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When a broken furnace suddenly became inconsequential

It was a bitterly cold morning outside that morning. And our usually snug and warm home felt freezing because the heater had stopped working in the middle of the night. We had friends at our house and it was steadily getting colder.

We shivered in our coats and tried to stay active until the repairman arrived. He discovered our thermostat had gone bad and then there was a wiring issue, so it was another four hours before the furnace was fixed. It was a long and cold day and I was so relieved that we finally had heat again after shivering under layers trying to stay warm all day!

Two weeks later, we were driving downtown on another frigidly cold day. We passed the local homeless shelter where many were gathered and huddled outside the doors waiting for 5 p.m. to arrive so they could go inside for a hot meal and a bed.

It struck me anew how much we take for granted. It felt like a fairly big inconvenience to not have our furnace working for a day. But we still had shelter, an oven to cook warm food in, space heaters, electricity, and coats. We had money in the bank to pay a repairman to come fix the furnace. We had a car with a working heater we could have piled in had it gotten too cold. We had friends’ houses we could have gone to to hang out at if our furnace had been broken for longer than a day.

These people standing outside the shelter had nothing but the well-worn clothes on their backs and the possessions in their tattered grocery sacks. They had no home to go to, no car to drive, no refrigerator full of food, no closet full of coats, probably little or no money, and likely no steady source of income.

All of a sudden, the “big inconvenience” of one day without a working furnace seemed so minor and inconsequential. I’d wager that every person standing in line at the homeless shelter would have excitedly jumped at the opportunity to have a non-working furnace be their biggest problem for the day.

So today, in the midst of whatever problems and struggles you’re facing in life, remember that if you have a place to live, a working vehicle, more than three changes of clothes, running water, and food to eat, you are immensely blessed.

If you haven’t read it before, go read Amy’s fantastic post, Somebody Wants What You Have.

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43 Comments

  • Tammy says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts/story with us. I needed to be reminded of all the blessings I have in my life, instead of letting the stress get to me regarding pay cuts, etc. I am blessed to have what I do have now in the present!

  • April says:

    this is appropriate for my current mood. I think my transmission has bit the dust and we coasted into a grocery store parking lot today.. We were close to home and got a lift from the hub (albeit packed like sardines into a compact with 3 car seats)..but we were all wet from the misty cold day and the looming idea of a hefty bill right before Christmas is a bit jarring. Still, despite all this…I’m so grateful for warm home, too many clothes to keep up with the laundry (really..its ridiculous..seriously..help me)..and food in the fridge. Those on the street will be in our prayers.

  • MrsD05 says:

    That post from Amy literally changed my life. It was such a huge wake-up call to me and touched me so deeply with my struggle to become a mother. It also reminded me that though my husband may sometimes drive me CRAZY he is a good man and I am so blessed to get to spend my life with him.

    • MrsD05 says:

      Just to add to my previous comment: Before reading that post I focused on the one thing that I felt I didn’t have, a baby, and took for granted my many blessings. It puts it in perspective. Yes, I still long for a baby and dream of the day that I will have a child of my own but now when those thoughts creep in I just count my blessings.

      • Oh, I ache for you. I’ve been there, the one longing for a baby. Bless you for focusing on your blessings!

      • veronica says:

        Stay positive, I know it is hard to do. I was in your shoes and 10 long years later I have my little angel. It is hard but I believe everything happens for a reason. The waiting was hard but in those years quite a bit happened in my life, a child would have been caught in the middle of. When the time is right it will all fall into place.

  • Barbara says:

    Reminds me of a poem I used to say in church all the time
    Thank you God for eyes to see, ears to hear, …..thank you god for everything

  • Lana says:

    There seem to be more and more homeless people in our area. I am even seeing whole families now and it used to be primarily only men. If we all just keep our eyes and hearts open to those who desperately need help we can be such a blessing. I used to be fearful of the homeless but after working with them through our church for the last 5 years I know that they are people just like you and me. Yes, they often smell bad but they are so ashamed of being dirty and having no way to get cleaned up. They are so thankful for a granola bar or a fast food burger or breakfast biscuit. Please do what you can to help.

  • Jen says:

    Thanks. I needed that today.

