Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I haven’t written in this space for several months, so I thought I’d begin with a little life update…
Not long after my last blog post—back in July—I was asked to take on some additional responsibilities at Moody Bible Institute. I am now serving as the Chair of the Music and Media Arts Division—as well as continuing in my teaching position for the Communications Program, so I’ve spent this past semester getting familiar with my new role.
Simultaneously, I finished a chapter for an upcoming book from Moody Publishers, currently titled One Volume Seminary. I’ll share more about that exciting project when it launches.
Then, I turned my writing attention to the MBI monthly devotional guide Today in the Word (my first assignment for this publication). I had the honor and joy of composing the content for February 2020 from the book of Esther. I’m also excited to speak from Esther at this year’s Founder’s Week (February 4 – 7), the theme of which is “For Such a Time as This.” I hope you’ll join us! It promises to be a powerful week.
The kids have had a good year. Daryl was one of Tom’s gang in the spring McHenry County CYT production of Tom Sawyer. He continues to enjoy music and all sorts of creative endeavors—and this fall he joined the basketball team at school. Amelia continues to be our bundle of enthusiasm and joy. While Daryl is our “homebody,” Amelia always wants to be on-the-go. In addition to growing as a reader and shining in math, Amelia dances a couple of times each week. She loves being a part of the Raddish Cooking Club. And this fall she started lessons on the violin.
I am also beyond-grateful to report that God continues to heal Peter from his stroke. He had a strong semester, teaching a full load at MBI, and God opened several doors for him to preach and speak again.
So, we made it here, to the end of the long year. And since I didn’t get very far in my “summer series,” I thought we might as well pick up where we left off. New Year’s Eve always puts me in a reflective mood, and a few more lessons are certainly worth sharing before we move on.
ALSO, by way of context: I wrote previously (“How We Do Hesed”) about the many ways our community voluntarily came alongside us this past year. The following instance stood out to me as unique because it required me to ask, and therefore it has been a lesson all its own.
Here, then, is long-overdue Lesson 3…
“To Ask for Help Is Human”
Back in early August, as the school year was fast approaching, I laid our big family calendar on the dining room table and plotted out a typical Worrall school/work week, wanting to confirm that we had all of our bases covered for the coming season.
The plan was as follows:
While I taught extra-long Mondays at Moody, Peter would be home to get the kids to and from school, then to KiMudo practice and piano lessons in the evening. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Peter would teach all of his Moody classes, while I would work from home, take the kids to school, and later accompany them to CYT and dance. On Fridays, Peter and I could divide and conquer—tag-teaming who was home for the kids and who was down in the city at MBI. It was a carefully choreographed dance—every entrance and exit and pirouette perfectly timed.
Except for Wednesdays…
Wednesdays were proving to be a problem.
On Wednesdays, Peter and I both had meetings at Moody until 4 p.m. The kids’ aftercare program at school finished at 5, but—considering Chicago rush-hour traffic—neither Peter nor I could get back to the burbs until 6. There existed a gap of at least an hour where our kids needed additional care. Peter’s mum wasn’t arriving with reinforcements until late October. What would we do in the meantime?
If you’ve read much here at This Odd House, it probably won’t surprise you to know that I can be fiercely—even ridiculously—independent. I will try just about anything before I will “bother” someone else with my need. I don’t even like to hire people to work for us if I think I can do the job myself. For example, I have painted much of our house—inside and out—even when it meant dangling by my toes on my Little Giant ladder, so I could reach the top corner of our two-story stairwell. I can’t bring myself to consider a house cleaner—though I have been told by multiple friends that, given our crazy schedules, it would be a game-changer. I rarely even employ a babysitter when Mum isn’t in town.
However, after trying my best to finagle our family’s fall schedule, I finally had to admit the obvious: Worrall Wednesdays were not going to work. And we needed help.
But then—I wondered—from whom?
We don’t have family in the area, so I’d have to reach out to friends. And—as incredible as our friends are—the following messages also spun around in my head…
Everyone is so busy. They don’t have time to help us.
They have their own problems to solve and their own needs to meet. I don’t want to bother them with ours.
What if they have to tell me “no”? They might feel bad. I don’t want to put them in that awkward position. Or I might feel bad. “No” can hurt a little bit in any form.
Or even worse—what if they say “yes,” even when they shouldn’t? They might put themselves out, sacrifice their own needs, resent our family for years to come…
I wrote in my last post about “Facing into Fear.” This was—hands-down—my theme for 2019. God called me to face into several fears. Asking for help was one of them. I find it strangely scary to be vulnerable in that way. But in the case of Worrall Wednesdays, I had no other choice.
I swallowed pride (that crafty cousin of fear), and I started to think through our list of local friends, wondering who might have the inclination and the capacity to help.
God repeatedly brought our dear friend Jackie to mind. Jackie is wonderful with children—including ours. One focus of her life has been serving them. She and Amelia have a special little bond. And I thought she might be “between ministries” at that particular moment. Maybe she could fit our family in?
So, on August 22, I sent Jackie an SOS text, laying out our need. Her response was almost immediate. “I would love to be able to help you out! Love your kids!!”
What followed was a conversation in which we coordinated the details so it worked well for everyone. And, for several weeks, Jackie picked up the kids from school and hung out with them at either her house or ours. The kids—especially Amelia—loved their time with her. And I was deeply—surprisingly—affected by the whole experience.
First of all, I took away several truths about the simple act of asking for help.
- To begin with, we need to push past pride and reach out. In most cases, other people will not know our needs until we voice them. This is not a shameful exercise. It is beautifully and humbly human.
- It does help, however, to be specific with our request when possible. This allows the other person to make an accurate assessment of their ability to assist.
- We should also make it comfortable for the other person to answer honestly. Provide an easy “out.” Guilt trips are never a healthy or helpful form of communication. So, present your need. But also be prepared to lovingly accept a “no” when necessary. This is—quite possibly—just an opportunity to ask someone else.
- Recognize that, when we ask others for help, they will feel freer to ask us for help as well. We foster a community of caring, meeting one another’s needs, bearing one another’s burdens, sharing the love of Christ.
- This mutual kind of care should be a key characteristic of the church. Maybe leaders and laypeople alike could make this a central initiative for the New Year. How can we make it easier for people in need to make those needs known? How can we more effectively match those in need with other who can help?
Secondly, I observed the following in Jackie specifically.
- She was always clear about her own capacity. I always knew what she was able to do and what she wasn’t, so we were both comfortable with the arrangement. And I trust that this kept it from becoming more than she could handle.
- That being said, she was blessedly patient on the day that I was caught in extra-heavy traffic and sent frantic and apologetic texts, letting her know. “Grace abounds, sweet lady,” she wrote in reply.
- In fact, in much of our communication, Jackie made me feel as if I was doing her a favor, rather than the other way around. “It’s a fun highlight of my week!” she would text.
- Bottom line, God used Jackie in our family’s life this fall—not just to meet a logistical need—but to also show us more of what it means to serve.
If New Year’s Resolutions are a part of your annual routine, perhaps something of the above might make your list.
Happy New Year, all!