Asking for Help, part 5

4. Guard Your Hearts Above All Else. Prov 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." While guarding your heart can seem somewhat subjective, I think we can easily see that the word "guard" means to watch over, keep safe, protect, defend, safeguard, and shield our hearts in this broken world, especially because our actions come from our heart. Matt 6:21 says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." So, we need to make sure that we are protecting our hearts when we are in relationships with one another, when we are asking for help, and when we are accepting it. Just because it is a blessing to be helped and to help others does not mean we should abandon prudence in the matter.

One question I received was, "What do you do when you ask for help and get it and then, later down the road, it's thrown in your face?

This question is one reason why I have put a foundation in all of these posts about being rooted in a Christian community when you are asking for help. When you are in a healthy Christian community, asking for help should never be thrown back in your face. Or if it is, then the conflict will be dealt with honestly and with the purpose of reconciliation. I also know that not all churches are always healthy, and some churches are just too broken to be ministering the way they ought to be, so be wise and prudent - and guarding your heart - when selecting the Christian community you are in, too!

I am wary of asking for help or advice from persons that I do not know very well, especially if it is to take care of my family in some way. I am responsible for their care and well being, even if someone else is helping me with that responsibility. So, I have to be intentional about building up a group of people I can trust to call on when I do need some help. For example, I have purposefully gotten to know several young women who can babysit for us when we do need a sitter.

If are in a situation where a fellow Christian has tried to make you feel terrible for asking for help or accepting it, then I would tactfully and in love, point out some of the biblical principles I have written about. I would try to reconcile with them, but then I would also be guarding my heart in the future with that person. Yes, there is some risk in asking for help, that someone might see you in a way that isn't true, or someone might judge you, or it might make you vulnerable to being hurt. This is true of living in our world. But, I do not think that means we need to try to pretend everything is fine when it isn't, or pretend we don't need help when we do. Just be wise and discerning who you ask for and accept help from, and if it ends up not being what we need, then I hope forgiveness and reconciliation will be roads we go down.


Asking for Help, part 4

3. Bear One Another's Burdens. This goes along with #2 on helping one another.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" ~Galatians 6:2

We can get caught up in the language of "burdens," as in thinking that we are burdensome to another person when we need some help, but I want to call your attention to how it feels when you get to help someone who is in need. If a person is truly in need, then it will not seem like a burden, but we feel satisfied and blessed. Let's take a look at this more by reading the rest of this passage in Galatians 6.
3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load."

[I'm not sure you all want a lesson in word studies here, but in case you are concerned about the apparent contradiction in this passage, I will just tell you that the greek word for "burden" used in v. 2 is different than the word for "load" or "burden" in v. 5. In v. 2 the word is referring to a heavy, crushing load, (such as failures, temptations, testings, trials, sorrows or suffering, as well as financial burdens). But the word in v. 5 is referring to our responsibility or burden towards God. Meaning, we must be responsible for our own spiritual intentions, heart, actions, etc, and not do it by comparing ourselves to one another.]

When we look at all of this in context, the ideal is that we would carry one another's afflictions, burdens, trials, etc by helping one another in need. When we do this we are fulfilling the whole law of Christ, which is to love God with all we have and love our neighbors as Christ loved us (Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27, John 13:34). AND we need to do this without comparing ourselves with one another. I think where we get in trouble is in comparing ourselves to one another.

When we compare ourselves that is when we can worry about whether we seem weak, or as a friend of mine put it, whether she seems "needy" or like a "mooch." I would encourage you all to realize that this is EXACTLY what we are to do! We are supposed to let other people know when we are in need, when we are facing trials and have heavy burdens.

I need to wrap this post up, but I do want to just remind us of what I posted originally about pride. There is a difference between self-respect, feeling satisfied in what you have done, and being boastful (even in your heart), which is the pride I am speaking of here. This pride is primarily rooted in comparing yourself to another person. If we are ready to help another person, but we are too prideful to accept or ask for help, then what are we saying? The message is that we somehow are "above" being helped, but other people are not. This is the pride I am talking about. Pride is a most awful thing and it gets in the way of a lot of what God would have us do for each other. Slay your pride. Tell people when you are in need, in a safe Christian community, and you will see the love of Christ through the Body of Christ. This is one way that Jesus' yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt 11:28-30).


