Sunday, February 7, 2016

Showing Up

Showing up is a phrase I use every day. Just this morning I was talking to a woman at the YMCA. She mentioned her reluctance to get out of bed on a cloudy, rainy day to exercise.

"At least you showed up," I offered, "even though you didn't feel like coming to spend time on the equipment."

"You're right," she replied with a grin. "I showed up, now I am ready to go to the fitness center, then I can meet a friend for lunch."

"Have fun!" I added, as she walked away carrying a thick book.

Writers are often encouraged to "show up" at their desks or laptops to encourage a daily writing routine even if there aren't any thoughts to record. "Showing up" means you are half-way to beginning another essay, short story, blog entry, poem or other form of written expression. Moving a pencil on paper or fingers over a keyboard begins to generate words that merge into thoughts, ideas and sentences. "Priming the pump," as people used to say long ago, to get started, get moving or continue - these thoughts still work today.

Recently I heard well-known author, Elizabeth Gilbert interviewed by Diane Rehm on National Public Radio. Elizabeth was promoting her new book, Big Magic. When talking about life, she said, "You win already by just showing up."

Showing Up In Other Areas

"Showing up" relates to all parts of life; showing up to work, showing up to a friend in need, showing up for a committee meeting, showing up for a service project - the list is endless. "Showing up" relates to our ways of being present to each other even when circumstances are challenging. My friend, Mary, "shows up" to visit her elderly father in an assisted living facility several times a week despite having a less than stellar childhood. She perseveres in her visits to show love and compassion, energized by God's love.

Kara Tippetts

In November, 2014, I head Kara Tippetts speak at a fund-raising event for the Megan S. Ott Foundation that helps persons diagnosed with breast cancer. Kara's cancer had recently spread to her brain and other vital organs. The foundation brought her to Indianapolis to address family, friends and others who had read her book The Hardest Peace. Unfortunately, Kara died in March, 2015.

While Kara was going through the last weeks of life, she and her friend, Jill Lynn Buteyn wrote a book, Just Show Up - The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together.  Released in October, 2015, Jill and Kara's book addresses the awkwardness that can come when a friend or family member is dealing with difficult circumstances or is dying. "Showing up" with a meal or with a gift of time sitting in silence or holding his/her hand are meaningful ways to be present during the long days of terminal illness.

Showing Up to Others

I remember when Mike was serving a church in rural North Carolina while he was a student at Duke University Divinity School. One of the oldest members of the congregation died. I was so nervous about what to say to his elderly widow, since being with people in grief was new to me. Mentally, I rehearsed a few sentences to say that I hoped would offer comfort.

When Mike and I arrived at their home, I saw the widow sitting on a couch in the living room. I panicked and couldn't remember my "rehearsed speech." The receiving line of friends moved quickly and when I reached her, I recalled a few of my sentences, talking way too fast to someone who probably didn't retain a word I said. What was important, however, was that I "showed up." I went to her house, spent a few minutes with her and in so doing I held her grief, sharing her loss.

Ways to Show Up

Through the years, I've learned "showing up" for those dealing with difficulty is simple, but hard. Here are a few suggestions.

1. If you feel comfortable, a hug or embrace conveys love, compassion, companionship and support. No words are needed.

2. Food is always helpful. Waiting for someone to call when they realize a need for nourishment may not come. Difficult circumstances make simple tasks like picking up a phone and dialing a number a challenge. Call ahead to make sure someone is home to receive your gift of compassion and care.

3. Send a card. Write a message of encouragement or a memory you may have if a person has died. Sometimes I cut a heart from fabric to enclose showing a tangible symbol of love to convey continued connection for a person who feels the ground underneath shifting.

4. Let the person discuss whatever he or she desires. Mike and I made a hospital visit to our long-time friend, Bill, who was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in early June. The conversation centered around the ingredients listed in a container of Boost, his liquid nourishment. Boost was important to Bill in these moments, so that is what we discussed. (Sadly, Bill died four months later.)

God "shows up" every day. "Showing up" to God can take many forms - prayer, worship, singing, acts of service, participation in small groups, taking a walk, art or other ways reflecting our individual ways we come to God.

Prayer: God, you "show up" wherever we are, everywhere and in everyone. Open our hearts to see you. When we "show up" and absorb you, we can "show up" to others in your name. Amen.