Purposefully Faithful Friendship in Seasons of Sorrow

“What can I do to help?” my friend asked. “How can I be there for you?”

I was going through another foggy season of depression, struggling to get out of bed in the morning, unable to focus on tasks I normally enjoyed, and just not feeling like myself. Even though I wasn’t surprised my friend of over fourteen years posed the question, that didn’t make me any less grateful she was willing to ask. 

It’s difficult to know how to support friends in their seasons of sorrow, especially if they’re going through disappointments, betrayal, and loss we haven’t experienced before. Thankfully, the Bible offers general principles for being a purposefully faithful friend in seasons of sorrow.

I Got An Epidural

12:00 p.m.

My phone vibrated: “Are you in labor yet?”

It was one of five similar texts I had received within a span of 48 hours. Never mind I was still four days away from my due date, or the fact that if I was in labor I can guarantee my first act of preparing to push a kid out of my hoohah would notbe to get on my phone to play catch up: hey how’s your Monday going my womb is contracting *smiley face emoji*.

But behind all that #SarcasmFont I smiled. Our baby was already so loved.

How to Be Transformed & Renew Your Mind

For a long time I was anything, but...Battle Ready.

I argued with my husband, then self-condemned myself for how handled things.

I considered my dreams and then counted all the reasons why I wasn't good enough.

I hoped to bless others, then got tired and did nothing.

I wanted to be a person of impact, yet felt afraid to look like an embarrassment.

I read God's Word and either forgot it, or thought I was unworthy of receiving it.

I knew God was with me in my mind, but discounted it in my heart.

I desired to be free of man's opinions, but always felt ruled by them.

Are you like I was? Or, are you Battle Ready? Are you empowered with the right thoughts for the hard times you may be dealing with?

When I Am Weak

Thanks to my first trimester fruit-basket-upset of hormones, I rarely felt like myself for the first four months of this pregnancy.

I’ve had depression before, but never while pregnant. Chronic nausea and cold winter and bouts of the flu likely didn’t help. Though I have taken anti-depressants before, they're not considered safe during the first trimester of pregnancy. 

I was operating out of weakness: unable to muster energy to do the usual cooking and playing and tidying for my family. Unable to write or find the desire to socially share. Unable to leave our four walls and pretend I was fine. The culturally appropriate question to ask a pregnant woman is, “How have you been feeling?”

But I can’t say that the culturally appropriate answer is, “Depressed.”

The Minefield and Ministry That is a Marriage

“Has Mr. Broekhuis ever cheated on you?” our ten-year-old neighbor asked last summer.

I remember being so shocked by such a young kid talking about such grown-up things. And I remember that before I could answer, another ten-year-old piped up, saying, “No, Mr. Broekhuis would never cheat!”

I remember feeling so proud of my husband and the way he outwardly cherishes me as his wife. His witness was strong, simply by being a loving husband and father.

But what if they knew? I also thought. What if they could also see all the ways we’ve both failed as husband and wife?

Motherhood is a Cursed Blessing

“What would your High School Self be surprised about you today?” my friend once asked.

I required no lengthy pondering: “My High School Self would be surprised by how hard it is to be a mom.”

I always knew I wanted a family, but I can’t say that beyond snuggles and smiles, I anticipated all the blood, sweat, and tears:

The way my body would be physically strained, stretched, and torn open wide, only to be left more saggy and floppy than before.

The way I would function in a foggy exhaustion, day after tedious day – while years passed by in a blink.

The way my spirit would at times feel crushed by the weight of caring for tiny humans relying on me for their wellbeing.

The way my toddler would refuse to wear clothes but then demand to wear a pink stocking cap.

The way I’d doubt if I’m doing a good job or just racking up reasons for them to see a therapist some day.

Chutes and Broken Ladders

Each time I walk up the stairs to our front porch, I am reminded of how privileged I am to be here.

It was the third house we toured with our realtor, and I was smitten over every detail: a relatively new home that only needed a heavy paint job, enough square footage to create a guest bedroom, an open concept kitchen and living room to practice hospitality, and even main floor laundry.

