Why Observing How My Community Made Dinners For New Moms Changed My Perspective

(A Community Living Post)

Free Image by Mateusz Stachowski

Free Image by Mateusz Stachowski

A Brief History of the Lasagna

 

You might have thought lasagnas were invented in Italy, but they weren’t. They were created back when cavemen took their fat-honking clubs, beat down saber-tooth tigers and shared a chunk of the meat with the their homo-something grunting friends.  The noun “lasagna” evolved with humans, eventually to become the ideal dish to drop-off at a person’s home when life was becoming stressful.

 

I love my church desperately, and I love it because it prides itself on creating community and teaching generosity. But, in twitterspeak, I would say we just might have a #LasganaFail and this isn’t based off of the fact we don’t have lasagna with our communion. After leading the women’s ministries for awhile, and then, later, just being one of the people who managed meal sign-ups, I have always been bothered by how only 10%-40% of the church will usually respond to help care for someone by bringing them meals.

 

So often I advocate for justice and ending poverty. But how can I even begin to think we will care about the hungry who are malnourished around the globe, when we can’t even care for the Christian who is probably not even poor, but just could use a little assistance in our own neighborhoods and churches?  Recently, I have been experiencing a lot of tension about this, or maybe if I am lucky, I’ve managed to milk-up some righteous anger (in comparison with my typical not-so-righteous brand of ire).

 

I believe if I am going to claim to live in a community, by definition this community should care for each other within it. Unfortunately, this sometimes does require that we feed each other on occasion.

 

My transparent true thoughts on the subject look something like this:

 

“You can’t even bring someone dinner? What the heck is wrong with you?! SHAME be heaped upon your black and selfish soul!”

 

*** It should be noted here that the last time I was given an opportunity to bring dinner to someone in my community last month, I totally didn’t. And I felt guilty. Maybe I felt guilty because I am a recovering people-pleaser. But I am also challenged by this verse:

 

Galations 6-10 Helping Christians www.AverageAdvoate.com Image by Jim O'conner

 

As we all have stuff going on that make us an exception to not bringing someone else dinner in our community, I know I can’t make judgmental, blanket statements like the one I was thinking above. Even so, I do think this dinner-bringing topic should be addressed.

And Then There Was Elijah

 

I used to accept the fact that many of us don’t bring meals as the normal thing. At least until I had my third sweet baby.

 

Guess what?

 

I didn’t have to worry about meals for a whole month! It was amazing, and so needed. People picked up our older kids to watch them and give us a break. Friends made me meals. Friends brought us their meals that they didn’t eat, or gave us their leftovers. Some families invited us over and held my baby while we ate. Others bought us pre-made food for dinner (like frozen lasagna) and sometimes friends stayed to eat with us. We ate a week straight of lasagna and spaghetti dishes (oh my). Someone took beautiful pictures of my baby, others threw me a baby shower, some gave us gifts. One day a friend bought all my groceries and left their older daughter to help me all day!

 

It was humbling. It was hard to receive. And it was wonderful, although I would have preferred better spacing on the pasta dishes! *wink*

 

When I think about it, I am still so blown away by all the love that was poured out on us. It made me glimpse what it means when the Bible says that God’s love is wider, deeper, grander than we can ever begin to comprehend. It was undeserved love and community.

 

(For everyone who participated, I can’t even begin to thank you so so so much for your generosity and love.)

 

Elijah Lee Johnston photography by Laura Wolfgang

Photography by Laura Wolfgang

Dinners For New Moms–the Status Quo

 

My view of what was normal was shaken by what community can and should look like. And yet, with the people who had babies or had needs after me, no one received nearly as much help as we did. I felt bad, because it didn’t seem fair that I had two-times as much help. We were back to the status quo. When I mentioned this observation, one person told me I was given a lot of help with this baby because “God knew I needed it.” And yes, I did and He did.

 

But, God knows there are people starving who are also asking for help, and his people, the Church, often doesn’t respond. Depressingly, many of those people hoping they would experience the blessing of nourishment instead die. So, although I experienced God’s great love by receiving a lot, doesn’t mean I think that it was only because I “needed it,” as there are obviously many more in exponentially greater need. And I don’t believe God loves those needy any less than me.

 

These are the facts I have documented on the meal-bringing subject:

  1. Christians do not usually bring meals.
  2. Christians will bring meals to their friends.
  3. Christians usually don’t bring meals to people who aren’t their friends.
  4. If you have a lot of friends, you will get a lot of meals.
  5. Popularity = Meals.
  6. Investment in others = return investments.

