06 January 2008

more fiercely me

God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of himself. A word will never be able to comprehend the voice that utters it. But if I am true to the concept God utters in me, if I am true to the thought in him I was meant to embody, I shall be full of his actuality and find him everywhere in myself, and find myself nowhere. I shall be lost in him.

Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation

I have been doing a fair amount of peering back over my shoulder these days, considering what the past year has been for me. I am doing this not for the sake of nostalgia so much as wanting to pause to consider the hard-won lessons this year brought so I can move forward with the wisdom they brought.

Like so many people I know, I learn best the hard way; heartache is a fierce and unrelenting teacher, but its lessons are rarely forgotten. Much of what I learned is so blaringly obvious on an intellectual level that when you read what is on my list, you might be tempted to think this girl is dumb as a pile of rocks (but I know you are all far too kind to say or think such things). It was only when I learned these lessons through making my own blunders and recovering from them that I could live to the truth of these authentically and from my heart. If you ask me, there's no other way to live and walk through the world.

I am continuing to learn to listen to and to be good to my body. I was often in the habit of exercising when I desperately needed rest, pushing myself past stiffness and exhaustion. When faced with an extended and unexplained illness, I had to pay close attention to what I put into my body, to the messages it sent me (such as need rest! or don't eat that!), and to heed them. When I am good to my body, it is good to me. I am continually amazed at the capacities with which God endowed it for strengthening, healing, and adapting.

This year saw the end of two dating relationships with men who couldn't be more different (one with no religious faith, the other high-church) or more the same. So many hard lessons came to the fore with these relationships. The long and the short of it was that I bent myself to become who they wanted me to be, made myself so pliable as to try and fit the molds of what they each bore in mind as ideal. It was only in hindsight that I see it this way; at the time I justified it as making those sorts of compromises that were necessary for the health of any relationship. While I always want to be challenged, developing myself, and learning new things, I learned (in a soul-deep, very gut-wrenching sort of way) that any relationship that asks me to be someone other than myself is a relationship not worth having. [Can I get an AMEN?!]

I am learning the delicate and appropriate balance between transparency and vulnerability on one hand and appropriate and healthy boundaries on the other. There were times this year where my transparency invited heartache that was ultimately avoidable and unnecessary. I've learned that the people who love me will respect and observe my boundaries when I declare and enforce them. With this, I am learning not to feel defensive or apologetic about drawing these lines, by limiting access in my life where I once permitted others to roam freely.

I am more aware of my heart than ever before. Just because my heart is not intellectual does not mean it is not wise; the mind and the heart are not opposed to one another as I often seemed to think. This lesson was won with months of tears, sweat, and prayers and ultimately came about when I gave up on the need to understand it all and simply opened my hands, allowing my heart what it needed, letting it speak, and paying attention to what it said. I really had no idea how much I stifled it until I came to a place where I was suffocating it completely. In the giving up, in that sweet wake of surrender, it was as if two long-going parallel lines intersected in the wilderness inside me. I don't know how else to describe it. Long in the habit of giving the intellect precedence, I am learning (like the tab on the Yogi teabag says) to have my head bow to my heart. This one was and is earthshaking and recent enough for me that I will expect that this lesson is one that I will continue to return to, distill, and approach from different vantage points as I progress in my journey. I know this lesson is only the beginning of something, that as this lesson unfolds and blooms inside me, I will better be able to live fully in the present moment. I will be learning to live with arms and heart wide open.

I think I am falling in love with myself. I don't mean this in a vain or self-centered way. What I mean is that as God's unique design in me continues to unfold and reveal itself, I'm liking what I see. I'm excited! In my more insecure moments in life, I have co-opted and puppeted traits in others I thought were cool or admirable, either because I did not like or did not know myself. Some of these borrowed characteristics were more ill-fitting than others. As I continue to see those false and borrowed things scraped away, I am thrilled to discover the me that lies beneath, to nurture this person as the truth of her is uncovered.

