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Good Words

Friends, my playlist is about to get a major Mama makeover. Elliott and I have never been the kind of parents to keep our preferred music away from our son. Sure, some of the content got watered down once little man’s ears started to pick up on words, but we never fully converted our music of choice over to a Kidz Bop-approved variety. Over the last year or so, Brooks – our son who is now five years old – has taken a special interest in singing along with me to the songs that are on my playlist. We sing in the car, he sings along with the music while I work out or while we run down back country roads. It’s kind of become our thing. When we get to the songs that are filled with uplifting messages – messages that reinforce our faith or encourage self-confidence – I always say, “Listen, buddy! These are good words.” After a few months of me reminding him to pay close attention to the lyrics in certain songs, Brooks has now started to ask me, “Mommy, are these good words?” wh

The Power of Showing Up

I attended the funeral this week of a close family friend – a woman who has known my family for longer than I’ve been alive – Mrs. Marian Baccus. It was an emotional day, but it was one of the most uplifting days I’ve experienced in quite some time. Our friend lived a good, long life – she turned 96 just a few months ago. Though her body had certainly grown weaker and her mind had started to slip a bit, she had been able to let her daughter – our dear friend Pam, who is like another older sister to me – know her wishes for her own funeral. What a blessing, to be able to know the specific requests of a loved one for his or her Going Home celebration.

As part of her funeral service requests, Marian selected a handful of ladies, including Pam and my mama, to speak. As I watched all these ladies, this incredible group of modern-day steel magnolias, speak carefully and gracefully about the influence Marian had in their lives, a common theme was apparent to me – the power of showing up. I listened to story after story about the faithful friend that Marian was to so many in our community, and the loyal friends that visited her regularly, up until her very last days.

Several of the women who spoke that day used a similar phrase and idea – they recalled that Marian and her group of faithful friends had taught them how to be a friend to others. The women in Marian’s circle of friends showed up for each other time and time again – several of them had a standing time each week that was dedicated to being together. How incredibly powerful. I think that perhaps prioritizing people on that kind of level has become a lost artform. At least, unfortunately, I feel certain that it has in my own life.

I listened to Pam speak sweet words about her mama that day, and I realized that she herself has taught me so much about what it means to be a friend. She has helped to hold my family up more times than I can even count, and she has been present for every significant occasion of my life. We might not be related by blood, but she is my family. The beautiful circle of multi-generational friendship wasn’t lost on me that day – Marian and her friends taught the next generation how to be good friends to each other. And that next generation is paying it forward. And those of us who are lucky enough to be near them are getting to learn from them.

Sweet Pam, with Brooks and me at his first birthday party

I have learned so many of these lessons from my own mama – she is a woman who has devoted her life to showing up for other folks. Often through teaching, sometimes by just being. When Daddy died, an overwhelming amount of good folks showed up for us and held us up – physically, emotionally, spiritually. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we are too weak to know how to pray – I’ve come to realize that the best kind of friends do the same.

One of the ways that I’ve watched my mama heal from losing Daddy has been to throw herself into new ways of showing up for folks she loves. She sure as heck shows up for me and my boys, selflessly giving her time to help with my son and to just be present with us. Although she’s been retired from teaching for six years, she keeps showing up for students who need one-on-one help, by tutoring at all hours of the day and night, depending on what is most convenient for the students and their families. And oh my word, that woman shows up for her friends and family. Funeral home visitations. Hospital visits. Prayer requests. Meal deliveries. Sunday school lessons. Long phone calls. I’m convinced she’s got a direct line to God, so if you need someone with a clear connection to put in a good word for you, call her up.

In the last few weeks, I’ve watched her show up for Pam and Marian on a special level. She’s certainly not the only one – their family’s community extends far and wide – but she’s the one I get to watch most often from the front row. I was thinking about that kind of selfless friendship – that kind of showing up – throughout the funeral, and I started to feel a little prick at my heart. Conviction, mixed with some inspiration. There are plenty of areas in my own life that need improvement, and this is most certainly one of them.

Over the last year and a half, I have worked hard on myself. On my health, my marriage, my spiritual and personal growth, on my mindset, on my attitude. The thing about personal growth is that it’s largely about you. And don’t misunderstand me – I’m not jumping off the personal growth bandwagon. I see it as essentially having the same concept as the safety videos they make you watch on Delta flights – put your own oxygen mask on before you help someone else with theirs. You can’t save someone else’s life if you don’t first save your own. Similarly, I don’t see how we can properly show up for the folks we love most in this life without showing up as the best version of ourselves – and finding the best version of ourselves takes a lot of intentional work. Enter the work of personal growth.

BUT. The thing about personal growth is that it forces you to spend a lot of time looking inward. Which is great – as long as you remember how to keep looking out. As long as you remember that life is best lived in community, and you have to show up for folks if you want to have a community. And this is where I start to feel a prick at my heart. This is where I hear a faint whisper in my ear saying, “What about you, Lib? How can you be more like these ladies? Who have you really shown up for lately?”

I’ll be honest – this is a sensitive topic for me right now. Certain relationships have become a bit more complicated over the last year or so. When you decide to take different paths in your life than the ones you have traditionally been on, not everyone who used to surround you will choose to keep showing up. Trust me – if you want to see who loves you unconditionally in this life, start a blog and a fitness Instagram account, and sit back and watch who starts to back out of the room slowly and who keeps showing up. 

And it sucks for people to back out of the room of your life – it hurts, and it’s messy, and it just plain sucks. I don’t have any flowery language for it – it’s just hard. But here’s what I’m learning…from life, from reading, from Instagram, from funeral services. You have to put the work in to find your true north in this life – you have to find a real direction. You get one life, and you have to show up for it the best way that you can – you owe that to yourself and to the One that created you. Once you find your direction, and you chart your life’s course, look around at who’s left standing with you. Find the ones who didn’t leave. And then set to work on loving those people as hard and as well as you can. Be so intentional in telling them what they mean to you that there is no room for them to doubt it. If they invite you to a function, show up. And then invite them to something. Write notes. Pray for them. Take them food when they’re sick, or when their Daddy dies, or when they have a baby. Hug them tight. Answer your text messages. Better yet, be the first one to send a text. Freaking SHOW UP.

And for the ones who stopped showing up for you? can still show up for them. Relationships are a two-way street, until they're not. You can't control anyone else's actions. But you can control yours. They may not want to stand with you right now, but there will come a day when they'll probably need someone to stand with them. And you can still be that person. No matter how much pride you had to swallow. No matter how many words you had to bite back. No matter how wrong you think they are and how right you think you are. You can still show up.

Whew. I’m a little flustered by how hard I’m preaching to myself right now. You probably don’t need to hear the words in the paragraphs above, but I sure do. I need to be so much better about loving folks well. Some of the biggest regrets in my life are the words I didn’t say, the phone calls I didn’t take, the care packages I never sent. I want to show up well for the folks around me, so that when they look around their room, they know without a doubt that I’m still standing there for them. That I haven’t backed out. That I didn’t wait for them to be gone to send their flowers. I’m here now, ready to love, ready to serve, ready to show up.


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