Stories in this episode: Adam's mission is more overwhelming than he expected, leading him to doubt whether he’s in the right place when suddenly a companion's photo puts everything into focus; LeAnn finds a perfectly placed dad joke in her scriptures at just the right moment; Becky’s hopes to adopt are finally fulfilled, but she faces heartache in her relationship with her child until an unexpected dinner guest gives her just the answer she needs.
KaRyn Lay 0:03
Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.
And I'm guessing that you haven't spent much time thinking about the word coincidence. I mean, why would you? But we've been saying that word so many times as we've developed the stories for this theme, that I started wondering what it really means.
So are you ready for an amateur etymology lesson? Here we go. Coincidence, 'Co' meaning with or together, and 'Incidence' from "incidere"–I'm sure I said that wrong–but that's Latin for to fall upon or into. And then "Ence"–coincidence. Listen, I tried to look that one up, but it was above my pay grade.
So the thing that's most important for us to know is that when two things coincide, it means that they intersect or they meet. And a coincidence is a moment in time when two things fall together naturally. No human interference. No one trying to make it happen, it just happens.
And aren't we all just a little bit obsessed with coincidences? I mean, weird ones, crazy ones, magical ones. They are almost always surprising. And definitely the stuff of good stories. And in fact, I bet right now you are remembering at least one or two coincidences that have happened in your own life.
Like the time I was in the Barnes and Noble at Union Square in New York City trying to find a public bathroom–which is no easy feat in that city–and I ran into a college classmate 20 years after we graduated from a school that was not BYU.
You know, that city, that city has 8.4 million people in it. And my husband and I were visiting for literally 48 hours. And right there in the lobby of the bookstore with someone who knew my name, and I knew theirs, even though our paths had long ago stopped crossing. We didn't even follow each other on Facebook.
I totally believe in coincidences. But I think there is a huge difference between a coincidence with no discernible human interference or effort, and that other thing that sometimes gets chalked up to coincidence.
Of course, I'm talking about those moments when the Lord is clearly the orchestrator of the pieces falling together. Those strange, wonderful, unexpected, but intentional occurrences that heal us, or guide us or set us on a path that leads us just a little bit closer to a deeper connection with divinity. Those.
Those are not coincidences. And while I'm not quite sure what to call them, now that I've swore never to say "Tender mercy" ever again, it's pretty hard not to think of at least a dozen of those moments in our lives, too. And today, we've got three stories that remind us that when we invite a loving God into the fabric of our lives, it gets harder and harder to see the miracles as simply coincidence.
Our first two stories are short, but sweet. So we're gonna play them back to back. First, you're going to hear from Adam, whose mission to Japan was transformed by a strategically orchestrated companionship. And then you'll hear from Leanne, who found a perfectly placed dad joke in our scriptures at just the right moment.
I remember opening my mission call and it said, you're called to labor and serve in the Japan Hiroshima mission. And I was like, "What!?"–totally blown away. I remember being in the MTC, when we sat down the first day, and we met everybody in our district.
Our teacher said, "How many of you have already studied Japanese?" Everyone but me raise their hand. I'm sitting there like, "Oh, man." And so he looks at me and he says, You have three days to learn hiragana and katakana, which are their fundamental, easy what kids learn in grade school in Japan. So I was just super overwhelmed.
That night, I prayed. And I said, "God, I'm going to give you everything. I'm gonna forget myself. I'm going to literally do everything I can to serve and to follow my promptings. All I ask is at some future point, you confirm to me that I was called to the right place, I'm supposed to be here."
I've been able to feel the spirit a certain way ever since I can remember. And so it's kind of a tale of two emotions, two halves of me. One half was super stressed, super overwhelmed, super feelings of inadequacy, but then that was kind of healed and calmed by the peace that the Spirit speaks to me.
By the time the three months get over, I come into August and I felt peace, at the same time I'm still having all these emotions of stress and challenge and inadequacy and all these other things because I still need to go through the hard part of learning the grammar.
And so June, July, and August really kind of got depressing because it's like, man, am I ever gonna be able to learn this? Am I really like going to the right mission because I feel like I'm not going to be able to communicate any of those feelings that I have, of the simple testimony I do have.
And so we leave the MTC and we fly over to Japan. And we take a bullet train from Osaka, all the way down to the mission home in Hiroshima. And so we got there an in the second day, we receive our companion assignments and area assignments.
