Let there be light

pockets of light via kimberlyanncoyle.com

“Remember God’s bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!
~Henry Ward Beecher

I know you hear the stories the same as I do, the reports of darkness in so many corners of our world. These are not rumors–real flesh and blood flash across our screens, fists raised in protest, faces frozen in anguish. Like me, you hear the cries of childless mothers, of motherless children, of disease and hatred and injustice and despair. You wonder if darkness will strong-arm the light into submission. You wonder who can give thanks when it feels as if we live in a perpetual eclipse of the light-bearing Son.

My prayer this Thanksgiving is for us to train our eyes to seek out small pockets of light. I pray we will walk with confidence, knowing we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Not only will we wait for the light of Christ to overcome the darkness, but as believers, we will embody the light. We will carry it with us like a beacon of hope in this dark world.

We will not give in to despair or fatalism, but we will seek out the hidden pearls of God’s favor and fashion them into a thing of beauty. We will wear them like a breastplate, and carry them like a shield, we will guard our hearts and adorn our heads with their bounty.

Let us be the ones who stand in faith, never turning or hiding from the dark places, but rather shining God’s light there, seeking the pearls of justice and freedom and redemption and grace. Let us give thanks for this bounty, for pockets of light breaking through darkness, and for precious jewels found hidden in the deep.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

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How will you bring light into someone else’s darkness this holiday season?

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Five ways to survive the season

better together via kimberlyanncoyle.com

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” ~Jane Austen

Reviewing the holiday calendar has an opposite and equally strong reaction between my husband and myself. When he sees a blank space, he wants to fill it. When I see a blank space, I want to keep it free from commitment. I see a long, deep breath–a contented sigh between holiday activities. He wants to add more and more, and I want to subtract from the busyness of the season by creating emotional white space.

I find great comfort in staying home. Jane and I would be kindred spirits, I feel this down to my bones. However, I don’t live with Jane Austen, I live with a man whose idea of comfort involves hosting large groups of people and/or major home renovation projects requiring decision-making skills I don’t possess. Add this to an already full holiday schedule, and you have a recipe for marital disaster.

In eighteen years of marriage, I have yet to strike the balance between finding comfort and surviving seasonal overkill. I always feel as if we’re doing too much, and all I want is to cocoon myself in a blanket with a book. I long for simplicity, for quiet, for peaceful nights strung in a row like fairy lights. Instead, I run here and there and everywhere trying to buy, eat, or socialize my way into the “holiday spirit”.

This year, as the calendar fills up, I’m giving myself permission to change a few things. I’m giving you permission too.

Five Ways to Survive the Season

1. Build margin into your calendar in advance.

How many days or nights at home does it take for you to feel like a human being rather than a human doing? How many meals do you need to eat around your table with your people? How many Sundays will you experience a true Sabbath? Schedule these days and nights on your calendar just as you would a holiday party. Next Sunday, my husband promised me an entire day with zero commitments. I plan to guard that time like a mama protects her baby cub. If you need something from me next Sunday, you’ll have to fight me for it.

2. Give yourself permission to cancel.

I know this sounds irresponsible, impossible even. You can already imagine how disappointed your neighbor will be when your voice is absent from the altos when caroling. You hear an inner voice saying how selfish you are to rob the neighborhood of your voice in all its glory. You see the crestfallen faces of your children when you say no to a third visit with Santa, ensuring pictorial perfection. You know how much they adore waiting in a line of hundreds, only to sit for thirty seconds on the lap of a bearded stranger. You can hear the grumbling of your book club members when they recognize your lack of commitment to an 800-page tome during this, the least book-friendly of all seasons. You obviously don’t take your reading or your title as Supreme Book Nerd seriously.

It’s okay to put something on the calendar tentatively and then cancel. Really, it is. I know from experience, you will fill your calendar with all manner of redundant and overwhelming activities that do nothing to promote peace or joy or thanksgiving. Hold them lightly. Stick to the ones that matter, the ones adding value to your life and your family.

3. Make room for what feeds you.

If you love your weekly coffee with a friend, by all means, leave it on the calendar. If you feel healthier when you’re speaking to a counselor regularly, Christmas isn’t the time to let it go. If you need to run or read or have a family movie night or host a coffee or take a hot bath or cook a homemade meal or sit in a corner in complete silence to feel like a whole, functioning human being during the non-holiday seasons, then you need to make them a priority even more during this one. I’m no good to anyone if I don’t run and read a little bit every day. And if I’m not writing, well, buckle up boys. This train, carting every one of my myriad emotions, is headed straight to Crazyville. Recognize what keeps you from descending into crazy, and then make time to do it.

