Last night a friend shared that her good friend had just passed away. There were very few words that could really comfort her, so I simply reached over and kissed her on the forehead and hugged her.
Sometimes, we just don’t know what to do.
That’s why I was so grateful to read this beautiful book by Jill Lynn Buteyn and Kara Tippett. Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together is raw and powerful and reminds us of what happens when we just show up.
Today co-author, Jill Lynn Buteyn, joins us.
An interview with Jill Lynn Buteyn,
Co-author of Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together
Q: You wrote Just Show Up with your late friend Kara Tippetts. Can you tell us about Kara and the circumstances that led you to write this book together?
Jill: Kara Tippetts was a grace-filled mother and pastor’s wife who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. While fighting cancer, she shared her story with thousands of readers on her blog, Mundane Faithfulness. She also wrote the book The Hardest Peace about her journey and co-authored Just Show Up with me before passing away at the age of 38.
While Kara was blogging, I was writing fiction. We often talked about collaborating on a book. We settled on the subject of walking through suffering together because we could write from both of our perspectives. I learned a lot from watching Kara’s community rally around her, from seeing her friends in action. Of course, as the one suffering, Kara had firsthand knowledge of what works well and what doesn’t. We both hoped the book would take some of the mystery out of showing up for each other and allow people to engage more confidently in community, even during really hard times.
Q: Do you think it’s easier to be someone’s friend when times are good?
Jill: Certainly there’s a simplicity to friendship when things are good, but at the same time, when is “good”? We all have hard times, and we’re often dealing with tough stuff in different areas of life at the same time. But there’s also beauty that comes in doing the really hard stuff together. When I look back on my time with Kara, on the way she let me and so many others in when she was suffering so much, I see a lot of tears, prayers and pain, but I also see grace and even peace. I see really great friendships formed in a short amount of time. It was beautiful to walk with her, even though it hurt so much. It still hurts. But I would choose her all over again.
Q: You write in Just Show Up that being there for a friend can be as simple as literally just showing up. Why is presence so important during suffering?
Jill: Presence is so important in suffering because sometimes that’s really all we have to offer. We don’t have the right words, or there isn’t anything we can do to help. Sometimes it is just about being there. There’s peace and support in being with each other — from both sides. Often it was a comfort for us to be with Kara, even if she was sleeping, and I think she felt that same thing. One time I sat at the hospital with her while she slept. I brought my laptop and just wrote, sitting in the chair. I remember wanting to have something to do so she would feel free to sleep and rest. She opened her eyes and said something about how it gave her comfort that I was there. I could have easily second-guessed offering to sit with her — it wasn’t really necessary. But just being present with each other meant something to both of us.
Just being present means something
Q: Could you offer some advice for others on how to move past moments of awkwardness?
Jill: Pray, then step out in faith. God will meet you there. Be honest. You could even say to a friend, “I want to help. I don’t want to be the person who disappears because this is awkward or uncomfortable. How can I be there for you? Will you help me by telling me if I’m doing something offensive or don’t have a clue?” I think friendships can grow from this kind of honesty.
Q: When offering help to someone, why is it important to be very specific about how you would like to help them?
Jill: It’s far easier for people to accept help when we offer something specific. I used to say to people, “Let me know if you need anything.” And I meant it. But rarely, if ever, did anyone ask me for anything or admit what might help them. However, when I offer a specific, “Hey, I’m at the store, can I pick anything up for you?” or, “I’d love to come by and do a couple loads of laundry this week. What day works?” it easier for the suffering people to decide if and when they need that specific help or how they can tweak it to meet their needs.
Q: What are some words we can use to offer comfort? Are there any words that can hurt more than help?
Jill: I don’t think there are perfect words. I guess that’s why showing up for others can be confusing and scary.
Don’t try to solve your friend
But maybe recognizing this — that there isn’t anything perfect to be done or said — will make it easier for people to dive in with each other. Say things that are comforting, listening phrases. “I’m so sorry. That’s hard.” Comforting is also about what not to say. Don’t try to solve your friend. Listen and love them in their hard.
For more information about Jill Lynn Buteyn and Just Show Up – www.jill-lynn.com.
Hey friends, Jill has graciously offered one free book to one of you! Simply share one way you can show up for a friend who is in a battle, whatever that is, or share one way someone just showed up for you. We’ll choose one of you on Saturday to receive this amazing book: Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together.
Also, it’s #livefreeThursday. Women from all over the nation are joining together to discuss what it means to “just show up.”
I hope you’ll join in the conversation.
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Thank you Suzie. When we lost Kyle, my dear friend Carol showed up and asked, “How can I help you get him ready for his funeral?” You see she had lost her son 7 years earlier.
