Good stories serve a purpose. While the objective of some stories is met immediately, the lesson of other stories can be years in the making. Such is the case with this story about my grandmother, Alice. Come with me as we visit my grandparents’ farm near Muncy, Pennsylvania.
A nip in the September air caused Alice to reflect that her four children had grown out of their winter coats, leggings and boots at the end of the previous winter. If the truth be known, the children outgrew the coats just as they fell apart from years of use by previous owners. Alice opened a canning jar that she kept hidden in a kitchen cupboard and counted the bills and coins it contained. There wasn’t enough to purchase winter clothing for one child let alone four.
With the Great Depression in full force, Alice and her husband Ed were having a difficult time making ends meet. As she so often did when adversity confronted her, Alice lowered her head in silent prayer. If there was anything good coming from such troublesome times, it was that Alice was learning to depend on the Lord to meet her family’s needs.
That afternoon as she hung laundry on the clothesline in the backyard, Alice turned her head and looked across the cornfield to the woods where several hickory trees grew at its edge. Their golden leaves made them easy to spot. She felt a strong urge to walk over to them and when she saw that the trees and ground were covered with an abundance of hickory nuts, an idea came to her. After filling her apron to overflowing with the nuts, she hurried home.
Each day, Alice and the children returned to the hickory trees and gathered the nuts. At night, they sat at the kitchen table by the light of an oil lamp and picked the nuts out of their shells. After weighing the nuts on a scale, each pound was poured into a small paper bag. It occurred to Alice that had she not followed the strong urging to walk over to the trees, she would never have thought of harvesting the nuts.
That Saturday, Ed loaded his wife, the bags of hickory nuts and a small wagon into the car and they drove into town. Ed drove to a residential area and after he unloaded the wagon, he and Alice filled it with the bags of nuts. Ed left as he had errands to do in town and Alice had a mission.
She pulled the wagon behind her as she went door to door seeking customers. It was now November and not only did she know that women were starting their Thanksgiving and Christmas baking, she also knew that hickory nuts were scarce due to the Depression, as were many things. In no time at all, Alice sold all of the bags for 25 cents each and even had several orders for more nuts.
For days, Alice and the children repeated the chores of gathering the hickory nuts, shelling, weighing and bagging them, and every Saturday, Alice walked through town and sold the nuts. When nature provided no more nuts, Alice counted her earnings. The harvest not only provided enough money to buy new coats, leggings and boots for all four of her children but much-needed winter coats and boots for Ed and her as well.
Because Alice faithfully turned to the Lord in the midst of her troubles, God always provided a way for Alice. He didn’t necessarily answer her prayers exactly the way she hoped or thought He would, but He answered in ways that were better than she could have imagined.
For as long as I can remember, my own mother relied on her faith and childhood memories to get her through the difficulties that visit a person’s life. And she loved to share these precious recollections with my siblings and me. Over 80 years later, when my own family and I found ourselves in the midst of severe misfortune, it was my mother’s stories about her parents’ faith and persevering spirit during hardships that provided examples for my husband and me.
When Christmas came and my husband and I had no money to buy presents for our own children or food for our usual feast, I thought of Grandma Alice and Grandpa Ed and I knew what I needed to do. I gathered our children close to me and explained that we already had the best presents – our love for each other and our faith that God would see us through our troubles. And just as He had done for my grandparents and parents, God faithfully provided for us.
What gifts are you giving your family? Are they tangible presents that are here today and gone tomorrow? Or will you pass on your faith which will last for generations?
“I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, because You saw my suffering; You knew my troubles.” Psalm 31:7.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More
While I watch the wind blow the last of the colored leaves to the ground, my thoughts follow the dirt lane to the old farmhouse where my maternal grandparents raised their children during the Great Depression. It is a house I visited many times while I listened to my mother’s childhood stories. I toured it once recently when the present owner invited me inside.
Although my mother and father moved hundreds of miles away after their marriage, my mother’s thoughts frequently traveled to her childhood home. She loved nothing better than to scoop up my siblings and me and take us with her as she recalled her childhood on a farm near Muncy, Pennsylvania – stories I treasured and passed on to my own little ones.
Mother spoke of a life filled with an abundance of indoor and outdoor chores and of nearby relatives who frequently stopped by on Sunday afternoons for visits. On stifling summer days, the adults visited in the shade of the large front porch while the children took turns cranking the handle of an ice cream freezer on the grass under a shade tree.
When the harsh winter wind rattled the shuttered windows and forced snow to swirl across the bare fields, it was the kitchen that was the center of Mother’s family’s life, mostly because it was the only room in the house that was heated. Family and guests gathered there, the single-paned windows steamed from the conversations.
The old farmhouse, which originally belonged to Mother’s grandparents, had no electricity, indoor plumbing or central heat. Bathtubs, toilets and even a kitchen sink were non-existent. Things weren’t any better outside. There was no tractor or modern farm equipment. Keeping the farm going depended on horses and one’s own strength and determination. Parents and children worked hard from early morning to evening, but my mother’s stories were never ones of complaining.
The day before Thanksgiving, Grandma Alice killed and dressed turkeys for customers from town who gave their orders in advance. Once the poultry orders were filled, Alice killed the turkey she would cook for her own family. Grandpa Ed finished the outdoor chores, then got out his hunting clothes and sharpened his knife and cleaned his gun. The days immediately after Thanksgiving were hunting days and Ed needed to hunt game to help supplement his family’s food supply.
The Great Depression was in full force and money was scarce for my mother’s family. Mother often said that while she and her siblings were growing up, they never realized how primitively they lived on the farm. But a person can’t miss what they don’t know, she would explain.
Something inside my heart was soothed when Mother spoke of the contentment that was felt at the end of each day as the family gathered at the dinner table and her father thanked the Lord for His generous provisions. Grandpa Ed and Grandma Alice made it clear to their children that, but for the Lord’s benevolence, their harvests would be small and their needs large.
My grandparents have long since gone to be with the Lord, and their farm has changed hands several times since they sold it. But my mother’s stories taught me that when a family realizes that they are dependant upon the Lord to provide for all of their needs - as well as their blessings - every day is Thanksgiving Day.
May your Thanksgiving Day be joyous, may you be surrounded by your loved ones, and may you give thanks and praise to the One who provides for your every need.
“When you have all you want to eat, then praise the Lord your God for giving you a good land.” Deuteronomy 8:10.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More