Archives for June 2015

Losing a Friend and Finding Her Again

DSC_4654 via kimberlyanncoyle.com

We were inseparable from the beginning. We slept at each other’s houses and traded our deepest, darkest, thirteen-year-old secrets. We baked cookies and hid from her brothers and whispered late into the night when the house fell asleep. From the attic we watched movies I wasn’t allowed to watch at home. Her mom cooked me countless dinners, and her house unlocked a sense of freedom in me that needed turning. She taught me real friendship is having the courage to show up, but I’m not sure I ever really learned the lesson.

We remained best friends for most of our childhood, and it crushed me when her family left the country to become missionaries during our freshman year of high school. My living, breathing best friend became a flat scrawl of cursive on a piece of notebook paper. We grew apart as distant relationships often do, but I hold most of the blame. I stopped writing, my gaze focused solely on my own high school survival, and I stopped wondering if she would ever move back.

We’re Facebook friends now. The kind who gather news of each others lives through the occasional update. From a distance, I watched her circle the globe and serve Jesus and raise her daughter to speak fluent Spanish. I don’t know her anymore, not really. I don’t take out the memories and hold them to the light, I don’t wear them out with the handling, or polish them until they shine. They sit in cobwebs in the deepest recesses of my mind.

….

She sent me a message recently. Honest. Vulnerable. Can we have the courage to show up in each other’s lives somehow, across the decades and across state lines? I sat on her message for 24 hours–fear kept me from responding. Like a potter with clay, the intervening years took the raw material of thirteen-year old girls and shaped us into forty-year old women. Between us, we’ve lived in five different countries and married our high school sweethearts and had wildly different life experiences. I’m not sure she will like this re-shaped version of me. She liked who I used to be, but I don’t know if she will like who I am now.

I don’t know how this story will end, but I want to remain open to possibilities. The potter will continue to shape me into a new creation, day by day, decision by decision. Perhaps having the courage to show up is all it takes to start, and time will take care of the rest.

Friendship: What I Learned by Racing Side by Side

DSC_4903 via kimberlyanncoyle.com

My husband wrangled me, our teenage daughter, and our three best friends to participate in some sort of mud-filled obstacle course this upcoming weekend. You know how I love to spend the Saturday after the first full week of summer? Running a 5K through barbed wire and fire pits. Only not. It’s a bit redundant, n’est ce pas?

It just so happens that one of our running buddies this weekend, also ran alongside me for my first marathon. I’ve thought a lot about my marathon experience over the years. The pain and triumph of that day wrote its way permanently into my muscle memory, but the memory of my friend pounding the pavement next to me, refusing to let me quit, burns like a lamp–illuminating every step from start to finish.

When I rewind the tape, I don’t see the mile markers as they pass, I see the glow of my friend running beside me. He taught me what it means to support and lift up a friend when that friend feels like the road ahead is too hard to travel, when the end disappears from sight, and the obstacles to reach it feel so overwhelming, it just might kill body or spirit.

We all have a race to run, whether it be in our marriage, parenting, career, or our own spiritual development. I feel so blessed to have friends who train hard and keep their promises and offer me all the support I need to run my own race well. I want to emulate the kind of friendship that loves others well, that sets them up to run their race with confidence. Here’s what I learned along the way:

Run in front, alongside, and behind

My friend promised not to leave me. He stayed within sight for every high point and the inevitable lows when I felt certain I couldn’t go on. I still see the flash of white from his race shirt out of the corner of my eye when he edged forward to make way for us through a sea of runners, or dropped behind to fill our cups with water. I knew when we crested the toughest hill, he would be running right alongside of me, pushing hard, working through the pain.

I want to be the kind of friend who will run alongside you even when it’s painful, even when it costs me something, even when the experience hurts.

Offer practical help

Before we started, he double checked my gear and talked through what to expect on the course ahead. He stopped at every water break and made sure I had a cup of water for hydration. He made sure I saw the spectators handing out the free oranges and bananas. I returned the favor by hoarding my fuel gels, while my friend nearly passed out from a lack of food. Those bananas were a lifesaver. Literally.

Sometimes being a good friend, actually means offering one another a cup of cold water or a helping hand. I learned my lesson when I realized I might find myself having to explain to my friend’s wife why he never made it to the finish line. Food, water, expectations–let’s recognize where our people need help and offer it, even when we have needs too.

