Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We Are All Children

It would be an understatement to say that we were suprised by the words, "it's a girl!" when Emily was born. We knew it was a boy. We just knew. Even though our ultrasound was inconclusive, we knew. It was a boy and he would be our last and we would finally have our completed family.

But it was a girl.

I can be honest when I say that there was not an ounce, not even a smidge, of any kind of disappointment in that first moment or minutes or days or weeks or the past 15+ months. There was shock and suprise. There was "are you SURE?!?". There was, "then where's the boy we KNEW we were having?". "Is there someone else in there??". And another, "are you SURE?"

The doctor was sure. It was a girl.

And she was ours right from the start. I had prepared myself mentally to move into a "mom of boys" mode and all that it brought with it ~ trucks and jeans and dirt and more dirt. Oh and did I mention dirt? I thought I was done with frills and dresses and hairdos and pink, pink and more pink. I felt lucky that I would be having each of these in their turn. We had three girls first. Then we'd have two boys. I would have had the chance to devote myself to little girls and then to little boys.

The fact that it didn't work out like I thought it would doesn't make me less lucky. Now that we have Emily, I think we're even more lucky, because we have her. She, who is the baby we never knew we would get; the baby we never got to know we wanted until she came.

Sunday in church Kurt had Emily standing on his lap and she was making funny faces to the people sitting behind us. She was squinting her eyes, as if by doing so she could disappear. She'd open her eyes with surprise, and people would laugh. Rinse, lather, repeat.

It was in one of those moments that I had a feeling of such mom-ness come over me: where would our family be without her? It would be incomplete, even though we might not know it (though a part of me knows we would know). We would have missed on all that is Emily ~ from her skinny chickenness as an infant, to her emerging words, her Schmemily Meeman moments (this is her alter ego and what we call her when she has seemed to have turned to the dark side).

It was a flood of thought and emotion that came more quickly than I can type them or even be able to sort them all out.

Later our YW President gave an incredible Christmas Lesson to all of our YW. She related to the girls how our Heavenly Father is literally the father of Jesus Christ, that He (Jesus) is divine, and that because of His divinity he was able to overcome not only physical death but spiritual death for all of us. She described the Atonement and talked about how our behavior can sometimes remove us from hearing and being close to Him. That by prayer and scripture study and repentance and church attendance we can better bring ourselves back into line with Him.

As I listened I thought about how we are all children of our Heavenly Father. And, as we sometimes compare our roles as parents to Heavenly Father's roll, in order to help us understand, even a little, the love he has for us, I thought again about my feelings for Emily, and for each of our children. And I thought about how our family would be missing something if Emily, or any of them, weren't there.

I thought about how it's the same for Heavenly Father's family. He loves each one of us, sent His Son for each of us, and His family would be missing something if we weren't back with Him someday. He would miss us, just like we would miss any of our children.

He is our Father, and we are all His children.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Most Cherished Relationship

My wedding day was the very best day of my life. I married my best friend Kurt, whom I loved. We were sealed together in the Boise Idaho Temple. Our faces could have cracked with the size of our smiles that day!

In the Bible Dictionary, Adam and Eve are defined as a family. Joined as husband and wife, they were a family. Certainly their relationship set the tone for children that would eventually join them. Their posterity ensured the world would be populated. We do not, as individual couples, have that same responsibility. As children are not guaranteed for any of us, though certainly a blessing, the Church website states 'those who are married should consider their union as their most cherished earthly relationship. A spouse is the only person other than the Lord whom we have been commanded to love with all our heart.' (D&C 42:22)


When I was seven, I watched as my parents' marriage ended in divorce. My brother and I lived with my mom from that point on, though we continued to visit my dad regularly and had a good relationship with him. My mom worked very hard to make sure we had what we needed. At 6ft tall, she was a formidable woman, who carried on strong and capable. She was my role model as I grew, and as I focuses on a long school career and eventual work in medicine, I thought "if she could do it, so could I". Though the idea of marriage sounded nice, if it didn't work out I would move forward as I had watched my mother do. My attitude on marriage at that time was articulated by Elder Hafen as being that of a "contractual marriage" ~ a marriage of convenience that lasts as long as the fun does, but really misses the deep and wonderful bond that comes from what he described instead as a "covenant marriage". A contractual marriage brings a "what can you do for me?" attitude, according to Elder Hafen, while a covenant marriage starts with two people looking to make their spouse's life more comfortable. A covenant marriage begins in the Temple, where a couple pledge themselves to each other and to continue in obedience in following the Lord's commandments. There is a certain sweetness that accompanies a covenant marriage; a sacred trust and cherished friendship.

