Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Thankful…for so much
Years ago, when my children were small, we used to have a “Thankful Tree”. The idea was not my own but borrowed from somewhere long before the internet was so large and ideas for such things were plentiful. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s simple. I would draw a large tree on paper (I used to get the end rolls from a newspaper office) and then tape the picture on a prominent wall in our home. I used colorful leaves cut from construction paper—enough for all six of us for every day in November. Every day, each of us would take one leaf and write on it something we were thankful for and then tape the leaf to the tree. By the end of the month, the tree would be full and the visual was excellent for the girls to see how much we could be thankful for instead of dwelling on what we didn’t have.
The interesting part of this story is how little we did have at the time. I was staying home and my husband was a teacher and coach. Raising four kids on that small salary was challenging but God was so much bigger. When we first decided to keep me home, we had no idea how it would happen; but as I’ve posted before, He came through in mighty ways. One post years ago I told the story of how I continued to dip into a box of detergent that was essentially empty and yet there was always enough for one more load. At a time when I had to do at least three loads of laundry a day and with no money to buy more detergent at that time, it was a testimony to me how He had my back…even on laundry.
We were not really poor…but we didn’t have any excess. We had a home, cars, clothing, and food so it’s hard to say that we were really destitute; but we were at the very least struggling every month to make ends meet.
I remember one time when we lived in Charleston…I took the girls to watch a basketball game at the school just so they could see their dad, who was then and still is an athletic director and is gone many hours from home. We usually brought snacks from home to go anywhere and never dreamed of using a concession stand (way out of our budget). Occasionally, I would buy one small pack of candy and split it among us all and that was a splurge for us.
We went to the game that one night and something wonderful happened. A sweet and amazing woman from the school asked me if she could buy each of the girls a pack of candy from the concession stand. I was dumbfounded but agreed to let her. It was one of the sweetest gestures anyone had done for us in a long time and the girls were so funny. I sat and watched as their large brown eyes absorbed what was happening with disbelief. They each timidly reached for their candy and stared at the bag as if it would disappear if they looked away. It made me sad and happy all at the same time and it was beautiful to see how much they appreciated every last piece. One of them only ate a few pieces that night and saved her bag of M&M’s to eat over the next week— a few pieces at a time every day.
Even though we had very little, I baked that Christmas and we gave away some simple baked goods to all our neighbors and the girl’s teachers. It wasn’t much, but our girls witnessed our giving out of our small supply.
About two years later something else happened that amazed me. We were working on our Thankful Tree and one of our girls took a leaf and wrote what she was thankful for just like we always did every day. When I collected the leaves to tape on the wall, I noticed her leaf simply said: “M&M’s”. Turning to her, I had to ask what she meant by such a bizarre response. Not that we didn’t like candy or anything, but I wasn’t sure what she meant.
“What do you mean by M&M’s?” I asked.
My daughter, who was now only 6 answered, “I’m thankful for our friend who gave me my own bag of M&Ms.”
As I turned to place the leaf on the tree, I choked back tears and thanked God one more time for all He has provided through the years…even M&M’s.