A Boring Testimony

You were born into your mother’s arms, loved by her from the moment she knew of your existence. Your father was standing beside her, watching your first breaths. All the pain of their own lives behind them and with them and before them, learning from it all so you could stand on their shoulders and grasp something better than what was handed to them. They would teach you the Gospel. They would teach you of love and show you love. They would talk about grace and when you were too young to understand it, they would show grace to those you loved and those you did not. You would be tempted. So many times you would be tempted towards all that brings pain and darkness and rot, but the Lord would walk beside you, guiding you each time towards what is good and true and beautiful. It wasn’t perfect. You stumbled, you sinned, you scraped your knees, but you never knew what it was to walk as a dead man, distant from all hope, and aching with a selfish and devouring rage.

Before there was water in the oceans or birds in the air, the God that hung the stars knew your name. He wrote a story of redemption that would begin before you entered the world, so many hardened hearts made soft that would one day show you warmth and mercy. So many would give of themselves for you. God himself would give of himself for you. God himself died for you. He chose each hair on your head. Each inch of your skin. He chose the day of your birth and the day of your death and carried you through every love and loss in between. You did nothing to earn it. Nothing to deserve it. Screeching and squirming into the world naked and confused like the rest of us. And yet the one who crafted the land and sea and skies poured compassion over you from the very beginning. And in the end, you returned home to Him. You rested in a Love that was somehow even greater than that immeasurable love shown to you on the day of your birth. Your mother bled for you, cried for you, gave so many years, days, hours, fleeting minutes made up of so many slow daunting seconds all for you, and though you were never wise enough to understand the depth of it, it shaped you so that you could love and walk and give in a way that was so much bigger than yourself. And, even still, her love was weak and broken compared to the Love that would welcome you in the end.

All of it was cosmic, pain and beauty, fury and grace, woven and spoken by a supernatural force with a name and a heart and a joy to be shared and multiplied.

But you never got addicted to drugs or committed any crimes or cursed His name. How uninteresting. And your parents read you bedtime stories and told you about Jesus. How trite. And you prayed from the time you were young until the time you were old. How anticlimactic.

Yes, it was so filled with wonder and compassion. A story divinely orchestrated. But make sure to warn people that it’s rather boring, if they ever ask how you were saved.

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Flourish

I was so old a year ago. I am much younger now.

How do I describe it? How do I put into words this season that rolls so slowly it’s almost still, and yet, so rapidly I’m frightened I might miss it? How do I describe this peace? It comes with dinner in the evening and laughing with my husband over a game of cards until my abs hurt. And how my abs hurt. Stretched from growing life and running and lifting for as long as I still can, then bending over for hours at a time so my face can get that much closer to the page in front of me so as to savor every syllable. And then all of me is stretched again. What is the word for all that?

How do you tell a story about a honeymoon that takes place two whole years after a wedding, and 1500 miles away? Nowhere fancy. Just a two-bedroom apartment, with a dog who uses the living room as his playground. How do I explain being so excited to meet our child, but never wanting these days of just the two of us, and a dog, to end? Or wanting to hold him in my arms but never wanting to know a day when I no longer feel him within my center?

I was so old a year ago. I am much younger now.

There’s peace in the trees that I watch in the mornings. It looks like sunlight through the leaves. And joy. I don’t have to remind myself it’s there, deep beneath the surface. No, it pours out like rich wine. A heartbeat, so much faster than mine but still in rhythm with the same music. How do I describe that? Kicks and flutters. Knowing so thoroughly someone I’ve never seen?

And then that freedom. How do I describe that state of being when you no longer have to fight to simply be? When you’ve washed off every dirty scrape and aching bruise, first with a cold blast, and then with warm water silky like lavender. And then you love fuller and wider. You see clearer. You live. You grow.

What is the word for all of that?

 

 

When Frightened into Silence Remember,

You’re allowed to talk about it.

You’re allowed to say what happened.

You’re allowed to write it down.

Those who have harmed you in the past may try to harm you again,

But they cannot change the truth.

And though they may hate it,
Though they may hate you,
Truth is truth and you are allowed to speak it.

I began sharing my truth in whispers, behind closed doors, afraid that someway somehow he would hear me and call me a liar and make me pay. And then when I had told the truth about him, I would whisper with fear about the next poison, and then the next, until I grew tired of whispering and needed to shout.

The most valuable lesson I was taught is that I was allowed to just say it. I was even allowed to shout it. And thank God, I was allowed to write it down.

