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Pennies from Heaven

I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. We were a poor family of six—daddy, mama, two brothers, one sister and me. Dad worked hard and also volunteered as an associate pastor at our local Baptist church. My brothers, sister and I spent every Sunday—morning and evening—and every Wednesday night perched on the front pew of our little church listening to daddy deliver the message of the day. Mama sang and played the organ for the congregation. (She also worked as a short-order cook to help pay the bills.) During that time in my life, we were very close to our many relatives--daddy had ten brothers and sisters so family gatherings were very large when aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends all got together. Our paternal grandparents lived right next door at the time and went to church regularly with us. When grandma passed on it seemed the entire family fell apart and scattered around Florida.  Daddy stopped preaching and mama went to working afternoons and evenings shifts as a night cook. We too moved shortly afterwards. Times were rough financially for my family pretty much my entire life but the Lord always made sure we had our daily bread in ways I never even realized at the time. 

 

 

As a young girl of ten or eleven, I remember walking along the side of Interstate 275 –an interstate just across the street from where we lived in Tampa--alongside my daddy and younger sister picking up tossed out soda bottles. My sister and I struggling to pull our little red wagon through the soft, sandy dirt as daddy picked up dusty glass soda bottles of various types and gently placed them in the wagon. Many times I watched daddy jump over the flimsy chain link fence which separated us from the oncoming traffic to fetch a bottle that didn't quite make it to our side when tossed out of a speeding vehicle. My heart would pound as the cars whizzed closely by him, some never realizing his presence. Even as a young child I understood the danger my father risked to provide for his family. Worth a meager 5 cents apiece, that tiny amount meant a loaf of bread or gallon of milk to us.

 

 

The summer months were probably the most unbearable ones with the sun beating down upon our heads and the hot wind bristling over us as cars rushed by. This could have made bottle hunting an unpleasant task were it not for my dads always quick wit to make our endeavors fun. When he would find a bottle, he would rub it like a magic lamp and pretend a genie would come out.  My sister and I would laugh as he encouraged us to make silly wishes.  Daddy always told us our little wishes were prayers to God's ears and one day He would answer each of them if we would just wait on God.    

 

 

Once collected, the three of us would take the bottles back to our house and wash them inside and out with a garden hose. Then, we would go inside and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while the soda bottles, left perched on a little stand daddy had made, were turned upside down to dry out. Once dry, we walked to the grocery store and exchanged them for money which was then used to buy food. As a reward for all our hard work, daddy always let my sister and I pick out a few pieces of penny candy.  "See what happens when you work hard; you get a little something special," he would say with a little wink of the eye.  Funny thing is, I never really thought of it as work.

 

 

 

I always enjoyed being with my dad. He was such a humble man, full of the love of God and had a personality like that of Don Knotts portrayed in all the movies. (People often told him he looked like Don Knotts but I think it was more that he acted like Don Knotts.)  I never felt safer or more loved in my entire life than when I was with dad or in his arms. It was the way my father loved that has always made me know the love I have in Christ. I saw the love of Christ everyday exhibited through my dad.

 

 

Who would have thought God could bless and feed a family by using what other people threw out of their car windows as trash.  As I grow older now and these memories of gathering soda bottles come to mind, I smile and think of Ruth who was allowed to gleam the fields of Boaz for stalks of barley because of her kind heart and the way she loved. She was experiencing hard times just like us but God says He is always with us and promises us in Isaiah 43:2 that "When thou passes through the waters, I will be with thee..." 

 

 

For my parents, who had the task of feeding and clothing four children, those were trying times but they are wonderful memories for a woman who now cherishes them as life lessons from our heavenly Father through an earthly one. 

 

 

Always loving the Lord,

Lori Robbins

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