Loaves, fish, and … cherry tomatoes

Out of food and money, today’s contributor found comfort in the Bible, which brought her a newfound confidence in God’s care for all. Very soon, her family’s immediate needs were met in unexpected ways.

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When we first moved to a farm in Indiana in 1972, our family had to manage on very little. We had two mortgages because our house in another state had not yet sold. And my husband, Dwight, and I had used up our savings on his graduate school studies. We’d borrowed the down payment for the farm from a family member.

I stayed home with the kids while my husband worked at a children’s museum. But his job offered only half the salary he’d been making while in the armed forces. When we’d moved in late summer, we thought the garden could be an immediate source of vegetables. Our plan was to grow all of our own food. But the previous owner had allowed the garden to go to weeds, so it needed a lot of work.

I remember one morning very clearly. It was in September, three days before payday. We’d already run completely out of money. There was absolutely no food left, not even a cracker, not an egg.

As our family had often done in times of need, I quietly began to pray, affirming the goodness and abundance of God, His great love for each of His children, and everyone’s right to be blessed with good. I began to think about the Bible stories I’d learned in the Christian Science Sunday School that illustrated God’s ample supply, or provision.

For instance, by following the prophet Elisha’s inspired directions, a woman was able to pay off her debt with a pot of oil that never ran out (see II Kings 4:1-7). I also thought about a remarkable account of Jesus feeding thousands with just a few loaves and fish (see Matthew 15:32-38). Then I recalled the 23rd Psalm, which speaks of the Lord as our Shepherd. We’re promised that our cup will run over and that there will be a table prepared for us in the presence of our enemies.

It became clear that although times had certainly changed since then, the “enemy” was still the belief that something could challenge God’s supremacy and constant care. And it was this I was facing in my prayers.

Those Bible accounts spoke to me in a very real way. Soon I began to feel more confident that our Shepherd, our Father-Mother God, is surely looking after all His children and providing the inspiration and answers that meet our needs. I felt an expectation infused with spiritual promise.

In a little while there was a knock at the door, and there stood Uncle Ronald, who lived about 30 miles away and seldom dropped in. This morning, however, he’d come with a gallon and a half of fish he’d caught and wanted to share with us!

Soon another knock came at the door. It was a new friend who had been baking bread that morning and brought us a fresh, warm loaf. As she left, I thought of the Bible story of the loaves and the fish again. I was seeing God’s provision in a way that fit where we were – in modern times – but was a real-life illustration of the divine care Jesus had demonstrated so long ago.

My heart was brimming over with gratitude. Then a third knock came. A mom in our son’s kindergarten carpool came by to drop off a huge grocery sack full of little-bitty cherry tomatoes she had taken the time to pick for us from her garden.

I came to know from that experience what it means to have our “cup run over.” Our family had enough bread, fish, and tomatoes for three days, and then, with my husband’s paycheck, there was grocery money again. We never again ran completely out of food. In fact, within that year our first house sold, we paid our family back, and I opened a nursery school at the farm. Dwight’s salary and responsibilities continued to grow. In the next few years our garden became so plentiful that we had more than enough to share with neighbors and sell. We grew our own food for the next nine years. And we improved our house and eventually sold the farm for much more than we’d paid for it.

The largest lesson we learned was to trust God completely. That glorious feeling of expectation and faithful wonder that God was going to care for us – instead of an anxious sense of worry about if we would have enough – has never really left me.

Adapted from an article published in the July 20, 2009, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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