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It was a Sunday afternoon and the kids were involved in an intense game of backyard cricket when my 10-year-old neighbour dropped the bat and ducked quickly through the house and out the front door.

“Where’s he going in such a hurry?” I asked my husband, Leigh.

“He’s going home to use the toilet,” Leigh says.

“Does he not know we have three?” I reply, slightly puzzled.

“Yup, he said ours is too dirty.”

Leigh chuckled, but I sighed and looked around the house.

The whole place was too dirty. Dirty dishes. Dirty clothes. Dirty streaks where the kids keep climbing up the kitchen cupboards. Dirty floors.

My house doesn’t always look like a cyclone has blown through. I like to keep it nice.

But I was sad, and sad had sapped away my energy and left me sitting on the couch crying and eating potato chips.

I’d fallen into a bit of a funk because my sister had moved overseas. She had been planning the move for several years, and I’d had plenty of time to process it. But when she left, I was surprised by grief. Not only was she my closest friend and confidante, she was the fifth good friend, and the second sister to move far away in the space of a few years. It was the last straw and I was suffering.

It was a Sunday and I was facing another busy week. I felt overwhelmed, incapable, exhausted and discouraged, and most of all, I felt alone.

I sat down on the couch and contemplated the mess when my phone binged. It was my friend Charlotte, asking if I was still good for a catch up the next day. I’d forgotten about it. I’d planned on coming home after school drop off, putting my pyjamas back on and letting the little one watch Peppa Pig on the iPad. It had been my routine for a few weeks. I was hiding from the world.

There was no way I could have anyone over. The house was just too messy. And I was too sad. Not good company. I shot back a reply asking could we please reschedule, feeling a little guilty as I did.

Monday morning rolled around and the Autumn sky was blue overhead as I walked my children to their classrooms. I felt silly for having cancelled on my friend so I sent her a message. She replied straight away that she’d meet me at my home with take away lattes. I thought about my house and cringed a little.

We sat on the couch in my lounge room. She asked how I was going. It had been a while since we had caught up. I found myself pouring out my heart to her; about how lonely and sad I had been, about how “stuck” I felt. My daughter played happily with her toys and we sat and talked for hours. I cried and she listened. She was generous with her time and her heart, creating a safe space for me to speak out some of the feelings I’d been carrying. By the time we had finished talking, I did not feel alone anymore.

She’d stayed with me for hours, and she ducked off to use my loo before we hugged and I walked her out to her car.

The friendship had lifted my spirits. I looked around my untidy house and felt some energy to make a difference. I filled the sink with hot soapy water and started soaking the breakfast bowls. I scrubbed the rock-hard Weetbix from the bench and unstacked the dishwasher. I put on a load of washing and made lunch for the small one.

Taking a break for a moment, I ducked into the loo.

Sitting on the toilet, I became aware of a long brown streak caked on the opposite wall.

Oh no!  I thought. No wonder my neighbour had been scared of my loo.

And then I remembered that Charlotte had used it too. How embarrassing! I scratched and sniffed the suspicious-looking brown stuff.

I text Charlotte: Thanks so much for coming over. That brown stuff on the toilet wall- I promise it was cake mix!

Like a true friend, she ‘LOL’ed’ and promised she had not even noticed.

Is there anyone who needs you today? Can you reach out and comfort a friend who is going through a hard time?

Or do you need to open up your heart and your home, and let someone in to help you through a lonely season?

Be brave. Make a call. Connect with a friend today. Everyone needs a Charlotte; a listening, loving friend who won’t judge you for the state of your home, or the hurt in your heart.

A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9