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

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On Teens and Social Media…. What I’ve Learned

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When you read an article about teenagers, phones, and social media… the above picture is probably similar to what has accompanied the articles. This is what we see from an adult perspective.  Kids who have their noses deep in their phones, ignoring each other, even when in a group of the peers.

This is what the media tells us is wrong with society today.  But, I wonder… who are these experts and where did they come up with their findings or opinions?  Are we just adults who don’t understand the technology?  We don’t get it, so it is wrong?  Have any of these people spent time talking to teens about WHY their phones are so important?

Somehow, even people in my generation, have this nostalgic idea of what family was like or should be like.  We envision the days of past, where everyone was gathered around the television or radio.  Doing family together.

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The reality is that even back then, people had their noses buried in things.  The people and their tendencies haven’t changed, just the vessels that have their attention.

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Our faces were buried in newspapers and books, jump further in time and we were listening to the news on portable radios with headphones.  Then we were listening to music and reading magazines.  Kids began to have toys that were kept in the car to entertain them while driving on long trips, this eventually evolved in to DVD players built into our vehicles.

Is it really anything new?

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Even the idea that families were totally engaged at home, is a bit of a stretch.  It was common for dad to sit in his chair and read the paper or take a nap on the couch.  Mother would be sitting in her chair knitting or working on cross stitch, repairing buttons and socks, reading magazines that interested her, etc. Kids would play games with each other, play with the dog, color with crayons, build with blocks, or even were sent out side until the street lights came on.

Many of us live the idea of a nostalgia that really didn’t exist.

If you spend a few minutes talking to a teen you learn quite a bit about WHY social media and their phones are so important to their lives.

  1. They are BORED or UNCOMFORTABLE, it’s the thing they do with free time or in situations where they are uncertain how to engage.
  2. This is how they CONNECT.   Even when they can’t be with their friends, they can bond over the experiences of shared photos and excitement.
  3.  This is PARALLEL to the things we did as a kid.  Texts = Passing Notes, Selfies = Exchanging School Photos.  Apps allow them to doodle, write or read stories, or be just as silly as we were when we used 8008 on our calculators to spell out the word BOOB.

You will also learn some other interesting things like…

They grow out of it.   My teen was big into her phone in middle and early years of high school.  Now?  She barely uses it, can leave it behind in her room and not think twice about it.  Why?

She has a boyfriend.  Her school work is harder.  She has a job.  She has money to spend = places to go.   She just doesn’t have time for the nonsense.

We spoke about this last night and my daughter said that she hasn’t used Twitter in well over a year.  She only texts about 3 people (outside of her parents).  She only uses instagram for her hobby (she collects disney pins, and there is a LOT of that happening on instagram).  She only goes on facebook to keep in touch with 2 friends who are long distance, and our long distance family members.

I asked her if this was just a change for her, or if it was common among the kids in her grade, and she emphatically said it was most of the upperclassmen.

So, that posed a few questions.

Q:  When kids are at the table, nose in the phone, what’s the deal?

A:  They are bored.  You are talking about things we either shouldn’t be listening to, or we don’t know anything about.  It’s not interesting or we just don’t know how to participate in the conversation.  So, we read.

Q:  Then how do parents get their kids to engage in the conversation?

A:  Parents need to engage their kids, don’t just demand they put the phone down and talk.  Instead parents need to talk about the things that their kids are interested in.  Talk with them, not at them.

Q:  What about all of these apps and things that kids are using?

A:  Totally be aware of what your kids are doing, keep up on it.  And be apart of that life, text your kids, sit down and share videos and pictures with each other.  Try to understand the appeal for yourself.

Q:  Kids are spending a LOT of time on their phones, parents don’t like this.  What do we do about it?

A:  Most of it is boredom, so don’t freak out about it.  Instead do stuff with them, giving them something to do other than the phone… and that doesn’t mean “clean your room”.    Go places that interest them, encourage hobbies that are off the phone, give them money to go hang out with their friends, be willing to drive them, etc. 

My daughter really believes that as our kids begin to have a more active life, the phones will minimize.  However, that doesn’t mean we let our kids forget how to be present.  We can’t expect it, but we model it and teach it.  When my kids see that when I am with them that I ignore phone calls, texts and notifications… they are learning presence.  When they see me give their father that same attention, they learn how to be present with their future spouse too.

We just can’t forget that social media also allows our kids to have presence in the lives in their friends as they celebrate exciting things with them, or console them when they are down.    Just like anything, social media is just a tool.  We must shape the heart of the user.