Open Doors and Opportunity

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When it comes to decision-making, my husband and I have always taken the approach that if a door opens in the direction of our desires, we will walk through it. We pray about it first, but if we don’t feel any specific leading one way or another, through the door we walk, or run depending on how exciting the life beyond the door may be. Over the years, doors have swung open to reveal amazing opportunities, giving us the chance to live abroad, make life-long friends, travel, and in my husband’s case, work hard at a fulfilling job and attend graduate school.

By saying yes to opportunity, we also said yes to sacrificing some of our other desires. We gave up time and memory-making with our extended families, we pulled up our roots, and sacrificed some of our stability. My husband missed a lot of dinners and concerts and teacher meetings, and I single-parented while he chased his career around the globe. When we say yes to a good thing, even the right thing for our family, it often comes with a set of no’s attached.

We’re in a current season of waiting, of holding while we pray for doors to open in the direction of our desires. Recently, a few opportunities came my way, a few slivers of light shining through a crack in the door. And out of fear, out of the certain knowledge that I will never, ever have an opportunity come my way again, out of a despairing spirit, I wanted to push the doors open wide and bask in the glow of light with a resounding yes.

I said yes to one opportunity out of fear, and I felt its magnetic pull immediately, taking me further away from the things I truly want to pursue. I discovered an open door isn’t necessarily the right one, and I second guessed myself until I finally backpedalled my way out of that yes. I had the good sense to shut the door on a few other work offers that would have moved me closer to my desires, but which led down a rather bleak path before arriving there.

All of this back and forth leaves me feeling as if I failed somehow. Failed to see clearly, failed to let my yes be yes and my no be no, failed to move forward in any appreciable way. I am standing exactly where I started. And so, I find myself still waiting, looking for slivers of light through open cracks, wondering if I used up all my chances at open doors.

But, if I listen very closely, behind the whispers of failure I hear the gentle thump of my heartbeat. I am still here. Failure will not kill me or my opportunities. It will only make my heart beat stronger for the better things, the wide open spaces where I can walk through doors more sure of my yes, and better able to recognize my no.

If you find yourself in a similar place today, I want to encourage you to step forward in faith and not fear. Pray about it, make the tough decisions, move in the direction of your desires. Your heart is strong. Failure is a faithful teacher. You will bend perhaps, but you will not break.

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Have you ever regretted saying yes to an opportunity? What have you said no to lately?

More Than One Place

IMG_6228.jpg via kimberlyanncoyle

I ran long before church yesterday. I needed a little time in my own sanctuary, the one of leaf and bark and sweat before the one of big screens and loud music. I miss Switzerland the most during the spring and fall, when the natural world became a cathedral all its own.

On my last run in the forests of Horgenberg, I built a small altar, a little pile of smooth stones–a place of remembrance for all God did for me there. Often, I wonder how long it sat under the boughs of the great fir tree before an animal stumbled over it, knocking it over. I imagine it’s gone by now, although in my mind’s eye, I can still see my memories wrapped tight around the exposed roots. They’re bound to the place, and I hope they’ll always linger.

It takes me by surprise, how your heart can belong to more than one place. I’m trying hard to put down roots here in New Jersey, to continue saying yes when I’d rather cut and run. I have days where I think we’ll never burrow our way into this community, and then a distant memory will surface from our time here years ago, and I feel that familiar catch in my throat, a rising lump that hums “You’re home, you’re home.”

Listening to my daughter giggle uncontrollably with her best friend from elementary school, running my old marathon training route, revisiting all of the places where memories of my kids as little ones resurface–these reminders wrap themselves strong around the root.

We belong here, just as we belong in London and Zurich and Pennsylvania too.

Last week, our town celebrated Charter Day, and as my husband and I wandered through the street fair and pressing crowds, I recognized familiar faces here and there. The boys lounging on the fence, the girls eating ice cream, even my own kid walked past me deep in conversation with her girlfriends. Today, the faces are familiar. Someday, I hope we’ll call them friends.

I don’t know when I will build a place of remembrance here. There are memories to make, there is much to learn, there is work to do. But I believe it will become a sanctuary in its own way, a place to retreat and remember–a reminder of all that God has done.

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Where are you putting down roots? What memories linger there? Where is your altar in the world?

Giving Each Other the Gift of Curiosity

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my unofficial office–post-run:)

Five days a week I wake up, drink a cup of tea, pray a little, and then lace up my running shoes. I have a love/hate relationship with running, as in I love to hate it. But, it’s become an integral part of my life, a piece of the puzzle that holds all of me together.

