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Three Dollar Attribute



Segullah teresa hirstTeresa 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.

segullah Three dollar measuring cups

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.



9 thoughts on “Three Dollar Attribute”

  1. This may be an odd response, but I found it refreshing to read about the sacrifices your family made as income dried up, ultimately walking away from your beautiful home when the "dream" of it wasn't worth the reality. I admire the tight budgeting, the gradual recognition and acceptance of heavenly intervention, the necessity-based willingness to do what it took to weather your situation. I hope that life is a bit looser for you now, and thank you for sharing.

  2. Lindsay,
    That's not an odd comment at all. I'm glad that came out from the post. Most challenges in life can purify us in this way, but the process isn't pleasant as it strips away what we think is propping us up. Even here, it wasn't materialism, I hope, that I clung to as much as my own "dream" of what our home and family life would look like. Someone I interviewed in a similar situation called it "letting go of her life sketch." And, yes, life is "looser" now, as you say, thank you.

  3. i love it when other people are able to put my thoughts into beautiful words.

    our family had a very meager year last year, which came on the heels of six other meager years of being students. we have a pepper grinder that broke about four years ago and even though we are we are finally in a place where we could go ahead and replace it, i've resisted doing so. every time i look at that pepper grinder, propped carefully on the counter between the salt shaker and the backsplash to hold it up, i think of the lessons that i've learned over the past seven years, and especially the last year. lessons of prayers, and faith, and patience, and miracles, and waiting on the lord.

  4. What a gifted author you are! Thank you for this. We too, as small business owners, underwent financial hardships with the crash of 2008. Having to lay of treasured employees; my husband and I both still working – he @ 70; me @ 66 because of clients not paying work we had completed for them; unable to fulfill dreams of a mission, etc. – are just a few of the experiences that have been ours.
    For me, the end result has been treasuring simplicity to a degree I hadn't before; realizing "stuff" is just "stuff" and its all temporary and deepened financial responsibility, which in and of itself has been a huge blessing.
    But for today – the concepts taught by you in this article resonate with me, not from the viewpoint of our financial struggles, but from the viewpoint of struggling with a wayward daughter.
    I "hear" the concepts of "turn it over to the Savior"; "let go and let God". What are the actual steps to doing that? If I ever gain comprehension of how to actually do that, then what is my role in my struggle? Do my attempts show that I haven't turned it over? What's my role in relation to the Savior's role? Unconditional love – I get that. But what else?
    Whatever the challenges – financial setbacks; wayward children or whatever, don't the same principles apply? But what's the practical application I can wrap my head around?
    ps. I just ordered your book – your writing resonates with me. Thank you for blessing the rest of us with your God-given talent.

  5. Debra, I love the imagery of your pepper grinder as a physical symbol or monument to your crossing of hard times. It represents the spiritual memorial that is in your heart of how God has sustained you and your family!

    BTW, I haven't filled my pepper grinder in years, instead using up the plain pepper we had stored. I'm down to the "camping" pepper – one of those disposable salt and pepper containers. Looks like it's time.

  6. Lynn, your thoughts on this subject are profound. First of all, I hear your feelings about trusting in God, no matter what our challenge, and yet acting according to our agency to do our part. That's a lifetime of learning to listen to the Spirit and receive personal understanding, isn't it? Each trial tutors us to discover that practical application of divine principles. I think you will see my struggle with that same idea in my book. Like the children of Israel crossing the Jordan, they had to have faith that God would dry up the river, but the priests still had to take those steps.
    Secondly, thank you for your encouragement of my writing. Writing for me started as a process to come to those understandings myself; so I'm glad they resonate with you and others.

  7. Boy, do I know how that feels. My husband went through over a year of being unemployed. I got so fed up with being righteous only to have my prayers feel unanswered. Or answered the same as yours: be patient. I felt like I was one of those 99 coins left on the shelf while the Lord went to find the one. Like, "take care of your valiant ones!" I realize that there were so many tender mercies and blessings long the way, but it's hard not to let bitterness creep in.

  8. Hilide, Amen. And that's the struggle of faith–knowing that we are making good choices but not seeing the tangible outcome. I'm learning a kind of cause and effect type of faith may be an introductory one. Maybe the path in a spiritually mature faith has to include some of these trials where the blessing doesn't readily appear.

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