Just Show Up

My friend Rachel started a small book group at a local coffee shop. We met for the first time to talk about Christmas books. It was a random choice and I truly believed it would be just her and me, chatting at the coffee shop, but then something wonderful happened…

People showed up.

I went home excited and came back the next month with my book in tow, But I steeled myself, again ready for a chat session between just her and I. I mean, once was nice, but surely no one would show up a second time??? That would be crazy talk, right?

Then it happened, again. People showed up.

It sounds like such a small thing. Showing up. In this giant universe, me showing up is relatively insignificant, don’t you think? But it isn’t it does matter.

I’m not saying you need to fill your calendars with social engagements and wear yourself down trying to show up for everything and anything. I’ve walked that road. It’s not fun and it’s definitely not doable for long.

In fact, last night, I was the person who didn’t show up. I skipped book group. I needed a moment. My husband needed a moment. My family needed a moment. And that’s ok.

But, I want you to know that showing up really does matter.

I have rarely felt so encouraged as when I left those book groups. It’s that satisfying sense of knowing that someone else thought something mattered as much as you did. Someone valued time with you, with the community that gathered, and the thoughts that were shared. Time has value and when we give it to people, we say,

You matter. You are valued.

Let’s take this conversation to church. Showing up.

Tiny, seemingly insignificant, but the most powerful thing you can do in the Body of Christ.

Show up.

Amazing things happen in the act of showing up.

  • You ignite and grow relationships. You are fed, you are loved, you leave ready to love on others.
  • You say to the person sitting next to you in the pew -“Jesus is worth my time. You, my friend, are worth my time.” Who else in their life is saying that to them? Maybe no one. Don’t ever take that for granted.
  • You encourage your pastor in the very best way. Words of affirmation are nice, gift cards and thank you notes are wonderful, but if you really, really want to encourage your pastor, be there to hear the Word. It tells him that he did not prepare in vain. It shows him that God is at work. It reminds Him that the Word does not return empty and God called him to this work for a real reason and purpose- namely, you.
  • In real relationship, we get life together. Need help with your moving van? Call on the body of Christ! Is someone in your family struggling with mental illness? Call on the body of Christ! Lost your job? Call on the body of Christ! Cancer, weddings, graduations. Life torn to shreds and life flourishing. This is real life together. You do not know what you are missing until you experience it. No one should every go through any of it alone. God created us for more. He created us for one another.

    God has called you to your own arena of showing up. Showing up for your kids, showing up for your spouse, showing up for your neighbors, showing up for your church, showing up in the hard, and showing up in the magnificent.

But just do it, in His grace. Just show up.

Autism, #27, and Inviting People In

Hockey sounds like a good idea…until it’s not.

Zeke desperately wanted to play hockey. He watched his big brother play his heart out and wanted in. I could see his brain wheels turning, imagining himself on the ice, when he told me he wanted to play hockey.

He bought his own whistle, so that he could pretend to referee driveway hockey, then real hockey. I had to convince him that the ice arena stands were not a good place for whistles.

We took him to an open skate. We sat on a bench and laced up his  skates for him. He stepped out onto the ice and tentatively took little baby iceskating steps. Dave and I looked at each other scared to breath, lest Zeke fall over. He didn’t. He did great and so we thought, “Ok, Zeke, let’s do hockey!”

The next week we bought him the shorts, the pads, and the stick for his birthday.

That first night of hockey, Zeke and I took out all the gear from a hand me down bag, alongside twenty or so other parents and small children, each eagerly awaiting the unveiling of their tiny ice stars. I started layering on elbow pads and shin pads, and a neck protector. I laced up his skates.

Zeke walked onto the ice and I knew instantly that something was wrong. Zeke hunched himself over and half stood, half squatted on the ice, curled up in a ball.

It was a rough start, and then it got worse.

He started falling.

I don’t mean he fell a couple of times. He fell and fell and then he fell some more. Zeke was clearly struggling and it was so painful to watch as a mother.

At one particularly difficult moment, he looked like a turtle stuck on his back. I wanted to rescue him from this fiasco, but “Crazy moms entering the ice” was frowned upon, I knew.

I heard the snickers around me.

I glanced up and saw a couple of moms pointing and I assumed the worst.

My face flamed up. I could feel the embarrassment and then its faithful cousin, shame, slowly creeping up my chest. I sent some  texts off to a group of good college friends, just to make it through the 50 minute lesson:

“These women, they don’t know. How dare they laugh at Zeke!”

“There’s actual pointing going on! I’m rageful.”

“I’m just sad. Tears are rolling down my face. I wish this world was a better place for him. I just want it to be so much better.”

My friends comforted me and helped me sort through the anger, the frustration, and the embarrassment. With logical thought returning, I had a mom realization. I really thought we had prepped him for this. I generally try to avoid extremely difficult situations in public, for my sake, and for Zeke’s sake.

