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Just Four Inches

It was a bitterly cold winter and we had no money for more fuel. What were we going to do?

A couple looks at the snow from the balcony of their cabin with hot beverages in their hands.
Credit: Getty Images

“Wow, it’s cold out there,” my husband said, shutting the back door behind him, blowing on his red hands and shaking snow from his boots. It was another bitterly cold Sunday night here in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

“How’s the fuel in the tank?” I asked, my stomach knotting. He’d gone out to check on the level for our furnace. And I knew we hadn’t replenished it for a while.

“I put the dipstick in and measured. We’ve got just four inches of fuel left,” my husband said.

“Four inches!” I exclaimed. “That will never last a whole week.” And it would be at least that long before we could afford to order more fuel. Like so many other families, we were struggling to make ends meet.

It sure didn’t help that the weather forecast called for frigid temperatures and snow, snow and more snow.

I lay in bed that night, worrying and praying. God, I hope you still do miracles, I thought, because that’s what it’s going to take to keep our family warm.

Suddenly I remembered the passage from Matthew of Jesus providing for the masses with just seven loaves of bread and a few fish. If you can do that, Lord, I prayed, surely you can keep us warm, right?

The week wore on. The weather raged. I kept praying and clinging to the image of the loaves and fishes. Somehow, the furnace chugged on.

The following Sunday, with still three days left before I could order more fuel, I trudged through waist-deep snow out to the oil tank. I just had to know how soon our furnace might shut off.

The tank made a very empty gong sound as I lifted the cap. Oh, please, let there be some fuel in there, I thought. I put the dipstick in and pulled it out. I looked at the stick, then blinked my eyes and looked again.

I ran into the house, carrying the dipstick. “Honey!” I called to my husband.

“Oh, no, don’t tell me. We’re empty,” he said.

“Not quite,” I said. I showed him the dipstick.

Exactly four inches of fuel. Not one drop had been used.

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