Archives for September 2015

On Leaving Well and the Courage to Stay

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My husband left his job with the company that’s fed us and clothed us and provided everything we needed for the last seven years.  He has a new job near the City, in a new to him industry, one that will bring all sorts of challenges for that big brain of his. But first, a shed.

Between the old and the new job, he will build a shed for the lawn equipment and sports paraphenalia that seems to multiply in our garage overnight. This means, I will likely be building a shed too, or at the very least required to make decisions about door placement and siding and roofing, and hey, can you hold this 100 pound wall up while I nail it in?

With the job, everything moved at a glacial pace, and then, a crack in the ice and the water flowed and eddied and pooled very quickly. We prayed over this leaving for almost eighteen months with no definitive direction, no real options in the works. We knew it was coming, even when all evidence pointed in the opposite direction. It felt like walking over beach with a metal detector knowing, absolutely knowing, something precious was buried under the shifting sand, we only needed to discover it.

It took well over a year of digging to find the gold hidden beneath the abrasive grains. There were false alarms: this job required another move, that one didn’t pay enough, the last one never called back. And in the meantime, a weariness settled in. The current job became less and less appealing. It would’ve been easy to let things slide, to build sheds, and gardens, and castles in the mind while the body punched the clock and put in the required time.

You can usually tell when someone is fixing to leave. Whether it’s a job or a sick body or a marriage. They pull away. They offer up a turned shoulder. They show up in body, while the mind roams beaches in the spirit. It is hard to leave well, when the best parts of you walked out the door ages ago.

But my husband kept showing up, doing the work, just like he does in our marriage and with our children. He could have taken the first bit of fool’s gold, the first shiny penny, but he held out for the real thing. This new job is the real thing. This life we’re building together is too.

Because he gave his best at work, even when he felt strangled by the sameness of it, he left his job well. He left to accolades and open doors inviting him back. What more can one ask of a man? That he live well, and leave well when he hears the call to move on.

I have not always left well. I left a string of friendships to fade into the past without a fight. I left the seven jobs in five years, some within a matter of weeks. I left the husband emotionally stranded when I experienced my thirty-something crisis. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I think of all the ways I need to live and leave better. I suppose some of learning to leave well, is actually learning how to stay. This is what I’m building while my husband hammers wood and fits windows in the side yard. I’m building friendships, a job, deep roots, and a calling in which I hammer together the courage to stay.

…….

Where are you leaving well? Where are you finding the courage to live well and stay?

All Shall Be Well: On Parenting

OC via kimberlyanncoyle.com

When my oldest trained for her life-saving course, they required her to tread water for long minutes, and when her legs wearied with the strain of her own body weight, they handed her something heavy to hold above her head and tread some more. Jim Gaffigan likens this experience to parenting multiple children. Imagine you’re drowning, he says, then someone hands you a baby.

We’re treading water here, attempting to balance a full schedule (code for over-committed), work/life balance (doesn’t exist), and teenagers who think we’re the stupidest people alive (as evidenced by their repeated attempts to deceive and defy us). I tread water, and my own sanity weighs heavy in two tired arms stretched above my head.

I can do change and I can do hard and I can do parenting, but I do it with the grace of a drunk trying to stand upright on a moving bus. I take huge gulps of air, dip under the water, flail about, and try my best to keep a tight grip on reality. I find myself daydreaming of skipping ahead through the hard parts, or escaping into a glass of wine and a good book for the next ten years. I contemplate vague-booking, but settle instead for vague-blogging.

Can we all agree that regardless of the age or stage, parenting is hard as hell? It’s treading water with weary limbs when you feel too tired to keep going. After a particularly rough week with one of her children, a friend asked, “Is this really my life?” And to her I say, yes, this is your life. It’s the life of every parent, every wild and wonderful moment of it.

During one of my particularly long tirades about people in my house who lie straight to my face and think they can get away with it, my husband turned to me in bed and said “We have to take the good with the bad, babe. This is part of it.” He then rolled over and snored his way to sleep. I sniffled for an hour in the dark. Apparently, “the bad” has the opposite effect on husbands. But he’s right. It is good and bad, calm and rough seas. It is me holding up grace in one hand and truth in the other, treading like mad in the middle. My children will learn the hard way, as each generation learned before them.

