Q: Sadly, our family has allowed Memorial Day to become nothing more than a day to celebrate the onset of summer, play in the sunshine and eat too much. What can we do to encourage a meaningful experience and to reclaim a sense of what the day is truly about?
Jim: I appreciate your question because there have been some years where I've been neglectful. Let's resolve to do better.
Although the establishment of Memorial Day as an official holiday came later, I think Abraham Lincoln captured its purpose best when he penned these words to his Gettysburg Address:
"It is for us, the living ... to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion."
So what are some ways we can remember their sacrifice and honor the work for which they gave their lives?
-- Attend a Memorial Day ceremony or place flowers on the gravesite of a fallen soldier.
-- Write letters of gratitude and remembrance to someone who has lost a loved one in service to our country.
-- Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance (usba.com/remembermemorialday).
-- Watch an age-appropriate movie or TV program that thoughtfully presents the struggles and sacrifices of our servicemen and women.
-- Make an American-themed dessert and host someone mourning the loss of his or her loved one.
-- Fly the colors. Take time to learn about the history of the flag and "The Star-Spangled Banner."
However you choose to honor those who've protected our freedoms, may we never take their sacrifices for granted.
Q: How do we keep my divorced parents from spoiling our wedding? I'm engaged, but as the wedding approaches, my fiance and I are beginning to fear that our big day may become an occasion for major family strife.
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Sadly, you're not the first couple to face this difficult situation. This does, however, present you with an opportunity to grow together as you work through this challenge, and it can equip you in dealing with similar conflicts your marriage may encounter in the future.
My recommendation is to first find a good marriage therapist and set up a series of counseling sessions. (Call us at 855-771-4357 if you need a referral.) Key to this process is to define and establish your identity as a couple, which will place you in a better position to set appropriate boundaries with your parents.
At some point, of course, you'll need to confront them. When you do, be honest about your fears and frustrations. At the same time, make it clear that your wedding day can be a positive experience if all are willing to cooperate and keep the focus on the significance of the occasion. Take proactive control of the situation. Tell your parents precisely how you'd like them to participate in the wedding ceremony. Don't leave this open-ended, or you may open the door to further conflict.
If they are resistant, consider revisiting the conversation with the support of a trusted family member, pastor or counselor. If they're still uncooperative, you may need to respectfully invite them not to participate in the wedding. This can be especially difficult if they're footing the bill, and it may dictate making some drastic changes in your plans. Harsh as that sounds, it will be best in the long run if it helps you preserve your integrity as a couple.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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