Life After 25

Well, it has been 4 days since the end of 25 in change. What is different?? I often forget that I can eat whenever I want! On Friday afternoon, I was feeling hungry–it took me a couple of minutes to remember that I could eat whenever I wanted that day! Food has never tasted as good as it has since the end of 25 in change, and I appreciate it so, so much more now than I ever have. My GI system is still in an uproar. Friday and Saturday were pretty good, but I think I overdid it Saturday, because yesterday I felt awful. Today I feel better, but my GI system is still unhappy. I think it will just take time to get back to normal!

We had the most amazing celebration dinner on Friday night! We gathered together as a group and had an amazing meal of spaghetti and homemade sauce, salad with a variety of toppings, fruit salad and cupcakes. 🙂 It was such a blessing to share that meal together and to marvel at all of the wonderful tastes we had so missed! It was a wonderful night of encouragement and celebration with the group I will have a special connection with forever!

I was worried during the midst of 25inchange that maybe I wasn’t getting enough out of it, that I was missing some huge lessons that others were experiencing. My wonderful, wise husband told me that I probably wouldn’t even see the lessons until it was over and I could reflect back–and he was so right! On Friday and over the weekend, I had so many thoughts about the things I learned through this experience. I learned to appreciate food and all the many blessings we have in our nation. I learned that food that I find to be gross and boring is all that many people have–and they find tremendous blessing and comfort in food that we would throw out here. I have so much more appreciate of everything I have–my food, my family, my home, my job. I have learned so much.

And I was so incredibly blessed by the other 24 advocates–we came in as a group of strangers and ended the best of friends! At Pathways, we often talk about “doing life together,” and I am honored and excited to do life with these amazing people!

I have told many people that 25inchange was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. I am amazed at how God changed my life, and can’t wait to see what he is going to do through this ministry! Part of me is fearful that I will once again become too comfortable, that I will go back to the “norm” and forget all that I have learned through this amazing experience. It is my prayer that I never, ever forget.

Thank you all for joining me on this journey! I could have never done it without your prayers and your support!

Wow, I cannot believe it is here–our last day of 25inchange. I have told several people today–this has been one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences of my life. What a roller coaster ride! Today we met our goal of 1,875 sponsors, which means together we fed 187,500 children!! That number just staggers me–I can’t even fathom it.

God brought our last 17 sponsors in a big way. One of our advocates works as a nurse at a Head Start school. She made a plea at an end-of-year staff meeting for sponsors. Many of the teachers felt that money was a barrier for them to sponsor, so the director agreed to pay for a sponsorship for anyone who was willing to give up fast food for 25 days. This resulted in 18 new sponsors–just one more than we needed to meet our goal! It gave me goosebumps to sit at my desk today and read her email telling us what had just happened. God is so good!!

Tomorrow it is back to “real life.” But it is my prayer that my “real life” will look different, that my heart will stay soft to the needs of others. What will that look like? Time will tell. But ideas are stirring in my head. It has long been a dream of mine to use my nutrition background to travel to third world countries and educate others about clean water and nutrition. Maybe this is the nudge I need to take the next step in fulfilling that dream!

I cannot thank you enough for all of your support. In no way could I have ever done this on my own. It was through the prayers, the support, the encouragement, my amazing sponsors and my incredible fellow advocates that I made it through.

25 in change does not stop here. The dream for 25 in change is to partner with other churches and spread the message about worldwide hunger throughout our nation. Please, if you are interested in participating in 25 in change, please let me know.



Wow, day 24. One day left of this incredible adventure. I have so many thoughts swirling in my head that I don’t know where to start! I haven’t eaten 3 meals a day since last Thursday, and I am starting to feel/show the manifestations of decreased nutrition. I have lost 11 pounds. I am wearing shorts today that wouldn’t fit before. I am covered in bruises. I am tired but can’t sleep. Every time I stand up, I feel as though I am going to pass out. My stomach is empty. In addition to the physical aspects, I am also feeling emotional. I have felt a wide range of feelings, from anger to sadness to joy and everything in between. I have no patience (well, that was a problem before but is worse now).

