Before Paul and I found a church home, I always had this vaguely uneasy feeling. In the event that something bad happened to us, I was afraid that nobody would be there with the casseroles.
When I was a child, I tagged along when my mother would bring casseroles to families dealing with illness, or celebrating a new baby. Mom's casseroles were present at most funerals, weddings, church socials, and confirmations. If there was a meal to be had, odds are, Mom's tuna-noodle casserole with crunchy topping was on the menu.
I learned very quickly, and have since confirmed this through conversations with Mom as an adult, that the casseroles are props, excuses, reasons to Show Up. It's our job, as members of God's family, to Show Up, to listen, to hold hands, and to actively help people when they need it.
The motto of my church is "God's work. Our hands." I love it, because it's another way of saying: "Hey you! Show Up!"
My group of friends brings the casseroles. After Joel was born, Paul and I were provided with hot, delicious meals. It was food for our souls as well as our bellies. As an aside, my church also offered to bring casseroles. We declined, because it would be too much. We would swim away on a sea of noodles and cream of celery soup. But, my fears were laid to rest. We have casserole-bringers in our midst.
My friends "bring the casseroles" in other ways, too. We'll watch each others' kids when we have appointments. When one friend could barely function because of her morning sickness, we chipped in for a massage. When another friend, also fighting nausea, was overwhelmed, we provided a housekeeping blitz. The main way my friends provide casseroles these days is through quick phone calls or emails. These voices from the field provide respite in a world of flying peas and ten pound diapers.
The difficult part for me is figuring out what to do when people don't want the casseroles, or the help. I have dear friends who have repeatedly and respectfully told me that space and prayer are the best casseroles I can provide. It's a helpless feeling, just like Owen and Joel's early days, when they would cry and cry, and there was nothing I could do to make it better. Some of my friends are having a difficult time, and no baked ziti is going to solve the problem.
So, I do what they ask. Kinda. I pray for them, and think of them a lot, especially in the early morning hours, when all is quiet except for Joel's quiet gulps and the rock of my chair. I call or email every so often. I pray that God will show me how to be His hands.
I hope. Then, I open the cookbook, and look at casserole recipes. Just in case.