Just Show Up!

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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.

 

Official Family Christian Blogger

#Write31Days – Post 17 – Difficult People

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Dot was an ornery woman.  I had just transferred work locations,  and I was being given the tour.  Introductions to the staff, learning where everything was located, etc.  When I was introduced to Dot, that was the description whispered to me as we approached her.  She was an older woman, who had been with the company since it’s inception.  Her employee number was a single digit (mine was over 7 digits long).   I realized quickly that she was someone who should have retired a long time ago.  She smiled at me as we were introduced, but quickly that smile turned to a scowl as she barked orders at a fellow employee who had passed by.

Ornery indeed.

The thing about me is that I see people like this as a challenge.  In that moment where her smile turned to a scowl, the challenge was issued… and I accepted.

For the next year, I poked that bear every single day.  I was going to make her smile, I was going to make her laugh.  She was going to like me, and I was going to like her.

I learned a lot about Dot.  I learned that she was married and had a son.  I learned that her husband went in for routine surgery, and died.  About two years later, the same happened with her son.

Dot was alone.  Dot was still grieving.  Dot was angry with God.

This would culminate into a woman who was very, very difficult.  She wasn’t pleasant to be around.   To be brutally honest, she was MEAN.  She wasn’t respectful to others, no one wanted to be around her, and she made life difficult for every employee in that building.  Despite her attitude toward others, the more we unraveled about her … the more compassion and empathy people had toward her.  It took one person willing to invest some time in trying to break through her wall, to understand who she was and what she had gone through.  The softer their hearts grew toward her, the more she began to let her guard down.  She was starting to smile more, and then began to laugh… a lot.

It first revealed itself when she fainted during a morning meeting, and she was able to see the concern that everyone had for her.  It was several of the men on staff that insisted she leave with the paramedics, and one even followed her to the hospital.  Several years later, Dot was waiting for the building to open and she was brutally assaulted when a man robbed her.  The staff surrounded her during her recovery and sat with her during the trial.  Due to the injuries she sustained and her age, she was unable to return to work.  That didn’t keep the staff from rallying around her until the day she passed away.

Dot was a difficult person.  She was raised to be tough.  Circumstances made her hard.

What I have observed over, and over again, is that people who are difficult are rarely so for no good reason.  Something has happened in their life that has shaped who they have become.  It could be a result of childhood trauma, abuse & mistreatment, discrimination, suffering, or even just a culmination of smaller difficulties in their life.

When dealing with difficult people, my first response is always:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Romans 12:18

In order to do so, I remind myself that there is a reason why they are such difficult people.  I would rather assume that, then accept that they are choosing to intentionally behave this way.

I will always be nice & respectful, regardless of how mean or disrespectful they are to me.

I will give the benefit of the doubt, instead of assuming the worst, about them as a person.

There will be times, however, where no matter how nice we are … the person is bent on being difficult, angry, mean, hateful, etc.

  • Limit Time :  You do not have to spend every waking hour with this person.  Limit your time around them to only the occasions where you must be present.  Get your task done quickly, and leave.  Also, avoid giving them presence in your head once you are not around them.  Do not spend a moment thinking about their negativity, or replaying that day’s encounter.
  • Pray Regularly:  If we are going to assume that there is a reason they have turned out the way they are, then we ought to be praying for them.  Choosing to pray for someone who is difficult is different than replaying that day’s encounter.  Praying for them is a positive action, that comes from a place of love and compassion for God’s creation.  We can pray for a person while creating boundaries that keep ourselves emotionally & mentally healthy. 
  • Involve Authority:  I am not suggesting that you call the cops on someone who is just being cranky all the time.  However if you must work or serve with this person, and their attitude is creating problems in your workplace or in the ministry… involve your manager at work, or your leader/Pastor if it is within the ministry service. 

Some practical advice for the every day:

  1. Keep your answers short, sweet, and too the point.   Answer their questions, assign their task, and move on.  You can be polite, respectful, and even nice without engaging in their negativity.
  2. Purposefully go out of your way to do something nice for them, even if they don’t deserve it.  This doesn’t have to be an every day thing, but a simple pat on the back for doing a good job, a card on their birthday, etc. are small gestures that can mean a lot.
  3. Do not feed their attitude by being exclusionary.  If your team is going out to dinner, you invite the person.  They are part of the team, it is the right thing to do.  Let the difficult person decided if they are going to come or not.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;  For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you

Proverbs 25:21-22

In the verse from Proverbs above, I am reminded that when I am good to a person who is my enemy… it affects them.  It may even convict them of their poor attitude toward/about me.  When we are nice to those who don’t deserve it, it softens their hearts.  That process can take a very, very long time and will require copious amounts of divinely given patience.

