Refinement.

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A trusted mentor shared with me a story someone once shared with her. I’ll do my best to share it with you as beautifully as she did me…

Once there was a woman who wanted to understand what the Bible meant when it talks about refinement, so she went to a goldsmith to learn firsthand about the process.

As he answered all her questions, she asked him if he sat and watched the gold the entire time. Of course! He replied. For if the flames become a degree too hot, or if I keep it in for a second too long, the gold would be destroyed!

The woman thought about his words, and compared them back to the specific passage she had studied earlier.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” -Malachi 3:3

Our Refiner sits.

Whenever we feel like we’re in the fire, we can find comfort in the fact that not once does God take His eyes off of us. Nor does He let the flames get too hot nor does He keep us in for longer than we can endure, for His sole intent is our purification. He sits and steadily holds us in His hands, in His perfect wisdom, and in His perfect timing. 

How do you know when the gold has been refined? She asked the smith one last question.

He smiled and answered her. When I pull it out of the fire and I’m able to see my own image reflecting back at me, that’s when I know the process has been completed.

Although God uses every trial we face to purify and refine us, it’s easy to feel like we’ve fallen victim to an unjust world. OR we may dismiss suffering as spiritual attack, argue that no good could come from it, and immediately pray against it.

I’ll raise my hand for both those feelings.

But as true as both quite possibly may be, how we respond and grow through such seasons of life is up to us.

As I’ve been praying and seeking the Lord on this area in my own life, He’s reassured me that refinement is a necessary process. All His beloved children will go through it.

Even though it’s not always fun and may seem like God is nowhere to be found, the truth is He’s in full control of the entire process. Once it’s complete, His image will be reflected in us for the world to see.

I mulled over some recent scenarios that have specifically been targeting my character and spirit, AKA God is probably using them to refine me. I jotted down a few…

I can know I’m being refined when                                                                      .

…I’m feeling the heat. (punnnnnny, sorry)

…I’m constantly battling to deny my flesh.

…I’m facing painstakingly difficult situations that give me an opportunity to become more like Jesus.

…I want to run away in anger, but I stay and attempt peace.

…bitterness and offense are eager to spring up, but the Holy Spirit extinguishes them.

…forgiveness is the last thing I want to do, but by God’s grace alone, I do it.

…I feel stuck.

…I’m waiting for healing.

…I’m waiting for answers.

…I’m questioning my purpose.

As hard as these may seem in the moment, the Lord is using all of these scenarios to turn me towards Himself. To seek His Will. To know His ways.

To reflect His Image

To be molded as He chooses.

That I may bring offerings in righteousness before Him.

 

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Beautiful things take time.

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Sometimes it’s only when you run away for awhile that you’re able to understand what it is exactly that you had to run away from.

This happened to my husband and I a couple months ago when we hopped on a plane to get out of the city for 5 days. As soon as we rose out of the smog-laden city and emerged into a clear, blue sky, we suddenly realized how trapped we had been feeling.

It became obvious to us that our coping mechanisms for city living are not where they need to be. Although we gave ourselves 5 days to go to the beach, explore ancient ruins, and climb mountains, we weren’t at all ready to get on the plane back home.

Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE what we do. Our culture shock isn’t necessarily from living in another country, but it derives from the stresses of terrible traffic at all hours of the day, minimal greenery, and nowhere to go to be alone due to the 6,530 people (roughly) populating every square mile.

To anyone that asks us, we’ll admit that it’s been tough figuring out how to take care of ourselves in order to be healthy and thrive. Especially when we’re in a place that seems to strip us of energy before we even start to work…

On one of the days during our much needed get-away, we decided to rent a car and go check out a waterfall. What we found was better than we’d imagined it would be. The waterfall wasn’t extraordinarily huge nor was it in the middle of a tropical rainforest, but it was a sight for our city-sore eyes.

After we’d been delightfully refreshed by the waterfall sprays, we found a giant tree root and plopped ourselves in front of the waterfall. We sat there, mesmerized as the waterfall gently collided into the crystal bay of calm turquoise before us.

I wanted to sit there forever. I think my husband felt the same way. Emotions began to blur my vision, so I gave-in and let a few tears escape. The silence was softly broken as I heard my husband praying beside me. I let a few more tears fall and leaned my head on his shoulder.

