Five Minute “Friday”: weary

I hear sirens screaming through our city streets, but I think nothing of them. Or very little. They’re likely rushing to a minor car accident, or someone set off a fire alarm.

But in Paris – what many thought were fireworks at first became the background to scenes of horror as their fabled city was simultaneously attacked by terrorists in multiple locations. It shakes us to the core in the Western world. For we live isolated and cocooned from the reign of terror that is normative in the Middle East.

And I am weary from it all. I am weary for the inevitable tragedy and trauma that is expected in our lives. Yes, terrorist attacks of this magnitude still (and should) shock us, but there is part of me that says – oh, of course. But to carry the weight of the fears of what ifs? That is what has made me most weary in the past.

Instead, I choose to cast my cares on the one who cares for me (Jesus).

I choose to take on his light burden and easy yoke in exchange for my hard one of trying-too-hard-to-be-self-sufficient.

I choose to fall hard in the arms of a Savior who will catch me, comfort me, hold me – hold all of us as we grow weary of our burdens and those of the world.

And how is he already doing this? Through you, my friends and community. You remind me that weary is ok – because it is the very first step of being supported, refreshed, strengthened. 

***

Five Minute Friday is my favorite of writing link-ups hosted by Kate Motaung. Her description draws me back every week, and the community of FMF keeps me writing – “This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.”

Day 7: bed rest at 25 weeks

Trigger warning: If you are currently pregnant with twins and you’re fearful about bed rest, be careful about reading this post. And exercise your freedom of choice to skip it if it begins to increase your fear factor. My story is just that – my story. It’s not every twin mom’s story. And I do hope to introduce you to a few more of my friends along the way who had different twin pregnancy stories which would reassure you. 

I think it would work best in timeline form:

  • June 29, 2010 – moving day! We had found our first home to buy once we knew we were expecting twins and would need to move out of our small 1.5 bedroom apartment in the city. After about a month of minor renovations and major repainting, our new home was ready for us. The movers came that bright, sunny Tuesday morning. I ran out to 7-Eleven to buy gatorade for them; dropped it off; and then left for my routine biweekly OB checkup at 25 weeks.
  • I was being closely monitored for the possibility of early preterm labor which meant that every appointment I had a routine ultrasound and saw my babies – such #relief! But not this appointment. As soon as the ultrasound tech saw what was happening: that the signs of preterm labor were there, a long anxiety-provoking medical pause occurred, followed by a grim pronouncement. The words sunk in like lead: “Your body looks like it’s trying to deliver these babies. You will be on strict bed rest for the rest of your pregnancy.” 
  • I began sobbing. My first question was, “Does this mean I can’t go to my brother’s wedding [in South Carolina 10 days afterward]?” The answer provoked more tears and panic rushed in like a dam breaking.
  • My husband turned over oversight of our move to the incredible deacons at our church and accompanied me as I was admitted to the maternal-fetal medicine ward of the hospital. The worst part was signing the consent to treat forms for my only 1.5 pound twin babies that I did not want to be born yet. They asked us if we had installed car seats yet, and our deer-in-the-headlights response conveyed the shock of two generally well-prepared people. We were thinking, Car seats? We don’t even have a change of clothes! Or a moved-in home to which to return!
  • The next 24-48 hours of hospitalization are largely a blur with moments of clarity: the reassuring manner of the MFM doctor who assured me that I was not in full-blown preterm labor but only early preterm labor which they’d been able to halt through medical interventions; the generous friends who brought over dinner to us that evening and other meals so that I did not have to eat hospital food; begging the nurses and medical residents/doctors to discharge me so that I could actually get some rest like they said I needed; the claustrophobia of the barren white hospital room; multiple ultrasounds reassuring me that both babies were fine and good despite their mama’s panic.
  • July 1, 2010: Discharged with strict instructions for bed rest and the hope that “if you make it to 28 weeks, we will all be amazed and your babies will have a much better chance of viability.” This terrified me. And drove me to desperate, bold prayers to the God who hears. We prayed and asked our family and friends to pray that our girls would make it to 34 weeks, a medical improbability according to my doctors.
bed rest

image from en.wikipedia.com

Spoiler alert: They were born 2 days after I reached the 35-week mark! (I am breezing over the 10 weeks of strict bed rest – one trip up and down the stairs/day, no getting out of the recliner or bed except for bathroom visits and a brief shower, the only outing being my weekly doctor’s visits. For more read here where I blogged
through the experience and received so much support from so many.)

