brigitte kathleen

rediscovering my heart


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A Letter to My 12-Year-Old Sister About Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About

Dear Little Sister,

You just finished 6th grade! Congratulations, you’re officially half-way through your childhood– wait, WHAT? This letter couldn’t be coming at a better time for you! Being well into my adult-hood (although I try to stay young, and you help me do that– especially since we wear the same size clothes), I believe I can offer you a little insight about what you’ve already experienced and what you have around the corner. Ready? Here we go!

1. Mom and Dad

Mom and dad are really great. They each have certain things about them that make them really AWESOME people. You might not feel that way right now because they’re always telling you to clean your room or practice piano, but they really are doing it because they love you and they want to see you succeed. I know that sounds corny, but you have to trust me- I’m your older sister.  It might seem like sometimes they’re just giving you work to do they don’t want to do. Guess what? They are, and they can. They’ve earned that right. It might suck, but that’s part of earning your kid stripes.

Mom and dad really are awesome people, and they’re really, really smart. They’re not going to make you do something that’s going to hurt you, but they’re trying to teach you things about what it means to grow up. Trust them. They know what they’re doing.

2. School

STUDY. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I know it seems pointless sometimes and a lot of times, teachers just give you busy work. But here’s the deal- YOU HAVE TO DO IT IF YOU WANT TO GET ANYWHERE. Not only will doing your homework teach you the material you’re learning, but it’ll also teach you about discipline, time management, and prioritization. None of this means anything to you right now, but I promise it will.

Being able to bounce back is a really good skill, but don’t use it a lot. In 7th grade advanced math, at mid-quarter I had 14 late or missing assignments and I still pulled out a B in that class. What did that teach me? Nothing, except the realization that I could finagle my way out of almost any situation and still be above average. While this is respectable, it’s not admirable. Strive to be admirable. Show us what you can do because you can, not because you have to.

One last thing- do everything you can to be amazing. Study hard. Be involved. You know why? Not only will this just continue to prove to everyone that you are, in fact, AWESOME, but you’ll also start applying for college someday (the money talk is next… get ready), and the more free college you can get because you’re awesome, the better. Make schools WANT you to come to their school. Make them WANT your awesomeness. Because, girl, you are.

3. Money

Money sucks. And it’s only going to get worse. Here are my rules– pay attention.

– SAVE. SAVE. SAVE. Save your money. You’ll thank me and yourself later.

– Students loans are terrible, but they’re a reality. This is why you need to do awesome in school– the less student loan debt you have, the better. Trust me- my student loan debt is the reason you won’t be an aunt or sister-in-law for a very, VERY long time.

– Be responsible. Don’t be impulsive. Your good credit (once you have some) is next to Godliness. Be careful.

– Money is not the end of the world or the defining quality of a good life. If you’re responsible with your money, you’re paying your bills, and you don’t have much money left but you’re happy, that’s all that matters. Money will not make you happy. As long as you’re living the life you want, and you’re happy with who you are and what you’re doing, that’s what matters.

4. Friends

Some friends stay forever. Some friends stay for a week. Friends will hurt you. Friends will love you. All of the experiences you have with your friends will become a part of who you are, and you, in turn, will be a part of who your friends are. I have three best friends (and they might not even know who they are), but I have a small group of really close friends, too. Each of my friends has turned me into the person I am, and the person I’m continuing to grow to be. You’re young, you have a lot of growing left to do.

If a friend hurts you, make sure you forgive them. But you also need to remember that you’re worth being treated like gold. If you’re friends don’t respect your, or use you, or hurt you constantly, make sure you know that you deserve better than that, and that  maybe it’s ok to walk away from that relationship. This way, you can invest more in the friends who love you and care about you and will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. But make sure you’re the best friend you can be to your friends, too. Respect and love in friendships is a two-way street.