God love her. She went to the tuxedo shop for me to get a pair of tux pants as his weren’t where we could find them. He always wore them – the whole tails and all! – so I wanted to bury him dressed like he dressed for life. So his white tails, black vest with bright Mardi Gras colored (purple, green and gold) paisley and black tux pants is was. Because Carol cared. God knows how much I love her still. Always will.
Oh by he way, we found his tux pants later that week. Tossed into the back of his SUV. Yep, that’s how he rolled…
Oh Susan, the image of this friendship in action floors me. What a beautiful way to show up. I appreciate you and your words today.
Thank you for these beautiful and oh so timely words. Two years ago, I walked with a friend through her six month battle with cancer. I questioned my words, my help, for months after she passed. Today, I walk with a friend who gave birth to her stillborn son two months ago this day. I question yet again. May God give us strength. May He shower His grace upon us when we just aren’t sure how to help. I’m so grateful that I can turn to Him and allow Him to step in when I’m at a loss. Thank you, Suzie, for sharing this interview. And thank you, Jill, for giving me peace of mind with your words of encouragement. Prayers, as you continue to grieve the loss of your beautiful Kara.
It’s great to hear from someone who has walked through it, but even more powerful to hear the words from the person who needed someone to just show up. Love you, friend.
I loved Just Show Up, and have shared it with a number of people who are walking the sad path of the long goodbye. I hope it’s ok that I shared my review in the link-up today. Thanks, Jill, for showing us how to be THAT kind of friend.
Wow, I will definitely be reading this book. I’ve been in the same situation – losing a best friend too soon. I think people shy away from writing about walking through the suffering because it makes us uncomfortable to talk about it, but the topic of this book is so needed. Thank you so much for sharing about Just Show Up with us, Suzie. And thank you Jill for having the courage to write it with your dear friend! I know first hand what pain you walked through. Your practical insight will help many others. Many blessings dear lady:)
I instantly can think of many people who long to understand the message of this book, beginning with –> this girl <-- I join you in thanking Jill for practical help that will make a difference.
Excellent, and so very true. Thank you for sharing.
This message is so precious… And means a lot to me..I am on closed group of Chronic disease MSK.and I read a post someone asking about meds that help the chronic pain of this disease..She actually has an appointment tomorrow and I suggested if it does not go well that I will help her call around to find a Dr willing to give this Precious Heart a better quality if life..We all on this site are there for each other.. Someone cries out and always is someone to say I Love you, and Just be there..Its very important to know you matter..I know how it feels being in both sides..I always pray for them and ask Our Father how can I help them..For He knows their needs..Thank you Suzie I really Believe Everyone Needs Someone.. God Bless..And Please have a Wonder Day!! Hugs..Love out to you ALL
Small groups that offer private encouragement can be a blessing! I’m part of a couple of smaller private groups that relate to medical issues that one of my grand babies have. The information, the encouragement, and the interaction is so helpful. I love that you have this, Marta, and I love what you offered for your friend.
I’ve never lost anyone that was really close to me besides my grandmother and she had dementia and she would hated the last couple of months of her life, so her passing was a blessing for her. I’ve had my husband be put in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and I think just being there for me and sending me simple tests saying I’m praying for you mean the world to me, even now and it’s 5 months since he received the guilty verdict.
I’m glad you have people around you who are showing up in ways that encourage you in this hard place. I’m so glad you dropped around the table today, Miranda. <3
Wow, Suzie. God’s timing is always perfect. I friend of mine just received some devastating news and it’s easy to be intimidated by awkwardness or not knowing what to say. But Jill is right. Sometimes just being there is the best gift we can offer. Thank you.
I bought some books on grieving for a book-loving friend who lost her teenage son. I read them too, which helped me understand a bit better what she was going through. I’ve learned from my friend that the best way to give books is to say, “I thought of you when I saw this … maybe you’ll find something helpful in these pages?” rather than act like the book you are recommending will solve every last one of the person’s problems! This is such an important topic, Suzie … thanks for addressing it!
I need to keep reminding myself that it doesn’t have to be complicated. I just need to go visit: Even if I only have a few minutes. Even if I have nothing to bring. Even if I have no words. Can’t wait to read the book!
Julie, I just took a walk with a friend. She’s driving away as I type. All we both needed was time together. That was showing up. We didn’t solve any world problems. We didn’t have all the answers, but talking about Jesus, encouraging each other, that’s where we walked away with what we needed.
Thank you for sharing this. I read Kara’s blog for a long time. I felt connected, somehow. I suppose that is because Kara was so very real. And Jill seems like the perfect match for writing this book because her answers seem very real.
