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Fighting for Vulnerability

As I’ve mentioned, I’m working my way through Beth Moore’s Children of the Day. I’ve been ridiculously convicted by 1 Thess 2:2 where Paul says, “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition” [NIV]. The way Beth phrases it is that Paul and Silas were “one bitten, twice bold.”

I don’t know about you, but that is not me. (See that emphasis? I really mean it.) I’m the kind of person who, when injured in a relationship or situation, walks away. It’s completely contrary to the stuff I’ve learned in Tai Chi, but it’s still my gut reaction. I think anyone who’s had bad experiences, which is probably most of us, isn’t going to make the same mistakes twice. That whole “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” thing. We don’t take pans out of the oven without hot pads. We don’t do stupid things once we’ve learned that they’re stupid.

But here’s Paul, knowing that preaching the Gospel is going to result in suffering, and still doing it. With God’s help.

I finished my Lois & Clark fan fic. I’ll add a link once I get it archived (or if you want to read it a week at a time, I’m posting it on lcficmbs.com and fanfiction net). Anyway, super fun to write! Lots of angst, as I said. And one of the great things I got to explore was vulnerability, and how love leaves us exposed, but at the same time we’re better people because of it. It’s something I’ve been working on my own life. I want to be a vulnerable person–to share myself with others, the way Paul talks about in 1 Thess. 2:7-8–because I want to be a vulnerable person, not because I feel guilted into it, not because the people around me act in a way that makes me feel like it’s a good idea, but because it’s who I want to be. My relational paranoia means I am quite uncomfortable with that. I give people, even dear friends, a very  small level of trust. If they break my trust, even unintentionally, it takes me a long time before I trust them again.

Obviously–quick disclaimer–I am not advocating putting oneself in/staying in an abusive situation.

But there’s something to that whole being open thing. Community is impossible without it. In Children of the Day, Beth says “We were created for community. We thrive in healthy intimacy. We have to give fully to create the space to receive fully” (p. 59). We can’t really have fulfilling relationships without being vulnerable.

But it isn’t natural. It’s not a gut reaction. It’s something we have to fight for, something we have to depend on God for. That seems to be the key phrase there. Paul has to be determined to persevere, but he doesn’t do it on his own. He depends on God.

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The Importance of Drowning

I’m in love with stories that have lots and lots of angst lately. I don’t do well with any sort of violence, but I want my characters to suffer deep emotional stress. There’s something so therapeutic about writing/reading stories where the characters are stretched far beyond their capacity to function and then things still work out ok in the end. Basically, I want my characters to at some point be so overwhelmed that they aren’t quite sure how they are still breathing–but I need to know that there’s hope for that level of stress to still get resolved in the end. I love that quote from Sleepless in Seattle where Tom Hanks says: “Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out…” I can’t tell you how many times it’s run through my head in the past year.

Anyway! Yesterday I was complaining to the Lord that I’m so tired of feeling in over my head. I’m tired of fighting to breathe. And I got this picture in my brain: drowning. Now, stay with me here. So, drowning involves (at least some of the time) being in over your head, right? Now, keep that in mind and I’ll  come back to it.

Because of my love of angst, I’ve felt the need to bleed on paper lately, so I’m tormenting some of my favorite characters (Lois & Clark) by writing a nice angst-ridden fanfic. I love the period right around when Lois almost marries Lex Luthor (“Barbarians at the Planet” & “House of Luthor”). Both her and Clark are pushed to the limit, and it sets in motion the beginnings of changes in both of them that are explored in later episodes. However, I’ve always been a bit dissatisfied because I felt like the writers of those episodes could have worked a lot more change in the characters. All that angst creates a great opportunity for people to re-evaluate their lives and their characters and then to change. Granted TV writers aren’t trying to wrap things up quickly so maybe they had good reason for dragging the whole thing out.

When I was thinking about drowning and how all the angst in my fanfic provides great opportunities for change, the picture expanded to include birth. I don’t know how much you know about birth, but I had issues with getting both my daughters well-positioned (highly recommend http://www.spinningbabies.com for that sort of thing!). Labor with a malpositioned baby is no fun for the baby or the mother. With my first daughter, she was malpositioned and then we went into the hospital and we were young and ignorant so when they said I needed to have my water broken for the safety of our child, we went along with it. Unfortunately, when they broke my water, my daughter was then wedged in. In the wrong position. On top of the umbilical cord. It was a quick way to an unnecessary C-section. See, the reality is that the amniotic sac and fluid are how the baby repositions itself to be in the best position for birth.

