Finding the One

Jason called me this afternoon from work to remind me that due to our January Santa Bill Recovery Phase, I needed to eat less and tighten up the budget this pay period or else.

So what did I do? Why, I did what any careful, frugal woman would do in my situation: I ran right out and bought myself a fish tank.

A month ago I was thinking and praying about Rex turning 8 this year. I feel like it’s important that he has a basic understanding of the Gospel before he gets baptized and I couldn’t think of how to make that happen. We read the scriptures every day but that kind of application goes right over his head. He’s got some cognitive learning difficulties in the memory and application part of his little brain so Gospel stuff is particularly difficult for him.

Then it came to me. We need a fish tank.

Not just any fish tank, but an Article of Faith Fish Tank. What better way to know the basic princples of the Gospel than to memorize them? Rex has been begging for some fish and since a fish tank comes with so many moveable parts, I decided we could spend some time this year earning the “13 parts” of a tank to get him ready for his Fish Tank Baptism (too much?).

This weekend Rex memorized the First Article of Faith, or in our house the Fish Tank Article (this will be followed up next week with #2, or the Rocks Article).

I’ve been looking through our local American classified ads for a cheap fish tank and found about a dozen that would fit the bill. But with Jason’s stern warning that I cut all spending until next week I decided to lay off and wait.

I’ve had half a dozen people offer me their fish tanks at give-away prices so I wasn’t worried about finding one eventually. But for whatever reason I ended up driving to a girl’s house on my way home from piano lessons with my last $40 of grocery money so I could buy Rex his Fish Tank. As I pulled in all I could think was how much I’m going to be hating that fish tank by next Wednesday.

I knocked on the door and it opened.

“Oh!” she said. Did she look familiar? She pointed at me, “I know you.”

“You do…” I said.

“I know you from Church,” she said.

“Of course!” I’ve been out of the Ramstein ward for months but felt confident we’d met at least once. We followed her into the living room where her big fish tank was set up. For the next ten minutes we talked fish. Catfish, guppies, gold fish, mollies (named for Jason’s old girlfriend, an ugly fish we will never own because it would probably die of unknown causes while Rex was away at school), this girl knew everything about fish.

“The tank is upstairs if you want to follow me,” she said.

We headed up to her bedroom. “It’s been sitting on a sticky pad to keep it still, I’ll just loosen it  up and it’s all yours!”

Now the Ramstein ward is very, very large. It’s probably the largest active congregation I’ve ever attended and with the rapid fire turnover it’s very easy to lose people in the shuffle. As we visited I wondered where this girl fell in the religion department. Active? Less active? Not active? Please leave me alone already?

She reached around the fish tank to gently rock it free as we visited. It wouldn’t budge. For five minutes she tried to move that tank with zero luck.

Since we were obviously going to be there for a while trying to unstick the tank I decided, why not? Can’t hurt to ask. “So how’s the church situation?” And just like that the floodgates opened. We talked about God and her husband who is not a member of our church. We talked about trying to go every Sunday alone and how good she felt being there, that even though it was hard to get there taking the sacrament was worth it. She said she missed Heavenly Father in her life. Those are tender words to hear from someone and I loved her for sharing them with me.

Then I learned that her man had deployed for a year two Octobers ago and she’d ended up staying here for emergency foot surgery. The Relief Society had no idea she was still in the country, they thought she went back to stay with family during his deployment then moved from Germany last fall. No one knew she was here. No one saw her slip into the back of the chapel on Sundays or slip out before the meeting had ended. Only her Heavenly Father, and I felt the gentle hands of the Shepherd bringing her back.

And just as our conversation about life and religion was winding down her husband got home and the angels decided to let go of the fish tank and it popped right off of there.

I tried calling the Relief Society President of the Ramstein ward on my way home to give her this girl’s information but the line was busy. Vowing to do it later I put the phone in my back pocket and unloaded the car, starting dinner.

About half an hour after arriving home I was standing at the stove cooking when my phone rang. I picked it out of my pocket and saw the RS President’s name on the caller ID. Thinking she had called me back I put the phone to my ear.

But she hadn’t called me back. Apparently I had called her, or my butt had called her or most likely, the angels had called her. Someone wanted to make sure I did not let that lovely girl go unnoticed for one more hour.

Our stake theme this year is “Finding the One.” Tonight I understood exactly why the one is so important.


  1. I sometimes get a feeling that Someone cares, too. Thanks for sharing this awesome story.

  2. Annie This story brought tears to my eyes! You were used as an instrument in this sweet woman’s life as well as in the RS presidents life. I know all to well how she feels–having a husband who has gone in and out of activity for the last few years and moving several time—trying to fit into a ward where you feel like you’ve been skipped over or forgotten is so hard. I thank my Heavenly Father daily for the friend I’ve made (when reading this I got the distinct impression that my friend is very similar to you) and the courage it took for her to approach me and ask how I was doing…one simple phrase changed my outlook! You did good and you will be blessed for it as will your new friend!

  3. I love the fish tank idea. Even more, I love the story about the Lord being aware of all his children. It’s something I sometimes have a hard time remembering, and this was a beautiful reminder. Thanks!

  4. You’re making me cry again. Why does this keep happening?! I have to tell you Annie, I am so thankful for you! A lot of blogs/facebook/etc lately are making me disenchanted with the internet, I am tired of questioning and complaining and pushing and contention. I think I need to move to Germany so I can get away from this mess! Or I can just stay off the internet… 😉 But in all seriousness, I am grateful for your perspective and how you share your testimony so willingly. You rock.

  5. I love it! Thanks for being brave enough to start talking to her about church. I need to be more open! Thanks for your post.

  6. Love it, and I love you! What a great story, it makes me want to pray more to be an instrument in God’s hands for other people. And good luck with the fish tank, I’m sure Rex will love it and it sounds like it’s working already!

  7. You are brave to have even asked that question. I find myself knowing that I need to ask people things to get them to open up. But I always clam up!

  8. You are such a great writer. I love it! Thanks for sharing this. I need to be more open to those angels sometimes!