Stories in this episode: Roger gets a big nudge from heaven when he sits down at the piano to compose a song for the Tabernacle Choir; Tammy’s run-in with a broken oven sends her to her knees and then to Google for answers; new convert Nicole’s commitment to pay tithing is tested by a broken exhaust pipe; A sick cat causes Mel to see how we can rely on God when everything feels out of our control.
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Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.
I'm not much of a morning person. And my ideal morning routine consists of complete silence for the hour it takes me to get ready for work. I don't listen to music. I don't talk. I'm actually kind of grouchy. My husband knows this, and generally leaves me to my solitary morning activities.
But a few days ago, I had this overpowering need to listen to something while I got ready. And as I headed towards Spotify and my "Good Songs" playlist, I noticed the Gospel Library app, which I had recently put in the same folder as Spotify next to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, in an attempt to choose Jesus over Hollywood. And this one time, it worked. I clicked on the scriptures, and I just hit some random button for 3 Nephi which I guess was where I should probably be for "Come, Follow Me." And as the robot scripture lady started to read the words of the Savior, it dawned on me that I had accidentally started listening to 3 Nephi chapter 13, where the Savior repeats the Sermon on the Mount to the Nephites. I was overwhelmed as I realized that this was exactly what I needed that morning to prepare for the theme of this episode.
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spend. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, even so will he clothed you."
This little mourning moment was a perfect illustration of today's stories all about the times in our lives when God steps in to take care of our temporal needs. And we thought there could be no better way to introduce a theme like consider the lilies, than to talk to the man who composed the song by the same name that has become a staple in the repertoire of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple square. Our producer, Erika Free, brings us this story from Roger Hoffman.
Hi, Roger, nice to meet you sort of in person. I'm Erika.
Nice to meet you too. I'm Roger.
Thanks for meeting with me today and—
Well, I'm excited to do this.
So I guess the first question I want to ask you is, how did you get into songwriting? And was it easy for you?
I guess it was about 1982. I left my job so that we could do this full time because leaning on the scripture that says, "Seek ye," and I think the JST says, "Seek ye to build up the kingdom of God," you know, first as it were, "and the all these things," meaning the temporal things, "will be added unto you." So we did that. And it was kind of miraculous because when we needed he money, it was there.
I had a friend of mine who I knew at BYU and he came up to me one day after having I hadn't seen him for years and he said, "Could you use a car?" And it was just on the day that ours had died. So we said, "Yes!" Thankfully, and we and we drove it for a couple of years, you know, so it literally was a godsend to us. So a lot of things happened like that.
So Roger, is that how you got the idea for the song "Consider the Lilies"? What was it like for you to write that song?
Our bishop had let me borrow a key because we couldn't afford a piano. So I went over there and did my working. And one day, I was just sitting at the piano, piano in the chapel, and playing along with little things. And then this melodic device came into my mind, "Dada, dada, dada, dadum, dadum, dadum, and I thought, "Oh my, that's better than what I write." But then words started to flow into my mind. And just about as quickly as I could write it, I probably, I think I wrote it on the back of an envelope, which is where a lot of things are written, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, how they grow." And I said, "That's, that is the image. That is what we want to tell our friends," because you know what comes after, "He clothes the lilies of the field, He feeds the birds in the sky, and He will feed those who trust Him and guide them with His eye." Oh boy, that was perfect. That's what we wanted to say.
And so more, more words came, "Consider the sheep of His fold, how they follow where He leads, though the past may wind across the mountains," and mountains are symbolic of difficulty for me. "He knows the meadows where they feed," He's not going to leave you hanging on the mountains, you know. And "He clothes the lilies of the field, He feeds the birds in the sky, and He will feed those who trust Him and guide them with His eye," cementing that wonderful image and, really, that was all I had come to say. And so I thought, "Wow, that's great, I'm done."
And so I got up. But there was almost a kind of a discernible little tug on me that says, "Sit back down, you're not done." All of this, of course, not happening in words, just impressions in your mind. And so I did. And this, this line came to me, which blew me away. "Consider the sweet, tender children who must suffer on this earth." And I thought, "Lord, you can't expect me to answer that huge problem in the next couple of lines, you know." And I got up again, and, I'm done. We could change the key of the chorus and have a nice song, you know.