Asking for Help, part 3

2. Help One Another. One thing I think we often forget is that we are called to help someone whether they seem to deserve it or not! Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27 quote Jesus as saying, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" In Luke, He goes on to say,"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back."

We are to love, serve and help even our enemies and those who would do us harm. We are to love and serve them without expecting anything back. I know this is hard, and we can't expect everyone to be able to do this, but this is the example Christ lived and the command he gives us.

One of the questions I received was this:
"I feel afraid to ask for help because maybe I'll ask for too much or too often...I wish there were social rules around them, like 'No more than 3 small favors, or only 1 big favor every month, except in times of crisis'. Maybe Miss Manners should have a go at this."

I have no idea what "Miss Manners" response was, but I know that the biblical expectation is "I will help you, no matter who you are, no matter for how long, no matter the cost to me, and no matter if you can pay me back or not. Period."

Even though this is the ideal, we should also be considerate of others, their schedules and families, et al, as well. So, be wise in asking for help, but know that when you are asking for what you need, you are doing exactly what God would have you do. He wants us to take care of each other. While no where in scripture is the exact quote, "God will never give you more than you can handle," I think this concept is true when someone is plugged into a Christian community. This is one very big way that God takes care of us: through the Body of Christ. We are to bravely ask for what another person can give to us, knowing that it is exactly the way it is supposed to be...whether we feel we "deserve" it or not.


Asking for Help, part 2

Several days ago I posted an entry about asking for help and how when we do this, it really is a blessing to both us and to those who want to help us. However, I really should have entitled it, "Accepting Help is a Blessing" because what I was writing about was more focused on situations where women are not accepting the help that is being offered to them in times of need. Some great questions were asked of me about the subject that I would like to address here, and they have more to do with this issue of asking for help when we need it and it is not already being offered.

There are five biblical principles I'd like to look at as I answer these great questions. So, I will write on and post one a day for the few several days.

1. The Community of Christ (a.k.a the Body of Christ). This is a metaphor used in Scripture by Paul in three different letters to describe how we are called to live in unity with one another, as a body has unity within its members (the hands and the feet agree and function with the heart, liver and kidneys, etc, all working towards accomplishing the same thing, whatever that may be). And Jesus Christ is supposed to be the head: the part of the body or community that leads and instructs what the members of the body should be doing. (Please see Rom 12:3-8, 1 Cor 12:12-31, and Eph 4:1-16 for the specific references and more information on this.)

While other people are supposed to help us no matter what (more on this in the days to come), we have some responsibility in getting the help we need. First and foremost, we need to be in a community of people who can help us. Now, obviously I highly advocate being involved in a Christ-based Christian community, but even if you aren't or don't want to be, you still need a community of people to pool from in times of need. This can include a list of babysitters, addiction sponsors, or even crisis hotlines. But, if we don't purposefully connect to people who are equipped to help us, then there's not much they can do for us.

Secondly, we need to let people know that we need help in order for them to give it to us. As much as women like people to read their minds, it just doesn't happen. In one of my favorite movies, Sliding Doors, a woman tells her boyfriend, "Gerry, I'm a woman! We don't say what we WANT! But we do reserve the right to get [upset] if we don't get it. That's what makes us so fascinating!" (I made the quote more family-friendly). This makes me laugh out loud because it is so ridiculous and true sometimes. But, people cannot "just tell" what you want and offer to give it to you.

One question I received was, "What do you do when you do ask for help and no one responds? Do you keep asking until you find someone to help or do you just do whatever is needed on your own?" YES, if you need something, keep on asking until you get it. Jesus tells us this is how we are to pray, too! (Luke 18). Do not be timid; be bold. They may not say yes, but they will have heard you and probably can suggest another way to get help, or talk to someone else who might be able to help you. I know this is hard if you are afraid of rejection or are focused on what other people think of you, which I will get to more in depth later, but if you really want help with something, you have to ask for it, in a way people have heard you, in a community that is equipped to help you.