  • B says:

    Verse 1:
    When He moves among us all that He does
    all of His mercy and all of His love
    and the pen of the writer could write everyday
    even this world could never contain
    how I’ve been blessed

    Verse 2:
    The warmth in winter the flowers in spring
    the laughter in summer and the changing of leaves
    the food on my table a good place to sleep
    clothes on my back and shoes on my feet
    I have been blessed

    Chorus:
    I have been blessed God’s so good to me
    precious are His thoughts of you and me
    no way I could count them there’s not enough time
    so I’ll just thank Him for being so kind
    God has been good so good
    I have been blessed

    Verse 3:
    Arms that will raise a voice that can talk
    hands that can touch and legs that can walk
    ears that can listen eyes that can see
    oh I’ve got to praise Him as long as I breathe
    I have been blessed

    Verse 4:
    A father and mother who nurtured and raised
    a brother and sister memories made
    our pastor to lead us the altar to pray
    stripes that can heal the blood that can save
    I have been blessed

    Chorus:
    I have been blessed God’s so good to me
    precious are His thoughts of you and me
    no way I could count them there’s not enough time
    so I’ll just thank Him for being so kind
    God has been good so good
    I have been blessed

    Verse 5:
    We live in a country the greatest on earth
    our flag stands for freedom and what it is worth
    she stands in the harbor Miss Liberty calls
    all have gave some but some have gave all
    for me to be blessed

    Verse 6:
    He’s my shoulder to lean on when I am down
    the rock where He leads me when I’m overwhelmed
    the place where He hides me under His wings
    He’s not just a song He’s the reason I sing
    I have been blessed

    Chorus:
    I have been blessed God’s so good to me
    precious are His thoughts of you and me
    no way I could count them there’s not enough time
    so I’ll just thank Him for being so kind
    God has been good so good
    I have been blessed

  • nicky says:

    Thank you. I needed to read this today. Was feeling down and out, but you brought me back to reality! Thank you for that!!

  • Jen says:

    So true! Your perspective changes everything!! Thanks for sharing this today.

  • Brittany says:

    What a great opportunity to remember how amazingly blessed we are! I was complaining to myself the other day about the color of our hardwood floors, wishing they were darker (ridiculous, I know.) I remembered our sweet Sarah who we sponsor through compassion international, who has dirt floors in her home. Definitely made me look at my floors differently! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • :) says:

      Isn’t it amazing how much we can pick apart the blessings we have and find fault in them? Yesterday was my birthday, and I was given some birthday money and told that I could only spend it on myself. I was so excited at first, and I went to a couple of my favorite stores, and just about everything I was looking at, (getting a new coat, new shoes, etc…) I kept thinking to myself….what am I doing? I have SO much already. The coat I have is just fine. The shoes I have are just fine. Why do we always need more and more and more JUNK? I am really trying hard to get rid of my material mindset, and just be grateful for the abundance God has already blessed me with.

  • Stefanie says:

    LOVE this! So, so, so true! It gave me chills just reading it. I often try to remind myself of how lucky I am…and how so many have so much less. I remember as a child how it would bother me on Christmas thinking of how some kids had nothing. While we did our share of contributions to the less fortunate, I knew there were still kids who didn’t have anything to eat. My mom always reminded me that while we couldn’t save the entire world, we COULD be grateful for what we had. She told me not to feel guilty for having so much, but to appreciate it and to always remember how lucky I am.

  • Kate B says:

    Thank you for posting this, Crystal. I so needed to read something like this today. I think we just get too caught up sometimes, and need to have a “light bulb” moment. God works in funny and mysterious ways.
    Bless you, and Merry Christmas.

  • amy says:

    Thank you for this great story. I think we need this at this time of year.

  • Ashley says:

    Thank you for this post. I really needed to read this today. I get so caught up in other things this time of year that it is easy to forget how blessed I am!!

  • Joy says:

    As someone who was homeless as a teenager back in the early 1980s, I appreciate this post.

    Even though we were homeless, my family never had to stand in line at a soup kitchen thanks to generous family and friends that took us in. But there were times when we did live in our own house that there was no hot water or electricity. So yes I am thankful every day for the basics in life that so many of us take for granted. And I remind my children of this often … to be grateful for the things they do have no matter how small.

    I may not have a fancy, big house and designer clothes (unless they came from thrift store or family; LOL) now. But I do have a warm house, clean clothing, a hot shower and food to fill my belly.

  • Elizabeth says:

    You are so, so right…we have everything, and we must be grateful and do what we can for others!!
    Elizabeth in NC

  • I know what you mean. After living in China for two years, I witnessed poverty unimagined by most people in this country. Even the middle and upper middle classes live far below our country’s standards. Here in the USA we have so much, and we are indeed blessed.

    After going through salary cuts, a lay-off, and a year of unemployment in the past two years, we find ourselves incredibly thankful for a roof over our heads, clothing to wear, a heated home, and a job (with a regular salary). God has been so good to us. Some people may look at us and think that we don’t have much, but I can tell you that we have been blessed ABUNDANTLY.

