I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (Ps. 77:11 -NIV)
I so love this time of year – thanksgiving time! A time to be thankful in all things! Thankful for the air we breathe and the life we have! I know for some, it is a rough time of year – maybe you are facing a hardship, an illness, a loss of someone loved or something, like a job. Maybe it feels like the world is caving in on you. I get it! I may not have been exactly in that place but I do remember a year that was not so bright and this time of year reminds me of that.
It was November 1994, the week before Thanksgiving. The months leading up to that time had been rough ones. My husband Dan had been out of work for a period of time – first he had been laid off, then the place he worked at closed. In July Dan had just been hired by Stanley Works in New Britain. We were living on Maple Street in New Britain – my husband and 4 of our children ages: 13, 11, almost 5 and 3. A couple months after Dan started work, he was in an accident. He was on his way to work when a young man cut him off totaling not only our car, but he also sustained a broken knee along with some other minor injuries which was to put him out of work for many months as it healed. Financially things were super tight as I was only working part time (as paying a babysitter for 4 children would’ve cost almost my whole check) and we were trying to play catch up. In any case, we were doing the best we could. One of the local pastors had loaned us a car, as Dan’s car had been our only vehicle. We knew eventually things would work out once insurance things were settled but that would take way into the New Year.
In any case, you get the picture. Things were pretty gloomy. It was about that time Dan & I talked and we decided to prepare the kids for the upcoming month with Christmas right around the corner. How do you tell your children you can’t afford presents under the tree? The week before Thanksgiving we gathered all 4 children on our bed and told them that this Christmas, Christmas was going to be a very meager and that instead of buying gifts, we would have to be creative and make gifts for each other. Everyone seemed ok with that, excited with what we could make. We ended our family time with a prayer trusting God to make it a good Christmas and to make us happy with all we had, as God had always been faithful and we were trusting Him in this too! (I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12 – New International Version Bible)
I remember after that we all went about our day – the kids went off to play and I went in the kitchen to make supper. A short while after we prayed, we got a phone call. Much to my surprise, it was the pastor who had loaned us the car. He also happened to run a ministry called Christian Fellowship Center that reached out to those in need and had a food kitchen. In any case, the local TV station every year had a program called The Joy of Giving. They had just called him to see if he could refer them to a family who had needs this Christmas and he immediately thought of us! He said that they would like to give us stuff for Thanksgiving and Christmas but the only catch was that they would like to film it and air it on TV. Ok – so can I be real with you? First of all, I was shocked to think that just maybe God had heard the cry of my family so quickly but then the 2nd reality hit me and that is, that it would be on TV! At the time, I was a very private person and the thought of being on TV embarrassed the heck out of me. I said yes, just because we had just prayed, but then when I got off the phone I started to freak out. I went into my room and cried out to God – ‘Lord could this really be you? Isn’t there another way you could do it?’ And I felt like He gave me a choice, He said, ‘you could be selfish and because of your embarrassment and pride, back out of it OR… you could go forward with this, trusting me and let your kids see how much I love them and have heard their cry and want to bless them!’ Wow! Nothing like being heavy, right??
So… we agreed to it and 2 days later there was a camera crew in my home – the first visit they blessed us with a Thanksgiving feast which covered everything from the turkey to the dessert and everything in between, the kids were SO excited!! They took everything out of the box and bags and they marveled that there was everything from potatoes, to rolls, to turkey, to dessert and everything in between! “Look Mom, they even gave us…… (every ingredient possible!)”! The excitement in their voices as they looked everything over was catchy and lifted our spirits. It really was a “Thanks”giving!!
Next came the interview for TV, boy did I struggle with that! I was like, ‘Lord, really? Do we have to do this?’ It would be all over CT and I was not comfortable with that. You know, I like to hide, just leave me alone in my own corner of the world and I’ll do just fine. Ha-ha! In any case, in my quiet time with God, He reminded me again of my children’s prayers and how we ended with, ‘God we trust you in all things’. I felt He spoke to my heart, (1) I want your children to know me as a faithful father and, (2) there are some people who need to give. As I wrestled with it, I remembered the story of Jesus at the well with the woman. He asked her for a glass of water; it wasn’t because he needed a glass of water but she needed to give it and in return ended up with a gift that outweighed her giving (but that story’s for another time).
So the T.V. cameras came and they interviewed Dan and I about the hardships of the past year and then they asked each of the children what they wanted for Christmas: Jessica asked for an Nintendo GameBoy, Rich asked for a ‘hand-held’ game, Rebecca asked for a “Barbie” and Sam, well Sam couldn’t ask for anything – realistically, we were just beginning to realize he was probably autistic as he had lost all speech he had, which was a whole other heartache that we weren’t ready to deal with just yet!
The clip aired a few short days later and the Christmas that ‘wasn’t going to be’ ended up being ‘one that we would never forget’. The outpouring of love began to come in. Family and friends who didn’t know the fullness of our situation started to pour in with love both financially and emotionally.
Recently I found my journal from that season and my son had asked if we could have a real tree that year. I knew we couldn’t afford one but then the local United Way called and asked if they could come over; they came with a crew and brought a real live Christmas tree and a ton of food! Shortly before Christmas one of the local pastors called and said he would like to come over, he was dressed as Santa Clause and had several big black garbage bags of presents for the kids – oh what fun it was for the kids! Not only did Jessica get her “Game Boy”, Rich got his “hand-held game” and Becky got Barbie and Barbie and Barbie and Barbie – hahaha – more “Baabie’s” then she knew what to do with (and no, that’s not a typo- that’s how a sweet, almost 5-year-old with cute curly hair shyly asks for a doll)!
Never did I think I would ask God to stop blessing me but there came a point in that season that I was so overwhelmed with blessings, and humbled by them that I did ask Him to stop. It was more than I could ever imagine, ask or think.
There were many lessons learned through that whole ordeal. One was that it is o.k. to pray about everything, God is concerned even with your slightest need. Granted, He doesn’t want us to go to Him only when we have need because He desires to have real relationship with us through all of life’s ups and downs but in that season, my kids saw how much He cared. Another lesson was that it’s o.k. to be specific and make your request known. I remember my son saying, heck if I had known I would’ve gotten a ‘Game Boy’ over a ‘hand-held game’, I would’ve been specific because Jess got her Game Boy and Beck got a ton of Barbie’s! Hahaha! I learned that even though I love to give, there are times I need to be able to receive with grace. I have often thought of all the people who gave to us through that time and prayed that God would bless them in abundance in return. It was one of the most memorable thanksgivings we had!