Overflowing Cup

Today I, Jennifer, read a post by a youth pastor's wife on her blog (www.marriedtoayouthpastor.com) who said that she struggles to have a cup that overflows. She writes,

"...my cup should always “overflow”. The overflow is the outpouring to others. The full cup is mine and God’s to share. I so often allow myself to “get empty”, have to refuel again, dump it all out and fill up again, dump out, fill up, etc…"

Here is some of my response to her that I thought I would share with everyone:

I see women running around, looking exhausted, having a little bit of a short fuse with their kids, and trying really hard not to show it at all. I grew up with a mom that tried to do everything and please everyone such that her cup was bone dry on occasion. It is because of watching my mom, among other women, living a life so spent they have nothing left for themselves, that I have commmited myself to never having a completely empty cup. There are three main ways that I see being successful for me and for other women in accomplishing this:

Keep a Sabbath. It certainly doesn't have to be Sundays! And, it probably shouldn't be if you are a Pastor's wife. Mine is Saturday because that is when my husband is off (most of the time) and when I am not expected to do much for our community. But, maybe for you it could be a Tuesday. All this means is that one day a week, every single week without fail (unless you something catastrophic happens) you do NOT do any WORK for the entire day. If you are a stay at home mom, it doesn't mean you can't play with your kids, but it does mean that you can't work on anything at home. You don't get anything "done" except for resting. On my sabbath, I don't even do the dishes. I truly believe that even if this is the only change a person makes in their lives, they will see improvement everywhere: relationships with kids, husband, colleagues, etc. Trust in the Lord that it will all get done.

Say "No" or "Not This Time." I know, I know, this is kind of a "duh." People say this all the time, and it sounds so simple! But, it isn't. One thing that has revolutionized the way that I look at this issue is something Benjer says, "Not all good things to do are necessary to do." Just saying, "no" right now, does not mean that you are saying you won't ever do it in the future. It means that you are looking at all the awesome things in front of you that you could do and saying, there are only a select few that I am going to do. For heavens' sakes, you could be a deaconness, join the choir, volunteer in the nursery, lead a table at MOPS, lead a small group for youth, and run the silent auction, which are all good things! But, you would have nothing left for your family, your self, your God and probably be so exhausted you wouldn't do such a great job at any of them anyway!

Stay Connected to the Source of Being Full. Again, this may seem obvious and simple, but it isn't for a lot of people. Staying connected to the Lord looks different for everyone. If you are in a bible study, and therefore in the Word, it may not FILL you the way you need to be filled, because for you, it may be more about pleasing others or doing it "right." Similarly, being in nature may be fun and awesome, but not necessarily bring you closer to connecting with God. Everyone is different and I think that it is important for everyone to figure out what this means. However you seek to be filled, it really has to be about being fed. From my own experience, it can't be something that you simply "got done" for it to fill you. Recently I read Beth Moore say, "You can't have a drive-by relationship wtih God and expect to behold His glory!" So, if it is nature that connects you to God, then be committed to it and go there to BE with Him, not to walk your dog and exercise, etc. If it is really studying the Word, then delve in! But do it to find Him, not find approval from someone else. This is the issue I have had to work on the most: thinking I am pleasing Him and growing with Him because I did something, when really it was all about how I might please someone else.

I hope this is helpful and not too preachy! But, I am telling you, just do the Sabbath. Just try it. Just trust in God that He will provide enough time the rest of the week and you will be filled so much by it. He designed us this way for a reason....


You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever. ~Psalm 23:5-6


Asking for help is a blessing

I have something very heavy on my heart that seems to be a universal issue among many women in my life, no matter where they are in life. (It is probably just as big of an issue for men, but I cannot speak to that or the reasons behind it). The issue is: asking for help.

Why is this so incredibly hard? Why do most the women I know prefer to run themselves into the group before they will ask for help? Where did we get this idea that it is better to be exhausted, irritable, and even depressed than have someone else just help us? Even if it is something small for them, like making a meal? I have known several women this fall and in the past month or so who have had seriously difficult and draining situations...and yet they wait until the last second to ask for help. I have some thoughts on why.

