Friends, I love this life so very much. I love having eight children and I love that those eight children are older now and “making their way” in life. I have kids getting married and graduating from all sorts of places. That makes me happy.
My main focus in life is my family. And we have a busy May, with some monumental life changes happening. So that is why my blogging and other projects will slow down for a bit. I know you understand. That’s what we mothers must do.
With that being said, today this mother felt the need to preach to her kids. And instead of writing a private email or simply chatting with them when they were gathered around my table, I decided to write it out as a post. My older kids have heard this message, but somehow, in a large family, important messages can get lost through the cracks.
So I decided to simply take the time to speak about this skill again.
And since what I wanted to share with my kids has been impactful to my life, I thought I would share it here for you and yours.
Fabulous Children of Mine, in this busy life of ours, there are things that I have taught you and there are things that I have forgotten to teach you.
But as I sit here, in the spring of 2021, I wanted to write to you in particular and make sure you learn a specific skill. My hope and prayer is that you truly hear what I am saying and that you get this concept into your heart because it is life-changing.
There are people in your life right now that need you. They are overwhelmed. Hurting. Angry. Unable to do life.
And they need you to recognize their situation and most importantly, do something to alleviate a bit of their burden.
Note: If you yourself are overwhelmed and stretched too thin, then it is not your time. Recognize that. But when you have extra in your life (time, money, resources, energy) then GIVE IT.
I know that can seem overwhelming. I mean, what should you do, right? How to approach?
So, let’s dig a bit. At your workplace you recognize the overwhelm of co-worker. Or in one of your classes you notice your professor or teacher or classmate feeling down and out.
You want to acknowledge that so you ask them a question such as, “Hey, how’s it going?”
If they are in pain, don’t let them get away with an “Oh, I’m okay.” Press in and invite them to share with you by asking them again, “No, really...how is it going?”
Ask with your whole face. Engage with your eyes.
If they choose to consult you and share their burden, listen. Ask good, caring questions. Listen. Lean in.
So far, so good. I love that you care enough for others that you will reach out to them.
Now, this is how a conversation of that type normally ends; one person shares the burden and the other good-hearted person, the one listening, will say all of the kind words and will end the conversation with something like:
“Okay, well, call me if you need anything, okay?”
Child. See your mother bashing her head against the wall.
Please. For the love, never ever EVER say those words. EVER. Just don’t.
Those.are.empty.words. They give you a sense that you are doing something but guess what? Those words get you off the hook.
Why? Because they made you feel better but they did NOTHING of value for the other person.
Why not? No one that is in HURT MODE will have the wherewithal (energy, mental capacity) to take you up on your offer, no matter how sincere you are.
This was brought home to me years ago when I witnessed the conversations that swirled around a distant friend. Her husband had passed away and everyone at the funeral went up to her, hugged and such. And many said the words, “Call me if you need anything, okay?”
Some were a little more intentional about it and said, “Now. If you need anything, you’ll reach out to me, right?”
But what I knew to be true: that woman was in a daze. She was sad. Upset. Angry. She needed others to reach out and take care of her in real ways, not just throw fairy dust on her head and move on.
What I want you to remember is that we are all on the journey and human hearts are fragile. And most tend to carry their burdens by themselves. Not because they want to, but because that is what they’ve always done. They think it is a polite way to live life.
Smash that notion into bits, child of mine. TAKE ACTION AND BE SPECIFIC.
For example, when someone shares a specific hurt with you, you could tell them something like:
“I love to make a special casserole and guess what? It sounds like you need my specialty. What night this week works best for you for me to drop it off?”
“I’m so sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. I will give you a week or so, but then I’m going to bring you over a care basket. I’ll let you know before I come.” What to put in the basket? Well, spend a moment. What would make you feel loved if I died? A special type of food, shampoo, bath salt? Can you find a picture of the mom and frame it in a special way? How about an awesome poem about eternal life? Think. And then act.
Now let's talk about FAMILIES. As you know, I've been pregnant. A lot. And the people that were excited for me, not just for baby #1 and 2, but for baby # 7 and 8, remain my very favorite. I appreciate the way their heart lit up for me.
So if you know of a family at church that has a lot of kids and they are pregnant again, go up to them and say, “Wow, I’m so excited for your pregnancy!”
And then tell her what you’d like to give her to help celebrate. “Hey, I have one night free this week. Could I come and babysit while you guys go out for dinner?” or “I love pizza and will have some delivered to your house this week. What night works best?”
See the pattern? You offer something and you tell them exactly what you will give and let them know how/when you will deliver it.
I’ve never had someone decline an offer made in this way. It’s beautiful.
Now, here’s the golden truth. When you build your life in this manner, you will develop deep and lasting friendships of support. It’s never the intention, mind you, but it naturally happens.
And when you are in a pickle, you will have friends that will naturally reach out to you. Because that’s how the energy of life works. And it’s pretty gorgeous.
I’ll give you a fabulous example of a friend stepping in:
As you know, there is a wedding and two graduations in our family in May. Mama Lori has been feeling some overwhelm.
Well, a friend and I were talking and she heard my heart. And she told me, “Lori, I don’t have anything going on in May. What can you offload on me? Let’s look at the specifics.”
I told her my biggest stress was the logistics of hosting a family gathering of out of towners AFTER Mitchell’s wedding. (He is getting married in the morning, leaving the evening free for us to gather as families, which is great….but I will be busy at the wedding all day and still wanting to host a fabulous party that evening without losing my mind.)
And then SHE TOLD ME WHAT SHE WOULD DO FOR ME: she is going to buy all of the fixings and make side dishes for that evening. I was delighted. And I made her promise to make a tab for me so I could pay her back for everything she would purchase.
We went over what would go with Kevin and Amanda’s Perfect Pulled Pork (which I already made and have in the freezer). It was fun to have another brain help me think of good side dishes. My friend had some superb ideas and I literally heard her making a list. For the food that she will prepare. For my gathering.
As she took that from me, something happened. I think I lost fifty pounds. It was incredible.
INCREDIBLE. She didn’t just say, “Well, Lori, I hear your stress. Let me know if you need anything as the big event comes closer.”
NOPE. She heard the stress and she figured out how she could best help me and made a plan to make it happen.
THAT. That skill is what I want you to learn. When you, my dear child, feel like life is going pretty smoothly for you, take a look around. Who is on the struggle bus? Who just had a baby? Who is newly pregnant? Know this: Making babies is exhausting! NO matter how cute they LOOK, I assure you, the mother is tired. T.I.R.E.D. How can you support her? Think. Then speak and act.
How is the principal or secretary or priest doing in your realm?
How is your boss? Classmate? Friend? Has anyone lost a loved one? Anyone get separated from their spouse?
If you notice their overwhelm, don’t just say “Call me if you need me,” but devise a cool gift. And give it. No strings. Just out of love for God and your neighbor.
Your life will be richer for it.
As St. Pope John Paull II said: You will FIND YOURSELF and WHO YOU REALLY ARE as you give of yourself to other people. Isn't that magnificent? Giving to others is how you will find who YOU really are. (And I think you are already pretty spectacular as you right now!)
P.S. I have a message for my mom friends. As you heard, I will be taking some time off to marry off a kid and such. In the meantime, make sure you go through our blog series on Raising Strong Children in Today’s World. Start at the INTRO. I made it just for you.
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