This past week our family was so sick we couldn’t see straight.
It was a 72-hour marathon of toilets and buckets and bowls, and the laundry running round the clock on repeat. One by one I watched each kid succumb until it was finally my turn. Pete was the last man standing, until he wasn’t.
It was brutal.
We were shaken, and when my boys could finally straggle their way back to school, they looked relieved to be leaving behind the scene of the crime.
I was left with a still-sick husband, what felt like a hundred more loads of laundry to go, and the desperate urge to text my mother-in-law, begging her to get on the next flight out and rescue me from being a grown up.
Some days it’s hard to scrape yourself up off the floor.
On days like that it’s almost shocking when someone offers to help.
Because on days like that you’re so undone you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror.
The competent version of yourself got lost around 5am three days back, and you aren’t sure how to take the next step forward. You just keep spraying down the counters and moving cups of water from one place to another.
You forget to brush your hair.
You’re still too nervous to brush your teeth.
You look at the wreckage of your house and it’s all too much and instead you sit down on the carpet and stare into space. Around you the world seems to keep pace with the news and the headlines and the deadlines, but in your four walls time has crawled to a standstill, and when the lady from the rental agency knocks at the door for your annual inspection, you stare at her in confusion because you forgot that everything outside your house hadn’t stopped to take pity on what’s happening inside.
You need to buck up, you tell yourself.
You need to get it back together.
You need to clean the upstairs bathroom floor. Again.
And you need to check your messages.
I’m in the minivan — with all its discarded innards spilling in a confused chaos of shame out of the car and into the parking lot of my daughter’s preschool — when I get the message.
A friend, a fellow mama and writer, is throwing stew in the crock pot at 9 am and wants to know if I’d like her to drop half of it off for dinner at 6pm?
I don’t even hesitate.
I pick up the phone to reply, “No thanks, we’re fine.”
And then I remember how it’s only when we admit our un-fine moments that people can actually get to us to help us.
It’s one thing to write that; it’s something else to actually live it.
I just sit in the car with something sticky underneath my shoe and consciously breathe in and out. And in and out again.
Then I pick up the phone and just say four words, “Thank you, yes please.”
I text her my address and then put my head down on the steering wheel and cry. Because comfort can undo you. Kindness can unglue you.
Because for all we tend to think we’ve got our lives under control, that is the biggest kind of self deception. We’re all just one stomach bug, one bad report card, one month of missed work, one negative interview, one lost wallet away from losing all the bits and pieces of our lives we hold onto with such tight fists.
And sometimes you sit in a minivan with both hands wide open and palms up to the sky and just whisper thank you, thank you through your tears and snotty nose. And Jesus reminds you, again, that you are not in control. And that while it may seem like He’s asleep in the boat, it’s not because He doesn’t care. It’s because He’s so deeply confident the Father is in control.
I’ve eaten Angela’s stew for the last four meals now.
Dinner the first night. Hot, chewy, chunky bits of meat and pieces of potato and carrots. Rice on the side. The kids inhaled it.
Then I ate it for breakfast and lunch the next day and lunch again today.
My eyes well up every time I open that old tupperware lid.
It’s why I keep eating it.
Because this is the totally uncomplicated gift of good neighbors.
Because this is what grace tastes like.
Totally underserved. And totally fulfilling.
Question for you: When last did someone do a simple act of kindness that filled you up all the way to your toes? We’d love to hear about it.
Melanie Ewert says
I’m with you. My first reaction, is “no – we’re ok – thanks!” with a smile. As if we need to be okay because someone else out there is probably having a harder time. Or because I want to be supermom, not realizing that part of the gig is being real about our needs. All the while, we could be enjoying community (and good food)! And love from our neighbors. Which hopefully we’ll return simply by being part of each other’s lives. Thanks for this…I’m digressing, but really thankful. 🙂
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Yea exactly, and we forget what a blessing it is to friends to help us – it’s exactly what we’d want to do for others – and yet we deny them that blessing when we say, No thanks.
Kris Camealy says
Such good words for me today, Lisa Jo.i am terrible at accepting help–but God continues to teach me to say “yes”, to be humbled in my weakness and give thanks for how He uses others to meet our needs.
Praying your family is well, we have been dealing with it a bit here too. Yuck.
