Thursday, July 23, 2015

Come back tomorrow...

In a small Wisconsin town in the 1930s the bitter cold bit at a young girl's nose. Her clothes were wearing thin and her coat now had holes throughout. But there were no new winter coats in this town. There was no food, either. There was no work. And no money. They were calling it "The Great Depression". I guess there were hardly any new winter coats in any town. This young 8-year-old girl was wondering why she couldn't have grown up somewhere warmer when she finally arrived home. She almost missed it due to the snow blowing around her now numb face. She had to pull hard to open the door against the force of the blustering wind. 

"Amber, thank goodness, you're home." Her mothers weak voice met her at the door. Their home was small, only two rooms. One for cooking and eating and sitting by the fire, and one for sleeping. Everyone slept in there. All seven of them. Mother was sitting in their only chair -a rocking chair, mending some clothes. The baby whined in her cradle, while mother rocked it with her foot. The two next smallest ones were curled up at her feet, wrapped up in one blanket the two of them, napping. Sleeping to ignore their hunger, it was all they could do until supper. Amber was the second oldest, and was usually proud of that fact, but not today. "John is out searching for firewood, my dear, I know it's very cold but I need you to go out again." Amber barely made it home from school without freezing, how could she go back out again? "Your father waited in the breadlines all day, but we just don't have enough. My dear girl, I've heard that the grocer on 7th street sometimes has pity on those of us with too many mouths to feed, I need you to go and ask him for food, please, dear. I know it's cold. But your father and brother are getting weak from not eating, they've been leaving their share for the little ones, we have to find them something..." She trailed off not bothering to explain what would happen if they didn't, Amber was old enough to understand. That's what the depression had done to her. What it had done to a lot of little girls. 

She just nodded, working up her courage, trying to be strong and gave her mother a hug to reassure her. As she pulled away her mother placed something in her hand, something heavy. An old pocket watch. Amber recognized it, it was grandfather's. Mother had saved it all these years after he had passed away. She couldn't mean for Amber to pay the grocer with this? It was too valuable...and too not valuable? The pocket watch wasn't anything special to anyone but grandfather and mother. It was really old, and wasn't even made of a nice metal like gold or silver, it was just your basic pocket watch. Would the grocer really want this old thing? Tick. tick tick. It did still work...amazing. Amber wondered at it for a long time, until mother closed her hand around it firmly, "You'd better go." Amber's eyes met mothers, all mother did was nod, she couldn't utter the words, but this was all they had left of any value. She had to convince the grocer to take it.  She took a deep breath before opening that stubborn door again, as if it was warning her not to go out, she only hoped she could make it back at all, much less with food in hand. 

She had put on a brave face for mother but once outside in that freezing gust her fear cut at her worse than the chill. She fought back tears, knowing they would freeze on her face and make matters worse. Tick tick tick. The pocket watch encouraged her to go on, she shoved the hand gripping it into her coat pocket, and forced herself to move forward. She pushed on for what seemed like miles but was really only a few blocks, and just when she felt like giving up -curling up in a sad frozen ball in the gutter, a wooden sign clanked against a wall. The wind kept blowing the sign but she made it out with ease, mostly from memory, "Grocer". 

She pushed inside past the wind and collapsed against it, once it closed. "My, my, who is this? I'm closed for the day." The room felt noticeably warm and the familiar grocer walked toward her from behind his counter, he wasn't a tall man, but he had very kind eyes. They reminded her of honey, warm and sweet. His smooth hair and mustache were dark brown, like chocolate. Everything in here reminded her of food! Her stomach growled loudly and she immediately blushed. "My child, you poor thing, have you eaten anything today?" She stared at the floor ashamed, "I had some milk this morning." He shook his head sadly and extended her a hand, she willingly took it and he hoisted her up on her feet. 

"Please, sir," she said, "I know you're closed, but don't send me away with nothing. I've walked all this way in the freezing cold, I barely made it here against that awful wind, and I'm exhausted from trudging through all the snow. Please, you can't send me away empty handed. What will mother say?" The man looked at her with compassion in his honey eyes, "Mother? Did your mother send you?" She sniffed, in the warmth her nose was starting to run, and nodded. "Father waited all day in the bread lines, you see, but there are seven of us, and well, we just don't have enough. The little ones don't know it but father and John, that's my older brother, they keep giving their portion to them. So they haven't eaten in days. They are getting too weak to chop firewood, or wait in lines for food or work. They can't go on this way. They will get ill. Or worse..." He quietly, patiently listened to her rambling explanation, nodding ever so often to reassure her. But she couldn't finish that last sentence. She didn't want to. He had to understand. Surely. Instead she just stuck out her frozen hand, still clutching the old pocket watch, and opened it to reveal her offer. Surely he would understand. "My, my, what is this you've got here?" He examined the watch carefully. "This is very old. Probably an antique. I can't believe it's still ticking." Believe it, the watch prided with it's tick tick tick. "This is a special little watch, where did you get it?" She was encouraged that he took such an interest in the watch, "It was my grandfather's. Please, it's all I have. Couldn't I trade it for some food? Anything will do." He stared at the watch carefully. "I see." He hesitated, and Amber understood, it wasn't very valuable at all. She hung her head, she had failed, what would mother say? "I'll take a look back here and see what I have left." She couldn't believe her ears, her head shot up, "You will?" He laughed and it seemed that even his eyes were smiling, "I certainly will." 

He sent her home with a bag of food, but not without having a warm cup of tea with her by the fire. He wanted her to warm up before going back out into the cold. And maybe he was lonely. He did live and work here all alone. The bag had a few potatoes, a piece of bread, and a handful of nuts still in their shell. Small enough for her to carry, and plenty for them to eat tonight. He walked her to the door but before opening it he took her hand and placed in it grandfather's watch, he closed her hand around it and whispered with a smile and a twinkle in his kind eyes, "Come back tomorrow."

This phrase is what inspired me to write this story. Come back tomorrow... just like the grocer only gave Amber what she could easily carry, enough for one day, and yet, invited her to return again for more when she needed it -the next day, God has been so drawing on my heart. I pray for wisdom, I pray for peace, I pray for strength, He gives me what I need and says, "Come back tomorrow." Scripture says his mercies are new every morning! [Lamentations 3:22-23] If they are new then why should we hoard it today? We know we can come back for more, fresh tomorrow. He knows exactly what we will need in order to face each and every day, and all we need to do is ask...each and every day. He wants us to come back because He loves us, He loves spending time with us. We shouldn't be asking for God to make us wise or strong, but instead that He would give us the wisdom for today, the strength we need to get through the day. 

Solomon asked God for wisdom, and he got it. And yet, he did some really stupid things in his lifetime. What happened to his wisdom? God was faithful to give it, Solomon definitely had access to it, but maybe he got cocky and thought he was wise enough, and that he didn't need God anymore. Solomon himself says in Ecclesiates 12:11 "The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. " This, I believe, is why Jesus taught us to pray for "our daily bread". He wasn't literally talking about bread, or even physical provision, but spiritual bread! What is bread if not nourishment? What you need to make it through the day! This is how we should pray, that God would give us what we need to get through this day, and then come back tomorrow.