And it says, I'm going to be with Elder Tano, and I'm assigned to labor and serve with him in the area he's currently in, which is Amagasaki. Then we get our train tickets and everything and I head all the way up–I think it was like a, like a 10 hour train ride.
Luckily, there were nice Japanese people that saw that I was completely lost. And I just showed them like, this is where I'm supposed to go and this is the train station I'm supposed to be at. And then finally, I arrive in Amagasaki. And Elder Tano is there to greet me and helps me grab my luggage. And then we go directly back to our apartment.
And one of the traditions in kind of our mission was to get to know the members and for them to get to know you, every missionary was advised to make kind of like a little photo album. And so you can have like pictures of your family and stuff you like to do.
And so we get back to the apartment, and we take our first meal together, and we're talking to each other. And I'm like, "Oh, yeah, can I see your family?" And he's like, "Yeah, let me see yours." And so we swap photo albums. And I'm flipping through his photo album. And about midway into his photo album, I flipped to a picture, and it's a picture of his mom, his dad, Elder Tano, my maternal grandmother and grandfather, in his photo album.
I kind of stopped him, I'm like, wait, what? And because it's my maternal grandmother and grandfather, obviously, he didn't know that they're related to me, because that's my mom's maiden name. And so he had no clue.
And so I stopped, and I'm like, "Elder Tano," and I showed him the picture, I'm like, "Why are you in a photo with my grandparents?" Because I'm like, I have no idea who you are, man. And he goes, "Those are your grandparent?"
And I said, "Yeah, this is my mom's mom and dad." And he goes, "Are you serious?" And I said, "Yeah." And he started tearing up. And he said, "50 years ago, your grandpa Stan served in Hawaii, and baptized my grandma and grandpa." He says, "That's the reason why me and my family are in the Church."
The craziest part was, we're meeting the very end of his mission. And our mission president, out of all the 180 missionaries, he felt like me and Tano had to be together.
One of the coolest parts was right after that, it was, I think P-day, we sent emails to our parents and told them the whole cool story. And he showed me a picture of the actual picture from 1950, or 51, or whatever year that was, and it's a baptismal picture of my grandpa baptizing his grandparents.
That was a confirmation to my grandpa, that, you know, the families that he'd converted had stayed active. And it was super cool for Tano's family that the Elder that converted them, that now his grandchild was, you know, companions with him.
And it was just one of those experiences that . . . you know, I had asked when I covenant to with the Lord, I said, you know, "Please, at some future date, confirm to me that I'm in the right spot."
I didn't expect it to be the first day, let alone my first companion, let alone that type of intricate, you know, detail and coordinating all those little pieces together. And I've looked at the odds of how that would ever be come to be and it's just astronomical of that ever being a coincidence.
So that was a huge weight off of my heart and my mind of the fact that I am supposed to be here. He shown me–way sooner than I thought they would–and it really allowed me to put on my blinders and forget myself and get to work. And know for a surety, through that spiritual and that real experience, that God knows me.
This experience also greatly increased my faith in terms of what I would call the seed planting that I felt like I was doing, because from my experience, my mission was hard. I got frostbite, not a lot of baptisms, knocking countless doors, contacting countless people and told "No," like, the vast majority of the time, so I needed that. And in many ways, I attribute my endurance spiritually to that tender mercy, that first day on my mission.
I know how To find customized, personalized revelation from my Heavenly Father to me. If I ever have questions or doubts or a challenge in life, or, you know losing a family member, or whatever the trial or occurrence may be in this life that, you know, we're supposed to experience, I now have a path out of the maze, so to speak, to find that peace.
Many years ago, my husband and I lived in a small apartment in a remote California desert town with our son Taylor, who was two and a half. And my husband was a teacher there. And we were expecting our second child. I was pretty far along, she was due in just a week or so and I woke up one morning, and I started having contractions.
And I wasn't sure though, if it was labor or not, they weren't super steady, enough to time or anything. So I thought, okay, is this Braxton Hicks–which is false labor that can happen when you're that far along–or is this really labor? Am I really having this baby?