But then the thought came to my mind, "You're not writing this anyway." Oh. So I sat down, and I just listened. "Consider the sweet, tender children who must suffer on this earth. The pains of all of them He carried. Since the day of His birth, He clothed the lilies of the field." And here it changed. "He feeds the lambs in His fold, children, and He will heal those who trust Him and make their hearts as gold." Oh, my, when that entire passage of thinking came to me, I was just overwhelmed. It was so beautiful. It was so right. So loving of the Lord. So I was kind of a gone man for the rest of the day.
Wow, I've always had a special place in my heart for this song, and hearing about how it was written, makes it that much more special. Thank you for sharing.
So real quick, though, back to that moment when you have the line come in about the children and you said, "I can't do this." And you stood up, what, what did that feel like? What else was going through your mind?
One of the things was I am not adequate. Wonder if anybody else in the world has ever thought that, you know? Here is this big, giant thing that you've dropped in my lap and I am not adequate to do this.
Of course, the Lord knew that. He said, "I know, I know, but I am. So hold on, stay there, and I'll give you the rest of it," you know. And so anyway, that's, that was kind of what's going through my mind and in my heart at the time.
What did you learn about our Heavenly Father or our Savior throughout this experience of writing this song?
A thing that I have learned from the experience of "Consider the Lilies," and really our whole lives, is man's dependence on God and God's fruitful, generous answer to man's need.
Moses said after he'd seen all the planets and the whole great plan of God, "Now I know that man is nothing, which thing I never before had supposed." And I almost think the sooner we realize how little we are, and I don't mean little, I mean, like, as an a child, little tiny, you know, developmental person, then the Lord is so willing to just pour into us what we need to grow, we've seen evidence of that. I guess it's been how long? Thirty-seven years we've been doing this. So that's probably the biggest thing I think I've taken from it.
That was Roger Hoffman.
I don't know if I'm supposed to call a composer adorable but I adore everything about Roger and the story of how the song came to be, from the borrowed key to the back of the envelope to the sweet pushiness of the Spirit telling him to sit back down on that bench he's not done. All of those things are a testament to the sermon that the words of the song teach every time it's sung, God's got this. And if we show up, He'll take whatever cloth we bring with us and spin it into gold.
Our next storyteller is Tammy who learned that God can and will use whatever means necessary, including Google, to show us His power. Here's Tammy.
Well, my oven died—again.
My oven has died so many times, and we replaced the main control board so many times. But this last time when the man came to replace it, he said to me that our oven is so old, we can't even order the part anymore. And I just knew what that meant. And I looked at him and he looked at me and he just said, "You're going to need to buy a new oven."
Now, that might seem pretty easy, a new oven. But no, no, it's not going to be that simple because apparently I have to replace the entire wall unit, which means a microwave, a warmer, and an oven.
So I have to replace this wall unit, and I know it's expensive. And I'm trying so hard not to completely lose it and freak out in front of this man who cannot repair my oven. So he left and I began talking to my husband about it, we do not have enough money to replace this. But I like have no other option. Without completely redoing my kitchen, I mean, you can't just take the oven out and replace it (because I tried), I thought that was an option. And it just wasn't because it's a wall unit.
So I figured, you know what, it's summer, we don't even need an oven. We'll just, we'll cook outdoors all summer long. And so I'd say for a good two months, we barbecued everything, including cookies. I tried to make cookies on a barbecue (FYI, doesn't really work).
After weeks and weeks of not having an oven, now we're into the months of not having an oven. And I can't even do my normal things, like, I can't do normal dinner time, I can't do normal family meals. So we go ahead and bite the bullet. My husband, Jim, and I we sit down, we work through the budget, we come up with the amount that we can pay for after some scrimping and saving to make this work—without having to sell one of our children. But even with that amount of money, like we know replacing this whole wall unit, it just can't possibly happen with the budget we have.
The most inexpensive wall unit that I could find started around twice my whole budget. And I'm like that is this, no, I can't even, I don't even have a place for that kind of money.
So then I started doing more research. And my mom worked for a man who happened to actually sell ovens and he said, "We'll give her the employee price discount," which I thought was so generous. And I went online to look up their ovens and those ovens, they were around four times the price that we were able to pay for a new oven. And yeah, that's not gonna happen either.
