Asking for Help: Why it’s Hard, Why We Should, and How to Do it

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Want to know my dirty little secret?

Well, actually it’s my clean little secret… 

We pay someone to clean our houseShhhh!!

I know, I know, some of you are highly disappointed—you were hoping for something a little more scandalous! But others of you definitely gasped when you read that. Some of you shook your head in disappointment, and some of you actually breathed a sigh of relief (because now you know you’re not the only one!).

It’s silly, really; but I can count on one hand the people who know we have housecleaning help (or at least I did until now, LOL). It’s just not something I tell people. 

Part of me feels embarrassed, like my “Supermom” status is at stake because I need help mopping my floors. Another part of me feels ashamed for getting assistance with something like cleaning. And part of me feels guilty—for putting our mess on someone else, for splurging on something I could do myself, and even for having enough money to pay someone when so many people are struggling.

But the truth is, I need help. I have my share of gifts; unfortunately, cleaning is not one of them. I can do it, (and with six people in our family I obviously still do!) but I don’t do it well. And I don’t like it. As hard is it was to ask for help, it has made a huge difference for our family.

When is the last time you asked someone for help? Was it hard for you? 

For me, it depends on what it is. Earlier this week, we changed plans and needed a last minute T-shirt design for a college ministry retreat. I had a choice. I could spend several hours attempting to design something that, let’s face it, would look awful no matter how much time I invested in it. Or I could text a friend and ask for help.

I am not kidding; the first draft of the design was completed within three minutes of the text. 

THREE MINUTES! 

Umm, yeah, I think that was a good decision!

Seriously, how cool is this shirt?!

But there are other times when I am not so quick to ask for help, even from my own family. There are certain things I simply feel are my duty or don’t want to bother others with. Often it’s just easier to do it myself. As a stay at home mom, I tend to view most of the household tasks as my responsibility. Asking others for help makes me feel lazy, incompetent, or like I am burdening them (which is ridiculous… but we’ll get to that in a bit.)

Still, it begs the question—why is it so hard for us to ask for help?

WHY WE’RE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

There are a few reasons most of us are afraid to ask for help. 

The first reason is PRIDE. We like to think (or pretend?) we can do it all. Our ego drives us to over-excel, presenting an image of someone who can be all things to all people.

When something needs doing, we do it ourselves. If we don’t know how to do something, we’ll figure it out. Admitting we need help feels like failure somehow. Accepting assistance from others embarrasses us. It shows weakness and vulnerability, and those are not a traits our culture values.

Another reason we’re afraid to ask for help is because we don’t want to inconvenience anyone. This is particularly true for those who enjoy helping others. 

There is something engrained in us that causes us to feel good about meeting other people’s needs, but makes us feel selfish when we are the ones who need help. We know how valuable time is, especially when we spend a lot of it helping others, and we don’t want to be the reason someone else feels stressed or overwhelmed. 

When given the choice, we choose burn-out over selfishness every time.

What About PAYING for Help?

As Christians, we have also created a false narrative around paying for help. If there is something we can do ourselves (or figure out how to do ourselves), it seems wasteful to hire someone else to assist us. Spending money on such tasks appears extravagant; some might even say sinful. (Which, again, is ridiculous, but it’s a thing!)

We feel guilty for splurging on things we can do ourselves, and maybe even embarrassed that we have enough money to do so. Shouldn’t we give that money away rather than spending it on ourselves? Are we really being good stewards of what the Lord has blessed us with? 

Maybe. Maybe not.

After all, we spend money every day on things we can do ourselves without thinking twice about it. 

Have you ever paid someone to make you a cup of coffee or cook a meal for you (Chick-fil-a, anyone)? Do you grind your own wheat, bake your own bread, and can your own vegetables, or do you simply buy them from the grocery store? Maybe you pay someone to maintain your lawn or vehicle or plumbing, to spray for insects, or do your taxes. And certainly you could cut your own hair and paint your own nails…but it probably looks better when you pay someone to do it!

We spend money on lots of things we can technically do ourselves without even blinking an eye. Yet, somehow spending money on certain things seems embarrassing or selfish to us, and its time we start asking ourselves why.

WHY WE SHOULD ASK FOR HELP (BENEFITS)

While asking for help can be difficult, there are several reasons we should do it.