 

In other words, I know a lot of people and I spend time with a lot of people. In return, I was cared for by these people. But, for others who love very well within their small community, the I hypothesis that the larger community doesn’t look after then because they aren’t sanguine, extroverts like me.

 

For a couple months, I was okay with this analysis. It made me sad for others, but it made sense. Until it hit me that this was wrong.

 

We are supposed to love people regardless of whether or not they love us. If we are challenged to love our enemies, surely we can at least love people in our broader faith community whom we aren’t friends with.  I don’t have to know the person or even like them to bring them a meal (that I can buy from deli and not even have to make). I am committed to a body of people, the Church, and regardless of what they have invested in me, I have the honor of showing them love. (Check out Luke 6 as it is very relevant to this.)

 

Once again I had written off our selfishness with excuses:

You are too busy.

I understand, so am I.

You are too tired.

 I know. I am too.

You don’t know what to make.

Neither do I.

You don’t want to spend your money buying a meal for someone.

You guessed it! I would prefer to keep my eating-out budget to myself.

You don’t have the “spiritual gift” of hospitality.

We are actually all told to be hospitable in the Bible.

You don’t like to ask for help.

Then at least respect the person brave enough to receive help, because they probably need it.

Someone else will do it.

Actually no. They probably won’t. Blows my mind, but it is true. Regardless, you are responsible for your own response.

You don’t have the margin.

Then begin working on ways to make the space, money, time to love your community.

 

Although sincere legitimate excuses, aren’t they kinda lame?  We have made our lives too busy to love others. We are “busy” going out of our ways to go on our own vacations, our own adventures, to the kids’ many ball games, walking the dogs we don’t need, or having our TV time, or working overtime because we don’t know how to make healthy boundaries.

 

Because I know how our excuses are legitimate, I realize there is something within the definition of community and  in the heart of our own lives that needs to be transformed to be how God intended us to look. It is a long and hard road to get to a place where we can make healthy boundaries with our time and money to create the margin we must have to give of our time and resources, free to love others.

 

So, to be clear I am not actually trying to shame you. I don’t want you to try to “do better” and be a good little Christian. I am just asking you to consider how the God who wants to live life with you desires to lead you in a dance to love others. Let Him led you.

 

It seems to me that maybe we can change the world by doing something simple, rather than complicated. Something small, like bringing someone a meal.

 

Your Lasagna Challenge

 

I  challenge you to to ask someone in your community to walk with you as you change your lifestyle to create margin to love those in your community and beyond.

 

I challenge you to commit to loving others. The next time you have an opportunity, ask God how he wants to help you respond. Then ask him for his strength in your weakness to do so.

And if this is by bringing a lasagna to a person in your church or community, so be it.

 

***Note: If you go to my church, please look at our Facebook page where you can scroll down to find the sign-up for the currently needed meals posted. Or in the future, message us to get an idea of who could use an act of kindness in their lives.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

 

P.S. Great easy dinners are:

  • Boston Market meals
  • Moby Dick’s family meals
  • Bring a package of Chipotle burritos
  • Costco pre-made chicken alfredo family pasta meal
  • Rotisserie chicken and sides from a grocery store deli
  • Order take-out from Pei Wei (or other Chinese restaurant)
  • Pre-packaged salad, french bread, and two bags of frozen Berrtuci pasta
  • Order them their favorite toppings on a brick oven pizza
  • Make extra soup/chili and freeze it for when someone needs it
  • Always make an extra lasagna to freeze, to have on hand to bring to someone in need

Share your ideas in the comments!

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  • Danielle F

    I. LOOOVVVe this. I love this. Because it is so true. And I’m so proud of you for highlighting it and saying it. It’s never easy to serve. Unless we do. A little try. Even for a stranger or a non-friend or a don’t-know-well (yet). And then, when we start, we see that it is something that can almost grow addictive, if not surely a pleasure, because it is ALWAYS met with being BLESSED in our hearts over and above the proportion of what we did. Don’t believe me? Well, it worked for the Grinch, didn’t it? And if it can grow HIS heart 4 sizes, the I know God will honor your heart with an overflowing joy-cup because you are also obeying Him, sharing His light, lifting up another, and making the family of a church be something that is different – counter-cultural against our selfish “comfortable” desires and even magnetic and curious to outsiders looking in. I’m sharing this message, dear Elisa! Now… to find something other than pasta!!