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She remembers that birthday in a unexpected way - week of November 17, 2011

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By Bill Horner

  She remembers that birthday in an unexpected way

             Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

         It is ironic how thankfulness often increases when material abundance decreases. Perhaps that’s when we begin to realize how dependent we are on the Lord for “our daily bread.”

         Moving our young family and meager possessions from Texas and seminary in September of 1985 was no small task. Finding work and a place to live was even more difficult.  e hoped to start a new church. But South Florida was not a family-friendly area. The cost of living was sky high. And because of so many irresponsible people, the trust factor was quite low.

         I would not receive my first paycheck for a whole month, and our funds were exhausted from the move. We found a small two -bedroom house to rent, but the owner wanted three months rent up front (“first, last, and security” they called it.)  Swallowing my pride, I asked my in-laws to wire us money for it. It would be many months before we could pay them back. 

         For that first month we had no phone. Never mind that we’d had phone service for 10 years without missing a bill; the phone company demanded a large deposit.  And then there was the electric utility to deal with. “We require a $160 deposit,” the well-groomed, well-mannered clerk informed me. He might as well have said, “We require one arm and one leg for a deposit.” I held my breath and handed him a letter of credit from the utility back in Texas. Pondering it for what seemed like forever, he finally said, “This will help.”

He waived the deposit.

         Meals were meager affairs. On one occasion we scraped up loose change to buy a quart of milk so we’d have something for the kids for breakfast. Those first weeks were so tight. But I think what hurt the most was trying to explain to our 3 year old girl Susanna why we had no present for her on her birthday. We did our best. We bought a cheap sheet cake mix (no icing) and scrounged around for three candles.  “Sweetheart,” we told her, “we’ll try to have a gift for you in a few days after Daddy gets paid.” We did, and celebrated her birthday again, but it was a cheap gift, and I felt like a deadbeat Dad.

         We were in a strange locale with virtually no money and no friends (or so we thought), surrounded by strange people. Many had moved to South Florida from north of the Mason-Dixon line. Others had moved north from Cuba. But we discovered very quickly that both the brusque New Yorkers and the vivacious Cubans could be incredibly kind-hearted. 

For instance, a co-worker, discerning my need, quietly offered to lend me money to tide me over. And our next-door neighbor Miss Alice befriended our kids and took them out for ice cream and Disney movies.  y neighbor across the street fussed at me for renting a lawn mower to cut my knee-high grass. “Bill!” he chided.  “You can use my mower anytime.” 

         By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I realized that we had our nose above water and no bill had gone unpaid. We missed family, but we had new friends. God had even provided us with a turkey for the day, which I smoked on the grill. I gave a few slices to Miss Alice, who claimed it was “Dee-licious!”

         But I have always felt a twinge of remorse at having denied my little girl a proper birthday celebration. I was thankful she was only three and unable to remember it, or so I thought. A few years ago she confided to us that she remembers that birthday quite well. With surprising fondness, she recalls, “It was special. That was the year I had two birthdays!”  Indeed we had plenty to be thankful for.

         In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).