1. Our Gifts Are Different

First, each of us is gifted in different ways. Our weaknesses are someone else’s strengths! God created us to work together as a body. He does not expect an eye to figure out how to be a foot or a hand to learn how to smell. Sometimes we need to ask for help to do things we can’t do well (or at all). We might even need to pay for that help, and that’s okay!

I recently asked my Facebook friends what keeps them from asking for help, and my friend Kenna’s response stood out from the rest: “I can’t think of anything. When you’ve lived alone as long as I have, you learn to lean on others.”  

Isn’t this how God intends for us to live as the body of Christ—using our gifts to bless one another, depending on one another to help when we have a need?

2.  Our Time Is Valuable

In today’s culture, time is often a more valuable currency than money. Sometimes our best investment is to ask for help so we have time to do what we’re best at, what’s most important, and what we’re called to do. I could have spent several hours creating a design for those t-shirts, but instead I spent that time organizing every single detail for the rest of the retreat. Asking my friends to aid me with their gifts allowed me to be much more productive with my time.

Similarly, I can certainly scrub my own tubs and mop my own floors! But paying someone to do it for me frees me up to be more present with my family. It enables me to spend those hours helping with schoolwork, taking my boys to play basketball, or writing a blog post. Someone else can clean my house, but I’m the only one who can be “Mom” to my kids. For me, the time with my family is worth more than the money we spend.

3. Our Pride or Fear May Be Hindering a Blessing

I was pregnant with Noah when we hired the Brazilian couple who cleans for us, which means they have been with us for over eleven years. They love talking with our children, and they pray for us as they clean. With the effects of COVID on the economy, they really need this job. But even if they didn’t, we couldn’t let them go, because we consider them part of our family! 

Just as it brings us joy to help those around us, someone may want to bless us by sharing their talents with us. Likewise, when we pay someone to assist us, we are also helping them meet their financial needs with dignity. It’s a win-win situation!

Being too proud or “selfless” to ask for help can actually be “selfish” when we view it from a different perspective. Allowing ourselves to be blessed by others and to be a blessing to them paves the way for God to do greater things than we can even imagine!

So, how do we learn to ask for help?

HOW TO ASK FOR HELP

Now that we know why it’s hard to ask for help and why we should do it anyway, let’s talk about how to do it. Here are some questions to assist you in discerning where you need help and how you can get it.

  • What do I spend more time on than I would like?
  • What do I avoid doing because I don’t enjoy it, it will take too much time, or I’m not sure where to start?
  • What are 3 projects that would bring me great joy and peace if they were not hanging over my head?
  • What is one area I could outsource that would be a blessing to me/my family? How might it be a blessing to others as well? (For example, it would financially help the person I’m paying; it would be a blessing to my kids because I can do fun things with them; it would decrease my husband’s stress to not have to spend his day off working on the yard; it would bless my readers because I have more time to write; etc.)
  • If I currently have more time than money, how can I use my resources creatively? Is there something I can give up in order to pay for this service? (Trade weekly Starbucks expense for a sitter; Sell something to pay someone to clean/organize; etc.)
  • Can I use my time or talent to barter for what I need help with? (Childcare for computer help? Financial advice for manual labor? Decorating tips for tutoring services?) 

Friends, what if it became normal to:

Ask for help when you need it. Pay someone so you can use your time in other ways. Use one another as resources when we need assistance. Encourage others to build their “team.” Bless others with dignity when you are able.

What would life be like then?


It would be a lot easier, I think. Less frustrating. And possibly a bit more like God intends for it to be!

Where do you need help? Who can you ask? And how can you return the favor by being a blessing to someone else? 

Because as my friends from Chaos2Calm like to say, “You can do ANYTHING, but you can’t do EVERYTHING!”

A Letter to Heaven

Diana with Sarah following a piano recital

**Note: I wrote this three months ago, but wasn’t sure I wanted to share it. Sarah continues to flourish and find joy (and Jesus) once again through her music, so I decided to share in case it encourages someone else. But mostly, just so I have a record of God’s faithfulness to my girl! ❤ You can read a little more about Diana in this blog post about Sneaky Grief.

My friend,

I wish you could have heard the joy in Sarah’s voice when she called us today. She had just finished her piano evaluation, and she was over the moon! She prepared two pieces, but only had to play one (All of Me~ one of the many “beyond her ability” pieces you inspired her to play!). 

