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Redemptive Grace

Loving Jesus, Loving People….(including even me).

Perfectly Imperfect

I’m moving into my new office space this week, it’ll be a space I own entirely. While that’s exciting, I’ll also be solely responsible and that’s actually kind of big and scary. 

Of course I started this process frantically, believing my being contained some herculean power-source devoid of the constraints of time, I had a tight budget and an even tighter timeline. Scouring the marketplace for second-hand pieces and shopping the clearance section, I tried to pull together a space that I could practice my craft in. As the hodgepodge pieces started to come together, I gradually allowed myself to grow in anticipation. This isn’t just an office, I thought, it’s the place I’ll be holding sacred space with the many people who will entrust me with their most fragile selves.

The design and feel of this room needed to be an extension of who I am, of who I strive to be. 

I picked up a badly scratched table from a garage over-full of someone else’s memories. To be true, it was in pretty bad shape but I felt the familiar tingle of antsy anticipation that said there was something more behind all of the obvious blemishes. As I worked to take the table apart and sand down the varnish, a picture of what it could look like come to mind: artistic, scratched up, perfectly imperfect. So that’s what I did, I followed my vision and found something unexpected. 

Having given the tabletop new life, I stepped back to admire its newfound beauty. I was captivated by this process of recreating what was once broken and making it into something to be cherished again. I glanced over at my unconventional tools: leftover acrylic paint, scotch tape, a broken foam paint brush, and a half-full can of polyurethane meant to make it shine. Just a touch of creativity, I thought as I laughed at the singular, impatient, hyper-focus that had gotten me into this situation. I wondered at the picture I’d accidentally created: we’re so like this table I had found buried beneath all that stuff. Scratched up, overlooked, beaten down from our neglect and misuse. Sometimes we just need someone to come alongside us, believe in us, and remind us that we can be made new again too.

Even if that means we have to scratch off our broken exteriors and find a new beauty within.

Can Celibacy Lead to Deeper Intimacy?

I wake from my sleep suddenly, we’re passing the Rocky Mountain range as we chase the fading sun west. In complete awe, I find myself whispering my gratitude at witnessing such an overwhelming creation. The sight pulls parts of my brain back to the fourth grade and I feel the memory of my hand reaching out, touching the mountain range beneath my fingertips as I study a topographical map. The painted-on snow looked just like this view! I think.

I tell God about how curious I think it is to see this vast untouched land. I’ve just spent a week on the east coast, ending with a long weekend in D.C. where I watched people angrily, hurriedly move throughout their day. Why do we cram ourselves into big cities, losing sight of this quiet beauty? I wonder. My imagination takes a nose-dive and I find myself wondering if people have been lost in this wilderness. Would they think to find a space beneath the flight path? Would I see someone waving around a piece of brightly colored fabric trying to get my attention from this distance?? Scenes from The Mountain Between Us flash before my eyes and I’m vaguely aware of the passing thought of an uncle who’s entire crew died when his plane crashed into a snowy mountain side.

Pulling my face from the window, I look around the full plane, trying to catch another’s head bent toward the window in this same wonderment. Is anyone else is seeing this? Can’t you feel what’s happening beneath us? Look! I think, but every person I lay eyes on is either asleep or deep into their phone. Most of them have the shades pulled down, clueless to this incredible thing that has captured my full attention. In that moment, a familiar sinking perception of loneliness begins to seep unbidden into this space.

I stay inside those fleeting thoughts for a few minutes, noticing the difference in my body between gratitude, imagination, aloneness. I have chosen to remain in this space, I remind myself. I think of the sacrifice I’m currently choosing in saving myself for what may very well never enter my life: true partnership. My chest constricts at the thought a little.

I said yes to celibacy knowing that I would find loneliness in this path.


I was surprised at how soon after my marriage ended that the question of dating started coming up. I was fairly caught off guard and I started wondering at the fear that chases after these well-meaning and yet misplaced inquiries. Was there simply something about singleness or was it just a single woman that created this assumption that the immediate goal was finding a new mate? I’d think. I assure you, dear reader, that’s not the goal nor will it ever be.

With a measure of mercy, I’ve realized the curiosity that surrounds dating is likely just a conversation starter offered by the well meaning. After all, coupling soon after (or even in the midst of) divorce is pretty status quo, don’t you think?