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.” 

What Tragedy Teaches Us (guest post at TGC)

I will always remember the summer of 2014 as one bookended by two tragedies that struck close to home. The first happened on the evening of May 30. As 17-year-old Mark Rodriguez was driving home from his Christian school’s graduation, he was shot and killed by a madman firing randomly. The madman then killed a police officer and wounded another before being shot and killed himself. That terrible evening in Norfolk, Virginia, seemed particularly tragic for Rodriguez, the son of a pastor and Christian counselor.

What’s amazed me in the wake of that tragedy is watching the way Jesus has shone so brilliantly through that young man’s life, testified to by his parents as well as his own writings and photography on his blog, most notably a post on heaven. As his parents grieved in the days after his death, they graciously accepted interviews during which they spoke of their clear hope in the resurrection:

Our son is not dead; he’s alive, and we believe we will see him again. Mark wanted nothing more than to be a worship leader. And you know what? He got exactly what he wanted.

Two Questions 

As I sat and watched his family and the local Christian community grieve, find hope, and paint a picture of a young man wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus, I asked myself two questions. … [Click over to The Gospel Coalition Blog to read the rest here.]

A year ago: remembering tragedy and finding hope

A year ago today, tragedy shattered one family – intruding into an otherwise sunny summer afternoon and stealing two in its wake. Darkness seemed to win, leaving all of us in our church community in shocked grief at losing Karla and Katharine.

One year ago, we all sprang into action. Seeking comfort through what we could offer the bereaved and surviving husband and daughter, and sharing many, many tears together.

One year ago today – I’d never witnessed a dad telling his daughter the unspeakable, seen them collapse into each other with shared sorrow and grief-torn hearts.

One year ago today, I’d never seen the beauty of a church community activated by tragedy, becoming family for the deeply bereaved, restoring them to health one meal and embrace and shared tears at a time. I’d never felt such a deep sense of call – of being made for such a moment, to walk into the wake of an unimaginable tragedy and find this was holy ground. I did not go alone. God was there. He held us together, and he has been in our midst. Tragedy left its mark, but it does not win in the end.

A year ago, I never knew that laughter and smiles could return – that joy could be had – that comfort could be known even with questions unanswered and hearts laden with sorrow.

A year ago today, I could not have penned the words below (a letter to grief featured on Kate Motaung’s site) for I had not lived them yet. I have been changed, and so have we all. Let us not forget, and let us not stop seeking to comfort one another and to press into hope. Hope that light dawns after the darkest of nights, that it will one day dawn again. Forever restoring and healing and redeeming we who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

*****

Dear Grief,

You have claimed many friends in 2014, and I have been touched by you as well. The worst part is that the church has too often refused to own you as she should. She has proclaimed a gospel of health and wealth instead of the message of the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief who promised suffering for all who take up their cross to follow Him. And in those moments when the people of God feel like they have no refuge, you cackle and seem to win. You whisper lies, saying that there is no hope, and that God is as distant as the well-meaning friends who disappear after an initial rally of support.

Your problem is that you cannot be predicted nor defined. You come as a unique visitor to each of us, rarely on time and often in disguise. You hide yourself in many forms, putting on a mask of anger to make us feel strong instead of weak. Sometimes you sink deeply into the soul, bringing depression and despair that seems impossible to escape. If left unchecked, you can cause me to live entirely on the surface of life in order not to look within and acknowledge your presence there.

Jesus Christ knows you better than any of us. He is “the man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He bore the weight of what grieves God on the cross and conquered it fully in His resurrection. He took away the sting of death – sin – saying that you, Grief, no longer have the last word. Hope takes away your bitterness, leaving us a cleansing sorrow in its wake. Hope allows us to acknowledge you without surrendering fully to you. Hope frees us to look you in the eyes as you enter our hearts and communities, and to weep freely with those who sorrow. We the Redeemed can meet you without despair; acknowledge you without empty clichés; join with others who dwell in your shadow without demanding answers or reasons.

