Go Ahead and Dance

A cloak of heaviness hung over my house.

There had been one thing after another after another for a few weeks now, and I felt like I couldn’t keep my head above water before the riptide of my life dragged me down again.  Working two jobs, trying to start my own business, attempting to flip my first house with my mother, trying to get everything in order to leave town for 2 weeks,  and my 97 year old grandmother being taken to the emergency room after repeated falls left me weary and worn thin.

My boyfriend was under intense stress of his own, having quit his job to start his own business and trying to juggle a long distance relationship with me amidst the pressure of a start-up.  Every time him and I felt we were seeing a break in the clouds and that we may finally may be able to move in the direction of him being able to move and us finally be in the same location after being long distance for a year, the proverbial rug would get pulled out from underneath of us.  Again.  We were both exhausted and drained after months of intense pressure and stress.

These stresses led to poor communication between my boyfriend and I.  We simply weren’t hearing each other, and our hearts were lost somewhere in the shuffle.  What would typically be easy, light conversation between us felt like led.  Both of us felt our needs weren’t being met.  Instead of gazing into each other’s eyes, it felt like we were turning our backs to each other and walking away in defeat.

The weight of everything heaped upon my shoulders, I went about my day wearing a black cloak of heaviness.

My mom was cooking dinner and her pandora mix blared from her bluetooth speaker.  I found myself exclaiming, “Oh! I love this song!” when Hall & Oates  “You Make My Dreams” came on.  The flash mob dance to this song in the movie “500 days of Summer” pierced my mind, and I suddenly began to silly dance in the middle of the kitchen.  My Mom, who had been battling heaviness too, joined me.  The music blared, and we danced.  We danced like no one was watching, and the heaviness broke.  The dark clouds rolled away and the sun began to shine through.  The black cloak I had been wearing slinked to the floor.

The entire atmosphere shifted by choosing to step into joy for just a moment.  Once the moment had passed God reminded me of the passage in Isaiah 61:3: “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” It is the garment of praise that breaks the spirit of heaviness. God has created it this way- that praise should cast off the heaviness that intended to keep you bound.  When life’s burdens are dragging you down one of the best things you can do is put on worship music and sing praises to the God in whom there is no lack.  Perhaps when you start worshipping God you won’t feel like it, and you’ll barely be able to mouth the words to the song while tears are streaming down your face.  I encourage you to praise out of obedience to who God is, and not based on your circumstances or how you feel.  Most of the time when I offer this sacrifice of praise in the moments I don’t feel like it, and I continue to press into His presence, my emotions will eventually follow my obedience, and my body will eventually follow my heart.  What began as me being able to barely mouth the words to a worship song will end in me kneeling before a most Holy God, undone at His beauty, grace, and goodness, raising my hands to the One who paid it all for me.

God used this simple example in my life to remind me that the garment of praise truly breaks the spirit of heaviness.  Next time the heaviness is weighing us down, let’s choose to praise Him and cast it off!


The Journey

Feet on the dash, I sat in the passenger seat with the windows down and the wind blowing through my hair as my boyfriend drove us through the Adirondacks in New York on our way to his annual family vacation in Vermont.  Lord Huron blared on the radio as I peered outside at the lush green surroundings.  The five hour drive was largely on the back winding roads through small towns filled with local mountain stores to stock up on smores supplies and lakeside campgrounds with the smell of wood fires burning.  Although it was the end of July there was a crispness in the air that to my Virginia blood felt like fall.  With the family canoe strapped to the roof of the Civic, we rambled toward Vermont after stopping for beef jerky to snack on the rest of the drive.

A large, red bridge came into view and I begged my boyfriend to pull over and stop so we could enjoy the perfect blue sky and rolling stream beneath the bridge.  He gladly obliged, as he had just bough a drone and saw a perfect opportunity to test it out.  I laid beside the bridge, listening to the stream and watching the sparrows flitting back and forth in the sky beneath the fluffy clouds.  We seemed to be the only people within miles radius.  A strange emotion crept up on me and settled deep in the pit of my stomach: contentment.  There was a deep abiding peace in my soul that very moment despite knowing that we were delaying our arrival at the vacation house–I was finally at peace on the journey.  Contentment has never been my forte.  Every personality type has it’s strengths and weaknesses, and dare I say that your greatest strength is probably also something that when it is turned on its head is also your greatest weakness.  I have always been someone in search of the next adventure, seeking to arrive at my destination as quickly as possible so I can cram in the maximum amount of experiences into every trip.  This has many benefits, but savoring the moments like this one on the journey is not one of them.

