When Meal Ministry Didn’t Matter


My eyes are filled with tears as I sit down and write this.

How do I write this. 

I love meal ministry…you know I do. Not only does it remove something off of a tiresome daily list during difficult days, it’s an outward motion of love. It says “I’m here for you, I care, and I am doing something to show you that I am walking this walk with you.”

But the past few months, my typical “go to” way of loving someone didn’t matter.

She couldn’t eat.

Now I’m crying even harder…breathe, Janelle.

Some of you might know my beloved Mother-in-Law went home to be with the Lord on December 17th, 2014. She was an amazing mother to my husband, outstanding grandma, and truly…I mean truly, one of my very best friends. At 55 years old, her life was cut too short, yet she lived it more fully than anyone I know. She passed away from stage 4 triple-negative breast cancer.

Being that she only lived 7 minutes away (yes, we timed it) I was there quite a bit to keep her company. One of the hardest things I had to wrestle with was how I could serve her. My typical meal ministry wouldn’t be a help… she couldn’t eat.  She lost a total of 140 lbs… It pained me so much to know she couldn’t eat, I felt so helpless. I even found myself not wanting to eat…

At the beginning of her end-days, her friends and I would bring over slushies (Burger King- Cherry, or Taco Bell-Dr.Pepper at her request) or even a “Mickey D’s” sweet tea. But, as she progressed, nothing ministered to her in the way of food or even drink.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus meant something different- it meant ministering to her in the way she needed, not the way I wanted.

There was a day she asked me to help her over to the computer to draft a list of songs to be placed on a CD for her memorial. She also wanted more CDs to be made for her friends and family. Kathy loved music, especially praise and worship music. So, we spent that day on You Tube…(smiling) when I say we spent the day, I mean we spent the day… This dear woman cracked me up- she would name a song such as, “It is Well with My Soul” and we would go through 10 versions of it to find “just the right one”. Sure enough when she found “the one” it was always my favorite version too.

One song in particular was very important to her, but she couldn’t put her finger on the name of it…she said, “Ok Janelle, it goes like this…I’d rather be in grave than live in a house of cards.” I remember googling her words-because this song was important to her, I was determined to find it, regardless of the odd lyrics. But, I have to say (as I was guessing in my head)…a bunch of gambling sites came up.

We honestly looked for a good hour.

“Kathy, are you sure it’s House of Cards? Who sings it?” I asked. She always had this look when she was thinking…she would kind of move her mouth to the side and look up. She replied, ” Look up Gaither’s and House and see what comes up.” Sure enough, we found the song… House of GOLD!

We laughed so hard. It actually became an inside joke to both of us throughout the days to come. 

I turned up the song she so loved to celebrate it’s discovery. It had a groovy little swag to it so I stood up, danced and clapped to the beat. She laughed so hard, started clapping and singing too…it was just the two of us. We weren’t thinking about cancer or medicine or death…

Laughter, joy, humor and praise filled the living room. That room saw some pretty dark hours …but in that moment, we were having fun.

This is just one memory I have of that precious time with her. This blog isn’t big enough to list everything, but I do want to add…

I witnessed Kathy’s friends also minister to her in a way that touched me so deeply.  They too felt helpless, but it was their time, prayers, laughter, concern, loving hugs, and genuine help for basic needs that ministered her. As I watched many of them by her side, it put friendship into a very real and new perspective for me. These women weren’t having a girls night out, they were sacrificing themselves for her. Whatever she needed, whenever she needed it, however long she needed it- they were there. It was beautiful.

So friends, the reason I haven’t been blogging very much is because I’ve been ministering in a way that meal ministry just didn’t matter….I’ve been lucky to even cook for my own family. In fact, many people have been cooking for me.

Thank you for your grace…. 



  1. Janelle,
    First — let me express my sympathy for your loss and my happiness you had such a woman in your life who left you with such sweet memories. The memories cause our eyes to leak but they are also the best medicine to the sorrow in our hearts.
    Second – I have a dear aunt is strong in her faith and a warrior in her fight with cancer. She also can’t eat – this is hard isn’t it for us that a have a second nature with food and use it to minister to others? Years ago I taught a line-dancing exercise class and I’ll never forget her wanting to learn the steps. We cleared a path and I put together a playlist with songs she’d recognize – one was Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. We had such a good time.
    Third – I wanted to tell you that your post touched my heart because I am growing in finding new ways to love on her – storing up memories for when she has gone home to the Lord.
    Keep dancing and thanks for sharing.

    • Awww, Sweet Debbie….thank you for your kind words and encouragement. You know exactly how I felt <3

    • I feel the pain but am encouraged by words you used about dancing and singing. I had a loss of the same 3 days before yours. She was a grandmother of 5 children I ministered to and fell in love with both kids and her as she went through breast cancer and I through healing of brain surgery and stroke at same time. She passed at 50 and I’m only 45. When you go through hard times, it is such a strong relationship with each other and great trust and strength and love with God as our Rock and Jesus our Fortress. I told her I had pictures of her smiling and dancing. I felt that when she wasn’t in pain anymore. She’s happy with the Lord in heaven. It’s hard but happiness of them in heaven is great to remember.

      • Oh wow…Karen, you really nailed it. Walking with someone through the deepest valley like this gains another dimension of relationships here on earth. I’m so sorry for your loss as well. Thank you for sharing this with me.

