Was God Punishing us?

“Maybe God is punishing us,” my husband said and once again I envied him a bit.

Twenty years earlier I had followed him in the bedroom a few minutes after he had just gone to bed. I had an idea and needed to tell him right away. I opened our bedroom door and shared the result of my brainstorm with him. I didn’t get an answer. I whispered his name, wanted to make sure he was still awake. Again, no answer. He completely ignored me, or he had fallen asleep in under two minutes. Then, right when I tried to close the door quietly, willing to wait until the next morning to share whatever I had thought couldn’t wait, I heard him say. “I was praying.”

One of the rare times we talked or mentioned religion between us. We accept each other’s private beliefs and don’t try to drag each other to the ‘other’ side -which is sadly practiced these days by too many people, in so many aspects of life.

“I can’t believe the way others do,” I told my favorite nun, who was a no-nonsense-down-to-earth Professor for Mathematics as well. Thirteen years old, standing in front of Sister Theresa in her office, I finally had spilled the beans. “It’s not that I don’t believe, it’s just I am not sure. I don’t know.” I explained and expected the worst. This is how gay people must feel when they come out of the closet we have pushed them into.

I was a student in a Catholic boarding school in Bavaria, a very religious region in the South of Germany. I had a scholarship that could be taken away from me at any moment, for any reason. Still, I shared what I felt. I needed to, it was eating me up inside. Pretending is not my strong suit -never has been.

Would they force me to leave, as they did with Audrey Hepburn in the movie when she couldn’t be a nun anymore? Would I be sent back home with my belongings in the middle of the night? A child’s imagination running wild.

Sister Theresa asked many questions, for many days. I answered truthfully. “You claim neither faith nor disbelief in God,” was her verdict.

Not knowing would make me agnostic -a word I had never used before. Agnostic means I believe nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God. A skeptic? I had thought about it too. Not knowing means you have to be prepared for any possibility. How do you do that in life? I didn’t have an answer.

“If you continue to live your life like you still know,” it would be a good start. I thought about it and it felt right. If I live and try to be the best human being I can be, then there would be nothing to fear. Not knowing wouldn’t change my life a bit.

“Some aspects of life will be harder as an agnostic,” she informed me. I didn’t understand it back then, but over the years I found out she had been spot on.

I stopped praying. I still attended mass every morning but moved upstairs to the church organ. I played it well. I still attended religion class but was allowed to do my homework instead. I could choose. The wisdom of a nun kept me in balance.

Gemeinderat Dietramszell: Zweifel an der Dorferneuerung - Bad  Tölz-Wolfratshausen - SZ.de
“My boarding school in Bavaria

“Maybe God punishes me,” was a possible explanation for my husband.

How much I wished all through my life to be still able to believe the way I did when I was a child. Sadly, it didn’t work for me. Today in our home you will see a cross on the wall (because I just don’t know) and you will find a Buddha statue in our bedroom because it’s what my inside needs. And while we never talk about religion, on rare occasions you can hear me say. “In case you still pray, please keep her/him in your prayers.” The agnostic orders a prayer from the believer. We have an understanding and mutual respect for our private beliefs. While we talk about everything, this is a subject we have chosen to never discuss. We give each other freedom to BE.

Cowardice or mutual admiration?

Were we punished when we lost everything?

Actions have consequences. The recession 2008/2009 happened because of bad decisions, not made by the individuals but by politicians and bankers. Bad timing? Yes, I suppose it was just bad timing. My grandma was born before WWI. She had to flee her home and walk with her sister 800 miles, mostly by foot like million others. Bad timing for many indeed.

When I sat outside in the cold looking at the stars, like the answer could be written in the sky, I assume my husband was often praying.

Without a higher power to guide us, without opportunity knocking on our door, without a lottery win (because turns out you have to play to win) we had to find our own way.

We sat at our friend’s kitchen table and made plans.

After the holidays, in January 2010 we would send out my husband’s resume to every company who would be hiring for his position -and under. We opened up the map -we were flexible. Not further than 15 hours drive time away from my friend’s house, we could not afford to travel further with four dogs.