This is a really big deal. 

You see, she hasn’t been able to play since we lost you. When you died, something deep inside her died as well. Piano has been her emotional outlet since she was a little girl, but now it only reminds her of you. 

She tried to keep playing; she really did.  And she even kept teaching some of your old students, carrying on your legacy as she inspired them to play. But she stopped playing herself because it hurt too much to miss you. Her heart became deaf to the music of her soul.

Honestly, I was afraid she might never find it again.

I will be forever grateful to the precious teacher God brought into our lives after you passed. She was so patient with Sarah, understanding how her grief was tied to her playing. Sarah gave her very little effort, but this dear woman knew how much effort it required just for her to show up. She helped Sarah complete some goals you you began with her so long ago, enabling her to close that chapter without too much regret. While I feared this teacher was a bookend, I prayed that, instead, she’d be a bridge to something new…

A year and a half later, our girl is at college hundreds of miles from home. We are in these weird COVID days, and social events are limited. So, what does she do when she feels lonely or homesick or just needs a release from all the stress? How does she process all the different emotions swirling around inside her? 

She signs up for a practice room. 

Her fingers are slowly finding their way among the keys again, and her heart is slowly opening itself back up to the music. I can hear it in her voice, even with all these hours and miles between us. She is beginning to feel the music in her soul again. It’s breathing her back to life!

I don’t know where her music will lead her, and honestly, I don’t care. If she never plays outside her own living room, it won’t matter to me, as long as she plays! I just know she needs it~ it is part of her wiring, part of how God uniquely designed her, part of what brings her joy. She is not fully herself when she’s not playing, and much more herself when she is.

I know you would be so proud of her. She is beautiful and hardworking and just as stubborn driven as she’s always been! She has an elegance and professionalism that remind me so much of you. I see you in her sometimes, and it makes me smile. I hope you know how grateful we are for your impact on her life. 

We miss you.

My friend, I wish you could have heard her today. She is opening a new chapter~ letting go of her grief, stepping over her fear, and wading into new waters. It is uncharted territory for her, yet familiar somehow, as though you have prepared the way for her. She is no longer afraid. She is ready.

And I can hear you applauding her from heaven.

The Lies We Believe: How Comparison Robs Us of Community

“Don’t compare what you know about yourself to what you don’t know about me.”

These words were spoken over 20 years ago by a prominent speaker at a National Youth Workers Convention I attended. His comments were intended to humanize himself, a reminder to the rest of us that his life was not any easier, nor was his ministry any more effective than ours was. This is a lie we tend to believe- one that often robs us of the community we were created for. 

He mentioned the temptation for us to think he was somehow better than us simply because he was standing on a big stage, when in reality, his students bemoaned his “boring talks” and “stupid programs” just like ours did. Sure, he had wisdom to share, but he wanted to make sure we understood it was gained in the trenches, not by some royal edict or heavenly proclamation. 

He was “wise” because he had learned from his mistakes. He was “seasoned” because he had travelled long, difficult roads and persevered. He was not speaking to us because he was somehow “holier” than us; he was simply more experienced. 

And experience is not something you gain on the sidelines.

I have kept his statement tucked away since that day.  Occasionally, I pull it out to remind myself that “perfect” people (or jobs or children or marriages) are rarely what they seem on the outside, and if I take the time to investigate, I might find that their story isn’t all that different than mine. 

Fast forward to this weekend.

I was talking with a few friends, and one of them shared some struggles she was facing with her daughter. I mentioned that I had gone through a similar struggle with one of my girls a few years ago and would love to have lunch to compare notes. My sweet friend smiled at me a little sadly and said, “Oh, that’s okay. I’m sure this is on a whole different level than what you’re thinking. But thank you for offering.”

Y’all.

That is a lie straight from the enemy, and I told her so. 

I know because I have listened to it many times myself. Satan was telling my friend that what was happening in her family was an anomaly, something unusual and terrible that no one else could possibly understand or relate to. He was trying to isolate her, because once we are isolated, the only voice we tend to hear is his, and his job gets so much easier. That sneaky Deceiver loves to twist and distort the truth, whispering shame and despair straight into our hearts.

But he is a liar.

The truth is, none of us have perfect families. No one around us has a perfect life, a perfect spouse, a perfect job, or a perfect child. And chances are, whatever we are going through, there are people in our circles who have struggled or are currently struggling with similar things; we just don’t know it. 

