The Privilege To Wear A Two-Piece Bikini (And Other Rights You Don’t Have To Earn)

It was the first pool day of the summer, which for me involves reading a book until my vision is impaired by sweat, slipping into the water just long enough to cool off, and repeating the cycle at least twice.

Looking up from chapter 3, SPF 30 seeping into my skin, I gazed across my apartment complex pool. And that is when I saw it.

A sight that, honestly, a year ago wouldn’t have phased me. But today it had my full attention- causing my eyebrows to squish in a little closer and my heart to sink.

At this point you’re probably compiling a list of shocking things to encounter at a pool, wondering which one I’m about tell you: a grown man’s butt-crack (a phenomenon that begs me to ask, “Don’t you feel the breeze sir?”) Or maybe a poop-y diaper floating across the shallow end.

Although I can’t say I’ve never seen these, I’m sorry to disappoint you this time. What I saw was much more subtle. Something so common place that it didn’t even elicit a double take. 

I saw a woman, probably my age- 24 years of life lived. She had beautiful blonde hair, wrapped up in a bun like a ballerina. She was sporting a floral two-piece bikini. If I had to guess, she wore a size 4 in jeans. Maybe a 6 depending on the brand.

What caught my eye about this girl on a late May afternoon, was that as she stood there, talking with a girlfriend, she was sucking in her stomachThey both were.

I knew it from the moment I saw them. And it was quite noticeable to me; as I had just scrolled through Instagram, noticing the same posture in friends celebrating Memorial Day- taking pictures by lake-houses. I’ve seen this stance in bridesmaid photos. And I’ve seen it in my own mirror.

To be honest, I’ve got terrible posture. It’s been one of my worst habits, and a difficult one to break after sinking into it for a quarter of a century. None-the-less, the moment I stretch into a spandex, waterproof suit, you’d think I’d been walking with a stack of college textbooks on my head- the way my mom told me Miss America practiced her graceful walk down the runway.

This is the season, when week-in and week-out, thousands of women and girls across the world slip into a one or two piece suit, and make their Princess Diaries transformation from slouchy to sucked-in.

It’s no mystery why this occurs. There’s an unspoken (or sometimes gossiped too loudly) pressure to earn the privilege to show our naval. If I look a certain way, no one will judge me for wearing this suit. But if I look too fluffy- too bulky – too hairy- too ANYTHING I will have lost the right to wear two-pieces or to even pass through the gates of a public pool at all.

But as I watched my neighbor and scrolled through photos, I wondered: What else are these women sucking in? 

Forget the food-baby or the winter weight or the beautiful scars that bore the five year old in water-wings floating next you…Women (and men alike) are sucking in the parts of their personalities that make them “too much.”

  • The man-laugh: the one that swells up only when you’re truly amused.
  • The quirky hobbies that you could talk about for hours given the chance.
  • The secret passion or the god-sized dream that you might see come to fruition…if only you’d unpack the seeds and let them receive the light of day.
  • Your rich culture that impacts the very lens from which you see the world, that others aren’t quite comfortable enough to try to understand.

We restrain who we are in an effort to meet some sort of standard- proving our worthiness to be invited to the party- to take a seat at the oak conference table- to be welcomes to the majority culture- the list goes on.

We’re holding back the nature of who we are in order to conform to a world that claims to be open to expression, but whose action sends off a very different message by snuffing out the intrinsic art of every unique human- the very creativity of God.

So as you approach the heat of the summer, I want to tell you what I wanted to tell that girl at the pool. What I wanted to comment on my friends’ lake-house photos:

You don’t have to earn swimsuit privileges by sucking it in or depriving yourself of bread. The magazines in your local Kroger might say otherwise. Don’t read them. Don’t support those writers by subjecting your free mind and free body to the subliminal messages posted where the only true readers are just passing time. Go to the self-checkout lane and get out of there quick.

You don’t have to earn friendship privileges by changing your interests or suppressing your own opinions. The voice in your head might say otherwise. In that case, surround yourself with open-minded people who will tell you how valuable you really are. If the voices of the people in your life say otherwise… go to the places where you find enjoyment and the freedom to share your beautiful mind and make some new friends.

And finally, you don’t have to earn the privilege to be fully loved, deeply known, and intimately cared for. The world WILL tell you otherwise. To be loved, you’ll need to deliver a profitable return. To be known, you’ll need to be interesting. To be cared for you’ll need to ensure you’re not too much of a burden.