“I feel it,
viscerally,
in my being,
that if you use your art,
if you write, and I mean truly write
boldly and unapologetically,
you will greatly impact this world and those around you for the better.”

-My counselor,
On the last day I saw her before moving far away

I Hope Your Soul is Changing

I have dreamt a song like this for years. Literally dreamt it in the night, waking up confused and disillusioned. I have wept over my abusers. I have shouted and cursed at them. I have fasted for them. And I have prayed for them until I grow weary and God grants me sleep.

Praying
Kesha

Well, you almost had me fooled
Told me that I was nothing without you
Oh, but after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become

‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell

I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying

I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come
‘Cause I can make it on my own
And I don’t need you, I found a strength I’ve never known
I’ve been thrown out, I’ve been burned
When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name

You brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell

I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying

Oh, sometimes, I pray for you at night
Someday, maybe you’ll see the light
Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgive

I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying

If you haven’t heard Kesha’s comeback song, Praying, I recommend giving it a listen, in its own right without my commentary.

This is my own story tied in, which welled up in me as I listened to this song about a dozen times on repeat.

I have dreamt a song like this for years. Literally dreamt it in the night, waking up confused and disillusioned. I have wept over my abusers. I have shouted and cursed at them. I have fasted for them. And I have prayed for them until I grow weary and God grants me sleep.

Once, as a young teenage girl, late at night, a much older man messaged me on facebook. This man was a quintessential abusive narcissist. To this day, I use him as a benchmark when discerning red flags in others. It is not my aim to compare, but I can’t help it. Someone will say or do something and I instantly know. I know that something is off. I know I’ve seen this all before. I want to shout, “I know that game. We have to fight or we have to flee. And we have to do it now.”

I remember one particular night in college, with a handsome yet gaunt, bony but strong boy. I had made him angry by trying to leave, so he threw me against the wall of his dingy apartment. An apartment where I had been promised there would be others. There wasn’t. I arrived to only him. As he pinned me there, and I stared at the floor cloaked in all my fear and shame, he whispered to me things which ought to have seemed sweet. Things about “love” and possibilities. But his voice morphed into one I had heard before. One much older that spoke to me when I was much younger. It sounded caring. Sweet like honey. But its end was to shame and control. I knew this game. I knew it. So I shook my head staring at the floor until he shoved me again and let me go.

“You’re at least gonna clean up this mess before you leave,” he said. I had had the audacity to knock over a glass while kicking him off of me on the floor.

“Okay,” I said, actually believing I owed it to him.

He handed me a paper towel, and I tried not to shake or cry as I mopped up the liquid. Then I left. I kicked a dumpster in the parking lot near my car, and I remember feeling so ashamed at having such an outburst. How very un-christian of me. I thought something nasty to myself. Something about how now I wasn’t just a dirty temptress; I was a dirty temptress with a dirty temper.

Since puberty it had been heavily implied, if not outright stated to me, that I was either whorish or gave off a certain inexplicable vibe that I wanted to be whorish. That’s why the boys treated me so poorly, you see. Or so I was told… Since it seemed this label followed me despite my efforts to be rid of it, I had come to accept it. I accepted it with heartache as this lie tangled itself into the deepest parts of my soul, but I accepted it nonetheless. But at least I was a very sweet and kind whorish girl, I assured myself. What an earth shattering crisis it was then, when I couldn’t afford to be nice anymore. I shed my niceness to survive, and yet it almost killed me.

But that’s for another time.

Back to the man. And my laptop. And the late night message.

I had already identified this man as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and had gone no-contact sometime before. For propriety’s sake, I will not say what this man did, mostly because much of it is not my story to tell. The parts which are my story, still make me ill to discuss. But still, I loved him. He was woven into so many of my childhood memories. I hated to hurt him. I hated to reject him. I wanted him to be who he had deceived me into thinking he was. But a pep talk from a very dear friend echoed within me, giving me courage. I had to shut him out. I had to reject him, no matter how bad I felt about it.

“I do not want to send you my poetry. And it’s inappropriate for a man of your age to be messaging me about personal things at this time of night.”

“I don’t understand where this is coming from. I just wanted to exchange writing with you since I know it’s an interest we share. And I have friends of all ages. It’s really unfortunate that you’ve been convinced to limit yourself by only having friends in your age group.”

I was swallowing anger. He was twisting my words.

“Don’t take the bait,” I thought, “Don’t argue his distractions. Just stay on point.”

“Think what you’d like. I still do not want you talking to me anymore,” I said.

“You said you had forgiven me, but clearly that is not the case. I’ve been very disappointed by the lack of forgiveness you and your family have shown me. I would encourage you to study Christ’s teachings, and forgive.”

