There it was. The avalanche of cereal boxes and bags of chips threatening to crush me at any moment. The pantry is one of the scariest places in my home. The kids take chairs into the pantry to dig through the many treasures its shelves hold. Today was the day I was going to organize it.
I would not be defeated by this pantry. Not a chance.
As I began sorting and stacking I thought about what the pantry used to look like. When I first left my ex husband, I had next to nothing. I had my son’s furniture and my clothes and a twin bed. We had to completely start over. I wasn’t receiving child support and applying for food stamps was taking longer than expected.
I remember standing at the front desk in my county’s social services building and trying my best to hold it together as they told me there was no way to expedite my request. I remember holding back tears as I looked at the red head behind the glass. “I can’t feed my son.” I had never felt so much shame and powerlessness in my life.
I worked everyday. I did everything I could to make ends meet and trust me, when you saw what was coming in and what was being paid out you knew it was a miracle from God we never lost power or water during this time.
The red head looked at me in a way that assured me I had just stopped being just another ticket number. She handed me a list of church pantries I could go to that would give my son and I groceries while I waited for government assistance. It was so humiliating, but such a relief.
I waited for food stamps and continued to apply to jobs. I needed mom hours and money and that was tough to come by. In the meantime, we went to churches and were freely given food to get us by. We ate a lot of mac and cheese and boxed potatoes, but we were glad and fed. I remember some ladies loading the groceries into my car and waving at my son in his car seat. Their kindness took so much shame from my spirit.
They made us feel normal like we were just two people who had left the grocery store. While I am so grateful that my son cannot remember those days, I hope that he is kind to people the way those church ladies were kind to us. I remember one who prayed with us. She could tell by my clothes and my car that this wasn’t always my story and prayed that all of our comforts would be restored.
My home pantry in those days was pretty bare. My son would get excited when he could get fruit snacks or apple sauce. It was a treat! I had family around and they helped too of course, but I felt that I had made the decision to leave my marriage and I needed to live with those consequences.
I remember praying that my son would never think he was poor just because his mama was. It wasn’t all bad. Some of those moments as a parent are some of my favorite memories. There was little screen time, because I was broke, and we just enjoyed each other. We were each others entertainment!
Reflecting on where I came from gave me a grateful heart. This pantry was a blessing. A messy, overwhelming, borderline hazardous blessing. My kids ate today. They ate good today. They even ate what they wanted to today. Prayers aren’t always answered. My comforts were not restored. They were multiplied.
11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.