Asking for help.


It's really hard for me to ask for help. Even when I desperately need it I find it challenging to tell people that I need them. There have been times that I've been rejected or burned by people who I had asked help from and it's made me hesitant to ask again. I'm growing though! I've started asking for help... and I'm so glad that I have.

On the retreat I asked several people for help with the kids. If they could watch them while I made lunch or if they could feed Samuel while I was doing something else. It's really stretching for me to ask complete "strangers" for help... and I'm glad I did.

I'm realizing if we are to be the body of Christ that we need to ask each other for help. We are all created and gifted in various ways and those ways work and move together. Isn't that amazing?!

On Monday I asked a couple from Westminster for help...could they possibly watch our kids sometime? And they said yes. Thursday night Mike and I went on an awesome date because they helped us!

Do you guys ever have crazy date nights... ours started out a little rough. There was a lack of communication hours prior to our date which had created some frustration. I wasn't helping Mike (which I should have been) but he hadn't communicated his need for help and I assumed he was okay. The great thing about it was that we talked it through at the beginning of our date and what could have been potentially disastrous (meaning having crappy attitudes and hence a crappy date) didn't occur because we talked about it. He was gracious and forgiving of me for not helping and also realized his need to communicate his need. I forgave him for getting angry. We then were able to move onto other conversations... and it ended up being a really meaningful and special night.

I have a hard time expressing my needs. Sometimes out of shame, fear or pride. Sometimes because I honest to goodness don't know what will help. Mike often asks me, "What would help?" and I'm just blank with answers. Sometimes I know how to answer him, "Can I just get out & go to Starbucks or Barnes & Noble or Panera and just sit and read a book, or run errands or whatever."

I think that we would all benefit from learning to ask each other for help. I remember after my sister died people asking me, "What can I do to help you?" or saying "Let me know if there's anything I can do." At the time, I had no idea what I needed, I found the task of breathing almost more than I could handle. Later I did realize what would be helpful but was too afraid to ask. I was afraid that either I was asking too much of others or that I was too late, that my "grace coupon" had expired. It felt like I could have asked for help right after she died but 3 months, 6 months, a year or even 3 years later was just too late. I also wasn't sure what people meant when they said, "If you need anything."

I'm learning to specifically tell others how I need help. Now, I can & need to say, "What would really help is if you watch my kids for us. We really need some alone time." or maybe "What would help is if someone could help me organize the house. I'm really struggling to get things in order." Or "Would you just keep asking me about this specific area... I need help and to be reminded/held accountable about this."

This may sound silly but I remember people offering to go to the grocery store (after Libby died) for me and it would put me in a panic because I didn't know what that meant. Did that mean they wanted to buy my groceries? Did it mean that they were going to hand me a receipt and I would write them a check? Did it mean they would pay for part of it? Mike stopped working after Libby (my sister) died and I was working at Starbucks. We didn't have much money. It overwhelmed me to think of what I would "owe" people. If I wasn't in the grocery store I wouldn't be able to add up the costs and I wouldn't be able to buy the cheapest brands. So I just told people no. Yeah, I desperately wanted help that way, but I knew things were so financially bad and was afraid of what the total would be and if we could pay it. It's best if you want to help someone financially, such as purchasing groceries, to be CLEAR. You could say, "Hey, I have $50 (or whatever amount) and would like to get you some groceries... or even better is asking the question, "What do you really need... groceries, diapers, etc., because I would really like to get something for you." If you want to do an errand for someone tell them simply that, We don't have the funds to _________ for you but I have the time to run the errands(grocery shop, etc.) for you." Or even be blatant, "I'd love to run groceries for you if you could write me a check..." That way the person knows where they stand with you. Maybe not everyone needs that, we were just strapped and the financial issue was huge for us. I felt embarassed and ashamed of our situation and yet unable to ask for clarity of what the person was offeringf. Maybe people don't have these problems. Maybe it was just me and my situation but I think when you are specific and clear with people about what you're willing and able to do it frees them up to be honest with you.