See, my friend was comparing what she knew about herself to what she didn’t know about me. And as a result, she might have missed out on the very encouragement the Lord was trying to send her! 

That sounds just like the enemy’s work to me. 

Somehow my friend had created an idealized impression of my family. Now, if you don’t know me personally, I am pretty much a hot mess most of the time, and so is our family. I am a pretty open person, though, and I try to be very genuine in my (hot mess) life, as well as in my writing. However, there are things that simply can’t, in good conscience, be put on display for everyone to know. 

For instance, it is impossible to share some of our children’s struggles, who are wrestling with their identity and independence, and not risk compromising their reputations. Likewise, proclaiming our own faults and flaws to people who don’t know us or care about us can limit our credibility and influence, because they have no context in which to apply it.  So when someone’s life looks shinier than ours, even someone who is very genuine, there’s a good chance their laundry stinks just like ours does… they have just chosen not to hang it all out for the whole world to see.

Proverbs 13:3 wisely advises, “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” And Proverbs 12:23 says, “The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.” The Bible is full of such admonitions; it simply isn’t wise for us to bear our souls with just anyone. 

At the same time, God also encourages us to pour out our hearts to Him, for He is our refuge (see Ps 63:5, 8). And 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 

The Lord never intends for us to carry our burdens by ourselves. When we are struggling, we must not listen to the whispers of the Deceiver, telling us to hide our challenges behind closed doors, especially from the Holy One. 

Bad things grow in the dark. The best thing to do with our struggles is to bring them into the Light- to those who can offer wisdom and encouragement, and most importantly, into the Presence of the One who makes all things new.

God created us with a need and desire for community– both with Him and other believers- because He knew the burdens would be too much for us to bear alone. I love this passage from Ecclesiastes (Ch. 4, v. 9-12):

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (NIV)

Friends, if we are tempted to think no one else will understand what we are going through, it’s not true. If you are looking at other people’s lives (especially mine!) and thinking they are perfect, or at least more perfect than yours, you are being deceived. At best, they are a little further down the road. But more likely, they just haven’t put their struggles on display.

I am embarrassed to admit how often I have allowed the fear of what other people might think keep me from reaching out. We cannot let the lies of the enemy or our own insecurities keep us from experiencing the hope and peace Jesus offers us! We need each other!

In what areas are you struggling? What challenge are you facing for which someone else might be able to offer insight or wisdom? Who have you put on a pedestal of perfection without finding out their real story? And who around you might benefit from the difficult lessons the Lord has taught you?

Let’s choose NOT to compare what we know about ourselves to what we don’t know about other people. 

Instead, let’s lean in to the community the Lord has given us, unburdening our hearts and learning from one another, as we share this journey together. 

Not Home Yet…

I love serving with teenagers.

More than that, even, I love that my husband and I have teenagers of our own.

But so often, in both cases, my heart just breaks when I hear these young people feeling alone, or left out, or different. I know that feeling. We ALL know that feeling. It is normal, and natural, and part of growing up; part of being human, even. But that doesn’t make it any easier to feel!

I have heard a lot of this from my young friends lately, and it reminded me of something I wrote several years ago- a note for my children about living in a world where they don’t belong. Since I shared last week about my gratitude for “my people,” I thought I’d share this tonight for anyone struggling through those inevitable seasons of not quite fitting in. 

(NOTE: Edited 8/28/17 in response to wise words from a good friend to hopefully be more encouraging specifically to teens wrestling with being in this world at all. Your life is SO valuable and you are not here by accident! Please hear my heart and reach out to me or someone you trust! There are brighter days ahead if you push through the darkness.)

 

I want you to know that there are days-

sometimes even weeks or months-

when I feel like I don’t belong.

Still.

And I’m a grown up.

I know you feel the same way, too. I am sorry you experience this- it is a lonely, sad feeling, and in the midst of it, you will begin to hear lies. The whispers in your heart will tell you that you don’t have any real friends, and that’s why you feel this way. You don’t wear the right clothes, you don’t have the right “toys” (i.e., iPad, phone, jeans, etc), you’re not smart enough or sporty enough or musical enough or good enough… and that’s why you don’t fit in.

You may find yourself wondering why God would leave you all alone.

You may even wonder why He would make you in the first place, just to leave you all alone.

