The other day, as I carried my 5-month-old baby on my hip — her very favorite place to be — she spit up all over my hand. Being a common occurrence, I didn't think much of it as the spit up rolled down the back of my hand and covered my wedding ring. Once I stuck my hand under the running water to rinse the muck away, however, the gears of thought and memory began to turn.

When my husband first presented me with this ring, it was perfect and pristine. A fabulous piece of jewelry, its luster at its peak and its sparkle fantastic. The same can be said of our relationship. New, exciting. A pristine beginning with endless potential.

In the beginning, when the ring was new, it was easy to keep its sparkle. My hands were clean most of the day, and I remembered to clean the ring often.

In the beginning, a marriage is easy to maintain. There is little to taint it, to challenge it. The bulk of real life is still waiting around the corner.

Now, three children and 7 1/2 years later, my ring has lost a lot of its shine. Its sparkle is slightly dulled and different. It is marked and nicked. I hardly remember to clean it. My hands are often involved in messy things like cooking, cleaning and dealing with baby bodily fluids. There are so many layers of life on this ring now.

In turn, there are many layers of life on our marriage. We have met challenges and prevailed. We have been nicked and dinged a few times. Together, with the much-needed help of the Lord, we have morphed our relationship into more than attraction and love. Now we nurture a lasting bond, an eternal companionship.

Like my ring — which is more beautiful to me than ever before — so is our marriage. It is the layers of life, the dirt and grime that make life mean something. It is the prayers and tests of faith that adhere us together. A new ring is nice, but it doesn't mean much until it has been worn and becomes a part of your finger.

Marriage is better the longer we wear it, the longer we make it fit and make it part of us. As we work together, things may change, things may be hard, but the essential luster can never be lost. In fact, as we use the principles of the gospel to polish and shine our marriage, the luster and beauty increase, infused with the light of Christ. And when we look at it, it becomes more, becomes great, despite its flaws.

As I continued to think about our marriage and family, and how much more it can become I was reminded of a verse from the Book of Mormon. Jacob 3:7: "Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children. ..." The language of this verse sounds circular, love moving around and around. Like my ring, which represent the endless circle of eternity, our family becomes a circle, a circle of ever-expanding love that grows from two young people kneeling across the altar of the temple to a rich heritage of children and grandchildren.

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It also reaches back to those before us, parents, grandparents and ancestors, those who set the righteous example. In essence the circle of our love, of this ring, expands to encompass an eternity of ancestors and descendants. And so it seems the small circle of my ring grows not only in beauty and meaning but also in power as the gospel pulls my family within its open arms and as my husband and I strive to teach our children the beauty of our Savior's atonement, the peace that comes from righteous living, and the importance of our rich heritage and bright future.

The beauty of the ring and of the marriage now comes from what it means and the eternal potential it represents. My small, imperfect ring is a perfect symbol of a righteous family.

Teri Harman writes and reads from home amidst the chaos of three young children. Her life is a blissful, crazy mess.

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