17 Days

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“17 days. I went 17 days without spending a penny on perishable items. In those 17 days the only things I paid for were gas for my car and rent for my apartment (and my tithe). I only ate food from Grace Klein for the first week, then moved to eating some things I already had at home mixed with Grace Klein food for the second week. I did not spend money on coffee or ice cream or fast food. I had to solely rely on what we got from Grace Klein during those 17 days.

I realized during these 17 days how quick I typically am to spend money on worthless items. I might go to the grocery store and walk out with five things that I didn’t intend on buying but decided to purchase anyway. I might be hanging out with friends, and we decide to all go out for ice cream. I might go to meet with someone and immediately suggest meeting at a coffee shop. I came to the understanding that I am way too quick to spend money unnecessarily.

It was also during these 17 days that I learned about the Lord’s provision. I had decided when I wanted to start only eating our food from the market. The day came, and the Lord had provided a delicious mixed salad with toppings and all. I fixed it and took a couple of bites and came to be really excited about my lunch. Then, I mistakenly put the bowl down on the edge of the counter and the salad spilled all over the floor. I was really disappointed. How could I have let that happen? It was the first meal I was going to eat on this journey, and I messed up and spilled it on the floor! The next day, we did not receive a truck of food, so the market was completely empty. Then on Friday, we were not supposed to get a truck again. Going into the weekend, I felt worried that I wasn’t going to have enough to eat. I realized that I had never felt that way before. I was genuinely concerned about what I was going to eat. I prayed, “Lord, if I’m going to eat this weekend, I need you to provide.” And sure enough, about an hour later I got a message saying that we would, in fact, have a truck! Praise the Lord! I stayed later than I typically do on Fridays to help unload the truck. That was the most fun I have ever had unloading a truck full of food!

During these 17 days, I had crazy occurrences of the Lord providing food for me. The surprise Friday truck was just one example. I had a birthday party that I was invited to where dinner was served. I had the most hospitable couple serve food for a Bible study that I attend. The most specific of all, was that one of my dear friends, who works at a coffee shop in town, brought me a bag of decaf coffee beans… I only drink decaf! How cool is that- that she was able to bring me exactly what I drink (decaf is kind of hard to find around here)? Even though I didn’t need coffee, it was so nice to be able to have something extra to enjoy during those 17 days. It was all of these little situations that I realized how beautiful it is to rely on the Lord. He knows what we need, and He promises to care for us!

This is just one example of how I grew in my understanding of what thousands of people in the Birmingham area (and millions around the world) face every day. Initially, I was frustrated that we weren’t getting as much food as we typically do, especially on the week that I had decided I wanted to commit to this. Then, after some prayer, that frustration turned to gratitude. I realized that my eyes had been opened to the experiences that so many people have when it comes to food insecurity. I was able to see, just for a brief moment, the worry and helplessness that people feel when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. This process gave me such a deep appreciation for the Grace Klein community, which empowers people and makes them feel loved and cared for. Not only is it important that people have food to eat, but it is also important what kind of food they eat. Many people can gain access to nonperishable foods, but gaining access to produce is much more difficult.

At the end of the day, I think this process has caused me to be more reliant on the Lord and more trusting in His provision. I also think that my eyes have been opened to how careless I can be with my money. I learned that I don’t have to go to a coffee shop to talk with someone. I can invite them into my home and show hospitality in a way that welcomes people into the day-to-day experiences that we have, even if that means we can’t provide an abundant meal. Part of doing life together is welcoming people into your reality. I am glad that Grace Klein Community gave me the opportunity to be welcomed into the reality of the people that we serve. I feel more aware of the reality of food insecurity and more willing to reach out a helping hand and invite others into the good, the bad, the frustrating, the joyful, and everything in between.” – Lauren Stearns, Grace Klein Community Social Work Intern

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