On Meeting my Future Husband

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On Sunday, October 26, I was mildly uncomfortable at the sight of the man who will soon be my husband. We were separated by a crowd of church-goers milling about in the Student Union Building. He had asked me out the week prior and our first date was in a couple of days. Although we had known of each other for years, I had only had a couple of brief conversations with him. From a ways off I could surmise a few things. He was hairy. So hairy. And tall. His face looked stern and his eyes were so large and dark it was, at least at that exact second, intimidating.

I insisted to myself that it was no big deal if he was interesting or boring, tall or short, hairy or bald. After all we were just grabbing coffee. I was confidant that I could spend an hour of my time with just about anyone on the planet. This boy would be no exception. But then I had the shocking realization that sometimes coffee dates lead to more coffee dates… which can lead to “dating” which can lead to having a boyfriend which can lead to having a husband?!

“Oh-no!…” I thought as I dared glance again at the sullen looking stranger.

A tightness grew in my chest that tends to grip me just before it becomes difficult to breath. I wanted to cry. What a dreadful realization to think you’ll have to marry someone who is nothing more to you than an acquaintance with very thick eyebrows!

Then I realized this was completely ridiculous. Obviously. So the feeling faded as quickly as it came.

“Perfect,” my mind nodded in response to its own voice of reason, “I will have a nice conversation with a nice boy and won’t even have to think about marrying anyone for a very long time. Just coffee…. I like that. Just coffee.”

Suddenly, I felt completely at ease.

I’m glad that who I was in that moment had no idea she would be engaged by February. I’m even more glad that who I am now knows that getting engaged to that big-eyed hairy man is the best earthly decision I’ve ever made.

However, if I had found out amid my pre-panic-attack that I would marry him, here’s what present me would have told October me:

20150318-115344.jpgFirst off, we both know those unreasonably large brown eyes are awesome. Don’t even pretend you don’t like them.

And yeah, he’s hairy, but you’ll learn to love that big mop on his head. Even after he finally cuts it off, you wouldn’t mind if he grew it back all over again.

It’s actually a good thing that he seems to be the size of a tree to you. That means you can climb him like a koala bear at any given moment. It’s pretty fun and he won’t even think you’re strange.

Don’t be tricked into thinking he’s all that serious. He’s actually a goof. He will laugh with you about anything from silly and sweet to blatantly crass. Which reminds me, he’s not a legalistic bore and thinks all the things you used to get scolded for are cute. You know… “naughty” words, tight skirts, passionate outbursts. They’re his favorite when it comes to you.

Don’t think he’s stern. He has the warmest heart of anyone you’ve ever met. When you are selfish and unreasonable, he will be patient and kind. When you are rigid towards him, he will be soft towards you. More often than not, he’ll be the one teaching you how to be more sensitive.

20150318-164316.jpgTurns out, you were right the first time you met him when you were sixteen. Remember? You thought he was cute. You noticed his kind heart. You liked that he was nerdy. You hoped, almost expected, that someday, a ways down the road, you’d marry him. Even when you dutifully brushed the thought aside, it didn’t frighten you. It felt like your own little secret, knowing that the two of you would be perfect together.

Right now, you’re too frightened by life to notice, but that’s okay. It’s his little secret now and he knows it better than you ever did. He’ll patiently adore you until you figure it out:

The two of you will be perfect together. 

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Ladies, Love Your Abusers

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Fellow women.
Anyone who’s been mistreated.
This is important for you to know:
Bitterness can’t save you.
It’s not just that bitterness can’t save you; it’s that it can’t save you from anything.

Nothing at all.

Broken heart?
Weakness?
Physical harm?
Being manipulated?

Bitterness can’t rescue you from a single one of those things.
I see this far too often: girls who have been abused, cheated on, taken advantage of emotionally or physically, abandoned (which leads me to throw in a little side note- boys who make “girls with daddy issues” jokes: You’re not funny.)… And what’s the defense these girls choose to guard themselves with in the future? Bitterness.
Not only do they choose bitterness, but they are consistently encouraged to be bitter. Girls love a good bitch-fest when it comes to boys. It’s somehow viewed as having a higher level of girl-power than the meek if you can seethe enough poison and plights of victimhood.

In a way this philosophy almost makes sense.
If a boy has broken your heart, surely hating him will ensure that he never does it again, right? Right? Better yet, be cold-hearted and aloof enough due to former pains that no one ever can break your heart again.
Well it doesn’t work that way. A frozen heart will eventually shatter. It pretends to be strong in its hardness but truthfully it is brittle and prone to cracks.
And to be bitter towards a boy who has broken you does not keep him from breaking you again. It allows him to break you every single day, over and over.
Only broken hearts hate. Hearts that are whole and healthy love without ceasing.
So love him. Or her. Or whoever it is that harmed you in the first place.

If he spoke unkindly,
Love him.
If he made you feel small and worthless,
Love him.
If he hit you,
Love him.
If he used you once, then twice, then a third time,
Love him.
This is called forgiveness.

