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.

 

 

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To Women Living as Expats: it’s Okay to be Rude Sometimes

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Since moving overseas I’ve had many experiences I wish hadn’t happened. But they did.

Were they my fault? No.

Could I have prevented them from happening? Perhaps, though doubtful.

What emotions did I feel after they happened? Shame. Guilt.

But did I do anything wrong? No.

No. In most of the scenarios there was nothing I could have done differently to stop the experience from happening.

From day one in my new middle eastern city, the bronzed-zippy-Californian-friendly college girl disappeared and in her place was a dark-haired, eyes-straight-ahead, talk-to-me-and-I-give-you-an-icy-stare seriously rude woman.

Gone were the generous smiles and chatty small-talker. If you saw me on the street, you would hardly recognize me.

Why the sudden personality change? I realized that in this country, anything short of looking mean would only bring me unwanted and unsolicited attention.

Yet despite my efforts to be invisible, I am still a woman.

I am a woman living in a patriarchal society.

While the culture has gone through significant breakthroughs regarding equality and embracing modern women in the business world, its roots of male domination go deep.

I’ve had to report multiple incidents to my husband about being touched inappropriately while out by myself.

What’s even more frustrating is that it happens in the light of day without any invitation whatsoever. I could be walking down a sidewalk, riding the train, or waiting at the bus stop minding my own business, and then suddenly be a target for someone’s un-controlled advance.

I’ve stepped on feet, thrown hands away, and elbowed men in the gut. I’ve yelled shameful words and called attention to their disgraceful actions. But whats done is done, and they run away without any real punishment for their crime.

What’s worse is that it’s accepted.

I’ve seen men slapping and hitting their wives in a public park, spitting on them and being rough. The passer-byers just keep passing by. They won’t get involved in a man “controlling” his property.

Before I knew better, if I man started talking to me and touching on the arm, if it seemed innocent enough I would tolerate it for awhile for fear of being rude. I know several other girls who’ve told me the same story. They didn’t want to be mean because they didn’t know if it was normal or not.

Unless the man is related to you, it’s not.

In this culture, the only reason a man touches you is to gage how far he can go.

The man knows he shouldn’t be doing it; local women wouldn’t tolerate a touch from a stranger for an instant.

Don’t even let him start.

If a man says he’ll show you which stop to get off of at the bus, tsk at him and move far away to show how disinterested you are. Don’t give him any reason to start a conversation with you. Some men will jump at any excuse to be invited into your space.

But know this: even if you do your best to send stay-away-from-me signals, you’re still a woman– a foreign women who will be seen as prime material to be taken advantage of.

If it happens, holler and shame the heck out of them. Please feel free to even take your shoe off and hit them with it.

Most importantly, know that it wasn’t your fault. The feelings of guilt and shame do not belong to you; you did nothing wrong.

Go home, confide to your husband or roommate, have them pray for you and give you a hug.

Then remember, next time you go out, it’s more than okay to be rude sometimes.

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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A Communal Commotion

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There was a bit of excitement on the first floor of the apartment complex as two Americans opened their door to let a rush of smoke billow out into the hallway.

These foreigners (or ‘ya-ban-jihs’ as locals call them) had semi-spiked their neighbors’ curiosity when they moved in about 7 months ago, but as time passed, their newness wore off and the locals kept politely to themselves.

However, as smoke started pouring into their apartment, not knowing who to call, the Americans ran across to the neighbors and knocked on their door.

The old woman opened the door, saw the smoke, and yelled “fire fire!”

Old-man-to-the-rescue pulled on his pants, threw on a winter coat, and stepped over into the young couples’ threshold. They pointed him to the busted breaker, smoldering with putrid smoke. Alarmed, he ordered the American boy to run to the the basement and get the doorman.

The boy leaped down the steps two at a time.

After turning the main electricity off, the boy quickly returned with the doorman. Thankfully the smoke started to slow from its steady stream to a whispy leak.

While all this was happening, the upstairs tenants came downstairs complaining of a bad smell and saw the commotion. Cell phones came out, questions were thrown at them, and noses began to poke.

“What did you do? Why does it stink?” The worried neighbors insisted on knowing what was happening.
“Nothing! We were eating dinner and all of a sudden our house started to fill with smoke and smell bad. But don’t worry, the doorman is helping us.” The blonde woman reassured the covered woman that the situation was under control.

Still, just in case, the man whose wife had been interrogating the blonde dialed the doorman to make sure. Then together they devised a plan for the electrician to come fix the yabancis’ problem in the morning. He left only to come back a minute later, advising the kids to put their meat on the chilly balcony outside so it wouldn’t go bad.

The apartment still wreaked like a dead rodent. As the foreigners were deciding what to do next, the neighbors graciously asked them to come over for tea. The old man and woman weren’t upset for being bothered late at night. In fact, it seemed that they enjoyed being able to help this young couple and wanted the evening to continue.

The couple was welcomed in, greeted with kisses, and ushered straight into the living room where they were presented with a table of dishes filled with nuts and dried fruits. They were asked whether they preferred their tea in a glass or a mug.