Laying beside the bridge with my boyfriend in the silence felt like I had finally arrived right where I was supposed to be all along: being able to enjoy life on it’s own terms and time table.

We will get there eventually.  I’m just finally enjoying the journey.


The Undoing

The evening started out fine: dinner and drinks out with a few friends and my boyfriend at our favorite Mexican joint in upstate New York.  After dinner we migrated towards a local bar to meet up with a different group of friends for a few drinks.

I’m typically quite good at pacing myself and feeling how much I’ve had to drink and when I need to stop.  I’m way past the stage of life where I am seeking to have more than enough alcoholic beverages.  That evening, though, apparently my inner radar was off, because I was fine, I was fine, and then suddenly a line was crossed and I was decidedly not fine very quickly.  I vaguely remember my boyfriend’s face spinning as he said to his friends that he had never seen me this way before and that he needed to take me home.

By the time we got home I was yelling that I needed to throw up.  My boyfriend swarmed around me, putting a trash can in front of me and trying to get me comfortable.  I told him I didn’t want him to see me that way and asked that he leave the room.  After I had thrown up I screamed for him and he took the trash can away.  I felt better for a few seconds, and then I immediately needed to throw up again as the room spun around me and tilted on it’s axis.

Guilt and shame washed over me, and hot tears began to stream down my face as my boyfriend hugged me.  My crying became increasingly more intense, to the point where I could no longer speak.  My boyfriend stroked my hair as I cried on his shoulder, my body heaving with my heavy sobs.  This was way past the “cute cry” stage; snot was running down my face and my eyes were swollen shut.  What began as a sting of shame for my boyfriend seeing me in such a vulnerable position that I was ashamed of turned into a release.  I’m not quite sure when it switched from being gentle tears of shame for being drunk when I had not intended to drink too much to every thing I ever felt guilty for, and everything I felt ashamed of breaking off me.

For an hour I sobbed on my boyfriend’s shoulder and allowed everything to break off me: every last bit of guilt, shame, fear, and every heavy load I have carried throughout my life.  Memories from my childhood, family drug addictions, my parents divorce- every last bit of false responsibility I had carried broke off with each loud sob.  There was a shift from feeling ashamed to a deep inner knowing of how unconditionally loved I am by this man of mine, and I was undone.  My boyfriend embodied the love of the Father to me that night in flesh and bone beside me and fear, guilt, shame and regret cannot stand in light of that Love.

For the first time in my life I felt like I could finally let go.  Experiencing this unconditional love wrapped in skin and holding me tight allowed me to shake off my weary past and finally see and feel myself as beloved.  There was an urgent nature to my sobs:  a shrugging off of all that entangled, a setting free.  There’s a mysterious nature to what broke inside me that night, but I know it was deeply spiritual, necessary, and good.

The deep mystery is I am beloved by God sins, faults, and all.  And I’m beloved by this man of mine sins, faults, and all.  There’s nothing more life changing than that.  There’s nothing more freeing than that.

**please note I am not condoning drunkenness in this post in any way.  I’m simply trying to praise the God who turns everything around for good, even our faults and shortcomings.**

Responding in the Opposite Spirit

My first home health appointment earlier this week was a woman only 4 years older than me that had undergone a below knee amputation, multiple toe amputations, and had already had a stroke causing hemiparesis all before the age of 40. 

She stumbled to the door groggy, and ushered me in. Her breasts hung out of her low cut skinny top and she made no move to cover herself. My job that day was to do a re-assessment visit and recertify her after her most recent hospital stay.  I thought to myself “OK, this is how it’s gonna get done-breasts hanging out and all,” and began the paperwork, unphased. 

