Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)
In my current season of life, it’s often just me and my husband for dinner. Sometimes when I make a recipe that could feed an entire family, I’ll divide it in half and pray about who could use a meal, especially if it’s something that doesn’t freeze well. Recently, my friend Tracey and her family were moving to a new house, and they came to mind as I was making my friend Leigh’s (Almost) Famous Shrimp and Grits Casserole. My job had ramped up preventing me from helping with the physical move, but maybe food would help in a different way.
Almost as quickly as Tracey came to mind, I came close to talking myself out of offering her dinner. This wasn’t exactly a planned meal. I hadn’t made dessert and didn’t have additional side dishes to take. I did have a fresh loaf of my homemade sourdough bread, though, and sliced watermelon from the night before.
Those ugly voices inside my head were trying to shame me into not reaching out. They were hissing those tired old lies we’ve all heard before:
You’ve known about Tracey’s move for weeks and this is the best you can do?
Why didn’t you plan better?
Wouldn’t they have asked if they needed help?
Instead of letting second-guessing get the best of me, and even though I felt uncomfortable — I love Tracey and was full of self-loathing for not being a “better” friend (add that to the stack of lies above) — I stuck to one of my favorite mantras: Don’t say “No” for her.
So I sent her a text and asked if they’d like a shrimp and grits casserole.
She answered Yes! and quickly.
After I loaded up the casserole, watermelon, and bread and started to back my car out of the drive, it hit me THEY WERE MOVING and all of their stuff would probably be buried under an avalanche of boxes. I ran back to my house, grabbed the only paper plates we had (Christmas), napkins, four forks, a knife for the bread, and serving spoons.
I got in my car when again it hit me: not only did they probably not have drinks, they likely didn’t have cups yet unpacked. I ran back into the house, found the only Solo cups I had (orange, Go Tigers!), and grabbed a cold raspberry Schweppes Ginger Ale (delicious, if you’ve never tried it).
And, then, with a healthy sweat going from all that back-and-forthing, I was finally on my way.
I arrived at Tracey’s to find boxes floor to ceiling and her family in the throes of unpacking. She welcomed my raggedly little meal like it was a scrumptious feast. I felt silly and awful that I hadn’t done a “better job” of cooking a spread for their family, but she just kept thanking me and told me I was a lifesaver.
As I drove home, I regretted not taking a picture — everything was comically (embarrassingly) mismatched. Yet, although that dinner was about as thrown together as they come, it was made and offered with love.
And right then I thought of you, our (in)courage readers, and how we talk about friendship and community and simply showing up so often. I thought about how we say it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, but then we feel like it has to be perfect to be worthy of giving.
I thought about how hard we are on ourselves and about the mean, negative inner dialogue we’d never speak to another. How we can talk ourselves into not reaching out or serving or loving with the very gifts we’ve been given. I promise you, the only one who is pleased by this is Satan; when we’re influenced not to love on someone, we’re allowing him to rob the joy and blessing from the would-be receiver.
We’re all gifted in some way and it shines God-glory when we use those gifts to bless another.
The 1 Peter 4:10 passage above tells us in doing so, we’re stewarding God’s grace. If we let that sink in – I mean d e e p, into the marrow – it can change the way we serve and love others. Look at this same passage in The Message:
Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless — cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything.
“Love makes up for practically anything . . .”
(Thanks to Tracey, who graciously took time to photograph proof that I wasn’t exaggerating :). I called her and asked her to take a picture when I “wrote” this post in my head after leaving her house.)Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
The “ministry of showing up” is wonderful and so promising, but the ministry of showing up with a casserole in your hands and orange solo cups to fill with bubbling deliciousness? Well, that’s just amazing.
I am going to remember your admonition not to “say no for” someone else. That’s just rich truth and good sense.
