I remember a day one winter that stands out like a boulder in my life. The weather was unusually cold; our salary had not been regularly paid and it did not meet our needs when it was.
My husband was away much of the time, traveling from one district to another. Our boys were well, but my little Ruth was ailing and at best none of us were decently clothed. I patched and re -patched, with spirits sinking to the lowest ebb. The water gave out in the well and the wind blew through the cracks in the floor.
The people in the parish were kind, and generous too, but the settlement was new and each family was struggling for itself. Little by little, at the time I needed it most, my faith began to waver.
Early in life I was taught to take God at His word, and I thought my lesson was well learned. I had lived upon the promises in dark times until I knew, as David did, who was my Fortress and my Deliverer. Now a daily prayer for forgiveness was all that I could offer.
My husband’s overcoat was hardly thick enough for October, and he was often obliged to ride miles to attend some meeting or funeral. Christmas was coming; the children always expected their presents. I remember the ice was thick and smooth and the boys were each craving a pair of skates. Ruth, in some unaccountable way, had taken a fancy that the dolls I had made were no longer suitable; she wanted a nice large one, and insisted on praying for it.
I knew it was impossible, but, oh! how I wanted to give each child his present. It seemed as if God had deserted us. But I did not tell my husband all this. He worked so earnestly and heartily, I supposed him to be as hopeful as ever. I kept the sitting room cheerful with an open fire, and I tried to serve our scanty meals as invitingly as I could.
That morning before Christmas, James was called to see a sick man. I put up a piece of bread for his lunch–it was the best I could do–wrapped my plaid shawl around his neck and then tried to whisper a promise as I often had, but the words died away upon my lips. I let him go without it. That was a dark, hopeless day. I coaxed the children to bed early, for I could not bear their talk. When Ruth went, I listened for her prayer. She asked for the last time most explicitly for her doll and for skates for her brothers. Her bright face looked so lovely when she whispered to me, “You know I think they’ll be here early tomorrow morning, Mama” that I thought I could move Heaven and earth to save her from disappointment. I sat down alone and gave way to the most bitter tears.
Before long James returned, chilled and exhausted. He drew off his boots. The thin stockings clipped off with them and his feet were red with cold. “I wouldn’t treat a dog that way; let alone a faithful servant,” I said. Then as I glanced up and saw the hard lines in his face and the look of despair, it flashed across me that James had let go too.
I brought him a cup of tea, feeling sick and dizzy at the very thought. He took my hand and we sat for an hour without a word. I wanted to die and meet God and tell Him His promise wasn’t true–my soul was so full of rebellious despair.
There came a sound of bells, a quick step and a loud knock at the door. James sprang to open it. There stood Deacon White. “A box came by express just before dark. I brought it around as soon as I could get away. Reckoned it might be for Christmas. ‘At any rate’ I said, ‘they shall have it tonight.’ Here is a turkey my wife asked me to fetch along and these other things I believe belong to you.”
There were a basket of potatoes, and a bag of flour. Talking all the time, he hurried in the box and then with a hearty good night, he rode away.
Still without speaking, James found a chisel and opened the box. He drew out first a thick red blanket and we saw that beneath it, the box was full of clothing. It seemed at that moment as if Christ fastened upon me a look of reproach. James sat down and covered his face with his hands. “I can’t touch them,” he explained. “I haven’t been true, just when God was trying me to see if I could hold out. Do you think I could not see how you were suffering? And I had no word of comfort to offer. I know now how to preach the awfulness of turning away from God.”
“James,” I said, clinging to him, “don’t take it to heart like this. I am to blame. I ought to have helped you. We will ask Him together to forgive us.” We poured out words of praise–Bible words, for nothing else could express our thanksgiving. It was eleven o’ clock; the fire was low and there was the great box with nothing touched but the warm blanket we needed. We piled on some fresh logs, lighted two candles and began to examine our treasures.