This curiosity toward coupling/uncoupling hasn’t left me. Instead, celibacy, dating, and what I’m calling the art of intimacy have become topics of conversation I’ve started to push into. It’s creating a different mindful dialogue as I uncover what it is my deepest awareness craves, my curiosity is also toward those who might mindlessly ask about a facebook status update. Maybe they are simply looking for a playful connection unaware  of what it is they’re actually implying?

From the beginning of my memory, it seems, I have always yearned for human attraction. (Yes, you read that correctly: attraction.) Not connection, not intimacy, but attraction. Previously, anything that would require true relationship wasn’t really anywhere on my radar. I’m not even sure I was aware that true relationship existed, I had become much more acquainted with the familiar experience of being used and using people to mediate my own isolation as I ran blindly into the conformity of social norms.


In these moments where my body is asking me to notice the absence of partnership I, in turn, ask my mind to wander back to those people who have said yes to sharing life with me. My heart warms a little recalling moments of felt wholeness in their presence. I pull up the faces and voices of those people that I love, and that love me. I can feel the memories of the tendernesses that we’ve created start to rise within me. I am cultivating intimacy.

Finally  from my 30,000+ foot view, I spy a single light shining far off in the distance. A smile reaches my lips, I take delight in finding this sign of life.

Soon, a small city also appears below. There is life in this wilderness too, I think. It feels like my internal dialogue is coming to life in this view from above.


Choosing to remain single was built on a lot of careful thought. I have begun to really know and embrace that what I had experienced in my marriage was broken covenant and harm. That though I had done a lot right, had followed a lot of rules, had shown up per wise advice, and had prayed fervently for change, my partnership was anything but intimate or safe.

My markers for intimacy have been necessarily created outside of that bond. Intention and care are the backbone of what I call community intimacy, my term to start the conversation that is the experience of choosing healthy, conscious relationships that heal and fulfill my human need for connectedness. Part of this new existence has been discovering what is different about my closest friends. The felt sense is a concept I have been leaning into as I make decision to either say yes or no to new relationships.

Within those friendships where tenderness and choosing reign, there is a reciprocal feeling of being known and one of being truly seen. Where once my chest constricted at the thought of singleness, in this space I recognize a blossoming as if the hand that once gripped itself closed so tightly is loosening its fingers, gingerly opening each one to give and receive this gift of intimacy. I have decided that, for now, that is what I will rest my decision to remain single on: that felt sense I have with these few. It requires the act of mindfulness, of noticing what exists, and of what is missing.

Celibacy isn’t just the act of refraining from sexual intimacy.

Rather, it’s the act of resounding yes to the self; it’s getting familiar with the tensions that exist within and outside of the self.

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We’re descending quickly into Portland now, the top of our beloved mountain visible above a dense bank of clouds. I’m back in the city, pulled from my reverie.

I realize that I’m so thankful that I’m choosing to be single, and that I have found repair in so many. Mostly, though, I’m grateful to be finding me. It turns out, yeah…celibacy can truly lead to magnificent intimacy.

((Plus, now I get to make people self-consciously laugh with my current favorite introduction: Hi! I’m Kimberly, a celibate sex therapist 💁🏻))

I Am Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

*Trigger warning: if you come from a story of domestic abuse, please read with caution and make space for self-care. Just because you have started this post doesn’t mean you are required to finish it.

I’ve been thinking about saying some really hard things lately.

It gives me pause to consider how much power there will be in the words I will use and in the way I will use them, but it’s time. and I can be brave. I mean no harm, but I will tell the truth.

I am recovering from narcissistic abuse

Narcissistic abuse is a form of abuse that becomes complex trauma in the body of the person harmed. Complex trauma is sustained after chronic and repeated abuse and typically within a specific relationship to the person harmed. I experienced sustained psychological, emotional, financial, sexual,and physical (however relatively minor) abuses from my partner of nearly 20 years. Let that sink in…I was in a consistently abusive relationship for two decades, nearly two-thirds of my life and all of my adulthood to this point. Continue reading “I Am Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse”

One Full Revolution

I pulled over to the side of the road, my eyes fixated on the rising full moon, a harvest moon. I feel a familiar catch in my throat: Continue reading “One Full Revolution”

River

B58CEAB9-2A9D-44A3-967E-2F337310BD85I came here looking for you. Waiting by the shore I watch the gentle waves bubble up, stretching out to touch my bare toes. 

Peering down into the water’s edge I wonder at what remains hidden beneath this translucent surface. Where the gradating greens and browns turn black and opaque, I imagine creatures lurking below. Too frightening to be seen in the light.

