Taking Inventory

The seasons are changing, and the summer is rapidly approaching! Given how long the winter has been, and our lack of spring here in the midwest, I think I speak for everyone when I say that I’m so excited! I cannot wait for the sun to shine, to lay by the pool and to be able to break out all the dresses in my closet. I

As the seasons transition, and summer begins, there’s something that I do each year. I used to assume than everyone else did this, but you may not, and that’s okay. Maybe it’s helpful for you. My feelings wouldn’t be hurt if it’s not.

But each spring, I take inventory.

What does that even mean? It means that I take inventory of my calendar and of my closet.

First, I look at my calendar and see what trips I have coming up this year, what weddings I’m attending and if there are any other big events.

Then, I go and stand in my closet and look through what I already have. If you change over the your closet, don’t do this before you have done so because you may forget what you already have and love, but just haven’t seen for several months.

If you’re super organized or someone who needs to write things down, grab your planner when you do this. While weather can always change, it’s usually safe to guess that it’s going to be HOT in July and August.

Here are some of the questions I ask as I stand in my closet.

  • What did I wear to weddings last year that worked?
  • How can I re-use what I already have with a different or new necklace, sweater, scarf or shoes?
  • Was there a dress that really didn’t work for an event last year? (Strapless dresses, alcohol and dancing at weddings doesn’t work for me, but I can forget this if I’m trying an outfit together at the last minute.)
  • Who was at the wedding that I wore this to? This may not matter to you at all. I’ll be honest, it matters to me, and that’s why I ask it.
  • If you’re in a wedding this summer, you’ll want to remember the extra events that are required of you – showers, bachelorette parties and rehearsal dinners. If you’re already panicking about costs, start thinking of friends who will let you borrow clothes.
  • If you’ve gone through body changes in the last year, start trying things on now. If it doesn’t fit now, in April, unless you lose or gain weight quickly (I don’t), it probably wouldn’t fit in June… and be honest, maybe it wouldn’t work in August. Get it out of your closet. You don’t have to get rid of it, but don’t plan on it being part of the rotation this summer. That’s life. Don’t feel guilty. This is not the time to feel shame or even make a plan for fitting into it again. We’re being practical about clothes in this moment in the closet.
  • My go-to outfit for a wedding includes a dress, wedges or heels, a statement necklace and a jean jacket or sweater. That may not be yours, but that’s what I usually do.
  • Write your planner or in your take note of what dresses you want to wear to each wedding, plus possible shoe and jewelry options. Yes, get that detailed, I promise it helps. If you don’t keep a planner or feel weird writing it there, you can write your outfit choice on the back of the wedding invitation.
  • Take note of what gaps exist. Maybe you’ve got five weddings this summer, three with the same group of people, but only two dresses that you’re comfortable wearing, and you’d rather not repeat. This means, you’ve got a dress to purchase for this summer. Maybe you’ve got enough dresses, but your shoes are really worn out, this means you’ve got a pair of shoes to purchase before that first wedding.
  • If your budget is really tight, I recommend you start to ask friends to shop their closets and offering the same in return. “Hey, I’ve got a couple of weddings to go to this summer, can I borrow a dress so that I can avoid buying something? You can look through what I have, too.” Ask in advance, offer to have it dry cleaned before you return it, and usually friends are willing to lend things out. Especially if it’s not part of their everyday rotation.

Now that you’ve taken inventory, you have permission to buy specific items. I start this process in April because it eliminates the day before the event rush to get something that ends up with me buying something that I’ll never wear again. It gives my online window shopping purpose instead of the impulsive shopping I can do just because it’s payday and I have cash burning a hole in my pocket. When you do go shopping, make sure that you’re buying things that you’ll be able to wear again and that are versatile for other events. Have a backyard wedding to attend and a bridal shower this summer? Wear wedges to the wedding and a statement necklace, then swap out the wedges for a cute flat sandal and a different necklace for the shower. Are you catching on to my madness yet?

I ask similar questions about my summer vacations and special events. I even start planning what I’m going to wear or pack. Yes, even in April for a July vacation. Maybe it’s because I start getting excited, but also because I’ve made too many purchases right before something because I thought that I “needed it” only to be disappointed because I ended up donating that same item to Goodwill years later, and didn’t like how it looked on.

