HE KNEW BEFORE I ASKED
Time seemed suspended, as I stood in my narrow laundry room ignoring the mounds of dirty clothes resting on top of the washing machine. I had a more pressing concern than dirty laundry, as I stared at the meager contents inside the upright freezer cramped tight between the wall and the washer. Two chickens, a pound of ground beef, two bags of frozen spinach, and a week and a half before Gary’s next paycheck presented a situation I wasn’t accustomed to—worrying over how to stretch meals to feed our family of five. But my mind was fixated on the number of one dish meals I could possibly stretch for two or three days.
It was the kitchen phone that short-circuited my concentration. A quick glance at my worn, brown leather band Timex confirmed what I already knew—still early. It was 7:50 A.M. With three children in school, and a husband who worked on Houston construction sites, a phone ringing before 8 A.M. triggered alarm—too early for good news.
I slammed the freezer door, rushed into the kitchen, and snatched the receiver from the cradle attached to the wall.
“Lena? Sorry, did I wake you?”
“No. No, you know I’m up long before now. So…how are things?”
“I hate to bother you, when you’ve done so much already. And—“
“Carla…what is it?”
“I have nothing to feed my kids tonight. They only had half a slice of toast before leaving for school. And it’ll be two days before I get my food stamps.”
“So, I was hoping you’d have something to spare…anything.”
“Things are tight for us too, this month. I was just trying to figure out how to stretch what’s in my freezer until Gary gets paid again.”
“Forget I called.”
“Listen…I’m just saying we’re in similar straits here. I didn’t mean I wouldn’t do what I could to help.”
“Lena, you’ve done plenty already. We’ll be okay. Thanks anyway.”
“Carla, wait.” Several uncomfortable moments passed, while no solution came to mind. “Let me do some figuring. I’ll call you later. Your kids will eat tonight.”
“O, thank you, thank you, thank you, Lena. With no family here, I didn’t know who else to call and—“
“I’ll call you back, Carla. Let me figure something out.”
“Thank you, Lena.”
“Sure.” I returned the phone to its cradle, took a deep breath, and looked up to the ceiling.
“Okay Lord, just what have I gotten myself into here? I know I prayed You’d show me someone in need I could be of helpful service to. And You were quick to test my willingness. But when am I done here? How much more is expected of me? It’s not like Gary and I have a lot to be spreading around, lately.”
I looked toward my laundry room door and felt a wad of stress swelling inside my chest. Immediately I could hear my Pastor quoting Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know unto God.”
A coffee mug half filled with an aromatic brew of hazelnut coffee distracted me long enough to take a couple of sips, before heading back into the laundry room. I snatched the freezer door open again hoping to see or envision something I hadn’t seen before.
“WHAT AM I SUPPOSE TO DO HERE, LORD? GIVE CARLA THE CHICKEN? GIVE HER THE GROUND BEEF? THEN WHAT’S LEFT FOR US?’
As if struck with a bolt of contrition, I slumped to my knees and bowed my head. “Forgive me, Father. Here I am yelling at You and being exactly what I shouldn’t be—anxious. I should be thanking You and asking for the continuous blessing of Your faithful provision.”
I peered into the freezer half expecting an extra chicken to appear, before shaking my head and chuckling at my own imaginings. Once again, I’d stressed myself out; tried to figure things out on my own; disregarded my heavenly Father who supplies all my needs. How much living would it take, before I’d finally learn to immediately give Him all my concerns?
“Thank You, Father. You’ve blessed my family with all we’ve ever needed, and made way for us to help Carla’s family, after receiving that surprise call from my children’s school principal. We were not the only or closest African American family living near Carla’s apartment complex. But I asked You how I could be of service, and somehow You pointed the school principal to my name.
“Thank You that we’ve been able to help Carla as much as we have. And more thanks that I was able to share Carla’s need with the Sunday school, and they so eagerly adopted her family for Christmas. I’m aware it had nothing to do with me, Lord. It was to Your glory and because of Your grace. I was just a mouth piece presenting an opportunity for the Sunday school to share.
“Well Lord, today there’s another crisis. I don’t have money or enough food to help Carla without shorting my own family. So Lord, I’m asking for some sort of miracle here. Show me how to multiply what I have. In the name of Jesus, please show me what to do. Amen.”
I rose from my knees, closed the freezer, and went back into my kitchen more unresolved than I’d been before Carla called. But I was strangely at peace. My coffee had cooled, so I filled the mug with more from the pot. I reached for the pen and notepad, lying on my kitchen counter, on which I had begun planning meals, and was about to retreat to my kitchen table, when the doorbell rang. Another glance at my watch and I saw it was only 8:15. I rushed into the foyer, peered through the peek hole in the door, and saw the back of a familiar head of blond hair. Grabbing the key hanging on a rack attached to the wall beside the door, I unlocked the deadbolt. Becky Harold swirled around with three brown paper bags barreled in her arms.
“Morning Lena,” Becky said, with all her teeth showing in a luminous wide smile. “What’s the secret? You and Gary have the greenest grass in the neighborhood, and at this time of year.”
“Becky, what are you—“
“Honey, please let me in. These bags are about to put a kink in my back.”
“What? Uh…sure, come on in.” I stood to the side and allowed Becky into the foyer.
“Which way is the kitchen, Hon?”
“To the left.”
Becky hurried into the kitchen and sat the bags on the table. “Whew! I was hoping to get here before eight-thirty. Need to be at work by nine.”
I looked at the loaded bags and couldn’t believe my eyes. “What’s all this?” I said.
“Well, you know Hank, and the kids, and I went home to Oklahoma for the holidays, and we didn’t get a chance to participate with the rest of the Sunday school helping out that family you said we should adopt for Christmas. Sooo, I know it’s late, here it is February, and Christmas is way over, and all that, but I figured anybody with two or three kids could always use some groceries.”
“O…Becky.” I didn’t manage to utter anything else, before an eruption of tears cascading down my cheeks turned into a full blown sob.
“Why Honey, what’s the matter?”
I wiped my eyes with the back of my hands and engulfed Becky in a grateful hug rocking us both from side to side.
“Lena, what is it?”
I released her to wipe the tears that wouldn’t stop, as I struggled to speak. “Becky, you’re not late. There’s no way you could have known…but you’re God’s on-time help, in a time of need.
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