All these lessons (and the others too numerous to list here) have revealed more to me about myself and have granted me as strong an appreciation as I have ever had for being uniquely me: unlike anyone else in all creation, as singular as a snowflake or a thumbprint and infinitely more precious. I am a word spoken by God just once in all eternity, containing a partial thought of Himself; I am part of the story He is telling.

And speaking of singularity, there are a few more things you might be interested in knowing about me, truths that are neither deep nor hard-won (but amusing, I hope!) ...
  • I use no less than three styling products on my hair.
  • I'm very vigilant about eating healthfully, but admit I have a weakness for Kettle brand Sea Salt & Vinegar potato chips.
  • When frustrated or flustered, the exclamation most likely to escape my lips is, oh for Pete's sake! You might also hear good gravy!
  • If asked to name a favorite color, there's a 99% chance I'll say "green", but I recently starting flirting with the color orange. We like each other quite a bit & our future together looks promising.
  • I keep red flannel sheets and a down comforter on my bed year-round.
  • I actually enjoy doing laundry; few things give me as much domestic pleasure as folding my towels perfectly and stacking my washcloths into color-coordinated piles.
  • I still like blowing bubbles and seeing how high I can swing on the swingset.
  • I was the kid who colored the hallways of her childhood home with crayon, who lifted her dress over her head in the church Christmas program, and who wrote her name in the side of her Dad's car with his keys.
  • I cannot watch Love Actually, Mona Lisa Smile, or Moulin Rouge without crying.
  • I am a bit of a music addict, but were I ever in the unlikely & unfortunate position of being able to listen to just one CD for the rest of my life, it would be Deb Talan's A Bird Flies Out. No contest!

I want to thank those of you who journey with me, whether you are new friends or old, whether or not I've ever seen your face ... thank you for walking with me, for laughing with me, for crying with me, and praying with me. Thank you for joining me on my journey, and for inviting me to be a part of your own.


mug o' wisdom photo by kirsten.michelle


  1. "I am a word spoken by God just once in all eternity, containing a partial thought of Himself; I am part of the story He is telling."

    Oh baby, you KNOW how much this resonates with me. I feel like I desperately need every word you are speaking and that it helps me to faithfully speak my own words.

    Honestly, can you think of a time in your life where something special and valuable came out of easy times? I can't. (Maybe I haven't been paying attention.) I think of times like the ones you're describing here as the fires that form us and make us beautiful. Thank you for participating in these painful lessons in ways that formed you into the friend I am loving so much. Bless you Kirsten!

  2. Orange is a yummie color...and if you fall in love with it...it will love you right back! It will make you feel confident...alive..with possibilities...it will make you feel 'there' without being forward...and you will love it right back!

    Maybe "orange" is your new journey...walking along to have more confidence...feeling alive within God...and being there to prove your life...

    “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
    ~ Anais

    Through reading your words, I sense some of the same words and feelings within me, which I cannot put in words...and I would love to thank you for that...thank you sweet new friend. xx

  3. Oh dear Terri - blessings & great big e-hugs to you!! I can't tell you how much that Merton quote moved me, how it came to me at the perfect moment. How my heart leapt at knowing that God's singular design of me & of each and every one of us is part of the story He is telling. And you know He utters NO FALSE WORD (thank you, Brennan Manning).

    I'm so glad to hear that this resonates so deeply with you. I had a feeling it would. And I so agree -- all these events were fires that melted me so God might re-mold me, burning away the lies & the junk that hindered me & hindered God's design in me. If God had to break my heart to make it more His, then I would do it again and again. It was awful at times to walk through, but I wouldn't trade it for a moment considering where He has brought me.

    I love you, dear Terri & am so thankful that we found each other in the wilds of the blogging world.

    Blessings & peace to you!

    Dearest Periwinkle -- thanks and blessings to you, thank you for visiting me here again so soon. I am glad you have found me, & I you and that something inside each one of us seems to connect so deeply.

