Porch-sitting with my mama feels so natural. I won't even pretend to cover my bias. It is a rare and wonderful thing to have close ties like these, much more so with someone who reared you in the pretty and the ugly ways. She's seen it all, but that doesn't change her eyes. They look like home, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Cradling our cups of London Fog tea, enjoying the scent of a fresh-lit candle, and listening to midsummer crickets softly chirping...it's like a picture in a book where two hearts might linger.
Verity Vareé: What is your name?
Kim: Kimberly Beth Hyland.
Her voice is easy.
Vv: Tell us about you.
She laughs, and slowly begins.
K: I am a wife and a mama...
The front door opens to the porch and a question is hollered from inside: "The bread's done, should I take it out?"
K: Oh, okay. Yes, I just need to take a look at it.
I should have seen it coming. To ask a mama to stop being a mama in her own home! How silly of me. But she comes right back. For her, this is as natural as breathing.
K: So, I guess I should answer the questions like you don't know the answers?
We both laugh, but I’m already sure that for some questions I really don't know the answers.
K: So, I am a wife and a mama. I have five sons, one daughter, two daughters-in-love, one son-in-love. That sounds weird.
Again, we laugh.
K: And two grandbabies. Our family is the biggest part of my life, and the happiest, and always will be. I am also a writer and a blogger, and the founder of Winsome, which is an annual retreat for women, something I dreamed of all of my adult life. I love to write and encourage women of all ages and walks of life. Winsome is a wonderful vehicle to do that. Also, I love to read. I love, love, love to read.
She smiles like a kid in a candy store.
K: There should be an extra day in the week for me to read! I get frustrated knowing that I will never read as much as I want to.
She sighs as she continues.
K: I love to write. I love music. I love creation. That's where I feel closest to God. We live on a mountain, which is a dream come true. I start almost every day looking out over the valley. I could go on and on about that.
She looks out to the trees surrounding the long porch and breathes deeply, taking in the warm summer evening.
K: Hmm. I love tea, I love candles, I love coffee. Fires. And mead. I love the full moon. My favorite places in the world are at the dinner table with my family all together, or around the fire with all my family. I love long conversations with my kids. They teach me more than I ever taught them. I love listening to them play music and I love beating them at wild solitaire.
This is our family’s version of war games. Dutch blitz, or "wild solitaire" is a game to train for, one to wait for, and one to win. Her last comment is definitely a challenge.
Vv: How would you describe family? What does it mean to have family, to be family?
K: Family at its best is learning to stand by and love others at their worst. Family means I am always and forever, no matter what, in your corner. It's a lot like the description of love: believing the best, overlooking offenses, forgiving, hoping. Family for me has been about learning to embrace God's story for our family in all of its mess and all of its beauty.
Vv: What do you learn in the mess?
K: To trust God!
She laughs and looks away.
Vv: Is there a mess? It sounds almost perfect.
She laughs even harder.
K: It's not perfect! We are perfectly imperfect. I've always loved my family, but I've had to learn to enjoy my family. I don't mean to just enjoy, but I mean to enter into joy with my family by trusting God in the trials, and believing that his word is true when he says he works everything out “for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes.” And to trust and believe that his purposes are wiser than mine.
Her eyes widen and she looks back out at the trees.
K: Even though I avoid trials and I do spend much of my life trying to avoid painful things in family, I know that when they come it’s because he's allowed it and there's going to be something good that comes from it. So, in the moment, in the mess, I have a lot of hope.
Vv: Would you say you've seen that before?
K: Over and over and over. I've seen the things that could have ruined us draw us closer to God. That's the best thing. That alone makes the trial worth it. We come to know God and how he loves us in a more intimate and real way. I've seen how trials that broke down relationships in our family eventually made them stronger. They deepened our love for one another and they made us all braver, and that to me is a huge thing. As a mother and a wife I am not nearly as fearful as when I started 27 years ago in our family. Going through trials and seeing God use them for good has made me unafraid of the future. That makes me a better wife, a better mom, and a happier person. It also makes me grateful for today and its blessings, because I know that trials are inevitable.
Vv: Who are your favorite people and why?
First, she lists her entire family, their spouses, and her two grandbabies. And then:
K: My boyfriend. He has always been my knight in shining armor, as cheesy as that sounds. He gives me security. He is my greatest fan. He is the one who has encouraged me in all of my endeavors, even the ones that take me out of the home and require sacrifice for our family like writing and Winsome. He encourages me to attend conferences so that I am inspired. And that is super amazing to me because he hates it when I'm gone. Except, when I'm gone he always does house projects! He says I'm too distracting when I'm here.