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Yea, it’s funny how we all want to offer others’ help, and yet have such a hard time receiving it, isn’t it?
Bethany Lovelace says
This reminded me of the stomach bug we attracted two months ago. You are right, it is like a modern day war zone! With four Littles down, hubby on a business trip, and the whole world treating us like we had ebola, it is safe to say I was a bit discouraged. Until my friend contacted me. Said she wasn’t afraid of any tummy bug and would be over in a jiffy to help mop floors. What?! Did she not know how contagious this stuff was? Did she have a death-by-rotovirus wish? I was completely overwhelmed. That’s when I realized (again) the effect of true love- it is completely un-rational (at least in our minds) and totally overwhelming. May we all learn to embrace it more fully, no matter what side of the fence we are on. Thanks for your wonderful words of encouragement!
Lisa-Jo Baker says
The. Best. Ever.
Kirsten Heck says
My husband took a job 500 miles away, with the thought that our house would sell quickly and the girls and i would join him soon. That was seven months ago – my toddler is now potty trained and the baby is almost walking, and we still don’t have an offer on the house.
Our neighbor across the street has raked and bagged our leaves, shoveled our sidewalks, put our trashcans away and dropped off a six pack, all without being asked and while taking care of his own young family.
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Oh man, the best kind of good samaritan neighbors!
The true meaning of neighbor, Godsend. It’s nice to hear that you having someone watching out for you.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
My latest experience with being humbled into accepting grace was when I had major knee surgery and literally could not put weight on my one leg for a month. The teachers I worked with, friends and neighbors set up a meal caravan and for several weeks brought dinner to my door. To say that I was overwhelmed was an understatement. Sure, I have done my share of dinner baking and taking, but this was over-the-top grace. My immediate gut response was to say no, or upon saying yes, felt guilty that I was being an inconvenience. God taught me A LOT during my recuperation about humbling my pride and being the recipient of unmerited grace and love. A life lesson we need to be reminded of over and over. Thanks for sharing so honestly this morning…reminded me of how much I am blessed!
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Yes yes yes – it’s so hard, isn’t it Bev? To be so dependent on the grace and kindness of others. Amazing lessons in living daily grace.
Amy M says
I can so completely relate to this. Even when things are going completely crazy on my end, that urge to say, “No thanks, we’re fine!” is there. And yet, I’m finding that when we actually accept help or when others let us help, those bonds between us deepen and strengthen. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own personal walk, and sometimes I forget that we’re supposed to lavish love on each other and that we’re all in this together.
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Amen to that Amy!
Lisa Marie says
I have a newly discovered chronic illness and our tiny community has been amazing. From church friends to strangers from the city pay it forward Facebook page, we’ve gotten groceries, a meal every week, a basket of God goodies, and our Pastor even took my son to a basketball game. Our home is stress packed. My son has never been to a basketball game. The hardest thing was admitting how unfine I was and how unfine we all were. This illness has taught me much about humility. In my already bent-low position of pain and fatigue, I must allow others to bless me, anoint me, wrap a blanket around me, and feed us ham and cheese casseroles. What a beautiful lesson of grace and mercy this has been!
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Oh Lisa Marie, what a beautiful story of grace with legs. I love that! Blessings on your family and your dear community.
I will keep you in my prayers.
Stephanie McFarlane says
God bless you for sharing. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by all that we are experiencing; then a friend or neighbour happens.
Lisa-Jo Baker says
It never ceases to amaze how that kind of gift overwhelms with gratitude.
Katie Scott Randolph says
I so understsnd and have benn the one to have to ask for TV help. Thank you.
Krista Dowdey says
We added two preschoolers to our family in January (in the process of adopting) and my MOPS friends and church family blessed our socks off – every time I opened the deep freeze I teared up b/c I saw LOVE in the form of froze meals to feed my family
Lisa-Jo Baker says
Right? It’s amazing the power a casserole has to make you cry 🙂
i’m glad to hear that you are all on the road to recovery and that there was some light shed in your ordeal. Sometimes simple gestures, random acts of kindness can make such a difference.Thank-you for sharing such a real time in your life.
