On Christmas Eve, the unthinkable happened. Dad had just left on a last minute trip, while Mom and I began a quick tidy of the house before my grandma and great-aunt arrived for a holiday meal. All was well. We had the soup in the roaster, desserts in the fridge and the kids were playing quietly in their room with Legos. It was a snapshot of Christmas cheer fit for Currier and Ives, modern edition. Until…disaster struck.
The foreboding gurgle from the bathroom preceded an awful discovery—the septic tank was backing into our house. Instantly, what had been a relaxing afternoon with good food and family ahead, was rearranged into a scramble to find towels, call Dad home, and figure out next steps.
We dug up our tank and desperately tried to find a company willing to come out on Christmas Eve. Eventually, we found someone willing to give us advice over the phone for what we could do ourselves to get through the weekend. Half of us began rigging up a makeshift pump system, while the other half dragged the dishes outside to wash them via the farm spigot.
I say it with some pride, but we’ve adapted pretty quickly—it’s nothing we aren’t used to already from living in Nepal. But then, as if that wasn’t enough, while we were all busy washing our dishes and throwing out the water like medieval villagers, turning off the tap for showers while lathering on the soap, only flushing when we absolutely must…disaster struck again.
Two days into the new year, we woke up on a frosty morning, to an equally frosty house. Stumbling from warm beds yielded groans—now the heat wasn’t working either. This time it was a call to our neighbor, an HVAC expert, as we shivered in the kitchen, heating water for hot cider all around. It doesn’t help that this is the coldest weather Tennessee has seen this time of year in nearly a century, as it means that the house is still chillier.
Admittedly, when this all first started happening, I took it rather well. I’ve had a variety of experiences in my life, not excluding a lack of heat, a lack of water, or a lack of a good waste system. Sure it’s been inconvenient at times (you can’t just jump in the shower, you need to make sure the tank is low enough) but I viewed it with a not unseemly indifference.
It was in this indifference, however, that I almost missed what a lesson this time can be. As my mom and I tag-teamed washing our hair one morning (one would wash and the other would dump out the basin when it was full), we began discussing the truth: we are truly blessed.
There are the obvious blessings of course: eternal life in Christ Jesus, freedom, supported human rights, and citizenship in one of the most well-to-do nations around the globe. But when we start to dig into of what our lives consist, the blessings come thicker and faster, until one is deluged in a blizzard of graces.
While we can’t take a full, hot, luxuriant shower as the cold weather makes us want, we don’t have to walk miles to reach a well full of questionable water while fearing the whole time that we could be kidnapped or raped. While we are currently wearing at least two layers of clothes in our own home, at least we have the electricity to run a heater and make warm food. While we’re running buckets of sudsy water from our washer to minimize how much goes in our tank, at least we live in a country at peace, unafraid of marauding bands or guerilla attacks. We are blessed!
I believe this is something we lose sight of all too often. When we live a life full of amenities, we begin to take them for granted and lose sight of all the many peoples in this world who would be happy just to have one of them. We tend to think we can’t live without things such as a working dishwasher, a good stove, or a fridge. After a while, we begin to see them not as blessings, but as necessities, and in so doing, lose the appreciation they are due.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17 NASB).
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13 NASB).
“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16 NASB).
Every blessing is from God Himself, who loves us beyond imagining. He has even given us of Himself! Already we’ve seen His Hand in our troubles. Our neighbor has already spent several hours working on our furnace, and has yet to indicate that he wants to be paid for it beyond the price of parts. A local church has blessed us with some of the funds necessary for our septic tank renovations (funds that we still don’t completely have). A family of friends have graciously allowed us to use their washer and dryer for clothes.
These words are truth: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NASB).
We’re blessed to do what we do. But in all honesty, of all the words used in a missionary’s job description, “financially rich” doesn’t show up. And yet, in comparison to the majority of the world, we are indeed astoundingly affluent. And in keeping with the Psalmist, we choose, even in times of hardship, to praise the Lord for all He has done.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits…” (Psalms 103:2 NASB).