My new friend and I sat in a pair of living room chairs, hands cupped around steaming mugs of coffee. I’d done a quick sweep of stray items before she arrived, and our kitchen and living room looked respectably clean. For once, the house was quiet — the kids were at school, my husband had appointments elsewhere — and I reveled in the peaceful stillness.
But the longer she and I chatted, the more I noticed that while my friend spoke lovingly of her young family, the weight of motherhood was heavy.
“The house always feels messy,” she said. “I get frustrated when my kids don’t sleep. I want to enjoy these years, but sometimes it just feels hard.”
My kids are just a handful of years older than hers, but I remember the tiring round of sleepless nights and a counter cluttered with baby bottles. Though my children don’t spur the same level of physical exhaustion, the mental and emotional toll of hormones and homework can make this current season feel hard too.
When she paused, I debated with myself for a minute, uncertain whether I should reveal my secret. After all, from the outside looking in, my life looked pretty good — a quiet, clean house that appeared orderly. But I knew my new friend deserved the truth.
Walking over to a fuzzy blanket placed strategically close to the couch, I pulled it off with a flourish, revealing the overflowing toy box it had hidden underneath.
“Oh my goodness,” my new friend said slowly, eyes moving over the piled mounds of toys. A half-finished craft project dangled over one side, while an American Girl© doll teetered on the other. It was quite clearly — a mess.
“That. Is. Awesome,” she breathed.
An hour later, as we hugged goodbye at the door, she paused and looked at me.
“Thanks for today,” she said. “I feel refreshed.”
“Me too,” I said honestly.
My life is messy and imperfect and wonderful. And as someone who wants strong, healthy relationships with other women that last a lifetime, it does our friendship a disservice to pretend otherwise.
Grace in All Seasons
“How is Tim doing?” a friend asked sympathetically one day, several years ago.
We had just arrived at church, and in the wake of my husband’s recent surgery, I felt overwhelmed. Between juggling small children, the household demands of cleaning and cooking, and the frantic pace of the morning rush to school, appointments, and bedtime routines, I was exhausted.
Hearing her kind tone, my composure frayed, and tears welled as I told her how much I was struggling. She hugged me as I fumbled for a tissue. But though she was sympathetic, she didn’t offer to pray for me or ask if she could help in a tangible way to ease the burden. She didn’t send a quick text later to check in on me or ask, ever again, how I was doing.
That moment of vulnerability was the last deep conversation we had. I left feeling lonelier than ever, ashamed that I couldn’t pull it together. Eventually, the friendship fizzled.
I don’t begrudge the other woman’s response. I’m sure she had plenty of worries of her own. But since that encounter, I’ve been convicted by the idea that true, deep friendship requires more. More than simply asking how someone else is doing. More than a quick chat at church or Bible study. More than the highlights and successes shared on social media.
Prioritizing friendships can fall by the wayside when our lives are full of activities and responsibilities. Ecclesiastes 4:9 reminds us that we’re better and stronger together: “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.”
God designed us to long for deep friendships and experience healthy community. We’re wired for belonging. And whether we’re parenting infants or toddlers who need our ever-present care, busy elementary-aged children, teens who exhaust us emotionally, or adult children with whom we must find a new footing, all of us need friends who support us in every season.
How can we be a good friend to someone else in moments when we ourselves are barely hanging on?
Here are some of the things that have helped me maintain friendships during these joyful yet challenging years.
Commit to Going First
There are lots of reasons why we don’t want to reach out to someone else: We fear rejection, tell ourselves we’re too introverted or shy, or reason that we’re just too busy. Most of us are simply waiting to be asked, but sometimes the invitations don’t come when we need them the most. Instead of waiting for someone else to take the plunge, let’s commit to being the person who is brave enough to actively invite others, both in terms of actual invitations to do things together and in being open emotionally about difficult circumstances.