Recently friends offered to watch our dogs for the day which was so thoughtful. At first I was going to say no but I changed my mind and I’m so glad I did. This friend was dealing with bad news so not only did she help us but in the end they brought provided her with comfort. It reminded me that sometimes by denying someones offer I might be taking away from them, unintentionally.
On 1/11/11, just 4 1/2 months after relocating to a new community, my daughter and I were in a rollover accident. She got out with just deep bruises and some cuts on her hands. I fractured my T-11 vertebra, spent 4 days in the hospital and 3 months in a brace, unable to bend or twist at all. The day I got home from the hospital, the first meal arrived. And every other night, for a month, we received a meal, complete with salad, bread and dessert. Most nights, my husband would bring the meals home from school (he was the new superintendent). But sometimes a stranger would show up at the door with food. It was truly overwhelming. On days when my husband had a meeting we couldn’t get out of, “someone” would show up to take me to Physical Therapy and home again. Most of these people did not even know me. And yet, they let me know that this new community we had moved to, was definitely our HOME!!
We actually just experienced almost the same thing we’ve all been sick for the past month both my babies and then my husband and now finally me. I was so overwhelmed with dr appts, dishes, trying to cook and I’m not the person to ask for help unless it’s my mom haha. But yesterday when I was at the pharmacy picking up another set of antibiotics for my son and I was trying so hard to get my 2 year old to leav with me even though just wanted to stay and play with the toys so now I have both kids hanging from my arms while trying not to leave all the other things I have to carry behind when the pharmacy gal came and grabbed my two year gave him a sucker and followed me to my car with him. She’ll never know truly how much that helped. Then when I got home one of my small group friends showed up on my doorstep with dinner. It was amazing. I was thanking God for prompting these beautiful women to help me because if He wouldn’t have I never would’ve asked for help. So many thanks flowing from my mouth and heart
This was encouraging to read as it reminds that there are people who are going through what I have gone through (regarding the sickness and how overwhelming it can be AND having a husband gone for 2/3rds of it due to business travel) and it was awesome to read how the kindness of others came to your aid. Christ love in action through the actions of others. Just how it should be. Thank You Lisa Jo Baker (and all others who shared).
Crystal Bergen Ranson says
This is me. Today. 7 day nasty virus with my 2 1/2 year old (over my bday!!!) and now a sick 5 week old. And my sweet neighbor is bringing me dinner for the 2nd night in a row! AND I said no at first! Coincidence???
The morning after the worst birthday I’ve ever had, when things were falling apart in my family, one of my friends came and picked me up before church and we ate bagels and chocolate milk in the park. She had stopped by the house the day before (the ugly day!) and seen right through my “fine” exterior. It was a clear reminder to me of how weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
I love being the one to help someone else. I sortof despise asking for help. So this was a good post for me to read.
Huey-Tyng Sun says
How delightful to read this and to have actually met the dear, sweet woman that you are referring to here! Angela welcomed me into her home for the incourage meetup many months ago. Reading this made me smile. Thank you to you both! 🙂
Angela Nazworth says
Huey-Tyng!!! So nice to see you here. It was a blessing to me that you attended my (in)Real Life meetup last year. I keep your sweet thank you note on my fridge as a reminder to pray for you.
Amanda Southey says
I was in hospital for 3 weeks with high risk placenta praevia before the birth of my third son. My friends rallied around my family and provided meals for my husband and 2 sons at home for the entire 3 weeks, and 2 weeks beyond that after I had my caesarean. 4 years later, I still think of that time as the most incredible time of seeing the love of God in action through the willingness of a group of ladies to be the hands and feet of Jesus
Tara Ulrich says
When my dear friend and her husband let me stay at their house. I live a block from my place of work and was on vacation. My friend was too and was going to be out of town with her family. They told me to stay at their house. It was pure gift!! When I got to their house, there was a note on the kitchen table for me. There was wine in the fridge, pizza in the freezer and firewood already in their firepit. It is a gesture I will always remember!!
Lisa-Jo, I do believe you are one of the most “keepin it real” writers in this cyberworld of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I always enjoy your posts and I can in all ways, relate!
Amber Fischer says
I have a friend who has brought me food two different times during my pregnancy and will bring another meal when the baby arrives. She can always sense when I am at my lowest and things in my home are at their worst and I am always humbled by her generosity. Food is something most of us can do and even though I still have a hard time accepting these gifts, I always remember them when I am at my best so that I can easily bless others with food when the waters are rough.