I was really concerned about it. And part of the reason I was so concerned is that my first child, Taylor, he came a month early. And that day, I was student teaching at BYU and I was supposed to fill in and sub for the teacher that day because she was sick. And so that morning, I had a similar experience where I was like, am I really in labor? But the labor pains were pretty steady and intense and so I had to call the teacher and say, "I don't think I'm going to be there" and went to the hospital and everything turned out fine.
But later, we found out that he had Down syndrome. And so the birth was a little bit nerve racking, you know, because he was so early, they were concerned that there were going to be problems. And he had some health problems a little bit later on. So I think I was feeling a little more anxious than I even normally would, because of that experience.
So I decided to pray. I got down on my knees–which was not easy at nine months pregnant, but I did and just basically told Heavenly Father, "I need to know." Please help the contractions to either pick up and be steady, or to stop. But I really needed to know whether or not I was in labor, because my husband, I mentioned, was a teacher. And he had a field trip that day. And this is before cell phones. So I knew if he left the house and went on this field trip, there was no way for me to get ahold of him, which is a problem in itself.
But also, we didn't live anywhere near our family, our closest family at the time, my parents, lived about three hours away. So I knew if he left, we were gonna have a problem.
So I finished my prayer, and I felt impressed to open my scriptures, which I thought was really strange, because I thought, how will this answer be in the scriptures? But the feeling persisted, and so I picked up my big quad, and just randomly open to it.
And it opened up to Alma, chapter 34. And my eyes went straight to this verse. "Behold, this is the time for men to prepare to meet God. Yay, Behold, the day of this life is a day for men to perform their labors."
And I could not believe it. I was just shocked. There is no way I just opened to that scripture. It took a moment for me at first I was like, did this really happen? But then the Spirit confirmed to me though, that that was what my answer was that I really was in labor.
And then my eyes went to the end of the next verse. And it said, "Then cometh the night of darkness, wherein no labor could be performed." And so I thought, okay, I'm having this baby today, and she's going to be bored before it's dark. And so we're not going to have the long labor I had with my first one.
And I told my husband, "Get a substitute. We're having the baby." So he did and went to the hospital. And my daughter, Ashley was born just after five o'clock in the evening before the darkness came.
And some things that that taught me, especially about my relationship with my Heavenly Father, he knows us so well, each of us. He knew that I needed an answer. And he knew that I needed a really clear answer. And he speaks to us in a way that we understand.
My dad was the king of dad jokes. And that was before that term had even been coined, but he loved to tell puns. And in fact, as a family as we would travel, we would get going on puns and the winner would be the one with the most groan worthy pun that they could come up with.
And so, Heavenly Father knew that I would get that and that that would make sense to me, to use a pun to answer my Prayer. And the other thing I learned about my relationship with my Heavenly Father is sometimes He maybe feels far away and He maybe feels unrelatable, but this made me realize He has a sense of humor.
And it made it easier to relate to Him. And I'm just so grateful for that experience. And I'll never forget that day when my prayer was answered by our Heavenly Father with the a dad joke.
KaRyn Lay 15:38
That was LeAnn, and before that was Adam. Now I know it's unusual for us not to have host segments in between stories. But I really felt like there was something special about hearing those two very different examples of God's very personal touch right next to each other without all my blathering.
I loved what Adam said at the end of his story about how this experience in Japan helped him to know how to find customized and personalized answers to his questions. When we recognize those confluences in our lives as more than just coincidence, but as actual manifestations of God's power and His desire to bless us with understanding and help, it gives us a roadmap for how to access those mercies and graces more often.
We can think back to those times when God was present to us, and remember what it was that we did to open ourselves up to His divine intervention. And then we can do it again, this time with a little more confidence, and maybe a little more faith.
And like LeAnn, if we keep our eyes peeled for the communications in the way that we know God knows to communicate with us–well, we're gonna find His voice. We'll hear Him. It may not be flipping open our scriptures to find the perfect pun, or putting you in a specific companionship on your mission. Maybe it'll be the strains of a favorite song playing from a car radio at just the right moment, or a perfectly timed, perfectly chosen gift left on your doorstep.
However you receive messages best is how Heavenly Father will send them. And with practice and observation, you can know how to recognize them and ask for more, because he wants to give you everything that you need.
Our last story today comes from Becky, who would have gladly accepted a coincidence as she tried to figure out how to help her little family weather a unique storm. But she got something so much better when she finally allowed the Lord to offer her a solution.