A little bit later, he spoke up, “See the rough edges? This waterfall was probably created over the years as the river cut into the rock, eventually creating the crevice you see now.”

Beautiful things take time.

While our life may feel extremely messy, exhausting, and out of our control, the fact of the matter is that the current cuts and bruises we’re experiencing is quite possibly the only way for deeper beauty to be made.

So as we run back to what we ran away from, we do so fully aware of the hardships we’ll face, but we also run back with patience for ourselves, grace for every situation, and trust in God for His perfect timing.

We continued to sit in front of the waterfall for a couple more minutes, breathing in all we could of the sacred moment. It took all our strength to get up, but eventually we were able to tear ourselves away, and we started the climb back to the parking lot.

 

 

 

 

Our Flower Friend

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Every day on the way home I pass a small flower shop. Because I live in a cement jungle, I tend to gravitate towards anything that grows. Since this city is seriously lacking in the color green, whenever I walk by the shop, I make it a point to breathe in the freshly produced oxygen from the plants displayed outside the door.

Usually I’m in a hurry, but all it takes is one quick whiff to remind me of the sweet fragrance of my Creator before I continue on my way to face the people and the traffic.

When I got sick on Thanksgiving day, my husband ran to the store for some juice and crackers, but when he returned he also carried with him two small trees and a beautiful bouquet of fresh stems.

Nature is healing, and I don’t think humanity can live without it. Scientifically, we can’t survive with out it. In all his genius, God didn’t only give us creation so just we could live, but also for our enjoyment. While the atmosphere around us does indeed allow us to breathe, it also beckons us to stop, admire, and find peace.

The flower shop owner’s name means “patience.”

He’s been in the same small shop for 30 years now, so he’s seen the city develop from farmland and animals to busy street and underground trains. He said one of the reasons he’s stuck around is to remind people of the beauty that once was, and that one of the reasons people are so stressed out is because they forget.

They forget to stop and smell the fresh blooms, to catch butterflies, to sit in the sun.

But his shop remains as a symbol, waiting patiently for the world to remember the Creator and creation. To stop working overtime. To spend time outdoors. To bring sweet fragrances into their homes and onto their balconies.

Balconies much like this one…

Thank you, dear flower friend, for your wise words and your beautiful flowers.

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Let’s be Real

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A couple weeks ago, my husband asked if I would speak during the message portion of a prayer and worship night. My initial reaction was a big loud “HECK NO!”, followed by a million excuses for why I’m the last person he should ask to speak.

I mean, c’mon, nobody wants to hear a story that doesn’t have a happy ending yet… That was the first lie.

Besides, God and I aren’t really that tight right now. Lie #2.

I can’t say anything meaningful while I’m still battling with my own doubt. Lie #3.

I don’t have any spiritual insight worth hearing. Lie #4.

I don’t want to burden others with my own suffering. Lie #5.

Need I continue? You get the picture.

My husband challenged me to pray about it, and as I sought for an answer, the Spirit lead me to 2 Timothy 3: 14-15

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

and then I turned back to 2 Timothy 2:13 and read outloud,

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful still.”

Even though I feel like my faith has been rocked, that I failed God as soon the road got tough, I KNOW IN WHOM I BELIEVE. My God has a relationship with me, and He has never once let me go.

And for that reason alone, I share with you now what I shared with them on that anointed Saturday night.

If you’ve got 30 minutes, sit down, grab your Bible and some coffee, and listen HERE.

While I do apologize for the blubbering and for the poor recording quality, I will not apologize for being REAL.

May God receive all the glory.

 

 

Winning Moments

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This year over Christmas break we headed to the mountains with some friends. Even though I grew up in MN, I’m still fairly new to the whole winter sports thing. All of the winter sports I did were indoors (with the exception of the day I went downhill skiing for the 1st time in 5th grade, bombed the hill, collided with a brick building, and broke my wrist)… From then on I stayed inside on the basketball courts.

My husband and I spent our first winter as a married couple in Northern Idaho, where I experienced the ups and downs of a snow season from a snowboarder’s perspective firsthand. My better half was constantly checking the weather report, checking ski resort reviews, planning family ski days, etc.

