves with the things of this life. We cram our stomachs with things that are not bad of themselves , but which crowd out time and energy for the essential things. We see the rewards that the world has to offer, and they look enticing to us. We work hard to obtain them, and get the reward – the chance to sign a wall and take home a free shirt that recognizes our accomplishment – or perhaps something more alluring, such as prominence, position, power, money, or popularity. While it is seldom that these rewards are inherently bad, our pursuit of them may cost us more than we are willing to admit. They may cost time, means, or energy, when those things could have been used to build the Lord’s kingdom and our families. If eating a certain thing makes it impossible to drink water, it is better not to eat it. Our families need water, our callings need water, our testimonies need water, but if our lives are too full of unnecessary secular “hamburger,” we may not have room for them.

Also, carrying that hamburger the rest of the day was difficult, which brings to mind the Savior’s promise that if we take His burden upon us, we will find it much lighter than the burden we place upon ourselves. It’s hard to keep sin down and hidden. It usually comes up, and when it does, we are humiliated and ashamed. But Christ can remove sin from our hearts. His burden costs so much less than the price we pay for our own burdens and sins. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking the way is too hard or too straight, but if we look close, we find that it is our attempts to stay on our own paths while following Christ that makes it so difficult. Besides, we can see the immediate rewards of our hamburger paths, while the rewards of the Spirit seem very slow in coming, if we see them at all.

Yet the spiritual rewards for taking Christ’s burden on us are of far greater, even infinite value.