It started a couple of weeks ago, we all remember it, the shelves were stripped of bread, flour, pasta, toilet roll, and anything else that would keep, and enable a family to survive without having to go shopping. The coronavirus pandemic was starting to hit our shores and people were worried, really worried. They loaded up their trolleys with vast amounts of whatever they felt would help them to survive.
We were asked to keep calm and not to panic buy. Though the temptation is always there to protect ‘me and mine’ by stocking up, I tried my best to keep calm. I didn’t buy any large quantities of anything, trying to be mindful of others who need to eat & wash too. But there were a lot of empty shelves, lots of things I couldn’t get. Somehow, we made it through that first week. Our local bakery had bread as they bake throughout the day so no one can strip them of their whole stock at once.
But there was a niggle for me. I’m intolerant to gluten, dairy, corn/maize and soya. They each have some rather unpleasant effects on my digestive system (it’s ok, I won’t go into details) and it’s worse if I’m stressed. But in that initial rush, all the eggs and the particular type of flour that I depend on to make anything resembling bread had been taken. I’m told that when the normal flour and pasta had gone, people turned to the gluten free stuff.
I had one bag of that flour left and no eggs.
I managed, after visiting several shops, to find half a dozen eggs. (My gluten free bread is rather like a brick without an egg.) I rationed eggs in my household and made a loaf of bread.
Two thirds of a bag left.
Through that week, whenever I was out and about, and passing a store that I thought might have it, I’d check, telling myself that it wouldn’t be long before things got back to normal and I’d be fine. I was grateful that it was only bread flour I was short of, I had other things to eat, I wouldn’t go hungry, but it’s not the easiest of things to go without. (Crackers etc are off menu to me too.) But that anxiety deep down, it’s difficult to shake, and it was starting to niggle at me.
Then I heard Him. Some people will think I’m a bit crazy, but I believe that God speaks to me from time to time. You see, He loves us, and doesn’t want us to worry, but He knows we do at times like this: After all our lives are turning upside down and there is a huge amount of uncertainty. What did God say? He brought to mind a passage from the book of 1 Kings 17 where the prophet Elijah asks a widow to give him bread from her last portion of flour and oil, and then assures her that the flour and oil will not run out until the current famine comes to an end.
“For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”1 Kings 17:14
I felt that he was reassuring me that my flour would not run out until I found more. That was very reassuring. For a couple of days, I just left it, but then had to make another loaf.
One third of a bag left.
I started to worry again, was it just wishful thinking on my part that I’d heard that promise? So, I posted on Facebook to friends and a local group to ask people to look out for my particular brand of flour. I received lots of advice and even some very kind offers of different brands of flour, but all contained corn so would have been no good for me.
The flour I needed was nowhere to be seen despite me checking all the local shops again and one shop trying to order it for me too. They did however manage to get me some baking powder, and some tapioca starch. In my mind I rationalised that I hadn’t run out, I had all the ingredients to make the bread flour, I just needed to experiment with quantities until I found a recipe that worked. Job done? But not really a miracle. And how many failed experiments until I found a flour blend that did work?
That morning I was walking our dog when I felt another prompt. When I got home, I needed to watch the live stream from our church that morning. Our Pastor, Sam is doing a wonderful job trying to keep his flock together by livestreaming services and prayers from the church. I’d missed the live streaming but it was still available on YouTube, so I sat down listening with the headphones on to avoid disturbing other family members working in the house. Sam read an old Testament reading, and it was 1 Kings 17 – the same passage I’d felt the LORD had given me a few days before! My heart leapt; I felt a real burning in myself as I listened to Sam reading the story. That was confirmation wasn’t it? There was going to be a miracle and I just needed to trust.
But the days continued to tick by, and the loaf disappeared, the trust and anxiety continued to jostle inside me, taking my attention from other things. It gives me a better appreciation for those who do have to live hand to mouth.
So, on Friday, I decided to use the last of the bread flour, I combined it with an equal amount of gram flour & some oil to make flat breads, possibly a bit like the widow in the story would have done. That way I’d have twice as much bread available to eek it out until I could find more. But my flour had run out and I felt that the promise hadn’t quite lived up to what I’d expected.
But God had other plans. Just about the time I started making the flatbreads, two friends messaged me (though I didn’t see the messages for several hours!), both had managed to find my bread flour at the same time, in other towns nearby. One of them had bought two bags for me! (Thanks Sarah and Angie!)
Did I ever need to worry? No. But I’m human, and it’s hard not to, though God does remind me from time to time that I can trust him! Sometimes I have to be in a difficult situation to learn that lesson though.
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”Matthew 6:31-33
Just a note, if you’ve bought gluten free flour ‘just in case’, but don’t normally use it; you may well find that it’s actually quite hard to work with unless you are used to it – it doesn’t have gluten in it to hold it together. Perhaps, if you are symptom free, you might offer an amnesty for someone else who really does need it? It would be a shame to see a lot of this food go to waste (and harm our planet even more) because food gets unused and goes off.