Here I will make a full stop. This is trick one. The big one. The ultimate power move that you’ve likely seen if you have ever dealt with an abuser within the Christian community. I cannot state this clearly enough. Forgiveness is to be the aim of the abused (or mistreated etc). Repentance is to be the aim of the one who has done the abusing. Forgiveness is a means to be free from bitterness. It is not a get out of jail free card for those who do harm. A truly repentant heart knows that forgiveness is a gift we ask for when we do not deserve it. It is not a demand. If someone abuses you or a loved one, and then proceeds to turn the tables so that you are the one in the wrong for not giving in to the “forgiveness” they demand, know that you are not dealing with someone who is truly repentant. They are not remorseful over the fact that they have hurt you. They are remorseful over the fact that they are not getting what they want.

We went back and forth for a while longer in this nauseating blur. This man who had lied, manipulated and blame shifted all of his sins, now demanded access back into my life with a healthy dose of guilt-tripping if I refused. He insisted my parents were leading me astray, that he wished I would think for myself and forgive him, and ended with another sickening call to turn to Christ. I’ve learned people like this don’t care much to obey Christ; they just want other people to do so when it benefits them. They also claim very little sin, yet demand large sums of forgiveness. I wonder then, what they are demanding forgiveness from, if they believe they are in the right. Perhaps the tiny half-truths they grant, so that they can appear remorseful.

And all of this, in the long round-a-bout way that I seem to have done it, leads me back to Kesha’s song. A song that settled into my soul the moment I heard it, because I had been waiting for so long for someone to put it into words.

If someone physically abuses you, you may flinch when a hand is raised. If someone sexually abuses you, you may cringe when something sexual reminds you of your abuser. And if someone spiritually abuses you, if they use the Word of God to enslave your heart and wound your soul, a part of you grows heavy when the name of your own creator is spoken. In all my life, I have experienced no greater harm than this.

But there is a persistence in the human spirit, or perhaps it is the persistence of our savior, that causes so many of us to crawl back to him. Amidst all of our fear and guardedness, our soul wants to find healing at its source. And then there’s that sweet stubbornness, that says damn it all if I’m going to let you take me from my maker.

And where that maker is found, there is forgiveness. Not the kind that abusers demand of you, in which you must ignore their wrongs and allow them to continue their abuse. It is a pure and freeing forgiveness, which allows you to walk away from oppressors and live a life of compassion.

Sometimes, I am angry at the tricksters and abusers. Kicking dumpsters mad. I am no longer ashamed of that. But that anger coexists with love and pity. I would not ask this of others, because I do not know their journey. But I know mine. And I know this is at the deepest part of me. It is the part that aches in my subconscious and lingers in my thoughts when my mind wanders.

It says,

I hope you’re somewhere praying
I hope your soul is changing

I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees
Praying

 

 

Days of Peace… And of Sounders

This week, while full of blessings, has been a difficult one. Very difficult in fact. And while I intend to take the time to write about it someday, I will not today. Not only do I lack the perspective to do it any sort of justice, I also know that my soul needs something different today. Today is not a day for continuing in the negativity and the hardship. Today is a day to breath, listen to the rain on my windowsill and meditate on days of peace.

For years, I have been one of God’s children, adopted as His own. While I can tell stories of turning points and epiphanies, seasons of doubt and seasons when my faith matured, I cannot tell you the day I was adopted. I don’t know exactly when it happened. I just know that it did. I know that, through no wit or righteousness of my own, God chose me wholly and completely by His grace. I know that His Spirit has been tucked away in the depths of my heart through even my darkest days: Days when I saw death and sickness and abuse. Days when memories of those things came in dark haunting flashes. Days that seemed hopeless, when I knew in my mind that I am young but felt in my soul that I was old and withered.

God never left me during these times. He comforted me by His Spirit and blessed me with loving friends and family to pick up the pieces when I could not. It is after years of His faithfulness in my heart that I can confidently say that there is never a day where some measure of hope cannot be found at the roots of my soul. But that does not mean that every day is cheerful. It does not mean that every day is peaceful. Anyone who knows me well knows that I put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of sorrow and allowing others (and myself) the freedom to grieve. And in knowing grief, in having the courage to look it in the eye and the softness to allow it to be felt, we can also recognize its absence with clarity and gratitude.

I call those days of grief’s absence, days of peace. Even amidst grief there can be peace, but there are some days when peace does not have that competition. Days when somehow, in a world where the air itself can feel heavy, peace manages to take over both inside and out. I was reminded of all this as I opened my laptop this morning and saw pictures that had been posted on February 20th in years past.

