Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Two Cans of Sauerkraut

We have a pantry off of our kitchen.  Well, it's not really a pantry as such, more of an afterthought of a storage area/mud room/shelves tacked onto the back of the garage from the previous owners.  It has a low slung Hobbit type door that opens onto our eating area in the kitchen. (My husband has lost many brain cells from bumping his head into the framework more times than I'd like to admit.) But I digress...

On one of the shelves sits two cans of old sauerkraut.  Let me state that I hate sauerkraut.  It's awful (to me).  I know plenty of people love the stuff covering their hot dogs, but not me. 
So why do I have these two huge cans sitting there?  Unused.  Never-to-be-used?  Well, it's a reminder.  It's to keep me humble and focused.  And most of all...they were a gift when we needed it most...

Since June 2014, my husband had been out-of-work. (He has since found a job, but I'll get to that later.) At that time, he chose to leave an underpaying job that he had reluctantly taken the year previous (that he took only because he had been out-of-work then too!)  He took a risk and accepted a temp-to-perm job at a therapeutic horse farm through an agency.  The executive director was young and enthusiastic, the pay was slightly better than the previous one and he was leaving behind a brutal, over-long commute to upper Manhattan.  It seemed a blessing at the time.  His start date was none other than April 1st.  April Fool's Day...we should have seen it coming...

I was not home at the time when he started this new job as I was in Texas, alone, reeling over my father's recent death.  He passed away, bumpily, holding tight to my hand just four days prior.  I barely had time to process anything going on at home--halfway across the country in NY--it was all I could do to get through the memorial service without my family at my side.  My kids never got to see their grandfather prior to his death (it had been about 2 years previously) and we all were trying our best to get through it all in our own ways.  My husband, full of hope, went off to his new job, my kids back to school and I planned services and stayed in Texas for another week.

About two months into his new job, things began to unravel.  There were tense meetings between the Board, the staff and the clinicians.  There were rumblings and grumblings among them all, but so new to the place and loving what he was doing, my husband stayed primarily out of it.  It came as a total surprise the end of May when the Board abruptly fired the ED and consequently, negated the contract that provided the job for my husband (and a co-worker) and promptly let them go.  No unemployment benefits available, no severance, nothing.  The agency he was hired through could not find another suitable position, his previous job was filled.  No where to turn.

I at the time was also facing job issues, but being a part-time organist/pianist, it wasn't forefront in my mind.  I could always pick up extra gigs it seemed.  I was healing from my dad's death, wounded from this most recent job loss, trying to negotiate schooling issues with my youngest daughter and trying to keep my college age ones on track.  I honestly think that God keeps us busy with stupid stuff just to keep us sane sometimes.

So back to the sauerkraut...

Why is it there and where did it come from you ask? (I'm hoping you ask that, hoping you've read this far...) About five months into what became an 18 month period of unemployment, we received a Thanksgiving care package of food from our church.  There was turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce and way too many cans of yams.  There was jello and of course, canned green beans and crunchy cans of onions and....you guessed it...two cans of sauerkraut.  I was stumped.  I put them on the shelves thinking, "well, hopefully, it won't get so bad that I have to eat that!"  Guess what?  It did.  But we never cracked open those cans...

We as a family, endured a long, grueling year and a half without work.  My husband from that June 2014 mark, myself losing my position in April 2015 (Easter Sunday no less).  I was pretty sure God was testing us for some reason, but I was too angry and hungry to ponder it.  By now, I'm sure you're asking how we did it?  I'll have to detail that in another post--it's quite amazing actually--and it can be done on such a small income (not to be recommended, but survivable).

The most important thing was--we got help.  Lot's and lot's of help.  We were brought to the very brink of desperation and literally driven to our knees.  Sometimes, all I could do was groan.  There's a verse in the Bible (yes, I had to look it up, I don't have it all memorized like my family thinks I do...)  but it says: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." Romans 8:26  

I did a lot of that.  Groan.  Cry.  Worry. Pray.  A lot...

We made it through though.  The call came in on New Year's Eve 2015.  My husband was offered a job.  I had been appointed Music Director at a new church a few months prior, but that job didn't start until the new year either.  Both of us started our jobs two days apart.  After all that time--Groaning.

I went back into the pantry yesterday.  There sat the two cans of sauerkraut, obviously old, very outdated, probably poison by now.  I thought "I should throw those away", but no.  Not just yet.  They are a reminder of the hell we've just recently been brought out of.  The hell we were held through, guided through and supported through.   A reminder of the help we were given and the help that I'm hopeful to give to someone else when they need it most...now look at them again...they are a blessing.