I'm also willing to tell others specifically what I could do to help them. It's good to express what you can do and give people options for help. Cleaning. Organizing. Doing errands for them. One thing that helped me after Libby died was a friend who made a half dozen returns for me. I had some items of my sisters to return and stuff of mine. She returned and got store credit for those items. My mom is really good about asking me about what kind of clothes the kids need or buying clothes with me for them. My in-laws saved the day time and time again by picking up groceries for us at Sam's & Costco's. They've been extremely generous helping us out with diapers & wipes for the kids.

Something that can help serve others (particularly those you are close to) is to know what people aren't able to do or don't like doing; what would bless them. I would tell someone, "I can come over and wash your dishes, scrub your floors, do your laundry or clean your bathrooms" to a person who hates cleaning and just had a baby. Or maybe a person needs meals or just plain hates cooking and is going through a hard time. Think outside of the box. Maybe you could find out their favorite foods and pack a fun breakfast with their dinner. One of my favorite meals after having Libby was when a lady who didn't have time to cook ordered Pizza Hut for me. It was so fun to get my favorite pizza and it meant none of the labor she couldn't provide. It's great when serving other to know what will bless them and also know your boundaries and limits of what youre able or not able to do.

We need to learn to really love people and to really help them. It can't just be about our agenda. We often want to do what we want to do to help people and that's not always helpful. I am big about expressing what you are able to do, but I mean let's ask people what they truly need. What does it look like to help that person... what does it look like to love them? It's not going to help a person to scrub their tub when what they really need is for someone to watch their kids. I'm not saying don't help people in anyway you can but really try to make sure you're helping/serving that person. One thing I appreciate is when someone asks me what the kids need and I can tell them honestly... "Libby needs some shoes and Samuel needs a zip-up jacket." It's not that I wouldn't love a cute dress for Libby or a pair of shorts for Samuel but those aren't their "needs" at the moment. Sometimes what they need are diapers... not fun or cute but very necessary.

I really want to grow in understanding how to help someone who is in need. Let's help people when they're sick, moving, having babies, needing a friend, struggling financially, new to a group, dealing with depression, grieving, etc. I know we're busy people in today's age. We have lives, work, school, family, and tons of people, things, roles, and responsibilities to juggle...maybe you have time or maybe you have money or maybe you have both. Let's use what we have to be a blessing to those around us; to serve and strengthen the body; and to by our actions draw others to Christ.

When I was on bedrest for 5 weeks with Samuel there was one person in particular that stood out to me. I don't want to slight or lessen what anybody else did but it was Katy Van who was my hero. I remember her calling me and asking what I needed from the store or if I wanted anything... she told me she was going to the store before she got to my house. I told her I was to trying to eat well so fruit would be helpful... No lie, the girl comes over with this cute basket brimming with yummy food. Fruit, yogurt, healthy snacks, granola bars, etc. I felt so spoiled. She also had a meal for me. And Katy did what was needed. she helped me organize, sort, rearrange, and clean my little nest. (At the time we were living in an efficiency appartment my dad had built over the garage, we called it the nest). Katy was someone I counted on. She really helped me... and the funny thing is that she didn't know me very well... we were practically acquaintances... but that day she became my friend. She came, she truly served me... and I felt so LOVED! And the crazy thing was she kept coming back and helping me.

We all need to be more like Katy. Willing to lay down our lives for others. willing to help someone we don't know. Who knows you might just make a friend?!

Lord, please help me to serve others better. Let me find out what people's needs are and meet them. Help me to be Christ to them. Let me not look to my agenda or what would serve me in my service to them, but to really know how I can help and do it. Let me reach out to those I don't know well. Help me to love them. Help my heart grow in my love for others. Let my life be pleasing to you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

* Just a note. Don't hear what I'm not saying! Helping people in anyway you can is wonderful. Offering help to people is great. I'm advocating being specific and clear and offering suggestions of how to help. What might have served me was people telling me what they could do to help- because I honestly couldn't think of what would have helped me at the time. So someone saying they would be willing to clean, bring a meal, do laundry, visit with me, hold my hand, buy me a coffee, etc. that would have helped. I could have thought about my "needs" and answered them with what would have served.

