Archives for April 2015

Holding Patterns: A Season of Waiting

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“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” ~ Psalm 27:13

We sat in the same cramped seats we’d been in for eight hours when the message came over the speakers. A delay on the runway would keep us circling the airport for a “short period of time”, would we please have patience and stay in our seats? We felt travel weary already, but another snack from our bags and a flip through the airplane’s movie stations helped distract us from the delay to our destination. This strategy worked for the first two announcements. When the in-flight radar map showed us flying over an entirely different state than the one in which we were landing, I started to get antsy. By the third announcement, I got anxious. By the fourth, I felt downright angry.

Holding patterns tend to have this effect on me. At first I’m all, hey let’s distract ourselves with a Reese’s peanut butter cup and a Ben Affleck movie. But when delay leads to delay leads to delay without a suitable explanation, I start to feel angry. The seat feels more constricting than before. And obviously my legs grew while waiting because the room between my seat and the next one seems suspiciously less accommodating. The noises become louder, the seatbelt chafes, and everyone around me seems hell-bent on behavior I find extremely annoying–like handling the situation with grace and, unlike myself, not passive-aggressively complaining.

My husband and I are currently living in a season of waiting. We describe it as a holding pattern of sorts, as if God broadcasted over the speaker of our life–Delay ahead. Grab a snack and a settle in for that movie. All those things you planned for at your destination? Forget them for the foreseeable future. We’re holding.

It chafes, friends. A season of waiting squeezes uncomfortably tight on hearts that want room to land, room to stretch, room to run wild and free. It’s caused us to take a step back, and revisit our decisions. Delays have led us to dig deeper into our motives, question our plans, and lean harder into our prayers. We sense very little in the way of divine intervention, and it seems as if the connection’s gone silent. We wait and we wonder if it holds any meaning.

As we wait, we place our hope in the fact that this holding pattern is in itself a destination–a destination that requires patience and faith-building. Every decision we made led us here, and while we hold for our final place of landing, we remain confident that regardless of how long it takes, regardless of how the desires may need to change, regardless of hearts that feel strapped and bound tight, we have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. We have seen his goodness, and even when he’s silent, we know there is more goodness ahead. He has not failed us yet.

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Have you found yourself in a holding pattern recently with some of your hopes and dreams for your future? Where are you seeing God’s goodness even in times of waiting?

 

Metamorphosis

DSC_5712 via kimberlyanncoyle.com

Two enormous oak trees stood tall on either side of the pavement right where the sidewalk forked. They grew towards one another forming a canopy, under which ran the path to our front door. As children, we sat beneath the great oaks in the fall, scooping acorns from the surrounding dirt.

In the summer, nests of caterpillars took up residence in their branches. We found them inching their way down tree trunks and scattered throughout the summer grasses. We used to collect as many caterpillars as we could in an afternoon, and then in the evening, we set them free. I always hoped one day I’d walk up the path and find all my former captives missing, and a flutter of butterflies taking their place.

We never saw them become butterflies, but I knew each caterpillar possessed the potential to become newly winged, a flicker of color in the summer light. When we learned of the stages of metamorphosis in school, I wished for the same kind of transformation–an unfolding of my potential where everything shut up tight in my bones would re-make itself into wings and I would learn to fly.

Over the past few years, I’ve watched a friend transform into the truest version of herself. I sat with her recently among a group of her closest friends, and she came to life in their circle. She laughed and told stories, and with each one I saw how perfectly she belongs in her new skin. She grew wings over the last few years, and they caught my eye as they flickered in the fading spring light.

I know her well enough to know her metamorphosis was not all beauty and delight. It came at a cost. It came from a place where she found herself bound so tight, she must either wither or break free. She chose to break free, and it brings me such joy to watch her live into her potential, to watch her becoming.