“Eat more, eat more.” The wrinkly face smiled and gestured towards the table.

So they ate more.

It was a typical conversation of who are you and where did you grow up, what do you like about Turkey and what food do you cook… They exchanged favorite recipes and suggested places to go on walks in the city.

The Americans went to bed that night grateful for the turn of events and for the helpful community God placed them in. They praised the Lord for their safety and that nothing worse had happened.

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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Goodbye 25: A Personal Response to Shauna Niequist

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September’s here again… birthday month! Time to say goodbye 25. Yikes. It hasn’t been all sunflowers, but it has been bright.

As I reflected on the past year’s accomplishments, lessons learned, dreams that came true, etc., I decided to re-read a chapter in the book Bittersweet by my girl Shauna Niequist called, “What to Know When You’re 25 (ish).”

So, Shauna, I’m going to look back in retrospect to see if any of what you wrote was actually depicted in my 25th year of life.

JOBS: Now is the time to figure out what kind of work you love to do. What are you good at? What makes you feel alive? What do you dream about?

Leading up to 25 I merely had ideas of what I wanted to do. I’d been out of college for 2 years, during which I had a 2 year internship overseas working with refugees. The day-ins and day-outs of the job were both physically and emotionally draining, yet at the same time it was an all-around rewarding experience. Aside from the people I worked with, for the first time, the only influencer I had in my life was God. His Word, my sword. His Word, my light. His Word, my comfort. Alone, far from home, and away from the APU bubble, the path ahead of me was being scripted out of my relationship with God. He showed me my purpose, who I was made to be, what my gifts are, and how to use them. Without any other voices in my head, I began to dream about God’s vision for my life. And yes, Shauna, it was indeed at age 25 that I started gearing up to do what makes me feel alive.

RELATIONSHIPS: Now is also the time to get serious about relationships.

When I was 22 (totally single with no one in sight), I hinted to God that I’d really like it if I got married by age 25. I thought it was a long-shot. Not for God. True to who He is, my prayer was answered, and on November 2nd, 2014, I became a wife. How’s that for serious, Shauna? I remember my wedding day vividly. Like a VHS movie, I’m able to rewind and play it back in my head, moment by moment. It was a happily-every-after kind of day, with the final scene going something like this:

Grabbing my new husband’s hand, we waltzed triumphantly through a tunnel of sparklers, extending handed and hugs and words of thanks. At the car (which on a side note had been hilariously crammed with balloons and goodies), I turned around and shouted what every ounce of my being had been screaming to say: “BEST DAY EVER!!!!”

For it truly had been and will forever be, the best day of my entire life.

COUNSELING: Unravel the knots that keep you from living a healthy whole life, and do it now, before any more time passes.

Shauna, I agree whole-heartedly. I started counseling my senior year of college and continued it post-grad with my mentor through a book called “A Guide for Listening and Inner-Healing Prayer”, by Rusty Rustenbach. These counseling sessions opened my eyes to suppressed wounds and made room for healing I didn’t know I needed. It was especially helpful to have these things more-or-less sorted out by the time I got engaged, when my then fiancé and I started our pre-marriage counseling together- I was 25.

CHURCH: Twenty-five is the perfect time to get involved in a church you love, no matter how different it is from the one you were a part of growing up.

I grew up in a well-established church of 5,000. The church I attend now is 30-50 and just celebrated its 3rd anniversary. Size and rank, these two churches cannot be more different. Heart-wise, both are solid. I never imagined leaving my old church, but now, at 25, I have the privilege of playing keys and leading worship with my rockstar husband at the latter. You have my word, Shauna, right now I wouldn’t trade encountering God in a small room with this international body of believers for anything else.

DON’T GET STUCK: Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. Walk away, try something new… This season is about becoming...

Ironically, Shauna, this past year I actually got stuck. However, by way of being stuck, I became. God used my being stuck to refine and reshape my understanding of my value not being in what I do for Him but in what He has done for me. For, a week after turning 25, my normal active, adventuring, energetic self ceased to exist.

To start, I broke my leg. Leg surgery was then followed by a rapid health decline revealing a deeper issue at stake. This newlymarried women spent her first days, weeks, months, and nearly a year as a wife who went to a doctor 3 times a week and spent the rest of her time on the couch or in bed [sleeping]. My husband had to cook for me. Plans got canceled. Social time was restricted. It was the opposite of what I had pictured this season to look like. For a girl who likes to try new things, for once, the new thing I got served did not agree me. REST? PAIN? CONFINEMENT? No thank you. Yet, in this season of being stuck, God showed me how stuck I really was. He used my 25th year of life to redefine my definition of my identity in Him- an identity I am humbled by.

An identity I will work on newly embracing and becoming as I turn a year closer to 100. A quarter century of my life complete.

Well, Shauna, that concludes my reflections. Thank you, for your predictably accurate description of What to Know When You’re 25 (ish). Now, any thoughts on 26?

Goodbye 25. I’ve now worn you proudly, both on and off the court. Don’t worry, you’ll be my jersey number forever.