“Gimme, gimme, gimme!!” little Billy’s voice got more strident with every syllable.
“I want, I want, I want…I need, I need, I need..” from the mouth of Bill Murray’s character of Bob Wiley in the movie What About Bob.
Sure, we have needs and wants. As we exit from the deadness of winter into the richness of spring, we want to focus on Provision. “God provides” we say. “He meets our needs” we echo. Does he? We usually ask for money or relationship, but God always has something different up his sleeve. Deeper things. Things we did not realize we needed.
Hear from Margaret Lang.
Provisions of Oil
It took every feeble ounce of strength I had to blow up the imaginary balloons and swirl the streamer. I puffed up the yellow balloon of “sorrow,” next I inflated green “regret.” As a single mom of ten years, I had cried, fretted and grumbled but never before pampered myself with an all out pity-party – until now. With satisfaction, I wrapped the garish streamer of “sympathy” all around myself.
I sat slumped at the kitchen table, chin cupped in my hands, and privately enjoyed the tawdry mess in my soul.
“Good-bye Mom!” My daughter flew past, a whirl of white ruffles and blue ribbons. “I’ll phone you after the prom.”
I watched her climb into the limo. The other girls in black, my daughter stood out in her Anne of Green Gables dress, left over from last year’s junior prom. At that time, we had shopped to find the perfect ribbon with baby’s breath for her hair and a delicate necklace to complete the look for her boyfriend. This year for her blind date, she threw on her clothes and forgot her make-up.
Left alone, my miserable soul tooted its loudest party horn. “Exhaustion.” Doesn’t the work ever stop? I moped. The moment I get home, I take off the father’s hat to earn the bread and put on the mother’s hat to go bake it. I’m worn out.
Through the tinted glass of self-pity, I looked back into the window of my single-parent experience.
Alone with my young son and daughter in our circa-1733 farmhouse, there had been no money to pay my mortgage. I felt like the widow with two children in the Book of Second Kings, who thought she had nothing at all in her house with which God could do a miracle – except a little oil.
As I had stared at my deserted barns, paddocks, cottage and pool, I wondered, Are they my provision of oil?
It must have been Providence that guided me, step by step, to fill my barn stalls with neighbor’s horses, the split rail paddocks with a horseback riding school, my cottage with a young couple and the enclosed pool with a club of townsfolk. Relieved and grateful, I gathered up the rent checks and paid the mortgage.
But soon after, I saw flames shooting up in the woods behind the barns.
Afraid for the horses’ lives, I raced top speed to the house on my polio leg, only to collapse on the threshold. I crawled to the phone and made two calls, one to the fire department and another to my doctor.
The fire was extinguished, the horses were unhurt, but my heart had taken a beating – literally. More fatigue.
Not many days later, I heart the unmistakable sound of dripping. Now the roof leaked!
Thankfully, years before, I’d put the farmhouse on the National Register of Historic Places. In exchange for more paperwork, the grant money soon turned the drip, drip, drip of rain into the tap, tap, tap of hammers. Like a cape thrown over its shoulders, the rambling saltbox house became cloaked in a new wooden-shingled roof.
Now we were dry, but with no money in the budget for heating oil, the nights grew colder. That’s when the flaming autumn foliage directed me to the answer. Logs!
A state forester marked our trees, a sharecropper cut and split the wood and we carried in the logs. Wood stove heat soon filled the kitchen, drifting up to the children’s bedrooms through a hole I cut in the ceiling.
For more products, gratis, I labored hard to tap maple sap, pick blackberries, pluck Concord grapes, dig carrots, hang herbs, gather apples and collect goat’s milk.
As a physical therapist, I spent weekdays away from the farm, trudging in rain and snow to the front doors of the elderly. Limping on my bum leg, sometimes I thought I, not they, should be the patient. Each workday climaxed with an amusement park ride along twisting country roads in order to be home by 3:30 and greet the kids back from school.
The phone jangled me back to the present. It was my daughter.
In a depressed monotone I said, “I can’t believe the prom is over already. Did you have a good time?”
“Yes, Mom, but…”
“If I sound a bit down, it’s because I’m feeling tired.”
“Sorry, but Mom!”
“Some days are just like that, you know.”
“Yes, but Mom!”
“I was chosen prom queen tonight!”
“It’s true! I couldn’t believe it when they called out my name. I’m not one of the popular girls, you know. As the master of ceremonies placed the crown on my head, I lifted my chin and thought, “Well if this is the way it’s supposed to be for me, I’ll be the best queen I know how.”
Bang, bang popped the balloons of sorrow and regret, goodbye waved the streamer of sympathy, and even the party horn of exhaustion went silent. My self-pity dissolved in the effervescence of my daughter’s joy.
Through a clear window of blessing, my single-parent life looked brighter.
I realized how fun it had been to haul the Christmas tree from the woods and decorate it with red berries, silver cones and gilded nuts. How exciting it was to watch the children scamper to find chocolate Easter eggs hidden in the crevices of the Early American stone walls, the winner given the chocolate bunny in the hollow of the old apple tree. I loved the shrieks of young voices buried in the heaped piles of autumn leaves and the whoosh of the horse-drawn sleigh packed with bundled kids in the falling snow.
Mustaches of cream and berries on little mouths made me laugh. Soft yellow candles aglow on young faces warmed my heart. Story time in the oak-beamed sitting room, nestled by the spacious fireplace, left me peaceful.
I saw, like the widow, a faithful God who had turned my little oil into much. I knew He, not the selection committee, had actually chosen my daughter for prom queen to help pop my pity party and inflate my faith – to go forward.
Thank you Margaret…for your provision of perspective on what God has given us.
“Provision of Oil” From the book Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul 2 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and LeAnn Thieman. Copyright 2012 by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Published by Backlist, LLC, a unit of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Chicken Soup for the Soul is a registered trademark of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.