Metamorphosis takes time and patience. We must commit to the hard work of becoming, and some days this feels impossible and others it feels downright scary. Learning how to belong in our new skin requires truth telling. It requires us to yield to the Holy Spirit, to release our grip on the old, and embrace the new. It means leaning into the things that speak to us of our soul’s home, as we shed the old skin that keep us bound.

As I watch my friend learning how to spread her wings, I think of all her hard work–her shedding of the old, constricting skin. I think of oak trees and captives set free. I think of potential. I think of belonging inside my own skin, and I know both you and I can grow wings too. You and I will fly.

Traveling With Kids: Headless Photos not Included

DSC_6944 via kimberlyanncoyle.com

I love history and art, and I really love museums. I love tourist attractions that have lots of little informational placards, and I like to read each one. Slowly. I also love old stuff. Any kind of old stuff, but especially old stuff that tells a story. This has earned me the reputation of being a bit of a nerd with my family. Boring might be the word my children mouth behind my back, but I’ll own up to nerdy.

My husband shares some of these loves, but mostly he indulges me. When we travel, it’s all museums and historical sites all the time, preferably on foot and in weather conditions guaranteed to make everyone miserable. My children took a three hour guided tour of the Vatican before the age of ten–twice. I can assure you they do not thank me for this. My son still calls it the worst experience of his life, and considering we lost him for a good half-hour in Disneyland Paris, that’s quite a statement.

For years, they begged us for a real vacation. They use words like “relaxing” and “fun” to describe their ideal get-away. They also had the nerve to request three meals a day, a policy my husband largely ignores when traveling. We still haven’t figured out why, but we think he believes it adds to the excitement of walking for hours through an art museum if he “keeps us hungry”. I keep this policy on my list of items to discuss when my husband threatens me with marriage counseling.

This year, we decided to indulge the kids, and we took them to Turks and Caicos for a relaxing, fun, food-filled break. In the first two hours, I had to swim into the ocean with my sunnies and my hat on to save my youngest from drowning, and the oldest had to be rescued at sea by a resort employee manning a powerboat. I have misgivings as to whether or not my children understand the meaning of relaxing, and judging from the above, their idea of fun is dubious at best.

After a generous helping of Fruit Loops and Chips Ahoy Cookies for the kids and a few glasses of prosecco for me, we finally got into a more mellow groove. I indulged my inner nerd by reading a lovely stack of books and taking photos of the sunset on repeat,  my husband fed us (mostly) three meals a day, and the kids enjoyed five days without an informational placard in sight.

When we arrived, I asked my son to please take some photos of me at some point on the vacation, so we have proof I was there. As the official family photographer, I usually stand behind the lens. On the ride home, as I scrolled through my phone, I found ten or so shots of me. Almost entirely headless. There’s nothing like a close up of one’s abdominal area in a bikini at forty to make one reconsider well, everything.

I guess he hasn’t forgotten about that parenting faux pas in Disney after all.

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Where do you like to go on family vacations? What memories stick with you? And, more importantly, have you ever lost a kid there?!

*Follow along on our occasional travels and everyday life-keeping over on instagram. It’s my favorite place on the internet. You’ll find me there a few times a day, much to the mortification and chagrin of my teenagers.

Friendship: An Unfolding

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She fixed her soft eyes on me across the café table. “Tell me about your kids,” she said. All she had to do was ask the question, and my maternal floodgates opened, spilling deep and wide. So few people ask the question, and then give one the time and space to answer. She teared up a little when she told me what a gift her grown children gave her when they all came back. It’s the coming back all mamas hope for, the one that makes a friend out of the funny little people we send out into the world with our beating hearts and best advice shoved down deep into their knapsack.

She asked me other questions too, so many thoughtful, curious, gentle inquiries that I felt myself unfolding like a cat when it finds a patch of sunshine. She said a mutual friend told her that our hearts might beat for the same loves and causes, and one Earl Grey Tea Latte later, I knew our friend was right.

