LEARNING TO BREATHE
Not long after her fifth baby, Kirsten learned an important lesson on breathing from a personal trainer. The woman told her she needed to adjust her breathing during workouts, to “exhale during the hard parts, and inhale to renew.” Then she started noticing how she breathed during her days – shallow breaths, or even holding her breath in times of stress.
“I was breathing. But I was depriving myself,” she says. “Short, shallow breaths might keep me alive, but they weren’t sufficient for giving me the energy I needed. My body required real, deep breaths.” Kirsten says that changing her physical breathing helped focus and restore her, and was a breakthrough in her life.
Applying the breathing concept to the Christian life, Kirsten says, “Truth is a lot like breath. Jesus called himself “truth” in John 14:6: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.” All truth originates with God, she believes. “To find and know truth, I spend time in the Word. I honestly get so excited about digging into Scripture. The beautiful thing about it is the more time I spend in God’s Word the more grounded I am in God’s will for me. God’s will is always good and perfect – and true.
“From that conviction, comes her encouragement to busy women: “When we inhale God’s Word, we exhale peace.” She wants women to know that He always sees us, always care, and and is more than able to help in any matter.
Kirsten believes it’s critical for women to have close friendships with other women who can encourage and support one another. Having moved so many times with Benjamin’s NFL career, she’s had to adapt to getting to know new people quite a bit, and be vulnerable in doing so. Also, with her husband’s training and travel schedule, she’s spent a lot of time alone with the kids and very much needed the support of other friends, especially sisters in Christ.
“I often refer to my ‘dark-alley friends,’” she says. “These are women I can rely on to stick with me through the tough times. These are the women who stand with me, no matter what.”
One practical tip she gives about friendship is to meet in person more than relying on social media. “Real friends do real life together – no filter, no makeup. They take walks together, call and text each other, celebrate kids’ birthdays and milestones together, show care for each other. Do we all need to get off social media? Not necessarily. I’m just saying let’s be real. And let’s take off the rose-colored glasses and see each other for who we really are.”
WHEN LIFE IS PAINFUL
Kirsten is very transparent about the joys and trials of her life, including the isolation of caring for young children, and the loneliness that sometimes comes with being married to a pro-athlete. Some of the deepest hurt she’s experienced has come in the form of miscarriage. When Kirsten became pregnant for the sixth time, the Watsons were ecstatic. Assuming it would be their last child, Benjamin took photos of her belly each week to celebrate the growth.
This baby was smaller than the others, but that didn’t concern them. Then Kirsten experienced some spotting and a midwife friend told them to see a doctor. They soon learned that she had miscarried and were completely crushed. A few months later, Kirsten once again conceived … and once again miscarried.
“The sadness after the second miscarriage hit me doubly hard – maybe because I hadn’t really grieved the first.” She remembers telling Benjamin, “You don’t have to worry about me. I’m not going to turn away from God -- I’m just wrestling with Him. I need some time to mourn, to grieve, to be angry.”
The issue of suffering is one Kirsten doesn’t shy away from. She shares some healthy ways she’s learned to respond to it. First, she says we need to “breath in the promise” that God is with us throughout the trials. “His presence is constant. His peace is right there, just a breath away. His power protects me, and His peace is beyond understanding. In all this, God is good. And He continues to pour out blessing.”
Next, she exhorts us to be real – with God yourself, and others. “God doesn’t need us to filter with Him. He can take all our emotions, even the ones that seem embarrassing or uncomfortable to us.” As to sharing with others, she wished she’d done so sooner. “I see now that keeping my pain bottled up took a lot of energy. I told myself I was holding it together when really, I was imploding. Sharing our burdens creates space for others to bless us as we heal.”
Lastly, Kirsten says we need to seek and praise God even though the pain makes it a challenge. “I’ve found that the Lord meets me on the pages of His Word. Worship music and worship services are lifelines for me when I’m going through seasons of pain and loss.”
None of us knows the end of our stories Kirsten says. In her case, there was a bright turn not long after her miscarriages. “A few months later, I was pregnant with … identical twin boys!”