** I hope this note is clear. Writing late at night is always a very dangerous thing to do. I started writing this last Thursday night and just now have posted it Monday... again, late at night... ooops.

Comments

Michelle said…
clear to me! thanks for sharing!!
Ashleigh said…
Jennifer, this is a great post. I'm trying to grow in this area, of being helpful when people are in need, so I really appreciate you giving insight on how to do it more intentionally and specifically. I totally understand the issue with the grocery store and wondering, "How are finances going to work?" I've been in that situation before and simply ended up saying, "No, I don't need anything. Thanks."

Also, I can relate to having a hard time asking for help. It's always hard for me to ask people to watch my kids. I'm always worried that I'm imposing on them and then feel guilty when they say yes and watch the kids for me. I feel like I owe them something. Yet, when I watch someone else's kids, I'm glad to help and don't want them to feel indebted. I have to remind myself that the friend watching my kids probably feels the same way I do (glad to help) and to simply accept their help. Do you know what I mean? Anyway, I'm trying to grow in this area.

I remember when I was pregnant with Olivia, Lisa offered to clean our bathrooms for us. I wouldn't have thought to ask, but it was just what I needed at the time. Struggling with morning sickness I couldn't take cleaning the bathroom and a dirty bathroom was just gross. I so appreciated her taking time from a busy schedule to stop and serve me in that way.
Bethany said…
This is a great post Jennifer!!!!

I too have a hard time asking for help. I think for me it is pride...wanting to do it myself and also not wanting to bother someone else. I always feel like I am putting them out. I even do it with Aaron a lot where I will not ask and try myself and end up hurting myself, breaking something or doing the task with a horrible attitude.

I think you are right about the being specific thing when one offers help. I have had so many friends do that and it was great. They might say hey I am going to come and clean your bathrooms what day Thursday or Friday works for you? They have been specific with both what they are going to do and actually nailing down a day to do it. I have tried to do that now too when I offer help. Especially on the nailing down the time and day. I think many times we casually say please call me if you need anything or need help. Then those people never call and we assume that they didn't need or want our help. But I know I have done that and could have used help but again didn't want to bother them or ask for help on the wrong day. I am a dork.

I had the sweetest teen at our church offer to babysit for free for everyone of my doctors appointments with this baby....and she has. She hasn't missed one!!!!!! She gets all my dates in advance and half the time is calling me telling me she will be there before I can reconfirm with her. She has been such a blessing to me with this pregnancy. I haven't had to drag my kids to even one appointment!! I have been so blessed by her kindness. She is also very aware of my life and goings on, many times she notices if we have or have not gone on a date in awhile and offers to come watch the boys. She knows when I am going on vacation and has offered to babysit before we leave so Aaron and I have some alone time. She has made me dinner...gourmet dinner. This gal is only 13!!!! I can only imagine what she is going to be like at 25. She is an amazing friend. I hope to be more like her aware of the actual "needs" of those around me and able to offer a specific plan of action to them. She is great. I thought her actions related well to what you were saying in your post.

Anyhow, I have gone on and on. I really enjoyed reading this post Jennifer. It was really great. Thanks for taking the time to do it.
Jennifer said…
Dear friends, I'm glad it helped you. I know this is an area I'm trying to grow in! Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer
Jennifer said…
Dear friends, I'm glad it helped you. I know this is an area I'm trying to grow in! Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer
AmyB said…
Jennifer-Luv, thanks for the great reminder/encouragement! I can definitely grow in the "asking for help" department. I love you!
Jenn said…
Jennifer, EXCELLENT POST. Thank you friend. This is one I will need to come back to time and again. I so appreciate your thoughts and I am grateful for your gift to us when Hudson had his tubes, your care to send pizza was such an expression of help and care. Thank you for your words and example. Love you!

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