A well-loved woman is so beautiful to behold. Her smile is radiant.
K: He is so much fun and I am way more serious. He's always been that way. People used to call him Tigger, because he literally bounced when he walked. And he's the father of most of my other favorite people! Being his wife and raising a family together has been the greatest adventure of my life. He is a Godly man. I trust him and his leadership of our family implicitly. I always dreamed of having a bunch of boys and God gave us five. And I love being a mom of boys, but God knew I would love being the mom of a girl so he gave me one of those and it's just perfect. I can't imagine our family any differently. As God has added to our family with three marriages, all in seven months...
She turns around to see her husband (her boyfriend) walking up behind her with her favorite flavor of Talenti gelato.
K: You're wonderful!
Jeff: Yes I am!
K: You're making me fat, but you're wonderful.
Jeff: I'm making you happy.
K: Fat and happy.
We spoon out scoops of sea salt caramel gelato. This interview just got way better.
K: I love the people God has brought into our lives. The perfect man for my daughter and the perfect women for my two oldest sons.
Vv: What is the best advice you have for moms?
K: Be brave. Fear is one of the most destructive things in mothering. It keeps you from thinking straight and it can take control of your motivations and decisions, and ultimately drain all the joy from being a mom. You can't escape fear. We live in a fearful world. But you can refuse to be driven by fear, and learn to trust God.
Vv: What advice would you give to wives?
K: Keep being his girlfriend. That's who he fell in love with. It's not that you don't change, marriage and parenthood do change you, but don't ever quit being that young woman who admires him and chooses to see the best. Don't quit trying to look your best for him. Don't quit doing the things you enjoyed doing together. Just don't let the stress of life rob you of the love that brought you together.
Vv: Why do you love writing?
Kim: It's where I figure myself out. I've written in journals since I can remember, and sometimes I would share what I'd written with other people and I was so fulfilled when it was encouraging to them. That's why I write: to figure out myself, life, and to encourage other people. I started blogging about four years ago.
Vv: What was that journey like, to start blogging?
K: I wasn't even sure what I was doing. I just kept hearing about it and then I was reading other people's blogs, then I heard you could start one for free. It was just really exciting to see what I'd written on the Internet and when I began to see that people all over the country and even all over the world were able to access it and I began to get comments from people telling me that it was encouraging to them, it just blew my mind. It was just so exciting to see that in my home, while still taking care of my kids, I could have that kind of a reach. I was hooked, not only because I could put my writing out there to be an encouragement to other people, but also because I was finding community with other women who were like-minded and encouraging. A lot of those friendships gave me the courage to move forward and pursue many of the other dreams I had, like Winsome.
Vv: What are your hopes and dreams?
K: I guess the broadest answer to that is to live well and to enjoy all the gifts and good blessings God has given me. I would like to continue hosting Winsome, further develop a ministry I started called Five-Fifteen, and write more. I have a book I am writing that I would like to get published. It's called An Imperfect Mom: Embracing God's Grace and Perfection in Motherhood.
Vv: Can you tell us more about Winsome?
K: Winsome is an annual retreat for women of all ages, seasons, and walks of life. The focus is discovering joy, because Winsome actually means "joy-some." It is three days in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania at a beautiful retreat center. The values that drive the entire retreat are authenticity, diversity, and truth. "Authenticity" as in, a place where people not only feel comfortable being who they are, but are affirmed in who they are and where they are in their season of life. "Diversity" as in, intentionally facilitating diversity! Different ages all together, moms, single moms, elderly, young, different ethnicities, different denominations. "Truth" as in, allowing the truth of God's love and His word to be what unifies us. Our hope is to enrich women's lives and introduce them to something that is outside of what they normally experience.
Vv: Can you tell us more about Five-Fifteen?
K: Five-Fifteen mobilizes people to pray for victims of human sex trafficking. People commit to pray for 5 to 15 minutes a day. The goal is to get women who are in recovery connected with women who are committed to praying for their healing. Five-Fifteen exists to promote awareness of the human sex trafficking trade, encourage compassion for the victims, offer means of engagement on their behalf, and provide advocacy.