River, tell me your secrets, I whisper to her. Her ripples lapping against the rocks create a murmur, reflecting back to me her hidden and mysterious darkness.

                                         Yearning, daring to be discovered.

The sunlight dances on the swells of her movement, eliciting a tempting invitation to step closer. I am captivated by her strength.

          She is alluring. 42D46CC7-20A7-46AF-83E2-47157D68CA64

Her waves, a quiet kind of turbulent, seek an escape. She holds herself back straining at the stone stays meant to contain her. Frantically she rushes forward to find her release. 

I can see that she is wild, beneath the surface she is untamed.

Dangerous. 

                  She is like me. 

I thought I came to meet you in this place, but you never came. I looked into the swirling waters and realized this whole time I have been searching for

             me. 

 

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Functional Depression

I keep telling myself this is just grief manifesting itself…that it will resolve with time, and maybe it will. On days like today, though, I fear there is something more hidden beneath this grief. Something darker, something threatening. Days like today my mind cannot comprehend simple instructions, instead I feel thrown into a full-blown trauma response. I find myself in tears just trying to complete the simple tasks of being an adult.

The kids are fighting in the background, they need me. The house is a wreck again, it needs me. We need groceries, there are bills to be paid. I have to figure out how to transfer all of these accounts. State exams are nearly here, but I can’t comprehend these instructions for filling out the requisite paperwork. I am highly educated I tell myself, I should be able to navigate all of these situations. I am vaguely aware of a persistent voice telling me this is a normal response to what has happened in this last year. A small part of my brain cries out to be heard: you will be ok. If you can set these tasks aside, take a shower, and nourish your body…you will recover. 

I can hear this inside of me, but I can’t grasp it; I can’t connect to it. I am having a hard time even connecting the sensation of hunger to the need for food. I can’t leave my bed, there are at least 87 pages open in my brain, I’m definitely swirling. My screen betrays what is happening in my mind: 18 tabs, 4 screenshots, 3 documents, various emails, and at least one document search currently lay open on my laptop. Even still, I will complete everything I need to today, except mother my kids, or feed my body. I’ll rarely leave my bed.

This is functional depression. Oh. To force accomplishment, to finish the day with an outside air of perfection. To feel lost and a little alone. If you stopped by today, I could whip up a smile, I could distract you with a little humor. You would likely leave me feeling refreshed. I, however, would wish I wasn’t so good at deception.

I am mad at this wasted day. Mad that I didn’t take that walk with my son. Mad that my kids watched too much tv and mad that the only time they heard from me was when I was shouting at them to get their chores done. Mad that I still expect perfection from myself on a day I needed just to be.

The sun has now set and I am sitting here in the dark of my room, my favorite space. I can smell the warm fresh scent of jasmine coming through the window, I try to let it tell me the story of renewal. I apologize to my kids, they are so accepting. Tomorrow, please God, tomorrow let me be free.

Allay This Fear

Today is one of many harder-than-hard days in this fluctuating season of unease, and I know that I will face many more days like this in the coming months that will feel as trepidatious. As I fight my need to allay the intensity by distracting myself, I know one thing for sure: none of the many ways that I desire to resolve the anxiety within me will last. I must acknowledge the basal response of my system and call it what it is: uncertainty, anxiety, fear and these are temporary. Pushing in, I must be aware that with time these all encompassing emotions will pass and become a distant (albeit painful and teachable) moment in time. Today, all that is required of me is to remain.

God will fight for me.

I have never understood this so fully as this current season has required of me. Perhaps it is all of the times I have insisted on trying to fight for myself that have failed. The failed attempts to recover my sense of self through relationships that were not right in timing, or those many many demands I made of myself to be perfect and exacting. I have failed so often trying to gain the foreknowledge that would keep from unraveling my carefully constructed walls of self-protection that I have missed out on the inexplicable peace it is to remain.

The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.

-Exodus 14:14

Now, don’t misunderstand me. All is not fine. Suffering is real and alive, and there are so many unknowns that are present in this life. What I want as a release and protection is very real and I am pleading for it to be so; I also know that God will fight for me, even as the outcome is certainly different than what I can imagine is best.

I have frequently misunderstood what it means for God to fight for me. I had assumed, as many around me, that the protection of God meant justice or at the very least a lessening of pain. As though God would come through like a night in shining armor to swipe evil away and make life right and safe. I believed in a theology that said that God saves and that meant rescuing from circumstance. In reality, God saves means that the deepest parts of me are awakened to a reality that God is within. That regardless of circumstance, that my protection is being intimately connected to the unchangeable, steadfast Spirit of God.