Sorrow well

So come, dear grief, teach us to sorrow well because of the hope of a risen Savior who will make all things new and eradicate your presence from our broken world entirely when He returns again. You will not own us, though you may visit us more frequently than we would choose. We will not turn away from your presence in our own lives or those of our friends and family. And thus we strip you of your power to isolate, turning your presence into a sign of longing and an invitation to draw nearer to those suffering in your wake.

when you dread summer (and not for the obvious reasons …)

I’ve been procrastinating this post for awhile. It feels like if I don’t write it, it won’t be true. Yet we all know that’s about as effective as saying you’re not hungry when your favorite dessert shows up on the after-dinner tray. (I caved and totally ate the peanut-butter pie while out for dinner last night.) Sometimes I wonder if I’m too negative or brooding. But, hey, that’s what writers are known for, right? And add “counselor” to my job description, and it’s a wonder I don’t spend all my moments looking at/being weighed down by the dark side of life. For there is much darkness that is real. And yet the light wins in the end, and I have hope that it’s already breaking into this broken-down world. 

But sometimes the weight of all the burdens catches up with my soul. And I’ve felt like I can’t quite rise to the occasion of being fully present in my life lately. Part of it may be “compassion fatigue,” experienced by full-time caregivers, health providers, and ministers. That would fit my life description since as a mom to 4-year-old twins, pastor’s wife, and counselor, I am all of the above. So I’m sure that’s a portion of the mist that seems to shroud the days.

Yet I’m also a girl who *loves* summer and all that it means. Beach days, bright sunshine, late sunsets, crickets’ songs and lightning bugs. This year I cannot seem to rise to my usual “summer love.” And it bothers me. Winter blues? Well, I always expect those. But summer doldrums? They’re foreign to my existence. Sure, summer is different now since having children because these are weeks and months without the break of preschool for them. My summer reading (and project) list must be shorter now than the fall-winter one, because I actually have less time alone rather than more. But this alone doesn’t seem to explain the low-grade numbness I feel (if numbness can be felt).

Then I consider our recent history – the history of my church community. And tragedy seared us about midway through last summer. I find myself cringing within, emotionally bracing for impact as the season turns and it’s summer again. It was a beautiful, typically-bright July afternoon when trauma struck through the deaths of a mom and her daughter, leaving darkness in its wake for the surviving husband/father and daughter/sister. It was one of the greatest privileges of our lives for my husband and I to be able to be first responders to their grief. To sit and cry with them when it was all so fresh and so confusing. To simply offer our presence and our tears. It has been beautiful to watch our community of faith surround them and carry them through this past year. It has been evidence of God’s grace to witness the strength of these two as they have learned how to do life anew together.

And because of the carrying-with of their grief, traces of those tears still remain in my heart and soul. I would have it no other way. That combined with a year of nonstop everything and insufficient rest is probably contributing to the distancing I feel from what’s good and true and beautiful of life, and of summer particularly.

What will be the path of finding my way back to joy? Of refusing to let darkness write the story of this summer through the never-ending dread? It will be simple yet difficult. Putting one foot in front of the other. Speaking of my struggle while it’s in the present (not waiting for the retrospective – “it’s all over and here’s how God met me”). Creating structure for my soul and our family that includes lots of rest, refreshment, and fun. Soaking my soul in the words of hope whether I feel like it or not. Words like,

“In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Yes, dread is a normal emotional response to past trauma, and yes, compassion fatigue calls for rest and a break, but no, it won’t have the last word. Jesus has overcome whatever it is you and I dread. This is reason for hope. Hope that looks like walking out of the mist and embracing what’s good and real and true about life, especiallysummer.

Shame’s lies to victims, perpetrators, and their church(es): a response to the Duggar scandal

curtainsShame’s insidious fingerprints are all over the latest abuse-cover-up scandal involving Josh Duggar, the oldest son of the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting fame. How could such abuse be covered up for 12 years by a family living life “in the open”? A family with a reality TV show, no less. Shame thrives with a conspiracy of silence, and abuse of all sorts provides ample fodder – but particularly so when you add in the factors of abuse of a sexual nature, abuse of a minor, a perpetrator who’s publicly known, and a perpetrator who belongs to a faith community. As a counselor and a Christian involved in church my entire life, I have seen these scandals played out in a hauntingly familiar pattern over and over again. I want to suggest a few ways that shame keeps an abuse scandal secret in such a scenario.