This really is my life, and it’s likely yours too. I strap the light weight of hope to my chest as I tread, and I drown out the fear and exhaustion with these words from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Pray Like the Dying

monarch via kimberlyanncoyle.com

“I think that the dying pray at the last not “please,” but “thank you,” as a guest thanks his host at the door.” ~Annie Dillard

I think the living should pray like this too. I want to pray “thank you” like the dying, while I’m still here to thank the good earth for opening up her treasures to me. I want to thank the fellow beating hearts who carry me when my spirit fails, and thank the God who gave me breath and continues to breathe life into me day after day.

I am a “please” prayer. A “why isn’t this working out” and “can’t you just…” and “Lord, haven’t I been good enough?” prayer. I feel entitled to these words, as if somehow in my own goodness or in my own sheer luck of being born into middle class America, I’ve earned them. I wouldn’t admit this, even to myself, until the stories of others and their unwarranted pain, their unfathomable suffering, pierces through my muscled and thick heart and they unravel me.

You can’t work in a church for long before brokenness crashes like a wave in your inbox again and again. Broken families, broken bodies, broken spirits. You can’t be human and read the daily headlines, without realizing your comfortable “please” prayers sound ridiculous next to the injustice and suffering you see splayed like a body across your screen.

I need to practice the “thank you”prayers while they still drip out like honey, with pure liquid ease. I need to pray them now so that when I brush up against my own brokenness, my instinct will be to thank rather than to blame, to bless rather than always beg to receive. I have a long way to go, but today, I will pray like the dying.

Dear God,

Thank you…

Journeying Back in Order to Move Forward

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They sat around the dinner table while I fiddled with containers of old food and dirty dishes in the kitchen. My audience, captive, just the way I like them. My oldest sat in her usual spot, only this time when I looked at her, a sixteen year old looked back at me. This is new, and yet nothing feels different. She is just as much herself as ever. I am just as much myself too.

Earlier in the evening, I explored this new stage in my journal, and I found I couldn’t write much about today or this week or this season because we are living it. I can’t write a retrospective, an “if only I…” or “had we known…”, I can only write “Today, my girl is sixteen. And she is fully herself.”

I found myself writing backwards, into the early years, and a lot around the middles. There’s a huge gap of time that feels like a blur. The early years seared their way into my memory with their intensity, and the latter years benefit from my having written thousands of words as little guideposts along the way. I remember them because I have colorful flags waving from the hills on which I planted them.

But the middle years, I’m not so sure. There were fewer photographs. No blog. Few words, except the ones that rattled around in my head. There were three littles and not enough hours in the day. Three littles with needs and me with not enough energy to meet all of them. Or so I remember. I think.

After journaling, I thought about how much I believe I missed of the middle years. As I chucked food into the trash, and burnt the toast I was planning to eat for dinner, I asked my captive audience. Especially the oldest one–Was I present? Was I there enough? All veiled references to “Did I fail you?”

Up rose a collective triple sigh. “UGGHHH. Mom, get over it. You’re around too much.”said one. “Gah, mom. Stop asking us about your mothering issues.” said another ” Wait, not issues, insecurities.” said the third. “You’re doing great, mom. Seriously, stop asking.”

Well, that settles that. I tried to sound annoyed when I told them I’m not insecure, I just want to “keep the lines of communication open”, but secretly I smiled to myself, more than a little pleased. I’m around too much. They found a way to plant little flags of remembrance of their own during the middle years, and despite my feeling as if I checked out mentally for many of them, my presence in the morning, in the kitchen making burnt toast, at night tucking them in, drove the flagged stakes into the ground.

Mission completed.

Let Your Life Speak

IMG_6398 via kimberlyanncoyle.com

Around the time my youngest child turned two, when we lived in the thick of toddler tantrums, I began having meltdowns of my own. My daughter’s usually occurred in the toy aisle at Target, but mine were mostly behind closed doors. I could be found quietly sobbing in the bathtub or lying in bed at night, blood pulsing hard and my thoughts a roar into the silence.

I spent my twenties learning how to be a wife and a mother. I skipped the part most twenty-somethings take for granted–the years they spend figuring out what they want to be when they grow up and discovering who they are as individuals…

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