1. We don't want to seem weak. I have another "why?" here. Who says asking for help makes you weak? For example, with my two little ones, last spring I needed to have help in order to get anything extra done around the house. I wanted to have my windows, window sills and baseboards (the extra stuff) cleaned before my parents came to visit. I put it out on facebook to pay someone and a number of deaconesses from our church came to do it for free. It was a fun afternoon where I got to know some of the women leaders in our church better and they felt blessed by being able to help me. Now, how in the world did asking for help during that time make me weak? It wasn't even a real necessity, but it still didn't make me any weaker asking for the help. And, as I said, it ended up being a blessing to both parties.

2. We want to be in control. Does this statement resonate with anyone? I suspect it might. I know a lot of amazing, wonderful women who don't want to give up control for a second. Especially about their children. Especially about their house! But, however uncomfortable this may make you, just sit with the thought for a second, that it might be better for you, your children and your house if you were willing to accept help when it was offered. Sometimes my children have the most fun at another person's house with other kids to play with. Sometimes it's okay to let someone else come in and help, even if they do it a different way. And, as unpopular as this next statement is, I have news for you: we aren't really in control of things anyway. There are only two things we can control: our minds and our actions. That's it. We can't even control our own bodies. When was the last time you were able to tell your body not to get tired and have it work? Or not to get sick? Also, one thing that really shocked me when I first had children is that we can't control them for a second either! :) You have the least control over a newborn. You can't make them sleep, eat, stay awake, stop crying, poop, not poop, or anything! As a person who has really struggled with trying to stay in control and have things a certain way (Benjer exaggerates a little when he says everything in our house is labeled, but only a little ;), I have been blessed by such freedom by learning to let go a little and let someone else bless me when I need it.

3. Pride. Yep, I said it. We are first and foremost very selfish, prideful people by nature. (If you don't agree with this, then I encourage you to check out any toddler nursery room and see how many children are freely offering toys to share and saying, "no, no, you go first." You won't find it. You will see many 2 year olds insisting certain toys are "mine" or insisting "my turn first" with toys that belong to none of them). I encourage you to slay your pride and let someone else bless you the next chance you get. It may sound like an excruciating exercise, but I have found that it also brings freedom and understandingProverbs 11:2 states, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."

One of the biggest problems with not asking for help, is we miss out on letting other people feel blessed. Letting someone else help us is not just a blessing for us, it blesses the other person, sometimes even more. Think about the times that you have been able to help out a friend who was in the hospital or had a really sick child. Didn't you feel good knowing you could do something? Didn't it feel great to know you helped? Doesn't it also feel pretty frustrating and crummy when you feel like you can't help, or they won't let you? This is how others feel, too. Some people truly, honestly love to clean (not me :). Others love to cook (me!). Others love to garden or bring a gift. Whatever they can do, certainly everyone loves to feel the blessing that comes from being able to be useful and needed. There is almost no greater gift, because it tells them that you: 
1. Love them, like them or care for them
2. You trust them
3. They are needed and/or wanted. 
These are very important things for the people in your life to feel. 

A year ago we had just brought home our newborn, Samantha, from the hospital after a month long stay in Primary Chidren's Hospital  for a rare condition that the Lord miraculously saved her from. During the month she had been in the hospital, we did only the bare minimum of laundry, mail and housekeeping, and now it was Christmastime! Benjer and I had to swallow some pride, give up a LOT of control and perhaps seem weak to some (although I do not have any reason to think that is true) in order to get through the bills, have a clean home and give our children a good Christmas - Samantha's first! People gave us money so we could buy christmas presents, a good friend sent us 100 stamps so we could send Christmas letters out, the same good friend had our birth announcements made, and people offered to help with anything else we needed. We even invited ourselves over to some good friends' house for Christmas dinner because I could not imagine trying to make a nice meal on that day. 

So, I have had to ask for a lot of help in the recent past and know that it can be hard. But, the alternative is living in exhausted fear of what other people may think, while believing we have control, and not giving the blessing to others who want nothing more than to do something nice, and feel wanted and useful.