The Case of the Lost Wallet (Alternate Title: God Always Keeps His Promises)

 

I looked everywhere for it—under the couch cushions, in the refrigerator, the mailbox, the car, the hamper, the garbage cans—but my wallet was most certainly MIA.

And so too were my debit card, driver’s license, Temple recommend, and Chugz punch card.

I prayed mightily that I’d find my wallet because I dreaded waiting in line forever at the DMV for a new license, plus I was only one punch away from a free Chugz drink.

When I prayed about it, I had this overwhelming feeling that it would turn up, but after a few days of searching and backtracking with no success, I started to doubt.

At the time we lived near the county fair grounds and people usually parked on our street when parking at the grounds was full. I figured my wallet must have fallen out of my bag on my way in or out of the house, and that perhaps some fair-going passerby noticed it in the driveway.

So despite the feeling of hope I’d received when I prayed, I accepted that it was stolen and took necessary action to notify my bank and so on.

A few more days went by, and then weeks, until three weeks later I received a letter from the police department.

Great news:  Someone turned in my lost wallet!

I couldn’t believe it!

Waiting on this blessing that I originally felt God had promised me, and even giving up on it, taught me something grand about God and His goodness, and it is this:

God ALWAYS keeps His promises.

That’s hard to remember when you pray and plead for a certain blessing—a certain miracle—and heaven seems passive.

That’s hard to remember when your fragile emotions dim your eternal perspective.

That’s hard to remember when doubts cloud the answer you once received.

That’s hard to remember when God seems awfully generous toward everyone but you.

That’s hard to remember when you’re just so sick of waiting and waiting and waiting for a blessing you once felt God had promised you.

But this I have learned:

Delayed blessings are the best kind.

These are the kinds of blessings preceded by our personal growth, our refinement, the lessons we need in order to someday reach our potential. These are the kinds of blessings that will become the most cherished to us, the kind we will thank Father in Heaven for every day of our mortal lives and most definitely every day of our eternity.

If I had found my wallet right away, it wouldn’t have felt like such a miracle. I wouldn’t have appreciated the blessing nearly as much. The fact that I had to wait for it made it even more profound, and it made me vastly more grateful. I wouldn’t be here now writing about it and proclaiming that I KNOW God hears us and cares about our happiness even more than we do.

It would have merely been an experience appreciated in the moment but now long forgotten.

But because I did have to wait for it and because God did come through for me, I can declare yet again that God ALWAYS keeps His promises.

That knowledge encourages me to keep hoping and praying for the same miracle I’ve been praying for for years now. Trust me—it’s much more important to my life and my happiness than a missing wallet, and I’ve waited much longer than three weeks for it.

So to anyone out there waiting on a miracle, wait with faith.

If you’re single and you long to find your person, keep trying.

If you are heartbroken because of infertility, don’t lose hope.

If you’ve spent three decades praying for your spouse to come back to church, don’t stop.

If you’re pleading for your financial crisis to end, keep pleading.

If you’re wondering what you’re supposed to learn from your illness, keep trusting.

If you want to believe this Gospel is true, but the confirmation hasn’t come yet, keep embracing it with all your heart.

Remember what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland proclaimed, “Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.”

That blessing I’m currently praying for feels out of reach right now, but I don’t plan to stop asking. Just because it hasn’t happened yet does not mean heaven has not intervened. The Lord has provided many tender mercies, reminders, and little bonus blessings along the way. I’ve been blessed with hope, patience, a renewed sense of faith and perseverance, more trust in Him, more compassion for others, and I know that one day when the miracle for which I plead comes I will fall to my knees, overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. The waiting will be worth it.

And until then, Christ will empathize with me. He won’t downplay the longings of my heart simply because He knows that one day my righteous desires will come to pass. 

So don’t give up! If you’ll just give God a chance, He’ll fulfill your every righteous dream.

 

Today Begins at 3 PM

B3225FEC-99DC-4AAA-868E-F121CA8628C1.jpegI am a sucker for young adult fiction novels. I read one recently where the main character said something totally thoughtless and stupid to this girl he loved.

He was kicking himself for the hurtful comment and wished desperately he had fallen out of heaven with some sort of “do-over card” that he could use in that very moment. He’d rewind those 30 seconds, obviously say the right thing, and their relationship would continue moving upward.  But no.

As I read that, I was screaming in my mind, “That is exactly what the Atonement of Jesus Christ is all about!!!” Except, because of the Savior, we fall from heaven with infinite do-over cards.

