Sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE

Cover image via LDS.org. 

Has your heart ever been swollen with gratitude? Have you ever been so deeply thankful that you felt you might burst? Growing up, I had many reasons to feel grateful. A few random instances stand out in my mind: as a shy second grader moving from out of state two months into the school year, I was deeply grateful to Wendy, a seven-year-old girl who recognized that I desperately needed a friend. As a sports crazy girl in my tween years I was over-the-moon thankful to receive a football for Christmas, along with a t-shirt sporting the number 12 in honor of my college football hero. And at age fifteen I was surprised and grateful to receive a dream job offer to be an accompanist in a voice studio–paid to play the piano. In each of these instances I felt genuinely thankful, but had yet to experience gratitude on a profound, spiritual level.

In 2002, my parents were anticipating a full time mission to Chile. As their preparations were underway, Mom reminded my brother Steve and me that she had written songs to be sung for each of our mission farewells, and strongly hinted that we should each write a song for our parents. Since we always do what Mom asks, we got busy writing. Over the next few days I spent several hours pondering what angle to take in a missionary-themed song but came up with no ideas–it seemed like Mom had already used all the great missionary scriptures in her songs. Eventually, I began sifting through the reasons I chose to go on a mission.

While I was a freshman at BYU, I began to feel the pull to serve as a full-time missionary. For my second semester I signed up for a Mission Prep class, a New Testament class, and a Teachings of the Living Prophets class, as well as a few general ed. courses. This meant that much of my reading and study for school was straight out of the scriptures and the writings of modern prophets. Though I’d always enjoyed seminary, I had never done much more than the required reading. Now, for the first time in my life, I was absolutely immersed in the word of God.

About a month into the semester, after studying, pondering, and praying about the scriptures for hours each day, I was feeling something stirring inside of me. I already had a testimony of the gospel—a nice, healthy bush—but I felt like the boy Jack, who planted a few tiny beans and was rewarded with a beanstalk of surprising proportions. One memorable afternoon, all alone in my apartment after studying and praying, it was just like Alma promised, that if we plant the word of God in our hearts “…it will begin to swell within [you]…and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:28)

As an unexpected benefit of my intense gospel study, something else began to grow inside me: gratitude, warm and beautiful. I can still picture the shabby brown couch where I was sitting when, for the first time, my heart was swollen with gratitude to the Lord—for the scriptures, for living prophets, and for an increased understanding of the great plan of happiness. As I basked in the warmth of the Spirit, this gratitude grew into an intense desire to share the gospel so other people could taste what I was feeling.

Remembering that experience twenty years later, I suddenly knew what I should write about for my parents’ mission farewell. While it might not be a traditional missionary song, it was inspired by the gratitude I felt to the Lord, which led me to serve a mission. King Benjamin expressed this so well:

“…if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you… and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath… I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants…And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever…” (Mosiah 2:20-24)

How I treasure that sacred experience when I first felt my heart swell with gratitude. And how thankful I am that as I consistently search the words of God and His prophets, think deeply on their meaning, and converse with my Maker in prayer, I am able to experience those sweet feelings again and again.

“I cannot repay Him,
even so I’ll try,
and with every breath
He lends to me
I will serve Him until I die.
Oh, I never can forget
I am ever in His debt.”

EVER IN HIS DEBT

Music and lyrics by Lynne Perry Christofferson
Vocalist: Johanne Frechette Perry

I count the stars
against the night,
and stand in awe
at the source of their light.
I treasure flowers,
each stream and tree,
amazed that God grants
such riches to me.

(chorus)
I cannot repay Him,
even so I’ll try,
and with every breath
He lends to me
I will serve Him until I die.
Oh, I never can forget
I am ever in His debt.

He gave me life,
He gives me breath.
He sent a Savior
to overcome death.
When I am weak
I turn to Him.
He sent His Son
to atone for my sins.

(chorus)
I cannot repay Him,
even so I’ll try,
and with every breath
He lends to me
I will serve Him until I die.
Oh, I never can forget
I am ever in His debt.

For brilliant sunlight on my face
and a constant flow of Heaven’s grace
How could I hope to reimburse
the Master of the universe?

(chorus)
I cannot repay Him,
even so I’ll try
and with every breath
He lends to me
I will serve Him until I die.
Oh, I never can forget
I am ever in His debt.
I am ever in His debt.