Take Them a Meal, They Said. It Will Be Fun, They Said.

Mar 10, 2020 | Blog, Essays

On occasion I’d see sign-ups to take new moms a meal in my mom’s group but I never participated for two reasons:

  1. I had a very hairy dog and was paranoid some dog hair might make its way into the food,  a social faux pas few can come back from.
  2. I’m not a great cook and by “not great” I mean bad.  I’m a bad cook.

So I always justified my non-participations with “Who wants bad food with dog hair in it?”

Then, after a difficult labor and birth, I did something I’ve never done before.  I allowed a friend to sign me up for meals after having my latest baby. It ended up being such a blessing to not have to worry about dinners on those nights right after coming home with the baby that I swore to myself I would repay the kindness and be the first one signing up for meals as soon as they came through my email box.

But first, I had to over-prepare.  I bought out the noodle section, the “cream of” soup section, the disposable casserole containers and most of the shredded cheese at my local grocery store which, luckily, offered fuel points for my casserole supplies so that I could purchase the gas for all of the theoretical meal deliveries I would be making when I started signing up for meals.

I bought a well-reviewed casserole book off Amazon and immediately set to work practicing making casseroles and picking out my favorites for when I signed up to take a meal. 

I learned two things:

  1. Casseroles don’t actually take a lot of skill to make so my cooking skills ended up being a moot point..
  2. On account of all their creaminess, you can start to get a little pudgy testing casseroles night after night.

God knows I have a tendency to get stuck in the “preparation” phase of starting something new and so He probably wanted to make it clear that He wanted me to move in to the “actually doing something” phase.  One Sunday morning, after Mass, He gave me a little nudge.

At the back of the church was a mom who’d had the same post-birth complication as me trying to get people to sign up for the email list to help with meals.  She’d signed up for it because the meals she’d received were such a blessing she wanted to return the blessings in kind.

I had to sign up for two reasons:

  1. I’m overly competitive and was not about to let a mother in the exact same circumstances as myself out-good works me.
  2. Could God have made it any more obvious that he wanted me on that email list?

The answer is no, He could not have been more obvious. And if God wants you on an email list, you sign up for that email list.

The first email came a week later.  I was paralyzed by my internal conversation-  Should I start with this one? It seems too soon.  I’ve barely gotten used to the idea of being on this email list.  No! You’re going to do this! Which day should I choose? Mondays are hectic.  Wednesdays are soul-sucking. Fridays are exhausting. Stop it! Just pick a day!  Wednesday. Which meal should I make? The chicken and rice? The Chicken and noodles?  The chicken and quinoa? I forgot to check if they had food allergies!

It was when I opened the email again to look for dietary restrictions that I noticed all of the slots had filled up.  Wow! I had indecisived myself out of a slot!

A week and a half later, a second email came in.  This time, I wouldn’t let myself hesitate and clicked on the first Wednesday I saw and put in the first casserole I could think of: the chicken, broccoli, cheese and rice casserole.  Ironically, the only casserole recipe I owned before buying the casserole book.

My day was upon me.  I’d cleared my whole schedule (which means nothing since I don’t have a schedule, but I feel more important saying that than ‘I made a bigger mess than usual in my kitchen’). 

I did two things to prepare:

  1. I turned off the heat so the air vents wouldn’t be poofing dog hair into the air.  
  2. I cleared the kitchen of children who then came right back in.

By the time the casserole was done: 

  1. I’d gotten three legos out of the casserole. 
  2. I’d yelled at the kids to get out of the kitchen 1,875 times.
  3. I’d ruined one sauce pan in the small fire I’d started.
  4. Everyone was huddling in the kitchen because, with the oven on and the heat off, it was the warmest room in the house.

I packaged the meal and dessert up into an old Amazon box and, with a sigh of relief, sent it on its way with my husband as meal deliverer.  I’d done it. It was all over.

Until the post-meal anxiety crept in: Did I make enough?  Is it kid friendly enough? Did I miss a Lego? Did a dog hair get in?  Will they hate it? Will I be removed from the email list? Will I be disowned from my parish? 

I know two things:

  1. I will never be 100% comfortable making meals for other people.
  2. I will keep making those meals because sometimes “uncomfortable but doing it anyway” is where God wants us.

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