And so I was super frustrated and sad. And I finally decided, you know what, I'm going to, I'm going to pray about this because I don't know any other way to get an oven within my budget. And I knew I could ask Heavenly Father for help. I've just always known that, I've had that experience many times in my life, where I could just go to Him with something. Like, anytime I lose something, I always pray to find it and I do.
And so I thought, "You know what? I didn't really lose anything, but I do need to find something. So maybe Heavenly Father can help me find a decent wall unit that's within my budget." And so I did, I got on my knees that night for my nightly prayers and I just said, "Heavenly Father, hi. Listen, I know there's a lot going on in this world, but help a sister out because I need a new oven." And I'm like, "And here's my budget, like real, real small. And so if you could just help me find a wall unit within my price range, I would really, really, really, really appreciate it. But if not, help me find a way to buy an oven, I don't know what we're going to do. We're kind of at an impasse." And that was the end of my prayer. And I just trusted that Heavenly Father was going to help me out and I just left it at that. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where I was going to go. I had no idea.
And so I just let it sit with me for a couple of days.
And I'll be, three days later, as I had a chance to just sit down and be quiet for a minute, because I had been so busy for three days, the minute I sat down, the thought popped into my head, "Google where to find wall oven units in Utah." That's where I live. So I Googled it and up popped an ad for this store in Utah that is very expensive. Like completely out of my league. I've been in the store maybe two times only to go in and turn around saying, "I can't afford anything in here." So the thought that I would even click on this is absurd, but I did. And, boom, there is the wall oven unit that is the exact same make and model as the one that I need replaced and it's a newer version, so things can be repaired. And when I looked at the price that this company was selling this wall oven unit for, I didn't believe it. So I had to show my husband, and he didn't believe it. I mean, it was just such a funny moment because we kept looking at each other like, "Wait, is this for real? I can't believe it. Did I just find what I needed on my first click? Is God really that good?" I mean, I'm just, my husband's even thinking this cannot be true. We got to make a phone call.
So we called them and we found out it is true. It's still in stock. And my husband said, "We'll be there in 15 minutes." We've never moved quicker. We got in the car, we drove down to that store, we ran inside. And it just happened to be a wall oven unit that they had been using in their showroom, which had never been used. It was just purely for show. And it was not only within my budget, it came in like 300% under my budget, I think. Listen, I'm not good at the public math, but maybe 3,000% under my budget? All I know is that it came so far in under budget I actually had money left over. I mean it was ridiculous how under my budget it came in.
So we bought the oven. After about two or three more weeks, we finally got it in and we celebrated. The first thing we did was we made cookies. We were so excited. And then every day since, we probably use the oven for all sorts of fun things.
Having heavenly father helped me find this oven was just once again a testimony to me from Him, that He loves me.
And I will remember, I will remember this story The next time I pray about something that doesn't go the way I'd hoped.
I have so many stories in my life where God didn't give me what I asked for. In fact, for 18 years I prayed daily that I would get married and have kids. And I didn't get that for 18 years I'm praying for that. But, you know, I think it's the little things that teach me that He is hearing my prayers, that He is working to answer them in the best way possible.
He helped me with something that seems so simple and maybe stupid to people. I, when Intell the story, sometimes I think people might roll their eyes. But I want to tell the whole world this story because it's just a reminder that God cares. He cared about little Tammy Hall who needed a new oven. And it gives me hope and assurance and faith really, that the big prayers I'm praying for that have gone unanswered I'm still waiting for, I know those prayers are being heard.
This story is taught me the Heavenly Father, He really is my father. And I learned to keep Him involved in my life from the biggest prayers to the smallest prayers. That's what this whole life is all about is asking for His help and letting Him be our father.
That was Tammy Uzelac Hall. You may recognize Tammy's voice from the "Sunday on Monday" study group podcast where she guides a weekly discussion of "Come, Follow Me."
Tammy told me this story in passing one day right after it happened. And besides being horrified and intrigued by those grilled chocolate chip cookies, I was mostly floored by the way she involves the Lord and the practical aspects of her life. I hadn't really thought of it quite this way before but, of course, He cares about the constraints of our budgets. And of course, he knows what search terms to use to find the answers to our prayers.
Tammy's story reminds us all that while we should maintain faith in the miraculous, we might also do well to remember that miracles aren't magic. God's care sometimes comes to us clothed in the robes of the ordinary and the mundane, but it's there nonetheless.
