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A Small Tender Mercy

In April 2005, Elder David Bednar articulated a concept that I have come to believe in deeply. He talked about tender mercies--custom-made, personally tailored blessings from the Lord. Often small and subtle, they demonstrate that the Lord both knows and loves us. Elder Bednar said"...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."

I have found that if I'm watchful, these tender mercies abound in my life. Recently, something happened that reminded me of just how poignant and specific these mercies are. Like all of them, the power is based on individual and personal circumstances, so I don't know if it will translate well.

My years at NYU working on my doctorate were very difficult ones. I had a wife and three kids, so I was required to work while pursuing my degree. I woke up early each morning and rode the bus and subway for 90 minutes or so to Queens, where I taught drama in a different school each day.

After teaching, I rode a couple of trains down to Manhattan where I attended evening classes. I studied and attended classes usually until 10:00 or so, and then walked several blocks to the train station to start my hour-long commute home.

One of my overwhelming memories of this time is being hungry and cold. We were quite poor, and I couldn't often buy food, and any food I took with me that morning had long since been consumed. Winters and fall in NYC are cold and all the walking I did kept me outside and cold.

So during most of this time in my life, I was discouraged, tired, stressed, hungry, and cold.

Occasionally, I'd pop into a bookstore on my way to or from school. I'd warm up and browse the books, getting a few minutes of mental respite by reading. I'd also daydream about someday publishing a book of my own. It seemed like a pipe dream given all the years of school ahead of me, but it was a nice escape. So, the bookstores became my haven. I went to many, but haunted one particular Barnes and Noble frequently.

Eventually those years ended. Things got better. My doctorate allowed me to get a job I enjoy at a private school, and our life, while not perfect, became much more comfortable. While working at this school, I got the idea for a book, which I wrote.

So, to me, there are two symbolic bookends of these years--the bookstore which remind me of those difficult years, and my book which represent the better years that came.

Perhaps then, you can understand a little of how I felt when I got this picture from a friend in NYC. It's a bookshelf at a Barnes and Noble, not too far from NYU (hint, book on the top shelf, second to the left is mine).

Perhaps you can understand why my eyes got misty and why I got the chills, and why this was such a sweet and personal tender mercy--something uniquely calculated to communicate love and concern to me from a loving Heavenly Father.

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Braden Bell is a husband, father, teacher, director and author. His new book, Middle School Magic: The Kindling was released in July. He blogs about all the above at www.bradenbell.com.



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