The reason I am thinking about the do-over card right now is because, well, I need one for this day. I woke up this morning from a few hours of low quality sleep. My head was pounding. My baby was screaming. The thought of facing the day just felt so impossible, so I pulled the covers over my head and told my husband I needed to be unconscious for a few hours before I could even bring myself to try.

By the time I finally forced myself to get out of bed, I felt I had wasted the entire morning. I went downstairs to an Everest of dishes in the sink, unsorted piles of laundry, an overflowing trash can, and an obstacle course of toys.

The overwhelming tasks before me triggered frustration. I neglected to thank my husband for feeding and bathing our son while I slept, and saw him off to work with hard feelings between us. I impatiently addressed my son’s fussiness, ate everything in my sight, and mostly just wasted a few more hours being mad at myself (and the world).

I sometimes tell myself on those crappy days that I just need a new day. I need a fresh start. I need the sun to set on this one horrible day,

and for the sunrise to usher in a new, hopefully better one. I’m so grateful that Heavenly Father has divided time into night and day, darkness and light. I love the symbolism behind that.

I had somewhat of an epiphany though: I don’t have to wait for tomorrow to come! I can have my do-over right this very second.

My favorite German man of all time (I.e. Elder Uchtdorf) said:

“God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord.”

I choose to embrace these words. It is about 14 minutes to 3 PM, and I have every intention of wrapping this up before then, getting off the couch, finally brushing my teeth, and saying a meaningful prayer. Then I’ll take my son to do something extraordinarily fun. I’ll send my husband a text of gratitude for putting up with me today. I’ll finally deliver that baby gift to my neighbor. I’ll brave the aisles of Walmart so that we no longer have to eat cereal for every meal. And heck, I might even exercise for the first time in forever. Most importantly, I’ll make Christ the center of my life for the rest of the day even though, so far, I’ve made myself the center of my life.

Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, here I am at 2:57 redeeming yet another one of my do-over cards. I don’t have to wait for a literal sunrise to start over. “Today” begins at 3 PM.

So, if you’re having a day like mine, or if one comes in the near future, remember that you can start over RIGHT NOW by hitting that metaphorical reset button. Even if your bedtime is 60 minutes away, make that last waking hour of yours something stellar.

 

Count His Tender Mercies, Name them One by One

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I like conducting spiritual experiments. Maybe I’m a little weird?

Heavenly Father’s formula is simple:     Faith + Obedience = Promised Blessings.

And there you have it.

Hundreds of years ago the Lord said to the prophet Malachi,

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10.)

Translation: Pay your tithing faithfully and I will bless you more than you can even imagine!

Even though this scripture specifically addresses the law of tithing, it applies to just about every commandment. “Prove me now herewith,” says the Lord. He invites us to exercise a little faith in Him and His laws so that He can keep His word to pour out His blessings in return. Oh, what a visual!

Look outward and serve—and you’ll receive answers to your own prayers.

Make a generous fast offering once a month—and you’ll experience spiritual and temporal miracles.

Extend forgiveness to others—and the Lord will be ever merciful toward you.

Sacrifice your time to engage in temple and family history work—and you’ll be blessed with divine strength against the adversary.

Study the Book of Mormon—and you’ll make better decisions every day.

I recently reread some amazing counsel from the very tender-hearted President Eyring.

“(I) urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness…You…will be blessed as you remember what the Lord has done.”

President Eyring shared how he began journaling instances of God’s intervening hand.
“I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”

So, I determined to put this to the test myself. Every day for the past week, I noted the ways—both big and small—in which the Lord intervened in my life. In other words, I tried harder to notice what the Book of Mormon and Elder Bednar describe as “tender mercies.” Said he, “The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Here are just a few examples from my week:

-I opened a medical bill to find the amount due was much less than I expected.

-While talking to my mom on the phone, she read me an excerpt from an article that perfectly addressed something I’d been praying about earlier that day.

-My husband’s lacrosse games got cancelled due to inclement weather, so he was able to stay home and help me take care of our sick baby. (Although my tender mercy was probably a dose of rotten luck for him.)

-I found an item that had gone missing for weeks while organizing my laundry room.

-I received a thoughtful text from a friend I hadn’t seen in a while on a day I felt a little down and lonely.

And the list goes on.

