Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Meaningful Life: On Marriage

Something that I think makes life meaningful is having a good marriage. I thought marriage was good when it was just the two of us, how could it get any better than that? Then when I saw Ben as a father, my love for him took on a new and different dimension that I can't even describe. But being married for only two years, we are obviously not experts on what makes a good marriage. That being said, I am always looking for ways to make our marriage better, and more meaningful. I have really loved a handout our bishop gave us when we moved in, something he gives all the new move-ins that is a compilation of church teachings. I have poured over it since the day he gave it to us, reading it and re-reading it. I'm praying that by reading it over and over again the ideas will get stuck in my head and I will do all these things. It's by no means all-inclusive, but I love how it's simple and outlined, like a checklist. I hope that in posting this, even if this is not what our life looks like all the time, our kids will know that this was the idea we were going for.

1. Center the Marriage on the Gospel of Jesus Christ
        a. Worship regularly in the holy temple
        b. Kneel in couple prayer morning and night
        c. Attend church together
        d. Study the gospel together daily
        e. Exercise personal moral fidelity both mentally and physically
        f. Share testimony openly
2. Take Time for Each Other
        a. Go out on weekly dates
        b. "First Four"-- ensure that the first four minutes together after being apart are focused on assessing one another's well being, expressing love, and reviewing plans for going forward
        c. Occasionally have lunch together or something similar
        d. Hold weekly planning meetings
        e. End the day together
3. Have Fun Together
        a. Set regular time aside just for having fun-- get it in the schedule
        b. Don't try to solve marriage or other family problems during fun time
        c. Consider getting away from the day-to-day environment of home, work, and/or church
        d. Remember to recreate is to re-create-- recreate your marriage regularly
4. Talk Frequently and Positively
        a. Ask open-ended questions, then listen
        b. Compliment your spouse at least five times as often as you suggest change
        c. Joke more, but be careful not to offend
        d. Accept spouse's opinion when it is different than yours
        e. Reminisce
5. Perform Acts of Kindness
        a. Serve the Lord
        b. Ensure the happiness of your spouse
        c. Ask your spouse what he/she would like you to do more often to show your care and concern
        d. Give your spouse "wings to fly"-- help your spouse give expression to his/her talents and interests

Some of these we are better at doing than others, but I have a testimony that because of sacred covenants we made in the temple, God will help us make our marriage everlasting.

I love you Ben.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Meaningful Life: Good Food

Growing up, dinner was an event at my house. We had a sit-down, dishes, everybody-around-the-table type dinner pretty much every night.

Now that I have my own family, I am the Mom, the person who has the most influence on dinner at our house. I looove my mom's cooking (who doesn't?) and have even perfected some of her dishes (I think). But after a while I got a little sick of eating the same things that I had already eaten for 20 years (no offense Mom), so I started collecting recipes. Now I have a small repertoire of recipes my family loves, and continue collecting them everyday.

One thing that I think makes life meaningful is coming home to GOOD food, and a variety of good food. I think one of the reasons we have so much variety in what we eat is because I've never been one of those people that can eat a pb&j everyday for lunch, or have tortilla soup every single day for a week for dinner (Sarah!). So when I find something I like, I actually try and make it LESS often so I will actually like it the next time I make it (strange, I know). So I don't know if my kids will ever be able to call something "my mom's lasagna" since my recipes are ever-changing and rotating.

I'm still young and definitely not perfect at the make-dinner-every-night routine yet, and we hit up Wendy's or eat a $5 pizza more that I'd like to admit, but I have seen some definite benefits to cooking good food.

1. I really look forward to planning and making dinner. Lots of times I get to try something new, and I get a lot of satisfaction when the meal tastes delicious.
2. Ben looks forward to dinner and home cooked meals. At the end of a long hard day at work, he is really grateful for something warm and delicious that didn't come from a drive-thru.
3. It improves our marriage. I live for Ben's compliments for my dinners. When I can tell it's a sincere compliment, I try again and again to get that same satisfied sigh from my husband after dinner.
4. It can help you lose weight. I've found in our house, that when dinner is appetizing and delicious, both Ben & I are less likely to snack after dinner and remain full.
5. It saves you money. Menu planning saves money, getting rid of the after dinner (& before dinner) snack, and sending leftovers for lunch (eliminates buying lunchmeat, sandwich bread, baggies, etc.). Granted, eating burritos and cold cereal is a lot cheaper, but with none of the added benefits listed above.

Here is what my upcoming few weeks looks like:

Sweet & Sour Meatballs from here, French Onion Soup from here, Chicken Parmesan from here, Beef Pepperoncini Sandwiches from here, Coconut Chicken with Apricot Sauce from here, Butternut Squash Lasagna from here, Asian Chicken Breasts from here. The rest are stock photos of family recipes or other random recipes that aren't conveniently online.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Best Friend

A few weeks ago my best friend from Horseshoe Bend High School got married.

Amanda is one in a million, and you never forget somebody like her.

I was the new girl in high school, and she went out of her way to welcome me and be my friend. Especially in high school, that is a big deal and it meant a lot to me.

On our sports teams I was REALLY bad, and Amanda was a superstar. She took me under her wing and would practice with me everyday. She was always my partner, even though our skill levels were miles apart.

Amanda wasn't just nice to me, but to everyone. Everyone knew and loved her in our small town because of  what a good person she was.

I remember that a few times I was mean to Amanda, would leave her out or some other dumb thing, but no matter what happened she was still my friend. Now that is a good friend.

