It has been a long time since I ventured into the blogosphere – 2.5 years if we are being specific. I got distracted. I lost the vision. I wasn’t sure I saw the purpose any longer. The internet is flooded with good things to read for inspiration or information. I wasn’t sure that the time I spent pouring my heart out was making a difference. I figured there were a lot of “better” of “funnier” or “more impactful” articles out there.
But I’m back. The reason I began this blog was because I have a passion for sharing what I have learned on my journey – especially the lessons learned on difficult paths. Those difficult paths are the ones that are made a lot easier if there is someone who has gone before you and can warn you of the hidden dangers, helping you navigate so you can successfully endure and finish. I do not claim to have mastered the art of walking difficult trails, but God has been faithful to teach me nuggets of truth and grow my character as I’ve pressed on.
This blog is a place that I can lay those lessons down for anyone to pick up along the way much like a fresh unopened bottle of water left on a long trail with a note that says, “This is for you, to help you along the way.”
As I said in the past, I can not make any guarantees about how often I will place those cold bottles of water down on the path, but I am once again ready to “journal in public.” Here’s my latest entry:
The last year and a half have been one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I thought infertility might keep the gold medal for being the most challenging season to endure, but I’ve realized that you can not really compare one challenge to another. It really does not matter which season had been tougher. The reality is that each season, each challenge has its own unique sets of obstacles and lessons to be learned. Similarly, two people may experience similar seasons of challenge with similar circumstances, but each person’s experience will be different and the level of challenge will be different. It is unwise to compare.
What is helpful is to offer to keep someone company as they navigate a difficult path. That does not usually mean offering advice. It literally means keeping them company and holding their hand as they attempt to step over obstacles and see their way through. There may be a time and place to offer suggestions, but most people really need encouragement more than they need advice or answers.
This last year and a half has been one of the most challenging seasons for me, mainly because I found myself walking alone. God chose to write our story in a way that looks different from the majority of people who navigate through seasons of parenthood. While the majority of my friends were having their children two years apart, Todd and I were struggling with infertility. Our first two children are 4 years apart in age.
When the majority of our friends were heading into new seasons of parenting with children that can wipe themselves, feed themselves, and dress themselves, and are in school full time, God chose to give Todd and I two miracle babies – launching us afresh into the physically demanding season of parenting young children. The majority of our friends are able to take road trips and even leave their kids alone for a couple hours while they go out on a date. Meanwhile, Todd and I have barely been able to keep our heads above water with the demands of small children coupled with the mentally draining demands of older children. With a 5 year gap between our older two and younger two children, our doctor told us that it is like we have two separate families. It’s true. It’s like we are raising two different families and it’s exhausting. We have an almost teenager in middle school and a little girl who is still learning to walk and talk.
There are so many beautiful things about the story that God has written for our family, and I promise to elaborate more in the future, but for now I want to share one of ways God has helped me to learn how to love others well. I read an article about a person who was drowning. Several people stood on the shore and said, “Give me your hand! Give me your hand!” but the drowning person seemed to not hear the pleas of those who wanted to help. Then along came another person who waded into the water and said, “Here, take my hand.” The drowning person reached out and was pulled to safety. The moral of the story is that the second person was able to successfully rescue the drowning person because they offered something rather than asking something of the drowning person. Both rescuers were trying to help, but the way they approached it was different. One offered something, while the others asked something of the drowning person.
Someone who is drowning can not offer anything to anyone. They are fighting for survival. This past year and a half was a year of fighting for survival. I was literally putting one foot in front of the other trying to make it through each day. I couldn’t reach out and ask for help. I was fighting to survive. One day, when I was sick with the terrible flu that went around this year, I had two friends reach out to me and say, “here, take my hand.” What that looked like was a text that read, “Can I take your older two children for you? They can come over and bake cookies and do crafts. At least you’d have a couple less to worry about.” A text from another friend (a mother of 5) read, “Can I bring you a meal tonight? It’s nothing special – just a frozen lasagna, but I would be happy to bring it to you.”
I can not explain how much those two texts lifted my spirits. They knew I was sick and instead of waiting for me to ask for help, they held our their hand and offered something.
When you offer something specific, you run the risk of offering something that wouldn’t be helpful or that the person does not want to accept, but more often than not, you will be able to help. Saying, “Let me know if you need anything,” is putting the ball in their court and asking them to do something. It may sound nice and make you feel better for saying it, but they may not be in a position to actually reach out to you. They may need you to wade into the water with them and offer something specific that will help.
So if you really want to help those in your life who are struggling, offer something specific that you plan to follow through with. Do not offer empty well-wishing. You will be amazed at what it does for your relationship with that person as well as the joy that comes from being able to offer a hand that actually helps another.