(This is a guest column, graciously written by one of the administrators of the Mother of God Forum I link to at the right. It is a marvelous testimony of how well-placed our trust in God is if we only turn things over to Him, do what little we can and care for those around us. Hmmm…living testimony of a woman who found how fruitful it is to acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around her.)
By Marti McCullough
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19
I thank you Charlie for allowing me to write on your forum! What a grace! I am not any brilliant theologian nor am I prolific and eloquent writer like you are. I am a mom of seven children and my husband and I have been married for 33 years and we have homeschooled for 16 years. I try to give God glory with the stories of my life and how He has impacted my family and me. Hope is a verb in my life. It’s an ever moving target of needs and wants within my big family and those we come in contact with, allowing God to work through my husband when decisions need to be made. (Sometimes with me holding my breath!) I would like to share with your audience about God’s abundance and his providential ways.
When I was young my mother used to say I could find lost things. As I got older my desires turned to Jesus and Mary and I began to ask for things in prayer for others. As a young military wife in Germany in the 1980’s I saw a need for unwed soldiers and young families over there. There were no thrift shops and the turnover in personnel was great. Young women soldiers would come over and some became pregnant living in the barracks. The only answer the military had was to kick them out to live in the German villages, many times without a car. They struggled to get to and from work on buses, didn’t speak the language and when their child was born (if they weren’t aborted), they would have to designate a stranger as guardian for their child while they were out in the field, sometimes weeks at a time training. I started an organization called Help for Unwed Mothers in Bamberg, Germany. I got people to adopt these women and help provide for them through donations of food and money and material needs. People would tell me what they needed and I would write it down in a book and pray about it. I did the same thing for the lower income families whose soldier was gone for weeks at a time.
The first time I did this someone had called me and asked me for a mattress for their baby bed. I, being the mother of three at the time and now a mother of seven was always very practical and all my babies slept with my husband and I. Never did it occur to me that a baby could not sleep in a dresser drawer sitting beside a bed. Wasn’t that a bassinette? I stood by the window and looked out onto the parking lot of the military housing complex. My prayer went something like this, “Sweet Jesus, this person has come to me and asked me to get them this mattress. I don’t have one, but in all your riches I know you do. I beg you to provide this for them, not for their sake, but so that your generosity might be glorified and that when I tell them that you provided and that you provide everything we need, their heart might be opened and they might give praise and thanksgiving to you and your abundant heart! Have mercy, Lord.”
Just then, a car pulled up next to the dumpster in the parking lot. A man got out and pulled a baby mattress out of his backseat and leaned it up against the dumpster and drove off. I laughed out loud and squealed like a little girl as I ran down the staircase to the dumpster. I looked the mattress over. It was covered with a zip up mattress cover and I took it upstairs and examined its perfection. I took vinegar and water and wiped it down and called my friend who needed it. It had been 15 minutes! Soon, people were calling me every day. The lists were longer and the people wanting to give me items and get them items were huge. There were even cars given to me! It was so beautiful and miraculous that it embedded in my heart a love for God’s abundant love for us and his desire to provide everything for us if only we would ask with a humble heart.
I became a professional ‘Junker’. In Germany they tax homes by the number of doorways a person has in their home so people do not have closets. There is limited space and they do not have thrift shops. On designated days entire towns would put items next to the curb that was not trash. I went in search of items and never came home without them in my Buick station wagon. Before we came back to the States the women of the battalion nicknamed me ‘Potential Bag Lady’. I found it fitting because I was a dumpster diver and because I saw myself as just that; totally reliant on God and his providential ways. When I came back stateside I continued to ask God for those items that we needed and wanted. Making lists and crossing items off in bright colored highlighters so our children would exclaim, “God provided again!”
Five years ago, in prayer our Lord told me we needed to get off of the Pacific coast. We had lived in the Pacific Northwest for seventeen years so I went to my husband who is the head of our family and my rock and I told him to pray about it. He was in a job he loved, our older children were moved out, married or going to school there where we lived. He said that ‘If it was God’s will, doors would open, if it wasn’t they would close.’ We just needed to move forward. Every single door opened. So much so that when I went to visit a priest friend in Missouri I wanted him to bless our statue of St. Joseph at the altar of St. Joseph in St. Louis Cathedral. He asked me where I was moving. I replied that although we had many applications for jobs all over the place, none had come through. He asked if I had prayed over a map. I shook my head no and he proceeded to get a map out and we prayed over it. He then said, “You are going to Montana. Have you ever been to Montana?” My eyes were big as I said, “Nope! We don’t even have an application in Montana!” He then prayed again with me and said, “You are going to Billings. I hear that is a nice town!” I laughed out loud. Then we headed out to the Cathedral. As we were standing at the altar of St. Joseph, my husband called on my cell phone and said, “Are you sitting down?” I whispered, “No, I’m getting St. Joseph blessed by Father.” He said, “Someone just called me and wanted to know if I was interested in a job in Billings, Montana…what do you think?” I whipped around and looked at the priest and burst into tears trying to stifle a “Yes!”