5. Boys/Love

This is last because it’s the least important. I know you’re not experiencing it much now, but you’ll start (sooner than I’d like). First of all, boys are dumb. They’ll never understand what is going on in your head, so don’t expect them to. Second, boys aren’t worth it. Guys are almost worth it. Men are sometimes worth it. You have TOO MUCH to focus on right now (and through high school) to get caught up in “boy” drama. Wait until you meet a man… then come to me and I’ll let you know if it’s time and if he’s good enough for you.

No boy/guy/man is worth your tears. If they’re not nice to you, get out right away. Make sure that if whatever feelings you have for him aren’t mutual that you either tell him that, or get out. Your broken heart or his broken heart isn’t worth the dragging out of something that isn’t there– TRUST ME ON THIS ONE.

Don’t let mom, dad, grandma, or any of our aunts or uncles make you feel bad about your relationships or lack thereof. Eventually, you’ll be smart enough to make your own decisions without knowing that your family is judging your every word or move. Your relationships are YOUR relationships– not anyone else’s… except I expect to be overly involved. I can. I’m your big sister.

Little Sister, you are so incredible, and you don’t even know it yet. You’re not even your whole person yet! That’s what’s so exciting about being 12. You have so much time to make mistakes and correct them, and to make masterpieces and enjoy them.

In closing, here are the things I love about you, because sometimes it’s nice to hear things like that:

1. Your loving heart

2. Your willingness to try new things

3. Your excitement to learn about new things

4. Your beautiful artistic abilty

5. Your musical ability

6. Your creative spirit

7. Your unconditional love for people (sometimes to a fault)

8. Your beautiful smile

9. The fact that you are a bed hog

10. I love that you laugh at my jokes

Dream big. Be awesome.

Love,

Your Big Sister

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It’s OK to Hope for a KitchenAid Mixer

This past Christmas, I did something I probably shouldn’t have: I asked for a 5-quart KitchenAid mixer (with accessories) in the iconic Empire Red color. It might not be every little girl’s fantasy to someday own a KitchenAid mixer, but I feel like once you  hit a certain age, it’s OK to start wanting some of those “adult” things (and actually be excited about them). Here’s the problem- Everyone I know who has one of these wonderful contraptions is married. The KitchenAid mixer is traditionally known to be a wonderful wedding gift from a wealthy family member who is just close enough to want to spend that kind of money on you, but not close enough to want to help with the wedding (like a rich uncle).

kitchen aid mixer

 

It’s no secret that I’m in my mid late 20’s and as single as I’ve ever been. That’s why I had a difficult time adding my KitchenAid mixer to my Amazon.com wish list. In my mind, the Empire Red KitchenAid mixer is a “coming of age” item. To me, it means you’ve arrived- you’re officially the domestic queen that your grandma has always hoped you be. I even thought that actually receiving, purchasing, or owning this kind of item would mean I’ve given up all hope in my future and become settled with being single for the rest of my life (it’s a symbolism thing…).  This whole life of limbo I’m living in really got me thinking about one HUGE question: How do we realistically plan for the future without having a clue what the future might even look like?

This question has been in the back of my mind since I started grad school. When I started seminary, I was toying with the idea of becoming ordained and everything that entailed. At that point, I was single and fine with being sent wherever they were going to want to send me, and I knew that would be a strength I had going into my interviews. After that idea went out the window, I considered moving to New York (you might remember that post from September). I remember people being so concerned with the idea of moving to somewhere new by myself, but my excuse was that I had nothing holding me down here.

Skipping ahead, I’m now 27 and I’m trying to figure out what the latest versions of my 1, 5, and 10 year plans are. When you’re recently graduated with a lot of components in your life that keep changing, your own idea of the future ends up morphing and it can be difficult to keep up. When you’re from the heartland, people are getting married young, and beginning their lives together, meaning they can make a 1, 5, and 10 year plan together. Now, don’t get me wrong- this is not a “poor me, I’m single,” story. This is simply a discovery of what life for 20/30-somethings who are ready to make a game plan looks like when they make that game plan without knowing who they’ve got on their roster.