We heavily debated over its location in the heart of the inner city, but after a few days of late night discussion and dreaming and anxiety admitting, Husband received a devotional in his inbox with this verse attached:

The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. {John 1:14}

We are not the type to demand signs from heaven, but we were pretty sure that confirmed God was shouting, This is the one!

Less Isn't More if Christ Isn't Glorified

Living with less is a lifestyle. One that many are interested in this time of year especially:

“I resolve to live with less stuff.”

“I resolve to eat less junk food.”

“I resolve to spend less time on the couch.”

Many of us are zeroing in on our lifestyles in the name of less, in the name of decluttering or tidying our homes and bodies and schedules. And I think many of us have the best of intentions. But I want to share about how the resolution of less can veer off the path of righteousness as well.

What Are You Waiting For?

Being in community with many women in waiting, in tandem with my own seasons of waiting, I
have learned how we handle the wait says so much about what we believe to be true about God.

I have seen some resign their lives to the sidelines, while others bravely live fully in the midst of the wait.

What are you waiting for?


A spouse? (or an improved version of the one you have ;)
A child?
A job?
Healing?
A house?
A much deserved promotion?
Graduation?
Weight loss?
A dream?


Not many of us would describe seasons of waiting as joyful or peaceful. Instead we feel torn between our world that is and the world we so desperately long for—believing that once the wait is over life will be fulfilled, easier.

How Do I Teach Thankfulness?

"How do you teach your kids to be thankful?" my friend asked me four years ago.

 

And after four years of motherhood I still think: Great question.

It's hard enough to teach the politeness of consistently saying "please" and "thank you."

I know, because I remember taking our daughter to the movie theater for a special day out when she was three. After a fantastic time watching Beauty and the Beast, I thought I would feel the gratitude spilling over in the car through giggly conversation about how much we enjoyed the film and the sour candy.

But our daughter had a meltdown in the backseat instead. I had told her no when she told me she wanted more candy. There was kicking and screaming and gnashing of teeth. Part of me was slightly impressed at how much ruckus the small body of a child could make when she didn’t get her way. The other, much larger part of me was boiling at her ingratitude.

For the Days You Don't Feel Like an Award Winner

This past summer I wrote half of a book.

My husband was gracious enough to spend his days off from teaching to watch our kids so that I could park myself in quiet spaces around our city and write. It was glorious, it was rejuvenating, and it was amazing the words I could crank out when my writing hours expanded beyond 7-9 pm.

But here’s the thing: unless you are a New York Times Bestseller, or unless you have a bomb social media platform, or unless your first book called Here Goes Nothing far exceeds everyone’s expectations in sales – there is no guarantee that the second book you wrote half of will receive a contract.

Going through the publishing process with a prestigious company the first time around only confirmed that I am a tiny fish in an extremely large ocean of talented people. But - neither naively nor pessimistically - I decided to try for a second book contract anyway.

And I was told no.

An Introvert's Survival Guide to Motherhood

Someone once asked me when I realized I was an introvert. I told her I didn’t fully acknowledge that part of my personality until I became a mom.

Pre-parenthood, my cup of energy depleted at the rate of someone drinking through a coffee straw. Social interaction was draining, but it was easier to prioritize time for myself. 

When our daughter was born, it felt like someone picked up my glass of energy, looked me square in the eyes, and dumped it out all over the toy-littered floor. The intense attention that tiny people need, combined with little time to recharge, made motherhood's first season feel like it was sucking the life right out of me. 

When Jesus Doesn't Call You On The Phone

I remember sitting in a room full of swiveling chairs, approaching my final semester of college and wondering, What’s next, Lord?

It can be an exciting question to ask, full of awe at a world exploding with options of places and peoples. But it can also be a question filled with anxieties:

No, seriously, WHAT’S NEXT, LORD?!

As my husband and I stood in front of a room of college seniors in their own swivel chairs a week and a half ago, I understood what a blessing six years of post-college-graduation hindsight can be. It’s easy to look back now and say that God faithfully led us from one thing to the next, mercifully opening and closing different doors for us.

