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.

My Valentine

It’s hard to believe Jenni and I have been together almost eight years!

I remember our first Valentines. We’d dated on and off in college, and we were in the middle of a not-quite dating stage. But we were still friends, and hung out together sometimes. The institute was having a Valentine’s Day dance, and I intended to go after work.

I got to work and discovered a Valentine waiting for me. It was a fun little package with paper frills and a bunch of little toy cars with a note that said something like, “You drive me silly! Please by my Valentine.”

I remembered a time when Jenni mentioned that she’d love to get a bouquet of pencils someday. I ran over to the office supplies store, bought some fun clicky pencils, then ran to another shop to get some artificial flowers so I could pop the flowers onto the pencil tips. I got some marbles, a vase, and wrote a little note. I wish I remembered what I said, but it was something silly and fun.

When I got to the dance, I found her car and took my little pencil/flower bouquet and put it on top of her car, so she’d discover it when she came out.
Then I went inside, found her, and thanked her for the valentine, and we danced a few times.

As we left the dance, we walked out together, but I made sure to get to my car first, so I could retreat before she discovered the Valentine. I did pull out quick, but in time to see her discover the vase and smile and wave as I left.

She’s been my Valentine ever since, and I love her more every year.

Happy Valentines Day, Jenni! I LOVE YOU!!!

Remembered Pleasantly

I have always been one who loves my anonymity. That may sound ridiculous to many of you who see me posting stuff on the web all the time. But honestly, to me, 80% of that is business. I probably wouldn’t do so much of it if I didn’t think it necessary to building my career as a musician and author. But there is a quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell that has nagged at me for years. The first part of it I include to give context for the last part – which is the part that has nagged at me since I was 15.

Whenever Church members speak of consecration, it should be done reverently while acknowledging that each of us “come[s] short of the glory of God,” some of us far short (Rom. 3:23). Even the conscientious have not arrived, but they sense the shortfall and are genuinely striving. Consolingly, God’s grace flows not only to those “who love [Him] and keep all [His] commandments,” but likewise to those “that [seek] so to do” (D&C 46:9).

A second group of members are “honorable” but not “valiant.” They are not really aware of the gap nor of the importance of closing it (see D&C 76:75, 79). These “honorable” individuals are certainly not miserable nor wicked, nor are they unrighteous and unhappy. It is not what they have done but what they have left undone that is amiss. For example, if valiant, they could touch others deeply instead of merely being remembered pleasantly.

Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father’,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 22

Remembered pleasantly. Ouch. I think if I were asked what I thought people thought of me, I think most who knew me would at most remember me pleasantly. Some might not even do that. I don’t mention that in any depressing tone – like I said, I love being anonymous. I like being somewhat invisible. Even what voice I project is usually hiding behind a position, whether it be business, a calling, or a duty. I wouldn’t likely be saying and doing those things completely on my own. But am I touching others deeply? According to Elder Maxwell, if I’m not, then I’m not being valiant.

Ouch.

I guess that’s one of the reasons the Lord gives us callings – to get us out of our comfort zones and nudge us to reach out and touch others deeply. But the Lord also expects us to do many good things of our own free will and choice. That doesn’t mean we should aspire to high positions. It means we should constantly be striving to serve, in any way possible.

I’ve heard it said that we can’t truly be doing good if we are not making enemies along the way. I suppose that sounds a little pessimistic, but there’s some truth behind that. Jesus made more enemies than anyone else in His day, and not because He was trying to. He made enemies because He always tried to touch others deeply, serve, and show love to everyone he met. Doing that strikes a few nerves, but it also touches hearts deeply.

It’s too easy to walk through life quietly, keeping to ourselves and minding our own business. We have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Short of horrid sin, is there anything satan would want us to do more? If he can get us to tiptoe through life anonymously, then he wins. Another valiant spirit passed through unnoticed. (And if you don’t think you were a valiant spirit in the premortal life – just do some scripture and soul searching. It’s too obvious to miss.)

I may be naturally quiet, but I don’t want to be the type of person who is merely “remembered pleasantly.” I want to touch others deeply.

But instead of choosing to feel guilty about it, I think I’ll just change.

Making Moments: New Arrival

Okay, so I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted entries for the Making Moments project I was working on for nine months, but this week my new baby was born, and I decided that if I wanted to start it back up to complete the last three months, this would be a good time to do it, so here I go! I think I’ll post them more often this time, too.

New Arrival:

What an awesome experience! I got to deliver my own baby! Jenni was in the final stages of labor when the doctor turned to me and said, “Oh, by the way, would you like to deliver your baby?”

“Me? Really?”

“Sure. I’ll help you out.”

“Yeah! That would be awesome!”

So they dressed me head to toe in sanitary garb and the doctor coached me through catching the baby. My favorite part of the whole birth experience is the moment the baby is out and moving on its own. It’s even more amazing when you get to be the first to experience that.

Wow!

Revolutionizing the Course of the Universe

This story took place a short time before Jenni and I were married.

