The cupboards were empty, so were the refrigerator and the freezer – except for the pictures of food I had taped inside each. There were pictures of boxes and cans around the walls of the pantry and the freezer, and photos of plated food in the fridge. “If you can see it, you can achieve it,” I’d heard, but that was several months ago. Nothing happened. No food “magically” appeared. They were still completely bare.
I was forbidden to tell anyone about our financial situation. Because of my former husband’s pride, we did not receive government assistance. We had a small business, but not much business sense. Consequently, the mailbox was stuffed with bills that could not be paid. After a while, I didn’t bother to collect the mail. When our small box filled, the postman moved all the envelopes to the package box. When he could stuff nothing more into that compartment, he put everything in a bin and brought it to our door.
“Do you want your mail? Or shall I return everything?” he asked. His voice was tinged with sarcasm, his look disdainful.
(It’s been almost 30 years since that era of my life, yet when my husband of 17 years asks me to stop so he can pick up the mail, my stomach still ties in knots!)
Where was I? Oh, yes. Wondering what I would feed my four children and husband.
About six months prior to this, I’d happened upon hundred-pound bags of dry pinto beans and of rice. They were very cheap, so I bought one of each. It was a good thing, because shortly after that we had very little money for groceries…milk, diapers, that was about all we could afford.
During all this time we ate beans and rice…rice and beans…beans without rice…and rice without beans. Fortunately, I had a well-stocked spice cabinet, and was able to present varying flavors of these two items. Unless we were invited to dine with someone, we ate beans and rice.
We did get some apples once. We were down to the last one. I’d planned to cut it into quarters and give each child a piece. To my horror, one of the kids spotted the apple and ate the entire thing! When I recall the tongue-lashing delivered for this “vile selfishness,” I feel such humiliation and embarrassment. The responsible child was probably eight years old at the time.
These were the hardest financial times I’d ever faced. I was a mental and emotional wreck, so confused about what was right and wrong. Being a “religious” person, now divorced and remarried, I believed that I was being punished for the sin of divorce. I did my best to keep a good attitude and be strong while I endured the “consequences.” Surely God’s wrath would be spent and “He” would move on to someone else. (Yes, this is what I believed God to be like. Oh, how I maligned His good name and character during that period of my life.)
I crumpled the empty bags and threw them in the trash. Panic and fear wrapped their ugly, cold fingers around my chest.
What am I going to feed my children?
I sensed the Lord ask if He could have a turn at feeding us. What else could I do? I was out of options. I accepted His offer.
Later that afternoon, there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, one of my neighbors was there. She had a problem and wanted to know if I could help her out.
“Our big freezer broke down. There is a ton of food that will go to waste. I’d rather give it away than throw it out. Do you have any room in your freezer?”
Let me move a few of the pictures around, I thought to myself. I could probably fit a “few” things in there!
“Yes, I have room for some food. Are you sure you don’t want any money for it?” I replied. Please say “no.”
“That won’t be necessary. I’m just happy to get rid of the stuff. Can you come help me carry the bags?”
I followed her to the garage. There she filled bags with meat, vegetables, and even ice cream! I was amazed.
For the next several months, this is how it went. A neighbor’s garden produced a bumper crop and they needed to find people who would take the extra vegetables off their hands. One hit a great meat sale, and didn’t have room for all they bought – so they gave it away. Chickens laid more eggs than could be sold. One person after another experienced a surplus of some sort and it ended up in my kitchen.
Most of these people weren’t neighbors, by the way. None were aware of our circumstances. We happened to be there when they needed to unload their “problematic” food!
I began to know God as my Provider. As time went on, the amount of stockpiled food decreased until the cupboards were, once again, empty. Because of my increased faith in the Lord, I would simply thank Him for the meal He would surely provide.
We did not miss a meal during that time. We didn’t have an abundance; what I experienced was more like manna. Enough for the day’s needs, but nothing left over.
Those days are long behind me, but the lessons learned are still fresh in my mind. When I feel my faith sag a bit, I recall the various ways God took care of my family during those years. He used my difficult situations to demonstrate His love and tender care. Being slow to trust Him, the process took many years and various circumstances before I began to completely rely on Him.
God is the most patient of Teachers, for which I am truly grateful!
How have you experienced the goodness of the Lord? I’d love to hear your stories.