Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cat Food and Peanut Butter

Cat food and peanut butter…it’s what’s for dinner

Just kidding…this is not a recipe post.  It is, however a long one.  It's a story about my God, his faithfulness and the incredible things He does.  So grab some tea and settle in. I promise it’s worth it.

By God’s providence and foreknowledge, I lost my job a week after I came home from Africa. I was devastated, humiliated, and heartbroken. The families I served through the charter school for the past several years had found a tender place in my heart and I truly loved being with them and watching the children grow. It was such an honor to be welcomed into their homes each month, sit at their dining room tables, and be a part of their lives. I miss them.

But God, perfect God, knew my heart and mind needed to be free of all distraction and openly present in our home for the little people that were about to enter in. I had no idea what storm lie ahead for our family and working (even though we called it “work from home”) had no place in my life for this season. So He, in his grace, removed it for us before we knew the need was coming.

All this goodness left a gaping hole in our finances. A little under 1/2 of our income came from my job and there was not much wiggle room to begin with. Our family’s medical coverage was also provided through my employer. Despite an almost immediate sense of relief, there was some fear about the unknown and just how we were going to make it. Our family was increasing in size from 4 to 6, with great and unexpected medical needs quickly arising, and our income was cut drastically.

Do you know God?

I always say I do. And then He reminds me how little I truly know, or how much I often forget. So, again, He started showing me…

First, medical benefits came through husband’s job, benefits that were not available to us for the past several years. He received a raise, just enough to cover the difference incurred by adding on the insurance. We could take our kids to the doctor and begin the crazy process of getting our baby daughter the care she needed to get well. And our family was provided for.

Arms overflowing, heart overwhelmed.

Then came the “small” stuff. The things that we never think of God paying attention to.

Our oldest son needed a swim suit for the summer. His legs are sprouting like those weeds that grow up over night. I told him we’d have to hit up a few thrift stores to see if we could find one. The next morning I got a text with a picture of a pair of swim trunks and matching flip flops. “Does your son need these?” And our family was provided for (above and beyond our need…aka-flip flops!)

We were about out of cat food for the two rat-police that keep watch over our garage and surrounding areas. The change in our income resulted in a drastic hit to our household and food budgets; animal care had not yet found its place in the now smaller numbers. There was one, maybe two days (depending on the lizard and rodent toll for that week) supply left. Then, so tragically, our neighbors dear feline companion passed away. She came over that afternoon, offering us an unopened bag of cat food and several months worth of flea/tick medication (which we had run completely out of and decided was just not going to be a regular purchase anymore). And our family (animal members and all) was provided for.

The pantry has grown quite bare in the past few months as I dig to the back, creating meals from random boxes and cans (which has worked out well since we are moving away from packaged and processed foods anyway). But a few staple items were almost depleted and truthfully I did not see a way to replace them anytime soon, specifically peanut butter and catsup. (I had plans to start making both of these from scratch…but not this week, and probably not this month.) We met a sweet friend and her boys at a water park one blistering afternoon. As we were loaded wet, sticky little bodies back into their almost-too-hot carseats, she pulled out 3 bags of groceries and placed them in my van. I glanced down to see the two items resting on top of the abundance…all natural peanut butter and organic catsup. Tears. And our family was provided for.

You would think I might start to notice the pattern. Nope. While I was cataloging each of these precious gifts, I am still surprised and in awe as each one arrives.

School. We homeschool. Or at least we did and hope to again. I LOVED teaching my firstborn at home, watching him learn, discovering the world with him, opening his eyes to God’s great love for him, and just being with him all day. But our family has changed; there are needs so great and time so short. So we prayed. What to do? “Here, God, is our heart. Here is our need. Please answer. What to do?” 24 hours later. Total and complete provision for a Bible-based, Christian-character influenced education, including transportation help to and from for our sweet little boy. Even gifts of clothing to create the new uniform wardrobe he would need. Is this right? My heart still wavers….husband says calmly and tenderly…Our family was provided for.

Smiling Tiger face despite the very swollen mosquito-biten eyelid.

Out of town work has never been a common occurrence for husband, thankfully. I like him home. We all do. But jobs came from afar and he had to go. Not just any jobs, however. Prevailing-wage jobs, work for government buildings, meaning a significant (more than double) increase in hourly wages. Four days out of town, two weeks pay from one weeks work. And then another week came, bringing the same. A few more days here, and then some more. We missed him, but he toiled not in vain. And our family was provided for.

Summer arrived. All the fun activities were in full gear, and while we don’t live in a completely remote place, we are 20 to 35 minutes from most of the “fun”, as my son would say. Vacation Bible School was about to begin. Sure it would be a blast. Sure there would be great lessons learned and much fun had. But 5 days of driving to and from, using the gas that should last for several weeks…not in the budget. So we had to say a sacrificial no. Then a gift, specifically a gas gift, arrived from hands that truly know how God gives to His children, especially His little ones. The fun was had, the lessons were learned and all of our hearts were touched. And our family was provided for.

Her new "cheese" face for the camera.

The autumn season has brought several gracious deliveries of garden harvest, bounty shared with us from precious friends. Butternut squash, potatoes, bell peppers, onions, bags of apples, beets, zucchini, just to name a few. And a few times there has even been a surplus that has provided our freezer with a small storage of veggies for the winter months. And every time . . . EVERY time . . . God has brought these gifts when the vegetable drawer in our refrigerator was nearly, if not completely empty. And our family was provided for.

Grandpa went to be with the Lord just days before we left for Africa. Beloved farmer man, a gentle giant, tender heart and strong, big hands. Missed so dearly, but home for eternity. Husband helped carry his body to the place it will rest and rejoiced with family over a life well lived. Many months later an envelope arrived. A gift. A remembrance of that humble life given to our family. Something never expected. This great generosity made the way for so much. Our family was provided for.


