Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Lesson Learned

“The bridge of service invites us to cross over it frequently.”
~Thomas S. Monson

(This post is inspired by "Jenny's Gist".)

Sometimes the most powerful lessons are learned in the midst of some of your deepest heartache and greatest challenges.
If I had to choose one year of my life that I never want to relive, it would be 2007.

That year was a particularly difficult one for our family. What started out as an exciting year full of hope and promise quickly turned to one of despair (but not of lost faith). Shortly after listing our home on the market, we began the search for a new house--one that would better accommodate our growing family & could be our little piece of ‘heaven on earth‘ . This was not a decision we made lightly. It was a process that involved much thought & pondering, fasting & prayer as we tried to figure out God’s will for our family.

Though we definitely felt guided in our housing decisions, our house adventure didn’t go quite as we hoped. The housing market seemed to change overnight. Houses went from selling within a few days to the bottom dropping out completely. A failed closing left us as the ’proud’ new owners of not one home, but two. Two mortgages. Two home owners insurance premiums. Two sets of utilities. Two property taxes. Two HOA dues. You get the picture. Many dream of owning 2 houses, but this was our nightmare.

Our financial situation was made a little more difficult because of huge medical bills that year-- bills for emergency orthopedic surgery to repair Jake’s broken arm, surgery & physical therapy to rehabilitate Josh’s injured foot/ankle, & extra appointments & tests associated with a baby I was carrying that my dr. felt had a high probability of being born with Downs Syndrome. Add the expenses of grad school books & supplies at a private university & we were stretched really thin.

Thankfully, we had followed the counsel of Church leaders to stay out of unnecessary debt, have savings for ‘a rainy day’ and an emergency year’s supply of food in storage. Heaven knows all of those principles blessed our lives that year.

I realized many lessons that year, but most importantly, I learned about service and the difference even one person can make in another‘s life.

“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom.”

Late that summer, we were nearing total depletion of both our checking and savings accounts. We were weighing our options, considering ‘worst case scenarios’. In complete desperation, once again, we took the matter before the Lord in prayer. I remember getting up from our knees and feeling that somehow, a way would be provided.

It was the beginning of August. After an accounting of our finances and assets, it was determined that we had enough money to pay all bills and not go into debt, for one more month. Come September 1st, drastic measures would have to be taken to stay afloat. We needed a miracle.

And a miracle is exactly what the Lord had in store…

There was a ring of the telephone. A friend of mine called to let us know a special fast & prayer had been planned for our family. It was to take place the following Sunday (not a designated fast Sunday). We were invited to join with our friends in asking the Lord for needed help & blessings for our family. As most understand, religious fasting involves going without food & drink for a specified period to demonstrate to the Lord not only our willingness to sacrifice, but to also show our absolute dependence on him. The simple fact that dozens of couples were willing to sacrifice on our behalf was humbling. I will never forget attending church that Sunday, 5 months pregnant & unable to fast myself, only to have countless friends come and give me a hug letting me know they were praying and fasting for our family that day. That was just the start of our miracle and set in motion a series of events that would ultimately result in the much needed sale of our home.

The very next Sunday our real estate agent called to say that after 8 months of our house being on the market we finally had an offer! A couple had come by and looked at the home several times in the week prior. Not only had they made an offer on the home, but they were the ‘ideal buyers’ and could close by the end of the month (meeting our much needed deadline). We could not believe this news! Josh and I immediately got down on our knees, offering up prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord for this miracle.

What I remember most from this experience is the willingness of our friends & family to help in our time of crisis. They didn’t call first to see if we ‘wanted’ their help. They didn’t worry about whether the timing was convenient. They didn’t even really ask permission. They just served. I’m not sure they will ever fully appreciate how this experience touched our hearts, our lives and our home. We fully believe that God was able to grant us much needed blessings through the added faith and prayers of our friends.

From this experience I learned I should not hesitate to serve. When prompted, I should: Send the card in the mail. Take over the simple dinner, even if they have another one on the table. Make the phone call. You never know when the Lord may be using you to bless another person.

I came across these words:

You never know when someone
May catch a dream from you
You never know when a little word
Or something you may do
May open up the windows
Of a mind that seeks the light
The way you live may not matter at all,
But you never know – it might.

And just in case it could be
That another’s life, through you,
Might possibly change for the better
With a broader and brighter view,
It seems it might be worth a try
At pointing the way to the right
Of course, it may not mater at all,
But then again – it might

We may never know what our small acts of service mean to someone else. But I know that one sister’s service on my behalf changed my life and how I try to serve others. I now believe that even the most simple acts of service are often the most profound.