I’m sure I’m opening up a huge can of worms, but in the deepest of my hearts I want to share with you my own experience on food stamps this year.
I’ll never forget the day that Gabe walked through our front door and slowly stepped inside carrying a large cardboard box with him. It was this past Valentines day. The kids jumped out of their seats at the kitchen table where we were finishing up homeschool to take a look at what dad had brought home. “Toys!” they screamed. I knew something was a bit off as he looked at me, eyes glassed over, and tried to remain joy filled as he showed the boys all of his foam toys that he’d collected at trade shows over the past 13 years.
I knew right away. I asked him what was in the box when he replied to me, “my stuff.” My heart sank.
I was nearing the end of my teaching semester and all I could think about was that in two short months I’d be off for the summer and we’d be left with no income at all. Right away, in my mind, my flesh went into survival mode. I started thinking about daycare, public school, and sending out resumes to jump back into the working world as a web designer. I didn’t say any of this to Gabe, I just hugged him. I told him that I was proud of him and that no matter what God would see us through this time. He held my hand, and then led me to our bedroom. He slowly made his way to the edge of the bed, where he sat down leaving a deep impression in the mattress. He then hung his head and cried.
He told me he felt disappointed in himself and that he couldn’t stand the thought of not being able to support the kids and I. You see, Gabe is a hard worker. He’s responsible, genuine, and absolutely trust worthy. To see him like this broke me from within. We prayed… cried.
I remember that evening, we had to quickly compose ourselves and leave for our evening Dave Ramsey’s Financial University class being held at our church… oh the irony of it all.
The blessing is that since January, just a month prior to Gabe’s job loss, we were being educated on how to blast our debt to have more freedom. We had thought it was going to be a great year since we had just paid off our vehicle, my student loan, and even refinanced our home to get a lower monthly mortgage payment. To this day, all we have left in debt is just a small loan.
Navigating through unemployment was all new to us. We had never drawn on unemployment before. We found out that the pay Gabe would draw from unemployment would keep us going until I lost my income starting in the summer. Right away Gabe started to work odd jobs to pick up the loss in income. Hopefully, we could start saving some money when we knew we would really need it.
One of the first things he did was sign up to shovel snow. Un-ashamed, he went out in the middle of the night when they called him in. He ended up working for 24 solid hours shoveling snow by hand. When the snow finally ceased and they sent their labor home, they handed Gabe a $224 check.
Gabe didn’t mind the labor … he was determined that every little thing would help. To our surprise, as soon as Gabe reported that amount of extra money to the government, they deducted it from his unemployment check. Yeah, they took it away.
It was unbelievable and so frustrating to me that the government would deduct any amount of extra money that Gabe would make on the side while on unemployment. He should have stayed home!
We were confused – how on earth can they do this to a family? So here we were again, thinking “what are we going to do?” My husband was seeking employment but we knew that my teaching income was about to end and if he didn’t find a job soon, we were headed for some hard times.
No More Income
When my teaching semester finally ended, we were struggling. But we had a great support system in place including our fellowship at church, Gabe’s family, and my own. Gosh, in the midst of all of this, we were thrown for another whirlwind when we found out our front sewer line had to be replaced. Praise God we had that support system as they saw us through that difficult time. We ended up with an $8,000 invoice which in the end, the church, my parents, and Gabe’s parents paid in full.
It was around that time that I had my first anxiety attack.
I was falling apart inside but God was building me to be a strong woman. I kept on my knees and when my mind started to think of needing to register my children for public school, God kept showing me that he called me to homeschool and that he would get us through this time. Gabe also kept reminding me he wanted me to stay home as well.
It was humbling, to say the least. Gabe and I have never had to accept money like this from anyone. We work hard, we’re educated, so it was even more difficult when I had to ask my parents for money to help us pay for groceries.
I think for me, the hardest part was knowing that I had three children to think about. I know how important nourishing food is to developing children and I did not want to start introducing processed foods to their diet. I kept thinking to myself, “how on Earth are we going to keep food on the table.”
One afternoon, Gabe and I sat down with my dad and asked him for help. We asked him, “What should we do?” He looked at me and said, “You know what, apply for food stamps, that’s what it’s for.” “For people like you that are caught in a difficult time and need help.” He gave us enough money to get us through a few weeks and then hugged me and consoled me like any amazing father would do.
I honestly wasn’t expecting that answer and fought it for a long time. At first I didn’t want to apply. I didn’t want to have to use food stamps and be embarrassed by our situation. I didn’t want people to think bad about Gabe and think he’s a lazy man. I didn’t want people to think that we were abusing the system. I didn’t want people to think that I’m a single mom that had been knocked up three times. I didn’t want people to think poorly of me.
I finally realized that all of that playing in my mind was about me. About what people may think of me. I knew I was going to have to get passed this and focus on the people that meant the most to me, my husband and children.
