The Best Question You Can Ever Ask

Over this past winter, we’ve met with a group of couples from our church to watch a video series by Andy Stanley called Future Family. The whole thing has been fantastic, but there was one idea that has stuck with me for a couple of months now.

Andy Stanley says the very best question any family member can ever ask this:

“What can I do to help?”

When I heard the question, I immediately tried to picture it happening in our home, and this is what I came up with:

  • Ben already asks this all the time.
  • It would be almost like heaven to hear Anika ask this, cheerfully and voluntarily.
  • There are many difficult parenting situations that could probably benefit from this question.
  • There are many other parenting situations in which I really want our girls to figure things out on their own, so I would need to use much discretion when trying to figure out when it’s a time for support (ask the question), or empowerment (let them figure it out).
  • Ben doesn’t ever really need my help, so I can’t think of any time when this would be appropriate to ask him.

Umm, WHAT?! I think all of my thoughts were fairly good thoughts until that last one.

Shows how much I know about my husband needing help with stuff.

When Ben gets home from work, I am usually trying to get supper ready on time, while trying to keep the girls entertained, even though they are tired and hungry, and everybody is just ready for Daddy to get home.

HE helps ME when he gets home. Not because I’m selfish or anything, just because I’m the one who’s least in control of life at that time of day.

But I decided to humour Andy Stanley by trying to ask the question “What can I do to help?” at every opportunity.

Well, wouldn’t you know, as soon as I was looking for ways to help Ben, all kinds of opportunities sprung up.

Sometimes, it even happened that I could ask the question, but there wasn’t really anything I could do to help, so I looked like an awesome wife, with very little effort.

And Ben, being my hero, is teaching Anika to come ask me, “What can I do to help?” I don’t know who I like to hear it from more. Both are pretty wonderful.

I highly recommend adding it to your family’s repertoire, because it makes everyone feel good.

We just need Kaylia to get on board. This could be difficult, seeing as she’s still in that stage where it’s only a good idea if it’s HER idea. But maybe if she hears it enough, it will rub off on her…

helping

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Alright, please share: What do you think is the best thing a family can say to each other?

 

My Struggles With Prayer

What a week. Thank you all for your kind words, love, and support. It’s a bit hard to know how to go back to normal blogging after a life-changing announcement.

But…that’s exactly what we’re going to do! Obviously, there’s more to say about the whole leaving camp thing, but I feel like I need a bit of a break! We’ll talk some more later. 🙂

In the meantime, here’s a little something I cooked up about my thoughts on prayer…

Prayer is something I have struggled with a lot.

I mean, on the one hand, it’s not hard to just talk with God. I don’t believe it needs to be anything complicated, and I completely believe that God is always listening, and cares about everything I say. I believe He has ways to speak back, even if I can’t hear an audible voice.

The stuff I struggle with is how to accept His answers, or how to wait on Him and trust Him in everything. I struggle with boldly asking for miracles, while still wanting to pray within His will.

Sometimes He just says no. Will my faith be big enough to handle His no? Do I trust Him enough to let go, and surrender, and rejoice even when He says no?

And how much does prayer change things? I’ve always had a problem with that woman in the Bible who asked and asked and asked, until in frustration, the judge finally relented.

I don’t like the idea of nagging God. And yet Jesus is the one who told that story!

And what happens when I go out on a very uncomfortable limb, and try praying with the “ask and ask and ask” technique, and…nothing happens? Is that a “wait”? Is that a “no”?  Did I not nag hard enough?

Or is that the part where I surrender and trust Him with my life, even when things don’t make any sense?

So maybe my biggest struggle is: When do you persist, and when do you surrender?

For years, I just stopped asking for anything. I stopped praying boldly and stopped waiting for miracles, because I couldn’t handle getting a “no”.

And then Beth Moore got me in the soft spot, while I was taking her “Believing God” Bible study online. I sat there one night with tears streaming down my cheeks as I realized what had happened to me and my faith and my prayer life. It had become as safe and boring as it possibly could, and there was no room for God to do anything, anywhere.

I had Him in a nice, safe little box.