Revolutionize

It was a very dull day at Deseret Book as I leaned against the counter, chin in hands, waiting for something to happen. One of my co-workers stood only a few feet away, bored as I was.

“So,” I said, trying to break the monotony, “What should I do to revolutionize the course of the world today?”

He thought a moment. “Got any bombs? You could always blow up an important building somewhere.”

“That’s true. But I don’t have any bombs. Besides, that’s a bad thing, and there are plenty of bad things going on all the time. I need to find something good to do.”

“That’s true,” he replied. Then we both fell back into silence.

I began thinking more about our conversation. What could one do to revolutionize the course of the world? What about the universe? Could one person effect the destiny of the universe?

There have been many people who have changed the course of life on this planet; Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. George Washington led a revolutionary war that led to the foundation of what might be considered the most powerful nation in world history. But did those things change the destiny of the universe?

It occurred to me that the person who best fit that description would have to be Jesus Christ. Not only did he save the destiny of every person who would ever live, but He provided a way for us to become like His Father.

Now there’s a new approach to the question. If I have potential to become like my Father in Heaven, then certainly I have power to effect the destiny of the universe.
So I guess the next question would have to be, what can I do today to best effect that progress? Of course, a response as broad as “live the gospel” wasn’t really a sufficient, since I had been striving to do that my whole life.

Then I realized that I was in the process of beginning one of the major aspects of the perfecting process. I was about to get married in the temple. I decided that maybe the best thing I could do to work toward that goal would be to strengthen my relationship with Jenni. How could I do that? That question is easy. I could be kind and loving to her.

I looked around the store. Everything was quiet, normal, ordinary. Customers came in and left. Employees straightened bookshelves or stood patiently waiting for something to happen. I had a date with Jenni scheduled for that night. I decided that tonight I would change the course of the universe – I would show love and kindness towards her.

His Rain

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His Rain

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His Rain
Vocals and Lyrics by Maria Hathaway
Music by Chas Hathaway

I am standing in the rain
In the sparkling drops of rain
I seek the warmth of new light
Beneath the endless sky

I am walking in the rain
In the sparkling drops of rain
Through the clouds I see a new light
A tunnel to the sky

The rain is clean
The rain is pure
I feel it wash away the world
I am new
I am pure
I found His light

I am dancing in the rain
In the sparkling drops of rain
I have found the warmth of His light
Descending from on high

His rain is clean
His rain is pure
I feel it wash away the world
I am new
I am pure
I found His light

I am new
I am pure
(I found his light)
I found His love

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Wide as Eternity: The Meaning Behind the Music

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Wide as Eternity

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Moses 7:23-41

23 And after that Zion was taken up into heaven, Enoch beheld, and lo, all the nations of the earth were before him;

24 And there came generation upon generation; and Enoch was high and lifted up, even in the bosom of the Father, and of the Son of Man; and behold, the power of Satan was upon all the face of the earth.

25 And he saw angels descending out of heaven; and he heard a loud voice saying: Continue reading

How to Revolutionize the Course of the Universe

talltab1It was a very dull day at at the bookstore as I leaned against the counter, chin in hands, waiting for something to happen.  One of my coworkers stood only a few feet away, bored as I was.
talltab1“So,” I said, trying to break the monotony, “What should I do to revolutionize the course of the world today?”
talltab1He thought a moment.  “Got any bombs?  You could always blow up an important building somewhere.”
talltab1“That’s true.  But I don’t have any bombs.  Besides, that’s a bad thing, and there are plenty of bad things going on all the time.  I need to find something good to do.”
talltab1“That’s true,” he replied.  Then we both fell back into silence.

talltab1I began thinking more about our conversation.  What could one do to revolutionize the course of the world?  What about the universe?  Could one person effect the destiny of the universe?
talltab1There have been many people who have changed the course of life on this planet; Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.  George Washington led a revolutionary war that led to the foundation of what might be considered the most powerful nation in world history.  But did those things change the destiny of the universe?
talltab1It occurred to me that the person who best fit that description would have to be Jesus Christ.  Not only did he save the destiny of every person who would ever live, but He provided a way for us to become like His Father.
talltab1Now there’s a new approach to the question.  If I have potential to become like my Father in Heaven, then certainly I have power to effect the destiny of the universe.
So I guess the next question would have to be, what can I do today to best effect that progress?  Of course, a response as broad as “live the gospel” wasn’t really a sufficient, since I had been striving to do that my whole life.
talltab1Then I realized that I was in the process of beginning one of the major aspects of the perfecting process.  I was about to get married in the temple.  I decided that maybe the best thing I could do to work toward that goal would be to strengthen my relationship with Jenni.  How could I do that?  That question is easy.  I could be kind and loving to her.
talltab1I looked around the store.  Everything was quiet, normal, ordinary.  Customers came in and left.  Employees straightened bookshelves or stood patiently waiting for something to happen.  I had a date with Jenni scheduled for that night.  I decided that tonight I would change the course of the universe – I would show love and kindness towards her.