I began by asking her how she was feeling and taking her vitals. I started asking her some questions about her health history and her previously groggy and apathetic apparence snapped and her eyes cut into mine as she screamed, “I will NOT go through all that again. I won’t. I’ve been through that a million times. I don’t feel like doing that!” Her sudden shift in demeanor caught me off guard and I attempted to explain how even though she may have gone over that information with other clinicians before, I didn’t have that information available to me at the time. 

Before becoming a home health physical therapist where I regularly encounter individuals and situations like this my knee jerk reaction to such a situation would be to be rude in return. I felt someone’s anger or frustration pointed towards me completely justified me to point it right back towards them and deal right back to them the same hand that they delt. This inevitably would lead to an escalation of anger and frustration being thrown back and forth between the two of us. 

It sounds so incredibly simple, but I’ve learned to respond to people who are being rude to me in the opposite spirit; I’ve learned to respond in love. Nearly every time an amazing thing happens when I respond in love no matter how someone treats me: there’s an inevitable softening, a de escalation of the situation, and the person snaps back to being their pleasant self. Responding in a like manner the situation escalates, and responding in the opposite spirit almost always has the power to change the situation for good. 

I should know this. Isn’t this the way of Jesus? Turn the other cheek. Forgive not seven times but seven times seventy. The teachings of Jesus are remarkably simple and incredibly difficult to live. And I’m convinced He will always give us these difficult people, these ones who are hard to love, to give us practice in the way of Jesus and allow us to become more like Him. 

When we accept the invitation to love those who are difficult to love we become more like Him and allow ourselves to become His hands and feet to a hurting world. 

How can we practice responding in the opposite spirit in our lives together?

Grace for a Season

After nearly a year of not traveling solo, I decided to dip my toe back into those waters.  The first day of my travels didn’t go well, to put it lightly.  Almost everything that could go wrong, did.  On multiple occasions I found myself asking, “How in the world did I ever do this for months and months, no less in countries with cultures completely foreign to my own where they spoke no English?!”

It would be fantastic if when we came out of the womb God handed each one of us an individualized life plan.  A time table would be helpeful.  I can see it now: the charts, the graphs, the timelines: you’ll be in college for seven years, then you’ll work at this job for six years, then it’ll be time for you to travel around the world by yourself, then that stage is done and you’ll do x, y, z, and so on.  That life plan sure would clarify things a lot, right?  What I realized in my exasperation that day was that what works in one season doesn’t work in another.

When I was backpacking the world by myself I have never felt more free, more alive, and more myself.  It was a time when I was truly living out what God had called me to do in that moment.  I was journeying with Him, and it was one of the most fruitful times of my life.  It’s easy for us if a certain stage of our life was successful to think that is who we are and what we are called to forever.  We want to continue to live out what worked for us.  We want to re-create that feeling, that aliveness, that absolute assurance of walking with God and His purposes for your life.

The problem with that comes when we continue in a stage that God is no longer breathing on or calling you to.  What has worked in the past and what God called you to in a specific season may not be what He calls you to forever.  How many times do we hold onto something past the time when we should? Perhaps this is why we often return to things, trying to recreate the original feeling we had, but it is not to be found.  The time for that is done in your life, but you refuse to move on.  

Our lives don’t come with a pre-printed individualized life plan so we can know when to move on from one season and into the next.   Thankfully it does come with the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you, if you choose to accept His guidance in your life.  God wants us to live every step of the way dependent on Him and His guidance.  He wants us to step in whatever direction He is telling us, even if it’s different from what worked for us in the past.  He wants us to journey with Him into the unknown future trusting a known God.

As much as I have loved traveling solo in the past and will treasure the memories made on those adventures forever, it feels like that season has come to a close for the moment.  I’m learning to live in the season He has me in and accept it for whatever it may be and however long it may stay.  Allowing the seasons to come and go with open hands is a new, freeing way to live. Perhaps admitting I need help and I prefer company at this point in my life isn’t me becoming less free, less myself, but more myself. Each passing year and season we shed the layers that no longer work for us anymore and become more of who God made us to be. 

The Face of Love

Love stared straight into my eyes this morning, locking it’s gaze with mine, transforming me from the inside out.  It didn’t bring me flowers or gifts.  There was no fan fare.  There was no sentimentality or rush of heightened emotion to crash down from.