Taking inventory has helped me make wise investments and maximize new purchases that I make while eliminating the stress of standing in my closet in my underwear deciding what to wear as I run late to a wedding. Instead, I can buy new stuff that will be worn for seasons to come as they go on sale and head to a wedding without the frantic stress that comes with not being able to make a decision.


When You Change…

When I was in college, I ate canned green beans with some hummus and salt, and called it a meal. I also had a polar pop almost every day. I told myself that I wasn’t a healthy eater, and that was okay. That carried me into adulthood. I ate as cheaply as possible, so that meant a lot of pasta, peanut butter toast and sometimes vegetables. Plus Starbucks… a lot of it because I worked a lot. I labeled myself as an unhealthy eater, even though I knew better. Every once in a while, I’d try to change something – I’d give up sweets for lent, I’d fall in love with a couple healthier recipes, but I’d always tell myself, “You’re not a healthy eater,” and nothing would stick.

Something funny has happened in the last year. I’ve started to change. My whole mindset on food has shifted. At the beginning of 2017, I wanted to try one new recipe a month and also eat more vegetables. So I did it. I wish I could say the changes were significant or that I immediately fell in love with green things (yes, I still call them that), but I didn’t. I was still choosing to eat healthier though, so it had to count for something.

I just finished Whole30, and I could write a love letter to this program. It was fantastic. But maybe the more significant is how it gave me permission to change how I viewed myself. The pizza and red wine loving girl still exists, but I’m not defined by it anymore.

It’s as if Whole30 gave me permission to admit that I changed. Not just how I eat changed, but more of who I am had. I am no longer the girl who cannot say no to a second or third brownie. But first I had to let go of the identity before the behavior could truly change, or I’d keep bouncing back to the same behaviors.

I’m wondering what other identities I’ve picked up that prevent me from developing new behaviors.

I also started making my bed in 2018. For a decade, I’ve told myself that I was messy, and that’s why my room was messy. But, this year, I wanted to see if I could discipline myself to keep a cleaner room. You know what? It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there. An old roommate cannot believe that I make my bed every day because my messiness and chaos was something I used to be sort of proud of.

I’m changing though. And the person who it’s hardest on is me. Because of all the things I’ve told myself about myself. I have been my own obstacle to growth.

I’m digging deep to see what other stories I’ve written onto myself that may be preventing me from growing.

You’re not disciplined.

You’re not organized.

Your success isn’t the same as other’s.

You’re not worth a big paycheck.

You’ll never be successful.

You can’t finish projects or tasks.

You’re only a creative; you can’t handle the technical stuff.

You’re a feeler, and therefore illogical.

You’re obsessed with image.

You’re intimidating.

You like spending time with people, but you don’t have a servant’s heart.

You can only endure if you’re still enthusiastic.

I’m realizing that I need to give myself permission to change. To be a different person than I was last year. To let go of who I expected I’d become, and just focus on becoming. Whole30 gave me the opportunity to say no to chocolate and pizza and wine, there must be other behaviors in my life that require an identity shift first. In some cases, the identity shift is easy, in other circumstances, there are deep rooted lies that need to be corrected before the change can ever happen. 

It’s worthy work to dig deep and to dare to write new stories with our lives. These changes may lead to a different me than I planned on. There’s freedom in that, so long as I’m walking with God and continue to be focused on Jesus.

Friendship With Jesus in Marriage

Today’s blog is written by my best friend, Katherine Marlin. She’s an amazing friend who I truly wish could be friends with all the people I know. She loves well.

Marriage & friendship is an interesting topic and one that could go fifty directions – so I thought I may give thoughts on one: friendship with Jesus in marriage. Friendship with Jesus is something I didn’t expect to grow within marriage. I don’t mean I thought once I got married I wouldn’t grow spiritually. I mean I didn’t really expect the hard things in marriage to reveal another side of friendship with Jesus that I wouldn’t see anywhere else. This new friendship with Jesus happens before the uncomfortable conversations or after the big arguments – the times when Chris and I have a difficult discussion and there is no one else to call upon but Jesus. In those moments, I literally reach the point of crying out to God through tears and gasps and barely can get out “God, help me.”

