Put your money (and sunscreen) where your mouth is

I’ve dug my heels in. But I may not be winning.Walking the Talk2

I make a conscious, daily effort to take a stand against the cultural norms of our day in the area of body image. Yep, that’s me: middle-aged, suburban rebel. Americans worship youth and beauty, thereby shackling women (in particular) with concern over their appearance. We pay thousands of dollars, and spend countless hours, “managing” our bodies as measured in pounds lost, grays dyed, wrinkles stretched/treated/injected, breasts implanted, cellulite extracted, teeth whitened, and the like.

I want something different for my daughters and the young gals for whom I lead Bible study.

I want them to believe God’s Word when it says that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:4)… carry the image of God (Genesis 1:27)… that beauty is a quiet and gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:4)…  that their value doesn’t diminish with age and its outward expressions (2 Corinthians 4:16).

I speak of these issues often with them, and occasionally write about them here. I’m trying to live it, too: I wear an unruly mop of rampantly graying hair. I’m upfront about the number of times I’ve orbited the sun. I don’t have a bathroom full of anti-aging wrinkle remedies. When they were younger, my kids asked if I “ever brushed my teeth” because they are naturally yellower than the peroxided versions they saw on others. Parts of my body sag despite an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits. But I refuse to express disdain for my body… my girls are assaulted every day with that message and I will not add my voice to strengthen it.

Don’t get me wrong: I wore braces. I apply makeup. When I need to purchase a new outfit, I look for something flattering… something that “accentuates the positive.” I haven’t escaped these snares completely. It’s a battle. But it’s one I’m committed to fighting.

Skin deep

I had my first encounter with basal-cell carcinoma skin cancer when I was just 29. My second at 33. Both were on my face and were removed via MOHS surgery. My sister once suggested we think of those surgical scars as a patina: something made beautiful by wear, age and exposure. I like that idea. I’ve had numerous other basal-cell lesions on my chest, shoulders, back and legs that were treated topically.

I’ve worn sunscreen every day for fourteen years. I sit in the shade at the pool on summer afternoons… usually fully clothed. I’m irked by the notion that somehow spray/lotion tanning is better than sun exposure. To be sure, it doesn’t carry the same risks of UVA/UVB-induced skin cancers and aging, but it does nothing to alleviate the malignant underlying belief that we are less valuable if our faces and bodies aren’t of airbrushed quality. (And puh-lease don’t feed me the line about “just feeling better about myself when I’m tan.” That’s a cultural infection, too: being tan used to imply poverty because it meant one worked in the fields; porcelain skin was preferred and esteemed. Obviously, the culture has shifted, which only proves the point that we’ve all bought the lie The Man is selling, instead of embracing the complexion God has given us.)

I was just diagnosed with skin cancer. Again.

This time baso-squamous. Not the life-threatening melanoma that I fear will one day be the reason for my physician’s call. But this one’s a bit more aggressive than mere basal-cell. MOHS surgery, round three. My lesion is right at the edge of my lip.That means I will lose part of my lip during the surgery. I have no idea how much of it. I don’t know how she will reconstruct it or how it will look.

If I can be completely candid with you, it’s messing with my head. I’m afraid.

  • Will my kids let me kiss them? Will my kiss feel different… to them, to me?
  • I’m a speaker. Will my “new” mouth be distracting to my audiences?
  • Will I be ugly?

God is giving me an “opportunity” to put my money where my mouth is. (Mouth. Get it?) Do I really believe that my beauty is inward, not external, as I’ve so often said? It’s time to walk the talk, which is why I’m letting you in on this new development in my life. I’m going need the gentle, loving accountability that comes from expressing fears and being open about our struggles. I need courage to face the damaging rays of our culture every day.

Frankly, I’m not worried about the cancer at all. I’m relatively certain it won’t be the last time I have it. This type doesn’t spread and it will be completely removed through the surgery.

I just wish the cultural inputs could be so easily excised from my heart and mind.

God's Word as Sunscreen

Standing with me in this battle? Click below to let me know!

Please share!
    • Jonna

      Kirsten, I’m right there with you! Thanks for being the voice to remind us of this! “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30. I tell my girls how beautiful their hearts are, and that’s what makes them beautiful! Loving the Lord and shining for Him! We have skin issues too… acne and skin cancers. I also sit in the shade and should buy stock in sunscreen! :) Sorry to hear about your latest diagnosis. I’m praying for you! Thanks again for speaking up, and spot on!

      • mkholmberg

        I love that verse, too, Jonna! We’ll sit in the shade together. :-)

    • https://www.facebook.com/kim.whelan.7 Kim Whelan via Facebook

      As someone who has had multiple “pre-melanoma” moles/spots removed, I totally understand this. And after last year’s abdominal surgery (which left me with a 9″ scar), I look like a patchwork quilt! Love your thoughts on training up the next generation of women to recognize true beauty as God defines it.

    • https://www.facebook.com/kim.foster.129357 Kim Foster via Facebook

      I admire the beauty of a woman who seeks after God. I remember my mom talking to me when I was eight years old, explaining how important it was to be pretty inside. It made a huge impact on me, and I have never forgotten her words.

