On Holy Saturday

It’s the biggest weekend in churches each year. It’s the most wonderful day in history – Easter. For me, some years Easter passes me by. It’s the end of lent, which sometimes means I get to eat sweets again or for others, they’re back on social media. This year, I’ve been captivated, especially this week by Jesus and the disciples. Specifically, how Jesus interacts with the disciples.

On Thursday, as I drove around on my lunch break, I pictured myself in the upper room, breaking bread with Jesus and his closest companions. Sitting at that table were both Peter and Judas. Both betrayed Christ.

A lot can be said about their stories. We could spend days unpacking their narratives and trying to understand Holy Week and the days following from their perspective, but as I thought through and asked the Lord what He wanted me to see, I was reminded that I, too, am capable of betraying Jesus.

I am capable of betraying Jesus.

They had something I lack. They knew Him in the flesh. They traveled with Him. They lived life around Him. They knew things about Him that weren’t even captured in the Scriptures. So if they betrayed Him, one of their best friends, I’m just as capable of it.

I don’t revel in or brag that I am capable of such evil. Nor do I believe that my good works keep me in God’s good graces. Heck to the no. But seeing my depravity right in front of me shapes my response this week in four main ways.

It leads me to worship. I long for corporate worship on Sunday mornings, and I enjoy listening to worship music, but worship doesn’t require music. It’s a heart posture that declares that my entire life – the ways I interact with my co-workers, how I drive my car, the money I spend – is all God’s. Since I know that I am capable of betraying Christ, I must fix my eyes on Jesus, captivated by what He has done, worshiping Him with all that I have, so I don’t worship myself. God is the only one worthy of worship.

It forces me to value the Kingdom above all else. All around me, there are distractions that can shift my focus from what God is doing. It’s my Amazon shopping cart, it’s houses on Zillow, it’s a friends baby shower or the temptation to update a resume. When I choose to focus on these, or any other number of other, less worthy pursuits, Jesus starts to feel less lovely to me. There’s a temptation to compare Him to everything I don’t have, but wish I did. So when I remember that I’m capable of betraying Him, I have to beg God to increase my view of His Kingdom. I have to ask for a heart and for eyes that see the Kingdom of God as the most worthy pursuit.

It enables me to live the Spirit-filled life. It’s a crazy paradox to realize that I can’t walk with Jesus on my own. Because I know I could betray the thing I love most, I have to walk in step with the Spirit every single moment, trusting His leading, and desiring to be obedient to Him.

It makes me crave Jesus’ voice. I don’t need the wisdom of the world or even the well-meaning Christian advice giving me five steps to walk with Jesus for a lifetime. Instead, knowing the darkness of my own heart, I need Jesus, His voice and His gentle leading guiding me towards Himself. I need to hear His gracious words encouraging and convicting me to live in a way that honors Him most.

Tomorrow is coming. The first witnesses will walk into the tomb and find it empty! This is the greatest news in history. And I’ll stand there remembering I’m just Peter. Needing of the gentle coaxing of his best friend and Lord to keep going, to keep fighting, to keep living. Knowing what I’ve been freed from, makes the freedom even more beautiful. Oh, Lord, would I respond in a way that honors You.

Some Thoughts On Being Pro-Life

I grew up in a middle class home; my parents still tell me that they’ll step in to help me, should my situation be dire.I have a dozen people on my speed dial for my physical and emotional needs. People have my back. At any point of my life, an unexpected pregnancy would be celebrated within my immediate family and my support system. There would be questions, sure, but my people would keep showing up.

I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck, but never once worried about putting food on my table. As an adult, I’ve lived in the tension of expensive health insurance, self-paying for doctors appointments and being unsure where the money would come from if I was in an emergency accident.

I’ve spent the last 5+ years of my life wrestling with the ethical complexities of adoption and the heartbreak of infertility, but fortunately, I haven’t personally walked either road.

I’ve been in difficult situations – relational and vocational – but I have never had to choose between my life or someone else’s.

I’m fiercely pro-life, but I’m also so very concerned that we’re posting statuses on Facebook demonizing women who are impossible situations choosing between their life and the life of their unborn baby.

The statistics would say, you’ve got a friend who has had an abortion. Let’s be careful that in speaking up for the unborn, which I believe we should be doing, we don’t tell our friends that what they’ve done is unforgivable. I’ll stand up and say, I’m the biggest sinner of any room I’m in, and Jesus still saved me. He didn’t shame me into repentance; that’s not His way, and it shouldn’t be mine either.

Our words matter, but so do our actions, so here are a few ideas to be pro-life during this confusing time:

  • Support an adoptive family financially or physically. Offer to bring them a meal or donate money to a family who is starting their adoption journey. We want adoption to be one of the answers, so let’s stand behind the families who adopt.
  • Affirm the decisions of women who create a birth plan for their children. Let’s not say, “She gave up her child,” but in maintaining a pro-life ethic, let’s say, “She chose life for her child.”
  • If you have a friend who had an abortion, reach out to her and remind her that she is not a decision that she made. Shame has a way of tricking us into believing that we are bad and that a single decision defines us.
  • Donate money to organizations that counsel women through these situations. What if faith-based organizations were so well-funded and provided such top-notch services that Planned Parenthood was put out of business?
  • Volunteer with programs that support single moms. Women who consider abortions are in difficult positions, usually lacking support systems with many physical needs. Show up during her pregnancy, in the first years of the child’s life and then in years to come. We don’t get to stop being pro-life once the baby is born. We must stand behind women who choose life AND choose to parent their children.

I believe with my whole-heart that we can remain fiercely pro-life without sacrificing compassion towards women who find themselves in desperate situations. It may just be the Jesus way.

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.