When Someone Close to You Asks You to Ask for Help

That first year was a struggle. My purpose seemed bleak, I had a culture-clashing miscarriage, I couldn’t speak a lick of the local language, and to top it all off, I’d spend hours in the kitchen trying to create something familiar, only to dump it all in the trash after gagging on the first bite.

I couldn’t cook that well when we got married, but I was ready to learn. The three years we spent in the States before moving overseas, I cooked a lot, but it was definitely more convenient than my new Asian home! There were trials and errors, but if the error was so bad (like that one time I made sweet potato casserole thinking I was going vegetarian, only to find out it was a dessert casserole), we could just hop in the car and find something else delicious. Not much harm done. Try again later.

Not only were there not many restaurants near my new Asian home, but I had a secret — I didn’t really like Chinese food. Gasp! I know! Who am I?! I could handle it about once a week, but then I was done. Ready to go back to my comfort food.

My husband was incredibly patient during that year. He found gracious ways to respond to my terrible attitude and did his best to encourage a critical heart. When my slaved-over dinner flopped, yet again, he’d come beside me, do his best to salvage it, and reassure me that I would get better with time. Always more time.

We were on a team of great people that year. One family had been there for five years. I begged (probably a little too often) to come to her house, sit, sip tea, let our kids play, and listen to her stories of how it actually is possible to love this place. Although, she would add, it takes time. More time.

She was also an amazing cook. My husband had mentioned to me on more than one occasion that she had some pretty awesome stuff coming out of her tiny kitchen. I agreed, it was delicious! So I peppered her with more questions to learn more. How in the world did she make her food taste so good? Was I going to have to add even more time in the kitchen to make tasty dishes? Where did she find all of her recipes?

One day, about six months in, my husband cautiously, with words laced in grace, suggested I ask her if I could make copies of her recipe book. (A book she compiled of successful recipes.) My first reaction was a twinge of hurt. Then jealousy. Then I finally succumbed to the fact that it was a fabulous idea.

But it wasn’t easy to ask her. The kitchen was supposed to be my little cove in the world to create things by me, pour my heart into it, see the smiles on people’s faces when they tasted something good. I had been in a cooking club in college, for crying out loud! But the facts were clear. I needed some major help in an area that I thought I had a handle on.

She humbly and graciously let me copy every single page of her recipe book. I took them home and read every one in detail, including all her notes scribbled on the sides; you know those are the gems of a recipe, right?

We all know uprooting our entire lives to live in another culture isn’t easy. What we soon realize is that things we did well, even excelled at, in our home culture, may be an area that we have to start over in within our new culture. It’s frustrating. It’s humbling. It takes time to re-learn. But can I just nudge you to ask for help in whatever that area is?

Maybe you are struggling to put a meal together like I was, or you need to learn some key phrases in the local language, or you just can’t seem to get organized in this chaotic lifestyle. Find someone near you, at home, or even here at Velvet Ashes to ask. Isn’t that what community is all about? We all have our areas. Let’s call out our pride, move past it, and enter into a place of humility, grace, and thankfulness.

Let me go first. I asked a friend to share her favorite recipe. She gave me two! And, it just so happens that one of them involves pumpkin. Anyone else uber excited that pumpkin season is just around the corner?! Thank you, Denise, for sharing your successful recipes!

Thai Butternut Soup

Shared from: The Recipe Box 
Serves: 4

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 (12-ounce) packages frozen pureed butternut squash*
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce (if you can’t find this you can leave it out)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

*If you can’t find frozen pureed squash, you can cook this soup with 4 cups cubed butternut squash or pumpkin. Just add 5 extra minutes to the cooking time in step 2, or bake it up ahead of time.

1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add curry paste, garlic, and ginger; sauté 45 seconds, stirring constantly.

2. Add broth and next 5 ingredients (through salt); cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Place half of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Spoon about 1 cup soup into each of 4 bowls; top with 2 tablespoons peanuts and 1 tablespoon cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

**I make at least a double batch! Also my family uses at least double the recommended amount of the red curry paste. So don’t be afraid to spice it up! –Denise


Pretzel Bites

Shared from: The Recipe Box
Serves: 6-8

1½ c warm water
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 pkg yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
3oz  unsalted butter, melted
2½ tsp kosher salt
4½ -5c  all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil
3 quarts water
¾ c baking soda
1 whole egg beaten with 1 Tbsp cold water
Coarse sea salt

Cheese sauce:
½ Tbsp  unsalted butter
½ Tbsp all purpose flour
½ c milk
8oz grated cheddar cheese

For pretzels: Combine water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl and let sit 5 minutes.

