March 17, 2014

A Casserole Is Not Enough. Except When It Is.

I have made some casseroles for people. I’ve assembled dozens of lasagnas. I’ve made chicken spaghetti and chicken enchiladas and chicken with broccoli, baking them in countless disposable pans. I’ve simmered pots and pots of chili, too, and purchased enough salad-in-a-bag to feed several colonies of rabbits. Oh, I have made some casseroles.

And then I’ve driven them to the homes of church people in need, walked my dishes to their kitchen counters, chatted for a few minutes, and left. Sometimes I’ve cried all the way home.

The casseroles for new moms are great. Everyone is happy, lasagna is just what they need, and I get to hold a newborn for a minute or two. But it’s the other homes that afterwards leave me shaking over my steering wheel with grief and inadequacy.

A casserole, baked until bubbly, seems like such a small offering in a home where someone is lying in the bedroom, fighting that last enemy, death. Cheese and noodles in a foil pan—so flimsy in a place where a child is chronically ill, where a family has been deserted by a sin-craving father, or where cancer is every moment growing under a woman’s skin.

Waving chicken-and-rice in the face of death seems pointless.

But—as my husband so kindly reminds me—it’s not.

For one thing, people need to eat. And, if some of them have no appetite, it’s a sure bet there are cousins or neighbors or friends—people a few steps removed from the struggle—who will wander into the kitchen wanting a meal at some point. My nine-by-thirteen may not meet all the needs in the home, but it meets one.

Food is also fellowship. The breaking of bread together (both sacramental and ordinary) was one of the marks of the first century church, and it is still important for the Body today. Even if I have to leave my dish at the door, I have (as I tell my children) “baked the love in it.” My recipe, my time, my hands mixing and seasoning and assembling, are a bit of fellowship with me, delivered. And as I head home, often to eat the second batch with my own family, we share fellowship. Two families, tasting the same food at the same time: thinking of, praying for, and growing in love together as we eat.

And, perhaps most importantly, the inadequacy of a casserole reminds me of the adequacy of my Lord. Even if I could do more than bring a casserole to seriously suffering people—if I could move in, do all the laundry, mop all the floors, play with children, and organize the medications, even if I could meet every human need in these homes—it wouldn’t even begin to solve the problem.

Only Christ, drawing near by His Spirit, can mend broken hearts and broken bodies. Only Christ can bring eternal hope to the downcast and eternal life to the dying.

It is perhaps God’s kindness to me that the most I can do is something that fits in a pan.

That way, I’m not tempted to think for one minute that my efforts are enough. Instead, the meager mouthfuls I create point to Him who is the Bread of Life. And the one who tastes of Him will never be hungry.  A casserole is not enough. He always is.

So, I set my oven—yet again—to 350. And while it warms, I pray.

59 comments:

  1. This is one of the most beautifully true articles I have every read. Thanks!
    Tina

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  2. A friend posted this on Facebook. A friend who brought food to my family when my daddy was dying. I read it and was touched with how beautifully you'd expressed an act of ministry that we often do without even thinking its impact. I shared the article with my Facebook friends and the conversation in the comments has been so sweet. And many of those friends are sharing it with their Facebook friends. Your words touch a tender spot and express what so many of us feel but didn't know how to say. Thank you for saying it for us.

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    1. What an encouragement to hear of the conversation among your friends! Thank you for telling me.

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  3. Everyone should give according to his talents. God has given me the talent of being a great cook. If any of my Casserole Offerings has helped a grieving family in the least little way, then I am blessed to be able to provide them with a hot meal. <3

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  4. Absolutely love this. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Giving a meal is an amazing gift. I remember with our ectopic pregnancy that required surgery, I didn't have to cook for weeks. With each subsequent pregnancy loss, we have had at least one meal brought to our home. And just knowing that for that day, I didn't have to worry about feeding my family, it was such a relief. A casserole may not cure disease, or fix grief, but it does an amazing job of letting people know they are loved and cared for.

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  6. Megan, I am involved in our church's meals ministry and would love to share this beautifully written blog entry in a letter that is going out soon to encourage our volunteers. What would I need to do to get permission to do this?

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    1. Email me at megan@sundaywomen.com and I'd be happy to talk to you about how you can share this.

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  7. This is lovely! You need to read Snakeoil by Becca Stevens. There is a section on the casseroles in times of grieving. You would enjoy!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tip--always looking for new books!

