Marcella frowned as she tried to wiggle her toes in her shoes. The shoes were too small and they hurt, but she knew she shouldn’t complain. At six years old, she knew there was no money for new ones.
The past year had been hard for the Nelson family. In May, Marcella’s tiny baby sister had died of pneumonia. And just six weeks later, her father, Eric, had been killed in an accident at work. How she missed her gentle father.
Now Marcella’s mother was struggling to support her two young daughters with her sewing. Even though she was a skilled seamstress, there wasn’t enough money. The kitchen cupboards in their small home were practically bare. No, bigger shoes just weren’t an option right now.
“Time for breakfast,” Mother called. Marcella struggled not to limp in the tight shoes as she walked to the table.
“Oh, honey.” Her mother knelt at her side. “Those shoes are too small for you, aren’t they?” Marcella could hear the worry in her mother’s voice.
“A little.” Marcella tried to sound unconcerned. “It’s all right.”
“You’re trying to be brave,” Mother said gently. “But I can see they hurt. I will try to get you some new ones soon.”
“I want new shoes too!” piped up little Arvella.
Their mother picked Arvella up in a big hug. “You know your shoes are just fine,” she said. Arvella’s shoes were hand-me-downs from Marcella. They were worn, but at least they fit properly.
Arvella stuck her bottom lip out. “I want new shoes too,” she repeated obstinately. Marcella and her mother smiled at each other. Arvella didn’t understand their difficult position, and somehow her innocence made them feel better. They talked and laughed as they ate breakfast and cleaned up.
Suddenly Mother became serious again. “Girls,” she said slowly, “we need to go to town today. I have $2.50.”
Marcella couldn’t believe it! That was a lot of money in Utah in 1905. “That’s great!” she exclaimed. She imagined the food they could buy to stock their empty shelves. Maybe she could even get new shoes!
Marcella’s smile faded when she saw the tears in her mother’s eyes. “We owe $2.50 for tithing,” she said softly. Then she gathered her girls around her. “I know we are almost out of food. I know that you need new shoes so badly, Marcella. But if we want the Lord to bless us, we must keep His commandments.”
Then she pulled out her worn Bible and turned to Malachi. She read to the girls the Lord’s promise that if they paid tithing, the windows of heaven would open to them.
“What does it mean that the windows of heaven will open?” Arvella asked.
“It means that Heavenly Father will bless us,” Mother said. “It says that we will receive such a great blessing that there won’t be room enough to receive it. I know that we need the Lord’s blessing now more than ever. I believe His promise.”
“I believe it too,” Marcella said.
“Me too,” Arvella chimed in.
“Oh, you are good girls.” Mother pulled them close. “Let’s pray together, and then I am going to take this money straight to the bishop.”
The girls and Mother knelt. Mother asked Heavenly Father for a way to get more food for her little family and shoes for Marcella. After the prayer, they all wiped tears from their eyes. Then, with a smile, Mother said, “Let’s go pay our tithing, girls!”
They walked the short distance to the bishop’s house and gave him the tithing. Although her feet hurt, Marcella enjoyed the walk and the good feeling in her heart. She knew Heavenly Father would bless them.
As they approached their home, they saw Uncle Silas and Aunt Maud pulling up. Both girls ran to Uncle Silas, and he swung them high into the air.
“Hello, Sarah,” Aunt Maud said, giving Mother a quick hug. “We just came to see how you and the girls are doing.”
“Well,” Arvella said seriously, “Marcella’s shoes are too small, but we paid our tithing and it will be fine.”
“Arvella!” Her mother gave her a stern look. “We’re fine, Maud. How is your family?”
They all went into the house and chatted pleasantly. Marcella quickly took off her tight shoes and put them away. She noticed her aunt and uncle looking around the house carefully. Aunt Maud even opened a cupboard as she visited. Too soon, their visitors had to leave.
Later that afternoon, Marcella was surprised to hear a delivery cart outside. It stopped at their home, and a delivery boy came to the door. “A delivery for Sarah Nelson,” he said.
“That’s my mother,” Marcella said.
“But I didn’t order anything,” Mother objected.
Suddenly Uncle Silas appeared in the doorway next to the boy. “It’s for you, Sarah,” he said gently. “You can put everything here on the table,” he directed the delivery boy.
The boy brought in bags of food. The girls danced around the table in delight. They hugged Uncle Silas, who quickly excused himself to go home. There was so much food! Sugar, beans, flour and cornmeal, cured meats and dried fruit—the cupboards would be full! Last of all, the delivery boy brought a small package wrapped in brown paper to the table.
After the delivery boy left, the girls approached the small package. What could be inside? First Marcella and then Arvella shook it. Then Marcella carefully pulled back the paper. Into her lap fell not one, but two pairs of shoes! Marcella picked up the largest pair and put them on. They fit perfectly, and she happily wiggled her toes in complete comfort.
Then she saw Arvella’s face. Her sister had picked up the second pair of shoes and was staring at them in delight. She looked at her mother in wonder. “I thought you said I didn’t need shoes, Mama,” she said questioningly.
“Your old shoes would do,” her mother said through her tears. “But when Heavenly Father opens the windows of heaven, you never know what might pour down.”
“Do you want the windows of heaven opened to you? Do you wish to receive blessings so great there is not room enough to receive them? Always pay your tithing and leave the outcome in the hands of the Lord.”
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2004, 41.