We find ourselves in a position of need. Praise God people are giving and giving and giving again, as the song says. Hands and feet of Jesus. But it it HARD to receive. To be in a position where you have no choice but to say “yes please” when you really want to be able to say “no thank you”. It is so much easier to give. I would much rather wash your feet than have you wash mine.
One night as I was praying I asked God to help me be a gracious receiver. He reminded me of the time Peter said “never shall you wash my feet!” Jesus’ responded by saying ” If I don’t wash your feet, you have no part with me.” He showed me I need to allow my feet to be washed by those whom he chooses to be his hands.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens” will get nowhere if the person on the other end of the equation won’t let anybody help! We need not to rob each other of the blessing of service for Jesus’ sake.
We have our own small business so when my husband broke his ankle 8 weeks ago, requiring surgery and 8 weeks out of work, it was devastating to us. I could not figure out how we were going to feed our 5 kids and pay bills. Some friends of ours who aren’t any better off financially than us, came by with a check to pay our rent. Said they had this money put back and had been asking God to tell them what to do with it. At first we refused then we realized this was Him teaching us about being good receivers and understanding what it’s feels like to be on the grateful end of a gift. There are no words for what this meant to me, my kids, my husband…and the strengthening of my faith. Love you LisaJo…Your neighborly gift of being honest and pointing me in my mess to Jesus has blessed me more times than I can say. Wish I was around the corner to hug you. Xo Shay
Diane Torres says
I struggle with this, as many of you do. I am a single mom of 3 and feel like I am supposed to be able to handle it all. Everyone is always telling me how strong I am and how they don’t even know how I do it all. It’s by God’s grace that I haven’t gone mad…lol. (19 yo daughter, 7 & 6 yo sons) But I’ve turned down help more times than I care to count because of pride, because I think it’s what I’m supposed to do, because someone out there has it worse and I don’t want to accept help for what I deem as a petty need. BUT, I had a friend from my Emmaus group offer me help and when I said “No thanks, I’m fine” he reminded me that God gives us all different gifts. Some people have been given the gift of helping others and by me saying no out of pride or because I don’t feel worthy, I’m actually not allowing that person to use the gifts God gave him or her. When he said that, it made me look at things in a whole different way. I still struggle, don’t get me wrong, but I remind myself of my friend’s statement and it helps. I hope it helps someone out there too. And I pray your family feels better soon. We had it in our house. And it wasn’t pretty.
Sarah Penner says
My family went through 36 days of illness. We just passed it around over and over… and over. I was undone. I’d barely slept, stressed WAY more than necessary, eaten too little and was beyond my limit. A friend from church organized a surprise girls night for me. For me. Seriously, I still get choked up to think that those ladies (while enjoying the night for themselves) came also for me. Again, for me. In spite of knowing that it seemed near-death had set up camp at our home, they came. Not just one or two. There were at least a dozen ladies there. I was chauffeured there, someone had bought MY favorite snacks and they blessed me with hours of laughter, games and friendship. Totally undeserved. And still totally fulfilling. We are so blessed by friendship… by love. God is good to send us help in the form of 12 laughing, eating ladies. <3
Pat Morris says
My mother and I often remind each other that when we decline an offer of help we are stealing someone else’s blessing. We always feel wonderfully blessed when we get the chance to be the hands and feet of Christ, why would we want to deny someone else the opportunity to do the same.
Traci Rhoades says
We’re better in so many ways when we accept the gifts! Thanks Lisa Jo for the reminder.
Hj St Cyr says
Our best friends lost their son to suicide a few weeks ago. We needed a place for our daughter to go while we went to the funeral.. I had just barely got the word “funeral” out of my mouth when our neighbor said “anything you need, anything at all – how can I help?”. I held back the tears just enough to make a plan and say thank you.. I am so grateful for the people in my life
Beth Williams says
This year I turned 50. My co-workers got a big balloon, some cupcakes and a nice gift card to Cracker Barrel. Two other co-workers took me to eat at
chick fil a. I was totally floored, but accepted it all with a gracious thank you!