I rewound the years recently, and realized I’ve run regularly for eight years. I haven’t done much of anything for eight years except indulge my sweet tooth, hence my early morning date with the treadmill. Two of my kids leave home before they see me head down to the basement in my gear. One of them asked me recently if I run anymore, and it took me by surprise because that’s the equivalent of asking me if I still read books. Huh? My mental health literally hinges on whether or not I exercise regularly. How do they not know this about me?

As a child, if I didn’t see something with my own eyes, it was as if it didn’t occur. My kids don’t see me run, so in their eyes, it never happened. There are an infinite number of things they never see me do. They don’t see me make the phone calls or send the emails or sit down with the calendar to jigsaw their schedules into something doable. They don’t see me wipe down the bathroom or change the toilet roll or fill the grocery cart to overflowing. They don’t see the late night tears or the three a.m. prayers or the deep questioning of my ability to pull of this thing called parenting.

They don’t see it, but each one of these takes place in the small circumference of my world as a woman, a wife, and a mother. I think of my own mother and wonder how many of the small joys and accomplishments of her life I must have missed. How much of the daily, faithful, hard work did I not notice?

I think of you too. How much of your life am I missing? Where do you persevere and remain steadfast and do the hardest interior work? What straw do you gather and spin into gold in the quiet places, while the rest of us walk by and fail to take notice?

I’m convinced we have so much more to offer one another if only we gave each other room to share it–the small victories, the silly mix-ups, the epic failures, the stunning escapes. Curiosity is a gift we can give one another, don’t you think? One of the reasons I continue to write is because I want my children to know more of me. I want them to look at me and see more than a meal on the table and hear something other than my weary sighs. I want them to hear my feet slapping the Saturday pavement and the keyboard click-clacking. Let them see me cry, pray, bend over the weekly schedule in triumph or frustration. This is a gift for them and for me.

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Tell me something about yourself that you never think to share–where are you bringing together all the threads of your life and spinning gold? What wakes you up in the middle of the night? Where did you love to vacation as a kid? What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Growing Into Our Lives Through Seasons of Change

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Every autumn, she groans when she tells me how much she dreads the start of school and its inevitable prickly mornings with her three kids. She says the same thing when school closes and summer begins. She mourns the loss of her daily routine when the kids are home day in and day out, when they must re-learn how to live together all over again.

After years of hearing her say this, she finally admitted it isn’t the long hours at home or the long hours of leaving she dreads, it’s the upending of her everyday life brought on by the turning of the seasons.

“I guess I just don’t like change,” she says…

To read the rest of this post on change, join me at Circles of Faith.

To the Heart-Mamas: Thank You


IMG_6055 via kimberlyanncoyle.com

In my twenties, I worked at a pediatric long-term care facility where we cared for kids whose medical problems were stable enough to keep them out of the hospital, but too severe for care at home. Often, these kids suffered from illnesses brought on by the abuse or negligence of their parents, and even more frequently their birth parents weren’t involved in their lives anymore.

The Pediatric Center paid a pittance, so it attracted newly graduated nurses with school loans to pay back and no concept of what it meant to pay the bills. Most of us arrived fresh out of college, fresh out of our parent’s homes, fresh cut from an idealistic view where we were all Florence Nightingale and we would change the world one blood pressure cuff at a time.

We were healthy and young and strong and none of us knew what it meant to care for someone else’s child full-time. None of us knew what it meant to mother. We knew medical procedures and nurse’s notes, trach tube changes and immunizations. We did not know the day in day out call to simply show these babies and big kids love.

We didn’t know it, but we learned it real quick. You can only give so many evening tubby’s to another woman’s child, before you begin to feel something beyond a sense of professional duty for them. We began to celebrate our babies’ birthdays, and stock their drawers with socks when they ran out. We worried about spiking fevers, discussed the smallest details of their care, and bragged about the most infinitesimal improvements to the nurse on the next shift.

You don’t have to birth a baby to know what it means to mother one. I was a slow-learner, but throughout my years there I began to get a glimpse of what it means to invest the strength of my life into the weakness of another’s. I learned to inhale meals and skip the bathroom and put the incessant whining of the heart monitor first before my own needs. My years at the Pediatric Center weren’t just a job, they felt more like a calling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my particular calling and so, I gave up my job to the truly mother-hearted.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, I want to say thank you to the heart mamas. Thank you to the nurses, the teachers, the mentors, the nannies, the day-care workers, the Sunday school teachers, the loving neighbors, and the tireless aunties. Thank you to every woman who looks in the eyes of another woman’s child and tells them they matter. Thank you to every woman who puts her own agenda aside, who embraces her calling, who gives out of her own strength to those whose weakness comes first. Thank you, mamas. You show me what it means to mother, and prove that it’s our hearts and not our DNA that helps us live love out loud.