Certain states were taken off the table. Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, and Louisiana because of their high unemployment rates, and their lack to pay fair wages. Oklahoma, because I am terrified of tornadoes. New York, California, Portland, and Washington sadly were all too far away, and the living costs were too high. My husband didn’t want to live in Florida because of hurricanes. Montana was too cold for both of us. We were picky -go figure! The truth is we would have gone anywhere.

The rest of the map was fair game. We were free as birds and open-minded enough to go wherever we needed to go.

How much money would we need? We estimated 2000 dollars would be an amount we could start a new life with. Travel costs, rent, deposit, and enough left to get us through the time before the first paycheck would come in. A lesser amount would be dangerous, more would be welcomed. I needed money to get pearls out of the pawnshop.

From Mid Januar to April -we had two and half months to make it all happen -somehow. That would give us almost two months at the new location, to find either different transportation or a way to keep our vehicle.

Funny how much a plan can change your demeanor and your attitude. We went from totally hopeless to hopeful in just one weekend. We would talk to our friend about paying us a little bit, right after Christmas. $50 each a week, or perhaps even $100 a week didn’t sound like much but it would get us started. If she would deny the pay, perhaps one of us could find some kind of work close by, and the other one would continue making sausages in her sausage kitchen for room and board?

We decided to get my jewelry appraised, in case we would need to sell it all. Our diamond wedding rings were not an option -so we thought.

At this time I hadn’t called any of my friends overseas. I know many of them would have offered to help us, but again the thought of accepting a loan, not knowing when and if you can pay it back, made me feel very uncomfortable, so I didn’t call or contact them. I would get an earful of it later on.

Start earning money
Get $2000 together in ten weeks
Find a job for my husband
Find a home with four dogs

Travel to wherever it will be (but under 15 hrs)
Start all over new

Find new transportation so he could keep his job
Find a job for me

There it was! Our plan! Piece of cake!

We wanted to pack and leave right away, we were eager to meet our new life.

The Nun's Story' revisited
Audrey Hepburn left the convent, I stayed in my boarding school until I graduated.

My friend came back Sunday in the evening and surprised us with two very large coolers full of frozen shrimp and crawfish. “Now we can make crawfish boudin and shrimp balls as well.” She acted like a little kid at Christmas when she handed me a bag full of sausages she had bought at various places in Lousiana. “That’s all I could find. Now you can try them and start making Andouille sausage,” she grinned. Her enthusiasm was contagious.

I would create new sausages without a recipe-somehow- and I would do so very quickly.

The next day I signed up at a butcher website in Austria and a cooking website in Germany.

I wrote an introduction in the forums. I was honest about my situation, mentioned the ocean in between us. I wrote about my upbringing, shared the knowledge I had. I asked for help to make a sausage miracle happen. Within two days my mailbox was full with answers from butchers and hobby sausage makers from all over the world. All of them were willing to guide me and help me.

I produced the sausages we needed! I wish you all could see my smile right now. It’s still so many years later something I am very proud of.

MY Andouille sausage was a big success right from the start. Not knowing what I was doing, I had created a ‘luxury’ version of the famous smoked sausage by adding wine and using pork tenderloin instead of regular pork. It was a moneymaker. My friend was happy, her customers were happy.

A few weeks later, I became an official member of the website and I translated the recipe for the Cajun Andouille into German. I converted the measurements from oz and cups into grams and published the recipe on the German cooking site. Five months later my recipe had been tested and approved. In May 2010 they published it on their side. I never knew about it. I never looked until now. I had forgotten all about it.

God did not punish us. Looking back now I know it was the opposite. We had been given a gift.

14 thoughts on “Was God Punishing us?

  1. What a powerful video, Bridget, to complement your also very powerful story. You express your questions of faith very clearly, and what I glean from stories of your life is that in every circumstance you are a diligent learner. Despite fear and uncertainty, you remain open to possibility, and I really see that quality as key to a life of depth and meaning. Your accomplishments in the sausage making are examples of what makes a person successful after being knocked down. You learned from others and you didn’t stop trying! I can’t wait to see where you land!😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just loving your journey, Bridget ❤ Thanks for sharing. The Hebrew god of the Old Testament is, indeed, portrayed as a punisher. As I see it, belief in such a god takes away personal responsibility for our decisions and actions. "Actions have consequences," as you've rightly observed. Some are outside of our control. There is so much about our spiritual nature that remains hidden to us. I prefer to keep an open mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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