I always knew that I wanted to adopt. From the time I was a teenager, I had this feeling that I would adopt. When I was dating my husband, he was a returned missionary from Korea, and he had said to me over the course of our dating, he said "I've always wanted to adopt. So I hope you're open to that." And I was, so that had been a part of our conversation before we got married.
The first time I met my son, Cole, was when our family lived in Seoul. We had three other children and Cole's biological father brought him to our apartment. And his father was hoping that we would adopt him. So Cole's father brought him with a bag. It was like this shiny blue duffel bag, kind of like . . .it looked like vinyl.
And it had just an outfit, one outfit in it and a pair of pajamas. . . So he handed us the bag and he left. He left with my husband to go and sign papers at the attorney's office. We came in contact with his dad through someone else who was at church in our district.
She had different connections with the orphanages because sometimes people would bring a child to an orphanage and want to drop them off, but because they had a living parent, or they–for whatever reason–the orphanage couldn't accept that child. So they would call this friend of ours. So they said, "We can't accept that child, but we can find a home."
So they would start calling their other contacts. Our friend was one of those contacts. And then she would start contacting her contacts. So we had called her and she said, "All right, I'm going to put you on my list."
And so then, a few months after we had told her that then she called us and said, "I'm aware of this man who . . . his wife left him, he was left with the baby. He's been trying to keep the baby at this extended care facility, the baby's been there now for 18 months, he's never going to be able to bring that baby home. He wants to find a family."
So the father was willing to give up his parental rights. And so he was, he had inquired, and then had gotten in touch with this woman who got in touch with us. And so here was Cole, and he didn't speak English and I didn't speak Korean. But I had had a friend put together a lot of phrases for me that I would need in order to talk with him. "Are you hungry?" or, you know, just all the little things you need to say with with kids and, and he was running around the house with the toys and the books and just like, so excited. I mean, there were little kids, of course, his new siblings. But as cute as cute could be, like, just as darling as can be.
There were a few interesting things when we adopted him. He had some issues, I could tell, maybe ear infections or something because he even though he was almost three, his shirts were always wet, he drooled a lot. And so one of the first things I did after we adopted him, that first week, I took him to the doctor. And there were a lot of medical things that needed to be treated and handled.
There were a few things that I noticed with Cole that I wasn't–I didn't really understand. There were some things about his energy that seemed over the top. It was like he was hyper vigilant. He was always watching every one around him. He was watching to see what are they doing? What do they have? If they ever played with something that was the toy he wanted. He would go to it. If then they changed and said, "Well, okay, have it," go to another toy, then he would want that. He was always wanting what anyone else had.
He was always–his eyes were always darting around, he's always watching. And if there was ever a wrapper that was open, it was like an immediate, "What is it?" and he would race there. He was curious about how everything worked. He wanted to–he would take the thing of cleaner, say, and he would spray the whole wall and just keep spraying and spraying and spraying till it was all running down the wall. And he just wanted to see how it all ran down the wall.
Or the little water machine, he would push the thing and let all the water run out and then just keep emptying the five gallons of water, he would just continue to keep emptying it. I would try to teach him different things because I felt comfortable and confident in my skills as a teacher, I thought I can teach him.
And there were things that I was trying to teach him to prepare him for going to preschool, and it was like one day he learned it and knew it. and then the next day, no recollection of it at all. As simple as the number one and what does one represent?
If we were going out in public, he would scream, he would yell, he would be out of control. And so then we we quit going out, we quit being out in public, it was so difficult.
Or I could only go out if I had either my husband or our babysitter with us because I felt like we had to try and preserve life for the rest of the family, even though he was out of control. So one of us would stand stay with the rest of the kids and one of us would go back and sit in the car with him screaming and yelling and completely just . . . And we didn't know why he was yelling and screaming a lot of times.
We didn't know what, what was the trigger? Well, I don't know, what do we need to do to solve it? And do you try to then placate and give into it? Or do you hold a firm line? How do you parent through that?
So for example, our family had–my brother and his family were living in China at the time that we were living in Korea. So for Christmas, we decided to meet in Thailand so that all the cousins could spend time together. And this was only a month after we adopted Cole and so we thought this is going to be a fun vacation.