The priest said, “I see a small grove of trees in the backyard, a giant rock and the word ‘Hawthorn.”
Sure enough, my husband didn’t even know these details when he picked out our home and called me to get on a plane to come look at his dream home. The small groves of trees were there, the rock and the street next to ours is Hawthorn. I greedily prayed as I walked the property for our Lord to give me one more sign that this was the place he wanted us. I was leaving my children on the coast coming to a town where I didn’t know anyone. I was bringing my father who has Alzheimer’s with us so I could take care of him. It was such a huge act of faith! There on the pathway in the yard was yellow brick and the writing on the brick was ‘AP Green, Mexico, MO’. I smiled and yelled at the top of my lungs to the heavens to make sure God heard me. THANK YOU GOD! THANK YOU FOR PROVIDING SO BEAUTIFULLY! That company is where my father and my grandfather worked when my father was a young man in Missouri!
In thanksgiving, we now take needy families into our home for up to six weeks at a time. We have priests stop by and stay and we are an open door to passersby. Our Lord says that my children will come here. He says he will provide. He showed me a vision of our Bishop walking in our backyard. I came in and said to my husband, “The Bishop is coming to our house!” He laughed and said, “Well, you better get to cooking and cleaning!” Two years later, the Bishop did come, along with most of the priests in our diocese and we had 11 priests stay with us from out of town. This summer they came again.
Recently my husband and I were talking about saving water from the roof and creating a water system out of gutters. He stated that gutters would be needed for two buildings and that he wanted white gutters for our home and brown gutters for the other building. He complained, “But gutters are expensive, it’s not priority.” I smiled and said, “But God is rich…if he wants us to have it he will provide it!” Two days later, my husband was gone and I got on the computer and was checking craigslist for the free items and lo and behold someone had put on white and brown gutters! I called, put my dad in the truck and went over and got them. When my husband got home I made him close his eyes and I told him, “Don’t ever think God doesn’t care about the smallest detail of our lives. He gets great joy in providing for our every need!” He opened his eyes and we laughed until we cried in amazement.
I have so many stories and so much proof of God’s grace and miracles. God’s mercy is his greatest attribute and as our creator he has never quit wanting to provide everything and desires to see us reach out to him in faith and thanksgiving because he is truly glorious and rich! I know that the times we are living in are testing us in this fire called life. I will share with your one more story that moved my soul to contemplate his glory and realize that poverty of spirit is such a great gift and even if I have lots of material items this doesn’t make me rich or poor, just as a lack of items doesn’t make me poor. There has to be a willingness to trust in great expectation, be patient in God’s time; not ours and give humble thanksgiving to a God who loves to spoil us with beautiful mountains, sunsets, and rain to grow food and flowers and colors galore! He humbly gives us himself as our daily bread from heaven and He will continue to do so as times get tougher.
My prayer partner of 23 years died recently of three kinds of cancer. He was 73 and I am 53. He was a brother I never had and we argued and laughed like brother and sister. Our conversions coincided and we became great friends. He died at home with his lovely wife and I got to sing to him and pray over him and say goodbye to him in Virginia. I was at home on a Saturday when his wife called and said, “Paul is dying and can’t talk, but I think he is hesitating to go, would you talk to him?” I took the phone and said, “Paul, I love you. Today is the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. You have hit the winning jackpot of Marian days! I promise you I will never quit praying for you, I pray that you will pray for me when you come into the kingdom! May God have mercy on your soul my sweet brother in Christ!” His wife and I were crying as I hung up. I went to take my daughter somewhere and I was praying along the way wiping tears of joy away for Paul. He was the lucky one.
On my way home I noticed an estate sale sign and ever the bag lady, I reached in my pocket and all I had was three dollars. The woman there said they were closing up and most everything was gone. I went room by room and it was very bare, not even worth spending three dollars. I walked into a room with one bookshelf and on the bookshelf was one thing; a statue of the Blessed Virgin holding the Child Jesus. I stood there and I knew Paul was dead at that moment. I walked up and picked up the statue and said, “Thank you Blessed Mother, thank you Jesus, thank you Paul!” I kissed it and then looked at the price tag. It was $3.00. I handed the money to the woman and went home. As I walked in the door Paul’s wife called and told me Paul was gone and that she had walked outside and experienced a beautiful rainbow and felt him hug her. I told her about the statue and later I looked the statue up on the internet. It was hand carved 12”made in Italy and I’d never seen one like it. I got an email from the company and they said it was worth $600 and hand carved in 1957 and very few had been made. I asked our Lady what her name was since she was holding something in her hand and Jesus’ hand was on top of the something in her hand that she is offering. She very sweetly said, “I am our Lady of Abundance. Tell everyone of my abundance and to trust in Jesus and me to provide everything!”