Add the salt and flour, stirring until combined. Knead until dough is smooth.

Place in oiled bowl and cover with cloth and let rest for about one hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425°F

Bring water to boiling, add baking soda.

Divide dough into 8 pieces and roll into snake. Cut into bite size pieces.

Boil small batches of pieces for 30 seconds, remove with slotted spoon.

Place on baking sheet. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with coarse salt.

Place in oven and bake 5-18 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with mustard or cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese until smooth and all the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.



Need more tried and true recipes? Check out my personal Pinterest board of successes here, notes included! Coming soon, the Velvet Ashes Pinterest page will have a new look with new boards! Follow us here.


  1. Annalisa August 23, 2015

    Cleaning, mostly sweeping.  Where I’m from, we have wood floors or tile floors or carpets.  (That last one, not *my* family so much because of allergies, but families I knew.)  However, here the floors are made out of rough cement or dirt in most places.  (I have one room in my house with tile floors, and that one is immaculate…ish.)  And the person who taught me how to clean was my husband.  He asked, back when we were dating, something about why the house was always so dirty.  And–after I got over a severe jolt of embarrassment–I admitted that whenever I swept there was this fine gray dust that flew into the air and I always ended up with a half-swept floor and a killer headache.  So, he patiently taught me how to sweep the floor Guatemalan style.  Even so, he still usually does it himself because he knows how frustrated it makes me.  (Hint: you sprinkle–not dump–water all over the floor first which adds weight to the dust/dirt and lets it stay on the floor like nice little dirt specks.)

    As for cooking/baking, I’ve always been pretty good with that, but I was always scared of yeast.  I always managed to kill it.  (I guess.)  It never did anything.  And finally a friend–an ex-pat–taught me how to bake with yeast, and, in the process, she gave me one of her recipes that I absolutely love.  So, I’m going to share it with you all.

    Cinnamon Rolls
    By Genesis Davies (with modifications by Annalisa Simmer)
    Makes about a dozen rolls

    1/2 c. boiling water
    3/4 c. room temperature water
    3 Tblsp. sugar
    2 1/2 Tblsp. yeast
    1 tsp. salt
    1/4 c. oil
    3-4 c. flour (start with 3, add more if dough is sticky)

    1/2 stick margarine or butter, softened (Genesis’s version calls for a whole stick)

    1 1/4 cups sugar (Genesis’s recipe calls for 2 cups.  I’ve been experimenting with this and 1 1/4 is about as low as you can go and still have the to die for flavor)
    2 Tblsp. cinnamon

    **Please note that neither Genesis nor I are big on measuring for small amounts, but I have followed the recipe exactly before, measuring everything, and it turns out delicious.**

    1) Mix yeast and 3 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl while waiting for water to heat up.

    2) Mix the two waters to achieve a good temperature water which won’t kill the yeast.

    3) Add water to the sugar and yeast and let sit for 10 minutes to foam up.

    4) In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon for the filling

    4) After 10 minutes, stir in oil and salt to yeast mixture. Add flour gradually, mixing until it`s fully incorporated. Dump onto a floured surface and knead for 5 min.

    5) Allow to rise for 10 mintues.

    6) Punch down, and roll the dough out very thin.

    7) Spread the margarine on your dough.

    8) Sprinkle on cinnamon-sugar mixture, making sure to leave about a half inch around the edges since it will leak out as you roll. If you want to add something special like raisins, chopped pecans or chocolate chips, just sprinkle it on now.

    9) Next, roll the dough up to form a log. You might want to pinch the edges so that it holds together.

    10) Use a sharp knife to cut your roll into 1.5-2″ sections.

    11) Place the rolls in a pan, leaving a little space between them, about a finger width.

    11.5) I prepare my dough on a plastic pastry sheet; so when the cinnamon sugar leaks out, I pick up the sheet when I’m done with step 11 and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top of the rolls in the pan.  It is not a necessary step, simply something I do to minimize waste.  If this isn’t a possibility for you, don’t sweat it!