Caring through Christ, ~ linda
I love this interview! It’s so true that what we need is people to just show up. While I am not dealing with anything as tragic as dying from breast cancer, our family has had a really difficult few years and as I posted on my blog today, the things that have meant the most were people who just showed up. Like my Mom dropped by with a hot-n-ready pizza for lunch and also brought a gallon of milk and loaf of bread. It’s just little things that make the trying times easier.
I love that you talked about getting over the awkwardness – and we just need to offer ourselves up to be there. Thanks for sharing this interview, Suzie!
One way I have reached out to a friend who is hurting is just sending a text message with an encouraging word or scripture.
Thank you so much for this sharing this post. I am excited to learn about this book!
Just showing up to me means offering to walk thru your own pain again to meet someone who is walking those steps now. I have a dear sweet friend who offered to be part of a group who worked with others. We were paired up because I was going through my divorce and I was lost. She entered my life and walked with me, showing me I wasn’t alone, all the while pointing me to our God who never leaves. She showed up right where I was, not forcing me to do or be anything I couldn’t be at that time, patiently waiting for me, sitting with me in silence, crying with me during the rough days/nights, and showing me unconditional love and acceptance. She is amazing! And while I don’t get to see her anymore as she moved out of state, her spirit of gracious, selfless giving is woven into my very being as I don’t know where I would be without her light. So, “showing up” can be 100 different things to 100 different people, but means the right thing at the right time! 🙂
What a beautiful description of a good friend showing up!
Hi im new here but followed Kara’s blog for a long time, still do. Though it was hard watching her go through all she did, i found her to be amazingly strong , beautiful, and so full of grace. She gave,, loved hard and true and helped so many of us get through our own pain. I quess you could say she just showed up. My mom passed January 18, 2011. She had a terrible pain in her back that no matter what she tried to do too relieve it, wouldnt go away. She and my ssister were food shopping Nov. 29, 2014 and the next day we took her to the emergency room thinking maybe she pulled a muscle. Not so simple, after running some tests she was aditted. Cancer was found a rare form of colon cancer that they hadnt even done any studies on.More tests revealed it in many other places soon to be found in her brain. There was nothing to be done for her but to pray. They let her come home christmas eve and the pain was so bad hospice had to medicate her so much that she was mostly sleeping. She was gone in 6 weeks. Id like to say i justt showed up for her buta few days before she died my best friend and I were with her i needed my mom so bad that i climed into her hospital bed which was set up in my sisters guest room. Anyway i got into the bed and curled up with her she just showed up i felt her hand gently rubbing my hair and my best friend said my mom was smiling while like a whisper her hand was on me. It was so beautiful you see i really needed her and she just showed up. I didnt mean to go into all these details but i wanted you to see what Kara calls the hardest peace and how my mom in the end was still able to “JUST SHOW UP” thank you
Sorry, I should have mentioned that i had not yet given my life to Christ yet. That happened about 2years later after my lovely christian friend gently walked me to Jesus and after months of watching Joyce Myers on tv one day I felt Him, it was beautiful and I believed Him to be my Lord and Savior. I already new about God being raised Catholic, but i didnt know that i could talk to Him whenever i wanted. That he would forgive all my sins and make me brand new. In knowing Him old things pass away and all things are brand new. I wish i could have talked to my mom about Jesus. She believed so I know she is with Him in Heaven.
My typing is terrible i messed up the dates foof shopping with mom november 29, 2010 er nov. 30 gone jan. 18, 2011
A friend of mine is dying of cancer right now. I have discovered that the greatest comfort to her is when her friends sacrfice time to just come and do the hard work of being with her–words are not needed. In fact, trying to have words for her is not always helpful. Looking pitiful at her is definitely not helpful. Hugging, crying, sharing God’s word and praying are what ministers to her heart. I am sure I will appreciate this book. Kara was such a beautiful spirit! Thanks for letting us know about it!
I have a friend that was going through a difficult pregnancy and hoeschooled as well as had four other children on this earth to care for. I told her a specific day i had available and told her to have chores reafy for me because I was coming over. Half was spent doing chores and the other wa just talking with her. She would never accept help. I had to tell her what was happening when.
I flew to be with my neice who had terminal breast cancer for a visit.
Little did either of us know, her death would come that week.
How precious were those hours, in each others presence, listening, sharing and just being there ,for her and her young family.
It was difficult, but in the midst of it, there was a depth of love.
I can’t imagine how hard that would be. I think about my nieces and how close I am to each. My prayers are with you, Sally, and with her family. I’m so glad you were there for her.