Grateful for a Helping Hand

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I’m participating in a challenge to comment on 30 Days of Gratitude. You know the sort: It makes its rounds of the internet — especially around Thanksgiving —  and challenges you with categories of things to be thankful for. I tend to fizzle out around Day 5 because I get sidetracked (thank you, ADHD), but I’m trying to at least catch up on this one every week or so in fits and spurts. (I’ll post it below so you can try it.)

When I got to Day 10, I realized I couldn’t fit it into a one-line comment on a Facebook post…..

“A time you were given a helping hand.”

The help I have received from others has been too great to be contained in a post, from monetary gifts, to women taking care of my home and children when I was incapacitated while my husband was deployed, to crews to tear out damaged walls and flooring,

to men who helped Jim reconstruct rooms after flooding, and so much more. This has been true of our entire 45-year married life, but this challenge reminds me of a hard season in late 1993……

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It had been a tough time.  Jim had taken the early-out option from the military when an across-the-board-in-your-year-group downsizing threatened his Army officer career, but we never expected it to be so hard to find a job “on the outside.” A few years went by before he had full-time work again, despite his best efforts and hundreds of resumes. Meanwhile, he worked faithfully at temp jobs as a security guard, a landscape assistant, hotel staff, and other part-time gigs to feed our family, but the times were still lean and the money didn’t cover the bills for our family of seven (or twelve, depending on the season!). One year, our entire gross income for the tax year was under $10K.

Someone once asked me, “How are you doing it? And don’t tell me, ‘God’.” Yet, what else could I say, but “GOD”?

Because on paper, the numbers just didn’t add up. Our rent and our heat bill alone surpassed our income, and then there was gas and insurance and – oh, yes, food for a family of at least seven — so on paper, it just didn’t even seem possible that we had a roof over our heads. For many months, the only reason we had a vehicle to drive was because of the generosity of some friends down the road who loaned us their spare.

But when I slowed down to take notice of the ways our heavenly Father took care of us, I was in awe of His goodness. I actually kept a log for just two months during that time. The paper is almost 30 years old, faded, worn from hands going over it year after year as I was reminded, with praise and amazement, of God’s love and provision….

Woodstove and accessories. We received the gift of a woodstove and the accessories because the century-old rental house had no subfloor or insulation, and even cranked up to $700-a-month, the heating system couldn’t keep the house above 55 degrees and the children were so cold they were in layers and blankets, and still chattering. (Not an exaggeration—and this was 30 years ago. And remember the $10K gross annual income?)

Dollhouse and Christmas gifts. On a Monday in later November, a woodworker in Florida accidentally handcrafted a huge dollhouse for a grandchild, only to be reminded by his wife that he’d given her one the year before, so he asked his daughter (local to me) if she knew of any little girls who might like a dollhouse. (If you know me, you know we have eight daughters.) We had resigned ourselves to our girls getting zero gifts that year because we had no income, but that year, they received not only a beautiful dollhouse, but that same older couple heard of the circumstances and with the dollhouse, they delivered cardigans and craft supplies to round out their gifts.

Sharing & Caring. On the Tuesday after the dollhouse revelation, the church women’s Sharing & Caring ministry arrived by caravan at our house out in the sticks, bearing thirteen bags and two huge boxes of food, plus $45 cash. But they didn’t drop it off like we were their charity case for the month; instead, they brought lunch and the whole gang sat and ate and chatted with us. Happy Thanksgiving to us – we now had all the food we needed to get through the next few weeks.

Card, cash, wood. On Thursday (please note: this is THE SAME WEEK), we received a card of encouragement from a couple in our church, with $150 and a load of wood for the wood stove.

Friday. I can’t even condense Friday’s entries — just Blessings.

  • One older woman in our church, on a fixed income, sacrificially gave us $500 that would exactly cover a specific financial need she didn’t know about.
  • We received $50 from a daughter working a part-time job,
  • $1000 from a friend who wanted to invest in us,
  • $20 from a dad in our Bible study so we could go to dinner (you could have a nice dinner out for $20 back then!),
  • and a free sitter to go out. If you have lots of kids, you know what a gift that is!

Food. Special food. On Sunday (are you tracking these days? We’re in the same week!), I returned to our (borrowed) car in the church parking lot . . . to find several bags on the hood. Not just welcome staples to feed our bodies, but specialty items to feed my heart – chocolate chips, flour, vanilla, and other baking items that one doesn’t buy when food is scarce. Stuff to make the holidays the holidays in a home filled with tradition. Oh, and $100 and a few notes of encouragement.

Saturday…

  • A couple from our Bible study gifted us $100.
    (We recognized that for all these gifts I’ve listed, it was a sacrifice to give. Gifts of love and care and obedience and faithfulness.)
  • That same day, we got notice in the mail of a 2-year-old refund due us from our auto insurance company. They just needed us to claim the $76 check.

That weekend…

  • I got calligraphy orders that would yield a profit of over $100.
  • The same weekend, I got enough orders to sew cheerleading uniforms that my girls’ uniform fabrics would be covered. (I sewed NINE cheerleader uniforms that week!)
  • My girls were able to pick up blouses, coats, and other clothing items at a clothing exchange our homeschool group hosted in our church’s fellowship hall, and many other families were blessed with new-to-them items for their families.

December…

  • Our homeschool group gifted us some cash, food, and gave me a lovely outfit of some lovely winter white slacks and a soft pink tunic top. (I hear that those stirrup pants are coming back this season!)
  • The widow in our church who had shared so generously with us just a few weeks earlier showed up with a truck bed filled with groceries.

  • A local church heard from a friend about our family and gave us a check for $200.
  • We received a retroactive VA disability check for over $1000.
  • The girls received Christmas gifts from a couple at church.
  • Some house guests left monetary gifts.
  • Our church’s women’s ministry group gifted us $100.

I’ll end here with December, but the list goes on into January, a testament to God’s goodness to us.

And that’s why I can’t answer the Facebook challenge with one short sentence of gratitude.

A helping hand? We got the whole Body.

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If you’d like to consider just a few of the blessing in your life, I’d love to read them in the comments! Here’s a starting point: https://www.naturalbeachliving.com/gratitude-list-ideas/ or you can check out the pinned “Gratitude” post at the top of my Everyday Homemaking Facebook page. I also suggest a study of eucharisteo — Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts is a super starting point.

 

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