Whenever it snowed we would get really excited and bundle up for a day on the slopes. Everyone would cram into the gondola up the mountain with all their boarding gear, and then there was me with my Vera Bradley bag full of snacks and books.

I had to the sit the season out because of a recent ankle surgery, but it wasn’t like I knew anything different. Sure, I would love to get out in the powder one day, but I was happily content with my dark chocolate sea salted almonds, clementines, some of Margaret Feinberg, and some blogs I wanted to catch up on. I honestly didn’t mind being all alone and cozy with my treats and a mountain view.

This time was different. I was going to be part of the fun! I was gonna get a cool lift ticket to put on my jacket and wear giant tinted goggles.

I tried not to have any other expectations beyond the gear, which is good because the expectations I did have only flopped.

The goggles I rented had a broken strap, and they gave us a re-usable lanyard as a lift ticket so I didn’t get to attach it to my zipper. While I didn’t feel as cool as I thought I would, at least I got to be part of their recycling efforts with the lanyards… Smart.

As for snowboarding, it was definitely harder than I had anticipated.

My husband spent the first morning on the bunny hill with me as I got used to my two feet being glued together on one board. I nearly chickened out and switched to skis, but I was determined to learn. After lunch we decided it might be easier to learn on a bigger slope, so I braved my first chair lift with a snowboard hanging from my foot.

My husband was right, the bigger slope was easier. As I descended, going left, then swiveling my board and going right, I decided to practice a new trick I’d been learning the week before; I was gonna try to do this one. thing. at. a. time.

Instead of thinking about getting all the way to the bottom, I instead focused on the angle of my board on the slope, where my body was leaning, and breathed into every switch down the mountain. I imagined my turns AS they were happening. If I fell, [WHEN I FELL], I first got a grip on my surroundings, put my heart into standing back up, and then took a long pause to reestablish myself before I started moving again. I spoke it out-loud to myself: “Ok Kimmy, you can do this. Just one thing at a time.”

It was hard work. Every time my edge got caught on the snow, it never failed to propel me flat on my face or slam me backwards onto my rump. With my tailbone quickly bruising and wrists aching, my body screamed out “No more!”, but l had to win.

What exactly was I winning?

I was winning the moment.

For if I won the moment, the next moment would be easier, as would the moment after that, and the moment after that.

Before I knew it, I had reached bottom. I made it.

As I went up the chair lift for another round of getting beat-up, I suddenly realized why I was so determined.

Different from the other mysterious health ailments I’d been struggling with, I chose this pain. I willingly succumbed myself to potential consequences of learning to snowboard. For the most part, I was in control. I could stop anytime I wanted and head inside to a comfortable lodge where I would quickly be warmed up by the fireplace. Or, I could bear this temporary pain and win.

Maybe if I won these moments, moments to come, moments that don’t make any tangible sense as to why they are happening, moments where I feel like I don’t have any control or line of sight to what will happen next, maybe those moments won’t seem so hard.

But for now, I’m gonna enjoy flying down this snowy mountain. Don’t you remember, Kimmy?

Let’s take it

One. Thing. At. A. Time.

 

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Give Thanks

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You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Psalms 30:11-12

Even after a hard year, I can’t help but give thanks. In fact, on many accounts it’s the only thing I CAN do.

It’s been nearly 11 months since being diagnosed nutrient deficient. The healing process has been longer and slower than I anticipated, but because I was lacking the nutrients my body needed to survive, it was shutting itself down.

A recovery from such takes time, and every day I have the chance to push it along via greens and whole food supplements. But that’s about all I have control over. How my insides respond is up to God, and from what I can see, He’s not quite ready to heal me just yet.

See, I’ve had more than my share of dreaded down time, meaning I’m on the coach with a headache clawing at my eyes and stomach about to turn. However, it’s been in some of those most agonizing moments where God decides to have ‘us’ time.

Whether it’s a word of truth through a song I have playing softly in the background, a peaceful Presence during a burst of silent (or not-silent) sobs, or when He shouts out a sudden halt to my negative spiral of thoughts, the Lord continues to pursue me.