But we would be on the beach and all the sudden he would start into a tantrum and we didn't know what to do to help him calm down. These tantrums were a lot of yelling, a lot of crying, pretty physical in terms of it was hard to contain him. And I felt like if he was throwing things or, or he would try to damage things, then I felt like I needed to hold on to him so that he wasn't hurting himself or hurting someone else or damaging things around him.
And so a lot of times, I would just have to pick him up and just, like wrap my arms around him and hold him and tried to talk firmly but soft, you know, calmly but firmly with him. And I don't know, I, I just didn't know what to do. It was like a switch. And that switch would get flipped, and it was like he was not himself. He had flipped into some other, like, in his brain, something else was happening entirely. It was almost like he wasn't really even in our space anymore. Mentally and emotionally, he was somewhere else and he was–he had flipped out.
I kept thinking, "You're not in that place of abandonment anymore. You're not in that place of neglect anymore, you are here. So can't you feel this now?" I thought he needs to know how to receive love. So each night I would sit on the side of his bed. And I would just scratch his back and kind of scratch his head and just talk with him. Tell him things I loved about him, just so he could be . . . so that he could be comfortable with that. And I would always give him a kiss good night and tell him that I loved him.
I thought a few months in, we're going to get this. We're going to get this figured out. But probably five or six months into this adoption process I could see how taxing it was on the other kids. And I remember I was sitting on the side of the tub.
One of my few moments of the day that was calm was when Cole was in the tub because we would put in so many bubbles, he was pretty much in a mountain of bubbles. And he just loved to play in the water and in the bubbles. So I would fill that tub up and he and Larson would be playing with their tub toys, and they would be so happy.
And I would just hang on to those couple of minutes. Like, look, we can be happy. We can do this! It would give me a little bit of hope. Like, okay, these are good moments, we've just got to have a few more of these good moments each day.
But I called my mom. And I said to her, "Mom, I just–I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I want to ask the other kids to keep doing this. This is really hard." And she said, "Is it bad? Is there anything that's dangerous, or that's harmful?" And I said, "No, nobody's, nobody's in danger. There's nothing bad happening. It's just so hard. Every moment of every day is different. It's all having to be adjusted. And it is hard. And there's a lot more contention in our home and a lot more–it's just everything."
And my mom said to me, "You want to protect your kids from things that are harmful. You want to protect them from things that are bad. But don't protect your kids from hard. Hard is good, hard will help your kids to grow and to be more resilient. And you will do fine, if it's hard, but just watch out for harmful or bad."
Even after having that conversation with my mom, as things still didn't improve, I thought I really don't know if we can do this. And I just kept hoping and hoping and hoping that things didn't get better. And at some point, I just thought we might need to give him back. We may not be able to do this. It was putting such a strain on our marriage because we felt–we had different ideas about how to approach the parenting and because I didn't see things improving, I thought, well, we've been out this more than a year, we've been at this more than a year and a half. If things aren't improving after that long, will it ever get better? Or is this just how our life is going to be?
And it was like all of our peace had just been, it was like it was just wrung out. And there was no peace in our life. And every bit of it was hard. For every moment that he was awake, and I thought this would be temporary. And I thought we would work through it. But it doesn't seem like it's getting any easier or any better. I wasn't really, I wasn't really sure how to get help.
Because we were living in a foreign country, I didn't have access to therapy or to other parenting resources. And I wasn't sure, some of the things that I was seeing in my son seems so disjointed, I didn't even know if some of these behaviors were all tied to one cause, or if–like, I just was wondering what is going on?
And I thought, I don't really have other resources. So I need to make sure that I'm accessing the resource that's the most important one, I need to make sure that the Lord knows I am committed to this. But I have to have answers. I have to know what we're dealing with.
So even though I just really felt like, "We might have to give him back," I thought, "No, we're not giving him back. We're sticking with this. But we need answers." And that's when I kind of made this deal with the Lord. And I thought, okay, Heavenly Father, it's hard for me to get to the temple, I live the furthest away from it that I can on this subway line. And then it takes 20 minutes to walk up there to the temple, and I don't have someone to babysit my kids at night.
And, and so I was like, but if I get to the temple, then will you get me answers? So I kind of felt like I was striking a deal with him, which I know is, you know, I don't know, I just felt like I was doing that. I'm going to get to the temple on a regular consistent basis, and you've got to give me answers. Deal? And that's how it felt.