Love unfolded itself before me, quiet, unassuming as I helped my bed bound patient’s husband change his wife’s diapers.  We struggled to hold her body weight up as we rolled her from side to side in her hospital bed removing the soiled linens, diapers, and soaking wet pajama bottoms.  The smell of urine pierced my nostrils and was so pungent I could only breath through my mouth.  I held my patient up as her husband tenderly cleaned her, returning any sharp word from her with kindness and grace.  We worked silently: him wiping his wife down, me laying out supplies and helping lift her legs, roll her from side-to-side, and rubbing her back and making sure she was OK.  She cowered in a ball, face to the rails of the hospital bed, allowing herself to be weak, vulnerable, messy, and cared for, just as she was.  After cleaning all the linens, changing her diaper, re-dressing the patient and repositioning her in the bed we covered her again with her blankets.  My patient’s husband typically does this every day of his life, alone.  There is no one there to applaud him for doing every act with kindness and great love.  There is not a soul present to thank him for his tireless work.

This is love.  Love shows up when we reek of urine and can only lie in a heap of our own helplessness.  Love is quiet and goes about it’s business without the slightest head nod of recognition from others.  Love loves for the sake of loving, even those, especially those who have absolutely nothing to give in return.  Love recognizes the God-given identity in each living soul and treats them accordingly, no matter their current feeble state.

This is the love that changes the world.  This is the way of Jesus:  down is up, the first is last.  The path to true greatness is in serving and laying down your life.  This way doesn’t make sense according to the ways of this world, but if you step inside this love, you will find it’s the very thing your heart was made to both give and receive.

Praise God for any and every opportunity to allow us to love more like Jesus.

An Announcement

Sitting across from a dear friend with the breeze sweeping my hair across my face underneath an umbrella at my favorite downtown happy hour location eating tacos and drinking the best margarita on the planet I went off into a diatribe about how unity does not mean uniformity.  I ranted about how God is three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all three parts of the God head have very different roles, but they are one in purpose.  Their purpose is always to bring more love, wholeness, healing, peace, joy and most importantly, an unhindered relationship with God, to restore us back to our original design.  All three parts of the God-head are one in that purpose, but their ways of going about that purpose are very different.  Unity is decidedly not uniformity.  In fact, I think God gets great pleasure out of our diversity.  Uniformity is boring.  One only has to look at how many different types of monkeys He made, for example, to realize how much He appreciates this diversity, and all of creation screams that fact. It’s one of the main reasons I am so fascinated by watching shows like Planet Earth.  Looking at my friend, finally taking a breath of air after my long-winded explanation of my thoughts, her eyes sparkled and she told me, “Kim, you were born to do this.”

For almost two years now I’ve felt a consistent call to the creative: to writing, to photos, to travel, to exploration, and to allow myself the space to do those things more consistently in my life.  It’s where I come fully alive, and fully alive is the only way for me to live.  Fear has kept me from pursuing those things as more than a passing hobby.  I wanted to announce to you all, my faithful friends and followers, that I am officially taking a step to make a professional website/blog for myself.  I’ve been meeting with another dear friend who makes dynamite websites who is doing me a huge favor in making mine.  We have been discussing my vision and going through the process of starting to flesh that out.  I’m also getting professional headshots done for my website, and I’m taking some of the photos for the headers and gallery myself.  The hope is for Livefullyalive.co to be live in two months or so.

There is much work to be done and it’s all very overwhelming and exciting at the same time, like life itself.  I hope to still be able to post more consistently here, but if my posts become more scant it’s because of the demands on my time trying to roll this website out.

I want to thank each and every one of you who has ever given me words of encouragement that my words were valuable or touched you in some way (hello, words of affirmation love language person here!)  Thank you to my friend who told me there was a reason that she’s saved every letter I’ve ever written her.  Thank you to my friend who has texted me simply, “your posts are great-keep going”.  Many of you have read my posts for years through the adventures of backpacking the world and through many heartbreaks and seasons. You all mean the world to me and I wouldn’t be here without you.  I can’t wait to share this vision with all of you, and allow it to become whatever God has on His heart for it, for His glory.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.