But even through all this, I feel an incredible sense of blessing–a sense of thanksgiving that I was chosen to be a part of 25 in change, a sense of thanksgiving that I now see a little more clearly what people who are chronically hungry must feel. No, I will never truly understand their plight, but I feel as though I now I have a teeny bit of insight to what it must be like.

It has certainly been a roller coaster ride, these past 24 days. It seems like an eternity ago that we were on day 1, that day where I oversalted my beans and could hardly eat them. It is hard to believe that in 2 days I will be eating “real” food again.

A question I have wrestled with throughout this journey: “What will my life be like after 25inchange?” I want to be different, I want my heart to be softened for those who are hurting, near and far. Over the years, my heart has become hardened to those in need, and I don’t want to live that way any longer. No, I don’t know yet what that will look like, but I definitely want to be changed by this experience. As Christians, we are called to feed the hungry and care for the widowed and orphaned. In the US, I think that many of us have forgotten that calling and are more focused on caring for ourselves. We long to pack our pews in our churches rather than to reach out to the broken, the marginalized and the hurting.

Around the same time I started my advocacy with www.25inchange.org, I also read an amazing book with my book club group, “Half the Sky.” It is a book about gender inequality and injustice around the world. While many parts of this book are difficult to read, it was extremely eye-opening to the unfathomable hardships faced by women and girls around the world. The book gave a shout out to the World Food Program School Lunch Program, the program 25inchange is partnering with, as well as World Vision, an organization dear to my heart. I strongly encourage all of you to read it and let it change your world.

I cannot thank you all enough for your support, your donations, and your encouragement throughout this adventure. I could not do it without my sponsors, my encouragers, and my fellow advocates.

I posted on FB this morning a quote from Mother Teresa (one of my heroes): “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” You have the opportunity to feed 100 children through the World Food Program with a $25 donation. Please visit http://25inchange.org/leah-stephens/.

Wow, day 23. So close to the finish line. Haven’t eaten all day (we are running out of sponsored meals), and this hunger makes me really think. How awful it must be to feel this way EVERY DAY. How awful to be so distracted by your hungry belly that you can’t concentrate. How awful it must be to be so hungry that you literally can’t think straight.

As much as this hunger is uncomfortable, it is amazingly eye-opening to the suffering felt around the world. Eye-opening to our American culture–how we forget to reach out to those around us because we are too comfortable and too busy meeting our own needs.

My heart is breaking for those who are suffering and are hungry while we in the US just sit around and take care of ourselves. I don’t want to live this way any more. I want to be a person who lives to change the world, to help those who are suffering, who are hungry.

This experience has been life-changing, and I so appreciate those of you who have supported me on this journey. Your donations, your encouraging words, your prayers–they have meant the world to me. Thank you–and I know the children you fed are thankful, too.

I cannot believe that we are on day 17!! In some ways this journey has been extremely long, but in other ways it seems to have passed very quickly. One of my fellow advocates wrote on FB this morning how mixed her feelings are about ending this journey–I feel totally the same way. I will enjoy eating the foods I have missed (and drinking coffee and wine!), but not eating beans and rice every day will also be strange. It has actually started to feel normal over the last few days to eat beans and rice for all 3 meals. And now we can say that every meal we eat also feeds 100 children–but how will it feel when we can no longer say that?

I must say a big THANK YOU to all of my amazing sponsors and encouragers. Without you all, this would not be possible! If you have not sponsored a meal but would like to do so, please visit http://www.25inchange.org, click on contribute and then my picture. Please help us bless children worldwide who would otherwise go hungry!

The last few days were HARD!! Last Friday, I was really emotional–crabby and discouraged more than anything. And physically I have been so tired–yesterday, I took two naps! I cannot imagine being a child who is expected to sit in school and learn or even play with such little energy.

Last night was our weekly meeting with our fellow advocates–that meeting is such a blessing! It is so encouraging to be with those who are experiencing the same thing, having the same stuggles and the same victories. Last night we discussed empathy and talked about how this experience has made us more empathic and what that might look like 6 months from now. I so want to be changed by this experience–I want to have more empathy for those around me who are struggling and those who are struggling worldwide. It is my prayer that my empathy can be sustained for life.

