Let’s Talk: Ministering Through Food

I’m taking a quick departure from recipes today to talk about something that’s been on my mind (and in my heart) for a while. 

Ministering through food. 

{If you don’t have time to read the whole preface, will you take a second and scroll down to the question?}

Food is an integral part of my life (and I know many of yours, too). I mean, I talk about it with all of you several times a week here on the blog and on social media: sharing new recipes, reminding you of old recipes, and probably over talking how deeply I feel about dark chocolate and carbs.

Lots of frosted Swig sugar cookies with sprinkles on white tray.

But food has an importance in my life much deeper than just sharing a killer recipe or eating a delicious dinner or hiding in the pantry with my beloved chocolate chips.

And a lot of that is because I have been greatly impacted by people in my life who have ministered to me and my family through food over the years.

From my childhood, I saw my mom constantly serving and ministering to other families by bringing them dinner or bread (I can’t understate the impact her example has had on me). Also, due to my dad’s job in the oil industry, we moved about once a year growing up. Every single move and new house and unfamiliar town found us unpacking boxes and shedding a few tears because moving is hard; unfailingly, the doorbell would ring with another neighbor bringing over a home baked treat or simple dinner to say hello and start a new friendship.

My own little family (5 kids + husband) has moved seven times over the last 17 years. And while I submit moving is the absolute worst, each time, I’ve been overwhelmed at the kindness of neighbors and new church friends who have appeared, food in hand, to help.

Fast forward to the early years of marriage when I was having babies (what felt like constantly, and yes, I realize this was a personal problem :)), and I had an endless supply of warm dinners brought in to my home by smiling, gracious women who I could tell genuinely wanted to serve me and my family.

It’s been a decade, at least, but I still remember my dear friend’s amazing homemade bread that changed my life forever (she brought it to me weekly for at least two months) and another friends’ epic homemade pizza she brought over one Friday night (the same day that she came over unannounced with her five kids and made me sit on the couch while they cleaned my house).

Then a season of health struggles (cancer diagnosis, surgery, radiation, four very small children at home), and a friend from church showed up unexpectedly with a plate of the most divine cookies I’ve ever tasted and spent an hour reading my anxiety-driven toddler books (she was his nursery leader at church and the only person he would go to outside of me and Brian). Another group of ladies from church left a huge basket on my front porch with more chocolate than a girl could ever need in order to help me get through radiation. I could cry just thinking about it.

Later when I had traumatic, unexpected, surgery on my face for basal cell skin cancer, friends dropped off dinner (even when I acted like I didn’t need it and maybe a couple times pretended I wasn’t at home so I didn’t have to answer the door and show my stitched and scarred face – yep, they still left it for my stubborn, old soul) and others sent dark chocolate through the mail when only dark chocolate will do. 

And now, to a phase of life where sometimes it’s hard to breathe because life is busy and hard and awesome and full. Brian’s had a couple major surgeries the last two years, and he also carries a huge responsibility at our church these days. Combined with his demanding job, he isn’t home a lot; his time is very divided and weighted. It’s ok. We manage (and I know some families have it much harder than we do). But yet, neighbors and friends and church members still minister to us without being asked.

Now and then women from church will just show up at my door with dinner for no apparent reason other than “I was thinking about you and your family.” The stubborn part of me initially wants to protest and say “gah, don’t think about us! serve people who really need it!” But in truth, we have really needed it, and their confident, sweet assurances that they knew our family could use dinner have seriously endeared them to me forever, forging a connection that wouldn’t have come otherwise.

I could go on and on. For any and all of you who have ever ministered to me and my family, food or not, thank you from the very depths of my heart.

There is strength in ministering to others…but there is also strength in allowing others to minister to us, don’t you think? It colors our lives with a profound, wholesome beauty that cannot be painted any other way. It’s hard sometimes to be on the receiving end. But the divine impact of ministering (and ministering through food) would reach a sudden, and tragic, end if it was always only one-sided. 

While there are certainly many, many ways to minister and serve that do not involve food, I feel like food can pave the way to minister to others like nothing else can. Like my cousin-in-law, Tami, has told me: anyone will talk to you if you show up with a loaf of homemade bread. 🙂

Loaf of parmesan bagel bread on wood cutting board.

Whether it’s an anonymous drop off or a scheduled take-in dinner, I absolutely believe ministering through food can change lives. It’s changed mine. Food is the gateway that can lead to deeper, truer friendships and possibly alter the course of someone’s life as they see, taste, and believe that there is another person out there thinking of them and choosing to minister to them. 

A dear, wise man said this: Ministering means following your feelings to help someone else feel the love of the Savior in his or her life. 

I’m so far from perfect at any and all of this. I struggle with selfishness and wanting to protect my time, and sometimes I’m anxious in new, out-of-my-comfort-zone situations. But I know because my life is so blessed, much is expected of me, so I am trying. I’ve been making more of an effort to genuinely ask in my morning prayers if there is someone who needs me that day and then *hopefully* showing through my actions that I will listen and follow. I don’t necessarily say I’m willing to whip up a batch of brownies to go along with the prompting, but I think He knows. 🙂

Sometimes the answer is very simple and clear that my ministering efforts need to go straight to one or all of my kids or my husband. Keeping ministering in-house is maybe some of the most important ministering we can do. Other times I feel a strong impression to reach out to a specific friend or neighbor. And of course some days I don’t necessarily feel a pull one way or the other and so I do my best to go throughout the day open minded and willing. And I always have my freezer stocked with cookies just in case. Basically, I love to show my love to other people through food. I just do.

Double dark chocolate cookie split apart - super gooey inside.

I’d love to hear from you.
Be inspired by you.

Whether you’ve been on the receiving or giving end of ministering through food, I’d love if you felt comfortable sharing below. 

Your comments are what make posts like this absolutely pop with inspiration and happiness! Love you guys.

If you are interested in another quick story, here’s the Parable of the Cheeseball I shared last Christmas that goes along with what we’re talking about today.