When our next storyteller, Nicole, first learned about tithing as a new convert, she had no idea how soon after her baptism that commitment would be tested. Here's Nicole.
I grew up going to parochial schools, Catholic schools. My mom's family was Protestant, my dad's family was Catholic, and they were divorced and we didn't really go to church regularly on our own.
By the time I went to high school, I went to public school and I met a good, close-knit group of friends and decided my senior year, after having visited a couple times, I really wanted to ask my best friend if I could go to early morning seminary with her.
I think having grown up going to parochial schools and, and having a religious course of some sort, or a study of God, was kind of ingrained in me a little bit. And I just liked it. And I when I asked her if I could go to seminary with her, she kind of gave me a look. Kind of like, "Okay, sure." And it was an Old Testament year so I mean, really, what a bad year to pick. I feel for a non-member to go to seminary, just intense.
We talked about premortal life, and it was like sunshine for me. I had just always believed that my spirit wasn't new here, then here I was reading it in the scriptures that yes, this is right. And so that right there, Abraham, was what told me that the Church was true.
I guess what a funny way to gain a testimony, right? In early morning seminary as a senior in high school. And through the Old Testament, I was baptized in February of my senior year.
The summer after my senior year, I got a job and I knew that I needed to pay my tithing on my first check. While I knew that, I also knew that I needed to save money for college. And my parents really weren't going to tell me, "Go pay your tithing." They were going to tell me, "Save money for college." But I had decided to join the Church and I had decided to keep the commandments that I had committed to keep and that was one of them. And so I fill out my tithing check, and I got into my car and I got about a half mile down the road when I heard some loud noises, some really bad loud noises from my car and had to pull over on the side of the road.
And when I got out, I saw a good portion of the underneath of my car just lying on the ground. I didn't have a cell phone so I spent the next, you know, 10 minutes walking home in these shoes that weren't comfortable, and got home and called my best friend's dad who was still at home. And he drove, checked out my car, and told me that the majority of my exhaust was on the ground. And he knew a guy and knew a good place for me to send my car, but it was Sunday and I didn't know how I was going to get it there. And the bigger issue for me was, at that time, it just felt like, "Whoa." First of all, I'm not making very much money as an 18-year-old, and I had just gotten my first check in a really long time from a job. And I, here I was on my way to church, and I felt like I was going to be giving 10% of that money away. But now I really have an immediate use for that 10%.
And there was a little bit of conflict that was going on in my, in my mind that, "Well, I mean, maybe I could just use this quickly, to tie that exhaust on my car, and, and get me to my job the next day."
But he drove me with him to church and getting to church and feeling the Spirit just really helped me to realize, you know, I got up that morning with the intent to go pay my tithing. And really, is the broken car going to change my mind on how I felt about that element of the gospel? For me, my answer was no. And I paid my tithing, somehow got my car to the shop the next day, I don't even remember how. It got fixed and I went about my business working all summer.
I didn't really think much of it afterwards. As I went through the rest of the summer, and I was getting ready for college and packing up, I was realizing that I would need even more money than I had initially planned on needing and I was not going to have enough money to cover the rest of the things.
And then about a month before school started, or maybe even a couple weeks before school, school started, I got a letter in the mail, saying, "Congratulations, you've been awarded this scholarship." And I re-read the first section several times because I had no idea where this was coming from. The header was the name of a scholarship that I had never heard of. I didn't apply for it. And as I got farther into the letter, it told me how much I would be awarded. And it just floored me. My goodness, my breath was taken away that I, here I was receiving multiples of the money that I would even owe. And in my mind at that very moment, I was taken back to that first tithing check that I paid that not only was this scholarship covering that tithing check, but it was multiplied so many times.
I feel like this story of tithing is really just a simple story, but it's stuck with me throughout my life. For a long time.
I feel like I would have been able to make enough money or I would have been able to still go to school, the bill would have gotten paid somehow. But the lesson I learned was really by putting trust in my testimony and by following through with that commitment that I had made and that that desire to do what was right, I was able to see those blessings more clearly in my life. And know the instant that it happened, the reason that it happened.
That was Nicole.
I know it doesn't work out this way for everyone, but I love that Nicole's faith in the promises inherent in the law of tithing was strengthened so early on in her newly minted discipleship. For me, that's the real illustration of God's care in this story, even more than that scholarship. Her Heavenly Father offered her such a powerful experience so soon after her baptism to help her cement one more solid block of a lifelong foundation.
