HE GIVETH AND GIVETH AND GIVETH AGAIN
by Mariane Holbrook
It was the mid-1930s during the grim and devastating years of the Great Depression.
Financial tycoons who lost massive fortunes in the collapse of the stock market jumped to their deaths from the tops of ten story buildings. Weary mothers, tired of hearing their children complaining of endless meals of beans and bread, offered to iron three baskets of clothes for their neighbors for 50 cents.
Husbands carefully carved out layers of thick cardboard to insert into the ragged and worn shoes they wore to work. Children eagerly consumed pieces of salty ice left behind on the streets after the ice truck pulled away.
Our family was not exempt. With seven children to feed, Mother and Daddy fought desperately to keep our heads above water while reminding our family continually that God had never failed us yet.
Times were hard. Incredibly hard.
The garden behind our home in upstate New York had always flourished. Daddy was a competent gardener and every year mother stocked the shelves in our cool cellar with a variety of home-canned vegetables. Though very sickly with pernicious anemia and consumed with arthritic pain, she used her imagination to give us nutritious, though usually meatless, meals.
Before each meal, we bowed our heads as Daddy began the blessing as usual: “Our gracious, loving heavenly Father.” I have yet to meet a more godly man. His prayer life was legendary, his knowledge of the Word was unparalleled and
his love for His heavenly father and all His children knew no bounds.
Like many wives, it was my mother’s responsibility to make sure the bills were
paid each month. When my father’s take-home pay from his job at the Lehigh Valley Railroad became less and less and reached a critical stage, Mother had a conversation with Daddy that went something like this:
“You know, dear, we’ve always tithed but now we’re unable to because our bills are mounting higher and higher with no relief in sight. We might even lose the house we’re trying to buy because we’re way behind in our mortgage payments. I suggest that we plant half the garden for our pastor and the other half for ourselves. That way we could at least give something to the Lord’s work.”
My father very reluctantly agreed. Placing the tithe envelope in the collection plate every Sunday was something Daddy did with joy and thanksgiving. It was a time of worship for him, of sacrifice, a means of being obedient to God. Still, he knew the gravity of their financial situation and faced the realities of it with resignation.
The next day, Daddy used his hoe to draw a line down the center of the garden. With twine and two sticks, he divided the garden into two equal halves.
Every evening after supper, Daddy carefully hoed and watered every precious seedling in both sides of the garden, satisfied that he would have an abundant crop. Still, he bathed the plants with prayer as they began to gain height.
However, as summer approached, Daddy became anxious and disturbed. The family’s half of the garden began withering under the blistering sun while the preacher’s half was thriving. Desperately, Daddy worked to save the family’s vegetables, using every tried and true gardening method he could think of.
As the preacher’s tomatoes grew and multiplied, our family’s tomatoes slowly shriveled and dropped to the ground. The vines of the preacher’s green beans grew taller than the wooden stakes to which they were tied, while our family’s’ beans wilted away and died.
As the time for harvesting approached, Mother and Daddy had to make a decision. One relative insisted that God would surely understand if our family claimed the preacher’s half of the garden. Another relative accused my parents of irrational thinking, of jeopardizing their children’s health.
After much prayer, Mother and Daddy decided to honor their commitment to God and give the preacher the vegetables from his half of the garden.
The preacher, unaware of my parent’s original commitment, accepted bags of cucumbers, which his wife skillfully packed into canning jars for pickles. Bushels of tomatoes and green beans were home-canned by the preacher’s wife for use during the hard months ahead when church offerings were unusually sparse. Daddy continued to leave bags of beets, corn, carrots and onions on the front porch of the parsonage, always grateful that he had at least something to give to God’s work.
But an amazing thing had occurred all during this summer of harvesting. Neighbors and friends began leaving boxes and bags of vegetables on our front porch. Some thoughtful relatives had even canned the beans, tomatoes and corn for Mother’s cellar shelves. Mother and Daddy were stunned but thankful for this unexpected generosity from so many sources and at the end of the summer realized that the cellar shelves were considerably more packed with canned vegetables than If Mother and Daddy had reaped the harvest from both sides of the garden for our family
They confirmed in their hearts again that you can’t out-give God who promised to “do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or think.”
That fall and winter, as Mother and Daddy entertained visiting preachers and returning missionaries, they carried up from the cellar dozens of canned vegetables that God had wonderfully provided through caring relatives and neighbors. Their covenant with God had the unthinkable results of a failed family garden, but provided a spectacular opportunity for God to reward my parents’ unfailing faith and uncommon trust that He would somehow provide.
And He did!
Mariane Holbrook is a retired teacher, an author of two books, a musician and artist.
She lives with her husband on coastal North Carolina. She maintains a personal website
www.marianholbrook.com and welcomes your Emails at Mariane777@bellsouth.com.
INCREDIBLE!!!! Oh I love to hear true stories like this!!!
Thank you so much for sharing.
I remember those meager times in my home, with my one brother and sister. We had another sister arrive when I was 12 yrs. old. I remember my mom would make tomatoes with bread...I mean, she would cook them together! I also had black olive sandwiches. LOL We had a small victory garden, but I didn't like it when those white rabbits were cooked. I refused to eat them!!
Blessings wished for you....