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Loaves, fishes, and ... cherry tomatoes

From the Christian Science Sentinel - June 4, 2009

Originally appeared on

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. In fact, we’d borrowed the down payment for the farm from a family member.

I had always dreamed of living on a farm, and finding this small farm was an answer to prayer. So despite limited funds at the moment, we put our trust in God. The wonderful old pre-Civil War house with a pond and creek and an old barn was close to some extended family, and, for many reasons, it was the perfect place to raise our three small children.

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 made our move in late summer, we thought maybe the garden could be an immediate source of fresh 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. There were some green beans virtually buried in waist-high grasses and a few onions, but not much more.

I remember one morning very clearly. It was in September, three days before payday. We’d already run completely out of money. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, left in the pantry, not even a cracker, not an egg in the refrigerator. The last of the Cheerios had been polished off at breakfast. As Dwight left for work, I knew there was nothing to give the children for lunch. Dwight knew that we were running low, but I didn’t feel it was the right moment to tell him just how low. He was already doing what he could by heading out to work.

So I quietly began to affirm in my prayers the goodness and abundance of God, His great love for each of His children, and our right to be blessed with all good. As our family had often done in times of need, I began to think about the lessons I’d learned in the Christian Science Sunday School.

There were many stories from the Bible that illustrated God’s ample supply, or provision. I thought about Elisha and a widow he encountered. She was in debt, but by following Elisha’s inspired directions, was able to pay it off with vessels of oil that never quit (see II Kings 4:1-7). I also thought about the remarkable account of Jesus’ feeding of the multitude of over 5,000 with just a few loaves and two fish (see Matt. 15:32-39). Then, I recalled the 23rd Psalm, and how it speaks of the Lord as our Shepherd. Because of this, we can’t be in want. We’re even promised that our cup will run over and that there will be a table prepared for us in the presence of our enemies (see Ps. 23). Sheep need green pastures and still waters, I thought. Our family needed groceries!

It became clear that although times had certainly changed, the enemy was still the idea that something could challenge God’s supremacy and constant care. And it was this concept that His children could experience lack, be hungry, or in debt beyond an ability to pay that I was facing in my prayers. Soon, I began to feel more confident that our Shepherd, our Father-Mother God, would surely look after us and provide what we needed if we only trusted.

Those Bible accounts I’d been pondering spoke to me in a very real way and comforted me so much that I truly didn’t worry if lunch would end up on the table. Instead, I just wondered what form God’s provision would take. That morning was spent with the regular caretaking of the children and cleaning, but with an expectation infused with spiritual promise. There was a newfound confidence in the knowledge that God was in charge. It was a truly joy-filled morning! In a little while, there was a knock at the door and there stood Uncle Ronald.

Uncle Ronald lived about 30 miles away and didn’t often drop in. This morning, however, he’d come with a gallon and a half of bluegills (fish) he’d caught and wanted to share them with us! I gratefully received the fish and thanked not only Uncle Ronald, but God. I went about my work, and another knock came at the door. It was a new friend who lived a couple of miles away. She’d 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 fishes again. I’d been seeing God’s provision for our family in a way that fit where we were—in modern times—but was still very connected in principle with what had happened so long ago near the Sea of Galilee.

My heart was brimming over with gratitude. Then a third knock came. A mom in our oldest son’s kindergarten carpool came by to drop off a huge grocery sack full of cherry tomatoes! Her garden was overrun with these tomatoes that she didn’t even like. She thought of them as a nuisance. That is why it was doubly remarkable that she would have taken all the time to pick a whole grocery bag full of these little bitty tomatoes for us.

I came to know from that experience what it means to have our “cup run over.” Our family had bread, fish, and tomatoes for three days, and then, with my husband’s new 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 at the museum 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 at a roadside stand and to a restaurant. We grew all 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 as to how God was going to care for us, instead of an anxious worrying if we would have enough, has never really left me.

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