Our final story today comes from Mel whose unexpected encounter with a stranger at a garbage can drove home the Lord's promise to take care of us. Here's Mel.
So I walked into the vet and I sat down with my cat and there was a bunch of people waiting in the waiting room. And I remember just thinking, "This cat really needs to live." And I'm not even really a cat person, which is funny. But I knew we had to do whatever we could so she so she could live.
I waited for probably an hour and we finally get called back. At this point, she's just like laying there, like she can't really lift her head. She's not doing anything. So they take her temperature, and she still doesn't do anything. And she's just really sick.
And so the vet came in finally and said, "Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news. We may be able to save her but she's going to need this medication, and she's going to need a lot of it. Two to three-months-worth of this medication ,and they're very expensive medications.
My heart really sank, I don't know that he realized it was such bad news for me. This cat wasn't just a cat. The reason this cat was so important was my two-and-a-half year-old was given this cat by her dad for Christmas before he passed away.
Even though this happened almost seven years ago, I remember everything about the day my husband passed away. He told me that he wasn't feeling super great, that he felt like he was getting the flu. And it was late in the afternoon and Olivia was two and a half and I needed to run some errands, which was about 30 minutes into town. And so I asked him if she could stay. And he said, that was fine. He put a movie on and that would be fine. So I gave him a kiss on the cheek and I gave Olivia a kiss and I just walked out the front door and I left and went into town.
When I came back in the house, I had been to the pharmacy, and I'd been to pick up dinner and I had a pizza, and I remember just dropping on the floor. Like the second I saw him, I knew he was in trouble.
My daughter was curled up with him watching a movie and the blue screen was on so it had been over for a while. And she thought he was sleeping, I think, but I could tell there was something very wrong. I called 911 and part of me was so panicked on how to help him. And so I have 911 in one ear telling me I need to get CPR started. And I'm trying to figure out logistically, how can I do this? My husband's much bigger than I am. He's in a recliner, and they're telling me I need to get him on the floor and get CPR started. At the same time, I heard my daughter say, "It's okay, Mom. Like he's okay. He's gone."
So she knew, I guess, what had happened and was completely calm and peaceful. She wasn't crying. She wasn't upset. She was just rubbing my hands. They came and tried and tried, and I tried and tried and it just, we just couldn't do it.
At first, I was horrified that she had to be there by herself with him. But then I realized she hadn't been afraid. She just laid with him until I got home.
The night he died, I remember laying with her. And she said, because he had really bad neuropathy in his feet and it was really painful for him to walk, and she says, "So mom, now that he's slept with Heavenly Father, can he walk?" I said, "Yeah," and she goes, "But does it hurt?" And I said, "No." And she said, "Can he run?" And I said, "Yeah, he can run." And she says, "Oh, mom, that's awesome." She was like so happy and I thought, "She at two and a half has such a grasp on what's happening tonight."
I always knew that Heavenly Father was there intellectually. And I had times where I felt Him close, but never the way that I felt Him that, like at that time. People would ask me how I was holding up and how I was doing it and I knew I wasn't doing it by myself.
We were living in Arizona and I had driven him to Utah with my girls because that's where we decided to bury him. So we've been gone for two weeks. It was his long drive. I was exhausted physically, mentally. I hadn't had any time alone where I had a chance to think. And it's a really odd feeling, but it's scary. All of these emotions just started hitting. And I walked into my house. And I just looked around, and I thought, "Are you kidding me?" There was throw up everywhere, all over the carpet, all over the furniture. And the second I saw my cat, I knew she was really bad. She's been sick for a long time. I just drove home from burying my husband, and I walked into this, like, are you? Are you kidding me?
So I just scooped her up, turned around, and got straight into the car and went to the vet. And the vet tells me that I've got this medication that she has to have. And I wasn't working and had all of these expenses for my husband's funeral. And I had just found out that morning that his life insurance wasn't going to pay, the one that we'd had for 20 years, because he'd missed some signatures the year before and they were going on his previous election for coverage. I didn't have any money at all. I'd been a stay-at-home mom for the last decade. I was going to have a hard time even justifying taking her in for her appointment. And there was absolutely no way that I could pay for her medications. I just was really not seeing any way out of it at all. There was nothing I could do for her at that point.
