You’re Not Ready? Show Up Anyway

Get your body in place - Just show up

[This is Part 4 of my agreements for life. See the other articles here.
1-Give the benefit of the doubt | 2-Let go of being right | 3-Don’t take it personally | 4-Just show up]

I have a few recurring nightmares.

  • Seeing a tornado coming
  • Navigating home from my grandparents’ house in Mississippi on various ill-equipped vehicles at night (tricycle, running, etc.)
  • Needing to take a shower but all the shower stalls are full

And being unprepared for a test at school. (They say 1 in 4 people have exam dreams. You?)

I’ve been out of school for 30+ years, but I still dream that it’s test day, and I had yet to attend a single class or cracked a book all semester.  Which is NOT how I ever operated in real life.

I like being prepared (actually, I prefer overprepared). I want to be ready for whatever is to come.

But life isn’t that way.

It often calls on us to do things outside of the time we have available or the skills we have learned or the comfort zone we’ve created.

What do we do when we’re not ready, but it’s time to go?

I’ve been sharing my Four Agreements this month. Today is the last one, and it’s possibly my favorite and most useful:

# 4. Just show up.

3 Ways to Just Show Up

3 Ways to Just Show Up

1. Show up imperfect.

I don’t like being called on to do something I’m bad at. (I quit bowling years ago because it was no fun getting gutter balls.) Not having the skills or knowledge or preparation can make us not want to show up at all. Perfectionism can shut us down before we get to yes.

But what better way to learn something new than to show up with your inadequacy?

Want to learn carpentry skills? Show up with CASA to build a wheelchair ramp; other volunteers will be glad to show you the ropes. Want to be a better mom? Spend time with a mom you admire and see how she does it. Want to change job positions? Visit your HR office and listen to what they say.

  • You don’t have to know the full plan.
  • You don’t have to have every answer.
  • You don’t have to be the most skilled.

You just have to be available.

You can love people without being perfect. Actually, you might love them even better when you lead with humility.

When we show up with our weaknesses, we get an opportunity to grow a new strength.

Don’t underestimate the power of your presence.

2. Show up scared.

Ugh. I’m scared of a lot of things: looking stupid, getting hurt, even being bored. But being afraid isn’t a good reason to not show up.

I’m learning this more and more: If I’ll just get my body in place, my spirit will follow.

I’ve bargained with myself on many occasions: If I agree to show up, that in itself is enough. And it usually is.

Putting our bodies in actual physical locations where we’re needed is important. Rely less on your abilities and more on your opportunities.

When we show up scared, we leave with more courage.

3. Show up empty.

Do you ever talk yourself out of showing up because you’re not “important” enough?

  • They don’t need me anyway.
  • Nobody will know if I’m there or not.
  • I won’t make a difference.
  • They can do it without me.

While, yes, many jobs can be accomplished with or without us, life is better when we partner together.

Not just for the job’s sake. But for our sake, too.

When we show up empty, we may be even more helpful than we realize.

Through our limited human bodies, we can still serve with fullness. When we have nothing to prove, we are more flexible to help however we’re needed.

As Richard Rohr says, “It seems that we Christians have been worshipping Jesus’ journey instead of doing his journey.”

When we show up among others with love, everyone benefits.

Pass the Test

When I dream about being late for school or forgetting the combination to my locker, I usually wake up before I actually get to the classroom to take the test.

That’s okay for a dream, but I don’t want an “Incomplete” grade in real life.

  • Even though I may make a mess when I get there, I want to show up and grow.
  • Even though I may have missed many classes, I want to take the test anyway.
  • And even though I may be the least skilled person in the room, I still want to be present with others.

That’s more than enough reason to show up.

* * *

Do you have a recurring nightmare? When have you hesitated to show up, but were glad you did? Please share in the comments.

See all 4 agreements (click on individual infographics)

1-Benefit-Doubt 2-Being-Right 3-Take-Personal 4-Show-Up

image map infographics

1-Give the benefit of the doubt | 2-Let go of being right | 3-Don’t take it personally | 4-Just show up

More reading:

60 thoughts on “You’re Not Ready? Show Up Anyway

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sorry you’ve experienced this nightmare too, Jodie. 🙂 It can be quite disturbing. ha. Hopefully one day I’ll outgrow it, too. Or at least make peace with the thought of bombing an entire semester of school.

  1. Sarah Geringer

    Such a good point, Lisa. It’s much better to show up than to not show up at all. The recovering perfectionist in me wants to show up all neat and trim, but I’m learning to simply show up a bit messy and enjoy myself.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I do think it is harder for us perfectionistic types to show up with our lame selves. 🙂 But yes, better to show up that way than not at all! A bit messy is quite okay. Thanks, Sarah.

