For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been plagued by some random knee pain. Random, because I don’t remember doing anything to injure my knee, and I can’t explain why it’s happening. Sure, it could simply be a sign of age. It could also be the cold weather, a strain from something I don’t remember happening, general wear and tear from the many years I spent as a long distance runner, or some combination of any of these. But it’s nagging presence has been on my mind a lot, and it really got me thinking.
Before I continue, I should probably disclose that this post is different from anything I’ve shared here before. But also, it’s not. When I started this blog, I made a commitment to share our life and home with you in a way that was honest and real.
Today I’m sharing a piece of our life with you that feels more uncertain and vulnerable than writing about our favorite recipes or a DIY project. But when I wondered whether I should expose this very “real” part of my heart, I kept coming back to that commitment to honesty. Not only do I want to honor that promise, but I also want to nurture the community that you are helping us to create here.
The other thing I should mention is that I’m going to use words like god and universe, and I usually use them interchangeably. I think it’s important to disclose this up front because this is specifically not a post about religion, and those words trigger different feelings for different people.
My faith and spirituality are foundations of who I am and how I experience my life. To me, the words god, love, spirit, energy, and universe are interchangeable terms and speak very simply to my belief that I am part of something bigger than myself, and I believe that is different from ‘religion’, per se. I invite you to substitute the language that feels right to you whenever I use any of these words.
Now that we’re on the same page…back to the story.
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Our ancestors have connected our bodily experiences to something greater than the body itself for thousands of years. Medicine may have been used to treat symptoms, but resolving the source of an ailment was a different effort. Even my own modern day doctor of western medicine often comments about the mysteries that science has yet to explain, and she is a wholehearted advocate for holistic practices to maintain our health and wellness.
Knee pain has historically been connected with a few different ideas: inflexibility, stubborn ego, pride, fear, unwillingness to bend.
It made sense to me to also explore this idea instead of only trying to think about how I might have injured my body or what I could do to treat the pain. As I was reflecting on these things though, I was stumped. I struggled to connect with any of these ideas! People who know me well tend to describe me as “easy going” (sometimes to a fault when it is mistakenly interpreted as nonchalance). I’m also very devoted to my practice of gratitude, and I try to find the best in every situation (even the painful or undesirable ones).
I kept asking myself, “Where is my stubborn ego showing up?“.
Then I thought about why the knees are connected with these ideas in the first place and from where this metaphor originated. The ancient belief is that the knees are afflicted with pain when there is a need for us to kneel. That makes sense, right? For example, if pridefulness is the source of the problem, the universe (or god) may send us knee pain as a reminder to kneel in reverence.
But where and for what in my life was I not practicing reverence?
For weeks, I kept running through the mental list of things for which I practice gratitude. I thought of all of the blessings in our life, and I kept wondering what I could possibly have left off the list to account for this pain!
And all through that inner conversation, I kept hearing the same phrase play in my mind, over and over again, like a song that gets stuck in your head. It said: You were fearfully and wonderfully made.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~Psalms 139:14
This reference comes from the third section of the Hebrew bible, or what Christians know as the Old Testament. For me, religious practices or orientations don’t predicate the powerful lessons that we can learn from various spiritual texts. I have always been fascinated by the stories in holy books around the world, regardless of which religion propelled them forward.
For those who don’t follow either of these faiths, the word “fearfully” often causes confusion. And it did for me too because I don’t connect with the idea of a vengeful god that I should fear, but rather with a loving energy that binds all of humanity together. The problem with ancient texts that have been translated to English is coordinating the objective in the original message with the words we use today and the meanings we’ve developed for them over time.
In this piece of scripture, “fearfully” most likely means reverently. Reverence is a deep and solemn respect for someone or something. In this case, it means that there was thoughtful, purposeful intention in the way we were each made.
It seemed to me that there had to be a connection between the phrase that was looping through my head and the problem I was trying to figure out.
And then it came to me.
It was right there in the phrase itself: You were fearfully and wonderfully made.
The place where I was lacking reverence was not for all of the external blessings and joys in our life. It was about the way I was treating the biggest gift in my life–myself. All I’d really needed to do was to look in the mirror.
This has been a recurrent theme for me this year during times of introspection, and I suppose I must have needed another reminder about where and how it’s showing up in my life. In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve even talked about it with you over on my Instagram feed, and some of you may have been part of those conversations.
See, I am my own biggest critic. There is no one in this world who can tear me down quite the way I can do it all by myself.
Gifted a compliment, I will skillfully dismiss or discount your words with such efficiency that they never have a chance to land on my shoulders. Presented with an opportunity to stand in the light, I will question whether I am ‘enough’ to deserve its warmth.
For me, it’s not so much about comparing myself to others–it’s about comparing myself to my own impossible standards. Standards that I don’t require anyone else in my life (or the world, for that matter) to live up to except myself.
And there’s a tricky little paradox in that too–even if I could reach my own impossible expectations for myself, I still wouldn’t feel comfortable with the rewards then either. I loathe the idea of anyone else around me feeling ‘less than’, so instead, I spend my time in service to others trying to help them live to their fullest potential.