And it was interesting, even though I decided to go to the temple once a month, that was a big sacrifice for me to get there once a month. And I believe that I got to the temple once before the Lord delivered on his side of the deal, which I think is quite miraculous.
At the time, I was serving as the Relief Society president in our branch. And there were a lot of different groups of people in our branch. And there was a very large group that were there teaching English. One of the branch members told me about another member who had just moved in, who had just started their contract teaching English.
And they said, "You know, she had to pay our own way here. She doesn't get paid for a few weeks. Do you want to just make sure that she's okay with, you know, she's got groceries and everything? Just make sure she's doing okay, because a lot of times we don't know, when people move in." And I said, "Yeah, you're right, everybody moves here with a different situation. Let me just check in with her and see how she's doing."
So when I talked with her at church, I said, "Hey, would you want to come over and have dinner with my family?" And so we made our arrangement and that week, I met her at the subway stop, and we walked back to our house. I don't believe my husband was home yet from work. It was just me and the kids. We had dinner. And I was a little bit self conscious about our family because it was a little bit unorthodox.
And there were, of course, some behaviors that were really difficult to manage at meal time. But I put the kids in bed, and then I came back so that she and I could visit and she said to me, "Do you know what you're dealing with, with your son?"
And I was like, "Well, what do you mean? What am I dealing with?" And she said, "Well just describe for me what a typical day is." And I started describing some of these behaviors and things that were frustrating. And she said, "What you're dealing with is reactive attachment disorder. Have you ever heard of it?"
And I said, "No, I've never heard of that." She said, "After I leave tonight, I want you to look it up on the computer, and see if it matches your experience." I said, "Well, how . . . how do you know about it?" Because I knew that she was single, and I assumed that she didn't have any children.
She said, "Well, I actually fostered it boy whose mom was incarcerated. And so I learned about it as his foster parent." So that night, I started looking up all the information I could about reactive attachment disorder. I remember one particular page that I was reading, it listed all of the causes. And I was mentally checking off each of those things in my mind, because I knew what Cole's history was, I knew he had experienced every one of those things with abandonment and separation and neglect.
And then I looked at the designs or the symptoms. And I was like, "Check, check, check." All of the things and I sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks. I knew we had finally felt our answer. And even though I didn't want this to be the answer, as soon as it was named, I could deal with it.
As soon as I knew what it was, then I could start dealing with it. And I started ordering some reading materials. And I started ordering some things so that I could educate myself. Because I knew I wouldn't have access to a therapist or someone else who could walk me through it. So I started getting all of that information. And that that was the turning point. Not just for me and for Cole, but the turning point for our family.
As I learned more about what he had gone through and how those experiences had impacted his development, I then knew how I needed to be as his parent. And then I also felt a little bit like, my responsibility was to teach him or to train him or to kind of help him learn what he needed to learn. And it took me a few months to realize, I actually just need to love him.
He needs to be–he just needs to feel loved. He needs to feel that he's in this stable, predictable environment where he is just immersed in love. I started to see as a–when he would have a tantrum, I started to see him as a child who was experiencing pain.
When I understood that he was responding to feelings of abandonment, he was afraid he was going to be abandoned again, when I understood what was happening inside his mind–and maybe even not a conscious thought. But still it was in there. That's what he was responding to, then it was much easier for me to have patience with him. And to not take it personally and to not feel out of control.
I've learned a lot through this experience about my connection to Heavenly Father and about His perspective on me and on Cole and on our family. Because when I look at our experience, I kind of feel like I can zoom out and look at it from these different angles and I can see that the Lord is looking at me as a mother who's struggling, who's searching for answers and He's sending the help I need.
He can see Cole who's a child who needs need some love, He needs a family. But I also see the great significance that the Lord places on families and on sustaining and nurturing families, because He's so able to give us the specific help that we need in that moment, the perspective we need, the resources we need.
And I just felt like He was, the Lord was so aware of me and the exact thing that I needed. And He knew how it needed to come as well.
I guess some people could think that that was a coincidence. But the timing of it was too, too personal. To follow so closely on the heels of my conversations with the Lord and my pleadings with Him.
I guess I, I can't think that that's a coincidence, to have someone from the other side of the planet that happened to have this situation as a foster parent, to come and be in our branch in this huge city. And for me to even have a calling where I was concerned about, "I need to know what your situation is and if there's any support or help that you need," all of those pieces aligned.