As cynical as I may be becoming, I still believe in the power of hope and faith for the future. Though your present may either be really great, or really not-so-great, you still have a future waiting for you. The beauty is that your future is just as unknown to you as it is to people who spend their whole lives planning for theirs. So dream. Dream big. What do you want your future to look like? Think about it in terms of painting a picture. The thing that I think a lot of us take for granted in planning without knowing is that our canvas is blank and waiting to be painted on. People who are planning with and around others in their life already have brushstrokes they need to work into their artwork. I’m not saying that people who are married, dating, have kids or family responsibilities, or anything tying them down can’t dream, and more often than not, the art that they’re having to incorporate into their painting is beautiful. I just know that, although I’m a terrible visual artist, I have a huge sense of hope and imagination when I’m staring at a blank canvas.

Another thing that I think we forget, especially when we get deep into “planning mode,” is that plans rarely work out the way we envision them. If you would have asked me 10 years ago what I’d be doing now, I can say with 150% certainty that THIS would not be it. I pictured myself married, maybe with a child, living in a house, and successful in whatever career I may have landed in. Grad school was never on my radar, and I wanted to get done and start life as soon as possible. I’m 27, single, childless, and a recent graduate who feels clueless more than anything. My future, your future, his future, her future… our futures are not static. It’s not a situation of, “Let it be said, let it be done.” Our lives are fluid and we have to make changes and recalibrate when things happen all the time. Some people believe that God has a very precise plan for them (I don’t know if I’m one of those people or not), and if that is the case, then guess what? We still don’t know the plan, and we have to prayerfully accept the dance God has invited us into, and let him lead.

I think there’s a huge leadership lesson in this for us. Leaders are people who can not only anticipate their own needs and the needs of those around them, but they are also people who can adapt to changes, including ones they weren’t expecting. Leaders are also people who are self-aware, know who they are, and what they can offer. I think there’s a big difference in knowing what you can offer and knowing what you want to offer. When we make plans for the future, we’re already limiting ourselves to what we think we’ll want to offer instead of letting opportunities present themselves. When you don’t have your piece of art completed before you begin, life gives you new colors, shapes, and brushstrokes to make it a masterpiece you didn’t know you were capable of.

In closing, I want to swing this back around to my lustful desire for a KitchenAid mixer. I’m not married. I’m not dating anyone. I’m not really even close. But I also know I’m not getting any younger, and that owning a KitchenAid mixer shouldn’t be contingent on weather or not I’m getting married. What’s important is that I’m allowing my canvas to be painted one brushstroke at a time, and when I’m ready for my Empire Red brushstroke that represents my KitchenAid mixer to finally find its home amongst the other colors that make up who I am, I think it’s going to be an excellent addition to the magnificent piece of art my life is turning out to be. And when I’m ready to merge my masterpiece with another person’s, it’s going to be more lovely and intricate that I could have ever imagined.  So go on, dream big, and get yourself a KitchenAid mixer.


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The Color of the Sea

“To walk alone is possible, but the good walker knows that the great trip is life and it requires companions.”

– Dom Helder Camara

If you’re my Facebook friend, you have probably seen this quote pop up a couple times in the last month. I first saw it as a fellow Seminarian’s status, and immediately stole it because there was power under those words that hit me like a ton of bricks. Since then, it’s been nagging at me, tugging at my heart, and I knew it was something I needed to unpack. Needless to say, I’ve been wanting to write this post for the last two weeks, and I’ve finally found the time. So, here it goes.

I would consider myself a pretty independent person- I’ve lived by myself for a total of almost four years, I’m financially independent, I pay my own bills, etc. I have all the classic markings of one of those “independent women” the Destiny’s Child heroines sang to us about in the early 2000’s.  I’m really happy with who I am– I like knowing I can take care of myself, and I like having to be accountable for myself. I’m comfortable this way, but even more, I’m content.

Since graduating from grad school, I’ve had a lot of decisions to make- where am I going to work? What kind of work will I do? Where will I live? How will I decorate my bedroom? All of these are decisions that seemingly only affect me, myself, and I, and I like the freedom in knowing that other people aren’t dependent on my plans and dreams. I’ll admit that there are times when I wonder what the next five years of my life are going to look like, and whether or not that freedom in planning for the future is going to change. I begin to wonder if I should cling to this life of solitary planning and move forward as if I am all I’ll ever be, or if I need to start considering more flexibility in my decision making.