    I agree, orange is a yummy color. I like how you say it could be symbolic of my new journey ... of being bold & daring & wholly alive ... yes, this resonates with me.

    Thank you also for sharing that Anais quote. I am in the habit of collecting quotes, & that one is so dear & true... so well describes what I have found by opening myself up in these blogging spaces.

    Thank you for finding me here, for visiting, for crossing paths. I look forwarding to visiting you again soon. ;o)

  4. I lift my Starbucks mug in agreement with you and with a hearty "thank god" that I have come to know you this year. One day we shall meet, even if it is not this side of heaven.

    I like your thinking a lot. You are not afraid to color with your few faithful crayons, the blue, the green, the red. Once in awhile you get out the brown, the white, the black and the purple and let God use your imagination to teach you...and teach us a little more about you and about Himself.

    Keep coloring with the crayons you choose and make us a Mona Kristi O.K.?


  5. I left you something over at my blog : )

  6. Oh my goodness, where in heck do I start?!?!

    I guess by first saying that this post was hecka inspired by God in you, the hope of glory. Like Terri, I need each and every word you speak, every single day.

    So much of what you spoke here put into words my own path, what I'm walking through, what I learn again and again. It means so much to have friends who get that part of us so truly, especially when it is the deepest and most rock-solid-true parts of ourselves, as is the case with me in my friendship with you.

    I mean this sincerely: you are one of God's greatest and most precious gifts to me in 2007. Wow -- you made the year's best list, girlie! Unchallenged.

    Every recap you made of what you learned this year had me nodding my head, knowing exactly what you were talking about because I watched you walk through all of it. Wow. I just got goosebumps on my arms in typing that because it's so freaking true: I've been watching your journey because I've been journeying right alongside you, as your dear friend and fierce ally. Wow! I love it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear God above.

    I laughed out loud at your line about "this girl being dumber than a pile of rocks." Worded so hilariously and unexpectedly, and yet the furthest thing that would ever be in my mind in relation to you. You are simply present with your life, taking it all in, turning it all over, bringing it to the table with God and pushing it toward Him, asking Him what He thinks, and then listening to really hear. You have no idea how great my respect for you deepens every single day, my lovely girl, because this is how you are. I praise God for making you this way.

    And finally, I loved getting your list of Kirsten-isms. :) By the way, I love doing laundry, too, and also washing a sinkful of dishes by hand. Both are quite meditative experiences for me.

  7. Your words send out ripples of recognition in me. Sometimes we need others to speak what we have known so as to know we are not alone and truly not separate.
    As to bending ourselves to please a man to the point of denying our own authenticity - AMEN. I'm not sure this one can be leaned any other way than the hard way.

    Mostly, I was struck by the beauty in falling in love with yourself. This was my past year as well. There is really no other way to describe it. And it is magnificent.

    And opening your heart, hearing your heart, bowing your head to your heart -this is how we surrender to life and Spirit in a way that does not ask us to be less than our full selves, only infinitely, wildly more. I have been learning this one the hard way myself.

    love to you.
    your words radiate.

  8. Kirsten, I relate to the hard-won lessons of 2007, having experienced a heart-break also. May you know deeply how much God delights in you!

  9. My oh my!!! Look what happens when I leave to drink a latte & cozy up by the fire, read a good book & come back to check my blog. Wow, my friends. Can I say it again? WOW!! You all do me such honor, you have no idea. Wow. Seriously.

    Carl - thank you so much! I count our crossing paths as such a blessing. Thank you for sharing from your own tender heart, for the expressions of care & prayer you so often express here. I love that you raise your Starbucks mug to me. Quite apropos. And thank you, much once again.

    Chloe - you do me such honor with this recognition. I wish I could say something more profound than "thank you!" because it seems inadequate. From someone who expresses herself with such honesty & transparency, and also with such beauty ... this means so very much to me.