Did you catch that–I simultaneously spend my time cutting myself down while trying to lift up others.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that
we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that
most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a
child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is
nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel
insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were
born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just
in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we
unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are
liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates
others. ~Marianne Williamson
This excerpt from Marianne Williamson’s book has always been a favorite of mine. Sometimes mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela, this piece of writing captures exactly what and where I had been lacking.
We have a false belief in our culture that humility means shrinking from the light. It doesn’t. Humility is about recognizing where you fit into the bigger picture of life and this world. And here’s the kicker–the universe (or god) created you on purpose. You were fearfully and wonderfully made to fit into this world and to shine in the way that only you can. Hiding your light or diminishing its brightness is truly the opposite of humility. You were born to stand up straight and to stand out in the role for which you were designed.
It suddenly became clear to me that every time I dismissed praise, and every time I questioned whether I was enough to deserve the blessings in my life, or every time I doubted whether I had the talent or ability to make something out of the opportunities before me, I was unknowingly and stubbornly arguing with the universe. I was telling god that I knew better, and that the universe’s very purposefully designed plans for me and how my life would be used in this world were wrong.
If that isn’t an example of pridefulness, I don’t know what is!
This was showing up for me in so many different areas lately–the recent growth of our little shop, the overwhelm of the holiday season, the opportunity to work with brands and companies like Etsy, the blessing of getting to connect with some incredibly talented influencers in the home decor world, and even more. In all of these experiences, whenever I questioned my ability or worthiness or talent, I was sending a strong message that god’s plans for my life were faulty and misguided. I was discounting the incredible gift of my life.
So today, friends, I’m taking a knee in reverence and awe. I am speaking to myself with the love, and the compassion, and the encouragement that is befitting for a child of god. I know that this is going to be a tough road to walk and a difficult pattern to break, and that’s exactly why I felt so strongly that I needed to share this very real part of the story with you. There is power and grace in this community, and I want to walk this road with you.
If you’re on a similar journey, let’s connect about it in the comments below. Then head over to Instagram so that we can continue to make this an ongoing conversation in the days ahead. I am so humbled that so many of you have invited us into your hearts and homes, and so grateful that I get to share our hearts and home with you here.
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Kristi, I love how open and vulnerable you are with this post—you really spoke from the heart. I connect with you a lot when you say that you often dismiss praise and feel unworthy of certain opportunities put before you. I can definitely relate to that, as I often feel inadequate as a wife, mother, teacher, blogger… the list goes on. I can also be fearful to try new things because I'm afraid to fail. I really have no reason to expect failure, so I'm not sure why I do it. I love the verse you shared, "You are fearfully and wonderfully made." It's a great reminder that God doesn't make mistakes; we have all been created with special talents and abilities that we can share and impact the world with. Take care, Kristi, and I hope that knee of yours quits acting up!
I certainly agree with you, Kyla! Here's my theory on expecting failure…I think we do it because it's easier to accept than to expect success. That sounds backwards, but I think that when we expect failure, we're trying to prevent ourselves from feeling disappointment. It's our misguided attempt to thwart emotional risk. Although it never seems to work and only serves to keep us from our own light, right? I'm so glad you brought up this point, and I'm grateful to get to have this conversation with brave-hearted friends like you! xo
This is beautiful. As you know and have read some of my pieces, I too, have struggled plenty in this same area of life. I think those of us that build others up so often, as you do, forget to look in the mirror and be grateful for the gift of you. We, as women, also tend to discount our talents and gifts far too often. We take a compliment and push it aside as if you say, nah you must be joking. I’m a firm believer that to be a person that lifts others we must remember to lift ourselves, although this can me tough. I love that you shared this part of you with us. Your honesty will help others to be honest. You are indeed a light that is meant to shine and I’m so happy to know you!
Deb, this means so much to me. I admire your ability to share your story with courage, and you are an inspiration to me. So to hear these words from you bears some extra weight for sure! One of my favorite sayings is "you cannot pour from an empty cup", and I was reminded of it with your thoughts. It's really a quote about self-care, but I think that this idea of shining our light is actually a version of self-care, don't you? We have to nurture our own ability to do that so that we can help others do the same. It's a good reminder, and I am so glad you left this note! xo
You're doing some great introspection here, friend! Trying to lift others up while cutting yourself down is doing no one any good in the end. You can't lift someone while on the ground yourself. So maybe a good way to think about your success is that when you're standing upright and making progress, it enables you to bring others along. A verse I always think of is from Psalms (don't remember which one or verse) "He lifted me up out of the ash heap and seated me among princes." God doesn't intend for us to be in the dirt. Who would want what God has to offer if His people aren't light? And I don't mean necessarily in the material sense, but in the mental and emotional sense. Great article, Kristi! Thank you for sharing your heart. ❤
These are some beautiful thoughts, Kay. I agree with you that not one of us was put here in vain, and we're all meant to serve a unique and significant purpose. We can't always see it or understand it when we're in it, and it's not only about the times that fill us with joy–even in navigating our obstacles, I believe we're doing the work we were meant to do. In that way, I suppose even the dirty work is filled with light, right? xo