Camara’s words remind me a lot of my traveling endeavors of 2009 and 2010. I traveled a lot– New York, Seattle, London, Madrid, Nairobi, Florida, Washington, D.C., etc. I saw a lot of great things! However, with the exception of my trip to Spain, I did it alone. Was it exciting? Absolutely! Do I regret any of it? Not in the least. But there are times I wonder what having a companion on those journeys would have been like. They were all liberating experiences, don’t get me wrong, but I often wonder what I missed in not sharing it with someone.

In light of what Bishop Camara says about the journey of life, my travels may seem trivial, but what about in your own life? Can you think of anything that you’ve done alone that you wonder what it would have been like to have someone’s hand to hold? How much would that have increased the joy of your experience? The reality is that you’ll never know, and I’m not a proponent of looking back and saying “What if…,” but I am a supporter of taking what you know of the past and looking forward with a new hope.

Think about a time that you tried to explain something you experienced to someone who wasn’t there. Two outcomes are possible- First, you could be a really, really great story teller, tell the story perfectly, and the person listening can clearly imagine what your experience was. The other possible outcome is that you tell the story, and the other person just doesn’t get it. We’ve all told and been told those stories, and how do they usually end? “Well… I guess you just had to be there.” It’s similar to trying to explain the color of the water to people who have never seen the cerulean blue of the Caribbean.

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Here’s the deal- being comfortable by yourself is a really great trait- it means you’ve acknowledged that you can be alone, happy, and content. What I think the Bishop’s words are trying to express is that, while a lot of people take solace in knowing their abilities to be alone, somethings are better and more powerful with a companion. Instead of trying to explain the color of the ocean to someone, invite them into that experience with you.

Here’s the flip side- Spoiler alert: sometimes bad things happen. I think it’s easy to talk about the “good” times we experience in life, and sharing that with someone, or multiple people. It’s harder to acknowledge that the hard times will inevitably come. For the more independent people, I think it’s easy for us to say, “Hey… I’ve gotten through one or two or twenty bad things…. I can get through one more,” but what’s wrong with admitting that sometimes we wish we didn’t have to face a challenge alone? Does that show weakness? Are we less credible as people who are actually able to survive on our own?

And now we’ve reached the core of what I think this quote is meant to mean for us (at least for me): Companionship does not show weakness. Companionship shows our desire to be in relationship. Our desire to be in relationship comes from our human instinct and call to love. Think about those stories you tell your friends- you’re not telling them because you want them to suffer (unless you’re just realllllly mean…)– no, you tell them because you want to invite them into the beauty or excitement that you experienced. There’s a joy that you want them to feel. Our call to be in relationship with one another is out of a need to share joy and love with another one of God’s created souls.

Life is a great trip. Sometimes, we want a hand to hold while we experience it. Sometimes we need a hand to help us up when we’ve fallen. Sometimes we are that hand to help someone else up when they’ve grown weary. God intends for us to be in relationship with each other and with God. The trinity is an illustration of God in relationship with God’s self as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we were meant to go on this journey alone, the journey would have been over a long time ago.

I will never regret doing any of the things I’ve done alone. In fact, I celebrate that I’ve been able to do a lot of those things with freedom. But I’m also not afraid to admit that I look forward to more experiences that I’ll be able to share with people I love. For me, it takes some self-encouragement to invite people into relationship (purely based on my own insecurities), but this is something I challenge everyone to do– Invite someone into your experience. Let them share that joy with you. Life is a great trip, but we are here for a blink of an eye. Walk alongside each other, and experience this life the way God intended for us, embracing the beauty of His world.

In closing, this song is heavily rooted in a romantic understanding of companionship, but the idea of companionship transcends romance– it incorporates, familial love, friendship, and kinship. Regardless, it’san awesome song. Just listen to it.


