Tuesday, April 12, 2016

On Vulnerability, Being A Twin, And The Lies Which Define {Part 2}





I was given one of the greatest gifts possible. I was born a twin. Since we’re identical, something we didn’t find out until we were 33, we spent our first few days inside our mom as one. Then we split carrying the same DNA, yet becoming two people. Crazy and a bit freaky, I know. 

And we have lived this life with many shared experiences but two distinct stories. One of the treasures of being a twin is how we were there for each other simply by…being there. Growing up, there were some hard, long years filled with pain and despair. 

Many times I remember how we didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t talk about any of it. We just knew we were both going through all this hard. As a true gift, being twins kept on giving.

And yet in this world even the best gifts can be corrupted. For us, it was living in a small town, being in a lot of the same classes, showing in the same 4-H shows, playing the same sports. Well, you get the idea.

As everyone around us tried to find our differences, it bred this natural, near constant comparison. Abby’s face is more oval, Sara’s face is more round. Abby is a tomboy while Sara is more prissy. Abby is the emotional one, while Sara holds her emotions inside. These things were true, at least on the outside, but they also became the roles we filled.

As we moved through adolescence in both junior high and high school, our home life grew worse. We both found our worth outside of home, in how others perceived us, particularly in school. We shared achievements in grades and sports. 

We both knew how we wanted to be defined, yet we desperately wished we didn’t have to choose opposite things to distinguish ourselves.

Our senior year, it became as clear as neon lights lighting up downtown. I was our class’s valedictorian and she was the Homecoming Queen. They were these two unique and coveted things for high school girls. It was like we were two halves of a glorious whole, or so it would seem.
 
I got the awards and recognition I had wanted. Honors for which I had worked hard into the wee hours of the morning. She got a sense of beauty and popularity which was seemingly effortless, and to me, just who she was.
But there was more. It was the dark underside of success, and particularly twin success. 

There was the lie we each carried. Both spawns of a gift distorted, twisted and abused. The whole world saying, 'if one twin was one thing, the other was the opposite'. It wasn’t the fault of any person or community. It was simply what comes from the vulnerability of being human. It was the precious innocence, beauty and love given to us by the One who made us, snatched away. 

At its most sinister, it was the lie whispered in the dark of night by a cruel voice determined to steal, kill and destroy. 


It’s almost 24 years since we turned 18 and graduated high school. Yet the lies, oh those powerful lies! I believed, and can still believe ‘my lie’--I am the ugly, outcast one. And ‘her’ lie is that of dumb, lazy; an under-achiever. (If you know her, you can ask her about this lie.)

To be human is to be vulnerable. 

It is only recently when I have found the courage to face the devastating effects of this lie of ugly and unwanted. Insidious and ruthless, its path runs into some of the deepest places of my heart. It has made me ashamed and desperate. It has led me to do foolish things, to give parts of myself away. It has pushed me around as it takes and takes until there is so little self-worth left.

I have tried so hard to not feel ugly any more. I have tried so hard to be liked and known by everyone. I have tried until my head has spun crazy and my heart has hollowed.

Why do I share all of this?  Am I looking for some kind of affirmation? For someone in this world to give me a worth I still doubt I have?

That would be a chasing after the wind. It would only take more while giving nothing in return.

I share this story because vulnerability has given me two paths. For the lies that wound and make us weak have found us all. To know this means we all have a choice. 

We can choose to spend our lives, our energy, focused on the lie. We become consumed by it. Either we give up and let it name us. Or we fight it until there is little tenderness of spirit in us.

But if we look unto Jesus we see the fullness of vulnerability and a different choice. 

His life, his love, took away the power of every lie. Yet, as he walked this earth he did not tirelessly seek to prove to the world the truth about himself. He knew who He was. He knew the truth and it set him free. It made him strong enough to face all of the lies. Yet, it made this God-man vulnerable enough to have those lies touch the inner places of his humanity. It’s how he could be tempted and tried, in every way as us, yet without believing the lies. 

I am human. I am vulnerable. I choose to reflect that vulnerability by sharing the dark places of my story. I can choose this because there is something deeper at work in that same story.


