I opened the car door and just stared at the empty space. Where was my bag? I performed high powered computations—Did I bring my church bag? Yes. We came straight from church and so I had my church bag. Did I leave it there? Yes, it was right there. We thought it would be safe and not visible there.
My friend Barbie Dodson parked her car in the parking garage next to the Honolulu Tabernacle and we’d just enjoyed a spectacular two hours of Christmas music celebration.
When she backed the car out, we found her bag that had been full of choir music and binders. Apparently the thieves weren’t interested in our next week’s musical number. But the music and binder were all trashed and had been shoved under the car.
I shook off the shock. What to do? I thought that thieves might not be particularly interested in my church bag either. I couldn’t even face what had been lost at that point. I told Barbie I’d check all the parking structure’s garbage cans and the exits to see if I could find it tossed or strewn along a path. She said she’d drive up and down the structure, looking under cars and in corners for my bright, orange Hawaiian bag—made for me by a very special friend on Maui.
Praying for Guidance
Then, suddenly, I stopped and asked Barbie to pray with me. I knew she had to work at 5 AM. I had no idea how long this search would take. I wanted to pray for confirmation that we should spend the time looking. I asked her to listen for the Spirit. I felt like I might be too scattered to hear a quiet prompting.
As I prayed, a distinct thought came to mind. “What was lost can be found.” I told Barbie. We sprang to action—her driving and looking, me climbing stairs and checking garbage cans. I got locked in one of the stairwells and was super glad I’d followed the gentle nudging to run back to the car and grab my phone at the last minute so I could call Barbie and she could rescue me.
I followed the exits, checking a massively full dumpster right outside of the parking structure. Not there. I walked around to the front and met Barbie. She thought it possible that the thieves could have dumped the bag in the thick foliage along the sidewalks. I walked the block, checking trash cans.
I went the other direction, past the Tabernacle towards Foodland, a grocery store. I walked the parking lot and the loading/unloading spots and the dumpsters and the foliage. Then I walked back around past the pleasant homeless folks on the sidewalk, still checking everywhere I could think of.
It was so late. Barbie had to be up in a few hours to leave for work. She expressed willingness to continue the search, but I didn’t know where else to look. We sat in the middle of Honolulu, Hawaii, surrounded by infinite possibilities. We started our journey back to Ewa Beach.
I felt comforted by the answer to my prayer—What was lost can be found. I felt confident the bag would turn up in a lost and found or find its way to me.
Tabulating the Loss
But my heartbreak ravaged my mind as Barbie asked what my bag contained. The most devastating lost item was my scriptures. I’d received them as a birthday gift from my parents in 1991, right before leaving the country on a study abroad to Israel. They accompanied me to my mission in Scotland, to BYU, to Germany, to Hawaii, on vacations, through seven years of single life and 19 years of marriage.
Not only were they falling apart from being so loved, I’d notated significant events next to scriptures that impacted my life. I’d carried a picture of Anthony at our wedding tucked into the pages since the day the picture was developed. I don’t have the negatives anymore—or another copy of it.
A Post-it note message from a beautiful girl, Trisha, who absolutely changed and influenced my life, had been stuck into the front cover since she gave it to me in 1999. My collection of favorite quotes, my facsimile study notes, all of the markings from years of daily study, my patriarchal blessing, all added to make this treasure the touchstone of my spiritual life’s journey. It represented my entire identity. I cried.
I’d lost my set of church keys. Oh, I felt shame. The bag had my driver’s license, my complex gate key, my Church Handbook of Instructions, and my binders/notes/clipboards/papers for my calling, even a reimbursement check, and receipts for reimbursement, my last tube of yummy lip balm made by a friend, a pad of emoticon faces from another friend, socks that I kept in there in case I needed to play the organ. During church, a friend gifted me a wonderful bottle of kefir because I’d just killed my previous attempt. Another friend had just given me temple names to take to the temple that week! Those were in the bag. That particular Sunday, the bag brimmed to the top of random and unimportant things to anyone but me.
Anthony suggested I file a police report since I’d lost my driver’s license specifically. The cops came and asked what was in the bag. Uhmmmm. Yeah. I appreciated their compassion even though I’m pretty sure they didn’t quite understand why I cried over a Bible, keys, and a bag.
