July 13, 2016

Four Simple Ways to Help Friends Who are Hurting (and an Update on My Husband)

Yesterday felt like a normal day: my husband went off to accomplish a full day's work, the kids and I ran errands, and I squeezed in a bit of writing before cooking dinner. After the past month, I've a newfound gratefulness for these mundane tasks and everyday occasions. A normal day is very much a good day.

My senses were heightened by my husband's accident, likely because his were dulled by the severity of his concussion. With everything in our lives under my care, I've been on red alert for weeks, unable to sleep well, constantly protective of my husband, and trying to give my children a summer at least somewhat unaffected by our circumstances.

I slept for two hours last Friday afternoon, went to sleep again at 9 that evening, and then slept for two hours on Saturday afternoon. That's telling, not only of how exhausting and stressful this tremulous situation has been, but that I was finally able to sleep so soundly. Something has shifted. My husband is slowly coming back to himself; we are returning to normal. 

That's not to say that everything will return to normal. At least I hope not. Funny how difficult trials release to the surface what's been held down at the depths of the heart. We've been no exception in our own trial, as we've experienced the urgency of our idols--idols of busyness, self-sufficiency, self-importance, and control, idols begging for attention we've not been able to give in our weakness and desperation. What a blessing to see them so clearly, to have a moment to stop the treadmill of life and look around a bit, to realize that there are in fact ways we're living that are making us crazy and dishonoring to God and one another. I'm taking furious notes as the Lord begins to draw conclusions in my heart, and I'm praying for God to do the work He wants to do in us.

I also have taken copious notes on how to minister to others who are in crisis, because we've been so generously ministered to by God's people. I could tell you stories--many of them--of how God prepared to care for us in advance, and how the simple words and actions of others brought me to tears. Online readers, thank you for your messages and prayers. In-real-life friends, thank you for every meal, card, text, hug, prayer, and email. You've helped us through. I've taken notes from you, so I can remember what to do when someone I love is in crisis. Actually, I took notes for all of us. Here's what I've learned about coming alongside sufferers from those who have done it well for me:
Take action, any action. Don't wait for someone else to take the lead. Don't wait for permission from your hurting friend or wait for her to ask for help. People in pain don't actually know what they need, but they are relieved when you offer specific help. Text them something like this: "I'd like to bring you a meal. Is tonight or tomorrow better?" Offer to take a caregiver's children so they can rest. Send gift cards for food delivery. Write a card and drop it in the mail. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as you do something.

Check back in again. In our situation, I didn't feel that we needed anything just after the accident, but as time stretched on, life became much more unmanageable for me. After putting people off at the start, I didn't know how to ask for help when I actually needed it, so it was extremely helpful when friends checked back in with me about needs or simply brought over food.

Acknowledge the emotions and stress of the situation. Meeting physical needs is so helpful, but hurting people equally appreciate when their friends acknowledge the difficulties inherent in unexpected circumstances. One of the best things someone said to me was, "There isn't a right way of doing this." She was referring to my caregiver role and the communication role I'd taken for my husband, and her words gave me permission to not be OK. In whatever way you do it--even if it's just a simple hug and an "I'm praying for you," it's vital to acknowledge what is happening for the ones who are suffering.

Send passages of Scripture. Stress, uncertainty, and emotions can certainly cloud our ability to think clearly. In the weeks after Kyle's accident, I found it difficult to focus when I'd open my Bible. I needed to be able to think about our circumstances through the lens of God's love for me and for my husband, but I sometimes felt too exhausted to even think at all. When friends or church members would send me passages of Scripture, it was like a drink of water in a parched land and an instant perspective shifter. They pointed me toward my Rock and one true sense of hope.

I've been told that it will take up to two months for Kyle to be at 100%. We're definitely getting there! Yesterday, he worked out for the first time since the accident, his sense of humor (one of my favorite things about him) has returned, and he'll be back in the pulpit this Sunday. Good things, all.

Many other good things are also on the horizon: I turn 40 on July 24 (another good time to stop and evaluate life, right?), and I will soon be sharing all the details about my new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship, which is already up for pre-order on Amazon even though it releases next April.

How about a few other good things? 

1) Remember the friend I asked you to pray for? Her brother suffered a much more severe brain injury than what Kyle did in the very same week. The doctors weren't sure if he would live, but I'm happy to report that he is doing well and is in rehab in Atlanta. Praise God!

2) Some of you are drowning in "not good enough" this summer. You're obsessed with comparing yourself to other believers and with trying to figure out what you're "supposed" to be doing as a Christian. There is no joy or freedom in that place, and I can say that from years of personal experience. My good news for you is that I wrote all about these very things in my book, From Good to Grace, and the ebook version is only $1.99 through July 14 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! Grab it, girl!
3) And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have been reading and listening to the beautiful voices speaking out about the turmoil in our country. I will be writing more about racial division and my hope for racial reconciliation through the gospel in the coming weeks, but I wanted to share a few posts that I've found helpful as I've been prayerfully considering this issue. I'm thankful for those who are speaking up:

How Talking to Your Kids About Race Helps Fulfill the Great Commission by Judy Wu Dominick
Trillia Newbell is doing a wonderful series on racial harmony.
Spanning the Racial Divide with Authentic Love by Sarah Beals
Lastly, I wrote a little something on Facebook about what I've learned from my black friends.

Again, thank you for your prayers and concern for me and for my family. Let me know what good things God is doing in your life right now. I'd love to celebrate with you!