Receiving Grace

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
Ephesians 6:7-8

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant...
Philippians 2: 5--7

In the last 4 years, we have been humbled to receive grace from others.  We have been wholeheartedly served by so many from all over.

During this recent spica season, when so much was required for Ellie's care, we received a concentrated dose of extra service.

We are humbled and so grateful.

I have been asked often of late how these months of Ellie in a spica and moving have been.
To be honest, I completely dreaded spica season.
But, my response to that question?
It has been good.  It has been far better than I ever imagined.

How has having a baby in body cast been good?

Because others have served our family, caring for Ellie, while time consuming and difficult at times, has been manageable.  Actually, it has been more than manageable.  This has been a good season for our family.

Because others have served our family, I have found time to just be mommy or wife, rather than always a caregiver.

Because others have served our family, I found brief moments of respite - time to walk outside with a friend and feel refreshed and reenergized  - because someone was inside with Ellie doing her cast care.

Because others have served our family and provided meals, I haven't fallen prey to the temptation to serve frozen, prepackaged meals or order pizza or carryout every night.  I love to cook but with moving and cast care, I simply don't have the time to cook nightly.  With meals three nights a week, I have been able to count on homemade, nutritious meals for our family.  And I've been able to significantly decrease the amount of trips to the store I would have to make - trips spent wearing Ellie on me as she doesn't fit in a cart.

Because others have served our family and provided cast care, I can spend a little time being a mommy to Will, take a walk with a friend, do the dishes, return a phone call, take a shower, or even just comfort Ellie, rather than always being the one to inflict discomfort on her.  I get tired of always being the one to hold her for shots or xrays, to do her stretches and therapy, to force her into uncomfortable positions, to do her cast care, to do her taping, to hand her off for surgery and be with her upon waking.  It's nice to sometimes just be her mommy and let someone else do the unfun stuff.

Because others have served our family and done diaper prep, I could spend the time I would have spent cutting and taping poise pads with our family.

Because others have cast cooled Ellie, she was comforted and I found a little bit of time to escape cast care - to find a glimpse of "normal" 

Because my mom has helped out with middle of the night cast care, I have gotten more nights of sleep than I anticipated three months ago.

Because people have reached out to serve us and practiced hospitality, we have made new friends and, again, received a respite from cast care.

Because others have served us and come over to hold Ellie, my back and arms have received little breaks!

Because others served our family and packed up much of our home, we were able to survive a move with small children (& one in a spica cast) without killing each other.

Because my inlaws served us by driving a car for us across Texas to  our new home, I was able to fly with the children.... rather than drive alone with two children.  Can you imagine if I would have had to do Ellie's cast care routine on the side of I-20 every two hours?  Not to mention if there would have been a diarrhea disaster!?!

Because my parents have served us, we have been able to live with them while looking for a new house.    They have opened their home to us and helped immensely with children and cast care.  And, they've even partially moved out of their home to the lake (on weekends) so that we can have family time just the four of us.

Because my mom has taken many of the 3:30am cast care times, I have been able to sleep more nights than I anticipated I would going into this.

Because friends have gone out of their way to serve me by dropping off or mailing  little surprises (my favorite drinks, a cd, fun duck tape for cast care, a spica outfit for Ellie, muffins, etc.) we have found ourselves smiling - even on hard days.  And sometimes, just knowing someone was thinking about us and recognized that this was a particualarly difficult season, was so comforting and eased our sense of loneliness.

We have been served with emails and phone calls and texts just to check on us - and no expectations that we return those in a timely manner and grace for days when we completely forget to respond at all.

We have been served by others opening up their homes to host Will for playdates.  This has given me time to do the more time intensive labor of cast care (taping & moleskin) and it lets Will have fun and run off energy.  

I would generally say I am a very independent person.  I don't like to admit to needing help.
For the past four years, I have learned how to accept help.  I have learned how to receive grace.  
I think that perhaps the biggest testament to the love of God we can give is when we serve others wholeheartedly, expecting nothing in return.
The body of Christ has served our family.