So the whole way that I'm driving home, I've got this cat who can't lift her head, in the front seat, and I'm just looking at her thinking, "Okay, how am I gonna tell my kids?" Mainly, I was worried about Olivia, that's my youngest, because it was such a big part of her life, this little cat. It would follow her everywhere, which is funny because she would put perfume on it and she would try to get it dressed and she tried to put makeup on it. And she really, this cat had no reason to like her, but he would sleep on her bed. And that was the first thing she did in the morning and the last one she did at night was to have this little cat. So it's really important to her. This is it. I mean, she just lost her dad. And now I've got to go home and figure out how to tell her, her little friend is gonna die too.
Um, she needed this little cat. And I needed this cat to live. So I came home to an empty house. And I walked into the kitchen and I grabbed a bowl of water, a bowl of like hot water and everything I could think of to clean this. So I'm sitting on the stairs and I had this bowl of hot soapy water and a garbage bag and a spatula. And I remember just kind of crawling up on my knees on the stairs. And I just was like scooping in it, I know it's gross, and I'm scooping cat vomit into a bowl and just thinking, "How did, like what is going on? How did I even get here? How am I getting myself out of this?" And I just leaned against the wall and just slipped down onto the stairs and I sat there and I started to cry.
Normally your cat is sick and you think, "Ah, man," but I was devastated. And I had no idea what to do. I had made so many decisions the past two weeks. I had read through every possible scenario about what I needed to do, how I needed to help my family, how I could save my house, what I would do for income where, I should bury my husband. I mean, I have made so many decisions, but at that moment, I couldn't tell you if I wanted a glass of water or a glass of milk without crying, like I just couldn't do it. And I just remember thinking, "I know that I can't physically or mentally figure this out on my own. Like I just need help." And I didn't know what I needed.
I'm glad no one was helping because I just never just crying saying, "Heavenly Father, something has to give. Like if you're here and if you love me and you love my family, like I need some help. Like now." So I sat there for a minute and I felt bad for myself. And I just cried. And I had, I just had one of those like ugly cries where you just cry and cry and cry.
So I had this big bag of garbage and I tied a knot in the top and I grabbed my dark sunglasses and it was garbage day and so I had already rolled the two big bins out to the curb. And I thought, "Well, I don't want to keep this in my kitchen." So I walked out.
I've got this long driveway and I walked out to the street. And I went to lift up the bin, the lid, and I heard someone say, "Excuse me, excuse me." And I thought, "Oh, great, someone's going to see me." I've got these crazy streaky eyes. And you can tell that I've been crying. I've got the nasally sound going on. I'm literally standing over the garbage can with a bag of cat vomit. I've just had this massive meltdown. And I thought, "Oh, gosh, please don't let it be someone I know."
So I turn around and there's this man standing there. And he's in his late 70s and he's, was a neighbor that lived across the street and four doors down. I've never had any interaction with him before. He was just this little, white-haired man.
And I don't know if you know, southern Arizona, but it's hot. And in the summer, you just wave at people, they raise their garage door, they close the garage door, and you don't see them again for weeks. So that's that kind of neighbor. I didn't know his name. I didn't know anything about him. And so I was a little shocked to see him there. And he said, "I had an odd question for you." He said, "I ordered some medications for my dogs. And I ordered them from an online pet pharmacy. And when I opened it, I opened the packaging thinking it was a medication for my dogs, and I realized that it was cat medication. So I called the 800 number and told them, let them know about their mistake. And they said, "No worries, we'll send your dog medication, go ahead and throw that away. You've already opened it, it can't be returned because it's a prescription." And he said, "I don't know if you have a cat. I don't know anyone that does. But if you have a cat, and you, you could use this at all, great. If not, just throw it away or give it away."
And I couldn't even process what he was saying. I knew exactly what he was saying, but I couldn't process it. And all I could get out when he said that was, I just said, "I have a cat. Thank you." And I couldn't, I couldn't even talk. So I walked inside and I just remember sitting back on the stairs that I just been cleaning. I knew without opening the bag, exactly what the medication was. I knew it was the exact dosage that she needed. And I knew that it was at least two-months worth of medication.