God has loved us far more than we deserve, shouldn’t we at least, in kind, love His children (our brothers and sisters in Christ) in the same way?

Christ, at the crucifixion, even prayed for God to “forgive them, they know not what they do”.   His love and compassion fell on the heads of those who drove in the nails.

What right then do we have to be angry with those who we view as enemies? Or, to mistreat those who are being difficult to get along with?  Are we being Christ-like in how we respond to them?  Are we following the scriptures?  Or, are we giving into our flesh?

Keep in mind, however, that the heart of our intentions will also be revealed.  If we are being nice as a show to others, we are not being sincere.  If we are being nice to make the person feel guilty or convicted, we are not being sincere.  At some point that insincerity will be revealed to those around us.  Others will know it was just a show, not authentic.  It won’t change that difficult person, it will damage our relationship with others, and it will ultimately have a negative affect within ourselves.

When we respond in kindness to difficult people with sincerity, we are being Christ-like, we are being obedient, and we are being genuine.  Over the long term, it will have a positive affect on those around us, including our own selves.

#Write31Days – Post 1 – Loving Your Enemy

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I think we have all been there, at one point or another, where someone has stepped over the line.  They have hurt us too many times, and we have to step away from that relationship (romantic, friendship, business).  Even though the relationship was unhealthy, we can recognize that their intentions were not bad.  They didn’t mean to hurt us, they were reckless with their words or actions, or maybe they just don’t conform to societal norms and honestly can’t help themselves.  These are people that we can appreciate the memories we made with them, forgive them for their wrongs… at the same time as we are moving away to a safer distance.

Occasionally though, we will encounter a bonafide ENEMY.  This is a person who is intentionally against you.

  • The man or woman who is attempting to break up your marriage.
  • The boy/girlfriend who is trying to isolate your child from the family.
  • The coworker who is trying to sabotage your job or chance of promotion.
  • The neighbor who is trying to scare you out of the neighborhood.
  • The person who serves with you in ministry, that is vying for your position.
  • The competitor that is stealing your customers & trying to shut you down.
  • The person who is stirring up strife & trying to divide your church.

And these, are just a few examples of real life enemies who are working hard to make your life miserable.  When you are dealing with a unhealthy relationship, it is easy to be kind to that person. Because, you actually care about them despite the need for distance.   The scriptures, in Ephesians 4, instruct us to be kind to one another.    However, this is a much harder process  when it comes to the intentional enemy.  How can you be kind and forgive someone who is purposefully working against you?

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The scriptures have a lot to say about being kind to one another, forgiving each others offenses, even the steps of conflict resolution when you have something against your brother. 

What are some practical steps you can take, to love your enemy?

#1 – You Pray & Forgive Them

Mark 11:25

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Note, that in the verse, it says if you have ANYTHING against ANYONE.  This means we are called to forgive not just some people, or some offenses, but all.  ANY thing.  ANY one.  In this particular prayer, we are not praying for THEIR sake.   We are praying for OUR OWN.  We are forgiving in the measure in which we want to be forgiven.  We are praying for peace and freedom in our own life from this situation or person.  

#2 – Do Good To Your Enemies

Luke 6:27

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

While revenge may be tempting, even letting them fall to ruin in their own devices may sound good… it’s not what God would want us to do.  My grandmother would advise me, when dealing with mean kids, to kill them with kindness.  This is actually similar to the scripture in Proverbs 25:  If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you. (verses 21,22)

When we are kind to our enemy, we give them no just cause for their words or behavior.  Others will see that we have done nothing but kindness, and know that we are undeserving of our enemy’s disdain.  Eventually, the enemy will reveal themselves to everyone around them as being the real culprit.  They will be known for their misdeeds.  We do not need to retaliate, we don’t need to help that revelation process along the way by intentionally not helping or setting them up for failure.  No.  We just simply go on about our day IN SPITE of their behavior.  We continue to be nice and helpful to them, regardless if they deserve our help or not.