    Christianne - reading your own words gave me chills. Something so deep & resonant, so heaven-sent, so big, so wholly divine & other is between us. You definitely made tops in my book too, & I honestly don't know how I could have moved through what I did and written a post like this unless you had been such a faithful journeying companion. You do me so much honor with reflecting these thoughts back to me; I am thrilled beyond bearing to hear that something here resonates with your own beautiful heart & journey, that something in these words echoes within you. And I'm glad to hear (& come to think of it, not a bit surprised) that you also find a meditative, contemplative aspect to household things like laundry & dishes. I LOVE YOU!

    Bella - thank you kindly for visiting me here. I am in utter marvel at how much I've connected with other bloggers I've met recently, at how much our thoughts & hearts resonate with one another, at the connections that so often move me to tears & laughter, at how these people move me & stir new things within me. I'm wholly & newly inspired. It's not overstating it to say that blogging has changed my life & helped me move through it & embrace it. So happy to have you here, to hear snippets from your own journey -- falling in love with yourself is such a beautiful, wonderful thing. I will be visiting you soon. :o)

    Suz - thanks so much for stopping by & for meeting me here in this space again. I think I am just now coming to believe in my innermost heart that God does delight in me. What a wonderful thing to realize. Happy 2008 to you!

    Thanks & love to you all, you loving, wonderful & radiant souls. My heart of hearts thanks you ... I am in awe, just soaking all of this in. How am I to bear this much love?? :o)

  10. I would like to shout out a big "AMEN!" here, my friend! YOU do YOU. No one else can do you, no one...it's what you were made for. :)

    Some honest thoughts you are revealing here, things that can't be easy to express or easy to understand, and I can feel the tinges of pain in your voice over lessons learned.

    I love your honesty. Love it—it's so you.

    I understand your feelings about boundaries and limitations. Good. Very good. Rule number three: You can only have responsible relationships with responsible people.

    And your list of little know Kirsten facts...fun! I will have to check out Deb Talan's song and see what the hoopla is about "for Pete's sake!"

  11. Thanks you Kirsten for such a wonderful and thoughtful post. And an super-thank you for turning me on to Deb Talan. I am downloading it from Amazon right now!

  12. Welcome back, Nathan!! So glad you've found Deb Talan!! I hope you will not be disappointed.

    If you enjoy her solo work, be sure to check out The Weepies also (her duo with Steve Tannen). You may recognize a tune or two ... :o)

  13. Better late than never!

    Here's your AMEN: AAAAYY-MEN!!

    I'm deeply moved by your journeys this year. Your heart seems to expand by leaps and bounds. Box of rocks or not (and that remains to be seen), please keep writing!

  14. I found you through Chloe's blog and am so glad I did. You write some very profound stuff here, bella. I have often thought about the head vs. heart dilemma, and indeed they are not always opposed. I have found my biggest mistakes in life have been when I followed my head when my heart (and gut) were dissenting. So, I truly believe what your picture says, "The head must bow to the heart." Oh, and I am very healthy eater, too, but Kettle chips are my biggest weakness! ;-) Thank you.

  15. P.S. I just realized the title of your post! My favorite saying (and reminder for myself) is "unapologetically me". Hee Hee!

  16. 23 Degrees -- Thanks for your insightful comments & for making me laugh, "for Pete's sake!!". ;o) It's so terribly obvious when you think about it that I'm the only "me" God is ever going to make, so I better get my rear in gear & get to it, eh? Many of this year's lessons have been painful, which is why they're going to stick so well! Glad you're back after your brief blogging hiatus!

    Sarah -- Yeah, so glad to get an amen to this!! ;o) My heart is expanding like I wouldn't believe. I had so idea I could be so in love with life, God, or myself after a year of wading through some pretty gnarly muck.

