By Kari Diane Pike
I have never been so grateful to be assigned to speak in church. Sounds crazy, right?!
My previous "every other Thursday" post made mention of how our bishopric called Doug and I while we were out of town and asked us to speak in Sacrament meeting - the Sunday we had planned on driving back to Arizona. I think we took about two seconds to move our travel plans up a day and agree to share some thoughts on the topic of gratitude. I've always felt strongly about supporting and sustaining our church leaders, whom I know are called to their positions by inspiration from Heavenly Father. I had no idea we would be showered with so many tender mercies and blessings of protection as a result of that simple choice.
Had we waited until Sunday to leave Provo, we would have been caught in a terrible snow storm. No snow tires and pulling a trailer in that kind of weather would have been horrendous. Saturday we had sunshine and fluffy clouds from dawn to sunset. Doug and I listened to General Conference messages (when we could get cell service) and scriptures about gratitude and discussed which aspects of gratitude each of us would include in our talks.
An hour or so after we passed through Las Vegas, the Durango's speedometer waggled back and forth, or sometimes quite working all together. At the time, we were in the middle of nowhere because we had decided to avoid the mountains to get through Kingman, Arizona and took the long route over to California and down to I-10. We pulled over a couple of times to fuel up or get something to eat and each time we started back on our journey everything worked again. Until we reached Tonopah.
An hour past sunset and just a little over eighty-four miles from home, Doug checked his rear view mirror. The lights of the car pulling up behind us revealed smoke billowing up from under our car. Doug pulled to the side of the road as quickly as he could. Holiday traffic roared past us as Doug checked under the hood and then walked around the car and trailer. He couldn't see anything wrong. We didn't see smoke any more, but the acrid smell of burning oil seeped into the car and turned my stomach.
Doug got back in the car and pulled on to the freeway. The smoke returned almost immediately. That's when we spotted the first gas station we had seen for miles and miles. And it was only about two hundred yards off the freeway. Doug drove into the parking lot and found a place where our vehicle and trailer would be out of the way. He pulled out his phone and called our insurance agent and a tow company. We both choked a little (or maybe a lot) when we heard an estimate of $600 - $800 dollars to tow us home, but somehow it didn't seem to matter. Even when the mechanic handed us the final tow bill of $1200, we shrugged our shoulders. Okay, to be completely honest, there may have been some gagging noises and a couple of Facebook rants, but neither of us felt overly upset about the situation.
Doug and I held hands as we watched the tow trucks pull away. When we turned to walk into the house, I looked up at my dear husband in amazement and grinned. "We were so focused on gratitude and recognizing all the tender mercies in this trip, we forgot to get into an argument!"
Doug laughed. We both knew that our past experiences with cars almost always resulted in some kind of disagreement. Fatigue, fear, and worries about money lead to shortened tempers and perceived offenses. But this time was different. It was different because our hearts and minds were focused on gratitude. Gratitude for not breaking down in the middle of nowhere without phone service or a safe place to park. Gratitude for the fact that even though there was smoke, there was no fire (We had burned up the rear differential so bad that the housing for the speedometer had completely melted down. Huh. No wonder the needle waggled!). Gratitude for having put aside emergency funds so that we were able to pay for the tow. Gratitude for lovely weather. And most of all, gratitude for each other.
Needless to say, we had plenty to share when we spoke in church the next day. I find it interesting that in seminary we also happened to be studying John, chapter 9, which teaches us that God can use our adversities to show forth His works and His power. And, as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, our spiritual vision and understanding become clearer. All of these things together gave me a greater understanding of another challenge that had been plaguing me and another aspect of gratitude to share in my talk.
For the past year, I have struggled with the loss of my voice. About a year ago, I had to quit singing because of the pain it caused, not only to my throat, but to ears of those who had to listen. Even talking takes a tremendous amount of energy. For a long time I felt cheated. I also felt like my worth as a person had diminished. But this lesson in gratitude enlightened my mind and changed my heart. I remembered that as a daughter of God, my worth is inherent. Even though I will always be an "unprofitable servant", I can always be a recipient of the Savior's mercy and grace because He loves me. He knows my heart. My worth doesn't come from my abilities, but from my Father in Heaven. He created me.
After our church services ended, an elderly gentleman reached out to me and shook my hand. With tears in his eyes, he thanked me for sharing my loss and how I learned to find gratitude. He had been struggling with his own losses because of a brain tumor and he hadn't been able to understand why he had lost so much. Because I was able to share my experience he found the peace he had been seeking. Oh, how I love being a witness to how Heavenly Father used my adversity to help someone else. He truly knows us by name and knows our every need. He hears and answers prayers and sometimes we get to be part of that answer.
Life is magnificent. Share the Light!