Looking back on the last week, the more I strived to gratefully remember what God had done, the more He seemed to give. President Eyring was right. I felt a bond with Heavenly Father, a closeness that had nothing to do with whether or not He answered my prayers in the way I hoped or wanted. Even if our circumstances are not ideal, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ do not hesitate to show how mindful They are of us. I learned that They care not only about our spiritual well-being, but also about our temporal needs. I learned that the Godhead works in unity to create miracles in our lives.

Perhaps the greatest blessing that came to me was really knowing—really feeling—God’s unconditional love. I had undeniable evidence of that love. He blessed me with this heightened awareness of His goodness. Each day, despite the countless petitions sent heavenward, He thought of me. I was worth His time.

So even though I am horribly inconsistent with family history work and all too often I “skim” a few verses rather than study the Scriptures, I feel confident in recognizing the God’s-hand moments in my life. It’s easy to do and so deeply rewarding. My life has changed because of it. My love and gratitude for my Savior and Father have grown because of it. I am blessed—with an outpouring, so much that I don’t have room enough to receive—because of it.

I’d like to end with a few lines from the beloved hymn, “Count Your Many Blessings.” I think it applies here, except I’ve tweaked the lyrics just a bit:


“Count His tender mercies; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

Okay, Heavenly Father, What Lack I Yet?

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On my bad days—the days when I feel completely frustrated with my shortcomings, my moments of impatience, my utter failures—I remind myself of a defining moment in my life when I learned something spectacular about God.

It happened as a result of a General Conference  address I heard a couple years ago by Elder Lawrence. I’m sure you know the one:  “What Lack I Yet?”

In his talk, Elder Lawrence suggests following the rich young ruler’s lead and essentially asking the Lord, How can I become better? What do I need to change?

I’ve practiced this, sometimes formally during a kneeling prayer or the ordinance of the sacrament, and other times quietly in my mind while completing my daily tasks. I always receive an answer, things like:

-Find more meaningful ways to serve those around you.

-Make the Sabbath Day more sacred.

-Don’t be so critical of the people you love.

-Make an effort to be more punctual.

-Save more; spend less.

-Stop comparing yourself to others.

-Pray with your husband every night…even if you’re both exhausted.

-Remember to enjoy the moment.

One night, just months after the birth of my baby boy, I had gotten up for what felt like the 100th time to feed him. I looked down at his perfect face and suddenly felt smothered by all the things that made me so…imperfect.

I knew I needed to make some changes. I knew I needed to be better. I knew I needed help, but I just didn’t know where to start.

So in the stillness of the night, while the rest of the world slept, I prayed, “Okay, Heavenly Father…..what lack I yet?”

I worried that the response I’d get was, “Everything”, but Heavenly Father taught me then that He is gentle with our fragile feelings.

It was as if in my mind I could hear Him say,

There is a time and a place to be corrected, but right now—this—this is not one of them. I hope you will ask again in a future day, but for now, just enjoy the infant in your arms and remember that I love you.”

Now I know I had an endless list of things to work on—weaknesses to address, habits to overcome—but in that moment, I came to know a God who was willing to push all that aside so that I could simply feel His unconditional love. This was a message with a pulse, and it changed me forever.

Because on that night, the psalm, “Be still and know that I am God” sang to my heart. He knew how overwhelmed I had felt since motherhood commenced. He knew the constant stress and worry. He knew the paralyzing feelings of inadequacy. He knew the guilt and the fear. He knew the depression and the anxiety. He knew the brain fog and the headaches and the sleepless nights.

He stood fully aware of my waning spiritual habits due to utter exhaustion. He knew I’d been neglecting my church calling, and even worse, that I’d been neglecting my husband. He knew I was too quick to get frustrated and too slow to reach out to Him for help.

He knew all of that. He also knew that my heavy heart just couldn’t handle one more thing. He knew that in that moment I did not need to be rebuked or chastened. I just needed to be loved.

I have no doubt that Heavenly Father will forever be invested in our progress, but He also wants us to know how deeply He can love us, especially when we can’t love ourselves. Vulnerability is a scary thing to surrender, but when it comes to God, vulnerability is a first-class ticket to His grace. I love these words spoken by Elder Gong: “He knows all the things we don’t want anyone else to know about us—and loves us still.”

I have continued to ask my Father in Heaven how I can improve, how I can be better. When I feel spiritually and emotionally stable enough, He answers; He gives me something to work on. But on those days when the tears won’t stop flowing and the pressure mounts, I remember the compassionate God who gave me His peace and instead of asking, “What lack I yet?” I choose to behold His glory and allow myself to be “encircled about…in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15).