Monday, November 24, 2008

At the Well - Giving Thanks in Difficult Times

Laurie of Women Taking a Stand
is hosting a new topic for us to discuss
At the Well.
When you are done here,
be sure to head over to her site
and join the other ladies there.

This week's discussion questions:

#1- How do you give thanks during difficult times?

"We never seem to have enough."

Have you ever said that? I used to think that way when our family was struggling on one minimum-wage income. Then, one day the Lord arrested my attention with that still, small voice.

"You know that's not true."

He was right. The truth is we always have enough. We may not have what we want or even what we think we need, but we always have enough. Once I began to rearrange my thinking, I could see more clearly the things I could be thankful for.

#2 - Share with your readers a testimony of how God brought you through a difficult time.

The most difficult time our family went through was while we were ministering to the Blytheville Air Force Base through the Serviceman's Centers for Christ. We had only been married a little over one year when we made the big move from Illinois to Arkansas with our little four-month-old Jonathan.

There were many promises made in regard to our support which were never honored. Rather than having us raise our own funds like missionaries do, the director of the SCFC was supposed to represent the work for us. Although the rent was always paid, albeit not always on time, our basic needs were not. We were literally left in an impossible situation, however, since Les was also expected to be available all hours of the day and night to minister to the needs of service personnel. After a few months, I took on some baby sitting and Les finally got a job as a substitute school bus driver. Otherwise, we were completely dependent upon the gifts of caring people as the Lord laid it on their hearts.

As amazing as it sounds, we never went hungry and all the bills got paid. We didn't even own a credit card at that time, but could not have used it in good conscience even if we did. The Lord always provided what we needed. Here are a few ways I can remember in particular:

We had a holiday party at the Center and invited the military families to celebrate. One woman did a funny skit using a raw, whole chicken in the act. When she was done, she simply threw it in the garbage. Two hours later, after everyone had left, I fished that chicken out, washed it thoroughly, and prayed we wouldn't get sick when I fixed it for dinner the next day. No problem. That was God's provision for that day.

Another time, another missionary came to the Center just passing through. He was as poor as we were, and Les just felt led to give him all the money we had at that time, $20.14. I didn't panic. I knew the Lord would provide. Sure enough, later that week at the end of a preaching service at another church nearby, the pastor of the church said, "I just feel led to take up an offering tonight for Les Wilwerding and his family." When we got out to the car and counted the money, it was exactly $20.14 -- right down to the penny what we had given the other missionary.

So, how do we get through difficult times? We pray and God in His faithfulness meets our needs. Faith. Faith in the fact that what God has promised He is able to perform (Romans 4:21). That's how you get through difficult times.

#3 - What is the most memorable Thanksgiving you have experienced?

I cannot recall any one particular Thanksgiving that stands out in my mind. However, all of the Thanksgivings we attended at my precious Grandma Southerland's house are marked indelibly on my heart. Regardless of what was going on in our dysfunctional family at the time, we always took time out to go to Grandma's for the holidays.

The menu always included roast turkey, mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, yams with marshmallows, green bean casserole, canned jellied cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing, pumpkin pies with Cool Whip, pecan pie, coffee, and iced tea (sweet tea, of course). The younger ones sat at the table in the kitchen while the adults dined around the oval dining room table squished together as the families got larger (in more ways than one!). Some folks even spilled out into the living room when the families were all able to be present. Grandpa always sat at the end with Grandma at his left hand close to the kitchen door where she could jump up and get more to re-fill the platters and bowls as they quickly emptied.

When everything was set and everyone was seated, someone would yell to the kitchen, "Hey! Y'all be quiet in there. We're goin' to pray." As the noise finally dwindled to silence, Grandpa Southerland would begin to say grace. He wouldn't get much past "Dear Lord," before his lips began to quiver and the tears started to flow. Grandpa never cried except when he was praying over a holiday meal. That's when he would ask a blessing on those who were present and on those who couldn't be there. The sounds of sniffs and nose blowing soon followed the amen, then we all dug in with renewed conversation and the noise again began from the kitchen.

Later in the afternoon after the dining room table was cleared and we had fought over who would do dishes (you never outgrow some things), some of us would watch television in the living room, some would head off upstairs for a nap, and others would sit in the kitchen or dining room talking or playing board games. Inevitably, someone from the extended-extended family would show up in the evening. Then the guitars, banjos, and fiddles would be brought out, and we'd all enjoy a mix of country and gospel music far into the night.

I don't know how many I spent in this same exact way, but together they form my most memorable Thanksgiving. Now that my grandparents have all passed away and new family traditions are being formed among their children and grandchildren spread across five states, these are precious memories for me indeed.