A while ago I was asked to do a radio interview about my book. In the course of the discussion the man asked me what advice I had for moms who lacked a support group. How can they find help? How can you meet the people who can encourage you, perhaps stirring you up to love and good works, and cheerfulness in the midst of potty training? Of course this doesn’t apply to moms only – lots of people struggle with this. But there is something unique about being a mom that makes it harder to really get out there and meet people. You could go to the park with other moms, and maybe not get past a few sentences coherently exchanged. There are diapers, scrapes, all manner of interruptions. It is not as easy to go somewhere because you need to plan around meals and naps and potties and whatever else is currently happening. You need to know that your own energy will hold up, that you could get yourself back home from wherever you are going. Most of the time mothers are not free to make friends the way they used to.
So what if you really need a little help? What if you are in that burned out, beat up, emotionally sloppy place that is so easily gotten into? If you are short on sleep, short on time, short on friends (or even long on friends who need you), and long on demands, this is simply going to be part of your life. The companionship of little children is delightful, funny, fun, and incredible demanding. Nursing and pregnancy can create an ambiance of exhaustion that is hard to get out of. I remember as a senior in high school I used to T.A. in the pre-school. I loved the kids, loved the funniness of everything, would stay for a few hours and feel like I needed to go lie down in a dark room somewhere for the rest of the day. Yet many of us live in an atmosphere a little bit like a pre-school classroom around the clock.
Anyways, back to the original question, how is this overcome? What should we do when we are flat out needy? The answer might not be easy, but it is oh so effective. Rephrase the question for yourself. Stop making a little mental list of all the things that would be nice to have someone do for you. Stop thinking of what you would like to be given, and start thinking about what you have to give. We have condensed this in our house to a very simple “when you need, give.” It is incredibly easy to fall into the temptation of keeping a close watch on potential nice things other people could do for you. But do not define yourself as a needer. Define yourself as a giver.
I know you are thinking (especially if you are a mother), that of course you are a giver. Look at all these people who loiter around you looking for handouts all day long. But there is a huge difference between giving things reluctantly or selfishly, or with dead eyes, or with threats, or as a bribe, and being a giver.
Imagine if that friend you wished you had came to the door with a coffee for you. Without smiling, she handed it to you and said “There. Are you happy now?” then she follows you into your house and says “Oh my word. My head hurts, I am so tired. What do you want me to do? Your laundry or something? FINE! I’ll do it.” Then she could set up a laundry folding area in the middle of your living room so that wherever you went you were able to see her looking imposed on, rubbing her temples dramatically, and sighing ostentatiously. After four hours of this kind of giving, she could finally leave your house with a parting comment about how totally selfless she is, and how it would be nice if someone would think of her every once in a while.
Would you feel so blessed? Would you be so thankful that you had a friend who gave herself so thoughtfully to you? I’m actually pretty certain that we all would have felt more like telling her as she headed out, “No one thinks of you because you have a corner on that market. No one could possibly think more of you and your needs than you do. Goodbye, and don’t come back. Don’t ever pretend to give to me again.”
Of course this is an extreme example. But how much of our “selfless giving” to our children is done with this kind of flair? How many of the meals we make are delivered to our families with a side of droopy eyes, temple rubbing, and loud sighs? Are we really giving what we think we are giving, or are we being that terrible imaginary friend to them? Do your children feel given to? Or do they feel like you would if someone like that came over to help you? Resented, insulted, boring, and unwanted.
The truth is that we cannot necessarily control whether we have friends who give to us. We cannot build a perfect support system for ourselves. What we can do is get outside of ourselves and seek to give to others with a cheerful heart. We can let go of our self absorption and start giving, every time we have an opportunity (which is many thousands of times in a day) with a thankful heart. So if you are feeling low, think of what you can give. You can always give a smile, give a cheerful laugh, give a meal with no strings of desperation tied onto it. You can confess an attitude that may be in the way. You can turn your thoughts out. You can look to the interests of others who God has placed so conveniently close for giving.