    12) Finally, pop those suckers into the oven and bake for 15-20 min. or until golden on the top. Serve warm.

    1. Ashley Felder August 24, 2015

      What a great cleaning tip! Didn’t know that one! And thanks for sharing the recipe. Cinnamon rolls are the best!!

  2. Anne C. August 24, 2015

    The blog Market2meal is a great resource for those living overseas. Her recipes are China friendly.

    1. Ashley Felder August 24, 2015

      Yes! I use her site a lot. When I discovered it my 2nd year, it felt like I’d hit the jackpot. 🙂

  3. Sydnie August 25, 2015

    This week’s theme has been quite convicting to me. I am terrible at asking for help. I am worried about being a burden to others, so I will go without so that I don’t have to ask anyone. For example, where I live, online ordering is a life saver, especially for foreigners. To use the website I need help from someone who knows the language, but I hate to ask, so I just won’t. Your post was so good because I felt God nudging me to tell me that I need to grow in my capacity to ask for help.

    1. Ashley Felder August 26, 2015

      Sydnie, I’m glad God is nudging you in that direction. Often times, others are so willing and ready to help, but they don’t know we need it until we ask! Hope it quickly becomes easier for you to lean on others.

  4. Lindee August 29, 2015

    There is no one for us to ask.  M’s are not allowed to have problems right? Everyone who could help wants to be paid which we can not do.  My husband remains positive. I swing between depressed and suicidal. We have not been off the field or had any break in 7 years. I feel myself becoming more hard and bitter every day. I accept I am a total failure at this M lark, but I will continue to paint on a happy face until I can find a way to end it.

    1. Annalisa August 29, 2015

      Of course, you are allowed to have problems, Lindee!  We’re humans, broken and flawed, just like everyone else!  I’m sad to hear that things are so rough for you, especially after 7 years.  Do you have a sending organization or church?  Do they know how much stress you are under?  I completely understand the feeling of not wanting to abandon the work you have been doing, but I feel that you and your husband would both benefit from a break even if only for a couple of weeks.  I’ll be praying for you; that’s one thing I certainly can do from here.  Know that you are loved.

    2. Ashley Felder August 30, 2015

      Lindee, I’m praying for you now. I pray you can lean into the Lord during this time. He is there. He always has been. Always will be. He listens and will direct you where you need to go. Read his promises and Truths often. Soak in His Word until you can’t hear the lies anymore. I pray there is someone you can confide in to share your pain and struggles. Does your husband know how deep they are? Yes, what about a fellowship, mentor, or friends at home? Hang in there, sister.

    3. Patty Stallings August 30, 2015

      Dear Lindee, I’m praying for you right now.  May you be gently enfolded in our Shepherd’s strong love and tender care for you.  May you find a safe person and place to share what you are experiencing.  Help is on the way.

  5. Lindee September 2, 2015

    Thanks Ladies,
    Its a LONG story. We HAD a sending church who supported us for 20 plus years. They have a new pastor and shortly after he came, we got a letter saying they would no longer support us. Then last May before their annual general meeting we got a letter from him saying he would be asking for us to be removed from membership. We have no idea why, and we can not imagine what happened to all the friends and supporters we had there. No one communicates with us. Its all very strange and very painful. So that is the answer to do you have a sending church or friends at home. Not any more I am afraid.
    I feel myself becoming more hard and bitter every day.

  6. Lindee September 2, 2015

    Thanks Ladies,

    Its a LONG story.  We HAD a sending church who supported us for 20 plus years. They have a new pastor and shortly after he came, we got a letter saying they would no longer support us.  Then last May before their annual general meeting we got a letter from him saying he would be asking for us to be removed from membership.  We have no idea why, and we can not imagine what happened to all the friends and supporters we had there.  No one communicates with us.  Its all very strange and very painful.  So that is the answer to do you have a sending church or friends at home.  Not any more I am afraid.

    I feel myself becoming more hard and bitter every day.  My DH says I get more and more angry every day.

  7. Ashley Felder September 14, 2015

    Ya’ll. This soup is SO good. Some friends and I tried it a few weeks ago! Spicy curry blends perfectly with the coconut milk to make a creamy, velvety soup. YUM! Thanks again, Denise!!

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