Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The reason we are late is because we were a half hour early!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


She's read the book. She plays the music. She's seen the movie.
Time for her to see the stage play!!
Image taken from here.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Leading Up to Day One: Last Tuesday, Rachel and I started our day by visiting Harvest Loves, the brand new, not even opened yet, food ministry at our church, Harvest Bible Chapel. On our ride home, we were talking about the difficulties of food ministry and how necessary they are to the people who depend on them. I shared with her some of the hard times her dad and I experienced early in our marriage-trying to pay a mortgage, my college tuition, and meet our day to day needs. At one point, her dad was laid off. When I would grocery shop, I often had to make the decision whether to buy shampoo or a loaf of bread.

Last year, when our church had a food drive, we took our grocery money and bought food for the drive instead of for ourselves. It felt good. And the truth is we had plenty of food in the freezer and cupboards to stretch over the next week. While we talked about that, the seed of THE EXPERIMENT was planted. WHAT IF we had to eat on only a few dollars a day? How tough would that be? Could we even do it? What would you eat? What could you afford? Where could you shop? WHAT IF we tried this and then gave the rest of the money we would have normally spent on a week’s worth of groceries to Harvest Loves?

Later that night we joined our friends to meet with the pastor from Blessed Hope Church. Since our mission trip, we have all felt that God has something “next” for us to do together. Talking to Pastor Gary was part of our exploration, looking for God’s direction. Blessed Hope is a church, a food kitchen, food pantry, and so much more! Pastor Gary shared with us the changes that he’s seen in this economy. He is seeing more people, especially more families with children, needing a meal and groceries. We listened to the stories and met some of the people.

This second visit solidified it for us. We would try THE EXPERIMENT. We would start on Saturday, August 29th and eat on only $2.00/day per person. That meant we had $28.00 to spend between us for the week. And, we couldn’t use any groceries, condiments, etc. that we already had at home.

The Night Before: The rest of the week we talked, and sometimes argued about where we would shop. I wanted to make sure we got some fresh produce for the week. Rachel didn’t think we would be able to afford it. We agreed to shop at the Dollar Store and if there was any money left, we could buy some produce.

After a busy day, I picked Rachel up so we could shop. We had to work really hard to try to come up with 3 meals a day and not go over budget. We put stuff in our cart and then later, had to put it back on the shelf. I wanted to go for frozen veggies since I don’t like canned. In the end, we opted for canned fruit over ANY veggies. I wondered what the people around us were thinking as we discussed whether we could get enough meals out of the boxed cereal or the breakfast fruit bars.

In the end, we purchased:
2 boxes of pancake mix (can be made with water & meant we didn’t have to buy milk)
14 chinese noodle meals
1 box of spaghetti
1 can of spaghetti sauce
2 packages of hot dogs
2 packages of hot dog buns
1 can of mixed fruit
2 four-paks of apple sauce

When we went to check out, I had forgotten that food items are not taxed. So we ended up with an extra $3.oo It was a blessing and we decided to purchase a pack of gum each. It also hit me-I didn’t plan on caffeine for the week.

WHAT IF you had to do this week after week? WHAT IF you had kids in school and needed to make sure they had a healthy diet? WHAT IF you had an extra $3.00 at the end of your grocery shopping and felt like you just won the lottery?

Day One: Our first day is behind us. We discovered that the boxes of pancake mix will produce 2 ¼ pancakes a person for our breakfasts. Not very tasty but filling. Sure wish we had bought some jam or peanut butter to put on them! I tried not to let batter drip down the side of the mixing bowl. I estimated that we lost about a ¼ pancake. Normally, I wouldn’t have paid any attention, but with having so little to work with, I didn’t want to waste anything. I flashed back to when we were in Guatemala. We threw an ice cream social for the kids at one orphanage. I went to serve a group of girls and one of the cartons of ice cream was totally melted…chocolate soup. I was going to throw it away until one of our interpreters stopped me. She was shocked that I would waste it and made sure I finished serving that gallon before I opened another. At home, that would have been garbage. I wouldn’t have thought twice about dumping it. Now, for the first time, I realized how important every drop can be when you don’t have a lot to start with.