    • Susan Cates

      Said it before…and will say it again…thank you for always being real with us! How refreshing that there is no subterfuge in your writing. I am praying for you as you go through this again. I know that God’s got a plan for this, one he is already revealing through this post. You will be beautiful regardless of what happens to your lip. Mike and your children will still cherish your kisses. Your friends will still cherish your gorgeous smile and delightful laugh. Love you dear friend!

      • mkholmberg

        Thanks, Susan, for your affirmation and prayers. Indeed, God always has a plan. Now it’s my job to yield, right?

    • https://www.facebook.com/kirsten828 Kirsten Holmberg 8|28 via Facebook

      Kim — how gratifying to your mom that you still remember. I’d love to think that my words sunk as deeply into my kids’ hearts. What do you think made it stick?

    • https://www.facebook.com/kirsten828 Kirsten Holmberg 8|28 via Facebook

      And Kim, we can sit in the shade together. :-)

    • https://www.facebook.com/kim.foster.129357 Kim Foster via Facebook

      I’m not sure what made it stick. She and I were on our way to attend a wedding, and it was my first one. I was excited and asking her questions about what it was like. She was pretty consistent with her wisdom throughout my life. She wasn’t perfect, but she really tried to instill in me a love for the Lord and a desire to live out that love. I think her consistency was a big factor in her impact on my life.

    • https://www.facebook.com/kim.foster.129357 Kim Foster via Facebook

      And I like the idea of sitting in the shade. :) I’ll bring the lemonade.

    • Hester Christensen

      Kirsten, Thank you for being blunt and honest – we need to hear more of that! It’s a comfort to know others feel and speak the same as me on such topics — sometimes I feel alone . . . sooo much I could say about ‘all this’ — but, what I want to say is that I LOVE YOU! And, I will pray for you through this — Here’s a word for you that just came to my mind — let’s both be more concerned with our feet, (not mouths, chest, legs, butt, wrinkles etc.) — Here’s why: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.” Isa. 52:7 — “Oh Lord make our feet ** beautiful** for YOU for we desire to carry Your good news!!” — Love to you sister!

      • mkholmberg

        That is a *wonderful* idea, Hester! I will absolutely shift my prayers to that… for me, you, and all the women and girls I so deeply adore. Thank you!

    • Deea Elliott Frisbie via Facebook

      I will be holding you in my thoughts and prayers. Lots of love coming your way!

    • Ellen Cole Landreth via Facebook

      So many life lessons we learn in ways we don’t even want to learn. If anyone can conquer this situation it will be you. Praise God it isn’t melanoma. Will look forward to your victorious writing following surgery.

    • https://www.facebook.com/margaret.cyphers Margaret Cyphers via Facebook

      Praying for a smooth surgery and a speedy recovery!

    • https://www.facebook.com/kim.whelan.7 Kim Whelan via Facebook

      You’ve got it!

    • https://www.facebook.com/kim.foster.129357 Kim Foster via Facebook

      Prayers for you going up!

    • Ann Root via Facebook

      Prayers for you as well… I’ve had my own skin issues these past years. I’m always nervous at my 2x per year dermatologist visit! I also am in the shade and covered in sunscreen… I hope all goes well with the surgery.

    • https://www.facebook.com/kirsten828 Kirsten Holmberg 8|28 via Facebook

      Thank you all!

    • http://www.rainisplace.com/ Raini Bowles

      I so rarely read ANY blogs…but i always love yours when I get here! I love your raw and real openness and beauty!!!
      I was always told “some girls are pretty and some girls ain’t but the prettiest girls don’t wear paint” Funny how one minute those words were a “banner” (Or even an idol) to a young, fresh skinned, pale skinned, blonde with blue eyes and the next minute they were a curse as I struck a diving board with my face in the summer between 7th & 8th grade. Can we just say it was devastating…. I tore my nose off, yes, off, burst both cheeks at the cheek bone, and ripped my skin under the nose, across my lips and down part of my chin. Forget that I looked like Frankenstein for the first few weeks…my father refused to allow me to have any stitches for fear of scarring, and immediately had me in a a mineral hot springs pool for healing, caking my face with neosporin and the like, but it was the return to school with a nose nothing like it had been before in shape, size, color or breath-ability, not to mention the scars on my face that required gooping protection on them to prevent further scars and scar tissue or damage from the sun. It did not help that I had also received a firecracker to the head two weeks after the 4th that burned my hair and turned my long locks into a short John Travolta hair cut. Followed two weeks later by my date with the diving board. My self esteem was shattered. I looked like a boy, caked in a pasty makeup, and upon returning to school in the fall I was deeply self conscious and fearful. ME the Outgoing, cute, bubbly one! I could look no one in the eye, and just wanted to hide. Then the cruel remarks…. pancake face, pizza face, gender based remarks…. “Just let me die”, I thought, it would be easier. And I felt so guilty and un-pretty because of the words I had learned. Now, 30 some years later I am thankful that the scars are barely noticeable, at least for a few more years… And the emotional scars have healed as well, as the great Physician has taken them and turned them into glory for Himself that shines brightly in my life…it was just another storm that taught me how to SHINE. Yes, my friend, I understand how it changes your perceptions and feelings. I know how it feels to think people are looking at you and your “new” appearance, but I have learned that we are much more aware of it than others. SHINE for those girls your are role modeling to, God will use it!

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