But these are lies, sweet ones, and don’t you believe them.

You see, as I said, even as a grown-up I still feel that way, too. And despite what that voice may tell you, there is actually a very good reason we feel that way, and it has nothing to do with all those lies.

It’s quite simple…

We were not made for this world.

We feel like strangers here, “aliens” even, because this is not our Home! This is not where we belong. Our spirits were created for another world, and until we are Home, we will not completely fit in here.

There are wonderful things to be found in this world-

Love.   Joy.   Friendship.  Laughter.  Purpose.

These are glimpses of our life to come, sparkles of heaven that drift through the mist, encouraging us to run the race with perseverance, trusting that the finish line is more than just an end.

And it is SO much more!

But we are not Home yet.

When the time comes, we will run into our Father’s arms, join the angels in singing His praise, and the piece (and the peace) that is missing from our hearts will fall into place at last.

Until that day, though, we are to live as His children here on this earth. Don’t rush it. Know that He created you and placed you in this world for a purpose, to bring Light and Love in a way that only you can.

Know that’s it’s normal to not quite fit in- EVERYONE feels that way at times (sometimes even lots of the time). You are not alone.

Know that time and maturity will give you a different perspective on those experiences, and may even cause you to be grateful for how they lead you to lean into Jesus.

And in those times when we feel alone, we can trust that God’s Holy Spirit is with us always, teaching us, encouraging us, and reminding us of our way back Home, just as Jesus promised.

You will feel alone, like you don’t fit in. That’s okay.

I still feel alone sometimes, like I don’t fit in.

But we are NOT alone… Our God is with us!

We won’t always fit in, because we were not made for this world. However, we were placed in this world for a purpose…

So don’t give up. 

Make the most of this temporary home. Fight the good fight. Remain faithful even when it’s hard. Reach out to others so they don’t feel so alone. Make a difference.

And when you do,

Heaven won’t seem quite so far away after all.

 

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.”     -1 Peter 2: 11-12, (The Message)

 

My People

You’ve heard it before.

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

The Church calls it being in “Community.”

My friend, Leah, calls it her “People”

You know the ones; the people who show up for you. The ones you laugh with, hang out with, and share food with. The people you see every day, or every week, or maybe only every so often, but regardless, you know they are there if you need them, and you would drop everything for them as well.

It’s my friends bringing me sleeping bags and air mattresses at 10:00pm the night before we leave on a family trip because all of ours have magically disappeared. Of course.

It’s another friend not only recognizing that schooling two energetic boys at the same time can often be counter-productive, but then offering to take one of them to her house for the day.

It’s my precious friend offering me the leftover food from her own surprise birthday party just to save me a few hours in the kitchen.

Or my other sweet friend who picks up my boys for a few hours when my husband is out of town, just because she knows I desperately need a few minutes to myself. (Even if it’s only to shop at Wal-Mart without my parade tagging along behind me!)

That same friend drops her kids off at my house, only to end up with our oldest daughter jumping in her car. She not only offers to take her grocery shopping with her, but uses the time to listen to her share- about life and faith and boys- and then pours godly wisdom from her mama heart straight into the thirsting soul of my girl. (I love you, you know that right??)

It’s that encouraging text when you need it the most, that smile and hug when you walk in the room, the belly laugh over something silly, and the tearfully whispered prayer with hands clasped tightly when the walls are crumbling around you.

I could go on.

I am so thankful for my “People…

Because I haven’t always had them.

I can remember several different seasons of life when I made an effort to BE that kind of person for others simply because it helped me not dwell on the fact that I had no one to be that person for me. At one point, I remember wondering what would happen if something happened to me or Jeff. Would anyone even show up? Who would bring dinners or pick up our kids?

I couldn’t name anyone for certain.

That was a hard season.

And yet, the Lord has ALWAYS been faithful to provide what we needed when we needed it. By giving us opportunities to reach out to others, He was also laying the groundwork for people who would, in turn, be there for us. And those lonely years planted seeds of gratitude that burst forth in thankfulness every time someone “shows up” for me. I do not take it for granted. I do not expect these acts of kindness, this unselfish thoughtfulness from my friends! I am astounded by it, melted by it, overcome each time it happens.

And I give thanks to the Lord, from whom all blessings flow, for my village.

My community.

My People.

 

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19