The new year approached through a haze of fairy lights, family noise, and Nyquil. It fought through mounds of wrapping paper. It curled past feverish bodies and thick knit blankets. It rose with the flames licking the brick in the fireplace. Everywhere I looked in my sniffling, sick state, the new year met me.

When I tried to grasp it, hold it up to the light, and turn it over in my hands, it disappeared. A moment of clarity and vision for the year would arrive, and then dissipate like smoke as soon as I lay claim to it. I looked for a word to attach to the year, and the only one that came to mind was Ephemeral—momentary, like a whisper streaming into the wind.

I prefer words with impact and permanence. I prefer years like this too. Years like 2017, filled with life-changing events: celebrations, new endeavors, and major shifts in my beliefs, my politics, and self-imposed limitations. I prefer change. New year, new everything. I want a year that makes me feel something, because to feel is to know that I am alive.

As the holiday season slid into January, I recovered on the sofa which gave me plenty of time for reflection, albeit somewhat fuzzy-headed. I thought of all the hard work leading up to the holidays. The time spent making lists, decorating, shopping, cooking, wrapping. And again, the word ephemeral rose to the surface.

All of my hard work had disappeared in a blink—the gifts were already tucked away in drawers, the food eaten, the kids making plans for bowling and skiing and brunch at the diner. I began to feel angry. How could they move on so quickly? Where was the steady stream of appreciation for my efforts? Why was no one serving me as I lay on the sofa surrounded by empty teacups and used tissues? And why, every time I finished cleaning the kitchen, would my people once again claim to be hungry?

So much of what we do as women has a feeling of impermanence. We spend hours in the kitchen only to find ourselves with an empty table full of dirty dishes twenty minutes later. Stacks of recently clean laundry are found soiled and crumpled in corners. We write reports, fill out forms, teach classes, administer medicine, balance accounts, soothe children, scribble words, and lead the morning meeting.

Over the course of time, these daily tasks can feel unimportant in their regularity. They become routine, carrying a whiff of the ephemeral. The roast is prepared and cooked for hours, dirtying every dish in the kitchen. With the scrape of a knife and fork, it’s gone in an instant. We wonder if the small, daily tasks of showing up and doing our work is worth it when the results seem impossible to measure.

I have not laid claim to the word ephemeral for the coming year, but I have plucked it out of the air as a reminder. It will flutter about my thoughts as I begin to dream the new year into being. I have resolved to no longer object to the string of days, weeks, and months filled with small things.

I’ve decided to love the work of my hands, even when the rewards don’t appear to match my level of effort. I will make the meals and fold the laundry and sit in the school pick-up line and buy the groceries. I will place one word after another. I will grade the papers. I will teach the class. I will even drive the gym shorts over to the child who forgot them.

While these tasks don’t generate feelings of excitement or elation, they keep me grounded in my real, everyday life. These are the tasks that nourish the faces gathered around my table. They are the rhythms of a life full of honorable work, people to love, and the intimate pleasures of caring for a home and one another.


Image credit: Tomas Anton Escobar on Unsplash
Kimberly Coyle
Kimberly Coyle / Posts / Blog
Kimberly Coyle is a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life and the search for belonging while raising a family and her faith at She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport. Connect with her on Twitter @KimberlyACoyle or her FB page Kimberly Coyle .
  • Terri Conlin

    Hello Kimberly,

    You captured so much of why I sometimes dread cooking – gone in an instant, but the clean-up seems forever! I sometimes joke with my family, “I’d get so much done if only y’all didn’t need to eat today.” But really.
    Thanks for the reminder to love the plain, evaporating everyday tasks. God meets us there. Terri

    January 8th, 2018 10:42
    • Kimberly Coyle
      Kimberly Coyle

      I know that feeling of dread well! Standing in solidarity with you over the kitchen sink:)

      January 8th, 2018 13:42
  • Rob Mattox

    Great message. Brother Lawrence talks about experiencing God while doing the dishes. I actually enjoy cleaning the kitchen now. Washing dishes is healing. I like your willingness to do all you said except bring gym shorts to my kid who forgot them. I have low tolerance for that. Maybe I need to grow here.

    January 8th, 2018 11:27
    • Kimberly Coyle
      Kimberly Coyle

      Well, I don’t bring the shorts every time;) Just when it seems reasonable. It helps that I’m a super forgetful person, and I have empathy for the children who inherited that unlucky trait from me!

      January 8th, 2018 13:44
    • Tonya

      Beautifully said! Thank you!

      January 13th, 2018 7:39
  • Lori Harris

    Your words speak to my season of life, Kimberly. I’ve held so much contempt for the sheer hours of mundane activity this year has held. May I lift my eyes and see the NOW.

    January 8th, 2018 12:06
    • Kimberly Coyle
      Kimberly Coyle

      Yes, contempt is the right word for it. Lifting my eyes with you!

      January 8th, 2018 13:44
  • Marian Vischer

    This is my life and it’s a comfort to have it affirmed and reframed through such a redemptive lens. I love this. ❤️

    January 8th, 2018 14:09
    • Kimberly Coyle
      Kimberly Coyle

      Thank you for helping me see it!

      January 8th, 2018 19:23
  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    This is a beautiful message and a wonderful reminder for all of us. Though our daughter is twenty-five, I do recall those days when I left a fascinating career to stay home and raise her. Some days did seem futile, filled with repetitive, mundane duties. Yet the Lord changed my attitude in the midst of them (finally! 🙂 ), and I don’t regret a moment, understanding, especially now, that there is purpose behind the seemingly meaningless. I read one of your commenters, and was reminded how my sink became my altar. We had no dishwasher; I was it! I used that time to pray and listen to the late Elisabeth Elliot on radio. Her wisdom is still with me today, and I actually looked forward to washing those dishes! You know, actually ephemeral wouldn’t be a bad word of the year at all. It would be a great reminder that life is indeed evanescent, and so it prompts us to make the most of each day we are given. Each day is a gift from God to use for Him and His purposes. Ephemeral also comes from the Greek, to mean “lasting only a day.” It can also be a reminder that when things we dislike “last only a day,” when they are ephemeral, we can get through them. Anyone can survive anything for just one day! 🙂 I hope you are feeling much better, and that you have a wonderful New Year.

    Lynn Morrissey

    January 8th, 2018 20:52
  • Kimberly Coyle
    Kimberly Coyle

    Our sink as an altar–what a lovely image. Thanks so much for your encouragement, Lynn.

    January 11th, 2018 20:30

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