One chilly winter day, I sat thinking about the problems I could not seem to solve. Our irregular salary did not meet our needs even when it did arrive. My husband, James, traveled much of the time from one district to another. Our boys enjoyed good health, but little Ruth was not a strong child. We did not own decent clothing. I patched and repatched with spirits sinking to the lowest ebb. The water gave out in the well, and the wind blew through cracks in the floor.
Although people in the parish were kind and generous, being in a new settlement meant each family must struggle for itself. My faith began to waver at the very time I needed it most.
Early in life I was taught to take God at His word. I reviewed the promises in dark times until I knew, as David did, "who was my fortress and deliverer." Now a daily prayer for forgiveness was all that I could offer.
My husband's thin overcoat hardly kept out the cold in October and he often rode miles to attend some meeting or funeral after a scant meal of Indian cake and a cup of tea without sugar.
Soon it would be Christmas. The children always expected their presents. The ice on the lake was thick and smooth, and the boys spent free hours trying to carve a pair of skates. Ruth, in some unaccountable way had taken a fancy that the dolls I had ma de were no longer suitable; she wanted a nice, large one. She insisted on praying for it.
It seemed impossible; but oh, I wanted to give each child a present! I felt that God had deserted us, but did not tell my husband of my doubts. He worked so earnestly and heartily, and I supposed him to be of good courage. I kept the sitting room cheerful with an open fire and tried to serve our scanty meals as invitingly as possible.
The morning before Christmas, James went out to visit a sick man. All I could send along for his lunch was a piece of bread. I wrapped my plaid shawl around his neck, and tried to whisper a promise in his ear, but the words died away upon my lips. I let him go without it.
The dark, hopeless day dragged on. I coaxed the children to bed early, for I could not bear their talk. When Ruth went to bed, I listened to her prayer. She asked once more for a doll and for skates for her brothers. Her bright face looked so lovely when she whispered to me, "You know I think they'll be here early tomorrow morning, mama" that I felt willing to move heaven and earth to save her from disappointment. When alone, I sat down and gave way to bitter tears.
Before long James returned, chilled and exhausted. He drew off his boots and thin stockings. His feet looked red with cold. "I wouldn't treat a dog that way, let alone a faithful servant," I said. I glanced up and saw the hard lines in his face and the look of despair—James felt discouraged too.
I brought him a cup of tea, feeling sick and dizzy. He took my hand and we sat for an hour without a word. I wanted to die and meet God, and tell Him His promises weren't true. My soul filled with rebellious despair.
Suddenly the sound of bells reached us, and a loud knock at the door. James sprang up to open it. There stood Deacon White. "A box came by express just before dark. I brought it around as soon as I could get away. Reckon it might be for Christmas. I determined that you should have it tonight. Here is a turkey my wife asked me to fetch along, and these other things I believe belong to you." He hurried into the house with the box, then said good night, and rode away.
Without speaking, James brought a chisel and opened the box. He drew out a thick red blanket and we could see that the box was full of clothing. It seemed at that moment as if Christ fastened upon me a look of reproach. James sat down and covered his face with his hands. "I can't touch them," he exclaimed,
"I haven't been true. God has been trying me to see if I would be faithful. I saw you suffering too, but I could not comfort you. Now I know how to preach the awfulness of running away from God."
"James," I said, clinging to him, "don't take it to heart like this, I am to blame. I ought to have helped you. We will ask Him together to forgive us."
"Wait a moment, dear, I cannot talk now," he said. Then he went into another room. I knelt down and my heart broke; in an instant all the darkness, all the stubbornness rolled away. Jesus came again and stood before me, but with the loving word, "Daughter!"
Sweet promises of tenderness and joy flooded my soul. I was so lost in praise and gratitude that I forgot everything else. I don't know how much time passed before James returned, but I knew he too had found peace. "Now, my dear wife," he said, "let us thank God together." He poured out words of praise to God.
The hour grew late. The fire died out. We touched nothing in the box but the warm blanket. James alked to the fireplace, piled on some fresh logs, lighted two candles and only then, we began to examine our treasures.
We found an overcoat. I made James try it on, just the right size! I danced around him for all my lightheartedness had returned. He insisted I put on a warm cloak that lay gently folded in the box. My spirits always infected him, and we both laughed like foolish children.
We found a warm suit of clothes, three pairs of woolen hose, a dress, yards of flannel, and a pair of arctic overshoes for each of us. In one shoe I found a slip of paper.
"Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy days, so shall thy strength be," it read. Another note had been slipped into the gloves. The same dear hand had written, "I, the Lord thy God, will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee: Fear not, I will help thee."
The wonderful box had been packed with thoughtful care. Each of the boys received a suit of clothes, and for Ruth, there was a red dress. Mittens, scarfs, and hoods had been tucked into the center of the container, and another box contained a great wax doll. I burst into tears again, and wept for joy. It was too much! When we found two pairs of skates, we exclaimed again. We unwrapped books, stories for the children to read, aprons and underclothing, knots of ribbon, a gay little tidy, a lovely photograph, needles, buttons and thread; even a muff, and an envelope containing a ten-dollar gold piece.
We cried over everything we took up.
The clock struck midnight. We felt faint and exhausted with happiness. I made a cup of tea, cut a fresh loaf of bread, and James boiled some eggs. We sat before the fire, and how we enjoyed our supper! There we talked about our life and how sure a help God had proven to be.
The boys awoke in the morning with a shout at the sight of their skates. Ruth caught up her doll, and hugged it tightly without a word, then she went into her room and knelt by her bed.
When she returned, she whispered tome, "I knew it would be there, mama, but I wanted to thank God just the same, you know." We went to the window and watched the boys skating on the ice with all their might.
My husband and I both returned thanks to the church in the east that sent us the box and have tried to return thanks to God every day since.
Hard times have come again and again, but we have trusted in Him, dreading nothing, never having so much as a doubt of His protecting care. Over and over again, we proved that, "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."