Temple marriage covenants do not magically bring equality to a partnership. Those covenants commit us to a developmental process of learning and growing together, by practice. (Elder Bruce C. Hafen, Ensign, Aug 2007)

Of course my attitude on marriage is very different now. An introduction to the Gospel in High School by good friends began that change of heart. Kurt and I have enjoyed our 15+ years of marriage. Though we have been spared any serious heartache in our relationship, feeling the influence of our Temple marriage has helped us to dig in at times and keep a more eternal perspective.


Nothing is more important, and nothing is more influential in our home as the example of a husband and wife, who love each other. Home becomes a place where other want to be. As ware now raising our children, we desire an atmosphere at home that leaves no doubt in their minds how mom and dad feel about each other. Couples who strive to keep their covenant marriage a living entity develop a love that becomes less bothered by personality quirks or differing opinions. They reverence each other as they share their most personal details, dreams and intimacies.

In our family, my mother and father-in-law are incredible examples of this principle. It is obvious, after 41 years of marriage, that they still love each other in a way that is renewed regularly. Our oldest daughter, now 14, used to call her Grandma Freeman her '"Woot Woo" Grandma', because Grandpa is always whistling to Grandma, "woot woo!". Their love for each other revolves around service and daily displays of affection. They speak in a considerate tone; they counsel with each other regularly; they do things together.

As Kurt and I dated, I saw this example and came to know better the man I would marry, because of the parents who raised him. I knew a son who had always seen his father treat his mother with respect, would treat his wife the same way. I was right!


It is imperative that we include the Lord in our marriage. Praying together has an amazing way of removing anger from the room and builds the bond of spiritual strength and security. There have been times when an answered prayer has made such an impression on me, that it's influence has lasted well beyond the issue that was prayed about.

When Kurt proposed -- at 3:30 one morning -- and after only 5 1/2 weeks of dating, I was not completely prepared. An institute teacher we'd had one told the story of his proposal to his wife, and it was his story that introduced the suggestion to me of praying about who we might marry. So when suddenly I found this wonderful boy kneeling in front of me, all I could tell him was "yes, but I need to pray about it." I'm sure that wasn't the romance and fireworks he was hoping for! And then he endured a grueling 19 hours before hearing my answer, which was a firm and elated "yes!"

That prayer that I went home and prayer, after waking my mom to tell her what had happened, was strongly affirmed by a warm, special spirit. This was an acceptable union to the Lord. In moments when I may have lost my perspective, this memory helps guide me back to confronting better the issue at hand.

Prayer made a memorable difference as we contemplated our first big move away from where we grew up. Kurt was offered a job, we were given the opportunity to buy a house, and I would be able to stay at home with our two small girls -- all good things. But was the move the right thing for us to do?

Returning home from a trip to this new place, we attended the Temple where in the prayer circle I heard for the first time (though I've heard it many times since), "bless those who have come with a specific purpose, that they will receive the desire of their hearts." It was that same confirming spirit that consumed us, and we knew that moving was the right thing to do. How the memory of this prayer sustained us as those first months, even years, held times when we wanted to come running back!

There is so much power in praying for our spouse; For their safety, their health, their ability to withstand the things the world throws at them; For success in their righteous endeavors. In a world that can bring so many tough challenges, where our worth can be dashed and our best efforts beaten down, our spouse -- even our Eternal Companion -- can and should be the wonderful soft place for us to fall.


As Kurt and I prepared to be married, we interviewed with the Stake President in order to obtain our marriage recommend. During his interview, I was asked if I knew what the number one cause of divorce was. This question caught me totally off guard because here I was, in love and looking forward to a fairy-tale life. Of course I hadn't thought about divorce, at least not how it applied directly to me. When I stumbled for an answer, he responded with one word: SELFISHNESS.

I have remembered that interview question, and have seen where that wise Stake President was right. When selfishness instead of charity governs out actions, troubles arise, misery sets in and eventually marriages come to an end.

On one of our first trips to the grocery store after we were married, Kurt and I discovered that we might not be completely like-minded in every detail. I was appalled that he would causally put a dozen eggs in the cart without checking to maker sure none were broken, and let him know of my disapproval. Heavy silence ensued.