The miracle that can happen, is you may end up finding out that your enemy is a person who is suffering.  They don’t understand kindness.  They don’t understand love or compassion.  When you model it for them, it may make them uncomfortable, but in the end…. you may become the person they trust.  Your enemy may share with you their struggles, and give you the opportunity of wise counsel and leading your enemy to the Cross.

#3 – Intercede on Their Behalf

Acts 7: 60

And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Most people who are just outright mean, were not born that way.  They have had a life time of experiences and circumstances that have shaped who they have become.  There will be some who literally know no other way of behaving, this is normal to them.  Dysfunction is part of how they were raised and relate to others.

I once spoke of a woman I worked with, as others were complaining about her behavior, saying:  “I truly think she is clueless.  I don’t think she has bad intentions, I think she’s totally unaware of the wake she leave behind.”.  This was a woman that many had a difficult relationship with.  It would be easy to cast her as an enemy, she always seemed out to get everyone.  As I got to know her better, I realized she lived in a home that was highly competitive.  Everyone had to fight for their right to simply exist in that home.  She was loud, to be heard.  She was pushy, to get what she needed.  It has nothing to do with us or the job.  But, she was totally unaware that she was misbehaving. 

Coming to this realization, makes it a bit easier to pray that God will forgive that person … because (as Jesus said) they know not what they do.

However, for the person who is totally aware of their misdoings… we can still ask for God’s forgiveness over their actions & words.  We do it from a place of ultimate love, knowing that if they continue down the road they are traveling, they could end up in a final destination that is far from God.  We know that it is God’s desire that NONE shall perish.  So we pray, not because they deserve it… but because they NEED IT. 

I don’t deserve what Christ did for me on the Cross.  Like Paul said, of the sinners I am the worst.  If Christ died for me, He also died for my enemy.  Until they know Him, and have been changed by Him, I can pray on their behalf.

A Word of Caution:  Just because you have forgiven them, have chosen to be kind to them and even helpful to your enemy, and elect to pray on their behalf…. this does not mean you have to submit yourself to their cruelty.   Loving your enemy doesn’t mean you invite them into your home, share your personal details with them, and treat them as if they were your best friend.  You can do all three of these things, at an arm’s length.  Boundaries are absolutely appropriate in this case, to protect yourself from their venom.

 

KEEP IT SHUT – You can’t stick your foot in your mouth, if you keep it shut.

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Confession time: I am a chronic “foot in mouther”.  Sometimes, more than I’d care to admit, I smack myself in the head for the words that seemingly fall out of my mouth.  It’s not that I am saying something offensive or distasteful; I just seem to have a tendency to just let the thoughts swirling in my head fall right out of my mouth.  Occasionally, they are thoughts that would have been better of kept in the vault, or at least said in different circumstances.  I’ve also been known to NOT speak up when I should.

Do you relate?  Do you sound like me, or do you know someone who does?

The struggle is very real, for people like me.  The bible says to speak truth in love, but it also tells us to tame our tongues.  How do we find that balance, of knowing when to speak and when not to?  And, when it is time to speak up… how do we say it in a way that is appropriate?

As a child, I was taught to speak the truth.  When people would ask my opinions of things, I didn’t hold back.

It was in middle school, when my friend asked me if I liked her new hair cut, that I would tell her that it made her look like a stalk of blonde broccoli.

In high school, I told the boy who had just met my mother EXACTLY what she thought of him.

In college, when a friend lamented about people were talking about her behind her back, I politely told her that she was providing them with plenty of ammunition and should rethink her decisions.

Over time, I learned to soften the blow on the superficial things.

“I really like the other shirt better.”

“That is an interesting color, what made you pick it?”

But, I still manage to “insert foot in mouth”.  Some times, I open my mouth on subjects where I have no reason to even be involved.

When serving on a ministry team, we were preparing for an event, and I got caught in a triangle.  One of the Pastors didn’t necessarily agree with how the event was being planned.  He came to me to ask my opinion, which I gave.  Yet, I wasn’t on that committee.  I ended up getting a phone call from the coordinator, totally caught off guard, who was very upset.   This was a situation where I really should have kept my opinions to myself, it wasn’t my job.  I wasn’t on the committee.   At the same time, what I should have done was directed him to share his concerns with her directly.  After all, as the Pastor overseeing the ministry, he certainly had the authority to speak to her on the issue & make changes to the event if he felt it was necessary.  It was his job, just not my place to be involved.  She was very upset with me for getting involved, and rightfully so.  And, to be entirely honest, it has affected our relationship when working together on ministry projects.

