Featured Writer: Alia Hagenbach
My sister-in-law, Sarah, just finished cleaning my toilets and scrubbing my tub, and then she’s going downstairs to cook dinner for my family. I don’t even want to clean my toilets, so I can only imagine how gross it is for her, who keeps an immaculate house, in spite of being busy with her three children.
She also left me gorgeous flowers on my bedside table.
Before you think she’s my personal slave or I’m blackmailing her, she’s the kindest soul for any hurting or needy person and right now I’m both.
Pneumonia has infiltrated my lungs and just walking to the bathroom leaves me breathless and gasping. This isn’t the first time I’ve been really sick and if my past is any indication, it won’t be the last.
Sarah has coordinated meals when I’ve had babies, dropped off food for people who’ve needed it, handed out propane canisters and packs with toothbrushes and warm socks to the homeless on street corners.
When faced with someone else’s crisis I have too often offered my sympathies and murmured something about, “If you need anything, just let me know.” I have never been taken up on that vague offer, not once.
And it’s not that I didn’t want to help, I did. I just didn’t want to overstep my bounds. Saying to someone, “I am going to show up at your house and fold your laundry, and clean your toilets so you can recover,” seems sort of…bossy. What if they really don’t want me there? What if I’m just in the way? What if the whole situation is totally awkward?
We live in such an independent society in so many ways that even in community we often don’t let each other see our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I don’t advertise that my toilets are filthy and my kids have been watching Netflix all week while I’ve been in bed, or that this sickness has me dangling on the cusp of another depression and I am praying that I don’t sink lower.
And sometimes being helped is awkward. It’s always easier to be the one offering the assistance: the one who has it together instead of the one who’s falling apart. My pride stands in the way of expressing hardship. My insecurity stands in the way of expressing weaknesses. I want to seem like I have it all together too. That I don’t need someone’s help, that I am on top of the situation.
But crisis is a means for connection, if we allow it. And for me, three homeschooled kids and a sick mamma on bed rest is a minor crisis if for no other reason than those kids seem to want to eat several times a day. And as people sign up with Sarah to bring meals, and bless me in my crisis, I am appreciative, because feeding those kids is a tangible need that is being met.
It makes me think about the times in the future when I offer my help. Instead of saying something vague, I plan to offer something practical. “I would love to bring dinner to you, which night should I come by?” Or, “I’m running to the store, can I pick you up some things or could I watch your children for a few hours for you?” Or if you’re really bold, you could just show up and start to clean their toilets. They may feel really awkward at first but my bathroom is so sparkly and since being sick, I’m in there a lot.
A lot of moms initially refuse the offer of help.
It’s ingrained that we have it under control, even when we don’t.
We have to let ourselves be authentic, dirty toilets and all.
Why do you think it’s hard for us to show our “messy mommy moments?” How has someone helped you when you were in crisis?
images via flickr- Atle Brunvoll, michelleums.tumblr.com
Alia is a grace saved, much forgiven, wife to Josh, and homeschool momma to 3 beautiful children. She would consider herself a coffee dependent, writer of random musings at Narrow Paths to Higher Places, and attempter of all things crafty. She has a heart to see God glorified in the seemingly mundane and to allow the trials of her life to point to His infinite grace.