Tell them what they need and provide it

My friend told me when we should stop to use the port-o-potties. He made us take a break to stretch. He forced water on me even when I didn’t want it. He gave me advice for running the steepest hill, and he ran beside me the entire way, until we stood looking down from its great height.

We don’t always know what we need when facing a new or challenging situation. Sometimes, we’re just trying to survive, and a friend can see past our discomfort, helping us shift from a position of surviving to thriving. If you find yourself supporting a friend in their own life race, don’t simply tell them what they need, open up your hands and offer it.

……….

Do you have a friend running the race of life with you? How can you be that friend to someone else?

Stay tuned for photos from the race this weekend on instagram.

I wish: A Reflection on Stay at Home Motherhood

roses via kimberlyanncoyle.com

It is 7am on the first morning of our summer break, and already I hear feet crossing the upstairs floorboards. I am “blessed” with children who like to both stay up late and rise early. I find sanity-saving quiet between the hours of 11pm and 6am. Unfortunately, this doesn’t jive with my natural biorhythms, if you know what I mean.I don’t think I can express how hard summer is for an introvert mama.

At 11pm last night, I read a few posts at new-to-me blogs about homemaking and housekeeping. Sometimes I like to see how the other half lives. The writers wrote about taking joy in keeping a home, about the pleasures of stay-at-home motherhood, and about finding fulfillment in our role as chief housekeeper. My gut-honest reaction was disbelief. Do women really feel like this? If they do, I literally do not know a single one of them. Maybe I’m hanging out in the wrong circles?

After my feelings of disbelief passed, and I hurdled my first judgmental instincts, I felt something a little like longing. Deep down, I think I want to be that wife. I want to be that mom. I want to be the one who finds the greatest satisfaction in keeping a home and throwing wildly creative birthday parties and baking homemade bread just because I can. (I can’t by the way. My husband finally took matters into his own hands and got up at 5am to bake bread for us a while back.)

There is something so precious about a woman who gives her all to her family. Why does my heart instinctually want to judge this as somehow a less-than approach to womanhood–a throwback to the 1950’s? Here’s the irony–I am this woman. I chose to stay home, but I have never found a deep sense of satisfaction in it. For fifteen years, my husband sacrificed and worked hard and made all the money–every last bit of it–so I could stay home with our children. I have what so many women dream of, and I haven’t always found joy in it. Rather than fully embracing this decision, I live in a constant state of tension. If “home-making” was a paying job, my boss would fire me. Immediately.

I wish I had dug deeper, past the hard places, past the silt and rock, straight down until I struck the gold. There is gold here. I wish I’d worked harder, enjoyed more, been more emotionally present. I wish I’d let myself sit on the sofa and read all the books while the kids played with blocks at my feet, rather than scrambling to scrub things while giving in to feelings of deep frustration. The years were good, but they could have been better. They were a satisfying meal, but they should have been a feast.

……….

Thanks so much for indulging my navel gazing. If you’re a mom–working or stay at home–how do you find joy in your current situation? Do you feel the tension too, or am I crazy? However you choose to wife and parent, I hope you find contentment and deep, abiding joy in your decision. Maybe you can teach me?

Transitions and How We Make Them: Three Things to Remember

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I sat cross-legged on my mat in the exercise room surrounded by glass, feeling as conspicuous as a single fish in an otherwise empty fishbowl. Other cross-legged classmates filled the room, but I couldn’t get over the feeling that other gym-goers eyes followed me as I sat deep-breathing into my ribs. It wasn’t until I closed my eyes and focused on the yoga instructor’s voice that the rest of the world melted away, if only for a little while.

The instructor spoke about crossing thresholds, how we must pay the closest attention when we transition from one place to another. Transitions between the poses are the most difficult and most challenging part of the yoga practice. So often, we believe holding the pose–staying in one place for a long period of time–is the hard part. But, injury usually occurs when crossing over from one movement to another.

This may sound a little woo-woo if you’re not into contorting your body into gravity-defying positions, but I think there are some valid off-mat lessons yoga practice can teach us.

Three things to remember when experiencing transition

Stay focused

Focus on what you’re leaving behind, but also where you’re going. We lose focus when we become more interested in how the person next to us is managing to move with such grace, than on how we handle our own transitioning.