Wherever I am, however I’m feeling, Jesus wants to MEET. WITH. ME.

But God, I haven’t been reading my bible…

Kimmy, just be with me.

But I’m in so much pain…

Beloved, give me your burdens. Let me help you.

But if I were healed I could do so much more for you…

My daughter, do you realize I already did everything for YOU?

There’s been many of these conversations where, in result, I end up turning my heart upward in gratitude to my Savior. Physically nothing has changed, but inwardly my soul has been renewed, washed clean by one who underwent more torment than any human ever could.

It’s basically an understatement to say that Jesus gets it. He truly understands. And although in His darkest hour the Father and the entire world turned their backs on him, Jesus never has and never will turn His back on me.

For that, I give thanks.

Achieving Awareness

We make plans, and we make goals. On a vary rare occasion are we without them. What would happen if we just lived moment by moment. Is it even possible? How, then, would we accomplish anything?

Accomplishment. Ah, there’s the root issue.

Most people derive a sense of proud ownership over a completed task. We’re driven to finish what we started. And once we finish, to start something else.

Why do our hearts beat so?

I may not have the answer to this question, but I do know that humanity thrives on it. Our flesh has to constantly be “DOING” something. Our entire time on earth is filled with a history of prior achievements and dreams for future successes.

Is this wrong?

Not entirely.

I think there are healthy paths towards achievement, but there are also plenty of harmful paths that disguise their way unto our road map.

For instance,

Motivation.

One fat word that carves itself into each and every day.

You wake up. What influences your motivation for how you start your morning? Did you have a breakthrough the night before? Or a break-up?

If the first, you might have your heart set on following your new lead with a powerful ambition to explore the concept thoroughly and completely until you arrive at the best possible answer and (ahem) end up saving the world. If the latter, perhaps there’s a hidden vengeance in your agenda that day as you step on people to get what you want, or present a careless idea that could domino into a cycle of destruction.

While those examples might have been a little extreme, it shows how our motivation is what sets the standards we use for progress and how we define our success. Our level of success largely depends on the attitude and manner of how we acquired it.

Why do I write all this? Because I am one who likes to DO DO DO. I like to push myself and push others to ACHIEVE.

So, the big question is this. What happens when your motivation seems to be pure, but your progress is hindered? What does success look like then?

Before I answer this question, let’s add some more perspective.

When my life recently took an unexpected turn down a road that appears to have no outlet, my progress was brought to a halt. With no way out, my plans, goals, and dreams all immediately crashed into an impenetrable brick wall. Stuck, I was forced to step back and check my overall aim.

Was what I was trying to accomplish so terribly important? Who am I trying to impress? What would achieving this do for me? For others?

Road blocks provide us with the opportunity to pause and look at our game plan from new angles. Often times they reveal stained motivation, and recognition of this can then lead to a higher path with a better outcome than we had first envisioned.

As I peered deeper into the well of motivation I was drawing from, the questions I asked myself helped me to see clearer than ever before. What did I see?

I saw my worth.

Although my ambitions had outwardly well-meaning intentions, quite honestly, everything I had my heart set on accomplishing was so I would feel worthy. Worthy of love. Worthy of salvation. Worthy of friends’ and family members’ support. Worthy of my career.

As is the greatest temptations to all do-ers, by losing myself in a cycle of works, I lost sight of WHO and WHAT makes me worthy. And it’s definitely not me or anything I can do. With that kind of motivation, thank God He stopped me in my tracks.

So, let me re-ask that previous question. What does true success look like when progress is hindered?

Even with the purest motivation, I truly think it’s not what you accomplish but how and why you do it. (As I write this my inner achiever self is cringing!)

Still, my newfound opinion of success now steadily streams out of the way I handle the hindrances thrown my way. For, when obstacles jump in the way of my goals, I see it merely as a chance to reassess and reflect on what’s motivating me and how I got here in the first place.

Perhaps it will transfer me to a different path entirely.

Wherever it brings me, I’m succeeding in something we’re often too goal-oriented to achieve:

AWARENESS.

Though I may not see be seeing progress to the degree of which I had hoped, I believe this type of success isn’t dependent on how much gets done, rather, the success of inner reflection, trust, and grace along the way.

 

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