Flourish

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

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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

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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7 photos

for my husband

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1. (top left) Winter. Chase loves winter. He loves coats and scarves and gloves and snow. Mostly snow. This photo was taken over Christmas break. The students were gone so we had the streets and shops of downtown practically to ourselves. Most of our walks started like this, on our wrap around porch in the cold.

2. (top center)This is the chapel near the house I stayed at while volunteering at a prison over spring break. Chase is not in this photo. That’s part of why it’s perfect for this. He’s not in this photo because he stayed home working full-time while I went on an adventure. He’s always encouraging me to pursue my passions and calling even when that means sacrificing money or comfort or time together.

3. (top right) One of my favorite Seattle trips. This is us making out in a random parking garage downtown. Because we like to kiss anywhere anytime.

4. (center) Taken at a family wedding. We got the time mixed up and missed the ceremony. Then I got ridiculously ill that night when we got home. But the time in-between, exploring behind the barns and laughing by the fields, that part was excellent.

5. (bottom left) Our first home together! The leaves on the trees were lush and green. The sun was bright through the tall floor-to-ceiling windows. We were so so excited and so blissfully ignorant of how much trust and patience God would require of us in that tiny apartment.

6. (bottom center) A candid photo. July 4th, 2015. Our first holiday together. It was perhaps the most perfect holiday I’ve ever had. We wandered through the small trails behind the park then met up with a few close friends for fireworks. Life is rarely blissful, but that day truly was.

7. (bottom right) Driving home with our new puppy, Oliver. He is the strangest fluffiest cutest little dog. We stayed with Chase’s grandparents the night we picked him up in Boise, then he snuggled in my lap for the long ride home. It’s odd. Ollie symbolizes our future in a way. We got him as a sort of graduation present for Chase (the money he received from friends and relatives added up to exactly one labradoodle) and so he was the shift into our next step in the world. Now as we look at jobs for Chase and schools for me, he’s always playing at our feet reminding us he’ll be tagging along for every turn, marking the change of seasons with his ever-growing limbs and expanding fur.

this body

Our bodies are always, in some way, a representation of our stories and our experiences, and as summer dawned and the heat coaxed my winter clothes back into the closet, I could not hide from my own weary body anymore. Denying the hatred of self that tempted me at every turn, I chose to explore all my body could experience and find gratitude in each touch.

Gratitude: A Thought Project

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When I look at this photo, I can feel it.

I feel the warm sun on my skin. I feel my puppy, who often looks and acts like a small bear cub, pressed up against me. His fur fluffs between my fingers; his soft belly rises and falls with each breath as he playfully squirms and makes muffled grunts and growls in my ear. I feel my thighs, touching where they did not before. I feel my waist, expanding farther in my waistband than it did the previous summer.

I have heard many women express gratitude for their aging bodies because their changes represent their accomplishments. Stretch marks from the children they have borne. Extra rolls of skin and fat brought on by bearing and caring for their little ones. Wrinkles from all they have felt and expressed. Freckles from laughter in the sun. Sore joints from years of diligent work.

It is this same recognition of what shapes our external selves that brought on such distaste for my own changes.

Mine was a body that had recently been shaped by despair. Muscles weakened by the days I could not find a reason to get out of bed. Extra pounds gained from the weeks that I only had strength for one activity per day. If I remembered to eat, it was whatever could be obtained the quickest. My face, which I had become certain would show the cheerful squint of crow’s feet in the coming seasons of my life, was now fleshed out without a laugh line in sight. For long draughts my insides did not stir enough for happiness to reach my face.

A new set of people entered my life, and for reasons I may never understand their actions suggested they would have prefered to have never met me. They painted some horrid unfamiliar image and labeled it with my name. I stood bewildered. It seemed the harder I tried to connect with them, the tighter they clung to this image and the harsher they scolded me for it. I was met too often with cold glances. Repetitive rejection. Whispers of gossip that followed me in the streets and confronted me in places I did not expect from people I hardly knew. But heaviest of all was that daunting knowledge that each sin of those who had targeted me would be placed on my own head. I was the subject of blame for their every turmoil. Each hurt feeling or elaborated offense. Even when I paid no notice of them, and mustered the strength to go about cheerfully with my life, there was always that impending text or that next conversation, where our lives would again be interrupted so my husband could be informed of the depravity of the wife he had chosen. Things as simple as shopping, grabbing coffee with a friend, attending or not attending a party, were marked as bitterness I did not posses, vengeance I had no desire for or pettiness I did not wish to serve but was thrown on me nonetheless. There was nowhere I could go to be free.

On several occasions I found myself consoled to the point of tears when any random acquaintance would do something as simple as taking an extra moment to ask me about my day or invite me to an event. I remember hastily brushing away the joy. Since the cold bite of judgement is what had harmed me in the first place, I was afraid to be vulnerable enough to let anyone see how deeply their warmth affected me. My soul had been bullied for too long. It had slowly been beaten into one aching bruise.

I had never been warned that loving someone could provoke such persistent punishment. Maybe someday I will ask my children that, when they have chosen someone to pledge their devotion.

“Do you love them enough to stand by them even when they make decisions that are unpopular?”

“Do you love them enough to be blamed for choices that were not your own?”

“Do you love them enough to be hated?”

I hope they will be like their mother, in that, when their time is right, they will say yes and mean it.

And I hope, for their sake, that they will not be like their mother, in that the hatred cast on them will not cause them to wither.

Because for me, the hatred was too heavy. Whoever I had known myself to be before seemed to have disappeared. I could not find her. I was some tired husk of myself.

When I would mention my physical changes: clothes fitting differently, simple exercises no longer being achievable, etc. my family would insist I did not look that different at all. And in a sense they were right. A little extra fat here. A little less muscle there. That was all that could be identified externally. But to me, those small changes were unmistakable because they were the result of belittlement, discouragement and a newfound hopelessness.

Our bodies are always, in some way, a representation of our stories and our experiences, and as summer dawned and the heat coaxed my winter clothes back into the closet, I could not hide from my own weary body anymore. Denying the hatred of self that tempted me at every turn, I chose to explore all my body could experience and find gratitude in each touch.

Slowly, I gained courage.

I am grateful for this body. Its transformation, which to me was once a sign of my weakness, is now an indicator of my persistence.

It is a body that still feels the cold rush of water across its surface with each dive into the cold waters of my home state.

It is a body that rows canoes and balances on paddle boards and wrestles with the little bear cub in my arms when he has too much energy to play on his own.

It is the body that hugs my friends and hikes through forests. That walks with head held high down mainstreet even when I have been told all too many times that I ought to be ashamed.

It is the body that makes my husband feel at home. The body that holds in it the hope of every future touch and sensation this life will bring.

It is a body that is weaker than it was one year ago, but houses a soul that is so much stronger.

 

Nod Along

renfa (2 of 2)You are a special kind of summer day. The kind that doesn’t roll around ’til August when afternoons stretch longer and hotter. The buzz of bees is set to slow motion. The breeze has stopped. I find myself wishing for the brisk chill of fall and the vibrant sunset leaves, but then the warm rays of August sunshine hug me and I do not want to go. Pastel flowers quiver in the vibrations of a distant lulling lawn mower. My eyes blink in long pausing breaths. They will not light up until the sun goes down and the stars… Well, I don’t need to talk about the stars. We’ve all heard about sparkling constellations in the summer sky a thousand times. But you talk about them. You describe their twinkle as if you were the only one to have ever seen stars before, and the rest of us really ought to go check them out sometime. You reach your hands out in front of you and use your fingers to imitate how they glitter. I nod along.

I do not say what I am thinking.