04 July 2011

Mercy care of women for the non-deaconess, at-home deaconess, or deaconess who isn't too busy parsing

(It's OK, some of my best friends are deaconesses.)

At one of our stops in the seminary process, we had a baby. A lady from the church to which we had been cobbled at that time gave me a call when he was about a week old and asked if I were up for a visit. She came to the house, sat and talked to me for an hour, and left me with a plate of cookies and a cute burp cloth for the baby.

I haven't seen her since, and the baby peed on the plate of cookies while I gave him a bath on the counter (first boy--I had some things to learn). But that burpie I've still got, and it's one of my favorites. It was just a trifold cloth diaper onto which someone had sewn blue gingham edging. I always put it in my church bag because it looks distinctly unlike a grubby old kitchen towel I grabbed at the last minute, which is what the rest of my burpies look like.

All of which is a long way of saying that I thought it was really nice of that church to have done that for me (particularly since, as seminary hobos, we were just passing through). This relates to one of my troubles: a constant feeling that I'm not a very good church person because it's so hard for me to get out. No infirm or bereaved person wants a visit from a church lady who's dragging five kids with her. Add to that the fact that infirm and bereaved persons DO want visits from their pastor, and it's pretty rare for me to do much calling. The parental divisions and conquerings must be given over to Dad making calls.

But since Dad does get out to see them, it's easy for me to make deliveries. So here are a few little projects I've collected for the invisible at-home mom who wants to express some basic goodwill on behalf of the parish.

New baby. I write a note to the mom telling her congratulations and that she's in my prayers, and send along a cute burpie. There's really no wrong way to make one out of flannel or terry cloth, and the small cuts keep it economical. I keep hoping that the more of these I make the better chance I have of actually learning how to sew. It's nice having a stockpile of them for short-notice baby presents anyway.

New grandma. For the frequent- or primary-care grandma (a common creature in this workaday world), Pack-n-Play sheets are usually a good bet and take no more than a yard of fabric, a little bit of elastic, and not that much time to make from cottons, knits, or flannel (basic crib sheet strategy here). The only trick to this is that PnPs come in different sizes, but my genius friend Gauntlets shared with me a formula to make a sheet to fit any size sleeping baby receptacle:

Width of sheet = width of mattress + (3 x height of mattress) + 0.5
Length of sheet = length of mattress + (3 x height of mattress) + 0.5
Square (cut from corners) = height of mattress x 1.5

Sew your hems at 1/4" and your corners at 1/2"

Chemo patient. Commercial head wraps are pricey, but this here pattern is free, easy, and fast. You can get away with a little shorter piece of fabric if you divide the oblong piece into thirds and sew them together to make the complete long piece. You can also use the scrappies to make a matching fabric headband for the patient's sister, daughter, or friend (another idea stolen from commercial chemo head wraps).

For bereavement or other family emergencies, I send food if Dad and/or church ladies report to me that it's in order. Food is risky what with all the allergies and intolerances and diets and hangups, but I guess it's still the best bet for people with immediate trouble.

I'd be interested to hear about other simple, low cost projects along these lines. I can't knit or crochet, but better wives can so include those too. (I can keep up with this stuff fairly easily since Dad's parishes are smaller--at a larger church, a team of people would be in order.)


Emily Cook said...

I have little mental space left for "projects" per se, but I try to be ready in these cases as well... just using many shortcuts.

For newborns: I hunt clearances, especially Kohl's, and keep a nice supply of boy and girl whatnots.

For other emergencies: I go with food, usually things almost universally liked (though you are right it is risky)- I tend to prepare ahead and freeze so it's ready to give away when needed- in disposable containers.

I freeze: spaghetti bake, pizza casserole, soups, mac n cheese, and bags of chocolate chip cookies.

Someday, I will learn to sew. Until then I will grovel to my mother in law :)

Elizabeth said...

I really do need to learn how to sew, don't I? Sigh. Knitting is a nice accomplishment, but it just takes so much longer....

Sue said...

I've been on a knitting kick since I found out my first grandchild was on the way (he's now 9 mos. old). I made him several hats, then more when he outgrew those. Then I made more and donated them to the local pregnancy crisis center. Then we had a bunch of pregnant mamas-to-be at church, so every one of them got a knitted hat and matching booties. I'm not a church worker (unless you consider altar guild!), but I thought it would be a nice gesture from a fellow member. I can't knit fancy, but can do either a hat or booties in an evening.

I like all the ideas mentioned. Sometimes it's the least little thing that can make such an impact.

Leah said...

Another idea for newborns: Extra large receiving blankets, about 42-45" square. A bit more pricey, (unless you can stock up when you find a good sale) but simple. Just turn under the sides with a rolled hem. You can use seer-sucker, cotton, or flannel.

I received several from my mother-in-law, and thought they were best thing for nursing.

Katy said...

These are great ideas! If any of you are teaching your 5-8 year old (or older) to knit, have them make dish clothes. You can buy pretty, bright cotton yarn in a variety of colors, and store them away until you need a housewarming gift, or bridal shower gift. Stack up 6 or so and tie together with a matching ribbon.

I learned to knit making scarves, but learned to have good tension making dish clothes.


Reb. Mary said...

This is all very helpful. (Except that the sewing machine I'm REALLY SERIOUS about learning to use is currently out of order. Sigh. I really need some remedial vocational training.)

I have been humbled, in the midst of my hand-wringing about wanting to do/say "the right thing" in all these situations, to learn how well-received as deeply meaningful is the simple hand-written card of Scriptural meditation/encouragement. (And a pretty plate of muffins with a few foil-wrapped tea bags sure doesn't hurt either ;) )

All of you out there who haven't added your ideas: chime in now! This is good stuff.

lisa said...

Reb.Mary: I usually send a note as well - one from our family and a drawing from our kids. The most economical solution I've found that keeps me from having to run out to Dollar Tree all the time is buying a box of smallish plain notecards w/envelopes and either gluing on a holy card (http://www.printeryhouse.org/ProdPage.asp?Prod=PCC508) or a wallet-sized photo of a piece of stained glass in our church (I figure shut-ins probably miss seeing our beautiful church).

At Baptisms we give "Things I See at Baptism" by Julie Stiegemeyer (CPH). It is currently priced at $2.00 (so we're stocked up). We just wrap it with a ribbon and attach our card. Often I just set it in the front pew before the service for the family to find when they get there (since shaking hands after the service is often a blur for folks post partum and sometimes my kids are too squirrely to wait in line).

Freezing quickbreads is what works best for us and our freezer space. Again, I just wrap it with a ribbon.

Having the kids draw a pic doesn't always work out (if dad is having to head out for a visit right away) but it's prob what I love sending the most 1. b/c a kid's drawing really adds a lot to a hospital room and 2. my children have come to love serving our shut-ins and church family in this way and it's one of the few ways they can offer Christ's comfort (they usually draw Jesus and Mary/His lambs/our church). And, if they've drawn a picture for Mrs.SoandSo then they're very aware when we pray for her later that evening.

Rebekah said...

I have some of those giant receiving blankets too and they are great. Seersucker! So smart!

MamaOnABudget said...

Women who have miscarried: I can crochet, so I have made more small (think unfolded cloth napkin) baby blankets than I care to recall. Of course it would be best to know the mom's feelings and if baby stuff would be welcome or painful. But the ones I've given these blankets to have thanked me for recognizing that it was a real, loved, wanted child that died and is now missing. I just want them to have something tangible to hold onto, cry into, when needed.

lisa said...

That's so beautiful.