But with God, the standard has changed. Your wayward heart has been adopted. Your soul is a handheld treasure in the safety of your Creator. Your burdens are not too heavy. Your quirks are a piece of art. Your mistakes are no surprise. Your mind is an asset to the Kingdom. Your body is a temple- imperfect and aging towards a day of restoration. Your personality is a snapshot of the image of God. There is no earning His favor, His love, or His acceptance. The offer was on the table before you knew your great need and accepted it.

In His eyes, you are never too much to bear; always enough (thanks to Christ’s atoning sacrifice on your behalf); and a gift of restoration to this desperate, broken world. But in order to live a life of confidence, you have to stop sucking it all in and breathe. 

Breathe.

Exhale the stipulations of acceptance.

Release the world’s expectations.

Breathe out the prerequisites of worth. 

Inhale acceptance.

Grasp the grace of God.

Breath in the life-giving, joyously contagious, irresistible aroma of His love. 

And just BE who He created you to be.

No proving. No justifying. No earning.

Just. Breathe. 

With Love and Freedom,

Kelsee

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For more reminders of your worth and value as a woman, check out my devotional workbook, Worthy: 10 Days of Remembering Who God Says You Are, available on Amazon.

 

Lasting Treasure

I was deathly afraid of the dentist growing up.

The nauseating smell that hits when you enter the building, the hair-raising sound of drilling and pulling, the tastes and pain. In fact, the dentist office is still the one place I dread most in the world. I often joke that I’d choose to visit the OB-GYN over the dentist any day, and I like to say that nothing reveals my personal brokenness quite like a trip to the dentist.

But at least as a kid there was a light at the end of the tunnel- a dig through the treasure chest on the way out of the office.

I can still see myself on my hands and knees, digging through that treasure chest determined to find a prize that was worth all the terror that my little heart had just experienced- something to take away the pain and dull the nasty taste in my mouth. If I found a treasure that met all my expectations, my heart would be happy- forgetting the trauma that I had just endured.

Much like 6-year-old Kelsee leaving her dental check-up, many of us are digging for treasure- searching for a prize that might satisfy. You can tell a lot about a person by what they consider gold. And jealousy, if we pause long enough to notice, can be an indicator of what kind of prize our hearts really treasure.

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Enter a late night scroll through Instagram: A few weeks ago, a wave of envy hit me as I observed a girlfriend’s success. Once I recognized the unhealthy thoughts I was having, that jealousy began to alert my heart. Like a metal detector on a beach, this jealousy revealed something buried underneath the surface of what appeared to be just another dose of comparison. My jealousy was an indicator of what I was treasuring in life.

In that moment, I was treasuring worldly success- approval of man- self-sufficiency – and self-praise. I felt as though my worth as a person came from what I accomplished on this earth. I longed for others to give me approval. I wanted to be able to create my own sense of significance. I wanted to feel proud of myself. These were my treasures.

The treasure chest of my heart was full of myself, man, and this temporary world. Yet these treasures left me ultimately feeling empty.

Maybe you’ve experience this full-emptiness too….

  • Jealousy of a relationship – treasuring the validation and acceptance of another human being to make you feel loved.
  • Jealousy of another family’s work and financial life- treasuring the American Dream and this world as your home.
  • Coveting another friends physique or personality – treasuring the status quo in order to find self-worth.

The list of potential treasures goes on, while the void grows darker and colder.

This emptiness is no surprise when we consider this warning from Jesus, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Simply put, jealousy is an indicator that a heart is full of empty treasures that will pass away and never satisfy. But if our hearts are instead full of eternal treasures- treasures of heaven- we will experience the fullness of joy that jealousy cannot steal.

We must treasure peace, servanthood, sisterhood, self-control, holiness, and generosity, making Jesus our greatest treasure, and loving others more than we love ourselves. When these are our treasures, there is no room for the battle of competition and comparison. Jealousy will not penetrate, and resentment will not rust over.

But how do we do this? I don’t have all the answers- and this battle is still one that I’m learning how to fight, but I think there is a key question we can ask ourselves.

Like most of the cheap prizes I pulled from the dentist office treasure chest – a plastic frog, a super bouncy ball, play jewelry, a pencil – our worldly treasures break, lose their shine, get lost, and simply don’t last. In a moment of furry, I can pause and ask myself the same question I asked when carefully choosing my souvenir: Will this treasure last?

