Everyone knows of someone going through a difficult time right now. While that may always be the case; it seems somehow escalated to me right now. I hear of large needs every day. Not just a sprained ankle or a root canal (which aren't easy themselves) but large life altering difficulties.
I have experienced my share of receiving in life. Especially with my husbands seasons of poor health. When he had his second surgery, it ended up being an emergency surgery 9 days after the birth of our second child. I was overwhelmed. People would ask me what I needed and I remember my mind literally going blank in the moment. I honestly couldn't think of what I needed. Later, when I would realize specific things that I needed help with, it was difficult to pick up the phone to call and ask someone to help. Honestly, many times I didn't. I didn't want to inconvenience anyone. I was embarrassed to ask for help. I wanted to be able to handle it all - after all, people kept telling me that, "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." I knew people genuinely cared, but I didn't understand how to receive and I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to hold my life together.
Now, several years later and a few more seasons of serious health issues with my husband; I have learned so much about giving and receiving as well as God's grace and goodness. There is always more to learn; but I wanted to take a few minutes and share some specific lessons that I have learned about both, "Giving" and "Receiving."
The Gift of Giving.
1. Prayer is one of the easiest and most powerful things that we can give. I encourage you to allow prayer to be your first step in giving. Pray specifically about how God might want for you to give. I have been blessed to be the recipient of many a creative and timely effort laid upon someone's heart after they have asked the Lord what they should do. (Examples to come at the end.)
2. Meals & Childcare - In most cases, these two items are extremely helpful. There are two websites (free) that I have found to be wonderful with the organization of both (You will need to copy and paste the web addresses into your URL) :
*You are able to enter in dietary restrictions and directions, dates needed, and all you do is e-mail the link out to those who you believe would want to help out. (If those helping are not computer savvy, you can enter in their meal dates, etc for them.) The recipient can see the meal and childcare schedule, know who is bringing what food, etc.
*Bring food in dishes that can be disposed and do not need to be returned (and say so when you drop off) or clearly label your dishes if they do need to be returned - it makes life MUCH easier for those trying to return them.
*Provide a few frozen meals that can be defrosted and heated for the time period after the initial stress but for days when they may be emotionally taxed later on. Write with a marker onto the Ziplocks or freezer containers how to heat later on (defrost for 3 hrs and then bake at 350 for an hr and 1/2 etc.)
3. Just Do It - Some will not know how to ask or receive. If you feel led to bring a meal, drop off cash, groceries, or something fun to bless and encourage; just do it. In my own experience; it was often much easier to receive this way. You can do it anonymously if you think it will embarrass them.
4. Set Boundaries in Giving - If you are giving to the extent that it is causing your own family stress or financial issues, it is too much. You cannot and do not have to give in tangible ways to every need. If you are on a ministry of meals team at your church and you have been called every week; it is o.k. to be honest with the person in charge that it is too much. If you are that person in charge; it may be time to recruit and add to your team.
5. Give from the Heart - Give without expecting (or waiting for) a thank you. Many times it takes awhile for someone receiving to have the presence of mind to write thank you cards. I have actually received a thank you card from someone who brought me a meal with the meal. They thanked me for giving them the opportunity to give and stated that it was the only thank you card that was necessary for the exchange - they released me from needing to write a thank you note to them. Being someone who was raised to write thank you notes -it was an added blessing.
6. Be Discreet - If someone has shared a need with you that is of a private nature; tell those who need to know in order for the need to be met, but do not send out a mass e-mail telling everyone or print it in the church bulletin.
The Gift of Receiving:
1. Remember that God created the "body" of the church for a reason. It is o.k. to be the recipient of other people's giving. God designed the church to function this way and meet the needs of each other.
2. Make a List - Like I mentioned earlier, in the moment when someone is asking what they can do to help it is often difficult to list off 2 or 3 things that you need. Set aside a notebook (or sheet of paper) that as you go through your day you can jot down things as they come to mind.
3. Be willing to be humble - Receiving can be difficult. You have to admit that you cannot do everything on your own and allow others to do for you. Embarrassed and humble are two different things. Be real with yourself about where you are in the moment. Realize that it is only a moment in time and that you are in the position of receiving for a reason. One of my pastor's actually talked with me about this concept of receiving during a difficult season. He very gently explained that we have to be "in a position" to receive from others and also from the Lord. He opened up my hands and lifted my arms up - palms out. I cannot tell you how uncomfortable that felt to me in the moment or how much I have embraced that and actually now often pray - palms open lifted high in expectancy of God's filling.
4. Be Grateful - You never realize just how differently others do things than you until they are "doing for you." Food will taste different. You may be brought a different brand of diaper or other item than you normally use. Focus on gratitude. Be willing to try new things. Be willing to learn from the way others do things. You may still despise "Shepherds Pie" in the end; but be grateful in the moment!
5. Be Open with Those Who You Can - We have gone through times when we have had financial need. There is nothing more humbling to me than admitting that you need money. I'm sure it is different things for different people; but the concept is the same. Be open with those who you can be comfortable telling. Allow them to share your need with those who could help but you may not be as comfortable sharing with. Do not tell your closest friends "Our mortgage isn't being paid; but DON'T tell anyone!!" You have to be willing to let go of some of your "private matters" with those you trust.
6. Keep a List of Blessings Received - I began doing this somewhere along the way. I set aside a notebook or sheet of paper that I wrote down every meal that was brought, every time that someone watched my children, when people gave us items, etc. It encourages you in the moment to see the list grow AND it is such a blessing in hindsight. It can also be a great list to write thank you notes afterward.
A few ideas of ways people have blessed us in the past:
"Fun Boxes" for my kids - we had to travel back and forth to the hospital (about an hr 1/2 - 2 hrs each way.) They put in coloring books, crayons, doodle pads, snacks, drink boxes, a small toy for each, etc. *It was a huge blessing to me & to the kids!
Cash taped to our door - with all of our medical expenses, we have needed help financially in the past. A couple people (at different times) have taped cash (in an envelope wrapped in a piece of paper) to our front door. Anonymously. I cannot tell you what a blessing it was in the moment of need.
Extra Booster Seats - A girlfriend bought two extra booster seats for me to leave at other people's houses when they watched my kids. It saved the hassle of taking mine in and out - it seemed a little hassle until I didn't have to do it - amazing how eliminating small stresses can be a blessing.
Gas Cards - ordered on line and mailed to us. Some we knew who they were from; others were anonymous. With all of the driving I had to do; it was such a help!
Photos of my Children - We literally cannot remember most of my second child's life from those first few months. My husband was touch and go and I was so completely exhausted that I burst out into tears when a friend gave me an album that she had made of his first three months. I didn't even know that she had been taking pictures. I am tearing up now just remembering the moment.
There are many more I could share, but this is getting long. I want to leave you with a wonderful quote by Renee Swain:
Prayer isn't about putting burdens on others. It's about inviting them into our conversations with God. It's about letting those we love walk down a path with us that we were never intended to walk alone.
Blessings & Peace to you!
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