Prioritize Friendships in Your Calendar
One of the items that consistently comes up in our weekly family meetings is the question: “Who do you want to spend time with over the next few weeks?” Afterward, we’re intentional to reach out to those friends and schedule a date on the calendar to spend time together. This is a great way to teach kids to prioritize their friendships too, by making sure they have time with friends on the family calendar.
Keep Your Circle Open
We moved to an area where many people have lived their entire lives. As a newcomer, it can feel hard to befriend someone who has deep ties to friends they’ve known since childhood or high school, but it helps to look beyond obvious places to find friends. Consider other places you might find a friend, like hobbies, kids’ sports, or through volunteering. We learn and grow the most from unexpected friendships.
Ask For Help When You Need It
It’s easy to pretend we have it all together — and honestly, I hate asking for help. Six weeks after our youngest daughter was born, my husband had neck surgery and couldn’t lift anything over five pounds, including our daughter. On top of that stressor, I woke up with debilitating vertigo a few days after his surgery. I went from feeling like I could handle our new family of five to feeling like a failure. Knowing that I couldn’t do it on my own, I called my friends, who immediately stepped in with meals to lessen the load. When someone offers assistance, stifle the impulse to turn him or her down. Be honest about your needs, even — or especially — when it requires you to be vulnerable.
Check In on a Regular Basis
Two of my friends and I have an ongoing text thread that we use daily, not just for updates on day-to-day life but for prayer requests and funny memes. Regular communication via text helps us feel connected and reminds us that we’re not alone, no matter what we face.
Remember That Friendships Are Messy
All close relationships experience bumps along the way; the price of vulnerability is occasionally hurting others or being hurt ourselves, even when it’s unintentional. As friends, let’s refuse to hold grudges or gossip behind someone else’s back. Instead, let’s choose to believe the best about our friends and apologize quickly and sincerely when we need to.
Cultivating friendships that last a lifetime means considering the big picture, understanding that people’s availability can ebb or flow depending on the season of life they’re in at the time. Be willing to give others space when they need it, then gently nudge them back toward community. Remind your friends of their best qualities, especially when they doubt themselves. Celebrate their successes, big and small.
Pray for One Another
Good friends see our imperfections and love us anyway, but great friends see the best in us too and choose to cheer us on. When we actively see our friendship through the lens of Christ’s love, our interactions gain a deeper, richer nuance.
As friends, let’s support one another by providing the safe space needed to express our greatest joys and most vulnerable challenges in equal measure. It takes courage to admit the truth that life can be hard and good at the same time. When we do, we’ll find the community we long for and friendships that last.
A career in journalism set Kristin Demery up to publish her own stories of living this wild, precious life. She now is an author of numerous truth-telling books, including the latest One Good Word a Day, and part of a trio of writers collectively known as The Ruth Experience. An adventurer at heart, she loves checking items off the family bucket list with her husband and three daughters. Find more at theruthexperience.com.
10 Ways to Show Love to a Friend
1. Send her a note or text to let her know you’re thinking of her that day.
2. Post a link to a special song or a funny meme on her social media.
3. Find a favorite photo of the two of you and send it her way.
4. Surprise your friend with a spontaneous gift, like a bouquet of flowers or her favorite chocolate.
5. If she has young children, offer to babysit so she can have a night out.
6. Mail a handwritten letter that details why she is special to you.
7. Set up a coffee date — even a virtual one — to chat and catch up.
8. Share a fun playlist with her of friendship-themed songs (or songs that bring back cherished memories).
9. Text your friend a thoughtful prayer that’s specific to her life.
10. Share a book you just finished or a movie you adore with her.
Looking for additional encouragement in your friendships? The One Year Daily Acts of Friendship explores what genuine friendship looks like and helps you recognize how God amplifies healthy relationships in ways that are gloriously surprising and deeply satisfying. In this 365-day devotional, discover easy-to-do ideas for building and maintaining your friendships in small ways that carry long-lasting, relationship-rich impact. One Year Daily Acts of Friendship is available at lifeway.com.