This week's blog was written by Theresa Adams, a wife and mother who loves to tap dance.
Showing up. Getting into it. How much about this do any of us really get?
How do we turn up for someone when they are in a crisis? When they are suffering?
Showing up can be hard, messy, difficult, uncomfortable, and did I say hard? When you purposefully choose to meet someone in a difficult place it is anything but simple.
You may question yourself, fend off insecurities and wonder what you did that day that made you sound like an idiot/uncaring/self-absorbed person. Showing up is something that all of us, no matter the stage of life we are in, will one day experience.
We will either make the choice to show up or we will need people to show up for us. Maybe it's just me, but I'd like to be a lot better at giving and receiving so that when the time comes I won't be immobilized. I won't think that they have people closer to them that have it. I won't allow the lack of relationship to hold me back. Nor, when I find myself in need for me or my family, will I freeze and not know how to welcome them in. I've already done that.
For years it seemed like my family was living in lean times. People close to us knew. It was obvious that my husband lost his job. That we weren't able to join in when people went on fun outings or out to dinner. We always wore the same clothes. We kept the smiles plastered to our faces. The thing about being in hard times was that we knew it was hard. We were living it. We didn't want to spend any time talking about it. We didn't want it to get more airtime than it deserved. We thought that if we kept the smile in place and the questions at bay that the difficult time we were enduring would be easier to live with.
And that worked. For a time.
Until, finally, I just had to get it out. To admit how hard it was to not even be able to buy toothpaste. To admit how humbling it was to be at the food bank. And once I started letting people in and sharing how tough of a place it truly was to be losing our home, to know we didn't know where we were going to go, to know we just wanted to be able to celebrate Christmas with our kids then things started feeling a bit easier.
Nothing changed in our day to day circumstances, mind you. We still had the same amount in our bank account but it became a little easier to breath. People who had been watching us from afar were invited closer. They were relieved to be able to "do something”. They loved on us in countless ways from listening, to anonymous checks in the mail, to providing housing for us, to providing Christmas for our family.
By letting people in our tanks, which had been on empty, were suddenly overflowing. Those full-to-the-brim tanks enabled us to continue on, to be encouraged, fueling us for the remainder of that tough season.
So, may I just encourage you that if you are in a hard place it is completely okay to let people in on it. There is no bravery in keeping it to yourself. There is no gold star at the end for being stoic. It is, rather, a sign of courage to let others in. To invite them into the trenches. To have them mourn alongside you. They won't always get it right, but it's far better than going at it alone.
At times we will find ourselves not on the receiving end, but on the end where we want to give. We want to show up, but we aren't sure how. We say "Let me know if I can do anything" but often that blanket offer of help can be overwhelming to those hearing it. They may not even know what their needs are much less how you can help. Here are a couple of things that just might help us know to to show-up a little better.
Seems obvious, right? But so often when our people are going through something difficult we want to do something tangible for them. Something more that "just" pray. Or sometimes the stuff our people are going through is long. We pray for a while and then we sense their situation will be one of long suffering and we give up on prayer for we don't see any relief. coming their way. Prayer can not only equip us to show up better it can also work on behalf of our people. It is a way that God has given us to give our burdens over to Him. He doesn't always answer according to our timeline nor according to our wishes, but each time we lift up a prayer to Him He is hearing it with fresh ears. He never tires of our requests, so why should we?
Another obvious one, right? I think we all know that meals can be a huge way we can show up for people. Whether they've had a baby, are going through a divorce, just received a difficult diagnosis or lost someone dear to them, no matter what it is they are eventually going to need to eat. And not having to think about planning or preparing said meal can be a huge relief.
If cooking isn't your jam then think gift cards which can be an immense blessing. Or try bringing breakfast foods instead of a dinner. Someone dear to me was going through chemo and she said one way she was shown great love was when others brought their kids sack lunches. Sandwiches, fruit, cheese, maybe a juice box. Brilliant. Helpful. And no culinary degree required.
Keep in mind if there may be many people contributing meals so an excessively large meal is not necessary as there will also be many leftovers. This is not something I've ever thought about before, but my “Showing Up Adviser” told me how much time and energy it can take to package, freeze or store the leftovers.
Don't Ask. Just Do.
When I asked my person who had fought cancer what advice she would offer to those wanting to help, her sage advice was "If you really want to help, don't ask. Kindly, but firmly say what it is you are going to come help with. For example: ‘I would like to come over and clean your bathrooms, or do your laundry or clean up your kitchen. What is a good day for me to do this?’. The person probably feels physically pretty crummy and discouraged about how much they can't do, but human nature makes it really hard for us to accept the offer of help. But when a friend says, ‘I love you and I am coming to do this for you’… that's a gift."
These suggestions are not exhaustive by any means. But they are a start for when we know we want to show up but have no idea where to begin.
I think an important piece of the puzzle is to remember you won't get it right every time. You don't need to have the polished words, the perfect verse or the best cup of coffee. Sometimes you just need to be there. To listen. To not say anything at all or to just simply sit in silence.
Regardless of how you show up or how others show up for you it's the love behind it that really stands out.