We drew out an overcoat. I made James try it on–just the right size–and I danced around him, for all my lightheartedness had returned. There was a cloak and he insisted on seeing me in it. My spirits always infected him and we both laughed like foolish children.
There was a warm suit of clothes also and three pairs of woolen hose. There were a dress for me and yards of flannel, a pair of arctic overshoes for each of us and in mine a slip of paper. I have it now and mean to hand it down to my children. It was Jacob’s blessing to Asher: “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days so shall thy strength be.”
In the gloves, evidently for James, the same dear hand had written: “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” It was a wonderful box and packed with thoughtful care. There were a suit of clothes for each of the boys and a little red gown for Ruth. There were mittens, scarf, and hood, and down in the center–a box. We opened it and there was a great wax doll!! I burst into tears again and James wept with me for joy. It was too much! And then we both exclaimed again, for close behind it came two pairs of skates. There were books for us to read–some of them I had wished to see–stories for the children to read, aprons and underclothing, knots of ribbon, a gay little tidy, a lovely photograph, needles, buttons, and thread, a muff, and an envelope containing a ten dollar gold piece.
At last we cried over everything we took up. It was past midnight and we were faint and exhausted even with happiness. I made a cup of tea, cut a fresh loaf of bread and James boiled some eggs. We drew up the table before the fire. How we enjoyed our supper! And then we sat talking over our life and how sure a help God always proved.
You should have seen the children the next morning! The boys raised a shout at the sight of their skates–Ruth caught up her doll and hugged it tightly without a word; then she went into her room and knelt by her bed. When she came back she whispered to me, “I knew it would be here Mama, but I wanted to thank God just the same, you know.”
“Look here, Wife, see the difference!” We went to the window and there were the boys out of the house already and skating on the crust with all their might. My husband and I both tried to return thanks to the church in the East that sent us the box–and have tried to return thanks unto God every day since.
Hard times have come again and again, but we have trusted in Him–dreading nothing so much as a doubt of His protecting care. “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.”
Reprinted by permission from Lizzie at A Dusty Frame. She typed it up from a very old book, The Sword Book of Treasures by Dr. John R. Rice, published in 1946 gem.
Advent is a personal thing.
Perhaps you attend a denomination that celebrates with certain liturgical rituals. That’s great. Rituals bring meaning and reverence to our worship. Perhaps your church doesn’t celebrate Advent. Perhaps you’ve never even heard of Advent.
Advent is simply a way to focus our thoughts and our hearts on Jesus and the celebration of His birth, death, resurrection, and His offer of salvation to us. It’s a time of reflection and heart searching. It is a personal, holy thing. What you do isn’t as important as what you do in your heart.
We light candles on an Advent wreath each night in December, read our Advent Book, pray, and on good nights, sing a carol. Do we do it every night? No. We miss a few, but that’s okay. We just pick up the next night and keep going.
I encourage you to focus on Jesus as the excitement of Christmas continues to mount.
Christmas Blessings from Harvest Lane Cottage,
Someone recently asked me why we homeschool. This is what I told her.
I was trained as a teacher in college. I didn’t find a position right out of school, so I went to work in insurance. When my first son was born, after much prayer and many discussions with my husband, we decided that I’d be a stay-at-home mom until he started school.
As school age approached, I became aware of homeschooling through Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program and through some books that crossed my path. After research and prayer, my husband and I became convicted that it was God’s will for our family to homeschool. My son also had some special needs that we felt could be handled best in a home environment. We’ve been homeschooling since 1995.
So, here are some of our reasons:
1. We believe that God gave us, as parents, the responsibility to teach and train our children.
2. We believe that we are to protect the innocence of our children as well as physically protect our children.
3. We believe our family is closer because we live life together on a daily basis.
When our family grew, our little school did as well. I’ve found that there are some advantages:
1. Learning takes place at each child’s pace rather than trying to keep up with a class or wait for a class.
2. Children thrive with individual attention.
3. Negative influences from peers are limited.
4. I can teach them truth from God’s Word as absolute truth. All other subjects, especially science, are viewed from that biblical perspective.
