I Get by with a Little Help from My Friends
I Get by with a Little Help from My Friends
If you haven't noticed already, this issue of Redefined is devoted to food, with recipes and stories about how we use food to bring us together and serve each other. Typically we try to plan articles a few months in advance, so back at the beginning of the summer when we were coming up with ideas for the September issue, someone told Josh, our Communications Director, about casserole food trains. As our Stories team (go to fbcstarkville.com/stories if you'd like to write for Redefined or have an idea for an article) brainstormed how to make an article out of casserole food trains, Mary Todd Gordon perked up and told us that we should talk to Holly Fron, because she is great at that kind of stuff. A week later, I sat down with Holly and chatted with her over coffee.
I discovered that this is about so much more than just bringing food to someone.
So, Holly, what exactly is a casserole food train?
It's a very simple way for a Community Group to bring food to someone who maybe just had surgery or had a baby. And you can do Sign Up Genius online or Meal Train. I personally prefer Take Them A Meal. It's easy to go online and set up, and it's easy to sign up. It just gives you an easy way to schedule a large group to take meals to someone in need, whether its for a few days or a few months.
And it can be as simple or complex as you need it. There are times where I might fix a three-course meal, and there are times where, like just last week, it was crazy busy with back to school, and I had signed up to bring this friend with a new baby boy some food, and I was like, do y' all like pizza and she's like oh we love it so I picked up their favorite pizzas from Little Caesars and they were super excited.
How did you start all of this with your Community Group?
Our Community Group started out as the young newlywed or newly married class, then eventually we weren't really newlyweds anymore, and we started having babies. Really it just started cause we were all having babies. When my oldest was born, there was this year where each month someone had a baby. So, we just started making food for each other.
After you have a baby, you're sleep deprived because you're waking up every 2 to 3 hours and you're not really thinking about anyone or anything but the baby. It's just you and this new baby, maybe your husbands at work or you don't have any family nearby. So when it's just you, who is going to step in and be your family? Well, hopefully, it's the church.
So I started thinking about how can we minister to these new moms and new dads.
So you know first hand what it's like to be a new mom and struggling.
I've been there and know what new moms go through, and the hurt that being a new mom can bring. The world tells you that you should be happy; people will tell you that you should be happy because you have this new baby and you should have it all together.
As a first time mom, everything was telling me that I had to be the perfect mom and that having this baby was just going to be the most wonderful time. And then it wasn't. The first 6 months of my son's life are a blur because I was so deep in postpartum depression. But I put on this front for the people around me. I am independent to a fault, and I am not going to tell anyone that I need help. But God broke me and said, "Holly, you have to tell people when you're struggling and when you're hurting." And He used that, so now when a friend has a baby, I'm going to reach out to her "How are you doing? I know the baby is fine, but what about you." So I offer to do their dishes, I offer to bring them some food, or I ask if they need me to go to the grocery store for them.
It's just a way to minister to families, especially in the church, to tell them I'm going to help you and take care of this for you, so you don't have to worry about it. That's how it all started in our Community Group, and now we just keep on doing it. If you're in my Community Group, if you're in MOPS, or if I just know you as a friend, I'm going to make sure you have someone setting up a meal train for you when you're in need or if someone has already done it then I'm going to promote it to everyone and make sure people are taking you food.
I grew up as a missionary kid. We were in Nome, Alaska, when I was a small child, and then we did a year in France before living in West Africa. I went back to West Africa as a Journeyman in 2009 and 2010, and it really opened my eyes up to how individualistic we are in American society. It's something I struggle with too, this mentality that says,
"I'm going to take care of myself and I don't even want to have to ask or mention that I need help."
How did living in West Africa prepare you to be the casserole server of your community group?
Basically, I saw how vital food is to people. Number one, when you're going through a tough time, food is the last thing on your mind. And here in the States, living so independently, it's usually the mom doing the cooking, sometimes the dad. And it's getting harder and harder for people to find community. So when you're a new mom, who is helping you out? Or for someone who has just had surgery.
Knowing that there is a community of people there who support you and will reach out is so important. In West Africa, they are so communal. They eat together as a big family; they share everything they have. It literally takes a village to live. You have a whole host of people there to cook. If you're a new mom, all you do for the first three months is practically lay in bed with the baby, nursing the baby, you have people feeding you because you're convalescing as well.
How do you deal with the feeling of being too overbearing or being too "in your face" about helping others?
I know I can be overbearing. I have to tell people to let me know if I'm being too much because you will not hurt my feelings. It's about knowing boundaries. In fact, there's a book by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend called Boundaries that I recommend to all my friends. It's knowing that I can offer this to them, but I can only do so much because I have to let the other person come a little bit of the way too. It's letting people know that they can say no to something, and it will not hurt my feelings.
Communication is so important. If someone tells me, "No thank you, Holly," I know they have their reasons. The one thing that Boundaries talks about is that I'm responsible for me and how I respond to someone. So if someone tells me "No" that is fine because I don't have to take it personally. They just don't want it or don't need it at the moment. Now if it's a close friend and I can notice that they really do need help, then I may push a little more, but it really is learning to recognize boundaries.
Being genuine is important as well. That is something I strive to be. So when we offer and set up this meal sign up, I ask people the parameters: how many days a week do you want people to come by with meals; what time should they come; how many weeks do you need or want food; what types of meals; what do you like or not like. Allowing them to set those parameters really helps them to accept the assistance. I also warn new moms as soon as they find out they're expecting, that when the time comes, we're going to bring them some food and help you in any way. It's almost a given in our community group or in MOPS or in any group like that, that we want to bless you and support you in this way. Food is the one way that we can really shower these blessings on new parents.
So, I've been writing for Redefined for a few months now, and it seems like for most of the people I interview, one of the biggest desires they have is for community. And you've talked a lot about community.
Would you say that's a big motivation for serving?
My main goal in setting up these meals is to take someone by the arm and say, "We are going to walk together through this. You are not alone." It brings me joy, and I joke that food is my love language. It's about using the experiences and talents that God has given me to minister to others and to reach out and meet people where they are and to let them know they are loved.
Christ himself came to serve rather than to be served, and that is what we have to do. Whether it's just bringing a meal to a sick friend or just holding a baby while a new mom goes and showers. It is about recognizing and being there for someone's needs, especially if we've been there before.