Sweat, Spit Up, and a Time to Ask {The Grove – Ask}

Sweat and spit up.

Those are the two scents that mark my memory of that summer. That summer of a newborn baby, a two year old, and two puttering AC units that barely made a dent in the muggy Chinese air.

My baby cried and spit up, cried and spit up, and insisted on being strapped to my body at all times. Thus every day I smelled like sweat and spit up.

Our teammates were gone, our students were gone, and then the killer blow, my husband had to leave for eleven days.

I remember that first night pacing the well-worn path in our apartment, shoulders and back aching (this was before I knew the wonder of the Ergo). I repeated the rhythmic pat-pat to the baby’s bottom, pleading, “Please, please sleeeeep, so mommy can too.”

Four years earlier, I had arrived on foreign soil with a strong can-do attitude, buffered by a stiff pride that hated to ask for help. Overseas life has a way of beating that pride to a pulp, so by this point I had learned that to survive, I must ask for and receive help.

That summer was the most intense survival mode I had experienced, so with the husband leaving, I knew I had to ask for help from the only person I could turn to, my house helper. Normally, she came a couple times a week. For those eleven days I asked her if she could come every morning.

She said yes. And when she couldn’t come, she had her friend come for her. Because she was not going to leave me alone.

So each morning, bleary eyed, un-showered and hair all-askew, I opened my door to these women and about collapsed with gratitude.

The first evening my husband was gone, my neighbor called me. She didn’t ask me to come for dinner, she told me to.

This dear woman was a single mother, which was almost unheard of in that culture. But here she was reaching out to help me.

My normal self would have said, “Oh, you don’t have to make us dinner.” But my desperate self imagined cooking dinner from scratch again in my sweltering kitchen with a baby on me, and a toddler round my ankles, and I replied, “Yes, we’ll be there.”

I went to her house for dinner that night. And every single night of those eleven days.

I can only attempt to explain the shift that occurred in my relationships with my neighbor and with these two house helpers during those eleven days.

They knew I needed them.

I was no longer the foreign white woman who had come to help them.

I let them see my vulnerability. I let them meet me in my neediness. And because of that our relationships took on sweetness and a depth that I had never experienced there before. I had nothing to hide from them, nothing to prove. They had seen me at my worst, and now I was beautifully free to just be me, living life alongside of them.

A bond formed, a mutual needing of each other. When life hit them with unexpected blows, they asked me for help.  It didn’t have the awkward sense of charity to it. We helped one another because that’s who we were to each other, that’s the kind of relationship we had.

The worst thing about overseas living is that it pushes you far beyond what you’re capable of.

The best thing about overseas living is that it pushes you far beyond what you’re capable of.

Because when you’re beyond yourself, you become open to intimacies and blessings that your self-sufficiency had closed you off from.

Blessed are those who learn to ask for help.

Blessed are the servants who allow themselves to be served.

Blessed are the desperate, for the Father will meet them in ways they never imagined.

*****

There’s a lot of asking that we have to do in this life. Which is the hardest for you? Asking for financial support? Help from teammates? From family? From nationals?  

How has overseas living pushed you beyond yourself and how has the Father met you in those moments?

Sometimes we find that we had more help overseas than we do in our home countries. How do you handle that? If you’ve moved back to your home country, how are you adjusting?

What has God taught you about asking?

*****

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11 Comments

  1. Melissa August 27, 2015

    My goodness, this story is beautiful!  I had a baby (#4) almost exactly 9 months after moving to Nicaragua with 3 preschoolers.  I wish I had been as brave as you the week my husband was gone.  It was the. hardest. week. I have ever lived through (granted I was pregnant still rather than having a newborn..).  I read your story and so wish I had been brave enough to ask my house helper to come everyday, or to let someone else cook dinner more after the baby came.  I have always been a private person and it’s hard to ask for help b/c it means showing others you *don’t* have it all under control.  It is a little silly to think that we can help others if we won’t let ourselves be helped, though… I don’t actually have a perfect handle on life and the mask doesn’t help anyone.  Thanks for your testimony!  It inspires me.  I can probably never hear such things too much!

     

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 28, 2015

      Oh my.  Pregnant, 3 preschoolers, and brand new to a country?!  That may be the definition of brave right there.  But yeah, there are many forms of brave.  It’s one kind of brave to leap into hard things.  It’s another kind of brave to be vulnerable enough to get help to make it through the hard.

      And you said it exactly, the hard part is showing others you don’t have it under control!!  Still a big challenge for me.  I need to hear it again and again too.

  2. Malia August 28, 2015

    Danielle, this testimony is wonderful–both encouraging and heart-warming. Also, YES: pushing our capabilities is the worst and best part of living overseas!

  3. ErinMP August 28, 2015

    I’ve learned to ask for hugs when I need them. I’m not a very touchy feely person, so this is hard for me back home- basically my best friend/fake sister makes me hug her, and other friends just randomly give me hugs, and so I feel good and don’t even need to ask/make myself “vulnerable” (for those of you who have touch as a love language you might not understand but for those of you like me…). So overseas this year I’ve been learning, sometimes I need to just say hey, I’m away from my close friends and family…I need a hug (or a shoulder to cry on, or prayer). It has been growing me!

    I also just have learned to ask for help with stuff! When I forget to bring or buy something and need it right away and there is no 7-11 right around the corner!

    Great post, loved reading it. Thanks for sharing so openly!

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 28, 2015

      This is so good, Erin.  I’m a touch person, but I often hold back, not wanting to weird people out! 🙂  So I’m glad you’re leaning to ask for it.  Because we touch people often WANT to give it, but don’t know when.

      I think it so important that we (touch and non-touch people) learn to express our needs.

  4. Lydia August 28, 2015

    Danielle, I completely agree that there is grace and humility in giving AND receiving. The people that I have been sent to “minister” to often have an incredibly deep, character-changing impact on me! It is when we are willing to be honest about our strengths and our weaknesses, our joys and our hurts, and our triumphs and our struggles that true relationship is formed.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 28, 2015

      “Deep, character-changing impact on me.”  Yes, that beautifully describes it!

  5. Felicity Congdon August 29, 2015

    Thank you for sharing! I had never thought that asking for help repeatedly could actually change a relationship into one that is mutually safe to ask for help. I am good at spreading out my asks for help to as many people as possible and trying not to ask the same person again until I do something for them first. Love this new perspective though!

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 29, 2015

      Well, I only learned that lesson because I was forced to! 🙂  I think that’s the very Western part of us.  We’re taught to not lean too heavily on any one person.  I think not all cultures hold that same mentality, though.

      Thanks for chiming in, Felicity!

  6. Anna September 1, 2015

    It can be so hard to ask for help.   Our American independence tells us that we don’t need to.  But I got a crash course in it when first arriving in Congo.   I and been married for over 10 years, had 3 kids, and knew how to run a household… or so I thought.  Suddenly, it was a whole new way of doing things, and I needed help just to do the basics.  And I had people who helped me all along the way.  For me, it meant letting go of some pride, and a “I can take care of myself” attitude.

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