5. My children are better socialized than school children. They know how to interact with adults and children well. Homeschool groups and church provide playmates.
6. They have more time for following individual interests. One of my daughters writes worship songs and participates on our worship and dance teams at church. One of my sons is teaching himself to make knives and raises animals. My youngest enjoys sewing and crafts.
7. They’re not afraid of speaking in front of people.
This is reprinted from my other blog, Harvest Lane Cottage.
You know, sometimes we just don’t feel like praising God. The drain’s clogged, your kid has poison ivy, a black snake is eating your chickens’ eggs, what you plant doesn’t grow, the kids track dirt or whatever in, the car won’t start, the air conditioner is broken, it can be any number of things. There’s always going to be something, isn’t there? It’s just one thing after another. Ever wonder why?
We truly have had a rough time for the last few years. BUT GOD has brought us through every single trial. In fact, He has shown himself so faithful, I just don’t get as upset or angry or worried as I used to. I know that most of the things I worry about are out of my control. They are totally in God’s control. He WILL take care of the problems one way or another. My job is to pray and let Him be in control.
So we pray, we give it all back to him to carry, and we praise the Lord even when we don’t feel like it through Jesus!
Don’t be afraid. What can happen? So what if you get caught? Do you think anyone will be shocked? Maybe. But you know, I’m sure He shocked quite a lot of folks Himself.
A couple of nights ago, I was walking through Wal-Mart with my friend Ellen. We saw a friend and stopped to talk. She was rather unsettled because she’d just learned that her husband was going on a business trip out of the country the next morning. Very short notice. We talked and encouraged. Then, right there in front of God and everyone, I did it! I prayed! No one panicked. God heard and my friend was blessed and encouraged.
A little while later, we were passing the electronics department. I overheard a lady telling her co-worker that her foot was really hurting. I walked on by; then, I stopped. It was clear that she needed prayer. Was I going to obey God and pray with her? The Holy Spirit gave me the boldness to turn around and ask her, “May I pray with you?” She eagerly said yes and told me the problem. I prayed with her right then and there aloud. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Faith also comes by hearing someone pray for you in in faith. I hope that faith was imparted to this lady as well as healing power from God through Jesus Christ.
If we don’t start doing things like this now, how will we have the courage to do them when things get tougher for Christians?
Just Something to Think About…
Many of the writers of the blogs I’ve been reading as well as many of my readers are facing uncertain times. Many are facing lower incomes or loss of employment. It is frightening. We ladies like our security. We like our comforts, whatever they may be. We like knowing that the bills will be paid, that we can buy groceries, shoes for the kids, whatever we need, and a few extras.
Over the last five years my husband went from $60 K job to now working part-time for less than $300 a week. He’s looking for full-time work and has been for months. Our reality has changed dramatically. Life doesn’t look like I thought it would or even like I’d like it to; but, I’m getting so much closer to God through this. God has provided in amazing ways. We were able to move to a caretaker’s cottage and take care of a country estate four the absentee owner in return for rent. Money has come from unexpected sources with perfect timing. Just yesterday I was thinking of some things that our children need. I have no way of providing those things. Today, an envelope arrived with no return address. It was filled with cash. Yes, cash. There was an envelope with the children’s names and an envelope with Lowell and Laura on it. Praise God! We can buy wood so we can keep warm! The children need shoes. We can buy them! Praise God! God is so faithful to take care of us. God bless the sender, who obviously sent it in faith.
My point in sharing this is that you can survive. You’ll have to learn some new skills, learn to be content, learn to make do; but, you can do this. You have to lean into God and get that Word hidden in your heart. Talk to Him. He is great at showing you every bargain if you talk to Him all the way through the store and ask Him to show them to you. God bless you through this!
I’ve written a lot about what God’s done over the last couple of years. Although I write on WordPress now, I have a list of my best writings on the top of my old blog, http://harvestlanecottage.blogspot.com . You might take a look.
Blessings upon blessings to you!