Since last I sent out a Bittersweet Farm Journal we enjoyed an Indian Summer that reached into November. Along with my regular duties at Bethel I preached at a men’s retreat up north and a camp directors conference. I met some new friends at the conference and I was invited to some new places, a family camp in Wisconsin, and camp on an Island in Ohio. You heard me right—an island in Ohio.
My time with the camp directors was cut short when I had to leave to drive to Kentucky to preach the funeral of Lois’s aunt. The drive to and from Kentucky was beautiful as usual. driving across the Ohio River, as we have done on our way to Kentucky for over forty years, we thought of Aunt Jean and all that she did for Lois and her siblings and cousins. She gave and gave to each of them all her life. We gathered to say goodbye out on the hillside just outside of Campton, where Lois was born, visited the graves of some of her beloved, and made our way home, driving and talking into the night.
When the seasons turn, I feel like organizing things. One day recently I spent some time organizing my pens and puttering around with my old journals. Reading old journals surfaced an old memory. I will tell about it in this week’s story:
Today I stumbled upon an old journal entry written on a Saturday night in the nineties. I was only 37 years old. Lois and I had five children at the time and things were hard for us that year. They had been especially hard since 1990 when we started the church. Those were bittersweet times. I worked a series of jobs to provide for our family. I worked for UPS, a factory, assembling swing sets, helping a friend with a window washing and power washing business, and finally a really good opportunity with an insurance company.
During that time the rent was high and the family was growing, but the income was not. It was a time when our faith was taking root. Those were days I cherish now, when all the family was together all the time and God supplied all we needed – every last thing by his grace. Until the day that I die I will cherish the memories of that time.
Lois worked every day making crafts which I sold wherever I could. One night I drove up into the Amish country to sell some dolls so I would have gas to get the church the next day and food to feed the family. Everyone turned me down all afternoon, until I got to my last stop. It was only minutes before closing. I will always believe the owner could read the despair on my face when he bought those dolls that night. Sometimes God supplied what we needed in the most unusual way. Often it was at the last minute, but he was faithful to supply.
Our meals during that time were abundant but they were simple. Potato soup and homemade whole wheat bread with real butter, spaghetti, goulash, tuna casserole, mac and cheese with tuna sandwiches, grilled cheese and tomato soup, and Little Caesars; “Yes-you-have-to-eat-your-crust-before-you-can-have-another-piece.” When we were out everyone got a soft drink for a quarter at Woosley’s or we would go to Meijer and we would all split a $.99 two-liter because the cups of ice were always free at Meijer, bless them for that, bless them one and all.
One Saturday night during this time I was trying to prepare my heart for the Lord’s day. It had been a very very difficult week. Our mower didn’t work and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it or afford to have it fixed. Our family van was not running. The fuel pump gave out and I could not afford the over $300 bill it would take to repair it. Sometimes to get my mind and my spirit going I will sit down with my journal and just begin to write out my prayer to the Lord. I must’ve done that on that night. My prayer was sad and it was desperate. I poured out my soul to the Lord. I confessed my sin. I complained to him about my need.
“My cars don’t run and I can’t fix them. My mower won’t work. I owe bills and taxes. I don’t own a home of own. I feel like a failure. I am supposed to preach tomorrow, but I don’t feel like I have anything to say. Help me, Lord.”
The other day, when I read that prayer again, I had the advantage of looking back twenty-five years… twenty-five years of God’s kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and faithfulness. From where I am today I can see how abundantly he answered that prayer in every way.
The next day there was a new man in the church. During the message I must have mentioned my frustration. As he left he gave me some advice. He said, “Fix it yourself. Drop that tank. Jump in with both feet. If you try and you can’t fix it, you can go ahead and have it towed and repaired but you have a little or nothing to lose, so go for it.”
Early the next morning on my day off I got up and prayed and started taking bolts of the underside of the car until the gas tank came free. The tank was empty so that made my work a little easier. I spent all day on it and by the end of the day just as the sun was setting I asked Lois to get in and turn the key. When she did, the engine sprang to life. I was surprised and delighted and filled with praise. That car ran well for years after that and after I sold it and moved away people would call me and say, “I remembered you today when I saw your old car.” (It was unique because it was dented like no other car in the county).
I had saved over $270 and repaired my van for $30. We raised eight children. None of them starved or suffered. We travelled and ministered to thousands of people. God has given us our own home. We have late-model cars that work. We have more than we need. We can tell you from personal experience, God is faithful.
I know. I have old journals that the story of God’s faithfulness over and over again. You can trust him. We are passing through a trial, a world-wide trial these days. Sit down and write out the burdens on your heart. They will make great reading one day.
November 17, 2020