In the summer of 2015, I was struggling with postpartum depression. I had just had my first baby and to be quite honest, we had been through a lot. I thought I was prepared for all of the physical changes that would happen to my body after labor. But, until you go through it, you don’t really understand. I wasn’t prepared for all of the physical, mental, and emotional changes my body would endure because no one really talks about it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s unpleasant and people don’t want to gross others out, or maybe they think they are being dramatic, or quite possibly, maybe they believe the lie that they are the only one who must feel this way.
Social media often gives the impression that people are doing better than they actually are. New moms that seem to not be struggling because their pictures are perfectly lit with filters that take away any imperfections and the quote or caption that is so meticulously chosen so that any onlookers think to themselves, “Wow, she really has it together.” But in reality, the photo of her baby that was posted is probably the twentieth one she took because the baby kept rolling over or crying or slouching down in the chair, and she had to google the quote she used, because after getting little to no sleep, her brain is fried and original thoughts or creativity is nonexistent.
Umm…I’m that mom!
Half the time, I try to make everyone think I have my life together because the romance of the perfect pictures with the perfect quotes seem so much more ideal than the reality that I live in. My life is messy. No one wants to see the real us.
Ya’ll, that summer, I was depressed and my own husband didn’t even know it for a month. I wore quite the mask to hide it. I was scared that to admit that I was depressed would mean that I was ungrateful or that something was wrong with me. I had this beautiful, healthy, happy little baby boy, and all I could do was wait and pray for bedtime because it meant I could take a shower and cry in there without my husband knowing. What was wrong with me? Was I broken?
I felt like no one understood what I was going through, and so rather than talking about it and seeing if someone could relate, I held it all in. I never had thoughts of harming myself or harming my baby. I never felt like leaving and never coming back. But I was sad and I felt empty.
I don’t know about yours, but my husband is amazing. He never lets me off the hook. He looks at me and he sees me with eyes that don’t see stretch marks. He calls them my battle scars from growing and birthing the most beautiful boy. He says that they are my reminder that I am blessed to have grown such an important gift inside of me. He sees me with eyes that don’t see the extra weight I carry. When I look in the mirror and burst into tears because nothing fits me right and my face has gotten so round, and we are running 20 minutes late because I can’t find anything to wear, he puts his arms around me, wipes away my tears and tells me that I’m more beautiful today than the day he married me. He’s not always the perfect husband–he does have flaws–but he knows how to be intentional with me when it matters. He sees me with eyes that I can’t see with myself.
That summer in 2015, he helped pull me out of the deep, dark hole I thought I was going to be stuck in forever.
That same summer, we made some new friends at church. The Connect Group we had started earlier that year had fallen apart due to job changes and people moving out of state, and probably the fact that we were the only ones that were going to have a baby. (That tends to scare newly married couples away sometimes.) One couple remained from our group though, and I’m so thankful for them. After Blake was born, the four of us saw it fit to try again to form a new group. Several couples joined and over the last two years, they have become like a second family to me. They have loved on my babies and loved on me. We have cried together, studied God’s Word together, enjoyed countless meals, cookies, Friendsgivings, and three new babies being born together.
I could gush all day about each one of those couples and tell you how much they mean to me and how they intentionally grow with me on a weekly basis. But most recently, one of the couples moved away and I feel like a huge piece of my family and of my heart was ripped away. Whitney and Ryan are two of THE most intentional people I’ve ever met in my life. No one has ever pursued my husband, my children, or myself more than them. I was looking through photos in my phone the other day and almost every picture I found of Whitney and Ryan on my phone is of them holding one or both of my children–reading to them, snuggling them, playing in their pool with them, or letting them climb all over them like a jungle gym. If I had to pick a picture of what intentionality looks like…well, I’d pick one of those.
I recently finished reading a book that my friend Lindsey recommended to me called Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. She had some amazing thoughts on friendship that when I read the words on the page, I had to stop and read them again out loud, and then I cried some ugly tears as I realized that my sweet friends Whitney and Ryan embodied those words in such a real way in my life. I realized that if I have any hope of having such a deep and meaningful friendship like I have with them with others, then I need to work on my own intentionality.
That’s what friendship looks like to me. Friendship is acting out God’s love for people in tangible ways. We were made to represent the love of God in each other’s lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God’s love for them. Friendship is an opportunity to act on God’s behalf in the lives of the people that we’re close to, reminding each other who God is. When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. We get to remind one another about the bigger, more beautiful picture that we can’t always see from where we are…
True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves. We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are, they’ll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us. Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it’s something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges…
…the closer you get to someone, the more that friendship gives you and the more force and power it has to make your life bigger and richer. –Shauna Niequist
Yes. Yes. So much yes. Over and over again, yes.
Isn’t that what we all want in life? We want to have deep and meaningful relationships with people that are going to see us at our worst and still want to have dinner with us on Saturday night. That see the ugliness of our heart, but they say, “Hey, let’s go have coffee and adult conversation because I know that’s what you need.” They see how tired you are and offer to watch your babies for a few hours because they know you need a break.
This is what I’m working on. I feel so blessed to have friends in my life that are intentional with me. But it goes both ways. I want people to think of me and know that I am actively seeking them out to do life with them. I want my life and the lives of my friends and family to be bigger and richer because we are in it together. I want my children to know that they are more important than my phone and that dinner time is not about sitting in front of the TV and instead about having meaningful conversations about the day.
What does intentionality look like to you? Is it sending a friend a letter in the mail to encourage them? Or reaching out to a friend to grab coffee and catch up? Is it calling them on your way home from work to let them know they’ve been on your heart all day? Is it leaving a note for your spouse to tell them you noticed all of the chores they did around the house and you’re so thankful for them? Maybe it’s just setting aside 30 minutes every night where your family doesn’t watch TV or use their phones and you all play together or talk together or snuggle on the couch.
I challenge you to be intentional this week.
Live beyond the surface level in your relationships. If you’re feeling sad and forgotten about because no one is being intentional to you or seeking you out, realize that your friend may be feeling exactly the same way. They may need you to reach out first and remind them that they’re worth hanging out with. That they are remembered and cared about.
It has to start somewhere.