4. Be prepared for inevitable interruptions and unavoidable failures.

Someone will get sick. Someone else will have a bad attitude. You’ll forget to buy the bus driver a gift, and have to run out to Dunkin Donuts for a gift card at 6am. Your tree will list to the left, the kids will hate your favorite family movie, your pie will not look like the one you copied on Pinterest. You know this will happen, so set your expectations accordingly. Celebrating the highs (The kids slept in! Your gifts arrived on time! Elf is on again!) and accepting the lows are part of the process of living imperfectly.

5. Make your home a sanctuary.

This is the secret ensuring my survival this season. My home is filled with the things and the people I love. We intentionally cultivate a space that brings us comfort and peace. I place cozy blankets in every room, books sit stacked on and under my tables, and I fill the cupboards with an endless supply of vanilla tea and peppermint hot chocolate. I printed a list of Christmas movies we want to see, and I have everything I need for our first Jesse Tree. In every room in our house, my eye can find one meaningful thing to rest on, whether it’s a photograph, a souvenir from our days abroad, or something my kids hand-made. You will not find an Elf on the shelf or fifty-two holiday versions of the ubiquitous sugar cookie.

Begin to think about the things that bring you joy, and incorporate them into your home life. Maybe it’s jazz music or scented candles or apple pie. Maybe you love having people around, decking your halls with the sound of  laughter and friendly chatter. The question to ask yourself is this: What do I want Home to feel like for me and my family? Home should be the first place you want to return to, a place to retreat when the worries of the world creep in, the place you feel like your truest self. Home should be the place you invite people in and offer them the best of you.

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What keeps you centered and grounded during the holiday season? I’m all ears!

On Mondays, I’ll be writing regularly around the theme of Home and belonging. I hope you’ll join me. For regular updates sign up below to have posts delivered straight to your inbox.

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I do

the dress via kimberlyanncoyle.com

My husband and I spent hours cleaning the basement yesterday. I should preface this by saying, the basement is where all the things we’ve collected over our multiple moves go to die a slow death by suffocation. Boxes upon boxes, trinkets upon trinkets. Visual clutter brings out the worst of my anxieties and pessimistic tendencies. I say things like “We’ll never make a dent in this! It’s a nightmare! I hate everything! I married a hoarder!”  I think I need a counseling session to recover. I know my marriage almost did.

In the course of our purge, throughout which I cursed myself and my abiding love for knick-knacks that serve no earthly purpose, we came across the suitcase I used to store my wedding dress. That’s right, I store a custom-made, peau de soie wedding gown in a tired green suitcase. Seamstresses everywhere may need a whiff of smelling salts. I brought it upstairs and discovered that, at some point during one of our moves, the packing company felt my dress needed some company. So, they added a few christmas lights with the muddy stakes still attached.

Outrage. Name calling. Deep breathing.

On realizing the muddy stakes hadn’t caused  damage, I recovered from my blinding rage, and began to unfold layer after layer of white tissue paper. They made a crumply sound as I  lifted each sheet, revealing my wedding gown after eighteen years of quiet waiting. I held it up, thinking of all the promise wrapped up in this bit of silk and lace. Each thread and knot and pearl a deposit on our future, on vows made, the whole of a marriage sewn together with a single promise.

I slipped it on, and twirled in front of my husband, and his eyes lit up just like they did on our wedding day. It felt sacred somehow, like the dress was our Ebenezer, a memorial to God’s faithfulness to us over the years. We laughed and took photos and I tried to remember what it felt like to fit into a bodice the size of a thimble. We decided to surprise the kids, so my husband threw on his tux and we marched down the stairs amid peals of laughter. The kids all agreed–we grow increasingly weird in our old age.

We stood in the living room surrounded by everything we love, everything we’ve built for eighteen years. Our three kids and our home and the memories they hold, as countless and bright as the stars in the night sky. By the grace of God, my man kept his promise and I kept mine. And this dress, with its trails of pearl and lace, is a symbol of our commitment, and every good and imperfect thing we’ve experienced along the way.

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Do you still have your wedding dress? What kind of memories does it unfold in you?

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Leaving the light on for you

light on via kimberlyanncoyle.com

For most of the 3.5 years we lived in Switzerland, we did very little entertaining. Our home was small. I cooked in an oven the size of an easy bake. We had exactly six chairs to sit on and five people in our own family. My husband travelled constantly, and when he returned home after a long week away, we hunkered down. We baked and lit candles and made fires and watched tv. The kids and I decided, for better or worse, time with Daddy was too precious to share.