All through college she was the one that kept in touch with me, calling me and checking up on me and seeing if I was married yet.

So this past weekend I was so happy to "give Amanda away" to one who seemed deserving. Tears came to my eyes as I thought about how kind, helpful, and thoughtful she had been to me. And tears came to my eyes as I realized that she now had a companion who saw all of these good traits in her. She now had someone who gets her humor, thinks she is beautiful, and appreciates her strengths. I was so happy to see the groom, Justin, looking at her like he was the luckiest guy in the world. Because he is.

Cheyenne with her grandpa while visiting in Horseshoe Bend for Amanda's wedding.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Birthday Boy

On Friday was Ben's birthday. Ben is not very particular in most areas of his life, even his birthday. It's usually with much arm-twisting if I get any preferences out of him.
"What kind of cake do you want?"
"What do you want to have for dinner?"
"Whatever you're making."
"What do you want for a birthday gift?"
And it's not like he's trying to be noble, like I sometimes try to be when I want to emulate him. He actually really doesn't have a preference, and really would not be bummed if he didn't get anything for his birthday. So when I prodded him for a while about a birthday cake and got a response, I jumped on it. He wanted an ice cream cake, yellow cake with chocolate ice cream. Huh? Kind of random if you ask me. Anyway, no ice cream place makes that combination, and I couldn't find a single recipe with those two ingredients. Then, I found these:

Obviously this still isn't the right combination, but they look totally awesome, don't they?
Of course I wasn't going to pay $8 for these puppies when I could make them myself. They are so simple.
A small layer of cake
Chocolate sauce
Big old scoop of ice cream
Frosting + Sprinkles

For Ben's birthday dinner, we went to Tucano's. For a meat lover, you can't get better than all-you-can eat meat.

Here's a meat-eater in training

Fully-trained meat eater.

 Two peas in a pod
 Can you resist those dimples? She has started smiling when I bring out my camera, it's so cute!

For Ben's birthday he got a new heater for our house (not by choice...). This is his little helper who thinks screwdrivers are toys.

I'm losing my baby and gaining a toddler! She looks so grown up in the picture. She's only 10.5 months.

Happy Birthday to my favorite 29 year old!! I'm so lucky to have him as my companion.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

She's Crafty

I made a wreath. I feel so crafty.

Really what happened was, we live in the basement and sometimes it feels like a dungeon. So I was racking my brain for ideas to make it more appealing. A wreath, of course, is the answer. But when I went wreath-shopping, the majority of them were hideous or $40. So I got myself some crafty stuff and made one.

It probably cost me $26 and less than an hour of my time while Ben was listening to the BYU game. And I really enjoyed doing it, I found out. Cheyenne had fun climbing our basement stairs while I was putting it up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Taking His Yoke

In the Book of Mormon, one story that I have read over and over has stuck with me and I constantly think about it. It is in the book of Mosiah, chapters 18-24. In the book of Mosiah we learn about two different groups of people, Limhi's people and Alma's people.

In the story, Limhi's people were slow to remember God just had an absolute miserable time being slaves. That sounds kind of funny, doesn't it? Of course, they are slaves, they are going to have a miserable time! They cursed God, refused to pray, and just in general hated their lives. Slowly, over time, they came to see God's goodness and mercy, humbled themselves, and asked God to deliver them. God was slow at first, but eventually they were delivered, escaped, and were no longer in bondage.

In contrast, the story of Alma's people is also relayed. Alma's people were also made slaves, but they didn't necessarily have a horrible time. Once they were in bondage, they prayed to God for strength. So God came right down and delivered them! Just kidding... what really happened was, God made their burdens light upon their backs. That means, they still had to do all the same tasks Limhi's people had to do.

I had a personal experience with this just last weekend. Cheyenne had gotten up 3 times in the middle of the night, and when at 7am she was finally up for good I was exhausted. I spent the first 15 minutes thinking, "Why me? What did I do that was so bad? I just want some SLEEP." I just kept thinking, "Man, some people have it so easy." Then slowly, it turned to, "I don't have to suffer through this. There is One who can help." I said a silent prayer in my mind, asking for help. And you know what? She was really just as bad as before I said the prayer. But what I felt inside was totally different. I wasn't annoyed, I wasn't mad, I didn't think "I can't take this anymore!" because I knew that I could. I knew someone was lifting me, giving me strength beyond my own.

The number one thing I take away from this story is this:
    If you have a trial, it only makes sense to complain, "endure it," and get it over with.
    But, if you lean upon the Lord, and humbly ask for His help, he will shoulder the burden for you so there's nothing to complain about. You might be thinking, "No Ashley, you have to struggle through things, that's how you get closer to Christ." But Christ already struggled for all of us on the cross. He already atoned for our sins, our weaknesses, and any pain we will ever feel. With that in mind, there's no reason to "get through" anything. Just like the people of Alma, bad things are going to happen to us. It is not fun to do  laundry, the dishes, or take care of a screaming baby. And of course everyone in the world would expect you to complain about any of those tasks. But if you want to be a true follower of Christ, you can "suffer" just like Alma's people did. That is, with your burdens light upon your back. For in the Bible it says, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

I have definitely not perfected leaning on the Lord, and that's why this is a principle I think about a lot. I am very good at finding something to complain about almost anything, so that's why I need this principle the most. I'm so grateful, though, that the spirit of the Lord touched my heart and taught me this principle, so that each day I can get better at it, and maybe even someday, if I work hard enough, teach it through example to my children.