It was probably . . . maybe more than a year after we had adopted him when, you know, he never gave any affection back very easily. He was trying to learn to do that. But I do remember one night, he said, "Mom, I have a whisper." Which, he meant he had a secret.
So I leaned close. And he said, "I love you in my heart." And it was so . . . it was so sweet to feel like, wow, we've been doing–we've been trying to have him in our family and feel loved and feel all of this. And, you know, it's interesting, as I reflect on that time when I thought we would give him back, because now there's no way to think of our family without him. We've all learned to love. We've all learned to forgive, to laugh, to be more deliberate in our expressions of love. We've all learned the essential nature of belonging, of connection, of having a place of safety and refuge, none of us would be the same without Cole in our family.
KaRyn Lay 43:38
That was Becky. For anyone who has listened to this podcast for a while you may remember that I was a foster parent to a little boy whose mom was incarcerated. And that I also moved to Korea to work for two years in 2007, right when Becky was serving as the Relief Society president in the Seoul military branch.
I feel humbled to have been at her dinner table that night, to be a part of her family story and even more humbled to have been useful to the Lord in his effort to communicate his love to Becky, Cole, and their whole family.
I know it's a total cliche to say that there are always two sides to every story, but it's kind of true. And I had a side of the story to share, so after we recorded Becky, I shared my experience and I want to share that conversation with you now.
Becky, this is so crazy, because when I had my foster child, when Cody was living with me, I didn't know anything about Reactive Attachment Disorder, and that was in 2001.
So that was years before this, this happened in 2007. And actually my side of the story which I think will make our case for this not being coincidence's even bigger. So about a year before I moved to Korea, I like you had always felt I was going to adopt, like, from the time I was a teenager, I was like, "Adoption! I love it. I love it. I love it."
But about a year before I moved to Korea, I watched a documentary. And after watching that documentary, I had this very, very strong impression that I needed to know all about international adoption. I needed to study it, I needed to understand it, I needed to learn as much as I could about what children experience when they're being adopted internationally.
And I thought, because this is who I am as a person, I had this like feeling and it was big. And I was like, "I'm gonna start an organization that helps children to be adopted internationally," because I can't do, you know what I mean? Like in my head, this feeling, this like push to understand international adoption was because I was going to do something with it.
Or that I was going to adopt internationally, or there was some some big things. So I spent about a year like looking up international adoption agencies, learning about the experiences of adopted children, trying to understand everything that there was.
And when I came across Reactive Attachment Disorder, that was common in international adoptees, or children who are adopted in any circumstance, I saw my foster child in that. And I realized that I had probably made a lot of mistakes as a young–you know, I was 23 at the time–but that I had probably made a lot of mistakes. But, but that is why when we started talking, I knew what reactive attachment disorder was. And it was because I had had those promptings a year before.
That's just really crazy to me to think that you recognized it after the fact. You know, that you are able to then say, "Oh, I know what that is. I've seen it. I've observed it, I've lived that."
KaRyn Lay 46:55
Maybe you will be shocked and surprised to learn that I have not started an international adoption agency.
Oh, I'm shocked!
KaRyn Lay 47:04
That didn't really go anywhere. And what I'm–because as I was looking back at my journal, I had like page after page about this, like, the feeling was so strong, and so like, pushy, that I needed to have this be a thing.
And I guess Heavenly Father knew that the only way to like, like that I have to take it to level 10 in order for me to follow through on something, like I'm just always looking for the next path, that that was how He would answer your prayer. Because I really haven't done anything else with it since then. Like, if you really think about that, you were the reason.
And it was definitely a year before I was still going through all of that.
KaRyn Lay 47:43
Like I was in the middle of my mayhem. And I mean, when I said that, that was like our turning point, we actually even sat down and had a conversation with the other kids. Cole was in bed. And we said, "We now have two sets of rules in this house. We have a set of rules for those of you who have been learning some of these things from the time you're a baby. And then we've got a set of rules for Cole, because he's learning it later and he has to learn it a different way. And it may seem harsh, we're not trying to be harsh, we have to be consistent."
So but I wouldn't have known because I just thought the way I parented my other kids was going to be the way I parented Cole. I didn't realize I was going to have to be a different kind of parent. If you had never brought that to my attention. I was making things worse, the way I was parenting him.
