Have you ever experienced an inside joke with God? To me these are sweet moments when I know that God knows my situation and that He has a sense of humor. It is like a wink from heaven.
Once I was visiting historic religious sites with my family. Unloading a car full of little boys onto sacred ground after hours of touring, I could only expect a very active (okay, downright rowdy) bunch. We had stopped at a proposed Garden of Eden spot. The kids ran around amid the trees. I stood and wondered, “What if this really was the site? These trees could have come from seeds that came from seeds that came from seeds that were from those original trees!” Then I got to thinking: my kids and my husband and I–we too traced back, by necessity, to that original event! Wherever the Garden of Eden really was, it was part of my history. After the kids ran around some more we finally called to them to gather and load up in the van. I said, “Come here boys, I have some sliced apples for you!” They came and clamored for their snack. And then a small black snake slithered over my foot. There I was, passing out fruit, seeing one of only a few snakes I’ve ever come across in my life (maybe this was the Garden of Eden!) and then we packed up and left. On to the wilderness that is life!
An excerpt from my book “Faithful Nurturing” p 263:
“An elderly friend named Queta once told me of her experience walking down a dusty road in Mexico on a hot day. The sun was beating down and shining in her eyes, so she prayed for a cloud to come shade her. The sky remained clear, but as she turned the corner, there in the road was an old straw hat. She picked it up and put it on, offering a prayer of thanks as she continued walking. Her story reminded me of a morning I walked to work and was caught in a sudden downpour. I prayed that the rain would stop, but instead, a city bus pulled over and the driver offered me a free ride. In such experiences we find joy not only in the blessings themselves—the shade, the dryness or warmth, the need met—but in the central reminder they give: that God is there. Though tangible or immediate rescue does not always come, remembering past glimpses of God’s awareness and love will carry us.”
When have you experienced divine rescue?
Not only do we ourselves require rescue at times, but we can participate in the rescue of others. This can be very deliberate–heartfelt praying, pleading, or fasting for another–or almost incidental, because we happen to be in the right place at the right time and are open to the needs of others. I know God can guide us to see others’ needs, but sometimes it can be as simple as asking a person directly. A quote I ran across recently said, “[One] effective way of obtaining an accurate concept of a man’s experiencing is to ask him what he is thinking and feeling. If he tells us honestly, there we have it: the basis for perfect empathy.”* And perhaps the basis for action. . .
*The Transparent Self by Sidney Jourard
One of the greatest tender mercies I have experienced as a mother has been perspective–those insights particularly needed to help me understand and love my children better in a given moment. When I have felt annoyed, impatient, or exasperated with my children and then have taken the opportunity to pray for help, invariably I have received help in some way. Often, it has been by gaining a brief glimpse into their experience.
I remember running on a wooded trail several years ago and having the toe of my running shoe catch on a root. I literally fell on my face. I thought, “Wow! I had forgotten what that feels like!” Luckily as grown-ups we don’t often experience that, but my toddler experiences it multiple times a day. It can be easy to forget what it feels like to fall down, to have a prized possession wrecked by a sibling, or to be an exhausted teenager getting nagged for not doing a chore. Sometimes God grants us the tender mercy of remembering or more accurately imagining what it might feel like to walk in someone else’s Stride Rite’s (or Vans). Suddenly we are blessed with empathy where we may have otherwise criticized or been impatient or harsh. Acts 9:18 teaches of Saul having the scales of darkness removed from his eyes–new perspective can bring a dramatic shift in us like that.
See this link on how a little love changes everything: “As I Have Loved You” by Thomas Monson Feb 2017
The Holy Ghost can bring things to our remembrance–both the ideas we are trying to recall and the ones we have completely forgotten, but have need of in a particular moment. When my kids say cute things, I always think I will remember them and write them down later. I have gone to write in my journal in the evening only to find that the details have already escaped me. On a few occasions, when it really mattered to me, I have prayed to remember what I was going to write down and it has come back to mind. I so appreciated another chance to record these special moments. Recently, before my mom died, I prayed for things to go a certain way. I came to realize that, though events may not proceed according to my wish, it would be okay. This answer came in a very personal and perfect way, as I suddenly recalled a specific story from my childhood that related to my prayer and brought me comfort. The memory came just when I needed it. I knew God was aware of me, the details of my life, and the feelings of my heart. And I know He is aware of you too.
