Friday, February 24, 2012

From trash cans to tablecloths: A life in the hands of God

Before she knew how to read, ride a bike, or eat with a fork, little Carolyn Knefely knew how to survive. The oldest of three children, she was expected to take care of her brothers while her parents disappeared for days at a time—a tall order for a five-year-old.

Often left without food, she begged from the neighbors, rooted in trash cans, and taught her younger brothers (one still in diapers) how to distract the grocer while she pocketed something for them to eat.

A few years later, she and her brothers would count it a real treat when her new stepmother dropped them off at the movie theater for the day. The twelve cents she gave them didn’t go far, but there was always plenty of popcorn to eat—right off the theater floors.

I tried to align the image of this scavenging hooligan with the gracious woman before me about to demonstrate the proper way to approach a dining table—who knew there was one?

 “Enter from the right side of your chair,” she said. “Put your napkin on your lap with the fold toward you,” (images of mine spread out like a tablecloth across my knees). The lesson continued: how to pick the bread, and sip the soup, and lay the utensils to signal you’re done.

My instructor, the girl who didn’t know how to hold a fork until she was seven, is now a certified consultant in fine dining business etiquette and international protocol.

Don’t you love it.

 When weakness becomes strength.

When the place of adversity becomes the place of power.

When people rise above instead hide behind.

“How did you do it?” I asked.

But the telling has awakened memories of scrappy survival, emotional as much as physical, and there is no short route to this moment with the poised woman before me.

We go back to a day when her stepmother, angered because Carolyn wet the bed, threw the soggy mattress in the front yard and shamed her into spending the day on it for all to see.

Told repeatedly that no one wanted her, Carolyn lay on her mattress and prayed, “Dear God, Let me be your little girl.”

“That is what kept me sane,” she said. “Bad things have happened to me, but we all have choices. But it begins with the first choice—God.”

Over the course of the years to come, Carolyn would see how life-changing that first choice was and just how closely her Father had been watching over His little girl, as she made her way from stewardess to a sales and marketing exec, to career coach and fine dining business etiquette consultant.

 But that’s another story. 

I pray for anyone stopping by here today that you would be assured in the depths of your heart that no matter what the situation may look like, God’s plans are for good.With Him there is always a way.

Please visit Carolyn at


  1. Beautiful story, compellingly written. I will not soon forget it.

  2. Just the kind of story I needed to read this week. The kind that inspires us to pick up our own crosses and move forward. Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. Incredible story and it's hard to imagine the Carolyn I know today emerged from such an unbelievable past like that. Proof that God can do anything He wants to accomplish His will.

  4. I'm grateful for the hope in this story. How different from the misled woman who wrote to me several days ago expressing that she does not believe that there is a God or that my God speaks to me, that she will never humble or submit herself to anyone or anything in the universe and that good vibrations fill the ether. Thus, Carolyn chose God and her life is saved while the other woman has chosen to deny God and her life is lost.

  5. Wow, Marcia! Thank you for sharing Carolyn's powerful story. I've heard the details before, but seeing it again and in writing, reminds me of our powerful God and His powerful provision in our lives!

    Thank you, Carolyn, for your transparency. Heaven will be different because of your obedience.


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