It is the glory of redemption. It is the hand of God. The One who creates, forms, redeems and calls by name, saying I am His. His love is stronger. His truth runs deeper. 


How we walk the path of vulnerability is our choice. 


To choose well is to be invited into the heart of God and each other. It’s to come home in the shared calling of the prodigals, sinners and saints. It’s the grace to be free and wrapped in wild and sure love forever. 


It’s the fulfillment of our desperate longing to truly live.


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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On Vulnerability, This World And Is It Really Worth It? {Part 1}

I started writing this blog about six years ago. It's been a journey which has brought many things. At times there's been terror, other times exhilaration. Often, much in-between. As is true of both good writing and good journeys, I have learned so much through the process. This learning far exceeds any other goals I might have.

As I've continued to write, no matter how frequently, I have realized more clearly what I am about here. 

Each time I hit 'publish', I want you to find three things: Vulnerability, Authenticity, and Redemption. 

So I am taking the next few posts to talk about each of these and how they work together in our lives. I believe that we are all meant for these things and all of the beautiful richness they bring to our lives. I hope you will join me for the journey.


I peer out through hazel eyes on a whisper of warmth. We circle a tiny cherry-colored table at Starbucks. There are five of us. 

And we have come upon that moment. You know the one.

The book we are studying is asking us questions. We need to discuss them. I feel some of my new friends dread these questions. 

But, somehow, I don’t. 

There’s a part of me tingling excited. This is a chance to share the places beyond our Sunday morning ‘hello’s’ and ‘how are you’s’. We are here without kids so can we PLEASE go there.

So I do. I share in an at-once animated yet melancholy manner. I tell them how easy it is for me to lash out at my husband. My kind, patient, no-one-deserves-this-less husband.

And then I look into their eyes. I don’t see judgment. But, I cannot quite see empathy. As we round out the discussion, I still balance precariously on that proverbial limb.

Have you ever been there, friend? Or have you seen someone on that limb and dearly wished you could be out there with them?

Vulnerability is hard. If it isn’t, then we’re not doing it right. 

Vulnerability is costly. If we don’t recognize that then we’ll never really pay the price. 

Yet, vulnerability is rewarding as few things are. If we see this, we won’t ever choose another way.

I just watched the Nanny Diaries. When I think of a ‘facade of vulnerability’ I think of the mothers gathering. They are rarely mothers yet share and empathize with others over how ‘hard’ their motherhood is. There is talk of what the husbands have done and what the children have done and of course, what the nannies have done. 

But they accept no responsibility for the less-than-perfect in their lives.

This is beautifully contrasted in the ‘come to Jesus’ or at least ‘come to Nanny’ moment at the end of the film. Mrs. X is exposed when the wrong clip of the ‘Nanny cam’ is played. She is confronted with every failure and weakness. Her defenses come down and she becomes truly vulnerable and open to the truth that will change her life.

And so it is with us. As we come face to face with these dark places, the broken things, the stubborn no-good stuff, we become truly vulnerable.

These times of vulnerability often happen before God. It is good and right for it to be so. 

However, vulnerability is a circle that encompasses our relationship with God and our relationships with others.

If we are baring our brokenness before the Lord, this is vulnerability. But it is also safe in both a good and a bad way. We ought to feel secure in the love and forgiveness of our Abba Father. But, if we wear this confession to God like a safety vest, keeping it close to rescue ourselves, we won’t experience the fullness of vulnerability.

For when we open ourselves up in the honest admission of our mess, even our darkest moments, we know both the cost and the treasure.

The cost is the risk that we will be judged. And the sad truth is, sometimes we are. 

The cost is the shattering of that perfect image; our good reputation. Once it is destroyed before others, we don’t know if we will ever get it back. And somehow, we have grown quite fond of it.

But the treasure, oh the treasure! We experience the fullness of God’s smile upon us. His embrace of us. We are trusting what Jesus has done. We are believing the truth of who we are because He is real and lived and died for us. This allows us to withstand the test of vulnerability. 

And vulnerability does test us. Sharing our weaknesses, the less-than-perfect, leaves us exposed to the harsh response of others. There can be great fear. But, as with all fears, when we really face them, we find great freedom. We find the love and perfection of our Savior. And too, we find real, abiding friendships filled with the love of God.

