My grandmother had a huge influence on me, and my personality. She was a registered nurse, who began her nursing career in the Army. She had a very no nonsense way about her, when it came to things like being ill or hurt. I could express it in a single sentence: Suck it up, you do what you have to do. There was no wallowing or lamenting with my grandmother. Stitches needed, stitches given. Broken bones get casts and physical therapy. If you need surgery, no need to be scared, just get it done and over with.
Because of her influence, I must admit that I don’t handle these things like I should. When someone tells me they are sick or seriously injured, I lack compassion. It isn’t that I have never been hurt or faced crisis myself, but I was trained to face it headstrong. You do, what you have to do. Period. No sense in crying or getting depressed. My shoulders have not held many faces, nor caught many tears. I haven’t grasped hands, silently praying, or even giving reassuring words.
This response is not even toward others, but to myself. In 2003 I was pregnant with our second when precancerous cells were found in my cervix and my uterus. It brought with it a lot of concerns for my pregnancy. I remember keeping so very much of it to myself, because I didn’t want to worry people. I didn’t want people fawning over me with concern. It was something that needed to be dealt with, simple as that. I recall staring out our window one day, teary eyed, when my husband tried to reassure me that the baby would be fine. I took a sigh, and responded that her conception may have been a gift to save my life… and that may have been her only purpose. It wasn’t cold and callous, I loved her so much already. It was just part of how I was raised to view things.
There was a difference between this and other health scenarios, in that I was a believer now. My prayers to God were that any treatments I would need could be held off until she was born. I didn’t want my illness to affect her chances. In the many years since, I am often haunted by concerns that those precancerous cells come back. I rarely find myself struck with terror until the tests come back clear. But I do pray to God that if I must deal with this again, that it can wait until my children are adults. I know that sounds strange, but in truth I personally don’t fear death. I only have concern for those whom I would leave behind.
So, once again, this doesn’t exactly make me the best person to lean on when you find yourself in facing crisis head on. It isn’t that I don’t care, or that I am ok with bad things happening to amazing people. Far from. I just don’t know how to process it like I should, I don’t know how to be the friend you need in that moment. I have gotten the news that a friend’s child has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I have received the funeral information for a person who unexpectedly dies leaving a family in mourning. My phone has rang in the wee hours because someone is in the hospital, or missing.
I’ve realized that in these moments, I thought I was not the right person for compassion. And, that is probably still right. However, I have also begun to learn that I am the right person for action. I will get in my car and drive the streets looking for your child. I will do the talking when you can’t, I will pick out the dress and the shoes, I will fill out forms, I can make decisions. I will call the family members for you, or contact the church to make arrangements. Perhaps there is a blessing to being a person who doesn’t lean into emotion and instead steps up to the tasks ahead.
I believe, however, that there is a time when both of those attributes can come together and work beautifully. When a friend was facing cancer, she was worried and anxious. She also had moved and I couldn’t be there for her to help. My only way to “act” was to have compassion and empathy for her situation. This was something really hard for me to do, but I knew her battle was going to be harder. I resolved that I was going to send her a card every single day until we got through the testing and results process. I honestly have no idea how many cards I sent her… but I did it. Every single day. I went to the scripture, found verses regarding health and healing, used my artistic talents to create individual cards, and inscribed them with the selected verses.
To this day, she still has at least some of the cards. Occasionally I get a text or note from her where she mentions them. When I realized how that little step on my part meant so much to her, I began to see how I could take action and bring it to compassion. In the years since, I have done similar things for others when they need encouragement, compassion, empathy, or even just a thinking of you. I’m learning more and more that being present is enough.
This winter, I had the opportunity to read the book “Just Show Up” which was co-authored by friends Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn. This was a unique opportunity with Family Christian to do a review, because the opportunity wasn’t limited to a select number of bloggers. And, I couldn’t be happier that so many people were given the opportunity to read this book and share it. This book is simply put, super important.
You may be the person who has a lot of compassion, no one cries alone with you. You may be the person who doesn’t know what to do in those situations. Or, you may be the person who is going through a crisis and you hear the offers of help and support… but you don’t know what to do with it all. In other words, if you are a person who cares about others in your life… READ THIS BOOK!
Just Show Up, brings us into the reality of walking through life with your friends when they are in the midst of suffering. Author Kara Tippetts was actively battling cancer and Co-Author Jill Lynn Buteyn was the friend walking alongside her. In this book you get to see both sides of the coin, from the perspective of the person who is in crisis and the friends who are trying to be there, supporting and encouraging. This dual perspective helps us all see what this journey looks like for those involved, they share their struggles, they share what they learned in the process.
We learn that there is a time to be a silent presence, how to give and receive, and how to be that friend who just shows up … even when she doesn’t know what to do, or say. In fact this book, in my opinion, is one that goes beyond enduring suffering as friends. It opens our eyes to what real, godly, loving, and committed friendship looks like. In the good, and the bad. When life is going great, when life is changing, and when life takes an unexpected turn.
One of the blessings I received from the book is the “Comfort In, Dump Out” circle, where it tangibly helps us identify who we can speak to during the times of crisis in a helpful way. For example, it is not my place to dump on my friend’s spouse how her illness is affecting me. I need to be a comfort to him, and he can dump out on me. BUT, I can speak to my personal friends. They are the people whom I can dump out on, and will comfort me.
This is a book that is going to create radical, fierce friendships… the kinds we long for and God wants for us. Let’s do life together, even when it is hard. When you don’t know how, go to those who are willing to share. Put this book on your 2016 must read list, keep it in mind for gifts. When you friend confides her crisis, this is a great book. When another friend is expressing her sadness because someone in her life is going through something difficult & she doesn’t know what to do… gift or at least recommend this book.
Just Show Up is a book that is insightful to what really happens in relationships during times of tragedy, difficulty, crisis, and suffering. I would also recommend this book to Women’s Ministry Leaders who may be counseling women through tough seasons or tragic circumstances.