I remember calling DHS and crying on the phone with them, explaining to them our situation and why we might need this service. They were kind and right away got us into the system. In just a couple of weeks, we were sent an EBT card that would be loaded with $500 per month until we found ourselves on our feet again.
$500, Oh my gosh, that was more money than what were budgeting for our groceries before. I was still very anxious about using it, but relieved that we would be able to continue feeding our children wholesome, real food.
Praise God that every store I shopped at accepted the ebt card. I mostly visited Trader Joes, Costco, and HyVee. Although I was happy that these stores accepted ebt, I still had a lot of anxiety using it. Every time I had to pull that card out, I could feel the pressure in my chest rise right up to my throat. My husband started going with me so that he could pay and take the pressure off of me. He kept reminding me that this is a temporal situation and a blessing from God.
A New Job
Praise the Lord, God has since found Gabe an incredible new job. He’s now out of the graphics area and working as a foreman in a new construction business that’s been developed with some friends at church. He’s making more money than he was before and after 2 months just received a 25% increase in pay! We hadn’t seen a raise in the five years prior.
Since October, we’ve no longer been on food stamps … we were using the ebt card for about 4 months.
As long as this post may seem, it’s really a condensed version of all the trials and victories that we’ve seen over this past year. God’s done an amazing work in Gabe and I. It’s grown our marriage stronger, its grown our faith in him, and brought us to our knees many times as we’ve come to learn what it means to be humble and give even when you don’t have. Throughout this entire time, Gabe and I have been faithful to continually give to our church and other people as they’ve needed it. Its brought us more blessings than we could have ever imagined and at the same time brought us gratitude and compassion for others.
We Need Compassion, People!
I’m only sharing this with you because this entire situation helped me understand a system I never really understood.
Clearly, there are people that abuse our system. There are people that live on food stamps as a way of life with a life cycle of dependence that’s been carried through from generation to generation. Yes, we need a overhaul to our system but clearly, we also need compassion.
- For the single mom that needs to put food on her children’s table – she’s working hard, going to school to bring forth a better future for those she most loves … she needs compassion.
- For the broken family left in financial ruin because of disease – turmoil it brings … they need compassion.
- For the family enduring a job loss – they’re trying to overcome a difficult and come out a better family because of it … they need compassion.
- For the widow thats fallen to heartache and a life left alone… dear Lord, she needs compassion.
You know, there’s theology, there’s what scripture says, but you know what speaks more than any written rule… the listening of the Holy Spirit.
I think of my Jesus and the humbleness he showed, the love he showed to the poor, the widows, the prostitutes, and people filled with a need to surrender – people that needed someone to believe in them and a person desperately needing a simple hug to feel the warmth of an embrace to let them know that everything is going to be okay.
People, we need compassion and there’s no changing my mind that these types of people that need us the most also deserve to nourish their families through these times.
I was at an event, and told that this specific company didn’t accept ebt cards because their product was a specialty product. Pastured meat, to them was a specialty product. You know, I can understand that . They work hard to raise these animals in the way that they do, but is that saying that if you’re using food stamps and in a difficult situation that you’re only good enough to eat factory farmed raised meat?
See, to me, pastured meat is not a specialty item. To me, it’s the way God intended for food to be raised … it’s the way all meat should be raised.
Knowing the damage that factory farmed raised meat can do to a child, including adding hormones to their sensitive growing bodies, and on top of that, antibiotics to an immune system that’s not yet completely strong enough to handle that is unacceptable to be given to any child. Praise God in our situation we had already purchased our pastured meat for the year in January using our tax money, but I strongly believe that all children should have access to pastured meat filled with nourishing fats, omega 3, vitamin d, and other natural minerals and vitamins.
To those that are in the midst of weariness, please know that you are free to use your ebt card in whichever store accepts them. Praise God for stores like Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Costco that accept them knowing they’re helping families in need. Please take comfort in knowing that there are people with compassion, there are people that understand your situation, and don’t feel like you shouldn’t be buying organic or pastured meats because you’re on food stamps. Your children deserve to be nourished, most importantly know that God will meet you where you’re at.
Seek him, and live to please him alone.
Don’t fear people, what they’ll say, what they’ll think. It leads to nothing but stress and anxiety. And we all know what our Lord says about anxiousness…
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7
To the weary family on food stamps, please remember this one truth; God promises suffering to those he calls. He promises that in this suffering we’ll grow in him, we’ll grow stronger, that we may bring a testimony of triumph and glory to God. It takes these trials that we may truly surrender everything to him. That we may learn true humility and humbleness. That we seek to live a life like Christ and share his love with those that need to hear it… because, let me tell you, people need him.
It’s amazing to see what God has done with my family this year. He’s brought me more faith and humbleness than I could have ever of imagined. I don’t think I’d be where I’m at relationally with Jesus, if it weren’t for this “year of crap.” God saw us through it and he’s not done with us yet!
* I’ll make sure to answer all comments after our day in homeschool