Had this friend not connected us, I’m not sure we would’ve known to seek one another out. Our lives bump up against one another along the very edges, but we don’t often find room for a true connection. I wonder about all the other women whose friendship I miss out on when I pass them in the hallways at church, in the aisles of the grocery store, or in the cars zipping down our neighborhood streets. What kindred spirits will I never know?

I’ve found that for me, friendship is very much tied to proximity. Sure, the best friendships can transcend it, but seeing one another on a regular basis matters. I want to bump into you at the post office, or meet you regularly at the café. I want to see what your house looks like on a regular Tuesday morning, what you throw into your cart when you shop at Target, or the way your braid swishes back and forth when you run. I want to see the details of your life. I want to watch you unfold.

I don’t always want the bump in the hallway, the quick “How’re you doing?” and the 30 second big picture answer. I think we buy into a lie when we believe this is true friendship–that a double tap on instagram equals intimacy, or a like on Facebook equals true interest.

Friendship takes time, and we offer each other so little of it. It takes breathing room. It takes asking the right questions and waiting while a friend unfolds in a patch of sunlight with her answers. I don’t know about you, but I have precious few friendships like this. The amount of time and investment needed for a relationship to grow makes me feel defeated before I get started.

I want better for us as women, don’t you? I want the soft eyes and the gentle questions to become more of a rule in my relationships rather than the exception. I know this will always begin with me.

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Do you struggle to cultivate female friendships? If not, what’s your secret? If you do struggle, what do you find the hardest?

On Leslie Knope and Wholehearted Living

IMG_5710 via kimberlyanncoyle.com

Most mornings, I run on the treadmill in my basement rather than leave the house at an ungodly hour in the biting cold. The basement is dark and cold too, but it has the added advantage of a small shelf where I perch my iPad to watch tv. I’ve run through Breaking Bad, Modern Family, Scandal, Frasier, Gilmore Girls, and Friday Night Lights, to name a few. Good stories are a powerful motivator. So is cake.

Often I find myself a good five years behind everyone else in terms of entertainment. I’m a late adopter of everything. I have a weird hang-up about following the crowd when the crowd says read this or watch that. Apparently, the statute of limitations on my crazy is up after five years. I currently enjoy everything the general public loved way back in 2010. This spring, I finally started watching Parks and Recreation. I’ve had quite a few near misses on the treadmill from laughing so hard. Humor and conveyor belts are a tricky combination.

Can I tell you how much I adore Leslie Knope? I do. I find her outlook on life utterly refreshing. She is genuine and charming and  sincere, qualities your rarely see in tv or in real life. Sarcasm, snark, and delving into our own darkness make up the majority of our entertainment these days. They permeate our culture and have become our default setting when interacting with one another. I enjoy a bit of wit and sarcasm myself, but I wish I layered it with more kindness and sincerity.

Leslie Knope reminds me that we can choose to be happy, rather than perpetually disillusioned. We can believe in each other. We can (gasp) have fun at work, and still aim for excellence. Above all, she reminds me that our ordinary lives in small towns and in small jobs within our small circles of influence can be lived out with a great passion.

I want to love my small life as much as Leslie loves hers. When I fire up the treadmill for the thousandth time in the morning, when I rouse the kids from their sleep and we go through the same motions and they are arguing/ “caring loudly at me”, when I sit down to write and all that comes to mind is exploring more about what it means to belong–I want to bring the best of myself. I want to leave the sarcasm and snark behind and live with kindness, openness, and true sincerity.

Until I started watching the show, I didn’t realize how much I need lessons in wholehearted living. Five years ago, when I lived my Swiss fantasy life and “normal” felt like a distant memory, I wasn’t ready to receive it. But today, now that my flag is no longer planted on European soil and it’s firmly rooted at the crossroads of Everyday and Ordinary, I find myself listening.

Learning to live with our whole hearts invested right where we are tells a surprisingly compelling story. How are you living wholeheartedly today?