You may be thinking, “wow, their marriage must be terrible” – but honestly, it’s not and it’s actually pretty amazing. This hasn’t happened all that many times – I could probably count on two hands when I’ve reached these points. But these times still stick with me. I can vividly remember the most recent time six weeks ago. It was terrible and beautiful all in the same breath. We had both said some things we regretted saying, in tones of voice we regretted using. I left our bedroom and bawled, sitting on the couch in the dark. Those next few minutes alone asking God to help me, to help us, took me another step deeper in intimacy with the Lord. In that moment, and in moments similar to that, I am pushed to the point of belief that Jesus is all that matters.

When the closest and dearest thing to me has failed me, I still have Jesus, and He is more than enough. I have thoughts in my head that if our marriage is going to be awful now because of this fight (which is a terribly dramatic thought for me), everything will be ok because Jesus loves me and knows me and chooses me over and over again. Jesus understands me when Chris misunderstands me. Jesus loves me when it doesn’t feel like Chris loves me. Jesus chooses me when Chris is pushed to the point of having to make that decision over again. The comfort from this sentiment alone makes moments like these completely worth it – to get to a point in my soul where I am convinced again Jesus is all that matters. Friendship with Jesus is a relationship that remains when all others fall short – when your friend lets you down, when your co-worker demeans you, when your kids disrespect you.

I love how the Passion translation describes our new uninhibited access to God through Jesus “And now we are brothers and sisters in God’s family because of the blood of Jesus, and He welcomes us to come right into the Most Holy Sanctuary in the heavenly realm – boldly and with no hesitation! For He has dedicated a new, life-giving way for us to approach God. For just as the veil was torn in two, Jesus’ body was torn open to give us free and fresh access to Him! And since we now have a magnificent King-Priest to welcome us into God’s house, we come closer to God and approach Him with an open heart, fully convinced by faith that nothing will keep us at a distance from Him.” Hebrews 10:19-21.  This access to God, this friendship with Jesus, this community with the Holy Spirit, is an unshakeable and reliable force in our lives that won’t ever let us down – if others please us or fail us, may we continue on deeper with the Lover of our souls.


Favorite Podcasts on Friendship

I like listening to podcasts almost as much as I love reading! I listen to podcasts with subjects similar to what I read – story-based non-fiction, news related, and faith-based stuff. Over the years that I’ve been listening to podcasts, I’ve got some favorites, especially related to friendship. Each one is a little bit different. Some tell stories of friendship, where others can give instructions for how to make a friend or what friendship can look like. If you’re anything like me, and love learning about and seeing friendship, you should take a listen to these podcasts!

Sorta Awesome, episode 54, Ten Friends Every Woman Needs is one that I recommend most frequently. There’s a myth in our culture that you need a best friend. A singular best friend who meets all your needs. Depending on your season of life, that “best friend” is going to look a little differently. This podcast episode challenged the best friend myth, and reminded me of the importance of having a diversity of friends. Not even just a close knit friend group, but friends who meet a variety of needs, and who may not even know each other.

For The Love with Jen Hatmaker, episode 3, Girlfriends Can Save the World with Shasta Nelson, reminded me why I think friendship is not just important, but vital for our lives. Shasta has done significant research on how to develop intimate friendships and what happens when we don’t have them. I’ve since picked up her book, Frientimacy, because of how much I loved listening to her talk on the podcast. Chances are, if you’ve seen me since August, I haven’t been able to shut up about how destructive loneliness is, and that’s a topic I learned all about on this podcast. I’m more committed than ever to be a person who saves my friends from loneliness.

For The Love with Jen Hatmaker, episode 5, Real Girlfriend Stories from the Tribe brought me to tears. For The Love is a podcast that my best friend and I both listen to, and after we both listened to this episode, we started crying talking about it to one another. It’s a real story of what blood and guts friendship looks like. After listening to it, I wanted to be a better friend – to love deeper and more sacrificially for the people I’m closest to.

Happy Hour #144 with Sarah Harmeyer was one of my favorite episodes of the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, and I’ve listened to almost all of them. I highly recommend the Happy Hour in general because it’s always good; even the episodes that I’m less interested in are GREAT! This episode was a special one for me because of the concept of The Neighbor’s Table that Sarah Harmeyer introduced and how she’s lived out community in her own life.

I’d love to hear what podcast recommendations you have on friendship and your favorite topics! I’m always looking to learn and listen to stories while I run or drive.

