I've been thinking a lot about this recently as we have been the beneficiaries of so many wonderful meals from friends, family, neighbors, and church members. We are heading into our fourth week of having more meals provided for us than we have had to prepare. It has been such a blessing and has allowed us to focus on G. and L. and not worry so much about dinner. I have to admit that sometimes it is a challenge for me to graciously accept the gifts of others without feeling guilty. If you haven't guessed by now, I'm something of a perfectionist and often feel as though I need to do everything myself. But as my grandmother often told me, we need to learn to be good receivers and not just good givers. I love to take meals to others or be able to help them in some way, and I have to remind myself that others feel the same way and I need to allow them the joy that comes from helping others.
Bringing a meal to someone, whether because of a new baby or an illness or a death, also involves more than just the food provided. What I have enjoyed as much as the meals has been visiting with the people bringing the food. I love reconnecting with friends and showing off my babies. This is also the piece I enjoy when I am providing food. It's wonderful to see someone in person and admire the baby (or lend a shoulder to cry on if it is a death). Sometimes the food is just a helpful by-product of the actual visit itself. A while back our church had a new pastor, whose wife gave birth to a baby after they had been here just a few months. The membership helped to provide meals to this family, but I'm not sure everyone understands the personal component of bringing a meal. Instead of bringing the meal to the house, it was suggested that we drop it off at the church instead and the husband could take it home. This was for a woman who was already feeling isolated in a new town with a toddler and new baby. How much better would it have been if new friendships could have been made while a meal was delivered.
I realize that not everyone is comfortable with having people into their home. Women are often worried about the state of their house and the impression it will make on others. But if people are truly our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, then it shouldn't matter. Those bringing the food will focus on the person and not the surroundings...especially since meals are often brought in times of transition and crisis. (Who is worrying about vacuuming and dusting at times like that?) And those receiving the meal need to remember that they are valuable and loved no matter the state of their home. I am often telling visitors they are welcome in my home as long as they pretend it is pristine. I long ago stopped aiming for pristine or magazine-like in real life...toddlers will do that to you.
Being on the receiving end of so much hospitality inspires me to reciprocate when I am back to being fully functioning. I am always amazed at people's creativity. One friend came over once a week toward the end of my pregnancy and helped out around the house...folding laundry, doing dishes, helping to fix dinner. It was wonderful to have some odd jobs done, but it was also nice to be able to visit with a friend at the same time. Other friends have stopped by with meals just to go in the freezer. Others haven't brought full meals, but have brought fresh fruit or dessert. One homeschooling friend of ours brought by bagels and zucchini bread. It was perfect because breakfast choices had become pretty thin. We feel doubly blessed, by both the babies and by the tangible reminders of the many friends we have.