Today is a day of unrest, and yet I am resolved to remain because I believe the Lord will fight for me, I need only to be still. 

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Soul Ache and Anam Cara

What is this gripping feeling in my chest that settles into the space above my lungs? It seems to come in waves, unbidden and ferocious. The intensity is hard to articulate beyond simply ache, and always with it, the perception of loss.

This is a familiar feeling, it evokes an unnamed longing deep within me. Last year I wrote about a similar ache that comes around Christmastime, here. I thought that writing through it then would help resolve whatever was stirring within me; maybe it offered some quiet then, but it just hasn’t eradicated this feeling altogether.

Longing must always be explained in the Christian world; find the root cause of discomfort and make it about faith (or lack thereof). Although, they’re not the only ones prone to reckoning. Counselors can be even worse (and I am both)! We connect E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Trouble sleeping? Let’s talk what your brother said to you on your third birthday. Stubbed your toe? Tell me, when did you realize that your cat had a personal vendetta against you?

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 8.04.14 PMNaturally, I decided not to keep my therapist in the loop during these Continue reading “Soul Ache and Anam Cara”

Dear Diary,

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.10.43 PMTrauma visited my doorstep with a force just four days ago. Actually, it’s been living in the midst of my home for too long, it’s just now there is no way to contain the secrets.

Really, these thoughts are probably too raw to start processing so publicly.  I am acutely aware of those of you who will receive this message directly, as well as those who may come across it elsewhere. It definitely gives me pause as a part of my subconscious is trying to get me to stop writing, berating me with what-ifs.

How often do we wait until the suffering is contained before we share it? When really, growth begins in safe transparency; in leaning in, not away.

That said, there is something about undigested pain that seems to be both striking and sad in a way that stirs up the soul. So, yeah, I’m pushing in and writing through some discomfort. My hope is that it captures this process in this moment, lending to the comfort of those who will inevitably walk a similar path, maybe myself later on, or even my own children.

This is personal, yes, but it is also so very universal as pain often is. Like a drop in quiet waters, or the echo of a shout, pain reverberates to the outer edges and back in affecting all in its path.

Suffering through trauma and grief creates a vacuum in the mind meant to preserve itself from imploding. So, just FYI, I can’t be wholly held responsible for anything that my brain might insist on reacting to in the coming days and weeks or even over the course of the following year (#Sorry).  It’s kind of a part of grief that isn’t really talked about: normal executive functioning (the ability to think, plan, decision make, organize, etc.) comes and goes at will [insert eye-roll]. So I’ll be taking a lot of deep breaths and slowing down. I’m focusing on this moment, this hour. The rest will work itself out in time.

I can’t seem to focus for long on any given task or subject. When I do try, I get tired quickly, so I am giving myself permission to fall asleep when I need to. Sleeping shuts off a part of our brains in order to start healing, I’ve decided to accept the limitations that have arrived.

I seem to be the okay-est during the daylight hours. It’s when night creeps in that the darkness reminds me that I must also feel lonely in this season.

To the community that has been with me (even as I’ve pushed you away), you have showed up for me and my kids in a big way. Thank you for praying for peace and relief over my family. It stormed in this weekend through circumstances none of us would have chosen, even still God has been orchestrating this release for a long time.

I recognize gratitude in this: my mind has been trained and prepared to understand the complexity of trauma. I am being protected by the grief I’ve already bore, and the intrapersonal work I’ve been committed to.

I am so thankful that counseling through personal grief has been modeled for me by my own therapist over the past year. I just counseled others in the midst of my own trauma and at the end of the day as my last client left the office, my body has responded with overwhelming anxiety. I remember that I am physically fine, though. I understand that as a counselor I often bear the weight of stories, today my body just doesn’t have the space necessary to contain it like normal. Instead, it’s coming at me as angst, built up in my chest, butterflies in my stomach. Just breathe. 

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It is as if all of the theology I have struggled to understand and fought against is finally making sense. Integrity is something I highly value, but minimizing my pain, making excuses for the behavior of others, and living in complete chaos really messed up my ability to grasp my significance as a counselor, friend, and mother. That cloud is being lifted even now.

On a day like today, I can speak confidently. Tomorrow may be a day I can’t leave my bed. This is normal, I’m not crazy. It is after all, grief.

The circumstances of this weekend have been horrific. And quite possibly the best thing to have ever happened.

We are all going to be okay.

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