First Responders

In February, I was in a bad car accident. Driving from babysitting to my friends’ house in the suburbs, I accelerated through a green light. A drunk driver ran a red light, t-boned a car who then hit me. It was the first car accident I was in. Within minutes I could hear the police sirens. An officer arrived, made sure I was okay, and shifted gears to evaluating more urgent matters. Truly, the first responders, police officers and firefighters, kept me safe, calm and warm on the cold and scary February night.

As I sat in my car, it became clear to me pretty quickly that I wasn’t driving my car to my friends’ house anymore. I would end up having to crawl over the console to even get out of the car. My contact flew out of my left eye because of the contact. Before I called my parents who were two hours away, I knew I needed to call someone else. Someone who could come to me quickly. I needed my personal first responders.

The friends who came to get me that night were the BEST. They were in for the night, so they showed up to the scene with glasses on, one step away from their pajamas. He took pictures of the aftermath of the accident. She greeted me with a big hug and kept me company until we were ready to leave. They made sure I had everything out of my car. Once we got to our destination, they prayed for me and helped me come up with a plan for the next day.

The other set of friends (whose house I was headed to) called quickly after hearing what happened and said, “We think it’s a good idea if you still stay with us tonight. We’ll take care of you, and get you everything you need tomorrow, too.” And they did just that.

My first responders weren’t just my local friends. I had an out-of-town friend offer to call while I wanted for my friends to arrive. Another out-of-town friend called the next day to check-in.

All I had to do was ask for a ride on Monday morning to pick-up my rental car, and another friend stepped in to help. Texts came throughout the week. Church folks offered to go car shopping with me.

Reflecting on the countless ways that my friends stepped up for me in the week following the car accident challenged me to think about what it means to be a first responder.

Am I willing to let myself be inconvenienced on behalf of someone else? 

It’s not usually convenient to be a first responder. You have to get some place quickly, and with little notice. If I’m only wanting a friendship for the moments that are easy, fun and Instagrammable, I’ll never be willing to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own.

Have I communicated that I’m ready to spring into action for someone before an emergency even happens?

The same friend who showed up at the scene of the accident is listed as my work emergency contact. We both have out of town family, and I asked her if it was okay to list her, she did the same for me. When she (and others) have shared that in an emergency, they didn’t know who to call, I’ve tried to say, “In the future, I’d be able to be there.”

Am I consistency reliable? 

Trust is built one moment at a time. These were not new friends to me. Over the past five years, we’ve become increasingly comfortable asking each for things. Have there been times when we’ve been too busy to hang out? Yes. Reliability isn’t the same as availability. I knew that they would come because they’ve also been the friends to help me when I move and my people who check in on me when my parents have been sick. I hope I can be the same kind of friend back to them.

Do I offer to help even when the need doesn’t seem urgent? 

Usually the first time someone calls you for help it’s not going to be an emergency. It may be a passing comment about how there’s someone sick in their family. Or how their ride to the airport fell through. Or that their husband is out of town for multiple days over the next several weeks. Those are small opportunities to build trust over time, to become someone who they would call in an emergency. Eventually, they’ll become comfortable enough to ask for something that not urgent, and then hopefully something that’s bigger and more immediate.

It’s okay if you’re not a first responder to friend who you would hang out with on a Saturday night. That level of vulnerability and reliability takes time and energy to cultivate. It’s likely that you have several friends who you either consider to be first responders or you can identify as having that potential. Take time to invest in those relationships. Communicate that you view them as such. It’s also okay if your short list of people shifts over time. That’s only natural, too.

We become the first responders in each other’s lives by responding. Best friends are not born overnight. The trust is built throughout years and by showing up. Over time, we prove our self as reliable and able to be counted on in someone’s most vulnerable moments.


Last spring, I messed up pretty publicly. It was the kind of mess up that you you wake up the next morning full of conviction and maybe even some shame. It didn’t help that it was at a wedding with so many of my college friends. Everyone saw me in one of my lowest moments. I was a train wreck that no one could look away from.

I spent the whole next day crying because I was embarrassed, and sad. I had no one to blame but myself. This mess up was something that used to be a pattern in my life, but I thought that I had moved past it. Truly, it rattled me to my core.