Shame’s whispered lies for the victim:

1 – It’s up to you to protect your perpetrator’s reputation by staying silent.

2 – God forgives him/her, so why can’t you? (And forgiveness=forgetting.)

3 –  What happened wasn’t really that bad.

4 – You did something to deserve it. You didn’t say “no” – or you were dressing “immodestly” or allowed yourself to be alone with him/her.

5 – To speak up about the abuse would bring embarrassment to you and your family. It’s best to deal with it alone and not bring anyone else into the shame you feel.

Shame’s protective shield of lies for the perpetrator:

1 – It only happened once (or twice or 3 x’s) … so it’s not that big of a deal.

2 – I was young and immature, and I didn’t know better.

3 – The less it’s discussed, the better off I will be.

4 – Because God forgives my sin, I don’t need to ask forgiveness from my victim or talk to the appropriate authorities.

5 – S/he made me do it. It’s really his/her fault.

Shame’s lies believed by a faith community who discovers the abuse (and doesn’t report it immediately): 

1 – God’s reputation is at stake, so it’s best to keep this quiet and not let anyone else know.

2 – We can handle it. No need to get the authorities involved.

3 – The laws of the land about mandated reporting do not apply to us – we’re under God’s law.

4 – It’s up to us to protect the reputation of the perpetrator.

5 – God’s mercy negates God’s justice.

Shame’s role in such a scandal is to exacerbate it – keeping the victims and the perpetrator locked in silence – a place where neither of them can find the healing they truly need. It would have been merciful for the abuse to have come to light 12 years ago instead of today. There would be much less of a scandal-element for the Duggar family, and certainly there would have been more freedom for the victim(s) to know and see justice being done. And to be protected from contact from him. And even for future victims to be rescued from the same.

If you find yourself identifying with any of these places – that of victim, or of perpetrator, or of a faith community member who’s covering up abuse – speak up. It’s the only way shame begins to lose its power. And it’s the only way full redemption and restoration can begin to occur.

*Shame is the subject of my upcoming book with Crossway – shame of all varieties and the freedom and healing that comes through Christ. Expected release date of June 2016.

Five Minute Friday: relief

My favorite of Friday activities: Five Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Motaung. Five minutes of writing on an assigned prompt each Friday – a lovely community of writers across the world gathering to reflect and encourage each other this day.

For this week: “relief.”

****

It feels like water on a hot summer day; like sleep after another weary day when you’re running, running, running without resting; like the comfort of a hug from a friend or a shared laugh with one who’s known you for decades. Relief is hard to come  by in our desert-weary world. There is brokenness everywhere, and my heart is covered in scars. So is yours.

We need relief. A break. A time-out. A respite.

We have it. Freedom to rest from what plagues our hearts most deeply – questions of am I enough? Does my life matter? Will this suffering ever end? Yes, yes, and yes. You are more than enough. You have dignity and mission and purpose perhaps beyond what you can understand. Suffering is always terminal. The cancer that’s terminal? Well, it doesn’t have the end of the story. There is Life beyond Death. We have One who went before us, who walked the hard, long road of suffering without relief. So that we would never have to. 

photo from theguardian.com

photo from theguardian.com – from Haiti relief efforts in 2010

There is no better hope. No better relief. It’s the motivation for us who have so much to share with those who have so little. It’s what keeps me listening when it feels my heart may break with your sorrow. It’s what sends you into the war-torn places of homes and countries, risking harm as you offer the relief that your presence brings. 

Relief. It’s certain. Let’s offer it to one another.

****

The perplexity, fear, and joyful disbelief of Easter morning

Perplexed. Frightened. Startled. Disbelieved for joy. Alarmed. Astonished. Afraid.

All of these describe the response of those who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. Joy is our primary emotion on Easter morning, but fear overshadowed all else on that first Easter morning. Fear and astonishment. Nestled in the middle of the gospel accounts is this, “disbelief for joy,” and that seems to make the most sense to us. It’s what we can connect to as ones who eagerly proclaim resurrection hope.