Not too many isles away from the eggs, Kool-Aid was put into the cart. Here again, we had differing ideas. His children were going to drink Kool-aid; mine were not. Since we'd thought those children were going to be the same people, this was now a problem! We eventually compromised and decided that if the kids wanted Kool-aid, they'd have to get it from dad. Now, I can't tell you the last time we had Kool-aid in the house... It has just become something we grew out of buying. It's a shame we put so much energy into the issue that day at the store!


To be one with our spouse comes by living the gospel and keeping our covenants. The extent to which we become one with Christ is the extent to which we become one with each other.

Elder Eyring states, "the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, said of those who would part of His Church: "Be one: and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27). And at the creation of a man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope, it was a command! "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity."


The Church website states; 'Couples must center their lives in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As couples help one another keep the covenants they have made, attend church and the temple together, study the scriptures together and kneel together in prayer, God will guide them. Their companionship will sweeten through the years; their love will strengthen. Their appreciation for one another will grow.'

Elder Eyring adds, "Where people have the spirit with them, we may expect harmony. The spirit put the testimony of truth in our hearts, which unifies those who share that testimony. The Spirit of God never generates contention. It never generates the feelings of distinctions between people which lead to strife. It leads to personal peace and a feeling of union with others. It unifies souls. A unified [marriage] depends on unified souls."

Years ago I saw a diagram drawn on a chalkboard during an institute lesson. It was a simple triangle, with Heavenly Father at the top, and two people's names attached to each other bottom two corners. Those names in my case were mine and Kurt's The lessons was simple: the closer we come to God, by keeping His commandments and through obedience to covenants, the closer we come to each other. Seeking to have and then maintaining a covenant marriage through loving service and faithful commitment to our spouse leads to the happiness and pure joy offered by our Father in heaven.

This I know for sure as I have felt the Spirit's influence in my marriage as we strive together to nourish our most precious relationship here on the earth.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Smile Challenge

My friend Krista started a fabulous program called "The Smile Challenge" with her YW last spring. She extended an invitation after October's conference for others to join in the fun and after a little hesitation (I didn't want it to fall into that "one more thing" category and become an obligation when I knew the potential was there to be an amazing experience), I accepted the challenge and as a result have been reading one conference talk each day (or very nearly every day....sorry Krista! I'm coming clean here!).

I had that feeling of great potential and excitement as I got started on the 1st of November. I decided to print each talk and keep it in a 3-ring binder so as not to mark up and muck up our family copy of November's Ensign. Doing so has also given me ample space to write notes and impressions as I've read. Love that!

The first big thing that struck me, though it took a couple of days to do so, was the inspired order in which the talks are presented. The very first talk, "To Acquire Spiritual Guidance" by Elder Scott was about gaining the ability to recognize the Spirit in our lives. That was followed by Sister Matsumori's talk, "Helping Others Recognize the Whisperings of the Spirit". Based on this order, the principle that we first must learn for ourselves before we can share with others is emphasized. Amazing!

The final speaker on Saturday morning was President Uchtdorf. His talk was entitled, "The Love of God". He spoke about our love for God being the factor that most completely rules our behavior. It was a great way to end that first session.

The first speaker of the Saturday afternoon session was, after the sustaining of church officers took place, Elder Oaks. The title of his talk was, "Love and Law". Here we heard about God's love for us (in contrast to our love for Him in President Uchtdorf's talk), and how it balances perfectly with his perfect adherance to the laws of the Gospel. These two talks, technically in succession, were again evidence of the inspiration each speaker received as they prepared to present their talks.

Now I am reading Sunday Afternoon's talks, and just re-read Elder Hollands powerful (whoa!) words regarding his testimony of the Book of Mormon. We were driving home from UT and had Conference on the radio and I remember feeling each of his words penetrate my spirit. I knew, because of the way I felt, that he was speaking the truth. I knew that he spoke with all the energies of his soul because he too knew what he was saying was true.

I've been glad to re-read the talks that came after Elder Holland's, because I remember feeling badly for whoever spoke next. I sat through the next few speakers still recovering from Elder Holland's direct and powerful testimony.

Re-reading their words (Elder Cook's talk on Stewardship and Elder Brent Nielson's talk on missionary work) now have been edifying parts to my days.

My next goal is to go back through what I've read and study the footnotes and write more completely about the impressions I receive. Maybe some of that will show up here. Stephanie over at Diapers and Divinity is having some fabulous conversations on various conference addresses. They, along with her other amazing posts, have been great to read.

I know Krista would love to have anyone join her Smile Challenge. Along with a daily conference talk, participators are reading a chapter in the Book of Mormon, along with saying their morning and evening prayers. Originally started for her YW, it's an awesome way to lift your day.