Mortality is a time of testing. Our teacher and Savior may be quiet as we experience the test. But this testing will end, and His time of governing will begin in the millennium. Jesus Christ will “rule and reign” among us forever. We won’t need any more elections. Happily, He has already won our hearts. We know that ‘every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ’… in time. (see Mosiah 27-31).

What about the meantime? Can we consistently pass the test to be loving and civil in situations where we are tempted to be less than loving or civil? Can we “reach across the aisle”, not only in Congress, but in church, at the grocery store, and everywhere? Can we be forever kind to those not of our preferred political kind? Of course we can.

Most importantly, can we be continually kind at home? Charity (“the pure love of Christ” Moroni 7:47) not only “begins at home”, it was designed to live there, always. We can welcome charity, pull up a comfortable chair for her, and encourage her to stay forever.

One way we have tried to encourage love in our home is to remember a sort of mostly unspoken family adage: “Snuggles, not Struggles”. When I forget, I regret!

I remember a tough day a handful of years ago with two of our then tweenagers. We had already raised six tweens by then, so you would think I wouldn’t be fazed, but every tween offers a little unique testing of their own. On this day, I was frustrated. One of older daughters Emily noticed this. She saw my pursed, frustrated expression out of the corner of her eye. Emily comforts all of our occasionally restless souls. I wanted to tell her “It’s nothing, really.”

And it wasn’t a huge deal. I just wanted to drop a couple of at-the-moment-super annoying tween-agers out of a window. (O.K., a first-floor window, into the softest possible bushes:).

Emily approached me slowly, looking at me straight on. Raising her eyebrows, she said quietly “Snuggles, not struggles Mom. Remember?” There was a hint of teasing laughter in her sparkling eyes.

Yes. We are a huggy, snuggly sort of family. What is life without hugs? One of my best friends Theresa and I share this hugging thing. Years ago, someone observed us hugging people right and left.  “You two are hugger muggers” she said. We guessed she was on to something. But if ‘hugging mugging’ was wrong, we didn’t want to be right 😀

Emily was nudging me back into hug-e-ostasis (homeostasis with hugs:).

Then she said something that we could all write on mental post-it notes when we have differing political or upset feelings: “Forgive them mom. We’re all bumbling through life. We all make perceived mistakes. Don’t let pride get in the way. Don’t let the temptation to be contentious steal joy. You know it’s the adversary tempting you. You can sidestep this as you most often do. Hug them.” She was right, of course. It’s difficult to hold onto frustrated feelings when you are giving someone a hug.

Science embraces hugging for many reasons: Hugs increase the bonding hormone oxytocin in the body. Hugs lower levels of anxiety and loneliness.

Hugs can change blood pressure and heart rates. In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, “Participants who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment”. Wow.

We came to earth as children of God to be tried and tested. When we arrive, so innocent and new, we are hoping for hugs. Lots of hugs. Endless years of hugs.

My husband and I had a basket full of children, and when they were small, they would often land on the same couch, falling all over each other like puppies.

Those puppy childhood years may have sped past, but innocent laughter has never left. We have tried hard to maintain a home that was as innocent as possible.

In our case, this meant in part, that the kids were raised mostly with little media. This meant that they had to chat with each other frequently. Maybe this contributed to their solid friendships, built on years of silliness, serious debates, inside jokes, and hugs. Still, annoyance reared and rears its occasional head.

It’s been said that when you are dealing with a difficult person, the first five minutes of your next encounter with them is the most important. This initial time sets the tone for the rest of the interaction. A big smile, a compliment, a little silliness, and of course some hugs, can go a long way.

When the tweens came back, I hugged them. They were surprised. I was a little surprised. But I could tell by Emily’s quiet confidence that she was not surprised. She trusted me to remember what works.

I hugged her.

It’s almost the holiday season now. And possibly over rivers and through various woods, we might be headed home. Home can be the happiest place on earth. It can be a place of pure hearts, kind words, and generous hugs.

Hugs are better than (political, or other) plugs. Elections and politicians come and go.

Our Savior’s love and leadership are forever. We can keep this perspective. Not everyone gets over during a pandemic, but charity is always welcome. Let’s snuggle, not struggle.

The one who is ultimately in charge is doing His job.

Our job is to look past differences, and let love win, forever!