Conversation at the Door

Some of our most important and profound words are said in doorways.  Because someone is leaving, words spoken at the door are often more consequential, more weighty.  Time is short and must not be frittered away.  An entire evening may pass filled with light conversation and meandering stories until it’s time to say goodbye, and suddenly the flow of words gushes into the streambed of relevance.

In Just Show Up, Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn are standing in the door together, and this record of their words is raw and real.  Kara, author of The Hardest Peace, writes from the perspective of a cancer patient in her final days.  (Kara passed away in March 2015 shortly after the book’s completion.)  Jill speaks as a close friend who has offered her hands and her heart in service to Kara and her family.  What emerges from their shared writing is a chronicle of the painful, long good-by called cancer, many reassuring and sometimes humorous stories about the agony and the awkwardness of a friendship in which cancer is the unwanted third wheel, the helplessness of watching a dear friend suffer, and the need for both parties to put all pretense aside and fall into the rhythm of God’s choreography.

This pouring out of words about friendship and suffering would be enough if that was all that lived between the covers of Just Show Up — but it’s not, for in the way of showing up, Jill and Kara learned valuable and practical lessons about loving and saying goodbye:

  • The uncomfortable dance of giving and receiving help can be relieved somewhat by clear communication.  Being specific is key.  For example, rather than vague “call-me-if-you-need-anything” statements, offer to grocery shop, to provide transportation to appointments, to assist children with school projects.
  • When you provide a meal, use disposable dishes.  Suggest that the family place a cooler on the front steps so that meals can be dropped off unobtrusively without impacting family time.  Ask for guidelines on family food preferences and allergies.
  • Don’t visit when you are sick!
  • Put your giftedness at the family’s disposal. If you are a skilled photographer, offer to take pictures of the family.  Put your organizational skills to work managing their mail or other details.
  • Don’t become overwhelmed or neglect your own family responsibilities.  If you add a caring role to your life, subtract something else to make room for it.
  • Mourn the loss of your relationship as it used to be, but then find a new normal.
Jill and Kara drew from the wisdom offered in an LA Times article called “How Not to Say the Wrong Thing,” which described a series of concentric circles with the name of the person who is suffering in the center.  From there, place the names of family and friends with this in mind:  the closer one is to the person who is suffering, the closer their name goes to the center ring.  Using that as a guide, the key is this:  “Comfort in.  Dump out.”  For example, Jill did not complain to Kara’s family at all (about anything), but Kara’s husband was free to be honest with Jill about his struggles and observations regarding Kara’s decline.  As a general rule, if in doubt, err on the side of comforting instead of dumping.
In a way, what we have here is a devastatingly practical book on the theology of suffering and the sovereignty of God.  With tears, protesting the suffering, and mourning the brevity of Kara’s life, both Kara and Jill assert the truth that “suffering is not the absence of God’s goodness.”  Kara’s suffering and the process of dying were the cause for mourning, but also the occasion for finding “the smallest good and expand[ing] on it.”  Kara made the choice to be transparent about her suffering and to live her final days in a community that wrapped her in love and that continues to support and to love her family.  Just Show Up is the story of suffering being redeemed, “of God showing up in the midst of community here on earth.”

This book was provided by David C. Cook in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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23 thoughts on “Conversation at the Door”

  1. It is wonderful to see all that is being birthed from Kara’s life. There is so much we can learn from them to help us to “just show up” for those who need us in our own lives. Always good to read your reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. and this, Michele —> ‘Some of our most important and profound words are said in doorways.’

    what a great takeaway this morning. i’ll be thinking of these wise words as I come and go in the weeks ahead. and hopefully offer some kind of words of grace as I open my mouth.

    good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a touching book. I need to remember to just show up and do things, rather than putting out the invitation to ask. Thanks for the review. 🙂 Happy to be your neighbor at the Rara linkup today. ((blessings))

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful review, Michele. So many fabulous takeaways: “words spoken at the door are often more consequential, more weighty.” Such a reminder to live our lives with intention because we aren’t promised time for more words. I love the title of the book because it succinctly puts what it means to be faithful: Just Show Up. Thank you, Michele, for sharing your heart and the message of this book at #IntentionalTuesday on Intentionally Pursuing. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You’ve written a nicely detailed review of the book, Michele. The ideas for practical suggestions are spot on. Saying, “Call me if you need anything” is too vague. The family suffering can barely think, much less tell you what you can do. “I’ll bring lasagna on Tuesday. OK?” is more helpful.

    your neighbor at Tell His Story


  6. Taking meals to others in disposable dishes is such a big deal. Every time our family has needed a meal I felt so overwhelmed when I had to remember who brought what dish and to get it back to them quickly. Many times they weren’t labeled. It just adds more stress to a stressful time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful book review, Michele, and you manage to leave us with some good ideas for how to be support to friends in difficulty. Sometimes we don’t know what to do or say in tough situations, but this is a good reminder that it’s important to just show up with the gifts we have. Curious about this book.


  8. Hello, again, Michele. I appreciate your book reviews so much. There are so many I want to read, but don’t have the time for them all, so your review helps me decide what I should put on my “to read” list.
    I’m your neighbor at Lisha Epperson’s today.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for sharing this book review. Kara’s life, what I know from her writing, touched me deeply. I can imagine this book will bring many hope and comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Having just lost the 21-year old daughter of a dear friend to cancer, I’m not sure I could make it though this book without kleenex. But, also, having lost a child and going through suffering, I’m glad the “if you need anything call” statement was addressed. I’ve tried to tell so many people that if you really want to help a friend that is “suffering”, be specific. That person probably doesn’t know WHAT they need. OFFER to do the laundry, watch the kids, bring a meal tomorrow… things that will allow the person to say “no” and/or you to offer another day, but something that they WILL appreciate.

    Thanks for sharing with #What to Read Wednesday.


  11. This book looks so good! Hoping to get my hands on it soon! Thanks for sharing about this book at Booknificent Thursday at this week! Always love to have your contributions!


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