It was not a story of saying goodbye, although she was intentional in her time with her husband and four children. Kara’s story was one of seeing God in the hard and in the good. It was one of finding grace in the everyday. And it was one of knowing “God with us” through fierce and beautiful friendship.
In Just Show Up, Kara and her close friend, Jill Lynn Buteyn, write about what friendship looks like in the midst of changing life seasons, loads of laundry, and even cancer. Whether you are eager to be present to someone going through a difficult time or simply want inspiration for pursuing friends in a new way, this eloquent and practical book explores the gift of silence, the art of receiving, and what it means to just show up.
I first heard of Kara Tippetts when my cousin Jenni told me I needed to read The Hardest Peace. Like me, Jenni lives with a chronic – and often debilitating – illness and tries to juggle her health demands along with her family, her faith, her friends, her art, her life. When I first began my own journey through this new normal, she told me how much Kara’s book had encouraged her. So, I read it.
Wow. Just… wow. Everyone needs to read it.
And everyone needs to read Just Show Up too.
Whether you yourself live with chronic/terminal illness or you just love someone who does, this book needs to be on your read-list ASAP.
Just Show Up is a beautifully written, heartfelt and practical look at walking through “hard” with a friend. Both Jill’s and Kara’s humor provides much needed levity in a book that begins “Hi. My name is Kara Tippetts, and I may not be alive when you read this book.” In fact, she isn’t – on earth, anyway. Kara won her hard-fought battle with breast cancer in March of this year (2015) and is now with Jesus. She completed her contributions to Just Show Up before her death, and her words carry the added weight of this poignancy, yes, but also reflect once more her delightful and grace-filled personality.
Let me say real quick that, after reading about her introverted tendencies, I’m pretty sure Jill Buteyn and I are the same person. (Ok, not really… but I’d totally believe kindred spirits!) She too prefers texts over phone calls, changes into pajamas in lightning speed after coming home, and nearly has a panic attack when faced with taking a meal to someone. I laughed out loud when she said at one point that after reading all her thoughts about meal-taking, “no one’s going to accept dinner from me ever again. I should feel worse about that than I do.” Her ability to admit and poke fun at her own fears and comfort zones gave me the freedom to rest in my introverting and acknowledge that growing friendship as an introvert in the middle of “hard” is indeed possible. And not even all that painful, according to Jill. Good news for introvert me. On the flip side of that coin… “The tough-love news is that introverting is not an excuse for avoiding community – although I have attempted to use it as one before.” Uhhh…yeah. Me too. So much easier just to read a book than to show up in the middle of someone else’s pain, isn’t it?
Another thing I loved so much about Just Show Up is how practical it is. We’re not just told to show up – we’re given hints on how to do that. Because, let’s be honest. One of the big reasons (besides general discomfort) that we avoid walking through suffering with someone is that we just don’t know what to do (or how not to make it worse). This book is full of ideas that are relatively easy to implement – for you and the person you are serving. Things like putting a cooler on your friend’s front doorstep/porch so people can drop off meals without disrupting rest or family time. Pack an extra lunch for their child while you’re packing your own child’s lunch. And tons more! There’s also a great section about the Christian platitudes we need to stop using (seriously. If you can’t say something besides a platitude, don’t say anything at all.) and who to vent your feelings to versus who to comfort. I love practical application!! Introvert me needs practical application 🙂
Have you been fortunate enough to have friends who just showed up for you? As I mentioned earlier, I have a chronic illness. It’s one of those invisible ones – nothing obvious on the outside – but it’s upended my life anyway. Last year, I had some minor surgery and while waiting in pre-op I was stunned to see two of my dear Iranian friends walk into my cubicle. One had a broken leg and came clomping in on crutches, but there they came anyway. They showed up, held my hand and hugged my neck and prayed for me in precious broken English … and then they left. Ten minutes at the most, but to me it meant everything. If they had asked me though, I would have told them not to come. I’m so bad about that.
Now, I’m not gonna lie to you. Yes, I laughed while reading Just Show Up. But I also ugly-cried a few times. Like as soon as I started reading Kara’s introduction (I’ve already mentioned the first sentence). Every time I read Jill’s thoughts that begin her sections, the raw emotions and reactions she felt as she journeyed through “hard” with Kara, I ugly-cried. But oh my heart, it’s so worth it.
One such line from these snippets has been swirling around in my mind ever since I read it last night.
I don’t know how to let Kara go.
Jill follows this statement with some beautifully honest thoughts about how to live while your friend is dying. She talks about knowing the joy of a pain-free God-kissed heaven that waits for Kara. And then she says this:
Before that heavenly joy for Kara, we stumble through hospice together.
We’re all left in limbo. No. Limbo is too nice of a word. This is a tension, a grating of not knowing.
Will this be the last time I kiss her bald head? Do I say goodbye this time? Or do we simply talk like girlfriends, discussing our lives as though one of us isn’t leaving?
Is there a right way to die?
I can only say this. My friend has LIVED well. Therefore her dying will be done well too.
Do you need my box of tissues yet? If I could pass it along to you through cyberspace, I totally would!
The last words in Just Show Up are Kara’s, and they are beautiful and poignant and full of grace. They point us to Jesus. Just like Kara. And just like her dear friend Jill.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)
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About the Authors:
The late Kara Tippetts was the author of “The Hardest Peace” and blogged faithfully atmundanefaithfulness.com. Cancer was only a part of Kara’s story. Her real fight was to truly live while facing a crushing reality. Since her death in March 2015, her husband, Jason, is parenting their four children and leading the church they founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Jill Lynn Buteyn is the author of “Falling for Texas,” an inspirational novel, and a recipient of the ACFW Genesis Award for her fiction work. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethel University. Jill lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children.
Connect with Jill: website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram