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.

…………………

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.

………………..

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.

………………

What do you call yourself today?

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Church in a coffee shop

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I hear her talking from across the coffee shop. I’ve seen her there before, circled close to the same group of older gentlemen clutching coffee cups. They come here often to talk about the latest headlines, their medical problems, the grandkids, and, occasionally, their faith. As a serial eavesdropper, my ears fine-tune to the tenor of their conversation, and I listen in.

Sometimes their conversation turns to the topic of church, more specifically their problems with it as an institution. This particular morning, my ears perk up when the talk turns from the New York Times to the local church. The woman speaks up, explaining her discomfort with attending services because people ask her too many questions about her choices. “I have more fuzzy feelings here, with you, than I do…

Join me at Circles of Faith to read the rest of the story.

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True Beauty

rock face via kimberlyanncoyle.com

“Your hair! Your beautiful hair! Oh, Jo, how could you? Your one beauty.”

~Louisa May Alcott in Little Women

My hair reaches almost to my waist. I don’t know when it happened exactly, but I ignored it for a while and I let it grow and grow and grow. My daughter turned to me in the car a few days ago and told me it’s time to cut it off. I protested. She said, “Mom, it’s almost to your waist. C’mon. You don’t want be that mom.”She’s right, of course. I don’t want to be the mom hanging on to the last vestiges of my youth, clinging to my “one beauty”.

Growing older is strange, and I find myself looking in the mirror and seeing less and less of who I used to be. This is simultaneously horrifying and also a very,very good thing. When I look back on my past self, I admire her smooth skin and her bright eyes. She is thin, with every body part facing in the proper direction. She is almost weightless except for the soul she carries. The soul feels heavier than a girl’s soul has a right to be, dragging around boulders of fear and rule-keeping and insecurity. I didn’t know myself then, the real me hidden under all the extra soul-weight.

But here is the beauty in growing older. I have chipped away at every heavy thing. Every boulder is crushed down to rock and pebble, and I pick these up piece by piece to make space for my true self. I am no longer just the face I see in the mirror. I am a soul emerging from the rock, like a sculpture set free from the prison of its stone face.

I love my crazy long hair, but it isn’t my one beauty. The beauty lies in the lines that have etched themselves like stories across every part of me, inside and out. It lies in the freedom of knowing who I am and whose I am. The beauty lies in emerging from the stone, a work of art.

………………………

What do you see when you look in the mirror? What stories do your lines tell?

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