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  8. Love this, Megan! Thank you for this reminder!!!

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  9. My father died when my daughter was only 2 months old. It was a huge blessing when people brought food. I often take food to a grieving family and will include either a grocery store or restaurant gift card too. Just knowing someone loves and cares for you is HUGE.

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    1. The gift cards are a great idea. During a death in our family, another family in the church simply ordered pizza and had it delivered to our door--but what a blessing!

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  10. This is beautiful! I think food is one of my love languages -- when someone prepares a meal for me, I feel SO loved, and when I prepare a meal for others I also do it out of love. New moms and their families appreciate it so much, as do folks going through life's trials.

    Thank you for this post.

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    Replies
    1. And food always tastes better when someone else makes it :)

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  11. Thank you! I appreciate your words so much.

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  12. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful words.

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  13. This became real to me when my mother died. My parents had been members of their large church for 54 years. Yet hardly anyone brought food or helped serve after her funeral service. The 2 associate pastors (women) did it all. There were elderly people who got up early, drove 2-3 hours to be there, & needed food before driving home again. And everyone needed time to be together, talk & comfort one another.

    Later I took food to a friend when her father died. I found out later I was the only one who took food to her mother's home, even though again her parents had been members of their church for life.

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  14. I've been at the receiving end of these casseroles/meals when I wasn't able to cook for my family and was very happy that though I couldn't "enjoy" the meals, they were nourishment that I needed and were enjoyed by my family. Very thoughtful article....keep up this "good" work! It may be received much more enthusiastically than you perceive. Even by the person who is seriously sick.

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  15. I love these casserole stories. Thank you for being willing to share.

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  16. Providing a meal for a family also enables the family to do things in what would have been a meal-prep time. For example: My son has surgery every 6 months, and other medical requirements on a daily basis. One time we had an unexpected hospital stay. Being cooped up in the hospital and then during recovery at home is just plain hard. I love to run, and running provides some sweet time with the Lord that's different than inside time. Women from our church at the time brought meals during our hospital stay and after we got home. When my husband got home from work, I didn't have to make dinner, and he was able to stay with the kids while I got some much needed running done. These ladies provided for me in a way that I'm sure they didn't anticipate just by taking their time to prepare a meal.

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  17. Had to have a hanky for this one...thank you for sharing this and bringing on the memories of all the people with whom I've shared casseroles. Angie Harrison.. ✿◠‿◠✿

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  18. I love this. Often the only thing I can think of to do is make food. And while it doesn't always feel "important", I think back to those meals made and brought to me in love, often unexpected, and I know that it is a way to show love and caring...

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  19. Beautifully said! I might add, it doesn't necessarily have to be home-cooked. Our daughter was born 3.5 weeks early and I had to leave her at the hospital to come to our cranky 3-year-old son. Our church friends were not prepared for me to come home that early, and so the first meal we received was a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken with all the trimmings. It was perfect, Mr. Crabby liked it, and I felt loved.

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  20. This is a beautifully written article and so true. Thank you!

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  21. Oh so, so, so true! I remember when I found out my mother died it was so hard. Jeff and I were in the kitchen and just in a fog trying to figure out how to put a meal together. I would have given ANYTHING to know someone cared enough to make us a meal. We were so alone in it and just having that would have made all the difference in the world. The same when my father died. Again, trying to make something to eat was difficult. If you ever feel burdened to make something for someone going through a hard time, do it! It speaks volumes and will mean more than you will probably ever know. Also, don't just assume someone else is taking care of it.

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    1. Those are good points. Thanks for the reminder.

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  22. My husband died two months ago and I am still getting meals twiced a week! It is so helpful after a long day of work to have a meal waiting for me and the kids. And I feel so loved! Now that the fog has lifted a bit, it brightens our life when they can stay and join us for dinner too.

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    1. I am sorry for your loss and thankful to hear about how you have been loved in the midst of a hard time.

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  23. I have found that sandwich trays are great, particularly for working women who don't have a lot of time to cook, but want to help a friend. Almost all the major grocery stores make them, and WalMarts are especially good. Also, people seem to enjoy just being able 'grab a bite' on the run.

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    1. This tradition has been around for many years,however when the children of the parent who is sick request special food which makes it difficult it becomes a problem for the respondent. I know it is gladly excepted in most cases and I know the Lord will bless you for helping those who are sick. Irene

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  24. You have no idea how this encouraged me. Thank you!

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