We ran a bunch of errands later in the day, one of them taking us to Gordon Food Service. As we walked in, a woman asked us if we wanted samples. Did we? We were served a small piece of pretzel bread with a chicken cheese dip and a small bit of BBQ chips. Nice surprise! It felt like a whole meal! We decided to skip our day’s half cup of canned fruit since we had this extra blessing and save it for another day when we might be struggling.

WHAT IF we had to do this for longer than a week? WHAT IF this was our life? WHAT IF I was less wasteful with food, with spending, with my time? WHAT IF I gave that extra away?

Day Two: I ended up driving Rachel to work before I left for Kalamazoo to attend Jeremiah’s baptism. On the way, I asked Rachel if she would go to the family night at church with me. And then I realized…yikes, each family is supposed to bring some BBQ meat and a side dish to pass. I told Rachel that I know church is the one place I should be able to go and not worry about bringing something, but I don’t know the people there too well yet and I would be embarrassed to show up empty handed and then fill our plates. We did have to laugh when I suggested it would be pretty hysterical if we showed up with anything from this week’s food stock. “Pancake, anyone?!!”

I told Rachel that the Cook’s church was going to serve a light lunch at the baptism. I asked her to guess what they were serving. Hot dogs? Yep! Going through the line, I picked a bag of Doritos because I know Rachel likes them and I wanted to surprise her with a treat. Vicki was deciding whether or not to get anything to eat, so I asked if I could have her bag of chips. Both Vicki and Darryl gave me their chips. Earlier, when I stopped by Rob’s office, he had bowls of candy and snacks on his end tables. I asked if I could help myself and of course, he said yes. I picked out 2 small packages of trail mix to bring to Rachel. Rachel’s boss ended up giving her some left over pizza. We each had a couple of pieces and still have some for tomorrow. Ok, so we now have a stash of pizza, trail mix, and chips!
Before we left this morning, our dog Sparky was not doing well at all. We had to carry him outside and then his legs kept buckling. When we brought him in, he drank some water but wouldn’t eat any of his food. I got one of the hot dogs to see if he would eat something. I wondered if I would have been so willing to give him part of my food ration for the day if I wasn’t going to be having a hot dog at church later?

We both went to bed a little hungry last night. Same tonight. Nothing unmanageable. We are drinking a lot of water trying to offset that.

WHAT IF we had to go to bed hungry every night, with no end in sight? WHAT IF we couldn’t afford to feed our dog? WHAT IF we had to avoid parties and get-togethers because we couldn’t afford to bring something or pay for a meal? WHAT IF I had to tell my child, eat something here because there’s nothing at home?

Day 3: Today was my first day at work since we started THE EXPERIMENT. Right off the bat, I announced to my co-workers that I would be grateful to anyone who bought me a diet coke this week and yes, I was shamelessly begging…lol. It wasn’t long before I found a nice cold bottle sitting on my desk! My announcement stirred a lot of discussion and guessing. We all had some fun with it. The cool thing is that I know they are people who would really help me out if I was in a bind or tough spot. I am blessed.

After work, Rachel and I sat down to our dinner of two hot dogs. While we talked through “dinner” we were surprised to discover that neither of us wanted to eat anything from the stash of goodies we picked up yesterday. We both were actually afraid that if we ate a bag of chips, then we wouldn’t have anything if we got really hungry one day. So, we agreed to hoard them. Funny that a few bags of chips and a couple packages of trail mix represented wealth to us in a way they never had before. We thought of a community center we had visited in Guatemala. We had a ton of left over candy and gave that out to the kids. They just pulled out their shirts to hold their loot. We wondered now, if they felt like we do today.

I am finding that I am more emotional than usual. Yesterday, I was thinking about all the moms around the world that have to watch their children go hungry, some to even die of starvation. How do you even bear something like that? I wept. But my tears must move me to action, yes? Otherwise, they are wasted.