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These Dreams

On Friday, I wrote about the American dream, and how there are some Americans who are not being invited to participate in it. Tonight, I’d like to continue this discussion about dreams, but not for other people- for me… or for you. The next couple of minutes are going to be fully dedicated to you, the reader, and your dreams.

I don’t know what your dreams are, but I want to. I want to know what makes you excited when you get up in the morning. What makes you know that tomorrow will be worth it because down the road you will have achieved what it is you have set your heart on? I love talking to people about there passions, and what makes them excited. I love hearing that glimmer of hope in their voice and the twinkle in their eye when they talk about something they truly love. I’m going to tell you what mine is, but I want to know yours too, so please, if you care to, please leave a comment telling me what it is your heart lights up for.

To some of you, mine will be no surprise. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you know I’m an avid fan, and frequent visitor of New York City. I’m actually sitting in my friend’s spare bedroom in Queens as I type this. When I was growing up, New York City seemed so unattainable to me. Maybe that’s because I grew up in small Minnesota town where not many people left after high school. Maybe it’s because I had a pretty rocky childhood. Who knows what the reason was, but the first time I met someone from New York, I felt like I was talking to a martian. Having the idea of a city so large it took at least two hours on a train to get from one side to the other (which I’ve learned in the last few days), and that was flooded with people who made more money than I’d seen in a lifetime, or even better, FAMOUS people, I convinced myself that New York would always be this fictional wonderland I kept in the back of my mind.

That all ended after I met my friend Floryn. I met her the summer before my senior year in high school when she directed a play I was in. She, at the ripe age of 23, and I, a measly 17, had nothing in common and nothing should have clicked between us- she was Jewish, I was (at the time) an out of control Jesus freak. She was an actress, I was clueless. She had more world experience than I even knew was possible. But something was there– and now I’m sitting in her guest room.

I remember asking her silly questions like, “Do you have grocery stores?” “Where do you go to watch movies?” The idea of New York had been such a fantasy, but now I had someone who lived it and knew it– that’s when I realized I wanted to live it and know it too. Having never been there, I knew I had to go there…. and someday even live there.

It’s now 2012, and I’ve known Floryn for over 9 years. I’ve visited New York multiple times. Every time I get here, it’s that feeling I get when I walk into my parents’ house on Thanksgiving– and little dread, but a lot of love. And now, I’m looking forward to moving here in January. Most people ask me, “Do you have a job?” “Do you have a plan?” Well, I can tell you, right now, no. I don’t have a job. And my plan is scary at best. Being the planner and bit of a control freak that I am, having a “scary” plan is…. scary. But I’ve come to terms with it because if I don’t allow myself to have this dream and do whatever it takes to make it come true, I will regret it. And as cliche as it is, I want to be able to go to sleep at the end of the day knowing I did everything I could to make today as great as possible, with no regrets.

What is it that makes your heart skip a beat? It could be moving someplace fantastic, or even just visitng there. It could be a certain job or a career dream of some kind. It could be to have a family, and spending your life building a home. It could be finding a cure for a disease, or bringing attention to a social issue somewhere in the world. Whatever it is, a dream is a dream, and it is our God given right as humans to be able to use our creativity and the passion in our souls to pursue that (everyone has passion- see my post on how passion is a catalyst of great things. Our passion is what drives us, and shapes our dreams.

I truly and honestly believe that we owe it to ourselves to follow our dreams. What good is a dream worth having if nothing ever comes from it? Don’t ever let anyone tell you your dreams are too big or a waste of time. Your dreams are yours. They are significant to who you are.

One of my favorite movies is Pretty Woman. At the beginning and end of the movie, there is a man in the street yelling, “Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream?” This is a great question- it opens up the possibility and opportunity to create something rich and beautiful. So, like I said before, feel free to leave a comment below, or think about it on your own. What is it that makes your eyes sparkle and your soul shine? What is one thing you want because that’s what you’ve been created to do or be? Tell me, WHAT’S YOUR DREAM?