Friday, March 25, 2016

Lenten Meal Ministry

As someone who grew up in the Catholic church (at least in early childhood), Lent was usually observed by fasting of some kind. It was never particularly meaningful. Whatever I gave up, I more than compensated for on Easter morning and the weeks that followed. I remember getting sick to my stomach eating multiple boxes of Girl Scout cookies on Easter Sunday after denying myself the delicious treats in the preceding weeks. The only thing I gained from my early Lenten practices of fasting and abstinence was how to purge and binge.

Because of those early experiences, I still don't care for the idea of fasting, especially from food. It is more meaningful for me to add a new habit or offer of myself to God in a different way. When it comes to making sacrifices, I am limited in many ways. There is only so much wiggle room in our budget. I do have time to give, but only if multiple toddlers can accompany me during the day or I can participate in late evening activities.

I tried to think of things I'm already doing, but could enhance to become more Christ-like. Our interim pastor has preached at length about using our gifts and interests to serve others. This year I decided to use the time of Lent to cook and pray for others. I challenged myself to find at least one family or group of people every week who could use a meal. I intentionally picked labor intensive meals or inconvenient times because the point of Lent is to stop focusing on myself and instead focus on my relationship with Christ and others. It was important to me that I have to exert mental or physical energy to create a meal that could be shared with others. While cooking and/or driving, I continuously prayed for the individuals that would eat the meal. I signed up for as many Room in the Inn opportunities as I could because God commands us to love our neighbor and care for those in need.

As a blogger and recorder of events, it shouldn't surprise you that I kept a diary of meals served throughout the six weeks of Lent.

  • Wed. Feb. 10--Potato soup, chicken salad/croissants for MIL post surgery
  • Thu. Feb. 11--Chili, chips, chicken salad for friend on bedrest who is expecting twins
  • Mon. Feb. 15--Taco soup, Caesar salad, pound cake & strawberries for Room in the Inn (30 homeless guests and volunteers)
  • Mon. Feb. 22--Chicken pot pie, Caesar salad, pound cake for friend who just gave birth
  • Mon. Feb. 22 and Wed, Feb. 24--Chicken pot pie and lasagna to next door neighbor (widower) who had extensive dental work
  • Wed. March 3--shepherd's pie potato skins, salad, store-bought pie for friend who just gave birth
  • Tue. March 8--waffles, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, yogurt, cantaloupe for Room in the Inn (16 homeless guests and volunteers)
  • Sun. March 13--hot dogs, chips, slaw, baked beans, pound cake, banana pudding for in-laws to celebrate father-in-law's birthday
  • Mon. March 14--hot dogs, chips, slaw, baked beans, brownie sundaes for Room in the Inn (30 homeless guests and volunteers,assisted by two members of youth group)
  • Tue. March 22--baked red velvet birthday cake for Jesse's teammate on her 30th birthday
  • Fri. March 25--Chicken tetrazzini and Caesar salad for next door neighbor as he acknowledged his deceased wife's 70th birthday

Out of shear curiosity, I counted up the number of meals I provided throughout the six weeks of Lent. In addition to nightly meals for our family of six, I was able to serve 92 meals to various friends, extended family, neighbors, and guests. There were a few occasions where the extra time cooking or delivering meals caused me anxiety, but for the most part, I truly enjoyed observing Lent in this way. It helped me become more aware of people who may be in need of food, prayers, comfort, or simply knowing that someone else is thinking of them or celebrating their life.

If I recognized a need in someone, but knew a meal would not be helpful, I tried to act in other ways. As an example, a widow at church lives in a assisted living facility where she eats in the cafeteria each night. Instead of bringing her a meal, I bought her holiday decorations for her walker to help her quickly identify her walker in the cafeteria. There were similar examples of small, silly, or inexpensive gestures that proved to be very meaningful for me.

For me, I feel God most in my interactions with others. The meal ministry helped me make connections with others, think more about their needs than my own, and in turn, grow closer to God.

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