It begins around a cherry-colored table at Starbuck’s. It begins in grasping the moments to answer how you really are. It begins with quaking insides and fumbling words. It begins not knowing if anyone but Jesus will be out there with you on that limb.

Yet, still, it begins.



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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Story For His Glory: Why I Share My Life...Here



I walk back and forth in the parking lot. The concrete and tacky blue adornment of hospital behind me. Cars whizz by on Tetenyi ut as more cement and gray rises into the sky. 

It's the cloudy days of February in Budapest.

I have weathered the eye of the storm. And, I am alive. 

But the aftermath remains. There will be the sudden leaving. Family will make emergency trips to rescue and prepare us for home.

There will be tearful goodbyes laced with an appalling lack of closure. There will be the torment of what might have re-charted this course of no return.

Yet, what I remember most is the palpable, living nature of hope.

My beloved comes to me in the evenings. He comes many times. I know him as a blurry presence. His head bowed as in prayer. When I see his face, there is a smile, but there is pain, too.

My beloved comes to me in the evenings. After being father and mother to our children during the two weeks I am in the hospital and days more before. He comes sometimes with dinner from friends, sometimes with gyros from our favorite neighborhood place.

My beloved comes to me in the evenings. He comes with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. He reads the words of comfort and strength found uniquely in the one source of grace and truth and love and hope...

He reads and sometimes I sleep. It's the dreamless and sweet kind. When have I last tasted of this dear fruit? It is only a moment; a tiny drop of time. But this rest becomes the substance of eternity.

I awake and know the heartbeat of hope. Ba-bum. Ba-bum. Pure and golden. Soul-expanding. Sure. Like the crystal waters of Aslan's country. Still, every very step before me is unsure, the darkness and the fog. 

Yet, the hope, oh the hope.

If you scroll through the past few posts, coming erratically since last May, you will find pieces of a complex and dark part of my story. The crisis and trauma is now a year ago, happening over a few intense weeks of my life. Yet, because all of our lives are made up of intricately orchestrated events, moments, choices and one distinctly divine plan, there is much more to the story.

We are not defined by our tragedies. Yet their fallout and how fully and truly we deal with the pain, disappointment and grief does much to shape our stories.

It's the parody of Eden. There is a wretched curse and devastating fall that affects us all. But, there is too the fingerprint of perfection; God's image within. Deeper still is the God who made us and who promises to make us new. It's the hope we are meant to know. And as we live it, like our souls long to do, we prove He is true.

I write out my story on a blog for all the world to read. While, at times, I have wondered at my motives, I can truly say it's not because I need you or anyone to know that story. 

But, I do have a desire to know my story. Every last bit. I want to be able to peer into each and every of its moments without fear. 

I want to have the courage to face dark things that lurk like evil giants. I want to stand before them with the knowledge that who I am in Christ my Savior obliterates their presence. They have no eternal or even enduring temporal place in my life.


When I write and own my story, all that holds me back from the full embrace of God's love vanishes like smoke.  
I am saying, 'Here is my mess and it's there and there too and look it just got uglier.'  
But, I am also saying, 'Wow! Look, at how perfectly good, loving and redemptive God is.'
A year ago, it was too much to write even the bits I have shared in these few posts. It was with fear and trembling and not a little courage that I began. 

I share them in the hope that it will resonate with those places in your story. 


Because don't we all want to know that our struggle, the tenor of darkness, is not ours alone to battle? And more, don't we want to know that there is something or rather, Someone, greater?

Each of our stories is a unique and precious gem, faceted with all the shining and shadowed colors of a vast array. Yet, there is one bright resolution that brings us all together. For each one found in God, through the love and gift of His Son, there is Heaven. It's the greatest prize of God forever. In His arms and Home.

This is why we can know our stories. We can hunt and dig. We can pull out the weeds. We can cut out the diseased. We can shake our fists at Evil. We can make thundering stomps on the ground, calling for God to break the bonds of wickedness. We can dance. Oh, how we can dance! We can sing and spin and raise our faces towards the Son of Love. 

We can live. Oh, how we can live!

Sharing with Jennifer and SDG Sisterhood


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