Without forgiveness in this world, there is no Life. There is no gospel. No grace from God. No Salvation.
Without forgiveness there is only death brought by the sins that were never washed away.
So forgive.

To be clear, forgiveness does not mean you have to let someone back into your life.
If a knucklehead shows up at your door begging for forgiveness, you would be fully justified to say with all sincerity, “You’ve already been forgiven. Now go away.”

It is not that you shouldn’t stand up for yourself. It’s just that love provides stronger ground to stand on than bitterness ever will.
With love you will embrace how immensely valuable people are (including yourself and including those who have harmed you) and therefore you will know how people ought to be treated. You will not settle for anything less.

I have a friend who is an excellent example of this kind of strength in grace. She is tall and elegant, a fashionable and artistic girl who has always dreamed of being a writer. As she’s grown she’s become demure in a way I have not, consistently clean in both diet and vocabulary, refraining from penis jokes (although she’s never been above laughing when I make them), and is such an image of sobriety she could probably get drunk off of a thimble of strawberry daiquiri.

There was a boy who she had been involved with who did not value her as he should have. As a result, he hurt her ever-caring heart.
One drizzling afternoon at a coffee shop downtown, I brought him up in conversation. My friend softly yet pointedly placed her coffee cup down in front of her, looked me in eye, un-shifting in her slender blue dress, and said in the most matter-of-fact tone, “Kira, he is an asshole.”

I laughed, first because she so rarely swears and second because she said it in a way that was completely void of any hatred or angst. It was just an honest observation. Nothing personal.
Because of this observation she will never again let him kiss her or wrap his arms around her as she sleeps. She is free from him, resistant to any head-games or second-guessing about being away from him.

But she loves him.

Not romantically. She’s too wise for that. Besides, this kind of love is stronger than butterflies in your stomach.
It is a love that I would never doubt is there. Something too strong to fade by circumstance.
It’s not because he’s anything extraordinary that she loves him (Rumor has it, assholes are very commonplace). It is because she is extraordinary. She loves people not based on what they give her in return, but based on love itself. That is not only rare, it is strong.
One day she will be with someone who loves her as he should, selflessly and irrevocably. But even as she waits, she will not be weakened by the seeds of bitterness that others so often plant in their lungs. Seeds which sprout poison roots that choke out fullness of breath and fill voices with hateful ramblings.
This boy may have harmed her before but because she has forgiven him, that harm does not keep on harming.

I realize some situations are more severe than hurt feelings. Trust me, I know.
I’ve been close to those who carried abuse to its fullest: a grave for one and a prison-sentence for the other.
I’ve seen tears and bruises, blood and scars.
I’ve held a dear friend as she cried because a world where the boy she trusted the most is the same boy who raped her is not a world she wants to live in anymore.
And I have told her again and again to hold on for just one more night. And then one more night. And then one more night again.

Believe me when I say I do not want anyone to be unsafe. Do what you have to defend yourself. Really, do what you have to.

But do not be bitter.

Bitterness is not a defense. It is a handicapped. A constant grief. A darkness that spreads in tangles like ivy on forgotten sheds and broken window panes.

Forgive. Love.

If someone tells you that it doesn’t make sense to love someone who has abused you, they are probably correct. But there is a certain joy that comes from being what the world calls nonsensical.

This is a joy I will choose again and again ’til there is nothing left of me because forgiveness itself always has been and always will be nonsensical. It requires unfairness. It requires someone not getting what they deserve.

Anyone can stay tied to the past, breeding hate.

But to love one must be bold and to forgive one must be radical.

So love radically.

It will make you stronger than any abuser you could ever face.

Boys in Laundry Rooms and Freckles on Faces

~October 2014~

“I don’t like my freckles. They make it too hard to memorize my face,” said the boy next to me in a lecture hall filled with obnoxious college students texting and snap chatting.

First thought, “I’ll memorize your freckles…”
Second thought (which only occasionally comes along to save the day before I speak), “Kira, you were far too intrigued by that sentence than you should have been. You know what happens when you over-think and your brain reaches a weird combination of poesy and cheekiness… Don’t. Say. A word!”
I listened to the second thought… Sort of. I think I either giggled or said something unmemorable or both.
I did however write his words down in my notes. That probably didn’t seem weird at all if he happened to see….

Now comes the part where I over-analyze a statement that was probably not intended to mean anything. Welcome to my mind. This is how it works. For the life of me, I can’t help it.
Here I am, next to a confident, practical guy. Former marine. Studious. Logical. Brown eyes, which is only relevant because… well, brown eyes.

Why would he say something as silly as, “I don’t like my freckles. They make it too hard to memorize my face.”?
I even inquired to clarify and he seemed entirely uninterested in memorizing his own face. Naturally it follows that what frustrates him is that someone else can’t memorize his face.
Why would that matter??
What relevance is there to someone knowing every aspect of another’s face? Every freckle!?
But it does matter. Maybe to Mr.Military next to me it only matters an off-handed sentence’s worth. Probably more. Either way it matters.
It matters to everyone. We all want to be known. We want to be recognized for exactly who we are. We want to be admired down to the freckle.


