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At the Table

Emily Dean

It was painfully early and the summer sun was barely cracking through my faux wooden blinds when I heard my youngest son begin that slow and steady whimper of want. He was hitting his growth spurt. So, this was a common routine for us at the time since he was always eager to feast his toddling body. Instinctually, my hand swatted at the pillow beside my own, desperate for a partner in the wee hours, only to find cool, empty sheets under my fingertips. I slowly made my way to our son’s bedroom, fumbling through the darkness over to his crib to find his ice-blue eyes gazing up at me expectantly. We hobbled over to the breakfast table together and I strapped him into his seat. I guzzled some orange juice in an effort to open my eyes wide enough to stir some steamy oatmeal for my now crying babe. I took a deep breath and glanced at the dishes in the sink stacked high from the night before.

All of a sudden an unfamiliar alert buzzed on my phone notifying me that our bank account somehow just dropped into the negative zone.

My heart flip-flopped.

My mind started racing to make sense of the message, as this was a first for our family of four. I picked up the phone to call my husband who I hoped would offer some words of reassurance, but remembered he had just lost cell service crossing into the Canadian border. He was on a bus full of high school students headed to summer camp for the next 10 days! I plopped some food onto my son’s high chair tray, sat down at the table with tears in my eyes and what felt like a brick on my chest, wondering how we would manage the morning, much less the week ahead.

I felt raw and angry.

Here I was stranded with two toddlers, with no money and not an ounce of energy.  I thought about how excited I was for him to lead this trip of teenagers to camp and how months ago it made perfect sense. I would stay home with our boys and we might go visit some family and enjoy the pool and park in our sultry, southern neighborhood.  It all seemed so simple at the time. Yet a major shift in our circumstances occurred when we got the news just a day before he left: a plus sign on a pregnancy test revealing we had another little one on the way!  Excited yet shocked, we figured all would be well until he returned, and so he went on his way. However, unexpected anxiety and intense hormones peaked at the 5-6 week mark this time around. While I was sitting barefoot and pregnant at our hand-me-down dining room table in our old rental house, my ability to do life on my own strength slowly evaporated.  It was obvious that I was going to need help to make it through this and I had to expose my need to someone I could trust.

After this reality settled in I started feeling disoriented, my heart rate sped up, and my palms grew sweaty. This was too much to handle solo! My blood sugar was crashing from that previously impulsive shot of OJ and my whole being shifted into fight or flight. I grabbed a spoonful of peanut butter, put my feet up, and called my sister sobbing. Once she heard my current state through the airwaves, she quickly began packing her bag to head to town. Her calm voice on the other end of the phone was a pure gift of grace. She sacrificially offered to come help with the kids for the week so that I could focus on resting and eating and nursing and keeping my sanity. When I got off the phone I still had half a day before my warrior sister arrived at my house to offer reinforcements. I was a force to reckon with, not knowing what to do next, so I called a neighbor around the corner who graciously came to take my oldest to play with her son for a few hours. This morning marked an entrance of a new season of life for me as a woman: I was asking for help!

After I hung up the phone again it hit me: this was the first time in my twenty-seven years of life that I had let anyone see that I didn’t have it all together. Up to this point I viewed myself as a strong, independent woman who arrogantly thought I was managing just fine. I lived in a daily illusion that my life was going smoothly by my own strength. Until it wasn’t. I needed my people.

Why do we wait until we hit rock bottom before we allow friends to enter into our mess? What is it that drives us to live a life of doing it all on our own?

It is as if we somehow think as women, mothers, sisters, and daughters we must hold it all together. Until, it all slips from our tight grip of control and we are left lonely and isolated, longing for the community we actually needed along every step of the way. The ironic part of it all is that letting others help us actually helps them. See, I am confident that the week my sister came to visit, she was also blessed by listening to that nudge in her heart to join me in my mess. What a joy it is to love extravagantly, while getting nothing in return, but seeing firsthand the impact it has to serve in love.

           Unfortunately, my wild ride of hormones only increased during my pregnancy with my little lady and the anxiety ebbed and flowed throughout and beyond her delivery. The difference though now is that I find myself leaning hard into the community of women in my life in a way I had never been willing to before that moment at my breakfast table. My life is richer now and friends approach me with their own stories and struggles when they used to feel the need to hold it all together before I revealed my own stuff.

I sat there that morning without a dollar to my name, depleted sugar in my blood, and a heavy weight over my spirit. I felt empty and alone. Yet, within a moment of picking up my phone I was connected to another soul eager to meet me there. That connection I experienced penetrated every ounce of fear that was weighing me down and all it took was stepping aside and loosening my tight grip of control and independence. What a gift community can be, if we allow others to enter in to our broken, yet redemptive reality of this life.

We were not made to do it alone. We need our people to come alongside of us in the midst of our inevitable brokenness.

Allowing people to enter in with us enables us to breathe through the broken and come out on the other side healthier and more whole. May we be authentic people who enter in and allow others in to our stories right in the thick of it all.



Writing by Meredith McDaniel | Photos by LaRue Photography