Thursday, February 21, 2013

Don't Ask Me For Dinner

This afternoon was wild. It is not even busy Spring time yet, but somehow our after school schedule required 4 hours in the car ping ponging back and forth across my small town--from school to home to K's sewing class to home to drive thru dinner to R's baseball practice and back to pick up children I had deposited along the way.

Despite advanced planning and effort, I got stuck in traffic on the wrong side of town prompting me to call friends to grab a child to bail me out TWICE. At 5:30 as rain started to roll in I realized I needed to rush back across town in case baseball practice was called early.

Then I remembered I had signed up to bring dinner to a friend's family as the Mama recovered from surgery. And of course, my husband was on call and in the OR.

Can I confess something embarrassing? I have a mental block against delivering meals to families in need. My track record is terrible.

I remember how much I appreciated it being done for me (for five months, three nights a week) when our babies were born. I WANT to do it. And yet, despite my best intentions, I have forgotten the last three times I have signed up. I don't mean it slipped up on me, by the way. I mean I have thought about it during the early part of the day then gotten busy in the afternoon rush and totally, completely left hungry people wondering where their food might be. Who does that? Me, apparently.

I am efficient, organized and reliable in 98% of my life. I have neat lists, a well oiled calendar and great intentions---but bringing meals is just not in my gift set. I am trying to learn to be OK with that.

Frankly, the last time I signed up and messed up was so embarrassing (a single Mama friend with stage IV cancer who called me at 7pm to check on me when I hadn't shown up) that I pledged to find other ways to give and to serve. And yet, each time I get a care calendar email I swallow hard. I feed my family every night--certainly I can handle this.
Tonight I am honestly it Ok to just decide 'I don't do that well' and move on to serving in ways that 'work' for me? Or should I suck it up and try harder because, really, this shouldn't be this complicated and it is worth the extra effort to bless people?

In my twenties I once volunteered for a ministry that I admired greatly. It involved youth ministry to mentally and physically handicapped teenagers through Young Life's Capernum ministry. My friend Kat was gifted greatly in this area & I was moved by her service. I wanted that beautiful ministry to be my thing.

After a few months of getting to know some of the great kids involved I agreed to chaperone a weekend camp experience. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I was completely emotionally and physically exhausted after 48 hours of 12 teens with profound challenges I knew little about. Dealing with bodily fluids, irrational behavior, limited communication, I was overwhelmed and in tears the entire time. It was not my call--even though I really wanted it to be.

I know some people feel that way about youth ministry to typically developing teens, or children, or women or adults.  In seasons of my life I have actually found myself begging God to let me work with impoverished people instead of wealthy ones---to more obviously troubled youth than ones who appear on the surface to have the world at their fingertips. We are built and inclined different ways. Our life experiences and unique gifting combine to put us on various paths.

So I am pondering... 
Is it prideful to try to meet needs we aren't wired for?
Or are we so comfortable in our lives and routines that we can easily rationalize not serving in a way that is needed because it is challenging or inconvenient?
by Brian Andreas
Scripture is clear: We are ALL called to love with everything we've got--and maybe a whole lot we don't have and must depend on the Lord to provide. This love manifests itself quite differently in individual lives.

May we be courageous enough to earnestly ask God the hard questions about what He has for us, watch & listen intently for it to be revealed and rest in the peace of His Will.

It may not initially seem as exciting as what He has for someone else.
It may or may not require some stretching outside our comfort zone and the awkward reality of not being perfect at it.
And occasionally it will involve heartfelt, humble apologies over forgotten dinners.


dee said...

This hits home for me. You know we are a YL family, and when our boys were in high school they went to YL camp. When it came time for Capernaum camp, one of our sons was adamant about not going. He said "it was not his thing." We struggled with whether we should make him go. In the end, we did not. Like you, I knew it would be tremendously hard for him. It is not his gift; yet, he is our most tender hearted child. But, I do still wonder if we should have given him that hard experience. Your writing always makes me think, thank you! And, by the way, I have forgotten a meal before too!

Bethany Peterson said...

I CAN'T DO MEALS EITHER! It's so refreshing to hear someone else admit it! It's not that I forget, it's just so stressful and I'm not good at it. I don't bring meals unless they are my extrely close friends. Instead I'll offer to bring take out from their favorite place or bring by goodies, flowers, to bless them.

Sara said...

We're all gifted differently. I don't think I could do what you do with the young girls you work with - so you are definitely gifted, and God is using you in other ways. You don't need to feel guilty about not doing the meals ministry!

Bailey's Leaf said...

It's funny. I just dropped a meal off a few weeks ago. This is something that I CAN do and have no problem with, but I'm not called that often. (New to this church, having only gone there for a year and a half.) Now, I would think that I would have been warned about something in particular, but I wasn't.

It was a hoarder house.

I don't mind helping. I don't mind providing. In fact, it was a day that a meal was needed and all I could do was to offer a Crock-Pot meal because I worked that day and wouldn't be home until after dinner time for this family. They were gluten free, and I could meet that need.

I walked in and the stench hit me. I had politely left my shoes on the porch since it had been snowing and I didn't want to track slush through the house.

