Teresa Hirst is the author of Twelve Stones to Remember Him: Building Memorials of Faith from Financial Crisis, an LDS inspirational book. Teresa was born in Big Spring, Texas, grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, studied journalism at Brigham Young University and graduated in 1994 with a bachelor of arts in communications. Today, she observes and tells insightful stories—both nonfiction and fiction—that characterize our emotional experience with life. Teresa lives in Minnesota with her husband and teenage children and serves as a volunteer in LDS public affairs in her stake. To learn more, visit www.teresahirst.com.
We took our IKEA gift card with us on date night to spend Christmas cash.
Ten years ago we’d most likely head for those bigger items, the things we wanted to accrue: the bookshelves, bedding, nightstands or decorative wall hangings.
This night we went straight to the bins of three-dollar items, the things we wanted to replace: measuring cups, potholders, spatulas, plastic dishes, and strainers.
Once home, my youngest daughter—who’d visualized us buying a new lamp for her room—unwrapped the bright red measuring cups with delight and volunteered to bake.
Three-dollar items that generally had not received our notice or resources for a long time became treasures of everyday life when they did.
My architect husband designed and built us a home—the big dream we had worked toward from early marriage. Then, in the economic climate of the recession, the construction industry halted. Our income dropped suddenly by half and then again. For four years, any income we earned paid for necessities like the mortgage, utilities, food, and fuel for our vehicles.
My dream home with its convection oven and miles of quartz counter-top felt like a pieced-together home where adjustment meant much more than making do with broken or missing measuring cups.
Of course we sought answers to the big questions in prayer, in conversations as a couple, in the temple—like many do in a challenge. We expected big answers.
I scoffed at the small answers that came. Wait. Adapt. Be patient.
When we eat three times a day, the pantry depletes. Turning on the lights means an electricity bill is due once a month. And, the gas tank empties just from fulfilling the essential commitments.
Trying to meet basic needs without a normal income invited daily frustration and anxious motivation. We worked and worried for that big solution that didn’t appear.
However, waiting on the Lord is not a small answer. And, patience is not a three-dollar attribute.
But I valued these answers as such. The only ones I cared to know—those I wanted to soothe my suffering—were how to fix it and when it would be over.
What now sounds like pride was really a desperate reaction. How could we replace, repair or maintain anything, whether it was $3 or $300?
I was coming unto Christ in all the ways I knew how. But my “natural man” method of coping included habits that actually took me away from His comfort and peace.
I believed that endless talk with (or at) my husband would uncover a solution. I responded to any bad news with the obvious negative emotional response, matching external circumstances with internal anxiety, fear and worry. I trusted in the tangible versus that which cannot be seen.
How could patience help?
When I asked that question as a retort to answers received in the temple, my obvious defiance surprised me. I had forgotten, even in that most sacred place, to always remember Him.
I almost missed seeing the quiet signs of divine love that in sum became the big answer. Little miracles or small gestures, which had initially looked like three-dollar evidences of care, continued to appear and became so much more in my heart.
Friends brought chicken for our freezer, multiple times, allowing me to also feed the missionaries in our far-flung ward. Gas cards from family took us to reunions, diminishing our isolation. A job for me didn’t replace my husband’s income but provided sustenance and opportunities to give back. A homemade Valentine’s card from my husband meant more to me than a dozen roses.
Gratitude caused me to remember God. Then, He helped me replace my anxious reactions with patience until remembering became my first response.
In the economies of life, the apparent three-dollar answers build slowly and steadily into the solutions we seek.
In time, our big answer came, too. We moved away from our big dream and toward smaller but sweeter joys like measuring sugar with one cup instead of three.