I wonder what it would be like to stop and sit in the other responses: perplexed at how this could be – at what this could mean. Frightened, startled, alarmed, astonished to find the tomb empty. This shook those first witnesses to the core. We expect it because we know the end of the story, and we can’t bear to sit with the weight of the grief of Good Friday for long. (I was all too happy that we did a pre-Easter celebration with my daughters yesterday – like skipping the uncomfortable scenes of a movie, we press fast-forward to today’s joy.) But what would it have felt like to go to the tomb early on a Sunday morning, while it was still dark, fully expecting to pay homage to the memory of beloved Jesus, and to find instead that it was empty? Of course Mary’s first response is that someone has stolen the body (John 20:2):

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

That makes sense. But that Jesus is alive? It is too good to be true. If it’s true, everything changes. And that is perplexing, frightening, and alarming. What will happen next if resurrection has happened? It interrupts with discomfort the order we depended on (even the grief inherent in the old order of things can feel comfortable because it is familiar). If Jesus is alive, what else will change? Do we dare to hope that freedom from Roman oppression will also happen? What does this mean for our mission? Will we die, or will Jesus bring us with him to heaven immediately?

No wonder there are numerous letters written to the early church discussing the implications of Jesus’ resurrection. It changes everything.

What has it changed for you, and for me?

I have hope that I will meet again those who have died. Bethany, Nancy Leigh, Beverlee, Uncle Ashby, Grandmother and Grandfather Davis, Papa, a sister-in-law I never knew (Sarah), Lynn, Karla, Katharine. And you who have lost beloved family and friends will see them again, too – Nan; Liz; Jill; Megan, Kelli, & Patti; Mike & Shelby; the Rodriguez family; Kimberly & Erick; John – thinking and praying for each of you particularly this Easter morning.

I have courage to enter into the messy and broken places of my heart and others’ lives as we grieve to live in between resurrection and full restoration when Jesus returns. I can weep with those who weep, who miss their beloved ones, whose hearts are breaking because of the brokenness of this world. I can sit and mourn without having answers. I can listen and be impacted by the grief of life in a world that’s not yet what it should be. 

I can ask my questions and doubts, and create space for you to do the same. Jesus compassionately showed doubting Thomas his scars. He did not berate him for his disbelief. (For disbelief might be one of the most honest first responses to the reality of resurrection.)

sad untrue quote

photo from poetrystoryteller.blogspot.com

I can choose joy (belief in a bigger purpose, a deeper reality) in the middle of suffering and heartache and frustrations. I have an unshakeable hope waiting for me, guaranteed by the Resurrection. “Everything sad will come untrue,” writesSally Lloyd-Jones in The Jesus Storybook Bible.

I’ll close with one of many teachings on “what now, in light of Jesus’ resurrection?” This one penned by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

beauty in darkness: what’s good about Good Friday

Another repost from a year ago. It still stops me in my tracks to slowly traverse the painful path filled with shame unimaginable – and to realize that Jesus walked this path for ME. For me who too often tramples on the gift of redemption I’ve been given by taking it for granted, or thinking that I did something to earn it. Love led him through the agony we remember today. Don’t forget that love is behind all of the horror of “Good” Friday. (And don’t forget that our sanitized, decorative crosses are far from its original horror – public execution of the most shameful kind.)

***

I had skimmed over the verse countless times in the 30+ years I’ve read and meditated and studied this familiar account. Good Friday is the time to read the crucifixion story. A story of horror turned beautiful. Yet if you’re like me, too often I jump to the “turned beautiful” part without staying with the horror of what Jesus endured. It’s uncomfortable to sit with the events that culminated in the most gruesome of deaths on a Roman cross. But this week – this Holy Week – asks us to do just that. To sit. To see. To hear. Because in the horror, we are saved. We are deserving of all that the King of Glory endured innocently. And we who bear his name are called to endure similar suffering for the sake of love. Love enters into the messy, the broken, even the so-gruesome-you-can’t-bear-to-hear-it and Love takes it. Love endures. It does not run away. It stays. It shows up.

What feels impossible for you to endure today (and yet you must because of Love)? How can Good Friday become truly “good” for you today? What brokenness do you run from in your own heart and in the lives of those around you?