My Dad has always said, for years and years, don’t spend your time looking in your own heart. The human heart is full of nothing good. Do not go dumpster diving in the needy emotions that you are sure to find inside somewhere. When you feel needy, look to Christ. Because if you belong to him, you have no needs that have not been filled. When you are looking to Christ, you have so much to give. When you have what he has given you, and you still are consumed with what you need, you need to get yourself re-oriented. You have the Holy Spirit, you have the love of God, you have forgiveness of sins. Drink from that river when you are thirsty. Because that water flows so fast it can not be contained. When you turn to that source, your life will be a life of overflow. Overflow of joy, of gratitude, of forgiveness, or fullness of life. You can never out-need the greatest Giver. And all the needs below you? All the little cups being held up for water? Give with the same abandon that God gave to you. Give selflessly. Give without reservation. Give in kindness, in laughter, in forgiveness, and in joy. Give what you have been given.
51 thoughts on “When you need…”
Love. Love. Love. Always so encouraged by your words. Thank you!!
Geez, I started reading this, nodding my head. Then you said “The answer might not be easy, but it is oh so effective.” And I immediately tensed up, preparing to inwardly make excuses. But God definitely softened my heart by the last paragraph. Reading this was sort of like a massage that hurts like crazy at first, then starts soothing. I’m ready to love some babycakes with reckless abandon!
You just had a baby, you can’t possibly be getting much sleep, you’re recovering from major abdominal surgery, and STILL you manage to totally destroy the nice little pity party I was throwing myself. Thank you for that 🙂 The Lord is using you powerfully among moms of young kids.
I hate to admit it, but I think you might have been in my house this week, watching me selfishly “give” to my family. . . We returned from a week’s vacation Saturday, and I had a migraine from Sunday – Thursday, which presents a challenge when you are a stay-at-home mom to littles, ages 5, 4, 2, and 1. My migraine finally “broke” last night. So you would think I would be filled with joy today, grateful for my health, but instead I have been lamenting all the tasks I failed to accomplish throughout week, lamenting the piles of laundry and toys strewn everywhere, and even frustrated with the main job God has given me: caring for and discipling my little ones.
This article met me right where I was this afternoon. Truly I have all that I need in Christ!
Beautifully written, and so encouraging! In “The Great Divorce”(I think it was)C.S. Lewis said something about how you can always tell when one person is constantly giving to another, because of the other person’s hunted expression! Your post reworks that little story in a way that connects to young moms today. Thanks for reminding us to be a Mary, not a Martha.
A good word for moms with kids of all ages. Thank you!
What you said about a cheerful heart is so true–I think we must have been on the same wavelength today as I was writing about the thought life and the impact it seems to have on my ability to serve as a mom of little children cheerfully. Thank you so much for this.
Excellent post, Liz. Thank you.
Is this a chapter in your new book? When can I pre-order it? 🙂
Yes and amen! I experienced a radical change of heart when I began to seen the needs of others before my own. I noticed I was much less bitter and dissatisfied. God is so good to provide for our needs, how can we demand he provide more?!
Lovely lovely post Rachel! Thank you for your kind and helpful advice. The Christian walk is so often a lesson in learning to be less selfish in all things for christ’s sake and his glory. Thank you for bringing him glory and at the same time giving us something to learn from so that we may glorify him also.
Oh Rachel! You always hit the nail on the head so well. I think I’ll have to print this post out and stick it to my bathroom mirror for a bit so that my moaning has a good reply.
Wow. I was looking for something about this. So true. About me that is. I think I give so much, but always with a sigh, or what have you. Not very giving now that I read it. I need to favourite this on twitter and then, come back when I need a reminder.
Sigh…I need to stencil this on my walls! Thank you for the much needed reminder. As always, the Lord uses your words to convict and bring gentle reminders of where the strength is really found to live a truly Christ-like life.
Thank you so so much for your words of wisdom. Just today, I was thinking to myself, “how can I meet all of my children’s needs when I am so needy myself?” I am so glad that you reminded me to look outward to others instead of inward at my own selfish heart.
This is exactly where I found myself a few months back, and I couldn’t agree more! Out of my own personal angst and mommy woes, a friend and I decided that we would start a new ministry where we give back to other moms instead of waiting for someone to give to us. What we’ve ended up with is a strong group of women who selflessly agree to change out childcare responsibilities week to week so that the rest of the group can do whatever it is our little hearts desire for 2 hours while our kids have the time of their lives playing together. Our decision to give something has given back to us in so many ways, and made us happier moms and wives the rest of the week. God has blessed us with so much in our children, and even when we’re feeling thin, we cannot out-give God. 🙂
So very good for me to be reminded of this! I have found that when I lack friends or a “support system”, if I offer help, hospitality, and kindness, I am far more blessed than if I had gone looking for friends.