~January 2014~

A cot shoved in the corner of a laundry room. Warm, at least the warmest place to be found that January. Yellow post-it notes with disjointed ponderings on the walls. No door.

Scene set for the bedroom(?) of one of my favorite people I’ve met along the way.

Never one to say everything he was thinking (or much at all of what he was thinking). Witty. Personable. Blue eyes, which is only relevant because… well, blue eyes.

Repeat standard: person says something I like… I write it down.
A few days later he saw what I had written, and unlike with Charmer McFreckle-Face on campus, it didn’t make me uncomfortable. After all I was a frequent peruser of his sticky notes. Thought for thought I suppose.
What surprised me was that he cared that his words were written there amongst all the other doodles and thoughts. Left to my own I would have assumed it didn’t mean much to him at all. I can think of few things in the world that are as unimportant as my tattered pocket-sized notebook. No one reads it except for me, and apparently strange boys who sleep on cots. But he told me it mattered…

The only reason I can gather as to why a scribble in my notebook would matter is that it was a scribble that made him feel noticed, appreciated… known. If only just for a single thought, known.

If I imagine a world where something about me were to show up on one of his sticky notes, then suddenly I understand.


~August 2014~

Laundry room again. Different laundry room.
Boy again. Different boy.
He wants me because to him I am convenient. I am fun. If I never speak to him again it won’t bother him. I know this. And so I tell him nothing truly meaningful about myself. Only surface things. Only laughter from the throat and not from the belly.
He shows me his books and tells me about his hopes and ambitions.
He’s cute. I like him. Yet I do not want him to know my heart, my thoughts, things I write down in my little notebook when my mind gets too crowded to lock everything inside.

He will know me on a shallow level. A skin to skin and no deeper level. I will think that I am safe because he did not get to see my heart. I will be wrong.
To be unknown by those who are closest is lonely. It highlights an emptiness.
But my sense of self is too worn down to put in the effort. Too tired to place things in the selfless and careful order in which they ought to go.

I think of his sweetness. His perfectly nerdy descriptions of novels and engineering and reptiles. His hazel eyes which are only relevant because… well, I guess to me they are not relevant at all. So I let him slip away without a word, and I’ve put in far too little to care that he is gone.


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Murals for Days…

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Awhile back I was asked to paint a mural in the youth room at Evangelical Free Church of the Palouse. I was excited to help but a bit nervous. I’d never painted something this big before… What if I turned out to be a failure when it came to putting together art of epic proportions? But pushing my fears aside, I boldly ventured forth in complete confidence. Actually that’s a lie… I just told myself if they hated it they could paint over it the next day with a fresh coat of white. No harm, no foul. Then I ventured forth… Semi boldly and somewhat confidently…

By the time spring break rolled around I had formed a vision in my head for the project and sketched out all the plans. My proposal was approved and I got to work. And wow, was it work. By the end of the first day my shoulders hurt, I had fallen of a ladder twice (While no one was looking… I’m still a closeted klutz.) and had spilled paint on the carpet multiple times creating the need to go sprinting through the big empty church for wet paper towels before the paint dried. Thankfully, each mad dash was successful. The carpet was as clean as when I began and no bones were broken by tipping ladders. But the mural was still not finished. I had to come back the next day… And the next day, totaling in over twenty-six hours.

In the grand scheme of things, twenty-six hours is nothing. Part of why it could be finished in that amount of time is all the help I received. In the end, I ended up being given much more than I could give back. I remember giggling quietly, painting a towering tree trunk, as Tiffany and her boyfriend argued over fonts for the verse above the window. I got to see my friend Kevin, not a painter by any means, working to get the sunset splotches exactly as Jason and I had done them until he had mastered the technique. As I freehanded birds in our bright sky that faded from yellow to orange to red, I sat perched on top of a wooden ladder, talking to Anita about all sorts of things and smiling to myself as she got indignant over wrongs in the world, using more compelling words than I could ever seem to find for myself. And then there was the baby shower… Oh my word the baby shower! After hours of solitude painting silhouettes on a wall dozens of ladies began popping in and out of my once isolated room. They ooo-ed and aww-ed over my progress far more than was deserved. Then they brought me into their party and gave me a place to sit and rest my legs. They fed me cake and much needed coffee. One lady even stayed afterword and chatted with me, rubbed my shoulders and insisted on me eating some good food she had found in the fridge. I had not even mentioned being sore or hungry. She somehow just knew how to help.

So I painted a few walls… That’s all I had to give. While the church liked the mural enough to not white wash it the next day, I know that eventually my work will be gone because it’s just a painting. But it’s a painting for people who care. For people who love their neighbors and serve others. I like to think that makes the mural a little bit more than paint on the wall. It’s a gift for friends.

Full Mural

(Please note: all of these silhouettes are from free clip-art I found online. They are not my original designs. Some were free-handed, others were traced via projector.)