If my answer is no…If the treasure of that moment will not follow me into eternity, then I am prompted to redirect my heart to a new treasure. Through prayer and petition, the Holy Spirit will transform my heart with a longing for lasting treasure -treasure that will not break after a few uses or turn my finger green.

What kind of steps do you take to redirect your heart in a moment of jealousy? I would love to hear from you.

With Love & Freedom,

Kelsee

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Finding Light In The Shadows

Hey friend,

I’m writing to you on Groundhog Day- the silly holiday that is supposed to determine how much longer winter will be here. Living in Indiana, I’ve settled for completely unpredictable weather- shadow or no shadow.

As I saw this national holiday printed on my calendar this morning, I wanted to write something to you about shadows. Because like the cute, furry groundhog, I think many of us are running from our own shadows.

We’re running from the darkness of our past, believing that if we close our eyes and don’t look back, we’ll leave behind the pain. We’re sprinting from the darkness inside of us- convinced that if we run fast enough, the regrets, and sadness, and hurt will fall far behind.

The world tells us to run away from anything that hurts, and flee to the next good feeling. We often do this at the expense of ever finding true healing.

But I think that if we spend our whole life running, we’ll spend it exhausted and afraid -worn from the chase, and afraid that if we slow down, even for just 1 mile, the pain will catch up.

Yet if we we did slow down, I think we’d discover that the adrenalin rush has made us numb to the shin splints and blisters that running has brought.

If I’m being too symbolic, let me put it this way: running from the darkness causes just as much pain as sitting in it. One pain is immediate and the other is long-term.

I think so many of us think that by running from the darkness, we’re actually running towards the light. But what if I told you that you’re already in the light? What if I told you that you didn’t need to run- because the darkness is an indicator of light?

There’s an old school, 2005, Switchfoot song that I love. It’s called “The Shadow Proves The Sunshine.”

And I love that image. Because think about it…how do we get shadows? A shadow is formed when the sun- or another light shines on an object. The light shines, and there’s a gentle unfolding of darkness.

You don’t need to fear the pain and regret, wishes, and could’ve-would’ve-should’ves. You don’t need to run from those. Because here’s the thing- the shadow is always going to be biting the back of your heels. And it won’t go away until Jesus completes His total restoration of the earth. There’s always going to be some kind of darkness- the crux to our pursuit of peace and joy.

I think the darkness, like a concrete shadow, is meant to point our gaze further- onto the sun that illuminated it. Only when we truly own our darkness, and recognize it for what it is, will we fully experience the goodness and warmth of the light. The shadow proves the existence of the Son- our very lifeline. And that’s why He shows us our darkness- not to hurt us, but to give us the opportunity to turn to the light.

I love the retelling of the creation of the universe in John 1:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that light was the light of all mankind. THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS, AND THE DARKNESS HAS NOT OVERCOME IT.” (John 1:1-15 NIV emphasis added)

There’s darkness, but in the midst of the black- the emptiness- the pain- the regrets- there’s a more powerful, more persistent light. And the light will always prevail.

I’m not sure where you are on this Groundhog Day, or what you’re going through as you take the time to read this. A broken relationship….an upset in plans….

I’m not sure what your regrets and wishes are. Repeated mistakes…lessons unlearned…

I’m not sure what kind of darkness you’re running from.

But I hope you can find the courage to look through the darkness to find the light. Find the light of Christ shining brightly inside of you- and know that if the darkness cannot overcome the light- then the darkness cannot overcome you.

With Love & Freedom,

Kelsee

View More: http://katherinemei.pass.us/kelseereneekeitel

Wading Through The Tension Of Purpose & Humility

Have you ever felt the tension of preparing for a job interview- wanting to give a vivid and specific explanation of why you’d be awesome for the job, yet not wanting to brag too much? Desperately waving your resume around and shout, “Hire me! I’m awesome!” but at the same time, wanting to give God all the glory? So you give a smile and a “that was all God” response that leaves an awkward taste in your mouth?

The world has cultivated a tension that comes with trying to live a life of both purpose and humility.

We’re told that we can’t have both… that to live a life of purpose, you’ve got to be a go-getter, constantly selling yourself and raving about all that you have to offer. We’re told that a meek or humble individual will always have their dreams snatched up by the loud and proud individual.