sooo soo good thank you Rachel. Love your writing, honesty and incisive truth filled words. They bring such life. btw. Joseph and JEnn Carlson are my cousins and we just made the connection that I follow your blog. THey speak very highly of you and your family. I have four girls under the age of 7, and have been very blessed by your book and blog. Blessings to you and yours =)
This is so good. I try to remind myself that I’m going to do the same tasks for my family whether I do them cheerfully or grudgingly, and the blessings from my work can be diminished or multiplied by a thing as simple as my facial expression or my tone of voice. Smiles are free, fast and easy to produce and they are so important to children and husbands!
Love this, Rachel! I think you were the one who told me that mothers should treat their children like they would any other Christian – to be kind to them and bless them like they would do for any other person in need. This has been invaluable advice and has helped me so much as I raise my little girl.
I absolutely agree, Rachel – spot on! I would like to add a side-note, though, if I may. I’ve raised five children and am now a grandmother. Recently I went through almost two years of constant struggle emotionally/spiritually and discovered (through the insistance of a good friend that I see a doctor) that there was a physical problem that was causing the vortex of neediness in my life. It’s been amazing to me, now that I’ve had surgery and no longer have to deal with that darkness, how strongly we can be overcome with things that aren’t always just attitude or gratefulness problems. So, yes, yes, yes to what you are saying. But, if this sort of struggle isn’t your normal struggle, or if there a depth and intensity of neediness that is not giving way, a visit to the doctor might be a wise next step.
Bless you, Rachel! For you have countless times blessed me with your words of wisdom and encouragement.
Like and triple LOVE 🙂
Great post as always… Thanks!
It is SOOOOO true! The Holy Spirit is amazing to give us not just power, not just ability, but the will to duke it out with the flesh, win, and serve. I like the little saying, and pray that the children will follow suit as we cheerfully give!
I was laughing out loud at the “selfless” friend bit; wow do I know her. Thanks for the encouragement and here is to serving with the intention of blessing and bestowing remembering the grace we have freely received.
Wonderful post! Thanks.
I was just reading in Jeremiah 18 of Judah’s forsaking the Lord’s streams established on the crags of Sirion and looking for foreign streams, and saw in your article the same thoughts that struck me there. How often do I go looking for what I need in far away places, when the well is under my nose? And why do I do that? Perhaps it is because my flesh likes to boast and won’t take what is free and ready. Also I am reminded that when I work myself up into a whirling dervish as I tear through the work that I have, I am trusting in adrenalin and anger to accomplish what His Spirit might do and receive glory from in my heart. My final thought is that the older I get, the more I realize the tyranny of self-love. I can waste so much time pleasing others instead of serving others — and again, I see there how I look for peace in foreign streams instead of the steady flow from the crags that is at my toetips.
Very timely good stuff! Thank you! 🙂
Okay, this totally killed me as I read, as I was just doing something for my kids with grump in my whiskers and thinking “You have got to be kidding me Crystal, you really think the kids feel loved by a mama who gives them a treat with an irritated attitude.” Thank you for confirming that I was in fact being a pill. I also love the giving, self absorbed, friend story. Hilarious! : )
I so needed this gentle reminder this morning. My father always said the same and I try to practice it. But it is definately not always easy. Thank you so much for this beautiful composition!
Love this! Thx.
Oh dear, I so needed that. This is exactly what I need today as I prepare myself for a long two days without my husband. The pity party started early for me this morning, I suppose this was a divine appointment. Thank you!
I just read the latest post by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience on bucket list-making and giving thanks that is along this same vein. Very good reminders!
as a mom of six, yes. yes. excellent advice.