I remember the conversations in the couple of days after this public mess-up. I called my best friend, apologized for my behavior and asked her who else I needed to apologize to. I confessed to my roommates what I had done. It was almost as if I wanted everyone to know what happened so I could move on and forget it. I continued to be shocked by the responses of each of my close friends.

In my self-condemnation haze, I couldn’t remember what was true of me. I felt as though I was a sum total of the mess-up.

Yet with each person, I was met with grace.

Grace that I didn’t feel worthy of because of my mess-up. Grace that acknowledged what I did was wrong, but didn’t permit me to continue on in my shame. Grace that restored me back to what’s true of my identity.

One of my roommates spoke the sweetest words over me as I shared what I did and how I was feeling about it. Standing in my kitchen, she said, “Caitlin, God is pleased that you confessed this to Him. You are forgiven already. He just wanted you to come to Him.”

I’ve mostly broken myself of my perfectionist tendencies. But every once in a while they rear their ugly head. Usually it’s when I mess up. I often live my life in a way that says I believe that grace gets me 99% of the way to the finish line, but the last 1% is all me. So when I mess up, I cannot finish. I failed. My mistakes, especially the public ones, can damage my heart on a deep level.

Thankfully, I have incredible friends who continue to be my friend even when I mess-up, and restore me back to my right place. When I feel defined by my behavior, they remind that my identity is much deeper than one night’s mistake.

But the restoration can only come when we’re aware that we need to be restored, and when we ask for it. When I’ve felt the most disappointed in friendships, it’s when I’ve been the least vulnerable. Thankfully, last spring when I needed my friends to remind me of who I was, I was open enough to confess the mistake so that they could be part of the restoring.

Grace is freely available, but you do have to ask for it. Friendship can be part of the restoration process, but you do have to be open about your need.

Resolving Conflict

Leadership development books love to tell the story of the employee who makes a very costly mistake. The employee approaches his boss, sure that he’s going to be fired, but is met with something else instead. The boss says, “Why would I fire you? That money we just lost was a costly investment in your career.”

I’ve seen this same concept be true in friendship. Hurt, mistakes or even just miscommunication with a friend usually has me looking for an escape plan. Thoughts run through my head. How can I untangle my life from that person’s? How can we part ways gracefully?

But honestly, just like the boss sees the costly mistake as an investment, in friendship, conflict is an opportunity to deepen the friendship.

Let me stop and note right here that I’m not talking about toxic relationships where there is abuse on either side, but instead in situations where there is hurt that cannot be ignored, but that can be worked through. There may also be times when we need to walk away from a friendship, that is also okay, but I believe that we too often walk away from a hard situation where forgiveness is waiting on the other side of some difficult conversations.

It could be easy for someone to read through my 31 days on friendship and think that all my relationships are perfect. But that’s far from true. I’ve walked through relational conflict with almost all of my closest friends. I’ve got quite a few close friends, so my relational conflict has been abundant. In fact, there was a season that it felt like I wondered if the problem was me. Was I the person who was hard to be friends with? Maybe. Probably.

What I have almost always seen be true is that on the other side of seasons of relational conflict are deepened friendships. Once you’ve walked through something hard with a friend, you have more on the line to continue to invest in.

I’ve picked up a helpful tool in talking through hurt. It’s three easy words. Observation, interpretation, and clarification. I’ve found this model to be especially helpful because it assumes the best about the other person. And in resolving conflict, it’s often fruitful to walk into a conversation with humility; knowing that you could be in the wrong and wanting to fix it.

Here’s how a conversation could work:

First you observe. “Hey Jane, I’ve noticed that you frequently interrupt me when I’m talking.”

Then you interpret. “When you do that, it seems like you don’t value what I have to say.”

You finish by asking for clarification. “Can you speak into that a little bit?”

Obviously this is an overly implied situation. But the language is helpful to guide relational conflict to a resolution.

Conversations about hurt or where miscommunication has occurred are difficult. As our culture gets increasingly afraid of anything that hurts, our friendships will get progressively worse. It is vital that we start to be willing to walk through conflict in a friendship. You may just find that by willing to have difficult conversations, you’re not only resolving conflict, but investing in a friend. Perhaps a strengthened relationship is an bonus outcome.