So we turn to other humans for affirmation. And without the proper assurance, we find ourselves unfulfilled and in despair.

Why else would someone post a video of his latest random act of kindness? For affirmation and attention.

Why do we broadcast our latest accomplishments all over Instagram? To be affirmed and cheered for.

Before we know it, we’ve got the affirmation of purpose that we needed, but humility has been thrown out the window.

I’m not innocent here…words of affirmation (from The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) is my number one way of feeling loved, and while that isn’t a bad thing, I’ve definitely teetered the line of receiving love and seeking attention.

But I KNOW that there is a better way.

John the Baptist- or as I like to call him, JB- models how to live a life of both humility and purpose. He shows us that it can be done.

JB was chosen by God to prepare the way for Jesus. He was meant to preach the good news of the coming Messiah, and encourage anyone who would listen to repent of their sins and be baptized.

John’s ministry was thriving. People would travel far from the city into the dessert to see John, hear him preach, and to be baptized by him. He spoke the word of God with conviction, passion, and urgency, and as a result, many people believed that he might actually be the messiah.

But John didn’t take the bait of worldly affirmation.

Listen to what he said…in Mark 1:7 “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to steep down and untie.”

In that time period, untying and carrying sandals would have been the job of the lowest servant. John was saying, “in comparison to the coming Messiah, I am the lowest of lows- not even fit for the job of a servant.”

In doing so, John was living his life like a neon sign, pointing straight to the glory of Christ- not himself. With every blink of the sign, he sent the message, “Don’t look at me. I can’t save you. I’m not the one you’ve been waiting for! But He is coming!”

John prepared the way and proclaimed the way.  But John did not pretend to BE the way.

I think this small picture of JB’s ministry is so rich in wisdom and guidance for us today.

JB’s ministry shows us two things.

  1. A PURPOSEFUL LIFE BEGINS WITH HUMILITY (AKA A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF GOD AND MAN)

The world tells us that in order to live a life full of purpose, we’ve got to build ourselves up. Broadcast our best qualities to the world. Stand tall and confident.

But when we find confidence in ourselves rather than in God…we open the door for insecurity and competition to enter in. We start to view ourselves as earners and deservers, rather than recipients of grace.

But John knew where he stood. He knew that despite his good work and devotion to God’s mission, he was still a sinful man in need of a savior. He preached truth with boldness, yet openly and honestly acknowledged his low stature compared to the coming King- unworthy to untie His sandals.

This was a man who was regularly teaching about repentance (or acknowledging, apologizing, and turning away from sin).

When we are regularly practicing the act of repentance in our lives, we are acknowledging two things

  1. God is holy. I am not.
  2. I need a savior. Jesus is my Lord.

This mindset puts us in our proper place. We no longer feel that we deserve praise, attention, or trophies just for participating (thanks childhood athletics). We realize what it then means to boast in Christ, rather than ourselves, because He is the savior that we so desperately need.

The words of the hymn Come Thou Fount express this mindset so eloquently:

“O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.”

I am in debt to you, God. You owe me noting. I offer you my life.

Jesus later came to have John baptize Him.

John, being the humble guy that he was, said, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14)

John was essentially saying, “But Jesus…you are Jesus! You are the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah…and I am a poor wilderness man. I am sinful and you are not. YOU should be baptizing ME!”

JB understood that he did not deserve anything from God, except His judgment and redemptive cleansing. The great purpose JB had in his life came from understanding God’s holiness and his own unrighteousness.

  1. AFFIRMATION FROM GOD IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN APPROVAL OF MAN

We often believe that we need others to approve our purpose. I recently read a quote by Steven Furtick that said, “He who lives by the approval of others will die by the absence of the same” and I couldn’t agree more. Relying on the approval of others often leads to the death of our purpose, not the fulfillment of it.

If JB had soaked up all the affirmation and attention he was getting from the people like a sponge, his message would have likely derailed from preparing the way, to pretending to be the way. And we all know that Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6).

The praise of man could have led to JB’s destruction. But John didn’t let the sweet aroma of worldly affirmation distract him.

John had followers. But He didn’t keep a clenched fist on them. In fact, in John 1:35, we see that JB pointed out Jesus to some of his followers, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

In that moment, his followers left his side and began following Jesus instead.

John didn’t consider this a loss though, because he wasn’t interested in advancing his own kingdom. His purpose was to advance God’s kingdom! And the approval of man wasn’t needed to build that kind of kingdom.