I’m confused. First off, are there women who really do this? Who tirelessly give to their children, families, and whatever institutions & organizations in which they are members, and THEN feel like horrible people who need to repent because they had to say, “I need something right now,” “Ask your father,” or “Quid pro quo?” From the above comments, it looks like the answer to my question is yes. That’s so sad. Why shouldn’t you get a foot rub? Why shouldn’t you be able to take time for yourself? Don’t take it to some extreme and abandon those who do need you and, hopefully, love and appreciate you, those who you love and need and appreciate too. Maybe I’m reading this in an extreme way and missing the cliched point about giving, obeying, etc. with a cheerful heart. I just don’t want women or anyone, especially any kind of full-time caregiver, to fall into thinking that she’s/he’s bad for not being to dig a genuine smile out of the depths of her/his exhaustion. That’s cruelty to yourself. You are God’s creature, too. Debbie Mc in the above comments seemed to have a great, healthy way to balance her (and her group members’) needs with their responsibilities. Awesome! I always just explain to my son that, like him, I’ve got feelings, and sometimes I’m sad or tired or whatever. He’s only four, but he’s pretty good at understanding and respecting those oversimplified feelings. So, maybe try being honest with whomever, instead of just tacking that smile on your face. I kinda like “when you need, ask for it.” I get lots of hugs and kisses that way, and I don’t think it makes me a bad person.
Wow…needed that! Great post.
Diane, I think the need for repentance doesn’t come because we have needs – far from it! Just as it is a blessing to us to give to other people, we also bless them when we cheerfully and gratefully accept love from other people. What I’m getting from this post is that we sin just as much when we “give” with reluctance and bitterness as we would by, say, simply refusing to give when we “don’t have it in us,” or by pushing away others when they are trying to bless us. God loves a cheerful giver! I always feel my emotional needs most powerfully met by the Lord when I stop looking at my own emptiness and look at His fullness, so that instead of trying to bless my family out of whatever I can scrape up from my own heart, I can become a channel pouring his love out on them.
“Because when you belong to Christ, you have no needs that have not been filled.” Thank you for reminding me of that. I know that when I have pain, it is harder to remember and trust this is true while serving my children.
Although I like the concept of giving selflessly, i have to agree with Diane, and perhaps i missed the point somehow. However i do feel that we need to be realistic here- there are soooo many moms out there who are not in a place where they are able to give right now; for example the mom who is in a deep, dark, hole of post-partum depression would not be able to give when they feel needy(and truly are needy). You cannot help others until you have helped yourself and have met your own needs, it’s called self-care and it is important for all to do. But generally speaking, if mom is in a good place herself, then YES, by all means give when and however you can. I will strive to do this…
Another Diane here…
I think this post can never be understood except with spiritual eyes and ears–and that’s not meant to condemn anyone; it’s just another example of how spiritual things are foolishness to the natural mind, and will often seem contradictory. Jesus gives “impossible” commands to his followers about laying down their lives in ways that can’t be done apart from the supernatural love and power of God filling them. He also told his followers to “come apart and rest awhile” when the crowds were overwhelming them. He “knows our frame” (our weakness) and does not want us to live without dignity and respect for ourselves as children of God. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that we should treat ourselves as worthless (“doormats” for others to walk on) or to push past the limits of the strength God gives us. It takes a long time to learn what those limits are, and to know whether we are drawing from our own resources or from God’s. We’ll fail many times before we realize we’re learning something about it.
I think the bottom line is that whether we’re taking a break or working hard, we should know that the Holy Spirit is in charge, guiding our choices and giving us strength beyond ourselves. I am reminded of this song by Annie Johnson Flint (and was surprised to find, when I looked it up, that there was another verse I hadn’t heard before!).
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
dumpster diving. HA. so perfect and so true.
Thanks for the encouragement. =)
Very beautifully said, “Another Diane” — Thank you for reminding me Who my endless source is 🙂
I have a quick request for clarification: when you say “What if you are in that burned out, beat up, emotionally sloppy place that is so easily gotten into? If you are short on sleep, short on time, short on friends (or even long on friends who need you) and long on demands, this is simply going to be part of your life”, do you mean that the burned out, beat up, emotionally sloppy place is simply going to be part of your life, or do you mean the short on sleep, time, friends part?
As I type it out, I think you’re saying that even though you might not have the sleep, time, friends that you think you need and at the same time have lots of demands to deal with, you DON’T have to be in that burned out/beat up/emotionally sloppy place, and that the way to not be in that place is to stop thinking about all you need, look at all you’ve been given in Christ, and start thinking about what you can give – right? Because I am not on board if you’re saying the burned out, beat up, sloppy place is just going to be part of my life – I know that place, and no thank you ma’am! =)
Wow! What a good, healthy heart check! Thank you!!
I laughed out loud at your illustration about the friend coming over to help. I am so much like that sometimes!
I needed to read this—a few weeks late, but your words really spoke to my heart. Thank you.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Prov. 11:24-25