Every project that she's a part of, that she's created, is driven by a deep, unique understanding of human needs. Doubtless, her experience with raising six children has increased her depth of understanding, but I'd venture to say that her own humility and insight has led her to a place of compassion and deep love for others. She is a mother in every sense of the word.
Vv: Tell us about some of your more "fairytale" plans. Do you have any whimsy dreams?
K: I'm living it.
Her eyes gleam and her smile widens.
K: This right here! One of my biggest dreams was to live in the country, on a mountain. I dream about the years to come and everybody coming home with loads of kids at Christmas and having a bunkhouse in the basement three bunks high. Oh! I dream about "Gramp Camp" where our oldest grandkids will be the counselors to a week-long summer camp on our mountain. I dream about hosting people who need to get away. I dream of our home being a place of refuge and peace for others, just like it has been for us. I dream of traveling with my boyfriend.
K: Anywhere. It's an adventure. I dream about going overseas, to Europe, but I'd be just as happy to go to Montana, or New England in the fall. I just want to see and experience things that are different.
She pauses to think. I think she's imagining her travels.
K: I also have this dream of lying down in the woods on a pile of books with a globe, a bunny, and a musical instrument.
As she explains the scene she laughs, growing louder. "Laugh" seems too little a word for what she is doing: it's not just laughter, but a giddy re-telling of a joyful memory, and there is laughter in every word. I laugh in return.
Vv: Was that actually a dream?
K: It was, it was like a dream. I don't know that I'd ever dreamed it, but it was dreamy. It was awesome, just to gather an aesthetic collage of all the things I love.
Vv: What is the meaning behind some of the items in your styled shoot?
K: Well, the books are representative of my love of knowledge. There are a lot of old books because I love their perspective on the world, and the look of an old book, physically, is just so beautiful. The globe is representative not so much of just travel (I can travel far in books), but of a sense of adventure, of the diversity and awesomeness of God's world. The bunny is somewhat symbolic of nurturing. I had to be careful with the bunny, and there's an analogy there, because if it was scared, it would try to scratch me. I had to learn to relate to the bunny!
The dulcimer is my musical instrument that I've learned to kind of play. I collect musical instruments and learn to kind of play them. I love music. Folk music.
I ask her why she chose the mountain for our shoot, as opposed to another location.
K: About a year before we moved here I found a painting of a mountain with a clearing, looking over the valley. The view is almost identical to ours here. That was just a huge affirmation to me that this home is a gift from God.
Her words are heavy with gratitude and thanksgiving as she describes this mountain home.
K: The cracked pot is a symbol that, to me, most represents my life. For so many years I wanted to be perfect. I didn't want to have cracks, or imperfections. The pot symbolizes the beauty of being broken, because when you put a candle in a cracked pot light streams out of all the cracks. When I first saw that illustrated, in just one moment my flaws and my struggles went from being something ugly, to being an opportunity for me to be a vessel of God's light. I thought that in order to be someone that others could be encouraged by, I had to have my act together. Now I believe the opposite is true. The places where I am "cracked" and weak are the places filled with the most opportunity for God to use me to encourage other people.
What beauty. As someone who has seen this woman at her best and worst, I can honestly say that embracing brokenness was the best life prescription she's ever taken. I try hard to hide my tears as we come to the end.
Vv: What is a day in the life of Kim?
K: I wake up, hopefully before everyone else, I make coffee, sit on the porch if it's warm enough, or in the sunroom if it's too cold. I listen to music, read, pray, journal, blog.
As she lists off her morning routine you can clearly see these are breath and life to her soul. What a good reminder to indulge one’s heart in our deepest passions.
K: Then the boys get up, we have breakfast, and I try to walk the dog.
K: There's never a day that's normal! We run errands, we homeschool...
Vv: What are the highlights of your day?
K: I try to spend an hour in the afternoon doing whatever my heart desires. It might be taking a nap, reading, or making a phone call. Dinner with the family, spending time talking with Jeff, time on the porch in the morning.
Vv: Is there a word, or quote that describes you?
K: Winsome, because I want to be. That's what I want to be, joy-some. It means that even on the worst of days I live from a place of joy.
It's not easy to pull away. All the questions are asked, all the answers given, and I feel as if there is so much more to learn. The better you know a person, the harder it is to sum them up in one itty-bitty Reveal. However, I hope this has given you a peek into the heart of a woman whose very name means, "from the wood of the royal forest." Free, wise, and beautifully broken.
Introducing my mother, mountain-dweller, the Winsome Woman, Kimberly Beth Hyland.