Have you had the experience of being comforted by a memory or a truth you already knew?
Luke 12:24-31, Psalms 77:11
The Book of Mormon contains a wonderful sermon about how we are all beggars before God–not only has He given us everything we have, but every time we serve Him we are blessed (Mosiah 2:20-24). We don’t get to dictate the timing or details, but the blessings come. I have experienced this over and over, but each time it feels like a pleasant surprise.
When I was in my pediatric residency, I ended up missing out on many things because of my busy schedule. Each year my church sponsored a retreat day for women with inspiring classes, socializing, and a tasty lunch. Though I could have so used the connection and renewal, each year I seemed to be on-call at the hospital and had to miss it. Finally, the event came around again and I could attend. My husband had to work, but it was important to me and so I arranged childcare. Then, the night before “Women’s Day” my kids got the stomach flu. I canceled my babysitter and felt sorry for myself. But then I decided something. Though I do not enjoy cleaning up vomit, I decided to be grateful for the chance to be present with my kids to offer them comfort and support. The next day I felt content as we cuddled together on the couch wrapped in blankets. Also, through the day several insights came to me about my life and my family. I felt like I was getting a personalized sermon to make up for the ones I missed. It was a wonderful tender mercy from a generous God, and I didn’t even have to change out of my pajamas.
Can you think of a time when you made a necessary or important sacrifice and received comforting blessings that more than made up for it?
Things happen. Things both in and outside of our control. In both cases, we sometimes receive that refreshing possibility to reclaim what we’ve missed out on.
When we were getting ready to head northeast to hold and attend my mom’s funeral–a 22-hour driving trip each way–my husband arranged for us to stay at a hotel where my mom and I had stopped on many road trips: Little America in Wyoming. It was such a thoughtful gesture and it brought comfort to me that eased the burden of my sadness and the trip. But then I wasn’t ready to leave when we planned. And then there was a snowstorm. So we had to call and cancel the reservation and stay any-old-place. It was a little thing, but I felt very disappointed not to be able to claim that sweet comfort my husband had arranged for me. I let it go–sort of. There were many other things to think about anyway.
Well, we made it to the funeral and had a special time, so that was the main thing. It turns out, though, Little America is a chain. On the way back we took a different route, but we happened to need gas and have the chance to stop at a different Little America in Cheyenne. We got gas and ice cream cones. I was able to say to the kids, “This is Little America. I have memories of stopping at another of their locations with your grandma.” It wasn’t quite the same, but it accomplished the purpose and brought some comfort. It was a tender mercy.
In some respects, every new day is an opportunity regained. Every sunrise marks my chance as a mother to say, “Okay, I’ll try again.” It is another chance to be patient, another chance to be dedicated & diligent & loving. And I need all those chances!
Why is mercy possible? Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ that allows second chances. What does it mean for us and our parenting? Everything. Not only do we obtain mercy, allowing hope and a fresh start after we’ve realized our mistakes and repented of them, but we can also grant inspired mercy to our children. I say “inspired mercy” because justice also teaches. Erasing all consequences by always granting second chances would rob our children of important lessons–so we must be wise (drawing on God’s wisdom) to know when second chances are appropriate. The scriptures say, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Are there times when you have been afforded the tender mercy of an opportunity regained?
January has come and gone. This year I have dispensed with my normal resolutions and don’t feel a bit bad about it. This year, instead of grasping white-knuckled at tasks or self-improvement projects, I am letting go and standing still, taking pause to notice God’s merciful blessings in my life–the small assurances of His awareness and love.
As I read my scriptures, I am studying the evidences of his tender mercies. In my prayers, I am trying to remember to thank God for at least as many things as I ask for. Day-to-day I want to stay in tune with the truth that, as a child of God, I am “encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (1 Nephi 1:15). This is where inspiration and motivation for true growth is to be found.
The “tender mercies” I have experienced in my life have come in varied ways:
- A missed opportunity regained.
- Compensation/overcompensation for a sacrifice.
- An important truth recalled.
- A new perspective granted.
- A personalized rescue.
- A “wink” or humorous occurrence.
- A meaningful connection.
- A special comfort given.
- Specific guidance or direction.
- A need met.
- Extra strength/enablement.
- Enhanced meaning.
- An answered prayer.
- A significant personal interaction.
- Growth conditions.