WHAT IF it was my child crying herself to sleep from hunger? WHAT IF there was something I could do, was supposed to do, that could help even one child, one mom, one family? WHAT IF I cared enough to find out?

Day Four: We thought things might get hard by today, but we didn’t expect to feel as hungry as we do. Both Rachel and I thought our bodies would adjust. We just thought we would be sick of the menu. But we have been sooo hungry today.

Last night, I had so much trouble sleeping. Hunger kept me awake. And shadowed me all day. Found out Rachel had the same kind of day. We made our box of spaghetti tonight. I am so glad Rachel picked out the can of sauce with meat. We both feel like we just want some protein, even if it is a morsel.

I thought I would really have a struggle when I picked up Nick’s McDonald’s order at lunch today. I told Rachel that as hungry as I had been feeling all day, I thought it would be torture to drive the few blocks with the aroma of Micky Dee’s fries wafting through the air. Are you with me? What a blessing though. I was so busy thinking about some of the blessings God has brought me, that I didn’t even notice!

I should probably give some background to the hints I have left on Facebook so far. I posted our Experiment on Facebook to keep me accountable so it would be harder to cheat or quit. I am glad for the accountability. The hints:
#1) Some things are harder/some are easier: The harder part is trying to make our couple bucks stretch. The easier is….hardly any dishes!
#2) 10.7 million people, including half a million children: live in homes in the U.S. that experience hunger skipping meals, eating little, or going without food for a whole day.
#3) In the human condition, there are all types: All types of hunger. Humans hunger for peace, for love, for purpose, for belonging, for relationship with God. Physical hunger is probably the easiest to offset, so it makes me wonder why hunger is still a major issue worldwide.

WHAT IF I wasn’t so selfish? WHAT IF I can’t save the world, but I am supposed to help one child? One person? One family? WHAT IF I stop looking for them? WHAT IF I miss out on being a part of God’s story in the life of another? WHAT IF we don’t “get” whatever it is we can and should be learning through THE EXPERIMENT? WHAT IF we spend this week experiencing short-term hunger but don’t empathize with the pain of “the hungry”? WHAT IF all we end up with at the end of this week are a few sleepless nights and some growling stomachs?

Day 5,6,7: Just as I was about to start our journaling Day 5, I heard, “Mom! Sparky’s bleeding!” We ended up at the emergency vet until 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. The next day found us too exhausted to journal. So, here are the highlights from the next 3 days.

Since we had been so hungry on Day 4, I really expected Day 5 to be a struggle. ..a long, dreary day to try and muddle through. I sensed God saying to me, “You don’t trust Me, do you?” That caught me off guard. What did this EXPERIMENT have to do with trusting God? I mean, it was just a short term, one week experiment, right? I got to work and noticed a package in my mail slot. It was a bag of Jolly Ranchers with a note saying something about payment.The day before, I had done a favor for a driver and had jokingly told him that it was going to cost him. And this was his tongue in cheek payment. A whole bag of candy! Here was God surprising me when I didn’t expect it. I picked out one of each flavor for myself and for Rachel and then shared the rest of the bag with my co-workers. At lunch, someone put a Jimmy John’s sandwich on my desk. “I didn’t order that.” I didn’t hear what she said exactly but it was something about someone buying me a sandwich because of my social experiment. Another unexpected surprise! I saved half for Rachel and couldn’t believe how full that bit of protein made me feel. Rachel’s boss bought her a chicken wrap, so for dinner, we switched out sandwiches. Ah, protein! “Trust Me.” I knew that wasn’t about a Jolly Rancher or a sandwich, but about every part of my life.

On Day 6, we barely felt any hunger, we were so tired from our night at the vet’s. It was eat and early to bed.

Day 7. I came into work to, once again, find a diet coke waiting for me on my desk. My co-workers are the best!! After this week, we knew that today would be easy. Our last day, we would probably breeze through. We still had our stash of goodies, too.

