Birthdays can be so hard to wait for — especially when you are turning four. Since (at least) March when his brother turned six, Henry has been planning, talking and asking about his birthday. His infamous question, “But why does my birthday have to take longer than everyone else’s?” was so adorably cute (and pathetic) that I told all of my friends and family about it when it happened. But even though it seemed at times that Henry’s birthday would NEVER arrive, it finally did.
Henry’s special day came on Sunday, July 8, complete with a Hotwheels cake,
plenty of presents,
and a guitar.
From what I could tell, Henry’s party was all that he’d hoped it would be. Although he didn’t want to believe me, his birthday did come, exactly 12 months after his last one.
The truth is, though, I could relate to how Henry had been feeling about his birthday. He and I are not that much different when it comes to patience. While he had been waiting (not so patiently) for July 8, I had been waiting (not so patiently) for July 10.
Joe and I both work at the same college. We both get paid on the 10th (or thereabouts) of every month. On a tight budget, we look forward to every Pay Day. But this one, July 10th, was different.
As an adjunct instructor, I only get paid ten months out of the year. Last summer I was paid my summer teaching stipends in June and July and did not get a paycheck in August. Since I get paid a little more to teach summer classes than I do regular session classes, we were able to put the extra cash from June and July aside to help get us through the month of August.
I assumed it would be the same this year.
Then, just a few days before June 11, pay day, I received notice that I would not be getting paid for my June class in June, but that my June class would be paid in July, and that my July stipend would be paid in August. Which meant that I would not be getting a paycheck in June. At all. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
What!?!?!?!?!?! was mostly my reaction. Then, like in most times of stress, I cried and called Joe.
We were not prepared for, nor had we planned for, ZERO of my income in June! What were we going to do?
A few days later Vacation Bible School began at our little Lutheran church. Since the church is small, we do the activities in the evenings, after work, when our members are available to volunteer. It was Monday, June 11, the day I was supposed to have gotten paid but didn’t, and I remember standing in church that evening, saying the Lord’s prayer.
As many times as I’ve recited the words, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” it never had struck me the way it did that night. Later that evening, I discovered that the theme for the night’s lesson was “God provides” and the Bible story was about how the Lord provided manna and quail for his people, the Israelites, during their desert journey. Pastor reminded us that God also gave strict instructions that the Israelites were only to collect enough food for that day, not any more. Any extra food that they tried to keep would not last to the next day.
Give us THIS day, our DAILY bread.
God provides. One day at a time.
I was beginning to get the message. It was as if God were saying to me, I know you’re troubled, Heather, but don’t panic. Don’t worry about tomorrow, or next week, or the week after. I will provide for your needs. Take each day as it comes, and trust me.
I have learned a lot in this last anxious month of scrimping and saying “no.” I’ve discovered that regular bar soap can also serve as face wash, shaving cream, hand soap and bath soap. I’ve realized that I don’t have to buy goodies or toys for the boys every time we go to the grocery store. I’ve even decided that I need to start looking for another job, a full-time (non-teaching) one, in which I’m paid 12 months of the year.
But mostly I’ve been reminded that Jesus knows what he is talking about when he teaches us to ask for our DAILY bread. (Matthew 6: 9-15)
He is right that we don’t need to worry, that our Father will take care of our physical needs. (Matthew 6:25-34)
And, we can trust the words of our Father throughout Scripture, but especially when he tells us, through the Psalmist, in one of my all-time favorite Bible chapters, Psalm 37:
“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.”
By God’s grace and the generosity of His people, we miraculously made it through 30 days of groceries, gas, bills, a trip to St. Louis, five birthday parties (including Henry’s) and the added expense of paying a babysitter since the kids are out of school, with only minor damage to our credit card.
Neighbors and coworkers, not knowing anything of our situation, literally dropped off fresh produce–corn, zucchini, tomatoes, squash, apples, potatoes, and peppers–at our doorstep.
A $25 gift card to a local restaurant showed up mysteriously on Joe’s desk at work, addressed to our family.
Two $50 American Express gift cards from Joe’s dad for mother’s and father’s day were put to good use grocery shopping.
So was the cash I received in the mail from my sister who was paying me back for a box of clothes I had shipped to her in California, with a little extra thrown in.
Praise God! His promises are true! His mercy and faithfulness are never-ceasing, and yet His provisions never cease to amaze me.
I have many hopes, dreams and prayers for Henry’s life as he continues to grow and, Lord willing, celebrate more birthdays. One of those prayers is that he would know that even though his birthday comes just once a year, as a child of God, his bread comes every day.
What are you waiting for? Forget about tomorrow and trust that God will provide for your needs, today.