I fumble my way through much of life–graceless and messy. But I don’t want comparison to rob me of the joy of accomplishment. Moving forward, from one place in life to another, graceful or not, is worth our focus and attention. Once accomplished, it’s worth celebrating.

Be mindful

Pay attention. Pay attention to the signals your body, mind, and spirit send you. Pay attention to the pain. Attend to the discomfort. Listen to your own needs and treat them with care as you move forward into something new or different or exciting.

Be mindful of what is happening in your own space and how you experience change in your soul. Give yourself room to breathe.

Move slowly

Transition is a normal part of life. We move in and out of seasons like every other created being in nature. Some change occurs overnight, but most often, our souls forget to stay in tune with the subtle changes leading us into the next season. Moving slowly helps us avoid injury.

Will we always get it right? Will we always make the best and wisest decisions? No, but we can minimize the impact if we don’t rush in full-speed ahead with little thought for our emotional or physical safety.

If you find yourself in a place of transition today, know that it’s a messy process. It’s never going to look pretty without countless errors and many years of practice, but the resulting strength of character and flexibility of spirit make every bit of the aching worth it.

Hiding God’s Word in Our Hearts: Scripture Memory Cards

scripture via kimberlyanncoyle.com

As a kid, I attended a Christian school and participated in weekly Bible classes. We memorized scripture in exchange for good grades. On weekends, I followed the line of children filing out of the church sanctuary to the classrooms in the hall. I listened to stories illustrated by flannel graph, and recited my weekly verse for a single piece of candy. Sunday School was something to suffer through–fun and relevant wasn’t high on the list of priorities for sunday school teachers in the 80’s. They liked repetition, they liked flannel, they liked their Bible stories with little flair for the dramatic. Every morning at home, my parents slipped in a cassette tape of scripture set to music, and I curled my hair while watching my mom’s reflection in the mirror, blotting foundation on her face while humming along to scripture.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but life-giving words saturated my childhood. There was no flash bang. No grab-bag reward. Only black and red letter words winding their way into every corner of me. Scripture surrounded me at school, at church, and at home on a regular basis. Even now when I read scripture, I find myself digging the words out from a deeper place, where over time they buried themselves like hidden treasure along the outline of my childhood memories.

Without knowing it, I hid God’s word in my heart, and while it takes some digging to recover it, I know it’s still there. It’s as close as a heartbeat. I regret not memorizing more when I was younger, before time and information overload took over the little space left in my memory bank.

By contrast, my kids are saturated with media, with a constant bombardment of words and images and sounds that fill every corner and crevice. God’s Word competes for every square inch of space. I confess, I haven’t done enough to help them bury the treasure of scripture. I haven’t played the tapes or sent them to Christian schools or whipped out the standard 80’s Bible drill or flannel graph memorabilia. Sure, we read our Bible, and my husband bribes the kids with rides to school in which they must memorize scripture to hop in. But it never feels like enough.

I want them to find God’s word written across their thoughts, actively renewing their minds with it. I want them to bind scripture to their hearts, and allow the Book of Life to transform them from the inside out. I realized I had failed miserably when we visited Israel a few years ago, and one of my children admitted they didn’t know Jesus was a real live human being. Apparently, they thought he was a fictional character. Someday, I hope to laugh about this, but given said child’s recent behavior, today is not that day.

I find myself wanting to help them memorize and pray through scripture, but not really knowing where to begin. My friend Kimberly and I talk about this often, and while I like to complain rather than come up with solutions, Kimberly likes to take action. She created a set of Read It/Pray It Scripture cards to use as a tool to teach her kids about hiding the word of God in our hearts. As someone who is easily overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of media, I appreciate her commitment to simple over flashy. I plan to have a set of these cards in my hands by Friday.

Kimberly offers her Read It/Pray It Scripture cards as a free download on her website, which might work well if you’re into downloading and printing off your own set. If, like me, you’re a little lazy, head over to her Etsy shop. She will ship you professionally printed cards–you can choose your set–or sign up for a monthly subscription plan for a new set delivered to either your inbox or your door every 30 days. It’s brilliant and easy, just as it should be.

These cards would make a great gift for new parents to pray over their children, for recent graduates, for your kid’s ever-faithful Sunday school teacher, or even for yourself–because who doesn’t need reminding? You can find them here or here. Download or order yourself a set today.