It dawned on me that Zeke’s sensory system was likely in overdrive. We had tried skating, yes, but we hadn’t added in the weight of a chest pad, too tight elbow pads, shin guards, and tightened skates. Throw in a cold arena and slippery ice and it’s a lot for kids, much less sensory challenged kids. Looking back I was pretty impressed that Zeke wasn’t just screaming like a banshee.

I finally turned to one mom, channeled my inner Dr. Brene Brown, and made myself intensely vulnerable.

I invited someone, a stranger, into my pain –

“This is so hard for me. Zeke’s on the Spectrum. I love him and it’s hard to watch him struggle. The equipment is just too much for him and learning something new is hard. Skating is hard. He hates anything that’s hard and a struggle. Don’t we all, but it’s intense for him in a way that it probably isn’t for you or me.”

She had a friendly smile and loads of wisdom – “Look at them. They all are falling down! Don’t they all look a bit ridiculous trying to stay standing up? It’s adorable.”

In an instant my fear, anger, and sadness dissipated. She pointed, not at my son, but her own, and then the myriad of skaters I failed to notice in my struggle, all trying to stay on two awkward skate blades.

I realized that while I do think some of the mamas could have been a bit more sensitive, I had created my own place of shame. I had wrapped myself in a blanket of embarrassment and disconnected from the reality of 30 or so little kids struggling through something new. I only saw my own little one’s pain and frustration and wanted so badly to take it away that I made up a story in my head and pointed my rage at those around me.

In the next moment, as it often does, life became supremely ironic…

I watched one coach skate over to Zeke and help him up. He dusted Zeke off and then proceeded to spend the rest of the lesson giving him confidence, giving him props, and an arm to hold on to when he needed his bearings. The mom I was talking to pointed at the coach, “That’s my husband.”

I said a small prayer – Thank you, God, for people, and care, and connection in this life, for not leaving us to walk alone.

Fast forward 8 weeks and hockey ended. I stood at the side of the ice with the moms. We laughed and talked about how far they had come these little tiny skaters, falling down less, but more importantly getting back up more, and having the time of their lives.

I was so proud of my #27.

He walked off the ice. They gave him a certificate and some pretty cool hockey cards, but I don’t think anything could mean as much as the fist bump waiting for him from that one coach. The coach who reached out and silently said with everything he did, “We’re in this together buddy. It’s hard work, but you can do it.”

One person, one mom, one coach makes a difference. This one moment of connection made a supreme difference in my life and in my son’s life. We need one another, even more so in our darker moments, but we need each other every day.

I could have gone through all of it, frustrated and hurt, and raging at those around me, by myself, but I found truth, by inviting someone in.

For #27 and his mama, it made all the difference.

*more on the stories in your head and connection in Dr. Brown’s book, Rising Strong

Defying Shame

Shame.

It’s often described as a blanket. It kind of wraps around you. The devil fools you thinking it’s comfortable, it’s where you belong.

We experience shame in any number of things. Our past haunts us, our marriages feel like they’re failing, we never measure up. Sometimes we put shame on ourselves. The guilt sits long enough and we don’t even notice it’s there. The devil tricks us into believing that it’s part of who we are, what we deserve. That it may be, what we deserve. But that’s not grace and it’s not the way we were intended to live.

Shame is all around us. It’s so much a part of our culture that we normalize it. We judge ourselves in accordance with what the person next to us is doing. We’re either “not as bad as all that” or “I’ll never measure up to that.” We turn on the tv and judge our bodies based on false images, and feel the shame creep in. We hide our whole selves, only letting pieces out, because we know that judgement eventually looms with each person we meet.

Shame is at its worst when it comes from a brother. How often do we give someone the benefit of the doubt? How often do we fail to see the story behind the pain? People everywhere are afraid to walk into churches (including Jesus-loving, church girls…even pastor’s wives), because shame waits.

Half of it is a lie of the devil, and half of it is a lie of our culture.

Church isn’t for looking a certain way or getting it together so we can meet with God. Church is for the abused and the abuser. Church is for the faith-filled and the faithless. Church is for the hurting and those who have hurt.

It’s time to throw off the shame.

It’s time to defy it.

As a person, as a church, as a culture.

As a woman, I have particular battles with shame I can name and by naming, I can begin to take some power from it. I don’t feel beautiful enough, smart enough, good enough, or just plain enough. So, I get up each morning and defy shame. You are not a part of me, shame. You are not invited to this party. Christ promises me in John 8 and Romans 8 that he doesn’t condemn me and who else should? No one. I’m throwing off the blanket and letting my whole self out. I’ll mess up, as I have in the past. I’ll say words that should have been more careful, but relationships will be healed because I will be real. I’m not enough, but Christ in me is.

He looks on me and I am radiant. He tells me I will never be in shame.

I’m going to believe His promises, place them on repeat and believe them again.

Those who look to Him are radiant; and their faces are never covered in shame. Psalm 34:5

* This is my good friend, Erin. Who lovingly reminds me everyday that shame has no place in my life. We all need an Erin.