Friday, April 24, 2009

Tender Mercies

I love Elder Bednar's talk on the Lord's care for us, shown through his tender mercies. It spoke to me the first time I heard it, and I still love it. I've often had experiences just as Elder Bednar described in his talk, where the spirit has testified to me through small happenings that I am known to God, that He cares for me and that He has a stake in my daily life.

Elder Bednar puts it this way:

Since last October I have reflected repeatedly upon the phrase "the tender mercies of the Lord." Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord's tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits "his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men" (D&C 46:15).

As I indicated earlier, the Lord's tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord's timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings.

This month, I had a rather remarkable experience that represented to me again the Lord's care for each of us. I began preparing for a solo piano recital in January. The recital theme was "Dedication" and I dedicated pieces to each of my children, my parents, and my husband. I practiced these eight pieces until the memory was solid a month before the recital date. I wanted no danger of memory slips during the performance, especially since this was my first long memorized performance in more than 10 years, and it all felt rather scary.

When I first put together the program, I considered learning a piece for my mother-in-law, but it kept kind of slipping my mind, and although I kept coming back to it, even asking her which piece she'd like me to learn, I never went anywhere with it. She never told me a piece, and it just never happened.

Then, the day before the recital I started practicing for the day and had a very strong impression that I needed to perform a specific piece for my mother-in-law. It's a piece I learned for my senior recital (which was, I am sad to say, more than 15 years ago). She had loved it then, but I hadn't performed it since. I ignored the feeling for a while until I realized that it was more than a passing idea, it was actually a prompting. The idea of relearning, memorizing, and performing a piece in 24 hours was daunting, and more than a little terrifying, but I decided to go with it and see where it took me.

The relearning was EASY, the re-memorizing was EASY. As it all came together, I understood that the spirit was flooding my mind with knowledge, and that my own abilities were being magnified for God's purposes. I had the piece in my head in about an hour. It felt crazy, but right.

The next evening, I performed her piece. I wondered before the recital began if I were just a little bit nuts (ummm...Yes.), but it went beautifully. I felt the spirit confirm to me that it was divinely determined that I should play that piece, and again, I felt the magnification of my own memory, my own mind.

I had prayed as I prepared this recital that it would be something that Heavenly Father could use for His own purposes, that I could just be an instrument in His hands. Playing Chopin for my mother-in-law was one of the ways He answered that prayer.

(And she loved it. It meant something important to her, and to me. I think the tender mercy of the Lord that night was both for me AND for her. She doesn't know how to use the internet, so I think the secret is safe that I didn't really learn her piece until the day before. Shhh. Don't tell.)