The piano. Yes, a whole piano. Not a key or string missing. Given to us…nope did not stutter…GIVEN to us. By a loving Christian family who do not know us even a bit. This is not an old, dented and dinged piano from the upstairs room at the church either. This is a beautiful, dark mahogany (which consequently matches my kitchen island perfectly) upright piano with the perfect amount of embellishment and pure old ivory keys. Real ivory! It sounds as good as it looks too. The only problem is enforcing the ‘one player at a time rule’ and since the sound board was modified by the designer to produce a louder, fuller sound…it is an imperative rule in a low-ceiling, wood floored living room. I nearly burst into tears on the phone when the call came asking if we could come get it, and yes, oldest son and I were in the feed store looking for crickets and chicken scratch. I cried as strong husband and I tried to push it up the make-shift ramp and into the living room. I cried every time I came down the stairs and saw the magnificent instrument gracing the once bare wall. It fits perfect. A gift beyond words. As my fingers trip up and down the keyboard, trying to remember their way, my soul is soothed and I am so grateful. Was it a need? No. Was it even a prayer whispered above? No. But even so…Our family was provided for.

I’ve been wondering if my Cost-co sized bottle of detergent was becoming something like the oil in widow’s jar. Every time I think I’m coming up on my last clean load, there’s just enough more to fill the little plastic cup. “Maybe I should make my own so we don’t have to buy any right now?” I remarked to husband and financial executive of our house. A low grunt with a humorous note was his only response. Then it came. A large bag of clothes, perfect for our new little ones, and sitting cozy at the bottom, filling the bag (and our van) with sweet fragrance were a large jug of laundry detergent (the REAL kind, not generic like I always buy) and 2 boxes of dryer sheets. I hadn’t told a sole about my suspicions surrounding the never-draining bottle on my garage shelf, but God knew. Of course He did…and from the hands of a family we’ve never met the replacement came. Our family was provided for.

Rarely apart.

“Wow! You have a lot of little ones!” the kind voice of the lady behind a booth at the farmer’s market remarked. “You just might qualify for our program.” I made an appointment, swallowed my pride, and two weeks later brought home the equivalent of 60% of our current grocery budget towards food items. This was truly amazing! It was literally handed to us, and will be for quite some time. We did nothing to earn it or deserve it. Just a gift. Every month. A gift to feed our babies. Our family was provided for.

“We heard your van isn’t running well. Here.” The passing of a white envelope. “Use this to get it fixed and make sure the AC is working for those kids.” Which it had not been for over 6 months and the bouts of triple digit heat had made it nearly unbearable to cram them into the back of the van where the windows did not open. But 5 days later, cool air rushes all the way to the furthest seat and everyone can ride without soaking through our shirts. Really though? To fix our van? It was too much. Literally too much and so the rest went into savings because it will probably break again and then we will have what we need. I bet to the penny, because that’s how my God seems to work in our lives. And our family was provided for.

We have come to enjoy the occasional cup of hot chocolate together on the couch (or in the tub ;) after the kids go to bed. It has become synonymous with those times when we find each other’s hearts after a day or two of not connecting to the depth we long for. And my husband can make some fancy hot cocoa with some delicious little extras. A week or two ago we ran out of chocolate and sighed as we sipped the last drops, knowing it would be a while before I could wiggle the splurge into our grocery budget. At a quick diaper trip to Cost-Co I spied a tall canister of rich Starbuck’s Hot Chocolate. . . my eyes darted away quickly so I didn’t have to fight the temptation to slip it in my cart. That very week at our parenting group, we won a little contest and I bet after this long list of blessings you can guess what the prize was! YUP, one tall canister of Starbuck’s Hot Chocolate! Our family (and our marriage…wink) was provided for.

Gift cards for groceries just because there was extra...hand me downs from those who have never met us containing the summer play clothes we didn’t have…bags of cherries from a tree of abundance just after we’d decided not to splurge on the sweet seasonal fruit…shoes that fit perfect, shoes that were needed greatly, and arrived on the door…a dog kennel to house the baby chicks that will one day provide eggs for us…canning supplies and a dehydrator loaned for summer months, allowing us to preserve the seasonal goodness for the winter…the list goes on and on. We just keep adding.

Yes, that is some preaching going on by a small blue monster to the girl in the pantry.  Pretty typical morning around here.

And our family IS provided for.

Do you know God?

My family is learning…

(I know - it was long.  Sorry.  I don’t share these stories to gain your sympathy or pity for our family in any way. No, we are blessed beyond our imaginations and we would NOT change a thing! I share to tell of God’s mercy, endless blessings, and gracious gifts He lavishes on His children, to encourage you in times of need to wait upon the Lord because He is faithful, and to remind myself that His eye is on the sparrow and forever watching me. He is worthy of our PRAISE!)


  1. reading this post felt better than my morning devotional! i love that you wrote it. you need to always remember the small and big ways God provided for you. So many miracles. it totally encouraged me today. i love you Jenn! ANjuli

  2. this is amazing!!! it sounds like my story :)!!! so beautiful!!! sending all my love to you guys! xoxoxo

  3. Jen, It was so exciting to read about the many ways God is providing for your family. He truly does provide for ALL of our needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus...... and yes, He delights in pouring out upon us those blessings (not needs) that overtake us. It is good that you are writing these blessings down for future reading and reflecting


  4. So amazing!! The lovingkindness and personal attention of our God is so incredible and I rejoice that He is showing it so clearly in your lives right now!

  5. Oh my goodness! What an amazing testimony to God's provision!