First of all… YES, I am a TWIN. Secondly… YES, we are IDENTICAL. Just thought I would answer the two questions I have constantly been asked my entire life. Today is our 40th Birthday. I tell you that with some sadness and also with some excitement. The sad part is that these last 40 years have gone by faster than I ever imagined they would. But, I have also been blessed more that I had ever imagined, too! I've spent my last 20 years with my complete soul-mate and best friend. Jason totally gets everything about and loves me still! Those last 20 years have also brought moves to Texas, back to Oklahoma, and then to Arkansas. We have three amazing kids who perfectly fit in this family. We've also served in ministry for most of my last 20 years. We've traveled, laughed a lot, cried a lot, had friends that love us like family, and weathered some difficulties.
The best part about being 40 is that I really like who I am now. In my 20's and early 30's, I cared deeply about others opinions of me. Being in ministry and having a husband in leadership is hard. There is always someone who thinks he should be doing something differently or have expectations of him and/or me and our family. When I was younger, if I knew someone didn't like me, I would go to great lengths to show love to them or trying to make constant contact and even trying to do what THEY thought I should do. I would spend countless hours worrying about what I did or what I could do differently. I've learned over the years that acting on others expectations only leads to heartache and frustration. I still love people and relationships are incredibly important to me, but I don't jump through hoops to be friends with others now. I don't worry if others don't like me. People are quirky. Usually their opinion of me has to do with insecurities within themselves. I do firmly believe in reconciliation and have tried to reconcile any relationships that have needed mending. The hard part of that is that sometimes the other party doesn't want to reconcile. The wisdom in aging is knowing that God is growing all of us, so I can't expect someone else to come along where I have already been and I have to be okay with that. I have also become more accepting of others. When I was younger everything seemed black or white, right or wrong, lies or truth. Now, I see a wider view and I'm not as quick to jump to conclusions. I pass less judgement on others and make fewer assumptions. I am not as easily offended and I let go of things that used to take up room in my thoughts.
In my younger years, I constantly thought about my outward appearance. Now, I am female, so that hasn't completely gone away, but I am more comfortable with how God has created my body. If I had the money, sure, I would definitely take advantage of some cosmetic surgery! :) But since that probably won't ever be an option for me, I will take care of my body by eating healthy and exercising, but I won't expect my 40 year old body to look like it did when I was 20.
Ministry and relationships… I used to try to be close friends with everyone that I had a connection with. Now, I invest in the relationships that will have lasting impact. Life is short and I don't have time to be friends with everyone, but there are those who hold special places in my heart. I've learned a lot about ministry, too. My husband gets paid to do ministry and as his wife, I absolutely LOVE serving with him. We are a great team and God has given us great vision and we are very like-minded when it comes to reaching out to others. My younger self tried to go to every Christmas Sunday School Party and every women's ministry event and every outreach event that was planned in our church. I have learned that my time with my family is short and now I completely seek the Lord about which events I need to give my time. If it is an event that takes time away from my family or does not allow me to have some kind of investment in someone else's life, than I will usually choose not to participate. Even though I serve in ministry with my husband, I don't like "churchy" programs. I like realness and transparency. I like for people to be who they are and for it to be okay. We are all a work in process. We are all messed up in some way and I just want others to know that its okay to be vulnerable and real. See…my younger self would have never put that in writing for fear of backlash. :)
Financially, I am different too. In our younger years, we never had enough money. I was a stay-at-home mom and things were so tight. I now work full time and am thankful for a job that allows me to help provide for my family. Some of that income is still paying off debt that we accumulated when I stayed at home and we only had one income. But now, both Jason and I make better financial decisions and the best part is that we are finally at a place where we are able to give. I am sure a lot of people would tell us that we should be saving, but it has brought so much joy to give to others. I have learned a lot from a very special friend the last three years about what it means to sometimes sacrifice small things for yourself to bless others. There are always opportunities to love and help others if you are looking past yourself. I have learned that I shouldn't depend or look for others to meet needs if I can do it myself.
Spiritually, I used to think that God loved me and blessed me based on what I did for him. I have grown to serve God and spend time with Him because I love Him and not because I fear losing his blessing or even my own salvation. I have learned to accept His grace and in return offer that same grace freely to others. I've learned that my family can do hard things and that with dependence on the Lord, we can make it through trials.
So, all this to say, while I don't like how growing older changes my outside appearance, I do like how it has changed my inside. If my next 40 years are anything like my last 40, I will be more than blessed!
Lastly, I am so thankful for my sisters! I have learned that no matter what, my sisters will be there for me. Family relationships can be hard, but in the end, family is what matters. My sisters and I don't see each other very often, but I know that they would be there for me in a heartbeat. I am blessed that every year of my life that I actually get to celebrate my life along with my twin sister, Gina. We have a close bond that is hard to understand unless you are a twin yourself. We are alike in so many ways, yet so different. Yes, we sometimes buy the same dress or like the same songs or even desire the same things for our birthday. She is not only my sister, but also my life long friend.
Happy 40th Birthday, Gina! Love you, tons!