The last few days have been HARD! Up until now, I had been somewhat enjoying my beans and rice, but I turned a corner and starting really disliking them! Every time I ate, I wanted to gag! I am not a person who does well eating the same thing over and over, so I was afraid this would happen. While I am not glad others are having similar experiences, I am thankful that I am not the only one feeling this way (other advocates are having a hard time getting their beans and rice down as well).

One thing I will NOT be doing is blending my beans and rice! Andre, the leader of our group, blended his beans and rice yesterday–YUCK! He reported that it was pretty bad–I can only imagine!

We are currently about 50% to our fundraising goal and are funded for meals through Saturday. If you have not donated to this amazing cause, please consider making a donation! You can sponsor a meal for me and provide a school lunch meal to 100 kids who would otherwise go hungry by visiting http://25inchange.org/leah-stephens/. Thank you!!

Days 5-7 were actually pretty great! I felt good, not too hungry, with plenty of energy! Friday night we went out to Blake Street Tavern for the Pathways fun night, where we met up with some of my fellow advocates to celebrate a friend and fellow advocate’s birthday! Let me tell you, it was a bit strange to be in a restaurant and just get water! Saturday night we attended a wedding (where I did not eat, but I did sneak the cake home in a Ziploc bag!), and Sunday morning we went with friends to one of my favorite breakfast places, where I again just ordered water!

Today I am feeling pretty hungry and tired. It is amazing what a roller coaster this is–one day I feel great, and then the next day is hard. I know this will continue over the next few weeks, but I can honestly say the first week went pretty fast. We are on day 8 already!

Last night was our weekly meeting with our fellow advocates–those times together are such a blessing to me! In every day life, it is easy to fall into the temptation to isolate, but being with other advocates who are going through the same thing is such an encouragement!

And speaking of encouragement–I have been blown away by the encouragement I have received from so many people!! I am so thankful for the many of you who have sent encouraging messages to me, have prayed for me and have sponsored me! It is such an amazing blessing to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself.

Our group is currently funded for meals through later this week, probably Friday. Please consider joining us in our effort and also spreading the word to your friends and family.

Be the change! www.25inchange.org Thank you!

Q&A with Leah

My awesome friend Kristie asked this question: “do you think you are going to lose a lot of weight? obviously, you do NOT need to lose any…therefore, are you concerned about your health/losing too much weight during this journey?”

When I first signed up for this, I had no idea what to expect, so I was a bit concerned about the health aspects of the project. As a dietitian, I was definitely concerned about the nutritional aspects of a beans and rice diet! Thankfully, I am getting about 1400 calories, so definitely adequate, but probably less than I get regularly. I have been weighing myself every morning and am down 3.8 lbs, but I feel like that is probably leveling off. I am also taking a good multivitamin, so getting adequate iron and other vitamins/minerals.

So am I worried? Not really. I lost about 10 lbs last summer (unintentionally–related to some health issues I was dealing with) but have since regained that and then some, so have a few pounds to spare. 🙂 The last few months, my eating habits have gotten a little out of control (I love wine and sugar!!), so I feel like this is a good opportunity not only to help starving children but also to get my own eating habits back where they need to be.

Thanks for the awesome questions!! Anybody else??

Sandy asked about our beans and rice preparation. We are able to use any kind of beans and rice but are encouraged to stick with the same kind throughout the 25 days. Each meal is one cup of rice and 1/2 cup beans, with 1 tsp oil and 1/3 tsp salt. I am using brown basmati rice, which I feel has a little more flavor, and brown ricehas more nutrition than white. I am eating black beans, because I love them, and olive oil, because I love the flavor. I think I am probably using less salt, because I don’t particularly like a lot of salt in my food, although I have found myself adding a little more each day, as the beans and rice become less and less interesting. We aren’t allowed to add any spices or anything else.

I feel like I am probably pretty lucky because black beans and brown rice is a pretty common staple in my diet, so I enjoy eating it–though I may feel differently after 25 days! Also, because Jason is a vegetarian, I am not accustomed to eating a ton of meat, so adjusting to a no-meat diet hasn’t been bad.

Let me know if you have any more questions about what we are doing–I love to share!!