KaRyn Lay 48:43
You are so generous to remind me of that story and to tell me about how it affected you. Because to be honest, I've always kind of felt like well, why did I get that weird prompting Heavenly Father? Adoptions not an opportunity or a possibility for me right now.
And I kind of always thought like, "Okay, well, I have stepchildren, so maybe that's what this is about." But, you know, I think sometimes we're hesitant to follow through on the feelings that we have, because we're afraid of looking like a fool. You know?
How funny for me to be like, "Oh, I'm gonna do an international–" I don't even know what I was planning. Like, I look back at my journal, and it's like a project, "Adoption project, adoption project." And you sharing that story with me reminded me that Heavenly Father knew and He put those things in motion long before He knew that I would listen to those promptings and do whatever I needed to do to follow through on it. And I just think it's so cool. I think it's so cool. And I'm so happy for your family.
Well, I've thought so many times back to that moment, and I thought, I wonder if–I wonder if I KaRyn has any idea what she did for us. I don't know, then when I listened to that podcast, and you're like, "I'm kind of having a hard time feeling the Christmas spirit."
The impression that came so clearly was, "She needs to know that she's had this great impact on your family. And that the Lord is working through her." And I thought . . . I just kept putting it off, like, I needed to set up this, like, write a long email or something. I'm like, when am I gonna have time to do that? And I kept putting it off.
And then I told you, I had even a dream that you and I were having a conversation. And so I was like, I really can't put this off. I really have to, I really have to just tell her just the bare bones at least.
KaRyn Lay 50:59
Yeah. Well, don't you think though, for me, it's not even about me knowing that impact, but I think it's for the people who maybe are sitting at home right now. Anyone who has these weird promptings and doesn't know what to do with them, don't let yourself get tricked into thinking you're a fool so you stop following those promptings.
Like just keep doing it, because you just have no idea what, what He's going to make happen through you. And when I think about all of the times we think things are coincidences, I think, I wonder if I knew the whole story what kinds of things would God show me?
I love how God works. I honestly think that He delights in surprising us with His goodness. And even better, when we can be part of a confluence of His care and love for us. And here's what that looks like: two people follow the spiritual impressions that are part of their discipleship practice to hear Him and to act. Worlds and years apart, they accept the call to love a child that they didn't carry in their wombs, to heed the push and pull of a prompting after a documentary or to make time to check on the welfare of a stranger in a strange land.
One has an impression to show up to the temple. The other has an impression to leave the comfort of her home alone and show up to a new culture in a new country. And they come together for two hours on a cold weekday night in a crowded city of almost 10 million people to start on a journey of healing and hope together, that will not come full circle until almost 15 years later.
That, my friends, that is not a coincidence. It didn't just happen. When we put one foot forward into the dark with faith and focus on asking for and receiving revelation with the intent to follow through, God will take care of the coming together.
He'll put you with the companion who has a picture of your grandparents in their family photo album, so you can conquer the mission He's assigned you to. He'll lead your scripture pages to the words you need at just the right moment, to calm your fears and offer you direction. He'll bring the two rivers of His love together in an act of true and pure communion. And communion–oh, communion is way, way better, so much better than coincidence.
That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Adam, LeAnn and my dear friend, Becky for helping us to see the hand of God in their stories.
You can learn more about our storytellers and see some pictures from their non-coincidental stories. Non-coincidental? In-coincidental? Un-coincidental stories in our show notes at LDS living.com/thisisthegospel.
All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers. And if you have a true story about your life and living the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear it. You can call and pitch your story on our pitch line at 515-519-6179.
We meet so many of our storytellers this way, and in fact, Adam and LeAnn both started their storytelling journey by calling the pitch line. So you'll have three minutes to leave us a pitch so plan ahead, give us the best parts first, we can't wait to hear from you.
You can find more tips on how to pitch a great story by following us on Facebook or Instagram at @thisisthegospel_podcast. And if you're excited for this new season of great stories or something that you've heard has touched you please tell us about it.
You can leave us a review on Apple, Stitcher or whatever platform you listen on. Reviews help this podcast to show up more often in the recommendations so new people can find us This episode was produced by Erika free with additional story production and editing by Kelly Campbell, Erika free and me KaRyn Lay. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six studios, our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast–all 79 of them and other LDS Living podcasts at LDS living.com/podcasts Have a great day.