We are so thankful to so many who have served us:
those who have lovingly cooked for us
those who have lovingly cast cooled Ellie
those who have lovingly held her or rocked her so I could get something done
those who have sent us fun little surprises
those who have humbled themselves to cut and tape Poise pads
those who have hosted Will for playdates
those who have come over to play with Will and Ellie 
those who have kept Ellie so I could go for a walk with Will and friends
those who have given of their time, their money, their sleep (thanks mom!), their creativity, and their love to serve our family

It's exactly what I think Paul meant when he instructed us to be like Jesus the servant.

(***disclaimer - I've tried to take lots of pictures of those who have served us... but, sadly, they were on my phone that met its untimely demise  recently.  Sorry!)

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.  Because of you, this time with our baby girl in a spica cast has been far better than we ever imagined possible!

And, just for fun?
Might I make some suggestions?

Perhaps you know a family in crisis.  Perhaps you know a family that could use some practical help for a season.  Maybe you are in the throes of crisis yourself. 

Looking for some practical ways to serve others that we have found especially helpful?

  • mealswww.takethemameal.com - my friend, Sarah B., from our church in West Texas found this site & used it to coordinate meals.  It was great!  It emails participants reminders and allows them to sign up online to take a meal to a family.  It also provides participants and the recipients with a menu so you know exactly what you are getting when (& so givers know if you've already had lasagna or spaghetti or taco salad or whatever three times that week.)  When we moved, my mom copied Sarah & used that site with their friends and sunday school class that were offering meals.  We used it also for people to sign up to volunteer time for cast care.  It's really quite helpful!  I believe it is also free!

  •    respite care - When a family is in a crisis sort of situation, offer respite. (I hate  the word, "crisis" - I just can't think of another word to describe this season that is even more involved than our typical life of managing life with two kids with medical needs.)  Offer to sit with a patient to give a caregiver a break.  Tell the caregiver, lovingly, that they need a shower & force them to take one!  Force them outside for a walk - it does wonders for the soul and can quickly refresh someone.  Take their children for a little while.  Give them a brief break.

  • creativity - When a family is in crisis, offer creativity.  Drop off something to cheer them up like a favorite drink, a starbucks coffee, a good book, a hot lunch, a cd, a funny card to give them a laugh, etc.  Running through Sonic?  Grab one for a friend in need & drop it off on the porch - text them to let them know - it's 15 minutes of your day but may bring them a smile to be thought of.  One of my favorite things was when people came up with ideas for Will and I to do together and then made it happen.  When I am too tired and out of creativity, I have depended on others who have come up with ideas for activities for Will and I.  People like Susan or Haley gave of their time to research ( & purchase) clothes made for spicas and fun duct tape for cast care.  I can't tell you how much joy it has brought me to make this spica a bit more fun with colorful tape!  I have been so grateful for clothes that fit her cast and are soft and comfortable for sleep.  Send a card - just a "thinking about you" kind of card or even an email or text.  Sometimes, these seemingly little gestures are so significant - they let the recipient know they (& their crisis) are not forgotten.  They can perk someone up on a hard day and remind them they are not alone.
     These aren't necessary to helping a family survive a crisis.  But, this can help a family thrive in crisis.  
  • talents - Use your talents.  Terrible cook and no interest in providing a meal?  No free time or have small children and so unable to offer respite?  But, perhaps you have a skill you can offer?  Perhaps you can sew like our friends Bonnie & Christie who made special spica dresses for Ellie.  
  • Help with Life- I've also appreciated people who stopped by for brief little periods of time - willing to just do something - fold towels, pack boxes, quickly do a load of dishes, etc.  A huge help for me has been someone to run errands for me.  I have taken my kids on errands and to the grocery store while Ellie is in a spica.  It's doable.  But it is hard.  She doesn't fit in the grocery cart & her car seat isn't removable so I must wear her in my carrier.  I love my carrier and am thankful to have found one to fit her in spica but it's not a good fit - the spica makes it awkward.  So, while it does hold her & therefore frees up my hands to push the cart, it's taxing.  Essentially, my back pain which is concentrated generally one area from holding her in spica so much, is just distributed more evenly. :)  Going to the store with both kids involves me wearing her & Will wearing prosthetics  and me preparing myself for the idiot checkout girl (sorry - sore spot) who asks how I broke my baby's legs... it's a doable thing... it's just hard.  I have been so thankful for those who have emailed me that they are headed to the store the next day - I email them a list and they drop by my groceries & I write a check.   (A friend once shared with me that she grocery shopped for a friend in crisis for a whole year & her friend wrote thousands of dollars in checks to her that year.)