Lost and Founds
What was lost can be found.
I bought a new burgundy quad at the distribution center that week—because I needed one. But I couldn’t bring myself to actually open it, because I knew my old one would come back to me. I just studied scriptures on my phone. Three weeks after purchasing them, I finally opened them during the Sacrament last Sunday. I love to read John 17 during the Sacrament. And I don’t like doing it on my phone, because I’m easily distracted.
I needed that soul renewal. So I opened the plastic protective liner, flipped them over, and opened the book. I felt transported to an alien world. The pages were stiff and unrecognizable. But those stiff pages fell open to John 18 “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.” He finds the lost. I’ve felt lost so many times.
This little tender mercy felt astronomical. MY scriptures opened to John 17/John 18 because it’s my most read chapter. It suddenly felt OK to have opened these new scriptures—like the Lord knew that I hadn’t lost faith that my others would come back to me.
At home after lunch, I laid on the couch to take a quick zap nap. Almost as soon as my eyes closed, I had the thought “Go to the Tabernacle and check the lost and founds.” I sat up and googled the wards’ meeting times. I had 40 minutes to make it downtown before the last ward finished. I hadn’t gone before for a number of reasons. I felt like this prompting must mean my bag would finally come home.
I jumped in the FJ and headed joyfully to Honolulu. Everything felt perfect and beautiful. I arrived at 3:56pm, with four minutes to spare. I found the librarians at their posts and asked about my bag.
They told me about another library in a building that’s used for church on the other side of the complex. I found it easily, though I’d never seen it before. Someone in that building directed me to the library. The sisters there, eager to help, pulled out their lost and found box.
No bright orange bag full of treasures.
They said I could take a stuffed animal if I wanted. I declined.
I slowly walked back to the truck feeling confused. I walked the foliage trails again, recognizing that futility. I sat in the truck praying for direction. I KNEW I’d heard a prompting to go and see. And I did. I wondered if my speeding to get there in time negated my ability to hear the Holy Ghost.
I decided to try Foodland’s lost and found. Did Foodland even have a lost and found? Yes, they do. I waited my turn in line. What was lost can be found. What was lost can be found. “Do you have a bright orange bag in your lost and found?”
No, they didn’t have my bag.
I slowly walked back to the truck. A soft breeze caressed my cheek as the tears began to fall. I felt a propulsion of emotion as I climbed into the truck. Was it really gone? How was that possible?
And what about my prayer? I’d gotten an answer!!
What Was Lost Can Be Found
Oh. Oh. My mind filled with images of items that were lost being found—my new scriptures, a reissued reimbursement check, a new tube of lip balm (though not as good), a new driver’s license, reprinted temple names already completed, the use of another bag given me by another dear friend.
At that moment, I knew that had I not followed the prompting to check those lost and founds, I would never have understood the answer to my prayer. I thought I did understand it. It seemed pretty obvious. I interpreted “What was lost can be found” based on my immediate circumstances as a foregone conclusion.
I felt the Lord gently tell me that I can fill new scriptures with journal entries, and new motivational quotes, and new favorite markings. He promised to teach me again and more about the facsimiles and Isaiah and the apocalyptic scriptures which fascinate me. He promised that the foundation my previous beloved scriptures represented could become a step to higher thoughts and a deeper conversion and a stronger relationship with Him. He promised that while things were lost, nothing substantial and eternal was lost.
Those beloved scriptures represented so many facets of my identity. I wonder if everyone can relate to things, touchstones, that represent them, who they are and their identity. My identity’s changed dramatically from age 19 to 45, but I clung to those scriptures as that consistent part of me, my faith and hope in God and salvation, and who I am and can be as a child of God.
After the tears subsided, and I considered the Lord’s promises, one overriding thought with a challenge came to mind.
From 3 Nephi 12:47 “Old things are done away, and all things have become new.”
And Doctrine and Covenants 25:10 “And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.”
Maybe it is time to graduate from that cherished touchstone and identity, maybe the Lord thinks I can and that I’m ready in spite of the flaws and weaknesses I bump into every day. And as I point out those limitations to Him, He answers that concern and gives me a Way when I read His prayer to Heavenly Father—where I hear Him pray for me, and where I begin to sense eternal possibilities.
“And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. … Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Because in Jesus, what was lost can be found.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.