Other times, I neglect to speak up when I should.

There was as situation with a close friend, where her behavior was out of line.  Instead of calling her out on it gently, when it started, I stayed quiet.  I knew she was a fragile person, and I thought I could just stuff my feelings.  It was easier to be a peacemaker, right?  WRONG.  Instead, because I didn’t speak up in the beginning… I stuffed… and stuffed…. and stuffed.  Then I blew up.  It was more than I could take, and something had to be said.  Unfortunately, by blowing up like I did, there was more damage done than if I had spoken up from the very beginning.

We need discernment about the things we say:  what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.  We also need discernment to tame our tongues. The only way we get this discernment is by seeking God’s wisdom.  The scriptures tell us exactly how to speak in love, when to tame our tongues, and the scriptures we can use to filter our thoughts through.

I recently received a copy of Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman from Family Christian.  Let’s be real, I needed this book in my life.  And, interestingly enough, I’m not alone.  This is a problem we will all face at one time or another, some of us more frequently than we should.  HA.  Even when we learn to tame our tongue, it can still happen… we say that thing, we simply can’t take back.

Things we say to our kids.   Our husbands.  Our coworkers and friends.  Those we serve with in ministry.  Even complete strangers.

Keep It Shut is a book that focuses on what to say, how to say it and when to say nothing at all.   It is a funny book, that is really open and honest about those things that plague us in our every day lives.  I also appreciate that Karen Ehman doesn’t lump everyone in to a single category, but recognizes that different people will require different approaches.   Keep It Shut also address our digital tongue, which has the potential to do even more damage.

Digital tongue is how we speak through email, text messages, and social media.   These dialogues can be harder to decode emotion and intention because you can’t see the people you are speaking to.  You may not even realize how offensive your statements sound, because in your head they seem innocent enough.  Or, as a reader, you may not realize a person is telling a joke or sincere.

The digital tongue is something still fairly new, but has become a primary way to communicate with people.  We have to learn to use it correctly, and to remember that nothing replaces real life conversations… where sound communicates more than the written word.

Keep It Shut doesn’t neglect to hit the topics that may sting a bit, like gossiping (especially under the guise of a prayer request) or when we speak in hate as a response to being hurt.  There is a biblical approach to the advice and guidance from the book, that helps us not only keep control over our words but understanding why it is important to do so.   Complete with examples from the scriptures of people who were put into positions where their words had great power over the outcome of their life and others.

Just as any good book should, Keep It Shut concludes with a reminder that we can use our words in good, positive, God honoring ways and leaves us with some tips and verses we can reference in the future.  I really like the last pages of the book that have speaking prompts that you can copy or print out & place in visible areas as reminders.  These can be placed next to your computer or home phone, or even create a cute background photo for your phone that you’ll see before answering every call or text.

Here are a few great quotes from the book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“Before I engage my lips, I must know with absolute certainty that what I am saying is true.  If I know for sure that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.  If I have a strong hunch that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.  If I have even the slightest doubt that something might not be true, I need to be quiet.  But just because something is true does not mean I always need to say it.  Motives and manners matter.”

“Do your words online add value to the conversation at hand?”

“My daughter simply vocalized a truth she noticed in my life:  I tend to lose my cool with my family, but somehow manage to keep calm when I interact with others.”

“Do I open my mouth with wisdom, or do I just open my mouth, spewing out whatever is bubbling up in my angry heart?”

 

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PROJECT: I NEED YOUR STORIES

I am working on a very special series for the blog.  But, I need YOUR help.

I am looking for very specific stories, that I can incorporate into the pieces.  I can change names for privacy.  Please use the contact form below to give your name & contact information, as well as a brief synopsis of your story.  I will contact people individually for more specific information about their story based on how it fits into the project.

DESCRIPTION:

Did you have someone in your life that you held in HIGH esteem  (a parent, employer, pastor, friend, sibling, leader, author, etc) …  who ultimately let you down in a most devastating way (adultery, criminal behavior, broken trust, etc) that now makes it hard for you to trust others (now you are a skeptic, broken faith, broken heart, broken trust, etc)Did you heal from this experience, are you still healing, or do you feel you cannot heal from this wrong?