And I opened the bag. And sure enough, it was exactly what I needed to save this little cat that I had just been stewing about and worried about and praying for. And it was a really odd reaction. I just started to laugh. And I was trying to figure out why I was laughing. And then I realized I wasn't going to have to tell my kids, and especially my youngest, that she was going to lose her cat right after she lost her dad. And it was the hugest weight off of my chest. And I could breathe and I could smile. And I just laughed. I said, "Okay, Heavenly Father, you got me, like you're there. I know you're there. Thank you." It's a weird feeling to explain, but I knew we'd be okay, that we'd figure everything else out.
So our little cat is named Lucy, and she is now nine years old. And she still sleeps on my daughter's bed at night. And she curls up right upon, against her face. And she just has this crazy bond with my daughter and she's still around and still just as happy. And my daughter knows the story that her dad gave this cat to her.
And I've heard people say, after death, you have this pipeline, where the veil is very thin. And you're given what you need at the time. But I didn't really understand that until I was in that position.
I can't remember what scripture it is that says that, that God is aware of a bird that falls out of the sky. That, to me, was always so far removed from my life. I didn't ever think of that as literal, you know, like, He does know. And you know what? God has so many people and so many other things going on, but the second like I needed Him the very most, it was cat medicine. And He didn't let me down.
And maybe that's what I needed to know is that it didn't matter if it's a cat or if it's losing my husband, like it, like it's, he's aware of whatever I'm struggling with. It doesn't matter if it's in my mind something really big or if it's something menial or just every day, it doesn't matter. He's still there and he's still aware. And I need to not worry so much, like I don't need to be in control of everything. I just, there are times in situations that I just need to resign and say, "Okay, like you've got my back and everything will be okay."
That was Mel.
Listen, whether you're a cat person or not, I am sure you found yourself cheering, like I did, when the medicine in the bag turned out to be exactly what Lucy needed, which was exactly what Mel and Olivia needed too.
Remember how I said that miracles aren't magic? Well, I still stand by that. But that doesn't mean that they can't feel magical. I mean, really, isn't it kind of a miracle every time someone takes care of us in a moment of weakness?
You know, the part of Christ's sermon that I felt I'd been lead to that morning when I listened to 3 Nephi was actually the part of the scripture that tends to get kind of chopped off when we're quoting it. After Christ reminds us that God will clothe us better than the lilies of the field, He ends it with, "If ye are not of little faith." He was speaking these words in the Book of Mormon to his newly chosen 12 apostles who are about to embark in a ministry that would not be for the faint of heart. Those words were meant to propel them forward in their work without wasting precious moments, or brainspace, on the things that you and I worry about everyday: food, shelter, clothing, transportation, safety.
And though I know I'm no apostle, that charge to have big faith so I can see the hand of God in my temporal life, hit me like a ton of bricks that morning. And it reminded me of this story.
A few years ago, my little family was going through a health crisis that took every ounce of spiritual, emotional, and financial resource that we had, there just wasn't enough to go around. And I, I found myself working really hard, and still unable to meet my financial obligations. It was exhausting and heartbreaking and confusing.
For a while, I kind of kept it all to myself believing that if I was just scrappy enough, or if I worked harder, that I could juggle my way out of these problems. And to be honest, I was just embarrassed. I really didn't want to admit that I was in over my head. I mean, what would that say about me if I couldn't provide for myself or my family?
But eventually, with some nudging from my parents, I swallowed my pride, or at least I thought I did, and I went to see the bishop. In his office, I told him that it had come down to me deciding between paying my tithing or paying these medical bills that were piling up. And to be honest, I was thinking that he would just be like, "Here you go. You've been a faithful tithing payer for so long and you've never asked for anything, have some cold, hard cash." But that is not the way the Lord works. The bishop was kind, he was gentle. He told me to keep paying my tithing and to honor that covenant, and that they would start with food assistance to cut that bill down and that the Relief Society president would help me make a food order to the Bishop Storehouse. Of course, I nodded my head and I thanked the bishop. I walked out of his office and immediately decided that I was going nowhere near that Bishop Storehouse.
As a kid, we'd needed assistance a few times, and I totally knew what those cans of tomatoes and peaches, and those bags of Jell-O and orange drink meant. So I did some human math. And I decided that what I would be putting into the quote, unquote, system would be more than what I was getting out of it. And that the best way to meet my current needs would be to put a little mini pause on tithing until I got back on my feet. And so that's what I did. I ignored the bishop. And I ignored that little flutter in my gut that said, "Think again." I leaned into my need to take care of myself the way that I knew how to take care of myself.