Robin Dance says
Once you start the practice of not saying no for others, you’ll realize how often you do this (at least that’s been the case for me). 🙂
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
First, the shrimp and grits casserole sounds yummy – gotta try it. I can honestly tell you, having been laid up for 6 weeks, unable to bear any weight on my foot, when friends have called, or just shown up with a dinner, a half a casserole, a yummy salad, soup, dessert, you name it….even a pb&j that was lovingly made and offered it was like a gift from heaven!! To me, I could hear the angels singing and the heavenly light shone round them when food was carried in ready to eat, or frozen for another day. One friend, who lives far away, even sent a care package on dried ice from Omaha Steaks. I literally wept over the kindnesses. This whole experience has reminded me that I need to ignore those nasty voices from the enemy that say this is a poor attempt. No gift that is humbly made and offered ever disappoints the receiver or God. If you had shown up at my door, Clemson orange cups and all, I would have hobbled over and hugged your neck. Hospitality doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be offered in love. I adored you post!!
Robin Dance says
Well, that’s no good, Bev…SO sorry to hear you’ve been off your feet, but I do hope you’re healing now.
Thank you so much for your kind, affirming and encouraging words. You know I consider those a gift.
Denise Pass says
Love this. When we try to be “perfect” in serving, we miss the point. Sacrificially serving isn’t about our presentation, but about blessing the other person. Thanks for this reminder!
Robin Dance says
Don’t we cain so much when we remember the world doesn’t revolve around “us”? 🙂
The practical side of me probably would have also thought to bring over some toilet paper and paper towels! God bless you for not giving in to the thoughts that what you were doing was not enough AND going back for the ginger ale, etc. before leaving for your friend’s house. You may have saved her time and money, she may have thought about getting a fast food meal for her family. And with food in their stomachs it may have been easier to start unpacking boxes too.
Robin Dance says
Well, if I had thought about TP and PT, I would’ve added those–honestly, a great idea for someone who’s just moved. 🙂 Practicality is a GOOD and sometimes very NECESSARY thing!!
Thank you for this smile :).
You are a such thoughtful friend, and as time wears the impact of your gift will always remain. I am so thankful to those who gifted me in this way carried through. Thank-you for your sweet encouragement to be that gift, mismatched and all.
Have a blessed day all,
Robin Dance says
A neighbor just texted me to let me know how a simple meal taken to her when she had a baby had impacted her; we didn’t know each other but I saw the bow on her mailbox. Because I was brave and offered a meal without knowing her, she did the same thing for another new mom in our neighborhood!! THAT was like a paycheck, the best kind :). You’re right…impact lingers.
“I promise you, the only one who is pleased by this is Satan; when we’re influenced not to love on someone, we’re allowing him to rob the joy and blessing from the would-be receiver.”
There have been times I felt like giving to someone but wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do because it was so small. The person that was blessed with the smallest of gifts was truly happy because it was given in love. Thank you for the reminder to not let the enemy steal the blessing and joy from the person it belongs to.
Robin Dance says
It’s a reminder I clearly need to preach to myself!! But yes, DO hear that prompting as a Holy nudge to be brave, follow through, and bless someone else with your gifts. 🙂
“Don’t say no for her.” That’s a powerful little statement. Will have to remember that. Meals are they’re own special kind of encouragement to me. With fast food and groceries on every corner, folks always have access to a quick meal–so taking a meal is less about the food and more about the remembering. Everyone needs to know that whatever their big thing is — they’re remembered. The ministry of meals is one that is near to my heart. In my early adult years, I’d often sign up to take meals to others who were in transitional times. Then, I had my first baby and was in my own transitional time—and no door bells rang. No sign-up sheet was passed. It was all crickets on my doorstep. — Later that month I volunteered to be the meals coordinator at my church. I knew the importance of being remembered. — That was 22 years ago, and still, I try to reach out with my little ministry of meals. Sometimes it’s much, sometimes it’s little. And, these busy days of my life, always it’s a sacrifice. But, people need to know they’re seen and remembered and they matter. The opportunity to “shine God-glory” is a gift. Lovely words today, Robin. Thank you. 🙂
Brenda, Your story is powerful! Please share it with others. Shout it from the roof-tops. I’m headed to your blog next. Hugs & Prayers ~
What a wonderful story!! So many times we steal blessings from others by overthinking what we should do!!