The first photo was from one year ago. It is a picture I took of my husband at the memorial service of our close friend. It is a beautiful picture and it was a beautiful day, but it was a difficult day. It was a day in which we were heavy-hearted and we had to look within to find the peace God had stored inside.

The next picture was from three years ago. It is of my mother and her dear friend smiling with their whole faces, squished as tightly as possible beside me and my own dear friend. We were in Seattle at a Sounders game. It was sunny, so beautifully sunny in Seattle of all places. Each person in our group had only two intentions, enjoy the day and love those around us. The peace between all of us was so strong, that any competition it may have had was stomped out before I even noticed it was there.

If you love beyond yourself, and make a point of seeking others who do the same, there will always be days of peace ahead. Days when you do not have to defend your heart against cruelty or work to remind yourself that there is still hope in sadness. There will be days when you do not have to struggle in your soul. And when you are tired, the memory of these days will warm you until you’ve conquered the valley and can rest once again.

Today, gazing at the fresh rain which ripples across the edges of our mostly frozen pond, I remember bright green and blue. I remember my dad’s characteristically subdued but unmistakably bright excitement as we bustled about in the morning to get ready for the game. I remember Rob’s curiosity towards Kendyl’s and my sparkly eyeshadow and the way we laughed when he asked to watch how we put it on. I remembered we laughed even more freely when his face flashed from annoyed to amused upon realizing that I was taking pictures of him, not selfies.

I remember warm scarves and marching and chanting and cheering.

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I remember Dawn and my mom looking out over the sound,  sharing thoughts I couldn’t hear and perhaps they don’t even recall.

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I remember my mother somehow looked even prettier with the Sounders logo on her face and she was delighted, as she always is, by the sunshine.

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And I remember Kendyl’s crows feet as she smiled, lovely little lines on a face that can never seem to help but be lit up with joy. Kendyl and I met on the first day of first grade, and to this day I’ve never met another child who smiles so often and so fully that they’ve earned their laugh lines by age seven.

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And I remember being happy.

And I remember being peaceful.

And I remember my heart;

It was light.

 

 

 

 

new things

I am no longer striving for my own passions and fulfillment. I am searching for ways I can give and ways I can love. I have learned that true fulfillment flows from there.

Hello readers!

This has been my “Simply Kira” blog for years. It started as a place for art and photography and overtime shifted more into a place for my own written thoughts- still often coupled with my artwork.

I could carry on in the same fashion but here’s the thing: so much has changed.

I have a new name. A new husband. (the only one I’ve ever had, lest you be confused…) A new home state.

Perhaps the biggest difference if I’m no longer an “I.”

I really am a “we.”

The way I write, the way I take photos, the things I invest my time in, are all reflections of that. It’s not just that I got married, although that is part of it. Through constant refinement, my focus has shifted. My perspective has altered drastically on how to perceive my own life.

I am no longer striving for my own passions and fulfillment.

I am searching for ways I can give and ways I can love. I have learned that true fulfillment flows from there.

All of this was mostly to say: I felt I had outgrown my blog, and so I changed it.

Most of the old posts will remain. I am grateful for them. I’m grateful for who I was when I wrote them. The time I was able to spend on them. The joy and sadness and grief and imagination I was able to share through them. I’m grateful for all of it.

But the blog itself has shifted. The title is different. The format is different. And the content will be different. How could it not be? I have a whole new setting to write about!

So welcome to Where We Will Grow, a title I stole from my own post about leaving our hometown, and an idea prompted by my  dear friend Abby, who was eager to read updates about our lives in Minnesota. I’m excited to share stories, however small, about the road ahead.

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october twenty-ninth: a saturday

We indulged in large sums of nothingness today. 

Chase made me tea and then drove to Starbucks and bought us both coffee. All with an attitude that it was very normal to spend Saturday morning bringing various hot beverages to your wife. 

We sat on the couch and laughed as the dog tried to speak to us. 

It was rainy outside, and once our coffee was finished we hibernated in separate rooms. He played video games and I watched youtube videos. Somehow dinnertime arrived. I cooked slowly, with as many ingredients I could find that would harmonize. When it was ready, we ate without much conversation; our mouths were too full of fried rice. 

Afterwards he rubbed my shoulders and we joked back and forth, one sentence hopping on top of the other, about all our minds had absorbed that day as we sat cuddled up in blankets.

Then he walked away, and I stayed where I was, and the day faded out as peacefully as it had begun. 

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