Over the next several days, I will explore each of these specific divine mercies. I invite you also to reflect upon times you have felt God’s love and awareness in your life.
“Eternally Encircled in His Love” by Bonnie Parkin
“The Tender Mercies of the Lord” by David Bednar
One afternoon as I was sitting at my mom’s bedside at the hospital, the chaplain asked me, “You are taking care of your mother, but who is taking care of you?” That night, almost “by assignment,” I decided to take a bubble bath.
I don’t have much experience with Jacuzzi tubs, but the house we recently moved into has one. I poured in shampoo as the tub filled and a few bubbles formed. Then I turned on the jets and the bubbles rapidly multiplied. Suddenly, I was giggling at the tower of bubbles surrounding me and soon to overflow. This was a surprise. When my underlying emotion was sadness over my dying mother, a moment of delight and happiness had sprung forth. What a healing gift, but also a lesson.
Though I have often been a “purist” when it comes to emotions, feeling a sense of loyalty toward my pervading emotional state, I was reminded of the complexity of human experience. I was reminded that healing laughter at a time of grief is okay.
I had noticed another seeming incongruity earlier in the week. As I drove my kids to school I thought, “How can it be that the world just goes on almost callously like any other day when a person I love struggles for her life?” I stopped in the drop-off area and, since the boys were a few minutes late, the loudspeaker carried the voices of the children already reciting the school mission, “We are a community of learners . . .”
It was true. People get born and die. There is reading and arithmetic, as well as other very hard life lessons. The world turns. We are a community of learners. Perhaps it is more of a godlike perspective to see it all at once: happiness and sadness, suffering and celebration, overlapping and simultaneous, all in one view.
I have not written in a while, but have been overcome with a sense of inertia. My planned tasks quietly wait as I find myself staring out the window. My mom died three days before Christmas and I am missing her.
After being a caregiver for my mom for these last several years, perhaps it is natural to wonder, “Did I do all I could?” “Did I feel all the ‘right’ ways about things?” “Did I bear this challenge successfully?” Sometimes I stumbled along and felt overspent, but here I am, emerged on the other side. I Corinthians 10:13 says we will not be tempted (or tried) beyond what we can bear. After reading this, it struck me that God’s definition of “bearing” may be different from mine. Successful carrying in God’s eyes may not mean casual carrying of a light load. There is a range of carrying experiences.
Like a school girl skipping along carefree with a near-empty backpack, we may have times of carrying very little. Other times, we may bear a medium load for a short distance, being well-equipped for the journey. Still, there may be heavy loads and long, rough roads. While carrying these we may have moments when it seems we can’t go another step; we may have to stop and rest; we may need miracles and rescue. This is still “bearing.”
The scripture in Corinthians says the Lord will “prepare a way” for us. So many times I felt this–through answered prayers, inspired problem-solving, added strength, & help from others. The greatest blessing was to have my sister who shared in this work with me.
As mothers, daughters, sisters, & those who choose to love . . . we do bear things with and for each other. It is a holy privilege.
All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience by Neal A. Maxwell
“Behold Thy Mother” by Elder Holland
Isaiah 53:4 “Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
Most of what we do as mothers we do for a reason. When we stay in tune with the WHY, mundane or hard tasks often seem less burdensome. For example, earlier this week I wondered, “Why am I spending all this time driving my kids around?!” At first it was a frustrated, inward rant; then it turned into a real question with a real answer. The place I was headed was a music lesson. I value music as a part of my kids’ lives. My driving was making it possible. When I could tune into the purpose behind my actions, my feelings changed completely.
Chapter 3 of “Faithful Nurturing: Mothering from the Heart to the Heart” acknowledges the amazing power that comes by connecting with vision and purpose: “Vision is a sketch, a path, and a vantage point. When as mothers we can stay in tune with why we are doing all that we are doing, the process of mothering holds much greater meaning.”
In a recent address, President Russell M. Nelson stated, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” So true, but still it’s hard sometimes to connect with this joy. Certainly this is not for use as a platitude with other people and their struggles, but it is a kind invitation and reminder to apply very personally as far as we are able. It is saying that joy is still a possibility, a path that is open to us.
Here is a friend’s blog post–more insights to be gained by asking yourself “Why?”: http://queenofthemunchkins.blogspot.com/2015/05/overwhelmed-at-home-ask-yourself-three.html