I thanked my friend for the “Thinking of You” card she’d sent, the one in my mailbox on top of the stack of bills. “Oh, that ole thing? I’m sorry it wasn’t a better one but it was what I had.” I knew why she’d said that; the card was a bit faded and the fold was partially torn, like the paper had become brittle over time, reminding me of one of the cards stored in my Grandma’s drawer for future use. But my friend didn’t know that it was more than a card to me. It was manna.
I’d received it the day before my chemo. When I was rushing out of the house to get to my appointment, I put the card in the book that I’d read to help me through the three-hour infusion. I read for a while, then took out the card and studied the design and reread her handwritten note. Over my eight months of treatment, I would do the same thing with cards from others. Afterwards, I stored them in a satchel. If I ever doubted that others’ cared about me, I’d take the satchel down from my closet shelf and marvel at the numbers of colorful cards with thoughtful notes of encouragement. Those cards had nourished me through my ‘wilderness journey.’
One night in December, before I was diagnosed with breast cancer the following June, I was up in the early morning hours, having a hard time sleeping. I was at my mother’s and got out of bed to sit in her family room. Next to the recliner, there was a bookshelf with Mama’s Bible. I thumbed through it with no particular scripture in mind and stopped at Exodus Chapter 16. I read the story of the traveling Israelites receiving “bread from heaven” in the form of manna—a white substance, like coriander seed, that covered the ground like frost in the early morning, providing just enough for one day’s sustenance. With Christmas approaching, it would have felt more appropriate to be reading about the journey of Mary and Joseph. It’s odd to land on this chapter, I thought. But later that year when I was going through cancer, that sleepless night when I’d read about manna came back to me.
I remembered my takeaway from that chapter –that God supplied their needs, one day at a time. When I went through treatment, there were so many times that I felt that same provision. Not only from cards but meals, presents, and phone calls at just the right moment. Like manna, it was an efficient economy of just what I needed for that moment on that day. Like the Israelites, I couldn’t look to the next day, but instead needed to just rely on God for that “daily bread.”
Now, I know the importance of just an ‘ole card.’ I’ve made a point of telling my sons, who’ve grown up in the age of emails and text messages, that sometimes you need tangible evidence of someone’s care, something you can hold in your hands. It really takes so little time and effort to be the manna for someone. And if it’s time you’re worried about, you can always buy those cards in bulk and store them away.
Because when it all comes down to it, it’s the thought that counts.
How about You?
When have you received manna in your life?
In what ways have you provided manna for others?