  • Linda says:

    This is exactly what I needed today, thank you for sharing that with us.

  • Melissa says:

    Exactly what I needed to hear today. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because the work on our wood floors isn’t done yet – we are having new wood put in and it’s taken longer than planned. Meanwhile our office, school room, fridge, stove, and dining room table sit in my family room. I’ve had a terrible attitude about how “I can’t decorate for Christmas or get a tree or even bake anything because these floors aren’t done yet.” What a huge wake-up call to realize that Christmas isn’t about whether or not we have a tree or cookies -. My blessings are that we have a warm house, neighbors who let us use their stove, money in the bank to pay for our new floors, and having my family with me to spend Christmas together. Thanks for this reminder. I’ll check my “bah humbug” attitude at the door and make the most of this holiday season, even if it is different than I imagined!

  • April D. says:

    Thank you. I needed to hear that. I woke up this morning in a bad mood b/c I had a list of things to get done yesterday that didn’t get done-clothes folded out of the dryer, checks needed to be written and sent for various charities, presents that need wrapping, etc. I know its life but when my home life b/c unorganized it makes my professional life unorganized. Thanks for helping me realize that those are just inconviences, not the end of the world.

  • Danielle B says:

    So timely- again! 🙂

    So many years of struggle, struggle, struggle. Now I’m just raising my arms to the ceiling and thanking God that yet again, He always comes through! The blessings continue to pour in for us, and all we can do is give thanks and weep.

    To all who struggle, don’t stop hoping. Some things only happen through through the three-cord-strength of giving, praying and FASTING. Thank you God for new vision, new perspective, and new hope!

  • Lynn Oyama says:

    I daily am thankful to God for what I have. As I walk through my warm house, kiss my hubby and as I go to my job. I know what God has given me and even though things get rough, I am truly, truly blessed. Thank you for this post and for all of your inspiration. 🙂

  • Kimberly says:

    Lovely post. It made me tear up a little. Sometimes we get our blinders on and all we can see are the little broken pieces of our own worlds. It helps to put things into perspective. My children are fed. We are well. We have a home. I am an incredibly lucky woman. Thank you to help me remember that.

    • Crystal says:

      It is so easy to focus on the broken pieces, isn’t it? Instead of stepping back and realizing how many “whole pieces” there are in our lives that others would love to have.

  • Leslie says:

    Thank you for sharing. My husband and I are also struggling with this, as he is unemployed and we both desire for me to stay home with our 5 1/2 month old daughter. My heart breaks every time I have to leave her to go to work. And sometimes I need to be reminded of just how big of a blessing it is that I have a job to go to, and that my daughter and my husband are receiving a wonderful blessing during this time, too. Praise the LORD!

  • Candi says:

    Such a great story and an important reminder for us all. Thank you!

  • Thanks for sharing, a great message for all of us!

  • Maria says:

    Thank you…I really needed this today!

  • sue says:

    AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Deedra says:

    Thank you for writing this post. I was just sitting here wondering how in the world I was going to be able to afford all the Christmas gifts my kids wanted and gifts to others that I felt led to give. Thank you for getting my head back in reality. My kids already have so much even if they don’t realize it yet and I don’t need to worry about what they are going to receive. I need to help them to learn to be grateful for and generous with what they already have and what they will receive.

  • Our basement flooded in the Spring of 2010, it killed our furnace and we were without one until October of that year. It wasn’t too bad, my husband installed an electric water heater for the shower and we had a wood stove for cold nights. It cost $6000 to finally get the furnace installed for Winter. But it brought us closer together as a family and showed us what God was really doing in our lives. We’re still paying it off but we’re also still reaping what was sown back then.

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you for the reminder of how blessed I am. Yesterday was a bad day where I was frustrated with my kids and we had an unexpected 4 figure repair on our vehicle. Today I am so humbled to realize that my kids are such a huge blessing in my life, and though this car bill will sting, we have everything we need. Thank you for sharing. I LOVE your site!

  • Em says:

    I have a group of friends that email graditude list (10 – 12 items). Some do it daily and others due it on occasion. When you take the time daily to sit and think about what you have and are blessed with it, it is amazing. We may not have everything we want but we are blessed with the abundance we have. It also helps us remember the little blessings we give and recieve everyday.

  • Mrs. H says:

    Great Post!
    Everyday I pray for those who struggle,those who suffer for homelessness,sickness,hunger and abuse. Can not start by day without it. In turn, so blessed. God is good.

  • Such a good point! It’s amazing how a little perspective can change our whole train of thought.

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