But it wasn’t always easy when we were standing in the hallway staring at Doors 1, 2, and 3, and being forced to pick one. Or feeling like there were no doors to choose from at all.

A Note to Those Dropping Off Casseroles

To the One Dropping Off Casseroles,

 

You showed up.

Right now as I’m living my own worst nightmare – having lost someone I love – that simple truth means everything to me.

I know coming here to my doorstep wasn’t an easy thing to do. Let’s be honest, you being here while I’m deeply grieving probably feels awkward. Sadness itself is awkward, and for that reason alone I know it would have been easier for you to stay home and avoid having to see me and these tears that can't seem to stop streaming down my face.

I’ll Never Send My Kid to Preschool. And Other Ways I’ve Changed My Mind.

As we perused the racks of school uniforms, I held back tears.

Wasn’t I just holding our first baby tightly against my chest, breathing in her precious newborn scent? Since when did years pass by in only seconds? And since when did little navy polos and black Mary Jane’s and Back to School Shopping become an integral part of my life?  

I knew these days would come eventually. Babies barely leave the birth canal before society wants to know how, when, and where their parents plan to educate them.

But as I held up different sizes of pants and shirts to my daughter’s four-year-old frame, I knew that while a large part of me felt sensitive to motherhood’s changing seasons, the other part of me was struggling to let myself change my mind.

I’ll never send her to school before Kindergarten, I used to think and say out loud.

We Can't Stop at Band-Aids

I woke up from a nap to four missed calls from my neighbor.

I called back right away, never expecting to hear her voice come through the speaker saying, “I just got evicted.”

My mind raced for solutions to a problem much larger than I am, and then came back to the starting line when she asked, “Do you have any trash bags to put our stuff in?”

That One Time I Accused My Husband of Never Helping Me While He Was Helping Me

I took our kids to the grocery store last week after school.

One child - who shall remain nameless – whined incessantly up and down every single aisle. I almost set her on the Clearance rack next to all of the weirdly flavored jars of jelly that will eventually end up in landfills and walked away.

With blood, sweat, and only a few tears of my own, I managed to get our bags of groceries into the car, as well as our children.

On the way home, the Whiny One Who Shall Not Be Named was given orders to remain silent – lest her words be used against her in all future decisions on the writing of our family’s will.

And it worked – mostly because there was a bribe for cheese crackers included. At least, it worked until she started screaming that she had to go potty.

When You Don’t Know the Moral Of the Story

“Do you have any advice to give me as I write about living in an inner city neighborhood?" I asked one of our mentors.

He went over important precautions, and then he ended with this: “Most of the time, writers want to know the moral of the story. But when you live in a distressed neighborhood, things will happen and you won’t be able to explain why. And that’s okay.”

I was impressed by his ability to capture the dilemma of what it’s like to digest your life in real time on the Internet.

Token White Girl

I could easily reword my Christian testimony to reflect the number of interactions I had with people of minority races before the age of 22:

“I lived in an all-white Christian home, attended a mostly white Christian school, and went to a predominantly white Christian church.”

In specific regards to African Americans, what I knew were things I was taught in history books or saw in the movies. To me, they were like mystical creatures who manifested themselves into three categories: historical figures from the Civil Rights movement, NBA players, and Tyler Perry’s Madea.

Why I’ll Never Write About Safe Parenting

Our daughter spent the first ten months of her life in Guatemala where car seats simply were not a thing.

She sat on my lap in crowed vans and refurbished school buses, speeding through our city's cobbled streets and careening around winding mountain roads.

Our move back to the States and her transition to the laws of car seats was, shall I say, rough. There were times it took both my husband and I to wrangle her into her seat and buckle her in. There were times she would push the chest clip far below the recommended armpit height, and wriggled her arms above the straps. And there were times, during the long battle it took to get her to accept her car seat, we gave up and let her ride with her pits out. We chose our sanity over her safety.