Writing a follow-up blog to last weeks podcast seemed like a super fun thing to do…three months ago when we put it on the calendar. I thought I’d write about the dramatic softening of my heart and maybe include some beautiful anecdotes of raw emotion and redemptive love. It was going to be an awesome blog.
But then this thing happened. I got pregnant.
I’m quite sick when I’m pregnant. It was unexpected and I’m still in shock and the last month has sucked. (Except that my mom had fortuitously just moved in with us and is hardcore taking care of me and my family.)
It’s decidedly difficult for me to read or write, due to the severity of my nausea. Which, as a writer, is a hard thing to navigate.
I’ve also been processing a lot. Have I mentioned my husband is starting another business and I’m supposed to be finishing a book and we started counseling all in the last few weeks?
And then my family went on vacation, which was a big deal. We cancelled the first half of the trip, because of how sick I am. (Two days driving across the country with four kids seemed impossible.) But we made it. And it’s been non-stop family and swimming and hiking and nausea and horrible gas and hyped up kids ever since.
Sometimes I feel like my circuits are blown. And when I am mindful and listen to Immanuel, I am aware that He is with me and I am ok. But then I go back to feeling like my circuits are blown.
Tonight I’m in bed in my beautiful North Carolina mountains and, as I think about last weeks podcast, the first thing that comes to mind is that I am deeply thankful for the journey of friendship. I am thankful for the gift of Hannah and all of the other sisters who have loved me.
It is right now, like exactly right now, at THIS kind of a moment in life that sustaining friendship sustains me…when a sisterhood sustains me.
I had to buy maternity pants at four weeks. I walked into a maternity store and something like an anxiety attack happened. “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be pregnant,” played over and over in my head. My chest hurt. It was hard to breathe.
I forced myself to walk through the store and pick out a pair of pants and a few shirts to get me through the week. And when the cashier asked if I’d shopped there before and I said I had and this was baby number five, I almost lost it. (I cannot believe I am doing this again.)
And when I opened up my bag at home and took out the little bundle with coupons and a free baby bottle which, in previous pregnancies, I was delighted to sort through, it was all I could do to stuff the bundle in a drawer and shut it fast.
But you know what? I didn’t stay in that moment by myself. I got on the group vox I share with Hannah and our friend Katie the Jew, and I sat on the toilet in my bathroom trying to poop (want to talk about Zofran and constipation?) and I managed not to cry too hard to tell them exactly how I felt in that moment. And they RESPONDED. There was empathy and validation and prayer and Katie said, “We will shop for you! You never have to go in another maternity store again!”
And do you know what? They did.
I want to Katie’s house and she and Hannah went out to Macy’s and got me a wardrobe of clothes. They turned on 80’s tunes and made me try everything on. Another sweet friend showed up. And they loved on me. When they tried to pray for me we laughed so hard we were all crying. (Because of Toe thumbs. And clammy man hands. And how fat I’m going to get. And how there is nothing to make fun of Hannah about because she’s just so lovable.)
They surrounded me in my pain. They had tenderness for my weakness. Practically and emotionally they upheld me.
Believe me when I say that you can have that in your life. It takes time and intentionality to build relationships, but it is the design of God and the desire of His heart for all of us.
We don’t deserve it. We don’t earn it.
It is a gift that is given, despite of and in light of our brokenness. Which brings me to something else. When I listened to the podcast on Tuesday, I was struck by how hard I am on myself. (Old news. My whole last year was a journey into the Holy Spirit illuminating the harsh standards that I hold myself to. I share some of that journey here.) Still.
I thought, “I give myself very little credit in friendship.” And, if you’ve listened to the episode, (which you should have! Because it’s full of Jesus’ heart and Hannah is a treasure and we laugh a lot and the content is helpful,) you’ll remember that Hannah unabashedly sang my friend praises. (Even in light of my crankiness.)
And here’s the thing, she doesn’t believe I’m a great friend just because she’s so uberly kind and generous. All of my close friends sing my friend praises. (Even the cranky friends.)
She didn’t say I was perfect. In essence, she expressed that I had consistently loved her.
So then I had this thought, “What standard am I holding myself to in friendship?”
Stop and ask yourself the same question. Shocking as it might be, do you think that standard might be, perhaps, perfectionistic?
We titled the pod “How to grow a sustaining friendship - even when you’re the worst,” because there are times when we ALL feel like “the worst.” And a lot of us let that feeling hold us back from reaching out to people we like, or of letting people in.
Hannah and I both found it difficult to evaluate ourselves as friends. For each area/moment/strength that was positive, we found ourselves remembering the times we were less than great friends, the times that our brokenness got in the way of loving well, the times that we copped out because we just didn’t wanna.
The enemy of our souls is a very helper reminder-er of my poor moments. In total and absolute contrast, those that love and know me are clear voices describing and calling out my true self.
Whose report am I going to believe? Whose report are you going to believe?
On the podcast I talked about how we live in the reality that we’re broken people and we’re all going to have hard seasons and that loving well, being glad to be together in those seasons, is integral to friendship.
Pause. Reflect. Do I extend mercy to myself in my friendships? Do you?
I feel uncomfortable as I type this out. Which probably means that I don't.
So, not only have I been expecting myself to write the Great American Novel by age 35, but I have also been expecting myself to be a perfect friend? That’s swell. And now, here I am, having laid in bed for most of the last 4 weeks, hardly able to do anything aside from bemoan my existence.
Well. This all can’t be a coincidence. If anything, the Lord has spoken to me that this pregnancy is a crucial part of the journey of my heart, of feeling, of being Awake and myself. And, He loves to give us good gifts. He is not absent nor horrified at my wrestling through the dilemma of welcoming new life but HATING being pregnant. And neither are my friends.
Today, feeling laid bare, I’m reflecting on my current state of weakness. I’ve decided to accept it and accept the strength my friends can offer me. This is the stuff of life. This is the heart of it all.
Belonging, relationship, intimacy, knowing and being known, is what life is about.
Don’t hold yourself from it.
Let others give you the gift of love when you need it the most.