In my calling as a counselor, I often sit with those who have endured stories of abuse that are too difficult to name. And to think that what I have a hard time hearing is what they lived through. Well, that causes you to pause. To pray. To beg for redemption, for healing, for a Justice to make it all right. 

On Good Friday, we are given just that. Not only in the cross, but in the events leading up to the cross. Here’s the verse that stopped me in my tracks this morning (from Matthew 27:27):

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.

Do you know how many soldiers are in a battalion? I didn’t either, so I checked the footnote and saw that a battalion is “a tenth of a Roman legion; usually about 600 men.” 600 men. Quite different than movies who portray this portion of the scene with a couple soldiers kicking Jesus around. That’s bad enough, but this has an arena quality to it. 600 soldiers. That’s a very full auditorium hall. And what did they gather to do? Well, read on:

And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Utterly shameful. Shameful if it’s an audience of one, but for these horrors to happen before an arena-size audience of 600? Shame magnified. Shame too great for words. Twice he was stripped of his clothes. In addition to the emotional abuse of this mockery, there was the physical abuse of being “crowned” with thorns and beat on the head with a reed. What is striking is Jesus’ response. Nothing. The one who was God incarnate – who could have called down fire from heaven to devour these fools – stayed still and endured. That is the miracle. The miracle that turns bad into good, abuse into redemption, mockery into honor.

Centuries before, a prophet called Isaiah wrote about this and puts words to the what and the why of all that Jesus endured on “Good” Friday:

Surely he has borne our grief
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. …
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth …

Because Jesus did not open his mouth when enduring abuse, we can open our mouths and beg for healing and redemption. Healing from our own abuse and from the ways we have abused and oppressed others through our sin – through our brokenness seeking false healings.

In the place of your abuse, there is healing. Because he took the shame for you.

In the place of my sin, there is peace. Because he carried the guilt for me.

In the places where you and I have been silenced, our voice is restored. Because his was silenced this Good Friday.

So go. Walk as one who is healed, who is at peace, who can speak up and speak out and speak of darkness turned beautiful on this most good of Fridays. 

Five Minute Friday: “real”

Our week in review: celebrated St. Patrick’s Day (and our 9-year engagement anniversary) by eating Lucky Charms (my daughters’ choice), wearing green, listening to Irish music; continued in the sometimes-overwhelming rhythm of our normal lives as a pastor-counselor/writer duo trying to manage our home and nurture our 4-year-old twins’ hearts and faith; laughed a little at the antics of our daughters along the way; rejoiced at God’s provision of a home for my in-laws to buy (they’ve been renting since moving here in the fall – and this home is just *perfect* for them!); saw depths of sin and depths of grace in my own heart as I love and counsel others through the same.

And then here – to Five Minute Friday. Aaahh. A resting place, of sorts. Writing on an assigned topic for five minutes, unedited. Here I go –

***

The Velveteen RabbitReal is so hard to become, isn’t it? Just ask the Velveteen Rabbit, or Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader who had to undergo a painful extraction of his dragon-like skin in order to discover who he was.

Real is paraded as what we are all going for these days – “real food” “authentic/real relationships” “real hope for troubled times” “reality TV shows (that are anything BUT real …)”.

But to be real? Well, it takes courage. It is hard to show up as I really am, without knowing how you will receive me. It can be excruciating to be the first one vulnerable in a group. Or to be exposed for my failings in front of anyone else. But empathy and connection and love cannot happen unless I risk becoming real.* Being vulnerable – showing up as I am unmasked by disguises or pretenses or what I think you want me to be. Oh, to be real! It will open up doors of belonging (and it has in my life), and it will also open up long-standing wounds. 

I’ve experienced both in my journey to become real. To show up because I know I am already loved, forgiven, accepted, delighted in, validated, dignified. To show up to others in the middle of my weaknesses because I am trusting that God’s grace is made strong here … in these very fissures of my cracked clay jar that let in (and out) the Light of hidden glory. 

photo credit: heuning.co.za

photo credit: heuning.co.za

*I am indebted to two courageous women who have shown me through their writings how to be real like this, and whose ideas I am paraphrasing and personalizing here: Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly and Glennon Melton’s Carry On, Warrior and blog at momastery.com.