I don’t know about you, but JB shows me that living a life of purpose is all about having our priorities straight: Acknowledging my humanity, praising God for his saving grace, and spreading that message more than advancing my own name and agenda.

John the Baptist shows me that a life of true purpose is spent in the waters and at the feet of Jesus. Doing the good, hard, and intentional work of advancing His kingdom with passion and humility. It’s the most purposeful work we could do with our lives.

I hope this was encouraging to you and gives you a few ideas to consider this week as you seek to live a life of humility and purpose!

If you’re looking for an action step to really bring this truth home, here are some ideas:

  1. Make repentance a regular aspect of your spiritual life. Reflect on your day and admit to God when you have fallen short. Thank Him for His forgiveness, and make a choice to turn from that behavior. This will increase your understanding of humility and help to develop a correct view of man and God.
  2. Regularly praise God for who He is and what He has done. Again, this will help with having a right view of God- placing Him on the throne of your life.
  3. Before you post something on social media, ask yourself some questions about why you are posting and what you are hoping to gain from that interaction. If it is for your glory, attention, or affirmation, wait 24 hours before posting, and then decide if it is right.

Now go out and live the life of purpose and freedom that God has graciously given you!

With Love & Freedom,

Kelsee

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Humble Beginnings: A Year In Review

Hi Friend!

Today I am celebrating the first anniversary of the Detangled & Free ministry! One year ago, after a lot prayer and preparation, I launched this website with high hopes that I would be able to walk alongside women, showing them that they’re not alone in their struggles with comparison and jealousy, and that there is abundant freedom to be claimed in Christ.

All glory and thanks to God, for any good thing that has come from this little corner of the Internet!

As I reflect on this past year of ministry, and all the blessings and refinement that have come, there is one single idea that I think sums it all up:

God uses humble beginnings.

And that is what I want to encourage you with today. I’m not sure when you’ll read this, but I’m writing on January 3, a time of the year where many are promising to pursue a passion that they’ve got hidden in their heart, thinking this is my year.

Whether you’re reading in January, or several months after, I want to speak to that silent dream inside your heart- the “passion project” as my friend Kat would call it, that you’re just waiting to pull the trigger on. The one that keeps you dreaming at night (and in the daytime too). The thing you might refer to as your calling- but you’re still waiting to answer the phone.

Maybe you’re afraid to start. Maybe you’re waiting to have more knowledge, better circumstances, or a few more ducks in the row…

Today I want to encourage you that God uses humble beginnings. Humble…as in imperfect, messy, totally human, a little scary, and maybe unbelievable…humble beginnings.

How can I be so sure? I’ve seen it in my own life over the last year. But if my story isn’t convincing enough, let me remind you of someone else’s beginning.

Jesus: son of God, then son of man.

He was brought into this world on the back of a donkey, by the light of a torch, in the muck and yuck of animals, to two frightened young parents with a strange story.

He had a carpenter for a dad, and a virgin making unbelievable (literally unbelievable) claims for a mom. His family was likely the subject of city gossip wherever they went.

From the earliest years of His life, He was a threat to earthly kings. He was raised in the most humbling circumstances, later to be killed in the most humiliating.

Yet His humility and humiliation are what sat Him at the right hand of God, giving Him the most glory, and granting you and I room in the eternal kingdom of Heaven.

Hallelujah for humble beginnings!

He who knew no sin, became sin. His beginning, humble. His death humiliating.

God uses humble beginnings.

So that passion in your soul, that dream in your heart… would you consider for a moment what might happen if you took the first step of your humble beginning today?

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be fully planned. It doesn’t have to be pretty. All it takes is faith- faith as small as a mustard seed in fact.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, but would like some encouragement, I’ve got 10 Tips, Truths, and Encouragements from my first year of pursuing my own passion project to help you pursue yours. Click Here To Download.

I’m rooting for you, friend. And I’m celebrating because of you.

Thank you for reading, liking, subscribing, sharing, and supporting over the last 365 days. Together we can accomplish so much more, and I know that more women are experiencing freedom and newness in Christ because of our co-laboring together.

With Love & Freedom,

Kelsee

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Comment below what passion project you’re going to begin! I would love to pray over you and your own humble beginning!

P.S. I’m doing a quick year-end survey, and would LOVE your feedback, so that I can serve you even better this year. Here’s the link!