  2. Lesley

    I love this post, Lisa. I also tend to be over-prepared, and like to show up with something to offer, but it’s amazing how God can use us regardless of our fears or feelings of inadequacy if we are just willing to show up and let him work through us. Thanks for the reminder that it is when we are weak that we can know his strength.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This has been a faith experiment as well as a life lesson. To have to rely totally on God’s adequacy instead of our own is scary, but yes, God is amazing enough to handle that and even prefer it! Thanks, Lesley.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    When I was in college I often used to fall asleep during tests. It’s not that I was all that smart or skilled…I just found tests boring.

    And years later, a guy let me turn some laps in his racecar, and I found myself getting dozy on the straights. Time slows down for me, doing things like that, and even at race speeds it seemed to take forever to get to the turns.

    There are those who say that part of the reason I have the nickname Mongo is that I’m a bit too dense to take things seriously. Maybe so.

    But I did show up! 🙂

  4. Barbara H.

    I used to have the opposite dream in college – that some big project I had to do was completed. Then I’d wake up and be so discouraged that I still had it on my plate to do. I guess that was my mind’s way of putting it behind me so I could rest. I also sometimes dream, just as I am falling asleep, that I am throwing something, and my arm moves in a throwing motion, waking me up, or I am walking downstairs and miss a step, jerking myself awake. Not fun!

    I’ve used many of these – that I can’t do it well, that I don’t know what to do, that someone else can do it better. I like to know exactly what’s supposed to happen and what I am supposed to do. When life doesn’t work that way, it’s a reminder not only to trust God for all the details, but I also remind myself that doing new things in new ways is good for my brain. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      So I don’t know which dream would be better. I guess I’d rather be unprepared in the dream but prepared in real life. ha. That’s interesting. Sometimes I hope our dreams do NOT have any real meaning behind them because I have some crazy dreams. 🙂

      Yes, doing new things in new ways is one way we’re supposed to stave off dementia, right? That’s what I tell myself anyway. Maybe I’m dreaming again. ha.

  5. Maree Dee

    Lisa – I loved your post. It fits so well with the series I am doing on perfectionism.
    I would like to use your “just show up” as one of my points and link to this post.
    Let me know if you are good with that.

  6. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Important stuff here, Lisa. Just. show. up. How can God work through us if we don’t show up? So often in the Bible we see Him working wonders through average people, often shaking at their burning bushes in their sandals, but they were at the bush. They showed up and so did God, and He parted the waters. I have to remember to stop cowering and start caring enough to show up and to expect God to as well . . . and to enable and equip me to do His bidding. I’m in an online writers group, and a lady asked today how to overcome fear and inertia. I’m going to refer her here, and I hope she will show up and read this. Just excellent. Thank you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love your examples, Lynn. They also reminded me of the story where the priests were to step foot in the water BEFORE they parted. Then they parted. That’s a serious faith step of just showing up! 🙂 So grateful that our God is faithful in this! I’m “just showing up” for a situation this morning that I’m dreading, but I know God will already be there when I arrive.

      1. Lynn D. Morrissey

        I absolutely love that psg and God has used it in my life before to encourage me to step in before He shows me His help (although He’s already there encouraging me to take the plunge). He is there for you too this morning. As you take the plunge He is directing you to take, those waters of difficulty are already parting. Godspeed, and prayers, Lisa.

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          The waters did part this morning, Lynn. Thanks for prayers and for encouraging me. I was helping a friend and it made me realize how incredibly easy my life is in comparison to what she is going through. God have mercy.

          1. Lynn D. Morrissey

            So grateful that the Lord was there for you both, Lisa. You are a faithful friend to your friend!

  7. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    That’s so strange….my recurring dream is that I show up for the first day of school and I don’t have my schedule. I don’t know where my classes are and forget my locker combination….weird. So true that God doesn’t ask us to be perfect….He merely asks us to be available. In our weakness, He is strong. All I need to so is show up and trust He’ll take care of the rest. Wonderful post and series! Love the infographics!
    Bev xx

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, those things are often part of my dream too, Bev. It’s specifically crazy about the locker combination! ha. Maybe that’s related to us having to remember passwords in these times and the fear (and reality) of forgetting of them. How blessed we are that God doesn’t require perfection from us, but just availability! We can always send him an extra prayer that we need to “reset password.” 🙂

  8. Betsy de Cruz

    Lisa, this is such a wonderful post! I want to bookmark it and look at your past posts from this series. You’re encouraging me today because I’m doing the work to outline a book I believe God has called me to write this summer, and I’m having second thoughts. As in, Gulp. Why’d I tell anyone I’d do this???

