When my husband, Merrill, was sustained to serve in the bishopric for the third time, I raised my hand from out in the foyer where I had taken my noisy, eight-month-old son. As Merrill stood at the pulpit to bear his testimony, I strained to hear his remarks, but happy chatter from members of another ward leaving the building drowned out the sound of his voice. I wondered if the experience was a precursor of things to come—with me doing my best to support and sustain my husband only to miss the spiritual growth he was enjoying.
I determined that this would not happen. I prayed earnestly and received an assurance that I would learn much of a practical and spiritual nature that would strengthen me personally.
During the first eight years of our marriage, Merrill served in a variety of leadership positions. Also during these eight years, we had four sons, first twins and then two more in quick succession. In addition, we felt the stress of Merrill’s finishing graduate school, our move across the country, and his beginning a new career. We often felt we were inside a pressure cooker.
I struggled with frustration when everyone seemed to want a piece of my husband’s time until there was nothing left for me and our sons. Some of the ways we found to meet our challenges included the following:
We made a conscious effort to involve our boys in Merrill’s calling whenever possible, encouraging them to sit with him on the stand, go to the bank with him to deposit tithing funds, and go with him to visit ward members when appropriate. He once took all the boys with him to the stake Aaronic Priesthood encampment. Not only did these things ease the pressure for me, but our sons learned important lessons from watching my husband carry out his leadership responsibilities.
Merrill and I kept our schedules free for a date each Friday night. Sometimes we went out, and sometimes we stayed home and enjoyed Chinese food together, or popcorn and a videocassette. This tradition had obvious benefits for our marriage relationship, and it also gave us something to look forward to during a particularly hectic week.
We learned the importance of counting our blessings often. We were surprised and humbled at the many blessings that came our way during this time. For example, we rarely had to cope with sick children on Sunday. Though our boys had as many minor illnesses as other babies and toddlers, they nearly always got better by Sunday, and we were able to attend our meetings. I gained an increased testimony that the Lord really took an interest in the welfare of our little family.
During times of discouragement, I learned that fervent prayer always brought me the comforting presence of the Holy Ghost. One experience in particular comes to mind. My husband had agreed to attend Varsity Scout Wood Badge training in a remote area three weeks before our fourth baby was due. As I prayed after he left, I was surrounded by a feeling of warmth, love, and encouragement. I came to know that all would be well in Merrill’s absence, and that he would not miss the birth of our baby. As promised, we had a smooth, disaster-free week at home while my husband had many unforgettable experiences at Wood Badge training. He came home full of enthusiasm for the Scouting program. I was so glad the Spirit had led me to urge him to attend.
Taking on a demanding Church calling, or supporting a spouse who does, is a complicated endeavor when we have so many demands on our time. However, I continue to believe that with good judgment, divine help, and family unity, the challenges will not become overwhelming—but overwhelmingly satisfying.