And here’s where drowning comes in. Being in over your head means that you are in plenty of water to be able to move around. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it feels wretched. Lord knows, I know it feels wretched. And yes, it means that you are 100% dependent on God to provide you with air. But my greatest fear is that I will get to the end of my life and I will have been stagnant–whether that means I’ve refused to change because I’m afraid of change or whether I simply become complacent or content with things I shouldn’t be content. Drowning means I have the opportunity to become someone else. I can make the 180 required in true repentance. Drowning actually gives me more space to maneuver. So from now on I’m going to work to re-phrase my thinking. Instead of asking myself how I’m supposed to keep breathing through all this or telling God how much I feel like I’m drowning, I’m going to remind myself that I’m being birthed. Instead of fighting against all that movement, I’m going to remind myself to be open to getting well-positioned.

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More Adjustments

Well, so the benefit of doing blogging this way is that I have no idea what I’m going to talk about before I actually start talking about it. Hope you enjoy a more conversational style 😉

In case you haven’t noticed, there are a few things I’m kinda obsessed with. I have been called nerdy a few times in my life. I love Star Trek (TNG is my fav; not much of a fan of TOS, but I do love the new movies–yes, I know that makes me a heretic). I’ve read more than half of the Lois & Clark fan fiction archive. We watch Speed Racer (the movie) whenever we spend too much time with family and need reminded that faithfulness is key to changing the world, rather than running after any certain careers. I read David Eddings’ Belgariad/the Malloreon whenever I need to remind myself that following God is the short-cut to getting wherever is best for me, even when it feels like getting lost. And I can’t tell you how many days it feels like getting lost. I read Penelope Wilcox’s The Hawk and the Dove when I feel like my brokenness is a hinderance to God’s ability to use me–that maybe by virtue of my absolutely destroyed physical health and sometimes precarious emotional health, I’m unusable, the days when I start feeling sorry for my kids because they have such a sick mom, that kind of thing. I’ve read/watched more versions of Cinderella than I can remember–excited for Disney’s new version! Since it came out, I’ve been reading Rowlings’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows every year around Easter. And this year I celebrate reading Pride & Prejudice at least once a year for twenty years (woohoo!!). I do so love that book. We named our daughter after Jane Austen and Jane Bennet. Someone recently asked me how many books I read more than once and I didn’t really have an answer for that. As I’ve mentioned, books are part of my soul adjustment. I don’t think I could breathe without stories to remind me of what’s true–not that I’m saying that the Bible isn’t more important because obviously it is.

So since it’s New Year’s and time for Pride & Prejudice, I’ve started reading Pride & Prejudice fan fiction (in addition to reading Pamela Aidan’s fabulous Fitzwilliam Darcy Trilogy). I’ve been reading a lot of fan fiction the past 7 months–basically since I got sick in July. It’s amazing how being too sick to function opens up lots of reading time. Anyway! I have read so many terribly written stories that there have been days when I literally have wished I could take my brain out of my skull and wash it. It terrifies me when I realize some of these people actually thought their writing was edited enough to post on the internet for all to read–mostly because I’m scared that my writing is really that bad, but no one has the heart to tell me 😉 (ps–that wasn’t fishing for compliments, just sharing) Today, however, I read a version of P&P that I fell in love with called A Rush of Blackbirds. I could probably happily talk about character development for hours, so I’ll try to keep this short. Basically, the thing I loved about this version is that the author pushed Lizzie until she broke. It could be where I’m at in my life, but I am in love with stories that have lots and lots of angst. There’s something so satisfying about reading/writing a story where people are pushed far beyond their coping capacity and then somehow by the end, things work out ok.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept of fan faction, the author takes well-known characters/stories and basically changes something and then writes about how that change affects the rest of the story or sometimes they write the further adventures of the character. In this version of P&P, the author had Darcy get injured just before Bingley and co. were going to leave Netherfield, which meant that they all ended up staying. Darcy gets over his pride quite a bit earlier in the story. Elizabeth recognizes her own attraction to Darcy quite a bit earlier. I’ve never really spent a lot of time thinking about Elizabeth’s home situation, which is odd given how much my own family has played into my issues and how much Darcy throws her family in her face. This author talked about how traumatic it must have been for Elizabeth to have her father be so checked out, and yet how torn she was because she was his favorite. How hard it was for her to have her mother constantly put her down… for her mother to tell her she’d ruined the family by refusing Mr. Collins. How much she missed Jane, especially when she had some angst in her life and no one to turn to. And how even strong personalities reach a breaking point and need love to heal. It was beautiful.