While all this was happening, I had a work trip that took me to the East coast where I was lucky enough to spend some time with my mom and my dad. And I know that you'll probably find this really hard to believe, but all it takes is one question from my mom for me to spill all my guts. And she did it. She asked the one question. And the one question was, "How are you holding up?" And when she said that, the whole sordid affair spilled out of my mouth, along with all my justifications for not paying my tithing. And I was adamant that the math didn't add up. I was gonna give the Church money and then get storehouse food in return? It didn't seem fair somehow.
My mom didn't say much. I could tell that she wasn't judging me. But I could also tell that the wheels were spinning in her head. And she just kind of listened to me and she cried with me. And I ended up leaving the conversation just feeling loved, which I appreciated.
The next day, when my parents took me to the airport, my mom slipped an envelope into my carry on bag just as I started walking away towards security. She's always thanking me for coming to her house and eating all her food, so I didn't even think twice about it. And then the buisiness of the airport took over. So it wasn't until I was making my connection in Atlanta that I remembered that there was this card in my bag. So I opened it in an alcove near the Diet Coke machine and I'll never forget it—not because of the money that she had tucked into the envelope, which she had done, but because of what the note inside said. She reminded me that she's seen me do hard things before and that she trusts my relationship with my Heavenly Father. And that even though I am a grown adult with a family of my own, she's my mom. And she still felt an obligation to help me think differently about tithing. The rest of the letter was her testimony of the power and the goodness of God and that reminder that everything we have comes from Him and that He can make miracles happen if we let Him. But most importantly, she wanted to remind me that keeping the covenant of my tithing keeps me worthy to participate in the temple. And while my math might add up in my head, it didn't add up in God's accounting. The most important thing that she wanted me to remember was that the peace of the temple would be more important to me in the complex times that my family was facing. Most importantly, she reminded me that I come from a long line of women who have learned to be creative with food in hard times, and that, and that even Bishop Storehouse food could become desirable with a heart turned to God.
Something shifted in me in that moment. And though I didn't know to call it this at the time, I realized that I had been allowing myself to be powered by little faith for the past few months. And in order to have the power of big faith kick in, I was gonna have to let go of the pride and the fear and the heartache. I would have to stop doing math and start seeking the kingdom of God. And I would have to put in a food order at the Bishop Storehouse. And then, that's when the magic happens. That's when I see that the majestic clothes my Father in Heaven would have me arrayed in—that are more glorious than the robes of King Solomon—might look, to the untrained eye, like a simple, white temple dress.
There was no big temporal miracle for the Lays after I recommitted to my tithing. Circumstances improved enough, and I suspect that they'll always improve just enough. But I keep a can of those peaches, which by the way, are delicious, in my pantry to remind me that God has the power to meet our every need. And sometimes, depending on our unique circumstances, that will look different than we think it should. But it will be exactly what we need.
That's it for this episode of "This is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers: Roger, Tammy, Nicole, and Mel for sharing their experiences and their big faith with us. We'll have links to that beautiful arrangement of Roger song, "Consider the Lilies" from the choir in our show notes as well as more information about our storytellers and a transcript of this episode at ldsliving.com/thisisthe gospel. All of the stories on this podcast are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers.
Are you as happy to have us back as we are to be back? I mean, honestly, I love putting the show together so much, it really makes every single day just a little bit better. And if it's the same for you, tell us all about it. Leaving a review on Apple or Stitcher or wherever you listen helps other people discover this podcast more easily. I read every review, and I sincerely feel all the feels to learn the ways that these stories are blessing your lives. Thank you for listening, and thank you for being a part of it.
And, of course, if you have a story to share about living the gospel of Jesus Christ, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. A great pitch will be less than three minutes and it's going to tell us all the basic storyline of your experience and show off your skill as a storyteller. We encourage you to leave the written story at the door and just tell us what happened. We often find many of our stories from the pitch line. That's how we found Nicole's story, and we love to hear how the gospel has blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and leave us a message.
This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with additional story production by Erika Free. We first heard Mel's story on the "Sunday on Monday" study group podcast, which is available on Desert Bookshelf PLUS+. This episode was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at 6 Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom.
You can find past episodes of this podcasts, we have 55 of them now, and all the other LDS Living podcasts at ldsliving.com/podcasts. Have a great week.
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