Many of you who have journeyed with me and my blog for a number of years (10 in 2017!) know that my husband was in the Army and did a tour in Afghanistan. That was a pivotal time in our life and in the life of our family. We grew and changed, we were stretched and challenged, we were poured out and built up and then poured out and built up again.
I’ve been thinking through the lessons God began to teach me in that time of life. One such lesson that I am still learning even today is something I wrestled within myself and something I think we all wrestle with in varying forms and at different stages of our lives:
I wrestled with the idea that I was unwilling to ask for or receive help.
Getting The Message Loud and Clear
I very clearly remember the day that I realized how much help I needed and how I had blocked others from helping me. I was hastily packing up my family (my then 4-year old and 9-month old baby) alone for a weekend trip to my friend’s cabin on an island in the Puget Sound. If it sounds lovely, trust me, it is and was. But the process of a single Mom (my husband was deployed) trying to pack and load a car for a weekend like that -all the baby gear and the food-with one little person running around excitedly asking a million questions and the baby crying and screaming at you; that part I vividly remember sucking royally.
I was pretty harried to say the least. And even though I had been kindly invited to this weekend, I remember not wanting to go because I KNEW how hard it would be to load it all up, unload it, reload it and then again unload it all.by.myself. (Remember the screaming child?)
I hastily grabbed whatever I could, even though I kept asking myself “why did you agree to this” the whole time. I finally got the genius idea to PUT THE CHILDREN IN THEIR CARSEATS so that I could get the last few things out of the house without the stress of crying and excited children. While I did, I grabbed a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) magazine to read. I had been saving it for some quiet time and was so excited to delve into it.
The ferry left at a certain time and I HAD to get in line early so that I could make it on. If you’ve ever depended on a ferry, you get this. So I drove a bit fast, I got in line and then I waited. (“Hurry up and wait” is an Army way of life, right fellow Army wives?) It was about one hour of waiting between all the stops at other islands along the way. I knew I had the time, the boys were occupied, so I broke out my magazine. I then proceeded to cry my brains out as article after article dealt directly with the false glamour of The Super Mom mentality.
You know that woman who managed everything perfectly and walked with a sweet halo around her head? I had been trying so hard to just hold it alllll together in those 12 months. I felt responsible for everyone else’s emotions. In a moment, I realized I had completely ignored my own emotions and I had taken on way too much. I also realized that I had virtually stopped doing things so that I didn’t have to deal with push-back from my kids. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to try anything. Going out? There was no such thing. I wouldn’t even try to find someone to watch my children. It was too much work.
How it Develops
Eventually, my little family made it to the island and I enjoyed a lovely weekend with my friends. For once, I began to let go. I tried accepting the help I was offered. I accepted my friend’s help when he offered to help me unload the car. I accepted the help of one friend so I could go for a walk, alone, with the other. I realized that I wasn’t a mooch. I wasn’t being lazy. I wasn’t admitting defeat even. I was just recognizing that I had limitations. I was finally willing to be vulnerable. Just because I *could* do it myself, didn’t mean I *had* to do it by myself.
I don’t think that any of us would say we think we are super men or women. Most of us would say that we just do the best we can.
A willingness to be vulnerable and to trust the company of others with that vulnerability…that is something else.
That is what I realized that weekend I had not been doing.
This refusal to allow others to help, to receive, it comes on in quite small and inconspicuous ways. It’s not like any of us intend to be super people. The grocery bagger asks, “would you like help out?” and you decline. Someone goes to grab the door for you as you try to push the stroller into the door and hold it all by yourself and you begrudgingly accept only because that person wouldn’t back down. Your friend offers to help you with a project and you say “oh I’ll be ok”. You pile things you want to do on your plate even though you know you don’t have the time to do them well. You are on a fast trek to one mile wide and one inch deep.
Many times we don’t ask for help because we hate how someone else will help us. A woman I go to church with recounts the time she was pregnant with her high risk baby (who ended up being born very prematurely) and on bed rest. It drove her crazy that her in-laws never washed the vegetables/fruits in vinegar water..something she was passionate about-before giving them to her children. It infuriated her! But she knew she NEEDED their help, even if they were doing it ALL WRONG.
Why it’s a Challenge/Why you should
It’s pretty hard to admit that you are a vulnerable person who is in need. It means you have to TRUST someone else with something fragile in you-weakness, maybe even frailty. It can be hard to ask for help because in admitting you are in need, you are entrusting yourself to someone else. You are taking a risk.
Will that person think I’m just lazy or irresponsible?
Will I come across as “needy” and then people will stop offering any help at all?
What if I annoy them?
What if by helping me someone else is put out?
These are some of the things that run through our mind when we find ourselves in need. But the reality of the situation is that many times, accepting the help of a friend is a tremendous blessing both to them and to us!
Other times, we don’t even realize we are in need of help. Or we do need help, but we don’t know what help looks like.
How to Ask/Who to Ask
I remember talking recently with a friend about this time in my life when my husband was in the Army. She said to me that I never acted like anything was wrong or like anything we were going through was tough. She said she never would have guessed that it was a trying time for us or that there was a need. Part of me was happy to hear this and part of me was tremendously sad.
The happy part of me thought, “great! I didn’t want to be a Debby downer!” and the other part of me thought, “how sad that I was dishonest about how hard that time was for me”. I wasn’t willing to trust others with what was happening to me.
How to Give
An old mentor of mine once told me never to deny another person the opportunity to give to you. For some, it is a gift that they possess within their souls to give to others. It is a generosity that naturally flows out of them and to deny them a chance to give is to deny them something that brings them great joy.
What does that look like in daily life? What if the next time someone offers a simple help or assistance, you challenge your heart to say “yes”. It’s a risk…
Mind your “yes”. Is the commitment you are saying yes to going to cause you to do something else poorly? What will suffer as a result of what you have said yes to? As I work collaboratively with other teams and groups of people, my eye is attuned to the one in the group who says “no”. It exemplifies to me that they have good boundaries and that when they DO say yes to me sometime in the future, I can trust them with what they have committed to doing.
Many of us are in a position to help on a daily basis. Helping another person without judging them when they confess their need, that’s how trust is built in relationships. Friendship is worth the risk! Allowing another person to help you, being willing to receive help is how to show them that you are trustworthy too.