Rebecca L Jones says
I love casseroles. And I like try out some new recipes. I had one sweet old lady when I lived in Atlanta, who would always bring me soup and cornbread. She even took time to make stuffed eggs when she heard I liked them. Don’t under estimate these small things. But I do have say no some because I tend to over do.
Patti Sarette says
THIS IS JUST AWESOME!!!! SO MUCH LOVE, FOR REALZ!!!
Sharla Fritz says
Robin, thank you for this reminder that what we do doesn’t have to be elaborate and fancy. When we follow the prompting of the Spirit, we can make a difference!
I LOVE this Robin!!! This gave me so much encouragement today! Our gifts are our gifts. They don’t have to be packed up in perfect matching ribbon packages. Thank you so much for this post today. God Bless you for your generosity!
Thank you so much for these beautiful words, Robin. “If words, God’s words”. Yours are for me today.
Today, I made the decision to surrender my pride and stay home, rather than help at our church Mum’s morning. I have been overwhelmed saying yes to everyone and everything and in the meantime neglecting both our home and time alone with God. I felt God’s gentle leading to listen to His voice above that critical inner dialogue.
And so after dropping the kids at school I put worship music on and began to clean, sort washing and vacuum, while pouring out my heart to God. And then the words began to flow. He gifted me four beautiful poems in my worship. And then as I sat to read my Bible one of my verses for the day was:
…”Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.” (Acts 13: 15 NLT)
I knew the poems were His gift to send to a number of different people walking very hard circumstances to encourage them. And so I sent them on their way.
Your words have been a true blessing. They remind me that man may make His many plans, but it is God who orders our steps. God has us exactly where He wants us … and not always where we would prefer to go or be .
Danielle Bernock says
Robin, I loved this! What an awesome thing you did. A great reminder of how a simple gesture can be a really big deal to the person on the receiving end. Thank you for writing this.
Summer Rae says
This spoke straight to my heart! Such a tough lesson I am learning lately… My heart and soul want to be hospitable and serve and help! …Buuut, often my mind (and a dash of fear and a pinch rebellion) gets in the way. I am learning that hospitality has no “open” or “closed” sign and that serving others out of love is a 24/7 job. (One that pays well and keeps your soul fed.) Thank you so much for sharing your encouraging and inspiring story with us; I pray your day is blessed!
This side of Heaven,
Robin, This brought tears to my eyes. It has taken many years to overcome those whispers of “not perfect, so rejection looms”….
Over time, I have found other ways of giving and being there.
Thank you for the encouragement.
Thank you for your story.
Beth Williams says
That meal looked delicious. People appreciate your helpfulness no matter the hurried, thrown together look. When my dad died earlier this year a dear friend brought dinner. It was store bought/cooked chicken, loaf bread & some doughnuts. No big deal, except one sister was coming & I had errands to run & didn’t feel like cooking. I thought it was sweet of her to do that for me. I don’t usually hesitate to feed others, if need be. It might be KFC, or grocery store made, but I know the thought & kindness are welcomed. Thanks for teaching us a great lesson.
Beth Negrey says
Anything given out of love is just flat-out gorgeous — no matter how it’s put together! Thanks so much for reminding me. 🙂
Joyce Roth says
Absolutely great encouragement!! I wonder how many times I’ve asked God to lead me and then talked myself out of His leading. Thanks so much for sharing!
When on bedrest with my second child still in the womb, the church my family attended made a couple of frozen meals for my family. In addition, my first born child’s God Mother had our family on her church’s prayer chain. When another parishioner learned of my situation she had several members make fresh meals for my family. This wasn’t even our church and they “gifted” us with free food for my family since I could not get up to prepare my family meals. My husband was busy working, taking care of the house and caring for our toddler son while I worked hard at keeping our unborn child safe. The Lord does bless us. I thank God for his love. Years later I started attending my friend’s church who provided those meals and then a year or so later began bible study from the same woman who made and organized the meals that my family enjoyed. What a journey… God’s plan is always awesome!