In my mind, I gasped. The stench. Then, I went to the kitchen with her where she informed me that she had "cleared a space off for me."

I couldn't find that space.

I got things squared away, plugged and and cooking for them and apologized that I wasn't able to visit longer, but I had to go to work.

I was so thankful for work.

I'm a germaphobe. Which leads me to an awful confession.

I don't know if I want my Crock-Pot back. :(

:shakes of the head: I just don't know what might crawl out of that thing.

It is something that I will continue to do and I must get over that some other people's thought of cleanliness in their home differs from mine. I will not offend. Cooking is a gift that God has given me.

A request that I have turned down with the church? Teaching. I'm just not there. I'm not your girl for that and I know that I would do a poor job. It isn't because I haven't tried. Oh, I have. I can teach my own child just fine for the most part.

God gives us gifts. Each and every one of us. It doesn't mean that we are declining a call. It means that we know where our talents with our Lord lies and we aren't perfect. He didn't make us perfect and that is okay. Through prayer, we need to pray to see where our gifts lie and serve Him in that way.

I'm challenged with cooking in a way because what we eat (very healthy, whole grains, a lot of vegetarian) and that isn't a good fit for most families. I can bust out a good, healthy meal, but some families just don't appreciate my way to dance with barley, tofu and whole grains. That's okay. Using God's gift that He has given me has also called for me to step away from myself and tailor to the family in need, not to me.

Christine said...

I've learned one thing over the past 4 or 5 years and forgetting on several occasions. Zoe's roasted chicken dinner with sides or the chicken shish Kabob's. with rice. I ask if their husband wants to pick it up on the way home or if they want me to get it. If I make the food, I always bring it during the day with heating instructions. That way, I'm not stuck in traffic or have screaming hungry kids of my own.

sl said...

I have found wonderful casseroles already made at Sam's in the deli section. They are wonderful;!!. I add a bag of salad and a loaf of french bread. I drop it off in the afternoon and let them cook it when the time is right for their family. Seems like my hot meals were not hot by the time I delivered it. Also sometimes that was done for me was gift carsd then my hubby ordered and picked up on the way home. I have used gift cards several times. I also want to help but it always seems life happens on the night I volunteer.

Emily Mc. said...

This made me laugh and gave me comfort. As a pastor's wife, I find that I have to say 'no' to a plethora of noble and worthy opportunities to serve. And I do believe it's ok to say 'no' to things for which we are not gifted....or for which we don't have time due to our season of that others can serve and so that we can say 'yes' to serving well in fewer arenas. You make a good point regarding pride....assuming one has the time, money and gifting for every service role that comes along (as I often do) certainly smacks of pride! With my husband's encouragement, I resigned my self-appointed role of taking meals to anyone with a care calendar.. If a family in need is truly in my inner circle in some way, I now drop off muffins when it's convenient or contribute a salad to someone else's delivered meal. This frees me to serve in other roles (although if I had all the time and money in the world....i.e., if I were God....I would still take a meal. Definitely have some pride issues going on there ;-)).
I enjoy your insights. My middle daughter will be nine in my like your three :-).

Ally said...

IF you decide to continue doing meals, I would definitely suggest doing drop off before your children are out of school. It's just way too much otherwise. If the care calendars you receive are always filled up, then I could definitely see just deciding to serve in other ways. But if those needs are often not being met by your church body or other friends, I might pray more about it since that ministry is one of the most tangible ways we can reach out to others in hard times. It always makes me sad when only a few people sign up to bring meals to a new mom, and I've been encouraged that more people realize that even having a pizza delivered is helpful (you can order it online and set the delivery time and everything). Anyway I definitely think not everyone is called to serve this way....I will say a prayer for your discernment.

Sammy said...

I was on the other side of this situation. Pregnant and just moved into a new house. It was literally our first night and someone was supposed to drop off dinner. We waited and waited, then finally ordered Chinese food. Since I was pregnant I remember how incredibly hungry I was, but couldn't grab a snack since we were surrounded by boxes and certainly hadn't gone shopping.

So I guess my point is that it's good to know your limitations. That way you won't offer to do something that might not happen! :-)

Laura said...

I echo the others who suggested taking it early. I take the same thing for every family. A chicken pot pie casserole with heating instructions with a bagged salad. It's simple and I can take it early that day, or even the day before. But I definitely think its also ok to say no to something when it's not our gifting. I feel called to take meals. I enjoy serving in this way. And I say no to a LOT of other service opportunities.

k and c's mom said...

I appreciate the honesty of these comments and commentors! I found myself on the receiving side of food for years when my late husband fought cancer. Often well-meaning, but too busy, families would bring us dinners consisting of things like a bag of cold tots and chicken tenders from Sonic for dinner. It was crucial that he ate healthy meals, and we felt so bad when we would have to toss the meals and I'd go get something else for my husband to eat on many occasions. It is important to be the right person to take the meal. I feel guilty even sharing my experience because it seems so ungrateful. I WAS grateful for the thought and the heart of these people, but it was clear that the meals were not a fit for the giver or the receiver. I hope that makes sense.