Another Short Story…
Several years ago, on a Saturday evening in early February , I tried to focus on the Sunday school lesson I was to teach in the morning. My attention, however, was on the bulging file of unpaid bills that lay on the desk. A recession was bankrupting our construction business. Loan officers had been calling about the car and mortgage payments.
With determination, I forced myself to read the lesson about Joshua. After crossing the Jordan into Canaan, Joshua had admonished the Israelites to keep telling the story of God’s deliverance to future generations. The lesson plan suggested that each person relate personal or family stories of faith to the class, then go home and tell the story to a child or grandchild.
I knew that God had answered many prayers for me through the years, but I could think of nothing very dramatic to repeat to the class or to my eleven‑year‑old daughter, Meribeth. I finally decided to tell the story my Dad had often repeated, “The Tomato Juice Story.”
Meribeth listened politely to the story of how my college-student parents had nothing to eat but a quart of tomato juice that turned out to be spoiled. Dad and Mom had prayed for food at 10:00 in the morning and at noon friends, who lived several hours away, had arrived with bags of groceries. Although I tried to show how God had supplied my parents’ need, I had the impression that the forty‑year‑old event seemed irrelevant to Meribeth. When she left the room, I felt that I had failed to communicate God’s faithfulness to her. I thought, “I wish she could see God at work in her generation.”
The weekend passed. Monday, I drained our bank accounts in order to keep the phone from being disconnected. Although we had a couple contracts that would provide future income, our only hope of immediate income was from one unanswered job proposal.
Late that afternoon, after using our last five dollars to buy milk and bread, I drove home through drizzling rain. In the kitchen, I placed the small bag of groceries on the table and picked up the pile of mail. It was all bills except one item ‑ the rejected job proposal.
When my husband, Dave, went out later to talk to a prospective client, I added the new bills to the overflowing file. Sitting in a daze, I wondered, “How can God ever bring good out of a situation like this?”
Meribeth tiptoed in and said, “I forgot to tell you, Mom, I need valentines for school.”
Pulling her to my side, I said, “I haven’t wanted to worry you, but you need to know. We have no money.”
“Get some at the bank,” she said.
“You don’t understand, Meribeth, we are out of money. We don’t have any in the bank. We have one dollar. We don’t even have money for food.”
She looked shocked and a little terrified then offered the coins in her piggy bank.
“We are going to pray about this,” I told her. “We aren’t going to tell anyone that we need money, except God. We’re going to ask for food and valentines.”
“Is this like the ‘Tomato Juice Story’?” she asked.
“Yes, this is like the ‘Tomato Juice Story.'” After we prayed that night, she went to bed and I waited for Dave. He came home with good news about a future contract, but no deposit money. I didn’t tell him about Meribeth’s need for valentines or our prayer.
The next morning, when Meribeth walked out the front door to catch the school bus, Dave and I were both in the living room entry. She stepped back into the house and held out a large brown-paper grocery bag, “What’s this, Dad?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, taking it from her. “It’s light. Maybe someone’s playing a joke on us.”
Cautiously, he opened the bag and pulled out a white envelope. He peeked in it and gasped, then gasped again. He pulled a thin slip of white paper from the envelope and read, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory.” And then he pulled out a single one-hundred-dollar bill, and then a second one-hundred-dollar bill. Meribeth looked stunned for a minute. Then she said, “It’s like the ‘Tomato Juice Story’ isn’t it?”
A horn sounded and as she raced to catch the bus, she called back, “Can you get a box of valentines, today?”
We never discovered who left the bag at our door, but the money provided valentines and food until we had income. With time, we recovered financially, and many unpleasant memories of that recession faded. For a long time I wondered if Meribeth recognized the dramatic way in which God had shown faithfulness to her generation.
Several years later, after Meribeth had graduated from high school, she attended a home Bible study with me. The leader asked us to relate personal accounts of God’s miraculous answers to prayer. Meribeth whispered to me, “Should I tell about the valentines?”
Martha Hawn VanCise ©2014 www.signpostsonhightrails.com