    I guess I’ll just have to show up. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, I hope this will encourage you to keep moving forward on your book, Betsy! We’ll all be glad if you just show up for it. 🙂 Then we can show up to read it.

  9. bethany mcilrath

    I love these four agreements, Lisa! We must be similar because they are all a little too pertinent to me (thank you for the godly challenge!!) This one is big for me too. I still have “test” and similar nightmares, especially when facing anything new. Just the other day though I was thinking how we have to do things we aren’t good at in order to get better at anything. Just showing up is certainly the first step. Thank you for the wisdom!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      These are all challenging to me as well. But it does help to at least keep them on my radar, especially the Just Show Up agreement. It gets me through a lot of things that I might ordinarily say “no” to. I agree: we won’t get better if we don’t do things we aren’t good at—it’s something I have to push myself on! Thanks for sharing here, Bethany.

  10. Jean Wise

    I so identify with this and love the infographics you have been making for this series. They are right on! This week I have been attending The Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and all I could do was show up. I felt really out of my league in this group so much more published, polished and poised than me. But they are a great group of kind Christian women who made me feel at home I arrived scared and empty and leave tomorrow with new friends and a full heart. This post nailed this topic, Lisa!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, that’s a wonderful example of putting this into practice, Jean. Almost every time I “just show up” I am thankful for it. God sends such unexpected surprises when we step out in faith. I’m glad you were able to glean a lot from the workshop and make new friends as well.

  11. Michele Morin

    I’m learning so much from this series, and this may be the best one yet, because I’m all about OVER preparing for everything, and yet sometimes God does ask me to step outside that safe circle, and I want to say yes to Him.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yep, that’s me, too, Michele. In my flesh, I’d rather not go at all if I can’t be fully prepared. But thankfully God keeps nudging his baby birds out of the nest even when we think we’re not ready to fly. 🙂

  12. Debby

    I think I fall under not showing up because I’m scared more than the other two. Scared of not knowing, of not being enough. You have the answers for fear and they are the same for all three: but God….

    And isn’t Richard Rohr so wise? Love his words.

    Thanks for sharing this encouragement, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      But God. Yes, isn’t that the answer to most all of our fears? I need to return to that again and again and again. My fears can really prevent me from doing so many things. Richard Rohr–wouldn’t it be wonderful to sit face to face with him for a few hours and talk things out? I’d love to do that. Thanks for sharing here, Debby.

  13. Leslie

    Love this series you’ve done, Lisa! I love your three points about showing up. When I think of things this way, I realize I can quit hiding and move forward! Thank you for this encouragement!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for your encouraging words, Leslie. I have enjoyed reviewing the agreements myself as I’ve done the series. I need to keep them fresh in my mind and this has helped me, and hopefully has helped someone else along the way too! A lot of us have similar issues we are trying to overcome so I’m thankful we can walk alongside each other as we do so.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, that pesky agenda. ha. It’s hard for me to leave it at home. But yes, sometimes that’s exactly where it needs to stay (and maybe even balled up in the trashcan at home, while I’m at it!).

  14. Sarah Donegan

    I often don’t understand why God wants my help. For most of my life, I felt I wasn’t really good at anything. But God showed me that HE is enough therefore I am enough.
    Get out there and do it!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hear you, Sarah. Why would God even want our help? We usually just make things messier. ha. But I’m grateful that he takes our hands and wants us to walk with him into life. He truly is a good, good Father!

  15. floyd

    Great post, Lisa. Facing our fears and forcing ourselves to do the things we dread is one of the most powerful tools available from God.

    That’s what character is all about. It’s not about being comfortable, it’s about doing the right thing, which is always the hardest thing.

    I don’t have them anymore, but when I was younger, my recurring nightmare was showing up to school and I’d forgotten to wear my pants…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ve had that nightmare, too, Floyd. Hopefully these school dreams will continue to fade altogether as I get older. 🙂 You preach: “It’s not about being comfortable, it’s about doing the right thing, which is always the hardest thing.” Amen.

  16. Char

    Good insights! I love the 3 ways to show up. Often I forget my job is to show up and let God do the rest. Thanks for the encouragement and visiting my site!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Char. It really helps me to remember that God is the star of the show and we are only supporting cast members. 🙂 I don’t want the pressure to have to keep the world going (although at times I’d like to tweak a few things, ha).