Even when a family is in some sort of crisis, life still goes on around them - picking up their dry cleaning, groceries, filling the car up with gas or getting the oil changed, taking the animals to the vet, just errands of life, can be so helpful.  Stopping by someone's house to pick up laundry to fold at your own home & at your own convenience  - this can be a huge help.  Many of these ideas can be done on the schedule of the giver.  

  • Don't ask.  I am often too tired to know what I may or may  not need help with in upcoming days.   I also don't want to feel like I am overusing or abusing someone's generosity or willingness to help.  Plus, I never know how much someone is willing to do.  I don't want anyone to ever feel obligated to do something for us. So, rather than saying, "Please let me know what I can do to help," and making the recipient think of something while not really knowing how much time you have to offer or what skills you have to offer, tell them what you are willing to do.  Set boundaries for yourself and make a practical offer of help within those boundaries.  I loved when someone would say, "I can pack boxes from 10am-noon on Thursday."  Or, "I can come do cast care at 9am on Monday."  Because they were setting their own boundaries, I never felt like I was abusing someone's generosity in those cases.  Plus, it took the burden off of me to feel like I had to create something for someone to do - or to come up with an idea of the top of my head.  By far one of the most helpful things for me was knowing that people had set their boundaries and were offering what they were comfortable giving.  
  • Be on call.  Maybe you can't offer specific help or a specific time frame but you are willing to be on call for someone.  Let them know that in case of emergency or a desperate need (like Ellie's diarrhea disasters - these were obviously unplanned and I couldn't really do them alone.)  And if you get called at an inconvenient time, take the burden off of the person in need by working to find someone else to help.  Just knowing you can be depended on when crisis comes up within a crisis meets a huge need.
  • Give grace  - heaping loads of it.  I have been a terrible friend/sister/daughter/daughter in law/church member, etc for months and months.  I have depended on others for so much and haven't really been able to give back to anyone.  I have been tired - so tired.  I have been wrapped up in taking care of my children and have often had little time for others.  I forget to return calls or emails.  I send birthday cards late.
And yet, my friends and family have so often given me grace.  They have recognized our circumstances are beyond ordinary and they have given me grace - they have released  expectations on me and I am so thankful.  Know that there may be days and times when the family needs your help and other days when they don't - give them grace to say no (& know that they may very well need you the next time!)
Give grace. 
There may be days when they have no idea what they need.  Give grace as they figure it out.

We are to thankful to have received grace upon grace upon grace for the last four years and especially during spica season.

Thank you for serving our family.
Thank you to so many of you who have served us as the hands and feet of Christ.
We are humbled and forever grateful.

Isn't that what Easter is about?
A God who lowered Himself to become man.  A God who served a hurting mankind in crisis, man who thought we could do it on our own, who strive for independence and stubbornly throughout history have tried and failed, this Jesus, He came and served us by dying on a cross to save us with His blood sacrifice.
He gave grace and He gives us grace upon grace upon grace.  He offers us Himself - not only a chance to survive but an opportunity in grace to thrive.
Isn't that the crux of the cross?  
He served us.  In grace, He saved us.
Yes, I think this is what the Body of Christ does in serving others.  We serve because He first served us. We receive grace and we give grace because He gives grace.

Any ideas for how you may have received grace or given it to others during crisis that you can share in the comments below?
I have learned so much from our friends and family and strangers.  Thank you for loving us and serving us, especially during this spica season.

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