My Favorite Books on Friendship

I’m an avid reader. I do read more in some seasons and less in others, but if you see me with a book, it’s most likely a non-fiction book. I love real life stuff. No escapism here in my reading material… only in my Grey’s Anatomy watching. So, in honor of my month on friendship, I’ve decided to share with you my favorite books on the topic.

All of Shauna Niequist’s books have essays about friendship. I really could have picked any of them as a favorite book, too. But, Bread and Wine is the most fitting because it’s her love letter to life around the table, and for Shauna, the table is where she meets with her people. The book contains recipes, stories and practical application for how to build community. I was encouraged to love better and live more authentically after reading Bread and Wine. (If you’re looking for another book by Shauna Niequist about friendship, both Bittersweet and Present Over Perfect are must-reads. Both are full of essays that challenged me into deeper relationships with those closest to me.)

Living into Community by Christine Pohl was an important read for me last year. The author focuses most of the book on four practices to cultivate and live into community. Gratefulness, promise keeping, truthfulness and hospitality are the four practices that Pohl highlights. This book is a true gift because of it’s deeply biblically based ideas and practical application points. A year after reading the book, I’m still struck with the idea of Jesus giving thanks in the context of community, and how grace is tied to gratefulness.

Deepening Community by Paul Born is a timely book about finding joy together. It’s a secular view of how community is formed and deepened. Born’s look at community examines how people develop a sense of belonging to one another, starting with a shared story and eventually joining together towards a common purpose. His work and stories challenged me to think about how my own friendships could be deepened, namely, what narrative do we share with one another, and what are we working towards as friends.

Frientimacy by Shasta Nelson is a recent favorite book on friendship. I “met” the author on a podcast and I couldn’t stop thinking about the way she talked about intimacy, specifically intimacy in friendship. She talks about how loneliness is an epidemic facing our culture today, and that in fixing loneliness (through friendship), we see our overall health improve. She has a very fascinating question that she asks women, and I’ve started asking my own friends, “On a scale from one to ten, how lonely are you?” It’s helped me better understand how I can be a better friend and what their needs are.

No list of friendship books would be complete without Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. This short book packs endless wisdom and biblical truth into about 100 pages. Much like Paul’s letters written to churches who were experiencing suffering, Bonhoeffer gets right to the point in the very beginning of his friendship narrative by saying, “It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians.” He goes on to say, “It is grace, nothing but grace that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” Bonhoeffer lived in a time when the cost of following Christ was especially high. In times of oppression, the importance of Christian fellowship is heightened.

Friendship & Singleness

I’m twenty-six years old and unmarried. In Christian circles, my empty left ring finger and I stand out, and even if we’re not noticed right away, we usually make ourselves known in the first couple minutes of a conversation. I’ve mastered the question progression. It usually sounds something like this:

“What do you do?”

“Do you have kids?”

“Are you married?”

We’re working through it, my empty ring finger and I. We’re trying to let our guard down quicker, and be vulnerable even when we wish we could just stand there are talk all about where our kids go to school. Some days are easier than others. Some seasons are easier than others. But I also know that God is only good, and can use my experience in the lives of others.

And He truly has. Last fall, I wrote significantly on being single. Even just reading the words now brings tears to my eyes. I felt so hopeless that I could feel a part of community or that I would be seen as someone who had something to bring to the table. In the past year, I’ve watched God use my loneliness to comfort others. I’ve watched God use my free time to enable me to pour into the lives of others. I’ve watched God put me in places where my unique experience has been valued.

But, I still think the application points I shared last fall about living life alongside others who in other seasons of life is vital. When Jesus called us to live in community with one another, and when we look at how the early church lived, it’s clear they didn’t segregate themselves by season of life.

Here are some starting points:

  • Reach out to someone who is in a different stage of life than you. Maybe before you reach out to them, say a prayer and ask God to share with you some truth about them that you can pass on. Maybe it sounds like this, “God put you on my heart this morning, and whatever you’re walking through, remember, He hasn’t forgotten you. He sees you, knows you, and loves you.”
  • Enter into the celebration and the mourning. It feels like a non brainer that when a spouse is out of town, the other spouse needs help with the kids, and may need help with meals. But traveling is hard on singles, too. So is loss. Remember birthdays and anniversaries, if you can remember to send a card, even better. Celebrate promotions and steps of faith. Communicate your needs to people so they know how they can come alongside you. Keep showing up.
  • When you ask questions of someone, ask about them as an individual. Don’t ask first about their kids or their spouse, begin with them. How are they doing? What are they feeling? How can you be praying for them?
  • Start by being vulnerable in your own responses. If the real answer to the question of how you’re doing is lonely, say it. I think you’ll find that your vulnerability, however painful, gives someone else the gift being vulnerable, too. If you’re the mom or the wife, avoid making how you’re doing about someone else. I want to hear about your kids, but I asked about you. Let’s start there. It’s discouraging to a single person when they’re vulnerable on a heart level and it’s met with an anecdote about your child.
  • Be unafraid of the awkwardness. I’d rather be a fifth wheel a hundred times than not be invited because of how it may make me feel. And I think my married friends would say that they’d rather be invited knowing they’d be the only married couple in the room than be excluded. Keep inviting the new parents; let them decide for themselves if they can come.

Did I miss some important stuff? Probably. So I’d love to hear where your starting points are. Maybe you’re not single, but you’re the first married couple in your friend group; how do you feel cared for and included? Maybe you have been well cared for by friends in a different season of life. What has that looked like?

The stakes are too high for us to keep getting this wrong. Let’s lean in, friends. Let’s shoulder this kingdom responsibility side by side regardless of if there’s a ring on your left hand.

Friends Help You Do Hard Things

I’m in the midst of half-marathon training. I’ve run three half-marathons, and they never really go as well as I think they will. Truly. I have the best intentions when I start training. I buy some fun new training clothes and make sure that the shoes I have will last me through the race.

But after about eight weeks, the enthusiasm for the training wears off and I’m ready to be done running. I start slacking off, I find excuses not to run, and by intensive purposes, I’ve quit before the race is even arrives.

So far, training for this one has been different. Because I’m training and running it with one of my best friends.

During one of our recent long runs, I told her I needed to walk. We hadn’t really gone that far yet, so I gave the excuse, “We started out really fast.” 

Now that’s a great excuse for someone who doesn’t run with you often, but since we run a couple of times a week together, she immediately realized exactly what I was going – making an excuse to quit. 

This starting out fast, with energy, and giving up when the enthusiasm wears off is pretty classic Caitlin. I put my heart and soul into the beginning of projects, but struggle to finish them because I simply just don’t feel like it. Follow-thru is not my gifting. This friend knows me well enough to know this is how I operate.

She also knows just how much I’m capable of. She knows that I desire to be a woman who perseveres through the hard stuff. She wants what’s best for me, and knows how hard to push me. In fact, as we train for our runs, we dream about the kind of women we want God to mold us into, and the things we’re eager to achieve that require persistence.

So she responded, “You’ve run farther than this faster than this. If you really need to walk, we can, but if it’s a mental thing, you’re going to push through it.”

Thankfully, her encouragement was enough to make me keep running. I ran another mile and a half without walking. It wasn’t my best long run, but that’s okay. I kept going when I wanted to stop. Because a friend made me keep going. She made me keep going because she’s in it with me for the long-haul. She cares about this half-marathon, but she cares even more about the other hard things I’m going to come up against in my life. She knows that if I’m really serious about my dreams, it’s going to take grit to get there, and she is willing to help me practice so that I’m used to doing hard things. 

I’m tempted to say that relationships are especially important to me because of my tendency to burnout quickly, but honestly, we all need friends who wouldn’t let us quit on them or more importantly on ourselves. It’s important to invite our friends into our long-term dreams so that when the going gets tough, they can remind us what we’re ultimately fighting for. I love to run, really and truly, but if training was just about running, I would have given up on many long runs. Instead, I remember and my friend helps to remind me that running thirteen miles isn’t as hard as parenting a child who has experienced trauma or staying in a hard marriage. Running is simply a vehicle to develop perseverance in me. And I desperately need friends around me who will come alongside God in the cultivating of that endurance and perseverance. 

Not only do I need friends who challenge me when I want to give up, but I want to be a friend who encourages others when they want to give up. I long to be a cheerleader not just when the times are easy, but especially when the times are hard, when the days feel impossible and when the heart is weary.

There will be difficult miles, endless weeks and dark seasons. Friends keep us going. Friends remind us what we’re capable of accomplishing. Friends help us do hard things.