    Passionate Palate -- Welcome to latte-land!! I am thrilled to find that these words are resonating with so many. I love finding cool new connections through blogging, don't you? :o) And you're so right -- our "gut" (aka, "heart") will more often lead us in good directions, I think. :o)

    ALL -- Whew!! You people are all blessing my SOCKS off. It's ridiculous!! I'm so terribly giddy. :o)

  17. Hi *wave* a new friend here...learned about your blog at Greg's place. Just thought I'd visit and was pleased that I did.

    Heartache was not such a good teacher for me. I suppose I'm a bit slower. I found I made the same stupid mistakes over and over until I was confronted with the truth of God's word.

    You sound like a special woman deserving of a great guy. Best wishes to you! I love your style. Happy early birthday! Blessings, Angie

    p.s. Check out www.howaboutorange.blogspot.com if you want to get flirty with the color orange. Check out her "home" link under thrilling topics. I bet you'll like her house.

  18. Hi Angie! Thanks for stopping by. I will have to check out that orange blog ... :o)

  19. ... and I was thinking more about what you said too, Angie. I think that our heartaches are no teacher at all unless (as you say) we see them in the light of the truth God has already revealed to us, in us, through what He's already spoken. That's really what the past 1-2 years has been for me: God's boot camp, so to speak.

    And again, welcome!!

  20. Greetings Kirsten!

    You may or not remember me, but this is Sean Patterson from back in the Torrey days.

    I've been stumbling upon some of the chums blogs through the directory and found yours.

    Now much else to say at this point other than wow...so many journeys and your soul simply radiates through your blog entries!

    I pray all the best for you and feel free to drop me a line anytime: spatterson@dillieodigital.net or dillieo@gmail.com. I'll keep peeking in and seeing how life is treating ya 8^D

  21. Kristen- I had to come back to read this again. Listening to your heart, balancing transparency and vulnerability with boundaries, finding your authenticity…I get it! These lessons may sound “obvious” to some, but not to me. I continue to learn them over and over again. We might live on opposite ends of the county but I swear I can see you shining from over there. How could you help but fall in love with yourself?

  22. Wow, Sean!! How could I forget you?! Thanks for coming on over & saying hi! How are you & the wife & the babes doing? This is absolutely one of the best things about blogging -- reconnecting & making new connections. I love it!! Thanks for saying hi. :o)

    Oh, sweet Chloe!! You move me with your words; I agree that these lessons are ones we will learn & re-learn in different ways as we move through life. I can't tell you how much it means to me that our paths have intersected, that somehow from across the country, souls & spirits are connecting. It's just so great to meet other people who are likewise willing to bear their souls, be transparent & vulnerable in this space. You are so precious, such a magnificent gem. Bless you!!

  23. Falling in love with yourself. Ah, this too is a gift He gives us. And there is no selfishness in loving oneself truly and deeply.

  24. Thank you, Laura. I'm glad you agree. :o) I find that it is a gift that keeps giving, in that it is far less exhausting to like myself than to berate myself for not being just like someone else.

  25. So. I just had to tell you that I signed up for iTunes today just so I could purchase and download the Deb Talan CD mentioned here, "A Bird Flies Out." I've heard so many of the lovely blogland ladies mention her name (along with the Weepies), and reading your adoration of her here meant that I absolutely needed to see what she was all about. After previewing the top favorite songs (some of them in multiple 30-second bursts!), I knew I was hooked and couldn't NOT purchase the album. Thanks for the recommendation. I love her already!!

  26. Christianne - I just knew you would love her. I was listening to "A Bird Flies Out" this morning & was thinking how much I just knew you would love her. #3 (How Will He Find Me) and #4 (Saturn's Light) both speak so perfectly & poetically to my feelings as a single woman in this world. I'm also in love with Big Strong Girl, & Rocks and Water. Really, the whole CD. Tell Your Story Walking, of course.

    I got to meet her a couple years ago when she came to Bellingham w/ Steve Tannen as The Weepies. They're both such delightful people who just love making music & sharing it with people.

    SO, SO glad you found it!!!