But after that night, I started to let go of the control. I started (fearfully) asking Him for big things. I gave Him room to be unpredictable.

And most importantly, I realized that I trusted Him enough to get a no. My faith will not fall apart if I don’t get my own way. His ways are much better, anyway.

But sometimes, I still start to wonder how much my prayers help, and how much they change. Oswald Chambers has written that the purpose of prayer is to change us, more than it is to change God. I am on board with that. I need a lot of changing. God, on the other hand…not so much.

I just finished up Andy Stanley’s book, Enemies of the Heart, which was fantastic, and I loved what he had to say about prayer:

The fact is, God loves you too much to give you everything you ask for. He loves the people around you too much to give you everything you ask for. But – and don’t miss this – he still wants you to ask. He still wants you to bring it all to him.

Why? If there’s no guarantee, what’s the point?

God wants you to know him as the source of all good things. And when he says no, he wants you to trust him….He’s the source of all good things, not all wished-for things. But he still wants us to ask, to lean, to depend, to cry out. (p. 169)

I love that. I want to see Him as the source. Since reading that, I’ve thought of praying more often throughout each day. Some problem, some dilemma I don’t know how to handle? Well, He’s the source. I bring it to Him because He wants me to.

Yucky emotions or thoughts that don’t even make sense to me? I know it’s time to go to the Source of all good things, because that’s what He wants me to do.

It’s as though seeing Him as the source of everything is taking away my need to understand prayer. I go to Him because He wants me to. I still don’t understand when to persist, and when to surrender, but He’s the source. He wants me to ask. I ask out of obedience. And whenever we obey God more fully, good things happen.

So, any thoughts on prayer out there? I’d love to hear them…

What Happens When We Worry

I have a new massage therapist. His name is Nigel, and basically, I pay him money to beat me up.

I have no idea why he uses the word “massage”.

I lie on a table fully dressed as this huge man chops at my body, and beats me with those little hammers that doctors use on your knees to check your reflexes.

I experience pain like I have never known. Childbirth seems mild, in comparison.

And yet I go back, week after week.

Why??

Because it is helping my body in dramatic ways I didn’t know were possible.

Nigel says that sometimes, in order to help people, he has to take them beyond what they can bear. If he stayed within their pain threshold, the body would never heal.

And so I am repeatedly taken over my pain threshold.

The other day as I was lying there with the tears and sweat flowing, trying my hardest not to scream as he chopped away, the thought that remained stuck in my mind was this:

I did this to myself.

All of the pain which I have to endure, is pain that I have inflicted on myself. I don’t say that in a “beat myself up out of guilt” kind of way, but rather a “let’s get real about what’s going on here, and take some responsibility” kind of a way.

Because here’s the deal: Whenever my muscles hurt really badly and I ask Nigel what causes that kind of pain, he says…

Stress.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I have struggled with worry and stress for years.

Worry is sin. And all sin has a consequence.

These days, I am being reminded in a very physical sense what the consequence is for my worry.

But it gets even more serious than that. I came across an article awhile back that offered the following statistic:

87% to 95% of the illnesses that plague us today are a direct result of our thought life.

I don’t share that to make you start worrying about what kinds of illnesses you are bringing upon yourself by worrying. I share it because it kind of amazes me that we’ve let it get to this point.

As Christians, we know that we’re not supposed to worry, or have negative, critical thoughts. But we continue to do it anyway, and it flows into every area of our lives.

I want to change. I’ve spent years trying many different things in order to improve my health, and yet what is becoming more clear to me all the time is that health is not the root of my problems, it’s worry.

Obviously, I do not have all the answers as to how to deal with that, because I’m still needing to get tortured by Nigel every other week.

But I have  found some really fantastic resources to pass on to you so that we can muddle through this together.  Be sure to check them out, and let me know what you think! (We’ll start a support group!) Or let me know if you have any other resources that would be great to share!

1) “Why Worry” – Sermon series by Andy Stanley (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three)

2) Thought Life” – Article by Dr. Leaf

3) “A More Excellent Way: Be in Health” – Book by Henry Wright