I had a chance to talk with a Christian brother from South Africa early in the day. One of the things he noticed about Americans was our absence of God from the center of our lives. We have so much that we tend to rely on ourselves and don’t include God in the equation. Later in the evening, we were talking with our friends Danielle and Aaron. Aaron mentioned hearing about a Christian leader who commented that he was amazed how much we accomplish on our own, because we have left God out of the equation. That is really at the core of THE EXPERIMENT. Without God at the center, we just lived a week with very little food. Perhaps developed some empathy. But with God, this week will take on life and depth beyond our small efforts. I don’t know how that will play out, but I know who He is. He is the One who spoke and a world and its beings were created. He is the One who takes nothing and makes it into something breathtaking.

WHAT IF my life was to reflect my belief?

Day 8 The End….or is it the Beginning?
I asked Rachel for her observations from this week. We laughed when she said, “Canned food is very salty!” But then she recalled the time when she was helping pack food at Taylor Human Services’ food pantry and they were giving almond milk. She said that she remembered thinking that she would never drink almond milk. “But if you have no food, you take what you can get and eat it…even almond milk!”

We realize, now more than ever, that we have more than we thought we had, and need less than we thought we needed. And not just when it comes to food.

We have an increased awareness of the issues and experience surrounding hunger, as you would expect. I was surprised by the joy we found. Joy in sharing with each other from the meagerness we had. I can’t really explain it. But it wasn’t a joy derived from the things, but joy from walking this together, from rejoicing and celebrating in the blessings. From being joined in a common purpose.

One of the things I felt God speaking to me throughout this week was about giving Him the best of everything and every part of my life. Rachel and I talked about how when we have given to food drives in the past, we have given stuff like that can that has been left sitting in the cupboard for a year. Just grabbing whatever we didn’t really want or need. Now, we want to make sure we are including protein and some luxury items. The really good stuff, you know? And so it must be with what I give to God. Not just the leftovers, but the really good stuff.

Why? In John 12, we are told of the woman who came and poured expensive oil over Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. Was this a shocking emotional display and waste of resources? Jesus response could seem even more shocking because He sat there and received it. RECEIVED IT! He is recorded as saying, “Leave her alone….the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12: 8) His reference to the poor at the seeming waste of this expensive oil is very telling. Throughout the gospels, we see example after example of Jesus being moved with compassion…the feeding of a crowd of people who came to hear him, raising a woman’s dead child because he was her only son, healings, reaching out to the ones who were the last people who deserved his attention, and the list could go on. So it wasn’t that he didn’t care about the poor. But He knew what she got (as evidenced by her actions) and I often don’t get. He is WORTHY!

I have all kinds of these alabaster jars filled with the best of what I have…possessions, money, time, energy, passion, talent, rights….that I have been hoarding , telling myself that I will break them open and offer them at a future date. My motivations have sometimes been fear, sometimes selfishness, sometimes apathy, sometimes greed. God is telling me to break them open and pour them out at His feet. Now is the time. NOW is ALWAYS the time. Not because I might receive a blessing, or joy, or purpose, or satisfaction. But because He is WORTHY of it all, of every drop of every hoarded jar.

Last January, I sat in a restaurant with my Christian sisters, as one posed a WHAT IF? question to the rest of us. That resulted in the 6 of us (who are still amazed that God provided the finances) holding Guatemalan orphans in our arms and hearts in July. And a month later, sitting in a pastor’s office, a man we had never met, asking more WHAT IF? questions. One of the things he said to us was, “Start by just doing SOMETHING.” which confirmed to Rachel and I to live out THE EXPERIMENT that sprang from a WHAT IF? question we had asked each other early that morning. It’s the domino effect, one WHAT IF? leads to another, and then to another, and on.

I don’t know if the Holy Spirit is placing WHAT IF? questions in your heart, but our advice, dear friend….. is BREAK THE JAR!!!!!

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8