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December 12, 2012
Tune My Heart
A Different Tithe
by Marian Stoddard

In the wee small hours of Monday night, I got out of bed, minimally awake, for the usual reason. I stuck my feet into my slippers so that I would not hit the cold tile floor in my bare feet; the hope, after all, is not to let anything wake you up any more than absolutely necessary so you can go right back to sleep.

I came through the door and stopped, momentarily bewildered—why was there a door next to me on the right? Oh, yes, I realized—I’m home! And I don’t need my slippers because my bathroom floor isn’t cold, it has a rug, and it’s across the hall this way. We had arrived home from four nights visiting my parents in Salt Lake.

Sometimes we just forget where we are for a moment.

A few years ago, I felt like I was running on fumes. It’s not that my testimony or my determination to be faithful were wobbling, but spiritually I was not staying well-fueled. I was more conscious of my anxieties and burdens than I was of my blessings and joys. Actually,”the joys” were more in the line of what I hoped to find again but wasn’t feeling in the present tense.

There was a new sister sitting next to me in Relief Society who noticed that a portion of the lesson was affecting me to a few silent tears; though I smiled and shook my head that it was fine, really, she pulled me out of the room to a quiet spot and wanted to know for sure. I suppose she was a touch pushy about it, but kind. (It turned out that she was a professional counselor.)

She got me to talk about how I knew the Lord’s blessings in my life, I acknowledged past miracles but was feeling more distant than I wished about them. I was just trying to soldier on. She had had a very painful life before she found the healing power of the gospel, and she shared some of that. We both understood perspective.

Then she made a suggestion: when she found that she was struggling with old issues, or new ones, she would make a commitment to tithe her time for a set period. She asked if I would join her in that coming week to spend one tenth of my time in gospel-centered, spiritually nourishing pursuits.

She said the baseline rule was that thirty minutes each day had to be spent with the scriptures, and the rest was my choice. She would try to get to the temple, and encouraged me to do likewise; in these times she would do genealogy, read the Ensign, do her visiting teaching, whatever there was that was part of specific gospel service. We could talk to each other during the week, and we would be doing this together. I agreed that I would.

I went home and thought about this. What was one tenth of my waking time? I decided that it was ninety minutes a day, allowing for around nine hours total of nighttime sleep and a daytime rest. Someone else’s answer might be a little different, but with the state of my health, that was mine. So that meant thirty minutes of scripture reading and study, and one hour of other things.

I made one decision immediately—for this to make a difference, it had to be firm. It had to be daily. I could not fudge one day and promise myself to make it up the next. Even if I did succeed in making up the time, that would be a source of stress and self-accusation, and it wouldn’t be what I promised . It was one week; surely that was doable.

I wondered how I would do it for the two days a week that I worked at that time. I was the fill-in person in the law firm where my husband was employed: filing, being the extra person on the phones, organizing files. That turned out to be the easiest thing of all, because the office was just about a half-hour away, and I had an audio book of Harold B. Lee’s personal “miracle files” kept through all his service as a General Authority and published after his death. I listened to it coming and going those two days, and was lifted and touched by the personal, individual, quiet occurrences that were described. They helped me remember the miracles in my own life, often invisible to anyone else but recognized by me. The subjective distance to them shrank.

I was not able to get to the temple, but I did read a lot of back issues of the Ensign. I had not been reading the Ensign more than a stray article here and there, and it was good to immerse myself in it. It was odd to feel that I had a timer running (am I done? is that enough? not yet…) but I focused more on taking in all I could instead of keeping tabs on the clock after the first day or so. I consciously planned it into my schedule. I looked at my Relief Society lesson, I went back into my sporadic journal keeping, and most important of all, I spent that daily half hour, faithfully, with my scriptures. I felt the light coming back into me.

It helped to know that I had company in this and to talk mid-week about the things that were on my mind. It was nice to have a connection that way, but it was making that time a consistent, daily event that mattered most. The habit had become to let the feeding of my spirit slide, to respond to distractions and hassles and others’ needs; to be wrapped up in stress and worry and fatigue.

Even without any of the rest, the scripture time makes the difference alone.

There’s an old line: “If you’re not as close to God today as you were yesterday, guess who moved?” It’s never Him, it’s always us; but it’s so easy to wander without meaning to, to lag without realizing. It’s easy to forget where we are. We need to nourish our spiritual lives as much as we do our physical lives, but our physical lives tend to clamor louder—until we become spiritually dehydrated. A tithe of time can be our emergency IV fluids, and put us back on our feet. Then, newly aware, we may take better care of ourselves. It worked for me.

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