  2. So sorry for your loss, Janelle. Thank you for sharing your story about your MIL. She must be a very special lady. I pray that I have a heart like yours. {{{HUGS}}}

  3. Marissa C. says:

    You did continue with your meal ministry. It was just tweeked to her needs. You “fed” her heart, mind, and soul with love, grace, and lasting moments that she took with her. My mother passed away three years ago from cancer as well, and as the desire for “food” diminished, the need for music, prayer, and family increased. It was a hard year,but I am so glad we were able to minister to her needs when she needed it most. Just like you all did! I am sorry for your family’s loss.

  4. Janelle, I cried as I read your heart-spoken words. I lost my mother to lung cancer at the young age of 56 and even though it was 21 years ago, I still feel a part of me is missing. She was a true lady who loved the Lord with all her heart and was loved by many. The pain is real, and the grief is almost unbearable, but praise God, for the legacy our precious loved ones leave to us and the next generation! Prayers of comfort and strength and peace to you and your family!

    • Thank you Kim…you know how I am feeling. Ohhh, I can imagine me 21 years from now still missing her as well. I can see her in each one of my children <3 Love to you, Janelle

  5. Janelle, I am so sorry for your loss. On December 17th, 2014, we were celebrating the 2nd birthday of my son and I can’t help but think how miraculous God is with life. With every breath, life is being born, eyes opening for the first time to the world around them and for others like your mother in love, she was being born for the last time in a new world and the first things her eyes were going to see was Jesus. How awesome is that? I’m so glad that you’ve been able to really be there for her and what a shining example to your children about putting people first, just like Jesus always did. I’ll be lifting your family up in prayers.

  6. Jane in TX says:

    Janelle, I am so sorry to read about the passing of your dear mother-in-law. You brought laughter & music & love & joy into her life in her last days here on earth. May God comfort you & your family & those special friends of hers as you mourn the temporary, earthly loss of Kathy. And I’m so glad & grateful that people have been cooking FOR YOU!

  7. Very beautiful thoughts, thank you for sharing them. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    1 Peter 5:7

  8. Lisa Maria says:

    Oh Janelle!

    I feel for you! I know first hand what you experienced since we lost my husband’s mother to cancer too in 2012. This was our 2nd Christmas without her. I also tried to cook meals for her but she wouldn’t eat and had to have a feeding tube placed down her. I rejoice with you, though, that you were able to bring her SOME joy and comfort. We felt so helpless and lost with my mother in law. We tried praying, singing. She became so depressed, we just didn’t know how to reach her.

    I am praying for you and your family. I’m sure she’s looking down and proud of all of you.

    • Thank you so much Lisa…it really is God’s grace that she was able to find joy in each day she had left. I’m not sure if I would have been able to and can totally see how your mother-in-law would have felt so sad. I’m so sorry you have been down this road as well….it’s so difficult.

  9. Dear Janelle,
    I am so sorry to hear of your family’s loss! I could tell how much you treasured your time with her with the posts you did this fall. You were the Lord’s servant to her in “different” ways, and what a wonderful testament to the love you had for her. Thank you for sharing your joy and your pain through this website. I pray that memories of her warm your heart, and that the thought that she is pain free with Jesus bring you immense peace. Of course this will be between the tears shed for a wonderful woman and friend. Hugs to you.

  10. What an abosultely beautiful story, Janelle. Thank you for sharing them as they are a comfort to those of us with family members in similar situations. May God be with all of you and comfort you.

  11. Denise Ross says:

    Janelle, My heart is filled with sympathy, sadness but also gladness for the memories you now have the precious time you spent with your mum in law. My mother died from cancer too 18 years ago. My brothers were the ones who ministerd to her as I had moved away, we had t expected her to return home when we made the choice to move, but I treasure the phone calls we had nearly every day, the things we spoke about and the complete loving connection we had. We had had our differences but during her final months those were resolved, forgiven and we got to chat, bare our souls and really walked together in her final journey. My dad had died unexpectedly 21 months earlier by the time my mother died, and I wasn’t going to waste the time that I had with her, that I had missed out on with my dad.
    I had wondered how you were all going and praying for you all, just as you had asked. I’m glad she is home now but I know your heart and the lostness that what you are best at in ministering doesn’t fill the need that is before. I think that is where God teaches us to rest in Him as well and we are guided by Him to fill whatever the need is and strengthened to fill it, whenever we are needed.
    I am glad you are here, I’ve missed you but knew you were busy with spending time with your mum in law.
    You have a beautiful heart Janelle, very grace filled. God can different ineptly be seen in You and that is so precious. I’m sure the legacy your mum in law left is a special one for all who were touched by her life and her journey that ultimately took her home.
    Much love and hugs from Australia xxoo

    • Thank you so much sweet friend…I have missed all of you as well. Your words are such a blessing to me this evening. MUCH love to you Denise! <3 Janelle

  12. janelle, my prayers go out to you and your family. i lost my mother a few years ago and even though i know she’s with Jesus and not in pain anymore, i still miss her greatly. my earliest memories i have are of her reading the Bible to me, and answering my questions as best she could so that little 4 or 5 year old could understand. i always saw her reading her Bible, praying for every single family member by name and praying for each chuch member in order that they sat in the pews. she interceded for missionaries, for those who were pesecuted for their faith, for the widows and orphans that didn’t have anything to eat. she always loved to cook and whenever a visiting evangelist or missionary or preacher came to our church they always stayed with us. i thank you for posting the beautiful story about your mother in law and yourself. it brought back a lot of good memories. thank you again janelle. may God’s peace be with you and comfort you. God bless your ministry and keep fighting the good fight!

    • Ana, your mom sounds absolutely amazing- I would have loved to have met a woman like that and I am sure you miss her so very much. So thankful for our hope in Jesus to be together again with our loved ones. Thank you for your words of love and encouragement, Janelle


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