As for me I tend not to ask people if they want something. If I know you well enough I will cook a meal for you and bring it right over. That gives me satisfaction and joy knowing I helped a fellow Christian out in his/her time of need. There have been times when I’ve sent money anonymously. Not wanting to make the person feel bad, but knowing they could use the help! It’s who I am!
Angela Nazworth says
I love you, Lisa-Jo. And I was so blessed by your yes. Really I was.
Bless your hearts, glad that you’re feeling better now.
My 2015 word is not a nicey-nice word like my words from previous years were. This one may just be my undoing. And, as hard as it is to say, I have to pray “undo me, Lord.” My word this year is “control”. ~ “…the biggest kind of self-deception” ~ Indeed. I’m not good at being the broken one, so I unintentionally build walls. They’re soft walls, they’re not meant to keep people out, they’re just meant to protect my sense of control…the lie that I can handle my stuff, so I shouldn’t bother others with it. Meanwhile, I end up cheating others, and myself out of one of the truest blessings of sisterhood – vulnerability.
It’s only March, and I’ve got much growing left to do, but I’d like to think that I would have at least entertained the thought of not declining that stew supper. Yay for you for having the courage to be “unfine”. 🙂
Just reading this. Thankful that in the midst of our horrible mess we make a wrong turn, husband is frustrated yet I tell him, ” God may be protecting us from something. You just never know.” I never expected God to really let us see the true reason. Being able to be at the right place at the right time, His hands and feet. It felt so good. god can still use us in the midst of our messy.
It was a week ago on a Saturday morning. My parents had just left after visiting for a whole week and were headed back to MI (we live in GA). I heard a knock at the door and it was my sister in law with a card and a mason jar full of freshly picked flowers. She said she knew I would be sad and just wanted to brighten my day. It made me cry some more of course! It reminded me to always try to go out of my way for people and to not just say “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m praying for you” and actually DO something. We have to be intentional! 🙂 Glad you’re all feeling better!
I am a homeschooling mama to 5 kids (ages 8 & under) and my husband was hospitalized twice in the past month for a total of 18 days. The first time people offered help, I said no thanks. When he returned for a second hospitalization, I said yes. Meals, projects, Starbucks, babysitting….blessed!
A few months ago my 2-year-old was in the hospital for a respiratory illness. She luckily was feeling better, but was on steroids and was not interested in being stuck in bed due to her IV, oxygen, etc. My husband was home with our other kiddos and I was at the hospital with Sarah. We couldn’t leave the room because she had a virus and she was getting bored and irritated. Two different friends came to visit bringing snacks, toys, cupcakes and empty arms to hold Sarah so I could take a break. I’m sure they didn’t think it was any big deal but it meant the world to me. There just are no words when someone comes in to take care of you when you don’t know how you’ll keep going on your own. Thank you for sharing this!!
Several years ago, I had to have a hysterectomy. Here in the South, people are reluctant to mention that word. They refer to it as “the surgery,” and it’s usually said in whispered tones. I guess I could understand it being a sensitive subject if the person was young and didn’t have children, bc LIFE-ALTERING. But, in my case, I have kids and I’m old. I was very sick and had been toughing it out for years until my doctor finally said, “enough, already.” Still, we were new in town and I was NOT going to bring it up in my small group at church. I threatened my husband within an inch of his life if he breathed a word of it. So I had it on a Friday morning as out-patient…and, like a good (read: crazy) girl, I was in church on Sunday morning. I didn’t want anyone to know. And it was so silly. Even as I was SLOWLY CLIMBING A FLIGHT OF STAIRS to get to our SS class, I thought, “why did I feel like I needed to come today?” I’m sure it’s all rooted in pride. But my big, blabber-mouthed husband apparently cracked, and told a lady at church…and on Sunday evening, she quietly tapped on our door, and left us with one of those layered brownie/pudding/cool-whippy desserts. My husband and 3 boys never even got out plates. They dug into that thing like there was no tomorrow, eating it straight out of the bowl. I’ve thought about this lady many, many times…every time I make her recipe. She was so quiet, so kind. She didn’t ask if she could bring us anything…she just showed up. She didn’t come in…she left it with my husband at the door. It taught me so much about how to have grace in accepting kindness from others.