I’m one of three kids who were, by economic standards, considered poor. Our parents heated our old farmhouse with wood or coal, we wore hand-me-down clothes, and Mom shopped the grocery sales with $20 to feed a family of five each week. I have no clue how she made the money stretch as far as it did.
But in our childhood, our lack of material things and modern conveniences didn’t give us a clue that we lived at the poverty level. No one told us, certainly not our young parents, who really made life fun.
My brother, sister and I have an ongoing text message thread since we’re hours away from one another and always busy working. As winter weather approached this week, I joked with them that my winter experience of washing my hair in cold water as a child when we ran out of propane was apparently just preparation for the times I do it intentionally now, to preserve my expensive hair color...and the cold nights spent wrapped in blankets in a drafty old house was just preparation for keeping my house at 63 degrees to keep my big hairy dog, which is king of the house, comfortable.
We agreed that God is in the details, opening doors for us in our careers that allowed us to employ the crazy work ethic our parents modeled, putting us in much better circumstances than they had...and giving us amusing memories of the “good old days” when we had nothing. Except we had everything!
I think about God in the details when I consider the Christmas story of a tiny baby born upon arrival to a very young mother in a livestock shelter, after an approximately 100 mile donkey ride. (Pregnant women, can you imagine?) The Savior of all of us, born in such lowly circumstances, was no coincidence. It was a detail that God ordained.
Sometimes I’m guilty of looking for the big thing God is going to do in my life, and not seeing the big things He does in the smallest of details.
A couple-three weeks ago, I had a full plate with special section projects for the newspapers I work on. I looked over at least 500 hand-written letters to Santa from children in schools across Southern Indiana and Southern Illinois, preparing them for Letters to Santa editions for three different newspapers. I love reading them, but let me just say that I don’t envy Santa getting that much mail.
In the midst of working on one of the sections, I got an emergency call from my sister, reporting Dad was injured. That Thursday morning was the day the housekeeper comes to tidy up things for him. He can build a transmission, but laundry is beyond him, so she comes just one morning a week to help keep the house looking like Mom would have wanted it to look.
The housekeeper arrived and saw blood running under the bathroom door. She called to Dad, who sounded weak and wouldn’t/couldn’t come out. We still don’t know all the details, but we know he sustained a wound to his leg that punctured a major artery while he was working on a piece of township road maintenance equipment.
He thought he was going to wrap the leg up with a towel and go back out and keep working, but he was too weak to do anything. If Marlene, the housekeeper, hadn’t arrived when she did, Dad wouldn’t be living today.
But Marlene called 911, stayed with Dad and prayed as we all did for Dad. The ambulance crew drove to my country childhood homeplace, took a look at Dad and called for an air ambulance. He took his first helicopter ride at age 82 to Deaconess Midtown Hospital in Evansville, and arrived in time for them to stop the bleeding, stitch and staple him back together.
Just that one detail. A potentially fatal accident, but God provided the detail that if it was going to happen to this robust man who raised us, it would be on the morning that someone would arrive to call for help when he couldn’t.
I quickly finished my Santa letter and newspaper projects and raced to the hospital to meet my sister and see for myself that Dad was going to be OK. I wasn’t prepared to see his face drained of color, but his voice was returning and he sounded as “bullet-proof” as ever.
Hopping up to this week, with a few trips with Dad to the doctor to keep track of how the wound is healing in between, and on the eve of the morning I was supposed to meet him to get his staples removed, I got an email.
It was from a man who drinks coffee with friends and happened to be reading the Santa letters I put together. He noticed a particular letter from an 8-year-old girl who didn’t ask for toys, but asked Santa for her family to be able to afford things.
The detail here is that somehow, this letter wound up in a newspaper being read 100 miles or more from where it was written. The man and his coffee drinking friends wanted to help and reached out to us to help connect them with this little girl’s family. We contacted the superintendent of her school, who looked into it with the information we gave him, and he was able to get the family’s permission to provide contact information for the Good Samaritans 100 or more miles away.
The same day Dad got his staples out and I thanked God once more for being in the details to save his life, this coffee crew drove 100 miles or more to meet the young girl and her dad at a McDonald’s and gave them a generous gift. What they didn’t know was that this family’s home burned and the gift couldn’t have come at a better time.
Don’t tell me God’s not in the details! We might make mistakes, but God does not! He places people in the right place at the right time to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus in our lives.
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