And while this is an unpopular opinion, especially in an online world that celebrates entertaining and hospitality, I don’t regret it. I don’t regret that our home became our safe place where we kept the candles flickering and the home fires burning and each of us had a place to sit. It was a season of gestating, of hidden growth in our protected, family space. We filled our weekdays with friends, activities, and the constant turnover of travel. By week’s end, we just wanted to be together, to be us, to unravel the chaos and negative influences of the week and knit something tighter and of heavier weight between us.

Now, we are Home with a capital H. We live in our old town, closer to family, and within shouting distance of friends we’ve known for over ten years. We have more chairs and more than enough room to pack the people in. Side note: I do not miss my easy bake oven. After the initial settling in period, we talked about how we want this next season to look for our family.

My husband travels less, and after our years abroad, we feel like our family grew in all the healthy ways we wanted. It’s time for our kids to grow some roots and flourish. Returning home also means exploring how we fit in here, and embracing a deeper sense of our place in this community. We want our neighbors, friends, and family to know they have a place with us, just as we have a place with them. This means, in spite of my previous allergy to entertaining anyone other than my very best friends, I’m learning how to open the front door.

In a move that surprised everyone, especially me, I discovered I like it. I like being a soft place for people to land. I like that inviting people into our home doesn’t mean there is less of my family for me, it means we offer ourselves and our home as a gift, and we do it together. I know I will never be the woman who loves the grocery store runs or planning all the cooking. I’m the antithesis of Martha (Stewart, not Martha of biblical fame. I’ve been known to go a bit bananas when I’m in the same room with a Mary). But, I have other things to offer. I have a dog who will sit on your lap and let you love him. I have a husband who will spare you the awfulness that is my cooking. I have kids who will welcome you in, look you in the eye, and ask about your day. As for me, I’ll light the candles and pull out an extra chair. Come on over, I’ve left the light on for you.

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Every Monday, I plan to write a little bit about “home”, exploring the idea behind what it means to belong. Does this resonate with you at all? Would you like to follow along? Fill in your details below for posts delivered straight to your inbox.

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The names we call ourselves

View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume-headshots2014

The artist formerly known as Kim :)

When my husband wants to make me crazy, he calls me “Kim”. I have repeatedly told him this name is to be used only in the event of an emergency, such as finding himself in a hostage situation or some other unlikely scenario. “Kim” is our distress code, not to be confused with my full name by throwing it around willy-nilly with everyday use.

The problem with him calling me by my childhood nickname is two-fold.

First, my sister-in-law and I share the same exact name–Kimberly Ann Coyle. I know, it’s weird. And so to distinguish ourselves, I’m called Kimberly and she’s called Kim. Sharing the same first, middle, and last name with someone I know in real life is bizarre on every level. Kim is fun-loving and business-savvy and adventurous.  I am not, and will never be confused for someone with this type of personality. Kimberly Ann Coyle is a bookworm, a writer, and a little bit crazy.  (Side note: I might consider exploring this side of my crazy–an extreme desire for individuality and a possessive nature–in counseling.)

Second, and more importantly, I went by the name Kim all throughout my childhood and early adult years. Kim is the name I associate with the girl I used to be, the one who never knew what she wanted, who never understood the world at large or her place in it. Wrapped up in the name Kim are all of my childhood fears–fear of rejection, of risk, of failure. Kim is me at my worst, me when I remain in hiding. She lives with her nose pressed up against a glass box of rules and expectations, longing for freedom.

“Kim” is not who I am today.

When my husband calls me Kim, I’m reminded of who I was before, and I have longed for that girl to disappear, to be buried and then to rise again as this evolved, new creation. I want to forget her, to leave the younger me and her common name behind without another glance over my shoulder. But, the more I attempt to distance myself from her, the more I realize, I can’t rip her name off like a label.

How do we learn to love our former selves when they don’t resonate with who we are today? I think first, I must accept that Kim is not someone different than me, she is Kimberly in the becoming. I want to look on her with kindness, accepting her story as the cornerstone upon which God built the foundation of my grown-up life. She is the story on which every other story depends, the once upon a time to my mostly happily ever after.

I have felt anger at my younger self for her choices, her cluelessness, her indecision. And yet, she lives on.  As much as I try to hide her, she keeps coming back. I want to look at the youthful me with kindness, with so much grace for her sad, rule-bound, indecisive self. I want to welcome her back into my life like an old friend. Welcome, come, sit, see who you are when you live into the fullness of your name. Kim became Kimberly–the woman she never knew she wanted to be.

If you find yourself in a similar place today, looking back at the 1.0 version of you, would you give her grace? She is imperfect, she is becoming, she is an important part of the story of you.

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What do you call yourself today?

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