Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chopping Onions for Moms Because Our Lady Did it for St. Elizabeth

Challenge to Blog Daily: Day 7
(See this post for the background info on this challenge and please forgive whatever you find "imperfect, incomplete, potentially uninteresting, and quite possibly incomprehensible.")

Woohoo!  I did it - my post-a-day blog challenge to pull me out of my comfort zone (not posting because it won't be perfect) and drag me through my discomfort zone (that of hitting "publish" even though it's not... quite... ready). 

For this final day here is a hastily written (though much pondered) reflection that deserves more attention but... that's the nature of the challenge for you...

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photo from
Well, that's not actually Scriptural.  It doesn't mention onions in the gospel of Luke but it does say that after hearing that her cousin Elizabeth was in her six month of pregnancy, Mary traveled to her and stayed with her for about three months.  She wasn't sitting around playing parcheesi and eating bonbons while she was there. After Elizabeth greeted her and John leaped in Elizabeth's womb and Our Lady declared the greatness of the Lord... Mary got to work.

Isn't that why she traveled there?  To celebrate with Elizabeth and then to help her? (And maybe chat a little about morning sickness and stretchmarks?!)  Luke didn't write it, but I bet she helped cook and clean and prepare and ease elderly Elizabeth's anxiety about having a newborn.  

A few years ago, I was asked if I'd like to make a meal for a mother who had just had a baby.  I, much to my shame, grudgingly agreed while ungracious thoughts invaded my brain...  I'm too busy for this, I have a newborn of my own, how do you expect me to get to the store?  This woman lives far away from me and you expect me to deliver this dinner??  What if I never get my tupperware back??  And on and on.

The evening after I had made the meal, but before I had delivered it, I was praying a Rosary and was providentially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries.  As I started to prayerfully consider the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, I had one of those, "I'm so spiritually immature, I just got it" moments (they hit me quite frequently.) That's why I made this meal.  That's why I will pack my children up into the van after nap time and drive 45 minutes away to deliver this dinner, and then come home for our own late and hurried dinner.  Because Mary "invented" Ministry to Moms.  Because she didn't whine or complain or hesitate.  She didn't use her own miraculous pregnancy as an excuse to take it easy and stay home.  She didn't visit Elizabeth to show off how fabulous and "together" she had it, and how it was no big deal to nurture her own growing family as well as another's.  She didn't go to receive accolades from her cousin.  She went because she was a new mother also.  She also was expecting a son that she never expected and she could fathom Elizabeth's unfathomable joy and could sympathize with her overwhelming situation.  Elizabeth wasn't needy.  Mary saw fit to honor her through a ministry of service and friendship.  

That is why moms are the best and most natural servants and ministers to other moms.  When we serve another mother through the gift of a meal (whether during the early months of pregnancy when she is sick, or after the birth of a baby, or during an illness or a family difficulty) we are honoring our shared womanhood as Our Lady honored Elizabeth.

I am not always able to make meals for moms who could use one.  But when I am able, I am so happy to do it.  It brings me back to the day my attitude toward this type of service was transformed by prayer.  Recalling the story of the Visitation helps me remember what is important - it's not that the meal be seven courses of the gourmet variety.  It's not that I look fabulous and put together when I deliver it.  It's not that I'm looking forward to thanks and praise.  It is about showing another mother that her vocation is valuable and honorable.  It is also about acknowledging that sometimes that vocation is challenging and difficult.  (Many a mother has felt stretched to the breaking point by the thought of getting dinner on the table!)  I will happily bring a mother a simple meal to ease that burden in a simple way, and to honor her in a simple way.  She absolutely deserves more.  A meal is simple, but not insignificant.  Only a mother can appreciate the depth of the value of a meal that comes from another mother. 

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A few obvious tips for sharing meals with a mom and her family:

*  Simple is ok.  I typically double whatever I am serving my own family and know that if it's a simple meal I'm feeding my own family, I'm comfortable sharing it with another.  Often it's no more than a soup and bread or a casserole.  It doesn't have to be a culinary masterpiece to make a big impact.

*  Check for dietary restrictions, requirements, and preferences first.

*  Include dessert if you can.  Have you ever encountered a woman who didn't love the occasional dessert delivered to her door?!? And you'll make her children happy too!

*  Don't forget to include reheating and serving instructions if there are any.

*  Try not to view this service as "paying back" a mom who has brought you a meal or offered you some other form of assistance. Make it a point to minister to a mom from whom you've received nothing, and then think no more of it!

*  Leave all of your culinary insecurities and competitiveness and judgmentalism at home, or better yet, on another planet.  Leave all of your parenthood insecurities and competitiveness and judgmentalism in the same place.  There is no room for these distractions and distortions in true ministry.  (I'm speaking from experience - they really sour your attempt at service.)  

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So what's with the onions, anyway??  I decided to write this post a few weeks ago when I had spent the better part of a Sunday preparing meals for three families other than my own.  I was knee-deep in onions and was bawling like a baby and about to lose my mind knowing that it would be less painful if I could just take my eyes out of my head rather than endure this onion-induced torture.  Russ was passing by at a particularly painful moment and heard me mutter something under my breath as I dramatically flung my head back from the cutting board.  "What??  Have you ever said, holy sh*t before?" he asked, aghast.  "Have you ever chopped four onions before?"  was my unapologetic reply.  

I can assure you that when Mary was chopping those onions at Elizabeth's house, she probably wasn't using the kind of language that onions elicit from me :)  

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post script - I have often been on the receiving end of this generous act of sacrifice and service.  Thank you, kind women, who have shown such goodness and grace-filled-ness to me!


  1. Oh, such a great post!!! I am definitely going to be re-reading this!!
    "A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter and (s)he that has found one has found a TREASURE!" (That's you!!) :)

  2. This is such a great reminder! I struggle with all those things but especially with my meals not being good or fancy enough for another family. I get really nervous cooking for other people. I'm not the greatest of cooks and I always think that a family is going to wonder what business I have making a meal for anybody. But it was such a blessing when people gifted us with meals after Luke's birth that I have to at least try and hope they don't mind my feeble attempts!

  3. Great post- thanks for the reminder. Receiving meals has been such a blessing to us after babies and giving them is the one way I feel like I can help others in need!


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