  17. Aimee

    Tornados are a recurring dream for me too. Along with trying to go on a trip either by car or plane and I have too many bags. I can’t get them packed in time and they are overflowing. Yikes. lol.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thankfully overflowing luggage hasn’t popped up in my dreams (but perhaps I’ve experienced in waking hours? ha). Tornado dreams can be quite terrifying. I’ve been around tornadoes all my life and usually don’t get freaked out by the warnings (although I definitely respect their power if they’re too close!), but I must still have underlying issues with them to dream about them as often as I have. 😉

  18. Lois Flowers

    Lisa, I have that same dream about showing up for the final after never having come to class … usually physics. Or, I had to write nine book reports throughout the year for English class and waited until the last three weeks to start. Or, even worse, I have the lead role in a play and didn’t bother to learn my lines. Like you, this was NOT how I ever was in real life, at least not at school!

    I love your advice to just show up … no matter how we feel or how unprepared we think we are. And this line is my favorite: “God shows up before we get there, and he stays long after we’re gone.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m sorry you have those dreams too, Lois, but it makes me feel more normal anyway. ha. I guess we’re working out in our dreams what we’ve already worked out in real life? Who knows about dreams? 🙂 I’m glad that God has us covered, asleep and awake!

  19. Yvonne Chase


    I don’t think I’ve ever had a nightmare. The first word that came to mind when I saw the title of this post is FAITH. We need FAITH to show and obey God. Often times we won’t know the beginning from the end. Often times we won’t be fully prepared. That’s the beauty in it all and that is what has made my journey with Jesus an adventure.

    Great post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s awesome that you’ve never had a nightmare, Yvonne. You must be a hard sleeper! 🙂 I envy that. I wake up with the slightest noise, which I think contributes to my remembering my dreams so easily.

      I agree with your first word choice of FAITH. That’s the answer to so many of our issues! Thanks for making that so clear here.

  20. Tiffany Parry

    So…I LOVE this!! I’m in the middle of showing up and God is really taking my perfectionism to task. I’m afraid I’m not enough, that I won’t be pleasing that I’ll fail. But I’m showing up anyways, and almost daily I hear God saying, “Don’t be afraid to fail.” I might fail – but it won’t be the end of the world. I’ve learned enough to know that if I learn something, then I’m already a step ahead. I’m pinning and sharing this today, Lisa. SO good!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like you are being very brave, Tiffany! “Not enough” can attack us on so many levels. It’s always encouraging to hear when others are stepping out in faith; it means I can do it too. And yes, even when we fail, so what? God will use that too. Blessings to you, friend!

  21. Lyli

    Loved this, Lisa!

    — And, I used to have a nightmare every year on the night before the Stanford Achievement test. In my dream, the little man with the hat on from the Monopoly game came to life and chased me. Woke up screaming every year in a cold sweat!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Haha. The Monopoly man has yet to make an appearance in my dream world. 🙂 That’s classic. Thanks for sharing this, Lyli. I was due for a good laugh.

  22. Debbie Putman

    Show up. Just as I am. Such wisdom. Now I need to follow it.

    And my nightmare: needing to me somewhere and cannot get there. My favorite-if I can have a favorite nightmare-is the time I couldn’t get to my classroom on the first day of school. When I finally was within a step, the entire room took off into space like a rocket!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I relate to dreaming about not being able to get somewhere too. But I’ve never had a room take off like a rocket! 🙂 Dreams are such curious things. They can both amuse us and disturb us. I wonder if your dreams will change now that you’re retired. I’ve found that my dreams are slow to catch up to my real life.

  23. Steph M.

    Excellent advise Lisa. God will always go before us if we just show up where He wants us. I don’t remember my dreams usually, which is probably a good thing. But love your post, passed it on. Visiting from Faith and Friends.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      My husband rarely remembers his dreams either; yes, I think it probably is a good thing that you don’t. 🙂 I have very wacky dreams so I usually dream enough for both of us. ha. Thanks for visiting, Steph!

  24. Joanne Viola

    Lisa, this post made me smile. Years ago my SILs needed one more person in their bowling league and convinced me to join. I knew I was terrible at bowling but showed up anyway to help them out. Not only did I end up loving bowling, I made knew friends, and became a decent bowler. I learned how to place the ball. This is such great advice to remember. We just show up and we will be amazed at what God will do with our willingness. Great post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh my. The thought of joining a bowling league would really give me nightmares, Joanne! ha. But how brave of you to show up and do it! I’m afraid I haven’t reached that level of maturity yet (and the teammates would likely be happy about that). But how wonderful that you all were blessed by your time together (which is really the point, right?) AND you got the added bonus of becoming a better bowler. 🙂 I appreciate you sharing this story. But if God suddenly gives me an opportunity to take up bowling, I’m going to blame you. 😉

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