I pull my hands from the water and wipe them soapy straight on my jeans. I crouch down to see eye to eye with my four-year-old, breathe deep, and listen to his most urgent cry:
“Mommy, my brudders are not being kind and caring for me at all! They aren’t playing with me or helping me fight the lava monsters! And that is rude!”
We talk again about using our words and how sometimes we need to join what someone else is doing or play alone. Elias swipes his runny nose along his sleeve and dinosaur stomps back to his room, big tears holding fast in the corners of his eyes.
I turn back to the dishes and let my gaze rest on the sunflower-filled mason jar sitting on the windowsill. Deep yellow petals encircle mocha centers like golden crowns. Blooms of sunshine resting on sturdy, green stems.
Flowers from a friend.
I understand how my middle boy feels. He wants to be with. He longs to be seen. Known. Valued and included.
I get it.
Suddenly I well with tears of my own. Not because I’m distressed about Elias. But because I’m newly impressed with the deep soul blessings God has poured out on me through friends.
I have known the ache of emptiness. The deep pain of loneliness. And I know the joy of being filled.
These happy blossoms catching afternoon light are just one of many beautiful gifts born from the seed of friendship.
I think back to Monday morning and what started with a simple How was your weekend? text from a friend. I shared the highlight of a nature scavenger hunt and gratitude for my husband returning from a work trip.
I almost left it at that.
But I chose to be fully real and reveal that the weekend in fact didn’t end so great. My two-year-old woke up in the night with a sudden onset of croup. Unable to breathe, I rushed him to the ER where we spent an unpleasant four hours.
“We didn’t get home till after 3 am, so now I feel like Zombie Mommy. But thankfully Jude is doing much better, and I’m hopeful for the chance of an afternoon nap.”
Without skipping a beat, Sara replied back, “Oh, no! Can I bring you dinner?”
Now I faced another decision: decline help because I could handle the day on my own OR accept dinner and be tangibly blessed while deepening our friendship.
The leftover refried beans in the fridge flashed in my mind, and I reasoned how I could ask my husband to pick up tortillas and we’d be fine for dinner.
Yes, I would be fine without help.
But what if being fine isn’t the point?
I accepted my gracious friend’s offer, and a few hours later, I heard a soft knock. I opened the door to arms full of delicious delights: shredded barbeque chicken with soft rolls for sandwiches, tender crisp green beans, sliced strawberries, olive oil chips, and Caesar salad. A little “Get Well” balloon peeked through the spectacular smorgasbord. I grew giddy when I spied a box of Magnum Mini ice cream bars, because apparently Zombie Mommies need dark chocolate to survive.
I thanked my friend profusely. The light in her eyes beamed a genuine pleasure for the opportunity to help.
The next day she sent a follow-up text to see how my little guy was feeling and asked if I needed anything from the store. Again I hemmed and hawed in my mind — we could get by for a few more days without milk and bananas; I really didn’t want to put her out.
But, again, the deeper truth about my situation rang clear in my heart: I need deep friendships.
Over the last few years on my journey — from isolation in a new city and new life-stage, to thriving in a community of do-life-with friends — I have learned over and over that meaningful friendships are forged in the soil of service.
We are meant to come alongside. To lean in and be held up. To do the holding.
Later, Sara arrived with the items I texted her . . . and a bouquet of sunflowers.